The Littlepage Manuscripts, Volume 1
by James Fenimore Cooper
O bid our vain endeavours cease,
Revive the just designs of Greece;
Return in all thy simple state,
Confirm the tale her sons relate!
The plot has thickened in the few short months that have intervened
since the appearance of the first portion of our Manuscripts, and
bloodshed has come to deepen the stain left on the country by the
widespread and bold assertion of false principles. This must long
since have been foreseen; and it is perhaps a subject of just
felicitation, that the violence which has occurred was limited to the
loss of a single life, when the chances were, and still are, that it
will extend to civil war. That portions of the community have behaved
nobly under this sudden outbreak of a lawless and unprincipled
combination to rob, is undeniable, and ought to be dwelt on with
gratitude and an honest pride; that the sense of right of much the
larger portion of the country has been deeply wounded, is equally
true; that justice has been aroused, and is at this moment speaking in
tones of authority to the offenders, is beyond contradiction: but,
while all this is admitted, and admitted not altogether without hope,
yet are there grounds for fear, so reasonable and strong, that no
writer who is faithful to the real interests of his country ought, for
a single moment, to lose sight of them.
High authority, in one sense, or that of political power, has
pronounced the tenure of a durable lease to be opposed to the spirit
of the institutions! Yet these tenures existed when the institutions
were formed, and one of the provisions of the institutions themselves
guarantees the observance of the covenants under which the tenures
exist. It would have been far wiser, and much nearer to the truth, had
those who coveted their neighbours' goods been told that, in their
attempts to subvert and destroy the tenures in question, they were
opposing a solemn and fundamental provision of law, and in so much
opposing the institutions. The capital error is becoming prevalent,
which holds the pernicious doctrine that this is a government of men,
instead of one of principles. Whenever this error shall so far come to
a head as to get to be paramount in action, the welldisposed may sit
down and mourn over, not only the liberties of their country, but over
its justice and its morals, even should men be nominally so free as to
do just what they please.
As the Littlepage Manuscripts advance, we find them becoming more
and more suited to the times in which we live. There is an omission of
one genetion, however, owing to the early death of Mr. Malbone
Littlepage, who left an only son to succeed him. This son has felt it
to be a duty to complete the series by an addition from his own pen.
Without this addition, we should never obtain views of Satanstoe,
Lilacsbush, Ravensnest, and Mooseridge, in their present aspects;
while with it, we may possibly obtain glimpses that will prove not
only amusing but instructive.
There is one point on which, as editor of these Manuscripts, we
desire to say a word. It is thought by a portion of our readers, that
the first Mr. Littlepage who has written, Cornelius of that name, has
manifested an undue asperity on the subject of the New England
character. Our reply to this charge is as follows: In the first place,
we do not pretend to be answerable for all the opinions of those whose
writings are submitted to our supervision, any more than we should be
answerable for all the contradictory characters, impulses, and
opinions that might be exhibited in a representation of fictitious
characters, purely of our own creation. That the Littlepages
entertained New York notions, and if the reader will, New York
prejudices, may be true enough; but in pictures of this sort, even
prejudices become facts that ought not to be altogether kept down.
Then, New England has long since anticipated her revenge, glorifying
herself and underrating her neighbours in a way that, in our opinion,
fully justifies those who possess a little Dutch blood, in expressing
their sentiments on the subject. Those who give so freely should know
how to take a little in return; and that more especially, when there
is nothing very direct or personal in the hits they receive. For
ourselves, we have not a drop of Dutch or New England blood in our
veins, and only appear as a bottle-holder to one of the parties in
this set-to. If we have recorded what the Dutchman says of the Yankee,
we have also recorded what the Yankee says, and that with no
particular hesitation, of the Dutchman. We know that these feelings
are bygones; but our Manuscripts, thus far, have referred exclusively
to the times in which they certainly existed, and that, too, in a
force quite as great as they are here represented to be.
We go a little farther. In our judgment the false principles that
are to be found in a large portion of the educated classes, on the
subject of the relation between landlord and tenant, are to be traced
to the provincial notions of those who have received their
impressions from a state of society in which no such relations exist.
The danger from the anti-rent doctrines is most to be apprehended from
these false principles;—the misguided and impotent beings who have
taken the field in the literal sense, not being a fourth part as
formidable to the right, as those who have taken it in the moral.
There is not a particle more of reason in the argument which says that
there should be no farmers, in the strict meaning of the term, than
there would be in that which said there should be no journeymen
connected with the crafts; though it would not be easy to find a man
to assert the latter doctrine. We dare say, if there did happen to
exist a portion of the country in which the mechanics were all
"bosses," it would strike those who dwelt in such a state of society,
that it would be singularly improper and anti-republican for any man
to undertake journeywork.
On this subject we shall only add one word. The column of society
must have its capital as well as its base. It is only perfect while
each part is entire, and discharges its proper duty. In New York the
great landholders long have, and do still, in a social sense, occupy
the place of the capital. On the supposition that this capital is
broken and hurled to the ground, of what material will be the capital
that must be pushed into its place! We know of none half so likely to
succeed, as the country extortioner and the country usurer! We would
caution those who now raise the cry of feudality and aristocracy, to
have a care of what they are about. In lieu of King Log, they may be
devoured by King Stork.
"The steady brain, the sinewy limb,
To leap, to climb, to dive, to swim:
The iron frame, inured to bear
Each dire inclemency of air;
Nor less confirmed to undergo
Fatigue's faint chill, and famine's throe."
My father was Cornelius Littlepage, of Satanstoe, in the county of
West Chester, and State of New York; and my mother was Anneke
Mordaunt, of Lilacsbush, a place long known by that name, which still
stands near Kingsbridge, but on the island of Manhattan, and
consequently in one of the wards of New York, though quite eleven
miles from town. I shall suppose that my readers know the
difference between the Island of Manhattan, and Manhattan Island;
though I have found soi-disant Manhattanese, of mature
years, but of alien birth, who had to be taught it. Lilacsbush, I
repeat therefore, was on the Island of Manhattan, eleven miles from
town, though in the city of New York, and not on Manhattan
Of my progenitors further back, I do not conceive it necessary to
say much. They were partly of English, and partly of Low Dutch
extraction; as is apt to be the case with those who come of New York
families of any standing in the colony. I retain tolerably distinct
impressions of both of my grandfathers, and of one of my grandmothers;
my mother's mother having died long before my own parents were
Of my maternal grandfather I know very little, however, he having
died while I was quite young, and before I had seen much of him. He
paid the great debt of nature in England, whither he had gone on a
visit to a relative, a Sir Something Bulstrode, who had been in the
colonies himself, and who was a great favourite with Herman Mordaunt,
as my mother's parent was universally called in New York. My father
often said, it was perhaps fortunate in one respect, that his
father-in-law died as he did, since he had no doubt he would have
certainly taken sides with the crown, in the quarrel that so soon
after occurred, in which case it is probable his estates, or those
which were my mother's, and are now mine, would have shared the fate
of those of the de Lanceys, of the Philipses, of some of the Van
Cortlandts, of the Floyds, of the Joneses, and of various others of
the heavy families, who remained loyal, as it was called; meaning
loyalty to a prince, and not loyalty to the land of their nativity. It
is hard to say which were right, in such a quarrel, if we look at the
opinions and prejudices of the times, though the Littlepages to a man,
which means only my father, and grandfather, and self, took sides with
the country. In the way of self-interest, it ought to be remarked,
however, that the wealthy American who opposed the crown, showed much
the most disinterestedness, inasmuch as the chances of being subdued
were for a long time very serious, while the certainty of
confiscation, not to say of being hanged, was sufficiently well
established, in the event of failure. But, my paternal grandfather was
what was called a whig, of the high caste. He was made a brigadier in
the militia, in 1776, and was actively employed in the great campaign
of the succeeding year; that in which Burgoyne was captured, as indeed
was my father, who held the rank of lieutenant-colonel in the New York
line. There was also a major Dirck Van Volkenburgh, or Follock, as he
was usually called, in the same regiment with my father, who was a
sworn friend. This major Follock was an old bachelor, and he lived
quite as much in my father's house as he did in his own; his proper
residence being across the river, in Rockland. My mother had a friend,
as well as my father, in the person of Miss Mary Wallace; a single
lady, well turned of thirty at the commencement of the revolution.
Miss Wallace was quite at ease in her circumstances, but she lived
altogether at Lilacsbush, never having any other home, unless it might
be at our house in town.
We were very proud of the brigadier, both on account of his rank
and on account of his services. He actually commanded in one
expedition against the Indians during the revolution, a service in
which he had some experience, having been out on it, on various
occasions, previously to the great struggle for independence. It was
in one of these early expeditions of the latter war that he first
distinguished himself, being then under the orders of a colonel Brom
Follock, who was the father of major Dirck of the same name, and who
was almost as great a friend of my grandfather as the son was of my
own parent. This colonel Brom loved a carouse, and I have heard it
said that, getting among the High Dutch on the Mohawk, he kept it up
for a week, with little or no intermission, under circumstances that
involved much military negligence. The result was that a party of
Canada Indians made an inroad on his command, and the old colonel, who
was as bold as a lion, and as drunk as a lord, though why lords are
supposed to be particularly inclined to drink I never could tell, was
both shot down and scalped early one morning as he was returning from
an adjacent tavern to his quarters in the "garrison," where he was
stationed. My grandfather nobly revenged his death, scattering to the
four winds the invading party, and receiving the mutilated body of his
friend, though the scalp was irretrievably lost.
General Littlepage did not survive the war, though it was not his
good fortune to die on the field, thus identifying his name with the
history of his country. It happens in all wars, and most especially
did it often occur in our own great national struggle, that more
soldiers lay down their lives in the hospitals than on the field of
battle, though the shedding of blood seems an indispensable requisite
to glory of this nature; an ungrateful posterity taking little heed of
the thousands who pass into another state of being, the victims of
exposure and camp diseases, to sound the praises of the hundreds who
are slain amid the din of battle. Yet, it may be questioned if it do
not require more true courage to face death, when he approaches in the
invisible form of disease, than to meet him when openly arrayed under
the armed hand. My grandfather's conduct in remaining in camp, among
hundreds of those who had the smallpox, the loathsome malady of which
he died, was occasionally alluded to, it is true, but never in the
manner the death of an officer of his rank would have been mentioned,
had he fallen in battle. I could see that major Follock had an
honourable pride in the fate of his father, who was slain and
scalped by the enemy in returning from a drunken carouse, while my
worthy parent ever referred to the death of the brigadier as an event
to be deplored, rather than exulted in. For my own part, I think my
grandfather's end was much the most creditable of the two; but, as
such, it will never be viewed by the historian, or the country. As for
historians, it requires a man to be singularly honest to write against
a prejudice; and it is so much easier to celebrate a deed as it is
imagined than as it actually occurred, that I question if we know the
truth of a tenth part of the exploits about which we vapour, and in
which we fancy we glory. Well! we are taught to believe that the time
will come when all things are to be seen in their true colours, and
when men and deeds will be known as they actually were, rather than as
they have been recorded in the pages of history.
I was too young myself to take much part in the war of the
revolution, though accident made me an eye-witness of some of its most
important events, and that at the tender age of fifteen. At
twelve—the American intellect ever was and continues to be
singularly precocious — I was sent to Nassau Hall, Princeton, to be
educated, and I remained there until I finally got a degree, though it
was not without several long and rude interruptions of my studies.
Although so early sent to college, I did not actually graduate until I
was nineteen, the troubled times requiring nearly twice as long a
servitude to make a Bachelor of Arts of me as would have been
necessary in the more haleyon days of peace. Thus I made a fragment of
a campaign when only a sophomore, and another the first year I was
junior. I say the first year, because I was obliged to pass two
years in each of the two higher classes of the institution, in order
to make up for lost time. A youth cannot very well be campaigning and
studying Euclid in the academic bowers, at the same moment. Then I was
so young, that a year, more or less, was of no great moment.
My principal service in the war of the revolution was in 1777, or
in the campaign in which Burgoyne was met and captured. That important
service was performed by a force that was composed partly of regular
troops, and partly of militia. My grandfather commanded a brigade of
the last, or what was called a brigade, some six hundred men at most;
while my father led a regular battalion of one hundred and sixty
troops of the New York line, into the German intrenchments, the
memorable and bloody day the last were stormed. How many he brought
out I never heard him say. The way in which I happened to be present
in these important scenes, is soon told.
Lilacsbush being on the Island of Manhattan, (not Manhattan Island,
be it always remembered), and our family being whig, we were driven
from both our town and country houses, the moment Sir William Howe
took possession of New York. At first, my mother was content with
going merely to Satanstoe, which was only a short distance from the
enemy's lines; but the political character of the Littlepages being
too well established to render this a safe residence, my grandmother
and mother, always accompanied by Miss Wallace, went up above the
Highlands, where they established themselves in the village of
Fishkill, for the remainder of the war, on a farm that belonged to
Miss Wallace, in fee. Here it was thought they were safe, being
seventy miles from the capital, and quite within the American lines.
As this removal took place at the close of the year 1776, and after
independence had been declared, it was understood that our return to
our proper homes at all depended on the result of the war. At that
time I was a sophomore, and at home in the long vacation. It was in
this visit that I made my fragment of a campaign, accompanying my
father through all the closing movements of his regiment, while
Washington and Howe were manoeuvring in Westchester. My father's
battalion happening to be posted in such a manner as to be in the
centre of battle at White Plains, I had an opportunity of seeing some
pretty serious service on that occasion. Nor did I quit the army, and
return to my studies until after the brilliant affairs at Trenton and
Princeton, in both of which our regiment participated.
This was a pretty early commencement with the things of active
life, for a boy of fourteen. But, in that war, lads of my age often
carried muskets, for the colonies covered a great extent of country,
and had but few people. They who read of the war of the American
revolution, and view its campaigns and battles as they would regard
the conflicts of older and more advanced nations, can form no just
notions of the disadvantages with which our people had to contend, or
the great superiority of the enemy in all the usual elements of
military force. Without experienced officers, with but few and
indifferent arms, often in want of ammunition, the rural and otherwise
peaceful population of a thinly peopled country were brought in
conflict with the chosen warriors of Europe; and this, too, with
little or none of that great sinew of war, money, to sustain them.
Nevertheless, the Americans, unaided by any foreign skill, or succour,
were about as often successful as the reverse. Bunker Hill,
Bennington, Saratoga, Bhemis' Heights, Trenton, Princeton, Monmouth,
were all purely American battles; to say nothing of divers others that
occurred further south; and, though insignificant as to numbers,
compared with the conflicts of these later times, each is worthy of a
place in history, and one or two are almost without parallels; as is
seen when Bunker Hill be named. It sounds very well in a despatch, to
swell out the list of an enemy's ranks; but, admitting the number
itself not to be overrated, as so often occurred, of what avail are
men without arms or ammunition, and frequently without any other
military organization than a muster-roll!
I have said I made nearly the whole of the campaign in which
Burgoyne was taken. It happened in this wise. The service of the
previous year had a good deal indisposed me to study, and when again
at home, in the autumn vacation, my dear mother sent me with clothing
and supplies to my father, who was with the army at the north. I
reached the head-quarters of general Gates a week before the affair of
Bhemis' Heights, and was with my father until the capitulation was
completed. Owing to these circumstances, though still a boy in years,
I was an eye-witness, and in some measure, an actor in two or three of
the most important events of the whole war. Being well-grown for my
years, and of a somewhat manly appearance considering how young I
really was, I passed very well as a volunteer, being, I have reason
to think, somewhat of a favourite in the regiment. In the last battle,
I had the honour to act as a sort of aide-de-camp to my
grandfather, who sent me with orders and messages, two or three times,
into the midst of the fire. In this manner I made myself a little
known, and all so much the more, from the circumstance of my being in
fact nothing but a college lad, away from his alma mater,
It was but natural that a boy thus situated should attract some
little attention, and I was noticed by officers, who, under
other circumstances, would hardly have felt it necessary to go out of
their way to speak to me. The Littlepages had stood well, I have
reason to think, in the colony, and their position in the new state
was not likely to be at all lowered by the part they were now playing
in the revolution. I am far from certain that general Littlepage was
considered a corner post in the Temple of Freedom that the army was
endeavouring to rear, but he was quite respectable as a militia
officer, while my father was very generally admitted to be one of the
best lieutenants-colonel in the whole army.
I well remember to have been much struck with a captain in my
father's regiment, who certainly was a character, in his way. His
origin was Dutch, as was the case with a fair proportion of the
officers; and he bore the name of Andries Coejemans, though he was
universally known by the sobriquet of the "Chainbearer." It was
fortunate for him it was so, else would the Yankees in the camp, who
seem to have a mania to pronounce every word as it is spelled, and
having succeeded in this, to change the spelling of the whole
language to accommodate it to certain sounds of their own inventing,
would have given him a most unpronounceable appellation. Heaven only
knows what they would have called captain Coejemans, but for
this lucky nick-name; but it may be as well to let the uninitiated
understand at once, that, in New York parlance, Coejemans is called
Queemans. The Chainbearer was of a respectable Dutch family, one that
has even given its queer-looking name to a place of some little note
on the Hudson; but, as was very apt to be the case with the cadets
of such houses, in the good old time of the colony, his education was
no great matter. His means had once been respectable, but, as he
always maintained, he was cheated out of his substance by a Yankee
before he was three-and-twenty, and he had had recourse to surveying
for a living from that time. But Andries had no head for mathematics,
and, after making one or two notable blunders in the way of his new
profession, he quietly sunk to the station of a Chainbearer, in which
capacity he was known to all the leading men of his craft in the
colony. It is said that every man is suited to some pursuit or other,
in which he might acquire credit, would he only enter on it and
persevere. Thus it proved to be with Andries Coejemans. As a
Chainbearer he had an unrivalled reputation. Humble as was the
occupation, it admitted of excellence in various particulars, as well
as another. In the first place, it required honesty, a quality in
which this class of men can fail, as well as all the rest of mankind.
Neither colony nor patentee, landlord nor tenant, buyer nor seller,
need be uneasy about being fairly dealt by, so long as Andries
Coejemans held the forward end of the chain; a duty on which he was
invariably placed, by one party or the other. Then, a practical eye
was a great aid to positive measurement; and, while Andries never
swerved to the right or to the left of his course, having acquired a
sort of instinct in his calling, much time and labour were saved. In
addition to these advantages, the "Chainbearer" had acquired great
skill in all the subordinate matters of his calling. He was a capital
woodsman, generally; had become a good hunter, and had acquired most
of the habits that pursuits like those in which he was engaged, for so
many years previously to entering the army, would be likely to give a
man. In the course of time, he took patents to survey, employing men
with heads better than his own to act as principals, while he still
carried the chain.
At the commencement of the revolution, Andries, like most of those
who sympathized with the colonies, took up arms. When the regiment of
which my father was the lieutenant-colonel was raised, they who could
bring to its colours so many men received commissions of a rank
proportioned to their services in this respect. Andries had presented
himself early with a considerable squad of chainbearers, hunters,
trappers, runners, guides, &c., numbering in the whole something like
five-and-twenty hardy, resolute sharpshooters. Their leader was made a
lieutenant in consequence, and being the oldest of his rank in the
corps, he was shortly after promoted to a captaincy, the station he
was in when I made his acquaintance, and above which he never rose.
Revolutions, more especially such as are of a popular character,
are not remarkable for bringing forward those who are highly educated,
or otherwise fitted for their new stations, unless it may be on the
score of zeal. It is true, service generally classes men, bringing out
their qualities, and necessity soon compels the preferment of those
who are the best qualified. Our own great national struggle, however,
probably did less of this than any similar event of modern times, a
respectable mediocrity having accordingly obtained an elevation that,
as a rule, it was enabled to keep to the close of the war. It is a
singular fact that not a solitary instance is to be found in our
military annals of a young soldier's rising to high command, by the
force of his talents, in all that struggle. This may have been, and in
a measure probably was owing to the opinions of the people,
and to the circumstance that the service itself was one that demanded
greater prudence and circumspection than qualities of a more dazzling
nature; or the qualifications of age and experience, rather than those
of youth and enterprise. It is probable Andries Coejemans, on the
score of original station, was rather above than below the level of
the social positions of a majority of the subalterns of the different
lines of the more northern colonies, when he first joined the army.
It is true, his education was not equal to his birth; for, in that
day, except in isolated instances and particular families, the Dutch
of New York, even in cases in which money was not wanting, were
anything but scholars. In this particular, our neighbours the Yankees
had greatly the advantage of us. They sent everybody to school, and,
though their educations were principally those of smatterers, it is an
advantage to be even a smatterer among the very ignorant. Andries had
been no student either, and one may easily imagine what indifferent
cultivation will effect on a naturally thin soil. He could read
and write, it is true, but it was the cyphering under which he broke
down, as a surveyor. I have often heard him say, that "if land could
be measured without figures, he would turn his back on no man in the
calling in all America, unless it might be `His Excellency,' who, he
made no doubt, was not only the best, but the honestest surveyor
mankind had ever enjoyed."
The circumstance that Washington had practised the art of a
surveyor for a short time in his early youth, was a source of great
exultation with Andries Coejemans. He felt that it was an honour to be
even a subordinate in a pursuit in which such a man was a principal. I
remember, that long after we were at Saratoga together, captain
Coejemans, while we were before Yorktown, pointed to the
commander-in-chief one day, as the latter rode past our encampment,
and cried out, with emphasis — "T'ere, Mortaunt, my poy—t'ere
goes His Excellency!—It woult be t'e happiest tay of my life, coult
I only carry chain while he survey't a pit of a farm, in this
Andries was more or less Dutch in his dialect, as he was more or
less interested. In general, he spoke English pretty well—colony
English I mean, not that of the schools; though he had not a single
Yankeeism in his vocabulary. On this last point, he prided himself
greatly, feeling an honest pride, if he did occasionally use
vulgarisms, a vicious pronunciation, or make a mistake in the meaning
of a word, a sin he was a little apt to commit; and that his faults
were all honest New York mistakes, and no "New Englant gipperish." In
the course of the various visits I paid to the camp, Andries and
myself became quite intimate, his peculiarities seizing my fancy; and,
doubtless, my obvious admiration awakening his gratitude. In the
course of our many conversations, he gave me his whole history,
commencing with the emigration of the Coejemans from Holland, and
ending with our actual situation, in the camp at Saratoga. Andries
had been often engaged, and, before the war terminated, I could boast
of having been at his side in no less than six affairs myself, viz:
White Plains, Trenton, Princeton, Bhemis' Heights, Monmouth, and
Brandywine; for I had stolen away from college to be present at the
last affair. The circumstance that our regiment was both with
Washington and Gates was owing to the noble qualities of the former,
who sent off some of his best troops to reinforce his rival, as
things gathered to a head at the north. Then I was present throughout,
at the siege of Yorktown. But, it is not my intention to enlarge on my
own military services.
While at Saratoga, I was much struck with the air, position and
deportment of a gentleman who appeared to command the respect, and to
obtain the ears of all the leaders in the American camp, while he held
no apparent official station. He wore no uniform, though he was
addressed by the title of general, and had much more of the character
of a real soldier than Gates, who commanded. He must have been
between forty and fifty at that time, and in the full enjoyment of the
vigour of his mind and body. This was Philip Schuyler, so justly
celebrated in our annals for his wisdom, patriotism, integrity, and
public services. His connection with the great northern campaign is
too well known to require any explanations here. Its success, perhaps,
was more owing to his advice and preparations than to the
influence of any one other mind, and he is beginning already to take
a place in history, in connection with these great events, that has a
singular resemblance to that he occupied during their actual
occurrence: in other words, he is to be seen in the back-ground of the
great national picture, unobtrusive and modest, but directing and
controlling all, by the power of his intellect, and the influence of
his experience and character. Gates was but a secondary personage, in
the real events of that memorable period. Schuyler was the presiding
spirit, though forced by popular prejudice to retire from the apparent
command of the army. Our written accounts ascribe the difficulty that
worked this injustice to Schuyler, to a prejudice which existed among
the eastern militia, and which is supposed to have had its origin in
the disasters of St. Clair; or the reverses which attended the
earlier movements of the campaign. My father, who had known general
Schuyler in the war of '56, when he acted as Bradstreet's right-hand
man, attributed the feeling to a different cause. According to his
notion of the alienation, it was owing to the difference in habits and
opinions which existed between Schuyler, as a New York gentleman, and
the yeomen of New England, who came out in 1777, imbued with all the
distinctive notions of their very peculiar state of society. There may
have been prejudices on both sides, but it is easy to see which party
exhibited most magnanimity and self-sacrifice. Possibly, the last was
inseparable from the preponderance of numbers, it not being an easy
thing to persuade masses of men that they can be wrong, and a
single individual right. This is the great error of democracy, which
fancies truth is to be proved by counting noses; while aristocracy
commits the antagonist blunder of believing that excellence is
inherited, from male to male, and that too in the order of
primogeniture! It is not easy to say where one is to look for truth,
in this life.
As for general Schuyler, I have thought my father was right in
ascribing his unpopularity solely to the prejudices of provinces. The
Muse of History is the most ambitious of the whole sisterhood, and
never thinks she has done her duty unless all she says and records is
said and recorded with an air of profound philosophy; whereas, more
than half of the greatest events which affect human interest, are to
be referred to causes that have little connection with our boasted
intelligence, in any shape. Men feel far more than they reason, and a
little feeling is very apt to upset a great deal of philosophy.
It has been said that I passed six years at Princeton; nominally,
if not in fact; and that I graduated at nineteen. This happened the
year Cornwallis surrendered, and I actually served at the siege as the
youngest ensign in my father's battalion. I had also the happiness,
for such it was to me, to be attached to the company of captain
Coejemans; a circumstance which clenched the friendship I had formed
for that singular old man. I say old, for by this time Andries was
every hour of sixty-seven, though as hale, and hearty, and active, as
any officer in the corps. As for hardships, forty years of training,
most of which had been passed in the woods, placed him quite at our
head, in the way of endurance.
I loved my predecessors, grandfather and grandmother included, not
only as a matter of course, but with sincere filial attachment; and I
loved Miss Mary Wallace, or aunt Mary, as I had been taught to call
her, quite as much on account of her quiet, gentle, affectionate
manner, as from habit; and I loved major Dirck Follock as a sort of
hereditary friend, as a distant relative, and a good and careful
guardian of my own youth and inexperience on a thousand occasions;
and I loved my father's negro man, Jaap, as we all love faithful
slaves, however unnurtured they may be; but Andries was the man whom I
loved without knowing why. He was illiterate almost to greatness,
having the drollest notions imaginable of this earth and all it
contained; was anything but refined in deportment, though hearty and
frank; had prejudices so crammed into his moral system that there did
not seem to be room for anything else; and was ever so little
addicted, moreover, to that species of Dutch jollification, which had
cost old colonel Van Valkenburgh his life, and a love for which was a
good deal spread throughout the colony. Nevertheless, I really loved
this man, and when we were all disbanded at the peace, or in 1783, by
which time I had myself risen to the rank of captain, I actually
parted from old Andries with tears in my eyes. My grandfather, general
Littlepage, was then dead, but government giving to most of us a step,
by means of brevet rank, at the final breaking up of the army, my
father, who had been the full colonel of the regiment for the last
year, bore the title of brigadier for the remainder of his days. It
was pretty much all he got for seven years of dangers and arduous
services. But the country was poor, and we had fought more for
principles than for the hope of rewards. It must be admitted that
America ought to be full of philosophy, inasmuch as so much of her
system of rewards, and even of punishments, is purely theoretical, and
addressed to the imagination, or to the qualities of the mind. Thus
it is, that we contend with all our enemies on very unequal grounds.
The Englishman has his knighthood, his baronetcies, his peerages, his
orders, his higher ranks in the professions, his batons, and
all the other venial in ducements of our corrupt nature to make him
fight, while the American is goaded on to glory by the abstract
considerations of virtue and patriotism. After all, we flog quite as
often as we are flogged, which is the main interest affected. While on
this subject I will remark that Andries Coejemans never assumed the
empty title of major, which was so graciously bestowed on him by the
congress of 1783, but left the army a captain in name, without
half-pay, or anything but his military lot, to find a niece whom he
was bringing up, and to pursue his old business of a "Chainbearer."
"A trusty villain, sir; that very oft,
When I am dull with care and melancholy,
Lightens my humours with his many jests."
Domino of Syracuse.
It will be seen that, while I got a degree, and what is called an
education, the latter was obtained by studies of a very desultory
character. There is no question that learning of all sorts fell off
sadly among us during the revolution and the twenty years that
succeeded it. While colonies, we possessed many excellent instructors
who came from Europe; but the supply ceased, in a great measure, as
soon as the troubles commenced; nor was it immediately renewed at the
peace. I think it will be admitted that the gentlemen of the country
began to be less well educated about the time I was sent to college,
than had been the case for the previous half century, and that the
defect has not yet been repaired. What the country may do in the first
half of the nineteenth century remains to be seen.
My connection with the army aided materially in weaning me from
home, though few youths had as many temptations to return to the
paternal roof as myself. There were my beloved mother and my
grandmother, in the first place, both of whom doted on me as on an
only son. Then aunt Mary almost equally shared in my affections. But,
I had two sisters, one of whom was older, and the other younger than
myself. The eldest, who was called Anneke, after our dear mother, was
even six years my senior, and was married early in the war to a
gentleman of the name of Kettletas. Mr. Kettletas was a person of very
good estate, and made my sister perfectly happy. They had several
children, and resided in Dutchess, which was an additional reason for
my mother's choosing that county for her temporary residence. I
regarded Anneke, or Mrs. Kettletas, much as all youths regard an elder
sister, who is affectionate, feminine and respectable; but little
Katrinke, or Kate, was my pet. She, again, was four years younger than
myself; and as I was just two-and-twenty when the army was disbanded,
she of course was only eighteen. This dear sister was a little,
jumping, laughing, never-quiet, merry thing, when I had taken my
leave of her, in 1781, to join the regiment as an ensign, as handsome
and sweet as a rose-bud, and quite as full of promise. I remember that
old Andries and I used to pass much of our time in camp, in conversing
about our several pets; he of his niece, and I of my younger sister.
Of course, I never intended to marry, but Kate and I were to live
together; she as my housekeeper and companion, and I as her elder
brother and protector. The one great good of life with us all was
peace, with independence; which obtained, no one, in our regiment at
least, was so little of a patriot as to doubt of the future. It was
laughable to see with how much gusto and simplicity the old
Chainbearer entered into all these boyish schemes. His niece was an
orphan, it would seem, the only child of an only but a half-sister,
and was absolutely dependent on him for the bread she put into her
mouth. It is true that this niece fared somewhat better than such a
support would seem to promise, having been much cared for by a female
friend of her mother's, who, being reduced herself, kept a school, and
had thus bestowed on her ward a far better education than she could
ever have got under her uncle's supervision, had the last possessed
the riches of the Van Rensselears, or of the Van Cortlandts. As has
been substantially stated, old Andries' forte did not lie in
education, and they who do not enjoy the blessings of such a
character, seldom duly appreciate their advantages. It is with the
acquisitions of the mind, as with those of mere deportment and the
tastes; we are apt to undervalue them all, until made familiarly
acquainted with their power to elevate and to enlarge. But the niece
of Andries had been particularly fortunate in falling into the hands
she had; Mrs. Stratton having the means and the inclination to do all
for her, in the way of instruction, that was then done for any young
woman in New York, as long as she lived. The death of this kind
friend occurring, however, in 1783, Andries was obliged to resume the
care of his niece, who was now thrown entirely on himself for support.
It is true, the girl wished to do something for herself, but this
neither the pride nor the affection of the old Chainbearer would
can the gal do?" Andries said to me significantly, one
day that he was recounting all these particulars. "She can't carry
chain, though I do believe, Morty, the chilt has head enough, and
figures enough to survey! It would do your heart good to read the
account of her l'arnin' t'at t'e olt woman used to send me; though she
wrote so excellent a hant herself, t'at it commonly took me a week to
read one of her letters; that is, from `Respected Friend' to `Humble
Sarvent,' as you know them 'ere t'ings go."
"Excellent hand! Why, I should think, Andries, the better the hand,
the easier one could read a letter."
"All a mistake. When a man writes a scrawl himself, it's nat'ral he
shoult read scrawls easiest, in his own case. Now, Mrs. Stratton was
home-taught, and would be likely to get into ways t'at a plain man
might find difficult to get along wit'."
"Do you think, then, of making a surveyor of your niece?" I asked,
a little pointedly.
"Why, she is hartly strong enough to travel t'rough the woots, and
the callin' is not suitaple to her sex, t'ough I woult risk her
against t'e oldest calculator in t'e province."
"We call New York a State, now, captain Andries, you will be so
good as to remember."
"Ay, t'at's true, and I peg the State's parton. Well, t'ere'll be
scrampling enough for t'e land, as soon as the war is fairly over, and
chainbearing will be a sarviceable callin', once more. Do you know,
Morty, they talk of gifin' all of our line a quantity of land,
privates and officers, which will make me a lantholter again, the very
character in which I started in life. You will inherit acres enough,
and may not care so much apout owning a few hundret, more or less,
but I own the idee is agreeaple enough to me."
"Do you propose to commence anew, as a husbandman?"
"Not I; the pusiness never agreet wit' me, or I wit' it. Put a man
may survey his own lot, I suppose, and no offence to greater scholars.
If I get t'e grant t'ey speak of, I shall set to work and run it out,
on my own account, and t'en we shall see who understants figures, and
who don't! If other people won't trust me, it is no reason I shoult
not trust myself."
I knew that his having broken down in the more intellectual part of
his calling was a sore point with old Andries, and I avoided dwelling
on this part of the subject. In order to divert his mind to other
objects, indeed, I began to question him a little more closely than I
had ever done before, on the subject of his niece, in consequence of
which expedient I now learned many things that were new to me.
The name of the Chainbearer's niece was Duss Malbone, or so he
always pronounced it. In the end, I discovered that Duss was a sort of
Dutch diminutive for Ursula. Ursula Malbone had none of the Coejemans
blood in her, notwithstanding she was Andries' sister's daughter. It
seemed that old Mrs. Coejemans was twice married, her second husband
being the father of Duss' mother. Bob Malbone, as the Chainbearer
always called the girl's father, was an eastern man, of very good
family, but was a reckless spendthrift, who married Duss the senior,
as well as I could learn, for her property; all of which, as well as
that he had inherited himself, was cleverly gotten rid of within the
first ten years of their union, and a year or two after the girl was
born. Both father and mother died within a few months of each other,
and in a very happy moment as regarded worldly means, leaving poor
little Duss with no one to care for her but her half-uncle, who was
then living in the forest, in his regular pursuits, and the Mrs.
Stratton I have mentioned. There was a half-brother, Bob Malbone
having married twice, but he was in the army, and had some near female
relation to support out of his pay. Between the Chainbearer and Mrs.
Stratton, with an occasional offering from the brother, the means of
clothing, nourishing and educating the young woman had been found,
until she reached her eighteenth year, when the death of her female
protector threw her nearly altogether on the care of her uncle. The
brother now did his share, Andries admitted; but it was not much that
he could do. A captain himself, his scanty pay barely sufficed to meet
his own wants.
I could easily see that old Andries loved Duss better than anything
else, or any other person. When he was a little mellow, and that was
usually the extent of his debaucheries, he would prate about her to
me, until the tears came into his eyes, and once he actually proposed
that I should marry her.
"You woult just suit each other," the old man added, in a very
quaint, but earnest manner, on that memorable occasion; "and as for
property, I know you care little for money, and will have enough for
half-a-tozen. I swear to you, captain Littlepage,"—for this dialogue
took place only a few months before we were disbanded, and after I had
obtained a company,—"I swear to you, captain Littlepage, t'e girl
is laughing from morning till night, and would make one of the
merriest companions for an olt soltier that ever promiset `to honour
and opey.' Try her once, lad, and see if I teceive you."
"That may do well enough, friend Andries, for an
whereas you will remember I am but a boy in years—"
"Ay, in years; but olt as a soltier, Morty—olt as White Plains,
or '76; as I know from hafin' seen you unter fire."
"Well, be it so; but it is the man, and not the soldier, who is to
do the marrying, and I am still a very young man."
"You might do worse, take my word for it, Mortaunt, my dear poy;
for Duss is fun itself, and I have often spoken of you to her, in a
way t'at will make the courtship as easy as carrying a chain, on t'e
I assured my friend Andries that I did not think of a wife yet, and
that my taste ran for a sentimental and melancholy young woman, rather
than for a laughing girl. The old Chainbearer took this repulse
good-humouredly, though he renewed the attack at least a dozen times,
before the regiment was disbanded, and we finally separated. I say
finally separated, though it was in reference to our companionship as
soldiers, rather than to our future lives; for I had determined to
give Andries employment myself, should nothing better offer in his
Nor was I altogether without the means of thus serving a friend,
when the inclination existed. My grandfather, Herman Mordaunt, had
left me, to come into possession on reaching the age of twenty-one, a
considerable estate, in what is now Washington county, a portion of
our territory that lies north-east from Albany, and at no great
distance from the Hampshire Grants. This property, of many thousands
of acres in extent, had been partially settled, under leases, by
himself, previously to my birth, and those leases having mostly
expired, the tenants were remaining at will, waiting for more quiet
times to renew their engagements. As yet, Ravensnest, for so the
estate was called, had given the family little besides expense and
trouble; but the land being good, and the improvements considerable,
it was time to look for some returns for all our outlays. This estate
was now mine in fee, my father having formally relinquished its
possession in my favour the day I attained my majority. Adjacent to
this estate lay that of Mooseridge, which was the joint property of my
father and of his friend major, or as he was styled in virtue of the
brevet rank granted at the peace, colonel Follock. Mooseridge
had been originally patented by my grandfather, the first general
Littlepage, and old colonel Follock, he who had been slain and
scalped early in the war; but, on the descent of his moiety of the
tenantry in common to Dirck Follock, my grandfather conveyed his
interest to his own son, who, ere long, must become its owner,
agreeably to the laws of nature. This property had once been surveyed
into large lots, but owing to some adverse circumstances, and the
approach of the troubles, it had never been settled, or surveyed into
farms. All that its owners ever got for it, therefore, was the
privilege of paying the crown its quit-rents; taxes, or reserved
payments of no great amount, it is true, though far more than the
estate had ever yet returned.
While on the subject of lands and tenements, I may as well finish
my opening explanations. My paternal grandfather was by no means as
rich as my father, though the senior, and of so much higher military
rank. His property, or neck, of Satanstoe, nevertheless, was quite
valuable; more for the quality of the land and its position, than for
its extent. In addition to this, he had a few thousand pounds at
interest; stocks, banks, and monied corporations of all kinds, being
then nearly unknown among us. His means were sufficient for his wants,
however, and it was a joyful day when he found himself enabled to take
possession of his own house again, in consequence of Sir Guy
Carleton's calling in all of his detachments from Westchester. The
Morrises, distinguished whigs as they were, did not get back to
Morrisania until after the evacuation, which took place November 25,
1783; nor did my father return to Lilacsbush until after that
important event. The very year my grandfather saw Satanstoe, he took
the smallpox in camp, and died.
To own the truth, the place found us all very poor, as was the case
with almost everybody in the country but a few contractors. It was not
the contractors for the American army that were rich; they fared worse
than most people; but the few who furnished supplies to the French did get silver in return for their advances. As for the army, it
was disbanded without any reward but promises, and payment in a
currency that depreciated so rapidly that men were glad to spend
recklessly their hard-earned stock lest it should become perfectly
valueless in their hands. I have heard much, in later years, of the
celebrated Newburgh Letters, and of the want of patriotism that could
lead to their having been written. It may not have been wise,
considering the absolute want of the country, to have contemplated
the alternative towards which those letters certainly cast an oblique
glance, but there was nothing in either their execution, or their
drift, which was not perfectly natural for the circumstances. It was
quite right for Washington to act as he did in that crisis, though it
is highly probable that even Washington would have felt and acted
differently, had he nothing but the keen sense of his neglected
services, poverty and forgetfulness, before him, in the perspective.
As for the young officer who actually wrote the letters, it is
probable that justice will never be done to any part of his conduct,
but that which is connected with the elegance of his diction. It is
very well for those who do not suffer to prate about patriotism; but a
country is bound to be just, before it can lay a high moral claim to
this exclusive devotedness to the interests of the majority. Fine
words cost but little, and I acknowledge no great respect for those
who manifest their integrity principally in phrases. This is said not
in the way of personal apology, for our regiment did not happen to be
at Newburgh, at the disbandment; if it had, I think my father's
influence would have kept us from joining the malcontents; but, at the
same time, I fancy his and my own patriotism would have been much
strengthened by the knowledge that there were such places as
Satanstoe, Lilacsbush, Mooseridge and Ravensnest. To return to the
account of our property.
My grandfather Mordaunt, notwithstanding his handsome bequests to
me, left the bulk of his estate to my mother. This would have made the
rest of the family rich, had it not been for the dilapidations
produced by the war. But the houses and stores in town were without
tenants who paid, having been mainly occupied by the enemy; and
interest on bonds was hard to collect from those who lived within the
In a word, it is not easy to impress on the mind of one who
witnesses the present state of the country, its actual condition in
that day. As an incident that occurred to myself, after I had
regularly joined the army for duty, will afford a lively picture of
the state of things, I will relate it, and this the more willingly, as
it will be the means of introducing to the reader an old friend of the
family, and one who was intimately associated with divers events of my
own life. I have spoken of Jaaf, a slave of my father's, and one of
about his own time of life. At the time to which I allude, Jaaf was a
middle-aged, grey-headed negro, with most of the faults, and with all
the peculiar virtues of the beings of his condition and race. So much
reliance had my mother, in particular, on his fidelity, that she
insisted on his accompanying her husband to the wars, an order that
the black most willingly obeyed; not only because he loved adventure,
but because he especially hated an Indian, and my father's earliest
service was against that portion of our foes. Although Jaaf acted as a
body-servant, he carried a musket, and even drilled with the men.
Luckily, the Littlepage livery was blue turned up with red, and of a
very modest character; a circumstance that almost put Jaaf in
uniform, the fellow obstinately refusing to wear the colours of any
power but that of the family to which he regularly belonged. In this
manner, Jaaf had got to be a queer mixture of the servant and the
soldier, sometimes acting in the one capacity, and sometimes in the
other, having at the same time not a little of the husbandman about
him; for our slaves did all sorts of work.
My mother had made it a point that Jaaf should accompany me, on all
occasions when I was sent to any distance from my father. She
naturally enough supposed I had the most need of the care of a
faithful attendant, and the black had consequently got to be about
half transferred to me. He evidently liked this change, both because
it was always accompanied by change of scene and the chances for new
adventures, and because it gave him an opportunity of re-lating many
of the events of his youth; events that had got to be worn threadbare,
as narratives, with his "ole masser," but which were still fresh with
On the occasion to which there is allusion, Jaaf and I were
returning to camp, from an excursion of some length, on which I had
been sent by the general of division. This was about the time the
continental money made its final fall to nothing, or next to nothing,
it having long stood at about a hundred dollars for one. I had
provided myself with a little silver, and very precious it was, and
some thirty or forty thousand dollars of "continental," to defray my
travelling expenses; but, my silver was expended, and the paper
reduced to two or three thousand dollars, when it would require the
whole stock of the latter to pay for Jaaf's and my own dinner; nor
were the innkeepers very willing to give their time and food for it at
any price. This vacuum in my purse took place when I had still two
long days' ride before me, and in a part of the country where I had no
acquaintances whatever. Supper and rest were needed for ourselves,
and provender and stabling for our horses. Everything of the sort was
cheap enough to be sure, but absolute want of means rendered the
smallest charge impracticable to persons in our situation. As for
appealing to the patriotism of those who lived by the way-side, it was
too late in the war; patriotism being a very evanescent quality of
the human heart, and particularly addicted to sneaking, like
compassion, behind some convenient cover, when it is to be maintained
at any pecuniary cost. It will do for a capital, in a revolution, or a
war for the first six months perhaps; but gets to be as worthless as
continental money itself, by the end of that period. One militia draft
has exhausted the patriotism of thousands of as disinterested heroes
as ever shouldered muskets.
"Jaap"—I asked of my companion, as we drew near to the hamlet
where I intended to pass the night, and the comforts of a warm supper
on a sharp frosty evening, began to haunt my imagination—"Jaap, how
much money may you have about you?"
"I, Masser Mordaunt!—Golly! but dat a berry droll question, sah!"
"I ask, because my own stock is reduced to just one York shilling,
which goes by the name of only a ninepence in this part of the world."
"Dat berry little, to tell 'e trut', sah, for two gentleum, and two
large, hungry hosses. Berry little, indeed, sah! I wish he war' more."
"Yet, I have not a copper more. I gave one thousand two hundred
dollars for the dinner and baiting and oats, at noon."
