P. Hamilton (Peter Hamilton) Myers.

The King of the Hurons online

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wliat answer should be given to so ceremonious a request, when the
demand was peremptorily repeated.

"Come in, den, in de Queen's name, ef you want to, young
man," he said, at length ; " de door is mte open ; nobody will hui-t

Midge accordingly marched on to the stoop, and advancing to
the old man, said :

" You are suspected of harboring under your roof Miss Blanche
Montaigne, a daughter of the Baron Montaigne, of New France, and
I have authority to require you to surrender her into my charge."

" Dere is no such beeples in mine house," said Jacobus, shaking
his head.

" We have the fullest proof that she is a resident of your house,"
replied Midge, " and if she is not quietly given up, I must at once
search the premises."

" Dere is no such beeples, I tell you," exclaimed the old man,
waxing angry ; " dere is noboty but Sally, and Hans, and Doxy, and
Ruppy, and de two wenches, and de tog."

The ensign, unwilling to be trifled with, stepped to the outer
edge of the stoop, and waved his sword as a signal for his men to

" It is folly to deny Miss Montaigne's presence," he said ; " we
know that she is here, and she cannot escape us ; you will perceive
that I have authority for my acts," he continued, exhibiting his
warrant; "Anne — Regina — by the grace, etc., — and there's the
seal, and there's the signature — Cornbury."

The old man took the writ, and peered at it with much earnest-
ness for some minutes, occasionally deluging it with an emission of
smoke, which concealed every trace of the paper from view, after
which he handed it calmly back to the ensign, remarking, as before :

" Dere is no such beeples !"

"Well, sir," said the ensign, still reluctant to take any hai-sh
measures ; " here are my men ; and although I had hoped to avoid

THE KING OF THE HrRQN^. , , . , , ,, 1,01,

giving the lady any unnecessary alarm, I must do my duty ; there
is not the least harm designed to your guest, and if you will pro-
cure me a moment's speech with her, I think I can show her the
necessity of a peaceable compliance with my orders — otherwise,
remember, sir, that you are guilty of concealing the Queen's enemies,
and may have to answer for it with your head."

" I answer mit mine head, now," said Jacobus, shaking that
member violently, with a negative gesture ; " I answer no — no — no
— dere is no Montaignes, nor no barons, nor no lady Blanches in
mine house, now den !"

" Come on, my men !" exclaimed Midge, drawing his sword with
a nervous and excited air ; " let these two remain without, to guard
the doors, and see that no one escapes ; the rest will follow me —
forward, march !" and the ensign led the way into the nearest
apartment, which proved to be the kitchen, where the venerable
partner of Mynheer Waldron sat knitting in a corner, and two female
slaves, desisting suddenly from their labors, stood shaking with fear
on the hearth.

" Hey den !" exclaimed the old lady, in a sharp key, and looking
up over her spectacles ; " w^iat for do you come trainin' in my
house ? isn't der room enough out doors for you, hey ?"

" About nineteen years old — five feet, six inches high — slight in
figure — very fair — blue eyes — brown hair in ringlets," said Midge,
reading from a memorandum in his hand, and then glancing
momentarily around the room ; " She isn't here, certainly," he con-
tinued : and without condescending to give any reply to his ques-
tioner, he passed on with his followers into another apartment.

The house was by no means a large one, and w as soon explored
from cellar to attic ; the gTumbling Jacobus following close upon the
heels of his visiters, and reminding the disconcerted ensign, at every
turn, that he had predicted the result. No doors were fastened, no
places of concealment \asible, and no attempt made in any way to
obstruct the search; yet neither Blanche nor Emily was found.


