MoboReader> Literature > The Chainbearer; Or, The Littlepage Manuscripts

   Chapter 21 No.21

The Chainbearer; Or, The Littlepage Manuscripts By James Fenimore Cooper Characters: 33671

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03

"Was she not all my fondest wish could frame?

Did ever mind so much of heaven partake?

Did she not love me with the purest flame?

And give up friends and fortune for my sake?

Though mild as evening skies,

With downcast, streaming eyes,

Stood the stern frown of supercilious brows,

Deaf to their brutal threats, and faithful to her vows."


* * *

Dus was then near me-in sight of the storehouse, perhaps! But affection for her uncle, and no interest in me, had brought her there. I could respect her attachment to her old guardian, however, and admire the decision and spirit she had manifested in his behalf, at the very moment the consciousness that I had no influence on her movements was the most profound.

"T'e gal woult come, Mortaunt," the Chainbearer continued, after having gone through his narrative; "ant, if you know Dus, you know when she loves she wilt not be deniet. Got pless me! what a wife she woult make for a man who wast desarfin' of her! Oh! here's a pit of a note t'e dear creature has written to one of T'ousandacres' poys, who hast peen out among us often, t'ough I never so much as dreamet t'at t'e squatting olt rascal of a fat'er was on our lant, here. Well, Zepaniah, as t'e lat is callet, hast passet much time at t'e Nest, working apout in t'e fielts, and sometimes for us; and, to own the trut' to you, Mortaunt, I do pelieve t'e young chap hast a hankerin' a'ter Dus, and woult pe glat enough to get t'e gal for a wife."

"He! Zephaniah Thousandacres-or whatever his infernal name may be-he a hankering or an attachment for Ursula Malbone-he think of her for a wife-he presume to love such a perfect being!"

"Hoity, toity," cried old Andries, looking round at me in surprise, "why shouldn't t'e poy haf his feelin's ast well ast anot'er, if he pe a squatter? Squatters haf feelin's, t'ough t'ey hafn't much honesty to poast of. Ant, ast for honesty, you see, Mortaunt, it is tifferent petween T'ousantacres and his poys. T'e lats haf peen prought up to fancy t'ere ist no great harm in lif'ing on anot'er man's lants, whereast t'is olt rascal, t'eir fat'er, wast prought up, or t'inks he wast prought up in t'e very sanctum sanctorum of gotliness among t'e Puritans, and t'at t'e 'art' hast not t'eir equals in religion, I'll warrant you. Ask olt Aaron apout his soul, and he'll tell you t'at it's a petter soul t'an a Dutch soul, and t'at it won't purn at all, it's so free from eart'. Yes, yes-t'at ist t'e itee wit' 'em all in his part of t'e worlt. T'eir gotliness ist so pure even sin wilt do it no great harm."

I knew the provincial prejudices of Chainbearer too well to permit myself to fall into a discussion on theology with him, just at that moment; though I must do the old man the justice to allow that his opinion of the self-righteousness of the children of the Puritans was not absolutely without some apology. I never had any means of ascertaining the fact, but it would have occasioned me no surprise had I discovered that Thousandacres, and all his brood, looked down on us New Yorkers as an especially fallen and sinful race, which was on the high road to perdition, though encouraged and invited to enter on a different road by the spectacle of a chosen people so near them, following the straight and narrow path that leads to heaven. This mingling of God and Mammon is by no means an uncommon thing among us, though the squatters would probably have admitted themselves that they had fallen a little away, and were by no means as good as their forefathers had once been. There is nothing that sticks so close to an individual, or to a community, as the sense of its own worth. As "coming events cast their shadows before," this sentiment leaves its shadows behind, long after the substance which may have produced them has moved onward, or been resolved into the gases. But I must return to Zephaniah and the note.

"And you tell me, Chainbearer, that Ursula has actually written a note, a letter, to this young man?" I asked, as soon as I could muster resolution enough to put so revolting a question?

"Sartain; here it ist, ant a very pretty lookin' letter it is, Mortaunt. Dus does everyt'ing so hantily, ant so like a nice young woman, t'at it ist a pleasure to carry one of her letters. Ay-t'ere t'e lat ist now, and I'll just call him, and gif him his own."

