P. Hamilton (Peter Hamilton) Myers.

The King of the Hurons online

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and depart in that direction. The castle walls, he said, w^ere of earth
and timber, not more than two soldiers high, and hinted that they
could be scaled by half the army, by a sort of leap-frog operation,
over the shoulders of their fellow^s, a somewhat novel mode of storm-
ing a fortress, which Major Bain promised to take into consideration.
He manifested much satisfaction at the intelhgence received, and
issued orders that everything should be in readiness for departure
at the hour of ten.



Bellario.— Are you not ill, my lord 7
Philaster— III— no, Bellario.
Bellario.— Methinks your words

Fall not from off your tongue so evenly,

Nor is there in your looks that quietness

That I was wont to see."

Beaumont and Fletcher. Tragedy of Philaster.

The prolonged absence of the count excited a surprise at tlie
castle, which, as the day began to wane, grew into solicitude, and
finally into serious anxiety. Messengers were despatched in every
direction in search of him, and the baron, pacing the court of his
castle with a perturbed air, awaited their return, and instituted
meanwhile the closest inquiry of all his adherents as to the time and
place in which the expected bridegroom had last been seen.

" He is coming, my lord," said one, entering with breathless haste
while these investigations were pending; "he is coming under
whip and spur, down the river road, just this side the woods ; you
can see him from the west gate."

A crowd rushed to the gateway, and the baron beheld with
joy, for a moment, the distant spectacle which was pointed out to
him ; but as the equestrian drew near it soon became evident that
it was not the count. A soldier, one of the searching party, had
found the freed horse in the woods, and mounting him, had galloped
home to convey the alarming intelligence. The utmost consternation
now prevailed; another large detachment of soldiers and Indians


was sent out to search for the lost rider, to whom some casualty was
supposed to have happened, but one which it was yet hoped might
not prove of a serious character.

Ignorant for a while of the alarm, Blanche had remained in her
room in painful expectation of the approaching ceremony, for the
friendly stupor which had so long deadened her sensibilities had
passed away, and left her keenly ahve to all her sufterings. Emily
brought to her the first tidings of Carlton's singular absence, exciting
great astonishment, and a vague anticipation of relief which she was
still unwiUing to build upon the hope of a disaster to a fellow being.
Not so, however, with Emily, who could not conceal the compla-
cency v/ith which she contemplated the subject, and enumerated
the various fatal accidents that might have befallen the missing man.

" It is very shocking, of course," she said, " but he has doubtless
been thrown, and had his neck dislocated ; they can't re-set necks, I
beheve, can they ? Or else, perhaps, some of the Hm'ons have way-
laid him, and they always make sure work of what they take in
hand— it is awful, certamly— but he's probably dead !"

Myrtle displayed much anxiety, and shuddered at the le^dty of
Miss Roselle ; a suspicion had taken possession of her mind, not un-
natural to one to whom tales of murder and revenge were familiar
as household words. Who knew, she asked, that Mr. Huntington
had really departed ? might he not be lurking in the wilderness,
and might not his hand ?

" Mr. Huntington is no assassin ! " answered Blanche, indignantly,
yet not unalarmed at the horrid suspicion ; " he is incapable of such

an act."

" Nay, I said not that he had slain him," rephed the abashed
girl ; " but he may have carried him off, or — "

" There is some new commotion below," interrupted Emily, looking
from the window into the court of the castle ; " a crowd is entering
the gate, led by the Lynx ; see ! the baron advances to meet them,
and the Indian is talking and gesticulating with much earnestness ;


now he stoops and marks something on the ground ; look ! it
is the track of a large foot ; now he holds up some httle broken
sticks, which he has brought with him ; what can it mean ? Wait,
while I run and learn ; I will be back in a minute."

Emily departed ; and while both Blanche and Mptle were yet
trembling with the \aolence of their excitement, and watching the
movements below, she returned.

"The Huron," she said, quickly, "has followed the trail of the
horse in the woods to a place where the gi'ound and leaves are much
trampled, and where there are frequent marks of a huge foot, and
also of the count's well known steps ; the horse has reared, he says,
for there are deep dents in the soil, made by his hind shoes. Be-
sides all this," she said, breathlessly, " the trail of the men leads
southerly from that spot, and that of the horse in another direction ;
three experienced path-findei-s are on the track, accompanied by a
hundred men, and further news is expected every moment."

