G. P. R. James

The Black Eagle; or, Ticonderoga

Published by Good Press, 2019
EAN 4064066183592

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"Among the minor trials of faith, few, perhaps, are more difficult to contend against than that growing conviction, which, commencing very soon after the holiday happiness of youth has been first tasted, becomes stronger every year, as experience unfolds to us the great, dark secrets of the world in which we are placed--the conviction of the general worthlessness of our fellow-men. A few splendid exceptions, a few bright and glorious spirits, a few noble and generous hearts, are not sufficient to cheer and to brighten the bleak prospect of the world's unworthiness; and we can only reconcile to our minds the fact that this vast multitude of base, depraved, tricky, insincere, ungrateful beings, are the pride of God's works, the express images of his person, by a recurrence to the great fundamental doctrine of man's fallen state, and utter debasement from his original high condition, and by a painful submission to the gloomy and fearful announcement, that 'strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, and few there he that find it.'

"If man's general unworthiness be a trial of our faith and of our patience, the most poignant anguish of the torture is perhaps the keen conviction of his ingratitude and his injustice--not alone the ingratitude and injustice of individuals, but those of every great body--of every group--of so-called friends, of governments, of countries, of people. Vainly do we follow the course of honour and uprightness; vainly do we strive to benefit, to elevate, to ennoble our fellow-men; vainly do we labour to serve our party, or our cause, or our country. Neither honour, nor distinction, nor reward, follows our best efforts, even when successful, unless we possess the mean and contemptible adjuncts of personal interest, pushing impudence, crooked policy, vile subserviency, or the smile of fortune.

"Here am I, who for many arduous years laboured with zeal, such as few have felt, at sacrifices such as few have made, and with industry such as few have exerted, to benefit my kind and my country. That I did so, and with success, was admitted by all; even while others, starting in the career of life at the same time with myself, turned their course in the most opposite direction, pandered to vice, to folly, and even to crime, and trod a flowery and an easy way, with few of the difficulties and impediments that beset my path.

"And what has been the result? Even success has brought to me neither reward, nor honour, nor gratitude. On those who have neither so laboured, nor so striven, whose objects have been less worthy, whose efforts have been less great, recompenses and distinctions have fallen thick and fast--a government's patronage--a sovereign's favour--a people's applause. And I am an exile on a distant shore; unthought of, unrecompensed, unremembered."

He paused with the pen in his hand, and the bitter and corroding thoughts of the neglect he had endured still busy in his mind, spreading into a thousand new channels, and poisoning all the sources of happiness within him. An old newspaper lay on the table. Newspapers were scarce in those days, and it had reached him tardily. Some accidental traveller through the wilderness had brought it to him lately, and he had found therein fresh proofs of the forgetfulness of friends--fresh evidence of the truth of the old axiom, "out of sight out of mind."

The perusal of this journal had given rise to the dark view of his own fate, and of human nature which he had just put upon record. His was not, in truth, a complaining spirit. It was not his nature to repine or to murmur. He had a heart to endure much, and to struggle on against obstacles: to take even bright and happy views: to rely upon friendship, and trust in God. It was only when some fresh burden was cast upon the load of ingratitude and falsehood he had met with, that a momentary burst of indignation broke from him--that the roused and irritated spirit spoke aloud. He had been a good friend, faithful, and true, and zealous. He had been a kind master, looking upon all around him as brethren, seeking their welfare and their happiness often more than his own. He had been a good subject, honouring and loving his sovereign, and obedient to the laws. He had been a good patriot, advocating by pen and voice (without fear, and without favour) all those measures which, from his very inmost heart, he believed were for his country's welfare, and grudging neither time, nor exertion, nor labour, nor money, to support that party which he knew to be actuated by the same principles as himself.

But, with all this, no one had ever sought to serve him; no one had ever thought of recompensing him. Many a friend had proved false, and neglected the best opportunity of promoting his interests: many, who had fed upon his bounty, or shared his purse, had back-bitten him in private, or maligned him in the public prints; and, though there were a few noble and generous exceptions, was it wonderful that there should be some bitterness in his heart, as he sat there in a lowly dwelling, in the midst of the woods of America, striving to carve a fortune from the wilderness for himself and his two children?

