P. Hamilton (Peter Hamilton) Myers.

The King of the Hurons online

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the wave before the venturous Huron had plunged into the lake,
and was swimming rapidly towards it. That his quick eye had dis-
cerned something unusual in the missile was evident by his actions,


and his^ astonished companions watched breathlessly his progress ;
no attempt was made to fire upon him by the enemy, and in a few
minutes he returned to the shore bearing the weapon in his mouth.
Henrich ran to meet him, and trembled with the intensity of his
emotions as he discovered a slip of paper secured in the feathery
haft ; eagerly seizing the desired, yet dreaded document, he read
the following words, which were written in French :

" I cannot read your message ; you must surrender, or I cannot
answer for your lives; we are thirty-five strong, French and

" God of mercy !" exclaimed Blanche, " they are our friends !
They are probably searching for us ! Mij father has sent them /"
As she spoke, she glanced gratefully upwards, leaving in beautiful
ambiguity the meaning of her closing sentence.

There was indeed every reason to believe that Miss Montaigne's
conjectures were correct, and so unbounded was the transport of de-
light which prevailed among the little party, that for a while they
were incapable of taking the necessary means of ascertaining the
certainty of their new and exciting hopes. But Henrich, at length,
prepared another note in the French language, as follows :

" If you are a French party, we are your friends ; this is Count
Carlton's command, and is the escort of Miss Montaigne. Attested
by the totum of the Lynx, a Huron Chief, who is with us."

Underneath these lines, the Lynx drew a rough sketch of his
namesake of the forest, as also of a hand, extended in amity, and
the paper was at once transmitted by the same mode of conveyance
by which the other had arrived, for although the arrow must fall
far short of the opposing shore, attention would now be fixed upon
it and it could readily be procured by the other party. A boat
indeed was sent out without hesitation, almost before the weapon
had touched the water, no fear seeming to be evinced by its occupant
of any evil during the implied armistice that was now existing.

No sooner had this new document reached the northern camp


than its effect became \dsible in the most extraordinary commotion :
the whole l^arty rushed to the beach, uttering prolonged shouts,
flinging up their arms and running rapidly about. In a few minutes
the boats were got out, and the whole company embarked and set
out for the smaller island, while Blanche and Emily, divested of their
last fear, scarcely refrained from fainting with the excess of their
delight. Mutual congratulations were exchanged, and the Lynx was
about to despatch a messenger to bear the joyous tidings to the
count, when the latter w^as seen rapidly approaching in the distance.
The shouts had reached his ears and lea\dng his companions to guard
the southern post he hastened across the island, half dead vnth.
affright, and anxious to learn the extent of the new calamity. As he
came near the northern shore, he caught sight of the approaching
batteaux, which w^ere now midway between the islands, and the
crowded occupants of which were still making the air ring with their
vociferous cries. He rushed up to the Lynx and Beaver, who, as
they were standing as usual, gun in hand, he supposed were
preparing to fire upon their invaders, and exclaimed to the former :

" Ah ! this is horrible ! thrice horrible ! but do not fire ; it will
only exasperate them — they are too many ; perhaps they will be

" They are our friends !" rephed the Huron.

"Yes — yes — tell them w^e are their friends," rephed Carlton,
whose terror prevented him from comprehending the imperfect
French of the Indian — "yes, yes, tell them we are harmless
travellers ^vith laches, and that we do not want to hurt them — nor —
nor — to have them hurt us, will you ?" he added eagerly.

" They are our friends 1" repeated the Lynx, quietly,

" Ah misericorde /" exclaimed the count, still unheeding the words
of the other — " ah ladies, this will be sad for you, too ; you had
better hide — it is very dreadful : ah, how fast they come — how fast
they come : don't forget to tell them we are their friends, and that
we can ransom ourselves with a whole boat-load of money — and thej


shall have ray watch, too, and — and — all that I have ahoui me :
don't you think you had better begin to speak — see how near they

" They are "

" Ah, I am soiTy we killed those poor fellows this morning- : that
will make them very fierce I fear — but it was the Beaver, yes, aha !
it was the Beaver did it — tell them so, you know, and if they must
kill somebody, they had better kill him, of course, for these Indians
are more used to such things."

