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

   Chapter 56 No.56

The Chainbearer; Or, The Littlepage Manuscripts By James Fenimore Cooper Characters: 34765

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03

"And underneath that face like summer's dreams,

Its lips as moveless, and its cheek as clear,

Slumbers a whirlwind of the heart's emotions,

Love, hatred, pride, hope, sorrow-all save fear."


* * *

The only singularity connected with the great age of the Indian and the negro, was the fact that they should have been associates for near a century, and so long intimately united in adventures and friendship. I say friendship, for the term was not at all unsuited to the feeling that connected these old men together, though they had so little in common in the way of character. While the Indian possessed all the manly and high qualities of a warrior of the woods, of a chief, and of one who had never acknowledged a superior, the other was necessarily distinguished by many of the wickednesses of a state of servitude; the bitter consequences of a degraded caste. Fortunately both were temperate, by no means an every-day virtue among the red-men who dwelt with the whites, though much more so with the blacks. But Susquesus was born at Onondago, a tribe remarkable for its sobriety, and at no period of his long life would he taste any intoxicating drink, while Jaaf was essentially a sober man, though he had a thorough "nigger" relish for hard cider. There can be little doubt that these two aged memorials of past ages, and almost forgotten generations, owed their health and strength to their temperance, fortifying natural predispositions to tenacity of life.

It was always thought that Jaaf was a little the senior of the Indian, though the difference in their ages could not be great. It is certain that the red-man retained much the most of his bodily powers, though, for fifty years, he had taxed them the least. Susquesus never worked; never would work in the ordinary meaning of the term. He deemed it to be beneath his dignity as a warrior, and, I have heard it said, that nothing but necessity could have induced him to plant, or hoe, even when in his prime. So long as the boundless forest furnished the deer, the moose, the beaver, the bear, and the other animals that it is usual for the red-man to convert into food, he had cared little for the fruits of the earth, beyond those that were found growing in their native state. His hunts were the last regular occupation that the old man abandoned. He carried the rifle, and threaded the woods with considerable vigor after he had seen a hundred winters; but the game deserted him, under the never-dying process of clearing acre after acre, until little of the native forest was left, with the exception of the reservation of my own, already named, and the pieces of woodland that are almost invariably attached to every American farm, lending to the landscape a relief and beauty that are usually wanting to the views of older countries. It is this peculiarity which gives to so many of the views of the republic, nay, it may be said to all of them, so much of the character of park-scenery when seen at a distance, that excludes the blemishes of a want of finish, and the coarser appliances of husbandry.

With Jaaf, though he had imbibed a strong relish for the forest, and for forest-life, it was different in many respects. Accustomed to labor from childhood, he could not be kept from work, even by his extreme old age. He had the hoe, or the axe, or the spade in his hand daily, many years after he could wield either to any material advantage. The little he did in this way, now, was not done to kill thought, for he never had any to kill; it was purely the effect of habit, and of a craving desire to be Jaaf still, and to act his life over again.

I am sorry to say that neither of these men had any essential knowledge, or any visible feeling for the truths of Christianity. A hundred years ago, little spiritual care was extended to the black, and the difficulty of making an impression in this way on the Indian has become matter of history. Perhaps success best attends such efforts when the pious missionary can penetrate to the retired village, and disseminate his doctrines far from the miserable illustration of their effects, that is to be hourly traced, by the most casual observer, amid the haunts of civilized men. That Christianity does produce a deep and benign influence on our social condition cannot be doubted; but he who is only superficially acquainted with Christian nations, as they are called, and sets about tracing the effects of this influence, meets with so many proofs of a contrary nature, as to feel a strong disposition to doubt the truth of dogmas that seem so impotent. It is quite likely such was the case with Susquesus, who had passed all the earlier years of his exclusive association with the pale-faces, on the flanks of armies, or among hunters, surveyors, runners, and scouts; situations that were not very likely to produce any high notions of moral culture. Nevertheless, many earnest and long-continued efforts had been made to awaken in this aged Indian some notions of the future state of a pale-face, and to persuade him to be baptized. My grandmother, in particular, had kept this end in view for quite half a century, but with no success. The different clergy, of all denominations, had paid more or less attention to this Indian, with the same object, though no visible results had followed their efforts. Among others, Mr. Warren had not overlooked this part of his duty, but he had met with no more success than those who had been before him. Singular as it seemed to some, though I saw nothing strange in it, Mary Warren had joined in this benevolent project with a gentle zeal, and affectionate and tender interest, that promised to achieve more than had been even hoped for these many years by her predecessors in the same kind office. Her visits to the hut had been frequent, and I learned that morning from Patt, that, "though Mary herself never spoke on the subject, enough has been seen by others to leave no doubt that her gentle offices and prayers had, at last, touched, in some slight degree, the marble-like heart of the Trackless."