A buxom grancldaugliter of Mynheer Waldron was surprised at her
toilet, and although she was at once passed by, as not answering to
the description. Midge subsequently resolved to make more sure by
a closer scrutiny. But there was evidently nothing artificial about
the round red cheeks and flaxen hair of Doxy Waldron; and
although her plumpness might have owed something to her apparel,
there was no such thing as compressing five feet six inches of height
into the short squabby figure w^hich stood trembhng before the

*' Let me go if you please," said the frightened girl — " I'm only
Doxy ; Miss Blanche Roselle, and Miss Emily, and cousin Henrich

" Shut up your head, youngster ! shut up your head !" exclaimed
old Jacobus, in the Dutch language and in a loud voice, from the
back-ground, where he had been for some time pantomiming to the
girl, who under this invocation became suddenly mute ; and, not-
withstanding all the entreaties and threats of Midge, could not be
persuaded to say another word. The Dutch warning was sufficiently
intelligible to the ensign by its effects ; and after menacing the old
man with the punishment of the laws, he resoh'ed on another and
still more vigorous search, which Avas accordingly made, and with a
minuteness that could have overlooked nothing larger than a mouse.
Like the first, however, it was unsuccessful, and j\Ir. Ensign Midge
betook himself to his carriage, having first directed his men to return
to their quarters, by as many different roads as they could conve-
niently find.



"All the forest rings, and every neighboring place,
And there is not a hound, but falletli to the chase." — Drayton.

A LITTLE retrogression is necessary to explain tlie preceding chapter.
On the morning of the day in which the convalescing Major Grover
tendered his valuable services to the government in obtaining a
hostage to be made of Baron Montaigne's heart-strings, Henrich
Huntington was reminded by the baying of hounds away over in
New Jersey that it was fine sporting weather, and that game of
some kind might be expected to be abroad. He had for a conside-
rable time been a stranger to the woodlands, and an unusual longing
for the chase came upon him, as he stood looking forestward, and
listening to the familiar sounds which came faintly, yet distinct,
through the still morning air.

But if he had been far more undecided he could never have
resisted the invitation which he presently received from his friend
Bounder, who running up and laying his sharp, cold nose in his
master's hand, by way of attracting attention, looked wistfully into
his face, and then towards the woods, wagging his tail mean-
while, and occasionally uttering a sort of half-suppressed yelp.
Bounder said, as plainly as dog could say, that he wanted to go and
bury his teeth in the flank of a stag, and that he was in very good
wind for that purpose, and that the scent would lie finely, and he
would do his duty dogfully.

"Shall we ^, Bounder — shall we go?" said the young man,
musingly ; and his companion, after proving his right to his name


by leaping from tlie gi*onnd, and making several seeming attempts
to effect a lodgment upon liis master's shoulders, darted forward
about forty rods toward the woods, at his topmost speed, and wr.s
back again in a twinkling, performing every variety of antics, and
answering the distant echoes with his voice.

Henrich entertained, of coui-se, no suspicions of any impending
danger to Blanche, who, in the large household by which she was
now sun*ounded, had a sufficient guarantee against any repetition of
the lawless attack w^hich she had so recently escaped. Still ignorant
of her true name and rank, he could have no conception of the new
danger to which she was soon to be exposed, and if it was not
altogether with a light heart that he went forth into the forest, it
was at least with no fear for the safety of his friend.

But if the day was a favorable one for hunting, it availed but little
to Henrich, whose vexed thoughts were themselves winding and
doubling in too many directions to admit of successfully following
up the track of the cunning fox, or the light-footed deer ; and Avhose
repeated blunders in his sport were a matter of very apparent sur-
prise, and even of comment, in his way, to the disappointed Bounder.
He had spent several hours in ineffectual labors when he again met
the young Indian know n by the name of Winny, of Avhom mention
has been made. Winny belonged to a small ti'ibe of Indians, known
as the Wappenos, who may be considered the original Manhattanese,
but of whom few traces and no representatives have come down to
the present day. That they belonged to some subdivision of the
Five Nations, is i)rol)able rather from their locality, than from any
evidence that avc have . of their w^arlike character. They were on
terms of amity with the English, of whom they stood in no little
awe, and whose friendship they cultivated also with a view to a
traffic, trifling in amount, yet of much consideration to them. A
village, or collection of huts belonging to this tribe, was situated on
the western side of the island, several miles north of the city ; but
there were also two or three isolated wio-w^ams nearer the town, which


frequently swarmed with tenants in the warmer months, but were
abandoned in winter for the advantage of contiguity and mutual

