P. Hamilton (Peter Hamilton) Myers.

The King of the Hurons online

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frightened the giant and displayed his own importance, he was
about turning away, when his eye was arrested by the edge of a fine
linen wristband protruding from beneath the coarse flannel sleeve of
the sailor's shirt. Startled at the sight, suspicion at once took pos-
session of his mind, and several minute circumstances to which he
had before paid little heed, gave it confirmation. Stepping a few
paces backward, to gain a better view of the Frenchman's head, he
noticed the soft and silky appearance of the hair, and the fine face
and neck, which gave no evidence of exposure to the sun ; while
Montaigne, in the efifort to avoid quaihng, had inadvertently resumed
his usual air of authority, and met the gaze of the other with the
look of a chained eagle. Convinced that he had stumbled upon a
prize of some kind, the attorney's delight knew no bounds ; he con-
tinued complacently gazing upon his victim for some moments,
running over in his mind the probable magnitude of the service
which he was about to render to government, and the extent of his
reward. He must be, thought Nabb, an officer of the army at
least, and possibly a nobleman ; it might even be the Marquis Vau-
dreuil, or one of the royal family, or, for soaring fancy seldom stops
midway in her flight, the very majesty of France himself. Gloating
over his discovery, he reached upwards, and tapping Montaigne upon
the shoulder, said :

" Lord Cornbury has released the creiv of the St. Cloud, but not
any officer or gentleman who sees fit to assume a seaman's dress :
Monsieur will please to consider himself under arrest."


So saying, he turned away to inform the governor of his discovery,
but had scarcely communicated his information, before a shght
commotion was perceived amidships, and three figures bounded over
the gunwale, and descended the vessel's side. The boat by which
the governor and his suite had approached the ship was waiting at
the foot of the man-ropes, the waterman in whose charge it had
been left having been attracted by curiosity on board the vessel.
A moment of consternation prevailed, and the attorney, furious with
the fear of losing his prize, seemed altogether demented : shouting,
" an escape ! stop him ! stop him !" he flew rather than ran towards
the place where the baron had disappeared, and caUing loudly for
the ^^ posse comitatus''^ to follow, he leaped upon the gimwale. The
last of the fugitives was at that moment entering the skiff, and Nabb,
ghding down the ropes Hke a squirrel, pitched into the boat, just as
they had succeeded in casting her loose. Recovering his feet, he
darted to the side of the stalwart baron, and grasping him by the
arm, exclaimed, " I arrest you in the Queen's name !" but Montaigne,
seating himself without reply, drew the little man forcibly to his lap,
and shouted,

" Pull now for your hves ! a thousand pounds if we escape !"

The whole scene up to this point had occupied scarcely thirty
seconds, and the tumult and excitement on deck were still too great
to admit of any deliberate action. Blanche had swooned. Miss
Roselle was in hysterics, and Captain Sill, fearful of an outbreak
among his crew, was calling loudly to them to remain quiet. Lord
Cornbury himself was far from being self-possessed, and, gesticulating
with his sword, he called to the commander of the troops on the
adjacent wharf, and ordered him to fire a volley into the boat — a
command which was about being executed, when a shriek of agony
from the skifi" arrested general attention.

" For Heaven's sake don't let them fire, my lord," exclaimed one
of Cornbury's companions, " it ^vill be certain death to Mr. Nabb."

