James Fenimore Cooper.

The pioneers : or The sources of the Susquehanna ; a descriptive tale (Volume 2) online

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' Extremes of habits, manners, time and space,
Brought close together, here stood face to faCc-
And gave at once a contrast to the view,
That other lands and ages never knew."





& S. Clayton, Primer.


Southern District of Ntiv- York, ss.

BE IT REMEMBERED, that on the seventeenth day of October, in
the forty-seventh year of the Independence of the United States of Ameri
ca, Charles Wiley, of the said district, hath deposited in this office the title
of a book, the right wljej,eof he claims as proprietor, in the words fol
lowing, to wit :

"The Pioneers, or the Sources of the Susquehanna; a Descriptive Tale.
By the Author of ' Precaution.'

' Extremes of habits, manners, time and space,
Brought close together, here stood face to face,
And gave at once a contrast to the view,
That other lands and ages never knew.'

P codding."

In conformity to the act of the Congress of the United States, entitled,
" An act for the encouragement of learning, by securing the copies of maps,
charts, and books to the authors and proprietors of such copies, during the
time therein mentioned-," and also to an act, entitled, "an act supple
mentary to the act, entitled, an act for the encouragement of learning, by-
securing the copies of maps, charts, and books, to the authors and proprie
tors of such copies, during the times therein mentioned, and extending the
benefits thereof to the arts of designing, engraving, and etching historical


Clerk of the Southern District of New-Tori;





; Away ! nor let me loiter in my song 1 ,
For we have many a mountain path to tread."


As the spring gradually approached, the im
mense piles of snow, that, by alternate thaws and
frosts, and repeated storms, had obtained a firm
ness that threatened a tiresome durability, begun
to yield to the influence of milder breezes and
a warmer sun. The gates of Heaven, at times,
seemed to open, and a bland air diffused itself over
the earth, when animate and inanimate nature would
awaken, and, fora few hours, the gayety of spring
shone in every eye, and smiled on every field.
But the shivering blasts from the north would car
ry their chill influence over the scene again, and
the dark and gloomy clouds that intercepted the
rays of the sun, were not more cold and dreary,
than the re-action which crossed the creation.
These struggles between the seasons became,
daily, more frequent, while the earth, like a victim
to contention, slowly lo*t the animated brilliancy


of winter, without obtaining the decided aspect of

Several weeks were consumed in this cheerless
manner, during which the inhabitants of the coun
try gradually changed their pursuits from the so
cial and bustling movements of the time of snow,
to the laborious and domestic engagements of the
coming season. The village was no longer thronged
with visiters ; the trade, that had enlivened the
shops for several months, begun to disappear ; the
highways lost their shining coats of beaten snow
in impassable sloughs, and were deserted by the
gay and noisy travellers who, in sleighs, had, du
ring the winter, glided along their windings ; and.
in short, every thing seemed indicative of a mighty
change, not only in the earth itself, but in those,
also, who derived their sources of comfort and
happiness from her bosom.

The younger members of the family in the
Mansion-house, of which Louisa Grant was now
habitually one, were by no means indifferent ob
servers of these fluctuating and tardy changes.
While the snow rendered the roads passable, they
had partaken largely in the amusements of the
winter, which included not only daily rides over
the mountains, and through every valley within
twenty miles of them, but divers ingenious and
varied sources of pleasure, on the bosom of their
frozen lake. There had been rides in the equi
page of Richard, when, with his four horses, he
had outstripped the winds with its speed, as it flew
over the glassy ice which invariably succeeded a
thaw. Then the exciting and dangerous " whirli
gig" would be suffered to possess its moment of
notice. Cutters, drawn by a single horse, and
hand-sleds, impelled by the gentlemen, on skates,
would each in their turn be used ; and, in short,
every source of relief against the tediousness of


a winter in the mountains, was resorted to by the
family. Elizabeth was compelled to acknowledge
to her father, that the season, with the aid of his
library, was much less irksome than she had an

