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The King of the Hurons online

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companions had closely observed Henrich's surprised air ; " does it
talk to our brother, and what are its words ?"

" It speaks !" rephed Huntington, solemnly, " and its words are
many ; it says that the Huron was not upon the war-path when he
came into the camp of his enemy ; that he did not come looking for
the scalps of the Wappenos."

" Huh !" exclaimed the chief, who, in common with his race,
entertained no conception of the art of conveying ideas by writing,
and looked upon written language, of which he had heard something
among the whites, as a production of magic ; " huh !" he exclaimed,
sarcastically ; " ask it why then the Huron has come, if not for
scalps ; is there no game in the forests of the north ?"

" It says," replied Henrich, " that far away by the bright lakes,
an old man weeps for his daughters, who are captives of your Eng-
lish father in New York ; and that he will listen long for the feet of
the swift runner, and for his voice to tell him that his children are
yet alive."

" He will listen long," replied the unmoved chieftain, " if he waits
for the false Maqua, who came to Manahatta, with the face of a
Mohock, and the heart of a Huron— does it say anything else ?"

" It says nothing more," replied Henrich, sadly, yet earnestly ; "but


there is a voice fi-om the Great Spirit, which speaks to you, old man,
and forbids this horrible sacrifice — \Thich says, ' Shed not innocent
blood :' which says that the happy hunting fields will be closed to
the cruel and revengeful man."

" I do not hear it !" answered the chief, looking upward for a
moment, and then turning slowly away ; " the words of our white
brother are too many : wise men speak but once."

Henrich was about to make a final appeal by largely increasing
Jiis offered ransom, when he felt himself pulled suddenly by the
sleeve, and on looking down he saw a pair of glowing eyes fixed
intently upon him, and slowly receding at the same time into the
depths of the crowd. As he gazed, he gradually recognized the
features of an Indian, known as the Weasel, whom he had frequently
met in the city, and who now evidently desired to make some private
communication to him. He w^as celebrated among his brethren as
an orator ; but was, in reality, a wordy, windy, sham patriot, exceed-
ingly fond of intoxicating drinks, and indulging in his favorite
propensity to a shameless extent, whenever a favorable opportunity
occurred. As the general attention became at once engaged in the
renewed preparations for the Huron^s death, Henrich found no
difficulty in following the Weasel and obtaining an interview with

The Indian had a proposition to make, which, divested of its
parade of words, amounted to this ; that his own heart was touched
by the condition of the unfortunate captive, that he remembered
with gratitude the former ser\ices of Henrich to his tribe in the
time of famine, and that he would undertake to bring about the
release of the Huron for the ransom which had been offered, and
for one additional keg of rum for his private benefit. Henrich
caught with avidity at this offer, improbable as it seemed of fulfil-

" But how," he said, " can you do this 1 did you not give your
voice for the prisoner's death, and advocate it with a speech 2"


" I did," answered the iDdian ; " but my mind has turned over,"
turning his hand, by way of illustrating his meaning ; " I will turn
my brothers' too."

The orator entered at once upon his task. He took his position
upon a slight eminence near the centre of the square, and commenc-
ing an energetic address, at once drew around him the gratified
savages, who, knowing what had been his views and vote in council,
anticipated only an inflammatory exhortation to persevere in their
design, and, perhaps, a suggestion of some new and ingenious
varieties of torture. Tlie Weasel knew well the disappointment
which he was about to create ; and he approached his subject care-
fully, and fi-om a remote position. Only gradually unfolding his
design, he fortified his premises by earnest and impressive appeals,
while his hearers were yet uncertain of the conclusion to which they
tended. He spoke of the famine from which they had suffered, and
described by word and gesture the hollow cheeks and shrivelled
limbs of themselves and their children ; he told of their inability to
procure food, of their unwillingness to beg in the great city, of an
old warrior who had sung his death-song in his empty cabin — and
finally " brought down the house " by a suddenly drawn picture of
the good Henrich appearing in their midst, with a sleigh-load of
yellow maize.

" Look around you," he said, " and you will see the tracks of his
horses, just where he stood but now, when you stopped your ears
to his prayers."

