P. Hamilton (Peter Hamilton) Myers.

The King of the Hurons online

. (page 6 of 29)
Online LibraryP. Hamilton (Peter Hamilton) MyersThe King of the Hurons → online text (page 6 of 29)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

abode in New York. It was a dismal prospect to contemplate
closely : but Blanche would not yield to despondency ; there was,
after all, something of wildness and romance in the picture, and her
playful imagination gave to it tints and hues which belonged less to
the subject than to the joyous and innocent heart from which they
emanated. She resolved, too, to find happiness in duty ; she would
soften her father's heart by unremitting kindness ; she would educate
her Indian sister, and surprise her with the thousand novelties of
civilized life ; she would even make a friend of the dreaded baroness,
if the latter were not altogether a cannibal, and past the hope of
reclamation. What pets, too, she would have ! A pair of gentle
fawns should feed daily from her hands, and race with her through
the fields ; the rabbits should burrow in the c^arden ; the birds


should build beside her windows; and the clambering flowers,
exhaling an atmosphere of fragrance, should tempt the bee, and the
tiny hummer, and the gorgeous butterfly ; and all these would be
her friends and playmates.

As Blanche gazed from time to time out of the window while
engaged in these reflections, her eye was attracted by several rough
looking individuals in the garb of sailors, who were idly sauntering
in the vicinity. One leaned indolently against a post at a
little distance from the house, trolling some nautical chorus ;
another lay stretched upon the grass on the common ; and a party
of three, further towards the river, w^ere chatting and smoking
beneath a tree, but not ginng way, as might be expected from
sailors on furlough, to any noisy mirth. She felt some alarm at
first, remembering the isolated situation of the house, but inasmuch
as the men remained quiet, and made no nearer approach, her
apprehensions soon subsided. She remembered the ludicrous results
of her fears in the forest a few weeks preceding, and resolved not
again to play so childish a part. She had, indeed, withdrawn her
eyes from the landscape and was again wrapt in contemplation,
when she became suddenly conscious that she was no longer alone,
and on looking up she discovered the detested Grover at her side.
He had entered the room vnth. a silent and cat-like motion, and
there was something in the bland expression of his face and in the
soft, purring tone of his voice as he addressed her, equally feline in
its character.

" I have again come unbidden," he said ; " may I hope not
entirely unwelcome ? One of my vessels, long due, has arrived
since I left your presence, and I have hastened to lay some of its
treasures at your feet."

An attendant at his signal entered the room, and depositing a
large package upon a table, immediately withdrew : Grover followed
him to the door, which he carefully closed, and returning, proceeded
to open the parcel, while Blanche, v/ho had. l^efore made several
ineffectual efforts to speak, rose suddenly to her feet.


" Do not open it," she said, speaking with some vehemence, yet
in a low, trembhng voice, " do not leave it, Major Grover. I can
accept no favors which I have neither the power nor the ^^ish to
requite ; if I have not, heretofore, spoken plainly "

" But too plainly, my dear Miss Roselle ; but ladies are proverbially
changeful, even as the shifting colors of this beautiful silk," unfolding
and displaying a piece of the most gorgeous fabric, and pihng upon
it a profusion of rich laces — " these might make bridal robes for a
princess ; and here," he continued, unclasping a box of costly jewelry,
" are ornaments which would adorn all other beauty, but which will
receive new lustre fi*om Miss Blanche Roselle."

Miss Montaigne looked on with scorn, and cast frequent glances
towards the door, as if with a presentiment that an attempt at egress
might be opposed ; there was something strange and threatening in
the eye and manner of her suitor, which impressed her with vague
forebodings ; and, seemingly without design, she slightly changed
her position to one more favorable for flight. The movement was
not unnoticed by Grover, who also, ^vitli apparent inadvertence,
placed himself between her and the door, and somewhat changing
the tone of his voice, continued :

" I have made all allowances for the modesty, which, Csesar-like,
has thrice refused what it intended fi'om the first to accept. My
rank and wealth have, I know, rendered you incredulous as to the
honesty of my intentions ; you have, perhaps, even heard some
old-wives' tales of deserted flower-girls or heart-broken milk-maids,
whose cause you may be chivalrous enough to wish to avenge — but
to you, beautiful Blanche, I swear perpetual fealty ; for your sake, I
will bear the chains of Hymen, and as you so much mistrust me, I
will ask not even the favor of a smile until we are wedded."

