Copyright
P. Hamilton (Peter Hamilton) Myers.

The King of the Hurons online

. (page 2 of 29)
Online LibraryP. Hamilton (Peter Hamilton) MyersThe King of the Hurons → online text (page 2 of 29)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


geahng blight, a young and innocent wife had passed speedily fi'om
the altar to the tomb ; and well had it been for Blanche that the
unfolding wealth of her young affections had not been chilled and
repressed by its cold commands or its still colder caresses.

The event to which allusion has been made, as one for which Mon-
taigne dreaded his daughter's scorn, as he had long endm-ed his
own, related to his existing domestic establishment. A powerful
Huron warrior had early sought his aUiance, and a dowry of mea-
sureless acres had purchased the simulated affections of the baron
for the trembling daughter of the chief. They were married after
the savage mode, while the wily gi-oom smiled at the simphcity of
his allies, and recked lightly of the fetters which bound him to the
Indian maid. She was not his wife, so thought the haughty noble,
for no sacramental tie existed between them, no priest had sanc-
tioned their union, no permission of Holy Church had made it
vahd. Little did these things weigh wth the trusting vnie, who



12 THE KING OF THE HURONS.

became to him a faithful and affectionate partner, watching and
obeying in all things the faintest token of his ^vill, and submitting to
all the tramphngs of his imperious temper without a murmur.
One gentle word, one kind smile, repaid her for every wrong, and
formed a treasure for memory to resort to, during all the long inter-
vals of coldness and neglect and scorn. Hers w^as, indeed, that
perfect love of woman, which exists alike in every clime. The
baron, conscious that rumors of his strange alliance must reach
Quebec, and thence pass to France, took every occasion to deny its
truth, and to censure the detractors who cast such obloquy upon his
ancient family ; but circumstances soon occurred which made it a
more serious affair than he had anticipated. It became necessary
to obtain the royal confirmation to the grant which had been made
by the chief to his perfidious son-in-law, and Louis, who had
received tidings of the whole affair, refused to confirm the deed until
the marriage had been celebrated according to the rites of the
church. He went, indeed, further than this, and threatened his
distinguished subject with his displeasure and punishment if he
refused to ratify the contract with his Indian spouse. No words can
describe the anger and mortification of Montaigne at this unex-
pected result ; and, in the privacy of his retirement, he denounced
the aged king as a drivelling dotard, fit only to govern women and
priests. But rage and remonstrance were alike unavailing to nullify
the decree, and with the most galling sense of degradation he at
length submitted to its requirements. In a chapel adjacent to the
castle, the wedding was publicly solemnized, and an infant daughter
of the bride, who shared with her mother the contempt of the
baron, was at the same time admitted to the rite of baptism. The
baroness, for such had now become her legitimate title, became
thenceforth a personage of additional importance in the eyes of her
dusky relations, and, it need scarcely be said, an object of renewed
hatred to her husband. Nothing could atone to him for the
wounded vanity of which she had been the guiltless cause ; and all



THE KING OF THE HURONS. 13

her unobtrusive affection, all her silent watchings for tokens of
returning kindness, were repaid with increased coldness and scorn.
She was a cloud upon his heart, a bhght upon his hopes, a barrier
betwixt himself and that bright world from which he had long been
immured, and to which he now felt that he never could return.

But many changes had taken place between that period and the
point of time at which the present narrative opens. The little
Myrtle, for such had been the baptismal name bestowed rather by
the priest than the parent, had grown to be a miracle of forest
beauty ; and as the tendrils of the vine cHng to the rock, so had her
infantile graces gained a foothold in the crevices of the baron's stony
heart. Despite his pride, his imagined wrongs, his tarnished name,
he had loved his daughter ; and the neglected mother, who had long
despaired of any returning tenderness for herself, was still delighted
to enjoy the reflected beams of kindness which fell upon her child.
She exulted in Myrtle's beauty and grace, and watched every word
and look of love bestowed upon her, with an avarice of aftection that
none but a mother's heart can parallel.

Years rolled by ; and the baron, who had long been fully rein-
stated in his sovereign's confidence, had become so engrossed in the
duties of his station, and in his growing wealth and power, that he
scarcely remembered the existence of Blanche, excepting when perus-
ing the letters from her aunt, or remitting the annual stipend for
her support. ISIyrtle attained her sixteenth year, a slight, straight
girl, with eyes and hair of unrelieved blackness, with long silken
lashes, and cheeks in which the rose of Europe triumphed over the
olive hue of the forest. She was, in short, a beautiful brunette,
sportive as the fawn, and scarcely less agile.

