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The King of the Hurons online

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to the public, the slave could not be a witness against him in any
criminal prosecution, nor did she personally know anythiiig that
connected him with the transaction. Thus consoling himself for his
defeat, he hastened to rejoin his companions.

Huntington liad seen Mrs. SnitF and Emily driving out of town a
few hours before in company with Shiel, and had not doubted that
Blanche was also with them ; liis first decided impression, therefore,
was that some piratical fellow had seized so favorable an opportunity
to kidnap the slave for the purpose of traui^porting her on his next
cruise, to some neighboring market. Such an event would not be
without precedent in those early days of the commonwealth when
crime stalked abroad in every shape, and by reason of its frequency
and familiarity to the view seemed shorn of half its liideous
proportions. Anxious, however, to solve the mystery, although
unalarmed about Blanche, Henrich turned quickly to the prostrate
figure before him, and touching it not lightly with his gun, bade the
slave arise and tell him what had happened.

" Get up, Jule, get up ! " he said, " you are safe enough now ;
stand up quickly, and tell me what is the matter ; the poor thing ! "
he continued, stooping and shaking her roughly by the arm, " thinks
she is half way to Virginia by this ; staiid up, I say, you simpleton,
I don't think your delicate nerves are quite shattered yet — stand up ! "

Blanche still bewildered, rose with difficulty, half conscious that
she Avas saved, yet ignorant of her preserver, and vainly trying to
comprehend the singular language in which she was addressed.


"Tliere, don't show off any more airs now — you are more
frightened than hurt, I assure you," said Henrich, somewhat

" Why do you speak to me thus ? " exclaimed Blanche imploringly
and with tears — at the same time throwing back her hood : " do
you not see that I am in distress ? "

It was an exceedingly fortunate thing for Henrich that he was
not standing at that moment upon some precipice, or beside some
terrestrial chasm, into which he could have leaped and buried the
burning shame and grief which overwhelmed him, as he saw to
whom his coarse reproachful language had been directed.

" Is it indeed you. Miss Roselle ? " he said at length, speaking
with difficulty ; " how, — why do I find you in this disguise ? You
cannot believe I would have spoken thus to you ; tell me what has
happened, and let me first secure you a refuge, and then avenge
your wrongs."

Blanche, now fully restored to memory, glanced at her servile
dress, and smiled faintly as she rej^lied : " I understand it all now ;
but poor Jule is in danger ; she has risked her life for me, and is
doubtless at this moment in the hands of the pirates ; you look
surprised, but I cannot explain now ; Heaven has preserved my life
by her means — and yours ; and something must be done to save

Huntington promised to make every effort to accomplish this
object, and hastened to conduct Blanche to his own home for
safety, while he should proceed to alarm the authorities, little hoping,
however, that so slight an offence as steahng a slave would arouse
them to any very vigorous action.

" Do not think me ungrateful to you," Blanche continued, as they
walked hastily along ; " my thoughts are still in a tumult of excite-
ment, and if you knew from what a fate the poor African has saved
me, you would not wonder that I am anxious for her safety."

" You give me the best proof that you are incapable of ingratitude,


IMiss Roselle," replied HenricL, "when you manifest so great an
interest in an humble slave ; but do not be alarmed for the girl —
they can scarcely meditate any harm against her, and I hope it will
be an easy matter to procure her release."

Blanche was soon under the steep roof of old Jacobus, and in the
especial charge of that worthy, who welcomed her very heartily, and
made some violent efforts to comprehend the affair, but without any
corresponding success. That the stranger was really the serving girl
of his neighbor Sniff, turned white with excessive fear, was among
the most prominent of his conjectures, but one that seemed open to
doubt. Henrich departed on his errand, but not without being
reminded by Blanche, with the slightest perceptible change of color,
that she was not unreasonable enough to expect him to incur any
personal peril in his mission : indeed, that she considered it her duty
to protest against his doing so.



" I saw her hand : she has a leathern hand,
A freestone colored hand." — Shakspeare. As you Like it.