Myrtle turned pale as she listened, and left the room without re-
ply, while Blanche, gi-eatly moved, continued to gaze, expectantly,
from the window.

The Lynx had made his discoveries in the presence of others who
had also discerned the signs which he had so plainly construed ;
and as they could not be kept secret, nor the chase restrained, he
had done all that he could to retard it, by returning to the castle
with the intelligence, leaving the pursuers to the guidance of less
experienced trail-seekers than himself. For if Hariy Bolt had left
an engraved card on the scene of his exploit, bearing his name in
full, it could not more distinctly have revealed his presence to en-
lightened eyes, than his footsteps had done to the Lynx. There
was, indeed, no mistaking the sign ; the Indian knew every curve
and angle of the prodigious track, and the veiy number of the hob-
nails in either heel ; he had seen it on the banks of the Hudson, on
the day of his fii-st singailar interview with Harry, and had perused
it with unabated interest at every subsequent landing-place on their

*JtE fiiNGi- OF Tiifi iitTRO*rs. 297

jbint route. How it came on the shore of the Sorelle, he considered
it no part of his province to determine ; but there it was, as legible
as a signature or a countenance. The negro, he supposed, had in
Bome way followed his master, and encountered him on his return,
and they had together planned and executed the recent adventure^
which he considered a gallant and daring act, every way justifiable,
and he was by no means desirous to assist in defeating it. Yet, if
he had apprehended for a moment the true state of affairs, no one
Would have been more prompt in repelhng the approaching invasion
of his country, at whatever sacrifice of personal feehngs.

The baron remained in a state of momentarily increasing agita^
lion, awaiting and receiving the successive tidings that reached him
fi'om the forest ; but the night began to close in without anything
decisive being heard, and an hotir after dark a few of the pursuing
party returned to the castle with the intelligence that they had fol-
lowed the trail four miles* until the darkness prevented further search,
and that the main body of pursuers had encamped in the woods,
ready to resume their quest with the first return of light.

The count, in the meantime, as the hour for the embarkation of
the invaders arrived, finding himself not only unguarded, but seem-
ingly unwatched, began to contemplate the project of escape. One
hour's warning, he knew, would enable the baron not only to make
a successful defence of his post, but probably to utterl}^ discomfit his
foes, while without it everything would be irremediably lost. To
retrieve his own fortunes, to avenge himself fully on Henrich and
the exulting negro, and to close the exciting drama of his adventures
by his own final triumph, what was there that he would not do to
accomplish ends like these ? Should an idle punctifio restrain him
from reaping such a harvest of advantages ? He had passed his
word of honor, indeed ; but was it not to a treacherous foe, who
were themselves advancing stealthily upon their adversaries, with
strategy and guile ? Had he not himself been artfully and surrep-
titiously captured, and in no fair and open combat? Such were



some of the arguments with wbicli the count fortified his growing
resolution ; for when did infamy or crime ever lack extenuation in
the breast of its perpetrator ?

The danger attending the deed scarcely occiil'red to his mind, for
although he knew the penalty to which it would technically render
him liable if the English should prove successful, and he should
again fall into their hands, he did not conceive such a result possible,
if the baron were once fully apprised of his peril ; and he appre-
hended, in no event, any extremity of punishment from the urbane
officer, who had already shown so marked a consideration for his
prisoner's rank and title. The risk, indeed, was slight in comparison
with the vast benefits in prospect, and so busy was the captive in
calculating the practicability of his scheme, and in overcoming the
obstacles in its way, that he scarcely looked beyond.

A seeming opportunity at length occurred in the bustle of depar-
ture; the vigilant Harry, his self-constituted guide, had been separated
from him in the order of embarkation, and while the boats were put
in readiness, and were receiving their respective occupants, Carlton
stepped backward a little and obser\ing that the movement was
unnoticed, glided silently into the deeper shade of the forest, and
then quickened his pace. In another moment he was running —
plunging deeper into the sheltering woods — skulking through its
densest shades, and listening with terror to the fancied sounds of
pursuit. The escape was almost instantly discovered, yet no one
could tell the precise time of the prisoner's departure, or the direction
he had taken ; it was at once reported to the commanding officer,
whose astonishment was unbounded, and yet was not greater than
his wrath.