"Yes, sah — but, dat conternental, sah, I supposes — no great
t'ing, a'ter all."
"It 's a great thing in sound, Jaap, but not much when it comes to
the teeth, as you perceive. Nevertheless, we must eat and drink, and
our nags must eat too — I suppose they may drink,
"Yes, sah — dat true 'nough, yah — yah — yah"—how easily
that negro laughed! — "But 'e cider wonnerful good in dis part of 'e
country, young masser; just needer sweet nor sour — den he strong as
"Well, Jaap, how are we to get any of this good cider, of which you
"You t'ink, sah, dis part of 'e country been talk to much lately
'bout Patty Rism and 'e country, sah?"
"I am afraid Patty has been overdone here, as well as in most other
I may observe here, that Jaap always imagined the beautiful
creature he had heard so much extolled, and commended for her
comeliness and virtue, was a certain young woman of this name, with
whom all congress was unaccountably in love at the same time.
"Well, den, sah, dere no hope, but our wits. Let me be masser
to-night, and you mind ole Jaap, if he want good supper. Jest ride
ahead, Masser Mordaunt, and give he order like general Littlepage son,
and leave it all to ole Jaap."
As there was not much to choose, I did ride on, and soon ceased to
hear the hoofs of the negro's horse at my heels. I reached the inn an
hour ere Jaap appeared, and was actually seated at a capital supper
before he rode up, as one belonging only to himself. Jaap had taken
off the Littlepage emblems, and had altogether a most independent air.
His horse was stabled alongside of mine, and I soon found that he
himself was at work on the remnants of my supper, as they retreated
towards the kitchen.
A traveller of my appearance was accommodated with the best
parlour, as a matter of course; and, having appeased my appetite, I
sat down to read some documents that were connected with the duty I
was on. No one could have imagined that I had only a York shilling,
which is a Pennsylvania "levy," or a Connecticut "ninepence," in my
purse; for my air was that of one who could pay for all he wanted; the
certainty that, in the long run, my host could not be a loser, giving
me a proper degree of confidence. I had just got through with the
documents, and was thinking how I should employ the hour or two that
remained until it would be time to go to bed, when I heard Jaap tuning
his fiddle in the bar-room. Like most negroes, the fellow had an ear
for music, and had been indulged in his taste, until he played as well
as half the country fiddlers that were to be met.
The sound of a fiddle in a small hamlet, of a cool October evening,
was certain of its result. In half an hour, the smiling landlady came
to invite me to join the company, with the grateful information I
should not want for a partner, the prettiest girl in the place having
come in late, and being still unprovided for. On entering the
bar-room, I was received with plenty of awkward bows and curtsies, but
with much simple and well-meaning hospitality. Jaap's own salutations
were very elaborate, and altogether of a character to prevent the
suspicion of our ever having met before.
The dancing continued for more than two hours with spirit, when the
time admonished the village maidens of the necessity of retiring.
Seeing an indication of the approaching separation, Jaap held out his
hat to me, in a respectful manner, when I magnificently dropped my
shilling into it, in a way to attract attention, and passed it round
among the males of the party. One other gave a shilling, two clubbed
and actually produced a quarter, several threw in sixpences, or
fourpence-halfpennies, and coppers made up the balance. By way of
climax, the landlady, who was good-looking and loved dancing, publicly
announced that the fiddler and his horse should go scot free, until he
left the place. By these ingenious means of Jaap's, I found in my
purse next morning seven-and-sixpence in silver, in addition to my own
shilling, besides coppers enough to keep a negro in cider for a week.
I have often laughed over Jaap's management, though I would not
permit him to repeat it. Passing the house of a man of better
condition than common, I presented myself to its owner, though an
entire stranger to him, and told him my story. Without asking any
other confirmation than my word, this gentleman lent me five silver
dollars, which answered all my present purposes, and which, I trust,
it is scarcely necessary to say, were duly repaid.
It was a happy hour to me when I found myself a titular major, but
virtually a freeman, and at liberty to go where I pleased. The war had
offered so little of variety or adventure, since the capture of
Cornwallis and the pendency of the negotiations for peace, that I
began to tire of the army; and now that the country had triumphed, was
ready enough to quit it. The family, that is to say, my grandmother,
mother, aunt Mary and my youngest sister, took possession of
Satanstoe in time to enjoy some of its delicious fruits, in the autumn
of 1782; and early in the following season, after the treaty was
signed, but while the British still remained in town, my mother was
enabled to return to Lilacsbush. As consequences of these early
movements, my father and myself, when we joined the two families,
found things in a better state than might otherwise have been the
case. The Neck was planted, and had enjoyed the advantage of a
spring's husbandry, while the grounds of Lilacsbush had been renovated
and brought in good condition, by the matured and practised taste of
my admirable mother. And she was admirable, in all the
relations of life! A lady in feeling and habits, whatever she touched
or controlled imbibed a portion of her delicacy and sentiment. Even
the inanimate things around her betrayed this feature of their
connection with one of her sex's best qualities. I remember that
colonel Dirck Follock remarked to me one day that we had been
examining the offices together, something that was very applicable to
this trait in my mother's character, while it was perfectly just.
"No one can see Mrs. Littlepage's kitchen, even," he said,
"alt'ough she never seems to enter it, without perceiving,"— or
`perceifing,' as he pronounced the word,— "that it is governed by a
lady. There are plenty of kitchens that are as clean, and as large,
and as well furnished, but it is not common to see a kitchen that
gives the same ideas of a good taste in the table, and about the
If this was true as to the more homely parts of the habitation, how
much truer was it when the distinction was carried into the superior
apartments! There, one saw my mother in person, and surrounded by
those appliances which denote refinement, without, however, any of
that elaborate luxury of which we read in older countries. In America,
we had much fine china, and a good deal of massive plate, regular
dinner-services excepted, previously to the revolution, and my mother
had inherited more than was usual of both; but the country knew little
of that degree of domestic indulgence which is fast creeping in among
us, by means of its enormously increased commerce.
Although the fortunes of the country had undergone so much waste,
during seven years of internal warfare, the elasticity of a young and
vigorous nation soon began to repair the evil. It is true that trade
did not fully revive, nor its connecting interests receive their great
impulse, until after the adoption of the Constitution, which brought
the States under a set of common custom-house regulations;
nevertheless, one year brought about a manifest and most beneficent
change. There was now some security in making shipments, and the
country immediately felt the consequences. The year 1784 was a sort of
breathing time for the nation, though long ere it was past the bone
and sinew of the republic began to make themselves apparent and felt.
Then it was that, as a people, this community first learned the
immense advantage it had obtained by controlling its own interests,
and by treating them as secondary to those of no other part of the
world. This was the great gain of all our labours.
"He tells her something,
That makes her blood look out; good sooth, she is
The queen of curds and cream."
Happy, happy Lilacsbush! Never can I forget the delight with which
I roamed over its heights and glens, and how I rioted in the pleasure
of feeling I was again a sort of master in those scenes which had been
the haunts of my boyhood! It was in the spring of 1784 before I was
folded to the arms of my mother; and this, too, after a separation of
near two years. Kate laughed, and wept, and hugged me, just as she
would have done five years earlier, though she was now a lovely young
woman, turned of nineteen. As for aunt Mary, she shook hands, gave me
a kind kiss or two, and smiled on me affectionately, in her own quiet,
gentle manner. The house was in a tumult, for Jaap returned with me,
his wool well sprinkled with grey, and there were lots of little
Satanstoes (for such was his family name, notwithstanding Mrs. Jaap
called herself Miss Lilacsbush), children and grandchildren to welcome
him. To say the truth, the house was not decently tranquil for the
first twenty-four hours.
At the end of that time, I ordered my horse to ride across the
country to Satanstoe, in order to visit my widowed grandmother, who
had resisted all attempts to persuade her to give up the cares of
housekeeping, and to come and live at Lilacsbush. The general, for so
everybody now called my father, did not accompany me, having been at
Satanstoe a day or two before; but my sister did. As the roads had
been much neglected in the war, we went in the saddle, Kate being one
of the most spirited horsewomen of my acquaintance. By this time, Jaap
had got to be privileged, doing just such work as suited his fancy;
or, it might be better to say, was not of much use except in the
desultory employments that had so long been his principal pursuits;
and he was sent off an hour or two before we started ourselves, to
let Mrs. Littlepage, or his "ole—ole missus," as the fellow always
called my grandmother, know whom she was to expect to dinner.
I have heard it said that there are portions of the world in which
people get to be so sophisticated, that the nearest of kin cannot take
such a liberty as this. The son will not presume to take a plate at
the table of the father without observing the ceremony of asking, or
of being asked! Heaven be praised! we have not yet reached this pass
in America. What parent, or grandparent, to the remotest living
generation, would receive a descendant with anything but a smile, or
a welcome, let him come when and how he will. If there be not room, or
preparation, the deficiencies must be made up in welcomes; or, when
absolute impossibilities interpose, if they are not overcome by means
of a quick invention, as most such "impossibilities" are, the truth is
frankly told, and the pleasure is deferred to a more fortunate
moment. It is not my intention to throw a vulgar and ignorant jibe
into the face of an advanced civilization, as is too apt to be the
propensity of ignorance and provincial habits; for I well know that
most of the usages of those highly improved conditions of society are
founded in reason, and have their justification in a cultivated common
sense; but, after all, mother nature has her rights, and they are not
to be invaded too boldly, without bringing with the acts themselves
their merited punishments.
It was just nine, on a fine May morning, when Kate Littlepage and
myself rode through the outer gate of Lilacsbush, and issued upon the
old, well-known, Kingsbridge road. Kings-bridge! That name
still remains, as do those of the counties of Kings and Queens, and
Duchess, to say nothing of quantities of Princes this and that, in
other States; and I hope they always may remain, as so many landmarks
in our history. These names are all that now remain among us of the
monarchy; and yet have I heard my father say a hundred times, that
when a young man, his reverence for the British throne was second only
to his reverence for the church. In how short a time has this feeling
been changed throughout an entire nation; or, if not absolutely
changed, for some still continue to reverence monarchy, how widely
and irremediably has it been impaired! Such are the things of the
world, perishable and temporary in their very natures; and they would
do well to remember the truth, who have much at stake in such changes.
We stopped at the door of the inn at Kingsbridge to say good
morning to old Mrs. Light, the landlady, who had now kept the house
half a century, and who had known us, and our parents before us, from
childhood. This loquacious housewife had her good and bad points, but
habit had given her a sort of claim on our attentions, and I could not
pass her door without drawing the rein, if it were only for a moment.
This was no sooner done, than the landlady, in person, was on her
threshold to greet us.
"Ay, I dreamt this, Mr. Mordaunt," the old woman exclaimed, the
instant she saw me — "I dreamt this, no later than last week! It is
nonsense to deny it; dreams do often come true!"
"And what has been your dream this time, Mrs. Light?" I asked, well
knowing it was to come, and the sooner we got it the better.
"I dreamt the general had come home last fall, and he
come home! Now, the only idee I had to help out that dream was a
report that he was to be home that day; but you know, Mr.
Mordaunt, or major Littlepage they tell me I ought now to call
you—but, you know, Mr. Mordaunt, how often reports turn out to be
nothing. I count a report as no great help to a dream. So last week, I
dreamed you would certainly be home this week; and here you are, sure
"And all without any lying report to help you, my good landlady?"
"Why, no great matter; a few flying rumours, perhaps; but as I
never believe them when awake, it 's onreasonable to suppose a
body would believe 'em when asleep. Yes, Jaaf stopped a minute to
water his horse this morning, and I foresaw from that moment my dream
would come to be true, though I never exchanged a word with the
"That is a little remarkable, Mrs. Light, as I supposed you always
exchanged a few words with your guests."
"Not with the blacks, major; it is apt to make 'em sassy. Sassiness
in a nigger is a thing I can't abide, and therefore I keep 'em all at
a distance. Well, the times that I have seen, major, since you went
off to the wars! and the changes we have had! Our clergyman don't pray
any longer for the king and queen—no more than if there wasn't sich
"Not directly, perhaps, but as part of the church of God, I trust.
We all pray for congress, now."
"Well, I hope good will come out of it! I must say, major, that His
Majesty's officers spent more freely, and paid in better money, than
the continental gentlemen. I 've had 'em both here, by rijjiments, and
that 's the character I must give 'em, in honesty."
"You will remember they were richer, and had more money than our
people. It is easy for the rich to appear liberal."
"Yes, I know that, sir, and you ought, and
do know it, too.
The Littlepages are rich, and always have been, and they are liberal
too. Lord bless your smiling, pretty faces! I knowed your family long
afore you knowed it yourselves. I know'd old captain Hugh Roger, your
great-grand'ther, and the old general, your grand'ther, and now
I know the young general, and you! Well, this will not be the
last of you, I dares to say, and there 'll be light hearts, and happy
ones among the Bayards, I 'll answer for it, now the wars are over,
and young major Littlepage has got back!"
This terminated the discourse; for, by this time, I had enough of
it; and making my bow, Kate and I rode on. Still, I could not but be
struck with the last speech of the old woman, and most of all with the
manner in which it was uttered. The name of Bayard was well known
among us, belonging to a family of which there were several branches
spread through the Middle States, as far south as Delaware; but I did
not happen to know a single individual of them all. What, then, could
my return have to do with the smiles or frowns of any of the name of
Bayard? It was natural enough, after ruminating a minute or two on the
subject, that I should utter some of my ideas, on such a subject, to
"What could the old woman mean, Kate," I abruptly commenced, "by
saying there would now be light hearts and happy ones among the
"Poor Mrs. Light is a great gossip, Mordaunt, and it may be
questioned if she know her own meaning half the time. All the Bayards
we know are the family at the Hickories; and with them, you have
doubtless heard, my mother has long been intimate."
"I have heard nothing about it, child. All I know is that there is
a place called the Hickories, up the river a few miles, and that it
belongs to some of the Bayards; but I never heard of any intimacy. On
the contrary, I remember to have heard that there was a lawsuit once,
between my grandfather Mordaunt and some old Bayard or other; and I
thought we were a sort of hereditary strangers."
"That is quite forgotten, and my mother says it all arose from a
mistake. We are decided friends now."
"I 'm sure I am very glad to hear it; for, since it is peace, let
us have peace; though old enemies are not apt to make very decided
"But we never were—that is, my grandfather never was an enemy of
anybody; and the whole matter was amicably settled just before he went
to Europe, on his unfortunate visit to Sir Harry Bulstrode.
No—no—my mother will tell you, Mordaunt, that the Littlepages and
the Bayards now regard each other as very decided friends."
Kate spoke with so much earnestness that I was disposed to take a
look at her. The face of the girl was flushed, and I fancy she had a
secret consciousness of the fact; for she turned it from me as if
gazing at some object in the opposite direction, thereby preventing me
from seeing much of it.
"I am very glad to learn all this," I answered, a little drily. "As
I am a Littlepage, it would have been awkward not to have known it,
had I accidentally met with one of these Bayards. Does the peace
include all of the name, or only those of the Hickories?"
Kate laughed; then she was pleased to tell me that I was to
consider myself the friend of all of the name.
"And most especially of those of the name who dwell at the
"How many may there be of this especially peaceful breed?—six, a
dozen, or twenty?"
"Only four; so your task will make no very heavy demand on your
affections. Your heart has room, I trust, for four more friends?"
"For a thousand, if I can find them, my dear. I can accept as many
friends as you please, but have places for none else. All the other
niches are occupied."
"Occupied! — I hope that is not true, Mordaunt.
at least, is vacant."
"True; I had forgotten a place must be reserved for the brother
you will, one day, give me. Well, name him, as soon as you please;
I shall be ready to love him, child."
"I may never make so heavy a draft on your affections. Anneke has
given you a brother already, and a very excellent one he is, and that
ought to satisfy a reasonable man."
"Ay, so all you young women say between fifteen and twenty, but you
usually change your mind in the end. The sooner you tell me who the
youth is, therefore, the sooner I shall begin to like him — is he
one of these Bayards? — un chevalier sans peur et sans reproche?
Kate had a brilliant complexion, in common; but, as I now turned my
eyes towards her inquiringly, more in mischief, however, than with the
expectation of learning anything new, I saw the roses of her cheeks
expand until they covered her temples. The little beaver she wore, and
which became her amazingly, did not suffice to conceal these blushes,
and I now really began to suspect I had hit on a vein that was
sensitive. But, my sister was a girl of spirit, and, though it was no
difficult thing to make her change colour, it was by no means easy to
look her down.
"I trust your new brother, Mordaunt, should there ever be such a
person, will be a respectable man, if not absolutely without
reproach," she answered. "But, if there be a Tom Bayard, there is also
a Pris. Bayard, his sister."
"So — so — this is all news to me, indeed! As to Mr. Thomas
Bayard, I shall ask no questions, my interest in him, if there
is to be any, being altogether ex officio, as one may say, and
coming as a matter of course; but you will excuse me if I am a little
curious on the subject of Miss Priscilla Bayard, a lady, you will
remember, I never saw."
My eye was on Kate the whole time, and I fancied she looked
gratified, though she still looked confused.
"Ask what you will, brother—Priscilla Bayard can bear a very
"In the first place, then, did that old gossip allude to Miss
Priscilla, by saying there would be light hearts and happy ones among
"Nay, I cannot answer for poor Mrs. Light's conceits. Put your
questions in some other form."
"Is there much intimacy between the people of the 'Bush and those
of the Hickories?"
we like them exceedingly; and I think they like
"Does this intimacy extend to the young folk, or is it confined to
"That is somewhat personal," said Kate, laughing, "as I happen to
be the only `young folk' at the 'Bush, to maintain the said intimacy.
As there is nothing to be ashamed of, however, but, on the contrary,
much of which one may be proud, I shall answer that it includes `all
ages and both sexes;' everybody but yourself, in a word."
you like old Mr. Bayard?"
"And old Mrs. Bayard?"
"She is a very agreeable person, and an excellent wife and mother."
"And you love Pris. Bayard?"
"As the apple of mine eye," the girl answered, with emphasis.
"And you like Tom Bayard, her brother?"
"As much as is decent and proper for one young woman to like the
brother of another young woman, whom she admits that she loves as the
apple of her eye."
Although it was not easy, at least not easy for
me, to cause
Kate Littlepage to hold her tongue, it was not easy for her to cause
the tell-tale blood always to remain stationary. She was surprisingly
beautiful in her blushes, and as much like what I had often fancied my
dear mother might have been in her best days as possible, at the very
moment she was making these replies, as steadily as if they gave her
"How is all this, then, connected with rejoicings among the people
of the Hickories, at my return? Are you the betrothed of Tom
Bayard, and have you been waiting for my return to give him your hand?"
not the betrothed to Tom Bayard, and have not been
waiting for your return to give him my hand," answered Kate, steadily.
"As for Mrs. Light's gossippings, you cannot expect me to
explain them. She gets her reports from servants, and others of
that class, and you know what such reports are usually worth. But, as
for my waiting for your return, brother, in order to announce
such an event, you little know how much I love you, if you suppose I
would do any such thing."
Kate said this with feeling, and I thanked her with my eyes, but
could not have spoken, and did not speak, until we had ridden some
distance. After this pause, I renewed the discourse with some of its
"On that subject, Katrinke, dear," I said, "I trust we understand
each other. Single, or married, you will ever be very dear to me; and
I own I should be hurt to be one of the last to learn your engagement,
whenever that may happen. And, now for this Pris. Bayard — do you
expect me to like her?"
"Do I! It would be one of the happiest moments of my life,
Mordaunt, when I could hear you acknowledge that you love her!"
This was uttered with great animation, and in a way to show that my
sister was very much in earnest. I felt some surprise when I put this
feeling in connection with the landlady's remarks, and began to
suspect there might be something behind the curtain worthy of my
knowledge. In order to make discoveries, however, it was necessary to
pursue the discourse.
"Of what age is Miss Bayard?" I demanded.
"She is two months my senior — very suitable, is it not?"
"I do not object to the difference, which will do very well. Is she
"Not very. You know few of us girls who have been educated during
the revolution, can boast of much in that way; though Priscilla is
better than common."
"Than of her class, you mean, of course?"
"Certainly — better than most young ladies of our best families."
"Is she amiable?"
"As Anneke, herself!"
This was saying a great deal, our eldest sister, as often happens
in families, being its paragon in the way of all the virtues, and
Anneke's temper being really serenity itself.
"You give her a high character, and one few girls could sustain. Is
she sensible and well-informed?"
"Enough so as often to make me feel ashamed of myself. She has an
excellent mother, Mordaunt; and I have heard you say, often, that the
mother would have great influence with you in choosing a wife."
"That must have been when I was very young, child, and before I
went to the army, where we look more at the young than at the old
women. But, why a wife?—Is it all settled between the old people,
that I am to propose to this Priscilla Bayard, and are you a party to
Kate laughed with all her heart, but I fancied she looked conscious.
"You make no answer, young lady, and you must permit me to remind
you that there is an express compact between you and me to treat each
other frankly on all occasions. This is one on which I especially
desire to see the conditions of the treaty rigidly enforced. Does any
such project exist?"
"Not as a project, discussed and planned—no—certainly not. No,
a thousand times, no. But, I shall run the risk of frustrating one of
my most cherished hopes, by saying, honestly, that you could not
gratify my dear mother, aunt Mary, and myself, more than by falling in
love with Pris. Bayard. We all love her ourselves, and we wish you to
be of the party, knowing that your love would probably lead to
a connection we should all like, more than I can express. There; you
cannot complain of a want of frankness, for I have heard it said,
again and again, that the wishes of friends, indiscreetly expressed,
are very apt to set young men against the very person it is desired to
make them admire."
"Quite likely to be true as a rule, though in my case no effect,
good or bad, will be produced. But, how do the Bayards feel in this
"How should I know!—Of course, no allusion has ever been made to
any of the family on the subject; and, as none of them know you, it is
im—that is, no allusion—I mean— certainly not to more than one
of them. I believe some vague remarks may have been ventured to
"By yourself, and to your friend, Pris.?"
"Never"—said Kate, with emphasis. "Such a subject could
never be mentioned between us."
"Then it must have been between the old ladies — the two mothers,
"I should think not. Mrs. Bayard is a woman of reserve, and mamma
has an extreme sense of propriety, as you know yourself, that would
not be likely to permit such a thing."
"Would the general think of contracting me, when my back was
"Not he — papa troubles himself very little about such things.
Ever since his return home, he has been courting mamma over again, he
"Surely, aunt Mary has not found words for such an allusion!"
"She, indeed! Poor, dear aunt Mary; it is little she meddles with
any one's concerns but her own. Do you know, Mordaunt, that mamma has
told me the whole of her story lately, and the reason why she has
refused so many excellent offers. I dare say, if you ask her, she will
"I know the whole story already, from the general, child. But, if
this matter has been alluded to, to one of the Bayards, and neither my
father, mother, nor aunt Mary, has made the allusion on our side, and
neither Mr. Bayard, his wife nor daughter, has been the party to whom
the allusion has been made on the other, there remains only yourself
and Tom to hold the discourse. I beg you to explain this point with
your customary frankness."
Kate Littlepage's face was scarlet. She was fairly caught, though I
distrusted the truth from the moment she so stammered and hesitated in
correcting her first statement. I will own I enjoyed the girl's
confusion, it made her appear so supremely lovely; and I was almost as
proud of her, as I tenderly loved her. Dear, dear Kate; from her
childhood I had my own amusement with her, though I do not remember
anything like a harsh expression, or an unkind feeling, that has ever
passed, or indeed existed, between us. A finer study than the face of
my sister offered for the next minute, was never presented to the eye
of man; and I enjoyed it so much the more, from a strong conviction
that, while so deeply confused, she was not unhappy. Native
ingenuousness, maiden modesty, her habit of frank dealing with me,
and a wish to continue so to deal, were all struggling together in her
fine countenance, forming altogether one of the most winning pictures
of womanly feelings I had ever witnessed. At length, the love of
fair-dealing, and love of me, prevailed over a factitious shame; the
colour settled back to those cheeks whence it had appeared to flash,
as it might be, remaining just enough heightened to be remarked, and
Kate looked towards me in a way that denoted all the sisterly
confidence and regard that she actually felt.
"I did not intend to be the one to communicate to you a fact,
Mordaunt, in which I know you will feel a deep interest, for I had
supposed my mother would save me the confusion of telling it to you;
but, now, there is no choice between resorting to equivocations that I
do not like, and using our old long-established frankness."
"The long and short of which, my dear sister, is to say that you
are engaged to Mr. Bayard!"
"No; not as strong as that, brother. Mr. Bayard has offered, and my
answer is deferred until you have met him. I would not engage myself,
Mordaunt, until you approved of my choice."
"I feel the compliment, Katrinke, and will be certain to repay it,
in kind. Depend on it, you shall know, in proper season, when
it is my wish to marry, and shall be heard."
"There is a difference between the claims of an elder and an only
brother, and of a mere girl, who ought to place much dependence on the
advice of friends, in making her own selection."
"You will not be a `mere girl' when that time comes, but a married
woman yourself, and competent to give good counsel from your own
experience. To return to Tom, however; he is the member of his family
to whom the allusion was made?"
"He was, Mordaunt," answered Kate, in a low voice.
"And you were the person who made it?"
"Very true — we were talking of you, one day; and I expressed a
strong hope that you would see Priscilla with the eyes with which, I
can assure you, all the rest of your family see her. That was all."
"And that was quite enough, child, to cause Tom Bayard to hang
himself, if he were a lover of the true temper."
"Hang himself, brother! I am sure I do not understand why?"
"Oh! merely at the palpable discouragement such a wish would
naturally convey to the brother of the young lady, since he must have
seen you were willing to connect the two families by means other than
giving him your own hand."
Kate laughed; but, as she did not look much confused, or at all
alarmed, I was induced to believe that more important encouragement
than could be afforded by means of her wish of marrying me to
her suitor's sister, had been given master Tom, and that my
disapproval of the gentleman would cause her more concern than she
chose to avow. We rode on, however, some little distance, without
either's offering to renew the discourse. At length, as became my
sex, I spoke.
"When am I to see this paragon young man, and paragon young woman,
Kate, since see both I must?"
"Not paragon young man, brother; I am certain I have called him by
no such name! Tom Bayard is a good fellow; but I do not know he
is, by any means, a paragon."
"He is a good
looking fellow, in the bargain, I take it for
"Not as much so as you are yourself, if that will gratify your
"It ought to, coming from such a quarter. My question is still
"To own the truth to you, Mordaunt, I expect we shall find Tom
Bayard and Pris at Satanstoe, to dine with my grandmother. She wrote
me word, a day or two since, that both are asked, and that she hoped
both would accept."
"The old lady is then in the plot, and intends to marry me, will
ye, nill ye? I had thought this visit altogether a scheme of my own!"
Kate again laughed, and told me I might make my own observations on
that point, and judge for myself. As for the visit, I had only
accidentally favoured a project of other's. The conversation now
changed, and for several miles we rode along, conversing of the scenes
of the war, without adverting to the Bayards, or to marriages.
We were within half a mile of the gate of the Neck, and within a
mile of the house, when we met Jaap returning to Lilacsbush, and
carrying some fruit to my mother, after having discharged his
commission of an avant courier. From Kate's remark I had
discovered we had been invited by letter to take this excursion,
though the ceremony of sending the negro across with his message had
been observed for reasons that were not very natural under the
circumstances. I made no remark, however, determining to see and
judge for myself.
As a matter of course, we drew our reins, and stopped to exchange a
few words with the black.
"Well, Jaap, how did the Neck look, after so long an absence?" I
"It look, sah, no means as well as ole Missus, who do look capital,
for sich a lady! Dey do won'ers with 'e Neck, sah, if you just b'lieve
all young nigger say. But, what you t'ink, Masser Mordy, I hear at 'e
tavern, where I jist stop, sah, to water ole Dick?"
"And to get a sup of cider for old Jaap" — hereupon the negro
laughed heartily, though he had the impudence neither to own nor to
deny the imputation, his weakness in favour of wring-jaw being a
well-established failing—"Well, what did you hear, while taking down
the usual mug?"
"I on'y get
half a mug dis time, sah; ole, ole Missus nebber
forgettin' to gib me jist as much as I want. Well, sah, while ole Dick
drink, 'e new landlady, who come from Connetick, you know, sah, she
say to me, `Where you go, ole colour' gentleum?' Dat war' civil, any
"To which you answered—"
"I answer her, sah, and say I go to Satanstoe, whar' I come from,
long time 'go."
"Whereupon, she made some observation or other — Well, what was
it?—You keep Miss Littlepage waiting."
"Lor' bless her, sah — it my business to wait on Miss Katrinke,
not her business to wait on me—Why you speak so droll, now,
"Never mind all that, Jaap — what did the new Connecticut lady
say, when you told her you were going to Satanstoe, the place where
you had come from, a long time ago?"
"What she say, Masser Mordy, sah? — She say great foolishness,
and make me mad. `What you call by dat awful name?' she say, making
face like as if she see a spook. `You must mean Dibbleton,' she say
— `dat 'e way all 'e people as is genteel call 'e Neck!' Did you
ebber hear 'e like, sah?"
"Oh! yes; I heard the like of it, as soon as I was born; the
attempt to change the name of our old place having existed, now, these
thirty years. Why, some people call Hellgate, Hurlgate; after that,
one may expect anything. Do you not know, Jaap, a Yankee is never
satisfied, unless he is effecting changes? One half his time, he is
altering the pronunciation of his own names, and the other half he is
altering ours. Let him call the place what he will, you and I will
stick to Satanstoe."
will, sah — gib 'e debbil his due, sah; dat an ole
sayin'. I'm sure anybody as has eyes, can see where his toe hab turn
up 'e sile, and shape it he own way — no dibble dere, sah."
Thus saying, Jaap rode on, my sister and myself doing the same,
pursuing the discourse that had thus accidentally arisen among us.
"Is it not odd, brother, that strangers should have this itching to
alter the name of my grandmother's place?" said Kate, after we had
parted from the black. "It is a homely name, certainly; but it has
been used, now, a good deat more than a century, and time, at least,
should entitle it to be let alone."
"Ay, my dear; but you are not yet aware of the desires, and
longings, and efforts, and ambition of a `little learning.' I have
seen enough, in my short career, to know there is a spirit up among
us, that calls itself by the pretending title of the `spirit of
improvement,' which is likely to overturn more important things than
the name of our poor Neck. It is a spirit that assumes the respectable
character of a love of liberty; and under that mask, it gives play to
malice, envy, covetousness, rapacity, and all the lowest passions of
our nature. Among other things, it takes the provincial pretence of a
mock-refinement, and flatters an elegance of thought that is easiest
attained by those who have no perceptions of anything truly elevated,
by substituting squeamishness and affectations for the simplicity of
nature, and a good tone of manners."
"Against my will, I am sent to bid you come in to dinner."
"Fair Beatrice, I thank you for your pains."
"I took no more pains for these thanks, than You take pains to
thank me; if it had been painful, I would not have come."
Much Ado about Nothing.
In the porch of the house, at Satanstoe, stood my dear grandmother,
and the notable Tom Bayard, to receive us. The first glance at the
latter told me that he was a "proper man;" and by the second, I got
the pleasing assurance that he had no eye, just then, but for Kate.
This was pleasant to know, as I never could have been happy in
consenting to yield that dear girl to any but a man who appreciated
her worth, and fully admired her beauty. As to my dear "ole ole"
grandmother, who was not so very old neither, being still under
seventy, her reception of us was just what I had ever found it; warm,
affectionate, and gentle. She called my father, the general, Corny,
even when she spoke to him in a room full of company; though, for that
matter, I have heard my mother, who was much more of a woman of the
world, having lived a great deal in society, do the same thing, when
she thought herself alone. I have read some priggish book or other,
written no doubt by one who knew men only through pages like his own,
decry such familiarities; but, I have generally found those the
happiest families, and, at the bottom, the best toned, where it was
Jack, and Tom, and Bob, and Dick, and Bess, and Di. As for your
Louisa Adelinas, and Robert Augustuses, and all such elaborate
respect, I frankly declare I have a contempt for it. Those are the
sort of people who would call Satanstoe, Dibbleton; Hellgate,
Hurlgate; and themselves accomplished. Thank heaven, we had no such
nonsense at Lilacsbush, or at the Neck. My father, was Corny; my
mother, Anneke; Katrinke, Kate; and I was Mordy, or Mord; or, when
there was no hurry, Mordaunt.
Tom Bayard met my salutations frankly, and with a gentlemanlike
ease, though there was a slight colour on his cheek which said to me,
"I mean to get your sister." Yet I liked the fellow's manner. There
was no grasping of the hand, and coming forward to rush into an
intimacy at the first moment we met; but he returned my bow
graciously, and gracefully, and his smile as he did so seemed to
invite father and better acquaintance.
Now, I have seen a man cross a whole room to shake hands at an
introduction with an utter stranger, and maintain a countenance the
whole time as sombre as if he were condoling with him on the loss of
his wife. This habit of shaking hands dolefully is growing among us,
and is imported from some of our sister States; for, it is certainly
not a New York custom, except among intimates; and it is a bad usage,
in my opinion, as it destroys one of the best means of graduating
feelings, and is especially ungraceful at an introduction. But, alas!
there are so many such innovations, that one cannot pretend to predict
where they are to stop. I never shook hands at an introduction, unless
it were under my own roof, and when I wished to denote a decidedly
hospitable feeling, until after I was forty. It was thought vulgar in
my younger days, and I am not quite certain it is not thought so now.
In the little old-fashioned drawing-room, as of late years my good
grandmother had been persuaded to call what was once only the best
parlour, we found Miss Priscilla Bayard, who, for some reason that was
unexplained, did not come to the porch to meet her friend. She was in
truth a charming girl, with fine dark eyes, glossy hair, a delicate
and lady-like form, and a grace of manner that denoted perfect
familiarity with the best company of the land. Kate and Pris.
embraced each other with a warmth and sincerity that spoke in favour
of each, and with perfect nature. An affected American girl, by the
way, is very uncommon; and nothing strikes me sooner, when I see my
own countrywomen placed at the side of Europeans, than the difference
in this respect; the one seems so natural, while the other is so
My own reception by Miss Bayard was gracious, though I fancied it
was not entirely free from the consciousness of having, on some idle
occasion, heard her own name intimately connected with mine. Perhaps
Kate, in their confidential moments, may have said something to this
effect; or, I may have been mistaken.
My grandmother soon announced that the whole party was to pass the
night at Satanstoe. As we were accustomed to such plans, neither Kate
nor myself raised the least objection, while the Bayards submitted to
orders which I soon discovered even they were not unused to, with
perfect good-will and submission. Thus brought together, in the
familiarity of a quiet and small party, in a country house, we made
great progress in intimacy; and, by the time dinner was over, or by
four o'clock, I felt like an old acquaintance with those who had so
lately been strangers to me, even by name. As for Bayard and my
sister, they were in the best of humours from the start, and I felt
satisfied their affair was a settled thing, in their own minds;
but, Miss Priscilla was a little under constraint for an hour or two,
like a person who felt a slight embarrassment. This wore off, however,
and long before we left the table she had become entirely herself;
and a very charming self it was, I was forced to admit. I say forced;
for, spite of all I had said, and a certain amount of good sense I
hope, it was impossible to get rid of the distrust which accompanied
the notion that I was expected to fall in love with the young lady. My
poor grandmother contributed her share, too, to keep this feeling
alive. The manner in which she looked from one to the other, and the
satisfied smile that passed over her countenance whenever she observed
Pris. and myself conversing freely, betrayed to me completely that she
was in the secret, and had a hand in what I chose to regard as a sort
I had heard that my grandmother had set her heart on the marriage
of my parents a year or two before matters came round, and that she
always fancied she had been very instrumental in forming a connection
that had been as happy as her own. The recollection, or the fancy of
this success, most probably encouraged her to take a share in the
present scheme; and I have always supposed that she got us all
together on that occasion, in order to help the great project along.
A walk on the Neck was proposed in the cool of the evening; for
Satanstoe had many a pleasant path, pretty vista, and broad view. Away
we went, then, the four of us, Kate leading the way, as the person
most familiar with the "capabilities." We were soon on the shore of
the Sound, and at a point where a firm, wide beach of sand had been
left by the receding waters, rocks fringing the inner boundary,
towards the main. Here one could walk without confinement of any sort,
there being room to go in pairs, or all abreast, as we might choose.
Miss Bayard seeming a little coy, and manifesting a desire to keep
near her friend, I abandoned the intention of walking at her side, but
fell behind a little, and got into discourse with her brother. Nor
was I sorry to have this early opportunity of sounding the party who
was likely soon to become so nearly connected with me. After a few
minutes, the conversation turned on the late revolution, and the
manner in which it was likely to influence the future fortunes of the
country. I knew that a portion of the family of my companion had
adhered to the crown, losing their estates by the act of confiscation;
but I also knew that a portion did not, and I was left to infer that
Tom's branch belonged to the latter division of his name, inasmuch as
his father was known to be very easy in his circumstances, if not
absolutely rich. It was not long, however, before I ascertained that
my new friend was a mild tory, and that he would have been better
pleased had the rights we had sought, and which he was willing enough
to admit had been violated, been secured without a separation of the
two countries. As the Littlepages had actually been in arms against
the crown, three generations of them, too, at the same time, and the
fact could be no secret, I was pleased with the candour with which
Tom Bayard expressed his opinions on these points; for it spoke well
of the truth and general sincerity of his character.
"Does it not strike you as a necessary consequence of the distance
between the two countries," I remarked, in the course of the
conversation, "that a separation must, sooner or later, have occurred?
It is impossible that two countries should long have common rulers
when they are divided by an ocean. Admitting that our
separation has been a little premature, a circumstance I should deny
in a particular discussion, it is an evil that every hour has a
tendency to lessen."
"Separations in families are always painful, major Littlepage; when
accompanied by dissensions, doubly so."
"Quite true; yet they always happen. If not in this generation, in
do think," said Tom Bayard, looking at me a little
imploringly, "that we might have got along with our difficulties
without casting aside our allegiance to the king."
"Ay, that has been the stumbling-block with thousands; and yet it
is, in truth, the very weakest part of the transatlantic side of the
question. Of what avail is allegiance to the king, if parliament use
its power in a way to make American interests subservient to those of
England? A great deal may be said, that is reasonable, in favour of
kingly power; that I am ready enough to allow; but very little that
renders one people subject to another. This thing called
loyalty blinds men to facts, and substitutes a fancied for a real
power. The question has been, whether England, by means of a
parliament in which we have no representative, is to make laws for us
or not; and not whether George III. is to be our sovereign, or whether
we are to establish the sovereignty of the people."
Bayard bowed, civilly enough, to my remark, and he changed the
subject. Sufficient had been said, however, to satisfy me that there
would be little political sympathy between us, let the family tie be
drawn as close as it might. The girls joined us before we had got
altogether into another vein of discourse, and I was a little
chagrined at finding that Kate entered rather more into her admirer's
views of such subjects than comported with the true feelings, as I
fancied, of a Littlepage, after all that had passed. Still, as I
should have liked the woman I loved to agree with me in opinion as
much as possible in everything, I was not disposed to judge harshly of
my sister on that account. On the other hand, to my surprise, I found
Miss Priscilla a zealous, and, to say the truth, a somewhat blind
patriot; condemning England, the king, and the efforts of parliament
with a warmth that was only equal to that with which she defended
every thing, act, measure, principle or policy, that was purely
I cannot say I had as much tolerance for the patriotism of Miss
Bayard as I had for the petit treason of my sister. It seemed natural
enough that Kate should begin to look at things of this nature with
the eyes of the man she had made up her mind to marry; but it looked
far more like management in her friend, who belonged to a tory family,
to volunteer so freely the sentiments of one she could not yet love,
inasmuch as until that day she had never even seen him.
"Is it not so, major Littlepage," cried this lovely creature, for
very lovely she was, beyond all dispute; and feminine, and delicate,
and lady-like, and all I could have wished her, had she only been a
little less of a whig, and a good deal more of a tory; her eyes
sparkling and flashing, at the same time, as if she felt all she was
saying from the very bottom of her heart — "Is it not so, major
Littlepage? — America has come out of this war with imperishable
glory; and her history, a thousand years hence, will be the wonder
and admiration of all who read it!"
"That will somewhat depend on what her history may prove to be,
between that day and this. The early history of all great
nations fills us with admiration and interest, while mightier deeds
effected by an insignificant people are usually forgotten."
"Still, this revolution has been one of which any nation might have
As it would not have been proper to deny this, I bowed and strayed
a little from the rest of the party, under the pretence of looking for
shells. My sister soon joined me, when the following short
conversation passed between us.
"You find Pris. Bayard a staunch whig, major Littlepage," commenced
my warm-hearted sister.
"Very much so; but I had supposed the Bayards excessively neutral,
if not absolutely the other way."
"Oh! that is true enough of most of them, but not with Pris., who
has long been a decided whig. There is Tom, now, rather moderate in
his opinions, while the father and mother are what you call
excessively neutral; but, Pris. has been a whig almost as long as I
have known her."
"Almost as long! She was, then, a tory once?"
"Hardly; though certainly her opinions have undergone a very
gradual change. We are both young, you will remember; and girls at
their first coming out do very little of their own thinking. For the
last three years, certainly, or since she was seventeen, Pris. has
been getting to be more and more of a whig, and less and less of a
tory. Do you not find her decidedly handsome, Mordaunt?"
"Very decidedly so, and very winning in all that belongs to her sex
— gentle, feminine, lady-like, lovely, and withal a whig."
"I knew you would admire her!" cried Kate, in triumph. "I shall
live to see my dearest wish accomplished!"
"I make no doubt you will, child; though it will not be by the
marriage of a Mr. Littlepage to a Miss Bayard."
I got a laugh and a blush for this sally, but no sign of
submission. On the contrary, the positive girl shook her head, until
her rich curls were all in motion, and she laughed none the less. We
immediately joined our companions, and by one of those crossings over
and figurings in, that are so familiar to the young of the two sexes,
we were soon walking along the sands again, Tom at Kate's side, and I
at that of Priscilla Bayard's. What the other two talked about I
never knew, though I fancy one might guess; but, the young lady with
me pursued the subject of the revolution.
"You have probably been a little surprised, major Littlepage," she
commenced, "to hear me express myself so warmly in favour of this
country, as some of the branches of my family have been treated
harshly by the new government?"
"You allude to the confiscations? I never justified them, and wish
they had not been made; for they fall heaviest on those who were quite
inoffensive, while most of our active enemies have escaped. Still, it
is no more than is usual in civil wars, and what would surely have
befallen us, had it been our fortune to be the losing party."
"So I have been told; but, as no loss has fallen on any who are
very near to me, my public virtue has been able to resist private
feeling. My brother, as you may have seen, is less of an American than
I am myself."
"I have supposed he is one of the `extremely neutral;' and they, I
have thought, always incline a little in favour of the losing party."
"I hope, however, his political bias, which is very honest, though
very much in error, will not materially affect him in your good
opinion. Too much depends on that, for me not to be anxious on the
subject; and, being the only decided whig in the family, I have
thought I would venture to speak in behalf of a very dearly beloved
`Well,' I said to myself, `this is being sufficiently managing; but
I am not quite so unpractised as to be the dupe of an artifice so
little concealed! The deuce is in the girl; yet she seems in earnest,
looks at me with the good faith and simplicity of a sister who feels
even more than she expresses, and is certainly one of the loveliest
creatures I ever laid eyes on! I must not let her see how much I am on
my guard, but must meet management with management. It will be
singular, indeed, if I, who have commanded a company of continentals
with some credit, cannot get along with a girl of twenty, though she
were even handsomer, and looked still more innocent than this Pris.
Bayard, which would be no easy matter, by the way.'
The reader will understand this was what I said to myself, and it
was soon uttered, for one talks surprisingly fast to himself; but,
that which I said to my fair companion, after a moment's hesitation,
was very different in language and import.
"I do not understand in what way Mr. Bayard can be affected by my
opinion, let it be for or against him," I answered, with just as much
innocency of expression, according to my notion of the matter, as the
young lady herself had thrown into her own pretty countenance, thereby
doing myself infinite credit, in my own conceit; "though I am far
from judging any man severely, because he happens to differ from me in
his judgment of public things. The question was one of great delicacy,
and the most honest men have differed the widest on its merits."
"You do not know how glad I am to hear you say this, Mr.
Littlepage," returned my companion, with one of the sweetest smiles
woman ever bestowed on man. "It will make Tom completely happy, for I
know he has been sadly afraid of you, on this very point."
I did not answer instantly; for, I believe, I was watching the
traces of that bewitching smile, and speculating against its influence
with the pertinacity of a man who was determined not to be taken in.
That smile haunted me for a week, and it was a long time before I
fully comprehended it. I decided, however, to come to the point at
once, as respects Bayard and my sister, and not be beating the bush
with indirect allusions.