As exercise in the open air, was in some de
gree necessary to the habits of the family, when
the constant recurrence of frosts and thaws ren
dered the roads, which were dangerous, at the
most favourable times, utterly impassable for
wheels, saddle-horses were used as substitutes for
their other conveyances. Mounted on small and
sure-footed beasts, the ladies would again attempt
the passages of the mountains, arid penetrate into
every retired glen, where the enterprise of a set
tler had induced him to establish himself. In
these excursions they were attended by some one
or all of the gentlemen of the family, as their dif
ferent pursuits admitted. Young Edwards was
hourly becoming more familiarized to his situa
tion, and not unfrequently mingled in their par
ties, with an unconcern arid gayety, that, for a
short time, would, apparently, expel all unplea
sant recollections from his mind. Habit, and the
buoyancy of youth, seemed to be getting the as
cendancy over the secret causes of his uneasiness 5
though there were moments, when the same re
markable expression of disgust, would cross his
intercourse with Marmaduke, that had distin
guished their conversations in the first days of their

It was at the close of the month of March, that
the Sheriff succeeded in persuading his cousin
and her young friend to accompany him in a ride
to a hill, that was said to overhang the lake, in a
mariner peculiar to itself.

" Besides, cousin Bess," continued the indefati
gable Richard "we will stop and see the c sugar


bush' of Billy Kirby : he is on the east end of the
Ransom lot, making sugar for Jared Ransom.
There is not a better hand over a kettle in the
county, than that same Kirby. You remember,
'duke, that I had him his first season, in our own
camp ; and it is not a wonder that he knows some
thing of his trade."

" He's a good chopper, is Billy," observed
Benjamin, who held the bridle of the horse while
the Sheriff mounted ; " and he handles an axe,
much the same as a forecastle-man does his marl
ing spike, or a tailor his goose. They say he'll lift
a potash kettle off the arch with his own hands,
thof I can't say that I've ever seen him do it with
my own eyes ; but that is the say. And I've seen
sugar of his making, which, maybe, was'nt as
white as an old top-gallantsail, but which my
friend Mistress Pretty-bones, within there, said,
had the true molasses smack to it; and you are
not the one, Squire Dickens, to be told that Mis-
tress Remarkable has a remarkable tooth for sweet
things in her nut-grinder."

The loud laugh that succeeded the wit of Ben
jamin, and in which he participated, with no very
harmonious sounds, himself, very fully illustrated
the congenial temper which existed between the
pair. Most of its point was, however, lost on the
rest of the party, who were either mounting their
horses, or assisting the ladies to do so, at the mo
ment. Wh^n all were safely in their. saddles, the
whole moved through the village in great order.
They paused for a moment, before the door of
Monsieur Le Quoi, until he could bestride his
steed, and then, issuing from the little cluster of
houses, they took one of the principal of those
highways, that centered in the village.

As each night brought with it a severe frost,
which the heat of the succeeding day served to


dissipate, the equestrians were compelled to pro
ceed singly, along the margin of the road, where
the turf, and firmness of the ground, gave their
horses a secure footing. Very trifling indications
of approaching vegetation were to be seen, the
surface of the earth presenting a cold, wet, and
cheerless aspect, that almost chilled the blood of
the spectator. The snow yet lay scattered over
most of those distant clearings that were vistble
in different parts of the mountains ; though here
and there an opening might be seen, wbei-, as the
white covering yielded to the season, the bright
and lively green of the wheat served to enkindle
the hopes of the husbandman. Nothing could be
more marked, than the contrast between the earth
and the heavens ; for, while the former presented
the dreary view that we have described, a warm
and invigorating sun was dispensing his heats,
from a sky that contained but a solitary cloud,
that lingered near the mountain, and through an
atmosphere that softened the colours of the sensi
ble horizon, until it shone like a sea of virgin

Richard led the way, on this, as on all other
occasions, that did not require the exercise of un
usual abilities ; and as be moved along, he essay
ed to enliven the party with the sounds of his ex
perienced voice.

" This is your true sugar weather, 'duke," he
cried ; " A frosty night and a sunshiny day. I
warrant me that the sap runs like a mill-tail up
the maples, this warm morning. It is a pity,
Judge, that you do not introduce a little more
science into the manufactory of sugar, among
your tenants. It might be done, sir, without
knowing as much as Dr. Franklin it might be
done, Judge Temple."

" The first object of my solicitude, friend


Jones," returned Marmaduke, " is to protect the
sources of this great mine of comfort and wealth,
from the extravagance of the people themselves.
When this important point shall be achieved, it
will be in season to turn our attention to an im
provement in the manufacture of the article. But
thou knowest, Richard, that I have already sub
jected our sugar to the process of the refiner, and
that the result has produced loaves as white as the
snow on yon fields, and possessing the saccharine
quality in its utmost purity."