" It is idle to pursue," he said ; " we must quicken our speed and
try to outstrip the scoundrel ; yet our ignorance of the channel will
hnpede us ; was ever such infamy heard of ? A gentleman — a
count — and a commissioned officer, forfeiting his pledged honor ! —
let me but take the lying knave once more, and if he escape his
deserts again, mine shall be the blame !"



" Ho ! sound the tocsin from my tower—
And fire the culverin,—
Bid each retainer arm with speed, —
Call every vassal in.*'

Albert G. Greene.

It was a little before midniglit that the exhausted count arrived
at the castle gate, and ere he had succeeded in obtaining admittance
the intelligence of his return had been diffused in every direction
through the court, along the walls, and in every apartment of the
building ; so that by the time he had gained the principal hall, he
was surrounded by an eager throng of soldiers, Indians, and domes-
tics, who pressed unreproved around him, to hear the story of his
wonderful abduction and escape. Into the midst of this excited
crowd rushed the delighted baron, just as with faint and panting
voice Carlton was inquiring for him, while beckoning with one hand
to keep his motley retinue back.

" Joy ! joy ! sir count, for your escape," exclaimed Montaigne ;
" though fi-om what danger we do not yet know ; we have had
great alarm "

" My lord ! my lord !" gasped the pallid count, " there is an
Enghsh army, six hundred strong, almost at your gates ; I have been
their prisoner and am but just escaped ; they advance by the river,
and may be under your walls in half an hour !"

"Let the drum beat to arms!" shouted Montaigne, with
sudden animation and alarm, " yet, no ! Lieutenant Leighton, muster


the men in perfect silence ; see that the guns are trebly manned ;
place fifty musketeers on the western walls ; quick, ho ! extinguish
these lights, and let ever}^ man to his post in silence. You, Francis
and Mallory, fly to the Lynx and warn him of the danger ; let
another of your men, lieutenant, mount my best hoi'se and speed to
Anak with the news ; Windfoot, you also may go — away ! away !
by St. Francis, but we will give them a reception they little dream
of — ^but, hark ! what noises are these ?"

" My lord," said a soldier, rushing breathlessly in, " the castle is
attacked ! an enemy is scaling the walls, and forming in the court,
and three of the guns are already in their possession ; Sergeant Grill
is rallying the men and making a stand in front of the south wing,

but he has only thirty men "

" Tell him to charge if he has but six !" shouted the baron ;
" quick, form your men, and follow, Leighton ; I will stay them till
you come !" and, springing through the doorway, in a moment he
stood beside Grill, in front of the little band who had dauntlessly
opposed themselves to tenfold their number. The darkness, how-
ever, had favored the minority, Avhose weakness was concealed, while
the loud prompt accents in which the sergeant's orders were issued,
conveyed the idea that they were directed to a company of consider-
able strength, and induced the English commander to forbear an
attack, until more of his own men were assembled.

" What say you ?" cried the major, repeating a summons which
had already been made upon the sergeant ; " will you surrender, and
save bloodshed ? You are quite in my power ; I have five hundred
men, and I cannot answer for my Indian allies, if resistance is

" On what terms ?" asked Montaigne, anxious to gain time, yet
speaking in tones of defiance which behed his professed willingness
to negotiate, — " On what terms do you ask me to give up this castle
of my sovereign, and who is it that makes the demand ?"

" My lord baron," rephed the Englishman, " for such, if I mistake


not, is tlie person I am addressing ; I am Major Bain, in the service
of Her Majesty, the Queen, and their Excellencies the governors of
New York and New England ; I have travelled fast and far to pay-
yon a visit, and I now demand an instant surrendry of your post,
without other terms and conditions than those which necessarily
pertain to civilized warfare ; all who are taken will be regarded as
prisoners of war, with the exception of a person styling himself Count
Carlton, who to-day forfeited his parole of honor in my camp, and who,
if taken, will be hung : I give you two minutes to answer !"