When Jiile, after lier remarkable pugilistic feat, started anew
upon Ler race, it was, at first, with confused and ill-directed elTorts.
She found herself " headed off," ^^ ^°<3 ^^ expressive phrase, in every
attempt to approach any settled quarter of the city ; and the nearest
dwelling in the direction which she was compelled to take was so
remote, as to afford but httle hope that she could reach it before
being overtaken. She resolved, however, to try ; for she was strong
and active, and notwithstanding the restraints of her novel dress,
made no inconsiderable progress. Her tight, cramping shoes were
the principal impediment to speed, and these she resolved to discard ;
an operation which resulted in a decided expansion of the released
members, and enabled them to get, what in the vocabulary of the
fancy would be called a better bite of the ground. Her speed now
visibly increased, and her panting pursuers beheld with astonishment
her prodigious exploits both of strength and agihty. Nothing
seemed to impede her flight ; hill and valley were alike easily over-
come ; if a ditch interposed, Jule went over at a flying leap, and the
fences .were eithc #jassed, in quadrupedal mode, through chinks and
gaps, or else were surmounted and bestridden in a manner less elegant
than energetic ; retaining, withal, many torn trophies from her dress,
and holding them up fluttering to the wind.

For a while everything promised success, and her chagrined pur-
suers, lagging in the chase, strove by loud threats to terrify her into


submission. Little would Jule have heeded threats, but her violent
efforts had caused a rajoid expenditure of strength ; and while her
anticipated refuge was yet at a long distance, her speed began
visibly to decrease. She could not rally ; the pirates gained rapidly
upon her, and her capture became inevitable. With ready sagacity,
therefore, she readjusted her dress in order to prolong the deception
in regard to her person ; for she did not, of course, know whether
Blanche's safety was yet secured, or whether she had even gained
courage to leave the house. She had barely time for this precaution
before she found herself in the rude grasp of her captors, who vented
many an oath upon her stubbornness, and placing her between two
of their number, proceeded to retrace their steps.

Jule did not struggle or speak ; all her thoughts were for the
safety of Blanche, and her only efforts were to avoid discovery. The
party proceeded rapidly to their boats, and in ten minutes were
gliding across the water in the direction of a ship, which lay anchored
near the opposite side of the river ; in a still shorter time, subse-
quently, the veiled slave was sitting alone and undisturbed in its cabin.

Mr. Boatswain Bluff, meanwhile, had sought out Major Grover,
and informed him of the flight of Miss Montaigne, of her capture,
and of the escape of the slave ; and the major, both mortified and
angry at Blanche's continued resistance to his suit, rejoiced at an
extremity which would no longer admit of compromise or retraction.
He at once accompanied Bluff on board the vessel, listening, mean-
while, with much astonishment to the narrative of Blanche's
wonderfid exploits, both in pugilism and locomotion.

" She's a Tartar, sir, she is," said Bluff, " begging your honor's
pardon ; Bill Sweeps' eye, sir, is as good as out, and he nmt any
baby to handle either ; your honor would do well to be careful how
you speak her."

" The most timid of animals will show courage and strength when
driven to extremities," replied Grover ; " and yet it seems wonderful
that even desperation could give power to one so very delicate."


*' I^ut SO dc4icate, your honor," returned Bluff, bending to liis oars
— " she's got a fist, sir •""

« A/5^, Bkiffr

" Like a sledge-hammer !" said the boatswam.

" You are a fool," replied Grover, " her hand is like a child's, small,
white, and dimpled — it could not stagger a kitten — Bill Sweeps must
liave fallen from mere fright."

" Well, sir, it aint for me to dispute your honor, but seein' is
believin', and mayhap your honor 'U see and believe by and by — but
/ say she has a fist — and feet too, that aint no trifles !"

" Her feet are like a doll's — like a fairy's, like a Chinese princess's,
small, and of the most exquisite symmetry, and her ancles are hke

" Like a cricket-club, I swear," said Bluff, laughing, " and she made
a very liberal display of them, too, in scampering across fields, jump-
ing ditches, and tumbling over fences."

Grover, now thoroughly incensed, was about to reply angrily,
but remembering the importance of keeping on good terms with the
outlaw, he suppressed his wrath as he best could. Since he had
stooped to converse familiarly \\ith his companion, he could scarcely
complain that the latter took some license, and even perpetrated a
few jokes at his expense. The sailor's propensity for fun, together
with a desire to magnify the difficulties of a very simple achievement,
was, he was convinced, at the bottom of ail his marvellous stories.