As for Jaaf, it is possible that it was his misfortune to be a slave in a family that belonged to the Episcopal Church, a sect that is so tempered and chastened in its religious rites, and so far removed from exaggeration, as often to seem cold to those who seek excitement, and fancy quiet and self-control incompatible with a lively faith. "Your priests are unsuited to make converts among the people," said an enthusiastic clergyman of another denomination to me, quite lately. "They cannot go among the brambles and thorns without tearing their gowns and surplices." There may be a certain degree of truth in this, though the obstacle exists rather with the convert than with the missionary. The vulgar love coarse excitement, and fancy that a profound spiritual sensibility must needs awaken a powerful physical sympathy. To such, groans, and sighs, and lamentations must be not only audible to exist at all, but audible in a dramatic and striking form with men, in order to be groans, and sighs, and lamentations acceptable with God. It is certain, at any rate, that the practices which reason, education, a good taste, and a sound comprehension of Christian obligations condemn, are, if not most effective, still effective with the ignorant and coarse-minded. Thus may it have been with Jaaf, who had not fallen into the hands of the exaggerated during that period of life when he was most likely to be aroused by their practices, and who now really seemed to have lived beyond everything but the recollections connected with the persons and things he loved in youth.

As men, in the higher meaning of the term, the reader will remember that Susquesus was ever vastly the superior of the black. Jaaf's intellect had suffered under the blight which seems to have so generally caused the African mind to wither, as we know that mind among ourselves; while that of his associate had ever possessed much of the loftiness of a grand nature, left to its native workings by the impetus of an unrestrained, though savage liberty.

Such were the characters of the two extraordinary men whom we now went forth to meet. By the time we reached the lawn, they were walking slowly toward the piazza, having got within the range of the shrubbery that immediately surrounds, and sheds its perfume on the house. The Indian led, as seemed to become his character and rank. But Jaaf had never presumed on his years and indulgences so far as to forget his condition. A slave he had been born, a slave had he lived, and a slave he would die. This, too, in spite of the law of emancipation, which had, in fact, liberated him long ere he had reached his hundredth year. I have been told that when my father announced to Jaaf the fact that he and all his progeny, the latter of which was very numerous, were free and at liberty to go and do as they pleased, the old black was greatly dissatisfied. "What good dat all do, Masser Malbone," he growled. "Why 'ey won't let well alone? Nigger be nigger, and white gentle'em be white gentle'em. I 'speck, now, nuttin' but disgrace and poverty come on my breed! We always hab been gentle'em's nigger, and why can't 'ey let us be gentle'em's nigger as long as we like? Ole Sus hab liberty all he life, and what good he get? Nuttin' but poor red sabbage, for all dat, and never be anyt'ing more. If he could be gentle'em's sabbage, I tell him, dat war' somet'ing; but, no, he too proud for dat! Gosh! so he only he own sabbage!"

