Charles Fenno Hoffman.

Greyslaer: a romance of the Mohawk (Volume 2) online

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; There is a divinity which shapes our ends,
Rough hew them how we will."






Entered, according to act of Congress, in the year 1840,

In the Clerk's Office of the Southern District of New York.



" Soldier. My lord, a cloud of dust and men
The sentinels from the east gate discover ;
And, as they guess, the storm bends this way..

Brennoralt. Let it be.

Sol. My lord 1

Bren. Let it be ;
I will not fight to-day."


" My cell 'tis, lady ; where, instead of masks,
Music, tilts, tourneys, and such court-like shows,
The hollow murmur of the checkless winds
Shall groan again, while the unquiet sea
Shakes the whole rock with foamy battery.
There usherless the air comes in and out ;
The rheumy vault will force your eyes to weep,
While you behold true desolation."


" Edward. Who's there 1 what light is that 1 wherefore com'st

thoul ' \
Lightborn. To comfort you, and bring joyful news."









" When those we love are absent far away,
When those we love have met some hapless fate,
How pours the heart its lone and plaintive lay,
As the wood-songster mourns her stolen mate !
Alas ! the summer bower how desolate !
The winter hearth how dim its fire appears !
While the pale memories of by -gone years
Around our thoughts like spectral shadows wait."


" She led him through the trackless wild
Where noontide sunbeam never blazed." SPRAGUE.

THE glad spring has come again over the land,
and nowhere do the flowers spring more joyfully
beneath her fluking footsteps than in the lovely val
ley of the Mohawk. Here the seeds of civil dis
cord lie crushed, or, at least, inert, at present. The
storm of war has rolled off to distant borders ; or if,
indeed, it be lowering near again, its terrors are un-
felt, because unseen. The husbandman has once
more driven his team afield, free from the appre
hension that he may return to find a blazing roof-


tree 'and slaughtered household when the close of
.day. Shalt relieve; him from his toils. The wife once
more has joyed to se'e him go forth whistling on his
way, confident that the protector of her children
will not fall slaughtered in the ploughshare's fur
row, but return to glad her eyes at nightfall. Alas !
these simple people dream not that the present
calm is but a breathing-spell in the terrible struggle
which, ere it pass away, shall print every cliff of this
beautiful region with a legend of horror, and story
its romantic stream with deeds of fiendish crime.

Clad in the deepest mourning, the orphan heiress
of the Hawksnest sits by the trellised window, ga
zing out upon the lovely fields, of which the suppo
sed death of her lover and relative has made her the
possessor. Her wild brother, surrendering his share
in the estate to her, has gone to seek a soldier's for
tune or a patriot's death by fighting in the armies
of his country. The green mound that covers the
remains of her last surviving parent and of her only
sister is seen through a vista of trees upon a swell
of land beyond. It is the mellow hour of twilight,
when the thoughtful heart loves best to ponder upon
such mementoes of the departed. And has Alida,
when her eye o'erbrims, and her hands are clasped
in agitation at the thought of the cruel fate which
has overtaken her household has she no thought,
no one woman's regretful tear, for the lover who
had dared everything to shield those who were dear
to her from harm ; the lover who had thrown away
his own life in the effort to snatch her from a cap-
tivity worse than death ?

She had thought of him. She now thought of
him. She had too often and too long thought of
him. At least, sometimes she herself so believed,
when accusing herself of dwelling more upon his
memory than upon that of those who ought to be


dearer to her. But, then, was there no excuse for
that which her woman's heart straightway supplied ?
For her sister arid father it was pleasurable, but vain,
to grieve. It was challenging the will of Heaven
ever to dwell gloomily upon their fate, which Heav
en, for good or ill, had fixed for ever. But of
Greyslaer she could think hopefully, as of one who
might still return to share her friendship and receive
her gratitude. " Her friendship /" Yes, that was
the word, if her thoughts had been syllabled to
utterance when she hoped for Greyslaer's return.
But there were moments when she hoped not thus ;
moments of dark conviction that he had ceased to
be upon this earth ; that death had overtaken him
as well as others for whom she was better schooled
to grieve.

