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and quaint edifice, from the manner in which they were compressed together.
The condiiGteuj' deemed this village the most extraordinary object on his route;
and when I asked him what coidd have induced men to select such a position
for a town, he answered : ^T/ie hears f Protection was unquestionably the
motive, and the village is probably very ancient. My companion thought there
must be a well of great depth to furnish water, and he added that the inhabitants
were chiefly shepherds. It is necessary to see a landscape embellished by towns,
convents, castles, and churches, occupying sites like this, to form any accurate
notion of the manner in which they render it quaint and striking."

At Marseilles the printing plan was varied. Unwilling to be absent from his
temporary home longer than was possible, he succeeded in finding an English
compositor, who consented to return with him to Florence, and work under Mr.
Cooper's directions in an Italian office. This man, whose name was Richard
Ileavisides, was unfortunately deaf and dumb. Tlie author returned to Florence
with him, however ; and a room in some corner of that spacious Italian dwelling,
the Casa Ricasoli, was found for the printer, who received his meals from his
employer's table, while his working hours were passed in the Italian office. He
proved, however, but an indifferent printer ; the work went 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 be common with mutes —
rendered it necessary to send him back to Marseilles again. At length, with the

THE WEPT OF W I S H -T N- W I S H . 211

kind assistance of the grand duke's librarian, other arrangements were made,
and a small edition of the Wish-ton- Wish was printed, the early sheets of which
were sent to Paris, London, and Philadeli)liia, to meet engagements with the
author's publishers in those cities. In England, the book received the name of
"The Borderers," which it still bears in that country. Tlie word Wish-ton-AVish,
the author had taken from an Indian vocabulary, professing to give it the
meaning of Whip-poor- AVill, in a dialect of one of tlie eastern tribes; the correct-
ness of the translation he 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 the Wish-ton-Wish, appeared rather earlier: Hope
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 honoi's of the earlier publication, still it is simply
true that the idea of Mr. Cooper's book was quite original with himself; at the
time of the publication of the Wish-ton-Wish he had never read Hope Leslie.
Both authors })robably drew their outline from the same sources, the annals of
Deerfield, and Cherry Yalley, and Wyoming.

The success of the Wish-ton-Wish was moderate only. This was especially the
ease in America ; in England and in France it was more liked. Is it an error to
believe that the book has been undervalued ? May we not assert that if no other
work nu>re brilliant in character had been given us by the same pen, the Wish-
ton-Wish would have ranked moi'e highly? There is a vein of deep pathetic
interest running through the 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-turned sod —
the fragrance of bud and briar in the newly opened wood. i\Ir. Cooper was very
far from being an admirer of Puritan peculiarities, or the fruits their principles have
yielded in later times ; but in the Wish-ton-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 habits of life, their shrewdness, and their
indomitable resolution ; while the less pleasing traits have been softened down,
and a snbdued 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 chihl, brother and sister — the narrative is beautiful.
The spirit of that love glows throughout ; it throws a light, sweet and serene, yet
clear and strong, over every page ; while in no instance is there the least taint of
exaggeration or conceit. Some time after the publication of the book, when
revising its pages for a new edition, the writer expressed a regret that his plan



had not varied in one particnlar ; tlie leading idea, tlie abduction of tlie 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 Avould have carried the heart-stricken father into the
wilderness on the trail of his lost child ; he would have followed the parent step
by step through tlie forest, as he was led onward — now deceived by some false
rumor, then again guided by the right clue, wandering far and wide, along unex-
plored streams, over nameless lakes, through 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 wdiicli belongs to the red man's daughter, and then again
brightening under some clearer ray of her earlier Christian nurtiire. 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 short twilight was ah-eady 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 Avhich could find no other relief than that which flowed from the
usual zealous, confidmg, 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 offering 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 his voice to laud the Being
who, 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, Avith the fervor of one Avho 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 we return into the presence of the family.

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 Avondering 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, with all the solici-
tude of a Christian, heightened bv the tenderest maternal love.