"In what manner can my opinion influence your brother, Miss
Bayard?" I asked, as soon as I was ready to say anything. "To prevent
misconceptions, let me beg of you to be a little more explicit."
"You can hardly be ignorant of my meaning, I should think!"
answered Priscilla, with a little surprise. "One has only to look at
the couple before us, to comprehend how your opinion of the gentleman
might have an influence on himself, at least."
"The same might be said of us, Miss Bayard, so far as my
inexperienced eye can tell. They are a young couple, walking together;
the gentleman appearing to admire the lady, I will confess; and we are
a young couple walking together, the gentleman appearing to admire the
lady, or he does no credit to his taste or sensibility."
`There,' said I to myself, again, `that is giving her quite as good
as I receive; let me see how you take that.'
Pris. took it very well; laughing, and blushing just enough to make
her appear the loveliest creature I had ever laid eyes on. She shook
her head, very much as my sister had done not long before, and
disclaimed the analogy, first in her manner, and next with her tongue.
"The cases are very different, sir," she answered. "We are
strangers to each other, while Tom Bayard and Kate Littlepage are
acquaintances of years' standing. We do not love each other in
the least; not a bit, though we are inclined to think very well of
each other, on account of the interest we take in the couple before
us, and because I am the intimate friend of your only sister, and
because you are the only brother of my intimate friend. There,
however," and she now spoke with emphasis, "our interest ceases,
never to be increased beyond a friendly regard, that I trust will
grow up out of our respective merits, and respective discernment. It
is very, very different with the couple before us;" here,
again, the flexible girl spoke with extreme feeling; every tone and
cadency of her voice denoting lively sensibility. "They have been long
attached, not admirers of each other, as you call it, major
Littlepage, but attached; and your opinion of my brother, just
at this moment, is of the last importance to him. I hope I have, at
last, made myself understood?"
"Perfectly; and I intend to be just as explicit. In the first
place, I enter a solemn protest against all that you have said about
the `other couple,' with the exception of the interest we each feel in
the brother, or sister. Next, I proclaim Kate Littlepage to be her own
mistress, so far as her brother Mordaunt is concerned; and lastly, I
announce that I see or know nothing in the character, connections,
fortune, person, or position of her suitor, Thomas Bayard, of the
Hickories, Esquire, that is in the least below her pretensions or
merits. I hope that is sufficiently satisfactory?"
"Entirely so; and from the bottom of my heart I thank you for it. I
will own I have had some little apprehensions on the subject of Tom's
political opinions; but, those removed, nothing else can remain
to create the smallest uneasiness."
"How is it possible that any of you could consider my notions of so
much importance, when Kate has a father, a mother, and a grandmother
living, all of whom, as I understand things, approve of her choice?"
"Ah! Mr. Littlepage, you are not conscious of your importance in
your own family, I see. I know it better than you appear to know it
yourself. Father, mother, grandmother and sister, all think and speak
of Mordaunt, alike. To hear the general converse of the war, you would
suppose that he had commanded a company, and captain Littlepage
the regiment. Mrs. Littlepage defers to Mordaunt's taste, and
Mordaunt's opinions, and Mordaunt's judgment, even in housekeeping and
hem-stitching. Kate is for ever saying `my brother says this,' `my
brother writes that,' `my brother does t'other;' and, as for the old
lady here, at the `Toe,' she would hardly think her peaches and
cherries could ripen, unless Mordaunt Littlepage, the son of her
son Corny Littlepage — by no accident does she ever call him
`general' — were on the face of the earth, to create an eternal
Was there ever a girl like this! That speech was made too, in the
quietest, most gentle, lady-like manner, possible. That the young lady
had spirit and humour enough, was very apparent; and for a moment I
doubted whether both were not accompanied by the most perfect
simplicity of character, and the most perfect good faith. Subsequent
remarks and occurrences, however, soon revived all my original
"This is a vivid picture of family weaknesses, that you have so
graphically drawn, Miss Bayard," I answered; "and I shall not easily
forget it. What renders it the more lively and pointed, and the more
likely to be relished by the world, is the fact that Mordaunt so
little deserves the extreme partiality of the friends you have
"The last feature forms no part of my picture, major Littlepage,
and I disown it. As for the world, it will never know anything about
it. You and I are not the world, nor are we at all likely ever to be
the world to each other; I wish you particularly to understand that
, which is the reason I am so frank with you, on so short an
acquaintance. I tell you, your opinion is of the last importance to
Tom; as your sister would not marry him, did she believe you thought,
in the least, ill of him."
"And she would, did I think well of him?"
"That is a question a lady must answer for herself. And, now, we
will say no more on the subject; for my mind is easy since I find you
entertain no political hostility to Tom."
"Men are much less apt to entertain such feelings, I fancy, after
they have fairly fought out a quarrel, than when they only talk over
its heads. Besides, the winning party is commonly the least rancorous,
and success will make us whigs forgiving. I give you my honour, no
objection will be raised against your brother, by me, on account of
his opinions of the revolution. My dear mother, herself, has been
half a tory the whole war; and Kate, I find, has imbibed all her
A singular, and, as I thought, a painful smile, crossed the sweet
face of Priscilla Bayard, as I made this remark; but she did not
answer it. It seemed to me she was now desirous of quitting the
subject entirely, and I immediately led the discourse to other things.
Kate and I remained at Satanstoe several days, and Tom Bayard was a
daily visitor; the distance between the Neck and the Hickories being
no great matter. I saw the young lady twice during that interval;
once, by riding over to her father's residence with that express
object; and once when she came across on horseback to see her friend.
I confess I was never more at a loss to understand a character than I
was that of this young woman. She was either profoundly managing, or
as innocent and simple as a child. It was easy to see that her
brother, my sister, my grandmother, and, as I fancied, the parents of
the young lady herself, were anxious that I should be on as good terms
as possible with Pris., as they all called her; though I could not
fathom her own feelings on the subject. It would have been unnatural
not to have loved to gaze on her exceeding beauty, or not to have
admired her extremely graceful and feminine manner, which was
precisely all that one could wish it to be in the way of ease and
self-possession, without being in the least free or forward; and I did
gaze on the one, and admire the other, at the very moment I was most
disposed to distrust her sincerity, and to believe her nature the very
perfection of art. There were times when I was disposed to fancy this
Pris. Bayard as profound and skilful an actor as one of her sex,
years, and condition in life could well become, without falling
altogether; and there were moments, too, when she seemed to be
instinct with all the sensitive and best qualities of her sex.
It is scarcely necessary to say I remained heart-whole, under such
circumstances, notwithstanding the obvious wishes of my friends, and
the young lady's great advantages! A man no more falls blindly in love
when he distrusts anything amiss, than he sees anything amiss when he
is blindly in love. It has often been a matter of surprise to me, how
often and how completely the wisest of the earthly races conspire to
deceive themselves. When suspicions are once excited, testimony is not
needed; condemnation following much as a logical induction, though
founded on nothing better than plausible distrusts; while, on the
other hand, where confidence exists, testimony is only too apt to be
disregarded. Women, in particular, are peculiarly apt to follow the
bias of their affections, rather than of their reasons, in all cases
connected with guilt. They are hard to be convinced of the
unworthiness of those who belong to them, through the affections,
because the affections are usually stronger with them than their
reasoning powers. How they cling to their priests, for instance, when
the cooler heads and greater experience of men condemn, and that
merely because their imaginations choose to adorn the offenders with
the graces of that religion which they venerate, and on which they
rely! He is a shrewd man who can draw the line between the real and
the false in these matters; but he is truly a weak one who disregards
evidence, when evidence is complete and clear. That we all have our
sins and our failings is true, but there are certain marks of
unworthiness which are infallible, and which ought never to be
disregarded, since they denote the existence of the want of principle
that taints a whole character.
"He were an excellent man, that were made just in the mid-way
between him and Benedick: the one is too like an image, and says
nothing; and the other, too like my lady's eldest son, evermore
The very day my sister and I left Satanstoe, there was an
interesting interview between my grandmother and myself, that it may
be well to relate. It took place in the cool of the morning, before
breakfast, indeed, and previously to the appearance of any of the rest
of the party; for Tom Bayard and his sister had again ridden across
the country to pass the night, and see us off. My grandmother had
requested me to meet her thus early, in a sort of little piazza, that
modern improvements had annexed to one end of the old buildings, and
in which we both appeared accordingly with the utmost punctuality. I
saw by a certain sort of importance that my good grandmother wore in
her countenance, that she had weighty matters on her mind, and took
the chair she had set for me with some little curiosity to learn what
was to follow. The chairs were placed side by side, or nearly so, but
looking different ways, and so close together that, when seated, we
were quite face to face. My grandmother had on her spectacles, and she
gazed wistfully through them at me, parting the curls on my forehead,
as had been her wont when I was a boy. I saw tears rolling out from
behind the glasses, and felt apprehensive I might have said or done
something to have wounded the spirit of that excellent and indulgent
"For heaven's sake, grandmother, what
can this mean?" I
cried. "Have I done anything amiss?"
"No, my child, no; but much to the contrary. You are, and ever have
been, a good and dutiful son, not only to your real parents, but to
me. But your name ought to have been Hugh — that I will maintain,
long as I live. I told your father as much when you were born; but he
was Mordaunt-mad then, as, indeed, he has remained pretty much ever
since. Not that Mordaunt is not a good name, and a respectable name,
and they say it is a noble name in England; but it is a family name,
and family names are not fit for christian names, at the best. Hugh
should have been your name, if I could have had my way; and, if not
Hugh, Corny. Well, it is too late for that now, as Mordaunt you are,
and Mordaunt you must live and die. Did any one ever tell you, my
child, how very, very like you are to your honoured
"My mother, frequently—I have seen the tears start into her eyes
as she gazed at me, and she has often told me my family name ought to
have been Mordaunt, so much do I resemble her father."
"Her father! — Well, Anneke
does get some of the
strangest conceits into her head! A better woman, or a dearer, does
not breathe — I love your mother, my child, quite as much as if she
had been born my own daughter; but I must say she does get some of the
strangest notions into her head that mortal ever imagined. You like
Herman Mordaunt! You are the very image of your grandfather
Littlepage, and no more like Herman Mordaunt than you are like the
The revolution was then, and is now still too recent to prevent
these constant allusions to royalty, notwithstanding my grandfather
had been as warm a whig as there was in the colonies, from the
commencement of the struggle. As for the resemblance spoken of, I have
always understood I was a mingled repetition of the two families, as
so often happens, a circumstance that enables my different relatives
to trace such resemblances as best suit their respective fancies.
This was quite convenient, and may have been a reason, in addition to
the fact of my being an only son, that I was so great a favourite with
the females of my family. My dear old grandmother, who was then in her
sixty-ninth year, was so persuaded of my likeness to her late husband,
the "old general," as he was now called, that she would not proceed
in her communications until she had wiped her eyes, and gratified her
affections with another long and wistful gaze.
those eyes!" she murmured — "and
forehead!— The mouth too, and the nose, to say nothing of the
smile, which is as much alike as one pea is like another!"
This left very little for the Mordaunts, it must be owned; the chin
and ears being pretty much all that were not claimed for the direct
line. It is true, my eyes were blue, and the "old general's" had been
as black as coals; my nose was Grecian, and his a most obtrusive
Roman; and, as for the mouth, I can only say mine was as like that of
my mother's as a man's could well be like a woman's. The last, I had
heard my father say, a thousand times. But, no matter; age, and
affection, and the longings of the parent, caused my grandmother to
see things differently.
"Well, Mordaunt," the good old lady at length continued, "how do
you like this choice of your sister Kate's? Mr. Bayard is a charming
young man, is he not?"
"Is it then a choice, grandmother? Has Kate actually made up her
"Pshaw!" answered my grandmother, smiling as archly as if she were
sixteen herself—"that was done long ago— and papa approved, and
mamma was anxious, and I consented, and sister Anneke was delighted,
and everything was as smooth as the beach at the end of the Neck, but
waiting for your approbation. `It would not be right, grandmother,
for me to engage myself, while Mordaunt is away, and without his even
knowing the gentleman; so I will not answer until I get his
approbation too,' said Kate. That was very pretty in her, was it not,
my child? All your father's children have a sense of propriety!"
"Indeed it was, and I shall not forget it soon. But, suppose I had
disapproved, what would have followed, grandmother?"
"You should never ask unpleasant questions, saucy fellow; though I
dare to say Kate would, at least, have asked Mr. Bayard to wait until
you had changed your mind. Giving him up altogether would be out of
the question, and unreasonable; but she might have waited a few months
or so, until you changed your mind; and I would have advised her so
to do. But, all that is unnecessary, as matters are; for you have
expressed your approbation, and Kate is perfectly happy. The last
letter from Lilacsbush, which Jaap brought, gives the formal consent
of your dear parents— and what parents you have, my child! — so
Kate wrote an acceptance yesterday, and it was as prettily expressed a
note as I have seen in many a day. Your own mother could not have
done it better in her young days; and Anneke Mordaunt worded a note as
genteelly as any young woman I ever knew."
"I am glad everything has gone right, and am sure no one can wish
the young couple more happiness than I do myself. Kate is a dear, good
girl, and I love her as much as a brother can love a sister."
"Is she not? and as thorough a Littlepage as ever was born! I
hope she will be happy. All the marriages in our family have proved
so hitherto, and it would be strange if this should turn out
differently. Well, now, Mordaunt, when Kate is married, you will be
the only one left."
"That is true, grandmother; and you must be glad to find there will
be one of us left to come and see you, without bringing nurses and
children at his heels."
"I! — I glad of anything of the sort! No, indeed, my child; I
should be sorry enough did I think, for a moment, you would not marry
as soon as is prudent, now the war is over. As for children, I dote on
them; and I have ever thought it a misfortune that the Littlepages
have had so few, especially sons. Your grandfather, my general,
was an only son; your father was an only son; and you are an only
son; that is, so far as coming to men's estates are, or were
concerned. No, Mordaunt, my child, it is the warmest wish of my heart
to see you properly married, and to hold the Littlepages of the next
generation in my arms. Two of you I have had there already, and I
shall have lived the life of the blessed to be able to hold the third."
"My dear, good grandmother! — What am I to understand by all
"That I wish you to marry, my child, now that the war is ended;
that your father wishes you to marry; that your mother wishes you to
marry; and that your sister wishes you to marry."
"And all of you wish me to marry the same person? Is it not so?"
My grandmother smiled, but she fidgeted; fancying, as I suspected,
that she had been pushing matters a little too fast. It was not easy,
however, for one of her truth and simplicity of character to recede
after having gone so far; and she wisely determined to have no
reserves with me on the subject.
"I believe you are right, Mordaunt," she answered, after a short
pause. "We do all wish you to fall in love as soon as you can;
to propose as soon as you are in love; and to marry Priscilla Bayard,
the instant she will consent to have you."
"This is honest, and like yourself, my dear grandmother; and now we
both know what is intended, and can speak plainly. In the first place,
do you not think one connection of this sort, between families, quite
sufficient? If Kate marry the brother, may I not be excused for
overlooking the attractions of the sister?"
"Priscilla Bayard is one of the loveliest girls in York Colony,
"We call this part of the world York
State, now, dearest
grandmother. I am far from denying the truth of what you
say;—Priscilla Bayard is very lovely."
"I do not know what more you can wish, than to get such a girl."
"I shall not say that the time will not come when I may be glad to
obtain the consent of the young lady to become my wife; but that time
has not yet arrived. Then, I question the expediency, when friends
greatly desire any particular match, of saying too much about it."
My poor grandmother looked quite astounded, like one who felt she
had innocently done mischief; and she sat gazing fondly at me, with
the expression of a penitent child painted in her venerated
"Nevertheless, Mordaunt, I had a great share in bringing about the
union between your own dear parents," she at length answered; "and
that has been one of the happiest marriages I have ever known!"
I had often heard allusions of this nature, and I had several times
observed the quiet smile of my mother, as she listened to them; smiles
that seemed to contradict the opinion to which my grandmother's
mistaken notions of her own influence had given birth. On one occasion
(I was still quite a boy), I remember to have asked my mother how the
fact was, when the answer was, "I married your father through the
influence of a butcher's boy;" a reply that had some reference to a
very early passage in the lives of my parents. But, I well know that
neither Cornelius Littlepage, nor Anneke Mordaunt, was a person to be coaxed into matrimony; and I resolved on the spot, their only son
should manifest an equal independence. I might have answered my
grandmother to this effect, and in language stronger than was my
practice when addressing that reverend parent, had not the two girls
appeared on the piazza at that moment, and broke up our private
Sooth to say, Priscilla Bayard came forth upon me, that morning,
with something like the radiance of the rising sun. Both the girls had
that fresh, attractive look, that is apt to belong to the toilettes of
early risers of their sex, and which probably renders them handsomer
at that hour, than at any other part of the day. My own sister was a
very charming girl, as any one would allow; but her friend was
decidedly beautiful. I confess I found it a little difficult not to
give in on the spot, and to whisper my anxious grandmother that I
would pay proper attention to the young lady, and make an offer at
the suitable time, as she advanced towards us, exchanging the morning
salutations, with just enough of ease to render her perfectly
graceful, and yet with a modesty and retenue that were
"Mordaunt is about to quit me, for the whole summer, Miss Bayard,"
said my grandmother, who would be doing while there was a chance; "and
I have had him out here, to converse a little together, before we
part. Kate I shall see often during the pleasant season, I trust; but
this is to be the last of Mordaunt, until the cold weather return."
"Is Mr. Littlepage going to travel?" inquired the young lady, with
just as much interest as good breeding demanded, and not a particle
more; "for Lilacsbush is not so distant but he might ride over once a
week, at least, to inquire how you do."
"Oh! He is going a great, great distance, and to a part of the
world I dread to think of!"
Miss Bayard now looked really startled, and a good deal astonished,
questioning me with her very fine eyes, though she said nothing with
"It is time I explain, lest Miss Bayard fancy my destination to be
China; whither all American adventurers now seem bent on going. I
shall not quit the State, however."
"As the State is of some size," answered Priscilla, "a grandmother
may think an only grandson far enough distant who is at the other end
of it. Perhaps you visit Niagara, major Littlepage? I have heard of
several gentlemen who have such an excursion in view; and glad enough
shall I be when the roads are in such a state that ladies can be of
"And you would have the spirit to be of such a party?" asked my
grandmother, seizing with avidity everything, even to the least, that
might encourage her wishes.
Pris. Bayard seemed fearful she had gone too far; for she blushed
very charmingly, ere she answered.
"I am not aware, Mrs. Littlepage, that any very great spirit would
be required," she said. "It is true, there are Indians by the way, and
a vast wilderness between us and the end of the journey; but ladies have made it, I have been told, and in safety. One hears such
wonders of the Falls, that it would be a strong temptation to hazard
something, in order to see them."
I look back with wonder over the short interval of time that
interposes, when I remember how we used to regard the Falls of Niagara
in my youth. A voyage to Europe seemed little less hazardous and
serious; and voyages to Europe were not then what they are to-day.
"Nothing would make me happier," I cried, gallantly, to my poor
grandmother's ill-concealed delight, "than to be the protector of Miss
Bayard on the excursion."
"You really think, then, of undertaking the journey, major
"Not this season, though I hold the hope in reserve, for some
future day. My destination, at present, is Ravensnest, a place less
than fifty miles distant from Albany."
"Ravensnest!—That is a pretty name, though one might like it
better, I think, Kate, were it Dovesnest, or Robinsnest, or Wrensnest.
What is this Ravensnest, Mr. Littlepage?"
"An estate of a good deal of land, but of no great value as yet,
whatever it may turn out to be hereafter, that was once the property
of my grandfather Mordaunt, and which he bequeathed to me. My father
and colonel Dirck have also an estate adjoining it, which is called
Mooseridge. I am to visit both; as the owner of one, and as the agent
of the owners of the other. It is time the several properties were
looked to, the late troubles having almost thrown them out of our
"They tell me that a great deal is doing in the way of settling the
wild lands of the interior this summer," continued Priscilla, with an
interest in the subject that was much more obvious to me, than
explicable — "and that a great many settlers are pouring in upon us
from the adjoining New England States. I have heard, also, that the
vast possessions of the Patroon are fast filling up, and that the
heart of the State will soon be peopled."
"You are more conversant with such matters than it is usual to find
young ladies, Miss Bayard. I ascribe this to your being so good a
whig, which is but another name for a patriot."
Pris. blushed again, and she now seemed disposed to be silent;
though I could still detect an interest in the subject that to me was
quite unaccountable. Kate probably saw this too, for she continued to
converse about my journey, even after her friend had drawn a little on
one side; and that, too, in a manner which seemed to say she
"Who is the queer old man of whom I have heard you speak,
Mordaunt," my sister demanded, "and with whom you have lately had some
correspondence about these lands?"
"I suppose you mean my former comrade, the `Chainbearer. ' There
was a captain in our regiment of the name of Coejemans, who bears this
appellation, and who has contracted to get the necessary surveys made,
though he fills the humble post of a `Chainbearer' himself, not being
competent to make the calculations."
"How can a mere Chainbearer contract for a full survey?" asked Tom
Bayard, who had joined the party, and had been listening to the
discourse. "The Chainbearers, in general, are but common labourers,
and are perfectly irresponsible."
"That is true, as a rule; but my old friend forms an exception. He
set out for a surveyor, but having no head for sines, and co-sines,
and tangents, he was obliged to lower his pretensions to the humbler
duty he now discharges. Still, he has long contracted for jobs of this
nature, and gets as much as he can do, hiring surveyors himself, the
owners of property having the utmost confidence in his measurements.
Let me tell you, the man who carries chain is not the least important
member of a surveying party in the woods. Old Andries is as honest as
noon-day, and everybody has faith in him."
"His true name is Coejemans, I think you said, major Littlepage?"
asked Priscilla, as it struck me assuming an air of
"It is, Andries Coejemans; and his family is reputable, if not
absolutely of a high caste. But the old man is so inveterate a
woodsman, that nothing but patriotism, and his whig propensities,
could have drawn him out into the open country. After serving most
gallantly through the whole war, he has gone back to his chains; and
many is the joke he has about remaining still in chains, after
fighting so long and so often in the cause of liberty."
Priscilla appeared to hesitate — I thought her colour increased a
little — then she asked the question that was apparently uppermost
in her thoughts, with surprising steadiness.
"Did you ever see the `Chainbearer's' niece, Dus Malbone?"
This question not a little surprised me; for, though I had never
seen Ursula, the uncle had talked so much to me of his ward, that I
almost fancied she was an intimate acquaintance. It often happens that
we hear so much of certain persons, that we think and speak of them as
of those we know; and had Miss Bayard questioned me of one of my late
comrades in the service, I should not have been a whit more startled
than I was at hearing her pronounce the familiar name of Dus Malbone.
"Where, in the name of all that is curious, did you ever hear of
such a person!" I exclaimed, a little inconsiderately, since the world
was certainly wide enough to admit of two young women's being
acquainted, without my consent; more especially as one of them I had
never seen, and the other I had met, for the first time, only a
fortnight before. "Old Andries was always speaking to me of his niece;
but I could not suppose she was an acquaintance of one of your
position in life!"
"Notwithstanding, we were something more than school-fellows;—
for we were, and I trust are still, very, very good friends. I
like Dus exceedingly, though she is quite as singular, in her
way, as I have heard her uncle described to be, in his."
"This is odd!—Will you allow me to ask one question?— You will
think it singular, perhaps, after what you have just told me — but
curiosity will get the better of my manners— is Dus Malbone a lady
—the equal and companion of such a person as Miss Priscilla Bayard?"
"That is a question not so easily answered, perhaps; since, in some
respects, she is greatly the superior of any young woman I know. Her
family, I have always heard, was very good on both sides; she is poor,
poor even to poverty, I fear, now" — Here Pris. paused; there was a
tremour in her voice, even, and I detected tears starting to her
eyes. "Poor Dus!" she continued — "she had much to support, in the
way of poverty, even while at school; where she was, indeed, as a
dependant, rather than as a boarder; but no one, among us all, could
presume to offer her favours. I was afraid even to ask her to accept a
ribbon, as I should not hesitate to do to Kate here, or any other
young lady with whom I was intimate. I never knew a nobler-minded
girl than Ursula Malbone, though few persons understand her, I think."
"This is old Andries over again! He was poor enough, heaven knows;
and I have known him actually suffer, in order to do his duty by this
girl, and to make a proper appearance at the same time, as a captain
in the New York line; yet none of us, not even my father, could ever
induce him to borrow a single dollar. He would give, but he would not
"I can believe this readily, it is so like Dus! If she has her
peculiarities, she has noble qualities enough to redeem a thousand
foibles. Still, I would not have you think Ursula Malbone is not an
excellent creature in all respects, though she certainly has her
"Which, doubtless, she has inherited from the Coejemans, as her
uncle, the Chainbearer, has his peculiarities too."
"The Malbones have none of the blood of the Coejemans," answered
the lady, quickly; "though it is respectable, and not to be ashamed
of. Dus Malbone's mother was only half-sister to captain Coejemans,
and they had different fathers."
I thought Pris. looked a little confused, and as if she were sorry
she had said so much on the subject at all, the instant she had
betrayed so much intimacy with the Malbone genealogy; for she shrunk
back, plucked a rose, and walked away smelling the flower, like one
who was indisposed to say any more on the subject. A summons to
breakfast, however, would otherwise have interrupted us, and no more was said about the Chainbearer, and his marvellous niece, Dus
Malbone. As soon as the meal was ended, our horses were brought round,
and Kate and I took our leave, Jaap having preceded us as usual, an
hour or more, with our luggage. The reader is not to suppose that we
always moved in the saddle, in that day; on the contrary, my mother
had a very neat chaise, in which she used to drive about the country,
with a mounted position; my father had a phaeton, and in town we
actually kept a chariot; for the union of the Mordaunt and Littlepage
properties had made us very comfortable, and comfortably we lived. But
young ladies liked the saddle twenty-five years ago, more than they
do to-day; and Kate, being a capital horsewoman, like her mother
before her, we were often out together. It was choice, then, and not
necessity, a little aided by bad roads, perhaps, that induced us to
ride across to Satanstoe so often, when we wished to visit our
I kissed my dear old parent very affectionately at parting, for I
was to see her no more that summer; and I got her blessing in return.
As for Tom Bayard, a warm, brotherly shake of the hand sufficed,
inasmuch as it was pretty certain I should see him at
Lilacsbush before I left home. Approaching his sister, who held out
her hand to me, in a friendly manner, I said as I took it—
"I hope this is not the last time I am to see you, before I start
for the new countries, Miss Bayard. You owe my sister a visit, I
believe, and I shall trust to that debt for another opportunity of
saying the unpleasant word `farewell." '
"This is not the way to win a lady's heart, Mordaunt," cried Kate,
gaily. "It is only fifteen miles from your father's door to the
Hickories, you ought to know, sir; and you have a standing invitation
to darken its door with your military form."
"From both my father and brother"—put in Priscilla, a little
hastily. "They will always be happy to see major Littlepage, most
"And why not from yourself, Miss Prude," added Kate, who seemed
bent on causing her friend some confusion. "We are not, now, such
total strangers to each other, as to render that little grace
"When I am mistress of a house of my own, should that day ever
arrive, I shall take care not to lose my reputation for hospitality,"
answered Pris., determined not to be caught, "by neglecting to include
all the Littlepage family in my invitations. Until then, Tom's and
papa's welcomes must suffice."
The girl looked amazingly lovely all this time, and stood the
smiles of those around her with a self-possession that showed me she
knew perfectly well what she was about. I was never more at a loss how
to understand a young woman, and it is very possible, had I remained
near her for a month longer, the interest such uncertainty is apt to
awaken might have sent me away desperately in love. But Providence
had determined otherwise.
During our ride towards the 'Bush, my sister, with proper blushes
and a becoming hesitation, let me into the secret of her having
accepted Tom Bayard. They were not to be married until after my return
from the north, an event that was expected to take place in the
"Then I am to lose you, Kate, almost as soon as I find you," I
said, a little despondingly.
"Not lose me, brother; no, no, not
lose me, but
me, more than ever. I am to be transplanted into a family whither
you will soon be coming to seek a wife, yourself."
"Were I to come, what reason have I for supposing it would be
"That is a question you have no right to ask. Did I even know of
any particular reason for believing your reception would be
favourable, you cannot believe me sufficiently treacherous to betray
my friend. Young ladies are not of the facility of character you seem
to suppose, sir; and no method but the direct one will succeed. I have
no other reason for believing you would succeed, than the facts that
you are an agreeable, good-looking youth, however, of unexceptionable
family and fortune, living quite near the Hickories, and of a suitable
age, temper, habits, character, &c. &c. &c. Are not these reasons
sufficient to encourage you to persevere, my brave major?"
"Perseverance implies commencement, and I have not yet commenced. I
scarcely know what to make of your friend, child; she is either the
perfection of nature and simplicity, or the perfection of art."
"Art! Pris. Bayard artful! Mordaunt, you never did a human being
greater injustice; a child cannot have greater truth and sincerity
than Tom's sister."
"Ay, that 's just it; Tom's sister is
ex officio perfect;
but, you will please to remember that some children are very artful.
All I can say on the subject at present is, that I like Tom, and I
like his parents; but I do not know what to think of your friend."
Kate was a little offended, so she made me no answer. Her
good-humour returned, however, before we had gone far, and the rest of
our ride passed pleasantly enough, no allusions being made to any of
the name of Bayard; though, I dare say, my companion thought a great
deal of a certain Tom, of that name, as I certainly did of his
handsome and inexplicable sister.
At the Kingsbridge Inn, we had another short brush with that
untiring gossip, its landlady.
"A pleasant time it has been over at the 'Toe, I dares to say,"
exclaimed Mrs. Light, the instant she thrust her head out of the door;
"a most agreeable and amusing time both for the young gentleman and
for the young lady. Mr. Thomas Bayard and Miss Pris. Bayard have been
with you, days and days, and old Madam Littlepage is delighted. Oh!
the 'Toe has always been a happy house, and happy faces have I long
been used to see come out of it, and happy faces do I see to-day! Yes,
yes; the 'Toe has always sent happy, contented faces down the road;
and a happy roof it has been, by all accounts, these hundred years."
I dare say this was all true enough. I have always heard that the
old place contained contented hearts; and contented hearts make happy
faces. Kate's face was happiness itself, as she sat in the saddle
listening to the crone; and my countenance is not one of ill-nature.
The "'Toe was ever a happy house!" It recalls old times, to hear a
house thus familiarly spoken of; for a set is rising up among us which
is vastly too genteel to admit that any one, man, woman, child, or
Satan, ever had a member so homely as a 'Toe.
"They love their land, because it is their own,
And scorn to give aught other reason why;
Would shake hands with a king upon his throne,
And think it kindness to his majesty;
A stubborn race, fearing and flattering none,
Such are they nurtured, such they live and die:
All, but a few apostates, who are meddling
With merchandise, pounds, shillings, pence, and peddling."
A day or two after my return to Lilacsbush, was presented one of
those family scenes which are so common in the genial month of June,
on the shores of the glorious old Hudson. I call the river the old
Hudson, for it is quite as old as the Tiber, though the world has not
talked of it as much, or as long. A thousand years hence, this stream
will be known over the whole earth; and men will speak of it as they
now speak of the Danube and the Rhine. As good wine may not be made on
its banks as is made on the acclivities of the latter river; but, even
to-day, better, both as to quality and variety, is actually drunk. On
this last point, all intelligent travellers agree.
There stands a noble linden on the lawn of Lilacsbush, at no great
distance from the house, and necessarily within a short distance of
the water. The tree had been planted there by my grandmother
Mordaunt's father, to whom the place once belonged; and it was
admirably placed for the purposes of an afternoon's lounge. Beneath
its shade we often took our dessert and wine, in the warm months; and
thither, since their return from the army, general Littlepage and
colonel Dirck Follock used to carry their pipes, and smoke over a
campaign, or a bottle, as chance directed the discourse. For that
matter, no battle-field had ever been so veiled in smoke, as would
have been the case with the linden in question, could there have been
a concentration of all the vapour it had seen.
The afternoon of the day just mentioned, the whole family were
seated beneath the tree, scattered round, as shade and inclination
tempted; though a small table, holding fruits and wine, showed that
the usual business of the hour had not been neglected. The wines were
Madeira and claret, those common beverages in the country; and the
fruits were strawberries, cherries, oranges and figs; the two last
imported, of course. It was a little too early for us to get pines
from the islands, a fruit which is so common in its season as to be
readily purchased in town at the rate of four of a good size for a
dollar. But, the abundance, and even luxury, of a better sort of the
common American tables, is no news; viands, liquors and fruits
appearing on them, that are only known to the very rich and very
luxurious in the countries of Europe. If the service were only as
tasteful, and the cooking as good with us, as both are in France, for
instance, America would be the very paradise of the epicure, let
superficial travellers say what they please to the contrary. I have
been abroad in these later times, and speak of what I know.
No one sat
at the table, though my father, colonel Dirck,
and I were near enough to reach our glasses, at need. My mother was
next to me, and reasonably close; for I did not not smoke while aunt
Mary and Kate had taken post, just without the influence of the
tobacco. On the shore was a large skiff, that contained a tolerably
sized trunk or two, and a sort of clothes-bag. In the first were a
portion of my clothes, while those of Jaap filled the bag. The negro
himself was stretched on the grass, about half-way between the tree
and the shore, with two or three of his grandchildren rolling about,
at his feet. In the skiff was his son, seated in readiness to use the
sculls, as soon as ordered.
All this arrangement denoted my approaching departure for the
north. The wind was at the south, and sloops of various degrees of
promise and speed were appearing round the points, coming on one in
the wake of another, as each had been able to quit the wharves to
profit by the breeze. In that day, the river had not a tenth part of
the craft it now possesses; but still, it had enough to make a little
fleet, so near town, and at a moment when wind and tide both became
favourable. At that time, most of the craft on the Hudson belonged up
the river, and they partook largely of the taste of our Dutch
ancestors. Notable travellers before the gales, they did very little
with foul winds, generally requiring from a week to a fortnight to
tide it down from Albany, with the wind at all from the south.
Nevertheless, few persons thought of making the journey between the
two largest towns of the State (York and Albany), without having
recourse to one of these sloops. I was at that moment in waiting for
the appearance of a certain "Eagle, of Albany, captain Bogert," which
was to run in close to Lilacsbush, and receive me on board, agreeably
to an arrangement previously made in town. I was induced to take a
passage in this vessel from the circumstance that she had a sort of
after-cabin that was screened by an ample green curtain, an advantage
that all the vessels which then plied on the river did not possess;
though great improvements have been making ever since the period of
which I am now writing.
Of course, the interval thus passed in waiting for the appearance
of the Eagle was filled up, more or less, by discourse. Jaap, who was
to accompany me in my journey to Ravensnest, knew every vessel on the
river, as soon as he could see her, and we depended on him to let us
know when I was to embark, though the movements of the sloop herself
could not fail to give us timely notice of the necessity of taking
"I should like exceedingly to pay a visit to old Mrs. Vander
Heyden, at Kinderhook, Mordaunt," said my mother, after one of the
frequent pauses that occurred in the discourse. "She is a relation,
and I feel a great regard for her; so much the more, from the
circumstance of her being associated in my mind with that frightful
night on the river, of which you have heard me speak."
As my mother ceased speaking, she glanced affectionately towards
the general, who returned the look, as he returned all my mother's
looks, with one filled with manly tenderness. A more united couple
than my parents never existed. They seemed to me ordinarily to have
but one mind between them; and when there did occur any slight
difference of opinion, the question was not which should prevail, but
which should yield. Of the two, my mother may have had the most
native intellect, though the general was a fine, manly, sensible
person, and was very universally respected.
"It might be well, Anneke," said my father, "if the major were to
pay a visit to poor Guert's grave, and see if the stones are up, and
that the place is kept as it should be. I have not been there since
the year '68, when it looked as if a friendly eye might do some good
at no distant day."
This was said in a low voice, purposely to prevent aunt Mary from
hearing it; and, as she was a little deaf, it is probable the
intention was successful. Not so, however, with colonel Dirck, who
drew the pipe from his mouth, and sat attentively listening, in the
manner of one who felt great interest in the subject. Another pause
"T'en t'ere ist my Lort Howe, Corny," observed the colonel; "how is
it wit' his grave?"
"Oh! the colony took good care of that. They buried him in the main
aisle of St. Peter's, I believe; and, no doubt, all is right with him.
As for the other, major, it might be well to look at it."
"Great changes have taken place at Albany, since we were there as
young people!" observed my mother, thoughtfully. "The Cuylers are much
broken up by the revolution, while the Schuylers have grown greater
than ever. Poor aunt Schuyler, she is no longer living to welcome a
son of ours!"
"Time will bring about such changes, my love; and we can only be
thankful that so many of us remain, after so long and bloody a war."
I saw my mother's lips move, and I knew she was murmuring a
thanksgiving to the power which had preserved her husband and son,
through the late struggle.
"You will write as often as opportunities occur, Mordaunt," said
that dear parent, after a longer pause than usual. "Now there is
peace, I can hope to get your letters with some little regularity."
"They tell me, cousin Anneke" — for so the colonel always called
my mother, when we were alone — "They tell me, cousin Anneke," said
colonel Dirck, "t'at t'ey actually mean to have a mail t'ree times a
week petween Alpany and York! T'ere ist no knowing, general, what t'is
glorious revolution will not do for us!"
"If it bring me letters three times a week from those I love,"
rejoined my mother, "I am sure my patriotism will be greatly
increased. How will letters get out from Ravensnest to the older parts
of the colony — I should say, State, Mordaunt?"
"I must trust to the settlers for that. Hundreds of Yankees, they
tell me, are out looking for farms this summer. I may use some of them
"Don't trust 'em too much, or too many" — growled colonel Dirck,
who had the old Dutch grudge against our eastern brethren. "See how
they behav't to Schuyler."
"Yes," said my father, replenishing his pipe, "they
have manifested more justice and less prejudice to wise Philip; but
prejudices will exist, all over the world. Even Washington has had his
"T'at is a great man!" exclaimed colonel Dirck, with emphasis, and
in the manner of one who felt certain of his point. "A ferry
"No one will dispute with you, colonel, on that subject; but, have
you no message to send to our old comrade, Andries Coejemans? He must
have been at Mooseridge, with his party of surveyors, now, near a
twelvemonth, and I 'll warrant you has thoroughly looked up the old
boundaries, so as to be ready for Mordaunt to start afresh, as soon as
the boy reaches the Patent."
"I hope he hast not hiret a Yankee surveyor, Corny," put in the
colonel, in some little alarm. "If one of t 'em animals gets upon the
tract, he will manage to carry off half of the lant in his
compass-box! I hope olt Andries knows petter."
"I dare say he 'll manage to keep all the land, as well as to
survey it. It is a thousand pities the captain has no head for
figures; for his honesty would have made his fortune. But, I have seen
him tried, and know it will not do. He was a week once making up an
account of some stores received from head-quarters, and the nearest he
could get to the result was twenty-five per cent. out of the way."
"I would sooner trust Andries Coejemans to survey my property,
figures or no figures," cried colonel Dirck, positively, "than any
dominie in New England."
"Well, that is as one thinks," returned my father, tasting the
Madeira. "For my part, I shall be satisfied with the surveyor he may
happen to select, even though he should be a Yankee. Andries is
shrewd, if he be no calculator; and I dare to say he has engaged a
suitable man. Having taken the job at a liberal price, he is too
honest a fellow not to hire a proper person to do the head-work. As
for all the rest, I would trust him as soon as I would trust any man
"T'at is gospel. Mordaunt will haf an eye on matters too, seein' he
has so great an interest in the estate. T'ere is one t'ing, major, you
must not forget. Five hundred goot acres must be surveyed off for
sister Anneke, and five hundred for pretty Kate, here. As soon as t'at
is done, the general and I will give each of the gals a deet."
"Thank you, Dirck," said my father, with feeling. "I'll not refuse
the land for the girls, who may be glad enough to own it some time or
"It 's no great matter now, Corny; put, as you say, it may be of
use one day. Suppose we make old Andries a present of a farm, in his
"With all my heart," cried my father, quickly. "A couple of hundred
acres might make him comfortable for the rest of his days. I thank you
for the hint, Dirck, and we will let Mordaunt choose the lot, and send
us the description, that we may prepare the deed."
"You forget, general, that the Chainbearer has, or will have his
military lot, as a captain," I ventured to remark. "Besides, land will
be of little use to him, unless it might be to measure it. I doubt if
the old man would not prefer going without his dinner, to hoeing a
hill of potatoes."
"Andries had three slaves while he was with us; a man, a woman, and
their daughter," returned my father. "He would not sell them, he said,
on any consideration; and I have known him actually suffering for
money when he was too proud to accept it from his friends, and too
benevolent to part with family slaves, in order to raise it. `They
were born Coejemans,' he always said, `as much as I was born one
myself, and they shall die Coejemans.' He doubtless has these people
with him, at the Ridge, where you will find them all encamped, near
some spring, with gardenstuff and other small things growing around
him, if he can find open land enough for such a purpose. He has
permission to cut and till at pleasure."
"This is agreeable news to me, general," I answered, "since it
promises a sort of home. If the Chainbearer has really these blacks
with him, and has hutted judiciously, I dare say we shall have quite
as comfortable a time as many of those we passed together in camp.
Then, I shall carry my flute with me; for Miss Priscilla Bayard has
given me reason to expect a very wonderful creature in Dus, the
niece, of which old Andries used to talk so much. You remember to
have heard the Chainbearer speak of such a person, I dare say, sir;
for he was quite fond of mentioning her."
"Perfectly well; Dus Malbone was a sort of toast among the young
men of the regiment at one time, though no one of them all ever could
get a sight of her, by hook or by crook."
Happening to turn my head at that moment, I found my dear mother's
eyes turned curiously on me; brought there, I fancy, by the allusion
to Tom's sister.
"What does Priscilla Bayard know of this Chainbearer's niece?" that
beloved parent asked, as soon as she perceived that her look had
attracted my attention.
"A great deal, it would seem; since she tells me they are fast
friends: quite as great, I should judge from Miss Bayard's language
and manner, as Kate and herself."
"That can scarcely be," returned my mother, slightly smiling,
"since there the principal reason must be wanting. Then, this Dus can
hardly be Priscilla Bayard's equal."
"One never knows such a thing, mother, until he has had an
opportunity of making comparisons; though Miss Bayard, herself, says
Dus is much her superior in many things. I am sure her uncle is my
superior in some respects; in carrying chain, particularly so."
"Ay, but scarcely in station, Mordaunt."
"He was the senior captain of the regiment."
"True; but revolutions are revolutions. What I mean is, that your
Chainbearer can hardly be a gentleman."
"That is a point not to be decided in a breath. He is, and he is
not. Old Andries is of a respectable family, though but indifferently
educated. Men vastly his inferiors in birth, in habits, in the general
notions of the easte, in the New England States, are greatly his
superiors in knowledge. Nevertheless, while we must all admit how
necessary a certain amount of education has become, at the present
time, to make a gentleman, I think every gentleman will allow
hundreds among us have degrees in their pockets with small claims to
belong to the class. Three or four centuries ago, I should have
answered that old Andries was a gentleman, though he had to
bite the wax with his teeth and make a cross, for want of a better
"And he, what you call a chainbearer, Mordaunt!" exclaimed my
"As well as late senior captain in your father's regiment, Miss
Littlepage. But, no matter, Andries and Dus are such as they are, and
I shall be glad to have them for companions this summer. Jaap is
making signals, and I must quit you all. Heigho! It is very pleasant
here, under this linden, and home begins to entwine its fibres around
my heart. Never mind; it will soon be autumn, and I shall see the
whole of you, I trust, as I leave you, well and happy in town."
My dear, dear mother had tears in her eyes, when she embraced me;
so had Kate, who, though she did love Tom Bayard most, loved me very
warmly too. Aunt Mary kissed me, in her quiet but affectionate way;
and I shook hands with the gentlemen, who accompanied me down to the
boat. I could see that my father was affected. Had the war still
continued, he would have thought nothing of the separation; but in
that piping time of peace, it seemed to come unseasonably.
"Now, don't forget the great lots for Anneke and Katrinke," said
colonel Dirck, as we descended to the shore. "Let Andries pick out
some of the best of the lant, t'at is well watered and timbered, and
we 'll call the lots after the gals; that is a goot idea, Corny."
"Excellent, my friend. Mordaunt, my son, if you come across any
places that look like graves, I wish you would set up marks by which
they may be known. It is true, a quarter of a century or more makes
many changes in the woods; and it is quite likely no such remains will
"A quarter of a century in the American forest, sir," I answered,
"is somewhat like the same period in the wanderings of a comet; lost,
in the numberless years of its growth. A single tree will sometimes
outlast the generations of an entire nation."