So rapid and earnest had been the count's language that it would
have been difficult for any one to check its impetuous course : the
calm, dignified Indian, too courteous to interrupt, would have waited
for the torrent of words to flow by, before replying, if it had lasted
an hour.

" These are our Mends," he now said, once more, scarcely conceal-
ing his contempt — " see ! they are our brothers ! they have come to
help us !"

" What ? what ?" exclaimed Carlton, " our friends ? Is it true,
my dear friend ? Is it really true ? Are we really, really safe ?"

" I have said," replied the Lynx, coldly.

" Ah, this is most delightful then !" he added, breathing freely,
and advancing nearer to the ladies — " ah, ladies ! do you hear ?
you are safe ; these are the Lynx's friends ; do not be alarmed : in
a few minutes you will have the pleasure of seeing us exterminate
those fiends on the other island : keep up good courage — you are
quite safe, I assure you."

The batteaux had now approached to within sixty yards of the
shore, and the Lynx, advanced to the water's edge, was already
conversing with some of their inmates ; in another minute the whole
party were on the beach, crowding around the Huron, and mani-
festing the most lively joy at meeting him.

Their leader was a French sei-geant, named Grill, who at once
advanced to Carlton, and modestly resigned his command into the


hands of his superior officer, expressing, at the same time, his great
pleasure at having discovered his mistake in time to prevent serious
consequences. The Baron Montaigne, he said, had become uneasy at
the prolonged absence of the party, and had despatched him with
instructions to proceed as far as the head of the upper lake, if neces-
sary, in search of them. Their own safety, he said, required that
they should destroy or capture any small parties of the enemy whom
they might encounter, lest inteUigence of their expedition should get
abroad, and their return be intercepted. This was the reason of
their having pursued the count in a hostile manner, being prevented
from once suspecting his true character by his change of the canoes
in which he had left home for batteaux, and by his quick flight.

" But how is it," he added, " that your number is so largely
increased ? Your boats seemed to contain eight or ten each !"

" Is it possible that you do not yet understand ?" replied the
count, earnestly — " I have but one boat : the others are Iroquois ;
they were in pursuit of us when you came in sight : they mistook
you, as we did, for their friends, fired a salute to attract your notice,
and are even now on an adjoining islaHd, kept at bay by a few of
our men !"

" What a tissue of blunders is this !" rephed the sergeant : " I
mistook the firing for a warning from one of your boats to the other
to give notice of our approach : we had not seen you until then,
when you both seemed to fly in the same direction and we pursued ;
but we vnll have them at any rate, that is to say," he added in a
less animated tone, " I must beg pardon for forgetting that I am no
longer in command."

" Oh, take them ! yes, take them, of course," said the count —
" that is just what I was saying to the ladies — surround them — cut
them down — show no quarter !"

" Do I understand that your honor allows me to command an
expedition against them with my own men ?" inquired Grill, eagerly,
and fearful he was in error : " we can do it up in a few minutes, sir.


and your men must all be fatigued with duty ; we are all fresh, quite
fresh, I assure you, sir."

" Yes — certainly — of course," answered Carlton ; " I give you the
command ; we are a little fatigued, all of us."

" The Lynx is not tired," said that personage, who had approached
during the colloquy, and stood hstening to it.

" Very well, you may go if you choose," said Carlton, taking snuff,
and seeming a httle disconcerted.

"And the Beaver?" added the Huron, answering an animated
look from his friend, who, since the count's return, had again been
struck dumb.

" We cannot spare all our guard," interposed Blanche — " let the
Beaver and the soldiers remain with us, I pray ; there certainly are
enough without them."

" Enough, enough, certainly, too many if the count pleases," said
the sergeant.

" Very well," answered Carlton — " let the Beaver and the soldiers
remain ; go now, and see that you give us a good account of them."

"Let me implore," said Blanche, addressing the count — "that
there be no useless waste of life : they are human beings, and let us
remember what were our feehngs a few minutes since in view of such
destruction as now threatens them. We have received mercy, let us
impart it. It is the law of civilized warfare, the w^orld over, to spare
the foe who surrenders ; instruct the men, I beseech you. Count
Carlton, not to kill the prisoners."