Winny, who had come from this summer residence, and was going
in the direction of the Indian settlement when he encountered Hen-
rich, seemed in unusual haste, and manifested no degree of his
accustomed alacrity to converse or to give information about the
probable haunts of the game. This reserve was the more remark-
able, because at his last meeting with Huntington he had been
indebted to the latter for the privilege of drawing the bounty on the
slain wolf, which was a sum of great value to the savage. It was,
indeed, only a remembrance of this obligation that restrained him
from being still more unsocial, and from taking an abrupt leave of
his companion. Observing the Indian's reluctance to stop, Henrich
slightly changed his course and walked with quickened pace by his
side, still questioning him on matters pertaining to the chase, and
heedless that the other now gave still greater signs of dissatisfaction
than before.

" Winny saw deer," he said at length, pointing towards the east
side of the island ; " going that way — with horns hke that 1"
spreading the fingers of both hands.

" You saw a stag of ten, and did not follow him I" exclaimed
Henrich, with a look of incredulity.

The Indian saw that he was disbelieved, and scorning furtl*r
equivocation, he rephed impatiently : " The Panther is going to the
council — he must go alone."

" The council, Winny !" said Henrich, who perceived by his
companion's air, and by the use of his symboHcal name, that he was
in earnest ; " why this is the first I have heard of a council of the
Wappenos in a long time ; you have not thirty warriors in your
tribe ; why do you hold councils ?"

" The Wappenos are few," replied the Indian ; " once they were



like the leaves ; but they can punish the foe who comes alone in
their camp."

" What does this mean ?" said Huntington, who began to antici-
pate one of those scenes of cruelty which were occasionally enacted
among the more powerful tribes, but which were of rare occurrence
in the neighborhood of the city — " what does this mean, Winny ?
tell me plainly — remember that I am your friend."

" Henreek is the friend of Winny," was the reply ; " the Panther
has no ft'iend among the whites."

" Nonsense !" said Huntington, laughing ; " I am your fi-iend, I
tell you, and the friend of your whole tribe, panthers, bears, and all ;
did I not send you corn, when the A^dnter was long and cold, and
the snow too deep for hunting ?"

" You did," replied the savage, grasping the hand of the young
man ; " it is written in our hearts — our children know it ; listen,
Henreek, but be not like the mocking bird, to speak again — listen,
but bury my words in your breast."

Winny proceeded in this metaphorical strain to tell at some
length what may be better repeated in simpler language. A Huron
Indian, in disguise as a Mohawk, had been found the day before
skulking on the island, and seeking to evade observation. Failing in
this, he had at first succeeded, by his dress and air, in passing him-
self off for a Mohawk, and consequently a fi-iend of the English, and
o^ the tribes in their alliance ; but was soon detected by means of
some unutterable shibboleth in the language of his assumed tribe.
It was to decide the fate of this man that the council was called,
and as his sentence would probably be death by torture, the reason
of Winny's desire for secresy became apparent. The English
government had several times interposed to prevent similar deeds
of barbarity among the tribes on Long Island, and the savages had
become exceedingly jealous of an interference with what they con-
sidered almost their only remaining act of sovereignty. But the Indian
lia\ing become thus far communicative, was ea.sily prevailed on to


allow nun ting-ton to accompany liim to the village. The popularity
of the young man among the Wappenos, and his own influence as
a son of a chief, would protect the Panther from any severe censure,
and if it became necessary for Henrich to withdraw, the secret,
AVinny beUeved, would still be safe.

They were not long in reaching the settlement, which was
situated in a partial opening of the forest, where the trees were large
and sparsely set, and the ground was free from bushes. The
lodges, some twenty in number, stood at the distance of a few rods
from each other, on the sides of a sort of hollow square, if that may
be called such, which was in reality neither square nor hollow.
Within this arena a commotion was already visible, indicative of
some important movement : women were assembled in knots at the
doors, talking and gesticulating, some sitting and some standing,
while half clad children were running around in glee, stopping
occasionally to peep through the chinks of a closed and guarded
shanty, and holding up small bundles of fagots to the view of its
inmate, by way of a foreshadowing of his fate.

