P. Hamilton (Peter Hamilton) Myers.

The King of the Hurons online

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five weary hours longer without a halt, and without any communi-
cation with the forward boat. Yet it was thought strange, when at
sunrise he ordered the Algonquin to steer for the land, that no
word or signal was passed to the barge, nay, that the distance
between the vessels had been allowed materially to widen, and that
a time Was chosen for stopping when the other boat was entirely out
of view. It was strange in seeming ; but when Henrich caught the
eye of Carlton as they drew near the shore he read a picture of



malignant triumph in its flash, which revealed at once the whole
fearful secret. The grating of the keel upon the pebbled beach was
accompanied by the harsh, quick voice of the Frenchman, into which
a tone of defiant determination was thrown.

" We leave you at last, Mr. Huntington," he said, " and we shall
see whether my authority to control my own party is still to be

"It is impossible," exclaimed Henrich, in accents husky with
horror and wrath, " that you can contemplate such an atrocity. I
am here at your bidding ; your faith is pledged for my security ;
reposing on that, I have parted with my attendant, and also with
the only means of safety in this wilderness, my boat."

" It would be safe to leave so valorous a man in possession of nei-
ther," replied Carlton ; " it is untrue that I have given you any
pledge ; my httle stratagem, indeed, was almost of your own* sug-
gestion. I said that you were welcome to a seat in this boat ; and,
indeed, so you were, most heartily ; but I did not say, I believe, how
far your voyage m it should extend."

" Count Carlton, this is "

" Enough, — enough, sir ; I have no disposition to argue the mat-
ter " said Carlton, taking snuff with an air of perfect nonchalayice ;
" you will have ample time for vituperation on shore ; he may rail,
you know, who loses. Joseph, assist the gentleman to the beach."

The man who was addressed seized the portmanteau of Hunting-
ton, and bore it to the shore ; and while the latter was ao-ain about
to remonstrate, the low voice of the Algonquin, who sat nearest him,
reached his ears ; but scarcely a few rapid words of the Indian were
uttered, when he was interrupted by the stern glance of the officer.
Anak, however, undertook to intercede for the young man, but was
at once silenced by the count. " I will hear nothing," he said ; " and
the man who speaks for him shall be put under arrest, — we have
had words enough. Now, sir, are you ready ? "

" Count Carlton," exclaimed Henrich, still unwilhng to abandon a



hope that some returning sense of justice would actuate the latter,
" I may not dyscend to entreaty, but let me appeal once more to
your sense of honor. You are "

" Young man," said Carlton, not unwilling to add the sting of
taunts, to his act, " I have said that all words are useless ; your con-
duct v/ould justify me in far harsher measures, which I forbear in
consideration of some slight assistance you are said to have given the
Lynx in rescuing Miss Montaigne ; but your presumption has more
than cancelled your services, and your actual mutiny, since being
attached to my company, is deserving of death ; go, therefore, and
remember that you owe your life to my clemency."

" I could commit no mutiny in disobeying orders to which I was
never subject ; I claimed but the right to navigate this highway of
nature with my own boat and by my own hands. What are the
means by which you seek to prevent me ? Let me say, that the
extreme resort to which you have alluded would have been far more
becoming an officer of the French army."

" If you prefer such an alternative, you may, perhaps, even yet
succeed in procuring it," said the count ; " but I spare you. And
now, sir, once more I must remind you that I have no time for argu-
ment; you can continue your remarks, if you please, upon the shore,
and will pardon us, I hope, if we should not feel ourselves at leisure
to remain your auditors."

Further expostulation was evidently useless, and Henrich passed
to the bow of the boat for the purpose of landing. In doing so, he
came close to the count, ^vho was also standing, and paused for a
moment, confronting him, while a sudden pallor marked the coun-
tenance of the latter.

" I go," said Huntington, " but not without proclaiming you the
coward and villain which your acts have proved."
Saying so, he stepped to the shore.
" You will tempt me to follow you with a brace of balls, if you


are not waiy," said Carlton, breathing freer, as lie saw that no per-
sonal violence was attempted. " Push off, my boys I "

" I do not think you dare even do that ! " answered Henricb,
wrought to that desperation which sees no terror in death, and
drawing at the same time a pistol from his belt ; he stood scarce six
feet from his adversary, as he spoke, and the latter, utterly cowed
by the words and manner of Huntington, forbore reply until the
moving boat had placed a distance of several additional yards be-
tween them.