Carlton informed the sergeant that he might consider Miss
Montaigne's request as an order, and directed him to communicate
it to his men, whereupon the party hastened at once to their boats,
and set out on their errand ; a messenger having been first despatched
to the Algonquin to inform him of the changed state of affairs, and
to request him to co-operate with the attack in any way that his
position would permit.

But a short time elapsed before the sound of guns was heard in a


southerly direction, followed by shouts and the varied cries that
attend an Indian battle, and in less than an hour the canoes returned
accompanied by the captured batteau, with seven of the Iroquois as
prisoners. Three only had been killed, and the victory had been
achieved without the loss of a man to the Hurons, although a few
of both parties had been wounded.

The captives were guarded on both sides by the attendant canoes,
and their hands were also bound together at the wrist, yet their
leader, a large powerful man, succeeded in drawing his arms apart
as they drew near the island, and, determined to make an eflfort for
the life which he supposed forfeited, he plunged suddenly into the
water, and sank, hke lead, beneath the boats. Twenty guns were
instantly presented to await his approach to the surface, and every
eye was scanning the water to watch the place of his reappearance ;
more than a minute elapsed, when the shout, " there he is !" was
heard, and a head was seen thirty rods distant towards the eastern
shore, partly protruding above the wave. An irregular discharge
succeeded, but with the first report of a gun the Indian again
disappeared, and the volley proved harmless. Exhaustion, however,
evid-'utly forbade his continuance beneath the water, and he almost
immediately rose a second time, when the Lynx, mindful of the
Beaver's accurate aim, called to him to fire at the fugitive.

" No — no — no — for mercy's sake, let the poor fellow go — it is too
horrible !" exclaimed Blanche, who with Henrich and the count,
stood watching the scene from the beach.

" Fire !" shouted Carlton, gesticulating to the disguised Henrich —
" fire — I command you ; Miss Montaigne will have the goodness not
to interfere : Fire !" he repeated, himself raising the Beaver's gun, and
pointing with his finger to the swimmer.

Henrich, who could no longer atfect to misunderstand his orders,
glanced expressively at Blanche, and levelled his gun towards the
Iroquois, making the prisoners tremble for their now seemingly
doomed comrade, for too well they knew ^the fatal marksman and


his weapon, and they could not repress an exclamation of rehef and
exultation as the dreaded ball was seen to strike the water about
three feet distant from their friend. Carlton looked angrily at the
mute stranger, but a grateful smile from Blanche met his eye, con-
vincing him that she comprehended his forbearance, which, indeed,
had been no less in compliance with his own sympathies for the
fugitive than with her wishes.

The confusion was now a httle abated, and a boat was sent in
pm-suit, but as the swimmer, having fully recovered his breath, soon
went down again and took care to change his direction while
beneath the water, it was no easy matter to follow his course, and
after several hair-breadth escapes from the shots of his pursuers, he
finally succeeded in gaining the land, and making good his escape
in the forest.

Carlton resumed his voyage on the same evening, rejoicing in the
security which his increased numbers imparted, exulting in his vic-
tory over the Iroquois, and believing himself altogether a hero after
Mars' own fashioning. Never did returning general enter the gates
of world-ruKng Rome, after desolating some distant nation, and add-
ing a new province to the empire, with a loftier sense of his achieve-
ments than that with which the self-satisfied Gaul now embarked
for Castle Montaigne. He resolved to lose no time by delay, and
not again to jeopard the glory which he had acquired. Nightlong
he travelled, and at meridian of the ensuing day the converging
shores of the lake were seen closing around its northern extremity ;
the blue waters of the Sorelle gleamed in the distance, and soon the
vessels were gliding upon its tranquil surface.

A few hours later the rejoicing voyagers beheld the rugged tur-
rets of Castle Montaigne gleaming through the thinned forests, and
saw a welcoming cortege thronging to the river's bank, to hail their
approach. The woodlands rang with acclamations as the coming
vessels were seen to contain the prominent objects of solicitude , the
Baron's daughter and niece, the Lynx, the Algonquin, and the


Count ; even Montaigne himself, forced from his usual coldness,
pressing forward into the very water to grasp the hand of his sob-
bing daughter, and imprint an unexpected kiss upon her cheek. In
the background the timid Myrtle was seen peering with innocent
and wondering face at the strangers, clinging with one hand to the
dusky baroness, and seeming like a rose beside its root.
Carlton saw her, and trembled.