A passing color and a quick breathing alone told of the suppressed
indignation of the listener ; she did not dare to reply ; the words of
her companion were those of entreaty, but his voice was in a tone
of command, and there was a menacing expression in his face, which


overpowered her with fear. She cast a hurried glance fi'om the
window in the anxious hope of seeing Emily and Mrs. Sniff returning,
or of seeing some visiter approaching the house ; but there was
nothing that gave prospect of relief. She did not dare to attempt to
pass out lest she should learn that she was really a prisoner, and should
precipitate whatever of evil she had to fear. She resolved, therefore,
to gain time by parley, but even in this design she seemed to be
anticipated by her persecutor. He continued to urge his suit as yet
in respectful language, but the uneasiness of his air, and his frequent
outward glances, seemed to indicate the expected approach of some
other party. He was, in fact, aAvaiting the promised arrival of a
legal functionary, who was authorized to tie the matrimonial knot,
and on whose perfect subserviency to his interests he could depend ;
on his approach, if persuasion continued fruitless, he had determined
at once to disclose to Blanche her peril, and make the alternative propo-
sition of instantaneous marriage or abduction. The suddenness of the
demand, the imminency of the danger, the few minutes which she
would be allowed to decide, combined with the force of prior
arguments, he did not doubt would overcome every obstacle and
produce a complete acquiescence. But while he waited, he grew
momentarily impatient ; delays were dangerous ; there was indeed
no fear of the return of Shiel and his companions, and one of the
sentinels was even prepared to prevent the casual approach of
strangers to the house, by the alarm of an infectious disease which
was to be sedulously shunned. But still he felt that haste was
desirable ; and although it Avas not yet the appointed time for his
coadjutor's arrival, he resolved to go personally and expedite his
movements. Blanche, he thought, was yet unalarmed, and although,
perhaps, angry at his pertinacity, she did not, he believed, entertain
the least suspicion of his design. She would not, therefore, think
of flight, and if she attempted could not accomplish it, for the
pirates had orders to prevent her departure, and if she persisted in
going or in making an outcry, they were to carry her forcibly to


the vessel. He departed, therefore, without giving her any inti-
mation of his intended return, and only paused near the door to
give directions to one of the banditti for additional vigilance during
the few minutes of his expected absence. But Miss Montaigne, as
has been already seen, was by no means unalarnied ; her fir^t fears
had been allayed, but the strange deportment of Grover and the
continued presence of the sailors who still lounged listlessty about
the premises, now combined to excite her worst apprehensions.

It has been said that there was in the house besides Miss
Montaigne, one individual, too insignificant to be dreaded, even as
an informant, yet whom Grover intended to include, if convenient,
in his kidnapping enter|)nse. Jule, for such was the slave's name,
had belonged to the Sniffs from childhood, and her faculties had
been somewhat sharpened by the necessity of inventing expedients
to evade some of her mistress's inordinate exactions of labor. She
was a good-natured girl, Vt'arm in her attachments, and, since the
arrival of Miss Montaigne, had manifested the greatest pleasure in
serving her. Unused to words of kindness and consideration from
those above her, Jule had seen the beautiful stranger manifesting an
occasional interest in her welfare, which had astonished and delighted
her ; and the heart of the negress had closed with avidity upon
this rare object of affection. Nothing could be too good, nothing
too nice for Miss Blanche : and the least smile of approval from her
was more than a reward for every exertion of the humble servitor.

Powerless as such an ally might seem. Miss Montaigne hastened
to seek her counsel and aid ; but Jule, already alarmed, and flying
from what seemed the post of more imminent danger, met her with
intelhgence that confirmed all her fears, and added tenfold to their
intensity. She had herself watched the strange movements of the
men, had noticed their sailor-like garb, and had overheard Grover's
instructions, on departing, for a vigilant watch, and forbidding any
eo-ress from the house. There was little time for reflection ; and
Blanche implored the negress to make an attempt to escape and