" You hold your hfe lightly, yonng man," he said, at length, while
the canoe continued to recede ; " it is well for you that others have
more regard for it."

Huntington made no response ; he was incapable of descending to
mere ^dtuperation, and the fervor of wrath was already gi^ang way
to the painfiil consciousness of his position.

Carlton continued his voyage three additional hours, at the end of
which time his party were permitted to stop on the eastern shore for
repose. With smiling visage and unusual blandness of demeanor,
he here rejoined the ladies, and apologized for his temporary separa-
tion from them, alleging that the desire of occupying the post of
danger, in case of pursuit from the fort, had induced him to proceed
in the second boat ; and that, his apprehensions of peril from that
source being now past, he should resume his former place.

Blanche and Emily gave no evidence of requiring to be appeased,
but replied, as usual, with politeness. They looked occasionally
down the river for Henrich's canoe, but supposing it to be at hand,
made no direct inquiry, until, their morning meal being in readiness,
they were invited, as usual, by the count, to partake of it.

" You forg-et that our company are not yet all present," replied
Blanche, glancing again towards the river; "Mr. Huntington wilt
think lightly of our civihty, if we commence our meal before he

" You remind me of my omissions," returned Carlton ; " I forgot


to inform you that we have parted company with yonr friend, and

that I am charged with his adieux to yourself and Miss Roselle "

" His adieux ! Mr. Huntington's adieux ! " exclaimed Blanche,
unguardedly, and with a look of utter astonishment, not unblended
with a bitterer feeling ; " you siuely are jesting. Count Carlton ; he
could not have left us without bidding us farewell in person."

" I do not jest," the count replied, adding, with a sarcastic tone,
" but if I had dreamed of the intelligence being so unpleasant to Miss
Montaigne, I would have divulged it less abruptly,"

" It is unpleasant, indeed," answered Blanche, " to believe that
Mr. Huntington could have been capable of so much incivility;
perhaps, however, there is some explanation, and I have judged him

" There is an explanation, I believe, to the benefit of which he is
entitled, if any is necessary," responded Carlton. " When we em-
'marked, last evening, he doubtless expected to see you again ; he
was not, I beheve, aware that we were so near Albany, which, as the
northernmost English settlement, and one which will aftbrd him the
means of a safe return to his home, was, you will perceive, very
appropriately his stopping-place."

" I am happy that he has grown so prudent," said Blanche, smil-
ing, and fearful that she had exhibited too deep an interest in the
event ; " we will proceed, if you please, to our meal."

Anxious to repair the error of a moment of surprise. Miss Mon-
taigne preserved a forced vivacity of spirits during the remainder of
their stay upon shore, and it wtis not imtil they were once more em-
barked, that she dared recur in thought to a subject which proved so
exciting to her mind. She had never analyzed her sentiments towards
Henrich, and knew little in reality, even at this moment, of their
true character ; but whatever they might be, she was both mortified
and grieved at his conduct, which remained inexplicable, save by the
merest conjecture. Generous in her judgments, her vacillating
thouo'hts settled, at length, upon the conviction that she had given


him cause for sei-ious offence, and she resolved not to add to his
wrongs by censuring his manly resentment. A still more painful
appreliension, which at times displaced her more settled opinion,
was, that the very wound which he had received in her defence,
aggravated by exposure and fatigue, had compelled him to desert
the party for the purpose of seeking medical aid in the settlement
which they had passed. Whichever of these \-iews she adopted, it
was coupled with the conviction that she should never meet her
benefector again, nor be able to repair her injustice towards him ;
and this reflection, if not her only source of disquiet, was the only
one w^hich her self-respect would allow her to recognise.

The last prolonged stage of the voyagers' journey had rendered a
corresponding proportion of rest necessary to them, and it was now
nearly noon w^hen they again resumed their way. While they had
remained encamped, Carlton had been haunted by some vague fears
that Henrich might follow and overtake them still, if it were only to
make known his wrongs to those of the party who had so much
reason to be his friends. How such a useless feat could be accom-
plished, even if Huntington had had the hardihood to undertake it,
he did not pause to reflect; for he had warily landed upon the
opposite shore from that on which he had deserted Henrich, and in
a^ place admitting of 'close seclusion from any distant view ; but it
was only now, when his barge w^-is again gliding rapidly forward,
that he became altogether free from apprehension.

