James Fenimore Cooper.

Cooper's novels, Volume 12 online

. (page 16 of 37)
Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperCooper's novels, Volume 12 → online text (page 16 of 37)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

that pertained to nature was sweet, or simply
grand -, while those parts which depended on the
temper and movements of man, were in perfect

Two little spotless flags were abroad, the one
on a salient angle of the fort, and the other on the
advanced battery of the besiegers j emblems of the
truce which existed, not only to the acts, but it
would seem, also, to the enmity of the combatants.
Behind these, again, swung, heavily opening and
closing in silken folds, the rival standards of En-
gland and France.

A hundred gay and thoughtless young French-
men were drawing a net to the pebbly beach,
within dangerous proximity to the sullen but silent
cannon of the fort, while the eastern mountain was
sending back the loud shouts and gay merriment
that attended their sport Some were rushing
eagerly to enjoy the aquatic games of the lake,
and others were already toiling their way up the
neighbouring hills, with the restless curiosity of
their nation. To all these sports and pursuits,
those of the enemy who watched the besieged, and
the besieged themselves, were, however, merely
the idle, though sympathizing spectators. Hei'e
and there a picquet had, indeed, raised a song, or
mingled in a dance, which hau drawn the dusky
savages around them, from their lairs in the forest,
m mute astonishment In short, every thing wore
rather the appearance of a day of pleasure, than
of an hour stolen from the dangers and toil of a
bloody and vindictive warfare.

Duncan had stood in a musing attitude, content
olating this scene a few minutes* when his eyes

Digitized by




were directed to the glacis in front of the sally-
port, already mentioned, by the sounds of ap-
proaching footsteps. He walked to an angle of
the bastion, and beheld the scout advancing, under
the custody of a French oflBcer, to the body of the
fort. The countenance of Hawk-eye was hag
gard and care-worn, and his air dejected, as though
he felt the deepest degradation at having fallen
into the power of his enemies. He was without
his favourite weapon, and his arms were even
bound behind him with thongs, made of the skin
of a deer. The arrival of flags, to cover the mes-
sengers of summons, had occurred so often of late,
that when Heyward first threw his careless glance
on this group, he expected to see another of the
officers of the enemy, charged with a similar office;
but the instant he recognized the tall person, and
still sturdy, though downcast, features of his friend,
the woodsman, he started with surprise, and turn-
ed to descend from the bastion into the bosom of
the work.

The sounds of other voices, however, caught his
attention, and for a moment caused him to forget
his purpose. At the inner angle of the mound, he
met the sisters, walking along the parapet, in
search, like himself, of air and relief from con-
finement They had not met since that painful
moment when he deserted them, on the plain,
only to assure their safety. He had parted from
them, worn with care, and jaded with fatigue;
he now saw them refreshed and blooming, though
still timid and anxious. Under such an induce
ment, it will cause no surprise, that the young
man lost sight, for a time, of other objects, in
order to address them. He was, however, an-
ticipated by the voice of the ardent and youthful

Digitized by



<'Ah! thou truant! thou recreant knight! he
who abandons his damsels in the very lists, to
abide *he fortunes of the fray!^' she cried, in
affected reproaches, which her beaming eyes and
extended hands so flatteringly denied. "Here
have we been days, nay, ages, expectnig you at
our feet, imploring mercy and forgetfulness of
your craven backsliding, or, I should rather say,
back-running — for verily you fled in a manner
ihat no stricken deer, as our worthy friend the
scout would say, could equal!''

"You know that Alice means our thanks and
our blessings, *' added the graver and more
thoughtful Cora. " In truth, we have a little won-
dered why you should so rigidly absent yourself
from a place, where the gratitude of the daughters
might receive the support of a parent's thanks.''

" Your father himself could tell you, that
though absent from your presence, I have not
been altogether forgetful of your safety," returned
the young man; "the mastery of yonder village
of huts," pointing to the neighbouring entrenched
camp, ^* has been keenly disputed ; and he who
holds it, is sure to be possessed of. this fort, and
that which it contains. My days and my nights
have all been passed there, since we separated,
because I thought that duty called me thither.
But," he added with an air of chagrin, which he
endeavoured, though unsuccessfully, to conceal,
" had I been aware, that what I then- believed a
soldier's conduct, could be so construed, shame
would have been added to the list of reasons."

