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compositor, who c(jnsented to i-eturn with him to Florence, and work under Mr.
Coo])er's directions in an Italian otfice. This man, whose name was Richard
lieavisides, was imfortunately deaf and dumb. Tlie author returned to Florence
with him, however ; and a room in some corner of that s})acious Italian dwelling,
the Casa Ricasoli, was found f >r the printer, who received his meals from his
employer's table, while his working hours were ])assed in the Italian ofiice. lie
proved, however, but an indifl:erent printer ; the work Avent on very slowly, and
the plan would probably have been abandoned from this cause alone, when the
ungovernable temper of the man — a failing said to bo common with mutes —
rendered it necessary to send him back to Marseilles again. At length, with the


kind assistance of tli(j grand duke's librarian, otlier arrangements were made,
and a small edition of the Wish-ton-WisIi was printed, the early slieets of which
were sent to Paris, London, and Pliiladelphia, to meet engagements with the
author's publishers in those cities. In England, the book received the name of
" The Borderers," wliicli it still bears in that country. The word Wish-ton- Wish,
the author liad taken from an Indian vocabulary, professing to give it the
meaning of Whip-poor-Will, in a diidect of one of the eastern tril)es; the correct-
ness of the translation lie had afterward reason to doubt, when too late, however,
to change the name. An American work, of no little interest, whose leading idea
was very similar to that of tlie AYish-ton-Wish, appeared rather earlier : IIo2)e
Leslie, by Miss Sedgwick. It was a singular coincidence that two American,
writers should have been led to plan, at the same moment, works so similar in
outline. Hope Leslie had the honors of the earlier publication, still it is simply
true that the idea of Mr. Coopers book was quite original with himself; at the
time of the ])ul)lication of tlie Wish-ton-Wish he had never read Hope Leslie.
Both authors pi'oljably drew their outline fn;)m the same sources, the annals of
Deerfield, and Ciierry Valley, and Wyoming.

The success of the Wish-ton-Wish was moderate only. This was especially the
case in America; in England and in France it was more liked. Is it an error to
believe that the book has l)een undervalued ? May we not assert that if no other
work more brilliant in character had been given us by the same pen, the AYish-
ton-Wish would have ranked more liighly * There is a vein of deep pathetic
interest running through tlie narrative; and many beautiful pictures might be
drawn from its pages. The principal characters are well sketched, and there is a
purity and freshness in the general tone like the odor of the newly-tnrned sod —
the fragrance of bud aiid 1)riar in the newly opened wood. Mr. Cloojjer was very
far from being an admirer of Puritan peculiarities, or the fruits their principles have
yielded in later times; but in the AVish-t(Hi-Wish impartial justice has been done
to all that was sound and healthful in their system : to their courage, their thrifty
industry, their self-denial and simple hal)its of life, their shrewdness, and their
indomitable resolution ; while the less pleasing traits have been softened down,
and a subdued poetical light, in perfect harmony with the pathetic nature of the
subject, thrown over the whole. As a picture of pure family love — that between
husband and wife, parent and child, brother and sister — the narrative is l)eautiful.
The spirit of tliat love glows tlu-oughout; it throws a light, sweet and serene, yet
clear and strong, over every page; wliile in no instance is there the least taint of
exaggeration or conceit. Some time after the publication of tlie book, when
revising its pages for a new edition, the writer expressed a regret that his plan


P A r; F, R ANT) P I r T T^ R E R .

had not varied in one particular; tlic leading idea, the abduction of the daughter
of the Puritan family and her adoption by the savages, would have remained the
same, but instead of bringing Narra-mattah to her old home again with the
Narragansett marauders, he would Lave carried the heart-stricken father into the
wilderness on the trail of his lost child ; he would have followed the pai'ent step
by step through the forest, as he was led onward — now deceived by some false
rumor, then again guided liy the right clue, wandering far and wide, along unex-
plored streams, over nameless lakes, throaigh pathless valleys, until, at length, in
some remote wigwam of the red man, he finds her as she is now drawn, a beautiful
picture of sweet natural instincts, and wild grace, appearing one moment in that
subdued forest light which belongs to the red man's daughtei-, and then again
brightening xinder some clearer ray of her earlier Christian nurture. We can
imagine something, at least, of the higher interest, and the beauty of original
detail, which would have been given to the work under this form.