seek assistance. That Miss Montaigne was the principal object of
pursuit, and that whatever danger impended over herself would not
be enhanced by flight, even if unsuccessful, Jule readily saw ; but
even if it had been otherwise, she would have refused nothing to
Blanche. With ready wit, too, she reflected that if she went out,
apparently unalarraed, and as if bound on some ordinary errand,
she might perhaps be allowed to pass unmolested. Her absence
might even be considered an advantage, inasmuch as the ab-
duction of one individual could of course be accomplished more
safely and quietly than that of two. Hanging a basket, therefore,
upon her arm, and hastily informing Blanche of her design, she
sauntered lazily from the door, singing, with half-choked voice, a
negro refrain, and carefully dissembling her fears. Her exit was
from the rear door, and her course through the garden towards a
lane in its rear, led directly past two of the guards. They had
been instructed to prevent any attempt at flight ; but they had also
been ordered not to excite any premature alarm or suspicion on the
part of the inmates of the house, and for a moment they hesitated
on their proper course. Here was evidently no flight ; the slave
would soon return, and if not, her absence would rather do good
than harm ; and with this view of the matter, they had well nigh
permitted her to pass, when one, still undecided, suddenly accosted

" Avast — there, avast, Nan ! You sing merrily for a blackbu'd —
just drop alongside here, and tell us where you are bound to ; 't aint
every one that dares to sail openly under such dark colors — is it,
Jack r

" You mind yer own business, and git out of our garden, afore
Mrs. Snifl" sees you, or you'll ketch it," answered Jule. " I'm going
to pick peas over in dat field ; ' Massa eat de sugar. Sambo git de
cane ;' " and she passed tremblingly on towards the fence.

" Blast the blackamoor !" exclaimed the sailor, following as he
spoke ; " can't you answer a civil hail better than that ? bring to, I


say, and show your papers, or we'll blow you out of water — but if
as how," he continued, as Jule slackened her pace, and looked back,
"if as how you are really under saihng orders for that field, over
there "

" I didn't say any such thing," replied Jule, " and I haint got any
papers, nor notting elst but dis ere pail."

" Let her go. Bill, or elst don't let her go, one or t' other," said
the other sailor ; " what's the use of jabbering to the wench ? /
says, let her go, and very good riddance it is."

" And / says, mebbe not, Mr. Jack," said the first speaker, who
seemed to imbibe the spirit of contradiction from the interference of
his companion ; "you just bring her to a minute, while I run around
and ask Bluff about it, kase, you see, it's a kind of a nice question,
after all."

So poor Jule was brought to, and compelled to await the decision
of higher authority.

" It's a high time of day," she said, with affected wrath, — " if
people can't come for to go in their own mistress's garden, which
they've lived with twenty years — in broad dayhght, it is — you let
go my arm, you scaramouch, you !"

" Steady, lass, steady," replied Jack, " least said, soonest mended ;
I aint no scarrymouse, neither, and it's well for you you aint aboard,
or you might get a dozen or two for your impudence."

With emotions that cannot be portrayed, Blanche beheld from a
window the scene which has been described ; she saw Jule unac-
costed, nearly pass the guard, and, after a temporary detention,
resume her progress, only to be a second time stopped and questioned,
and held rudely by the arm. While she waited with fearful mis-
ginngs for the result, the bandit, who has been called Bill, returned
from his embassy, and, speaking in a voice that reached the ears of
Miss Montaigne, said, " Mr. Bluff says there aint so much as a cat
to go out of the house, 'cause she mout be a kind of carrier-pigeon,
like, you see, which this ere thing don't look much like, of course ;


but then she must trot back notwithstanding, and no words about it

Jule hesitated for a moment ; but there was nothing to do but
submit, and with a hea\y heart she returned to the house, where
Blanche was already gi\'ing way to all the anguish of despair.



" What masking stuff is here ?
What's this 7— a sleeve 1 'tis like a demircannon."— Tcmm^ of the Shrew.

If consternation had paralysed the faculties of Miss Montaigne, it
gave new energies to the slave. With the celerity and nearly the
fierceness of an imprisoned wild-cat, she flew from window to window,
seeking to catch sight of some casual passer, to whom she might
shriek for help ; but no one was visible, and every hope of succor
from without was abandoned. Yet her resources did not seem to
be exhausted. Pausing a moment for thought, she suddenly darted
up the kitchen stairway, and before Blanche could conjecture her
designs, she re-appeared with various articles of apparel, both of her
own and Miss Montaigne, including the bonnet and veil of the latter
and an ample hood of her own.

