P. Hamilton (Peter Hamilton) Myers.

The King of the Hurons online

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possessing in all its parts an air of the utmost cheerfulness, and
challenging his profoundest respect. The declivity of the rafters
exactly suited his taste ; the chimneys had gro^vn into favor ; the
iron roosters, if a httle scrawny, were still graceful and life-like ; and,
if here and there a shutter, deprived of a hinge, hung obliquely at
its post, he was not sure that it did not improve the general air of
the building. The very garden, large and shapeless, had a new,
fresh, pleasing aspect ; and if its only flowers were the coarse, gaudy
hollyhock and the unfragrant poppy, both had a certain peculiar
beauty, and the odor of the latter could hardly be called disa-

Whether the presence of Miss Montaigne had anything to do with
this transformation, can of course be only a matter of conjecture


Certain it was that she continued to engross a large share of Hen-
rich's thoughts ; and if, with an effort, he banished the beautiful
vision as something dangerous to dwell upon, it still recurred in
each unguarded moment, to his mind. So the calm lake, broken
by some disturbing pebble, loses for a while its image of the sky,
but still resumes the picture, with its ow^n returning placidity.

But let him not be blamed, if at times he yielded to this pleasing
thraldom, for the charms of Miss Montaigne were calculated to
fascinate even a less susceptible 'mind than that of llenrich.
There are no words to paint the singular sweetness of her smile,
which seemed hke a gleam of sunlight from some inner world of
purity and love. Rich in its golden treasures of thought and feel-
ing must have been the heart which emitted rays like these ; and
Henrich was but too happy to catch their casual radiance, to treasure
them in his memory, to recall them in dreams, and to wonder what
there was of human suffering or achievement that could win from
relenting Heaven a treasure so transcendent. Never before had his
own poverty or obscurity been to him a source of serious regret ;
but now he felt that he could make any effort to ojien the gates of
wealth or scale the cliffs of Fame.

Willing to diminish the distance between them, he had tried to
discredit the rumor of her rank and wealth, as one which might
well have originated in Mrs. Sniff's desire to create a temporary
^clat for herself; but there was something in the deportment of
Blanche which gave confirmation to the story. An air of unstudied
gentility pervaded her movements, with a tasteful avoidance of show
and affectation, and an entire freedom from that obtrusive dignity
which, ever guarded against aggression, betrays its uncertain foot-
ing by its very efforts to stand. The mystery that enveloped her,
the singular mode of her arrival, the uncertain duration of her stay,
and her voluntary seclusion from society, all added to the interest
which she excited in the mind of Henrich ; nor had he failed to
observe, in estimating her position, that independent action, even in


matters of moment, ■wliicli almost precluded the idea of lier elder
companion being in reality her sister. Her offer to enfranchise the
slave was made without consultation with Emily, nor did it seem to
excite any surprise in the latter. Henrich did not, indeed, yield a
moment's credence to the exaggerated views of his voluble neighbor,
yet he was compelled to believe it probable that Blanche belonged
to that aristocratic division of English society, between which, and
everything below it, so strong a line of demarcation exists.

The accident which had made him her benefactor, while it tended
to augment his growing attachment, and to impart an air of romance
to its character, seemed, in reality, rather to widen than diminish
the distance between them. A chivalric sense of honor forbade the
exhibition of a sentiment which might seem to found its claims for
reciprocity upon such an obligation, or which might impose any
restraint upon Blanche in seeking, in her still dependent state,
his fullest assistance and counsel. The proud consciousness that
she looked to him for protection Avas itself a pleasure which he
would not lightly jeopard ; and he resolved, while sedulously watch-
ing her interests, to guard with equal assiduity his own demeanor.

The negress, Jule, did not forget her appointment with Miss
Montaigne; and while the latter was discussing with Henrich a
subject connected with her welfare, made her appearance, accompa-
nied, according to promise, by her beau. Hany Bolt was a rare
specimen of colored humanity. His skin was of that exceeding
blackness aud coarseness of texture, which, to use a horticultural
simile, may be compared to a black turnip ; and his coarse woolly
hair, from some unknown cause, perhaps by reason of a monopoly
of the coloring matter by other parts of the system, had turned
white at an unusually early age, and had given him an appearance
not very common even among the oldest negroes, and exceedingly
rare at the age of twenty-four. He was also very tall and awkward,
yet, despite so many disadvantages, could not be called ill-looking,
for he had a pleasing countenance, with fine eyes, and a perfect


treasury of teeth. He readied the house in company with Jule, but
his courag-e gave out at the door, and after much shuffling and
whispering- on the outside, his companion entered alone.