The mortified Wappenos showed that they felt the indirect taunt
of the orator, who still refrained from any avowal of his design :
when, at length, however, he declared it, he saved himself from the
charge of inconsistency by professing not to have known at the time
of giving his voice against the captive, that their benefactor desired
his release. He dwelt briefly upon the peculiar mission of the Huron,
as one which entitled him to clemency, and did not fail to dilate
temptingly upon the ransom which Henrich stood ready to give ;


he spoke, indeed, of ever3rtliing connected witli the affair, with the
exception of his own promised counsel-fee, and on that subject, he
maintained a discreet silence. He closed his remarks with a forcible
and effective peroration, reminding his brethren that the council
doors w^ere still open, and that they should be glad that the oppor-
tunity yet remained to retrace their stej)s, and wipe out the stain of
ingratitude from their character.

Henrich watched with much anxiety the countenances of the
auditors, and was rejoiced to see the signs of general relenting.
The judges, at the instigation of the Weasel, returned formally to
the lodge where they had sentenced the prisoner, and after a little
deliberation, revoked their former decision, wdth but a few dissenting
voices. Henrich received the tidings with the greatest exultation,
which he manifested by shaking hands with the whole court, and,
finally, with the Huron, to whom he had the pleasure of bringing
the first news of his freedom.

It was difficult to convince the captive that he was really dis-
charged ; and it was not until in company with Huntington he
had left the camp of his enemies, that he could beheve himself at
liberty. His delight w^as evidently extreme, although it w^as
manifested less in language than in looks and manner. He
resigned himself implicitly to Henrich's guidance, who returned to
him his lost packet, and undertook to conduct him at once to
the persons to whom it was addressed. It would have been an
easy matter at that moment to win from the confiding Huron the
w^hole secret of his errand, and its author, and thus to solve to some
extent, the mystery which enveloped Blanche ; but Henrich was
incapable of taking such an advantage of his position. To induce
the savage to violate his trust, or to penetrate by any means a
secret which his friend was desirous to conceal, was an act repulsive
to his sense of duty; and although an unbounded curiosity per-
vaded his mind to know the origin and tendency of the Indian's
mission, he conducted him, unquestioned, to his own home. There


he at once obtained an interview with the ladies, introduced to
them his companion, as one who was seeking their presence, and
having learned that although much amazed, they were not afraid to
be left alone with the messenger, withdrew, and left the Huron to
tell his own story.

His forbearance and delicacy were rewarded by a speedy summons
to return to the ladies, and aid them with his counsel m a new and
important emergency.



" We are alone ;
But how I should begin, or in what language
Speak the unwilling word of parting from you,
I am yet to learn." — Massinger,

" We are compelled, Mr. Huntington," said Blanche, rising with
an excited air, as Henrich entered the room, "to make you the
depositary of a few secrets, which, if they were ever important, will
cease to be so when we are gone."

" Gone !" answered Henrich, with astonishment, — " whither ? — by
what means ? surely. Miss Roselle, you are not in earnest "

" We are summoned," rephed Blanche, interrupting him, " by one
who has the right to control our movements, and who doubtless has
properly provided for our safety. But I will explain all : you are
already acquainted with some of the circumstances connected with
our accidental arrival in this city — the shipwreck of the St. Cloud —
the singular escape of one of her passengers, and the subsequent
banishment of our friend and protector. Father Ledra."

" I know the whole sad story," said Henrich ; " the fugitive, of
whom you speak, was the haughty and powerful Baron Montaigne ;
the friend and counsellor of Louis ; the man by whose courage and
diplomacy with the Indian nations, the whole tottering government
of New France has long been upheld — whose craft and cruelty
have "

" Mr. Huntington is speaking of my father," rejoined Miss Mon-
taigne, ^vith quiet dig*nity.


Amazement for a while held the young man silent ; and when he
again spoke, it was with the apology that the occasion seemed to

" The picture is drawn by his enemies," he said, " and we may
easily suppose that it is not impartial : I can beheve nothing ill of
the father of Miss Blanche Montaigne."

