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   Chapter 28 No.28

The Chainbearer; Or, The Littlepage Manuscripts By James Fenimore Cooper Characters: 35482

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


"Thence cum we to the horrour and the hel,

The large great kyngdomes, and the dreadful raygne

Of Pluto in his trone where he dyd dwell,

The wyde waste places, and the hugye playne:

The waylings, shrykes, and sundry sortes of payne.

The syghes, and sobbes, and diep and deadly groane,

Earth, ayer, and all resounding playnt and moane."

-Sackville.

* * *

In this manner did that memorable night wear away. The two wounded men slumbered much of the time; nor did their wants extend beyond occasional draughts of water, to cool their feverish mouths, or the wetting of lips. I prevailed on Dus to lie down on the bed of Lowiny, and try to get a little rest; and I had the pleasure to hear her say that she had slept sweetly for two or three hours, after the turn of the night. Frank and I caught naps, also, after the fashion of soldiers, and Lowiny slept in her chair, or leaning on her father's bed. As for Prudence, I do not think her watchfulness was lessened for a single instant. There she sat the livelong night; silent, tearless, moody, and heart-stricken by the great and sudden calamity that had befallen her race, but vigilant and attentive to the least movement in the huge frame of her wounded partner. No complaint escaped her; scarcely once did she turn to look at what was going on around her, nor in any manner did she heed aught but her husband. To him she seemed to be unerringly true; and whatever she may, and must have thought of his natural sternness, and occasional fits of severity toward herself, all now seemed to be forgotten.

At length light returned, after hours of darkness that seemed to me to be protracted to an unusual length. Then it was, when Jaap and the Indian were ready to take our places on the watch, that Frank and I went to one of the huts and lay down for two or three hours; and that was the time when Dus got her sweetest and most refreshing sleep. Lowiny prepared our morning's meal for us; which we three, that is, Dus, Frank and myself, took together in the best way we could, in the dwelling of Tobit. As for 'Squire Newcome, he left the clearing in the course of the night, or very early in the morning, doubtless exceedingly uneasy in his conscience, but still uncertain whether his connection with the squatters was or was not known to me; the excuse for this movement being the probable necessity of summoning a jury; Mr. Jason Newcome filling in his own person, or by deputy, the several offices and functions of justice of the peace, one of the coroners of the county, supervisor of the township of Ravensnest merchant, shopkeeper, miller, lumber-dealer, husbandman and innkeeper; to say nothing of the fact that he wrote all the wills of the neighborhood; was a standing arbitrator when disputes were "left out to men;" was a leading politician, a patriot by trade, and a remarkable and steady advocate of the rights of the people, even to minuti?. Those who know mankind will not be surprised, after this enumeration of his pursuits and professions, to hear it added that he was a remarkable rogue in the bargain.

There are two things I have lived long enough to receive as truths established by my own experience, and they are these; I never knew a man who made large professions of a love for the people, and of his wish to serve them on all occasions, whose aim was not to deceive them to his own advantage; and the other is, that I never knew a man who was compelled to come much in contact with the people, and who at the same time was personally popular, who had anything in him at the bottom. But it is time to quit Jason Newcome and his defects of character, in order to attend to the interesting scene that awaited us in the dwelling of Thousandacres, and to which we were now summoned by Jaap.

As the day advanced, both the Chainbearer and the squatter became aroused from the languor that had succeeded the receiving of their respective hurts, and more or less alive to what was passing around them. Life was ebbing fast in both, yet each seemed, just at that moment, to turn his thoughts backward on the world, in order, as it might be, to take a last look at those scenes in which he had now been an actor for the long period of threescore-and-ten years.

"Uncle Chainbearer is much revived, just now," said Dus, meeting Frank and myself at the door, "and he has asked for you both; more especially for Mordaunt, whose name he has mentioned three several times within the last five minutes. 'Send for Mordaunt, my child,' he has said to me, 'for I wish to speak with him before I quit you.' I am fearful he has inward admonitions of his approaching end."