All eyes were turned towards the skiff, where the prominent


figure of Montaigne, seated, facing tlie shore, and holding the strug-
ghng attorney before him, hke a shield, was plainly visible. He was
near the stern of the vessel, thus at the same time protecting the
two sailors, who were bending meanwhile lustily to their oars, while
the little bark was making such headway as the heavy billows would
allow. It was a critical moment ; the troops had taken aim, and
the order to fire was trembling on the lips of their officer, when a
reluctant countermand from the governor brought down their guns.
Boats were next in requisition for the chase, but the advantage of
the start, and the desperate \igor of the fugitives, left little to fear
from the pursuit of oars alone, and before a sail-boat could be pro-
cured and got under weigh they were well out from the land.
Sagaciously taking a route nearly in the wind's eye, they had the
satisfaction of seeing the last-named vessel compelled to describe an
arc of an immense circle, before she could even begin to bear down
upon them. The baron, in the meantime, took his turn at the
oars, and even compelled the notary to duty in the same hue, under
penalty of being left behind. Frequent changes at this labor, with
stout hearts and strong arms, worked wonders, and in less than
twenty minutes, notwithstanding the roughness of the water, they
reached the Jersey shore, while their pursuers were yet more than a
mile distant. Nabb had grown much terrified in contemplating the
probable disposition which was to be made of himself after he had
ceased to be serviceable ; and his alarm was not abated on landing,
by hearing some cool inquiries made by the sailors of their principal,
as to the manner in which he should be dispatched. But Montaigne
entertained no such design, and reminding the notary that he was a
prisoner of war, released him on his parole of honor not to aid or
assist, l)y information or otherwise, in the pursuit. Impressed with
the importance of retaining his skiff, the baron caused it to be skil-
fully concealed in a ra\dne in the woods, and then, with the sailors,
plunged into the thicknesses of the forest to await the approach of



niglit. The pursuing party came up some thirty minutes subse-
quently, only to find the half-exhausted attorney alone upon the
beach. Still impetuous in the chase, they plied him with a dozen
questions at once, as to the course of the fugitives and the disposition
made of the boat ; but Nabb rigidly preserved his parole. If ridicu-
lous and conceited at times, he was not wanting in honor as he had
proved himself not deficient in corn-age. The pursuers, therefore,
after much ineffectual search, returned to the city, contenting them-
selves with the. belief that the Frenchmen would be starved in the
wilderness, or be murdered by the Indians.

Lord Cornbury was much chagrined at the affair, and the more
so when he had succeeded in extorting from the fears of some of the
crew the name and rank of the fugitive. That he had had so
coveted a prize within his very grasp, and yet had suffered him to
escape, was a most galling reflection. Rage for a while became
dominant in his breast, and he had nearly resolved on a revocation
of his clemency towards the remaining prisoners; but reflection
induced him to follow out the line of policy which he had before
adopted. They were all set at liberty on the terms which have
abeady been named, and Father Ledra was allowed ample time to
quit the province. The governor, for a while, lost sight of the
minor incidents connected with the affair in the attempt at regaining
the baron, an object for the accomplishment of which, by proclamation
and pursuit, he left no means untried. Troops were sent up the river,
and Indians through the forest ; and extra posts and runners were
flying in every direction, proclaiming the escape and the princely
reward of re-capture. That the lion was in the jungle somewhere
between New York and Albany, there could be little doubt ; and so
confident were the anticipations of his being taken, that the council
in New York several times debated the subject of his doom. But
the vigilance and valor which had planned so extraordinary an
escape were not easily to be circumvented. A protracted journeyj


prolific in incidents of peril and suffering, was terminated by his safe
arrival at Castle Montaigne, an event to which others of great
moment were subsequently hnked, as the diligent reader of the fol-
lowing pages will discover.



"Quaint old town of toil and traffic, quaint old
town of art and song ;
Memories haunt thy pointed gables, like the rooks
that round them thToiig."— Longfellow.

Jacobus Waldron was a Dutchman ingrain. He was bom
somewliere near the centre of Holland proper, out of the range of
all foreign atmospheric influences, and of parents, whose lineage,
traceable for centuries, was of unadulterated Dutch. He spoke,
wrote, read, thought, and dreamed in Dutch, wore Dutch garments
with a Dutch air, and ate, and drank, and smoked, and slept after
the most approved fashion of his race. It had been with many-
misgivings that he had migrated, when yet a young man, to New
York, which at that time was a colony of Holland, but which, by
some strange diplomatic process that he did not understand, was
soon afterwards passed over to the sovereignty of England. Like
some huge flapjack, tossed by the skilful housewife into the air, and
ever coming down in a reversed position, such, to Jacobus's seeming,
had been the poHtical tumbhngs of the infant state, which had
already belonged twice to both Holland and England, had been
now taken on the sly and now by force, and had finally been trans-
ferred with the dash of a pen to the last named government, in
company with some ignominious islands in the West Indies and the
South Seas. It was a galling reflection to Mynheer Waldron that
his native land had thus expatriated, as it were, thousands of her
loving sons, who had thought, even at this distance, to nestle safely


