P. Hamilton (Peter Hamilton) Myers.

The King of the Hurons online

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moustache which environed it, to seem altogether diabolical ; and
when Henrich, suppressing his emotions of horror, sympathizingly
inquired the extent of his injuries, the harsh, grating reply of the
other was in singular unison with his looks.

" The foul fiend seize him ! " he said, glancing at the insensate
carcase ; " I was asleep upon the gi'ound, or he never would have
dared to attack me ; and as for you, young man, I suppose you
think you have saved my life !"

Henrich smiled, and was about to reply, when the other con-
tinued :


" But in that you are quite mistaken ; if you had let us alone, I
should have done well enough; I don't need help against one
wolf, and not much against a whole pack ; however, you meant well
enough, Henrich Huntington, and for such a milk-soppish looking fel-
low, did well enough, too ; only, next time, I'll thank you not to
interfere — that's all !" and so saying, the man picked up his crushed
cap, shook the dust from it, and thrusting it on his head, marched
off without further comment.

The young man gazed after him with an air of utter surprise, nor
did he withdraw his eyes until the other had entirely disappeared in
the depths of the forest. Then smiling, as he proceeded to reload
his gun, he said :

" I killed the wrong wolf that time, certainly, and should have
received more thanks if I had helped the other side. Who can the
savage be ? and how does he know my name ?"

Thus soliloquizing, Ilenrich, after loading and priming his piece,
proceeded to examine the body of the slain animal, which was of a
size and species unusual in that region, and one from a personal
encounter with which the bravest might well have shrunk. His
bold attack, however, was very remarkable, and rendered probable
the truth of the stranger's assertion, that it had been made while he
was asleep, and, doubtless, in the opinion of his assailant, already

The young man, after examining the body a few minutes, was
about to turn away, when he heard a light bounding step breaking
through the underbrush, and a young^Indian hunter stood at his
side. Uttering a quick guttural sound, that would hardly have been
recognised as a laugh, excepting by one famihar with Indian modes
of expression, the savage looked deferentially at Huntington, and
then pointing at the game, said :

" Old long-ears ; me shoot him t^\^ce last year ; no use — see !"
and turning the carcase over, he pointed out two scars upon the
animal's chest, which were evidently the traces of severe wounds.


Continuing his examination, he again uttered a chuckle of deliglit,
and taking his knife from his belt, moved it dexterously for a few
moments about the shoulder of the beast, and produced a leaden
bullet, which he held up exultingly to Henrich.

" Mine !" he said ; " my wolf ! AVhat does my brother say ?"
" Say ?" rephed Henrich ; " why, I say that you have proved title
very clearly ; and if you want the head — there it is ; help yourself,
Winny ! The bounty will find you in powder for a month."

Nodding good-naturedly to the young man, the Indian quickly
severed the head, and seizing it by the ears, started on a run
towards the city, to claim the small bounty which was then paid for
slaughtering beasts of prey. Henrich, meanwhile, abandoning his
proposed sport, returned slowly homeward, musing upon the singular
events of the day.



♦' She never wanted a good word —
From those who spoke her praise." — Qoldsmith.

Mrs. Sniff was a slender little widow, of active tongue, whose
dear departed had grown enamored of the grave, by hearing it
described as a place of silence, and was strongly suspected of ha\dng
taken a voluntary leave of life. If his relict had not mourned
deeply for her bereavement, then there was no virtue in crape ; for
hers was of the finest quality, and was selected, with the discrimi-
nating eye of gi'ief, from the most recent importations. Mrs. Sniff
was frequently astonished to find herself on the very verge of forty,
— a circumstance singular in itself, and well worthy of surprise, inas-
much as she had been christened somewhat over half a century ;
but she possessed a knack at aping girlhood which might almost
cheat Father Time himself, and which, in the apprehensions of some
neighboi'ing spinsters, bade fair to prevent her being harvested in
due season.