" Harm 'fraid to come in, ^lissa J31anche," she said ; " he say he
don't know how to act,"

" Never mind, Jule," replied Miss Montaigne : " tell him he need
not act at all — bring him in,"

Harry accordingly shuffled into the room, looking very sheepish,
and with his head hanging dov»'n, but he soon became composed
enough to listen to the questions of the young lady ; and although
lost in conjecture as to her dtisign, succeeded in giving very coherent
answers. He even confessed to the "soft impeachment" of loving
Jule, without any change of color, which, being rather deeply set,
would have required a pretty strong emotion to disturb.

" 'Taint no use, though," he said, twirling his cap ; " 'taint no
use, unless Missa Snitf die. Missa Sniti' haint got any relations, and
she promise to give up JuIp. when she die."

" That is liberal, certainly," replied Blanche.

" Yes, dat berry liberal, sartain," said the negro, quite gravely ;
" but dat long time fust — last winter she berry sick with fever, and
we had some hope, but she come out of it, and now she better an
ever ; got strong constooshun, Missa Sniff has."

Jule listened on the broad grin to this narrative of disappointed
hope ; but checking herself, as she thought of her perpetual bondage,
she added, sadly, " I told you it could not be, Missa Blanche ; Jule
can't be free."

" But Harry can work, lay up money, and buy you, Jule ?"

" Yes, Missa, he got ten dollars laid up now "

"Eleven !" said Harry, triumphantly.

" But he ony can save three dollar a month, and so it will

take six years amost — and dat long time to work for me ; I tell him
guv me up, and get a free wife somewhere,'' said Jule, putting the
corner of a check api'on to her eye ; " but he says he wont "


"And so I wont !" exclaimed Hany; " what for should I do such
a ting as dat ; de time will come round byme by ; it's ony six more
Pinksters, and Pausses, and Christmasses ; and I shall be ony forty
when de time is up."

" Forty, Harry ?" said Henrich ; " why how old are you now ?"

" I'm twenty-four, Massa Huntington ; I speak de trut ; not a day
older : I shall be twenty-four a fortnight ago to-morrow."

" And in six years you will be forty ; will you ?"

Harry hesitated and looked at Jule, who seemed also in some
doubt, and said she beheved it was forty or thirty ; but Massa
Henrich was a scholar and could reckon it up himself.

" But tell me," said Blanche, " how did you yourself become free,

" I tell you dat," answered the negro, excitedly ; " my Massa
good man, he belong to de church — deacon Bolt, a berry good man
— he own me and a plenty more. I tended dat church, swept it,
washed it, ring de bell, and dig de graves — dig poor Massa's grave
at last, and when he die he guv me to de church in his will — kase
he berry good man."

" He was, indeed," said Blanche, smiling ; " then you belonged to
the church, did you ?"

" Yes, Missa Blanche," said the negro, grinning ; " dat what I tell
um — I b'longed to de church — de best white man among 'em didn't
b'long to de church as much as I did ; but de church folks talked it
over and had a meetin' all about it, and frighten me berry much —
I didn't know what dey were going to do to me I"

" Well, what did they to you, Harry ?"

" Golly gosh !" said the negro — " dey said dey wouldn't hab me !
— dey turn me out* o' de church, and guv me free papers, and paid
me ten dollars a year for ringing de bell eber since I"

It need hardly be said that Miss Montaigne was fully prepared
to carry out her generous purposes. Although parsimony was not
among the faults of the Baron Montaigne, his daughter would


scarcely liave felt at liberty, without his permission, to make such an
application of the funds with which he had supplied her ; but she
had, fortunately, a private purse equal to the emergency, which she
had saved out of her allowance for pocket-money during the last few
years of her abode in England ; and over this, at least, her control
was complete.