The Onondago was in high costume; much higher even than when he first received the visit of the prairie Indians. The paint he used gave new fire to eyes that age had certainly dimmed, though they had not extinguished their light; and fierce and savage as was the conceit, it unquestionably relieved the furrows of time. That red should be as much the favorite color of the redskin is, perhaps, as natural as that our ladies should use cosmetics to imitate the lilies and roses that are wanting. A grim fierceness, however, was the aim of the Onondago; it being his ambition, at that moment, to stand before his guests in the colors of a warrior. Of the medals and wampum, and feathers, and blankets, and moccasons, gay with the quills of the porcupine, tinged half a dozen hues, and the tomahawk polished to the brightness of silver, it is not necessary to say anything. So much has been said, and written, and seen, of late, on such subjects, that almost every one now knows how the North American warrior appears when he comes forth in his robes.

Nor had Jaaf neglected to do honor to a festival that was so peculiarly in honor of his friend. Grumble he would and did, throughout the whole of that day; but he was not the less mindful of the credit and honor of Susquesus. It is the fashion of the times to lament the disappearance of the red-men from among us; but, for my part, I feel much more disposed to mourn over the disappearance of the "nigger." I use the Doric, in place of the more modern and mincing term of "colored man;" for the Doric alone will convey to the American the meaning in which I wish to be understood. I regret the "nigger;" the old-fashioned, careless, light-hearted, laborious, idle, roguish, honest, faithful, fraudulent, grumbling, dogmatical slave; who was at times good for nothing, and, again, the stay and support of many a family. But him I regret in particular is the domestic slave, who identified himself with the interests, and most of all with the credit of those he served, and who always played the part of an humble privy counsellor, and sometimes that of a prime minister. It is true, I had never seen Jaaf acting in the latter capacity, among us; nor is it probable he ever did exactly discharge such functions with any of his old masters; but he was a much indulged servant always, and had become so completely associated with us, by not only long services, but by playing his part well and manfully in divers of the wild adventures that are apt to characterize the settlement of a new country, that we all of us thought of him rather as an humble and distant relative, than as a slave. Slave, indeed, he had not been for more than fourscore years, his manumission-papers having been signed and regularly recorded as far back as that, though they remained a perfect dead letter, so far as the negro himself was concerned.

The costume of Yop Littlepage, as this black was familiarly called by all who knew anything of his existence, and his great age, as well as that of Susquesus, had gotten into more than one newspaper, was of what might be termed the old school of the "nigger!" The coat was scarlet, with buttons of mother-of-pearl, each as large as a half-dollar; his breeches were sky blue; the vest was green; the stockings striped blue and white, and the legs had no other peculiarities about them than the facts that all that remained of the calves was on the shins, and that they were stepped nearer than is quite common to the centre of the foot; the heel-part of the latter being about half as long as the part connected with the toes. The shoes, indeed, were somewhat conspicuous portions of the dress, having a length, and breadth, and proportions that might almost justify a naturalist in supposing that they were never intended for a human being. But the head and hat, according to Jaaf's own notion, contained the real glories of his toilet and person. As for the last, it was actually laced, having formed a part of my grandfather General Cornelius Littlepage's uniform in the field, and the wool beneath it was as white as the snow of the hills. This style of dress has long disappeared from among the black race, as well as from among the whites; but vestiges of it were to be traced, my uncle tells me, in his boyhood; particularly at the pinkster holidays, that peculiar festival of the negro. Notwithstanding the incongruities of his attire, Yop Littlepage made a very respectable figure on this occasion, the great age of both him and the Onondago being the circumstances that accorded least with their magnificence.

Notwithstanding the habitual grumbling of the negro, the Indian always led when they made a movement. He had led in the forest, on the early hunts and on the war-paths; he had led in their later excursions on the neighboring hills; he always led when it was their wont to stroll to the hamlet together, to witness the militia musters and other similar striking events; he even was foremost when they paid their daily visits to the Nest; and, now, he came a little in advance, slow in movement, quiet, with lips compressed, eye roving and watchful, and far from dim, and his whole features wonderfully composed and noble, considering the great number of years he had seen. Jaaf followed at the same gait, but a very different man in demeanor and aspect. His face scarce seemed human, even the color of his skin, once so glistening and black, having changed to a dirty gray, all its gloss having disappeared, while his lips were, perhaps, the most prominent feature. These, too, were in incessant motion, the old man working his jaws, in a sort of second childhood; or as the infant bites its gums to feel its nearly developed teeth, even when he was not keeping up the almost unceasing accompaniment of his grumbles.