"That is possible, dearest Ursula; for men can hardly lose their hold of life without being aware of the approaches of death. I will go at once to his bedside, that he may know I am here. It is best to let his own feelings decide whether he is able or not to converse."

The sound of Chainbearer's voice, speaking in a low but distinct tone, caught our ears as we approached him, and we all stopped to listen.

"I say, T'ousantacres," repeated Andries, on a key a little louder than before, "if you hear me, olt man, ant can answer, I wish you to let me know it. You ant I pe about to start on a fery long journey, ant it ist unreasonaple, as well as wicket, to set out wit' pad feelin's at t'e heart. If you hat hat a niece, now, like Dus t'ere, to tell you t'ese matters, olt Aaron, it might pe petter for your soul in t'e worlt into which we are poth apout to enter."

"He knows it-I'm sure he knows it, and feels it, too," muttered Prudence, rocking her body as before. "He has had pious forefathers, and cannot have fallen so far away from grace, as to forget death and eternity."

"Look you, Prutence, Aaron nefer coult fall away from what he nefer wast fastenet to. As for pious forefat'ers, t'ey may do to talk apout in Fourt' of July orations, put t'ey are of no great account in cleansin' a man from his sins. I s'pose t'em pious forefat'ers of which you speak was t'e people t'at first steppet on t'e rock town at Plymout'; put, let me telt you, Prutence, hat t'ere peen twice as many of t'em, and hat t'ey all peen twice as goot as you poast of t'eir hafin' peen, it wilt do no goot to your man, unless he wilt repent, and pe sorry for all t'e unlawful ant wicket t'ings he hast tone in t'is worlt, and his treatment of pountaries in jin'ral, ant of ot'er men's lants in partic'lar. Pious ancestors may pe pleasant to haf, put goot pehavior ist far petter as t'e last hour approaches."

"Answer him, Aaron," the wife rejoined-"answer him, my man, in order that we may all of us know the frame of mind in which you take your departure. Chainbearer is a kind-hearted man at the bottom, and has never wilfully done us any harm."

For the first time since Andries received his wound, I now heard the voice of Thousandacres. Previously to that moment, the squatter, whether hurt or not, had sat in moody silence, and I had supposed after he was wounded that he was unable to use his tongue. To my surprise, however, he now spoke with a depth and strength of voice that at first misled me, by inducing me to think that the injury he had received could not be fatal.

"If there wasn't no chainbearers," growled Thousandacres, "there wouldn't be no lines, or metes and bounds, as they call 'em; and where there's no metes and bounds, there can be no right of possession. If 'twasn't for your writin' titles, I shouldn't be lyin' here, breathin' my last."

"Forgive it all, my man; forgive it all, as behooves a good Christian," Prudence returned, to this characteristic glance at the past, in which the squatter had so clearly overlooked all his own delinquencies, and was anxious to impute consequences altogether to others. "It is the law of God to forgive your enemies, Aaron, and I want you to forgive Chainbearer, and not go to the world of spirits with gall in your heart."

"'Twoult pe much petter, Prutence, if T'ousantacres woult pray to Got to forgif himself," put in Chainbearer. "I am fery willin', ant happy to haf t'e forgifness of efery man, ant it ist not unlikely t'at I may haf tone somet'ing, or sait somet'ing t'at hast peen hart to t'e feelin's of your huspant; for we are rough, and plain-speakin', and plain-actin' enough, in t'e woots; so I'm willin' to haf even T'ousantacres' forgifness, I say, and wilt accept it wit' pleasure if he wilt offer it, and take mine in exchange."

A deep groan struggled out of the broad, cavern-like chest of the squatter. I took it as an admission that he was the murderer of Andries.

"Yes," resumed Chainbearer-"Dus hast mate me see--"

"Uncle!" exclaimed Ursula, who was intently listening, and who now spoke because unable to restrain the impulse.