That black death is a strange touchstone of the
human heart. How instantly it b/ings our real feel
ings to the surface ! How it reawakens and calls
out our stiffly accorded esteem ! How it quickens
into impetuous life our reluctant tenderness, that
has been withheld from its object till it can avail no
more !

Strange inconsistency of woman's nature ! Alida
mourned the dead Greyslaer as if he had been her
affianced lover ; but hoped for the reappearance of
the living one as of a man who could never be more
to her than a cherished friend a brother a youn
ger brother !

Alack ! young Max, couldst thou but now steal
beside that twilight window, hear those murmured
words of sorrow, and take that taper hand which is
busied in brushing away those fast-dropping tears,
thy presence at such a melting moment might bring
a deeper solace, call out a softer feeling than simple
joy at recovery of a long-lost friend. Alack ! that


moments so propitious to a lover should pass away
for naught !

And where, then, is Greyslaer ? The autumn
was not spent idly by his friends in exploring the
wilderness for traces of his fate ; and even in mid
winter Bait has crossed the Garoga lakes on snow-
shoes, followed up the cascades of Konnedieyu, and
penetrated deep into the Sacondaga country upon
the same errand. The spot where Brant once held
his secret camp, and to which his captives were
carried, has been twice examined since Alida lent
her aid to direct Bait to the spot. But the wig
wams were long since deserted, and the snow, which
beat down and broke their flimsy frames, obliter
ated every track by which the migrating Indians
could be followed. Bait again took up the search
the moment the severity of winter became relaxed.
He has now followed the spring in her graceful
mission northward; and the lakes of the Upper
Hudson, the wild recesses of the Adirondack Moun
tains, that mysterious wilderness which no white
man has yet explored, is said to be the scene of his
faithful wanderings. Thiiher we will soon follow
him. But first, however, we must go back some
months, and take up the thread of our narrative at
the squaw camp of Thayendanagea, if we would
follow out the fortunes of Greyslaer from the mo
ment when the desperado Valtmeyer . so fearfully
crossed his path.

The first red streaks of dawn were beginning to
dapple the east, when the luckless captive found
himself traversing a deep hemlock forest, with " The
Spreading Dew" for his guide. The Indian girl,
after reviving him from the stunning effects of the
blow which had prostrated him, by sprinkling water
upon his forehead, had bound up the contusion with
a fillet of cole wort leaves, which was kept in its place


by a strip of strouding torn from her own dress ;
and, urging her still bewildered patient from the
scene of his mishap, had thridded the swamp and
guided him to the hills in the rear of the Indian
camp. These hills stretch away toward the north,
increasing continually in altitude as they recede
from the Mohawk, until they finally swell into those
stupendous highlands known as the Adirondack

Greyslaer, though ignorant of the precise geogra
phy of this Alpine region, had still some idea of the
vast wilderness which extended toward the Canada
border ; and when he saw his guide, after reaching
a rapid and turbulent stream, turn her face to the
northward, and strike up along its banks, as if about
to follow up the water to the mountain lake in which
it probably headed, he paused, and was compelled,
for the first time, to reflect upon what use he should
make of his newly-recovered liberty, and which
way it were best for him now to direct his steps.
His first object must be, of course, to reach the
nearest body of his friends. But, since the events
in which he had been an actor, and those which
might have transpired during the weeks that he was
ill and a prisoner, he knew not where those friends
might be found. He was ignorant what changes
might have taken place in the valley of the Mohawk,
or which party might have the ascendency now that
the spirit of civil discord was fairly let loose in that
once tranquil region. Should he fall into the hands
of some straggling band of Tories, or should he even
venture to claim the hospitality of those who, but a
month since, had stood neutral while the conflict
was impending, he might find himself seized upon
by some new convert to the royal party, who would
gladly afford the most lively proofs of his newborn
zeal for the crown by securing so active a partisan



of the patriot cause. The city of Albany was,
therefore, his only safe destination, if he would pre
serve that liberty of action, by the preservation of
which alone he could hope to succour Alida.