The sliort twilight was already passed, when old Mark Heathcote ended the
evening prayer. The mixed character of the remarkable events of that day had given
birth to a feeling which could find no other relief than that which flowed from the
usual zealous, confiding, and exalted outpouring of the spirit. On the present occa-
sion, he had even resorted to an extraordinary, and, what one less devout might be
tempted to think, a supererogatory ofifering of thanksgiving and praise. After dis-
missing the dependants of the establishment, supported by the arm of his son, he had
withdrawn into an inner apartment, and there, surrounded only by those who had the
nearest claims on his affections, the old man again raised Ms voice to laud the Being
W'ho, in the midst of so much general grief, had deigned to look upon his particular
race with the eyes of remembrance and of fovor. He spoke of his recovered grand-
child by name, and he dealt with the whole subject of her captivity among the
heathen, and her restoration to the foot of the altar, with the fervor of one who saw
the wise decrees of Providence in the event, and with a tenderness of sentiment that
age was far from having extinguished. It was at the close of this private and
peculiar worship that W'e return into the presence of the famUy.

When Ruth Heathcote arose from her knees, it was with a hand clasped in that
of the child whom her recent devotion was well suited to make her think had been
rescued from a condition far more gloomy than that of the grave. She had used a
gentle violence to force the wondering being at her side to join, so far as externals
could go, in the prayer ; and, now it was ended, she sought the countenance of her
daughter, in order to read the impression the scene had produced, w'ith all the solici-
tude of a Christian, heightened by the tenderest maternal love.


Narra-mattali, as we shall continue to call her, in air, expression, and attitude,
resembled one who had a fancied existence in the delusion of some excitiiicc dream.
Her ear remembered sounds which had so often been repeated in her infancy, and
her memory recalled indistinct recollections of most of the objects and usages that
were so suddenly replaced before her eyes ; but tlie former now conveyed their
meaning to a mind that had gained its strength under a very diflerent system of
theology, and the latter came too late to supplant usages that were rooted in her
affections by the aid of all those wild and seductive habits that are known to become
nearly unconquerable in those who have long been subject to their influence. She
stood, therefore, in the centre of the grave, self-restrained group of her nearest kin,
like an alien to their blood, resembling some timid and but half-tamed tenant of the
air, that human art had endeavored to domesticate, by placing it in the society of the
more tranquil and confiding inhabitants of the aviary.

Notwithstanding the strength of her ivffectious, and her devotion to all the natural
duties of her station, Ruth Heathcote was not now to learn the manner in which she
was to subdue any violence in their exhibition. The first indulgence of joy and
gratitude ^\•as over, and in its place appeared the never-tiring, vigilant, engrossing,
but regulated watchfulness which the events woidd naturally create. The doubts, mis-
givings, and even fearful apjirebensions, that beset her, were smothered in an appear-
ance of satisfaction ; and something like gleamings of happiness were again seen
playing about a brow that had so long been clouded with an unobtrusive but corrod-
ing care.

"And thou recallcst thine infancy, my Ruth?" asked the mother, when the respect-
ful period of silence, which ever succeeded prayer in that family, was passed ; " thy
thoughts have not been altogether strangers to lis, but nature hath had its place in thy
heart. Tell us, child, of thy wanderings in the forest, and of the suflerings that one
so tender must have undergone among a barbarous people. There is pleasure in
listening to all thou hast seen and felt, now that Ave know there is an end to unhappi-

She spoke to an ear that was deaf to language like this. Narra-mattah evidently
understood her words, while their meaning was wrapped ui an obscurity that she
neither wished to nor was capable of comprehending. Keeping a gaze, in which
pleasure and wonder were powerfully blended, on that soft look of affection which
beamed from her mother's eye, she felt hurriedly among the folds of her dress, and
drawing a belt that was gayly ornamented after the most ingenious fashion of her
adopted people, she approached her half-jileased, ludf-distressed parent, and, with hands
that trembled equally with timidity and pleasure, she arranged it around her person
in a manner to show its richness to the best advantage. Pleased with her performance,
the artless being eagerly sought approbation in eyes that bespoke little else than
regret. Alarmol at an expression she could not translate, the gaze of Xarra-mattah


wimileretl, as if it sought support against some sensation to ■which she was a stranger.
Whittal Ring had stolen into the room, and missing the customary features of her own
cherished home, the looks of the startled creature rested on the eoimtenance of the wit-
less wanderer. She pointed eagerly to the work of her hands, appealincj by an eloquent
and artless gesture to the taste of one who should know whether she had done well.