"Yes, yes, gal, it hast peen all your own toin's. Pefore ast you come pack from school, ast we come into t'e woots, all alone like, you haf nefer forgotten to teach an olt, forgetful man his tuty--"

"Oh! uncle Chainbearer, it is not I, but God in his mercy who has enlightened your understanding and touched your heart."

"Yes, tarlin'; yes, Dus, my tear, I comprehent t'at too; but Got in His mercy sent an angel to pe his minister on 'art' wit' a poor ignorant Tutchman, who hast not t'e l'arnin' ant t'e grace he might ant ought to have hat, wit'out your ait, and so hast t'e happy change come apout. No-no-T'ousantacres, I wilt not tespise even your forgifness, little as you may haf to forgif; for it lightens a man's heart of heafy loats, when his time is short, to know he leafs no enemies pehind him. T'ey say it ist pest to haf t'e goot wishes of a tog, ant how much petter ist it to haf t'e goot wishes of one who hast a soul t'at only wants purifyin', to twell in t'e Almighty's presence t'roughout eternity!"

"I hope and believe," again growled Thousandacres, "that in the world we're goin' to, there'll be no law, and no attorneys."

"In t'at, t'en, Aaron, you pe greatly mistaken. T'at lant is all law, ant justice, ant right; t'ough. Got forgif me if I do any man an injury; put to pe frank wit' you, as pecomes two mortals so near t'eir ents, I do not pelief, myself, t'at t'ere wilt pe a great many attorneys to trouble t'em t'at are receivet into t'e courts of t'e Almighty, himself. T'eir practices on 'arth does not suit t'em for practice in heafen."

"If you'd always held them rational notions, Chainbearer, no harm might have come to you, and my life and your'n been spared. But this is a state of being in which short-sightedness prevails ag'in the best calkerlations. I never felt more sure of gettin' lumber to market than I felt three days ago, of gettin' this that's in the creek, safe to Albany; and now, you see how it is! the b'ys are disparsed, and may never see this spot again; the gals are in the woods, runnin' with the deer of the forest; the lumber has fallen into the hands of the law; and that, too, by the aid of a man that was bound in honesty to protect me, and I'm dyin' here!"

"Think no more of the lumber, my man, think no more of the lumber," said Prudence, earnestly; "time is desp'rate short at the best, and yours is shorter than common, even for a man of seventy, while etarnity has no eend. Forgit the boards, and forgit the b'ys, and forgit the gals, forgit 'arth and all it holds--"

"You wouldn't have me forgit you, Prudence," interrupted Thousandacres, "that's been my wife, now, forty long years, and whom I tuck when she was young and comely, and that's borne me so many children, and has always been a faithful and hard-working woman-you wouldn't have me forget you!"

This singular appeal, coming as it did from such a being, and almost in his agony, sounded strangely and solemnly, amid the wild and semi-savage appliances of a scene I can never forget. The effect on Ursula was still more apparent; she left the bedside of her uncle, and with strong womanly sympathy manifested in her countenance, approached that of this aged couple, now about to be separated for a short time, at least, where she stood gazing wistfully at the very man who was probably that uncle's murderer, as if she could gladly administer to his moral ailings. Even Chainbearer attempted to raise his head, and looked with interest toward the other group. No one spoke, however, for all felt that the solemn recollections and forebodings of a pair so situated, were too sacred for interruption. The discourse went on, without any hiatus, between them.

"Not I, not I, Aaron, my man," answered Prudence, with strong emotions struggling in her voice; "there can be no law, or call for that. We are one flesh, and what God has j'ined, God will not keep asunder long. I cannot tarry long behind you, my man, and when we meet together ag'in, I hope 'twill be where no boards, or trees or acres, can ever make more trouble for us!"

"I've been hardly treated about that lumber, a'ter all," muttered the squatter, who was now apparently more aroused to consciousness than he had been, and who could not but keep harping on what had been the one great business of his life, even as that life was crumbling beneath his feet-"hardly dealt by, do I consider myself, about that lumber, Prudence. Make the most of the Littlepage rights, it was only trees that they could any way claim, in reason; while the b'ys and I, as you well know, have convarted them trees into as pretty and noble a lot of han'some boards and planks as man ever rafted to market!"