He determined, therefore, not to venture descend
ing into the lower country till he could strike it at
least as far east as Schenectady. But how, if he con
cluded to make this long circuit through the woods,
could he find his way amid the wild forests he must
traverse ? Was this lonely Indian girl, who was
little more than a child, to be his only guide ? and,
if so, how were they to procure subsistence in a
journey through the wilderness, where the path was
so toilsome that many days must elapse before he
could accomplish the distance which, upon an or
dinary road, can be traversed in one ? Greyslaer
abruptly broke off these unsatisfactory reflections
by asking his companion whither she was now gui
ding him. The reply of " The Dew" told him that
much might be gained by admitting her into his
counsels. The foresight of the Indian maid had an
ticipated at least the most serious of the difficulties
which embarrassed her companion. She was lead
ing him to the Garoga lakes, where her tribesmen
had once had a fishing camp, in which they might
at least find a shelter from the elements, and where
Greyslaer could readily obtain subsistence for him
self until " The Dew" could make her way to the
settlements and gain some tidings of his friends, or,
at least, procure him some more eligible guide than
herself from the lower castle of the Mohawks ; a
small band of that tribe, under their leader Hen-
drick, being friendly to the patriot cause. Greys
laer hoped, however, that if he could once secure a
retreat, where, for a few days, he should be safe
from pursuit, he might find means to communicate
with his faithful and cherished follower, old Bait,


if, indeed, the stout old forester had not perished
in the fray in which he himself was taken prisoner.

These anxious reflections upon the chances of the
future served for a while to turn his thoughts from
a more bitter channel. But the recollection of the
scene in which Alida had been torn from his side
now recurred with all its horrors.

It is a hard thing to love vainly. It is a hard
thing for the young heart, that has given its first
generous burst of affection to another, to be flung
back upon itself, shocked, borne down, blasted upon
the very threshold of existence. The growth of the
sentiment in some minds in those which love most
deeply is often the first emotion that has ever com
pelled them to look into their own souls ; that has
ever made them fully aware of the sentient and
spiritual essence which they bear within this earth
ly tabernacle. And to surrender that sentiment,
seems like parting with the vital spirit that animates
them. Such surrenderment of their early dreams
is, however, the fate of thousands ; for love young
love like the Bird of Lightning in the Iroquois fa
ble, which bears the flame from Heaven to teach
men only where first the purifying element had
birth, seems, like the lightning, to fulfil his mission,
reckless where'er his burning wings may sweep, so
that his mysterious errand be accomplished.

But Greyslaer's was no common tale of misplaced
hopes and unrequited attachment. He could not
fling from him the image of Alida as an idle vision
of his dreaming boyhood. Her sorrows had be
come his own ; and the love which might have per
ished from hopelessness seemed born anew from
sympathy ; ay, though he were doomed hereafter to
have neither part nor lot in aught else belonging to
her, save this share in her sorrows only, yet such
community of grief was so dear to him, that the


world had now no prize for which Greyslaer would
have bartered his gloomy heritage of wo. Alas !
what a joyless and barren destiny did he thus em
brace ! Flinging his fresh and blossoming youth,
like a worthless weed, away ; grafting upon his ri
pening manhood a shoot of bitterness, that must
dwarf its energies and wither its fruit of promise.

The shrill burst of the Indian warwhoop startled
Greyslaer from the stern revery with which we have
ventured to blind our own reflections while detail
ing its general character. The wild cry seemed to
come from beneath his very feet. He recoiled a
step, and gazed eagerly down the rocky defile he
was descending. The sumach and sassafras grew
thick and heavy, imbowering the broken path be
low. The Indian girl was nowhere to be seen. He
turned and threw a hurried glance along the sides
of the glen, where ledges of rock here and there
cut the foliage horizontally before him. He caught
a glimpse, as of the figure of the light-footed maid
en scaling the walls of the glen, and retreating from
him. He advanced a pace to see if it were indeed
her who was thus flying from him at his utmost
need. On the instant, a tomahawk, hurtled through
the air and cleaving the light branches near, buried
itself in a maple-tree beside him. Quick as light,
Greyslaer seized the weapon and plucked it from
the bark in which it quivered. But, instantaneous
as was the movement, it did not avail him ; for, as
he was in the act of wheeling round to confront the
peril in the direction whence the hatchet came, he
was grappled in the arms of a sinewy Indian. Down
they both went together, the Indian uppermost ; and
so completely did he seem to have Greyslaer at ad
vantage, that he leisurely addressed him while part
ly raising himself to draw his knife.
. " My broder thought it time to leave the camp


when Isaac come, eh, my broder ? Aha !" And,
as the miscreant spoke, he made a motion across the
scull of his prostrate prisoner, as if he felt tempted
to go through the ceremony of scalping while life,
yet vigorous in his veins, should give a zest to the