" Now by all the saints, but this is too insolent 1" rephed Montaigne,
as his lieutenant silently ranged about eighty armed men beside his
little corps, yet scarcely swelhng his force to a hundred ; " know
then. Major Bain, if such you be, that you are caught in a trap ; we
have had ample notice of your coming, and have intentionally per-
mitted you, unopposed, to scale our walls; four hundred of his
majesty's troops stand this moment at my side — six hundred of our
Indian allies await my call without the gates. Fool ! did you think
to surprise as old a warrior as I, or to take Castle Montaigne with
less than a regiment ? I now summon you to surrender, and give
you but one minute to decide ! Present arms !"

This ingenious falsehood, and the bold manner in which it was
asserted, struck alarm into the heart of Major Bain, for he did not
know how long Carlton's return had preceded his own arrival, and
feared that he had really become the victim of that individual's
treachery. There was danger also that a panic might be created
among his men, which would prove highly disastrous, and a moment
of most painful incertitude and indecision passed, during which he
hesitated whether to await an attack or to commence one.

But the voice of the undisciplined Harry was at this moment heard,
as he approached skulkingly from the direction of the French force,
where he had been on a sort of private exploring expedition, being
shielded from observation by the night-like hue with which Nature
had invested him.


" Oh dat's a whopper, massa major !" he said, " I jis been right
ober dare 'moiig 'em, looking for de count ; dare aint niore'n fifty
on 'em, 'pon honor 1"

" We have certain inteUigence of your strength, my lord," now
retorted the Englishman promptly — " you cannot deceive us ! once
more I demand, will you spare the lives of your followers, and avert
the scenes of horror which must ensue, when once the Indians are
engaged ? My men are impatient for the attack, nor shall I restrain
them another minute."

" Let the signal be given for our allies to advance through the
north gate ! Fire !" shouted Montaigne, and almost in the same
breath, a volley was given and returned, and the coincident order to
charge, rang from the lips of the opposing commanders. For a few
minutes a dreadful encounter ensued in which the clashing of bayo-
nets, the shrieks of the wounded, the yells of the Indians, and the
stentorian voices of the officers, outsounding the combined clamor,
rang with varied and terrific tones through the air. Montaigne
raged hke a Lybian lion in the front of his little band, dealing death
on every side with his single arm, and driving back the invaders at
a dozen points, who, wherever his towering form was seen, and his
hoarse shouts were heard, quailed and wavered as if before the onset
of some supernatural foe. The darkness favored his attacks, and
added to the mystic dread with which he was regarded by men, to
whom his exploits, exaggerated by fame, had long been the themes
of famihar story ; while the Indians scarcely ventured near enough to
his person, to hurl the charmed hatchets which had been prepared
by incantation to penetrate his supposed enchanted armor. Ilis
followers, inspirited by his presence and example, performed prodigies
of valor, and were emulous to gain his cheers and appro\'al, which
were repeatedly bestowed even in the heat of the conflict. Many of
the Iroquois wariiors retreated, and stood clustered behind the main
body of the combatants awaiting the issue, and the moment when, if
successful, their own bloody work of extermination might begin ;


but the English soldiers displayed a bravery, which more than
compensated for the defection of their allies. If they faltered, they
rallied ; if they wavered, it was but to renew their attacks more
vigorously than before, under the calm encouraging orders of their
leader, who like his competitor shrank from no danger, and although
severely wounded, remained in the midst of the mHee.

But the contest was too unequal to be of long duration ; the
French party, despite their valor, was rapidly thinned, and was in
momentary danger of being hemmed in on every side, when the
baron issued orders to fall back, and a rapid retreat wa^ effected into
the main hall of the castle, while the shouts of the enemy rang long
and loud through the air, waking the distant echoes in reply. They
promptly pursued, but the massive door which closed behind the
flying garrison withstood for a moment their attacks, and in another
minute a dozen windows were bristling with the protruded guns of the
soldiery from within, and a destructive fire was opened on the invad-
ers, which caused them in turn to retreat, and seek some safer mode
of attack. This, unfortunately for the besieged party, was of easy
procurement ; the guns upon the walls were in the undisputed pos-
session of the invaders, and it only remained to turn them upon the
castle with a certainty of its speedy demolition, unless by a sortie, or
by aid from without, the weaker party might yet obtain relief.