As the old man walked toward us, and the men of the prairies had not yet shown themselves, we all advanced to meet the former. Every one of our party, the girls included, shook hands with Susquesus, and wished him a good morning. He knew my grandmother, and betrayed some strong feeling, when he shook her hand. He knew Patt, and nodded kindly in answer to her good wishes. He knew Mary Warren, too, and held her hand a little time in his own, gazing at her wistfully the while. My uncle Ro and I were also recognized, his look at me being earnest and long. The two other girls were courteously received, but his feelings were little interested in them. A chair was placed for Susquesus on the lawn, and he took his seat. As for Jaaf, he walked slowly up to the party, took off his fine cocked hat, but respectfully refused the seat he too was offered. Happening thus to be the last saluted, he was the first with whom my grandmother opened the discourse.

"It is a pleasant sight, Jaaf, to see you, and our old friend Susquesus, once more on the lawn of the old house."

"Not so berry ole house, Miss Duss, a'ter all," answered the negro, in his grumbling way. "Remem'er him well 'nough; only built tudder day."

"It has been built threescore years, if you call that the other day. I was then young myself; a bride-happy and blessed far beyond my deserts. Alas! how changed have things become since that time!"

"Yes, you won'erful changed-must say dat for you, Miss Duss. I sometime surprise myself so young a lady get change so berry soon."

"Ah! Jaaf, though it may seem a short time to you, who are so much my senior, fourscore years are a heavy load to carry. I enjoy excellent health and spirits for my years: but age will assert its power."

"Remem'er you, Miss Duss, like dat young lady dere," pointing at Patt-"now you do seem won'erful change. Ole Sus, too, berry much alter of late-can't hole out much longer, I do t'ink. But Injin nebber hab much raal grit in 'em."

"And you, my friend," continued my grandmother, turning to Susquesus, who had sat motionless while she was speaking to Jaaf-"do you also see this great change in me? I have known you much longer than I have known Jaaf; and your recollection of me must go back nearly to childhood-to the time when I first lived in the woods, as a companion of my dear, excellent old uncle, Chainbearer."

"Why should Susquesus forget little wren? Hear song now in his ear. No change at all in little wren, in Susquesus's eye."

"This is at least gallant, and worthy of an Onondago chief. But, my worthy friend, age will make its mark even on the trees; and we cannot hope to escape it forever!"

"No; bark smooth on young tree-rough on ole tree. Nebber forget Chainbearer. He's same age as Susquesus-little ole'er, too. Brave warrior-good man. Know him when young hunter-he dere when dat happen."

"When what happened, Susquesus? I have long wished to know what drove you from your people; and why you, a red man in your heart and habits, to the last, should have so long lived among us pale-faces, away from your own tribe. I can understand why you like us, and wish to pass the remainder of your days with this family; for I know all that we have gone through together, and your early connection with my father-in-law, and his father-in-law, too; but the reason why you left your own people so young, and have now lived near a hundred years away from them, is what I could wish to hear, before the angel of death summons one of us away."

While my grandmother was thus coming to the point, for the first time in her life, on this subject, as she afterward told me, the Onondago's eye was never off her own. I thought he seemed surprised; then his look changed to sadness; and bowing his head a little, he sat a long time, apparently musing on the past. The subject had evidently aroused the strongest of the remaining feelings of the old man, and the allusion to it had brought back images of things long gone by, that were probably reviewed not altogether without pain. I think his head must have been bowed, and his face riveted on the ground, for quite a minute.

"Chainbearer nebber say why?" the old man suddenly asked, raising his face again to look at my grandmother. "Ole chief, too-he know; nebber talk of it, eh?"

"Never. I have heard both my uncle and my father-in-law say that they knew the reason why you left your people, so many long, long, years ago, and that it did you credit; but neither ever said more. It is reported here, that these red-men, who have come so far to see you, also know it, and that it is one reason of their coming so much out of their way to pay you a visit."