Slaves were not at that day of nearly as great value in the
province as they subsequently became ; and the price which Jule
had named for herself proved to be correct. Mrs. Sniff had long-
been desirous to sell the girl, and break up her lonely establishment,
and no difficulty was encountered in the arrangement, which had
already been effected through the agency of Henrich, who had,
indeed, but just returned and placed the deed of manumission in the
hands of the delighted Blanche, Avhen Jule and Harry arrived.
There was a little pause in the conversation, during which Miss
Montaigne hesitated how to bestow her boon ; and Jule, glancing at
•Henrich, seemed to suspect that she and Harry might be trespassing
by too long a stay.

" Shall we go, now, Missa Blanche ?" she said.

" Not yet," replied the young lady, with emotion, handing, at the
same time, the papers to Henrich ; "please to explain it to them, Mr.
Huntington," she said in a low voice, turning away her face, and
affecting to look for something in her reticule.

" Jule has told you, I suppose, Harry," he said, " what took place
yesterday, and how she saved Miss Roselle from being carried oft" by
the pirates ?"

" She tell a-me-all," said Harry ; " sma'at gal, Jule is, and run like
an ostridge."

" Miss Roselle is very thankful to her — she ivill never forget the
favor that Jule has conferred upon her ; and in order to do what she
can in return, she is going to make Jule a great present, and one
that will last for a life-time."

" Golly !" exclaimed the negro, in whose mind, as in the slave's,


visions of some new and gaudy dress were floating ; " golly ! but it
must be made of good strong stuff, if it last so long as dat !"

" It is made of paper !" replied Henrich ; " in other Avords, Miss
Roselle has bought Jule, and made har free — here is the deed; take
it, she is no longer a slave."

" Free ? — free ? — free, Missa Blanche ?" shouted Jule, flinging up
her arms as if she were throwing ofl" some imaginary shackles ; " oh,
dat is too much, too much I oh Missa Blanche, Jule nebber earn dat
— oh Missa Blanche, Jule will pray for you, night and mornin', all
her life — all her hfe ;" and the poor girl fairly sobbed with emotion.

Harry manifested no less delight, but in a far different way. He
did not trust himself to speak in the presence of Miss Montaigne ;
but thrusting the paper into his hat, with a sort of hysterical chuckle,
he rushed from the house, and uttering a succession of shouts, threw
himself upon the grass in the lawn, where he continued to roll for
many minutes.

" And am I really free, like a white woman ?" said Jule, examin-
ing her arms and chest, and looking up and down her figure, as if
she expected to see some physical transformation in her person ;
" no more b'long to Missa Sniff", no more work for her — wash, iron,
cook, chop wood, make garden, do ebbery ting — no more scold,
scold, scold, and call me lazy beast, when I do my best — oh ! Missa
Blanche, it is too much — too much !"

" You have fully deserved your freedom, Jule," said Miss Mon-
taigne, " and I am delighted that it makes you so happy ; go, now,
Harry is waiting for you ; some other time you shall thank me, if
you wish."

Jule accordingly departed, still ejaculating " Oh, Missa Blanche !
Missa Blanche ! it is too much ! too much !"



"Justice is lame, as Well as blind, amongst us ;
The laws, corrupted to their ends that make them,
Serve but for instruments of some new tyranny
That every day starts up." — Otway's Venice Preserved.

For a few days succeeding his short sea voyage, Major Grover
kept quietly within his own doors, perfectly contented that he did
not hear the outer air ringing with derisive shouts at his discom-
fiture. He denied himself to all visiters, not excepting Shiel and
Midge, until the persevering calls of the latter, whose sycophancy
was his passport, obtained his admission. Grover did not know
to what extent his recent exploit had become public, and notwith-
standing his vigilant watch of the words and manner of his visiter,
for the purpose of gaining some intimation on the subject, the
ensign was careful that he should not be enlightened by any means
of his.

Mr. Midge " was sorry that the major had been ill, was a little off
the hooks himself, hoped it was nothing serious — but this cursed
climate was enough to — to — "

" Yes, certainly, of course," replied Grover, with an absent look ;
" ' tis a bad climate, particularly for the gout — but my attack is
nearly over now — and — and — any news stirring. Midge V

" Not an item," replied the other, zealously ; " there is a perfect
stagnation of gossip — the people have positively nothing at all to
talk about."