"It's convarsion of another natur' that you want now, Aaron, my man; another sort of convarsion is the thing needful. We must all be convarted once in our lives; at least all such as be the children of Puritan parents and a godly ancestry; and it must be owned, takin' into account our years, and the importance of example in such a family as our'n, that you and I have put it off long enough. Come it must, or suthin' worse; and time and etarnity, in your case, Aaron, is pretty much the same thing."

"I should die easier in mind, Prudence, if Chainbearer would only admit that the man who chops and hauls, and saws and rafts a tree, does get some sort of a right, nat'ral or legal, to the lumber."

"I'm sorry, T'ousantacres," put in Andries, "t'at you feel any such admission from me necessary to you at t'is awful moment, since I nefer can make it ast an honest man. You hat petter listen to your wife, and get confarted if you can, ant as soon ast you can. You ant I haf put a few hours to lif; I am an olt solder, T'ousantacres, ant haf seen more t'an t'ree t'ousant men shot town in my own ranks, to say nut'in' of t'e ranks of t'e enemy; ant wit' so much exper'ence a man comes to know a little apout wounts ant t'eir tarminations. I gif it ast my chugment, t'erefore, t'at neit'er of us can haf t'e smallest hope to lif t'rough t'e next night. So get t'at confarsion as hastily ant ast well ast you can, for t'ere ist little time to lose, ant you a squatter! T'is ist t'e moment of all ot'ers, T'ousantacres, to proofe t'e true falue of professions, and trates, ant callin's, as well ast of t'e manner in which t'eir tuties haf peen fulfillet. It may pe more honoraple ant more profitaple to pe a calculating surveyor, ant to unterstant arit'metic, and to pe talket of in t'e worlt for work tone on a large scale; put efen his excellency himself, when he comes to t'e last moments, may pe glat t'at t'e temptations of such larnin', ant his pein so t'oroughly an honest man, toes not make him enfy t'e state of a poor chainpearer; who, if he titn't know much, ant coultn't do much, at least measuret t'e lant wit' fitelity, and tid his work ast well ast he knew how. Yes, yes, olt Aaron; get confartet, I tell you; ant shoult Prutence not know enough of religion ant her piple, ant of prayin' to Got to haf marcy on your soul, t'ere ist Dus Malpone, my niece, who understants, ant what ist far petter, who feels t'ese matters, quite as well ast most tominies, ant petter t'an some lazy ant selfish ones t'at I know, who treat t'eir flocks as if t'e Lort meant t'ey wast to pe sheart only, ant who wast too lazy to do much more t'an to keep cryin' out-not in t'e worts of t'e inspiret writer-'Watchman, what of t'e night?-watchman, what of t'e night?'-put, 'My pelovet, and most Christian, ant gotly-mintet people, pay, pay, pay!' Yes, t'ere ist too much of such afarice ant selfishness in t'e worlt, and it toes harm to t'e cause of t'e Safiour; put trut' is so clear ant peautiful an opject, my poor Aaron, t'at efen lies, ant fice, ant all manner of wicketnesses cannot long sully it. Take my atvice, ant talk to Dus; ant t'ough you wilt touptless continue to grow worse in poty, you wilt grow petter in spirit."

Thousandacres turned his grim visage round, and gazed intently and wistfully toward Ursula. I saw the struggle that was going on within, through the clear mirror of the sweet, ingenuous face of my beloved, and I saw the propriety of retiring. Frank Malbone understood my look, and we left the house together, closing the door behind us.