Yet it was but for a moment that the gloom was suffered to remain--that the repining spirit held possession of him. Though his hair was very gray--rather with care than with age--body and mind were both active, and his heart was quite young. Sometimes he could hardly fancy himself anything but a boy; such was still his delight in the things which had delighted his early youth. Neither were trifles--matters of mere material comfort or discomfort--capable of annoying him in any shape. He trod upon all petty annoyances; trampled them beneath his feet. He had lived at ease, moved in refined society, enjoyed the conversation of the wise, the high, and the noble; had servants to whom he said, "Do this," and they did it. But the absence of all these things, in his present solitude, affected him very little; sometimes provoked a smile, yet rarely called forth a sigh. Not even solitude oppressed him; though his was that kind of solitude which is the most oppressive,--the want of congenial minds and congenial spirits. Notwithstanding he had no near neighbours, the presence of man was not altogether wanting, though it was not of that kind which makes society for a mind like his. There was the shrewd, keen trader with the Indians, the rough, uncultivated pioneer of man's advance into the wilds, and an occasional wanderer like himself, seeking some place of settlement upon the very verge of civilization; but even this last kind of adventurer had none of those refinements which, at first sight, seemed to render the recluse, who recorded the foregoing reflections, as unfit for his position as man could be. Thus, there were scarcely any whose thoughts could be linked with his thoughts by associations either in the past or the present; none in habits or manners upon a par with himself; none who in cultivation of mind or general education could pretend to be his companion. The forest shut him and his little household in from all the accessories which custom, intellect, and taste had rendered precious.

Still, this privation had not affected him so much as might have been expected. He had resources in himself. He had some books, some musical instruments, and materials for drawing. He had his children too. It was only the decay of hopes, the frustration of bright aspirations, a bitter sense of the world's ingratitude, unmerited neglect, and the vanity of confidence, that ever clouded his heart as we have seen it clouded in the words he wrote. Those words were written in a record kept of each day's thoughts and actions, a record most useful to every man, in all circumstances; but, above all, to the disappointed, and to the solitary. There, day by day, he can trace the progress he has made against fate and his own heart--how far he has enlisted spirits of thought upon his side against the desolating warfare of silent hours--how far he has triumphed over circumstances, and conquered repining. He can detect, too, how often he has weakly yielded, how far he has fallen back before the enemy--what the ground gained, what the ground lost--and can strengthen himself to better endeavour.

Strong resolution is a mighty thing, and he who sat there had come with many a determination which remained unshaken, but yet to be fulfilled. Part of every resolution is a dream; for no man can ever say, "I will do thus or thus," with certainty; and the things which frustrate purposes, and retard and deny fruition, are generally petty obstacles and small impediments. The pebbles in our path weary us, and make us foot-sore, more than the rocks, which only require a bold effort to surmount. He trod firmly and strongly, however, undiscouraged by all minor difficulties; and it was only the grievance and oppression of spirit that ever caused him to sit down in sadness, and pause in the struggle onward.

The house was a neat, though a lowly one. It bore traces of newness; for the bark on the trunks which supported the little veranda, had not yet mouldered away. Nevertheless, it was not built by his own hands; for when he came there, he had much to learn in the rougher arts of life. But with a carpenter, from a village some nine miles off, he had aided to raise the building, and directed the construction by his own taste. The result was satisfactory to him; and, what was more in his eyes, was satisfactory to the two whom he loved best--at least, so it seemed; although those who knew them, even not so well as he did, might have doubted, and yet loved them all the better.

There is one sort of hypocrisy, and only one, which is lovable, which is noble, and perhaps they practised it: certainly if they saw a defect in anything that had been done, they would not have admitted it even to their own hearts; for their father had done it: if they ever felt a want, they never confessed it in their inmost thoughts; for their father had provided all that his means allowed.

Love, even earthly love, has a saving grace in it that keeps many a heart from destruction; and if, when a fit of gloom or sadness came upon him, the father felt that it was wrong to repine at anything which Heaven's will inflicted, he felt it the more bitterly wrong when he remembered the blessing which two such children were, even under the most adverse fate. He laid down the pen, then, with a sigh; and, in that sigh, self-reproach had a share, as well as sorrow.

Hardly was the ink dry upon the paper, when the sound of a horse's feet was heard without, beating with a slow and measured pace upon a part of the narrow road where the rock had been uncovered. It was a sound seldom heard in that little, lonely house; and the master thereof hastily put by the book in which he had been writing, and asked himself, "What now?"


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The door of the house was open, and custom admitted every visitor freely, whatever was his errand. It was a strange state of society, in which men, though taught by daily experience that precaution was necessary, took none. They held themselves occasionally ready to repel open assault, which was rare, and neglected every safeguard against insidious attack, which was much more common. They were frank and free spirits in those olden times; and, though it be now the custom to sneer at the state of society, and the habits both of thought and action, in days long gone, methinks it might have been better, while we polished away the coarseness of our ancestors, and remedied some of the evils of their early state, to have striven hard to retain their higher and finer qualities, their generous confidence, and that expansiveness of heart which the world so seldom sees in an age of mere material conveniences.

The door stood open, and it was the custom of the few who visited that secluded spot, to enter without ceremony, and to search in any or every room in the house for some one of the inhabitants. But, on this occasion, the horse that came up the road stopped at the gate of the little fence, and the traveller, when he reached the door, after dismounting, knocked with his whip before he entered.