Susquesus listened attentively, though no portion of his person manifested emotion but his eyes. All the rest of the man seemed to be made of some material that was totally without sensibility; but those restless, keen, still penetrating eyes, opened a communication with the being within, and proved that the spirit was far younger than the tenement in which it dwelt. Still, he made no revelation; and our curiosity, which was getting to be intense, was completely baffled. It was even some little time before the Indian said anything more at all. When he did speak, it was merely to say-

"Good. Chainbearer wise chief-Gin'ral wise, too. Good in camp-good at council-fire. Know when to talk-know what to talk."

How much further my dear grandmother might have been disposed to push the subject, I cannot say, for just then we saw the redskins coming out of their quarters, evidently about to cross from the old farm to the lawn, this being their last visit to the Trackless, preparatory to departing on their long journey to the prairies. Aware of all this, she fell back, and my uncle led Susquesus to the tree where the benches were placed for the guests, I carrying the chair in the rear. Everybody followed, even to all the domestics who could be spared from the ordinary occupations of the household.

The Indian and the negro were both seated; and chairs having been brought out for the members of the family, we took our places near by, though so much in the back ground as not to appear obtrusive.

The Indians of the prairies arrived in their customary marching order, or in single files. Manytongues led, followed by Prairiefire; Flintyheart and Eaglesflight came next, and the rest succeeded in a nameless but perfect order. To our surprise, however, they brought the two prisoners with them, secured with savage ingenuity, and in a way to render escape nearly impossible.

It is unnecessary to dwell on the deportment of these strangers, as they took their allotted places on the benches, it being essentially the same as that described in their first visit. The same interest, however, was betrayed in their manner, nor did their curiosity or veneration appear to be in the least appeased by having passed a day or two in the immediate vicinity of their subject. That this curiosity and veneration proceeded, in some measure, from the great age and the extended experience of the Trackless was probable enough, but I could not divest myself of the idea that there lay something unusual behind all, which tradition had made familiar to these sons of the soil, but which had become lost to us.

The American savage enjoys one great advantage over the civilized man of the same quarter of the world. His traditions ordinarily are true, whereas, the multipled means of imparting intelligence among ourselves has induced so many pretenders to throw themselves into the ranks of the wise and learned, that blessed, thrice blessed is he, whose mind escapes the contamination of falsehood and prejudice. Well would it be for men if they oftener remembered that the very facilities that exist to circulate the truth, are just so many facilities for circulating falsehood; and that he who believes even one-half of that which meets his eyes, in his daily inquiries into passing events, is most apt to throw away quite a moiety of even that much credulity, on facts that either never had an existence at all, or, which have been so mutilated in the relation, that their eye-witnesses would be the last to recognize them.

The customary silence succeeded the arrival of the visitors; then Eaglesflight struck fire with a flint, touched the tobacco with the flame, and puffed at a very curiously carved pipe, made of some soft stone of the interior, until he had lighted it beyond any risk of its soon becoming extinguished. This done, he rose, advanced with profound reverence in his air, and presented it to Susquesus, who took it and smoked for a few seconds, after which he returned it to him from whom it had been received. This was a signal for other pipes to be lighted, and one was offered to my uncle and myself, each of us making a puff or two; and even John and the other male domestics were not neglected. Prairiefire himself paid the compliment to Jaaf. The negro had noted what was passing, and was much disgusted with the niggardliness which required the pipe to be so soon returned. This he did not care to conceal, as was obvious by the crusty observation he made when the pipe was offered to him. Cider and tobacco had from time immemorial been the two great blessings of this black's existence, and he felt at seeing one standing to receive his pipe, after a puff or two, much as he might have felt had one pulled the mug from his mouth, after the second or third swallow.