Two, to me, long and anxious hours succeeded, during most of which time my companion and myself walked about the clearing, questioning the men who composed the posse, and hearing their reports. These men were in earnest in what they were doing; for a respect for law is a distinguishing trait in the American character, and perhaps more so in New England, whence most of these people came, than in any other part of the country, the rascality of 'Squire Newcome to the contrary, notwithstanding. Some observers pretend that this respect for law is gradually decreasing among us, and that in its place, is sensibly growing up a disposition to substitute the opi

nions, wishes, and interests of local majorities, making the country subject to men instead of principles. The last are eternal and immutable; and coming of God, men, however unanimous in sentiment, have no more right to attempt to change them, than to blaspheme his holy name. All that the most exalted and largest political liberty can ever beneficially effect is to apply these principles to the good of the human race, in the management of their daily affairs; but when they attempt to substitute for these pure and just rules of right, laws conceived in selfishness and executed by the power of numbers, they merely exhibit tyranny in its popular form, instead of in its old aspect of kingly or aristocratic abuses. It is a fatal mistake to fancy that freedom is gained by the mere achievement of a right in the people to govern, unless the manner in which that right is to be both understood and practised, is closely incorporated with all the popular notions of what has been obtained. That right to govern means no more than the right of the people to avail themselves of the power thus acquired, to apply the great principles of justice to their own benefit, and from the possession of which they had hitherto been excluded. It confers no power to do that which is inherently wrong, under any pretence whatever; or would anything have been gained, had America, as soon as she relieved herself from a sway that diverted so many of her energies to the increase of the wealth and influence of a distant people, gone to work to frame a new polity which should inflict similar wrongs within her own bosom.

My old acquaintance, the hearty Rhode Islander, was one of the posse, and I had a short conversation with him, while thus kept out of the house, which may serve to let the reader somewhat into the secret of the state of things at the clearing. We met near the mill, when my acquaintance, whose name was Hosmer, commenced as follows:

"A good day to you, major, and a hearty welcome to the open air!" cried the sturdy yeoman, frankly but respectfully, offering his hand. "You fell into a pit here, or into a den among thieves; and it's downright providential you e'er saw and breathed the clear air ag'in! Wa-a-l, I've been trailin' a little this mornin' along with the Injin; and no hound has a more sartain scent than he has. We went into the hollow along the creek; and a desp'rate sight of boards them varmints have got into the water, I can tell you! If the lot's worth forty pounds York, it must be worth every shilling of five hundred. They'd 'a' made their fortin's, every blackguard among 'em. I don't know but I'd fit myself to save so many boards, and sich beautiful boards, whether wrongfully or rightfully lumbered!"

Here the hearty old fellow stopped to laugh, which he did exactly in the full-mouthed, contented way in which he spoke and did everything else. I profited by the occasion to put in a word in reply.

"You are too honest a man, major, to think of ever making your boards out of another man's trees," I answered. "These people have lived by dishonest practices all their lives, and any one can see what it has come to."

"Yes, I hope I am, 'Squire Littlepage-I do hope I am. Hard work and I an't nohow afeard of each other; and so long as a man can work, and will work, Satan don't get a full grip on him. But, as I was sayin', the Trackless struck the trail down the creek, though it was along a somewhat beaten path; but the Injin would make no more of findin' it in a highway, than you and I would of findin' our places in the Bible on Sabba'day, where we had left off the Sabba'day that was gone. I always mark mine with a string the old woman braided for me on purpose, and a right-down good method it is; for, while you're s'archin' for your specs with one hand, nothin' is easier than to open the Bible with t'other. Them's handy things to have, major; and, when you marry some great lady down at York, sich a one as your own mother was, for I know'd her and honored her, as we all did hereaway-but, when you get married ask your wife to braid a string for you, to find the place in the Bible with, and all will go right, take an old man's word for it."

"I thank you, friend, and will remember the advice, even though I might happen to marry a lady in this part of the world, and not down in York."

"This part of the world? No, we've got nobody our way, that's good enough for you. Let me see; Newcome has a da'ghter that's old enough, but she's desp'rate humbly (Anglice, homely-the people of New England reserve 'ugly' for moral qualities) and wouldn't suit, no how. I don't think the Littlepages would overmuch like being warp and fillin' with the Newcomes."

"No! My father was an old friend-or, an old acquaintance at least, of Mr. Newcome's, and must know and appreciate his merits."