" Good sir, I do in friendship counsel you
To leave this place : albeit, you have deserved
High commendation, true applause, and love,
Yet such is now the duke's condition,
That he misconstrues all that you have done."

—Shak. As You Like It.

If the Baron Montaigne was not a little delighted at the safe
arrival of his daughter, he was scarcely less so with the reflection
that her rescue had been achieved by the count, upon whom he now
looked as her afiianced husband. The exploit in a military point
of view also gratified his vanity ; and renewing the remembrance
of his own masterly escape, afforded him a double source of

" You have done most nobly, sir count," he said, when on the
same evening they conversed alone on the subject ; " you have
snatched Blanche from the very paws of the British lion : you tell
me there was an attempt to arrest her as a prisoner of state ?"

* Yes, sir," rephed Carlton, who had heard the story repeated :
"yes, sir, on the very morning after my messenger, the Lynx,
brought her out of the city ; I had warned him to lose no time ; I
had told him of the danger ; I had instructed him to hasten back
to the camp, and he came oflf with her in the night, sir ; yes, sir, the
next morning would have been too late : yes, sir, — yes, out of the
very paws of the hon — it is a very pretty thought."

" They reached your camp, then, the same night, I presume,"
remarked Montaigne.


" A — a — not precisely : we had started forward a little, finding
our position not quite safe, and left word for them to follow : they
overtook us."

" Yes — yes " said the baron, wonderingly.

" Yes — out of the paws of the Lion — very pretty, indeed — yes,
that's precisely where she was," added Carlton, anxious to divert the
dangerous attack of minute questions.

" They had discovered her name and rank, it seems ; perhaps
they had even heard of this aflfair of Seabuiy, which would, of course,
exasperate them ; but no matter : she is safe at home now, thanks to
your vigilance and valor, my friend, and we may now snap our
fingers at our Southern foes. The details of your report I will
receive at some other time, when we are both less excited and more
at leisure."

So strong had been the baron's prepossessions in favor of the
count, created by his pleasing manners, and by the Marquis Vau-
dreuil's representations, and so fully had this impression been con-
firmed by the success of the recent expedition, that it would have
been no easy matter to change or shake his views. Nor was any
such labor directly attempted. Rumors, indeed, were soon afloat,
well calculated to wither the laurels of the hero, and to transfer the
whole weight of his honors to other hands, leaving to him the
inglorious substitute of ridicule and contempt; but they did not
reach the ears of Montaigne, precisely because there was no one
whose peculiar duty it was to bear them, or who was willing to
communicate unwelcome tidings to a haughty and opinionated man.
The general voice had, indeed, accorded the credit of once saving
the party from destruction, and again from a most hazardous
engagement with the Iroquois, to the mysterious hunter who had
joined them on the way ; and even Carlton was compelled to
acquiesce in this statement, after some futile attempts to evade its

The Lynx and Algonquin tarried but briefly at the castle on the


day of their arrival, being prompted, botli by their domestic and
chmnish feelings, to mingle first with their own people, and enjoy a
breatliing spell of I'epose, where they could recount their achieve-
ments, and exhibit the baron's munificent presents in proof of his
approbation. They preferred to leave to Blanche the task of
unmasking her pretended champion at such time and }>lace as she
should deem fit, little imagining how wide an interval separated the
parent and child, unbridged by any familiar or confidential inter-
course. Besides this, the extreme respect paid to rank in that age
had secured to the count a strong party among the adherents of
Montaigne, both civilized and savage, and the four soldiers who had
formed part of his command were entirely subservient to him ; so
that, fixed already in the baron's prepossessions, and propped by
such accessaries, he wlio attempted rashly to shake his position, might
only succeed in jeoparding his own.