"You wilt rememper, Mordaunt, that I wilt haf no Yankee tenants on
my estate. Your father may lease 'em one-half of a lot, if he
please; but I will not lease t'other."
"As you are tenants in common, gentlemen," I answered, smiling, "it
will not be easy to separate the interests in this manner. I believe I
understand you, however; I am to sell the lands of Mooseridge, or
covenant to sell, as your attorney, while I follow out my grandfather
Mordaunt's ideas, and lease those that are not yet leased, on my own
estate. This will at least give the settlers a choice, and those who
do not like one plan of obtaining their farms, may adopt the other."
I now shook hands again with the gentlemen, and stepping into the
skiff, we pulled away from the shore. Jaap had made this movement in
good season, and we were compelled to row a quarter of a mile down the
river to meet the sloop. Although the wind was perfectly fair, it was
not so fresh as to induce Mr. Bogert to round-to; but throwing us a
rope, it was caught, when we were safely transferred, bag and baggage,
to the decks of the Eagle.
Captain Bogert was smoking at the helm, when he returned my salute.
Removing the pipe, after a puff or two, he pointed with the stem
towards the group on the shore, and inquired if I wished to say
"Allponny"—so the Dutch were wont to pronounce the name of
their town in the last century, "is a long way off," he said, "and
maype you woult like to see the frients ag'in."
This business of waving hats and handkerchiefs is a regular thing
on the Hudson, and I expressed my willingness to comply with the
usage, as a matter of course. In consequence, Mr. Bogert deliberately
sheared in towards the shore, and I saw the whole family collecting on
a low rock, near the water, to take the final look. In the back-ground
stood the Satanstoes, a dark, woolly group, including Mrs. Jaap, and
two generations of descendants. The whites were weeping; that is to
say, my dear mother and Kate; and the blacks were laughing, though the
old lady kept her teeth to herself about as much as she exposed them.
A sensation almost invariably produces laughter with a negro, the only
exceptions being on occasions of singular gravity.
I believe, if the truth were known, Mr. Bogert greatly exulted in
the stately movement of his sloop, as she brushed along the shore, at
no great distance from the rocks, with her main-boom guyed out to
starboard, and studdingsailboom to port. The flying-topsail, too, was
set; and the Eagle might be said to be moving in all her glory. She
went so near the rocks, too, as if she despised danger! Those were
not the days of close calculations that have succeeded. Then, an
Albany skipper did not mind losing a hundred or two feet of distance
in making his run; whereas, now, it would not be an easy matter to
persuade a Liverpool trader to turn as much aside in order to speak a
stranger in the centre of the Atlantic; unless, indeed, he happened to
want to get the other's longitude.
As the sloop swept past the rocks, I got bows, waving of hats and
handkerchiefs, and good wishes enough to last the whole voyage. Even
Jaap had his share; and "good-bye, Jaap," came to my ears, from even
the sweet voice of Kate. Away we went, in stately Dutch movement, slow but sure. In ten minutes Lilacsbush was behind us, and I was once
more alone in the world, for months to come.
There was now time to look about me, and to ascertain who were my
companions in this voyage. The skipper and crew were as usual the
masters; and the pilots, both whites, and both of Dutch extraction, an
old wrinkled negro, who had passed his life on the Hudson as a
foremast-hand, and two younger blacks, one of whom was what was
dignified with the name of cabin-steward. Then, there were numerous
passengers; some of whom appeared to belong to the upper classes.
They were of both sexes, but all were strangers to me. On the
main-deck were six or eight sturdy, decent, quiet, respectable-looking
labourers, who were evidently of the class of husbandmen. Their packs
were lying in a pile, near the foot of the mast, and I did not fail to
observe that there were as many axes as there were packs.
The American axe! It has made more real and lasting conquests than
the sword of any warlike people that ever lived; but, they have been
conquests that have left civilization in their train, instead of havoc
and desolation. More than a million of square miles of territory have
been opened up from the shades of the virgin forest, to admit the
warmth of the sun; and culture and abundance have been spread where
the beast of the forest so lately roamed, hunted by the savage. Most
of this, too, has been effected between the day when I went on board
the Eagle, and that on which I am now writing. A brief quarter of a
century has seen these wonderful changes wrought; and at the bottom of
them all lies this beautiful, well-prized, ready, and efficient
implement, the American axe!
It would not be easy to give the reader a clear notion of the
manner in which the young men and men of all ages of the older
portions of the new republic poured into the woods to commence the
business of felling the forests, and laying bare the secrets of
nature, as soon as the nation rose from beneath the pressure of war,
to enjoy the freedom of peace. The history of that day in New York,
which State led the van in the righteous strife of improvement, and
has ever since so nobly maintained its vantage-ground, has not yet
been written. When it is properly recorded, names will be rescued
from oblivion that better deserve statues and niches in the temple of
national glory, than those of many who have merely got the start of
them by means of the greater facility with which the public mind is
led away in the train of brilliant exploits, than it is made sensible
of the merits of those that are humane and useful.
It was not usual for settlers, as it has become the practice to
term those who first take up and establish themselves on new lands, to
make their journeys from the neighbourhood of the sea to the interior,
other than by land; but a few passed out of Connecticut, by the way of
New York, and thence up the river in the sloops. Of this character
were those I found on board the Eagle. In all, we had seven of these
men, who got into discourse with me the first day of our passage, and
I was a little surprised at discovering how much they already knew of
me, and of my movements. Jaap, however, soon suggested himself to my
mind, as the probable means of the intelligence they had gleaned; and,
on inquiry, such I ascertained was the fact.
The curiosity and the questioning propensities of the people of New
England, have been so generally admitted by writers and commentators
on American character, that I suppose one has a right to assume the
truth of the characteristics. I have heard various ways of accounting
for them; and, among others, the circumstance of their disposition to
emigrate, which brings with it the necessity of inquiring after the
welfare of friends at a distance. It appears to me, however, this is
taking a very narrow view of the cause, which I attribute to the
general activity of mind among a people little restrained by the
conventional usages of more sophisticated conditions of society. The
practice of referring so much to the common mind, too, has a great
influence on all the opinions of this peculiar portion of the
American population, seeming to confer the right to inquire into
matters that are elsewhere protected by the sacred feeling of
Let this be as it might, my axe-men had contrived to get out of
Jaap all he knew about Ravensnest and Mooseridge, as well as my
motives in making the present journey. This information obtained, they
were not slow in introducing themselves to me, and of asking the
questions that were uppermost in their minds. Of course, I made such
answers as were called for by the case, and we established a sort of
business acquaintance between us, the very first day. The voyage
lasting several days, by the time we reached Albany, pretty much all
that could be said on such a subject had been uttered by one side or
As respected Ravensnest, my own property, my grandfather had
requested in his will that the farms might be leased, having an eye to
my children's profit, rather than to mine. His request was a law to
me, and I had fully determined to offer the unoccupied lands of that
estate, or quite three-fourths of the whole patent, on leases similar
in their conditions to those which had already been granted. On the
other hand, it was the intention to part with the lots of Mooseridge,
in fee. These conditions were made known to the axe-men, as my first
essay in settling a new country; and contrary to what had been my
expectation, I soon discovered that these adventurers inclined more to
the leases than to the deeds. It is true, I expected a small payment
down, in the case of each absolute sale, while I was prepared to
grant leases, for three lives, at very low rents at the best; and in
the cases of a large proportion of the lots, those that were the least
eligible by situation, or through their quality, to grant them leases
without any rent at all, for the few first years of their occupation.
These last advantages, and the opportunity of possessing lands a
goodly term of years, for rents that were put as low as a shilling an
acre, were strong inducements, as I soon discovered, with those who
carried all they were worth in their packs, and who thus reserved the
little money they possessed to supply the wants of their future
We talked these matters over during the week we were on board the
sloop; and by the time we came in sight of the steeples of Albany, my
men's minds were made up to follow me to the Nest. These steeples were
then two in number, viz: that of the English church, that stood near
the margin of the town, against the hill; and that of the Dutch
church, which occupied an humbler site, on the low land, and could
scarcely be seen rising above the pointed roofs of the adjacent
houses; though these last, themselves, were neither particularly
high, nor particularly imposing.
"Who is that graceful female here
With yon red hunter of the deer?
Of gentle mien and shape, she seems
For civil halls design'd;
Yet with the stately savage walks,
As she were of his kind."
I made little stay in Albany, but, giving the direction to the
Patent to the axe-men, left it the very day of our arrival. There were
very few public conveyances in that early day, and I was obliged to
hire a wagon to transport Jaap and myself, with our effects, to
Ravensnest. A sort of dull calm had come over the country, after the
struggles of the late war; but one interest in it appearing to be
alive and very active. That interest, fortunately for me, appeared to
be the business of "land-hunting" and "settling." Of this, I had
sufficient proof in Albany itself; it being difficult to enter the
principal street of that town, and not find in it more or less of
these adventurers, the emblems of whose pursuit were the pack and the
axe. Nine out of ten came from the eastern or New England States; then
the most peopled, while they were not very fortunate in either soil or
We were two days in reaching Ravensnest, a property which I had
owned for several years, but which I now saw for the first time. My
grandfather had left a sort of an agent on the spot, a person of the
name of Jason Newcome, who was of my father, the general's age, and
who had once been a schoolmaster in the neighbourhood of Satanstoe.
This agent had leased extensively himself, and was said to be the
occupant of the only mills, of any moment, on the property. With him
a correspondence had been maintained; and once or twice during the war
my father had managed to have an interview with this representative of
his and my interests. As for myself, I was now to see him for the
first time. We knew each other by reputation only; and certain
passages in the agency had induced me to give Mr. Newcome notice that
it was my intention to make a change in the management of the property.
Any one who is familiar with the aspect of things in what is called
a "new country" in America, must be well aware it is not very
inviting. The lovers of the picturesque can have little satisfaction
in looking at even the finest natural scenery at such moments; the
labour that has been effected usually having done so much to mar the
beauties of nature, without having yet had time to supply the
deficiencies by those of art. Piles of charred or half-burned logs;
fields covered with stumps, or ragged with stubs; fences of the
rudest sorts, and filled with brambles; buildings of the meanest
character; deserted clearings; and all the other signs of a state of
things in which there is a manifest and constant struggle between
immediate necessity and future expediency, are not calculated to
satisfy either the hopes or the tastes. Occasionally a different state
of things, however, under circumstances peculiarly favourable, does
exist; and it may be well to allude to it, lest the reader form but a
single picture of this transition state of American life. When the
commerce of the country is active, and there is a demand for the
products of the new lands, a settlement often presents a scene of
activity in which the elements of a thriving prosperity make
themselves apparent amid the smoke of fallows, and the rudeness of
border life. Neither, however, was the case at Ravensnest, when I
first visited the place; though the last was, to a certain extent, its
condition two or three years later, or after the great European war
brought its wheat and ashes into active demand.
I found but few more signs of cultivation between the point where I
left the great northern road and the bounds of the patent, than had
been found by my father, as he has described them to me in his first
visit, which took place a quarter of a century earlier than this of
mine. There was one log tavern, it is true, in the space mentioned;
but it afforded nothing to drink but rum, and nothing to eat but
salted pork and potatoes, the day I stopped there to dine. But there
were times and seasons when, by means of venison, wild fowl and fish,
a luxurious board might have been spread. That this was not the
opinion of my landlady, nevertheless, was apparent from the remarks
she made while I was at table.
"You are lucky, major Littlepage," she said, "in not having come
among us in one of what I call our `starving times' — and awful
times they be, if a body may say what she thinks on 'em."
"Starvation is a serious matter at any time," I answered, "though I
did not know you ever were reduced to such difficulties in a country
as rich and abundant as this."
"Of what use is riches and abundance if a man will do nothing but
fish and shoot? I've seen the day when there wasn't a mouthful to eat,
in this very house, but a dozen or two of squabs, a string of
brook-trout, and maybe a deer, or a salmon from one of the lakes."
"A little bread would have been a welcome addition to such a meal."
"Oh! as for bread, I count that for nothin'. We always have bread
and potatoes enough; but I hold a family to be in a desperate way,
when the mother can see the bottom of the pork-barrel. Give me
children that's raised on good sound pork, afore all the game in the
country. Game's good as a relish, and so's bread; but pork is the
staff of life! To have good pork, a body must have good corn; and
good corn needs hoeing; and a hoe isn't a fish-pole, or a gun. No, my
children I calkerlate to bring up on pork, with just as much bread and
butter as they may want!"
This was American poverty as it existed in 1784. Bread, butter and
potatoes, ad libitum; but little pork, and no tea. Game in
abundance in its season; but the poor man who lived on game was
supposed to be keeping just as poor an establishment as the epicure in
town who gives a dinner to his brethren, and is compelled to apologize
for there being no game in the market. Curious to learn more from this
woman, I pursued the discourse.
"There are countries, I have read," I continued, "in which the poor
do not taste meat of any sort, not even game, from the beginning of
the year to its end; and, sometimes, not even bread."
"Well, I'm no great hand for bread, as I said afore, and should eat
no great matter of it, so long as I could get pork," the woman
answered, evidently interested in what I had said; "but, I shouldn't
like to be without it altogether; and the children, especially, do
love to have it with their butter. Living on potatoes alone must be a
wild animal sort of life!"
"Very tame animals do it, and that from dire necessity."
"Is there any law ag'in their using bread and meat?"
"No other law than the one which forbids their using that which is
the property of another."
"Good land!" This is a very common American expression among the
women—"Good land! Why don't they go to work and get in crops, so
they might live a little?"
"Simply because they have no land to till. The land belongs to
"I should think they might hire, if they couldn't buy. It's about
as good to hire as it is to buy—some folks (folk) think it's better.
Why don't they take land on shares, and live?"
"Because land, itself, is not to be had. With us, land is abundant;
we have more of it than is necessary, or than will be necessary, for
ages to come; perhaps it would be better for our civilization were
there less of it; but, in the countries of which I speak, there are
more people than there is land."
"Well, land is a good thing, I admit, and it's right there should
be an owner to it; yet, there are folks who would rather squat than
buy or hire, any day. Squatting comes nat'ral to 'em."
"Are there many squatters in this part of the country?"
The woman looked a little confused, and she did not answer me,
until she had taken time to reflect on what she should say.
"Some folks call
us squatters, I s'pose," was the reluctant
answer, "but I do not. We have bought the betterments of a man
who hadn't much of a title, I think likely; but, as we bought
his betterments fairly, Mr. Tinkum,"—that was the husband's name,
—"is of opinion that we live under title, as it is called. What do
you say to it, major Littlepage?"
"I can only say that nought will produce nought; nothing, nothing.
If the man of whom you purchased owned nothing, he could sell nothing.
The betterments he called his, were not his; and in purchasing them,
you purchased what he did not own."
"Well, it's no great shakes, if he had'nt any right, sin' Tinkum
only gi'n an old saddle, that warn't worth two dollars, and part of a
set of single harness, that I'd defy a conjurer to make fit any mule,
for the whull right. One year's rent of this house is worth all put
together, and that twice over, if the truth must be said; and we've
been in it, now, seven years. My four youngest were all born under
this blessed roof, such as it is!"
"In that case, you will not have much reason to complain, when the
real owner of the soil appears to claim it. The betterments came
cheap, and they will go as cheap."
"That's just it; though I don't call ourselves much of squatters,
a'ter all, seein' we have paid suthin' for the betterments.
They say an old nail, paid in due form, will make a sort of title in
the highest court of the State. I'm sure the laws should be
considerate of the poor."
"Not more so than of the rich. The laws should be equal and just;
and the poor are the last people who ought to wish them otherwise,
since they are certain to be the losers when any other principle
governs. Rely on it, my good woman, the man who is for ever preaching
the rights of the poor is at bottom a rogue, and means to make that
cry a stalking-horse for his own benefit; since nothing can serve the
poor but severe justice. No class suffers so much by a departure from
the rule, as the rich have a thousand other means of attaining their
ends, when the way is left clear to them, by setting up any other
master than the right."
"I don't know but it may be so; but I don't call ourselves
squatters. There is dreadful squatters about here, though, and on
your lands too, by the tell."
"On my lands! I am sorry to hear it, for I shall feel it a duty to
get rid of them. I very well know that the great abundance of land
that we have in the country, its little comparative value, and the
distance at which the owners generally reside from their estates, have
united to render the people careless of the rights of those who
possess real property; and I am prepared to view things as they are
among ourselves, rather than as they exist in older countries; but I
shall not tolerate squatters."
"Well, by all I hear, I think you'll call old Andries, the
Chainbearer, a squatter of the first class. They tell me the old chap
has come back from the army as fierce as a catamount, and that there
is no speaking to him, as one used to could, in old times."
"You are, then, an old acquaintance of the Chainbearer?"
"I should think I was! Tinkum and I have lived about, a good deal,
in our day; and old Andries is a desp'ate hand for the woods. He
surveyed out for us, once, or halfsurveyed, another betterment; but he
proved to be a spiteful rogue afore he got through with the business;
and we have not set much store by him ever sin' that time."
"The Chainbearer a rogue! Andries Coejemans anything but an honest
man! You are the first person, Mrs. Tinkum, I have ever heard call in
question his sterling integrity."
"Sterling money doesn't pass now, I conclude, sin' it's revolution
times. We all know which side your family was on in the war, major
Littlepage; so it's no offence to you. A proper sharp look-out they
had of it here, when you quit college; for some said old Herman
Mordaunt had ordered in his will that you should uphold the king; and
then, most of the tenants concluded they would get the lands
altogether. It is a sweet thing, major, for a tenant to get his farm
without paying for it, as you may judge! Some folks was desp'ate
sorry when they heern tell that the Littlepages went with the
"I hope there are few such knaves on the Ravensnest estate as to
wish anything of the sort. But, let me hear an explanation of your
charge against the Chainbearer. I have no great concern for my own
rights in the patent that I claim."
The woman had the audacity, or the frankness, to draw a long,
regretful sigh, as it might be, in my very face. That sigh expressed
her regrets that I had not taken part with the crown in the last
struggle; in which case, I do suppose she and Tinkum would have
contrived to squat on one of the farms of Ravensnest. Having sighed,
however, the landlady did not disdain to answer.
"As for the Chainbearer, the simple truth is this," she said.
"Tinkum hired him to run a line between some betterments we had
bought, and some that had been bought by a neighbour of our'n. This
was long afore the war, and when titles were scarcer than they're
gettin' to be now; some of the landlords living across the water.
Well, what do you think the old fellow did, major? He first asked for
our deeds, and we showed them to him; as good and lawful warrantees
as was ever printed, and filled up by a 'squire. He then set to work,
all by himself, jobbing the whull survey, as it might be, and a
prettier line was never run, as far as he went, which was about
half-way. I thought it would make etarnel peace atween us and our
neighbour, for it had been etarnel war afore that, for three whull
years; sometimes with clubs, and sometimes with axes, and once with
scythes. But, somehow—I never know'd how—but somehow
, old Andries found out that the man who deed to us had no deed to
himself, or no mortal right to the land, any more than that sucking
pig you see at the door there; when he gi'n right up, refusing to
carry out another link, or p'int another needle, he did! Warn't that
being cross-grained and wilful! No, there's no dependence to be put on
"Wilful in the cause of right, as glorious old Andries always is! I
love and honour him all the better for it."
"La! — Do you love and honour sich a one as him! Well, I should
have expected suthin' else from sich a gentleman as you! I'd no idee
major Littlepage could honour an old, worn-out Chainbearer, and he a
man that couldn't get up in the world, too, when he had hands and
feet, all on 'em together, on some of the very best rounds of the
ladder! Why, I judge that even Tinkum would have gone ahead, if he had
been born with sich a chance."
"Andries has been a captain in my own regiment, it is true, and was
once my superior officer; but he served for his country's sake, and
not for his own. Have you seen him lately?"
"That have we! He passed here about a twelvemonth ago, with his
whull party, on their way to squat on your own land, or I'm mistaken.
There was the Chainbearer himself, two helpers, Dus and young Malbone."
"Young who?" I asked, with an interest that induced the woman to
turn her keen, sunken, but sharp grey eyes, intently on me.
"Young Malbone, I said; Dus' brother, and the youngster who does
all old Andries' 'rithmetic. I suppose you know as well as I do, that
the Chainbearer can't calkerlate any more than a wild goose, and not
half as well as a crow. For that matter, I've known crows that, in
plantin' time, would measure a field in half the number of minutes
that the State surveyor would be hours at."
"This young Malbone, then, is the Chainbearer's nephew?— And he
it is who does the surveying?"
"He does the 'rithmetic part, and he is a brother of old Andries'
niece. I know'd the Coejemans when I was a gal, and I've known the
Malbones longer than I want to know them."
"Have you any fault to find with the family, that you speak thus of
"Nothin' but their desperate pride, which makes them think
themselves so much better than everybody else; yet, they tell me, Dus
and all on 'em are just as poor as I am myself."
"Perhaps you mistake their feeling, good woman; a thing I think the
more probable, as you seem to fancy money the source of their pride,
at the very moment you deny their having any. Money is a thing on
which few persons of cultivated minds pride themselves. The
purse-proud are, almost invariably, the vulgar and ignorant."
No doubt this was a moral thrown away with such an auditor; but I
was provoked; and when a man is provoked, he is not always wise. The
answer showed the effect it had produced.
"I don't pretend to know how that is; but, if it isn't pride, what
is it that makes Dus Malbone so different from my da'ters? She 'd no
more think of being like one on 'em, scouring about the lots, riding
bare-backed, and scampering through the neighbourhood, than you 'd
think of cooking my dinner—that she wouldn't."
Poor Mrs. Tinkum — or, as she would have been apt to call
herself, Miss Tinkum! She had betrayed one of the commonest
weaknesses of human nature, in thus imputing pride to the
Chainbearer's niece because the latter behaved differently from her
and her's. How many persons in this good republic of ours judge their
neighbours on precisely the same principle; inferring something
unsuitable, because it seems to reflect on their own behaviour!
But, by this time, I had got to hear the name of Dus with some
interest, and I felt disposed to push the subject further.
"Miss Malbone, then," I said, "does
not ride bare-backed?"
"La! major, what in natur' puts it into your head to call the gal
Miss Malbone! — There's no Miss Malbone living sin' her own
"Well, Dus Malbone, I mean; she is above riding bare-backed?"
"That she is; even a pillion would be hardly grand enough for her,
allowing her own brother to use the saddle."
"Her own brother? — This young surveyor, then,
"Sort o', and sort o' not, like. They had the same father, but
"That explains it; I never heard the Chainbearer speak of any
nephew, and it seems the young man is not related to him at all—he
is the half-brother of his niece."
"Why can't that niece behave like other young women? that's the
question I ask. My gals hasn't as much pride as would be good for 'em,
not they! If a body wants to borrow an article over at the Nest, and
that's seven miles off, the whull way in the woods, just name it to
Poll, and she'd jump on an ox, if there warn't a hoss, and away she'd
go a'ter it, with no more bit of a saddle, and maybe nothin' but a
halter, like a deer! Give me Poll, afore all the gals I know, for
By this time, disrelish for vulgarity was getting the better of
curiosity; and my dinner of fried pork being done, I was willing to
drop the discourse. I had learned enough of Andries and his party to
satisfy my curiosity, and Jaap was patiently waiting to succeed me at
table. Throwing down the amount of the bill, I took a fowling-piece
with which we always travelled in those days, bade Mrs. Tinkum
good-day, ordered the black and the wagoner to follow with the team
as soon as ready, and went on towards my own property on foot.
In a very few minutes I was quite beyond the Tinkum betterments,
and fairly in the forest again. It happened that the title to a large
tract of land adjoining Ravensnest was in dispute, and no attempt at a
serious settlement had ever been made on it. Some one had "squatted"
at this spot, to enjoy the advantage of selling rum to those who went
and came between my own people and the inner country; and the place
had changed hands half a dozen times, by fraudulent, or at least by
worthless sales, from one squatter to another. Around the house, by
this time a decaying pile of logs, time had done a part of the work of
the settler, and aided by that powerful servant but fearful master,
fire, had given to the small clearing somewhat of the air of civilized
cultivation. The moment these narrow limits were passed, however, the
traveller entered the virgin forest, with no other sign of man around
him than what was offered in the little-worked and little-travelled
road. The highway was not much indebted to the labours of man for any
facilities it afforded the traveller. The trees had been cut out of
it, it is true, but their roots had not been extracted, and time had
done more towards destroying them than the axe or the pick. Time had
done a good deal, however, and the inequalities were getting to be
smooth under the hoof and the wheel. A tolerably good bridle-path had
long been made, and I found no difficulty in walking in it, since that
answered equally well for man or beast.
The virgin forest of America is usually no place for the ordinary
sportsman. The birds that are called game are but rarely found in it,
one or two excepted; and it is a well-known fact, that while the
frontier-man is certain death with a rifle-bullet, knocking the head
off a squirrel or a wildturkey at his sixty or eighty yards, it is
necessary to go into the older parts of the country, and principally
among sportsmen of the better classes, in order to find those who
knock over the woodcock, snipe, quail, grouse and plover, on the
wing. I was thought a good shot on the "plains," and over the heaths
or commons of the island of Manhattan, and among the necks of
Westchester; but I saw nothing to do up there, where I then was,
surrounded by trees that had stood their centuries. It would certainly
have been easy enough for me to kill a blue-jay, now and then, or a
crow, or even a raven, and perhaps an eagle, had I the proper shot;
but, as for anything that ordinarily is thought to adorn a game-bag,
not a feather could I see. For the want of something better to do,
then, if a young man of three or fourand-twenty ought thus to express
himself, I began to ruminate on the charms of Pris. Bayard, and on the
singularities of Dus Malbone. In this mood I proceeded, getting over
the grounds at a rapid rate, leaving Miss Tinkum, the clearing with
its betterments, and the wagon, far behind me.
I had walked an hour alone, when the silence of the woods was
suddenly interrupted by the words of a song that came not from any of
the feathered race, though the nightingale itself could hardly have
equalled the sweetness of the notes, which were those of a female
voice. The low notes struck me as the fullest, richest, and most
plaintive I had ever heard; and I fancied they could not be equalled,
until the strain carried the singer's voice into a higher key, where
it seemed equally at home. I thought I knew the air, but the words
were guttural, and in an unknown tongue. French and Dutch were the
only two foreign languages in which one usually heard any music in our
part of the woods at that day; and even the first was by no means
common. But, with both these languages I had a little acquaintance,
and I was soon satisfied that the words I heard belonged to neither.
At length, it flashed on my mind that the song was Indian; not the
music, but the words. The music was certainly Scotch, or that altered
Italian that time has attributed to the Scotch; and there was a moment
when I fancied some Highland girl was singing near me one of the
Celtic songs of the country of her childhood. But, closer attention
satisfied me that the words were really Indian; probably belonging to
the Mohawk, or some other language that I had often heard spoken.
The reader may be curious to know whence these sounds proceeded,
and why I did not see the being who gave birth to such delicious
harmony. It was owing to the fact that the song came from out of a
thicket of young pines, that grew on an ancient opening at a little
distance from the road, and which I supposed contained a hut of some
sort or other. These pines, however, completely concealed all within
them. So long as the song lasted, no tree of the forest was more
stationary than myself; but, when it ended, I was about to advance
towards the thicket, in order to pry into its mysteries, when I heard
a laugh that had scarcely less of melody in it than the strains of the
music itself. It was not a vulgar, clamorous burst of girlish
impulses, nor was it even loud; but it was light-hearted, mirthful,
indicating humour, if a mere laugh can do so much; and, in a
sense, it was contagious. It arrested my movement, in order to
listen; and, before any new impulse led me forward, the branches of
the pines opened, and a man passed out of the thicket into the road. A
single glance sufficed to let me know that the stranger was an Indian.
Notwithstanding I was apprised of the near vicinity of others, I
was a little started with this sudden apparition. Not so with him who
was approaching: he could not have known of my being anywhere near
him; yet he manifested no emotion as his cold, undisturbed glance fell
on my form. Steadily advancing, he came to the centre of the road;
and, as I had turned involuntarily to pursue my own way, not sure it
was prudent to remain in that neighbourhood alone, the red man fell
in, with his moccasined foot, at my elbow; and I found that we were
thus strangely pursuing our journey, in the same direction, side by
The Indian and myself walked in this manner, within a yard of each
other, in the midst of that forest, for two or three minutes without
speaking. I forbore to say anything, because I had heard that an
Indian respected those most who knew best how to repress their
curiosity; which habit, most probably, had its effect on my companion.
At length, the red man uttered, in the deep, guttural manner of his
people, the common conventional salutation of the frontier—
This word, which has belonged to some Indian language once, passes
everywhere for Indian with the white man; and, quite likely for
English, with the Indian. A set of such terms has grown up between the
two races, including such words as "moccasin," "pappoose," "tomahawk,"
"squaw," and many others. "Sa-a-go," means "how d'ye do?"
"Sa-a-go?" — I answered to my neighbour's civil salutation.
After this we walked along for a few minutes more, neither party
speaking. I took this opportunity to examine my red brother, an
employment that was all the easier from the circumstance that he did
not once look at me; the single glance sufficing to tell him all he
wanted to know. In the first place, I was soon satisfied that my
companion did not drink, a rare merit in a red man who lived near the
whites. This was evident from his countenance, gait, and general
bearing, as I thought, in addition to the fact that he possessed no
bottle, or anything else that would hold liquor. What I liked the
least was the circumstance of his being completely armed; carrying
knife, tomahawk and rifle, and each seemingly excellent of its kind.
He was not painted, however, and he wore an ordinary calico shirt, as
was then the usual garb of his people, in the warm season. The
countenance had the stern severity that is so common to a red warrior;
and, as this man was turned of fifty, his features began to show the
usual signs of exposure and service. Still, he was a vigorous,
respectable-looking red-man, and one who was evidently accustomed to
live much among civilized men. I had no serious uneasiness, of course,
at meeting such a person, although we were so completely buried in the
forest; but, as a soldier, I could not help reflecting how inferior
my fowling-piece would necessarily prove to be to his rifle, should
he see fit to turn aside, and pull upon me from behind a tree, for the
sake of plunder. Tradition said such things had happened; though, on
the whole, the red-man of America has perhaps proved to be the most
honest of the two, as compared with those who have supplanted him.
"How ole chief?" the Indian suddenly asked, without even raising
his eyes from the road.
"Old chief! Do you mean Washington, my friend?"
"Not so — mean ole chief, out here, at Nest. Mean fader."
"My father! Do you know general Littlepage?"
"Be sure, know him. You fader — see" — holding up his two
fore-fingers — "just like — dat him; dis you."
"This is singular enough! And were you told that I was coming to
"Hear dat, too. Always talk about chief."
"Is it long since you saw my father?"
"See him in war-time—nebber hear of ole Sureflint?"
I had heard the officers of our regiment speak of such an Indian,
who had served a good deal with the corps, and been exceedingly
useful, in the two great northern campaigns especially. He never
happened to be with the regiment after I joined it, though his name
and services were a good deal mixed up with the adventures of 1776 and
"Certainly," I answered, shaking the red-man cordially by the hand.
"Certainly, have I heard of you, and something that is connected with
times before the war. Did you never meet my father before the war?"
"Sartain; meet in
ole war. Gin'ral young man, den— just
"By what name were you then known, Oneida?"
"No Oneida—Onondago—sober tribe. Hab plenty name. Sometime one,
sometime anoder. Pale face say `Trackless,' cause he can't find his
trail — warrior call him `Susquesus." '
"With what free growth the elm and plane
Fling their huge arm across my way;
Grey, old, and cumber'd with a train
Of vines, as huge, and old, and grey!
Free stray the lucid streams, and find
No taint in these fresh lawns and shades;
Free spring the flowers that scent the wind,
Where never scythe has swept the glades." Bryant.
I had heard enough of my father's early adventures to know that the
man mentioned in the last chapter had been a conspicuous actor in
them, and remembered that the latter enjoyed the fullest confidence of
the former. It was news to me, however, that Sureflint and the
Trackless were the same person; though, when I came to reflect on the
past, I had some faint recollection of having once before heard
something of the sort. At any rate, I was now with a friend, and no
longer thought it necessary to be on my guard. This was a great
relief, in every point of view, as one does not like to travel at the
side of a stranger, with an impression, however faint, that the latter
may blow his brains out, the first time he ventures to turn his own
Susquesus was drawing near to the decline of life. Had he been a
white man, I might have said he was in a "green old age;" but the term
of "red old age" would suit him much better. His features were
still singularly fine; while the cheeks, without being very full, had
that indurated, solid look, that flesh and muscles get from use and
exposure. His form was as erect as in his best days, a red-man's frame
rarely yielding in this way to any pressure but that of exceeding old
age, and that of rum. Susquesus never admitted the enemy into his
mouth, and consequently the citadel of his physical man was secure
against every invader but time. In-toed and yielding in his gait, the
old warrior and runner still passed over the ground with an easy
movement; and, when I had occasion to see him increase his speed, as
soon after occurred, I did not fail to perceive that his sinews
seemed strung to their utmost force, and that every movement was free.
For a time, the Indian and I talked of the late war, and of the
scenes in which each of us had been an actor. If my own modesty was as
obvious as that of Sureflint, I had no reason to be dissatisfied with
myself; for, the manner in which he alluded to events in which I knew
he had been somewhat prominent, was simple and entirely free from
that boasting in which the red-man is prone to indulge; more
especially when he wishes to provoke his enemies. At length I changed
the current of the discourse, by saying abruptly—
"You were not alone in that pine thicket, Susquesus; that from
which you came, when you joined me?"
"No—sartain; wasn't alone. Plenty people dere."
"Is there an encampment of your tribe among those bushes?"
A shade passed over the dark countenance of my companion, and I saw
a question had been asked that gave him pain. He paused some little
time before he answered; and, when he did, it was in a way that seemed
"Susquesus got tribe no longer. Quit Onondagos t'irty summer, now;
don't like Mohawk."
"I remember to have heard something of this from my father, who
told me at the same time, that the reason why you left your people was
to your credit. But, you had music in the thicket?"
"Yes; gal sing—gal love sing; warrior like listen."
"And the song?—In what language were the words?"
"Onondago"—answered the Indian, in a low tone.
"I had no idea the music of the red people was so sweet. It is many
a day since I have heard a song that went so near to my heart, though
I could not understand what was said."
"Bird, pretty bird—sing like wren."
"And is there much of this music in your family, Susquesus? If so,
I shall come often to listen."
"Why not come? Path got no briar; short path, too. Gal sing, when
"Then I shall certainly be your guest, some day, soon. Where do you
live, now? Are you Sureflint, or Trackless, to-day? I see you are
armed, but not painted."
"Hatchet buried berry deep, dis time. No dig him up, in great many
year. Mohawk make peace; Oneida make peace; Onondago make peace—all
bury 'e hatchet."
"Well, so much the better for us landholders. I have come to sell
and lease my lands; perhaps you can tell me if many young men are out
hunting for farms this summer?"
"Wood full. Plenty as pigeon. How you sell land?"
"That will depend on where it is, and how good it is. Do you wish
to buy, Trackless?"
"Injin own all land, for what he want, now. I make wigwam where I
want; make him, too, when I want."
"I know very well that you Indians do claim such a right; and, so
long as the country remains in its present wild state, no one will be
apt to refuse it to you. But, you cannot plant and gather, as most of
your people do in their own country."
"Got no squaw — got no pappoose — little corn do for Susquesus.
No tribe — no squaw — no pappoose!"
This was said in a low, deliberate voice, and with a species of
manly melancholy that I found very touching. Complaining men create
very little sympathy, and those who whine are apt to lose our respect;
but, I know no spectacle more imposing than that of one of stern
nature smothering his sorrows beneath the mantle of manliness and
"You have friends, Susquesus," I answered, "if you have no wife nor
"Fader, good friend; hope son friend, too. Grandfader great friend,
once; but he gone far away, and nebber come back. Know moder, know
"Take what land you want, Trackless — till it, sell it — do
what you wish with it."
The Indian eyed me keenly, and I detected a slight smile of
pleasure stealing over his weather-worn face. It was not easy to throw
him off his habitual guard over his emotions, however; and the gleam
of illumination passed away, like a ray of sunshine in mid-winter. The
sternest white man might have grasped my hand, and something like a
sign of gratitude would probably have escaped him; but, the little
trace of emotion I have mentioned having disappeared, nothing
remained on the dark visage of my companion that, in the least,
resembled an evidence of yielding to any of the gentler feelings.
Nevertheless, he was too courteous, and had too much of the innate
sentiment of a gentleman, not to make some return for an offer that
had so evidently and spontaneously come from the heart.
"Good" — he said, after a long pause. "Berry good, dat; good, to
come from young warrior to ole warrior. Tankee — bird plenty; fish
plenty; message plenty, now; and don't want land. Time come,
maybe—s'pose he must come — come to all ole red-men, hereabout; so
s'pose must come."
"What time do you mean, Trackless? Let it come when it may, you
have a friend in me. What time do you mean, my brave old Sureflint?"
The Trackless stopped, dropped the breech of his rifle on the
ground, and stood meditating a minute, motionless, and as grand as
some fine statue.
"Yes; time come,
do s'pose," he continued. "One time, ole
warrior live in wigwam, and tell young warrior of scalp, and
council-fire, and hunt, and war-path; now, make broom and basket."
It was not easy to mistake this; and I do not remember ever to have
felt so lively an interest, on so short an acquaintance, as I began to
feel in this Onondago. Priscilla Bayard herself, however lovely,
graceful, winning and feminine, had not created a feeling so strong
and animated, as that which was awakened within me in behalf of old
Sureflint. But, I fully understood that this was to be shown in acts,
and not in words. Contenting myself for the present, after the fashion
of the pale-faces, by grasping and squeezing the sinewy hand of the
warrior, we walked on together, making no farther allusion to a
subject that, I can truly say, was as painful to me as it was to my
"I have heard your name mentioned as one of those who were at the
Nest with my father, when he was a young man, Susquesus," I resumed,
"and when the Canada Indians attempted to burn the house."
"Good — Susquesus dere — young Dutch chief kill dat time."
"Very true — his name was Guert Ten Eyck; and my father and
mother, and your old friend colonel Follock, who was afterwards major
of our regiment, you will remember, they love his memory to this day,
as that of a very dear friend."
"Dat all, love memory, now?" asked the Indian, throwing one of his
keenest glances at me.
I understood the allusion, which was to aunt Mary, whom I had heard
spoken of as the betrothed, or, at least, as the beloved, of the young
"Not all; for there is a lady, who still mourns his loss, as if she
had been his widow."
"Good — do' squaw don't mourn fery long time. Sometime; not
"Pray, Trueflint, do you happen to know anything of a man called
the Chainbearer? He was in the regiment, too, and you must have seen
him in the war."
"Sartain—know Chainbearer—know him on war-path— know him when
hatchet buried. Know Chainbearer afore ole French war. Live in wood
wid him—one of us. Chainbearer my friend."
"I rejoice to hear this, for he is also mine; and I shall be glad
to come into the compact, as a friend of both."
"Good—Susquesus and young landlord friend of Chainbearer— good."
"It is good, and a league that shall not be forgotten easily by me.
The Chainbearer is as honest as light, and as certain as his own
compass, Trueflint — true, as yourself."
"'Fraid he make broom 'fore great while, too," said the Indian,
expressing the regret I have no doubt he felt, very obviously in his
Poor old Andries! But for the warm and true friends he had in my
father, colonel Dirck and myself, there was some danger this might be
the case, indeed. The fact that he had served his country in a
revolution would prove of little avail, that country being too poor to
provide for its old servants, and possibly indisposed, had she the
means. I say this without intending to reflect on either the people or
the government; for, it is not easy to make the men of the present
day understand the deep depression, in a pecuniary sense, that rested
on the land for a year or two after peace was made. It recovered, as
the child recovers from indisposition, by the vigour of its
constitution and the power of its vitality; and one of the means by
which it recovered, was by turning to the soil, and wielding the
sickle instead of the sword. To continue the discourse.
"The Chainbearer is an honest man, and, like too many of his class,
poor," I answered; "but, he has friends; and neither he, nor you,
Sureflint, shall be reduced to that woman's work without your own
consent, so long as I have an unoccupied house, or a farm, at
Again the Indian manifested his sense of my friendship for him, by
that passing gleam on his dark face; and again all signs of emotion
passed slowly away.
"How long since see him?" he asked me, suddenly.
"See him — the Chainbearer do you mean? I have not seen him, now,
for more than a twelvemonth; not since we parted when the regiment was
"Don't mean Chainbearer — mean
him," pointing ahead—
"house, tree, farm, land, Nest."
"Oh! How long is it since I saw the patent. I never saw it,
Sureflint;—this is my first visit."
"Dat queer! How you own land, when nebber see him?"
"Among the pale-faces we have such laws, that property passes from
parent to child; and I inherit mine, in this neighbourhood, from my
grandfather, Herman Mordaunt."
"What dat mean, 'herit? How man haf land, when he don't keep him?"
"We do keep it, if not by actually remaining on the spot, by means
of our laws and our titles. The pale-faces regulate all these things
on paper, Sureflint."
"T'ink dat good? Why no let man take land where he want him,
he want him? Plenty land. Got more land dan got people. 'Nough for
"That fact makes our laws just; if there were not land enough for
everybody, these restrictions and divisions might possibly seem to be,
and in fact be, unjust. Now, any man can have a farm who will pay a
very moderate price for it. The State sells, and landlords sell; and
those who don't choose to buy of one, can buy of the other."
"Dat true 'nough; but don't see need of dat paper. When he want to
stay on land, let him stay; when he want to go somewhere let 'noder
man come. What good pay for betterment?"
"So as to have betterments. These are what we call the rights of
property, without which no man would aim at being anything more than
clad and fed. Who would hunt, if anybody that came along had a right
to pick up and skin his game?"
"See dat, well 'nough — nebber do; no, nebber. Don't see why land
go like skin, when skin go wid warrior and hunter, and land stay where
"That is because the riches of you red-men are confined to movable
property, and to your wigwams, so long as you choose to live in them.
Thus far, you respect the rights of property as well as the
pale-faces; but you must see a great difference between your people
and mine! — Between the red-man and the white man?"
"Be sure, differ: one strong, t'oder weak — one rich, t'oder
poor—one great, t'oder little—one drive 'way, t'oder haf to
go—one get all, t'oder keep nuttin'—one march large army, t'oder
go Injin file, fifty warrior, p'rhaps—dat reason, t'ing so."
"And why can the pale-faces march in large armies, with cannon, and
horses, and bayonets, and the red-man not do the same?"
"'Cause he no got 'em—no got warrior—no got gun— no got
baggonet—no got nuttin."
"You have given the effect for the cause, Sureflint, or the
consequences of the reason, for the reason itself. I hope I make you
understand me. Listen, and I will explain. You have lived much with
the white men, Susquesus, and can believe what I say. There are good,
and there are bad, among all people. Colour makes no difference, in
this respect. Still, all people are not alike. The white man is
stronger than the red-man, and has taken away his country, because he knows most."
"He most, too. Count army, den count war-trail; you see."
"It is true, the pale-faces are the most numerous now; but once
they were not. Do not your traditions tell you how few the Yengeese
were, when they first came across the salt lake?"
"Come in big canoe—two, t'ree full—no more."
"Why then did two or three ship's-full of white men become so
strong as to drive back from the sea all the red warriors, and become
masters of the land? Can you give a reason for that?"
"'Cause he bring fire-water wid him, and red-man big fool to drink."
"Even that fire-water, which doubtless has proved a cruel gift to
the Indians, is one of the fruits of the white man's knowledge. No,
Susquesus; the red-skin is as brave as the pale-face; as willing to
defend his rights, and as able-bodied; but he does not know as much.
He had no gunpowder until the white man gave it to him — no rifle
— no hoe, no knife, no tomahawk, but such as he made himself from
stones. Now, all the knowledge, and all the arts of life that the
white man enjoys and turns to his profit, come from the rights of
property. No man would build a wigwam to make rifles in, if he thought
he could not keep it as long as he wished, sell it when he pleased,
and leave it to his son when he went to the land of spirits. It is by
encouraging man's love of himself, in this manner, that he is got to
do so much. Thus it is, too, that the father gives to the son what he
has learned, as well as what he has built or bought; and so, in time,
nations get to be powerful, as they get to be what we call civilized.
Without these rights of property, no people could be civilized; for no
people would do their utmost, unless each man were permitted to be
master of what he can acquire, subject to the great and common laws
that are necessary to regulate such matters. I hope you understand my
"Sartain — no like Trackless' moccasin — my young friend's
tongue leave trail. But, you t'ink Great Spirit say who shall haf
land; who no haf him?"
"The Great Spirit has created man as he is, and the earth as it is;
and he has left the one to be master of the other. If it were not his
pleasure that man should not do as he has done, it would not be done.