down under her maternal wings. But lie had brought with him all
his worldly means, one half of which consisted of small yellow
bricks, -with shingles, shutters, and weathercocks, which were des-
tined to grow into a house in the new world, and which had taken
a thousand fantastic shapes in his imagination, as he smoked, and
pondered, and dreamed through a three months' voyage from Am-
sterdam. He had brought mth him, too, a plump httle wife and
a still plumper baby, cro^\^ng as yet, although of a sex which might
more appropriately have cackled. And thus it was that Jacobus
continued a denizen of ISTew York, notwithstanding its excision from
Holland, the news of which cruel act reached him just as he had
completed his house, a building of many angles, which looked as
old on the day when it was finished as it did a century subsequent,
and on the very steep and smooth roof of which no bird, not remark-
ably sure-footed, would have dared to alight. He shut himself up
for a while in his castle in great consternation, not knowing what
amount of personal calamity to apprehend; but finding himself
unmolested, he gradually took heart, and commenced timidly culti-
vating his land, of which he had several acres ; and, finally, growing
more and more daring, ventured to smoke his pipe on his front
stoop, in the face of the whole city. As time rolled by. Jacobus
was delighted to find that he remained undisturbed, and that his
little farm, stocked with some genuine Dutch cattle, and a few negro
slaves, who were then a cheap commodity in the province, afforded
him a very comfortable subsistence. If ther^ was no lack, however
so neither was there any overplus ; for his negroes, unfortunately,
were all provided with mouths, and even his children, as they came
successively to light, proved to be similarly equipped ; so that, in
one way and another, his yearly products vanished as fast as they
came. He had many schemes for growing rich, none of which,
however, ever came to sufficient maturity in his mind to be acted
upon ; but he kept hoping for better times, and fully believing that
something or other would turn up, by and by, greatly to his ad van-


tage. That indefinite something was doubtless the very same thing
which has been about to happen to thousands ever since, who have
lacked energy to overcome the natural vis inertice of both mind and
body, and who, practising neither self-denial nor industry, look con-
fidently for the rewards of both. Whatever it was, it did not come
to Jacobus. The course of nature was not subverted for his benefit.
He did not grow rich, though he grew fat ; for as years increased
upon him, he worked less, and schemed more. Eighteen summers
rolled by, and he was startled, one fine afternoon, on rubbing the
smoke out of his eyes, and caUing his httle Hetty to his side, to
find that she had really grown to be a young woman, and not a
little handsome withal. It was strange that he had never noticed
this transformation before ; for whatever his daughter might have
seemed to others, to him she had always been the same httle tod-
dler, who used to dance among the cabbages at the age of three,
beguiHng him by the hour from his little relished labor, and even
knocking down, at times, the underpinning of those airy structures
which he so much delighted to build. But now she herself became
the subject of a scheme, suddenly conceived, but long revolved, as
she stood at his side, the patient recipient of many puffs, not such
as beauty covets most. Jacobus gazed into her pretty face, and
smoothed her glossy hair, and eyed her neat round figure and her
dimpled httle hand, and thought of the rich young Vanderknipper
in the neighborhood, who, everybody said, was in search of a wife.
True, he was a booby, tind as surly as a mastiff, but he owned half
the street in which he resided, and many a fine block besides, his
father ha\ang recently abdicated in his fiivor, and gone to a world
where real estate is unknown. It was with much embarrassment
that Mynheer Waldron succeeded in broaching the dehcate subject,
for the idea of matrimony, he doubted not, would overwhelm the
poor child with alai-m. He proved to be somewhat abroad in his
calculations, as usual : matrimony, in the abstract, was not an object
of aversion to Hetty ; but she would by no means consent to become