" Well, well," he said, " a joke's a joke, and you are welcome to
yours ; I only wish, since you had your eyes so wide open, that you
had managed to capture the wench — it don't speak very well
for five strong men that one woman has bafl3ed them altogether,
and another almost."

" Fact, sir, fact," replied the boatswain, " that's a disgrace to our
flag, that is ; Joe Bluff feels it to his fingers' ends, he does, and if
your honor wants a wench to wait on the lady, I'll go and pick one
up yet, somewhere."


Grover, of course, declined this offer, and as they had now reached
the vessel, their colloquy came to a close. Everything was ready
for instantaneous departure, the wind was fair, and the major was
not disposed to create any delay. He conversed for a few moments
with the captain, and while the ship was brought around, he
descended into the cabin, and found himself alone with the prisoner.
Jule had seen his approach to the ship, she felt assured of ^liss
Montaigne's safety, and there was no longer any necessity for con-
tinuing her deception, yet she trembled for the result of a disclosure,
and uncertain how best to accomplish it, sat hesitating, and nearly
stupefied with terror, when Grover made his appearance. Her hands,
from which, for convenience, she had removed the gloves, were con-
cealed beneath her veil, which was of ample dimensions, and of a
favoring hue, and although there was everything in the outline of
her figure, and in its general air, to confirm suspicion, when once
fairly aroused, there was nothing of itself sufficient to unsettle an
existing prepossession. Fatigue, flight, and distress, accounted for
everything unusual or awkward, and the well-known curls, fluttering
like asjDcn leaves, with the emotion that shook every part of the poor
girl's frame, seemed a proof of identity, equal to a notary's certifi-
cate, sealed and stamped.

Grover hastened to address her in a tone of apology and condol-
ence. Her own rash action, he said, had precipitated an event which
really need not have occurred, and M'hich he had not anticipated ;
he was most sorry for any alarm or trouble which it had occasioned
her, and hoped everything would be imputed only to the excess of
his passion.

" And now," he said, " dear Blanche, let this farce come to an
end ; only pledge me solemnly your faith, and we will return at
once to land, and our wedding shall be celebrated with princely
magnificence ; I need not urge that you are in my power ; that
you have no possible escape ; that we are bound on a three weeks'
cruise, and that when we return, you will no longer have the power


of choice — see, we are even now dropping down the stream 1" A
sob, and the sound of hurried respiration, were the only reply :
an increased tremor shook the frame of the captive, and the little
glossy ringlets danced like electrified feathers.

" You do not speak harshly to me," continued Grover — " you will
relent — you will not withstand the ardor of a devotion, which has so
nearly driven me to madness."

The chattering of teeth beneath the veil, and a choked and indis-
tinct articulation at length manifested an attempt to reply.

" Speak but one word of encouragement !" exclaimed Grover, in
an excitement of suspense.

" Boo-ooh-ooh !" exclaimed Jule, crying hysterically, like a child,
and with no musical intonation.

" Rage has no tears," said Grover, " and these are auspicious
signs — calm yourself, dear Blanche 1" Thus saying, he touched with
gentlest motion the . lace-encircled wrist which lay nearest to him,
and sought to draw the appendant hand from beneath the veil.

It came ! Was it a serpent with protruded fangs ? Was it a
Leyden battery, triply charged ? or why has the suitor sprung back-
Avard from the contact, with a face in which every lineament is
wrought to madness, — with ashen lips, that quiver but do not speak,
with eyes riveted, as by some horrid fascination, upon the object
which he has revealed ? Ungloved, the broad, black, bony member
lay before him, with its huge knuckles, and the club-like termini of
its fingers, proclaiming the whole story of his discomfiture and dis-
grace. It was no dream, no diablerie^ no freak of a frightened
imagination, — but an awful, evident, insurmountable reality, destined
to whelm him with ridicule unprecedented and unending. Breath,
speech, and the power of motion returned at length, and the roar of
an unbridled rage ascending to the deck, drew the leading ruffians
wondering to the cabin door ; the discovery flew from mouth to
mouth, until the boisterous merriment of the crew outsounded the
tumult below, and for a while defied every attempt at control. The



cabin was at once filled with wide-grinning faces, and tlie slave,
expecting death, yet plucking up spirit, had retreated to the wall,
and assumed an attitude of defiance, aa with glaring eyes she
watched the movements of her captors. Grover, with clenched fists,
stood at her side, trampling unconsciously upon his tasselled cap,
and incoherently questioning both the prisoner and the crest-fallen
Bluff, who, as the leader of the kidnapping expedition, was chiefly
chargeable with its failure.