It was at this period that events occurred which marked an epoch
in the life of Montaigne, and which were productive of important
results to all with whom he was immediately connected. Political
movements relating to the colony required his presence in France,
and the same arrival which brouo-ht his sovereio'n's summons for his



i



14 THE KING OF THE HURONS.

return, conveyed to him the intelHgence of Mrs. Roselle's death, and
of the homeless situation of Blanche. He repaired to Quebec, and
while awaiting the sailing of the ship which was to convey him to
Ha\Te, sojourned with liis friend, the aged Marquis Vaudreuil, who
was then viceroy of New France, and to whose exalted post, when it
should become vacant, the baron expected promotion. Here he
became acquainted with a nephew of the go^'ernor, one Count Carl-
ton, a young man of prepossessing person and mannei-s, of whom
the marquis spoke in terms of the warmest eulogy. Rank, wealth,
wit, valor, and every accomplishment, if the governor's word was to
be taken, belonged to this extraordinary man, who had fled from the
gaieties of Parisian life to seek excitement and adventure in the new
world. Himself deceived, Vaudreuil httle dreamed how erroneous a
portraiture he had drawn of his nephew, who was, in fact, a mere
adventurer, bankrupt in purse and reputation, and totally devoid of
principle. He had recently arrived in the colony, and by the pro-
foundest dissimulation had gained the good graces of his uncle,
which he hoped by some means to transmute into the current coin
of the realm. Montaigne's great wealth and political importance of
course made him also a desirable acquaintance for the scheming
youth ; and, long fasting from the adulation and deference which
his exorbitant vanity craved, he became a ready dupe to the
specious flatteries of the count. If he had up to this period hesi-
tated" about bringing home Blanche on his return from France, he
no longer did so. Here, he argued to himself, was a ready way of
disposing of her in marriage, and at once relieving his mind of its
responsibility in her behalf. So strongly did this idea take possession
of his mind, that, on parting with his friends, he repeated an in^'ita-
tion which he had already extended to Carlton, to visit Castle Mon-
taigne after his own return from Europe ; and added, in a jocular
way, that he had a marriageable daughter, and if the young people
should chance to fancy each other, he would not object to the alli-
ance. The marquis bowed coldly at this remark, which he sus-



THE KING OF THE HURONS. 15

pected to be more than jest, for, knoT\^ng nothing of Blanche, he
supposed it to allude to Myrtle, and he thought it a poor compliment
to a gallant for whom half the belles of Paris were pining, to be
offered the hand of a half Huron maid, and who was even legitimate
only by the royal grace. But it was in the moment of departure,
and Montaigne did not dream of the erroneous construction which
was. put upon his language. If, however, the Marquis Vaudreuil
derided the proposal of his friend, it was not so with Carlton, who,
while seeming to outdo his uncle in making sport of the affair,
secretly resolved to visit Castle Montaigne during the absence of its
lord, and acquaint himself with the Indian heiress.

The baron reached Paris in safety, and thence, while awaiting the
tardy action of the French cabinet, despatched a letter to England,
whither he could not safely proceed in person, summoning his
daughter to meet him, by an appointed day, at the neutral port of
Ostend, and notifying her of his intentions in regard to her change
of abode. Although the stiff and frigid sentences in which this
intelligence was conveyed were almost sufficient to repress the fihal
promptings of her heart, Blanche was still delighted at the news ; for
her home, since the death of her aunt, had been of the most comfort-
less description, and she was prepared to welcome any change which
gave promise of relief. She was authorized to procure a maid, or
companion, if practicable ; and this privilege resulted in the selection
of her cousin Emily, less from any congeniality of feehng between
them, than from a sense of duty to the nearly destitute daughter of
her deceased aunt. Miss Roselle gladly accepted the proposal, for
she possessed the most romantic views of life, despite the dull realities
to which her experience had been confined, and the new world
seemed to her only a field for the exploits of chivalry, and the
triumphs of distressed beauty. She was of good family, and her
lineal claim to gentility was a subject on which her friends were
seldom left unenUghtened. That these advantages would be of vast
importance in her new home she did not allow herself to doubt, and







16 THE KIXG OF THE HURONS.

as all the family finery had devolved upon her, she was able, not-
withstanding her poverty, to fortify her pretensions by a display of
dress and ornament often more gaudy than becoming.