" Be quick," she said, signifying her meaning more by motions
than words, " let us change clothes — dey will chase Jule, Miss
Blanche will run away."

Miss Montaigne startled at the strange proposition, having no
confidence in its success, and unwilling to subject the slave to the
increased peril which success would involve, hesitated to assent ; but
Jule, disposing summarily of her objections, proceeded to partly
disrobe her young mistress and to substitute her own coarse and
clumsy garments for the elegant apparel of the other. The dimen-
sions of the negress were, fortunately, not materially diiferent fi-om
those of Miss Montaigne, but there were some awkward discrepancies
of shape, which it required ingenious expedients to overcome. An



ample frock of the fabric usually called linsey-woolsey easily concealed
the graceful outline of Blanche's form, but at the same time threw
into more apparent disproportion the tiny feet and ancles which it
left re\ealed. This, however, did not escape the eye of Jule, who
chuckled as she produced three pairs of coarse hose, with which she
proceeded to indue the dangerous members ; and when a pair of
thick, heavy shoes, tied with leathern strings, was added to the equip-
ment, she declared that the effect was grand, and that the feet were
exactly like her own. The wide, dark hood was next thrown over
Blanche's head and neck, and drawn close in front, care being taken
that no stray ringlet should peep from beneath its edges.

The work of disguising thus far had proceeded rapidly, although
with but httle diminution of terror on the part of Miss Montaigne,
who expected momentarily that the return of Grover would terminate
her hopes of flight. They had but a few minutes at the furthest to
complete their task, and yet the most difficult part of the labor
remained to be done. It was, indeed, no easy matter to array the
coarse and crooked frame of the negress in a lady's dress ; yet,
inasmuch as the fortunate correspondence in height obviated what
might have proved the most insuperable difficulty, much was hoped
from the trial. No ingenuity, indeed, could diminish the ample
shoulders of Jule, or close the wide-gaping dress of silk around her
waist ; yet a hght shawl, judiciously arranged, partly concealed the
defect. The feet and ancles, of dimensions hopelessly large, defied
every attempt at compression, and when viewed in connexion with
the backward extension of the heel, threatened a quick betrayal of
the deceit. Although clad in stockings of fine texture, and in shoes
slitted at heel and toe to increase their width, little could be hoped
in regard to them, excepting that in the confusion of flight they
might escape observation. Not that Jule herself perceived the diffi-
culty ; however sagacious on other points she saw no ground for
apprehension here, and eyed the arrangement with much com-


" 'Em looks berry well, Missa Blaiiclie," she said ; " daze a little
larger dan yours, a berry leetle, but iiuffin to signify."

Miss Montaigne's bonnet and veil were next carefully adjusted
upon the girl ; and to perfect as far as possible the disguise, Blanche
quickly severed a few of her glossy ringlets, and securing them to
the crisped hair of the negress, suffered the ends to fall a little
below the edge of the bonnet upon every side. The sable throat
was carefully concealed by a collar, the veil drawn closely over the
face, and the hands enclosed in gloves of black, which, although
bursting in every part, revealed no contrasting color from within,
and still seemed whole. The adjustment of the curls was a happy
thought, and did more to complete the illusion than almost every-
thing beside ; for, hanging around the poor slave's neck with a
graceful and tremulous motion, nothing could be less suggestive of
the woolly treasures to which they were appended ; they hinted
rather of the snowy cheeks and neck of their true proprietress, which,
with many other charms, might well be supposed to he hidden
beneath the flowing veil.