Chainbearer was as good as his word, and Zephaniah soon stood at the door of the storehouse.

"Well, you wilt own, Zeph," continued the old man, "we didn't cage you like a wilt peast, or a rogue t'at hast been mettlin' wit' what tidn't pelong to him, when you wast out among us. T'ere is t'at difference in t'e treatment-put no matter! Here ist a letter for you, and much goot may it do you! It comes from one who vilt gif goot atvice; and you'll be none the worse if you follow it. I don't know a wort t'at's in it, put you'll fint it a goot letter, I'll answer for it. Dus writes peautiful letters, and in a hand almost as plain and hantsome as his excellency's, t'ough not quite so large. Put her own hant is'nt as large as his excellency's, t'ough his excellency's hant was'nt particularly pig neit'er."

I could scarcely believe my senses! Here was Ursula Malbone confessedly writing a letter to a son of Thousandacres, the squatter, and that son admitted to be her admirer! Devoured by jealousy, and a thousand feelings to which I had hitherto been a stranger, I gazed at the fortunate being who was so strangely honored by this communication from Dus, with the bitterest envy. Although, to own the truth, the young squatter was a well-grown, good-looking fellow, to me he seemed to be the very personification of coarseness and vulgarity. It will readily be supposed that Zephaniah was not entirely free from some very just imputations of the latter character; but on the whole, most girls of his own class in life would be quite content with him in these respects. But Ursula Malbone was not at all of his own class in life. However reduced in fortune, she was a lady, by education as well as by birth; and what feelings could there possibly be in common between her and her strange admirer? I had heard it said that women were as often taken by externals as men; but in this instance the externals were coarse, and nothing extraordinary. Some females, too, could not exist without admiration; and I had known Dus but a few weeks, after all, and it was possible I had not penetrated the secret of her true character. Then her original education had been in the forest; and we often return to our first loves, in these particulars, with a zest and devotion for which there is no accounting. It was possible this strange girl might have portrayed to her imagination, in the vista of the future, more of happiness and wild enjoyment among the woods and ravines of stolen clearings, than by dwelling amid the haunts of men. In short, there was scarce a conceit that did not crowd on my brain, in that moment of intense jealousy and profound unhappiness. I was as miserable as a dog.

As for Zephaniah, the favored youth of Ursula Malbone, he received his letter, as I fancied, with an awkward surprise, and lounged round the corner of the building, to have the pleasure, as it might be, of reading it to himself. This brought him nearer to my position; for I had withdrawn, in a disgust I could not conquer, from being near the scene that had just been enacted.

Opening a letter, though it had been folded by the delicate hands of Ursula Malbone, and reading it, were two very different operations, as Zephaniah now discovered. The education of the young man was very limited, and after an effort or two, he found it impossible to get on. With the letter open in his hand, he found it as much a sealed book to him as ever. Zephaniah could read writing, by dint of a considerable deal of spelling; but it must not be a good hand. As some persons cannot comprehend pure English, so he found far more difficulty in spelling out the pretty, even characters before him, than would have been the case had he been set at work on the pot-hooks and trammels of one of his own sisters. Glancing his eyes around in quest of aid, they happened to fall on mine, which were watching his movements with the vigilance of a feline animal, through the chinks of the logs, and at the distance of only three feet from his own face. As for the Indian, he, seemingly, took no more note of what was passing, than lovers take of time in a stolen interview; though I had subsequently reason to believe that nothing had escaped his observation. Andries was in a distant part of the prison, reconnoitring the clearing and mills with an interest that absorbed all his attention for the moment. Of these facts Zephaniah assured himself by taking a look through the openings of the logs; then, sidling along nearer to me, he said in a low voice-

"I don't know how it is, but to tell you the truth, Major Littlepage, York larnin' and Varmount larnin' be so different, that I don't find it quite as easy to read this letter as I could wish."

