Maurice G. (Maurice Garland) Fulton.

Southern life in southern literature; selections of representative prose and poetry online

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that cry, well known as the fearful war whoop, the sound of
which made the marrow curdle in the bones of the frontier
settler and prompted the mother, with a nameless terror, to hug
closer to her bosom the form of her unconscious infant. It was
at once answered from side to side, wherever their several
parties had been stationed, and it struck terror even into the shel
tered garrison which heard it such terror as the traveler feels
by night, when the shrill rattle of the lurking serpent, with that
ubiquity of sound which is one of its fearful features, vibrates
all around him, leaving him at a loss to say in what quarter his
enemy lies in waiting, and teaching him to dread that the very
next step which he takes may place him within the coil of death.

" Ay, there they are, sure enough fifty of them at least,
and we shall have them upon us after this monstrous quick, in
some way or other," was the speech of Gray son, while a brief
silence through all the party marked the deep influence upon
them of the summons which they had heard.

"True and we must be up and doing," said the smith;
" we can now give them a shot, [Walter] Grayson, for they will
dance out from the cover now, thinking they have killed one
of us. The savages they have thrown away some of their
powder at least." As Grimstead spoke, he drew three arrows
with no small difficulty from the bosom of the figure in which
they were buried.


" Better there than in our ribs. But you are right. Stand
back for a moment and let me have that loop I shall waste
no shot. Ha ! I see there is one I see his arm and the
edge of his hatchet it rests upon his shoulder, I reckon, but
that is concealed by the brush. He moves he comes out,
and slaps his hands against his thigh. The red devil, but he
shall have it. Get ready now, each at his loop, for if I hurt
him they will rush out in fury."

The sharp click of the cock followed the words of Grayson,
who was an able shot, and the next moment the full report
came burdened with a dozen echoes from the crowding woods
around. A cry of pain then a shout of fury and the reiterated
whoop followed ; and as one of their leaders reeled and sank
under the unerring bullet, the band in that station, as had been
predicted by Grayson, rushed forth to where he stood, brand
ishing their weapons with ineffectual fury and lifting their
wounded comrade, as is their general custom, to bear him to a
place of concealment and preserve him from being scalped,
by secret burial in the event of his being dead. They paid for
their temerity. Following the direction of their leader, whose
decision necessarily commanded their obedience, the Carolinians
took quite as much advantage of the exposure of their enemies
as the number of the loopholes in that quarter of the building
would admit. Five muskets told among the group, and a
reiterated shout of fury indicated the good service which the
discharge had done and taught the savages a lesson of prudence
which, in the present instance, they had been too ready to dis
regard. They sank back into cover, taking care however to
remove their hurt companions, so that, save by the peculiar cry
which marks a loss among them, the garrison were unable
to determine what had been the success of their discharges.
Having driven them back into the brush, however, without
loss to themselves, the latter were now sanguine, where, only


a moment before, their confined and cheerless position had
taught them a feeling of despondency not calculated to improve
the comforts of their case.

The Indians had made their arrangements, on the other
hand, with no little precaution. But they had been deceived
and disappointed. Their scouts, who had previously inspected
the fortress, had given a very different account of the defenses
and the watchfulness of their garrison, to what was actually the
fact upon their appearance. The scouts, however, had spoken
truth, and but for the discovery made by Hector, the proba
bility is that the Block House would have been surprised with
little or no difficulty. Accustomed to obey Harrison as their
only leader, the foresters present never dreamed of preparation
for conflict unless under his guidance. The timely advice of
the trader s wife, and the confident assumption of command on
the part of Walter Grayson, completed their securities. But
for this, a confusion of counsels, not less than of tongues,
would have neutralized all action and left them an easy prey,
without head or direction, to the knives of their insidious
enemy. Calculating upon surprise and cunning as the only
means by which they could hope to balance the numerous
advantages possessed by European warfare over their own, the
Indians had relied rather more on the suddenness of their
onset and the craft peculiar to their education than on the
force of their valor. They felt themselves baffled, therefore, in
their main hope, by the sleepless caution of the garrison and
now prepared themselves for other means.