" What de\dl prompted you to this deceit ?" he said fiercely to
the former.

" I did it my^e/," said Jule, boldly, " if you kill me for it ; Missa
Blanche was good to Jule — nobody was ever good to Jule before —
and now — and now, I have saved her life, and I'm glad of it."

" You're an idiot!" retorted Grover, stamping with passion, " and
you shall be drowned hke a rat for your pains — overboard with the
chattering baboon !" he continued, turning to the men.

The pirates looked at each other, at Bluff, and at their captain,
who, smiling under a hideous mustache, had been, from the back-
ground, a silent observer of events. The boatswain, willing to do
something towards wiping out his own disgrace, but unused to
receiving orders excepting from his leader, stepped forward, and
looked to the latter for approval.

" Come, dispatch 1" shouted Grover ; " we'll show her how to
walk a plank with a spring to it — drag her along 1"

No one stirred ; and Grover, glancing fiercely around the room,
caught the eye of the captain, who, coming forward at the same
moment, said :

" Major Grover, this ere job wasn't in the agreement at all ; and
though I aint very squeamish about sich matters, yet it's rather
dangerous here in port, and my boys shan't have nothing to do with
it — howsomever, major, ef you want to drownd the wench — why
there she is, and there's the water — nobody shan't interfere !"

" Let him try it !" said Jule, with defiance.


Grover foamed with rage : " Give me a pistol, then !" he
exclaimed, turning to Bluff, who handed him one of a pair, which
was stuck in his belt ; " Stand back there, boys, ; we'll try the
toughness of her hide — stand back !"

But at this moment a shout of " fair play !" rang from one side of
the cabin, and a large negro, one of the crew, crowding himself
forward, rushed up to Jule, and placed one of his own pistols in|her
hand ;— " Mr play !" he said, — " don't shoot the child down like a
wolf— if pistols is the word, let 'em both have 'em !"

The movement appealed strongly to the sympathies of the
pirates, as well as to their rude sense of justice, and the novelty of
the idea was irresistibly attractive. The captain, solicitous for Gro-
ver's safety, attempted to interfere, and ordered the slave to be
disarmed; but the clamor outsounded his authority, and no one
offered to obey, which might indeed have proved a dangerous
undertaking. The men fell back to clear a space for the combat,
but Grover, declining so extraordinary a duel, had mingled with the
retreating phalanx, and quite disappeared from the view of his

Still frantic with wrath, he yet had sense to perceive his ludicrous
position, and would have needed but little additional goading to
cause him to turn his weapon upon himself. He went upon deck,
and sought the fresh air, postponing for a few minutes his still
determined revenge ; but delay brought reflection, and a change
of views. He was a bad man, but not bad enough, excepting in
the very boiling of passion, to murder one whose only fault had
been fidelity to a friend. Perhaps he might still have accomplished
such an object if he had persisted in it ; but he was heartily sick-
ened of the whole transaction, and asked for nothing but to be
quietly put on shore. He made no terms about the negress, never
doubting that she would be carried away and sold, .inasmuch as the
business of slave-snatching was quite profitable, and frequently
formed an interlude to the more legitimate pursuits of the pirates.


Captain Snell did not dare, after so bungling a piece of business, as
lie called it, to return to port, and was compelled to seek some
other market for his cargo ; he parted with his guest with many-
apologies, and, mindful that he might yet find the services of the
major highly valuable in so growing an emporium as New York,
made him heartily welcome to the specimens of silks, laces, etc.,
which the latter had received, and which, having been left on the
premises of Mrs. Sniff, became a windfall of the first magnitude to
that lady.

But the worst of men have some human sympathies unseared.
The ruffians had been struck with admiration at Jule's whole con-
duct ; her craft and courage especially eliciting their praise. Her
fellow African interceded earnestly for her release, and the popular
voice deciding it, she was set ashore the same afternoon on the
Long Island side of the bay, a few miles south of the citv.



He who stems a stream with sand,

And fetters flame with flaxen band,
Has yet a harder task to prove-
By firm resolve to conqiier love. ^'— Scott.