A snug little house and garden, and a very shadowy income, were
the widow's, who, with a single servant, lived alone in a retired
quarter of the city ; and it was not without delight that she received
propositions from a fine-looking foreigner to admit two young ladies
into her household, not exactly as boarders, of course, but as com-
panions and friends, who would pay a very liberal stipend for the
favor, and ask no questions. But if Mrs. Sniff was delighted, she
was careful not to appear so ; she really did not know, she was
entirely unused to anything of the kind ; but she certainly had some


spare room, and if Captain Sill could assure her that the ladies were
quite respectable, and would reflect no dishonor upon the roof of
her dear departed Sniff, she thought she might bring herself to con-
sent, — the pay, of course, to be in advance. The captain, who had
kindl}^ undertaken this commission, by reason of Father Ledra's igno-
rance of the English language, succeeded in satisfying the expected
hostess of the entire worthiness of her guests, and in baffling her
curious endeavors to ascertain any particulars of their history. The
situation seemed to him in every way desirable. Seclusion was a
primary object with Miss Montaigne, who was enjoined to hold her-
self in readiness to depart, whenever her father should be able to
send an escort for her safety ; and, in the meantime, to live as retired
as possible, and, above all things, to conceal her real name. The
preliminaries of a treaty were therefore arranged, not to be ratified,
however, until after a personal inspection of the premises by Miss
Emily ; an inquisition, at the mention of which Mrs. Sniff exhibited
much uneasiness, and begged it might be deferred until the follow-
ing day. If the ladies were to be allowed to choose for themselves, it
was manifestly quite a different affair. Fathers, and uncles, and
guardians are easily gammoned, thought the widow, but when it
comes to these meddling girls, flying about the house, peering into
every corner, and turning up their noses at all the shifts and artifices
of genteel poverty, that is another thing. And so it was. But
forewarned is forearmed, thought Mrs. Sniff; and no sooner had the
captain withdrawn, than the house was turned forthwith out of the
Avindows, and thoroughly renovated, by the aid of two borrowed
slaves, who, belonging to a Dutchman, had been taught that cleanh-
ness was a cardinal virtue, and quite essential to salvation. Ila^^ng
thus made sure that no unbecoming sights or odors would greet the
sensitive organs of her visitors, everything was carefully replaced,
the scanty finery being skilfully divided between the two rooms
designed for their use, and some veiy bountiful bouquets adorning
the respective mantels. The little parlor below was made to do its


best, which was httle more than to exhibit through an open window
a fine view of the East river, and of the opposite shore of Long-
Island ; the garden was put in hasty trim, and the widow herself,
particularly prim, received Miss Roselle with many regrets that her
house and premises were unusually out of order, by reason of a long
catalogue of disturbing influences which she proceeded to relate.
Emily had been cautioned not to be over particular, as the retire-
ment would counterbalance many defects ; and she tripped daintily
about the house for some time, preceded by her chattering hostess,
who herself decried everything with such an amazing humility that
she quite disarmed criticism. But Miss Roselle was in truth sur-
prised at the general air of neatness which she encountered ; and
contenting herself, therefore, with much indistinct murmuring, she
dictated a few unimportant alterations, by way of a salvo to her
authority, and at length condescendingly expressed her satisfaction.

" This will be your own room, I presume," said Mrs. Sniff, re-enter-
ing the better chamber ; " it is the largest and most airy, and the
view from the window is so charming."

" I think I shall prefer the other," Emily replied, shghtly coloring,
for she perceived that she was taken for the principal of the two
strangers ; " I do not fancy large rooms, and this love of a morning-
glory under the Vvdndow will be so delightful."

And so the bargain was concluded, and on the same day Blanche
and Emily were quietly settled in their new quarters. It was with
a singular feeling of desolation that Miss Montaigne contemplated
her new position. Separated from her father for an indefinite period,
and anticipating a speedy parting with both of her remaining pro-
tectors, she might well look forward with misgivings to the future.
Father Ledra was to sail in a few days in a Dutch vessel bound to
Holland, and was thus to regain his home ; and Captain Sill, who
by some private diplomacy with the governor had obtained permis-
sion to depart, took advantage of the same opportunity. They
called too-ether on the day of embarkation to take a final leave of


tlieir young friends, and to commend them to the especial kindness
of their hostess, who being, as she protested, but a girl herself,
feared that she could not do much for them ; but promised to watch
over them with a sisterly care.