This might be considered stretching a point, considering that the


town was actually ringing with the kidnapping affair — tliougli, as
usual on similar occasions, without a single correct version of the
story being afloat, among the dozens that were current ; but it
greatly relieved G rover, who being quite ignorant of Jule's escape,
now supposed that Miss Montaigne must have kept secret his agency
in the transaction. But Midge had gone a step too far ; for in his
anxiety to disclaim any knowledge of his friend's disaster, he had
quite forgotten that he really had important intelligence to commu-

" I am mistaken, after all," he continued, " in saying there is. no
news. Cornbury has unpleasant tidings from the north ; Seabury
and his command have been surprised by the Hurons, and George is
now in the hands of Montaigne."

" Lieutenant Seabury a prisoner of Montaigne ! this is sad news
indeed," exclaimed the major, his countenance lighting up with a
gleam of satisfaction, which contrasted strangely with his language
— " how have you these tidings ?"

" By an Indian express from Albany ; the runner came through
in two days and reports that the gari-ison at that place were in
hourly apprehension of an attack."

" They need not fear it," replied Grover ; " Indians do not often
attack forts, and Montaigne dare not venture so far south ; this lias
been done by some outlying band of savages — but how does Corn-
bury bear the capture of his nephew ?"

" As a lioness the loss of a whelp," replied the other ; " he raves
with wrath — rails at the home government for not keeping him
better supplied with troops, but vents his fury chiefly on the French

" Good again !" exclaimed Grover, heedlessly ; " but what docs
he say — what does he say ?"

" He says that the Queen's ministers "

" No — no — no — what does he say of the Baron Montaigne ?"

" He says he is a treacherous, crafty, cold-blooded villain ; that if


the wliim takes him, he will give poor George to the savages to be
tortured, and that he would not that any harm should happen to
the lad for all New France !"

"Said he so. Midge, said he so? — he is right — Seabury is a
noble fellow, and must be protected at all hazards ;" and Grover,
rising to his feet, traversed the room with an excited air for some
minutes, when, turning abruptly to his companion, he continued :
" Mr. Midge, will you do me the great favor to carry an immediate
message for me to Lord Cornbury, confidential and important ?"

" Oh, with the greatest possible "

"Exactly. I anticipated such kindness; I have had occasion
before to acknowledge your valuable services, and shall not forget
my obligations — nay, do not speak now, if you please, but listen :
go to Cornbury, tell him that I can jDlace in his power, within the
next twenty-four hours, such a hostage for his nephew as shall bind
the Baron Montaigne by his very heart-strings ! Ask him to send
me immediate authority for the arrest and safe-keeping of any
member of the baron's family who may now be in the province of
New Yoi'k ; and tell him I ask no other reward for my ser^^ces than
to be made the custodian of the prisoner. I have reasons for not
going personally to Cornbury on this business, and I know that I
can place the fullest reliance on your discretion and fidelity."

"You shall not regret your confidence in me, Major Grover,"
replied the ensign.

" One word more," added the major ; " you will understand that I
do not desire an interview with the governor, nor to make any
explanations ; tell him despatch is required, and if he proposes to
come and see me, I rely upon you to prevent it ; tell him, if you
choose, that I am absent from home, arranging the preliminaries of
my project. Go now, if you please, and bring me a speedy answer."

The ensign promised leverything, and departed, not a little
dehghted at his embassy, and at being the depository of a state


" This Is a rare turn of luck," continued Grover, in soliloquy ;
" Cornbury is blind with rage, and will readily assent to my propo-
sition ; having once passed his word he will not recede from it, and
Blanche Montaigne becomes an inmate of my house ! And why
should she not ? If she is not the ' captive of my bow and spear,'
the fortune of war has at least thrown her into my hands ; Montaigne
wages no civilized warfare, and we will hold him in check by what
means we can. .Women have been hostages before now ; and where
can the beautiful Blanche be retained with less scandal than in the
house of Major Grover ? — here are apartments for her use, servants
for her attendance, the most respectful, ceremonious, courteous
treatment— at least as far as the world will know ; and as for the
rest — I alone am responsible."

Grover had not miscalculated the sentiments or actions of Lord
Cornbury ; the messenger returned, armed with the required war-
rant, and with a pledge of the fullest compliance with what the
governor called the whimsical terms of his friend. The message
also enjoined speedy action, and the utmost vigilance to prevent any
failure of so momentous and useful an enterprise.