The warriors were assembled in and about the principal lodge,
wearing, in general, an air of great gravity ; yet some of the
youngrr braves were giving way to occasional turns of merriment or
exultation, without reproof. The Panther and Henrich went directly
to this council-hall, where the latter was at first eyed with much
suspicion, but was soon generally recognised and welcomed.

"He is our brother— he is welcome," said the principal chief;
and the young men made room for him beside themselves on the
gi-ass, while Bounder, after coursing the enclosure, and looking
curiously into several of the lodges, threw himself panting at his


The council was soon opened within the wigwam, those entitled
to a voice in its proceedings ranging themselves decorously m order,
while those without awaited the result in silence. There was some
division of sentiment, and more than an hour elapsed before the


opinions were all delivered ; but the result proved the predominance
of a sanguinary spirit among the judges. The Huron was sentenced
to run the gantlet, and, if he escaped that ordeal, to subsequent
torture and death. He was at once brought out upon the square to
receive intelligence of his doom, which he heard in silence, and with
the affectation of indifference usual to his race on such occasions ;
but a close observer could easily detect in the forced compression of
his lips, and in the slight flaring of his nostrils, the signs of mental
emotion. He was a tall, well formed man, of about thirty years,
with features which would have been far from ugly, separate from
their mask of paint, and with an eye, more especially, which would
have redeemed a still greater disfigurement of face from being
wholly loathsome. Its iris, bright, black, and large, rolled around
its little orbit with a rapid motion, seeming to dnnk in everything
within the scope of its vision ; while not only the head, but the
muscles of the face, remained unmoved.

Henrich had resolved to make an effort to prevent the threatened
tragedy, but he knew that the savages were jealous of their prero-
gative, and that if he could succeed at all, it would be only by the
utmost tact. To interfere with the deliberations of the council would
give the greatest offence, and diminish the chance of his subsequent
influence. He even resolved not to object to the execution of the
first part of the sentence which was more formidable in sound than
in reahty, and which never resulted fatally, to a man of the least
courage ; it was intended, indeed, rather as an intimidation than a
punishment, although it often resulted in severe and sometimes in
mortal wounds. A view of the athletic, compact, sinewy frame of
the Huron convinced him that the latter would come off nearly
unscathed from the ordeal, and the very fact of his being also
doomed to the stake would prevent a desire on the part of his cap-
tors to terminate his life in the first instance. It was of course with
great reluctance that Huntington resolved to behold the approaching
spectacle, but believing that the best interests of the piisoner required


such a course, lie determined to remain as yet a silent observer of

The scene which ensued may be briefly described. The Wap-
penos, men and women, and many of the larger children, armed
with knives, clubs, and sticks, of various kinds, ranged themselves in
two parallel rows, terminating at one end in fi-ont of a lodge, the
door of which stood open, and leaving between the lines a space of
about ten or twelve feet in width. All who chose were at liberty to
take a place in the ranks, and but few of the adults, excepting those
who were physically incapacitated, refused to avail themselves of the
privilege. There were indeed several squaws, who stood aloof, min-
gling, as spectators, with the children, and the principal chief also
remained inactive, occupying a convenient post of observation at one
end of the line. Henrich was offered a club, and invited to take
part in the performance, and but for the irrepressible signs of abhor-
rence wdth which he dechned, would doubtless have been impor-
tuned to comply.

TVhen everything w^as ready, the Huron was brought forward and
unbound, his eye, meanwdiile, running rapidly over the ranks, as if
estimating the danger and discovering the most perilous localities.
The task before him was to run through this alley, between these liring
walls, in such manner and with such speed as he chose, but through
he must go, and wdiile all his foes were privileged to inflict upon him
such blows as they could deal while he was passing, none was
permitted to stir out of his place in pursuit. No dexterity or feint
of the prisoner, and no manoiuvre, in the way of dodging or
doubling, were exceptionable ; his only task was to reach the oppo-
site end of the. line with as much impunity as possible.