The master of the house rose and went to the door. He was somewhat impatient of ceremony in a place where ceremony had long ceased; and his thoughts had not been of a tranquillizing nature; but the aspect and demeanor of his visitor were not of a kind to nourish any angry feeling. The latter was a young and very handsome man, probably not more than thirty years of age, sinewy, and well formed in person, with a noble and commanding countenance, a broad, lofty brow, and a keen, but tranquil eye. His manner was courteous, but grave; and he said, without waiting to have his errand asked--

"I know not, sir, whether I shall intrude upon you too far in asking hospitality for the night; but the sun is going down, and I was told by a lad whom I met in the woods just now, that there is no other house for ten miles farther, and, to say the truth, I am very ignorant of the way."

"Come in," said the master of the cottage; "we never refuse to receive a visiter here; and, indeed, have sometimes to accommodate more than the house will well hold. We are alone, however, now, and you will not have to put up with the inconveniences which our guests are sometimes obliged to encounter. Stay, I will order your horse to be taken care of."

Thus saying, he advanced a step or two beyond the door, and called, in a loud voice, for some one whom he named Agrippa. He had to shout more than once, however, before a negro appeared, blind in one eye, and somewhat lame withal, but yet, apparently, both active and intelligent.

The necessary orders were soon given; and, in a minute after, the traveller was seated with his host in the little parlour of the cottage. The manner of the latter could not be called cordial, though it was polite and courteous. It spoke a man acquainted with other scenes and other habits, but not a lover of his race; not a social or a genial spirit. The feelings, the thoughts, the memories, which had been busy in his brain, if not in his heart, before the arrival of the stranger, had thrown a coldness over his manner, which was only rendered not repulsive by the suavity of his words.

The other seemed to feel this in some degree; and a certain stateliness appeared in his demeanor, which was not likely to warm his host into greater familiarity.

Suddenly, however, the chilly atmosphere of the room was warmed in a moment, and a chain of sympathy was established between the two, by the presence of youth. A boy of fifteen, and a girl a little more than a year older, entered with gay and sunshiny looks, and the cloud was dispelled in a moment.

"My daughter Edith--my son Walter," said the master of the house, addressing the stranger, as the two young people bounded in; and then he added, with a slight inclination of the head, "It was an ancient and honourable custom in Scotland, when that country was almost as uncivilized as this, and possessed all the uncivilized virtues, never to inquire the name of a guest; and therefore I cannot introduce you to my children; but, doubtless, they will soon acknowledge you as their nameless friend."

"I am a friend of one of them already," answered the stranger, holding out his hand to the lad. "This is the young gentleman who told me that I should find the only house within ten miles about this spot, and his father willing to receive me--though he did not say that I should find a gem in the wilderness, and a gentleman in these wild woods."

"It has been a foolish fancy, perhaps," said the master of the house, "to carry, almost into the midst of savage life, some remnants of civilization. We keep the portraits of dead friends--a lock of hair--a trinket--a garment of the loved and departed. The habits and the ornaments of another state of society are to me like those dead friends, and I love to have some of their relics near me."

"Oh, my dear father," said Edith, seating herself by him, and leaning her head upon his bosom, without timidity or restraint, "you could never do without them. I remember when we were coming hither, now three years ago, that you talked a great deal of the joys of free, unshackled, natural existence; but I knew quite well, even then, that you would not be content till you had subdued the rough things around you to a more refined state."

"What made you think so, Edith?" asked her father, looking down at her with a smile.

"Because you never could bear the parson of the parish drinking punch and smoking tobacco-pipes," answered the beautiful girl, with a laugh; "and I was quite sure that it was not more savage life you sought, but greater refinement."

"Oh, yes, my father," added the lad, "and you often said, when we were in England, that the red Indian had much more of the real gentleman in him than many a peer."

"Dreams, dreams!" ejaculated their father, with a melancholy smile; and then, turning to the stranger, he added, "you see, sir, how keenly our weaknesses are read even by children. But come, Edith, our friend must be hungry with his long ride; see and hasten the supper. Our habits are primeval here, sir, like our woods. We follow the sun to bed, and wake him in the morning."

"They are good habits," observed the stranger, "and such as I am accustomed to follow myself. But do not, I pray you, hasten your supper for me. I am anything but a slave of times and seasons. I can fast long and fare scantily, without inconvenience."

"And yet you are an Englishman," remarked the master of the house, gravely; "a soldier, or I mistake; a man of rank and station, I am sure; though all three would generally imply, as the world goes at this present time, a fondness for luxurious ease and an indulgence of all the appetites."

A slight flush came into his companion's cheek, and the other hastened to add,--

"Believe me, I meant nothing discourteous. I spoke of the Englishman, the soldier, and the man of rank and station, generally--not of yourself. I see it is far otherwise with you."