They made their disposition of force with no little judg
ment. Small bodies, at equal distances, under cover, had been
stationed all about the fortress. With the notes of the whip-
poorwill they had carried on their signals and indicated the
several stages of their preparation, while, in addition to this,
another band, a sort of forlorn hope, consisting of the more


desperate, who had various motives for signalizing their valor,
creeping singly from cover to cover, now reposing in the
shadow of a log along the ground, now half buried in a cluster
ing bush, made their way at length so closely under the walls
of the log house as to be completely concealed from the garri
son, which, unless by the window, had no mode of looking
directly down upon them. As the windows were well watched
by their comrades having once attained their place of con
cealment it followed that their position remained entirely
concealed from those within. They lay in waiting for the
favorable moment silent as the grave, and sleepless ready,
when the garrison should determine upon a sally, to fall upon
their rear ; and, in the meanwhile, quietly preparing dry fuel
in quantity, gathering it from time to time and piling it against
the logs of the fortress, they prepared thus to fire the defenses
that shut them out from their prey.

There was yet another mode of finding entrance, which has
been partially glimpsed at already. The scouts had done their
office diligently in more than the required respects. Finding a
slender pine twisted by a late storm, and scarcely sustained by
a fragment of its shaft, they applied fire to the rich turpentine
oozing from the wounded part of the tree, and carefully direct
ing its fall, as it yielded to the fire, they lodged its extremest
branches, as we have already seen, against the wall of the
Block House and just beneath the window, the only one look
ing from that quarter of the fortress. Three of the bravest of
their warriors were assigned for scaling this point and securing
their entrance, and the attack was forborne by the rest of the
band while their present design, upon which they built greatly,
was in progress.

Let us then turn to this quarter. We have already seen that
the dangers of this position were duly estimated by Grayson,
under the suggestion of Granger s wife. Unhappily for its


defense, the fate of the ladder prevented that due attention to
the subject, at once, which had been imperatively called for;
and the subsequent excitement following the discovery of the
immediate proximity of the Indians had turned the considera
tion of the defenders to the opposite end of the building, from
whence the partial attack of the enemy, as described, had come.
It is true that the workmen were yet busy with the ladder. 1
but the assault had suspended their operations, in the impatient
curiosity which such an event would necessarily induce, even
in the bosom of fear.

The wife of Gray son [Granger], fully conscious of the dan
ger, was alone sleepless in that apartment. The rest of the
women, scarcely apprehensive of attack at all and perfectly
ignorant of the present condition of affairs, with all that heed-
lessness which marks the unreflecting character, had sunk to
the repose (without an effort at watchfulness) which previous
fatigues had, perhaps, made absolutely unavoidable. She, alone,
sat thoughtful and silent musing over present prospects
perhaps of the past but still unforgetful of the difficulties
and the dangers before her. With a calm temper she awaited
the relief which, with the repair of the ladder, she looked for
from below.

In the meantime, hearing something of the alarm, together
with the distant war whoop, she had looked around her for
some means of defense, in the event of any attempt being
made upon the window before the aid promised could reach
her. But a solitary weapon met her eye, in a long heavy
hatchet, a clumsy instrument, rather more like the cleaver of a
butcher than the light and slender tomahawk so familiar to the
Indians. Having secured this, with the composure of that cour
age which had been in great part taught her by the necessities

1 The ladder leading up from the floor below to the room where the women
were had become broken and another was being constructed. [Editor s note.]