On this hint I seized the epistle, and began to read it in a low tone; for Zephaniah asked this much of me, with a delicacy of feeling that, in so far, was to his credit. As the reader may have some of the curiosity I felt myself, to know what Ursula Malbone could possibly have to say in this form to Zephaniah Thousandacres, I shall give the contents of this strange epistle in full. It was duly directed to "Mr. Zephaniah Timberman, Mooseridge," and in that respect would have passed for any common communication. Within, it read as follows:-


"As you have often professed a strong regard for me, I now put you to the proof of the sincerity of your protestations. My dear uncle goes to your father, whom I only know by report, to demand the release of Major Littlepage, who, we hear, is a prisoner in the hands of your family, against all law and right. As it is possible the business of uncle Chainbearer will be disagreeable to Thousandacres, and that warm words may pass between them, I ask of your friendship some efforts to keep the peace; and, particularly, should anything happen to prevent my uncle from returning, that you would come to me in the woods-for I shall accompany the Chainbearer to the edge of your clearing-and let me know it. You will find me there, attended by one of the blacks, and we can easily meet if you cross the fields in an eastern direction, as I will send the negro to find you and to bring you to me.

"In addition to what I have said above, Zephaniah, let me also earnestly ask your care in behalf of Major Littlepage. Should any evil befall that gentleman, it would prove the undoing of your whole family! The law has a long arm, and it will reach into the wilderness, as well as into a settlement. The person of a human being is a very different thing from a few acres of timber, and General Littlepage will think far more of his noble son than he will think of all the logs that have been cut and floated away. Again and again, therefore, I earnestly entreat of you to befriend this gentleman, not only as you hope for my respect, but as you hope for your own peace of mind. I have had some connection with the circumstances that threw Mr. Littlepage into your hands, and shall never know a happy moment again should anything serious befall him. Remember this, Zephaniah, and let it influence your own conduct. I owe it to myself and to you to add, that the answer I gave you at Ravensnest, the evening of the raising, must remain my answer, now and forever; but, if you have really the regard for me that you then professed, you will do all you can to serve Major Littlepage, who is an old friend of my uncle's and whose safety, owing to circumstances that you would fully understand were they told to you, is absolutely necessary to my future peace of mind.

"Your friend,

"Ursula Malbone."

What a strange girl was this Dus! I suppose it as unnecessary to say that I felt profoundly ashamed of my late jealousy, which now seemed just as absurd and unreasonable as, a moment before, it seemed justified and plausible. God protect the wretch who is the victim of that evil-eyed passion! He who is jealous of circumstances, in the ordinary transactions of life, usually makes a fool of himself, by seeing a thousand facts that exist in his own brain only; but he whose jealousy is goaded on by love, must be something more than human, not to let the devils get a firm grasp of his soul. I can give no better illustration of the weakness that this last passion induces, however, than the admission I have just made, that I believed it possible Ursula Malbone could love Zephaniah Thousandacres, or whatever might be his real name. I have since pulled at my own hair, in rage at my own folly, as that moment of weakness has recurred to my mind.

"She writes a desp'rate letter!" exclaimed the young squatter, stretching his large frame, like one who had lost command of his movements through excitement. "I don't believe, major, the like of that gal is to be found in York, taken as State or colony! I've a dreadful likin' for her!"

It was impossible not to smile at this outpouring of attachment; nor, on the whole, would I have been surprised at the ambition it inferred, had the youth been but a very little higher in the social scale. Out of the large towns, and with here and there an exception in favor of an isolated family, there is not, even to this day, much distinction in classes among our eastern brethren. The great equality of condition and education that prevails, as a rule, throughout all the rural population of New England, while it has done so much for the great body of their people, has had its inevitable consequences in lowering the standard of cultivation among the few, both as it is applied to acquirements, and to the peculiar notions of castes; and nothing is more common in that part of the world, than to hear of marriages that elsewhere would have been thought incongruous, for the simple reason of the difference in ordinary habits and sentiments between the parties. Thus it was, that Zephaniah, without doing as much violence to his own, as would be done to our notions of the fitness of things, might aspire to the hand of Ursula Malbone; unattended, as she certainly was, by any of the outward and more vulgar signs of her real character. I could not but feel some respect for the young man's taste, therefore, and this so much the more readily, because I no longer was haunted by the very silly phantom of his possible success.