" We are three young things together. Captain Sill," she said,
dehghted that she had so distinguished a personage under her roof,
" and my little dove-cot here, as I call it, is quite without a protector,

since the loss of my poor dear ;" she did not say Sniff, but

substituted the action for the word, which answered the purpose
quite as well.

Blanche was deeply affected at parting with Father Ledra, for
whom she had the sincerest regard ; nor did she fail to reciprocate
the kindness of the worthy captain, who seemed to take almost a
paternal interest in her welfare. Nothing, indeed, but the imperative
claims of a beloved family at home w^ould have induced him to leave
I^Tew York, until he had seen Miss Montaigne re-united to her
fiiends, and at times he felt disposed to urge her return with him to
Paris, but the injunctions of the baron were, of course, a law which
they had no right to disregard.

The departure of the visitors left Mrs. Sniff in a sad state of per-
plexity. There had been something of deference in their deportment
towards the young ladies, which induced her to suspect that the
latter must be persons of considerable distinction ; and the airs of
Miss Emily and the reserve of the beautiful Blanche, both strength-
ened her suspicions. Here, then, was a rare turn in Fortune's
w^heel ; to have disguised countesses and marchionesses, or duch-
esses, perhaps, under her roof, and selecting her out from all
the city for their friend and protectress. She always knew she had
never been appreciated — Mrs. Sniff did ; and thought her time would
come, and now at last it had. Her own excessive gentility had
done it all, — she could see that clearly enough ; and it would never
have happened if her poor dear Sniff had been in the way, who had
always been a clog uj)on her, and prevented her from rising to she


knew not what heights of distinction. But it was still with no httle
trepidation that she looked forward to the duties imposed upon her
by so delicate a station. She would, doubtless, she thought, be
called upon to act as a sort of usher for the young ladies in good
society, where they would of course be emulous to shine ; and she
began to think over the list of her visiting acquaintances to see who
among them was of sufficient rank to serve her in such an emer-
gency. There was young Shiel, a very distant cousin of her own,
who was a fashionable man about town, and was said to be on
intimate terms with Lord Cornbury. True, he was a scamping
fellow, dissolute and worthless ; but then he was genteel, and the
very man whom it was her duty, as a friend and protectress of the
young ladies, to introduce to them. But Shiel, unfortunately, could
scarcely be reckoned as an acquaintance ; for although there had
long been a tradition in the family of her having once refused his
hand at a dance in favor of her newly-betrothed Sniff; and although
his apparition had frequently been raised in family altercations, to
the great terror of that meek gentleman, as one of the " might have
hads" of his much injured spouse ; notwithstanding all this, Shiel
had coolly put up his eye-glass on meeting her for the last twenty
yeans, and never succeeded in discovering who she was. But then
Shiel was getting to be an elderly young man, and might be con-
templating matrimony ; and with such rare attractions as the dove-
cot now possessed, he could of course be brought around. Well,
then, there was Shiel to begin with. But Mrs. Sniff pondered a long
time before she could think of any one else. There was the Dutch
alderman at the corner, whose purse was supposed to be altogether
bottomless, it was so very deep ; but he was a crotchety old fellow
who cared nothing for countesses ; and his buxom daughter Sally,
whose face was always blazing with the unexpired tints of the
kitchen fire, could scarcely be shown oflf to much advantage. But
then there was — stranore that she had not thouQ-ht of him sooner —
young Henrich Huntington, so handsome, so aristocratic-looking, so


graceful and unpretending withal ; and who had been educated in
an English University, and for whom many a rich Dutch belle would
have given her very ears, with their gi'eat golden drops in the
bargain. True he was poor, but the countesses need never know
that if he only kept his own counsel, which she had no doubt he
w^ould. And then, he had a love of a little sail-boat, and could give
them such delightful excursions up the rivers and down the bays,
and away off to Hedge-hog Point and Gibbet Island ; which latter
place, although not exactly a place of amusement, possessed the
attraction of several capital swings, of such an enchaining character
that those who once entered them could never tear themselves away.
The widow Sniff, indeed, possessed a vivid imagination, and saw
everything of the color of the rose, excepting her weeds, which she
resolved to discard ; and ha\dng emerged from her cloud of sables
she could easily, she thought, fall back to thirty-five, by the aid of
rings, ringlets, and a blonde veil. If her lodgers had thought her
genteel before, what would they think then ; and as to Mr, Shiel,
why there was such a thing as reviving the embers of a decayed
passion, and there was no telling what might happen ; so the
duchesses, after all, must take their chance.