Different laws and different feelings would then bring about different
ends. When the law places all men on a level, as to rights, it does
as much as can be expected of it. Now, this level does not consist in
pulling everything to pieces periodically, but in respecting certain
great principles that are just in themselves; but which, once started,
must be left to follow their own course. When the rights of property
are first established, they must be established fairly, on some
admitted rule; after which, they are to remain inviolable — that is
to say, sacred."
"Understand—no live in clearin' for nuttin'. Mean, haf no head
widout haf farm."
"That is the meaning, substantially, Sureflint; though I might have
explained it a little differently. I wish to say pale-faces would be
like the red-man without civilization; and without civilization if
they had no rights in their land. No one will work for another as he
will work for himself. We see that every day, in the simplest manner,
when we see that the desire to get good wages will not make the
common labourer do as much by the day as he will do by the job."
"Dat true," answered the Indian, smiling; for he seldom laughed;
and repeating a common saying of the country—
"By—de—day—by—de—day—By de job, job, job! Dat pale-face
religion, young chief."
"I don't know that our religion has much to do with it; but I will
own it is our practice. I fancy it is the same with all races and
colours. A man must work for himself to do his most; and he cannot
work for himself unless he enjoy the fruits of his labour. Thus it is,
that he must have a right of property in land, either bought or hired,
in order to make him cause that land to produce all that nature
intended it should produce. On this necessity is founded the rights
of property; the gain being civilization; the loss ignorance, and
poverty, and weakness. It is for this reason, then, that we buy and
sell land, as well as clothes and arms, and beads."
"T'ink, understand. Great Spirit, den, say must have farm?"
"The Great Spirit has said we must have wants and wishes, that can
be met, or gratified only, by having farms. To have farms we must have
owners; and owners cannot exist unless their rights in their lands are
protected. As soon as these are gone, the whole building would tumble
down about our ears, Susquesus."
"Well, s'pose him so. We see, some time. Young chief know where he
"Not exactly; but I suppose we are drawing near to the lands of
"Well, queer 'nough, too! Own land, but don't know him.
See—marked tree—dat sign your land begin."
"Thank you, Sureflint — a parent would not know his own child,
when he saw him for the first time. If I am owner here, you will
remember that this is my first visit to the spot."
While conversing, the Trackless had led me from the highway into a
foot-path, which, as I afterwards discovered, made a short cut across
some hills, and saved us near two miles in the distance. In
consequence of this change in our course, Jaap could not have
overtaken me, had he moved faster than he did; but, owing to the
badness of the road, our gait on foot was somewhat faster than that of
the jaded beasts who dragged the wagon. My guide knew the way
perfectly; and, as we ascended a hill, he pointed out the remains of
an old fire, near a spring, as a spot where he was accustomed to
"'camp," when he wished to remain near, but not in the 'Nest.
"Too much rum in tavern"—he said. "No good stay near rum."
This was extraordinary forbearance for an Indian; but Susquesus, I
had ever understood, was an extraordinary Indian. Even for an
Onondago, he was temperate and selfdenying. The reason why he lived
away from his tribe was a secret from most persons; though I
subsequently ascertained it was known to the Chainbearer, as well as
my father. Old Andries always affirmed it was creditable to his
friend; but he would never betray the secret. Indeed, I found that the
sympathy which existed between these two men, each of whom was so
singular in his way, was cemented by some occurrences of their early
lives, to which occasional, but vague allusions were made, but which
neither ever revealed to me, or to any other person, so far as I
Soon after passing the spring, Sureffint led me out to a cleared
spot on the eminence, which commanded an extensive view of most of
that part of my possessions which was under lease and occupied. Here
we halted, seating ourselves on a fallen tree, for which one could
never go amiss in that region, and at that day; and I examined the
view with the interest which ownership is apt to create in us all.
The earth is very beautiful in itself; but it is most beautiful in
the eyes of those who have the largest stake in it, I fear.
Although the property of Ravensnest had been settled fully thirty
years when I first saw it, none of those signs of rapid and energetic
improvement were visible that we have witnessed in the efforts of
similar undertakings since the revolution. Previously to that great
event, the country filled up very slowly, and each colony seemed to
regard itself, in some measure, as a distinct country. Thus it was
that we in New York obtained very few immigrants from New England,
that great hive which has so often swarmed since, and the bees of
which have carried their industry and ingenuity over so much of the
republic in our own time. We of New York have our prejudices against
the Yankees, and have long looked upon them with eyes of distrust and
disfavour. They have repaid us in kind, perhaps; but their dislikes
have not been strong enough to prevent them from coming to take
possession of our lands. For my own part, while I certainly see much
in the New England character that I do not like, (more in their
manners and minor ways, perhaps, than in essentials), I as certainly
see a great deal to command my respect. If the civilization that they
carry with them is not of a very high order, as is connected with the
tastes, sentiments, and nicer feelings, it is superior to that of any
other country I have visited, in its commonsense provisions, and in
its care over the intellectual being, considered in reference to the
foundations of learning. More persons are dragged from out the mire of
profound ignorance under their system, than under that of any other
people; and a greater number of candidates are brought forward for
intellectual advancement. That so few of these candidates rise very
high on the scale of knowledge, is in part owing to the circumstance
that their lives are so purely practical; and, possibly, in part to
the fact that while so much attention has been paid to the foundations
of the social edifice, that little art or care has as yet been
expended on the superstructure. Nevertheless, the millions of Yankees
that are spreading themselves over the land, are producing, and have
already produced, a most salutary influence on its practical
knowledge, on its enterprise, on its improvements, and consequently
on its happiness. If they have not done much for its tastes, its
manners, and its higher principles, it is because no portion of the
earth is perfect. I am fully aware that this is conceding more than my
own father would have conceded in their favour, and twice as much as
could have been extracted from either of my grandfathers. But,
prejudice is wearing away, and the Dutchman and the Yankee, in
particular, find it possible to live in proximity and charity. It is
possible that my son may be willing to concede even more. Our
immigrant friends should remember one thing, however, and it would
render them much more agreeable as companions and neighbours, which is
this: — He who migrates is bound to respect the habits and opinions
of those whom he joins; it not being sufficient for the perfection of
everything under the canopy of heaven, that it should come from our
own little corner of the earth. Even the pumpkin-pies of the Middle
States are vastly better than those usually found in New England. To
return to Ravensnest.
The thirty years of the settlement of my patent, then, had not done
much for it, in the way of works of art. Time, it is true, had
effected something, and it was something in a manner that was a little
peculiar, and which might be oftener discovered in the country at the
time of which I am writing, than at the present day. The timber of the
'Nest, with the exception of some mountain-land, was principally what,
in American parlance, is termed "hard wood." In other words, the
trees were not perennial, but deciduous; and the merest tyro in the
woods knows that the roots of the last decay in a fourth of the time
that the roots of the first endure, after the trunk is severed. As a
consequence, the stumps had nearly all disappeared from the fields; a
fact that, of itself, gave to the place the appearance of an old
country, according to our American notions. It is true, the virgin
forest still flourished in immediate contact with those fields, shorn,
tilled and smoothed as they were, giving a wild and solemn setting to
the rural picture the latter presented. The contrast was sufficiently
bold and striking, but it was not without its soft and pleasant
points. From the height whither the Indian had led me, I had a
foreground of open land, dotted with cottages and barns, mostly of
logs, beautified by flourishing orchards, and garnished with broad
meadows, or enriched by fields, in which the corn was waving under
the currents of a light summer air. Two or three roads wound along
the settlement, turning aside with friendly interest, to visit every
door; and at the southern termination of the open country, there was a
hamlet, built of wood framed, which contained one house that had
little taste, but a good deal more of pretension than any of its
neighbours; another, that was an inn; a store, a blacksmith's-shop, a
school-house, and three or four other buildings, besides barns, sheds
and hog-pens. Near the hamlet, or the "Nest Village," as the place was
called, were the mills of the region. These were a grist-mill, a
saw-mill, a fulling-mill, and an oil-mill. All were of moderate
dimensions, and, most probably, of moderate receipts. Even the best
house was not painted, though it had some very ambitious attempts at
architecture, and enjoyed the benefits of no less than four exterior
doors, the uses of one of which, as it opened into the air from the
second story, it was not very easy to imagine. Doubtless some great
but unfinished project of the owner lay at the root of this invention.
But living out of doors, as it were, is rather a characteristic of a
portion of our people.
The back-ground of this picture, to which a certain degree of rural
beauty was not wanting, was the "boundless woods." Woods stretched
away, north, and south, and east, far as eye could reach; woods
crowned the sides and summits of all the mountains in view; and woods
rose up, with their leafy carpeting, from out the ravines and dells.
The war had prevented any very recent attempts at clearing, and all
the open ground wore the same aspect of homely cultivation, while the
dark shades of an interminable forest were spread around, forming a
sort of mysterious void, that lay between this obscure and remote
people, and the rest of their kind. That forest, however, was not
entirely savage. There were other settlements springing up in its
bosom; a few roads wound their way through its depths; and, here and
there, the hunter, the squatter, or the red-man, had raised his cabin,
and dwelt amid the sullen but not unpleasant abundance and
magnificence of the wilderness.
"O masters! if I were disposed to stir
Your hearts and minds to mutiny and rage,
I should do Brutus wrong, and Cassius wrong,
Who, you all know, are honourable men:
I will not do them wrong; I rather choose
To wrong the dead, to wrong myself and you,
Than I will wrong such honourable men."
"This, then, is Ravensnest!" I exclaimed, after gazing on the scene
for several minutes in silence; "the estate left me by my grandfather,
and where events once occurred that are still spoken of in my family
as some of the most momentous in its history; events, Susquesus, in
which you were an actor."
The Indian made a low interjection, but it is not probable he fully
understood me. What was there so remarkable in a savage inroad, a
house besieged, men slain and scalps taken, that he should remember
such things for a quarter of a century!
"I do not see the 'Nest, itself, Trueflint," I added; "the house in
which my grandfather once lived."
The Onondago did not speak, but he pointed with a finger in a
north-easterly direction, making the action distinct and impressive,
as is usual with his people. I knew the place by the descriptions I
had heard, though it was now mouldering, and had gone far into decay.
Logs piled up green, and confined in such a structure, will last some
thirty or forty years, according to the nature of the trees from which
they come, and the manner in which they have been covered. At that
distance, I could not well distinguish how far, or how much, time had
done its work; but I fancied I knew enough of such matters to
understand I was not to expect in the Nest a very comfortable home. A
family dwelt in the old place, and I had seen some cheeses that had
been made on the very fine farm that was attached to it. There was a
large and seemingly a flourishing orchard, and the fields looked well;
but, as for the house, at that distance it appeared sombre, dark, and
was barely to be distinguished by its form and chimneys, from any
other pile of logs.
I was struck with the silent, dreamy, sabbath-like air of the
fields, far and near. With the exception of a few halfnaked children
who were visible around the dwellings to which we were the closest,
not a human being could I discover. The fields were tenantless, so far
as men were concerned, though a good many horned cattle were to be
"My tenants are not without stock, I find, Trueflint," I remarked.
"There are plenty of cattle in the pastures."
"You see, all young;" answered the Onondago. "War do dat. Kill ole
one for soldier."
"By the way, as this settlement escaped plunder, I should think its
people may have done something by selling supplies to the army.
Provisions of all kinds were very high and scarce, I remember, when we
"Sartain. Your people sell both side—good trade, den. Feed
"Well, I make no doubt it was so; for the husbandman is not very
apt to hesitate when he can get a good price; and if he were, the
conscience of the drover would stand between him and treason. But,
where are all the men of this country? I do not see a single man, far
"No see him?—Dere," answered the Indian, pointing in the
direction of the hamlet. "Squire light Council-Fire to-day, s'pose,
and make speech."
"True enough—there they are, gathered about the school-house.
But, whom do you mean by the 'squire, who is so fond of making
"Ole schoolmaster. Come from salt lake—great friend of
"Oh! Mr. Newcome, my agent — true; I might have known that he was
king of the settlement. Well, Trueflint, let us go on; and when we
reach the tavern, we shall be able to learn what the Great Council is
about. Say nothing of my business; for it will be pleasant to look on
a little, before I speak myself."
The Indian arose, and led the way down the height, following a
foot-path with which he appeared to be familiar. In a few minutes we
were in a highway, and at no great distance from the hamlet. I had
laid aside most of the dress that it was the fashion of gentlemen to
wear in 1784, and put on a hunting-shirt and leggings, as more fitting
attire for the woods; consequently it would not have been easy for
one who was not in the secret to imagine that he who arrived on foot,
in such a garb, carrying his fowling-piece, and accompanied by an
Indian, was the owner of the estate. I had sent no recent notice of my
intended arrival; and, as we went along, I took a fancy to get a faint
glimpse of things incognito. In order to do this, it might be
necessary to say a word more to the Indian.
"Susquesus," I added, as we drew near the school-house, which stood
betwen us and the tavern, "I hope you have understood me — there is
no need of telling any one who I am. If asked, you can answer I am
your friend. That will be true, as you will find as long as you live."
"Good — young chief got eyes; want to look wid 'em, himself. Good
— Susquesus know."
In another minute we stopped in the crowd, before the door of the
school-house. The Indian was so well known, and so often at the 'Nest,
that his appearance excited no attention. Some important
business appeared on the carpet, for there was much caucusing, much
private conversation, many eager faces, and much putting together of
heads. While the public mind was thus agitated, few were disposed to
take any particular notice of me, though I had not stood long in the
outer edge of the crowd, which may have contained sixty or seventy
men, besides quite as many well-grown lads, before I overheard an
interrogatory put, as to who I was, and whether I had "a right to a
vote." My curiosity was a good deal excited, and I was on the point of
asking some explanation, when a man appeared in the door of the
school-house, who laid the whole matter bare, in a speech. This
person had a shrivelled, care-worn, but keen look, and was somewhat
better dressed than most around him, though not particularly elegant,
or even very neat, in his toilette. He was grey-headed, of a
small, thin figure, and might have been drawing hard upon sixty. He
spoke in a deliberate, self-possessed manner, as if long accustomed to
the sort of business in which he was engaged, but in a very decided
Connecticut accent. I say Connecticut, in contradistinction to
that of New England generally; for while the eastern States have many
common peculiarities in this way, a nice and practised ear can tell a
Rhode-Islander from a Massachusetts man, and a Connecticut man from
either. As the orator opened his mouth to remove a chew of tobacco
previously to opening it to speak, a murmur near me said — "hist!
there's the squire; now, we shall get suthin'." This, then, was Mr.
Jason Newcome. my agent, and the principal resident in the settlement.
"Fellow-citizens" — Mr. Newcome commenced — "you are assembled
this day, on a most important, and I may say, trying occasion; an
occasion calculated to exercise all our spirits. Your business is to
decide on the denomination of the church-building, that you are about
to erect; and the futur' welfare of your souls may, in one sense, be
said to be interested in your decision. Your deliberations have
already been opened by prayer; and now you are about to come to a
final vote. Differences of opinion have, and do exist among you; but
differences of opinion exist everywhere. They belong to liberty, the
blessings of which are not to be enj'yed without full and free
differences of opinion. Religious liberty demands differences of
opinion, as a body might say; and without them, there would be no
religious liberty. You all know the weighty reason there is for
coming to some conclusion speedily. The owner of the sile will make
his appearance this summer, and his family are all of a desperate
tendency towards an idolatrous church, which is unpleasant to most of you. To prevent any consequences, therefore, from his
interference, we ought to decide at once, and not only have the house
raised, but ruffed in afore he arrives. Among ourselves, however, we
have been somewhat divided, and that is a different matter. On the
former votes, it has stood twenty-six for congregational to
twenty-five presbytery, fourteen methodist, nine baptist, three
universal, and one episcopal. Now, nothin' is clearer than that the
majority ought to rule, and that it is the duty of the minority to
submit. My first decision, as moderator, was that the congregationals
have it by a majority of one; but some being dissatisfied with that
opinion, I have been ready to hear reason, and to take the view that
twenty-six is not a majority, but a plurality, as it is called. As
twenty-six, or twenty-five, however, is a majority over nine, and
over three, and over one, taking their numbers singly or together,
your committee report that the baptists, universals and episcopals
ought to be dropped, and that the next vote, now to be taken, shall be
confined to the three highest numbers; that is to say, to the
congregationals, the presbyterians and the methodists. Everybody has a
right to vote for which he pleases, provided he vote for one of them
three. I suppose I am understood, and shall now put the question,
unless some gentleman has any remarks to make."
"Mr. Moderator," cried out a burly, hearty-looking yeoman, from the
crowd—"is it in order now, to speak?"
"Quite so, sir—order, gentlemen, order—major Hosmer is up."
Up we all were, if standing on one's feet be up; but the word was
parliamentary, and it appeared to be understood.
"Mr. Moderator, I am of the Baptist order, and I do not think the
decision just; sin' it compels us Baptists to vote for a denomination
we don't like, or not to vote at all."
"But, you will allow that the majority ought to rule?" interrupted
"Sartain — I agree to
that is part of my
religion, too," returned the old yeoman, heartily, and with an air of
perfect good faith — "the majority ought to rule; but I do not see
that a majority is in favour of the Congregationals any more than it
is of the Baptists."
"We will put it to vote ag'in, major, just for your satisfaction,"
returned Mr. Newcome, with an air of great candour and moderation.
"Gentlemen; those of you who are in favour of the Baptists not
being included in the next vote for denomination, will please to hold
up your hands."
As every man present who was not a Baptist voted "ay," there were
sixty-nine hands shown. The "no's" were then demanded in the same way,
and the Baptists got their nine own votes, as before. Major Hosmer
admitted he was satisfied, though he looked as if there might be
something wrong in the procedure, after all. As the Baptists were the
strongest of the three excluded sects, the other two made a merit of
necessity, and said nothing. It was understood they were in a
minority; and a minority, as it too often happens in America, has very
"It now remains, gentlemen," resumed the moderator, who was a model
of submission to the public voice, "to put the vote, as between the
Congregationals, the Presbyterians and the Methodists. I shall first
put the Congregationalists. Those who are in favour of that sect, the
old Connecticut standing order, will please to hold up their hands."
The tone of voice, the coaxing expression of the eye, and the words
"old Connecticut standing order," let me at once into the secret of
the moderator's wishes. At first, but thirty-four hands appeared; but
the moderator having counted these, he looked round the crowd until he
fairly looked up three more; after which he, honestly enough,
announced the vote to be thirty-seven for the Congregationalists. So
eleven of the thirteen of silenced sects had, most probably, voted
with the moderator. The Presbyterians came next, and they got their
own people, and two of the Baptists, making twenty-seven in all, on a
trial in their behalf. The Methodists got only their own fourteen.
"It evidently appearing, gentlemen," said the moderator, "that the
Methodists gain no strength, and being less than half the
Congregational vote, and much lower than the Presbyterian, I put it to
their own well-known Christian humility, whether they ought not to
"Put it openly to vote, as you did ag'in us," came out a Baptist.
"Is that your pleasure, gentlemen? Seeing that it is, I will now
try the vote. Those who are in favour of the Methodists withdrawing,
will hold up their hands."
Sixty-four hands were raised for, and fourteen against the
"It is impossible for any religion to flourish ag'in sich a
majority," said the moderator, with great apparent candour; "and,
though I regret it, for I sincerely wish we were strong enough to
build meetin'-houses for every denomination in the world; but, as we
are not, we must take things as they are, and so the Methodists must
withdraw. Gentlemen, the question is now narrowed down to the
Congregationals and the Presbyterians. There is not much difference
between them, and it is a thousand pities there should be any.
Are you ready for the question, gentlemen? No answer being given, I
shall put the vote."
And the vote was put, the result being thirty-nine to thirty-nine,
or a tie. I could see that the moderator was disappointed, and
supposed he would claim a casting vote, in addition to the one he had
already given; but I did not know my man. Mr. Newcome avoided all
appearances of personal authority; majorities were his cardinal rule,
and to majorities alone he would defer. Whenever he chose to govern,
it was by means of majorities. The exercise of a power as accidentally
bestowed as that of presiding officer, might excite heart-burnings and
envy; but he who went with a majority was certain of having the weight
of public sympathies of his side. No — no — Mr. Newcombe never
had an opinion, as against numbers.
I am sorry to say that very mistaken notions of the power of
majorities are beginning to take root among us. It is common to hear
it asserted, as a political axiom, that the majority must rule!
This axiom may be innocent enough, when its application is properly
made, which is simply to say that in the control of those interests of
which the decision is referred to majorities, majorities must rule;
but, God forbid that majorities should ever rule in all things, in
this republic or anywhere else! Such a state of things would soon
become intolerable, rendering the government that admitted of its
existence the most odious tyranny that has been known in christendom
in modern times. The government of this country is the sway of certain
great and incontestable principles, that are just in
themselves, and which are set forth in the several constitutions, and
under which certain minor questions are periodically referred to local
majorities, as of necessity, out of the frequency of which appeals
has arisen a mistake that is getting to be dangerously general. God
forbid, I repeat, that a mere personal majority should assume the
power which alone belongs to principles.
Mr. Newcome avoided a decision, as from the chair; but three
several times did he take the vote, and each time was there a tie. I
could now perceive that he was seriously uneasy. Such steadiness
denoted that men had made up their minds, and that they would be apt
to adhere to them; since one side was apparently as strong as the
other. The circumstances called for a display of democratical tactics;
and Mr. Newcome being very expert in such matters, he could have
little difficulty in getting along with the simple people with whom he
had to deal.
"You see how it is, fellow-citizens. The public has taken sides,
and formed itself into two parties. From this moment the affair must
be treated as a party question, and be decided on party
principles; though the majority must rule. Oh! here, neighbour
Willis; will you just step over to my house, and ask Miss Newcome
(Anglice, Mrs. Newcome) to hand you the last volume of the
State Laws? Perhaps they have a word to say in the matter."
Here neighbour Willis did as desired, and moved out of the crowd. As I
afterwards discovered, he was a warm presbyterian, who happened,
unfortunately for his sect, to stand so directly before the moderator,
as unavoidably to catch his eye. I suspected that 'squire Newcome
would now call a vote on the main question. But I did not know my man.
This would have been too palpably a trick, and he carefully avoided
committing the blunder. There was plenty of time, since the moderator
knew his wife could not very readily find a book he had lent to a
magistrate in another settlement twenty miles off; so that he did not
hesitate to have a little private conversation with one or two of his
"Not to be losing time, Mr. Moderator," said one of 'squire
Newcome's confidants, "I will move you that it is the sense of this
meeting, that the government of churches by means of a presbytery is
anti-republican, opposed to our glorious institutions, and at variance
with the best interests of the human family. I submit the question to
the public without debate, being content to know the unbiassed
sentiments of my fellow-citizens on the subject."
The question was duly seconded and put, the result being
thirty-nine for, and thirty-eight against; or a majority of one
, that Presbyterian rule was anti-republican. This was a great coup
de maitre. Having settled that it was opposed to the institutions
to have a presbytery, a great deal was gained towards establishing
another denomination in the settlement. No religion can maintain
itself against political sentiment in this country, politics coming
home daily to men's minds and pockets.
It is odd enough that, while all sects agree in saying that the
Christian religion comes from God, and that its dogmas are to be
received as the laws of Infinite Wisdom, men should be found
sufficiently illogical, or sufficiently presumptuous, to imagine that
any, the least of its rules, are to be impaired or strengthened by
their dissemblance or their conformity to any provisions of human
institutions. As well might it be admitted at once, that Christianity
is not of divine origin, or the still more extravagant position
be assumed, that the polity which God himself has established can be
amended by any of the narrow and short-sighted devices of man.
Nevertheless, it is not to be concealed, that here, as elsewhere,
churches are fashioned to suit the institutions, and not the
institutions to suit the church.
Having achieved so much success, the moderator's confidant pushed
"Mr. Moderator," he continued, "as this question has altogether
assumed a party character, it is manifestly proper that the party
which has the majority should not be encumbered in its proceedings by
the movements of the minority. Presbytery has been denounced by this
meeting, and its friends stand in the light of a defeated party at a
State election. They can have nothin' to do with the government. I
move, therefore, that those who are opposed to presbytery go into
caucus, in order to appoint a committee to recommend to the majority a
denomination which will be acceptable to the people of Ravensnest. I
hope the motion will be put without debate. The subject is a religious
one, and it is unwise to awaken strife on anything at all connected
Alas! alas! How much injury has been done to the cause of
Christianity, how much wrong to the laws of God, and even to good
morals, by appeals of this nature, that are intended to smother
inquiry, and force down on the timid, the schemes of the designing and
fraudulent! Integrity is ever simple and frank; while the devil
resorts to these plans of plausible forbearance and seeming
concessions, in order to veil his nefarious devices.
The thing took, however; for popular bodies, once under control,
are as easily managed as the vessel that obeys her helm; the strength
of the current always giving additional power to that material portion
of the ship. The motion was accordingly seconded and put. As there was
no debate, which had been made to appear anti-religious, the result
was precisely the same as on the last question. In other words, there
was one majority for disfranchising just one-half the meeting,
counting the above man; and this, too, on the principle that the
majority ought to rule. After this, the caucus-people went into the
school-house, where it was understood a committee of twenty-six was
appointed, to recommend a denomination to the majority. This
committee, so respectable in its character, and of so much influence
by its numbers, was not slow in acting. As became its moral weight,
it unanimously reported that the congregational polity was the one
most acceptable to the people of Ravensnest. This report was accepted
by acclamation, and the caucus adjourned sine die.
The moderator now called the whole meeting to order, again.
"Mr. Moderator," said the confidant, "it is time that this
community should come to some conclusion, in the premises. It has
been agitated long enough, in its religious feelings, and further
delay might lead to unpleasant and lasting divisions. I therefore move
that it is the sense of this meetin' that the people of Ravensnest
ardently wish to see the new meetin'-us, which is about to be raised,
devoted and set apart for the services of the Congregational church,
and that a Congregational church be organized, and a Congregational
pastor duly called. I trust this question, like all the others, will
be passed in perfect harmony, and without debate, as becomes the
solemn business we are on."
The question was taken, and the old majority of
found to be in its favour. Just as Mr. Moderator meekly announced the
result, his messenger appeared in the crowd, bawling out, "'Squire,
Miss Newcome says she can't noway find the volum', which she kind o'
thinks you 've lent."
"Bless me! so I have!" exclaimed the surprised magistrate. "It 's
not in the settlement, I declare; but it 's of no importance now, as a
majority has fairly decided. Fellow-citizens, we have been dealing
with the most important interest that consarns man; his religious
state, government, and well-being. Unanimity is very desirable on such
a question; and, as it is to be presumed no one will oppose the
pop'lar will, I shall now put the question to vote for the purpose of
obtaining that unanimity. Those who are in favour of the
Congregationals, or who ardently wish that denomination, will hold up
About three-fourths of the hands went up, at once. Cries of
"unanimity—unanimity"—followed, until one hand after another went
up, and I counted seventy-three. The remaining voters continued
recusant; but as no question was taken on the other side, the vote may
be said to have been a very decided one, if not positively unanimous.
The moderator and two or three of his friends made short speeches,
commending the liberality of a part of the citizens, and
congratulating all, when the meeting was adjourned.
Such were the facts attending the establishment of the
Congregational church, in the settlement of Ravensnest, on purely
republican principles; the question having been carried unanimously in
favour of that denomination, although fifty-two votes out of
seventy-eight were pretty evidently opposed to it! But republican
principles were properly maintained, and the matter was settled; the
people having solemnly decided that they ardently wished for a church
that, in truth, they did not desire at all.
No complaints were made, on the spot at least. The crowd dispersed,
and as Mr. Newcome walked through it, with the air of a beaten, rather
than of a successful man, I came under his observation for the first
time. He examined me keenly, and I saw a certain air of doubt and
misgiving in his manner. Just at that moment, however, and before he
had time to put a question, Jaap drove up in the wagon, and the negro
was an old acquaintance, having often been at the 'Nest, and knowing
the 'squire for more than a quarter of a century. This explained the
whole affair, a certain mixed resemblance to both father and mother
which I am said to bear, probably aiding in making the truth more
Mr. Newcome was startled — that was apparent in his
countenance—but he was, nevertheless, self-possessed. Approaching,
he saluted me, and at once let me know he understood who I was.
"This is major Littlepage, I s'pose," he said. "I can see a good
deal of the gin'ral in you, as I know'd your father, when a young man;
and something of Herman Mordaunt, your mother's father. How long is it
sin' your arrival, major Littlepage?"
"But a few minutes," I answered, evasively. "You see my wagon and
servant, there, and we are fresh from Albany. My arrival has been
opportune, as all my tenants must be collected here, at this moment."
"Why, yes sir, yes; here are pretty much the whull of them. We have
had a little meetin' to-day, to decide on the natur' of our religion,
as one might say. I s'pose the major didn't get here until matters
were coming to a head?"
"You are quite right, Mr. Newcome — matters were coming to a
head, as you say, before I got on the ground."
The 'squire was a good deal relieved at this, for his conscience
doubtless pricked him a little on the subject of the allusion he had
made to me, and my own denomination. As for myself, I was not sorry to
have got so early behind the curtain, as to the character of my agent.
It was pretty clear he was playing his own game, as to some things,
and it might be necessary for me to see that this propensity did not
extend itself into other concerns. It is true, my mind was made up to
change him, but there were long and intricate accounts to settle.
"Yes, sir, religion is an interest of the greatest importance to
man's welfare, and it has b'en (Anglice, been) too long neglected
among us," continued the late moderator. "You see, yonder, the frame
for a meetin'-us, the first that was ever commenced in this
settlement, and it is our intention to put it up this a'ternoon. The
bents are all ready. The pike poles are placed, and all is waiting for
the word to `heave.' You 'll perceive, 'squire, it was judicious to go
to a sartain p'int, afore we concluded on the denomination. Up to that p'int every man would nat'rally work as if he was workin' for
his own order; and we 've seen the benefit of such policy, as there
you can see the clap-boards planed, the sash made and glazed, stuff
cut for pews, and everything ready to put together. The very nails and
paints are bought and paid for. In a word, nothin' remains to be done,
but to put together and finish off, and preach."
"Why did you not erect the edifice, and `finish off,' as you call
it, before you came to the test-vote, that I perceive you have just
"That would have been goin' a le-e-e-tle too far, major— a very
le-e-e-tle. If you give a man too tight a hold, he doesn't like to let
go, sometimes. We talked the matter over among us, and concluded to
put the question before we went any further. All has turned out
happily, and we have unanimously resolved to be Congregational.
Unanimity in religion is a blessed thing!"
"Do you apprehend no falling off in zeal, in consequence of this
work? no refusing to help pay the carpenters, and painters, and
"Not much — a little, perhaps; but no great matter, I should
judge. Your own liberal example, major, has had its influence, and I
make no doubt will produce an effect."
"My example, sir!—I do not understand you, Mr. Newcome, never
having heard of the church, until I heard your own allusions to it, as
chairman of this very meeting."
'Squire Newcome hemmed, cleared his throat, took an extra-sized
chew of tobacco, and then felt himself equal to attempting an answer.
"I call it
your example, sir; though the authority for what
I have done came from your honoured father, general Littlepage, as
long ago as before the revolution. War-time, you know, major, is no
time for buildin' meetin'-uses; so we concluded to defer the matter
until peace. Peace we have, and our own eends are fast approaching;
and I thought if the work was ever to be done, so that this generation
should get the benefit of it, it should be done now. I was in hopes
we should have had preachin' in the house afore your arrival, and
surprised you with the cheerin' sight of a worshipping people on your
lands. Here is your father's letter, from which I read a paragraph to
the people, half an hour sin'."
"I trust the people have always been worshippers, though it may not
have been in a house built expressly for the purpose. With your
permission, I will read the letter."
This document bore the date of 1770, or fourteen years before the
time the building was erected, and five years before the battle of
Lexington was fought. I was a little surprised at this, but read on.
Among other things, I found that my father had given a general consent
to credit his tenants with $500 to aid in the erection of a place of
worship; reserving to himself, as my guardian, a voice in the choice
of the denomination. I may add, here, that on examining the leases, I
found credits had been given, in 1770, for the full amount; and that
the money, or what passed for money, the proceeds of work, produce,
cattle, butter, cheese, &c., had been in Mr. Newcome's hands the whole
of the intervening time, no doubt to his great advantage. Thus, by a
tardy appropriation of my father's bounty, the agent was pretty
certain of being able to finish the job in hand, even admitting that
some of the people should prove restive under the recent decision.
"And the money thus appropriated has gone to its destination?" I
asked, on returning the letter.
"Every copper has thus gone, major, or will soon go. When the First
Congregational, of Ravensnest, is up, you can contemplate the house
with the satisfaction of knowing that your own money has largely aided
in the good work of its erection. What a delightful sentiment that
must awaken! It must be a great blessin' to landlords, to be able to
remember how much of their money goes for the good of their
"In my case, it certainly should, as I understand my father, and
indeed have myself seen, by the accounts rendered to me, that not one
dollar of rent has ever yet left the settlement, to go into the pocket
of the owner of the estate— nay, that the direct outlays of my
grandfather were considerable, in addition to the first cost of the
"I do not deny it, major; I do not deny it. It is quite probable.
But, you will consider what the spirit of Public Improvement demands;
and you gentlemen-proprietors nat'rally look forward to futur'
generations for your reward— yes, sir, to futur' generations. Then
will come the time when these leased lands will turn to account, and
you will enj'y the fruits of your liberality."
I bowed, but made no answer. By this time, the wagon had reached
the inn, and Jaap was getting out the trunk and other luggage. A
rumour had gone forth among the people that their landlord had
arrived, and some of the older tenants, those who had known "Herman
Mordaunt," as they all called my grandfather, crowded around me in a
frank, hearty manner, in which good feeling was blended with respect.
They desired to take my hand. I shook hands with all who came, and can
truly say that I took no man's palm into my own that day, without a
sentiment that the relation of landlord and tenant was one that should
induce kind and confidential feelings. The Ravensnest property was by
no means necessary to my comfortable subsistence; and I was really
well enough disposed to look forward, if not to "future generations,"
at least to a future day, for the advantages that were to be reaped
from it. I asked the crowd in, ordered a tub of punch made, for, in
that day, liquor was a necessary accompaniment of every welcome, and
endeavoured to make myself acceptable to my new friends. A throng of
women, of whom I have not yet spoken, were also in attendance; and I
had to go through the ceremony of being introduced to many of the
wives and daughters of Ravensnest. On the whole, the meeting was
friendly, and my reception warm.
"Bear, through sorrow, wrong, and ruth,
In thy heart the dew of youth,
On thy lips the smile of truth." Longfellow.
The ceremony of the introductions was not half through, when there
was a noisy summons to the pike-poles. This called away the crowd in a
body; a raising in the country being an incident of too much interest
to be overlooked. I profited by the occasion to issue a few orders
that related to my own comfort, when I went, myself, to the scene of
present toil and future Congregationalism.
Everybody in America, a few inveterate cockneys excepted, have seen
a "raising." Most people have seen hundreds; and, as for myself, I
believe I should be safe in saying I had, even at that day, seen a
thousand. In this particular instance, there were great felicitations
among the yeomen, because the frame "had come together well." I was
congratulated on this score, the hearty old Rhode Islander, my brother
major, assuring me that "he couldn't get the blade of his knife, and
it 's no great matter of a knife either, into a single j'int. And,
what is more, 'squire"— As the sturdy yeoman was a major himself,
though only in the militia, that title would not have been
honourable enough for his landlord—"And, what is more, 'squire, they
tell me not a piece was ever tried, until we put the bents together,
this a'ternoon, ourselves! Now, down country, I never see'd sich a
thing; but, up here, the carpenters go by what they call the
"square-rule;" and quick work they make on 't!" This speech contained
the substance of one of the contrivances by which the "new countries"
were endeavouring to catch up with the "old," as I learned on farther
It may be well to describe the appearance of the place, when I
reached the site of the new "meetin'-us." The great body of the
"people" had just taken their stands at the first bent, ready for a
lift, while trusty men stood at the feet of the posts, armed with
crow-bars, broad-axes, or such other suitable implements as offered,
in readiness to keep those essential uprights in their places; for, on
the steadiness of these persons, depended the limbs and lives of those
who raised the bent. As this structure was larger than common, the
danger was increased, and the necessity of having men that could be
relied on was obviously so much the greater. Of one post, in
particular, for some reason that I do not know, all the trusty men
seemed shy; each declaring that he thought some one else better suited
to take charge of it, than he was himself. The "boss"—that
Manhattanese word having travelled up to Ravensnest—called out for
some one to take the delicate station, as nothing detained the work
but the want of a hand there; and one looked at another, to see who
would step forward, when a sudden cry arose of "the Chainbearer! —
the Chainbearer! — Here 's your man!"
Sure enough, there came old Andries Coejemans, hale, upright,
vigorous, and firm-treading, though he had actually seen his
three-score years and ten. My ancient comrade had thrown aside nearly
every trace of his late military profession, though the marchings and
drillings of eight years were not to be worked out of a man's air and
manner in a twelvemonth. The only sign of the soldier, other than in
his bearing, I could trace about my brother captain, was the manner in
which his queue was clubbed. Andries wore his own hair; this his early
pursuits in the forest rendered necessary; but it had long been
clubbed in a sort of military fashion, and to that fashion he now
adhered. In other respects, he had transformed himself entirely into a
woodsman. He wore a hunting-shirt, like myself; leggings, moccasins,
and a cap of skins that had been deprived of their furs. So far from
lessening, in any degree, the fine effect of his green old age,
however, this attire served to increase it. Andries Coejemans stood
six feet, at seventy; was still as erect as he had been at twenty; and
so far from betraying the inroads of age on his frame, the last
appeared to be indurated and developed by what it had borne. His head
was as white as snow, while his face had the ruddy, weather-beaten
colour of health and exposure. The face had always been handsome,
having a very unusual expression of candour and benevolence impressed
on features that were bold and manly.
The Chainbearer could not have seen me, until he stepped upon the
frame. Then, indeed, there was no mistaking the expression of his
countenance, which denoted pleasure and friendly interest. Striding
over the timber, with the step of a man long accustomed to tread among
dangers of all sorts, he grasped my hand, and gave it such a squeeze
as denoted the good condition of his own muscles and sinews. I saw a
tear twinkling in his eye; for had I been his own son, I do not think
that he could have loved me more.
"Mortaunt, my poy, you 're heartily welcome," said my old comrade.
"You haf come upon t'ese people, I fancy, as t'e cat steals upon t'e
mice; but I had titings of your march, and have peen a few miles town
t'e roat to meet you. How, or where you got past me, is more t'an I
know; for I haf seen nuttin' of you or of your wagon."
"Yet here we both are, my excellent old friend, and most happy am I
to meet you again. If you will go with me to the tavern, we can talk
more at our ease."
"Enough, enough, for t'e present, young comrate. Pusiness is
stanting still a little, for t'e want of my hant; step off the frame,
lat, and let us get up t'ese pents, when I am your man for a week or a
Exchanging looks, and renewing the warm and friendly pressure of
the hand, we parted for the moment; I quitting the frame, while the
Chainbearer went at once to the foot of the important post, or to that
station no one else would assume. Then commenced, without further
delay, the serious toil of raising a bent. This work is seldom
entirely free from hazard; and, on this particular occasion, when the
force in men was a little disproportioned to the weight of the timber,
it was doubly incumbent on every man to be true and steady. My
attention was at once attracted to the business in hand; and, for
several minutes, I thought of little else. The females had drawn as
near the spot where their husbands, brothers and lovers were exerting
every muscle and nerve, as comported with prudence; and a profound
and anxious quiet pervaded the whole of a crowd that was gay with
rustic finery, if not very remarkable for taste or refinement. Still,
that cluster of females had little in it that was coarse or even
unfeminine, if it had not much that would be so apt to meet the eye,
in the way of the attractive, in a similar crowd of the present day.
The improvement in the appearance and dress of the wives and daughters
of husbandmen, has been very marked among us within the last
five-and-twenty years. Fully one-half of those collected on this
occasion were in short-gowns, as they were called, a garb that has
almost entirely disappeared; and the pillions that were to be seen on
the bodies of nearly all the horses that were fastened to the adjacent
fences, showed the manner in which they had reached the ground. The
calicoes of that day were both dear and homely; and it required money
to enable a woman to appear in a dress that would be thought
attractive to the least practised eye. Nevertheless, there were many
pretty girls in that row of anxious faces, with black eyes and blue,
light, black and brown hair, and of the various forms and hues in
which female beauty appears in the youthful.
I flatter myself that I was as comely as the generality of young
men of my age and class, and that, on ordinary occasions, I could not
have shown myself before that cluster of girls, without drawing to
myself some of their glances. Such was not the case, however, when I
left the frame, which now attracted all eyes. On that, and on those
who surrounded it, every eye and every anxious face was turned, my
own included. It was a moment of deep interest to all; and most so to
those who could only feel, and not act.
At the word, the men made a simultaneous effort; and they raised
the upper part of the bent from the timber on which it lay. It was
easy to see that the labourers, stout and willing as they were, had as
much as they could lift. Boys stood ready, however, with short pieces
of scantling to place upright beneath the bent; and the men had time
to breathe. I felt a little ashamed of having nothing to do at such a
moment; but, fearful of doing harm instead of good, I kept aloof, and
remained a mere spectator.
"Now, men," said the `boss,' who had taken his stand where he could
overlook the work, "we will make ready for another lift. All at once,
makes light work — are you ready?—He-e-a-ve."
Heave, or lift, the stout fellows did; and with so much
intelligence and readiness, that the massive timber was carried up as
high as their heads. There it stopped, supported as before, by short
pieces of scantling.
The pike-poles next came in play. This is always the heaviest
moment of a lift of that sort, and the men made their dispositions
accordingly. Short poles were first got under the bent, by thrusting
the unarmed ends into the cavity of the foundation; and a few of the
stoutest of the men stood on blocks, prepared to apply their strength
"Are you ready, men?" called out the boss. "This is our heaviest
bent, and we come to it fresh. Look out well to the foot of each post
— Chainbearer, I count on you — your post is the king-post
of the whole frame; if that goes, all goes. Make ready, men; heave
altogether — that 's a lift! Heave again, men — he-e-a-ve —
altogether now — he-e-a-ve! — Up she goes; he-e-a-ve — more
pike-poles — stand to the frame, boys—get along some studs —
he-e-a-ve— in with your props — so, catch a little breath, men."
It was time to take breath, of a certainty; for the effort had been
tremendously severe. The bent had risen, however, and now stood,
supported as before by props, at an angle of some fifteen degrees with
the plane of the building, which carried all but the posts beyond the
reach of hands. The pike-pole was to do the rest; and the next ten
degrees to be overcome would probably cause the greatest expenditure
of force. As yet, all had gone well, the only drawback being the
certainty which had been obtained, that the strength present was
hardly sufficient to get up so heavy a bent. Nevertheless, there was
no remedy, every person on the ground who could be of use, but myself,
having his station. A well-looking, semi-genteel young man, whose
dress was two-thirds forest and one-third town, had come from behind
the row of females, stepped upon the frame, and taken his post at a
pike-pole. The uninitiated reader will understand that those who raise
a building necessarily stand directly under the timber they are
lifting; and, that a downfall would bring them beneath a fearful trap.
Bents do sometimes come down on the labourers; and the result is
almost certain destruction to those who are caught beneath the
timber. Notwithstanding the danger and the difficulty in the present
case, good-humour prevailed, and a few jokes were let off at the
expense of the Congregationalists and the late moderator.
"Agree, 'squire," called out the hearty old Rhode Islander, "to let
in some of the other denominations occasionally, and see how the bent
will go up. Presbytery is holding back desperately!"
"I hope no one supposes," answered Mr. Moderator, "that religious
liberty doosn't exist in this settlement.
Sartainly—sartainly—other denominations can always use this
house, when it isn't wanted by the right owners."
Those words "right owners" were unfortunate; the stronger the
right, the less the losing party liking to hear of it.
Notwithstanding, there was no disposition to skulk, or to abandon the
work; and two or three of the dissentients took their revenge on the
spot, by hits at the moderator. Fearful that there might be too much
talk, the boss now renewed his call, for attention to the work.
"Let us all go together, men," he added. "We 've got to the pinch,
and must stand to the work like well-broke cattle. If every man at the
frame will do his best for just one minute, the hardest will be over.
You see that upright stud there, with that boy, Tim Trimmer at it;
just raise the bent so that Timmy can get the eend of that stud under
it, and all will be safe. Look to the lower eend of the stud, Tim; is
it firm and well stopped?"
Tim declared it was; but two or three of the men went and examined
it, and after making a few alterations, they too assured the boss it
could not get away. A short speech was then made, in which everybody
was exhorted to do his best; and everybody, in particular, was
reminded of the necessity of standing to his work. After that speech,
the men raised the pike-poles, and placed themselves at their
stations. Silent expectation succeeded.