" Hey ward ! — Duncan!" exclaimed Alice^bend-
ing forward to read his half-averted countenance,
until a lock of her golden hair rested in rich con-
trast on her flushed cheek, and nearly concealed
the tear that had started to her anxious eve; " iid

Vol. I. T

Digitized by V^OOg IC


I think this idle tongue of mine had pained ycra,
I would silence it for ever! Cora can say, if Cor*
would, how justly we have prized your services,
and how deep — I had almost said, how fervent—
is our gratitude!"

*^ And will Cora attest the truth of this?'^ crieA
Duncan, suffering the cloud to be chased from his
countenance by a smile of open pleasure. *^ What
says our graver sister ? Will she find an excuse
for the neglect of the knight, in the ardour of a

Cora made no immediate answer, but turned her
face toward the water, as if looking on the plain
sheet of the Horican. When she did bend her
dark eyes on the young man, they were yet filled
with an expression of anguish that at once drove
every thought but that of kind solicitude from his

<* You are not well, dearest Miss Munro!" he
exclaimed; " we have trifled, while you are in suf-

" 'Tis nothing," she answered, gently refusing
his offered support, with feminine reserve. " That
I cannot see the sunny side of the picture of life,
like this artless but ardent enthusiast," she added,
laying her hand lightly, but affectionately, on the
arm of her anxious sister, " is the penalty of ex-
perience, and, perhaps, the misfortune of my na-
ture. See," she continued, with an effort, as if
determined to shake off every infirmity, in a sense
of duty; "look around you, Major Hey ward,
and tell me what a prospect is this, for the daugh-
ter of a soldier, whose greatest happiness is his
honour and his military renown !"

" Neither ought nor shall be tarnished by cir
cumstances, over which he has had no control,"
Duncan warmly replied. "Butvour words. re-

Digitized by



call me to my own duty. I go now to your gal-
lant father, to hear his determination in matters
of the last moment to our defence. God bless you
in every fortune, noble — Cora — ^I may, and must
call you." She frankly gave him her hand,
though her lips quivered, and her cheeks gradual-
ly became of an ashy paleness. " In every for-
tune, I know you will be an ornament and honour
to your sex. Alice, adieu'* — his tones changed
from admiration to tenderness — "adieu, Alice;
we shall soon meet again ; as conquerors, I trust,
and amid rejoicings !''

Without waiting for an answer from either of
the maidens, the young man threw himself down
the grassy steps of the bastion, and moving rapid-
ly across the parade, he was quickly in the pre-
sence of their father. Munro was pacing his nar-
row apartment with a disturbed air, and gigantic
strides, as Duncan entered.

" You have anticipated my wishes. Major Hey-
ward," he said ; " I was about to request this fa-
vour. *^

** I am sorry to see, sir, that the messenger I so
warmly recommended, has returned in custody of
the French ! I hope there is no reason to distrust
his fidelity?"

** The fidelity of the ^ Long Rifle* is well known
to me," returned Munro, " and is above suspicion;
though his usual good fortune seems, at last, to
have failed. Montcalm has got him, and with the
accursed politeness of his nation, he has sent him
in with a doleful tale, of * knowing how I valued
the fellow, he could not think of retaining him.*
A Jesuitical way, that. Major Duncan Heyward,
pf telling a man of his misfortunes!"

" But the general and his succour? — **

*< Did ye look to the south as ye entered, and

Digitized by



could ye not see them !" said the old soldier,
laughing bitterly. << Hoot! hoot! you're an im-
patient boy, sir, and cannot give the gentlemen
leisure for their march!''

" They are coming then ? The scout has said
IS much?"

<^ When ? and by what path? for the dunce has
omitted to tell me this! There is a letter, it would
seem, too ; and that is the only agreeable part of
the matter. For the customary attentions of your
Marquis of Montcalm — I warrant me, Duncan,
that he of Lothian would buy a dozen such mar
quessates — but, if the news of the letter were bad,
the gentility of this French monsieur would cer-
tainly compel him to let us know it!"

^* He keeps the letter, then, sir, while he re-
leases the messenger?"

" Ay, that does lie, and all for the sake of what
you call your < bonhommie.' I would venture, if
the truth was known, the fellow's grandfather
taught the noble science of dancing !"