The disguised Henrich accompanied the Lynx to his quarters,
being warned by his friend that it might be unsafe to expose himself
at once to the wrath of the count, and the easily excited suspicions
of Montaigne, during the plenitude of the former's power and
infiiuence. It would, at least, the Indian urged, be prudent to
withdraw for a few days, until the sentiments of the baron could be
sounded, and until Carlton had unwittingly accorded to Huntington,
in his assumed character, that credit for his achievements which he
would never concede to an acknowledged enemy. Henrich readily
anticipated the character of the charges which would be likely to be
adduced against him by a man to whom he had thrown defiance but
a few days previous, and how apt a listener Montaigne would prove
to any accusation involving the crimes of insubordination or mutiny
against his own delegated authority. If these ofiFences, exaggerated
by a malignant ingenuity, should not be deemed suflftcient to annul
the debt of gratitude due to the chivalrous youth, there was yet
another, in his conjectured aspiration for the band of Miss Montaigne,
which would more than cancel the whole remaining score of credit.


Blanche, indeed, understood Huntington's withdrawal from the
precincts of the castle to be only for the purpose of a re-transforina-
tion to his proper semblance, and that he would on the ensuing day,
at the farthest, return, accompanied by his Indian friends, to receive
the meed of applause W'hicli was so justly his due, and to become her
father's honored guest for whatever time he chose to continue his
abode in New France. She knew nothing of his quarrel with
Carlton, or of the great reason which he had to dread the count's
resentment, and if she had at all suspected the views and apprehen-
sions which actuated him in departing with the Lynx, a sense of
justice would have impelled her to fly to her father, reveal the whole
story, and secure, at least, his protection and hospitality for her

It was an unhappy error growing out of a singularly complex
state of influences and the want of opportunity for counsel or concert
of action between the pretended Beaver and those who were
cognisant of his real character. Had the latter at once declared the
whole story of Henrich's heroism, and his wrongs, and promptly and
unitedly denounced the count's injustice and cowardice, there w^ould
have been some reason to hope that the baron might prove a just
and impartial listener; but delay and indecision weakened their
cause, and proportionably strengthened that of their common

If otlier excuse is wanting for Blanche's remissness, it will be
found in the sense of maidenly delicacy which forbade her manifest-
ing too deep an interest in Henrich, and in the exciting emotions
incident to an arrival at her new home, and a first interview with
those near yet dreaded relatives who had so long occupied a
prominent position in her thoughts.

The Baroness Montaigne was a woman of about forty years, of
tall and comely figure, and with a countenance which only its olive
hue would prevent an European taste from pronouncing handsome.
Her features were nearly regular, and her face was entirely void of


that inelegant prominence of the cheek bones, so common to her
race, while in her well shaped mouth, with its unimpaired treasures,
in her black eyes and hair, and in her smooth broad forehead there
was much to attract admiration. She was dressed neatly, in the
fashion of the age, spoke the French language intelligibly, although
with many inaccuracies, and but for a subdued and timid demeanor,
would have manifested no little dignity of deportment.

Blanche was both astonished and relieved to find her so httle
repulsive in appearance: she addressed her with frankness and
courtesy, expressed a sincere pleasure at meeting her, and was by her
presented, in turn, to Myrtle, who, standing like a startled fawn at
her side, seemed only to restrain herself by an effort from running
away. If Miss Montaigne had been pleased before, she was now
unspeakably delighted ; Myrtle, whose striking charms, both of
face and figure, have been described, was dressed in white, and wore
a few simple ornaments, and her soft black eyes were moist with
emotion, and her glossy raven hair, hanging in natural curls, trembled
around her cheek and neck and shoulders, as she received in silence
the sisterly kiss of Blanche.

What were the forest maiden's thoughts in that moment of
agitation it would not be difficult to conjecture. She had never
before seen a European lady, and she knew, as she gazed at her fair
relative, that her own more sombre charms were in every way outshone.
The entire novelty to her perceptions, of that variety of beauty
which she now beheld, added to its value in her estimation ; a
white transparent skin, tinted with roseate rays which seemed rather
to shine through than to dwell upon its surface ; eyes of blue,
eloquent with a thousand varying expressions ; soft silken hair,

Online LibraryP. Hamilton (Peter Hamilton) MyersThe King of the Hurons → online text (page 19 of 29)