"Yes-yes-I'll warrant ye the gin'ral knows him. Wa-a-l! Human natur' is human natur'; and I do s'pose, if truth must be spoken, none on us be half as good as we ought to be. We read about faithful stewards in the good book, and about onfaithful ones too, squire"-here the old yeoman stopped to indulge in one of his hearty laughs, rendering it manifest he felt the full application of his words. "Wa-a-l, all must allow the Bible's a good book. I never open it, without l'arnin' suthin', and what I l'arn, I strive not to forgit. But there's a messenger for you, major, from Thousandacres' hut, and I fancy it will turn out that he or Chainbearer is drawing near his eend."

Lowiny was coming to summon us to the house, sure enough, and I took my leave of my brother major for the moment. It was plain to me that this honest-minded yeoman, a good specimen of his class, saw through Newcome and his tricks, and was not unwilling to advert to them. Nevertheless, this man had a fault, and one very characteristic of his "order." He could not speak directly, but would hint round a subject, instead of coming out at once, and telling what he had to say; beating the bush to start his game, when he might have put it up at once, by going in at it directly. Before we parted, he gave me to understand that Susquesus and my fellow, Jaap, had gone on in pursuit of the retreating squatters, intending to follow their trail several miles, in order to make sure that Tobit and his gang were not hanging around the clearing to watch their property, ready to strike a blow when it might be least expected.

Dus met me at the door of the cabin, tearful and sad, but with such a holy calm reigning in her generally brilliant countenance, as denoted the nature of the solemn business in which she had just been engaged. She extended both hands to meet mine, and whispered, "Uncle Chainbearer is anxious to speak to us-on the subject of our engagement, I think it is." A tremor passed through the frame of Ursula, but she made an effort, smiled sadly, and continued: "Hear him patiently, dear Mordaunt, and remember that he is my father, in one sense, and as fully entitled to my obedience and respect as if I were really his daughter."

As I entered the room, I could see that Dus had been at prayer. Prudence looked comforted, but Thousandacres himself had a wild and uncertain expression of countenance, as if doubts had begun to beset him, at the very moment when they must have been the most tormenting. I observed that his anxious eye followed the form of Dus, and that he gazed on her as one would be apt to regard the being who had just been the instrument of awakening within him the consciousness of his critical state. But my attention was soon drawn to the other bed.

"Come near me, Mortaunt, lat; and come hit'er, Dus, my tearest ta'ghter ant niece. I haf a few worts of importance to say to you pefore I go, ant if t'ey pe not sait now, t'ey nefer may pe sait at all. It's always pest to 'take time py t'e forelock,' t'ey say; ant surely I cannot pe callet in haste to speak, when not only one foot, put pot' feet and half my poty in t'e pargain, may well pe sait to pe in t'e grafe. Now listen to an olt man's atfice, ant do not stop my worts until all haf peen spoken, for I grow weak fast, ant haf not strength enough to t'row away any of it in argument.

"Mortaunt hast sait ast much, in my hearin' ast to atmit t'at he lofes ant atmires my gal, ant t'at he wishes, ant hopes, ant expects to make her his wife. On t'e ot'er hant, Ursula, or Dus, my niece, confesses ant acknowledges t'at she lofes, ant esteems, ant hast a strong regart for Mortaunt, ant ist willin' to pecome his wife. All t'is is nat'ral, ant t'ere wast a time when it woult haf mate me ast happy ast t'e tay ist long to hear as much sait py t'e one or t'e ot'er of t'e parties. You know, my chiltren, t'at my affection for you is equal, ant t'at I consiter you, in all respects put t'at of worltly contition, to pe as well suitet to pecome man ant wife ast any young couple in America. Put tuty is tuty, ant it must pe tischarget. General Littlepage wast my olt colonel; ant an honest ant an honoraple man himself, he hast efery right to expect t'at efery one of his former captains, in partic'lar, woult do unto him as t'ey woult haf him do unto t'em. Now, t'ough heafen ist heafen, t'is worlt must pe regartet as t'is worlt, ant t'e rules for its gofernment are to pe respectet in t'eir place. T'e Malpones pe a respectaple family, I know; ant t'ough Dus's own fat'er wast a little wilt, ant t'oughtless, ant extrafagant--"

"Uncle Chainbearer!"