Thus, long and sagely, did Mrs. Sniff plot and ponder ; but all
her schemes, hke many originating in wiser heads, were destined to
avail but little. Some of her aims remained unaccomplished, and
others, as will be seen, attained a fulfilment which owed but httle to
her agency.



Vine leaf and flower had newly burst,

And on the burden of the air
The breath of buds came faint and rare ;

And far in the transparent sky,
The small earth-keeping birds were seen,

Soaring deliriously high,
And through the clefts of newer green

The waters dashed their living pearls."— ^FzVZis.

Solitude and seclusion, doubtless, have their charms, but these
were not found sufficient at all times to keep Blanche and Emily
within the purlieus of the dove-cot. It was on a bright afternoon
in June, not many days after they had become domiciled in their
new home, that they ventured together upon a stroll, seeking to gain
a glimpse of the world around them. Their hostess, who dealt
largely in the marvellous, had held out, from time to time, divers
intimations of impending dangers with which every other place was
beset excepting the ground sheltered by her sacred roof; and Emily's
excitable imagination became populous ^\dth buccaneers, banditti,
ghosts, goblins, and witches, until almost every spot seemed to
harbor one or another of these unwelcome neighbors. There was,
indeed, an air of wildness and novelty pervading the new world into
which she had been introduced, which favored the most colossal
growth of credulity. Its many wonderful realities formed, of course,
the basis of still more wonderful fables, and rendered the boundary
line of rational belief not always easily discernible, even by more
sagacious minds than that of Miss Roselle. Sleepless, however, as
were her apprehensions, they did not extend to the anticipation of


danger on the present occasion, and the cousins, yearning for the
freedom of the green fields and the open air, of which they had been
so long restrained, went joyously upon their way. They passed
through the central gate of the city, and following up the windings
of a small creek, which led past some quiet farm-houses, they reached
the base of the sandy embankment of which mention has been made,
and toiled, panting, up its grassy sides, exhilarated by the deep
inhalations of fresh air which they were forced to imbibe, and
charmed with the widening circuit of view which each upward stage
extended before them. Properly speaking, they could not be said
before to have seen the magnificent spectacle of the bay of New
York, which now, with its fairy islands, its romantic shores, and the
entrance of its broad tributaries, the Hudson and East rivers, were
comprised in a single picture, dwelling upon the eye with a most
pleasing effect. They gazed long and dehghtedly, pointing out to
each other the objects of attraction which successively fell under
their notice, and for a while scarcely conscious that they were suffer-
ing from the sun of June, which, although far past the meridian, was
pouring its slant rays through the air with an oppressive intensity.
When at length, sated with the prospect, they turned their
gaze northward, the adjacent forest, with its cool dense shades,
presented an aspect too inviting to be resisted. There certainly
could be no danger, they imagined, while keeping only in its
border; and with some trepidation, arising from the mysterious
warnings of their hostess, they ventured to avail themselves of the
retreat. It was, indeed, a temptation difficult to resist. The voice
of birds alone disturbed the tranquil repose of Nature, as, flitting
from bough to bough, their tiny plumes flashed momentarily upon
the eye ; and the dreamy hum of the bee, as on gauzy wing sus-
pended he now hung buzzing above some tempting flower, and now
buried himself in its fragrant depths. A brook, most diminutive of
its race, gurgled at their feet ; and, as it rattled down the decli\aty
towards a still thicker shade, seemed hastening with fear from the


scorching sunbeams which threatened its very existence. Strange
odors were in the air, grateful to the sense, and hinting of forest
flowers, hidden in a thousand lonely nooks, peeping from beneath
piled leaves, crouching beside decayed logs, clinging to crevices of
rocks, or bending above the glassy brook, and resting their warm
petals on its wave.