"Having this regard for Dus," I said, "I hope I may count on your following her directions."

"What way can I sarve you, major? I do vow, I've every wish to do as Ursula asks of me, if I only know'd how."

"You can undo the fastenings of our prison, here, and let us go at once into the woods, where we shall be safe enough against a recapture, depend on it. Do us that favor, and I will give you fifty acres of land, on which you can settle down and become an honest man. Remember, it will be something honorable to own fifty acres of good land, in fee."

Zephaniah pondered on my tempting offer, and I could see that he wavered in opinion, but the decision was adverse to my wishes. He shook his head, looked round wistfully at the woods where he supposed Dus then to be, possibly watching his very movements, but he would not yield.

"If a father can't trust his own son, who can he trust, in natur'?" demanded the young squatter.

"No one should be aided in doing wrong, and your father has no just right to shut up us three, in this building, as he has done. The deed is against the law, and to the law, sooner or later, will he be made to give an account of it."

"Oh! as for the law, he cares little for that. We've been ag'in law all over lives, and the law is ag'in us. When a body comes to take the chance of jurors, and witnesses, and lawyers, and poor attorney-gin'rals, and careless prosecutors, law's no great matter to stand out ag'in in this country. I s'pose there is countries in which law counts for suthin'; but hereabouts, and all through Varmount, we don't kear much for the law, unless it's a matter between man and man, and t'other side holds out for his rights, bull-dog fashion. Then, I allow, its suthin' to have the law on your side; but it's no great matter in a trespass case."

"This may not end in a trespass case, however. Your father-by the way, is Thousandacres much hurt?"

"Not much to speak on," coolly answered the son, still gazing in the direction of the woods. "A little stunned, but he's gettin' over it fast, and he's used to sich rubs. Father's desp'rate solid about the head, and can stand as much sledgehammering there, as any man I ev

er seed. Tobit's tough, too, in that part; and he's need of it, for he's forever getting licks around the forehead and eyes."

"And, as your father comes to, what seems to be his disposition toward us?"

"Nothin' to speak on, in the way of friendship, I can tell you! The old man's considerable riled; and when that's the case, he'll have his own way for all the governors and judges in the land!"

"Do you suppose he meditates any serious harm to his prisoners?"

"A man doesn't meditate a great deal, I guess, with such a rap on the skull. He feels a plaguy sight more than he thinks; and when the feelin's is up, it doesn't matter much who's right and who's wrong. The great difficulty in your matter is how to settle about the lumber that's in the creek. The water's low; and the most that can be done with it, afore November, will to be float it down to the next rift, over which it can never go, with any safety, without more water. It's risky to keep one like you, and to keep Chainbearer, too, three or four months, in jail like; and it wunt do to let you go neither, sin' you'd soon have the law a'ter us. If we keep you, too, there'll be a s'arch made, and a reward offered. Now a good many of your tenants know of this clearin', and human natur' can't hold out ag'in a reward. The old man knows that well; and it's what he's most afeared on. We can stand up ag'in almost anything better than ag'in a good, smart reward."

I was amused as well as edified with Zephaniah's simplicity and frankness, and would willingly have pursued the discourse, had not Lowiny come tripping toward us, summoning her brother away to attend a meeting of the family; the old squatter having so far recovered as to call a council of his sons. The brother left me on the instant, but the girl lingered at my corner of the storehouse, like one who was reluctant to depart.

"I hope the hasty-puddin' was sweet and good," said Lowiny, casting a timid glance in at the chink.

"It was excellent, my good girl, and I thank you for it with all my heart. Are you very busy now?-can you remain a moment while I make a request?"

"Oh! there's nothin' for me to do just now in the house, seem' that father has called the b'ys around him. Whenever he does that, even mother is apt to quit."

"I am glad of it, as I think you are so kind-hearted and good that I may trust you in a matter of some importance; may I not, my good Lowiny?"

"Squatters' da'ghters may be good, then, a'ter all, in the eyes of grand landholders!"