"But what says the scout? he has eyes and
ears, and a tongue ! what verbal report does he

" Oh ! sir, he is not wanting in natural organs,
and he is free to tell all that he has seen and heard.
The whole amount is this : there is a fort of his
majesty's on the banks of the Hudson, called Ed-
ward, in honour of his gracious highness of York^
you'll know, and it is well filled with armed men,
as such a work should be!"

"But was there no movement, no signs, of any
intention to advance to our relief?"

^ There were the morning and evening parades,
tnd when one of the provincial loons — ^you'll
know, Duncan, you're half a Scotsman yourself
- when one of them dropped his powder over his

Digitized by VjOOQIC


f)rretch, if it touched the coals, it just burnt !"
hen suddenly changing his bitter, ironical man-
ner, to one more grave and thoughtful, he con-
tinued; "and yet there might, and must be, some-
thing in that letter, which it would be well to
know !"

' " Our decision should be speedy," said Duncan,
gladly availing himself of this change of humour,
to press the more important objects of their inter-
view; "I cannot conceal from you, sir, that the
camp will not be much longer tenable; and 1 am
sorry to add, that things appear no better in the
fort; — more than half our guns are bursted.^^

"And how should it be otherwise! some were
fished from the bottom of the lake; some have
been rusting in the woods since the discovery of
the country ; and some were never guns at all —
mere privateersmen's playthings ! Do you think,
sir, you can have Woolich Warren in the midst of
a wilderness ; three thousand miles from Great

" Our walls are crumbling about our ears, and
provisions begin to fail' us," continued Hey ward,
without regarding this new burst of indignation ;
** even the men «how signs of discontent and

" Major Heyward," said Munro, turning to his
youthful associate with all the dignity of his years
and superior rank; "I should have served his ma-

i'esty for half a century, and earned these gray
lairs, in vain, were I ignorant of all you say, and
of the pressing nature of our circumstances ; still,
there is every thing due to the honour of the
king's arms, and something to ourselves. While
there is hope of succour, this fortress will I de-
fend, though it be to be done with pebbles gather-
ed on the lake shore. It is a sight o^ the letter,
T 2

Digitized by


^22 THE I.A8T OF

Iherefore, that we want, that we may know the
intentions of the man, the Earl of Loudon has
left among us as his substitute?'*

" And can I be of service in the matter?"

"Sir, you can; the Marquis of Montcalm has,
in addition to his other civilities, invited me to a
personal interview between these works and his
own camp; in order, as he says, to impart some
additional information. Now, I think it would
not be wise to show any undue solicitude to meet
him, and I would employ you, an ofiScer of rank,
as my substitute; for it would but ill comport with
the honour of Scotland, to let it be said, one of
her gentlemen was outdone in civility, by a native
of any other country on earth I"

Without assuming the supererogatory task of
entering into a discussion of the comparative merits
of national courtesy, Duncan cheerfully assented
to supply the place of the veteran, in the approach-
ing interview. A long and confidential commu-
nication now succeeded, during which the young
man received some additional insight into his duty,
from the experience and native acuteness of his
commander, and then the former took his leave.

As Duncan could only act as the representative
of the commandant of the fort, the ceremonies
which should have accompanied a meeting be-
tween the heads of the adverse forces, were of
course dispensed with. The truce still existed,
and with a roll and beat of the drum, and covered
by a little white flag, Duncan left the sally-port,
within ten minutes after his instructions were
ended. He was received by the French officer in
advance, with the usual formalities, and immedi
ately accompanied to the distant marquee of the
unowned soldier, who led the forces of France.

The general of the enemy received the youthfu?

Digitized by



messenger,. surrounded by his principal officers,
and by a swarthy band of the native chiefs, who
had followed him to the field, with the warriors
of their several tribes. Heyward paused short,
when, in glancing his eyes rapidly over the dark
group of the latter, he beheld the malignant coun-
tenance of Magua, regarding him with the calm
but sullen attention which marked the expression
of that subtle savage. A slight exclamation of
surprise even burst from the lips of the young
man; but, instantly recollecting his errand, and
the presence in which he stood, he suppressed
every appearance of emotion, and turned to the
hostile leader, who had already advanced a step to
receive him.