When Henrich returned from Lis fruitless quest after the slave,
he found Miss Montaigne still trembling with unsubdued excitement,
and fearful that even her present refuge might afford no sufficient
protection against her lawless persecutor. She had started at eveiy
sound during his absence, and felt as if she were again exposed to
all the perils which had so recently impended over her ; her fears
had been augmented, too, by the remembrance of Henri ch's instinc-
tive offer to avenge her wrongs, and she did not hesitate, on his
return, to exact from him a promise that he would not seek pereon-
ally to visit retribution upon the offender : " I have, indeed, a right,"
she said, " to require this at your hands ; for if gratitude did not
prompt a regard for your interest, I cannot but remember that my
own security may continue to depend upon yours."

Huntington replied with suppressed emotion : he was too happy
to have been her preserver ; her lightest word should be to him a
law, and he would leave no vigilance unexercised to secure her
continued safety. Such were his words ; yet, fearful of seeming to
presume on the benefits he had conferred, they were delivered
rather with an air of distant respect, than of cordial regard.

Tlie fate of Jule .continued to excite commiseration, and Blanche
was already engaged in planning schemes to discover her future


place of bondage, and to procure her freedom, when the delighted
slave entered the house, bringing the first intelligence of her escape.
Emily and Mrs. Sniff were also soon added to the company, panic-
stricken by the tidings of the recent atrocity, to which they had so
unwittingly been rendered accessaries. Jule, of course, became the
lion of the hour, and related her adventures with much minuteness,
awakening the deepest interest, and not a little merriment beside ;
yet poor Blanche, to whom the recital only imparted a more vivid
sense of the danger she had escaped, was in no mood for laughter.
Indignation succeeded alarm in her breast ; and she felt her wrongs
the more keenly, when she reflected with what impunity they had
been committed. To seek legal redress would be utterly futile : the
slave being inadmissible as a witness, there was no evidence to con-
nect Grover personally with the transaction ; and even had proof
been attainable to set in operation the unwieldy machinery of the
law, the offender's rank would shield him from any adequate punish-
ment. Miss Roselle declared she would never again set foot in the
dove-cot, and freely accepted, in behalf of herself and Blanche, the
tender of a refuge in Mynheer Waldron's hospitable house until a
new home could be found. The engrossing subject was discussed
until a late hour of the night ; and Blanche again and again reite-
rated her thanks to the gratified slave, and exacted from her a
promise to call on the ensuing day for some more substantial token
of her regard.

" Sumfin to remember you by, Missa Blanche ; — netting else,"
said Jule, who was unwilling to be thought mercenary.

" It shall, indeed, be something to remember me by, poor child !"
replied Miss Montaigne, — " if the priceless boon of freedom is
worthy of remembrance."

" Freedom, ^lissa Blanche !" exclaimed Jule, with starting tears —
*' Oh no — dat cannot be ; Harry Bolt loves Jule — would marry
Jule, if she free ; but dat can't be — dat cost two hundred dollars !"

The ncgress emphasised the last words in a manner that implied


an overpowering sense of the magnitude of the sum named, and a
conviction that she had quite put at rest Miss Montaigne's benevo-
lent intentions in her behalf.

" Well, well," replied Blanche, scarcely refraining from teai-s, —
" come and see me, Jule, and bring Harry Bolt along with you."

To this invitation the negress, after consulting her mistress's eye,
and seeing no indications of disapproval, promised compliance. The
widow was mortified and vexed by the conduct of her distinguished
friends, almost into a state of speechlessness, which, in her case,
might be considered the very collapse of grief. She was, however,
but httle alarmed for her own safety ; and being mindful of certain
valuables which would be exposed by her absence, she returned to
her house, taking wdth her the reluctant negress and a borrowed
farm-dog for her protection.

AVhen Henrich Huntington arose on the ensuing morning he was
quite unable'" to discover his grandfather's old-fashioned rickety
house, with its high, precipitous roof, its clumsy chimneys, its loose
clanging window-blinds, and its scarecrow weathercocks, which he
had long been accustomed to laugh at and ridicule. In its place he
saw a venerable edifice, time-stained it is true, but also time-honored,

Online LibraryP. Hamilton (Peter Hamilton) MyersThe King of the Hurons → online text (page 7 of 29)