"You hit hard, my good friend," rejoined the stranger, "and there is some truth in what you say. But, perhaps, I have seen as many lands as you; and I boldly venture to pronounce that the fault is in the age, not in the nation, the profession, or the class. We will try to amend it. That is the best course; and, though individual effort can do but little, each separate man may improve several others; and thus onward to better things and better days."

As he spoke, he rose, walked thoughtfully to the window, and gazed out for a moment or two in silence; and then, turning round, he said, addressing his host's son--"How beautifully the setting sun shines down yonder glade in the forest, pouring, as it were, in a golden mist through the needle foliage of the pines! Runs there a road down there?"

The boy answered in the affirmative; and, drawing close to the stranger's side, pointed out to him by the undulations of the ground, and the gaps in the tree-tops, the wavy line that the road followed, down the side of the gentle hill on which the house stood, and up the opposite ascent. His description was peculiarly clear and accurate. He seemed to have marked every tree and stone and brook along the path; and where a by-way diverged, or where the road divided into two, he noted the marking object, saying--

"By a white oak and a great hemlock tree, there is a footpath to the left: at a clump of large cedars on the edge of the swamp the road forks out to the right and left, one branch leading eastward towards the river, and one out westward to the hunting-grounds."

The stranger seemed to listen to him with pleasure, often turning his eyes to the lad's face as he spoke, rather than to the landscape to which he pointed; and when he had done, he laid, his hand on his shoulder, saying--

"I wish I had such a guide as you, Walter, for my onward journey."

"Will it be far?" asked the youth.

"Good faith, I cannot well tell," answered the other. "It may be as far as Montreal, or even to Quebec, if I get not satisfaction soon."

"I could not guide you as far as that," replied the boy; "but I know every step towards the lakes, as well as an Indian."

"With whom he is very fond of consorting," said his father, with a smile.

But before the conversation could proceed, an elderly, respectable woman-servant entered the room, and announced that supper was on the table. Edith had not returned; but they found her in a large, oblong chamber, to which the master of the house led the way. There was a long table in the midst, and four wooden chairs arranged round one end, over which a snowy table-cloth was spread. The rest of the table was bare. But a number of other seats, and two or three benches, were in the room, while at equal distances on either side, touching the walls, lay several bear-skins and buffalo-skins, as if spread out for beds.

The eye of the stranger glanced over them as he entered; but his host replied to his thoughts with a smile, saying--

"We will lodge you somewhat better than that, sir. We have, just now, more than one room vacant; but you must know there is no such thing as privacy in this land, and when we have a visit from our Indian friends, those skins make them supremely happy. I often smile to think how a red man would feel in Holland sheets. I tried it once, but it did not succeed. He pulled the blankets off the bed, and slept upon the floor."

When the companions were seated at table the conversation turned to many subjects, general, of course; yet personally interesting to both the elder members of the party--at least, so it seemed from the eagerness with which they discussed them. The state of the colonies was spoken of; the state of England; the relation of the two to each other; and the dangers which were then apprehended from the encroaching spirit of the French, who were pushing forward posts on every point of their frontier, into territories undoubtedly British. No mention was ever made of even the probability of the separation of England from her North American colonies; for at that time the idea had never entered into the imagination of any, except some of those quiet students of the past, who sometimes derive, from the very dissimilar history of former days, a foresight regarding the future, which partakes of, without being wholly, intuition, and whose warnings, like Cassandra's, are always scoffed at till the time for remedial action is passed. The danger to the British possessions in North America seemed, to the eyes of almost all men, to lie in the power, the eager activity, and the grasping spirit of France; and the little cloud of dissatisfaction, no bigger than a man's hand, which hung upon the horizon of British interests in the transatlantic world, was little supposed to forebode the storm and the earthquake which should rend the colonies from the mother-country. Alas, for man's calculations, and for his foresight! How rarely, how very rarely, do they penetrate below the surface of the present or the future!

Both the host and his guest had travelled far, and had seen much. Both, also, had thought much; but experience was, of course, on the side of the elder. The other, however, had one advantage--he had seen the European countries of which they spoke, at a much later period than his companion; and many great changes had taken place, of which the latter had no personal knowledge. Thus, they viewed the state of society in the old world from different points, and, of course, held different opinions, especially regarding France. Nevertheless, the views of him who had not been in that land for many years were, upon the whole, more accurate than those of the other. He was a man of singular acuteness of perception, who judged less from broad and glittering surfaces than from small but fundamental facts; while the other, a man of action and quick intelligence, though clear and accurate in his perception of all with which he had immediately to do, judged it a waste of time to carry his thoughts far into the future, over which he could have no control. Somewhat dazzled by the military display, and, apparently, well-cemented power of government which he had beheld in France just before he quitted Europe, he entertained great apprehensions regarding her progress in America, and expressed them.

