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Your bristling bayonets gleam."

G, W. Patten.

It was about mid-day when Count Carlton's engagement, if such
it may be called, with the Iroquois, had terminated, and when the
voyagers, relieved from ai^preheusion of immediate danger, resumed
their route with comparatively light hearts. To Miss Montaigne,
however, returned none of that buoyancy of spirit which, despite pri-
vation and peril, had marked her conduct during the first few days
of the journey. That repeated alarms and a still abiding uneasiness
as to the future had in part produced her depression was doubtless
true ; yet her unl)idden thoughts were continually recurring to the
singular conduct of Huntington, and were ferreting out remem-
brances of imagined wrongs, which had impelled one, usually so
kind and just-judging, to an act that implied evident displeasure
towards herself.

Ever self-censuring, she could dwell upon this subject only with
pain, for she held in vivid remembrance all the weighty favors she
had received from him, as well as his generous and unpresuming
deportment, which ever indicated a fear of seeming to claim a requi-
tal at her hands. That she had wounded so noble a spirit, had
driven him from her presence, had for ever closed the way to expla-
nation, and to returning sympathy and friendship, seemed to her now



THE KING OF THE HURONS. 217

distressed heart a depth of ingratitude and unkindness, for which it
would be vain to seek a parallel.

Beyond this limit, her thoughts took no definite shape ; her senti-
ments towards Huntington may, perhaps, at times, have been im-
bued with a glow beyond the genial warmth of friendship ; but if so,
she knew it not. Love, indeed, is not infrequently an unrecognized
inmate of the heart, overlooked, for a while, or mistaken, by its inex-
perienced entertainer, for some kindred emotion, and only discovered
at length, too late to be dislodged. Blanche did not seek to ti-ace
her feelings to their source ; and if ever for a moment she had re-
garded Henrich as a suitor, the thought had been repressed by the
conviction that there was an unbridged gulf betwixt them, across
which Hope might gaze, but could not pass.

The Lynx had not erred in believing that the Iroquois warriors
were not effectually repulsed ; they had vanished, indeed, from view,
and so long did they continue invisible, that hopes were entertained
of their having abandoned their costly enterprise ; but they were
again discovered, about the middle of the afternoon, scarcely two
miles distant, skirting the western shore of the lake, and skulking
beneath its shadows. They had retreated with a succession of wail-
ing yells and screeches, which were supposed at the time to be less
in lamentation for their loss than with a view to invoke aid from the
neighboring forests; and their present pertinacious pursuit was
attributed to the hope of finding such assistance. They were now,
fortunately, silent, beheving themselves undiscovered, and it was the
policy of the fugitives to let them remain deceived, lest they should
recommence their dangerous cries.

But not many minutes had elapsed when a noise issued from their
midst, different in its character from any which they had heretofore
made ; it was a prolonged, shrill call, seeming to proceed from a
single voice, and the batteau at the same moment shot out from the
shadows into a place where it could be more distinctly seen. The
objects which had occasioned this movement had at the same mo-

10



218 THE KING OF THE HURONS.

ment caught the attention of the Huron, who, with forced calmness,
now pointed them out to his comrades, recalhng all their abated
terror, and adding tenfold to its intensity. Three long canoes, con-
taining in the aggregate not less than thirty men, were doubling a
distant promontory in the northwest, and approaching in a direction
which would directly intersect the [sath of the count's party ; they
were yet several miles distant, and could not be seen with distinct-
ness ; but they were supposed to be a war party, returning from an
expedition, and travelling to their home, somewhere on the eastern
shore of the lake.

The most utter consternation prevailed among the travellers, and
the course of the boat was instantaneously changed, by the Lynx, to
the east, in the direction of a cluster of small islands, which lay
about a mile and a half distant.

" We can only fly," he said, in answer to the eager inquiries of
his leader, as to the extent of the danger ; " if they have not seen us,
we may possibly escape."

It was the first time that the Huron had spoken discouragingly,
and the count trembled as he replied :

" Why do you say ' possibly ? ' the night is not far distant, and
they are yet several miles from us ; the danger cannot be great."