As yet, not a sign, look, or word, had intimated either wish or
expectation that I was to place myself in the ranks. I will confess to
an impulse to that effect; for who can look on, and see their
fellow-creatures straining every muscle, and not submit to human
sympathy? But, the recollections of military rank, and private
position, had not only their claims, but their feelings. I did go a
step or two nearer to the frame, but I did not put my foot on it.
"Get ready, men" — called the boss, "for a last time. Altogether,
at the word — now 's your time — he-e-a-ve — he-e-e-a-ve —
The poor fellows did heave, and it was only too evident that they
were staggering under the enormous pressure of the massive timber. I
stepped on the frame, at the very centre, or at the most dangerous
spot, and applied all my strength to a pike-pole.
"Hurrah!" shouted the boss — "there comes the young landlord! —
he-e-ave, every man his best! — he-e-e-e-ave!"
We did heave our best, and we raised the bent several feet above
its former props, but not near enough to reach the new ones, by an
inch or two. Twenty voices now called on every man to stand to his
work; for everybody felt the importance of even a boy's strength. The
boss rushed forward like a man to our aid; and then Tim, fancying his
stud would stand without his support, left it and flew to a
pike-pole. At this mistake the stud fell a little on one side, where
it could be of no use. My face was so placed that I saw this dangerous
circumstance; and I felt that the weight I upheld, individually, grew
more like lead at each instant. I knew by this that our force was
tottering under the downward pressure of the enormous bent.
"He-e-e-ave, men — for your lives, he-eave!" exclaimed the boss,
like one in the agony.
The tones of his voice sounded to me like those of despair. Had a
single boy deserted us then, and we had twenty of them on the frame,
the whole mass of timber must have come down upon us. Talk of charging
into a battery! What is there in that to try men's nerves, like the
situation in which we were placed? The yielding of a muscle, in all
that straining, lifting body, might have ruined us. A most fearful,
frightful twenty seconds followed; and just as I had abandoned hope, a
young female darted out of the anxious, pale-faced crowd, that was
looking on in a terror and agony that may be better conceived that
described, and seizing the stud, she placed it alongside of the post.
But an inch was wanted to gain its support; but how to obtain that
inch! I now raised my voice, and called on the fainting men to heave.
They obeyed; and I saw that spirited, true-eyed, firm-handed girl
place the prop precisely where it was wanted. All at that end of the
bent felt the relief instantly, and man after man cautiously withdrew
from under the frame, until none remained but those who upheld the
other side. We flew to the relief of these, and soon had a number of
props in their places, when all drew back, and looked on the danger
from which they had escaped, breathless and silent. For myself, I felt
a deep sense of gratitude to God for the escape.
This occurrence made a profound impression. Everybody was sensible
of the risk that had been run, and of the ruin that might have
befallen the settlement. I had caught a glimpse of the rare creature,
whose decision, intelligence and presence of mind had done so much for
us all; and to me she seemed to be the loveliest being of her sex my
eyes had ever lighted on! Her form, in particular, was perfection;
being the just medium between feminine delicacy and rude health; or
just so much of the last as could exist without a shade of coarseness;
and the little I saw of a countenance that was nearly concealed by a
maze of curls that might well be termed golden, appeared to me to
correspond admirably with that form. Nor was there anything masculine
or unseemly in the deed she had performed, to subtract in any manner
from the feminine character of her appearance. It was decided, useful,
and in one sense benevolent; but a boy might have executed it, so far
as physical force was concerned. The act required coolness,
intelligence and courage, rather than any masculine power of body.
It is possible that, aware as I was of the jeopardy in which we
were all placed, my imagination may have heightened the effect of the
fair apparition that had come to save us, as it might be, like a
messenger from above. But, even there, where I stood panting from the
effect of exertions that I have never equalled in my own case most
certainly, exhausted, nearly breathless, and almost unable to stand,
my mind's-eye saw nothing but the flexible form, the elastic, ready
step, the golden tresses, the cheek suffused by excitement, the
charming lips compressed with resolution, and the whole air, attitude
and action, characterized, as was each and all, by the devotion,
readiness and loveliness of her sex. When my pulses beat more
regularly, and my heart ceased to throb, I looked around in quest of
that strange vision, but saw no one who could, in the least, claim to
be connected with it. The females had huddled together, like a covey
that was frightened, and were exclaiming, holding up their hands, and
indulging in the signs of alarm that are customary with their sex and
class. The "vision" was certainly not in that group, but had vanished,
as suddenly as it had appeared.
At this juncture, the Chainbearer came forward, and took the
command. I could see he was agitated—affected might be a better word
— but he was, nevertheless, steady and authoritative. He was obeyed,
too, in a manner I was delighted to see. The orders of the "boss" had
produced no such impressions as those which old Andries now issued;
and I really felt an impulse to obey them myself, as I would have
done eighteen months before, when he stood on the right of our
regiment, as its oldest captain.
The carpenter yielded his command to the Chainbearer without a
murmur. Even 'squire Newcome evidently felt that Andries was one who,
in a certain way, could influence the minds of the settlers more than
he could do it himself. In short, everybody listened, everybody seemed
pleased, and everybody obeyed. Nor did my old friend resort to any of
the coaxing that is so common in America, when men are to be
controlled in the country. In the towns, and wherever men are to be
commanded in bodies, authority is as well understood as it is in any
other quarter of the world; but, in the interior, and especially among
the people of New England habits, very few men carry sufficient
command with them to say "John do this," or "John do that;" but it is
"Johnny why won't you do this?" or "Johnny don't you think
you'd better do that?" The Chainbearer had none of this mystified
nonsense about him. He called things by their right names; and when he
wanted a spade, he did not ask for a hoe. As a consequence, he was
obeyed, command being just as indispensable to men, on a thousand
occasions, as any other quality.
Everything was soon ready again, with the men stationed a little
differently from what they had previously been. This change was the
Chainbearer's, who understood mechanics practically; better, perhaps,
than if he had been a first-rate mathematician. The word was given to
heave, all of us being at the pike-poles; when up went the bent, as if
borne upon by a force that was irresistible. Such was the effect of
old Andries' habits of command, which not only caused every man to
lift with all his might, but the whole to lift together. A bent that
is perpendicular is easily secured; and then it was announced that the
heaviest of the work was over. The other bents were much lighter; and
one up, there were means of aiding in raising the rest, that were at
"The Congregationals has got the best on't," cried out the old
Rhode Islander, laughing, as soon as the bent was stay-lathed, "by the
help of the Chainbearer and somebody else I wunt name! Well, our turn
will come, some day; for Ravensnest is a place in which the people
wont be satisfied with one religion. A country is badly on't, that has
but one religion in't; priests getting lazy, and professors dull!"
"You may be sure of t'at," answered the Chainbearer, who was
evidently making preparations to quit the frame. "Ravensnest will get
as many religions, in time, as t'ere are discontented spirits in it;
and t'ey will need many raisings, and more priests."
"Do you intend to leave us, Chainbearer? There 's more posts to
hold, and more bents to lift?"
"The worst is over, and you 've force enough wit'out me, for what
remains to be tone. I haf t'e lantlort to take care of. Go to your
work, men; and, if you can, rememper you haf a peing to worship in
t'is house, t'at is neit'er Congregational, nor Presbyterian, nor
anything else of the nature of your disputes and self-conceit. 'Squire
Newcome wilt gif you a leat in t'e way of l'arning, and t'e carpenter
can act boss well enough for t'e rest of t'e tay."
I was surprised at the coolness with which my old friend delivered
himself of sentiments that were not very likely to find favour in such
a company, and the deference that he received, while thus ungraciously
employed. But, I afterwards ascertained Andries commanded respect by
means of his known integrity; and his opinions carried weight because
he was a man who usually said "come boys," and not one who
issued his orders in the words "go boys." This had been his character
in the army, where, in his own little circle, he was known as one ever
ready to lead in person. Then Andries was a man of sterling truth; and
such a man, when he has the moral courage to act up to his native
impulses, mingled with discretion enough to keep him within the
boundaries of common prudence, insensibly acquires great influence
over those with whom he is brought in contact. Men never fail to
respect such qualities, however little they put them in practice in
their own cases.
"Come, Morty, my poy," said the Chainbearer, as soon as we were
clear of the crowd, "I will pe your guite, ant take you to a roof
unter which you will pe master."
"You surely do not mean the 'Nest?"
"T'at, and no ot'er. T'e olt place looks, like us olt soltiers, a
little rusty, and t'e worse for sarvice; put it is comfortaple, and I
haf had it put in order for you, poy. Your grandfat'er's furniture is
still t'ere; and Frank Malpone, Dus and I, haf mate it heat-quarters,
since we haf peen in t'is part of t'e country. You know I haf your
orters for t'at."
"Certainly, and to use anything else that is mine. But I had
supposed you fairly hutted in the woods of Mooseridge!"
"T'at hast peen tone, too; sometimes we are at one place, and
sometimes at anot'er. My niggers are at t'e hut; put Frank, and Dus
and I haf come ofer to welcome you to t'e country."
"I have a wagoner here, and my own black — let me step to the
inn, and order them to get ready for us."
"Mortaunt, you and I haf peen uset to our feet. The soltier
marches, and countermarches, wit' no wagon to carry him; he leafs t'em
to t'e paggage, and t'e paggage-guart."
"Come on, old Andries; I will be your comrade, on foot or on
horseback. It can only be some three or four miles, and Jaap can
follow with the trunks at his leisure."
A word spoken to the negro was all that was necessary; though the
meeting between him and the Chainbearer was that of old friends. Jaap
had gone through the whole war with the regiment, sometimes acting as
my father's servant, sometimes carrying a musket, sometimes driving a
team; and, at the close of his career, as my particular attendant. He
consequently regarded himself as a sort of soldier, and a very good
one had he proved himself to be, on a great many occasions.
"One word before we start, Chainbearer," I said, as old Andries and
Jaap concluded their greetings; "I fell in with the Indian you used to
call Sureflint, in the woods, and I wish to take him with us."
"He hast gone aheat, to let your visit pe known," answered my
friend. "I saw him going up t'e roat, at a quick trot, half an hour
since. He is at t'e 'Nest py t'is time."
No more remained to be said or done, and we went our way, leaving
the people busily engaged in getting up the remainder of the frame. I
had occasion to observe that my arrival produced much less sensation
in the settlement than it might have done, had not the "meeting-house"
been my competitor in attracting attention. One was just as much of a
novelty as the other; just as much of a stranger. Although born in a
Christian land, and educated in Christian dogmas, very few of those
who dwelt on the estate of Ravensnest, and who were under the age of
five-and-twenty, had ever seen an edifice that was constructed for the
purposes of Christian worship at all. Such structures were rare
indeed, in the year 1784, and in the interior of New York. Albany had
but two, I believe; the capital may have had a dozen; and most of the
larger villages possessed at least one; but, with the exception of the
old counties, and here and there one on the Mohawk, the new State
could not boast of many of "those silent fingers pointing to the sky,"
rising among its trees, so many monitors of a future world, and of the
great end of life. As a matter of course, all those who had never
seen a church, felt the liveliest desire to judge of the form and
proportions of this; and as the Chainbearer and I passed the crowd of
females, I heard several good-looking girls expressing their
impatience to see something of the anticipated steeple, while scarce a
glance was bestowed on myself.
"Well, my old friend, here we are together again, marching on a
public highway," I remarked, "but with no intention of encamping in
front of an enemy."
"I hope not," returned Andries, drily; "t'ough all is not golt t'at
glitters. We have fought a hart battle, major Littlepage; I hope it
will turn out for a goot end."
I was a little surprised at this remark; but Andries was never very
sanguine in his anticipations of good. Like a true Dutchman, he
particularly distrusted the immigration from the eastern States, which
I had heard him often say could bring about no happy results.
"All will come round in the end, Chainbearer," I answered, "and we
shall get the benefits of our toil and dangers. But, how do you come
on at the Ridge, and who is this surveyor of your's!"
"T'ings do well enough at t'e Ritge, Mortaunt; for
t'ere is not a soul yet to make trouple. We have prought you a map of
ten t'ousant acres, lait off in hundret-acre lots, which I will
venture to say haf peen as honestly ant carefully measuret as any
ot'er ten t'ousant acres in t'e State. We pegan next to t'is property,
ant you may pegin to lease, on your fat'er's lant, just as soon as you
"And the Frank Malbone, you have written about, did the surveying?"
"He worket up
my measurements, lat, and closely tone t'ey
are, I 'll answer for it. T'is Frank Malpone is t'e brot'er of Dus —
t'at is to say, her half-brot'er; peing no nephew of mine. Dus, you
know, is only a half-niece in bloot; but she ist a full da'ter in
lofe. As for Frank, he is a goot fellow; and, t'ough t'is is his first
jop at surfeying, he may be dependet on wit' as much confitence as any
ot'er man going."
"No matter if a few mistakes are made, Andries; land is not
diamonds in this country; there is plenty for us all, and a great deal
to spare. It would be a different matter if there was a scarcity; but,
as it is, give good measure to the tenant or the purchaser. A first
survey can only produce a little loss or gain; whereas, surveys
between old farms are full of trouble."
"Ant lawsuits" — put in the Chainbearer, nodding his head. "To
tell you my mint, Mortaunt, I would rat'er take a jop in a Dutch
settlement, at half-price, t'an run a line petween two Yankees for
twice the money. Among the Dutch, the owners light t'eir pipes, and
smoke whilst you are at work; but the Yankees are the whole time
trying to cut off a little here, and to gain a little t'ere; so t'at
it is as much as a man's conscience is wort' to carry a chain fairly
As I knew his prejudice on this subject formed the weak point in
the Chainbearer, I gave the discourse a new turn, by leading it to
political events, of which I knew him to be fond. We walked on,
conversing on various topics connected with this theme, for near an
hour, when I found myself rather suddenly quite near to my own
particular house. Near by, the building had more of shape and
substance than it had seemed to possess when seen from the height;
and I found the orchards and meadows around it free from stumps and
other eye-sores, and in good order. Still, the place, on its exterior,
had a sort of gaol-look, there being no windows, nor any other outlet
than the door. On reaching the latter, which was a gate, rather than
an ordinary entrance, we paused a moment to look about us. While we
stood there, gazing at the fields, a form glided through the opening,
and Sureflint stood by my side. He had hardly got there, when there
arose the strains of the same full, rich female voice, singing Indian
words to a civilized melody, as I had heard issuing from the thicket
of pines, among the second growth of the forest. From that moment I
forgot my fields and orchards, forgot the Chainbearer and Sureflint,
and could think of nothing but of the extraordinary circumstance of a
native girl's possessing such a knowledge of our music. The Indian
himself seemed entranced; never moving until the song or verses were
ended. Old Andries smiled, waited until the last strain was finished,
pronounced the word "Dus" with emphasis, and beckoned for me to
follow him into the building.
"The fault will be in the music, cousin, if you be not woo'd in
good time: if the prince be too important, tell him there is measure
for everything, and so dance out the answer."
"Dus!" I repeated to myself—"This, then, is Dus, and no Indian
girl; the Chainbearer's `Dus;' Priscilla Bayard's `Dus;' and
Andries must have overheard me, in part; for he stopped just within
the court on which the gate opened, and said—
"Yes, t'at is Dus, my niece. The girl is like a mockingpird, and
catches the songs of all languages and people. She is goot at Dutch,
and quite melts my heart, Mortaunt, when she opens her throat to sing
one of our melancholy Dutch songs; and she gives the English too, as
if she knowet no ot'er tongue."
"But that song was Indian — the words, at least, were Mohawk or
"Onondago—t'ere is little or no tifference. Yes, you 're right
enough; the worts are Indian, and they tell me t'e music is Scotch.
Come from where it will, it goes straight to the heart, poy."
"How came Dus—how came Miss Ursula—that is, your niece, to
understand an Indian dialect?"
"Didn't I tell you she is a perfect mocking-bird, and that she
imitates all she hears? Yes, Dus would make as goot a surveyor as her
brot'er, after a week's trial. You 've heart me say how much I livet
among the tripes before t'e war, and Dus was t'en wit' me. In that
manner she has caught the language; and what she has once l'arnet she
nefer forgets. Dus is half wilt from living so much in the woots, and
you must make allowances for her; put she is a capital gal, and t'e
very prite of my heart!"
"Tell me one thing before we enter the house; — does any one else
sing Indian about here? — has Sureflint any women with him?"
"Not he! — t'e creatur' hast not'ing to do wit' squaws. As for
any one else's singing Intian, I can only tell you I never heart of
such a person."
"But, you told me you were down the road to meet me this
morning—were you alone?"
"Not at all—we all went; Sureflint, Frank, Dus and I. I t'ought
it due to a lantlort, Mortaunt, to gif him a hearty welcome; t'ough
Dus did mutiny a little, and sait t'at lantlort or no lantlort, it was
not proper for a young gal to go forth to meet a young man. I might
have t'ought so too, if it hadn't peen yourself, my poy; but, with
you, I couldn't play stranger, as one woult wit' a straggling Yankee.
I wishet to welcome you wit' the whole family; put I 'll not conceal
Dus's unwillingness to pe of t'e party."
was of your party! It is very odd we did not meet!"
"Now, you speak of it, I do pelief it wast all owin' to a scheme of
t'at cunnin' gal! You must know, Mortaunt, a'ter we had got a pit down
t'e roat, she persuatet us to enter a t'icket of pines, in order to
eat a mout'ful; and I do pelief the cunnin' hussey just dit it t'at
you might slip past, and she safe her female dignity!"
"And from those pines Sureflint came, just after Dus, as
call her, but Miss Ursula Malbone as I ought to style her, had been
singing this very song?"
"Wast you near enough to know all t'is, poy, and we miss you! The
gal dit sing t'at ferry song; yes, I rememper it; and a sweet, goot
song it is. Call her Miss Ursula Malbone? — Why shouldn't you call
her Dus, as well as Frank and I?"
"For the simple reason that you are her uncle, and Frank her
brother, while I am a total stranger."
"Poh—poh—Morty; t'is is peing partic'lar. I am only a
half-uncle, in the first place; and Frank is only a half-brot'er; and
I dares to say you wilt pe her whole frient. T'en, you are not
a stranger to any of t'e family, I can tell you, lat; for I haf talket
enough apout you to make bot' t'e poy and t'e gal lofe you almost as
much as I do myself."
Poor, simple-hearted, upright old Andries! What an unpleasant
feeling did he give me, by letting me into the secret that I was about
to meet persons who had been listening to his partial accounts for the
last twelve months. It is so difficult to equal expectations thus
awakened; and I will own that I had begun to be a little sensitive on
the subject of this Dus. The song had been ringing in my ears from
the moment I first heard it; and, now that it became associated with
Priscilla Bayard's Ursula Malbone, the latter had really become a very
formidable person to my imagination. There was no retreating, however,
had I wished it; and a sign induced the Chainbearer to proceed. Face
the young woman I must, and the sooner it was done the better.
The Nest-house, as my homely residence was termed, had been a sort
of fortress, or "garrison," in its day, having been built around three
sides of a parallelogram, with all its windows and doors opening on
the court. On the fourth side were the remains of pickets, or
palisades, but they were mostly rotted away, being useless as a fence,
from the circumstance that the buildings stood on the verge of a low
cliff that, of itself, formed a complete barrier against the invasions
of cattle, and no insignificant defence against those of man.
The interior of the Nest-house was far more inviting than its
exterior. The windows gave the court an appearance of life and gaiety,
at once converting that which was otherwise a pile of logs, thrown
together in the form of a building, into a habitable and inhabited
dwelling. One side of this court, however, was much neater, and had
much more the air of comfort than the other; and towards the first
Andries led the way. I was aware that my grandfather Mordaunt had
caused a few rooms in this building to be furnished for his own
particular purposes, and that no orders had ever been given to remove
or to dispose of the articles thus provided. I was not surprised,
therefore, on entering the house, to find myself in apartments which,
while they could not be called in any manner gaily or richly
furnished, were nevertheless quite respectably supplied with most of
the articles that are thought necessary to a certain manner of living.
"We shall fint Dus in here, I dare say," observed the Chainbearer,
throwing open a door, and signing for me to precede him. "Go in, and
shake t'e gal's hand, Mortaunt; she knows you well enough, name and
natur', as a poty may say."
I did go in, and found myself within a few feet of the fair,
golden-haired girl of the raising; she who had saved the frame from
falling on us all, by a decision of mind and readiness of exertion
that partook equally of courage and dexterity. She was in the same
dress as when first seen by me, though the difference in attitude and
employment certainly gave her air and expression a very different
character. Ursula Malbone was now quietly occupied in hemming one of
those coarse checked handkerchiefs that the poverty of her uncle
compelled him, or at least induced him to use, and of which I had seen
one in his hands only a minute before. On my entrance she rose,
gravely but not discourteously answering my bow with a profound
curtsey. Neither spoke, though the salutes were exchanged as between
persons who felt no necessity for an introduction in order to know
"Well, now," put in Andries, in his strongest Dutch accent, "t'is
wilt never do, ast petween two such olt frients. Come hit'er, Dus,
gal, and gif your hant to Mortaunt Littlepage, who ist a sort of son
of my own."
Dus obeyed, and I had the pleasure of holding her soft velvet-like
hand in mine for one moment. I felt a gratification I cannot describe
in finding the hand was so soft, since the fact gave me the
assurance that necessity had not yet reduced her to any of the toil
that is unsuited to a gentlewoman. I knew that Andries had slaves, his
only possession, indeed, besides his compass, chains and sword, unless
a few arms and some rude articles of the household were excepted; and
these slaves, old and worn out as they must be by this time, were
probably the means of saving the niece from the performance of offices
that were menial.
Although I got the hand of Ursula Malbone, I could not catch her
eye. She did not avert her face, neither did she affect coldness; but
she was not at her ease. I could readily perceive that she would have
been better pleased had her uncle permitted the salutations to be
limited to the bows and curtsies. As I had never seen this girl
before, and could not have done anything to offend her, I ascribed the
whole to mauvaise honte, and the embarrassment that was natural
enough to one who found herself placed in a situation so different
from that in which she had so lately been. I bowed on the hand,
possibly gave it a gentle pressure in order to reassure its owner, and
"Well, now, Dus, haf you a cup of tea for the lantlort— to
welcome him to his own house wit'?" demanded Andries, perfectly
satisfied with the seemingly amicable relations he had established
between us. "T'e major hast hat a long march, for peaceable times, and
woult peglat to get a little refreshment."
"You call me major, Chainbearer, while you refuse to accept the
same title for yourself."
"Ay, t'ere ist reason enough for t'at.
You may lif to be a
general; wilt probably be one before you 're t'irty; but I am
an olt man, now, and shall never wear any ot'er uniform than this I
have on again. I pegan t'e worlt in this corps, Morty, and shall end
it in the rank in which I began."
"I thought you had been a surveyor originally, and that you fell
back on the chain because you had no taste for figures. I think I have
heard as much from yourself."
"Yes, t'at is t'e fact. Figures and I didn't agree; nor do I like
'em any petter at seventy t'an I liket 'em at seventeen. Frank
Malbone, now, Dus' brother, t'ere, ist a lat that takes to 'em
nat'rally, and he works t'rough a sum ast your fat'er would carry a
battalion t'rough a ravine. Carrying chain I like; it gives sufficient
occupation to t'e mind; put honesty is the great quality for the
chainbearer. They say figures can't lie, Mortaunt; but t'is is not
true wit' chains; sometimes they do lie, desperately."
"Where is Mr. Francis Malbone? I should be pleased to make his
"Frank remainet pehint to help 'em up with their timber. He is a
stout chap, like yourself, and can lent a hant; while, poor fellow! he
has no lantlort-tignity to maintain."
I heard a gentle sigh from Dus, and involuntarily turned my head;
for she was occupied directly behind my chair. As if ashamed of the
weakness, the spirited girl coloured, and for the first time in my
life I heard her voice, the two instances of the Indian songs
excepted. I say heard her voice; for it was an event to record. A
pleasant voice, in either sex, is a most pleasant gift from nature.
But the sweet tones of Ursula Malbone were all that the most
fastidious ear could have desired; being full, rich, melodious, yet
on the precise key that best satisfies the taste, bringing with it
assurances of a feminine disposition and regulated habits. I detest a
shrill, high-keyed female voice, more than that of a bawling man,
while one feels a contempt for those who mumble their words in order
to appear to possess a refinement that the very act itself
contradicts. Plain, direct, but regulated utterance, is indispensable
to a man or woman of the world; anything else rendering him or her
mean or affected.
"I was in hopes," said Dus, "that evil-disposed frame was up and
secured, and that I should see Frank in a minute or two. I was
surprised to see you working so stoutly for the Presbyterians, uncle
"I might return t'e compliment, and say I wast surpriset to see
you doing the same t'ing, Miss Dus! Pesides, the tenomination is
Congregational, and not Prespyterian; and one is apout as much to your
taste as t'e ot'er."
"The little I did was for you, and Frank, and — Mr. Littlepage,
with all the rest who stood under the frame."
"I am sure, Miss Ursula," I now put in, "we all ought, and I trust
we all do feel truly grateful for your timely aid. Had that
timber come down, many of us must have been killed, and more maimed."
"It was not a very feminine exploit," answered the girl, smiling,
as I thought, a little bitterly. "But one gets accustomed to being useful in the woods."
"Do you dislike living in the forest, then?" I ventured to ask.
"Certainly not. I like living anywhere that keeps me near uncle
Chainbearer, and Frank. They are all to me, now my excellent
protectress and adviser is no more; and their home is my home, their
pleasure my pleasure, their happiness mine."
This might have been said in a way to render it suspicious and
sentimental; but it was not. On the contrary, it was impulsive, and
came from the heart. I saw by the gratified look of Andries that he
understood his niece, and was fully aware how much he might rely on
the truthful character of the speaker. As for the girl herself, the
moment she had given utterance to what she felt, she shrunk back,
like one abashed at having laid bare feelings that ought to have been
kept in the privacy of her own bosom. Unwilling to distress her, I
turned the conversation in a way to leave her to herself.
"Mr. Newcome seems a skilful manager of the multitude," I remarked.
"He contrived very dexterously to give to the twenty-six
Congregationalists he had with him the air of being a majority of the
whole assembly; while, in truth, they were barely a third of those
"Let Jason Newcome alone for t'at!" exclaimed Andries. "He
unterstants mankint, he says, and sartainly he hast a way of marching
and countermarching just where he pleases wit' t'ese people, makin'
'em t'ink t'e whole time t'ey are doing just what t'ey want to do. It
ist an art! major—it ist an art!"
"I should think it must be, and one worth possessing; if, indeed,
it can be exercised with credit."
"Ay, t'ere's the rub! Exerciset it is; but as for t'e credit,
t'at I will not answer for. It sometimes makes me angry, and
sometimes it makes me laugh, when I look on, and see t'e manner in
which Jason makes t'e people rule t'emselves, and how he wheels
'em apout, and faces 'em, and t'rows 'em into line, and out of line,
at t'eir own wort of commant! His Excellency coult hartly do more wit'
us, a'ter t'e Baron had given us his drill."
"There must be some talent necessary, in order to possess so much
influence over one's fellow-creatures."
"It is a talent you woult be ashamet to exercise, Mortaunt
Littlepage, t'ough you hat it in cart-loats. No man can use such a
talent wit'out peginning wit' lying and deceifing; and you must be
greatly changet, major, if you are at the he't of your class, in such
"I am sorry to see, Chainbearer, that you have no better opinion of
my agent; I must look into the matter a little, when this is the case."
"You wilt fint him law-honest enough; for he swears py t'e law, and
lifs py t'e law. No fear for your tollars, poy; t'ey pe all safe,
unless inteet, t'ey haf all vanishet in t'e law."
As Andries was getting more and more Dutch, I knew he was growing
more and more warm, and I thought it might be well to defer the
necessary inquiries to a cooler moment. This peculiarity I have often
observed in most of those who speak English imperfectly, or with the
accent of some other tongue. They fall back, as respects language, to
that nearest to nature, at those moments when natural feeling is
asserting its power over them, the least equivocally.
I now began to question the Chainbearer concerning the condition in
which he found the Nest-house and farm, over which I had given him
full authority, when he came to the place, by a special letter to the
agent. The people in possession were of very humble pretensions, and
had been content to occupy the kitchen and servants' rooms, ever
since my grandfather's death, as indeed they had done long before
that event. It was owing to this moderation, as well as to their
perfect honesty, that I found nothing embezzled, and most of the
articles in good condition. As for the farm, it had flourished, on the
"let alone" principle. The orchards had grown, as a matter of course;
and if the fields had not been improved by judicious culture, neither
had they been exhausted by covetous croppings. In these particulars
there was nothing of which to complain. Things might have been
better, Andries thought; but, he also thought it was exceedingly
fortunate they were no worse. While we were conversing on this theme,
Dus moved about the room silently, but with collected activity, having
arranged the tea-table with her own hands. When invited to take our
seats at it— everybody drew near to a tea-table in that day, unless
when there was too large a party to be accommodated — I was
surprised to find everything so perfectly neat, and some things rich.
The plates, knives, &c., were of good quality, but the tray was
actually garnished with a set of old-fashioned silver, such as was
made when tea was first used, of small size, but very highly chased.
The handles of the spoons represented the stem of the tea-plant, and
there was a crest on each of them; while a full coat of arms was
engraved on the different vessels of the service, which were four in
all. I looked at the crest, in a vague but surprised expectation of
finding my own. It was entirely new to me. Taking the cream-jug in my
hand, I could recall no arms resembling those that were engraved on it.
"I was surprised to find this plate here," I observed; "for, though
my grandfather possessed a great deal of it, for one of his means, I
did not think he had enough to be as prodigal of it as leaving it here
would infer. This is family plate, too; but those arms are neither
Mordaunt nor Littlepage. May I ask to whom they do belong?"
"The Malpones," answered the Chainbearer. "T'e t'ings are t'e
property of Dus."
"And you may add, uncle Chainbearer, that they are
property"—added the girl, quickly.
"I feel much honoured in being permitted to use them, Miss Ursula,"
I remarked; "for a very pretty set they make."
"Necessity, and not vanity, has brought them out to-day. I broke
the only tea-pot of yours there was in the house this morning, and was
in hopes Frank would have brought up one from the store to supply its
place, before it would be wanted; but he does not come. As for spoons,
I can find none belonging to the house, and we use these constantly.
As the tea-pot was indispensable, I thought I might as well display
all my wealth at once. But, this is the first time the things have
been used in many, many years!"
There was a plaintive melody in Dus's voice, spite of her desire
and her effort to speak with unconcern, that I found exceedingly
touching. While few of us enter into the exultation of successful
vulgarity, as it rejoices in its too often random prosperity, it is in
nature to sympathize with a downward progress, and with the sentiments
it leaves, when it is connected with the fates of the innocent, the
virtuous, and the educated. That set of silver was all that remained
to Ursula Malbone of a physical character and which marked the former
condition of her family; and doubtless she cherished it with no low
feeling of morbid pride, but as a melancholy monument of a condition
to which all her opinions, tastes and early habits constantly reminded
her she properly belonged. In this last point of view, the sentiment
was as respectable, and as much entitled to reverence, as in the
other case it would have been unworthy, and meriting contempt.
There is a great deal of low misconception, as well as a good deal
of cant, beginning to prevail among us, on the subject of the
qualities that mark a gentleman, or a lady. The day has gone by, and I
trust for ever, when the mere accidents of birth are to govern such a
claim; though the accidents of birth are very apt to supply the
qualities that really form the caste. For my own part, I believe in
the exaggerations of neither of the two extremes that so stubbornly
maintain their theories on this subject; or, that a gentleman may not
be formed exclusively by birth on the one hand, and that the severe
morality of the bible on the other is by no means indispensable to the
character. A man may be a very perfect gentleman, though by no means
a perfect man, or a Christian; and he may be a very good Christian,
and very little of a gentleman. It is true, there is a connection in
manners, as a result, between the Christian and the gentleman; but it
is in the result, and not in the motive. That Christianity has little
necessary connection with the character of a gentleman, may be seen in
the fact that the dogmas of the first teach us to turn another cheek
to him who smites; while the promptings of the gentleman are—not to
wipe out the indignity in the blood of the offender, but — to show
that rather than submit to it, he is ready to risk his own life.
But, I repeat, there is no
necessary connection between the
Christian and the gentleman, though the last who is the first attains
the highest condition of humanity. Christians, under the influence of
their educations and habits, often do things that the code of the
gentleman rejects; while it is certain that gentlemen constantly
commit unequivocal sins. The morality of the gentleman repudiates
meannesses and low vices, rather than it rigidly respects the laws of
God; while the morality of the Christian is unavoidably raised or
depressed by the influence of the received opinions of his social
caste. I am not maintaining that "the ten commandments were not given
for the obedience of people of quality," for their obligations are
universal; but, simply, that the qualities of a gentleman are the best
qualities of man unaided by God, while the graces of the Christian
come directly from his mercy.
Nevertheless, there is that in the true character of a gentleman
that is very much to be respected. In addition to the great
indispensables of tastes, manners and opinions, based on intelligence
and cultivation, and all those liberal qualities that mark his caste,
he cannot and does not stoop to meannesses of any sort. He is truthful
out of self-respect, and not in obedience to the will of God; free
with his money, because liberality is an essential feature of his
habits, and not in imitation of the self-sacrifice of Christ; superior
to scandal and the vices of the busy-body, inasmuch as they are low
and impair his pride of character, rather than because he has been
commanded not to bear false witness against his neighbour. It is a
great mistake to confound these two characters, one of which is a mere
human embellishment of the ways of a wicked world, while the other
draws near to the great end of human existence. The last is a
character I revere; while I am willing to confess that I never meet
with the first without feeling how vacant and repulsive society would
become without it; unless, indeed, the vacuum could be filled by the
great substance, of which, after all, the gentleman is but the shadow.
Ursula Malbone lost nothing in my respect by betraying the emotion
she did, while thus speaking of this relic of old family plate. I was
glad to find, however, that she could retain it; for, though
dressed in no degree in a style unbecoming her homely position as her
uncle's housekeeper, there were a neatness and taste in her attire
that are not often seen in remote parts of this country. On this
subject, the reader will indulge my weaknesses a little, if I pause to
say a word. Ursula had neither preserved in her dress the style of
one of her sex and condition in the world, nor yet entirely adopted
that common to girls of the class to which she now seemingly belonged.
It struck me that some of those former garments that were the simplest
in fashion, and the most appropriate in material, had been especially
arranged for present use; and sweetly becoming were they, to one of
her style of countenance and perfection of form. In that day, as every
one knows, the different classes of society — and, kingdom or
republic, classes do, and ever will exist in this
country, as an incident of civilization; a truth every one can see as
respects those below, though his vision may be less perfect as
respects those above him — but, every one knows that great
distinctions in dress existed, as between classes, all over the
Christian world, at the close of the American war, that are fast
disappearing, or have altogether disappeared. Now, Ursula had
preserved just enough of the peculiar attire of her own class, to let
one understand that she, in truth, belonged to it, without rendering
the distinction obtrusive. Indeed, the very character of that which
she did preserve, sufficiently told the story of her origin, since it
was a subdued, rather than an exaggerated imitation of that to which
she had been accustomed, as would have been the case with a mere
copyist. I can only add, that the effect was to render her
"Taste t'ese cakes," said old Andries, who, without the slightest
design, did love to exhibit the various merits of his niece—"Dus
mate t'em, and I 'll engage Matam Washington, herself, couldn't make
"If Mrs. Washington was ever thus employed," I answered, "she might
turn pale with envy here. Better cakes of the sort I never ate."
"Of the sort is well added, Mr. Littlepage," the girl quietly
observed; "my protectress and friend made me rather skilful in this
way, but the ingredients are not to be had here as they were in her
"Which, being a boarding-school for young ladies, was doubtless
better supplied than common, with the materials and knowledge
necessary for good cakes."
Dus laughed, and it startled me, so full of a wild but subsued
melody did that laugh seem to be.
"Young ladies have many foibles imputed to them, of which they are
altogether innocent," was her answer. "Cakes were almost forbidden
fruit in the school, and we were taught to make them in pity to the
palates of the men."
"Your future huspants, gal," cried the Chainbearer, rising to quit
"Our fathers, brothers and
uncles," returned his niece,
laying an emphasis on the last word.
"I believe, Miss Ursula," I resumed, as soon as Andries had left us
alone, "that I have been let behind the curtain as respects your late
school, having an acquaintance, of a somewhat particular nature, with
one of your old schoolfellows."
My companion did not answer, but she fastened those fascinating
blue eyes of her's on me, in a way that asked a hundred questions in a
moment. I could not but see that they were suffused with tears;
allusions to her school often producing that effect.
"I mean Miss Priscilla Bayard, who would seem to be, or to have
been, a very good friend of your's." I added, observing that my
companion was not disposed to say any thing.
"Pris. Bayard!" Ursula now suffered to escape her, in her surprise
— "and she an acquaintance of a somewhat particular nature!"
"My language has been incautious; not to say that of a coxcomb.
Certainly, I am not authorized to say more than that our families
are very intimate, and that there are some particular reasons for
that intimacy. I beg you to read only as I have corrected the error."
"I do not see that the correction changes things much; and you will
let me say I am grieved, sadly grieved, to learn so much."
This was odd! That Dus really meant what she said, was plain enough
by a face that had actually lost nearly all of its colour, and which
expressed an emotion that was most extraordinary. Shall I own what a
miserably conceited coxcomb I was for a single moment? The truth must
be said, and I will confess it. The thought that crossed my
mind was this: — Ursula Malbone is pained at the idea that the only
man whom she had seen for a year, and who could, by possibility, make
any impression on one of her education and tastes, was betrothed to
another! Under ordinary circumstances, this precocious preference
might have caused me to revolt at its exhibition; but there was far
too much of nature in all of Dus's emotions, acts and language, to
produce any other impression on me than that of intense interest. I
have always dated the powerful hold that this girl so soon obtained on
my heart, to the tumult of feeling awakened in me, at that singular
moment. Love at first sight may be ridiculous, but it is sometimes
true. That a passion may be aroused by a glance, or a smile, or any
other of those secret means of conveying sympathy with which nature
has supplied us, I fully believe; though its duration must depend on
qualities of a higher and more permanent influence. It is the
imagination that is first excited; the heart coming in for its share
by later and less perceptible degrees.
My delusion, however, did not last long. Whether Ursula Malbone was
conscious of the misconstruction to which she was liable, I cannot
say; but I rather think not, as she was much too innocent to dread
evil; or whether she saw some other necessity for explaining herself
remains a secret with me to this hour; but explain she did. How
judiciously this was done, and with how much of that female tact that
taught her to conceal the secrets of her friend, will appear to those
who are sufficiently interested in the subject to pursue it.
"Here come the lovers, full of joy and mirth.—
Joy, gentle friends! joy, and fresh days of love
Accompany your hearts!"
"I ought not to leave you in any doubts as to my meaning, Mr.
Littlepage," resumed Ursula, after a short pause. "Priscilla Bayard is
very dear to me, and is well worthy of all your love and admiration—"
"Admiration if you please, and as much as you please, Miss Ursula;
but there is no such feeling as love, as yet certainly, between Miss
Bayard and myself."
The countenance of Dus brightened sensibly. Truth herself, she gave
immediate credit to what I said; and I could not but see that she was
greatly relieved from some unaccountable apprehension. Still, she
smiled a little archly, and perhaps a little sadly, as she
"`As yet, certainly,' is very equivocal on your side, when a young
woman like Priscilla Bayard is concerned. It may at any moment be
converted into `now, certainly,' with that certainty the other
"I will not deny it. Miss Bayard is a charming creature— yet, I
do not know how it is—there seems to be a fate in these things. The
peculiar relation to which I alluded, and alluded so awkwardly, is
nothing more than the engagement of my youngest sister to her brother.
There is no secret in that engagement, so I shall not affect to
"And it is just such an engagement as might lead to one between
yourself and Priscilla!" exclaimed Dus, certainly not without alarm.
"It might, or it might not, as the parties happen to view such
things. With certain temperaments it might prove an inducement; while,
with others, it would not."
"My interest in the subject," continued Dus, "proceeds
altogether from the knowledge I have that another has sought Miss
Bayard; and I will own with my hearty good wishes for his success. You
struck me as a most formidable rival; nor do you seem any the less so,
now I know that your families are to be connected."
"Have no fears on my account, for I am as heart-whole as the day I
first saw the lady."
A flash of intelligence — a most meaning flash it was — gleamed
on the handsome face of my companion; and it was followed by a
mournful, though I still thought not an entirely dissatisfied smile.
"These are matters about which one had better not say much," Dus
added, after a pause. "My sex has its `peculiar rights,' and no woman
should disregard them. You have been fortunate in finding all your
tenants collected together, Mr. Littlepage, in a way to let you see
them at a single glance."
"I was fortunate in one sense, and a most delightful introduction I
had to the settlement — such an introduction as I would travel
another hundred miles to have repeated."
"Are you, then, so fond of raising? — or, do you really love
excitement to such a degree as to wish to get under a trap, like one
of the poor rabbits my uncle sometimes takes?"
"I am not thinking of the raising, or of the frame; although your
courage and presence of mind might well indelibly impress both on my
mind" — Dus looked down, and the colour mounted to her temples —
"but, I was thinking of a certain song, an Indian song, sung to Scotch
music, that I heard a few miles from the clearings, and which was my
real introduction to the pleasant things one may both hear and see, in
this retired part of the world."
"Which is not so retired after all, that flattery cannot penetrate
it, I find. It is pleasant to hear one's songs extolled, even though
they may be Indian; but, it is not half so pleasant as to hear tidings
of Priscilla Bayard. If you wish truly to charm my ear, talk of her!
"The attachment seems mutual, for I can assure you Miss Bayard
manifested just the same interest in you."
"In me! Priscilla then remembers a poor creature like me, in her
banishment from the world! Perhaps she remembers me so much the more,
because I am banished. I hope she does not, cannot think
I regret my condition — that, I could hardly forgive her."
"I rather think she does not; I know she gives you credit for more
than common excellencies."
"It is strange that Priscilla Bayard should speak of me to you! I
have been a little unguarded myself, Mr. Littlepage, and have said so
much, that I begin to feel the necessity of saying something more.
There is some excuse for my not feeling in your presence as in that of
a stranger; since uncle Chainbearer has your name in his mouth at
least one hundred times each day. Twelve different times in one hour
did he speak of you yesterday."
"Excellent old Andries! It is the pride of my life that so honest a
man loves me; and now for the explanation I am entitled to receive as
his friend, by your own acknowledgment."
Dus smiled, a little saucily I thought—but saucily or not, that
smile made her look extremely lovely. She reflected a moment, like one
who thinks intensely, even bending her head under the painful mental
effort; then she drew her form to its usual attitude, and spoke.
"It is always best to be frank," she said, "and it can do no harm,
while it may do good, to be explicit with you. You will not
forget, Mr. Littlepage, that I believe myself to be conversing with my
uncle's very best friend?"
"I am too proud of the distinction to forget it, under any
circumstances; and least of all in your presence."
"Well, then, I will be frank. Priscilla Bayard was, for eight
years, my associate and closest friend. Our affection for each other
commenced when we were mere children, and increased with time and
knowledge. About a year before the close of the war, my brother Frank,
who is now here as my uncle's surveyor, found opportunities to quit
his regiment, and to come to visit me quite frequently—indeed, his
company was sent to Albany, where he could see me as often as he
desired. To see me, was to see Priscilla; for we were inseparable; and
to see Priscilla was, for poor Frank at least, to love her. He made me
his confidant, and my alarm was nothing but natural concern lest he
might have a rival as formidable as you."
A flood of light was let in upon me by this brief explanation,
though I could not but wonder at the simplicity, or strength of
character, that induced so strange a confidence. When I got to know
Dus better, the whole became clear enough; but, at the moment, I was a
"Be at ease on my account, Miss Malbone—"
"Why not call me Dus at once? — You will do it in a week, like
every one else here; and it is better to begin our acquaintance as I
am sure it will end. Uncle Chainbearer calls me Dus; Frank calls me
Dus; most of your settlers call me Dus, to my very face; and even our
blacks call me Miss Dus. You cannot wish to be singular."
"I will gladly venture so far as to call you Ursula; but Dus does
not please me."
"No! — I have become so accustomed to be called Dus by all my
friends, that it sounds distant to be called by any other name. Do you
not think Dus a pretty diminutive?"
did not, most certainly; though all these things depend
on the associations. Dus Malbone sounded sweetly enough in Priscilla
Bayard's mouth; but I fear it will not be so pleasant in mine."