"Certainly-excellent even; and I am much disposed to believe that you are one of that class." Lowiny looked delighted; and I felt less reluctance at administering this flattery than might otherwise have been the case, from the circumstance that so much of what I said was really merited.

"Indeed, I know you are, and quite unfitted for this sort of life. But I must tell you my wishes at once, for our time may be very short."

"Do," said the girl, looking up anxiously, a slight blush suffusing her face; the truth-telling sign of ingenuous feelings, and the gage of virtue; "do, for I'm dying to hear it; as I know beforehand I shall do just what you ask me to do. I don't know how it is, but when father or mother ask me to do a thing, I sometimes feel as if I couldn't; but I don't feel so now, at all."

"My requests do not come often enough to tire you. Promise me, in the first place, to keep my secret."

"That I will!" answered Lowiny, promptly, and with emphasis. "Not a mortal soul shall know anything on't, and I won't so much as talk of it in my sleep, as I sometimes do, if I can any way help it."

"Chainbearer has a niece who is very dear to him, and who returns all his affection. Her name is--"

"Dus Malbone," interrupted the girl, with a faint laugh. "Zeph has told me all about her, for Zeph and I be great friends-he tells me everything, and I tell him everything. It's sich a comfort, you can't think, to have somebody to tell secrets to;-well, what of Dus?"

"She is here."

"Here! I don't see anything on her"-looking round hurriedly, and, as I fancied, in a little alarm-"Zeph says she's dreadful han'some!"

"She is thought so, I believe; though, in that respect, she is far from being alone. There is no want of pretty girls in America. By saying she was here I did not mean here in the storehouse, but here in the woods. She accompanied her uncle as far as the edge of the clearing-look round, more toward the east. Do you see the black stub, in the cornfield, behind your father's dwelling?"

"Sartain-that's plain enough to be seen-I wish I could see Albany as plain."

"Now look a little to the left of that stub, and you will see a large chestnut, in the edge of the woods behind it-the chestnut, I mean, that thrusts its top out of the forest into the clearing, as it might be."

"Well, I see the chestnut, too, and I know it well. There's a spring of water cluss to its roots."

"At the foot of that chestnut Chainbearer left his niece, and doubtless she is somewhere near it now. Could you venture to stroll as far, without going directly to the spot, and deliver a message, or a letter?"

"To be sure I could! Why, we gals stroll about the lots as much as we please, and it's berryin' time now. I'll run and get a basket, and you can write your letter while I'm gone. La! Nobody will think anything of my goin' a berryin'-I have a desp'rate wish to see this Dus! Do you think she'll have Zeph?"

"Young women's minds are so uncertain that I should not like to venture an opinion. If it were one of my own sex, now, and had declared his wishes, I think I could tell you with some accuracy."

The girl laughed; then she seemed a little bewildered, and again she colored. How the acquired-nay, native feeling of the sex, will rise up in tell-tale ingenuousness to betray a woman!

"Well," she cried, as she ran away in quest of the basket, "to my notion, a gal's mind is as true and as much to be depended on as that of any mortal crittur' living!"

It was now my business to write a note to Dus. The materials for writing my pocket-book furnished. I tore out a leaf, and approached Chainbearer, telling him what I was about to do, and desiring to know if he had any particular message to send.

"Gif t'e tear gal my plessin', Mortaunt. Tell her olt Chainpearer prays Got to pless her-t'at ist all. I leaf you to say t'e rest."

I did say the rest. In the first place I sent the blessing of the uncle to the niece. Then I explained, in as few words as possible, our situation, giving it as promising an aspect as my conscience would permit. These explanations made, I entreated Ursula to return to her brother, and not again expose herself so far from his protection. Of the close of this note I shall not say much. It was brief, but it let Dus understand that my feelings toward her were as lively as ever; and I believe it was expressed with the power that passion lends. My note was ended just as Lowiny appeared to receive it. She brought us a pitcher of milk, as a sort of excuse for returning to the storehouse, received the note in exchange, and hurried away toward the fields. As she passed one of the cabins, I heard her calling out to a sister that she was going for blackberries to give the prisoners.