"No need wait here"-grumbled old Jaaf-"when I done, gib you de pipe, ag'in; nebber fear. Masser Corny, or Masser Malborne, or Masser Hugh-dear me, I nebber knows which be libbin' and which be dead, I get so ole, nowaday! But nebber mind if he be ole; can smoke yet, and don't lub Injin fashion of gibbin' t'ings; and dat is gib him and den take away ag'in. Nigger is nigger, and Injin is Injin; and nigger best. Lord! how many years I do see-I do see-most get tire of libbin' so long. Don't wait, Injin; when I done, you get pipe again, I say. Best not make ole Jaaf too mad, or he dreadful!"

Although it is probable that Prairiefire did not understand one-half of the negro's words, he comprehended his wish to finish the tobacco, before he relinquished the pipe. This was against all rule, and a species of slight on Indian usages, but the red-man overlooked all, with a courtesy of one trained in high society, and walked away as composedly as if everything were right. In these particulars the high-breeding of an Indian is always made apparent. No one ever sees in his deportment, a shrug or a half-concealed smile, or a look of intelligence; a wink or a nod, or any other of that class of signs, or communications, which it is usually deemed underbred to resort to in company. In all things, he is dignified and quiet, whether it be the effect of coldness, or the result of character.

The smoking now became general, but only as a ceremony; no one but Jaaf setting to with regularity to finish his pipe. As for the black, his opinion of the superiority of his own race over that of the red-man, was as fixed as his consciousness of his inferiority to the white, and he would have thought the circumstance that the present mode of using tobacco was an Indian custom, a sufficient reason why he himself should not adopt it. The smoking did not last long, but was succeeded by a silent pause. Then Prairiefire arose and spoke.

"Father," he commenced, "we are about to quit you. Our squaws and pappooses, on the prairies, wish to see us; it is time for us to go. They are looking toward the great salt lake for us; we are looking toward the great fresh-water lakes for them. There the sun sets-here it rises; the distance is great, and many strange tribes of pale-faces live along the path. Our journey has been one of peace. We have not hunted; we have taken no scalps; but we have seen our great father, uncle Sam, and we have seen our great father Susquesus; we shall travel toward the setting sun satisfied. Father, our traditions are true; they never lie. A lying tradition is worse than a lying Indian. What a lying Indian says, deceives his friends, his wife, his children; what a lying tradition says, deceives a tribe. Our traditions are true; they speak of the Upright Onondago. All the tribes on the prairies have heard this tradition, and are very glad. It is good to hear of justice; it is bad to hear of injustice. Without justice an Indian is no better than a wolf. No; there is not a tongue spoken on the prairies which does not tell of that pleasant tradition. We could not pass the wigwam of our father without turning aside to look at him. Our squaws and pappooses wish to see us, but they would have told us to come back, and turn aside to look upon our father, had we forgotten to do so. Why has my father seen so many winters? It is the will of the Manitou. The Great Spirit wants to keep him here a little longer. He is like stones piled together to tell the hunters where the pleasant path is to be found. All the red-men who see him think of what is right. No; the Great Spirit cannot yet spare my father from the earth, lest red-men forget what is right. He is stones piled together."

Here Prairiefire ceased, sitting down amid a low murmur of applause. He had expressed the common feeling, and met with the success usual to such efforts. Susquesus had heard and understood all that was said, and I could perceive that he felt it, though he betrayed less emotion on this occasion than he had done on the occasion of the previous interview. Then, the novelty of the scene, no doubt, contributed to influence his feelings. A pause followed this opening speech, and we were anxiously waiting for the renowned orator Eaglesflight, to rise, when a singular and somewhat ludicrous interruption of the solemn dignity of the scene occurred. In the place of Eaglesflight whom Manytongues had given us reason to expect would now come forth with energy and power, a much younger warrior arose and spoke, commanding the attention of his listeners in a way to show that he possessed their respect. We were told that the young warrior's name, rendered into English, was Deersfoot, an appellation obtained on account of his speed, and which we were assured he well merited. Much to our surprise, however, he addressed himself to Jaaf, Indian courtesy requiring that something should be said to the constant friend and tried associate of the Trackless. The reader may be certain we were all much amused at this bit of homage, though every one of us felt some little concern on the subject of the answer it might elicit. Deersfoot delivered himself, substantially, as follows:-