But Greyslaer was not the man to be sportively
handled in a death encounter. His dark eye fol
lowed the gleaming weapon, as the barbarian flour
ished it above his head, with a glance as keen as
that of the hawk-eyed Indian. He had fallen with
one arm under him, and, happily, it was that which
held the tomahawk, which thus escaped the no
tice of his foe. It was for the moment pinioned
to the ground, not less by the weight of his *wn
body than by that of the savage ; and the force with
which he had been hurled to the earth so paralyzed
the strength of Greyslaer, that he did not at first at
tempt to extricate his hand. But now, throwing
back his head, as if he shrunk from the knife that
was offered at it, he suddenly arched his back so as
to lift the savage and himself together ; and, slipping
his arm from under him as the other bore him down
again by throwing the full weight of his person
lengthwise upon him, he dealt a side blow with the
hatchet which nearly crushed the scull of the Indian.
The fellow relaxed his grip of Greyslaer's throat
in an instant, and rolled over, and lay as if stricken
to death upon the spot, while, breathless and disor
dered, young Max regained his feet.




" Amid thy forest solitudes, he climbs
O'er crags that proudly tower above the deep,
And knows that sense of danger which sublimes
The breathless moment when his daring step
Is on the verge of the cliff, and he can hear
The low dash of the wave with startled ear,
Like the death-music of his coming doom,
And clings to the green turf with desperate force,
As the heart clings to life ; and when resume
The currents in his veins their wonted course,
There lingers a deep feeling, like the moan
Of wearied ocean when the storm is gone." HALLECK.

UPON examining the features of the Indian, which
were of a singularly brutal cast, Greyslaer felt con
vinced that he had beheld them before, but where
or when it was impossible for him to say.

Bending near to scrutinize them more closely,
he observed that life still remained ; for the eyes,
which were shut, had their lids, not smoothly droop
ing as when closed in death, but knit and screwed
together as when suddenly closed in a paroxysm of
rage or pain. They opened now, as a heavy gasp
broke from the bosom of the savage. Max instantly
possessed himself of the scalping-knife which lay
near, and held it, like a dagger of misericorde, at
the throat of his reviving foe. The slightest thrust
would have rid him at once of all farther difficulty ;
but it was not in his heart to slaughter a living man
thus laid at his mercy, and he shouted to the girl
to bring him a withe that he might bind his prison
er. The Dew replied not to his call. But he heard


a quick trampling near, which he mistook for her

He looked in the direction whence the sound of
footsteps came, but the leafy covert was so thick in
that direction that he could descry nothing. He lis
tened anxiously ; they came nearer, but there was
no reply to his repeated calls. The footsteps paus
ed a moment. He leaned forward to peer beneath
the heavy branches ; and in the same moment that
an armed Indian darted from the covert before him,
the shadow of another, who was approaching from
behind, was cast athwart him. He had not time to
spring to his feet before he was again a captive and

The two last-comers were soon joined by others,
who quickly made a rude litter of boughs for their
wounded tribesman, and the whole party then took
their way through the woods with their captive.
They did not, however, carry their prisoner back to
the squaw camp, as he first expected they would,
when, under the circumstances, he anticipated the
usual wretched doom of an Indian prisoner. But,
moving along leisurely until they came to a level
and marshy piece of ground, they paused for a mo
ment, and seemed in doubt what next to do, when
one, who had aided in carrying the wounded man,
gave his place to another, and approached to him
who seemed to act as leader of the party. He mur
mured something, which, from the low tones in
which the Indians usually pitch their voices, Greys-
laer could not overhear.