I watched the movements of that active girl with intense interest. Chainbearer, who had slept little since my disappearance, was making up for lost time; and as for the Indian, eating and sleeping are very customary occupations of his race, when not engaged in some hunt, or on the war-path, or as a runner.

Lowiny proceeded toward a lot of which the bushes had taken full possession. Here she soon disappeared, picking berries as she proceeded, with nimble fingers, as if she felt the necessity of having some of the fruit to show on her return. I kept my eye fastened on the openings of the forest, near the chestnut, as soon as the girl was concealed in the bushes, anxiously waiting for the moment when I might see her form reappearing at that spot. My attention was renewed by getting a glimpse of Dus. It was but a glimpse, the fluttering of a female dress gliding among the trees; but, as it was too soon for the arrival of Lowiny, I knew it must be Dus. This was cheering, as it left little reason to doubt that my messenger would find the object of her visit. In the course of half an hour after Lowiny entered the bushes I saw her, distinctly, near the foot of the chestnut. Pausing a moment, as if to reconnoitre, the girl suddenly moved into the forest, when I made no doubt she and Dus had a meeting. An entire hour passed, and I saw no more of Lowiny.

In the meanwhile Zephaniah made his appearance again at the side of the storehouse. This time he came accompanied by two of his brethren, holding the key in his hand. At first I supposed the intention was to arraign me before the high court of Thousandacres, but in this I was in error. No sooner did the young men reach the door of our prison than Zephaniah called out to the Onondago to approach it, as he had something to say to him.

"It must be dull work to a redskin to be shut up like a hog afore it's wrung," said the youth, drawing his images from familiar objects; "and I s'pose you'd be right glad to come out here and walk about, something like a free and rational crittur.' What do you say, Injin-is sich your desire?"

"Sartain," quietly answered Sureflint. "Great deal radder be out dan be in here."

"So I nat'rally s'posed. Well, the old man says you can come out on promises, if you're disposed to make 'em. So you're master of your own movements, you see."

"What he want me do? What he want me to say, eh?"

"No great matter, a'ter all, if a body has only a mind to try to do it. In the first place, you're to give your parole not to go off; but to stay about the clearin', and to come in and give yourself up when the conch blows three short blasts. Will you agree to that, Sus?"

"Sartain-no go 'way; come back when he call-dat mean stay where he can hear conch."

"Well, that's agreed on, and it's a bargain. Next, you're to agree not to go pryin' round the mill and barn, to see what you can find, but keep away from all the buildin's but the store'us' and the dwellings, and not to quit the clearin'. Do you agree?"

"Good; no hard to do dat."

"Well, you're to bring no weepons into the settlement, and to pass nothing but words and food in to the other prisoners. Will you stand to that?"

"Sartain; willin' 'nough to do dat, too."

"Then you're in no manner or way to make war on any on us 'till your parole is up, and you're your own man ag'in. What do you say to that, Trackless?"

"All good; 'gree to do him all."

"Wa-a-l, that's pretty much all the old man stands out for; but mother has a condition or two that she insists on't I shall ask. Should the worst come to the worst, and the folks of this settlement get to blows with the folks out of it, you're to bargain to take no scalps of women or children, and none from any man that you don't overcome in open battle. The old woman will grant you the scalps of men killed in battle, but thinks it ag'in reason to take 'em from sich as be not so overcome."

"Good; don't want to take scalp at all," answered the Indian, with an emotion he could not altogether suppress. "Got no tribe-got no young men; what good scalp do? Nobody care how many scalp Susquesus take away-how many he leave behind. All dat forgot long time."

"Wa-a-l, that's your affair, not mine. But, as all the articles is agreed to, you can come out, and go about your business. Mind, three short, sharp blasts on the conch is the signal to come in and give yourself up."