" Saccharine, or turpentine, or any other 'ine s
Judge Temple, you have never made a loaf larger
than a good sized sugar-plum," returned the She
riff. " Now, sir, I assert, that no experiment is
fairly tried, until it be reduced to practical pur
poses. If, sir, I owned a hundred, or, for that
matter, two hundred thousand acres of land, as
you do, T would build a sugar-house in the vil
lage ; I would invite learned men to an investiga
tion of the subject, and such are easily to be
found, sir ; yes, sir, they are not difficult to find, 1
men who unite theory with practice ; and I would
select a wood of young and thrifty trees ; and, in
stead of making loaves of the size of a lump of
candy, dam'rne, 'duke, but I'd have them as big
as a hay-cock."

" And purchase the cargo of one of those ships
that, they say, are going jto China," cried Eliza
beth , " turn your potash-kettles into tea-cups, the
scows on the lake into saucers : bake your cake
in yonder lime-kiln, and invite the county to a
tea-party. How wonderful are the projects of

fenius ! Really, sir, the world is of opinion that
udge Temple has tried the experiment fairly,
though he did not cause bis loaves to be cast in
moulds of the magnitude that would suit your
magnificent conceptions."


" You may laugh, cousin Elizabeth -you may
laugh, madam," retorted Richard, turning him
self so much in his saddle as to face the party,
and making extremely dignified gestures with his
whip ; " but I appeal to common sense, good
sense, or, what is of more importance than either,
to the sense of taste, which is one of the five natural
senses, whether a big loaf of sugar is not likely to
contain a better illustration of a proposition, than
such a lump as one of your Dutch women puts
under her tongue when she drinks her tea. There
are two ways of doing every thing ; the right way,
and the wrong way. You make sugar now, I will
admit, and you may, possibly, make loaf-sugar;
but I take the question to be, whether you make
the best possible sugar, and into the best possible

" Thou art very right, Richard," observed
Marmaduke, with a gravity in his air, that proved
how much he was interested in the subject. " It
is very true that we manufacture sugar, but the
inquiry is quite useful to make, how much ? and
in what manner? I hope to live to see the day,
when farms and plantations shall be devoted to this
branch of business. Little is known concerning
the properties of the tree itself, the source of all
this wealth ; how much it may be improved by
cultivation, by the use of the hoe and plough."

" Hoe and plough," roared the Sheriff;
would you set a man hoeing round the root of
a maple like this," pointing to one of those no
ble trees, that occur so frequently in that part of
the country. " Hoeing trees ! are you mad,
'duke? This is next to hunting for coal! Poh !
poh ! my dear cousin, hear reason, and leave the
management of the sugars-bush to me. Here is
Mr. Le Quoi, he has been in-the West-Indies, and
seen sugar made often. Let him give an account


of how it is made there, and you will hear the phi
losophy of the thing. Well, Monsieur, how is it
that you make sugar in the West-Indies; any
thing in Judge Temple's fashion ?"

The gentleman to whom this query was put,
was mounted on a small horse, of no very fiery
temperament, and was riding with his stirrups so
short, as to bring his knees, while the animal rose
a small ascent in the wood-path they were now
travelling, into a somewhat hazardous vicinity to
his chin. There was no room for gesticulation or
grace in the delivery of his reply, for the moun
tain was steep and slippery ; and although the
Gaul had an eye of uncommon magnitude on ei
ther side of his face, they did not seem to be half
competent to forewarn him of the impediments of
hushes, twigs, and fallen trees, that were momen
tarily crossing his path. With one hand employ
ed in averting these dangers, and the other grasping
his bridle, to check an untoward speed that his
horse was assuming, the native of France respond
ed as follows

" Sucre ! dey do make eet in Martinique : mais
mais eet is not from von tree ; eet is from ah
ah vat you call Je voudrois que ces chemms
fussent au diable vat you call von steeck pour
le promenade."

" Cane," said Elizabeth, smiling at the impre
cation which the wary Frenchman supposed was
understood only by himself.
" Oui, Mara'selle, rane."