The signal w^as given and the Huron started like an arrow from
the string. The first dozen of his foes struck only the empty air in
his path, and the clubs of the next whizzed idly above his head. He
was now stooping to the earth, and now bounding in the air, at one
breath on one side of the line, and the next on the other, twisting.


turning, gliding, crawling, and almost defpng the pursuit of the
eye, much more the hasty and ill-directed blows of his eager
enemies. About half way down the lane the ranks were chiefly
occupied by boys of from twelve to fifteen years, and having reached
this point with but little injury he paused a moment to take breath,
bearing meanwhile with little regard, the furious pummelhng of the
children. In the interval beyond, were some of the most vigorous
and expert of his enemies, including the vigilant Panther ; and
although, discerning their position at a glance, he started forward with
increased wariness and skill, it was not with a success equal to that
which had hitherto attended him. He received several severe con-
tusions, was once nearly stricken to the earth, and when he at length
reached the refuge lodge, was bleeding from a number of superficial

A httle noisy discussion next ensued among the Wappenos on
the subject of their respective successes and failures in their recent
pastime, which seemed to be regarded somewhat in the light in
which a game at cricket is viewed by the young men of civilized
life, after which active preparations were at once commenced for the
closing tragedy. Henrich drew curiously near to the Huron,
about whom the leaders of the savages had assembled, and
for the first time caught the eye of the prisoner, which, as it rested
for a moment upon his own, and then glanced hastily at the grow-
ing pyre without, had a mournful and appealing expression, sufficient
to counterbalance a thousand proofs of stoicism. The Indian clung
to life, he shrank from the awful change ; he quailed before the
instruments of torture. Young, active, and vigorous, he was but
yesterday free as the mountain air, free to traverse the boundless
forests, and glide over lake and river, with his light canoe, with
half a century's lease of life stretching in bright perspective before
liim— and now, he was a captive in his enemy's camp, listening to
the sound of whetted weapons, preparing for his own immolation,


and recalling to memory by word and cadence tlie death-song of
his tribe.

Stimulated by the silent appeal of the Huron, Huntington at once
began the work of intercession ; but it was only to meet with frigid
looks, and with answers of surprise and displeasure. The response,
indeed, w^as unanimous against clemency, and the Indians even mani-
fested impatience at an interruption, which delayed their anticipated
sport ; for, as Henrich became importunate, the w^ondering savages
had crowded around him, until, the work of preparation being tempo-
rarily abandoned, even the women and children had mingled with
the curious throng.

" The words are said !" exclaimed the senior chief, alluding to the
voice of the council ; " they are gone into the air, and cannot be
found again — the Huron must die !"

A general murmur of approval followed this decision, in which,
as Henrich observed vnth foreboding, even his friend, the Panther,
joined. He next tried to effect a ransom ; and although able'to give
but little which could gratify the cupidity of so many, he was carefrd
to offer such things as would appeal most to their peculiar w^ants :
his rifle, a dozen canisters of powder and half as many kegs of the
enticino^ fire-water were offered, and, strange to say, were all refused.
Henrich knew nothing more that he could do. The dialect of the
Wappenos, in which he had spoken, possessed sufhcient resemblance
to the language of the Hurons to be intelligible to the prisoner, as
was proved by the look of gratitude which the latter bestowed upon
his young friend ; but there was at the same time an expression of
hopelessness in his features, which showed that he understood better
than his advocate the character of the enemies with whom he had
to deal.

Among those who had pressed to the front of the throng, sifted,
as it were, through the interstices, wTre some half-clad children,
amonf^ whom, at this juncture, a sudden quarrel ensued, for the
possession of something which had been found on the arena


recently traversed by the flying Huron, and wliich at once attracted
general attention. As it passed from hand to hand among the
Indians, it soon took shape, to the eyes of the astonished Henrich, as
a sealed letter, bearing a superscription ; but how was his amaze-
ment increased, when at length obtaining possession of it in his turn,
he read the endorsement : " To Father Ledra, or the Misses Roselle,
in the city and province of New York." He remained gazing long
and steadfastly at the writing, marvelling what new and unrevealed
mystery, in regard to Blanche, was about to be evolved ; and on
again looking up he saw that the prisoner's eyes were fixed upon
him with an intelligent and steady gaze.

" Does it speak to you ?" asked the senior chief, who with his

Online LibraryP. Hamilton (Peter Hamilton) MyersThe King of the Hurons → online text (page 9 of 29)