" It is great ! " responded the Indian ; " 1 have said ! they are
many — we are few — see ! "

As he ceased speaking, he pointed towards the Iroquois batteau,
which was now proceeding rapidly outward, seemingly with a view
to overtake the fugitives, or at least, hound-like, to track them closely
until the other vessels should come up. They repeated their calls,
which, as far as could be judged, were ineflectual in atti-acting the
attention of the strangers, and this seemed the only encouraging fea-
ture in the affair. But e\'en this was of short duration ; for, finding
other means insufficient, the jfursuers fired a salute of half a dozen
guns, following it up by a j)rolonged war-cry, which at once pro-
duced an effect ; the canoes stopped for a moment, and came to-



THE KING OF THE HURONS. 219

gether ; and when they resumed their progress, it was clearly \Nath
increased speed and in a diverging direction from each other, as if to
make sure of keeping the chase within \-iew. So great, indeed, was
their velocity, compared ^vith that of the count, whose wearied oars-
men had toiled ever since the preceding evening, that it became
almost doubtful whether the latter would be even able to attain the
refuge of an island before their alhed enemies would overtake them.

When the design of the strangers became fully apparent, an
ominous silence prevailed for awhile in the retreating batteau, broken
at length by the hysterical sobbing's of Emily and the low mournful
voice of Blanche in attempted encouragement. It was the nitention
of the Lynx to land on the smallest of the islets, hoping that possibly
one might be found sufficiently minute to be capable of defence even
by his little corps, until some opportunity of escape should offer.
He was disappointed, however, on drawing near the group, to find
none that was suitable for his purpose : the only one which seemed
even temporarily defensible was situated near the centre of the cluster,
and was separated on the south from a sister isle, by scarcely sixty
rods of water. To this refuge, therefore, the retreating party fled,
wearied and dispirited, while even its stoical warriors entertained
but little hope beyond that of selling their lives dearly, and perform-
ing the journey to the spirit-land in company with a portion, at least,
of their invaders.

The isle of which they had taken possession was much too large
for their safety, being nearly a third of a mile in length, and about
forty rods in width, and would involve the necessity of a division of
their small force to protect its several parts. The batteau, indeed,
containing the first detachment of the enemy, came rapidly up and
took possession as had been anticipated of the nearest island on the
south, while the course of the canoes indicated an intention of landing
upon another, which lay considerably north of that occupied by the
count's party. It was the longest if not the largest of the group,
extending more than a mile north and south, and approaching to



220 THE KING OF THE HURONS.

within a little less than half that distance of the territory occupied by
the besieged party. The strangers passed to the north of this large
island, and came down on its eastern side, remaining unobserved
until they had effected a landing near its southern border, and
encamped in the woods.

Thus were the unhappy travellers surrounded as it were by
enemies, who waited only for the approaching night to attack them
from every quarter, and from whose vigilant surveillance there was
no prospect of escape. The count, the Algonquin, and three of the
soldiers took their station on the south coast, while the remainder of
the force, three in number, were stationed at the opposite extremity
of the land ; the Lynx being invested with full power to act in his
section of the little realm, as circumstances should require, without
communicating with his principal. For the ladies a fitting place was
selected about midway between the posts.

It was about the hour of four in the afternoon when these
arrangements were completed, and there remained a brief interval
of suspense to be passed before the dreadful crisis should arrive, the
probable issue of which was too appalhng to be contemplated. Miss
Montaigne and Emily remained for a while in the shelter which had
been provided for them, but finding the burden of their fears too
heavy to bear alone, they strolled together towards the place where
the Lynx and his two companions were on guard, and begged that
they might be allowed to remain near their protectors. To this, of
course, the Huron readily assented, and while Emily, exhausted,
sought a seat at a little distance from her cousin, the latter remained
standing near the Lidian and his comrades.

" You are not accustomed easily to despair," she said at length ;
" why is it that you think there is so little hope of escape ? The
shore is not far distant."

" There are four boats ready to follow when we start," rephed the
Lynx — " we are safer here."

" But the night may favor us — we may fly unseen "



THE KING OF THE HURONS. 221

" If the Manitou should hang his mantle on the moon, we may,"
said the Huron, pointing to the orb of night, which, although laintly
visible as yet, amid the day's superior beams, was climbing a sky
singularly clear and cloudless, save in the far north, where a high
piled cloud, towering like ocean canvass, navigated the calm expanse
alone, but answered, alas, to no mortal hail, and settled slowly towards
the horizon.