"True, gal, true; he wast your fat'er, ant t'e chilt shoult respect its parent. I atmit t'at, ant wilt say no more t'an ist apsolutely necessary; pesites, if Malpone hat his pat qualities, he hat his goot. A hantsomer man coult not pe fount, far ant near, ast my poor sister felt, I dares to say; ant he wast prave as a pull-dog, ant generous, ant goot-naturet, ant many persons was quite captivated py all t'ese showy atfantages, ant t'ought him petter ast he really wast. Yes, yes, Dus, my chilt, he hat his goot qualities, as well as his pat. Put, t'e Malpones pe gentlemen, as ist seen py Frank, Dus's prother, ant py ot'er mempers of t'e family. T'en my mot'er's family, py which I am relatet to Dus, wast very goot-even petter t'an t'e Coejemans-ant t'e gal is a gentlewoman py pirt'. No one can deny t'at; put ploot won't do eferyt'ing. Chiltren must pe fet, and clot'et; ant money ist necessary, a'ter all, for t'e harmony ant comfort of families. I know Matam Littlepage, in partic'lar. She ist a da'ter of olt Harman Mortaunt, who wast a grant gentleman in t'e lant, ant t'e owner of Ravensnest, ast well ast of ot'er estates, and who kept t'e highest company in t'e profince. Now Matam Littlepage, who hast peen t'us born, ant etucatet, ant associatet, may not like t'e itee of hafin' Dus Malpone, a chainpearer's niece, ant a gal t'at hast peen chainpearer herself, for which I honor ant lofe her so much t'e more, Mortaunt, lat; put for which an ill-chutgin' worlt wilt despise her--"

"My mother-my noble-hearted, right-judging and right-feeling mother-never!" I exclaimed, in a burst of feeling I found it impossible to control.

My words, manner and earnestness produced a profound impression on my auditors. A gleam of pained delight shot into and out of the countenance of Ursula, like the passage of the electric spark. Chainbearer gazed on me intently, and it was easy to trace, in the expression of his face, the deep interest he felt in my words, and the importance he attached to them. As for Frank Malbone, he fairly turned away to conceal the tears that forced themselves from his eyes.

"If I coult t'ink ast much-if I coult hope ast much, Mortaunt," resumed Chainbearer, "it woult pe a plesset relief to my partin' spirit, for I know General Littlepage well enough to pe sartain t'at he ist a just ant right-mintet man, ant t'at, in t'e long run, he woult see matters ast he ought to see t'em. Wit' Matam Littlepage I fearet it was tifferent; for I haf always hearet t'at t'e Mortaunts was tifferent people, ant felt ast toppin' people commonly do feel. T'is makes some change in my itees, ant some change in my plans. Howsefer, my young frients, I haf now to ask of you each a promise-a solemn promise mate to a tyin' man-ant it ist t'is--"

"First hear me, Chainbearer," I interposed eagerly, "before you involve Ursula heedlessly, and I had almost said cruelly, in any incautious promise, that may make both our lives miserable hereafter. You yourself first invited, tempted, courted me to love her; and now, when I know and confess her worth, you throw ice on my flame, and command me to do that of which it is too late to think."

"I own it, I own it, lat, ant hope t'e Lort, in his great marcy, wilt forgif ant parton t'e great mistake I mate. We haf talket of t'is pefore, Mortaunt, ant you may rememper I tolt you it was Dus herself who first mate me see t'e trut' in t'e matter, ant how much petter ant more pecomin' it wast in me to holt you pack, t'an to encourage ant leat you on. How comes it, my tear gal, t'at you haf forgot all t'is, ant now seem to wish me to do t'e fery t'ing you atviset me not to do?"