" The packet which we have received," continued Miss Montaigne,
" I need scarcely say, is from him ; but it has been prepared with
reference to the contingency of falling into other hands than ours,
and contains, therefore, no explicit information. A few words
without a signature, but in penmanship which is familiar to me,
instruct us to trust ourselves with implicit confidence to the protec-
tion of the bearer, — a Huron Chief, called the Lynx, — and whom
we are to know as genuine by his knowledge of us. We have not
yet proved him ; because feeling the importance of avoiding any
error on so vital a point, we dared not rely upon our own judgment
alone : Emily has frightened me with a horrible supposition that
the true messenger may have Mien into the hands of foes, who have
obtained his credentials, and now seek to decoy us into their

" Too much caution cannot be used where everything is at stake,"
replied Henri ch, with a saddened air ; " I think I have already
sufficient proof that the Indian is a Huron — yet we will leave nothing
to conjecture ; but how is he accompanied ? where is his force ? and
what are his means of conveyance ? You surely will not confide
yourselves to the charge of a single man, however trustworthy ?"

" It is not probable that we are required to do so," said Blanche ;
" but we know nothing as yet — the savage seemed suffering from
fatigue and hunger, and is now partaking of your grandfother's
hospitality ; he will rejoin us in a few minutes, and we trust to you
to interrogate him as to all the particulars of his mission."

She had scarcely ceased speaking when the Huron stalked
silently into the room, and answering an invitation to be seated by


a graceful wave of the hand, remained standing erect and dignified,
and seemingly awaiting his exj^ected examination. Henrich was
familiar with the abrupt and sententious style of colloquy used by
the Indians, and naturally adoj^ted it in con\ersing with them ; he
addressed the stranger in French, which the latter, like many of his
northern brethren, spoke with tolerable correctness.

" My brother comes with a talking paper," he said ; " can he tell
us what it says ?"

" It talks to /i^r," answered the Huron, laying his hand lightly
on the head of Blanche, " and to her," pointing to Emily, " and to
an old man, with long white hair — I do not see him : it talks to
them, not to me ; I have listened, but cannot hear it."

" AYhose are its words ?" asked Henrich.

The Indian's countenance brightened and assumed a loftier
expression as he answered : " they are the words of my cousin, the
great general — the Baron Montaigne — the King of the Hurons ; and
this," he said, again touching the head of Blanche — " this is liis

" And this ?" asked Henrich, pointing towards Miss Roselle.

" Is his sister's child — I have said — I have but one tongue, and it
is not forked."

" Yonr words are true," replied Henrich, " we receive them into
our hearts ; yet tell us of this Baron Montaigne : what is he like ?"

" He is a great Brave," said the savage, with an air of unbounded
admiration — "bold as the grizzly bear — quick as the elk — with
eagle's eyes — tall, large, straight as the oak — I cannot speak

" It is enough !" exclaimed Blanche, offering her hand frankly to
the Huron — " you are our friend ; tell me," she said, with an affec-
tionate interest, which showed that desertion and neglect had not
chilled her filial love — " tell me, is my father well ? — did he — did he
speak kindly of me ?"

The Indian answered only : " He is well ;" and Blanche turned


aside to hide the gushing tears which told how bitterly she was

The remaining part of the messenger's story was soon told : he
was one of a company of seven, who had descended the lakes and
the Hudson river in canoes, and who, passing the few settlements
and exposed places always under cover of the night, had reached the
vicinity of Xew York without molestation. There had been, indeed,
no recent active hostilities between the French and English at the
time of the setting out of this expedition ; and as far as Montaigne
could learn from his ^^gilant runners, there were no Indians on the
war-path, in that part of the territory of the Five Nations which it
would be necessary to traverse. These circumstances, in connexion
with the almost uninterrupted line of water communication for the
whole route, and the width of the river and lakes, which would
permit of avoiding an enemy on either side, were supposed to render
the proposed journey of the ladies reasonably safe, in an age and
country in which human life was never abundantly secure. It was
rather the hardships than the perils of the undertaking which formed
its chief objection ; but these Miss Montaigne resolved cheerfully to
encounter, when once assured that her father deemed it prudent,
and that his agents were fully reliable.