Blanche remained motionless, her lips only mo\ing, and her eyes
fixed upon the firmament ; a pause of some minutes succeeded, which
was at length broken by the low voice of the Indian :

" The Lynx is sorry," he said, looking mournfully at the young
lady, and impressed seemingly with the idea that he was in some
degree responsible for the pending calamity — " he is very sad — but
men must not weep ; he did what he could — he has acted like a
chief; is it not so ? what does the Dove-eye say ?"

" You have done everything that a brave man could do," replied
Blanche emphatically — "surely you have no cause to reproach
yourself."

" He will never know it !" rephed the Indian bitterly — " the King of
the Hurons will say that the Lynx was not a Brave."

" That will he not !" answered Blanche, " my father will never do
you injustice ; besides, there is one who will j^roclaim your worth to
the world ; thank Heaven that he is not here in this hour of peril !"
" Thank Heaven that he is /" exclaimed a low voice at her side ;
" to share every peril of Miss Montaigne— to shield her, if it is the
will of Heaven — to die for her, if it is not !"

To the air, to the water, to the surrounding woods, did Blanche,
bewildered and terrified, look for the speaker, as this familiar and
heart- welcomed voice fell upon her ear ; but not to the dark and mo-
tionless figure, which stood scarcely a dozen feet distant from her on
the other side of the Huron chief. So entirely void of suspicion was
she as to the individuality of the Beaver, as an Indian hunter, that
she could quite as easily have suspected the Lynx as him, to be the



222 THE KING OF THE HURONS.

disguised Henrich. Seeing no one but the supposed Indian, for
tlie Lynx, with ready tact, had stepped aside, withdrawing also the
soldier, she doubted the faithfulness of her senses, and beheved that
her excited imagination had in some way misled her.

" Did any one speak to me, but now, in English ?" she said,
using that language ; " or does my mind wander ?"

As she spoke, the Beaver advanced a few steps, and stood before
her ; his calm eyes fixed upon her countenance, for the first time,
with no downcast look to conceal theis* hue. " Miss Montaigne,"
he said, " I am Henrich Huntington, happy, even in this hour of
gloom, to convince you that I have been no recreant to my trust."

Speechless with amazement, with alarm, with delight, Blanche
listened to these words, while the flitting color went and came on
her cheeks, like the shadows of flying clouds upon a summer land-
scape. Her breath was short and hurried — her parted lips moved
without voice, and her whole frame shook with her irrepressible
emotion.

" Is it, indeed, so ?" she said, at length, faintly, and with ashen
face, resting one trembling hand upon a tree for support, and
frankly extending the other to her friend : " Is it you, Henrich ?
Oh, I am very glad to see you, and yet I cannot bid you welcome
in this dreadful hour."

Huntington seized the hand of Miss Montaio-ne, and ere he
relinquished, pressed it lightly to his lips. " I ask no better wel-
come," he said, as Blanche hastily, yet unreprovingly withdrew the
imprisoned member from his grasp.

" This is no time for idle compliments," she said, quickly ; " tell
me why this disguise ? And yet I should not ask, since in it you
have once, aye, twice already, saved our lives."

" Enough for the present. Miss Montaigne, that it was necessary ;
without it I could not have been with you ; keep my secret, and
above all, from the count."

"You have had injustice and suflFering," she rei^lied, hastily.



THE KING OF THE HURONS. 223

•*0h, how much do we owe you! how much have we misju<lu,t'd
you ! But tell me, — for hope never seems to desert you, — is our
situation altogether desperate ? Speak frankly to me ; I can bear
the worst and ought to hear it."

" I should do wrong not to confess to you. Miss Montaigne," he
replied, " that the danger is very great. The Lynx, who is most
familiar with Indian warfare, thinks, if the soldiers do their duty, we
may take a quarter, or, perhaps, even a third of our enemies with
us into the other world, and thus fall with glory, but scarcely hints
of any other hope."

"How dreadful to indulge such revengeful wishes at such an
hour 1" exclaimed Blanche, tremulously. " And the Algon<juin —
what says he ?"

" Mallory, who has come from the other company on an errand
of inquiry, reports that he is reserved and taciturn, and chants to
himself at intervals — the sign is bad !"

" Alas, yes ! it is his death-song !" answered Miss Montaigne ;
" he himself told us of the custom."