His next stage was nearly as long as the one preceding, and was
made w^ith equal rapidity ; for he was resolved to incur no further
danger of re-union with his rival. Eight hours he proceeded with a
happy consciousness that not even an Indian pedestrian could ha\'e
made equal progress among the impediments of a pathless wilder-
ness, much less a man unused to forest life. It was only when
night had again descended upon the earth, that he ventured to take
such full repose as the wearied energies of his men required ; he
encamped near the point where his route, leaving the Hudson,


entered an adjacent creek, and led eastward to Lake George ; or to
give that beautiful sheet of water the benefit of all its names, Chris-
tian, practical, and poetical, Lake Horicon, or the Lake of the Holy

184 THE KIHG O^ THE H-uRO?rg,


" O'er the glimmering wave he hied him,
Where the Bu/ford reared her sail,
With three thousand ghosts beside him,
And in groans did Vernon hail." — Richard 6l«vcf.

It was near sunset on the day slieceeding the events last rehited,
that the travellers, having gained Lake George in safety, were
passing near a prominent cape or headland on its eastern shore,
when the apparition of a solitary Indian, standing motionless upon
its summit, attracted general attention, and excited no little alarmi
He was evidently watching the approaching party; and, as his
elevated position exhibited his tall, manly figure in distinct relief
against the sky, it seemed to assume vaster proportions than those
of humanity, and awakened superstitious fears in some of the be-

" It's such a sight as I have been looking for,'' said Mallory, in a
mysterious whisper to one of his fellow-soldiers ; " this is called the
haunted lake, and these high hills have been for ages the burying-
place of the Indians : look closely and you'll see him fade into mist
in a moment, and float away."

" After which," replied Francis, to whom these words had been
addressed, " we may look for thunder and lightning, I suppose ; it
may be as you say, but ghosts don't often carry guns, and yonder
fellow, if I am not mistaken, has one which might trouble us, even
at this distance, if he chose to use it."

" It's mere vapor, I tell you," responded the other, more earnestly,


" like their spirit canoes, which are often seen at midnight on these
very ^Yate^s ; why, when the great Iroquois chief, Whirlwind, was
killed, many years ago, in the first battle with the old Marquis Vaii-
dreiiil, who was in his prime then, the sachem's body was carried
down this lake, by night, in a canoe, followed by not more than a
dozen real boats, — for his men were cut np, and scattered, like
foxes in the forest ; but, sir, those who saw it told me, with lips
whiter than yonder foam, there was a fleet of canoes in that pro-
cession which no man could number ; it reached from shore to
shore, besides being miles in lengih, and every one was filled with
forms which held up waihng hands, and ' their sighs swelled into a
breeze that shook the lake till it rocked like a cradle : they were the
dead warriors of the nation for many generations."

" It may be so," again responded Francis, more seriously ; " at
any rate, it won't do to make fun of Satan in his own territory ; if
he sees fit to give these Iroquois ghasts a furlough, now and then, to
attend the funeral of a friend, why that's his business and none of
mine ; but as to this gentleman on the hill "

" Holy mother ! — he's gone !" interrupted Mallory, g-azing with a
look of fear upon the spot so suddenly vacated, — " and as I told
you, — into the air ; I think it gTows darker, and the wind comes
strangely here oflf the shore — hark ! — was not that thunder f

" It may be so — there has been a heavy cloud in the south-west
this last half hour."

" Aye — aye — ever since he made his appearance ; and, perhaps,
by this time he is on its back, gniiding it down the lake, as if he had
bit and bridle upon it ; thanks to St. Francis, we are not far from
shore — ^but what will that avail us ? we may be in the middle of
the lake in a twinkling — aye, and at the lx>ttom of it, too."