"Do as you please—but do not call me
Miss Ursula, or
Miss Malbone. It would have displeased me once,
have been so addressed by any man; but it has an air of mockery, now
that I know myself to be only the companion and housekeeper of a poor
"And yet, the owner of that silver, the lady I see seated at this
table, in this room, is not so very inappropriately addressed as Miss
"You know the history of the silver, and the table and room are
your own. No — Mr. Littlepage, we are poor — very, very
poor — uncle Chainbearer, Frank and I — all alike, have nothing."
This was not said despairingly, but with a sincerity that I found
"Frank, at least, should have something" — I answered. "You tell
me he was in the army?"
"He was a captain at the last, but what did he receive for that? We
do not complain of the country, any of us; neither my uncle, my
brother, nor myself; for we know it is poor, like ourselves, and that
its poverty even is like our own, that of persons reduced. I was long
a charge on my friends, and there have been debts to pay. Could I have
known it, such a thing should not have happened. Now I can only repay
those who have discharged these obligations by coming into the
wilderness with them. It is a terrible thing for a woman to be in
"But, you have remained in this house; you surely have not been in
the hut, at Mooseridge!"
"I have gone wherever uncle Chainbearer has gone, and shall go with
him, so long as we both live. Nothing shall ever separate us again.
His years demand this, and gratitude is added to my love. Frank might
possibly do better than work for the little he receives; but he
will not quit us. The poor love each other intensely!"
"But I have desired your uncle to use this house, and for your sake
I should think he would accept the offer."
"How could he, and carry chain twenty miles distant? We have been
here, occasionally, a few days at a time; but the work was to be done,
and it must be done on the land itself."
"Of course, you merely gave your friends the pleasure of your
company, and looked a little to their comforts, on their return from a
hard day's work?"
Dus raised her eyes to mine; smiled; then she looked sad, her
under-lip quivering slightly; after which a smile that was not
altogether without humour succeeded. I watched these signs of varying
feeling with an interest I cannot describe; for the play of virtuous
and ingenuous emotion on a lovely female countenance is one of the
rarest sights in nature.
"I can carry chain" — said the girl, at the close of this
exhibition of feeling.
can carry chain, Ursula — Dus, or whatever I am to
"Call me Dus—I love that name best."
can carry chain, I suppose is true enough — but, you
do not mean that you have?"
The face of Dus flushed; but she looked me full in the eye, as she
nodded her head to express an affirmative; and she smiled as sweetly
as ever woman smiled.
"For amusement—to say you have done it—in jest!"
"To help my uncle and brother, who had not the means to hire a
"Good God! Miss Malbone—Ursula—Dus—"
"The last is the most proper name for a Chainbearess,"
rejoined the girl, smiling; and actually taking my hand by an
involuntary movement of her sympathy in the shock I so evidently felt
— "But, why should you look upon that little toil as so shocking,
when it is healthful and honest? You are thinking of a sister reduced
to what strikes you as man's proper work."
Dus relinquished my hand almost as soon as she had touched it; and
she did it with a slight start, as if shocked at her own temerity.
is man's work, and man's work,
"Yet, woman can perform it; and, as uncle Chainbearer will tell
you, perform it well. I had no other concern, the month I was
at work, than the fear that my strength would not enable me to do as
much as my uncle and brother, and thus lessen the service they could
render you each day. They kept me on the dry land, so there were no
wet feet, and your woods are as clear of underbrush as an orchard.
There is no use in attempting to conceal the fact, for it is known to
many, and would have reached your ears sooner or later. Then
concealment is always painful to me, and never more so than when I
hear you, and see you treating your hired servant as an equal."
"Miss Malbone!—For God's sake, let me hear no more of this —
old Andries judged rightly of me, in wishing to conceal this; for I
should never have allowed it to go on for a moment."
"And in what manner could you have prevented it, major Littlepage?
My uncle has taken the business of you at so much the day, finding
surveyor and labourers — poor dear Frank! He, at least, does not
rank with the labourers; and as for my uncle, he has long had an
honest pride in being the best chainbearer in the country — why need
his niece scruple about sharing in his well-earned reputation?"
"But you, Miss Malbone—dearest Dus—who have been so educated,
who are born a lady, who are loved by Priscilla Bayard, the sister of
Frank, are not in your proper sphere, while thus occupied."
"It is not so easy to say what is the proper sphere of a woman. I
admit it ought to be, in general, in the domestic circle, and under
the domestic roof; but circumstances must control that. We hear of
wives who follow their husbands to the camp, and we hear of nuns who
come out of their convents to attend the sick and wounded in
hospitals. It does not strike me, then, as so bad in a girl who offers
to aid her parent, as I have aided mine, when the alternative was to
suffer by want."
"Gracious Providence! And Andries has kept me in ignorance of all
this! He knew my purse would have been his, and how could you have
been in want in the midst of the abundance that reigns in this
settlement, which is only fifteen or twenty miles from your hut, as I
know from the Chainbearer's letters."
"Food is plenty, I allow, but we had no money; and when the
question was between beggary or exertion, we merely chose the last. My
uncle did try old Killian, the black, for a day; but you know how hard
it is to make one of those people understand anything that is a little
intricate; and then I offered my services. I am intelligent enough, I
trust" — the girl smiled a little proudly as she said this — "and
you can have no notion how active and strong I am, for light work like
this, and on my feet, until you put me to the proof. Remember,
carrying chain is neither chopping wood nor piling logs; nor is it
"Nor raising churches" — I answered, smiling; for it was not easy
to resist the contagion of the girl's spirit—"at which business I
have been an eye-witness of your dexterity. However, there will now be
an end of this. It is fortunately in my power to offer such a
situation and such emoluments to Mr. Malbone, as will at once enable
him to place his sister in this house as its mistress, and under a
roof that is at least respectable."
"Bless you for that!" cried Dus, making a movement towards catching
my hand again; but checking it in time to render the deep blush that
instantly suffused her face, almost unnecessary. "Bless you for that!
Frank is willing to do anything that is honest, and capable of doing
anything that a gentleman should do. I am the great encumbrance on
the poor fellow; for, could he leave me, many situations must be open
to him in the towns. But, I cannot quit my uncle, and Frank will not
quit me. He does not understand uncle Chainbearer."
"Frank must be a noble fellow, and I honour him for his attachment
to such a sister. This makes me only the more anxious to carry out my
"Which are such, I hope, that there is no impropriety in his
sister's knowing them?"
This was said with such an expression of interest in the sweet,
blue eyes, and with so little of the air of common curiosity, that it
completely charmed me.
"Certainly there is none," I answered, promptly enough even for a
young man who was acting under the influence of so much ingenuous and
strong native feeling; "and I shall have great pleasure in telling
you. We have long been dissatisfied with our agent on this estate, and
I had determined to offer it to your uncle. The same difficulty would
have to be overcome in this case as there was in making him a safe
surveyor—the want of skill in figures; now, this difficulty will not
exist in the instance of your brother; and the whole family,
Chainbearer as well as the rest, will be benefited by giving the
situation to Frank."
"You call him Frank!" cried Dus, laughing, and evidently delighted
with what she heard. "That is a good omen; but, if you raise me to the
station of an agent's sister, I do not know but I shall insist on
being called Ursula, at least, if not Miss Ursula."
I scarce knew what to make of this girl; there was so much of
gaiety, and even fun, blended with a mine of as deep feeling as I ever
saw throwing up its signs to the human countenance. Her brother's
prospects had made her even gay; though she still looked as if anxious
to hear more.
"You may claim which you please, for Frank shall have his name put
into the new power of attorney within the hour. Mr. Newcome has had a
hint, by letter, of what is to come, and professes great happiness in
getting rid of a vast deal of unrequited trouble."
"I am afraid there is little emolument, if
he is glad to be
rid of the office."
"I do not say he is
glad; I only say he
be so. These are different things with certain persons. As for the
emolument, it will not be much certainly; though it will be enough to
prevent Frank's sister from carrying chain, and leave her to exercise
her talents and industry in their proper sphere. In the first place,
every lease on the estate is to be renewed; and, there being a
hundred, and the tenant bearing the expense, it will at once put a
considerable sum at your brother's disposition. I cannot say that the
annual commissions will amount to a very great deal, though they will
exceed a hundred a year by the terms on which the lands will be
re-let. The use of this house and farm, however, I did intend to offer
to your uncle; and, for the same reason, I shall offer them to Frank."
"With this house and farm we shall be rich!" exclaimed Dus,
clasping her hands in delight. "I can gather a school of the better
class of girls, and no one will be useless — no one idle. If I teach
your tenants' daughters some of the ideas of their sex and station,
Mr. Littlepage, you will reap the benefit in the end. That will
be some slight return for all your kindness."
"I wish all of your sex, and of the proper age, who are connected
with me, no better instructress. Teach them your own warmth of heart,
your own devotedness of feeling, your own truth, and your own
frankness, and I will come and dwell on my own estate, as the spot
nearest to paradise."
Dus looked a little alarmed, I thought, as if she feared she might
have uttered too much; or, perhaps, that I was uttering too
much. She rose, thanked me hurriedly, but in a very lady-like manner,
and set about removing the breakfast service, with as much diligence
as if she had been a mere menial.
Such was my very first conversation with Ursula Malbone; her, with
whom I have since held so many, and those that have been very
different! When I rose to seek the Chainbearer, it was with a feeling
of interest in my late companion that was as strong as it was sudden.
I shall not deny that her beauty had its influence—it would be
unnatural that it should not — but it was less her exceeding
beauty, and Ursula Malbone would have passed for one of the fairest
of her sex — but it was less her beauty that attracted me than her
directness, truth, and ingenuousness, so closely blended as all were
with the feelings and delicacy of her sex. She had certainly done
things which, had I merely heard of them, would have struck me
unpleasantly, as even bold and forward, and which may now so strike
the reader; but this would be doing Dus injustice. No act, no word of
her's, not even the taking of my hand, seemed to me, at the time, as
in the least forward; the whole movement being so completely qualified
by that intensity of feeling which caused her to think only of her
brother. Nature and circumstances had combined to make her precisely
the character she was; and I will confess I did not wish her to be,
in a single particular, different from what I found her.
Talk of Pris. Bayard in comparison with Ursula Malbone! Both had
beauty, it is true, though the last was far the handsomest; both had
delicacy, and sentiment, and virtue, and all that pertains to a
well-educated young woman, if you will; but, Dus had a character of
her own, and principles, and an energy, and a decision, that made her
the girl of ten thousand. I do not think I could be said to be
actually in love when I left that room, for I do not wish to appear so
very easy to receive impressions as all that would come to; but I
will own no female had ever before interested me a tenth part as much,
though I had known, and possibly admired her, a twelvemonth.
In the court I found Andries measuring his chains. This he did
periodically; and it was as conscientiously as if he were weighing
gold. The old man manifested no consciousness of the length of the tête-à-tête I had held with his niece; but, on the contrary, the
first words he uttered were to an effect that proved he fancied I had
"I peg your parton, lat," he said, holding his measuringrod in his
mouth while he spoke. "I peg your parton, put this is very necessary
work. I do not wish to haf any of your Yankee settlers crying out
hereafter against the chainpearer's surveys. Let 'em come a huntret or
a t'ousant years hence, if t'ey will, and measure t'e lant; I want olt
Andries' survey to stant."
"The variation of the compass will make some difference in the two
surveys, my good friend, unless the surveyors are better than one
The old man dropped his rod and his chain, and looked despondingly
"True," he said, with emphasis. "You haf hit t'e nail on t'e heat,
Mortaunt—t'at fariation is t'e ferry teffil to get along wit'! I haf
triet it t'is-a-way, and I haf triet it t'at-a-way, and never coult I
make heat or tail of it! I can see no goot of a fariation at all."
"What does your pretty assistant Dus, think of it? Dus, the pretty
Chainbearer? You will lose your old, hard-earned appellation, which
will be borne off by Miss Malbone."
"T'en Dus hast peen telling you all apout it! A woman never can
keep a secret. No, natur' hast mate 'em talkatif, and t'e parrot will
"A woman likes variation, notwithstanding — did you consult Dus
on that difficulty?"
"No, no, poy; I sait not'ing to Dus, ant I am sorry she hast sait
anyt'ing to you apout t'is little matter of t'e chain. It was sorely
against my will, Mortaunt, t'at t'e gal ever carriet it a rot; and was
it to do over ag'in, she shoult not carry it a rot—yet it woult have
tone your heart goot to see how prettily she did her work; and how
quick she wast; and how true; and how accurate she put down t'e
marker; and how sartain was her eye. Natur' made t'at fery gal for a
"And a chainbearer she has been, and a chainbearer she ever will
be, until she throws her chains on some poor fellow, and binds him
down for life. Andries, you have an angel with you here, and not a
Most men in the situation of the Chainbearer might have been
alarmed at hearing such language coming from a young man, and under
all the circumstances of the case. But Andries Coejemans never had any
distrust of mortal who possessed his ordinary confidence; and I
question if he ever entertained a doubt about myself on any point, the
result of his own, rather than of my character. Instead of manifesting
uneasiness or displeasure, he turned to me, his whole countenance
illuminated with the affection he felt for his niece, and said—
"T'e gal ist an excellent gal, Mortaunt; a capital creature! It
woult haf tone your heart goot, I tell you, to see her carry chain!
Your pocket is none t'e worse for t'e mont' she worked, t'ough I woult
not haf you t'ink I charget for her ast for a man—no—she is town
at only half-price, woman's work peing woman's work; yet I do pelieve,
on my conscience, t'at we went over more grount in t'at mont', t'an
we coult haf tone wit' any man t'at wast to pe hiret in t'is part of
t'e worlt—I do, inteet!"
How strange all this sounded to me! Charged for work done by Ursula
Malbone, and charged at half-price! We are the creatures of
convention, and the slaves of opinions that come we know not whence. I
had got the notions of my caste, obtained in the silent, insinuating
manner in which all our characters are formed; and nothing short of
absolute want could have induced me to accept pecuniary compensation
from an individual for any personal service rendered. I had no
profession, and it did not comport with our usages for a gentleman to
receive money for personal service out of the line of a profession; an
arbitrary rule, but one to which most of us submit with implicit
obedience. The idea that Dus had been paid by myself for positive
toil, therefore, was extremely repugnant to me; and it was only after
reflection that I came to view the whole affair as I ought, and to
pass to the credit of the noble-minded girl, and this without any
drawback, an act that did her so much honour. I wish to represent
myself as no better, or wiser, or more rational than I was; and, I
fancy few young men of my age and habits would hear with much delight,
at first, that the girl he felt himself impelled to love had been thus
employed; while, on the other hand, few would fail to arrive at the
same conclusions, on reflection, as those I reached myself.
The discourse with Andries Coejemans was interrupted by the sudden
entrance of Frank Malbone into the court. This was my first meeting
with my young surveyor, and Chainbearer introduced us to each other in
his usual hearty and frank manner. In a minute we were acquainted; the
old man inquiring as to the success of the settlers in getting up
"I staid until they had begun to place the rafters," answered young
Malbone, cheerfully, "and then I left them. The festivities are to end
with a ball, I hear; but I was too anxious to learn how my sister
reached home — I ought to say reached the 'Nest — to remain. We
have little other home now, Mr. Littlepage, than the hut in the woods,
and the roof your hospitality offers."
"Brother soldiers, sir, and brother soldiers in
such a cause
, ought to have no more scruples about accepting such hospitalities,
as you call them, than in offering them. I am glad, however, that you
have adverted to the subject, inasmuch as it opens the way to a
proposition I have intended to make; which, if accepted, will make me your guest, and which may as well be made now as a week later."
Both Andries and Frank looked surprised; but I led them to a bench
on the open side of the court, and invited them to be seated, while I
explained myself. It may be well to say a word of that seat, in
passing. It stood on the verge of a low cliff of rocks, on the side of
the court which had been defended by palisades, when the French held
the Canadas, and the remains of which were still to be seen. Here, as
I was told before we left the spot, Dus, my pretty chainbearer,
with a woman's instinct for the graceful and beautiful, had erected
an arbour, principally with her own hands, planted one of the
swift-growing vines of our climate, and caused a seat to be placed
within. The spot commanded a pleasing view of a wide expanse of
meadows, and of a distant hillside, that still lay in the virgin
forest. Andries told me that his niece had passed much of her leisure
time in that arbour, since the growth of the plant, with the advance
of the season, had brought the seat into the shade.
Placing myself between the Chainbearer and Malbone, I communicated
the intention I had formed of making the latter my agent. As an
inducement to accept the situation, I offered the use of the
Nest-house and Nest-farm, reserving to myself the room or two that had
been my grandfather's, and that only at the times of my annual visits
to the property. As the farm was large, and of an excellent quality
of land, it would abundantly supply the wants of a family of modest
habits, and even admit of sales to produce the means of purchasing
such articles of foreign growth as might be necessary. In a word, I
laid before the listeners the whole of my plan, which was a good deal
enlarged by a secret wish to render Ursula comfortable, without saying
anything about the motive.
The render is not to suppose I was exhibiting any extraordinary
liberality in doing that which I have related. It must not be
forgotten that land was a drug in the State of New York in the year
1784, as it is to-day on the Miami, Ohio, Mississippi, and other
inland streams. The proprietors thought but little of their
possessions as the means of present support, but rather
maintained their settlements than their settlements maintained them;
looking forward to another age, and to their posterity, for the
rewards of all their trouble and investments.
It is scarcely necessary to say my proposals were gladly accepted.
Old Andries squeezed my hand, and I understood the pressure as fully
as if he had spoken with the eloquence of Patrick Henry. Frank Malbone
was touched; and all parties were perfectly satisfied. The surveyor
had his fieldinkstand with him, as a matter of course, and I had the
Power-of-Attorney in my pocket ready for the insertion of the
Chainbearer's name, would he accept the office of agent. That of
Malbone was written in its stead; I signed; Andries witnessed; and we
left the seat together; Frank Malbone, in effect, temporarily master
of the house in which we were, and his charming sister, as a necessary
consequence, its mistress. It was a delicious moment to me, when I saw
Dus throw herself into her brother's arms, and weep on his bosom, as
he communicated to her the joyful intelligence.
"A comfortable doctrine, and much may be said of it. Where lies
Twelfth Night; or What You Will.
A month glided swiftly by. During that interval, Frank Malbone was
fully installed, and Andries consented to suspend operations with his
chain, until this necessary work was completed. Work it was; for every
lease granted by my grandfather having run out, the tenants had
remained on their farms by sufferance, or as occupants at will,
holding from year to year under parole agreements made with Mr.
Newcome, who had authority to go that far, but no farther.
It was seldom that a landlord, in that day, as I have already said,
got any income from his lands during the first few years of their
occupation. The great thing was to induce settlers to come; for, where
there was so much competition, sacrifices had to be made in order to
effect this preliminary object. In compliance with this policy, my
grandfather had let his wild lands for nominal rents in nearly every
instance, with here and there a farm of particular advantages
excepted; and, in most cases, the settler had enjoyed the use of the
farm for several years, for no rent at all. He paid the taxes, which
were merely nominal, and principally to support objects that were
useful to the immediate neighbourhood; such as the construction of
roads, bridges, pounds, with other similar works, and the
administration of justice. At the expiration of this period of
nonpayment of rents, a small sum per acre was agreed to be paid,
rather than actually paid, not a dollar of which had ever left the
settlement. The landlord was expected to head all subscriptions for
everything that was beneficial, or which professed to be beneficial to
the estate; and the few hundreds a year, two or three at most, that my
rent-roll actually exhibited, were consumed among the farms of the
Nest. It was matter of record that not one shilling had the owner of
this property, as yet, been able to carry away with him for his own
private purposes. It is true, it had been in his power to glean a
little each year for such a purpose; but it was not considered
politic, and consequently it was not the practice of the country, in
regard to estates so situated and before the revolution; though
isolated cases to the contrary, in which the landlord was particularly
avaricious, or particularly necessitous, may have existed. Our New
York proprietors, in that day, were seldom of the class that needed
money. Extravagance had been little known to the province, and could
not yet be known to the State; consequently, few lost their property
from their expenditures, though some did from mismanagement. The trade
of "puss in the corner," or of shoving a man out of his property, in
order to place oneself in it, was little practised previously to the
revolution; and the community always looked upon the intruder into
family property with a cold eye, unless he came into possession by
fair purchase, and for a sufficient price. Legal speculations were
then nearly unknown; and he who got rich was expected to do so by
manly exertions, openly exercised, and not by the dark machinations of
a sinister practice of the law.
In our case, not a shilling had we, as yet, been benefited by the
property of Ravensnest. All that had ever been received, and more too,
had been expended on the spot; but a time had now arrived when it was
just and reasonable that the farms should make some returns for all
our care and outlays.
Eleven thousand acres were under lease, divided among somewhat less
than a hundred tenants. Until the first day of the succeeding April,
these persons could hold their lands under the verbal contracts; but,
after that day, new leases became necessary. It is not usual for the
American landlord to be exacting. It is out of his power, indeed, for
the simple reason that land is so much more abundant than men; but,
it is not the practice of the country, a careless indulgence being
usually the sin of the caste; an indulgence that admits of an
accumulation of arrears which, when payday does arrive, is apt to
bring with it ill-blood and discontent. It is an undeniable truth in
morals, that, whatever may be the feeling at the time, men are rarely
grateful for a government that allows their vices to have a free
exercise. They invariably endeavour to throw a portion of the odium
of their own misdeeds on the shoulders of those who should have
controlled them. It is the same with debt; for, however much we may
beg for lenity at the time, accumulations of interest wear a very
hostile aspect when they present themselves in a sum-total, at a
moment it is inconvenient to balance the account. If those who have
been thus placed would only remember that there is a last great
account that every man must be called on to settle, arrearages and
all, the experience of their worldly affairs might suggest a lesson
that would be infinitely useful. It is fortunate for us, without
exception, that there is a Mediator to aid us in the task.
The time had come when Ravensnest might be expected to produce
something. Guided by the surveys, and our own local knowledge, and
greatly aided by the Chainbearer's experience, Frank Malbone and I
passed one entire fortnight in classifying the farms; putting the
lowest into the shilling category; others into the eighteen pence; and
a dozen farms or so into the two shillings. The result was, that we
placed six thousand acres at a shilling a year rent; three thousand
eight hundred at eighteen pence the acre; and twelve hundred acres at
two shillings. The whole made a rental of fourteen thousand one
hundred shillings, or a fraction more than seventeen hundred and
forty-two dollars per annum. This sounded pretty well for the year
1784, and it was exclusively of the Nest farm, of Jason Newcome's
mills and timber-land, which he had hitherto enjoyed for nothing, or
for a mere nominal rent, and all the wild lands.
I will confess I exulted greatly in the result of our calculations.
Previously to that day, I had placed no dependence on Revensnest for
income, finding my support in the other property I had inherited from
my grandfather. On paper, my income was more than doubled, for I
received then only some eleven hundred a year (I speak of
dollars, not pounds) from my other property. It is true, the last
included a great many town-lots that were totally unproductive, but
which promised to be very valuable, like Ravensnest itself, at some
future day. Most things in America looked to the future, then as now;
though I trust the hour of fruition is eventually to arrive. My town
property has long since become very valuable, and tolerably productive.
As soon as our scheme for re-letting was matured, Frank summoned
the occupants of the farms, in bodies of ten, to present themselves at
the Nest, in order to take their new leases. We had ridden round the
estate, and conversed with the tenantry, and had let my intentions be
known previously, so that little remained to be discussed. The farms
were all re-let for three lives, and on my own plan, no one objecting
to the rent, which, it was admitted all round, was not only
reasonable, but low. Circumstances were then too recent to admit of
the past's being forgotten; and the day when the last lease was signed
was one of general satisfaction. I did think of giving a landlord's
dinner, and of collecting the whole settlement in a body, for the
purposes of jovial and friendly communion; but old Andries threw cold
water on the project.
"T'at would do, Mortaunt," he said, "if you hat only raal New
Yorkers, or Middle States' men to teal wit'; but more t'an half of
t'ese people are from t'e Eastern States, where t'ere are no such
t'ings as lantlorts and tenants, on a large scale you unterstant; and
t'ere isn't a man among 'em all t'at isn't looking forwart to own his
farm one tay, by hook or by crook. T'ey 're as jealous of t'eir
tignities as if each man wast a full colonel, and will not t'ank you
for a tinner at which t'ey will seem to play secont fittle."
Although I knew the Chainbearer had his ancient Dutch prejudices
against our eastern brethren, I also knew that there was a good deal
of truth in what he said. Frank Malbone, who was Rhode Island born,
had the same notions, I found on inquiry; and I was disposed to defer
to his opinions. Frank Malbone was a gentleman himself, and men of
that class are always superior to low jealousies; but Frank must know
better how to appreciate the feelings of those among whom he had been
bred and born than I could possibly know how to do it myself. The
project of the dinner was accordingly abandoned.
It remained to make a new arrangement and a final settlement with
Mr. Jason Newcome, who was much the most thriving man at Ravensnest;
appearing to engross in his single person all the business of the
settlement. He was magistrate, supervisor, deacon, according to the
Congregational plan, or whatever he is called, miller, store-keeper,
will-drawer, tavern-keeper by deputy, and adviser-general, for the
entire region. Everything seemed to pass through his hands; or, it
would be better to say, everything entered them, though little indeed
came out again. This man was one of those moneyed gluttons, on a small
scale, who live solely to accumulate; in my view, the most odious
character on earth; the accumulations having none of the legitimate
objects of proper industry and enterprise in view. So long as there
was a man near him whom he supposed to be richer than himself, Mr.
Newcome would have been unhappy; though he did not know what to do
with the property he had already acquired. One does not know whether
to detest or to pity such characters the most; since, while they are
and must be repugnant to every man of right feelings and generous
mind, they carry in their own bosoms the worm that never dies, to
devour their own vitals.
Mr. Newcome had taken his removal from the agency in seeming good
part, affecting a wish to give it up from the moment he had reason to
think it was to be taken from him. On this score, therefore, all was
amicable, not a complaint being made on his side. On the contrary, he
met Frank Malbone with the most seeming cordiality, and we proceeded
to business with as much apparent good-will as had been manifested in
any of the previous bargains. Mr. Newcome did nothing directly; a
circuitous path being the one he had been accustomed to travel from
"You took the mill-lot and the use of five hundred acres of
wood-land from my grandfather for three lives; or failing these, for a
full term of one-and-twenty years, I find, Mr. Newcome," I remarked,
as soon as we were seated at business, "and for a nominal rent; the
mills to be kept in repair, and to revert to the landlord at the
termination of the lease."
"Yes, major Littlepage, that
was the bargain I will allow,
though a hard one has it proved to me. The war come on"—this man
was what was called liberally educated, but he habitually used bad
grammar—"The war come on, and with it hard times, and I didn't know
but the major would be willing to consider the circumstances, if we
make a new bargain."
"The war cannot have had much effect to your prejudice, as grain of
all sorts bore a high price; and I should think the fact that large
armies were near by, to consume everything you had to sell, and that
at high prices, more than compensated for any disadvantage it might
have induced. You had the benefits of two wars, Mr. Newcome; that of
1775, and a part of that of 1756."
My tenant made no answer to this, finding I had reflected on the
subject, and was prepared to answer him. After a pause, he turned to
more positive things.
"I suppose the major goes on the principle of supposing a legal
right in an old tenant to enj'y a new lease? I 'm told he has admitted
this much in all his dealin's."
"Then you have been misinformed, sir. I am not weak enough to admit
a right that the lease itself, which, in the nature of things, must
and does form the tenant's only title, contradicts in terms. Your
legal interest in the property ceases altogether in a few days from
"Y-a-a-s—y-a-a-s—sir, I conclude it doose," said the 'squire,
leaning back in his chair, until his body was at an angle of some
sixty or seventy degrees with the floor—"I conclude it doose
accordin' to the covenants; but, between man and man, there ought to
be suthin' more bindin'."
"I know of nothing more binding in a lease than its covenants, Mr.
"Wa-a-l" — how that man would `wa-a-a-l' when he wished to
circumvent a fellow-creature; and with what a Jesuitical accent he did
pronounce the word!—"Wa-a-l— that's accordin' to folk's idees. A
covenant may be hard; and then, in my judgment, it ought to go
for nothin'. I'm ag'in all hard covenants."
"Harkee, frient Jason," put in the Chainbearer, who was an old
acquaintance of Mr. Newcome's, and appeared thoroughly to understand
his character—"Harkee, frient Jason; do you gif pack unexpected
profits, ven it so happens t'at more are mate on your own pargains
t'an were looket for?"
"It's not of much use to convarse with you, Chainbearer, on such
subjects, for we 'll never think alike," answered the 'squire, leaning
still farther back in his chair; "you 're what I call a partic'lar
man, in your notions, and we should never agree."
"Still, there is good sense in Chainbearer's question," I added.
"Unless prepared to answer `yes,' I do not see how you can apply your
own principle with any justice. But, let this pass as it will, why are
covenants made, if they are not to be regarded?"
"Wa-a-l, now, accordin' to my notion, a covenant in a lease is
pretty much like a water-course in a map; not a thing to be partic'lar
at all about; but, as water-courses look well on a map, so covenants
read well in a lease. Landlords like to have 'em, and tenants a'n't
"You can hardly be serious in either case, I should hope, Mr.
Newcome, but are pleased to exercise your ingenuity on us for your own
amusement. There is nothing so particular in the covenants of your
lease as to require any case of conscience to decide on its points."
"There 's this in it, major, that you get the whull property back
ag'in, if you choose to claim it."
"Claim it!—The whole property has been mine, or my predecessors',
ever since it was granted to us by the crown. All your rights
come from your lease; and when that terminates, your rights
"Not accordin' to my judgment, major; not accordin' to my judgment.
I built the mills, at my own cost, you 'll remember."
"I certainly know, sir, that you built the mills, at what you call
your own cost; that is, you availed yourself of a natural mill-seat,
used our timber and other materials, and constructed the mills, such
as they are, looking for your reward in their use for the term of a
quarter of a century, for a mere nominal rent — having saw-logs at
command as you wanted them, and otherwise enjoying privileges under
one of the most liberal leases that was ever granted."
"Yes, sir, but that was in
the bargain I made with your
grand'ther. It was agreed between us, at the time I took the
place, that I was to cut logs at will, and of course use the
materials on the ground for buildin'. You see, major, your grand'ther
wanted mills built desperately; and so he gave them conditions
accordin'ly. You 'll find every syllable on't in the lease."
"No doubt, Mr. Newcome; and you will also find a covenant in the
same lease, by which your interest in the property is to cease in a
"Wa-a-ll, now, I don't understand leases in that way. Surely it was
never intended a man should erect mills, to lose all right in 'em at
the end of five-and-twenty years!"
"That will depend on the bargain made at the time. Some persons
erect mills and houses that have no rights in them at all. They are
paid for their work as they build."
"Yes, yes—carpenters and mill-wrights, you mean. But I 'm
speakin' of no such persons; I 'm speakin' of honest, hard-workin',
industrious folks, that give their labour and time to build up a
settlement; and not of your mechanics who work for hire. Of course,
they 're to be paid for what they do, and there 's an eend on 't."
"I am not aware that all honest persons are hard-working, and more
than that all hard-working persons are honest. I wish to be understood that, in the first place, Mr. Newcome. Phrases will procure no
concession from me. I agree with you, however, perfectly, in saying
that when a man is paid for his work, there will be what you call `an
end of it.' Now, twenty-three days from this moment, you will have
been paid for all you have done on my property according to your own
agreement; and, by your own reasoning, there must be an end of your
connection with that property."
"The major doosn't ra-a-lly mean to rob me of all my hard earnin's!"
rob is a hard word, and one I beg that may not
be again used between you and me. I have no intention to rob you, or
to let you rob me. The pretence that you are not, and were not
acquainted with the conditions of this lease, comes rather late in the
day, after a possession of a quarter of a century. You know very well
that my grandfather would not sell, and that he would do no more than
lease; if it were your wish to purchase, why did you not go elsewhere,
and get land in fee? There were, and are still, thousands of acres to
be sold, all around you. I have lands to sell, myself, at Mooseridge,
as the agent of my father and colonel Follock, within twenty miles of
you, and they tell me capital mill-seats in the bargain."
"Yes, major, but not so much to my notion as this—I kind o'
"But, I kind o' want this, too; and, as it is mine, I think, in
common equity, I have the best claim to enjoy it."
"It 's on equity I want to put this very matter, major — I know
the law is ag'in me—that is, some people say it is; but, some think
not, now we 've had a revolution — but, let the law go as it may,
there 's such a thing as what I call right between man and man."
"Certainly; and law is an invention to enforce it. It is right I
should do exactly what my grandfather agreed to do for me,
five-and-twenty years ago, in relation to these mills; and it is right
you should do what you agreed to do, for yourself."
have done so. I agreed to build the mills, in a sartain
form and mode, and I done it. I 'll defy mortal man to say otherwise.
The saw-mill was smashing away at the logs within two months a'ter I
got the lease, and we began to grind in four!"
"No doubt, sir, you were active and industrious—though to be
frank with you, I will say that competent judges tell me neither mill
is worth much now."
"That 's on account of the lease"—cried Mr. Newcome, a little too
hastily, possibly, for the credit of his discretion— "how did I know
when it would run out. Your gran'ther granted it for three lives, and
twenty-one years afterwards, and I did all a man could to make it last
as long as I should myself; but, here I am, in the prime of life, and
in danger of losing my property!"
I knew all the facts of the case perfectly, and had intended to
deal liberally with Mr. Newcome from the first. In his greediness for
gain he had placed his lives on three infants, although my grandfather
had advised him to place at least one on himself; but, no — Mr.
Newcome had fancied the life of an infant better than that of a man;
and in three or four years after the signature of the lease, his
twenty-one years had begun to run, and were now near expiring. Even
under this certainly unlooked-for state of things, the lease had been
a very advantageous one for the tenant; and, had one of his lives
lasted a century, the landlord would have looked in vain for any
concession on that account; landlords never asking for, or expecting
favours of that sort; indeed most landlords would be ashamed to
receive them; nevertheless, I was disposed to consider the
circumstances, to overlook the fact that the mills and all the other
buildings on the property were indifferently built, and to re-let for
an additional term of twenty-one years, wood-lands, farms, buildings
and other privileges, for about one-third of the money that Mr.
Newcome himself would have been apt to ask, had he the letting instead
of myself. Unwilling to prolong a discussion with a man who, by his
very nature, was unequal to seeing more than one side of a subject, I
cut the matter short, by telling him my terms without further delay.
Notwithstanding all his acting and false feeling, the 'squire was
so rejoiced to learn my moderation, that he could not but openly
express his feelings; a thing he would not have done, did he not
possess the moral certainty I would not depart from my word. I felt it
necessary, however, to explain myself.
"Before I give you this new lease, Mr. Newcome," I added, holding
the instrument signed in my hand, "I wish to be understood. It is not
granted under the notion that you have any right to ask it, beyond the
allowance that is always made by a liberal landlord to a reasonably good tenant; which is simply a preference over others on the same
terms. As for the early loss of your lives, it was your own fault. Had
the infants you named, or had one of them passed the state of
childhood, it might have lived to be eighty, in which case my
timber-land would have been stripped without any return to its true
owner; but, your children died, and the lease was brought within
reasonable limits. Now, the only inducement I have for offering the
terms I do, is the liberality that is usual with landlords; what is
conceded is conceded as no right, but as an act of liberality."
This was presenting to my tenant the most incomprehensible of all
reasons for doing anything. A close and sordid calculator himself, he
was not accustomed to give any man credit for generosity; and, from
the doubting, distrustful manner in which he received the paper, I
suspected at the moment that he was afraid there was some project for
taking him in. A rogue is always distrustful, and as often betrays his
character to honest men by that as by any other failing. I was not to
regulate my own conduct, however, by the weaknesses of Jason Newcome,
and the lease was granted.
I could wish here to make one remark. There ought certainly to be
the same principle of good fellowship existing between the relations
of landlord and tenant that exist in the other relations of life, and
which creates a moral tie between parties that have much connection in
their ordinary interests, and that to a degree to produce preferences
and various privileges of a similar character. This I am far from
calling in question; and, on the whole, I think of all that class of
relations, the one in question is to be set down as among the most
binding and sacred. Still, the mere moral rights of the tenant must
depend on the rigid maintenance of all the rights of the landlord; the
legal and moral united; and the man who calls in question either of
the latter, surely violates every claim to have his own pretensions
allowed, beyond those which the strict letter of the law will yield
to him. The landlord who will grant a new lease to the individual
who is endeavouring to undermine his rights, by either direct or
indirect means, commits the weakness of arming an enemy with the knife
by which he is himself to be assaulted, in addition to the error of
granting power to a man who, under the character of a spurious
liberty, is endeavouring to unsettle the only conditions on which
civilized society can exist. If landlords will exhibit this
weakness, they must blame themselves for the consequences.
I got rid of Mr. Newcome by the grant of the lease, his whole
manoeuvring having been attempted solely to lower the rent; for he
was much too shrewd to believe in the truth of his own doctrines on
the subject of right and wrong. That same day my axe-men appeared at
the 'Nest, having passed the intermediate time in looking at various
tracts of land that were in the market, and which they had not found
so eligible, in the way of situation, quality, or terms, as those I
offered. By this time, the surveyed lots of Mooseridge were ready, and
I offered to sell them to these emi grants. The price was only a
dollar an acre, with a credit of ten years; the interest to be paid
annually. One would have thought that the lowness of the price would
have induced men to prefer lands in fee to lands on lease; but these
persons, to a man, found it more to their interests to take farms on
three-lives leases, being rent-free for the first five years, and at
nominal rents for the remainder of the term, than to pay seven dollars
a year of interest, and a hundred dollars in money, at the expiration
of the credit.
 This fact, of itself, goes to show how closely these men
calculated their means, and the effect their decisions might have on
their interests. Nor were their decisions always wrong. Those who can
remember the start the country took shortly after the peace of '83,
the prices that the settlers on new lands obtained for their wheat,
ashes and pork; three dollars a bushel often for the first, three
hundred dollars a ton for the second, and eight or ten dollars a
hundred for the last, will at once understand that the occupant of new
lands at that period obtained enormous wages for a labourer by means
of the rich unexhausted lands he was thus permitted to occupy. No
doubt he would have been in a better situation had he owned his farm
in fee at the end of his lease; so would the merchant who builds a
ship and clears her cost by her first freight, have been a richer man
had he cleared the cost of two ships instead of one; but he has done
well, notwithstanding; and it is not to be forgotten that the man who
commences life with an axe and a little household furniture, is in
the situation of a mere day-labourer. The addit on to his means of the
use of land is the very circumstance that enables him to rise above
his humble position, and to profit by the cultivation of the soil. At
the close of the last century, and at the commencement of the present,
the country was so placed as to render every stroke of the axe
directly profitable, the very labour that was expended in clearing
away the trees meeting with a return so liberal by the sale of the
ashes manufactured, as to induce even speculators to engage in the
occupation. It may one day be a subject of curious inquiry to
ascertain how so much was done as is known to have been done at that
period, towards converting the wilderness into a garden; and I will
here record, for the benefit of posterity, a brief sketch of one of
the processes of getting to be comfortable, if not rich, that was
much used in that day.
It was a season's work for a skilful axe-man to chop, log, burn,
clear and sow ten acres of forest-land. The ashes he manufactured. For
the heavier portions of the work, such as the logging, he called on
his neighbours for aid, rendering similar assistance by way of
payment. One yoke of oxen frequently sufficed for two or three farms,
and "logging-bees" have given rise to a familiar expression among us,
that is known as legislative "log-rolling;" a process by which as is
well known, one set of members supports the project of another set, on
the principle of reciprocity.
Now, ten acres of land, cropped for the first time, might very well
yield a hundred and fifty bushels of merchantable wheat, which would
bring three hundred dollars in the Albany market. They would also make
a ton of pot-ashes, which would sell for at least two hundred dollars.
This is giving five hundred dollars for a single year's work. Allowing
for all the drawbacks of building, tools, chains, transportation,
provisions, &c., and one-half of this money might very fairly be set
down as clear profit; very large returns to one who, before he got his
farm, was in the situation of a mere day-labourer, content to toil for
eight or ten dollars the month.
That such was the history, in its outlines, of the rise of
thousands of the yeomen who now dwell in New York, is undeniable; and
it goes to show that if the settler in a new country has to encounter
toil and privations, they are not always without their quick rewards.
In these later times, men go on the open prairies, and apply the
plough to an ancient sward; but I question if they would not rather
encounter the virgin forests of 1790, with the prices of that day,
that run over the present park-like fields, in order to raise wheat
for 37½ cents per bushel, have no ashes at any price, and sell their
pork at two dollars the hundred!
"Intent to blend her with his lot,
Fate form'd her all that he was not;
And, as by mere unlikeness, thought—
Associate we see,
Their hearts, from very difference, caught
A perfect sympathy."
All this time, I saw Ursula Malbone daily, and at all hours of the
day. Inmates of the same dwelling, we met constantly, and many were
the interviews and conversations which took place between us. Had Dus
been the most finished coquette in existence, her practised ingenuity
could not have devised more happy expedients to awaken interest in me
than those which were really put in use by this singular girl, without
the slightest intention of bringing about any such result. Indeed, it
was the nature, the total absence of art, that formed one of the
brightest attractions of her character, and gave so keen a zest to her
cleverness and beauty. In that day, females, while busied in the
affairs of their household, appeared in "short-gown and petticoat,"
as it was termed, a species of livery that even ladies often assumed
of a morning. The toilette was of far wider range in 1784 than
it is now, the distinctions between morning and evening dress being
much broader then than at present. As soon as she was placed really at
the head of her brother's house, Ursula Malbone set about the duties
of her new station quietly and without the slightest fuss, but
actively and with interest. She seemed to me to possess, in a high
degree, that particular merit of carrying on the details of her office
in a silent, unobtrusive manner, while they were performed most
effectually and entirely to the comfort of those for whose benefit her
care was exercised. I am not one of those domestic canters who fancy a
woman, in order to make a good wife, needs be a drudge and possess the
knowledge of a cook or a laundress; but it is certainly of great
importance that she have the faculty of presiding over her family with
intelligence, and an attention that is suited to her means of
expenditure. Most of all is it important that she knows how to govern
without being seen or heard.
The wife of an educated man should be an educated woman; one fit to
be his associate, qualified to mingle her tastes with his own, to
exchange ideas, and otherwise to be his companion, in an intellectual
sense. These are the higher requisites; a gentleman accepting the
minor qualifications as so many extra advantages, if kept within their
proper limits; but as positive disadvantages if they interfere with,
or in any manner mar the manners, temper, or mental improvement of the
woman whom he has chosen as his wife, and not as his domestic. Some
sacrifices may be necessary in those cases in which cultivation exists
without a sufficiency of means; but, even then, it is seldom indeed
that a woman of the proper qualities may not be prevented from sinking
to the level of a menial. As for the cant of the newspapers on such
subjects, it usually comes from those whose homes are merely places
for "board and lodging."
The address with which Dus discharged all the functions of her new
station, while she avoided those that were unseemly and out of place,
charmed me almost as much as her spirit, character and beauty. The
negroes removed all necessity for her descending to absolute toil; and
with what pretty, feminine dexterity did she perform the duties that
properly belonged to her station! Always cheerful, frequently
singing, not in a noisy milk-maid mood, but at those moments when she
might fancy herself unheard, and in sweet, plaintive songs that seemed
to recall the scenes of other days. Always cheerful, however, is
saying a little too much; for, occasionally, Dus was sad. I found her
in tears three or four times, but did not dare inquire into their
cause. There was scarce time, indeed; for, the instant I appeared,
she dried her eyes, and received me with smiles.
It is scarcely necessary to say that to me the time passed
pleasantly, and amazingly fast. Chainbearer remained at the Nest by
my orders, for he would not yield to requests; and I do not remember a
more delightful month than that proved to be. I made a very general
acquaintance with my tenants, and found many of them as
straight-forward, honest, hard-working yeomen, as one could wish to
meet. My brother major, in particular, was a hearty old fellow, and
often came to see me, living on the farm that adjoined my own. He
growled a little about the sect that had got possession of the new
`meetin'-us," but did it in a way to show there was not much gall in
his own temperament.
"I don't rightly understand these majority-matters," said the old
fellow, one day that we were talking the matter over, "though I very
well know Newcome always manages to get one, let the folks think as
they will. I've known the 'squire contrive to cut a majority out of
about a fourth of all present, and he does it in a way that is
desp'ret ingen'ous, I will allow, though I 'm afeard it 's neither law
"He certainly managed, in the affair of the denomination, to make a
plurality of one appear in the end to be a very handsome majority over
"Ay, there's twists and turns in these things, that's beyond my
l'arnin', though I s'pose all's right. It don't matter much in the
long run, a'ter all, where a man worships, provided he worships; or
who preaches, so that he listens."
I think this liberality—if that be the proper word—in religious
matters, is fast increasing among us; though liberality may be but
another term for indifference. As for us Episcopalians, I wonder there
are any left in the country, though we are largely on the increase.