" Seemed he much surprised, ensign ?" inquired Grover ; " or did
he express any doubts of my ability to make good my engagement?"
"He did, indeed, express surprise," replied Midge, "and also
some incredulity ; he said it was possible there might have been a
diso-uised son or other relative of the baron among the discharged
crew of the St. Cloud, but that if so, he had doubtless made good
his escape long before this."

" It is strange, indeed," said Grover, with an absent air, " that there
are men who pass through life with their eyes wide open, and yet
fail to see what is passing directly before them ; — I do not, of com-se,
mean His Excellency, Mr. Midge !"

" Certainly not," rephed the obsequious ensign.
The young man lingered some time with the hope of receiving
some further clew to the project on foot, and was at length delighted



by a request from liis companion to call on the ensuing morning,
prepared to lend liis aid in tlie undertaking. As this involved an
intimation to take his leave for the present, Mr. Midge gracefully
"withdrew, leaving his companion wrapt in a close-fitting reverie. If
the major manifested less haste than Lord Cornbury's injunctions
seemed to require, it was because he felt certain that Miss Montaigne
had no means of escape ; and because the arrangements which he
contemplated for her reception required more time than the fraction
of a day which was already far on its wane. His house at once
exhibited the bustle of an active preparation for the expected guest ;
and while no accessaries of comfort were unprovided, a still more
studied regard was paid to decoration. Changes that wearied con-
jecture employed the astonished domestics, and even some neigh-
boring artisans, until a late hour of the night, while the personal
supervision of Grover extended even to the minuter details of their

" I play a sure card at length," he said, " and my triumph may
well be graced with a show of magnanimity."

Mr. Midge was not behind the appointed hour in his return on
the ensuing morning, yet he found Major Grover impatiently await-
ing his arrival, and learned to his great joy that the important
commission was to be intrusted entirely in his own hands. But it
was with some abatement of his delight, though with unbounded
surprise, he learned that the person to be secured was a lady, and a
daughter of the renowned Baron Montaigne. There were few
laurels to be won in such an enterprise, but there was favor to be
gained in high quarters, which was an object of equal importance to
him, and he resolved on the faithful and judicious performance of his

Grover was unwilling to be personally an actor in an event, which,
in the outset at least, he desired to represent as entirely official, and
dictated by principles of state policy. He knew that his motives
could not remain unsuspected, but he cared nothing for a public


censure which did not cany the sting of ridicule, and which was
not equal to the frustration of his designs. He believed, as has been
seen, that his connexion with the recent attempt to carry off Miss
Montaigne was not publicly known ; and if it should become so, he
did not doubt his ability, through his friends and parasites, to give
it a coloring which should not reflect seriously to his disadvantage.
His success, indeed, in his present achievement was to become sub-
sequently a matter of boast, as an original and brilliant exjiloit in
the annals of gallantry, well calculated to obliterate the memory of
any previous failure.

He gave ISIidge an accurate description of the person of Blanche,
and directed him to accomphsh his errand with as little publicity as
possible, and with all proper courtesy. A carriage was, of course, to
be provided for her transportation, and she was to be allowed any
reasonable time to make preparations for what was to be represented
to her as merely a change of abode. Major Grover was not to be
named to her as her custodian, or as being in any way connected
with the movement ; as he designed that her first knowledge of her
felicity in that respect should be derived from himself, and under his
own roof. The ensign was to be accompanied informally by a few
men, sufficient to enforce his authority ; but he was to make no
unnecessary exhibition of his force, which was not to accompany the
carriage on its return.

With these instructions, which were expected to insure both
success and comparative secresy, the inflated ensign set out upon his.
expedition, and at an early hour in the forenoon alighted from his
carriage in front of the domicil of Jacobus Waldron, while his six
followers remained within easy hailing distance. The octogenarian
sat quietly smoking his pipe upon his front stoop, to M^hich Midge
approached with a pompous air, and, pausing at the entrance,
notwithstanding there was no appearance of opposition to his ingress,
formally demanded admittance in the Queen's name. Jacobus did
not take down his pipe for many seconds, and was still pondering

Online LibraryP. Hamilton (Peter Hamilton) MyersThe King of the Hurons → online text (page 8 of 29)