of fortune, she prepared to do without other assistance, and to
forego the sentiment of dependence, which is perhaps one of
the most marked characteristics of her sex. Calmly looking
round upon the sleeping and defenseless crowd about her, she
resumed her seat upon a low bench in a corner of the apart
ment, from which she had risen to secure the hatchet, and,
extinguishing the only light in the room, fixed her eye upon the
accessible window, while every thought of her mind prepared
her for the danger which was at hand. She had not long been
seated when she fancied that she heard a slight rustling of the
branches of the fallen tree just beneath the window. She
could not doubt her senses, and her heart swelled and throbbed
with the consciousness of approaching danger. But still she
was firm her spirit grew more confirmed with the coming
trial ; and, coolly throwing the slippers from her feet, grasping
firmly her hatchet at the same time, she softly arose, and keep
ing close in the shadow of the wall, she made her way to a
recess, a foot or so from the entrance, to which it was evident
someone was cautiously approaching along the attenuated body
of the yielding pine. In a few moments a shadow darkened the
opening. She edged more closely to the point and prepared
for the intruder. She now beheld the head of the enemy a
fierce and foully painted savage the war tuft rising up into
a ridge, something like a comb, and his face smeared with
colors in a style most ferociously grotesque. Still she could
not strike, for, as he had not penetrated the window, and as its
entrance was quite too small to enable her to strike with any
hope of success at any distance through it, she felt that the
effort would be wholly without certainty, and failure might be
of the worst consequence. Though greatly excited, and strug
gling between doubt and determination, she readily saw what
would be the error of any precipitation. But even as she mused
thus apprehensively, the cunning savage laid his hand upon the


sill of the window the better to raise himself to its level. That
sight tempted her, in spite of her better sense, to the very pre
cipitation she had desired to avoid. In the moment that she
saw the hand of the red man upon the sill the hatchet
descended, under an impulse scarcely her own. She struck too
quickly. The blow was given with all her force and would
certainly have separated the hand from the arm had it taken
effect. But the quick eye of the Indian caught a glimpse of
her movement at the very moment in which it was made, and
the hand was withdrawn before the hatchet descended. The
steel sank deep into the soft wood so deeply that she could
not disengage it. To try at this object would have exposed her
at once to his weapon, and, leaving it where it stuck, she sank
back again into shadow.

What now was she to do ? To stay where she was would be
of little avail, but to cry out to those belo\\7 and seek to fly,
was equally unproductive of good, besides warning the enemy
of the defenselessness of their condition and thus inviting a
renewal of the attack. The thought came to her with the
danger, and, without a word, she maintained her position in
waiting for the progress of events. As the Indian had also
sunk from sight, and some moments had now elapsed without
his reappearance, she determined to make another effort for
the recovery of the hatchet. She grasped it by the handle, and
in the next moment the hand of the savage was upon her own.
He felt that his grasp was on the fingers of a woman, and in a
brief word and something of a chuckle, while he still maintained
his hold upon it, he conveyed intelligence of the fact to those
below. But it was a woman with a man s spirit with whom he
contended, and her endeavor was successful to disengage herself.
The same success did not attend her effort to recover the
weapon. In the brief struggle with her enemy it had become
disengaged from the wood, and while both strove to seize it, it


slipped from their mutual hands and, sliding over the sill, in
another instant was heard rattling through the intervening
bushes. Descending upon the ground below, it became the
spoil of those without, whose murmurs of gratulation she
distinctly heard. But now came the tug of difficulty. The
Indian, striving at the entrance, was necessarily encouraged by
the discovery that his opponent was not a man, and assured, at
the same time, by the forbearance on the part of those within
to strike him effectually down from the tree, he now resolutely
endeavored to effect his entrance. His head was again fully in
sight of the anxious woman then his shoulders, and, at length,
taking a firm grasp upon the sill, he strove to elevate himself
by muscular strength so as to secure him sufficient purchase
for the entrance at which he aimed.