Such as they were, the disguises were at length completed, and
Blanche began to indulge a faint hope of success. Imitating, as
best she could, the attitude and gait of the slave, she hastily tutored
the latter to mimic her own ; and enjoining short steps, and as
economic a display of feet as was practicable, the parties prepared
for flight. The building fronted the river, at the distance of about
thirty rods from the shore, and the intermediate space was an ope
field, sparsely studded with trees, which on the side nearest to the
settled part of the city drew more closely together, and screened the
landscape from any distant observation. The garden which has
been named was situated behind the house, and extended back to
an unfrequented lane, which, at the distance of some twenty rods
southward, communicated with one of the suburban streets of the

It was arranged that the negress in her assumed character should



make a sudden exit from the rear of the dwelUng, and having thus
attracted the attention of the two men who had before challenged
her, should dart around the house, and run towards the river, while
Blanche, as soon as the sailors had started in pursuit, was to make
her escape through the garden and the lane. The approach of the
critical moment at first unnerved Miss Montaigne, and seemed to
paralyse her powei*s ; but sinking for a moment to her knees to
implore the Divine protection, she rose >vith renewed courage, and
followed her companion to the door.

Jule set out with good courage, and at a nimble pace ; and,
turning the corner of the house, was at once followed, as had been
anticipated, by the two bandits from the garden. Scarcely, how-
ever, had she proceeded a dozen yards across the common, when she
found herself running into the very arms of a third pursuer, who
was proceeding to meet her, and whom her bhnding veil had
prevented her from discovering at a distance. There was no
evading the contact, and the negress, raising her bronzed and
mallet-like fist, fairly knocked her expecting captor to the ground,
and again darted ofl:' in a lateral direction. A shout of derision
arose from the other conspirators at the discomfiture of their
colleague, and, with a single exception, they all joined in the pur-
suit. Bluff, the leader of the band, was a huge fierce man, who,
foreseeing as he thought the inevitable capture of the fugitive, and
remembering that there was a slave in the house, who was also to
be secured, hastened to execute this part of his fiendish errand.

Blanche, in the meantime, had attempted to escape, but her
extreme terror, her awkward dress, and especially her heavy, loose
shoes, had been so many impediments to rapid flight. She reached
the rear of the garden, but lost some seconds, which seemed like
hours, in finding the gate that opened into the lane ; and when it
was found, the simple latch became intricate to her confused facul-
ties, and she again lost time in finding her way out, which she had
only succeeded in doing, when a ferocious shout firom the house told


Iier that she was perceived and pursued. The sound fell like a
thunder peal upon her excited ner\es : for a moment she moved
slowly, and seemed, like the victim of a nightmare, to struggle
against invisible fetters, but at the next, she darted forward, not
towards the thoroughfere, as she had intended, but, unconscious of
her course, in an opposite direction.

The lane extended northward to a field, in which, at a consider-
able distance west, a farm-house was visible, and towards this refuge
Blanche now directed her steps. Despair gave her energy, and
when once fairly in progress, she fled almost with the fleetness of the
deer ; but Bluff had reached the lane at a few bounds, and she
heard his clattering feet behind her, and the hoarse imprecations
and threats with which he called upon her to stop, seemed uttered
almost in her ear. Every instant she expected to feel his grasp
upon her shoulder, yet still her fate was suspended. The farm-
house was no longer distant, but she felt her strength departing, and
her senses failing ; fences and trees were flying indistinctly past her,
the sky grcAv dark, the earth was in motion on every side, and now
it rose up before her like a wall, and smote her hot forehead, and
she lay stretched at length upon its surface, with mingled voices
ringing in her ear. How long she thus lay she could not tell ; she
had not fainted, but was in that half swooning state in which the
senses receive but imperfect impressions from the outer world, and
give to realities all the wildness of a dream. She did not forget
her pecuhar peril, but still expected momentarily to feel the clutch-
ing hand of her pursuer upon her person, and to be dragged
forcibly away.

But a better fate was in reserve. The house towards which she
had thus inadvertently fled, proved to be the dwelling of Jacobus
Waldron. Huntington, from the window of his study, had per-
ceived the chase, and suspecting something wrong, had snatched his
gun, and hastened out to meet the fugitive. A glance at the fore-
most figure told him it was Jule, the slave of liis neighbor Sniffj and



another view informed liim that the pursuer was none other than
the rude sailor whom he bad encountered in the forest. The
recognition was mutual ; and the pirate, uttering a triple volley of
oaths, abandoned the chase, and proceeded to retrace his steps.
Though baffled, he thought, in obtaining the negress, the main
object of his expedition was secured ; aud although Grover would be
sorely disappointed at a mischance which might reveal his outrage

Online LibraryP. Hamilton (Peter Hamilton) MyersThe King of the Hurons → online text (page 6 of 29)