"I entertain but little fear," replied the other, "and will never remove a steer from my stall till I see the French at my door. They may advance for some short distance, and for some short time, but they will be forced to recoil."

"God grant it!" ejaculated the guest; "but more energetic measures must be taken to repel them than have been hitherto employed. The French force at this time in Canada, I am assured, outnumbers, by many thousands, the whole disposable forces of our colonies. They are of a different material, too, from our armies, and officered by very different men. The Frenchman accommodates himself better to circumstances than the Englishman; is as brave, though less persevering; is more agile, though less vigorous. The French troops here, too, are accustomed to the march through the forest, and the skirmish in the wood; and their officers know far better than ours how to carry on their operations with, or against, the Indians. We are too rigid in our notions of discipline, too pedantic in our system of tactics. In one set of circumstances, we follow the rules that are only applicable to another; and in planning our operations, though we may consider the local features of the country, and the force opposed to us, we refuse to take into calculation the character and habits of our enemy. We may be victorious in the end, and I trust in God that we shall; but depend upon it, my good sir, we require, and shall have, probably more than one good drubbing, before we learn our lesson completely. Now, we cannot afford many drubbings, for our small island cannot afford many men. Already, to contend with the enemies we have in Europe, we have to subsidize fifty thousand foreigners, a practice much to be deprecated, and which I should be sorry to see introduced here; for though, by blood, not wholly English, I know that the intrinsic value of the British soldier is superior to that of any other on the face of the earth. We cannot, however, supply this country with reinforcements to meet many checks; while France, from her much larger population, can pour a continuous stream of troops into her colonies."

"Not for long," answered his host. "The fabric of her power is undermined at the foundation; the base is rotten; and the building, though imposing without, is crumbling to decay. It is well, however, to see as you do the utmost extent of a danger--perhaps, even to overestimate it, in order to meet it the more vigorously. Depend upon it, however, the present state of things in France is not destined for long duration. I judge not by the feebleness she has shown of late years in many most important efforts. Beset as she is by enemies, and enemies close at her gates, distant endeavours may well be paralyzed without there being any real diminution of her power. But I judge from what I myself saw in that country a good many years ago. The people--the energetic, active, though volatile people, in whom lies her real strength--were everywhere oppressed and suffering. Misery might drive them into her armies, and give them the courage of despair; but, at the same time, it severed all ties between them and those above them--substituted contempt and hatred for love and reverence, in the case of the nobility, and fear, doubt, and an inclination to resist, for affection, confidence, and obedience, towards the throne. Corruption, spreading through every class of society, could only appear more disgusting when clad in the robes of royalty, or tricked out in the frippery of aristocracy; and nations speedily learn to resist powers which they have ceased to respect. A state of society cannot long endure, in which, on the one side, boundless luxury, gross depravity, and empty frivolity, in a comparatively small body, and grinding want, fierce passions, and eager, unsated desires on the other side, are brought into close contiguity, without one moral principle, or one religious light--where there is nothing but the darkness of superstition, or the deeper darkness of infidelity. Ere many years have passed, the crown of France will have need of all her troops at home."

The stranger mused much upon his companion's words, and seemed to feel that they were prophetical. The same, or very nearly the same, were written by another; but they were not given to the world for several years after, on the eve of the great catastrophe; and in the year one thousand seven hundred and fifty-seven, few seemed to dream that the power of France could ever be shaken, except by an external enemy. Men ate, and drank, and danced, and sang, in the Parisian capital, as gaily as they did in the palace of Sardanapalus, with as great a fall at hand.

The conversation then assumed a lighter tone. Each asked the other of his travels, and commented on many objects of interest which both had seen on the broad high-ways of the world. Both were men of thought, according to their several characters--both men of taste and refinement; and the two young people, who had sat silent, listening to their graver discourse, now joined in, from time to time, with happy freedom and unchecked ease. Their father's presence was no restraint upon them; for, in all that they had known of life, he had been their companion and their friend--the one to whom their hearts had been ever opened--the one chiefly reverenced from love. The stranger, too, though he was grave, was in no degree stern, and there was something winning even in his very gravity. He listened, too, when they spoke--heard the brief comment--answered the eager question; and a kindly smile would, ever and anon, pass over his lip, at the strange mixture of refinement and simplicity which he found in those two young beings, who passed many a month of every year without seeing any one, except the wild Indians of the friendly tribes surrounding them, or an occasional trader wending his way, with his wares, up the stream of the Mohawk.

More than an hour was beguiled at the table--a longer period than ordinary--and then the bright purple hues, which spread over the eastern wall of the room, opposite to the windows, told that the autumnal sun had reached the horizon. The master of the house rose to lead the way into the other room again; but ere he moved from the table, an additional figure was added to the group around it, though the foot was so noiseless that no one heard its first entrance into the chamber.