" Yes, yes," cried Richard, " cane is the vulgar
name for it, but the real term is saccharum offici-
narum : and what we call the sugar, or bard ma
ple, is acer saccharinum. These are the learned
names, Monsieur, and are such as, doubtless, you
well understand."

" Is this Greek or Latin, Mr. Edwards ?" whis-


pered the heiress to the youth, who was opening
a passage for herself and her companion through
the bushes " or perhaps it is a still more learned
language, for an interpretation of which we must
look to you."

The dark eye of the young man glanced to
wards the maiden, with a keenness bordering on
ferocity ; but its expression changed, in a mo
ment, to the smiling playfulness of her own face,
as he answered

" I shall remember your doubts, Miss Temple,
when next I visit my old friend Mohegan, and
either his skill, or that of Leather-stocking, shall
solve them."

" And are you, then, really ignorant of their
language f" asked Elizabeth, with an impetuosity
that spoke a lively interest in the reply.

" Not absolutely ; but the deep learning of Mr.
Jones is more familiar to me, or even the polite
masquerade of Monsieur Le Quoi."

" Do you speak French ?" said the lady, with
a quickness that equalled her former interest.

"It is a common language with the Iroquois,
and through the Canadas," he answered, with an
equivocal srrjile.

" Ah ! but they are Mingoes, and your ene

" It will be well for me, if I have no worse,"
said the youth, dashing ahead with his horse, and
thus putting an end to the evasive dialogue.

The discourse, however, was maintained with
great vigour by Richard, until they reached an
open wood on the summit of the mountain, where
the hemlocks and pines totally disappeared, and
a grove of the very trees that formed the subject
of debate, covered the earth with their tall, straight
trunks and spreading branches, in stately pride
The underwood had been entirely removed from

VOL. II. 3


this grove, or bush, as, in conjunction with the
simple arrangements for boiling, it was called, and
a wide space of many acres was cleared, which
might be likened to the dome of a mighty tem
ple, to which the maples, with their stems, formed
the columns, their tops composing the capitals, "and
the heavens the arch. A deep and careless inci
sion had been made into each tree, near its root,
into which little spouts, formed of the bark of the
alder, or of the sumach, were fastened ; and a
trough, roughly dug out of the linden, or bass-
wood, was lying at the root of each tree, to catch
the sap that flowed from this extremely wasteful
and inartificial arrangement.

The party paused a moment, on gaining the
flat, to breathe their horses, and, as the scene
was entirely new to several of their number, to
view the manner of collecting the fluid. A fine,
powerful voice aroused them from their momen
tary silence, as it rung under the branches of the
trees, singing the following words of that inimi
table doggrel, whose verses, if extended, would
reach from the waters of the Connecticut to the
shores of Ontario. The tune was, of course, that
familiar air, which, although it is said to have
been first applied to his nation in derision, cir
cumstances have since rendered so glorious, that
no American ever hears its jingling cadence^,
without feeling a thrill at his heart.

" The Eastern States be full of men,
The Western full of woods, sir!
The hills be like a cattle pen,
The roads be full of goods, sir!

Then flow away, ray sweety sap.

And I will make you boily ;
Nor catch a woodman's hasty nap,
For fear you should get roily.


" The maple tree's a precious one,

'Tis fuel, food, and timber ;
And when your stiff day's work is dofff,
Its juice will make you limber.
Then flow away, &c.

J < And wbat's a man without his glass,

His wife without her tea, sir ?
But neither cup nor mug would pass,
Without this honey-bee, sir !
Then flow away," &c.

During the execution of this sonorous ditty,
Richard kept time with his whip on the mane of
his charger, accompanying the gestures with a
corresponding movement of his head and body.
Towards the close of the song, he was overheard
humming the chorus, and at its last repetition, to
strike in at " sweety sap," and carry a second
through, with a prodigious addition to the " effect"
of the noise, if not to that of the harmony.

"Well done us!" roared the Sheriff, on the
same key with the tune ; " a very good song, Billy
Kirby, and very well sung. Where got you the
words, lad ? is there more of it, and can you fur
nish me with a copy ?"