If the phantom of the hill had anything to do with the storm
which was now spring*ing up, it was a sj^irit of no little potency.
The cloud which Francis had pointed out, rose rapidly towards the
zenith, followed by successive layers of tlie same tenebrious hue,


which seemed to unfold themselves from some exhaustless treasury
beneath the horizon, and which ex|)anded in every direction, with no
apparent diminution of their density. As the black canopy came
sailino- northward the wave grew darker in its path, and the rippling
waters in the distance told that the wind w^as brushing their suiface,
and waking them into life; the lightning began to dart in long
chain-like streaks across the sky, and the moaning thunder came
faintly as yet, but threateningly to the ear.

While Carlton, envkoned between two varieties of peril, hesitated
what course to pursue, the increasing fury of the storm scarcely left
him the privilege of a choice. The darkness almost of night was
gathering around him ; the wind had become a gale, and was vio-
lently rocking his boats ; the lake was rolling in long ridge-like
undulations ; while the electrical flashes, prolonged and painfully
vivid, were followed, or rather accompanied by detonations, which
now in stunning cannon-like reports, and now in long bellowing
peals, shook the air with little intermission, and added an awful sub-
limity to the scene. The alarmed ladies implored to be taken to
the shore ; and Carlton, scarcely less disconcerted, issued the
necessary orders for that purpose ; but as the boats, guided with
difficulty, were progressing slowly towards the nearest beach, there
was the sound of a terrific explosion seemingly in their very path,
shaking the waters like an earthquake, and a towering oak, riven to
its base, fell quivering across the margin of the lake. Shrieks of
alarm arose from the ladies, and Mallory, dropping his oar, fell upon
his knees, calling on a hundred saints for help, and pointing at
intervals of his hasty prayers towards the hill.

" I said it ! — I said it ! St. Francis defend us ! he's there again,
— see — see, he's calling for another thunderbolt, and pointing
towards us : St. James and St. Peter, orate 2^7-0 nobis P^

All eyes were turned towards the hill, where a singular sight,
indeed, was beheld, which, to the excited imagination of the spec-
tators, seemed almost to justify the fears of the soldier. The Indian


had re-appeared nearly at the spot which he had occupied when first
discovered, but he was no longer motionless as before ; on the con-
trary, he was making the most frantic gestures, throwing his arms
violently into the air, now singly and now together, and anon point-
ing towards the forest, nearly in the direction of the fallen tree. A
long, whistling call was at the same moment heard from the Lynx's
boat, which had been following the barge at a short remove ; and,
on turning to learn its meaning, the count discovered that the canoe
had turned back, and was proceeding rapidly towards the centre of
the lake. Utterly bewildered by these strange events, he hesitated
what course to pursue ; he was within thirty yards of the land, and
was drifting, by the action of the waves, rapidly nearer ; the shrill
whistling continued from his friends, followed now by loud calls and
shouts ; the gestures of the lone Indian grew more violent ; and ere
he had decided aught, twenty Iroquois warriors sprang from a covert,
and rushed to the water's edge.

It was a moment of unmitigated horror. Francis and Mallory,
unordered, regained their oars, and brought the boat quickly around ;
but several of the savages had rushed meanwhile into the shallow
water, with the view of seizing the vessel and forcing it to the land,
while others, with presented weapons, stood on the beach waiting
the issue of the attempt. There seemed no possible escape ; the
count, whose hands alone were disengaged, appeared paralyzed with
fear, and unconscious that there were three loaded guns lying at his
feet ; and, to add to the terror of the moment, the tall Indian on the
hill, who was now supposed to be the leader of the band, was seen
taking deliberate aim with his rifle, apparently towards the barge.
A flash and report succeeded ; but instead of the shot harming the
fug-itives, as they fully expected, the foremost savage was seen sud-
denly to leap upwards and fall back into the lake, crimsoning its sur-
face with his blood. A howl of fury arose from his comrades, who
turned quickly around to look for their unknown enemy ; but the
spot where he had stood was vacant, although the smoke of his gun


was yet curling around it. At the next instant a sliot issued from
the Lynx's boat, which also proved fatal to one of the assailants, the
remainder of whom, finding themselves, as they supposed, between
two parties of their foes, hastened back to their cover, to plan some
safer mode of attack.