The person who had joined the little party was a man of the middle age, of a tall, commanding figure, upright and dignified carriage, and fine, but somewhat strongly-marked, features. The expression of his countenance was grave and noble; but there was a certain strangeness in it--a touch of wildness perhaps I might call it--very difficult to define.

It was not in the eyes; for they were good, calm, and steadfast, gazing straight at any object of contemplation, and fixed full upon the face of any one he addressed. It was not in the lips; for, except when speaking, they were firm and motionless. Perhaps it was in the eyebrow, which, thick and strongly marked, was, every now and then, suddenly raised or depressed, without any apparent cause.

His dress was very strange. He was evidently of European blood, although his skin was embrowned by much exposure to sun and weather. Yet he wore not altogether either the European costume, the garb of the American back-woodsman, or that of the Indian. There was a mixture of all, which gave him a wild and fantastic appearance. His coat was evidently English, and had stripes of gold lace upon the shoulders; his knee-breeches and high riding-boots would have looked English also, had not the latter being destitute of soles, properly so called; for they were made somewhat like a stocking, and the part beneath the foot was of the same leather as the rest. Over his shoulder was a belt of rattlesnake skin, and round his waist a sort of girdle, formed from the claws of the bear, from which depended a string of wampum, while two or three knives and a small tomahawk appeared on either side. No other weapon had he whatever. But under his left arm hung a common powder-flask, made of cow's horn, and, beside it, a sort of wallet, such as the trappers commonly used for carrying their little store of Indian corn. A round fur cap, of bear-skin, without any ornament whatever, completed his habiliments.

It would seem that in that house he was well known; for its master instantly held forth his hand to him, and the young people sprang forward and greeted him warmly. A full minute elapsed before he spoke; but nobody uttered a word till he did so, all seeming to understand his habits.

"Well, Mr. Prevost," he said, at length, "I have been a stranger to your wigwam for some time. How art thou, Walter? Not a man yet, in spite of all thou canst do. Edith, my sweet lady, time deals differently with thee from thy brother. He makes thee a woman against thy will." Then, turning suddenly to the stranger, he said, "Sir, I am glad to see you; were you ever at Kielmansegge?"

"Once," replied the stranger, laconically.

"Then we will confer presently," observed the new comer. "How have you been this many a day, Mr. Prevost? You must give me food; for I have ridden far--I will have that bear-skin, too, for my night's lodging place, if it be not pre-engaged. No, not that one; the next. I have told Agrippa to see to my horse, for I ever count upon your courtesy."

There was something extremely stately and dignified in his whole tone, and, with frank straightforwardness, but without any indecorous haste, he seated himself at the table, drew towards him a large dish of cold meat, and, while Edith and her brother hastened to supply him with everything else he needed, proceeded to help himself liberally to whatever was within his reach. Not a word more did he speak for several minutes, while Mr. Prevost and his guest stood looking on in silence, and the two young people attended the new comer at the table.

As soon as he had done, he rose abruptly, and then, looking first to Mr. Prevost, and next to the stranger, said--

"Now, gentlemen, if you please, we will to council."

The stranger hesitated; and Mr. Prevost answered, with a smile--

"I am not of the initiated, Sir William, so I and the children will leave you with my guest, whom you seem to know, but of whose name and station I am ignorant."

"Stay, stay," interposed the other, to whom he spoke, "we shall need not only your advice but your concurrence. This gentleman, my lord, I will answer for, as a faithful and loyal subject of his Majesty King George. He has been treated with that hardest of all hard treatment--neglect. But his is a spirit in which not even neglect can drown out loyalty to his king and love to his country. Moreover, I may say, that the neglect which he has met with has proceeded from a deficiency in his own nature. God, unfortunately, did not make him a grumbler, or he would have been a peer long ago. The Almighty endowed him with all the qualities that could benefit his fellow-creatures, but denied him those which were necessary to advance himself. Others have wondered that he never met with honours, or distinction, or reward. I wonder not at all; for he is neither a charlatan, nor a coxcomb, nor a pertinacious beggar. He cannot stoop to slabber the hand of power, nor lick the spittle of the man in office. How can such a man have advancement? It is contrary to the course of the things of this world. But as he has loved his fellow-men, so will he love them. As he has served his country, so will he serve it. As he has sought honour and truth more than promotion, honour and truth will be his reward. Alas, that it should be the only one! But when he dies, if he dies unrecompensed, it will not be unregretted or unvenerated. He must be of our council."