" Wahss !" (go !) was the brief reply to his com

The man beckoned to two others, and the three,
plunging into a copse near by, appeared the next
moment, each with a birchen canoe upon his shoul
ders. Crossing the trail they had been travelling,


the whole party entered a thicket of alders, where
a thread of water, scarce three inches deep, crept
noiselessly along. The others carefully parted the
bushes, so that the canoemen could let down their
shallops into this slender rill, which was so narrow
that the water was wholly hidden when a canoe
was placed upon its surface.

The wounded man was assigned to the forward
canoe, and Greyslaer, with his arms still pinioned
behind him, placed in the centre. The whole party
were then again soon in motion. The runnel was
too narrow for the use of the paddles, and for some
time they propelled themselves forward merely by
the aid of the bushes which overreached their heads.

At last they came to a spot where the swamp
around them, being confined between two hills,
poured its oozing springs more completely into a
single current. The water, running deeper and
swifter, cuts its way down through the black mould
until a channel of yellow pebbles is revealed be
neath it. The alders are separated more widely
from each other, and grow more in scattered clumps,
which sometimes form green islets, circled with a
fringe of scarlet, wherever their red roots afe wash
ed and polished by the flowing waters.

Now the stream will sweep amid tussocks of long
waving grass, crowned here and there by a broad
branching elm, whose branches dip in the tide, that
whirls in deepening eddies where its projecting
roots overhang the water. Now it ripples for a few
yards over a pebbly bottom, and then, turned by a
spit of yellow sand thick trodden with the tracks
of deer, of wolves, and not unfrequently with those
of bears and panthers it slides round a point of
land black with the shade of lofty pines. A frith of
long wild grass, growing evenly as a fresh-mowed
meadow, and embayed among the thousand points


of a tamarack swamp, receives now the spreading
river. And now, again, it is circumscribed once
more into a deep, black, formal-looking pool, circled
with water lilies; and henceforth, around many a
beetling crag, thick sheathed with laurel and the
clustering hemlock, and beneath the shadows of
many a tall mountain rising from forests of bass-
wood and maple, it marches proudly onward till it
expands into a magnificent lake.

Coasting along the shores of this lake for a mile
or two, they came to an Indian hunter's camp,
which, as it seemed, belonged to the man who fur
nished the canoes. The place was offensive from
the smell of dead animals, such as minks, otters,
and musquashes, whose carcasses, stripped of their
skins, were suspended from the boughs of trees
around the cabin as food for the Indian dogs. But
the Indians, notwithstanding their proverbial keen
ness of scent, seemed nowise molested by this sa
voury atmosphere.*

* A sporting friend, the companion of the author in more than
one excursion among these mountain wilds, seeing some Indians
with whom he hunted busied in removing these objects of annoy
ance from the camp as the party approached it, was wholly at a loss
to conceive the motive of placing them where they were found,
until the sudden appearance of two half-famished dogs revealed
the mystery ; for it is the custom of a hunter, when leaving his
dogs to protect his camp in his absence, to hang the food prepared
for them at different heights, so that the animal might not devour
all his stores at once, but have to leap higher for it as he grows

These dogs, as one might have supposed from their fatigued ap
pearance, had been off somewhere pursuing the chase for their
own amusement. But, upon this being suggested to the old Indian
hunter, who spoke a few words of broken English, and was more
communicative than most of his race, he was indignant at the idea
of an Indian dog deserting his charge. He pointed to a mountain
peak at the other end of the lake, and assured our friend that they
had been watching for him from its summit, when they saw his
boat upon the water and hurried homeward.


Leaving their wounded tribesman under the care
of this worthy, who laid claim to some skill as a
medicine-man, the rest of the party started again
with their captive on the following day, and, cross
ing several mountain ridges, and winding their way
among innumerable ponds and lakes, halted near a
beautiful sheet of water, which still bears the name
of Indian Lake, from its having been a sacred place
of resort to the Iroquois.

The outlet of this lake, though it is buried in a
region of lofty and steril mountains, winds through

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Online LibraryCharles Fenno HoffmanGreyslaer: a romance of the Mohawk (Volume 2) → online text (page 1 of 18)