The Marquis of Montcalm was, at the period
of which we write, in the flower of his age, and it
may be added, in the zenith of his fortunes. But
even in that enviable situation, he was aflable, and
distinguished as much for his attention to the forms
of courtesy, as for that chivalrous courage, which,
only two short years afterwards, induced him to
throw away his life, on the plains of Abraham.
Duncan, in turning his eyes from the malign ex-
pression of Magua, sufiered them to rest with
pleasure on the smiling and polished features, and
the noble, military air of the French general.

"Monsieur,^' said the latter, " J'ai beaucoup de
plaisir k — bah! — od est cet interpreie?"

*^ Je crois, monsieur, qu'il ne sera pas n6ces
saire," Heyward modestly replied; " je parle un
peu Francais."

"Ah! j'en suis bien aise,'' said Montcalm, taking
Duncan familiarly by the arm, and leading him
deep into the marquee, a little out of ear-shot,
*^ je d^teste ces fripons li; on ne sait jamais sur
quel pi^, on est avec eux. Eh, bien! monsieur^*

Digitized by



he continued, still speaking in French; « though
I should have been proud of receiving your com
mandant, I am very happy that he has seen proper
to employ an officer so distinguished, and who, I
am sure, is so amiable, as yourself.''

Duncan bowed low, pleased with the cdmpli-
ment, in spite of a most heroic determination to
suffer no artifice to allure him into a forgetfulness
of the interests of his prince; and Montcalm, after
\ a pause of a moment, as if to collect his thoughts,
proceeded —

<^ Your commandant is a brave man, and well
qualified to repel my assaults. Mais, monsieur,
is it not time to begin to take more counsel of hu-
manity, and less of your own courage ? The one as
strongly characterizes the hero, as the other!''

" We consider the qualities as inseparable," re-
turned Duncan, smiling; " but, while we find in
the vigour of your excellency, every motive to
stimulate the one, we can, as yet, see no particular
call for the exercise of the other."

Montcalm, in his turn, slightly bowed, but it
was with the air of a man too practised to remem-
ber the language of flattery. After musing a mo-
ment, he added —

" It is possible my glasses have deceived me,
and that your works resist our cannon better than
I had supposed. You know our force?"

" Our accounts vary," said Duncan, carelessly ;
" the highest, however, has not exceeded twenty
thousand men."

The Frenchman bit his lip, and fastened his
eyes keenly on the other, as if to read his thoughts;
then, with a readiness peculiar to himself, he con-
tinued, as if assenting to the truth of an enumera-
tion, which he knew was not credited by hit

Digitized by



*' It is a poor compliment to the vigilance of us
soldiers, monsieur, that, do what we will, we never
can conceal our numbers. If it were to be done
at all, one would believe it might succeed in these
woods. Though you think it too soon to listen
to the calls of humanity," he added, smiling,
archly, "I maybe permitted to believe that gal-
lantry is not forgotten by one so young as your-
self. The daughters of the commandant, I learn,
have passed into the fort, since it was invested?"

" It is true, monsieur ; but so far from weaken-
ing our efforts, they set us an example of courage
in their own fortitude. Were nothing but resolu
tion necessary to repel so accomplished a soldier,
as M. de Montcalm, I would gladly trust the de-
fence of William Henry to the elder of those la-

"We have a wise ordinance in our Salique laws,
which says, ^the crown of France shall never
descend the lance to the distaff,' " said Montcalm,
dryly, and with a little hauteur; but, instantly
adding, with his former frank and easy air, " as
all the nobler qualities are hereditary, I can easily
credit you; though, as I said before, courage has
its limits, and humanity must not be forgotten. I
trust, monsieur, you come authorized to treat foi
the surrender of the place ?"

'^ Has your excellency found our defence so fee-
ble, as to believe the measure necessary!"

" I should be sorry to have the defence pro-
tracted in such a manner, as to irritate my red
friends there," continued Montcalm, glancing his
eyes at the group of grave and attentive Indians,
without attending to the other's question; " I find
it diflScult, even now, to limit them to the usages
of war."

Keyword was silent; for a painful recollection of

Digitized by


226 THE LAST 09

the dangers he had so recently escaped came ovei
his mind, and recalled the images of those defence-
less beings, who had shared in all his sufferings.

"Ces messieurs 1^," said Montcalm, following
up the advantage which he conceived he haa
gained, " are most formidable when baffled ; and
it is unnecessary to tell you, with what difficulty
they are restrained in their anger. Eh bien, mon
sieur! shall we speak of the terms of the surren-

" I fear your excellency has been deceived as
to the strength of William Henry, and the re-
sources of its garrison !"