" We have \iewed the worst side of the picture," continued Hen-
rich. " We should sin not to remember that there is a Power
which saves alike ' by many or by few.' He can preserve us, we
know ; and if such is not His purpose, that purpose still is best."

" You speak nobly, Mr. Huntington, and as created man should
ever speak of the dealings of The Infinite ; we are in His iiinds,
and in this solemn hour should confide fully in Him ; yet it is diffi-
cult for weak human nature to view closely and calmly that mys-
terious change which awaits it; above all," s^he said, sudden k rais-
ing her voice, with emotion, " when it comes with sucii atLL-ndant
horrors !"

" Do not quite despair !" repUed Henrich, sootliingly. " We
may not look for miracles, and yet there may be means and agen-
cies at work for us, of which we have no knowletlge. 1 do not
wish to excite unfounded hopes, but a thought has occurred to me,



224 THE KING OF THE HURONS.

which has in it a ray — a faint ray of hght ; we know that all of our
first ] .ursuers are savages, and fi'om them we can hope nothing ; but
theie may be — it is barely possible — some subordinate English offi-
cer in command of, or in company with the other division, who
would have sufficient influence to save our hves, and cause us to be
regarded as prisoners of war ; at least, if we could communicate
with him, and capitulate, before the onslaught commences, and be-
fore the savages become excited in battle."

" Alas ! , how many remote contingencies are these ! So faint a
hope serves only more fiilly to reveal our despair — yet you may be
right ; do not let me discourage you from any effort."

Henrich at once proceeded to counsel with the Lynx, while
Blanche, being so permitted, went to inform her cousin of the pre-
sence of Hunting-ton, in the disguise of the Beaver ; tidings which
aroused Emily from her stupor of fear and gi'ief, and infused a new
though indefinite hope into her spirit.



THE KING OF THE HURONS. 225



CHAPTER XXVI.



" Many a peril have I past,

Nor know I why this next appears the last ;
Yet so my heart forebodes." — Byron.



The Huron heard his friend's remarks in silence, but gave httle
confirmation to his views ; he had seen nothing to induce him to
suppose there were any other than Indians among either of the
attacking parties, and he had no behef, if there were, that any terms
could be made which would compromise the savages' right to deal
with their prisoners after their usual custom. For himself and the
Algonquin, he knew, he said, there could be no hope, and they
could hardly be expected to be parties to a capitulation which did
not include them in its protection. They were willing to die ; the
spirit-land of their fathers was open to them ; they would enter it
gloriously ; they would fall like chiefs and great braves, and would
never be taken prisoners, and roasted like cowards, at a stake.

Such was the substance of the Lynx's emphatic reply, and so wrapt
was he in the thoughts he had uttered that it was some moments
before Henrich could again attract his attention to his own remarks.
When he had succeeded in doing so, he repelled, with indignation,
any design on the part of himself or the ladies, to seek exclusively
their own safety, assured the Indian that if any treaty was effected,
it should be one which included the whole party in its provisions,
and reminding him that it was the part of a great warrior never to
remit his efforts for life, begged him to reflect whether he could

10*



226 THE KING OF THE HURONS.

devise any means to open a negotiation \^ith the enemy. No one,
of course, would und' rtake the hazardous eriand of bearing a flag
to a savage foe, nor could the only boat of the prisoners be risked
on such an embassy, and nothing remained but to attempt to send,
by some means, a written message to the opposing camp.

The Huron, incapable of opposing his friend, however hopeless of
the result, undeilook to find some mode of locomotion for a talking
pai)er, if Henrich would prepare one, and they set simultaneously
about their tasks, thus combining the ingenuity of civilized and
savage hfe, where either alone would have been insufficient to effect
their purpose.

The pocket-book of Huntington furnished from its miscellaneous
contents a scrap of paper, on which he wrote, in pencil, the follow-
ing words :

" We are travellers ; three of us are English citizens — the remain-
der are French aiid their allies. "Will our lives be protected if we
surrender ourselves prisoners ? We are well armed. To any
officer or gentleman in command of the enemy."