A week sufficed for the needful preparations, and when everything
was in readiness the ladies proceeded to a neighboring seaport, and
took passage for Ostend, where they arrived prior to the appointed
day, and awaited the coming of their distinguished relative. ^ He
did not prove unpunctual ; and although his arrival was with that
ceremony of equipage and attendants which might be supposed
gratifying to a young lady, Blanche's mind was engi'ossed by emo-
tions which left little room for vanity. The interview was singularly
awkward and embarrassing ; and the frightened daughter, after
several ineffectual attempts to break through the air of stateliness
and reserve which encompassed her parent, submitted at length
silently to its influence. Time, she thought, would work a change,
and nature yet re-assert its power in her father's breast. Visions of
artless devices, by which she would win his attention and regard,
passed rapidly through her mind, and she looked forward with joy
to the anticipated light of affection which was yet to beam upon her
long desolate heart. But, as there had been no pretence of consult-
ing her wishes in relation to the proposed change in her life, the
timid girl scarcely felt at liberty to give expression to her feelings,
and the father saw in her silence only signs of moroseness and dis-
satisfaction.

The party set out at once for Paris, where they arrived in a few
days, and where Miss Roselle fully expected to be snatched up by
some ardent admirer before the baron was ready to resume his
journey. This event not occuning, they proceeded, after about a
month's delay, to Havre, and, in company with the missionary priest,
Father Ledra, embarked in the doomed St. Cloud, for Quebec. Of
the wTcck and suffering which forced that ill-fated vessel to seek
shelter in an enemy's port, the reader is already aware.



KING OF THE HURONS. l7



CHAPTER III.

*' Torn spars and sails, her cargo in the deep,
The ship draws near with slow and laboring sweep."— iJaTia.

It was quite too bad to leave the crippled brig tossing upon the
tempestuous waves of the bay of New York during so long a retro-
spective chapter ; but it all comes of beginning a story at the wrong
end, or rather, of beginning it in the middle, — a plan which, although
it has classic precept and example for its authority, remains of doubt-
ful utility. As the vessel had approached the harbor, the fears of
Miss Montaigne had rapidly increased. She knew enough of the
peculiar attitude in which her father stood in relation to the English
colonies, as the ally of the northern Indians, and the supposed insti-
gator of many of their atrocities, to understand that his hfe was now
in extreme peril ; and notwithstanding his unreserved selfishness, she
felt the utmost solicitude for his escape. Captain Sill assembled his
officers and crew, and imposed upon them the strictest secresy in
relation to the distinguished passenger who now stood among them
as one of their number, and the baron strengthened the appeal by a
handsome gratuity to the men. The young ladies were to pass as
sisters, bearing the name of Roselle, who were travelHng in charge
of Father Ledra to their fi-iends in Canada, a fiction diverging at so
slight an angle from the truth, that the priest, although he would
by no means consent to assert, agreed not to contradict it.

The piers of the city, meanwhile, had become populous with an
eager crowd, watching the approach of the vessel, and speculating
with every variety of opinion upon the extraordinary event. Not a



18



THE KING OF THE HURONS



^



few were peering eagerly down the bay in search of the remainder
of the fleet, which they fully believed was about to make its appear-
ance in a hostile attitude ; and a classic old Dutchman, who had not
been at the imiversity of Gottingen for nothing, talked mysteriously
about the Grecian horse, fatal to trusting Troy, and doubted, between
some most ominous whiffs of his pipe, whether the St. Cloud were a
wrecked vessel at all. It was an easy matter, he said, to cut down
masts and break away bulkheads, and come rolling sideways into
port in a storm, and yet have a thousand armed soldiers stowed
away in the hold, after all. Not that he cared much whether Louis
or Queen Anne held a city to which neither of them had any right,
but the destruction of life and property, he said, glancing at a six-
sided store-house of his own upon the wharf, was a thing not to be
disregarded. A number of listeners turned pale at these remarks,
and some suggested calling out the militia and the fire-engines for
the defence of the city ; while others thought the guns of the fort
ought to be fired into the wreck, without delay, by way of ascer-
taining the truth of the suspicions. But, as the troops from the fort
at this moment made their appearance, ha\ing been ordered out to
keep the peace and prevent the escape of the prisoners, it was con-
sidered safe to quietly await the denouement^ the more prudent
retirino- a httle into the back-o;round.