Mrs. Vanderknipper. She cared little for blocks, and less for block-
heads, and, besides that, she had other views ; not that she said to
her papa what she thus saucily thought, with the demurest and seem-
ingly most submissive of faces. Argument and reason were unavail-
ing, and Jacobus, pondering deeply, began to wonder whether the
weekly visits of a young English merchant, who brought over his
newspaper regularly for the father to read, while he chatted by the
hour with Hetty, had anything at all to do with the matter. It could
not be ; for Mr. Huntington, although an enterprising, active young
man, was as poor as himself; and as neither party could make any
money by the operation, it did not seem at all probable that the
merchant should seek an alHance with his daughter. Once more,
Mynheer Waldron was in error ; Huntington loved Hetty, and mar-
ried her, before the father well knew whether he had given his
consent or not ; and Time, whom no events can retard, passed on
with all its myriad dramas, for another period of twenty years, at
which epoch his gi'eat kaleidoscope, being thoroughly shaken up,
presented objects in a very different aspect. Jacobus was still alive,
verging on eighty, as poor as ever, and still looking confidently for
some favorable change in his affairs. Huntington's business had
prospered famously for a while, for he was a dealer in furs, a magical
sort of trade, at which all parties were gainers, except the producers
of the raw material, who were cheated quite out of their skins. He
grew rich, indeed, till even the lout of a Vanderknipper took off his
hat to him ; and then something jogged the rolling world, and a
heavy cargo of peltry, bound to China, sank, uninsured, in the
Pacific. Huntington took to his bed, and passed thence to the
churchyard ; and Hetty pined but a year, before she slept at his
side, showing that life and wealth are only other names for bubbles
and shadows. But they had not lived in vain. A son, of manly
beauty, of graceful but athletic figure, of open and engaging counte-
nance, perpetuated his father's worth and his mother's gentleness
At the age of nineteen, he had been called home from a foreign


university by intelligence of his first calamity, only in time to receive
the coveted caresses of his remaining parent, and to follow her,
destitute, and an orphan, to the grave. Some hearts are schooled,
gradually, to grief, and grow familiar with its returning visage ; but
Hemich's first draught of sorrow was from the lees. He mourned
as none but the ingenuous and noble-hearted can mourn ; and when
to others' seeming least mindful of his bereavement, his whole heart
was often flooded with the gushing tenderness inspired by some
sudden recollection of his loss. Mementoes were all around him,
hourly touching some mystic thread of memory, and summoning^
from her haunted caverns, the apparitions of departed bliss. Ah !
little do they think, whose experience of adversity has been confined
to the common bufFetings of fortune, of that greater calamity, which,
taking one treasure, leaves all others valueless ! To lose a friend,
and feel that there can be no return, not even for one short hour,
through all the coming months, and seasons, and years of life, no
word, no glance, no token of forg-iven wi'ong, of continued love, of
hoped re-union ; to know this dreadful truth, to feel it pressing
heavily upon a heart yet unused to its vacancy, this is misery
indeed, and it was that of Henrieh.

But Heaven has graciously implanted in the mind, as in the body,
those recuperative energies, which enable it to rise at length, buoy-
ant, fi'om the severest lacerations. The young Huntington became
one of his grandfather's household, although, fortunately for both,
not without a remnant of means which saved him from dependence.
He possessed a taste for study and added largely, in private, to
that broad superstructure of learning which had been already founded
in his mind ; and when a few summers had passed away, there
were but slight traces of his affliction discernible in his deportment.
He had become happy and hopeful ; his laughter was again heard
by welcoming ears ; his step was hght and agile ; and his whole
frame animated with the returning elasticity of youth. Still deter-
mining and still hesitating to enter in some way upon the active


duties of life, lie yet clung to liis books and his amusements with an
indecision that he resolved should soon terminate. He would
attempt something ; he would not be an idler in the busy world
around him ; disconnected with its sympathies and hopeless of its
rewards. Yet his were not the common illusions of youth, present-
ing the personal aggrandizement resulting from wealth or fame as
the ultimate end of hfe. Taught in the school of affliction, he felt
that there w^as something nobler and less selfish in existence than
this ; and that the glorious universe, of which he was a conscious
part, was something more than a theatre for mere personal display,
however brilliant might be the ephemeral gifts of man. The silent
exemplars of ancient virtue, visible in colossal though indistinct pro-
portions upon the classic page, and the more direct teachings of that
high and holy i3hilosopliy, before which the light of mere human
learning " pales its ineffectual ray," had given to his character that
moral prominence which alone truly exjdts humanity ; and which,
when wedded to intellect, becomes, hke the blended light and heat
of day, both brilliant and benign.