"The Great Spirit sees all things; he makes all things. In his eyes, color is nothing. Although he made children that he loved of a red color, he made children that he loved with pale faces, too. He did not stop there. No; he said, 'I wish to see warriors and men with faces darker than the skin of the bear. I will have warriors who shall frighten their enemies by their countenances.' He made black men. My father is black; his skin is neither red, like the skin of Susquesus, nor white, like the skin of the young chief of Ravensnest. It is now gray, with having had the sun shine on it so many summers; but it was once the color of the crow. Then it must have been pleasant to look at. My black father is very old. They tell me he is even older than the Upright Onondago. The Manitou must be well pleased with him, not to have called him away sooner. He has left him in his wigwam, that all the black men may see whom their Great Spirit loves. This is the tradition told to us by our fathers. The pale men come from the rising sun, and were born before the heat burned their skins. The black men came from under the sun at noon-day, and their faces were darkened by looking up above their heads to admire the warmth that ripened their fruits. The red men were born under the setting sun, and their faces were colored by the hues of the evening skies. The red man was born here; the pale man was born across the salt lake; the black man came from a country of his own, where the sun is always above his head. What of that? We are brothers. The Thicklips (this was the name by which the strangers designated Jaaf, as we afterward learned) is the friend of Susquesus. They have lived in the same wigwam, now, so many winters, that their venison and bear's-meat have the same taste. They love one another. Whomsoever Susquesus loves and honors, all just Indians love and honor. I have no more to say."

It is very certain that Jaaf would not have understood a syllable that was uttered in this address, had not Manytongues first given him to understand that Deersfoot was talking to him in particular, and then translated the speaker's language, word for word, and with great deliberation, as each sentence was finished. Even this care might not have sufficed to make the negro sensible of what was going on, had not Patt gone to him, and told him, in a manner and voice to which he was accustomed, to attend to what was said, and to endeavor, as soon as Deersfoot sat down, to say something in reply. Jaaf was so accustomed to my sister, and was so deeply impressed with the necessity of obeying her, as one of his many "y'ung missuses"-which he scarcely knew himself-that she succeeded in perfectly arousing him; and he astonished us all with the intelligence of his very characteristic answer, which he did not fail to deliver exactly as he had been directed to do. Previously to beginning to speak, the negro champed his toothless gums together, like a vexed swine; but "y'ung missus" had told him he must answer, and answer he did. It is probable, also, that the old fellow had some sort of recollection of such scenes, having been present, in his younger days, at various councils held by the different tribes of New York; among whom my grandfather, General Mordaunt Littlepage, had more than once been a commissioner.

"Well," Jaaf began, in a short, snappish manner, "s'pose nigger must say somet'in'. No berry great talker, 'cause I no Injin. Nigger had too much work to do, to talk all 'e time. What you say 'bout where nigger come from, isn't true. He come from Africa, as I hear 'em say, 'long time ago. Ahs, me! how ole I do get! Sometimes I t'ink poor ole black man be nebber to lie down and rest himself. It do seem dat ebberybody take his rest but old Sus and me. I berry strong, yet; and git stronger and stronger, dough won'erful tired; but Sus, he git weaker and weaker ebbery day. Can't last long, now, poor Sus! Ebbery body must die some time. Ole, ole, ole masser and missus, fust dey die. Den Masser Corny go; putty well adwanced, too. Den come Masser Mordaunt's turn, and Masser Malbone, and now dere anudder Masser Hugh. Well, dey putty much all de same to me. I lubs 'em all and all on 'em lubs me. Den Miss Duss count for somet'in', but she be libbin', yet. Most time she die, too, but don't seem to go. Ahs, me! how ole I do git! Ha! dere come dem debbils of Injins, ag'in, and dis time we must clean 'em out! Get your rifle, Sus; get your rifle, boy, and mind dat ole Jaaf be at your elbow."

Sure enough, there the Injins did come; but I must reserve an account of what followed for the commencement of the next chapter.

* * *

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