On this singular cartel Susquesus was set at liberty. I heard the whole arrangement with astonishment; though, by the manner of the high contracting parties, it was easy to see there was nothing novel in the arrangement, so far as they were concerned. I had heard that the faith of an Indian of any character, in all such cases, was considered sacred, and could not but ask myself, as Susquesus walked quietly out of prison, how many potentates and powers there were in Christendom who, under circumstances similarly involving their most important interests, could be found to place a similar confidence in their fellows! Curious to know how my present masters felt on this subject, the opportunity was improved to question them.

"You give the Indian his liberty on parole," I said to Zephaniah-"will you refuse the same privilege to us white men?"

"An Injin is an Injin. He has his natur', and we've our'n. Suthin' was said about lettin' you out, too, major; but the old man wouldn't hear to it. 'He know'd mankind,' he said, 'and he know'd t'would never do.' If you let a white man loose, he sets his wits at work to find a hole to creep out on the bargain-goin' back to the creation of the 'arth but he'll find one. The major will say 'I was put in ag'in' law, and now I'm out, I'll stay out ag'in promises,' or some sich reasonin', and now we have him safe, 'twill be best to keep him safe! That's the substance of the old man's idees, and you can see, major, just as well as any on us, how likely he'll be to change 'em."

There was no contending with this logic, which in secret I well knew to be founded in fact, and I made no further application for my own release. It appeared, however, that Thousandacres himself was half-disposed to make a concession in favor of Chainbearer, similar to that he had granted to the Indian. This struck me as singular, after the rude collision that had already occurred between the two men-but there are points of honor that are peculiar to each condition of life, and which the men of each feel a pride not only in causing to be respected, but in respecting themselves.

"Father had some thoughts of taking your parole, too, Chainbearer," added Zephaniah, "and he concluded he would, hadn't it been that you'd been living out in the settlements so much of late years, that he's not quite easy in trusting you. A man that passes so much of his time in running boundaries, may think himself privileged to step over them."

"Your fat'er is welcome to his opinion," answered Andries, coolly. "He'll get no parole of me, nor do I want any favors of him. We are at swords' p'ints, young man, and let him look out for himself and his lumper as pest he can."

"Nay," answered Zephaniah, stretching himself, and answering with spirit, though he well knew he was speaking to the uncle of Dus, and thereby endangering his interests with his mistress-"nay, Chainbearer, if it comes to that, 'twill be 'hardes fend off.' We are a strong party of stout men, and arn't to be frightened by the crier of a court, or to be druv' off the land by sheep-skin. Catamounts must come ag'in us in droves, afore we'll give an inch."

"Go away, go away-foolish young fellow-you're your fat'er's son, and t'at's as much as neet pe said of you. I want no favors from squatters, which ist a preed I tetest and tespise."

I was a little surprised at hearing this answer, and at witnessing this manifestation of feeling in Chainbearer, who, ordinarily, was a cool, and uniformly a courteous man. On reflection, however, I saw he was not so wrong. An exchange of anything like civilities between us and our captors, might seem to give them some claim on us; whereas, by standing on the naked right, we had every advantage of them, in a moral sense, at least. Zephaniah and his brethren left us, on receiving this repulse of Andries; but Susquesus kept loitering around the storehouse, apparently little better off now he was on its outside than he had been when in it. He had nothing to do, and his idleness was that of an Indian-one of a race of such terrible energies, when energy is required, and so frequently listless, when not pressed upon by necessity, pleasure, war or interest.

Things were in this state, when, some time after the interview just related, we had another visit from a party headed by Tobit. This man came to escort Chainbearer and myself to the cabin of Thousandacres, where all the men of the family were assembled; and where, as it now appeared, we were to have something like a hearing that might seriously affect our fates, for good or for evil. I consulted Chainbearer on the propriety of our lending ourselves to such a measure; but I found Andries disposed to meet the brood of squatters, face to face, and to tell them his mind, let it be when and where it might. Finding my friend in this temper, I made no further objections myself, but left the storehouse in his company, well guarded by four of the young men, all of whom were armed, holding our way to the seat of justice, in that wild and patriarchal government.

* * *

Free to Download MoboReader
(← Keyboard shortcut) Previous Contents (Keyboard shortcut →)
 Novels To Read Online Free

Scan the QR code to download MoboReader app.

Back to Top