" Bravely !" returned AVTiittal, approaching nearer to the subject of his admiration ;
"'tis a brave belt, and none but the wife of a Sachem could make so rare a gift!"'

Tlie girl folded her arms meekly on her bosom, and again appeared satisfied with
herself and with the world.

" Here is the hand of him visible who dealeth in all wickedness," said the Puritan.
" To corrupt the heart with vanities, and to mislead the affections by luring them to
the things of life, is the guile in which he delighteth. A fallen nature lendeth but too
ready aid. We must deal with the child in fervor and watchfulness, or better that her
bones were l)"ing hy the side of those little ones of thy flock, who are already inheritors
of the promise."

Respect kept Ruth silent ; but, while she sorrowed over the ignorance of her child,
natural affection was strong at her heart. With the tact of a woman, and the tender-
ness of a mother, she both saw and felt that severity was not the means to efi'ect the
improvement they desired. Taking a seat herself, she drew her child to her person,
and, first imploring silence by a glance at those around her, she proceeded, in a manner
that was dictated by the mysterious influences of nature, to flithom the depth of her
daughter's mind.

"Come nearer, Narra-mattah," she said, using the name to which the other woidd
alone answer. " Thou art still in thy youth, my child ; but it hath pleased Hun whose
will is law, to have made thee the witness of many changes in this varj-ing life. TeU
me if thou recallest the days of infancy, and if thy thoughts ever returned to thy
father's house, dtiring those weary years thou wast kept from our view?"'

Ruth used gentle force to draw her daughter nearer while speaking, and the latter
simk into that posture from which she had just arisen, kneeling, as she had often done
in infancy at her mother's side. The attitude was too full of tender recollections not
to be grateful, and the half-alarmed being of the forest was suffered to retain it during
most of the dialogue that followed. But while she was thus obedient in person, by the
vacancy, or rather wonder of an eye that was so eloquent to express all the emotions
and knowledge of which she was the mistress, Xarra-mattah plainly manifested that
little more than the endearment of her mother's words and mamier was intelligible.
Ruth saw the meaning of her hesitation, and smothering the pang it caused, she en-
deavored to adapt her language to the habits of one so artless.

" Even the gray heads of tliy people were once young," she resumed ; '• and they
remember the lodges of their fathers. Does my daughter ever think of the time
when she played among the children of the pale-faces ?"


The attentive creature at the knee of Ruth listened greedily. Her knowledge of the
language of her childhood had been sufficiently implanted licfore her cai)ti\ity, and it
had been too often exercised by intercourse with the whites, and more particularly
with Whittal Ring, to leave her in any doubt of the meaning of what she now heard.
Stealing a timid look over a shoulder, she sought the countenance of Martha, and,
studying her lineaments for near a nimutc with intense regard, she laughed aloud in
the contagious merriment of an Indian girl.

" Thou hast not forgotten us ! That glance at her who was the companion of thy
infancy assures mo, and we shall soon again possess our Ruth in affection, as we now
possess her in the body. I will not speak to thee of that fearful night when the violence
of the savage robbed us of thy presence, nor of the bitter sorrow which beset xis at thy
loss; but there is one who must still be known to thee, my child : He who sitteth above
the clouds, who holdeth the earth in the hollow of his hand, and who looketh in mercy
on all that journey on the path to which his own finger pointeth. Hath he yet
a place in thy thoughts ? Thou rememberest His holy name, and still thinkest of his
power ?"

The listener bent her head a.side, as if to catch the full meaning of what she heard,
the shadows of deep reverence passing over a face that had so lately been smiling.
After a pause she audibly murmured the word —


" Manitou, or Jehovah ; God, or King of kings, and Lord of lords ! it mattereth
little which term is used to express his jiower. Thou knowest him, then, and hast
never ceased to call upon his name ?"