Incited to wrath by the desperate resistance which he had met
from so small a force. Major Bain was not tardy in avaihng himself
of the advantages which he now possessed ; the cannon were brought
to bear on the doors and windows of the main hall and the south
wing of the building, in which the soldiery were concentrated, and,
before firing, the castle was once more summoned to a surrender.
A voice, which was recognised as the baron's, demanded from an
open casement, on what terms a capitulation w^as asked, or would be
received, and although the proposition betrayed a sense of his despe-
rate condition, his words and accents were still more defiant than


" On no terms," replied Bain, wrathfully, " other than those wticli
have been aheady named ; the captm-ed to be treated as prisoners
of war, but death to Count Carlton !"

" Death to Count Carlton ! — death to Count Carlton /" was re-
peated by a hundred hoarse throats, in a sullen shout, which told
how deeply incensed were the enemy towards him, and how much
of their loss they imputed to his baseness.

" I will consult with my officers," rephed Montaigne, dissembling
his rage, and hoping momentarily for a diversion from without by an
Indian force under command of the Lynx, who could not have failed,
he thought, to hear the tumult of the battle ; " I will consult with
my officers, and g'ive you my answer speedily ; if you are really
desirous of saving life - — "

" Our matches are lighted, and by all the saints in your Popish
calendar, I swear I will not wait one minute for an answer," replied

" Then fire /" shouted the baron, to his men, a part of whom had
been stationed, during the colloquy, at upper windows, which ad-
mitted of their again, to some extent, commanding the enemy's
position ; " Fire^ and let the dogs feel your strength — in three
minutes we shall have relief."

The scene Avhich ensued was terrific beyond description. The
feeble volley of the garrison, which served but to reveal, by its flash-
ing light, the location of the doors and windows, and enabled the
gunners to aim their pieces aright, was followed by the roar of
artillery, by the crashing of pannels and casements, the jingling of
glass, the groans of the dying, and the screams of the affrighted in-
mates of every part of the building, which rang in prolonged and
waihng accents, awaking pity even in the stern hearts which caused
their misery.

" There is no harm done, my boys !" exclaimed Montaigne, spring-
ing back to the window from which he had momentarily retreated ;
" that noise will wake up the Hurons, and in a few minutes we shall


have them with us ; give them another round, my bull-dogs ! and
be sure to aim towards the guns."

His orders were obeyed, and the firing was again returned by a
discharge of cannon more destructive than the former, accompanied
by a volley of small arms, from some protected position on the walls ;
but scarcely had the roar of the guns died away when a messenger
entered from a lower room to say that a dozen men had been killed
by the shot, including Sergeant Grill, and that Lieutenant Leighton
was dangerously wounded.

" I am sorry for it !" replied the baron, " but those who remain
must fight the harder ; now, my boys !" but as he spoke, he stag-
gered backwards and dropped into the arms of his men, while
another peal of musketry rang from without.

" Lieutenant Leighton says he has not twenty men alive beMw,
my lord !" said another messenger, entering hastily. " He is himself
dying, and he, therefore, takes the liberty of begging that you will
spare the men and surrender."

" Never !" gasped tlie baron ; " never — will I — surrender ! There
will soon — be help "

He was borne to a couch which stood in the apartment and
deposited upon it ; a surgeon in attendance bent for a few moments
above him, feehng meanwhile of his pulse ; then turning sadly to the
messenger, he said, "Tell Lieutenant Leighton that he commands
this fortress !" and a gi'oan of anguish burst from the stout hearts,
who, suspending their labors, had gathered around their fallen lord.

The wounded lieutenant received the intelligence with great emo-
tion, and hastened to follow his own convictions of duty by instantly
surrendering the castle into the hands of his victorious enemy, who
proceeded to take possession and receive the submission of the sur-
viving soldiery. The destruction of life on both sides had been
great, but the loss of the besieged party had been far larger in
proportion to their number than that of the English. The Indians,
as had been anticipated, were with some difficulty restrained from


Online LibraryP. Hamilton (Peter Hamilton) MyersThe King of the Hurons → online text (page 24 of 29)