But her surprise and curiosity were not a little excited when she
was informed by the Huron that the party was under the command
of one Count Carlton, a young French officer, and an intimate friend
of the baron, a piece of intelligence which went far to reconcile
^lEmily to the journey. To her imagination, which no remembrance
of past events could wholly correct, it began to assume the character
of a romantic enterprise, in which nothing was wanting to increase
its attraction but the certainty of being pursued by a party of those
delightful Mohawks, all of whom were to be slain by their gallant
champion, the young French count. The name fell ominously upon
the ear of Henrich, who already pained beyond expression at the
prospect of Blanche's departure, at once foresaw, with a lover's


instinct, the danger which threatened most to his happiness. AHve,
however, to every incident, he did not fail to observe that the Huron
spoke of his commanding officer with a scowl that seemed to indicate
displeasure, and that he did not designate him as a Brave, or apply
to him any of those terms by which the savage so freely expresses
his admiration of all noble qualities.

The count, with the remainder of his small detachment, of whom
four were French soldiers, and the other an Algonquin Indian, was
encamped in the forest about ten miles north of the city, where a
small creek, connecting with the river, afforded a safe hiding-place
for his boats. The Huron had left the encampment early on the
morning of the preceding day, and it became important that no
further delay should occur, lest Carlton should withdraw his men,
and abandon the expedition, under the impression that his messen-
ger had fallen into the hands of the enemy. The Huron, indeed,
urged that they should depart on that very evening, and as Miss
Montaigne, though pale with emotion, did not hesitate to assent, the
bustle of a hurried preparation at once ensued, and before it was
yet sufficiently dark to set out, the ladies were both in readiness.

Henrich, whose aid was of course volunteered to accompany
them to the camp, had in the meantime procured a boat and
despatched it in charge of a slave to await the party on the shore
of the river, a little north of the city wall, but there was at the
same time something in the character of his arrangements which
indicated a view to some ulterior purpose. Miss Montaigne, who
had contemplated with dread a perilous night-walk through the
forest, was delighted at the comparatively easy means of travel which
had been provided, and something like a gleam of cheerfulness began
to illumine her features, as the moment for departure approached.
It was in vain, however, that she sought to conceal her trepidation,
and she seemed to seek a re-assurance for her failing courage in the
language and bearing of Henrich. He would have rejoiced at the
hghtest intimation from Blanche, that his services would be accept-



able as one of her guard through the whole of her anticipated journey,
and only dared not make the offer, lest its refusal, fouiKk-d on the
suspicion of his daring love, should involve, by implication, a rejec-
tion of his suit, and extinguish tor ever the flickering hght of hope,
which served now at least harmlessly to irradiate his heart. There
was something in the romantic character of his attachment which
admitted of his gathering bliss even from an acknowledged illusion,
as long as it did not transcend the limits of possibility, but he had
not courage to face the reality of a present and certain despair.

" We look to you, Mr. Huntington," said Miss Montaigne, " to
infuse a little courage into us before we part ; confidence, you know,
is ever inspired by example, and you are really looking as if you
boded evil."

Accident had left them a moment alone, and Henrich replied with
a smile — " You must allow me to be a little dismal at the prospect of
losing the companionship of yourself and your cousin and falling back
upon the Wappenos, and wolves for society. Your escort, I hope, is
safe ; it is doubtless such as will best secure secresy and celerity of
movement ; yet I could have wished it somewhat stronger."

" Do you think there is much danger ?" asked Blanche, quickly.

" With vigilance, prudence, and valor, on the part of your guard,
no ;" said Henrich, " and Ave must presume they have been selected
for qualities like these ; yet I would that you felt sufficienth- insecure
to permit of my offering to enrol myself among your defenders."

Blanche slightly colored as she replied, " We are already laden
with obligations to you that we cannot requite, and although I can-
not deny that it would add greatly to my sense of security "

" It would !" exclaimed Henrich, laughing ; " then say not
another word, Miss Montaigne ; it is a charity to give occupation to
an idle man, and I have really nothing else in the world to do : I
think, too, that grandfather Waldron will gladly be rid of me for a
few weeks."