" Narra-mattah is a woman. She is afraid to speak to the Manitou aloud. He
knows the voices of the chiefs, and opens his ears when they ask help."

The Puritan groaned, but Ruth succeeded in rjuelling her own anguish, lest she
should disturb the reviving confidence of her daughter.

" This may be the Manitou of an Indian," she said ; " but it is not the Christian's
God. Thou art of a race which worships differently, and it is proper that thou shouldst
call on the name of the Deity of thy fothers. Even the Narragansett teacheth this
truth! Thy skin is white, and thy ears should hearken to the traditions of the men of
thy blood."

The head of the daughter drooped at this allusion to her color, as if she would fain
conceal the mortifying truth from every eye ; but she had not time for answer, ere
Whittal Ring drew near, and pointing to the burning color of her cheeks, that were
deepened as much with shame as with the heats of an American sun, he said —

" The wife of the Sachem hath begun to change. She will soon be like Nipset, all
red. See !" he added, laying a finger on a part of his own arm, where the sun and the
winds had not yet destroyed the original color ; " the Evil Spirit poured water into his
blood too, but it will come out again. As soon as he is so dark that the Evil Spirit


will not know him, he will go on the war-path ; and then the lying pale-faces may dig
up the bones of theii' fothers, and move toward the sunrise, or his lodge will be lined
with hair of the color of a deer I"

" And thou, my daughter ! canst thou hear this threat agamst the people of thy
nation — of thy blood — of thy God — without a shudder ?"

The eye of Xarra-mattah seemed in doubt; still it regarded Whittal with its accus-
tomed look of kindness. The innocent, full of his imaginary glory, raised his liand in
exultation, and by gestures that could not easily be misunderstood, he indicated the
manner in which he intended to rob his victims of the usual trophj-. While the youth
was enacting the disgusting but expressive pantomime, Ruth watched the countenance
of her child in nearly breathless agony. She would have been relieved by a single
glance of disapprobation, by a solitary movement of a rebellious muscle, or by the
smallest sign that the tender nature of one so lovely, and otherwise so gentle, revolted
at so unequivocal evidence of the barbarous practices of her adopted people. But no
empress of Rome could have witnessed the dying agonies of the hapless gladiator, no
consort of a more modern prince could read tlie bloody list of the victims of her
husband's triumphs, nor any betrothed fair listen to the murderous deeds of him her
imagination had painted as a hero, with less indifference to human suffering, than that
with which the wife of the sachem of the Narragansetts looked on the mimic represen-
tation of those exploits which had purchased ibr her husband a renown so highly prized.
It was but too apparent that the representation, rude and savage as it was, conveyed
to her mind nothing but pictures in which the chosen companion of a warrior should
rejoice. The varying features and answering eye too plainly proclaimed the sympathy
of one taught to exult in the success of the combatant ; and when Whittal, excited by
his own exertions, broke out into an exhibition of a violence more ruthless even than
common, he was openly rewarded by another laugh. The soft, exquisitely feminine
tones of this involuntary burst of pleasure, sounded m the ears of Ruth like a knell over
the moral beauty of her child. Still, subduing her feelings, she passed a hand thought-
fully over her own pallid bro-n-, and appeared to muse long on the desolation of a mind
that had once promised to be so pure.

But the efforts of maternal love are not easily repulsed. An idea flashed upon her
brain, and she proceeded to try the efficacy of the experiment it suggested. Nature
had endowed her with a melodious voice, and an ear that taught her to regulate
sounds in a manner that seldom failed to touch the heart. Drawing her daughter
nearer to her knee, she commenced one of the songs then much used by the mothers of
the colony, her voice scarcely rising above the whispering of the evening air, in its first
notes, but gradually gaining, as she proceeded, the richness and compass that a strain
so simple required.