The sugar-boiler, who was busy in his " camp,"
at a short distance from the equestrians, turned his
head with great indifference, and surveyed the
party, as they approached, with admirable cool
ness. To each individual, as he or she rode close
by him, he gave a nod that was extremely good-
natured and affable, but which partook largely of
the virtue of equality, for not even to the ladies
did he in the least vary his mode of salutation,
by touching the apology for a hat that he wore,
or by any other motion than the one we have

" How goes it, how goes it, Sheriff?" said the
wood -chopper ; u what's the good word to-day ?' *


"Why, much as usual, Billy," returned Ri
chard. " But how is this ! where are your four
kettles, and your troughs, and your iron coolers f
Do you make sugar in this slovenly way ! I
thought you were one of the best sugar-boilers in
the county."

" I'm all that, Squire Jones," said Kirby, who
Continued his occupation ; " I'll turn my back to
no man in the Otsego hills, for chopping and log
ging ; for boiling down the maple sap : for tend
ing brick-kiln ; splitting out rails ; making potash,
and parling too ; or hoeing corn. Though I
keep myself, pretty much, to the first business,
seeing that the axe comes most nateral to me."

" You be von Jack All-trade, Mister Beel," said
Monsieur Le Quoi.

" How ?" said Kirby, looking up, with a sim
plicity which, coupled with his gigantic frame and
manly face, was a little ridiculous " if you be
for trade, Mounsher, here is some as good sugar
as you'll find the season through. It's as clear
from dirt as the Garman Flats is from stumps,
and it has the raal maple flavour. Such stuff
would sell in York for candy."

The Frenchman approached the place where
Kirby had deposited his cakes of sugar, under the
cover of a bark roof, and commenced the exami
nation of the article, with the eye of one who well
understood its value. Marmaduke had dismount
ed, and was viewing the works and the trees very
closely, and not without frequent expressions of
dissatisfaction, at the careless manner in which the
manufacture was conducted.

" You have much experience in these things.
Kirby," he said ; " what is the course you pursue
in making your sugar? I see that you have but
two kettles."

" Two is as good as two thousand, Judge ; I'm


none of your polite sugar-makers, that boils for
the great folks ; but if the raal sweet maple is
wanted, I can answer your turn. First, I choose,
and then I tap my trees; say along about the
last of February, or in these mountains, maybe
not afore the middle of March ; but any way, just
as the sap begins to cleverly run "

" Well, in this choice," interrupted Marmaduke,
{< are you governed by any outward signs, that
prove the quality of the tree ?"

" Why, there's judgment in all things," said
Kirby, stirring the liquor in his kettles briskly.
" There's something in knowing when and how
much to stir the pot. It's a thing that must be
larnt. Rome wasn't built in a day, nor, for that
matter, Templetown 'ither, though it may be said
to be a quick-growing place. I never put my
axe into a stunty tree, or one that has'nt a good,
fresh-looking bark ; for trees have disorders just
like creaters ; and where's the policy of taking a
tree that's sickly, any more than you'd choose a
foundered horse to ride post, or an overheated ox
to do your logging "

" All this is true ; but what are your signs of ill
ness f how do you distinguish a tree that is well
from one that is diseased ?"

" How does the doctor tell who has fever, and
who colds ?" interrupted Richard " by exami
ning the skin, and feeling the pulse, to be sure."

" Sartain," continued Billy ; " the Squire a'nt
far out of the way. It's by the look of the thing,
sure enough. Well, when the sap begins to. get a
free run, I hang over the kettles, and set up the
bush. My first boiling I push pretty smart, till I
get the vartoo of the sap ; but when it begins to
grow of a molasses nater, like this in the kettle,
one musn't drive the fires too hard, or you'll burn
the sugar ; and burny sugar is always bad to the


taste, let it be never so sweet. So you ladle out
from one kettle into the other, till it gets so, when
you put the stirring stick into it, that it \vill draw
into a thread ; when it takes a kerful hand to
manage it. There is a way to drain it off, after
it has grained, by putting clay into the pans ; but
it is'nt always practysed : some doos, and some
doosn't. Well, Mounsher, be we likely to tnake
a trade ?"

" I vill give you, Mister Beel, for von pound
dix sous."

"No ; I expect cash for't ; I never dicker away
my sugar. But, seeing that it's you, Mounsher,"
said Billy, with a coaxing smile, " I'll agree to
take a gallon of rum, and cloth enough for two
shirts, if you will take the molasses in the bar
gain. It's raal good. I wouldn't deceive you or

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