The Lynx, meanwhile, procui-ed a piece of bark about eighteen
inches in length, and six or eight inches wide, which he speedily
fashioned, with his hunting knife, into the shape of a boa^ ; a minia-
ture mast arose fi'om its centre, slitted to receive the trimmed leaves
which formed its lower sails, while the letter itself, fastened securely
above them, constituted a top-gallant-royal to the little vessel. A
fixed rudder, the result of much careful calculation, was added, and
the httle messenger, fi-eighted with many hopes, was set afloat,
watched by the tearful eyes of Blanche and Emily, and awakening
alternate hopes and fears, as it now slightly diverged from its
expected route, and now pressed gallantly forward on its way.

The wind was blowing lightly from the south-west, and there was
great danger that the boat might pass eastward of the island, not-
withstanding the accurate adjustment of the tiller, to prevent such a
result. Now plunging and dipping before some passing flaw, now



THE KING OF THE HUR0N8, 227

dartin;^ suddenly forward, and, anon, stopping trembling and veering,
as if bewildered and uncertain of its course, it still soon attained
a position about midway between the islands, without any material
deviation from its route. Thence it proceeded with a steady and
uniform progress towards the opposing shore, evidently attracting
the attention of the enemy long before it reached the beach, one of
whom was seen to dart out from his shelter, and seizing the toy,
bear it back to the woods.

The excitement incident to this experiment had temporarily re-
lieved the minds of those en^-aged in it from the oppressive sense of
their danger, which now returned with overwhelming force. The
effort which they had just made began to seem almost absurd, even
in the eyes of its originator, and when five minutes of suspense had
ensued,- -minutes by the chronometer, but hours by the mental
measurement of the prisoners, — a settled conviction fastened upon
their minds that the season of hope was past.

" It was .surely most cruel of uncle," said Emily, first breaking
the mournful silence wliich had for some minutes prevailed, "to ex-
pose us to such i)erils ! Oh ! why did he not rather leave us in
New York until this dreadful war was ended T

" Do not blame him, Einily," ropUed Blanche, with a beseeching
look ; " h(i did not, indeed he did not, know the danger. The
Lynx will t -11 you thit for months there has been no hostile party
in these parts ; that the theatre of war was at other and remote
points when he set out frcMii home ; and in proof of this, remember
how very far we have come in safety."

"Only to be murdend at the last!" sobbed Emily, bitterly;
"oh, it was cruel — cruel— cruel ! Think not that I cannot forgive
him, but it is tolly to seek to justify his acts."

" Emily, dear cousin, do not talk thus ; indeed he is not in fault ;
mine rather is the blame, and it is a fearful responsibility to feel at
such a time ! Ah ! would that you had returned when I besought
you to do so. Can you forgive me, Emily — Henrich ?"



228 THE KING OF THE HURONS.

"Nay, we have nothing to forgive yow, cousin Blanche," an-
swered Emily, hastily ; while Huntington replied to the question
only with a look of gentle reproach.

" You will not admit it, I know," said Blanche, " and I thank
you for your forbearance ; but, alas ! what avails now either censure
or exculpation on such a point ? We all did what we then
beheved right : let us think, rather, of more serious matters."

During this conversation, the Lynx remained standing on the mar-
gin of the water, looking upon that part of the distant island where
the little boat had disappeared, with a singular steadiness of gaze,
when it is remembered that he had ex])ressed an entire want of con-
fidence in the experiment. But his views had undergone somewhat
of a change. Why was it, he mentally inquired, that the good
Manitou had sent the little bark so unerringly on its course, unless
to effect some good end ? The slightest change in the force or
direction of the breeze might have either sent it wide of its
mark, or whelmed it in the turbulent waters, yet it had pressed gal-
lantly forward, uninterrupted, to its intended goal. Besides this,
there was something so incomprehensible to his untutored mind in
the art of conveying ideas by writing, that he fully expected the
talking paper would, in some way, succeed in making itself under-
stood by those to whom it was sent, whether they were civilized or
savage, and that a response of some kind would be made, either
amicable or hostile.

About ten minutes elapsed while he thus gazed, when a quick
ejaculation from his lips, and his upward-pointing arm, directed the
attention of his companions to an arrow, shot with seeming defiance
towards them from the enemy's camp. It rose to a considerable
height, and describing a wide curve, fell into the water thirty rods
from where the little party were standing, but scarcely had it struck



Online LibraryP. Hamilton (Peter Hamilton) MyersThe King of the Hurons → online text (page 18 of 29)