It was at this period of his life that an event occurred, which,
though singular in itself, deserves chronicling, only by reason of its
sequences, at an after day. Fond of hardy sports, and skilful as a
marksman, the forests were his frequent resort when oppressed with
the weariness of study ; and on a fine June afternoon, he had saun-
tered, gun in hand, to the woods, uncompanioned save by the bright
memories and brighter hopes that spring spontaneous in the breast
of youth. There was a point, a little north of the wall, where a high
sandy embankment overlooked the city, the confluent rivers, the bay
and its islands, and the opposing shores, which stretched away in the
distance, and converged in a hazy line around the shining waters, till
but a narrow vista hinted of the unrevealed beauties beyond. It
was a spectacle of rare beauty, and Henrich lingered long to gaze
upon it, and to watch the shifting shadows that played upon the
bay and beach, as the gauzy clouds sailed lazily across the bright



blue sky. The tomi reposed quietly before him, sending up no busy
hum to his ear. The shouts of children in the streets, driving the
bounding ball, or watching the diving kite ; the sound of the ^yood-
man's axe and its quick echo ; the rattling of an occasional wagon ;
the laughter of trafficking men ; the song of the light-hearted negro ;
— ^these were the city's blended voices. The gleam of the sentinel's
bayonet came from the distant fort as he paced his idle round ; the
unhfted flag was seen drooping from its staff; and, frowning from
their embrasures, the threatening cannon looked out towards the

Beyond this hill, over Avhich the " ploughshare of ruin" has long
since been driven, '^as a thicket or dense portion of the forest,
remarkable for its profuse foliage and the unrelieved depth of its
shade. It was of considerable extent, and included a ravine, at the
bottom of which a sullen streamlet proved an attraction to the game,
and consequently to the sportsman also. He had not proceeded far
in this direction, when he perceived signs of what seemed at first
a mortal contest between two athletic men ; but a nearer advance
and a closer scrutiny showed him that one only of the combatants
was a human being, who was wrestling at vastly unequal odds with
a huge gaunt wolf. Unusual as was this circumstance, it being well
known that these animals seldom singly attack a man, unless
impelled by the fiercest goadings of famine, the combat was of the
most \dolent kind, and gave promise of a speedy termination.
Appalled at the imminent peril which threatened a fellow-being,
Henrich hastened to the spot, and for some time strove in vain to
make himself a party to the conflict. So closely was the man locked
in the fearful embrace of the beast, and so rapid were their gyrations,
that any attempt to dispatch the latter with his weapon, might
have proved equally fatal to the other. For a few seconds he
darted around the parties, from side to side, seeking vainly for a
safe opportunity to discharge his rifle with effect ; and then, impelled
by the increasing peril of the stranger, he threw his gun on the


ground, and with open arms rushed into the melee. The fierce
flashing eyes of the wolf, his ensanguined jaws and teeth, as he
turned snarlingly for a moment towards the new comer, were not
calculated to inspire courage in his breast ; but determined not to
abandon a fellow mortal in such extremity, Henrich grasped the
infuriated beast by the neck, and throwing himself heavily upon him
succeeded in disengaging him from the wounded man. The latter,
staggering backwards for a moment, rallied, and raising a club was
about to renew the war, when the animal, alarmed at the reinforce-
ment of his foe, commenced a growhng retreat. It proved, however,
a less masterly and less successful performance than some feats of
this class which are on record ; for Huntington, coolly recovering his
weajDon, called upon the rescued man to stand aside, who was still
menacingly brandishing his club, and making a feint of pursuit. A
quick aim and a detonation that was mingled with a short, fierce
yell of the wolf, as he rolled on the ground, ended the affair ; and
for the first time Henrich had an opportunity to gratify his curiosity
by looking at his companion. He was a rough, sun-burnt man of
about forty years, clad in a sailor's dress, and with a countenance
which must have been singularly forbidding in any aspect, but which
at the present moment was almost fiendish in its expression. Seamed
with scratches, stained with blood, lighted with eyes that still flashed
rage, his face scarcely needed the coarse, disordered hair, and matted

Online LibraryP. Hamilton (Peter Hamilton) MyersThe King of the Hurons → online text (page 3 of 29)