Blanche possessed a spirit happily attuned to the harmonies of
nature, and in unison with all its charms. Sorrow and fear, and a
sense of loneliness, had clouded for a while her sunny heart, but it
answered now with elastic impulse to the witcheries around her. She
had recently recovered from the illness of her voyage, and the gradual
re-action of her spirits had been suddenly accelerated until joy and
hope and gratitude seemed to have filled her heart. The sunbeam
w^as not brighter, the flowers were not purer, nor the singing birds
more bhthesome than was Blanche. Miss Roselle, although widely
uncongenial to her cousin in the points most essential to friendship,
was in the main ^a good-natured girl, and the possessor of some
cleverness much obscured by conceit, ller romantic ^•iews of hfe,
also, were continually conflicting with its common-place events, and
not infrequently drawing upon herself a ridicule, which she was for-
tunate enough never to perceive. Such as she was, hoAvcver, she
was the only friend of Blanche, for whom she entertained a profound
respect, not untinctured with envy, and founded on qualities which
were lightly prized by their possessor— ^er beauty and rank. The
latter was too painfully connected with the idea of an unfeehng
parent to be the subject of much self-gratulation ; and mere personal
charms, in a mind constituted like Blanche's, are little valued until
they have proved an attraction to some beloved object. Then,
indeed, does beauty vindicate its power, and the heart, however
innocent and artless, learns to prize every minute charm and grace
which can help to rivet the rosy chains of love.

Half an hour had glided past, while Blanche and Emily had
tarried just within the edge of the woods, at times roaming idly


about, and at times seated conversing upon a fallen tree : they were
in the Jatter position, absorbed in the examination of a rare and
beautiful wild-flower, when a quick sudden tramp was heard at their
side, and they sprang in terror to the gi-ound. The appearance of the
intruder was one that might reasonably have excited some alarm in
the minds of the ladies, even had they not been, as they were, highly
predisposed to that emotion; for an armed man, with marks of
blood not only upon his garments, but upon his face, stood at their
side. Emily uttered a succession of piercing shrieks, and fled towards
the city ; while Blanche, with a contagious terror, fell fainting to the
earth. The stranger, who was none other than the young Hunting-
ton returning from the singular adventure which has been related in
a preceding chapter, and who had not perceived the ladies until they
sprang from their seat, stood paralysed for a moment with contending
emiOtions. He was indeed scarcely less startled than those to whom
he had proved such an object of dread, and before he could recover
sufficient self-possession either to recall Miss Ros^'lle or to conjecture
the probable cause of her fright, she had disappeared over the brow
of the hill. His attention was immediately given to Blanche, whose
extraordinary beauty, as she lay seemingly lifeless before him, was
scarcely less a matter of surpi-ise than everything else connected with
the adventure. He sprang to the neighboring brook, and bringing
water in his cap, dashed it freely and not without effect, in the face
of the patient, who slowly revived, but on the sight of Henrich
standing near had well nigh swooned a second time. The young
man hastened to allay her fears by such explanations and assurances
of safety as the excited state of his own feelings would permit him
to make, and he had the happiness of seeing her in a short time
restored to a comparative degree of composure.

" I fear we have been very foolish," she said, smiling faintly, as
Huntington assisted her to rise, " but we are strangers in the country,
and have been taught, perhaps, some unnecessary apprehensions."

So saying, she turned to depart, when Huntington begged that


he might be allowed to accompany and protect her from further
danger, a proposal which, in her still weak and trembhng state, she
could scarcely refuse. She was yet far from certain that the stranger
was not an outlaw of some kind, but his courteous manner partly
assuaged her alarm, and she did not feel disposed to risk giving
ofifence by refusing his civilities. The blood-stains were still upon
him, and her own blood ran cold as she saw them, yet she dared not
appear to observe such a seeming token of crime in her companion.
They walked slowly together, but the brook which they were com-
pelled to cross, fortunately recalled to Henrich an intention which he
had formed before his recent adventure, of making his ablutions in
its waters. With this remembrance came of course a sudden con-
sciousness of his appeararibe, and coloring to the temples, he quickly
explained everything to his fair companion, and then hastened to
the cleansino- wave. It was no small relief to Miss Montaio-ne to

Online LibraryP. Hamilton (Peter Hamilton) MyersThe King of the Hurons → online text (page 4 of 29)