Ursula's face became pale as death; then it flashed to the brightness of a summer sunset, and she sank on her knees, concealing her countenance in the coarse quilt of the bed, as her truthful and ingenuous nature poured out her answer.

"Uncle Chainbearer," she said, "when we first talked on this subject I had never seen Mordaunt."

I knelt at the side of Ursula, folded her to my bosom, and endeavored to express the profound sentiment of gratitude that I felt at hearing this ingenuous explanation, by such caresses as nature and feeling dictated. Dus, however, gently extricated herself from my arms, and rising, we both stood waiting the effect of what had just been seen and heard on Chainbearer.

"I see t'at natur' is stronger t'an reason, ant opinion, ant custom," the old man resumed, after a long, meditative pause-"I haf put little time to spent in t'is matter, howsefer, my chiltren, ant must pring it to a close. Promise me, pot' of you, t'at you will nefer marry wit'out t'e free consent of General Littlepage, ant t'at of olt Matam Littlepage, ant young Matam Littlepage, each or all pein' lifin'."

"I do promise you, uncle Chainbearer," said Dus, with a promptitude that I could hardly pardon-"I do promise you, and will keep my promise, as I love you and fear and honor my Maker. 'Twould be misery to me to enter a family that was not willing to receive me--"

"Ursula!-dearest-dearest Ursula-do you reflect! Am I, then, nothing in your eyes?"

"It would also be misery to live without you, Mordaunt-but in one case I should be supported by a sense of having discharged my duty; while in the other, all that went wrong would appear a punishment for my own errors."

I would not promise; for, to own the truth, while I never distrusted my father or mother for a single instant, I did distrust my dear and venerable grandmother. I knew that she had not only set her heart on my marrying Priscilla Bayard; but that she had a passion for making matches in her own family; and I feared that she might have some of the tenacity of old age in maintaining her opinions. Dus endeavored to prevail on me to promise; but I evaded the pledge; and all solicitations were abandoned in consequence of a remark that was soon after made by Chainbearer.

"Nefer mint-nefer mint, darlint; your promise is enough. So long as you pe true, what matters it w'et'er Mortaunt is heatstrong or not? Ant now, children, ast I wish to talk no more of t'e matters of t'is worlt, put to gif all my metitations ant language to t'e t'ings of Got, I wilt utter my partin' worts to you. W'et'er you marry or not, I pray Almighty Got to gif you his pest plessin's in t'is life, ant in t'at which ist to come. Lif in sich a way, my tear chiltren, as to pe aple to meet t'is awful moment, in which you see me placed, wit' hope ant joy, so t'at we may all meet hereafter in t'e courts of Heafen. Amen."

A short, solemn pause succeeded this benediction, when it was interrupted by a fearful groan, that struggled out of the broad chest of Thousandacres. All eyes were turned on the other bed, which presented a most impressive contrast to the calm scene that surrounded the parting soul of him about whom we had been gathered. I alone advanced to the assistance of Prudence, who, woman-like, clung to her husband to the last; "bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh." I must own, however, that horror paralyzed my limbs; and that when I got as far as the foot of the squatter's bed, I stood riveted to the place like a rooted tree.

Thousandacres had been raised, by means of quilts, until half his body lay almost in a sitting position; a change he had ordered during the previous scene. His eyes were open; ghastly, wandering, hopeless. As the lips contracted with the convulsive twitchings of death, they gave to his grim visage a species of sardonic grin that rendered it doubly terrific. At this moment a sullen calm came over the countenance, and all was still. I knew that the last breath remained to be drawn, and waited for it as the charmed bird gazes at the basilisk-eye of the snake. It came, drawing aside the lips so as to show every tooth, and not one was missing in that iron frame; when, finding the sight too frightful for even my nerves, I veiled my eyes. When my hand was removed, I caught one glimpse of that dark tenement in which the spirit of the murderer and squatter had so long dwelt, Prudence being in the act of closing the glary, but still fiery eyes. I never before had looked upon so revolting a corpse, and never wish to see its equal again.

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