Mr. Prevost had stood by in silence, with his eyes bent upon the ground, and, perhaps, some self-reproach at his heart for the bitter words that he had written only a few hours before. But Edith sprang forward, and caught Sir William Johnson's hand, as he ended the praises of her father; and, bending her head with exquisite grace, pressed her lips upon it. Her brother seemed inclined to linger for a moment; but saying, "Come, Walter," she glided out of the room, and the young lad, following, closed the door behind him.


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"Who can he be?" said Walter Prevost, when they had reached the little sitting-room. "Sir William called him 'my lord.'"

Edith smiled at her brother's curiosity. Oh, how much older women always are than men!

"Lords are small things here, Walter," she said, gazing forth from the window at the stately old trees within sight of the house, which for her, as for all expanding minds, had their homily. Age--hackneyed age--reads few lessons. It ponders those long received, subtilizes, refines, combines. Youth has a lesson in every external thing; but, alas! soon forgets the greater part of all.

"I do not think that lords are small things anywhere," answered her brother, who had not imbibed any of the republican spirit which was even then silently creeping over the American people. "Lords are made by kings for great deeds, or great virtues."

"Then they are lords of their own making," retorted Edith; "kings only seal the patent nature has bestowed. That great red oak, Walter, was growing before the family of any man now living was ennobled by the hand of royalty."

"Pooh, nonsense, Edith!" ejaculated her brother; "you are indulging in one of your day-dreams. What has that oak to do with nobility?"

"I hardly know," replied his sister; "yet something linked them together in my mind. It seemed as if the oak asked me, 'What is their antiquity to mine?' and yet the antiquity of their families is their greatest claim to our reverence."

"No, no!" cried Walter Prevost, eagerly; "their antiquity is nothing, for we are all of as ancient a family as they are. But it is that they can show a line from generation to generation, displaying some high qualities, ennobled by some great acts. Granted that here or there a sluggard, a coward, or a fool, may have intervened, or that the acts which have won praise in other days may not be reverenced now; yet I have often heard my father say, that, in looking back through records of noble houses, we shall find a sum of deeds and qualities suited to, and honoured by, succeeding ages, which, tried by the standard of the times of the men, shows that hereditary nobility is not merely an honour won by a worthy father for unworthy children, but a bond to great endeavours, signed by a noble ancestor, on behalf of all his descendants. Edith, you are not saying what you think."

"Perhaps not," answered Edith, with a quiet smile; "but let us have some lights, Walter, for I am well-nigh in darkness."

They were not ordinary children. I do not intend to represent them as such. But he who says that what is not ordinary is not natural, may, probably, be an ass. How they had become what they were is another question; but that is easily explained. First--Nature had not made them of her common clay; for, notwithstanding all bold assertions of that great and fatal falsehood, that all men are born equal, such is not the case. No two men are ever born equal. No two leaves are alike upon a tree, and there is a still greater dissimilarity--a still greater inequality--between the gifts and endowments of different men. God makes them unequal. God raises the one, and depresses the other, ay, from the very birth, in the scale of his creation; and man, by one mode or another, in every state of society, and in every land, recognizes the difference, and assigns the rank. Nature, then, had not made those two young people of her common clay. Their father was no common man; their mother had been one in whom mind and heart, thought and feeling, had been so nicely balanced, that emotion always found a guide in judgment. But this was not all. The one child up to the age of thirteen, the other until twelve, had been trained and instructed with the utmost care. Every advantage of education had been lavished upon them, and every natural talent they possessed had been developed, cultivated, directed. They had been taught from mere childhood to think, as well as to know; to use, as well as to receive, information. Then had come a break--the sad, jarring break in the sweet chain of the golden hours of youth--a mother's death. Till then their father had borne much from the world and from society unflinching. But then his stay and his support were gone. Visions became realities for him. What wonder if, when the light of his home had gone out, his mental sight became somewhat dim, the objects around him indistinct? He gathered together all he had, and migrated to a distant land, where small means might be considered great, and where long-nourished theories of life might be tried by the test of experience.

To his children, the change was but a new phase of education--one not often tried, but not without its uses. If their new house was not completely a solitude, it was very nearly so. Morally and physically they were thrown nearly upon their own resources. But previous training had made those resources many. Mentally, at least, they brought a great capital into the wilderness, and they found means to employ it. Everything around them, in its newness and its freshness, had a lesson and a moral. The trees, the flowers, the streams, the birds, the insects, the new efforts, the new labours, the very wants and deficiencies of their present state--all taught them something. Had they been born amidst such things; had they been brought up in such habits; had their previous training been at all of the same kind; or, even had the change been as great as it might have been; had they been left totally destitute of comforts, conveniences, attendance, books, companionships, objects of art and taste, to live the life of the savage,--the result might have been--must have been--very different. But there was enough left of the past to link it beneficially to the present. They brought all the materials with them from their old world for opening out the rich mines of the new. It is not to be wondered at, then, if they were no ordinary children; and if, at fifteen and sixteen, they reasoned and thought of things, and in modes, not often dealt with by the young. I say, not often; because, even under other circumstances, and with no such apparent causes, we see occasional instances of beings like themselves.