At the first low breathing notes of this nursery song, Narra-mattah became as mo-
tionless as if her rounded and unfettered form had been wrought in marble. Pleasure


lighted her eye, as stram succeeded stram; and ere the second verse was ended, her
look, lier attitude, and every muscle of her ingenuous features, were eloquent in the
expression of delight. Ruth did not hazard the experiment without trembling for its
result. Emotion imparted feeling to the music, and when, for the third time in the
course of her song, she addressed her child, she saw the soft blue eyes that gazed wist-
fully on her face swimming in tears. Encouraged by this unequivocal evidence of
success, nature grew still more powerful in its eflbrts, and the closing verse was sung
to an ear that nestled near her heart, as it had often done during the early years of
N"arra-mattah, while listening to its mel.ancholy melody.

Content Avas a quiet but an anxious witness of this touching evidence of a reviving
intelligence between his wife and child. He best understood the look that beamed
in the eyes of the former, while her arms were, with extreme caution, folded around
her who still leaned upon her bnsom, as if fearful one so timid might be frightened
from her security by any sudden or unaccustomed interruption. A minute passed
in the deepest silence. Even Whittal Ring was lulled into quiet, and long and sorrow-
ing years had passed since Ruth enjoyed moments of happiness so pure and unalloyed.
The stillness was broken by a heavy step in the outer room ; a door was thrown open
by a hand more violent than common, and then young Mark appeared, his face flushed
with exertion, his brow seemingly retaining the frown of battle, and with a tread tliat
betrayed a spirit goaded by some fierce and unwelcome passion. The burden of
Conanchet was on his arm. He laid it upon a table ; then pointing, in a manner that ap-
peared to challenge attention, he turned, and left the room as abruptly as he had entered.

A cry of joy burst from the lips of Narra-mattah, the instant the beaded belts
caught her eye. The arms of Ruth relaxed their hold in surprise, and before amaze-
ment had time to give place to more connected ideas, the wild being at her knee had
flown to the table, returned, resumed her former posture, opened the folds of the cloth,
and was holding before the bewildered gaze of her mother the patient features of an
Indian babe.

It would exceed the powers of the unambitious pen we wielil, to convey to the
reader a just idea of the mixed emotions that struggled for mastery in the countenance
of Ruth. The innate and never-dying sentiment of maternal joy was opposed by all
those feelings of pride that prejudice could not fail to implant even in the bosom of one
so meek. There was no need to tell the history of the parentage of the little suppliant,
who already looked up into her face, with that peculiar calm which renders his race so
remarkable. Though its glance was weakened liy infancy, the dark glittering eye of
Conanchet was there ; there were also to be seen the receding forehead and the com-
pressed lip of the father ; but all these marks of his origin were softened by touches
of that beauty which had rendered the infancy of her own child so remarkable.

" See !" said Narra-mattah, raising the infant still nearer to the riveted gaze of
Ruth ; " 'tis a sachem of the red men ! The little eagle hath left his nest too soon."



Ruth could not resist the appeal of her beloved. Bending her head low, so as
entirely to conceal her own flushed face, she imprinted a kiss on the forehead of the
Indian boy. But the jealous eye of the young mother was not to be deceived. Narra-
mattah detected the difference between the cold salute and those fervent embraces she
had herself received, and disappointment produced a chill about her own heart.
Replacing the folds of the cloth with quiet dignity, she arose from her knees, and
withdrew in sadness to a distant corner of the room. There she took a seat, and with
a glance that might almost bo termed reproachful, she commenced a low Indian song
to her infant.

" The wisdom of Providence is in this, as in all its dispensations," whispered Con-
tent over the shoulder of his nearly insensible partner. " Had we received her as she
was lost, the favor might have exceeded our deservings. Our daughter is grieved
that thou turnest a cold eye on her babe."

The appeal was suflicient for one whose affections had been wounded rather than
chilled. It recalled Ruth to recollection, and it served at once to dissipate the shades
of regret that had been unconsciously permitted to gather around her brow. The
displeasure — or it would be more true to term it sorrow — of the young mother was
easily appeased. A smile on her infant brought the blood back to her heart in a swift
and tumultuous current ; and Ruth herself soon forgot that she had any reason for
regret, in the innocent delight with which her own daughter now hastened to display
the physical excellenee of the boy. From this scene of natural feeling. Content was
too quickly summoned by the intelligence that some one without awaited his presence,
on business of the last importance to the welfare of the settlement.

Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperPages and pictures, from the writings of James Fenimore Cooper → online text (page 23 of 43)