Governor Cornbury, in the meantime, with several members of
his council, prepared to pay an official \'isit to the strangers. He
exulted at the accident, because the vessel and its stores world
prove a valuable acquisition to the colony and to his j^rivato purse ;
but he had no intention of detracting from these advantages, by
burdening the government with the expense of maintaining a large
number of prisoners of war. The unfortunate captain, ha\ing dropped
anchor at a little distance from shore, received his visitors upon his
quarter-deck with great urbanity, and tendering his sword to the
governor, formally surrendered his ship ; while Cornbury, equalling
the Frenchman in politeness, courteously dechned accepting his



THE KING OF THE HURONS. 19

weapon, and at once admitted the officers to their parole. He next
requested that the crew should be assembled amidships, and having
expressed his sympathy for the hardships they had already under-
gone, signified that they were to be unconditionally released, a
seeming magnanimity which was responded to with hearty cheers.
He had addressed the men in French, but with the commander, who
spoke English fluently, he conversed in that language, and turning
to him now, inquired if he had any passengers.

" We have a few non-combatants in the cabin," responded Sill,
smiling, " a priest, and two young ladies who are travelling in his
charge ; it will be hardly necessary to invoke your excellency's
clemency in their behalf."

" Our laws," returned the governor, more gravely, " impose the
penalty of death upon any Romish priest who shall voluntarily enter
the province, and the most that we can do. in your friend's behalf
will be to allow him thirty days to depart. As to the ladies, they
are allowed the largest liberty under all circumstances. I had almost
hoped," he continued, "that your accident might afford me the
pleasure of an introduction to some of the officers of His Majesty's
colonial government ; there are pending differences between us which
such an interview might go far to arrange : have I your word of
honor that there is no such individual in your ship ?"

"My lord," replied Sill, . slightly coloring, and glancing at the
crew, who remained amidships watching the interview, while the
baron's figure towered conspicuously among them, " my lord, the
individuals now before you, and the three passengers below, are the
only persons on board my ship — for this you have my word of honor ;
if you still doubt "

"I doubt nothing that Captain Sill asserts," answered the
governor, whose suspicions were aroused by the embarrassed air of
the other ; " but there is something that looks like mystery here ;
let me see this priest of whom you speak ; I much fear his ordination
has not been strictly canonical. Clerical robes have been used as



20 THE KING OF THE HURONS.

disguises before now, and if your friend does not belong to the true
succession, Mother Church will, doubtless, thank me for unmasking
him."

" You will scarcely doubt Father Ledra after you have seen him,"
said Sill, motioning to an officer to call up the passengers ; " I wish
the church had no representatives whose sanctity is more ques-
tionable."

A few moments' pause ensued, during which the eyes of the
governor wandered among the crew, and seemed to fix inquiringly
upon the prominent figure of the baron ; but a rustling in the cabin
gangway, and the appearance of the priest, accompanied by the
ladies, at once recalled his attention. Miss Montaigne was closely
veiled, and hung tremblingly upon the arm of Father Ledra ; while
Emily, unalarmed and unveiled, walked boldly at her cousin's side,
and seemed bent on setting her friend a pattern of courage, if not .of
modesty. The evident interest excited by the approach of the ladies
justified the sagacity of the commandant, who had summoned them
to accompany the priest on deck with a view to a diversion of Lord
Cornbury's somewhat dangerous attack.

" Captain Sill has much misconceived my meaning," said the
governor, pohtely removing his hat, " if he understood me as requir-
ing the attendance of the ladies on deck ; let them return if they
choose, or let them at least be seated." .

" My sister is much frightened," answered Miss Roselle, hastily,
and glancing at Blanche, " and is afraid to quit the side of her pro-
tector ; we must be excused, therefore, for coming into your presence
unbidden."

" I am much beholden to Miss Eoselle's fears since they procure
me the honor of this inter^^ew," returned Lord Cornbury, bowing
formally to the speaker, but scarcely removing his eyes from the
slight and graceful figure of her companion ; *i^nd yet," he con-
tinued, smiling, " it devolves a somewhat unpleasant duty upon me :
the commissions of liis ISIost Christian Majesty rest at times upon



THE KING OF THE HURONS.