They were, then, no ordinary children, but yet quite natural.

The influences which surrounded them had acted differently, of course, on the boy and on the girl. He had learned to act as well as think: she to meditate as well as act. He had acquired the strength, the foot, the ear, the eye of the Indian. She, too, had gained much in activity and hardihood; but in the dim glades, and on the flower-covered banks, by the side of the rushing stream, or hanging over the roaring cataract, she had learned to give way to long and silent reveries, dealing both with the things of her own heart and the things of the wide world; comparing the present with the past, the solitude with society, meditating upon life and its many phases, and yielding herself, while the silent majesty of the scene seemed to sink into her soul, to what her brother was wont to call her "day-dreams."

I have said that she dealt with the things of her own heart. Let me not be misunderstood: the things of that heart were very simple. They had never been complicated with even a thought of love. Her own fate, her own history, her soul in its relation to God and to His creation, the sweet and bright emotions produced within her by all things beautiful in art or nature, the thrill excited by a lovely scene or a dulcet melody, the trance-like pleasure of watching the clear stream waving the many-coloured pebbles of its bed, these, and such as these, were the things of the heart I spoke of; and on them she would dwell and ponder, asking herself what they were, whence they came, how they arose, whither they tended. It was the music, the poetry, of her own nature, in all its strains, which she sought to search into; but the sweetest, though sometimes the saddest, of the harmonies in woman's heart was yet wanting.

She had read of love, it is true; she had heard it spoken of, but, with a timidity not rare in the most sensitive minds, she had excluded it even from her day-dreams. She knew that there was such a thing as passion: she might be conscious that it was latent in her own nature; but she tried not to seek it out. To her it was an abstraction. Psyche had not held the lamp to Eros.

So much it was needful to say of the two young Prevosts before we went onward with our tale; and now, as far as they were concerned, the events of that day were near their close. Lights were brought, and Walter and his sister sat down to muse over books--I can hardly say read--till their father re-appeared; for the evening prayer and the parting kiss had never been omitted in their solitude ere they lay down to rest.

The conference in the hall, however, was long, and more than an hour elapsed before the three gentlemen entered the room. Then a few minutes were passed in quiet conversation, and then, all standing round the table, Mr. Prevost raised his voice, saying,

"Protect us, O Father Almighty! in the hours of darkness and unconsciousness. Give us Thy blessing of sleep, to refresh our minds and bodies; and, if it be Thy will, let us wake again to serve and praise Thee through another day more perfectly than in the days past, for Christ's sake."

The Lord's Prayer succeeded; and then they separated to their rest.


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Before daylight in the morning, Sir William Johnson was on foot, and in the stable. Some three or four negro-slaves--for there were slaves then on all parts of the American continent--lay sleeping soundly in a small sort of barrack hard by; and, as soon as one of them could be roused, Sir William's horse was saddled, and he rode away, without pausing to eat, or to say farewell. He bent his course direct towards the Mohawk, flowing at some twenty miles' distance from the cottage of Mr. Prevost.

Before Sir William had been five minutes in the saddle, he was in the midst of the deep woods which surrounded the little well-cultivated spot where the English wanderer had settled. It was a wild and rather gloomy scene into which he plunged; for, though something like a regular road had been cut, along which carts as well as horses could travel, yet that road was narrow, and the branches nearly met overhead.

In some places the underwood, nourished by a moist and marshy soil, was too thick and tangled to be penetrated either by foot or eye. In others, where the path ascended to higher grounds, or passed amongst the hard dry rocks, the aspect of the forest changed. Pine after pine, with now and then an oak, a chestnut, or a locust-tree, covered the face of the country, with hardly a shrub upon the ground below, which was carpeted with the brown slippery needles of the resinous trees; and between the huge trunks poured the grey, mysterious light of the early dawn, while a thin, whitish vapour hung amongst the boughs overhead.

About a mile from the house, a bright and beautiful stream crossed the road, flowing on towards the greater river; but bridge there was none, and, in the middle of the stream, Sir William suffered his horse to stop, and bend its head to drink. He gazed to the westward, but all there was dark and gloomy under the thick overhanging branches. He turned his eyes to the eastward, where the ground was more open, and the stream could be seen flowing on for nearly half a mile, with little cascades, and dancing rapids, and calm lapses of bright, glistening water, tinted with a rosy hue, where the morning sky gleamed down upon it through some break in the forest canopy.

While thus gazing, his eye rested on a figure standing in the midst of the stream, with rod in hand, and the back turned towards him. He thought he saw another figure also amongst the trees upon the bank; but it was shadowy there, and the form seemed shadowy too.