What could she do weaponless, hopeless ? The prospect
was startling and terrible enough, but she was a strong-minded
woman, and impulse served her when reflection would most
probably have taught her to fly. She had but one resource,
and as the Indian had gradually thrust one-lTa"rid~ forward for
the hold upon the sill, and raised the other up to the side of the
window, she grasped the one nighest to her own. She grasped
it firmly with all her might, and to advantage, as, having lifted
himself on tiptoe for the purpose of ascent, he had necessarily
lost much of the control which a secure hold for his feet must
have given him. Her grasp sufficiently assisted him forward to
lessen still more greatly the security of his feet, while, at the
same time, though bringing him still farther into the apartment,
placing him in such a position half in air as to defeat much
of the muscular exercise which his limbs would have possessed
in any other situation. Her weapon now would have been all-
important, and the brave woman mentally deplored the precipi
tancy with which she had acted in the first instance and which
had so unhappily deprived her of its use. But self-reproach was


unavailing now, and she was satisfied if she could be able to
retain her foe in his present position, by which, keeping him
out, or in and out, as she did, she necessarily excluded all other
foes from the aperture which he so completely filled up. The
intruder, though desirous enough of entrance before, was rather
reluctant to obtain it now, under existing circumstances. He
strove desperately to effect a retreat, but had advanced too far,
however, to be easily successful, and in his confusion and dis
quiet he spoke to those below, in his own language, explaining
his difficulty and directing their movement to his assistance.
A sudden rush along the tree indicated to the conscious sense
of the woman the new danger, in the approach of additional
enemies, who must not only sustain but push forward the one
with whom she contended. This warned her at once of the
necessity of some sudden procedure, if she hoped to do anything
for her own and the safety of those around her the women
and the children, whom, amid all the contest, she had never
once alarmed. Putting forth all her strength, therefore, though
nothing in comparison with that of him whom she opposed (had
he been in a condition to exert it), she strove to draw him still
farther across the entrance, so as to exclude, if possible, the
approach of those coming behind him. She hoped to gain time
sufficient time for those preparing the ladder to come to her
relief; and \vith this hope, for the first time, she called aloud
to Grayson and her husband.

The Indian, in the meanwhile, derived the support for his
person as well from the grasp of the woman as from his own
hold upon the sill of the window. Her effort, necessarily draw
ing him still farther forward, placed him so completely in the
way of his allies that they could do him little service while
things remained in this situation, and, to complete the difficulties
of his predicament, while they busied themselves in several
efforts at his extrication, the branches of the little tree resting


against the dwelling, yielding suddenly to the unusual weight
upon it, trembling and sinking away at last, cracked beneath
the burden and, snapping off from its several holds, fell from
under them, dragging against the building in the progress down,
thus breaking their fall but cutting off all their hope from this
mode of entrance and leaving their comrade awkwardly poised
aloft, able neither to enter nor to depart from the window.
The tree finally settled heavily upon the ground, and with it
went the three savages who had so readily ascended to the
assistance of their comrade bruised and very much hurt ;
while he, now without any support but that which he derived
from the sill and what little his feet could secure from the
irregular crevices between the logs of which the house had been
built, was hung in air, unable to advance except at the will of
his woman opponent, and dreading a far worse fall from his
eminence than that which had already happened to his allies.
Desperate with his situation, he thrust his arm, as it was still
held by the woman, still farther into the window, and this en
abled her with both hands to secure and strengthen the grasp
which she had originally taken upon it. This she did with a
new courage and strength, derived from the voices below, by
which she understood a promise of assistance. Excited and
nerved, she drew the extended arm of the Indian, in spite of
all his struggles, directly over the sill, so as to turn the elbow
completely down upon it. With her whole weight thus em
ployed, bending down to the floor to strengthen herself to the
task, she pressed the arm across the window until her ears
heard the distinct, clear crack of the bone until she heard
the groan and felt the awful struggles of the suffering wretch,
twisting himself round with all his effort to obtain for the
shattered arm a natural and relaxed position, and, with this
object, leaving his hold upon everything ; only sustained, in
deed, by the grasp of his enemy. But the movement of the


woman had been quite too sudden, her nerves too firm, and her
strength too great, to suffer him to succeed. The jagged splin
ters of the broken limb were thrust up, lacerating and tearing
through flesh and skin, while a howl of the acutest agony
attested the severity of that suffering which could extort such
an acknowledgment from the American savage. He fainted
in his pain, and as the weight increased upon the arm of the
woman, the nature of her sex began to resume its sway. With
a shudder of every fiber, she released her hold upon him. The
effort of her soul was over, a strange sickness came upon
her, and she was just conscious of a crashing fall of the heavy
body among the branches of the tree at the foot of the window,
when she staggered back fainting into the arms of her husband,
who just at that moment ascended to her relief.