21



very diminutive shoulders, and a veil, excuse me, might possibly
hide a moustache. Your sister, if such she be, will doubtless favor
us with a view of her face."

" Which will at least be prima facie evidence in her behalf,"
interposed a punning notary, who was in attendance in his official
capacity.

Emily whispered a moment to Blanche, who, sinking into a seat
which had been placed for her, drew aside her veil with trembling
hand, reveahng, by the act, charms which seemed like a gleam of
sunlight to the beholders. Miss Montaigne's beauty was of that
perfect order which admits of no cavil, even from the lips of envy or
rivalry ; it impressed the eye with a whelming sense of lovehness,
both in feature and expression, and seemed, as it was, the reflection
of a gentle and unsulhed heart. Pale with agitation, her eyes
rested upon the deck, and it was not until some moments that
Cornbury, startled at the pleasing ^dsion, recovered his self-posses-
sion.

" Here is no soldier, certainly," he said, gaily, " unless it may be
a field officer of Cupid ; my inquisition is at an end in this quarter,
and I can only beg pardon of Miss Roselle for having given her
such ev-ident pain. The ladies will consider themselves entirely at
liberty."

The governor had been surprised at the facility with which Emily
conversed in the English language, and on seeking an explanation
from that lady, was informed that both she and her sister were
educated in England, and were, on the maternal side, of English
descent. The captain's familiarity with the same tongue was less a
matter of marvel, his profession being one which rendered such an
acquirement almost indispensable. But Father Ledra, though
learned in the ancient tongues, conversed only in French, and Corn-
bury was compelled to address him in that dialect; but a very
brief conversation convinced the governor that his suspicions were
groundless, and he even declined the proflered inspection of the lug-



22 THE KING OF THE HURONS.

gage of the ecclesiastic, an inventory of vvliicli would have revealed
httle else than books of devotion and instruments of penance.

" I am indeed a soldier," he said, when the governor's suspicions
were explained to him, raising his mild eyes upwards, while his
white locks fell hke snow upon his shoulders ; " I am indeed a sol-
dier, Lut it is of the cross of Christ ; my warfare is with spiritual
enl, and my coat of mail," pressing his hands upon his breast, " is
one that inflicts wounds, but does not ward them."

Lord Cornbury was satisfied with his inquiries, and would have been
contented to withdraw at this stage of the affair, lea\ing the vessel in
charge of the proper governmental officer ; but another and more dan-
gerous inquisition had unfortunately been going on for some minutes
previous, in a different part of the vessel. Mr. Attorney Nabb,
the notary, of whom mention has been made, was one of those httle,
restless, waspish men, who are never content to act in a subordinate
capacity ; and after chafing for some time under his forced restraint,
he had shpped out of the shadow of his superiors, for the purpose of
acting the little gTeat man in another quarter. His field of opera-
tion was amidships, where he blustered around among the crew for
some time, with no well defined aim beyond that of impressing the
sailors -with a sense of his importance ; but after much peering about,
and many wise looks, he came suddenly to a stand in front of Mon-
taigne, and remained looking up at the portly figure before him
with a singular air of admiration and contempt. The disproportion
of physical power between the two, which was ludicrously great, per-
haps suggested to the pigmy the idea of disphiying a little official
authority, by way of balancing accounts.

" Who are you ?" he said, addi-essing the supposed sailor in
French.

" Jack Beans, if it please yom* honor," said the baron, twirling his
cap, with an admirable appearance of embarrassment.

Nabb pulled out a pencil fi'om his pocket, and noted down the
answer with great granty ; an action which, of course, attracted the



THE KING OF THE HURONS. 23

general attention of the crew, as the attorney well knew it would,
and when he next threw back his head for the purpose of putting
another question, he had the satisfaction of seeing that Mr. Jack
Beans seemed a httle alarmed. Several interrogatories succeeded in
regard to the age, residence, and occupation of the supposed sailorj
all of which were carefully written down, and the practised eye of the
attorney could not fail to perceive at each additional inquiry renewed
tokens of apprehension. Satisfied, however, at length, with having



Online LibraryP. Hamilton (Peter Hamilton) MyersThe King of the Hurons → online text (page 2 of 29)