" You cannot blind me thus, Mr. Huntington," said Blanche,


" to the magnitude of the favor which you offer, nor to the privations
and probable peril which it would cost you."

" The school of danger is one in which I need a few lessons,"
answered Henrich, gaily ; " and as to privations," he continued,
lowering his voice, to escape the ear of Miss Koselle, who re-entered
the room at that moment, " Miss Montaigne's permission to accom-
pany her w^ill postpone for a while the only evil of that nature
which has any terrors for me."

Henrich withdrew from the apartment as he concluded speaking,
and proceeded to complete his preparations, not forgetting to pro-
vide for the liquidation of his debt to his foi'est friends, the payment
of which involved the loss of his favorite rifle. It became necessary
to procure a substitute for this weapon, and he was fortunate in
obtaining one of tried worth, which had acquired a wide celebrity,
even in less skilful hands than those by which it was in future to be
wielded. The party set out about nine o'clock in the evening,
accompanied by a few slaves, who transported to the boat some
light but necessary stores, and brought back intelligence to Mynheer
Waldron and his household that the travellers were safely embarked.
Leasing them to pursue their nocturnal voyage, we must precede
them to the camp of Count Carlton, and take a hasty survey of its
inmates and theh condition.



"What the d — 1 should move me to undertake the recovery of this drum ; being not
ignorant of the impussiliility, and knowing I had no such purpose 1 I must give myself
some hurts, and say I got them in exploit." — ParoUes in " ^IPs Well that Ends Well."

Louis Carlton had not failed in making good liis resolution to
visit Castle Montaigne, on the in\atation of its proprietor, extended
to hiin, as has been seen, when the baron was about visiting Europe.
He had riot seen fit, however, to wait for the return of the latter,
beheving that if delays were ordinarily dangerous, they were pecu-
liarly so in the prosecution of such delicate missions as that on
which he was now bound. The baron was rich and powerful and
had an only daughter at home, whom he had fairly offered to the
count — such, at least, was Carlton's understanding of the affair, and
Governor Vaudreuil might laugh his fill at the idea of his nephew
wedding a maiden upon whose escutcheon a bow and arrow might
properly be emblazoned ; yet if the heiress was at all attractive in
person, he had resolved not to be driven by ridicule fi'om his design.
In the salons of Paris, the descendant of a Huron prince might
expect rather to derive a lustre from her ancestry than to find it a
subject of reproach ; and with Wealth and Beauty for auxiliaries,
and the advantage of the count's reputation, which, although a
little shattered, was still potent in his own estimation, he did not
doubt she would win the ^clat of the fashionable world. All his
fears had been that Myrtle would prove to partake too strongly of
the Indian characteristics of countenance and demeanor ; but on
these points he was destined to be most agreeably disappointed.


He was welcomed at the castle, where he introduced himself as a
fi'ieiid of the baron, and soon attained a degree of no little intimacy
with its inmates. His gay and pleasing manners were attractive to
Myrtle, and even won many a smile of approval from the reserved
and diffident baroness, while both were astonished to receive so
many marks of attention and kindness from a sti-anger of distin-
guished appearance. He became the companion of the daughter in
her rambles and sports, and put his invention to task in devising
new varieties of pastime for her anmsement ; and instead of finding,
as he had feared, only the glimmerings of beauty and grace in her
person, he was continually compelled to accord to her unstudied
charms the tribute of admiration.

The baroness, little accustomed to deference, beheld his courtesy
towards herself with ill-disguised astonishment ; but his ajtparent
kindness to her child entirely won the heart of the Huron mother.
Myrtle knew not how to understand the addresses of the stranger ;
but artless and truthful herself, she could think no ill of a man whose
whole endeavor seemed to be to contribute to her enjoyment.

Affairs at the castle were in this position, when the baron
returned, not a little pleased to believe that Carlton's eagerness
to meet Miss Montaigne had induced him to anticipate her arrival
by his visit. He hastened, therefore, to explain to his guest the
accident which had separated ^himself and his daughter, and which
had left the latter almost a prisoner in New York, while the very

Online LibraryP. Hamilton (Peter Hamilton) MyersThe King of the Hurons → online text (page 10 of 29)