[Under the leadership of Harrison relief comes to the be
sieged in the blockhouse, and the Indians are driven off.

After the defeat of the Indians Chorley attempts to carry
Bess Matthews away on his ship, but is shot in his canoe
by Captain Harrison, and Bess Matthews is rescued. Bess
Matthews consents to make her rescuer happy with the hand
which she had hitherto denied him. It is disclosed that Har
rison is really the governor of the colony, Charles Craven, and
the story closes with an account of how the colonists drove
the Indians back further from the coast and defeated them in
a final battle.]


[John Esten Cooke was born in Winchester, Virginia, in 1830,
and died in Clarke County, Virginia, in 1886. He left school early
in order to study law, but preferring literature, he devoted himself
largely to writing. He saw service in the Confederate army. When
the war was over he returned to his literary pursuits and continued


to write novels until his death. His novels fall into two groups
those on Colonial and Revolutionary times and those relating to the
Civil War. Besides these romances in all some twenty or more
Cooke wrote a life of Stonewall Jackson and a history of Virginia.]


On a splendid October afternoon, in the year of our Lord
1763, two persons who will appear frequently in this history

were seated in the great dining
room of Effingham Hall.

But let us first say a few
words of this old mansion.
Effingham Hall was a stately
edifice not far from Williams-
burg, which, as everybody
knows, was at that period the
capital city of the colony of
Virginia. The hall was con
structed of elegant brick
brought over from England;
and from the great portico in
front of the building a beauti
ful rolling country of hills and
valleys, field and forest, spread
JOHN ESTEN COOKE itself pleasantly before the eye,

bounded far off along the

circling belt of woods by the bright waters of the noble river.
Entering the large hall of the old house, you had before you
walls covered with deer s antlers, fishing rods, and guns ; por
traits of cavaliers and dames and children ; even carefully
painted pictures of celebrated race horses, on whose speed and



"* . !_ mi ^

bottom many thousands of pounds haor been staked and lost
and won in their day and generation.

On one side of the hall a broad staircase with oaken balus
trade led to the numerous apartments above, and on the
opposite side a door gave entrance into the great dining room.

The dining room was decorated with great elegance, the
carved oak wainscot extending above the mantelpiece in an un
broken expanse of fruits and flowers, hideous laughing faces,
and long foamy surges to the cornice. The furniture was in
the Louis Quatorze style, which the reader is familiar with,
from its reproduction in our own day ; and the chairs were the
same low-seated affairs, with high carved backs, which are now
seen. There were Chelsea figures, and a sideboard full of
plate, and a Japan cabinet, and a Kidderminster carpet, and
huge andirons. On the andirons crackled a few twigs lost in
the great country fireplace.

On the wall hung a dozen pictures of gay gallants, brave
warriors, and dames whose eyes outshone their diamonds ; and
more than one ancestor looked grimly down, clad in a cuirass
and armlet and holding in his mailed hand the sword which had
done bloody service in its time. The lady portraits, as an invari
able rule, were decorated with sunset clouds of yellow lace ; the
bright locks were powdered, and many little black patches set off
the dazzling fairness of the rounded chins. Lapdogs nestled on
the satin laps ; and not one of the gay dames but seemed to be
smiling, with her head bent sidewise fascinatingly on the courtly
or warlike figures ranged with them in a long glittering line.

These portraits are worth looking up to, but those which we
promised the reader are real.

Online LibraryMaurice G. (Maurice Garland) FultonSouthern life in southern literature; selections of representative prose and poetry → online text (page 10 of 35)