Ignorant how numerous or how near might be the party in their
rear, they were fortunately afraid to expend their fire upon the
retreating barge, the occupants of which could otherwise scarcely
have escaped complete destruction. Still, one of the few balls which
were discharged towards them shghtly wounded Francis, and a second
j^ierced the boat scarcely a foot from where Carlton was crouching to
avoid the dreaded missiles. Blanche and Emily, being in the fore
part of the vessel, were partly sheltered by the oarsmen, by whose
advice they had taken a recumbent and comparatively unexposed
position. It was maay minutes, howevw, before the boat attained
a safe offing, and occasional shots continued to be fii'ed from the
shore, and returned by the Lynx and Algonquin ; but the roughness
of the water and the dancing motion of the canoes, preventing any
distinct aim in either direction, rendered them innocuous.

The storm was still raging, although, in \iew of the gi-eater peril,
it had been for some minutes nearly unnoticed by the voyagers ;
but, hke most sudden tempests, its fury was soon expended, and the
boats were enabled to efiect a junction for the purpose of consultation
on future movements. The companions met, deeply impressed with
a sense of the danger they had so narrowly escaped, and of that
which still impended over them ; for they were yet more than a
hundred miles from the southern line of the French territor}^, and
the war party which was now on their track was evidently of a most
formidable character.

" How was it," asked Carlton of the Lynx, " that you became
aware of the ambuscade at so timely a moment ? "

" Did you not see him ?" responded the Huron ; " the Indian on
the hill, warning us to keep oft" the shore 2 "


" Ah, yes ; I remember now that his gestures were those of warn-
incr, thouo'h he seemed Hke some madman at the time, and he did
us vast service with his gun ; but who can he be, and how is it that
he befriends us ? "

The Lynx rephed that he might be some stray hunter from the
north— a Huron, perhaps, or Algonquin — and that if so, he would
doubtless join them before morning. H

Night was fast closing in, and the anxious countenances of Blanche
and Emily showed that they looked forward to its events with the
most painful forebodings. Miss Montaigne experienced that fearful
sinking of the spirits which seems like a presentiment of calamity ;
she had felt, ever since Huntington's departure, such utter loneliness
as the absence of one only congenial companion in the hour of adver-
sity is calculated to produce ; but now, when unwonted perils w^ere
besetting her, how would her desolate heart have welcomed the
presence of one whose courage and hope were so exuberant and so
contagious, and whose single arm had seemed hke a very host for
her defence. Bitter and irrepressible tears were Blanche's, welhng
profusely from a heart which, whatever had been its previous lessons
of suffering, had now found " in lowest depths a lower deep " of

The consultation resulted in a decision to retrace their route and
proceed towards the south until the darkness should conceal their
movements, when they would resume their northward course,
scarcely expecting, howevei-, thus to deceive an enemy to whom wiles
and artifices were the familiar events of life. Their chief hope con-
sisted in the probability that their pursuers were unprovided with
boats ; for, if such was the case, the voyagers could set them quite at
defiance during that part of their journey which was confined to the
lakes. But between the Horicon and Champlain was an interval of
several miles, which was to be traversed by means of a narrow creek,
and the passage would be rendered trebly perilous by the necessity
of vacating their canoes at several points and dragging them across


the shallow and unnavigable stream. The existence of this trap-like
locality was, of course, well known to the Iroquois warriors, and httle
doubt could be entertained that they would seek to avail themselves
of its advantages.

It had been a question with the fugitives, for a moment, whether
they should not avoid an instant's loss of time, and set out openly
for the foot of the lake, with a ^^ew of outstripping their piu'suers,
and passing the dangerous strait before the latter could reach it ; but
it was believed that the contemplated ruse w^ould render the enemy
sufficiently uncertain of their route to compel a division of his forces,
and thus render a conflict, if it could not be avoided, less unequal.
The night, too, was deepening so rapidly that httle delay could be
occasioned by the experiment, and the darkness promised to be such
as to be a serious impediment to the foe in their march through the
woods. Acting upon the plan which had been concerted, the travel-
lers proceeded southward about half an hour, at the end of which
time, the evening being sufficiently advanced to hide their move-
ments, they again changed their course, and rowed rapidly but

Online LibraryP. Hamilton (Peter Hamilton) MyersThe King of the Hurons → online text (page 15 of 29)