There we were, a church that insisted on Episcopal ministrations—on
confirmation in particular—left for a century without a bishop, and
unable to conform to practices that it was insisted on were essential,
and this solely because it did not suit the policy of the
mother-country to grant us prelates of our own, or to send us,
occasionally even, one of her's! How miserable do human expedients
often appear when they are tried by the tests of common sense! A
church of God, insisting on certain spi ritual essentials that it
denies to a portion of its people, in order to conciliate worldly
interests! It is not the church of England alone, however, nor the
government of England, that is justly obnoxious to such an accusation;
something equally bad and just as inconsistent, attaching itself to
the ecclesiastical influence of every other system in christendom
under which the state is tied to religion by means of human
provisions. The mistake is in connecting the things of the world with
the things that are of God.
Alas!—alas! When you sever that pernicious tie, is the matter
much benefited? How is it among ourselves? Are not sects, and shades
of sects, springing up among us on every side, until the struggle
between parsons is getting to be not who shall aid in making most
Christians, but who shall gather into his fold most sectarians? As for
the people themselves, instead of regarding churches, even after they
have established them, and that too very much on their own authority,
they first consider their own tastes, enmities and predilections,
respecting the priest far more than the altar, and set themselves up
as a sort of religious constituencies, who are to be represented
directly in the government of Christ's followers on earth. Half of a
parish will fly off in a passion to another denomination if they
happen to fall into a minority. Truly, a large portion of our people
is beginning to act in this matter, as if they had a sense of "giving
their support" to the Deity, patronising him in this temple or the
other, as may suit the feeling or the interest of the moment.
But, I am not writing homilies, and will return to the Nest and my
friends. A day or two after Mr. Newcome received his new lease,
Chainbearer, Frank, Dus and I were in the little arbour that
overlooked the meadows, when we saw Sureflint, moving at an Indian's
pace, along a path that came out of the forest, and which was known to
lead towards Mooseridge. The Onondago carried his rifle as usual, and
bore on his back a large bunch of something that we supposed to be
game, though the distance prevented our discerning its precise
character. In half a minute he disappeared behind a projection of the
cliffs, trotting towards the buildings.
"My friend, the Trackless, has been absent from us now a longer
time than usual," Ursula remarked, as she turned her head from
following the Indian's movements, as long as he remained in sight;
"but he re-appears loaded with something for our benefit."
"He has passed most of his time of late with your uncle, I
believe," I answered, following Dus's fine eyes with my own, the
pleasantest pursuit I could discover in that remote quarter of the
world. "I have written this to my father, who will be glad to hear
tidings of his old friend."
"He is much with my uncle, as you say, being greatly attached to
him. Ah! here he comes, with such a load on his shoulders as an Indian
does not love to bear; though even a chief will condescend to carry
As Dus ceased speaking, Sureflint threw a large bunch of pigeons,
some two or three dozen birds, at her feet, turning away quietly, like
one who had done his part of the work, and who left the remainder to
be managed by the squaws.
"Thank you, Trackless," said the pretty housekeeper— "thank'ee
kindly. These are beautiful birds, and as fat as butter. We shall have
them cleaned, and cooked in all manner of ways."
"All squab — just go to fly — take him ebbery one in nest,"
answered the Indian.
"Nests must be plenty, then, and I should like to visit them," I
cried, remembering to have heard strange marvels of the multitudes of
pigeons that were frequently found in their `roosts,' as the
encampments they made in the woods were often termed in the parlance
of the country. "Can we not go in a body and visit this roost?"
"It might pe tone," answered the Chainbearer; "it might pe tone,
and it is time we wast moving in t'eir tirection, if more lant is to
pe surveyet, ant t'ese pirts came from t'e hill I suppose t'ey do.
Mooseridge promiset to have plenty of pigeons t'is season."
"Just so"—answered Sureflint. "Million, t'ousan', hundred— more
too. Nebber see more; nebber see so many. Great Spirit don't forget
poor Injin; sometime give him deer — sometime salmon — sometime
pigeon — plenty for ebbery body; only t'ink so."
"Ay, Sureflint; only t'ink so, inteet, and t'ere is enough for us
all, and plenty to spare. Got is pountiful to us, put we ton't often
know how to use his pounty," answered Chainbearer, who had been
examining the birds — "Finer squaps arn't often met wit'; and I too
shoult like amazingly to see one more roost, pefore I go to roost
"As for the visit to the roost," cried I, "that is settled for
to-morrow. But a man who has just come out of a war like the last,
into peaceable times, has no occasion to speak of his end,
Chainbearer. You are old in years, but young in mind, as well as body."
"Bot' nearly wore out—bot' nearly wore out! It is well to tell an
olt fool t'e contrary, put I know petter. T'ree score and ten is man's
time, and I haf fillet up t'e numper of my tays. Got knows pest, when
it wilt pe his own pleasure to call me away; put, let it come when it
will, I shall now tie happy, comparet wit' what I shoult haf tone a
"You surprise me, my dear friend! What has happened to make this
difference in your feelings?—It cannot be that you are changed in
"'T'e tifference is in Dus's prospects. Now Frank has a goot place,
my gal will not pe forsaken."
"Forsaken! Dus — Ursula — Miss Malbone forsaken!
could never happen, Andries, Frank or no Frank."
"I hope not—I hope not, lat—put t'e gal pegins to weep, and
we'll talk no more apout it. Harkee, Susquesus; my olt frient, can you
guite us to t'is roost?"
"Why no do it, eh? — Path wide — open whole way. Plain as
"Well, t'en, we wilt all pe off for t'e place in t'e mornin'. My
new assistant is near, and it is high time Frank and I hat gone into
t'e woots ag'in."
I heard this arrangement made, though my eyes were following Dus,
who had started from her seat, and rushed into the house, endeavouring
to hide emotions that were not to be hushed. A minute later I saw her
at the window of her own room, smiling, though the cloud had not yet
Next morning early our whole party left the Nest for the hut at
Mooseridge, and the pigeon-roosts. Dus and the black female servant
travelled on horseback, there being no want of cattle at the Nest,
where, as I now learned, my grandfather had left a quarter of a
century before, among a variety of other articles, several
side-saddles. The rest of us proceeded on foot, though we had no less
than three sumpter beasts to carry our food, instruments, clothes, &c.
Each man was armed, almost as a matter of course in that day, though
I carried a double-barrelled fowling-piece myself, instead of a rifle.
Susquesus acted as our guide.
We were quite an hour before we reached the limits of the settled
farms on my own property; after which, we entered the virgin forest.
In consequence of the late war, which had brought everything like the
settlement of the country to a dead stand, a new district had then
little of the straggling, suburb-like clearings, which are apt now to
encircle the older portions of a region that is in the state of
transition. On the contrary, the last well-fenced and reasonably
well-cultivated farm passed, we plunged into the boundless woods, and
took a complete leave of nearly every vestige of civilized life, as
one enters the fields on quitting a town in France. There was a path,
it is true, following the line of blazed trees; but it was scarcely
beaten, and was almost as illegible as a bad hand. Still, one
accustomed to the forest had little difficulty in following it; and
Susquesus would have had none in finding his way, had there been no
path at all. As for the Chainbearer, he moved forward too, with the
utmost precision and confidence, the habit of running straight lines
amid trees having given his eye an accuracy that almost equalled the
species of instinct that was manifested by the Trackless himself, on
This was a pleasant little journey, the depths of the forest
rendering the heats of the season as agreeable as was possible. We
were four hours in reaching the foot of the little mountain on which
the birds had built their nests, where we halted to take some
Little time is lost at meals in the forest, and we were soon ready
to ascend the hill. The horses were left with the blacks, Dus
accompanying us on foot. As we left the spring where we had halted, I
offered her an arm to aid in the ascent; but she declined it,
apparently much amused that it should have been offered.
"What I, a chainbearess!" she cried, laughing—"I, who have fairly
wearied out Frank, and even made my uncle feel tired, though he
would never own it — I accept an arm to help me up a hill!
You forget, major Littlepage, that the first ten years of my life were
passed in a forest, and that a year's practice has brought back all my
old habits, and made me a girl of the woods again."
"I scarce know what to make of you, for you seem fitted for any
situation in which you may happen to be thrown," I answered, profiting
by the circumstance that we were out of the hearing of our companions,
who had all moved ahead, to utter more than I otherwise might venture
to say — "at one time I fancy you the daughter of one of my own
tenants; at another, the heiress of some ancient patroon."
Dus laughed again; then she blushed; and, for the remainder of the
short ascent, she remained silent. Short the ascent was, and we were
soon on the summit of the hill. So far from needing my assistance, Dus
actually left me behind, exerting herself in a way that brought her up
at the side of the Trackless, who led our van. Whether this was done
in order to prove how completely she was a forest girl, or whether my
words had aroused those feelings that are apt to render a female
impulsive, is more than I can say even now; though I suspected at the
time that the latter sensations had quite as much to do with this
extraordinary activity as the former. I was not far behind, however,
and when our party came fairly upon the roost, the Trackless, Dus and
myself, were all close together.
I scarce know how to describe that remarkable scene. As we drew
near to the summit of the hill, pigeons began to be seen fluttering
among the branches over our heads, as individuals are met along the
roads that lead into the suburbs of a large town. We had probably seen
a thousand birds glancing around among the trees, before we came in
view of the roost itself. The numbers increased as we drew nearer,
and presently the forest was alive with them. The fluttering was
incessant, and often startling as we passed ahead, our march producing
a movement in the living crowd, that really became confounding. Every
tree was literally covered with nests, many having at least a thousand
of these frail tenements on their branches, and shaded by the leaves.
They often touched each other, a wonderful degree of order prevailing
among the hundreds of thousands of families that were here assembled.
The place had the odour of a fowl-house, and squabs just fledged
sufficiently to trust themselves in short flights, were fluttering
around us in all directions, in tens of thousands. To these were to be
added the parents of the young race endeavouring to protect them, and
guide them in a way to escape harm. Although the birds rose as we
approached, and the woods just around us seemed fairly alive with
pigeons, our presence produced no general commotion; every one of the
feathered throng appearing to be so much occupied with its own
concerns, as to take little heed of the visit of a party of strangers,
though of a race usually so formidable to their own. The masses moved
before us precisely as a crowd of human beings yields to a pressure or
a danger on any given point; the vacuum created by its passage filling
in its rear, as the water of the ocean flows into the track of the
The effect on most of us was confounding, and I can only compare
the sensation produced on myself by the extraordinary tumult to that a
man experiences at finding himself suddenly placed in the midst of an
excited throng of human beings. The unnatural disregard of our persons
manifested by the birds greatly heightened the effect, and caused me
to feel as if some unearthly influence reigned in the place. It was
strange, indeed, to be in a mob of the feathered race, that scarce
exhibited a consciousness of one's presence. The pigeons seemed a
world of themselves, and too much occupied with their own concerns to
take heed of matters that lay beyond them.
Not one of our party spoke for several minutes. Astonishment seemed
to hold us all tongue-tied, and we moved slowly forward into the
fluttering throng, silent, absorbed, and full of admiration of the
works of the Creator. It was not easy to hear each other's voices when
we did speak, the incessant fluttering of wings filling the air. Nor
were the birds silent in other respects. The pigeon is not a noisy
creature, but a million crowded together on the summit of one hill,
occupying a space of less than a mile square, did not leave the
forest in its ordinary impressive stillness. As we advanced, I
offered my arm, almost unconsciously, again to Dus, and she took it
with the same abstracted manner as that in which it had been held
forth for her acceptance. In this relation to each other, we continued
to follow the grave-looking Onondago, as he moved, still deeper and
deeper, into the midst of the fluttering tumult.
At this instant there occurred an interruption that, I am ready
enough to confess, caused the blood to rush towards my own heart in a
flood. As for Dus, she clung to me, as woman will cling to man, when
he possesses her confidence, and she feels that she is insufficient
for her own support. Both hands were on my arm, and I felt that,
unconsciously, her form was pressing closer to mine, in a manner she
would have carefully avoided in a moment of perfect self-possession.
Nevertheless, I cannot say that Dus was afraid. Her colour was
heightened, her charming eyes were filled with a wonder that was not
unmixed with curiosity, but her air was spirited in spite of a scene
that might try the nerves of the boldest man. Sureflint and
Chainbearer were alone totally unmoved; for they had been at pigeon's
roosts before, and knew what to expect. To them the wonders of the
woods were no longer novel. Each stood leaning on his rifle, and
smiling at our evident astonishment. I am wrong; the Indian did not
even smile; for that would have been an unusual indication of feeling
for him to manifest; but he did betray a sort of covert
consciousness that the scene must be astounding to us. But, I will
endeavour to explain what it was that so largely increased the first
effect of our visit.
While standing wondering at the extraordinary scene around us, a
noise was heard rising above that of the incessant fluttering, which I
can only liken to that of the trampling of thousands of horses on a
beaten road. This noise at first sounded distant, but it increased
rapidly in proximity and power, until it came rolling in upon us,
among the tree-tops, like a crash of thunder. The air was suddenly
darkened, and the place where we stood as sombre as a dusky twilight.
At the same instant, all the pigeons near us, that had been on their
nests, appeared to fall out of them, and the space immediately above
our heads was at once filled with birds. Chaos itself could hardly
have represented greater confusion, or a greater uproar. As for the
birds, they now seemed to disregard our presence entirely; possibly
they could not see us on account of their own numbers; for they
fluttered in between Dus and myself, hitting us with their wings, and
at times appearing as if about to bury us in avalanches of pigeons.
Each of us caught one at least in our hands, while Chainbearer and the
Indian took them in some numbers, letting one prisoner go as another
was taken. In a word, we seemed to be in a world of pigeons. This part
of the scene may have lasted a minute, when the space around us was
suddenly cleared, the birds glancing upwards among the branches of the
trees, disappearing among the foliage. All this was the effect
produced by the return of the female birds, which had been off at a
distance, some twenty miles at least, to feed on beechnuts, and which
now assumed the places of the males on the nests; the latter taking a
flight to get their meal in their turn.
I have since had the curiosity to make a sort of an estimate of the
number of the birds that must have come in upon the roost, in that, to
us, memorable minute. Such a calculation, as a matter of course, must
be very vague, though one may get certain principles by estimating the
size of a flock by the known rapidity of the flight, and other
similar means; and I remember that Frank Malbone and myself supposed
that a million of birds must have come in on that return, and as many
departed! As the pigeon is a very voracious bird, the question is apt
to present itself, where food is obtained for so many mouths; but,
when we remember the vast extent of the American forests, this
difficulty is at once met. Admitting that the colony we visited
contained many millions of birds, and, counting old and young, I have
no doubt it did, there was probably a fruitbearing tree for each,
within an hour's flight from that very spot!
Such is the scale on which nature labours in the wilderness! I have
seen insects fluttering in the air at particular seasons, and at
particular places, until they formed little clouds; a sight every one
must have witnessed on many occasions; and as those insects appeared,
on their diminished scale, so did the pigeons appear to us at the
roost of Mooseridge. We passed an hour in the town of the birds,
finding our tongues and our other faculties as we became accustomed
to our situation. In a short time, even Dus grew as composed as at all
comported with the excitement natural to one in such a place; and we
studied the habits of the pretty animals with a zest that I found so
much the greater for studying them in her company. At the end of the
hour we left the hill, our departure producing no more sensation in
that countless tribe of pigeons than our arrival.
"It is a proof that numbers can change our natures," said Dus, as
we descended the little mountain. "Here have we been almost in contact
with pigeons which would not have suffered us to come within a hundred
feet of them had they been in ordinary flocks, or as single birds. Is
it that numbers give them courage?"
"Confidence, rather. It is just so with men; who will exhibit an
indifference in crowds that they rarely possess when alone. The
sights, interruptions, and even dangers that will draw all our
attention when with a few, often seem indifferent to us when in the
tumult of a throng of fellow-creatures."
"What is meant by a panic in an army, then?"
"It is following the same law, making man subject to the impulses
of those around him. If the impulse be onward, onward we go; if for
retreat, we run like sheep. If occupied with ourselves as a body, we
disregard trifling interruptions, as these pigeons have just done in
our own case. Large bodies of animals, whether human or not, seem to
become subject to certain general laws that increase the power of the
whole over the acts and feelings of any one or any few of their
"According to that rule, our new republican form of government
ought to be a very strong one; though I have heard many express their
fears it will be no government at all."
"Unless a miracle be wrought in our behalf, it will be the
strongest government in the world for certain purposes, and the
weakest for others. It professes a principle of selfpreservation that
is not enjoyed by other systems, since the people must revolt against
themselves to overturn it; but, on the other hand, it will want the
active, living principle of steady, consistent justice, since there
will be no independent power whose duty and whose interest it will be
to see it administered. The wisest man I ever knew has prophesied to
me that this is the point on which our system will break down;
rendering the character, the person and the property of the citizen
insecure, and consequently the institutions odious to those who once
have loved them."
"I trust there is no danger of that!" said Dus, quickly.
"There is danger from everything that man controls. We have those
among us who preach the possible perfection of the human race,
maintaining the gross delusion that men are what they are known to be,
merely because they have been ill-governed; and a more dangerous
theory, in my poor judgment, cannot be broached."
"You think, then, that the theory is false?"
"Beyond a question—governments are oftener spoiled by men than
men by governments; though the last certainly have a marked influence
on character. The best government of which we know anything, is that
of the universe; and it is so, merely because it proceeds from a
single will, that will being without blemish."
"Your despotic governments are said to be the very worst in the
"They are good or bad as they happen to be administered. The
necessity of maintaining such governments by force renders them often
oppressive; but a government of numbers may become even more despotic
than that of an individual; since the people will, in some mode or
other, always sustain the oppressed as against the despot, but
rarely, or never, as against themselves. You saw that those pigeons
lost their instinct, under the impulse given by numbers. God for ever
protect me against the tyranny of numbers!"
"But everybody says our system is admirable, and the best in the
world; and even a despot's government is the government of a man."
"It is one of the effects of numbers that men shrink from speaking
the truth, when they find themselves opposed to large majorities. As
respects self-rule, the colonies were ever freer than the mother
country; and we are, as yet, merely pursuing our ancient practices,
substituting allegiance to the confederation for allegiance to the
king. The difference is not sufficiently material to produce early
changes. We are to wait until that which there is of new principles in
our present system shall have time to work radical changes, when we
shall begin to ascertain how much better we really are than our
Dus and I continued to converse on this subject until she got again
into the saddle. I was delighted with her good sense and intelligence,
which were made apparent more in the pertinacity of her questions than
by any positive knowledge she had on such subjects, which usually have
very few attractions for young women. Nevertheless, Dus had an
activity of mind and a readiness of perception that supplied many of
the deficiencies of education on these points; and I do not remember
to have ever been engaged in a political discussion from which I
derived so much satisfaction. I must own, however, it is possible that
the golden hair flying about a face that was just as ruddy as
comported with the delicacy of the sex, the rich mouth, the brilliant
teeth, and the spirited and yet tender blue eyes, may have increased
a wisdom that I found so remarkable.
"Fie, fie, fond love, thou art so full of fear,
As one with treasure laden, hemmed with thieves;
Trifles, unwitnessed with eye or ear,
Thy coward heart with false bethinking grieves."
Venus and Adonis.
The hut, or huts of Chainbearer, had far more comfort in and around
them, than I was prepared to find. They were three in number, one
having been erected as a kitchen, and a place to contain the male
slaves; another for the special accommodation of Ursula and the female
black; and the third to receive men. The eating-room was attached to
the kitchen; and all these buildings, which had now stood an entire
year, were constructed of logs, and were covered with bark. They were
roughly made, as usual; but that appropriated to Dus was so much
superior to the others in its arrangements, internal and external, as
at once to denote the presence and the influence of woman. It may have
some interest with the reader briefly to describe the place.
Quite as a matter of course, a spring had been found, as the first
consideration in "locating," as it is called by that portion of our
people who get upon their conversational stilts. The spring burst out
of the side of a declivity, the land stretching away, for more than a
mile from its foot, in an inclined plane that was densely covered with
some of the noblest elms, beeches, maples and black birches, I have
ever seen. This spot, the Chainbearer early assured me, was the most
valuable of all the lands of Mooseridge. He had selected it because it
was central, and particularly clear from underbrush; besides having no
stagnant water near it. In other respects, it was like any other point
in that vast forest; being dark, shaded, and surrounded by the
magnificence of a bountiful vegetation.
Here Chainbearer had erected his hut, a low, solid structure of
pine logs, that were picturesque in appearance, and not without their
rude comforts, in their several ways. These buildings were irregularly
placed, though the spring was in their control. The kitchen and
eating-room was nearest the water; at no great distance from these was
the habitation of the men; while the smaller structure, which Frank
Malbone laughingly termed the "harem," stood a little apart, on a
slight spur of land, but within fifty yards of Andries' own lodgings.
Boards had been cut by hand, for the floors and doors of these huts,
though no building but the "harem" had any window that was glazed.
This last had two such windows, and Frank had even taken care to
provide for his sister's dwelling, rude but strong window-shutters.
As for defences against an enemy, they were no longer thought of
within the limits of New York. Block-houses, and otherwise fortified
dwellings, had been necessary, so long as the French possessed Canada;
but, after the capture of that colony, few had deemed any such
precautions called for, until the war of the revolution brought a
savage foe once more among the frontier settlements; frontier, as to
civilization, if not as to territory. With the termination of that
war had ceased this, the latest demand for provisions of that nature;
and the Chainbearer had not thought of using any care to meet the
emergencies of violence, in "making his pitch."
Nevertheless, each hut would have been a reasonably strong post, on
an emergency; the logs being bullet-proof, and still remaining
undecayed and compact. Palisades were not thought of now, nor was
there any covered means of communicating between one hut and another.
In a word, whatever there might be in the way of security in these
structures, was the result of the solidity of their material, and of
the fashion of building that was then, and is still customary
everywhere in the forest. As against wild beasts there was entire
protection, and other enemies were no longer dreaded. Around the huts
there were no enclosures of any sort, nor any other cleared land, than
a spot of about half an acre in extent, off of which had been cut the
small pines that furnished the logs of which they were built. A few
vegetables had been put into the ground at the most open point; but a
fence being unnecessary, none had been built. As for the huts, they
stood completely shaded by the forest, the pines having been cut on an
eminence a hundred yards distant. This spot, however, small as it was,
brought enough of the commoner sort of plants to furnish a frugal
Such was the spot that was then known in all that region by the
name of the "Chainbearer's Huts." This name has been retained, and the
huts are still standing, circumstances having rendered them memorable
in my personal history, and caused me to direct their preservation, at
least as long as I shall live. As the place had been inhabited a
considerable time that spring and summer, it bore some of the other
signs of the presence of man; but, on the whole, its character as a
residence was that of deep forest seclusion. In point of fact, it
stood buried in the woods, distant fully fifteen miles from the
nearest known habitation, and in so much removed from the comfort,
succour and outward communications of civilized life. These isolated
abodes, however, are by no means uncommon in the State, even at the
present hour; and it is probable that some of them will be to be
found during the whole of this century. It is true, that the western,
middle, southern, south-western, north-western and north-eastern
counties of New York, all of which were wild, or nearly so, at the
time of which I am writing, are already well settled, or are fast
filling up; but, there is a high, mountainous region, in
middle-northern New York, which will remain virtually a wilderness, I
should think, for quite a century, if not longer. I have travelled
through this district of wilderness very lately, and have found it
picturesque and well suited for the sportsman, abounding in deer,
fish and forest-birds, but not so much suited to the commoner wants of
man, as to bring it very soon into demand for the ordinary purposes of
the husbandman. If this quarter of the country do not fall into the
hands of lawless squatters and plunderers of one sort and another, of
which there is always some danger in a country of so great extent, it
will become a very pleasant resort of the sportsman, who is likely to
soon lose his haunts in the other quarters of the State.
Jaap had brought over some horses of mine from the Nest as
sumpter-beasts, and these being sent back for want of provender, the
negro himself remained at the "Huts" as a general assistant, and as a
sort of hunter. A Westchester negro is pretty certain to be a shot,
especially if he happen to belong to the proprietor of a Neck; for
there is no jealousy of trusting arms in the hands of our New York
slaves. But, Jaap having served, in a manner, was entitled to burn as
much gunpowder as he pleased. By means of one of his warlike exploits,
the old fellow had become possessed of a very capital fowling-piece,
plunder obtained from some slain English officer, I always supposed;
and this arm he invariably kept near his person, as a trophy of his
own success. The shooting of Westchester, however, and that of the
forest, were very different branches of the same art. Jaap belonged
to the school of the former, in which the pointer and setter were
used. The game was "put up" and "marked down," and the bird was
invariably shot on the wing. My attention was early called to this
distinction, by overhearing a conversation between the negro and the
Indian, that took place within a few minutes after our arrival, and a
portion of which I shall now proceed to relate.
Jaap and Sureflint were, in point of fact, very old acquaintances,
and fast friends. They had been actors in certain memorable scenes,
on those very lands of Mooseridge, some time before my birth, and had
often met and served as comrades during the last war. The known
antipathy between the races of the red and black man did not exist as
between them, though the negro regarded the Indian with some of that
self-sufficiency which the domestic servant would be apt to entertain
for a savage roamer of the forest; while the Onondago could not but
look on my fellow as one of the freest of the free would naturally
feel disposed to look on one who was content to live in bondage. These
feelings were rather mitigated than extinguished by their friendship,
and often made themselves manifest in the course of their daily
communions with each other.
A bag filled with squabs had been brought from the roost, and Jaap
had emptied it of its contents on the ground near the kitchen, to
commence the necessary operations of picking and cleaning, preparatory
to handing the birds over to the cook. As for the Onondago, he took
his seat near by on a log very coolly, a spectator of his companion's
labours, but disdaining to enter in person on such woman's work, now
that he was neither on a message nor on a war-path. Necessity alone
could induce him to submit to any menial labour, nor do I believe he
would have offered to assist, had he seen the fair hands of Dus
herself plucking these pigeons. To him it would have appeared
perfectly suitable that a "squaw" should do the work of a "squaw,"
while a warrior maintained his dignified idleness. Systematic and
intelligent industry are the attendants of civilization, the wants
created by which can only be supplied by the unremitted care of those
who live by their existence.
"Dere, ole Sus," exclaimed the negro, shaking the last of the dead
birds from the bag—"dere, now, Injin; I s'pose you t'inks 'em ere's
you call him, eh?" demanded the Onondago, eyeing the
"I doesn't call 'em game a bit, red-skin. Dem's not varmint,
n'oder; but den, dem isn't game. Game's game, I s'pose you does know,
"Game, game—good. T'at true—who say no?"
"Yes, it's easy enough to
say a t'ing, but it not so berry
easy to understan'. Can any Injin in York State, now, tell me why
pigeon isn't game?"
"Pigeon game—good game, too. Eat sweet—many time want more."
"Now, I do s'pose, Trackless"—Jaap loved to run through the whole
vocabulary of the Onondago's names—"Now, I do s'pose, Trackless, you
t'ink tame pigeon just as good as wild?"
"Don't know—nebber eat tame—s'pose him good, too."
"Well, den, you s'poses berry wrong. Tame pigeon poor stuff; but no
pigeon be game. Nuttin' game, Sureflint, dat a dog won't p'int, or
set. Masser Mordaunt h'an't got no dog at de Bush or de Toe, and he
keeps dogs enough at bot', dat would p'int a pigeon."
"P'int deer, eh?"
"Well, I doesn't know. P'raps he will, p'raps he wont. Dere isn't
no deer in Westchester for us to try de dogs on, so a body can't tell.
You remem'er 'e day, Sus, when we fit your red-skins out here, 'long
time ago, wit' Masser Corny and Masser Ten Eyck, and ole Masser Herman
Mordaunt, and Miss Anneke, and Miss Mary, an' your frien'
Jumper?—You remem'er dat, ha! Onondago?"
"Sartain—no forget—Injin nebber forget. Don't forget
friend—don't forget enemy."
Here Jaap raised one of his shouting negro laughs, in which all the
joyousness of his nature seemed to enter with as much zest as if he
were subjected to a sort of mental tickling; then he let the character
of his merriment be seen by his answer.
"Sartain 'nough—you remem'er dat feller, Muss, Trackless? He get
heself in a muss by habbing too much mem'ry. Good to hab mem'ry when
you told to do work; but sometime mem'ry bad 'nough. Berry bad to hab
so much mem'ry dat he can't forget small floggin."
"No true," answered the Onondago, a little sternly, though a
little; for, while he and Jaap disputed daily, they never
quarrelled—"No true, so. Flog bad for back."
"Well, dat because you red-skin — a colour' man don't mind him as
much as dis squab. Get use to him in little while; den he nuttin' to
Sureflint made no answer, but he looked as if he pitied the
ignorance, humility and condition of his friend.
"What you t'ink of dis worl', Susquesus?" suddenly demanded the
negro, tossing a squab that he had cleaned into a pail, and taking
another. "How you t'ink white man come? — how you t'ink red man
come? — how you t'ink colour' gentl'em come, eh?"
"Great Spirit say so — t'en all come. Fill Injin full of blood
— t'at make him red—fill nigger wit' ink — t'at make him black
— pale-face pale 'cause he live in sun, and colour dry out."
Here Jaap laughed so loud, that he drew all three of Chainbearer's
blacks to the door, who joined in the fun out of pure sympathy, though
they could not have known its cause. Those blacks! They may be very
miserable as slaves; but it is certain no other class in America laugh
so often, or so easily, or one-half as heartily.
"Harkee, Injin" — resumed Jaap, as soon as he had laughed as much
as he wished to do at that particular moment— "Harkee, Injin—you
t'ink 'arth round, or 'arth flat?"
"How you mean? — 'arth up and down — no round — no flat."
"Dat not what I mean. Bot' up and down in one sens', but no up and
down in 'noder. Masser Mordaunt, now, and Masser Corny too, bot' say
'arth round like an apple, and dat he 'd stand one way in day-time,
an' 'noder way in nighttime. Now, what you t'ink of dat, Injin?"
The Trackless listened gravely, but he expressed neither assent nor
dissent. I knew he had a respect for both my father and myself; but it
was asking a great deal of him to credit that the world was round; nor
did he understand how one could be turned over in the manner Jaap
"S'pose it so," he remarked, after a pause of reflection—"S'pose
it so, den man stand upside down? Man stand on foot; no stand on head."
"Worl' turn round, Injin; dat a reason why you stand on he head one
time; on he foot 'noder."
"Who tell t'at tradition, Jaap? Nebber heard him afore."
"Masser Corny tell me dat, long time ago; when I war' little boy.
Ask Masser Mordaunt one day, and he tell you a same story. Ebberybody
say dat but Masser Dirck Follock; and he say to me, one time,
`it true, Jaap, t'e book do say so—and your Masser Corny believe
him; but I want to see t'e worl' turn round, afore I b'lieve
it.' Dat what colonel Follock say, Trackless; you know he berry
"Good — honest man, colonel — brave warrior — true friend —
b'lieve all he tell, when he know; but don't know ebbery t'ing.
Gen'ral know more—major young, but know more."
Perhaps my modesty ought to cause me to hesitate about recording
that which the partiality of so good a friend as Susquesus might
induce him to say; but it is my wish to be particular, and to relate
all that passed on this occasion. Jaap could not object to the
Indian's proposition, for he had too much love and attachment for his
two masters not to admit at once that they knew more than colonel
Follock; no very extravagant assumption, by the way.
"Yes, he good 'nough," answered the black, "but he don't know half
as much as Masser Corny, or Masser Mordaunt. He say worl' isn't round;
now, I t'ink he look round."
"What Chainbearer say?" asked the Indian, suddenly, as if he had
determined that his own opinion should be governed by that of a man
whom he so well loved. "Chainbearer nebber lie."
"Nor do Masser Corny, nor Masser Mordaunt!" exclaimed Jaap, a
little indignantly. "You t'ink, Trackless, 'eder of my massers
That was an accusation that Susquesus never intended to make;
though his greater intimacy with, and greater reliance on old Andries
had, naturally enough, induced him to ask the question he had put.
"No say eeder lie," answered the Onondago; "but many forked tongue
about, and maybe hear so, and t'ink so. Chainbearer stop ear; nebber
listen to crooked tongue."
"Well, here come Chainbearer heself, Sus; so, jist for
graterfercashun, you shall hear what 'e ole man say. It berry true,
Chainbearer honest man, and I like to know he opinion myself, sin' it
isn't easy, Trackless, to understan' how a mortal being can
stan' up, head down!"
"What `mortal being' mean, eh?"
"Why, it mean mortality, Injin—you, mortality—I, mortality—
Masser Corny, mortality — Masser Mordaunt, mortality— Miss
Anneke, mortality — ebberybody, mortality; but ebberybody not 'e
same sort of mortality! — Understan' now, Sus?"
The Indian shook his head, and looked perplexed; but the
Chainbearer coming up at that moment, that branch of the matter in
discussion was pursued no farther. After exchanging a few remarks
about the pigeons, Jaap did not scruple to redeem the pledge he had
given his red friend, by plunging at once into the main subject with
"You know how it be wid Injin, Masser Chainbearer," said Jaap —
"'Ey is always poor missedercated creatur's, and knows nuttin' but
what come by chance — now here be Sureflint; he can no way t'ink dis
worl' round; and dat it turn round, too; and so he want me to
ask what you got to say about dat matter?"
Chainbearer was no scholar. Whatever may be said of Leyden, and of
the many, very many learned Dutchmen it had sent forth into the world,
few of them ever reached America. Our brethren of the eastern
colonies, now States, had long been remarkable, as a whole, for that
"dangerous thing," a "little learning;" but I cannot say that the
Dutch of New York, also viewed as a whole, incurred any of those
risks. To own the truth, it was not a very easy matter to be more
profoundly ignorant, on all things connected with science, than were
the mass of the uneducated Dutch of New York, in the year of our Lord,
one thousand seven hundred and eighty-four. It made little difference
as to condition in life, unless one rose as high as the old colonial
aristocracy of that stock, and an occasional exception in favour of a
family that intended to rear, or had reared in its bosom a minister
of the gospel. Such was the strength of the prejudice among these
people, that they distrusted the English schools, and few permitted
their children to enter them; while those they possessed of their own
were ordinarily of a very low character. These feelings were giving
way before the influence of time, it is true, but it was very slowly;
and it was pretty safe to infer that every man of low Dutch extraction
in the colony was virtually uneducated, with the exception of here
and there an individual of the higher social castes, or one that had
been especially favoured by association and circumstances. As for that
flippant knowledge, of which our eastern neighbours possessed so large
an amount, the New York Dutch appeared to view it with peculiar
dislike, disdaining to know anything, if it were not of the very best
quality. Still, there were a few to whom this quality was by no means
a stranger. In these isolated cases, the unwearied application,
pains-taking industry, cautious appreciation of facts, and solid
judgment of the parties, had produced a few men, who only required a
theatre for its exhibition, in order to cause their information to
command the profound respect of the learned, let them live where they
might. What they did acquire was thoroughly got, though seldom
paraded for the purposes of mere show.
Old Andries, however, was not of the class just named. He belonged
to the rule, and not to its exception. Beyond a question, he had heard
all the more familiar truths of science alluded to in discourse, or
had seen them in the pages of books; but they entered into no part of
his real opinions; for he was not sufficiently familiar with the
different subjects to feel their truths in a way to incorporate them
with his mind.
"You know 'tis sait, Jaap," Chainbearer answered, "t'at bot' are
true. Efery poty wilt tell you so; ant all t'e folks I haf seen holt
t'e same opinions."
"T'ink him true, Chainbearer?" the Onondago somewhat abruptly
"I s'pose I
must, Sureflint, since all say it. T'e
pale-faces, you know, reat a great many pooks, ant get to pe much
wiser t'an ret-men."
"How you make man stan' on head, eh?"
Chainbearer now looked over one shoulder, then over the other; and
fancying no one was near but the two in his front, he was probably a
little more communicative than might otherwise have been the case.
Drawing a little nearer, like one who is about to deal with a secret,
the honest old man made his reply.
"To pe frank wit' you, Sureflint," he answered, "t'at ist a
question not easily answeret. Eferypoty says 'tis so, ant, t'erefore,
I s'pose it must pe so; put I haf often asket myself, if t'is
worlt pe truly turnet upsite town at night, how is it, olt
Chainpearer, t'at you ton't roll out of pet? T'ere's t'ings in natur'
t'at are incomprehensiple, Trackless; quite incomprehensiple!"
The Indian listened gravely, and it seemed to satisfy his longings
on the subject, to know that they were things in nature that are
incomprehensible. As for the Chainbearer, I thought that he changed
the discourse a little suddenly on account of these very
incomprehensible things in nature; for it is certain he broke off on
another theme, in a way to alter all the ideas of his companions, let
them be on their heads or their heels.
"Is it not true, Jaap, t'at you ant t'e Onondago, here, wast pot'
present at t'e Injin massacre t'at took place in t'ese parts, pefore
t'e revolution, in t'e olt French war? I mean t'e time when one
Traverse, a surveyor, ant a fery goot surveyor he was, was
kil't, wit' all his chainpearers ant axe-men?"
"True as gospel, Masser Andries," returned the negro, looking up
seriously, and shaking his head — "I was here, and so was Sus. Dat
wast de fuss time we smell gunpowder togedder. De French Injins was
out in droves, and dey cut off Masser Traverse and all his party, no
leaving half a scalp on a single head. Yes, sah; I remembers dat
, as if t'was last night."
"Ant what was tone wit' t'e poties? You puriet t'e poties, surely?"
"Sartain — Pete, Masser Ten Eyck's man, was put into a hole, near
Masser Corny's hut, which must be out here, four or five mile off;
while Masser surveyor and his men were buried by a spring, somewhere
off yonder. Am I right, Injin?"
The Onondago shook his head; then he pointed to the true direction
to each spot that had been mentioned, showing that Jaap was very much
out of the way. I had heard of certain adventures in which my father
had been concerned when a young man, and in which, indeed, my mother
had been in a degree an actor, but I did not know enough of the events
fully to comprehend the discourse which succeeded. It seemed that the
Chainbearer knew the occurrences by report only, not having been
present at the scenes connected with them; but he felt a strong desire
to visit the graves of the sufferers. As yet, he had not even visited
the hut of Mr. Traverse, the surveyor who had been killed; for, the
work on which he had been employed, being one of detail, or that of
subdividing the great lots laid down before the revolution, into
smaller lots, for present sale, it had not taken him as yet from the
central point where it had commenced. His new assistant chainbearer
was not expected to join us for a day or two; and, after talking the
matter over with his two companions for a few minutes, he announced a
determination to go in quest of all the graves the succeeding morning,
with the intention of having suitable memorials of their existence
placed over them.
The evening of that day was calm and delightful. As the sun was
setting I paid Dus a visit, and found her alone in what she playfully
called the drawing-room of her "harem." Luckily there were no mutes to
prevent my entrance, the usual black guardian, of whom there was
one, being still in her kitchen at work. I was received without
embarrassment, and taking a seat on the threshold of the door, I sat
conversing, while the mistress of the place plied her needle on a low
chair within. For a time we talked of the pigeons and of our little
journey in the woods; after which the conversation insensibly took a
direction towards our present situation, the past, and the future. I
had adverted to the Chainbearer's resolution to scarch for the graves;
and, at this point, I shall begin to record what was said, as
it was said.
"I have heard allusions to those melancholy events, rather than
their history," I added. "For some cause, neither of my parents likes
to speak of them; though I know not the reason."
"Their history is well known at Ravensnest," answered Dus; "and it
is often related there; at least, as marvels are usually related in
country settlements. I suppose there is a grain of truth mixed up with
a pound of error."
"I see no reason for misrepresenting in an affair of that sort."
"There is no other than the universal love of the marvellous, which
causes most people to insist on having it introduced into a story, if
it do not happen to come in legitimately. Your true country gossip is
never satisfied with fact. He (or she would be the better word)
insists on exercising a dull imagination at invention. In this case,
however, from all I can learn, more fact and less invention has been
used than common."
We then spoke of the outlines of the story each had heard, and we
found that, in the main, our tales agreed. In making the comparison,
however, I found that I was disposed to dwell most on the horrible
features of the incidents, while Dus, gently and almost insensibly,
yet infallibly, inclined to those that were gentler, and which had
more connection with the affections.
"Your account is much as mine, and both must be true in the main,
as you got your's from the principal actors," she said; "but our
gossips relate certain points connected with love and marriage, about
which you have been silent.
"Let me hear them, then," I cried; "for I never was in a better
mood to converse of love and marriage," laying a strong
emphasis on the last word, "than at this moment!"
The girl started, blushed, compressed her lips, and continued
silent for half a minute. I could see that her hand trembled, but she
was too much accustomed to extraordinary situations easily to lose her
self-command. It was nearly dusk, too, and the obscurity in which she
sat within the hut, which was itself beneath the shade of tall trees,
most probably aided her efforts to seem unconscious. Yet, I had
spoken warmly, and, as I soon saw, in a manner that demanded
explanation, though at the moment quite without plan; and scarcely
with the consciousness of what I was doing. I decided not to retreat,
but to go on, in doing which I should merely obey an impulse that was
getting to be too strong for much further restraint; that was not the
precise moment, nevertheless, in which I was resolved to speak, but I
waited rather for the natural course of things. In the mean time,
after the short silence mentioned, the discourse continued.
"All I meant," resumed Dus, "was the tradition which is related
among your tenants, that your parents were united in consequence of
the manner in which your father defended Herman Mordaunt's dwelling,
his daughter included— though Herman Mordaunt himself preferred some
English lord for his son-in-law, and — but I ought to repeat no
more of this silly tale."
"Let me hear it all, though it be the loves of my own parents."
"I dare say it is not true; for what vulgar report of private
feelings and private acts ever is so? My tradition added, that
Miss Mordaunt was, at first, captivated by the brilliant qualities of
the young lord, though she much preferred general Littlepage in the
end; and that her marriage has been most happy."
"Your tradition, then, has not done my mother justice, but is
faulty in many things. Your young lord was merely a baronet's heir;
and I know from my dear grandmother that my mother's attachment to my
father commenced when she was a mere child, and was the consequence of
his resenting an insult she received at the time from some other boy."
"I am glad of that!" exclaimed Dus, with an emphasis so marked,
that I was surprised at the earnestness of her manner. "Second
attachments in women to me always seem misplaced. There was another
vein to my tradition, which tells of a lady who lost her betrothed the
night the Nest was assailed, and who has ever since lived unmarried,
true to his memory. That is a part of the story I have ever loved!"
"Was her name Wallace?" I asked, eagerly.
"It was; Mary Wallace—and I have honoured the name ever since I
heard the circumstances. In my eyes, Mr. Littlepage, there can be no
picture more respectable than that of a female remaining true to her
first attachments, under all circumstances; in death, as
well as in life."
"Or in mine, beloved Ursula!" I cried — but, I will not make a
fool of myself, by attempting to record what I said next. The fact
was, that Dus had been winding herself round my heart for the last few
weeks in a way that would have defied any attempts of mine to
extricate it from the net into which it had fallen, had I the wish to
do so. But, I had considered the matter, and saw no reason to desire
freedom from the dominion of Ursula Malbone. To me, she appeared all
that man could wish, and I saw no impediment to a union in the
circumstance of her poverty. Her family and education were quite equal
to my own; and these very important considerations admitted, I had
fortune enough for both. It was material that we should have the
habits, opinions, prejudices if you will, of the same social caste;
but beyond this, worldly considerations, in my view of the matter,
ought to have no influence.
Under such notions, therefore, and guided by the strong impulse of
a generous and manly passion, I poured out my whole soul to Dus. I
dare say I spoke a quarter of an hour without once being interrupted.
I did not wish to hear my companion's voice; for I had the humility
which is said to be the inseparable attendant of a true love, and was
fearful that the answer might not be such as I could wish to hear. I
could perceive, spite of the increasing obscurity, that Dus was
strongly agitated; and will confess a lively hope was created within
me by this circumstance. Thus encouraged, it was natural to lose my
fears in the wish to be more assured; and I now pressed for a reply.
After a brief pause, I obtained it in the following words, which were
uttered with a tremor and sensibility that gave them tenfold weight.
"For this unexpected, and I believe
sincere declaration, Mr.
Littlepage, I thank you from the bottom of my heart," the precious
creature commenced. "There are a frankness, an honourable sincerity
and a noble generosity in such a declaration, coming from you
to me, that can never be forgotten. But, I am not my own
mistress — my faith is plighted to another—my affections are with
my faith; and I cannot accept offers which, so truly generous, so
truly noble, demand the most explicit reply—"
I heard no more; for, springing from the floor, and an attitude
that was very nearly that of being on my knees, I rushed from the hut
and plunged into the forest.
END OF VOL. I.