Narra-mattah, as we shall continue to call her, in air, expression, and attitude,
resembled one who had a fancied existence in the delusion of some exciting 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 the former now conveyed their
meaning to a mind that had gained its strength under a very different system of
theology, and the latter came too late to supplant usages that were rooted in her
affections by the aid of all those wUd 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 affections, 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 Avas over, and in its" place appeared the never-tiring, vigilant, engrossing,
but regulated watchfulness which the events Avould natiirally create. The doiibts, mis-
givings, and even fearful apprehensions, 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 recallest thine infancy, my Ruth ?" asked the mother, when the respect-
ful period of silence, which ever succeeded prayer in that fiimily, was passed ; " thy
thoughts have not been altogether strangers to us, but nature hath had its place in thy
heart. Tell us, child, of thy wanderings in the forest, and of the sufferings 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 we 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, whUe their meaning was wrapped in an obscurity that she
neither wished to nor Avas capable of comprehending. Keeping a gaze, in which
pleasure and wonder Avere powerfully blended, on that soft look of affection Avhich
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-pleased, half-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. Alarmed at an expression she could not translate, the gaze of Narra-mattah

N A R R A - M A T T A H . 215

Avandered, 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, tlie looks of the startled creature rested on the countenance of the wit-
less wanderer. She pointed eagerly to the work of her hands, appealing by an eloquent
and artless gesture to the taste of one who should know Avhether she had done well.

" Bravely !" returned Whittal, 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 !"

The 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 lying by 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 aflection 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 effect 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 Avas dictated by the mysterious influences of nature, to fathom the depth of her
daughter's mind.

" Come nearer, Narra-mattah," she said, using the name to which the other would
alone answer. " Thou art still in thy youth, my child ; but it hath pleased Him whose
Avill is law, to have made thee the witness of many changes in tliis varying life. Tell
me if thou recallest the days of infancy, and if thy thoughts ever returned to thy
father's house, during those Aveary years thou Avast kept from our vieAV ?"

Ruth used gentle force to draAv her daughter nearer Avhile s})eaking, and the latter
sunk into that posture from Avhich she had just arisen, kneeling, as she had often done
in infancy at her niother's side. The attitude Avas too full of tender recollections not
to be grateful, and the half-alarmed being of the forest Avas suffered to retain it during
most of the dialogue that followed. But Avhile she Avas thus obedient in person, by the
vacancy, or rather Avonder of an eye that Avas so eloquent to express all the emotions
and knowledge of which she Avas the mistress, Narra-mattah plainly manifested that
little more than the endearment of her mother's Avords and manner Avas 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 thy ])eo])le Avere 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 Ustened greedily. Her knowledge of the
language of her childhood had been sufficiently implanted before her captivity, 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 minute 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 me, and we shall soon again possess our Ruth in aiFection, 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 us 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 aside, as if to catch the full meaning of Avhat 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 power. 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 quelling 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 difierently, and it is proper that thou shouldst
call on the name of the Deity of thy fathers. Even the Narragansett teacheth this
truth ! Thy skin is Avhite, 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 w^ere
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 Avill soon be like Nipset, all
red. See !" he added, laying a finger on a part of his own arm, where the sun and the
wmds 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 tlie bones of their fathers, and move toward the sunrise, or his lodge will be lined
with hair of the color of a deer !"

" And thou, my daughter ! canst thou hear this threat against 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 hand 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 tropliy. 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 ])rince could read the 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, Avith less indiflerence 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 ])urchased for 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 Avhen 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 in 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 brow, 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
liad 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 strain succeeded strain; and ere the second verse was ended, her
look, her 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 efforts, and the closing verse was sung
to an ear that nestled near her heart, as it had often done during the early years of
Narra-mattah, while listening to its melancholy melody.

Content was 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 bosom, 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 AVhittal Ring was lulled into quiet, and long and sorrow-
ing years had passed since Ruth enjoyed moments of lia})piness 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 that
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 iu surprise, and before amaze-
ment had time to give i)lace 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 wield, 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 foil 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, Avith that peculiar calm which renders his race so
remarkable. Though its glance was weakened by 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 Avhicli had rendered the infmcy of her own child so remarkable.

" See !" said Narra-nuittah, 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 u 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 tlie 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 "^i^
a glance that might almost be termed reproachful, she commenced a low Indian By^
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 jjartnor. " 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."

Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperThe Cooper gallery; → online text (page 23 of 43)