^^ I have not set down before Quebec, but an
earthen work, that is defended by twenty-three
hundred gallant men,** was the laconic, though
polite reply.

"Our mounds are earthen, certainly — nor are
they seated on the rocks of Cape Diamond ; — but
they stand on that shore which proved so destruc-
tive to Dieskau, and his brave army. There is
also a powerfu^ force within a fevt hours march of
us, which we account upon as part of our means
of defence.*'

" Some six or eight thousand men,'* return-
ed Montcalm, with much apparent indifference,
" whom their leader, wisely, judges to be safer in
their works, than in the field."

It was now Heyward's turn to bite his lip with
vexation, as the other so coolly alluded to a force
which the young man knew to be overrated. Both
mused a little while in silence, when Montcalm
renewed the conversation, in a way that showed
he believed the visit of his guest was, solely, to
propose terms of capitulation. On the other hand,
Heyward began to throw sundry inducements in
^he way of the French general, to betray the dis-

Digitized by



coveries he had made through the intercepted let
teh The artifice of neither, however, succeeded ;
and, after a protracted and fruitless interview,
Duncan took his leave, favourably impressed with
an opinion of the courtesy and talents of the ene-
my's captain, but as ignorant of what he came to
learn, as when he arrived. Montcalm followed
him as far as the entrance of the marquee, renew-
ing his invitations to the commandant of the fort,
to give him an immediate meeting in the open
ground, between the two armies.

There they separated, and Duncan returned to
the advanced post of the French, accompanied a*
before ; whence he instantly proceeded to the fort,
and to the quaiiers of his own commander.


•• Edg. — ^Before you fight the battk, ope thU letter."—

Major Hey ward found Munro attended only
by his daughters. Alice sate upon his knee, part-
ing the gray hairs on the forehead of the old man,
with her delicate fingers; and whenever he afiected
to frown on her trifling, appeasing his assumed
anger, by pressing her ruby lips fondly on his
wrinkled brow. Cora was seated nigh them, a
calm and amused looker-on ; regarding the way-
ward movements of her more youthful sister,
with that species of maternal fondness, which
characterised her love for Alice. Not only the
dangers through which they had passed, but those
which still impended above them, appeared to be
momentarily forgotten, in the soothing indulgence

Digitized by VjOOQIC


of such a family meeting. It seemed as if they
had profited by the short truce, to devote an instant
to the purest and best affections : the daughters
forgetting their fears, and the veteran his cares, in
the stillness and security of the moment Of this
^cene, Duncan, who, in his eagerness to report his
arrival, had entered unannounced, stood many
moments an unobserved and a delighted spectator.
But the quick and dancing eyes of Alice soon
caught a glimpse of his figure, reflected from a
glass, and she sprang blushing from her father^s
knee) exclaiming aloud, in her surprise —

^< Major Hey ward !^^

^' What of the lad ?" demanded her father; « I
have sent him to crack a little with the French-
man. Ha! sir, you are young, and you're nimble!
Away with you, ye baggage; as if there were not
troubles enough for a soldier, without having his
camp filled with such prattling hussies as yourself!"

Alice laughingly followed her sister, who in-
stantly led the way from an apartment, where she
perceived' their presence was no longer desirable.
Munro, instead of demanding the result of the
young man's mission, pacfed the room for a few
moments, with his hands behind his back, and
his head inclined towards the floor, like a man
lost in deep thought. At length, he raised hii
eyes, glistening with a father's fondness, and ex-
claimed —

<^ They are a pair of excellent girls. Hey ward,
and such as any one may boast of !"

" You are not now to learn my opinion of your
daughters. Colonel Mnn^-^, "

'<True. lad, true," interrupted the impatient
old man; << you were about opening j^our mind
more fully on that matter the day you got in; but
I did not think it becoming in an old soldier to be

'Digitized by



talking of nuptial blessings, and wedding jokes,
when the enemies of his king were likely to be
unbidden guests at the feast ! But I was wrong,
Duncan, boy, I was wrong there, and I am now
ready to hear what you have to say.'*

" Notwithstanding the pleasure your assurance

!;ives me, dear sir, I have, just now, a message
rom Montcalm — '^

*^Let the Frenchman, and all his host, go to the

Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperCooper's novels, Volume 12 → online text (page 16 of 37)