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(title page) The Wigwam and the Cabin. By the Author of "The Yemassee," "Guy Rivers," &c. Second Series
William Gilmore Simms
[v], 238 p.
Wiley and Putnam, 161 Broadway.
Call number PS2848 .W4 1845a (Rare Book Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
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BY THE AUTHOR OF
"THE YEMASSEE," "GUY RIVERS," &c.
"The ancient tales
Which first I learn'd,
Will I relate."
I HAVE but a single word to deliver in regard to this little volume. I am conscious--in one at least of the stories in the ensuing collection,--that entitled "Caloya, or the Loves of the Driver,"--of a certain Flemish freedom of touch which, in the minds of very fastidious persons, may subject me to a certain degree of censure. The materials are coarse in character, delineating the negro slave in his moments of excess, and the Indian in his condition of deepest degradation. It has not been without a purpose that I have so designed it, since, I am free to believe that, I have succeeded in showing how happily Virtue can be seen to triumph even in the worst estates, and with what loveliness of aspect Purity can make her progress, like the Lady in Milton's Comus, even through the foul rabble of lewd spirits that hang about her path. I flatter myself that, in this little story, I have wrought out the most healthful and encouraging results of virtue, even from an atmosphere wholly vicious and impure; and that the Indian woman, Caloya, is, in moral respects, such a being as might serve for the model of the purest lady in the land.
IN 1766, the beautiful district of Greenville, in South Carolina,--which is said to have had its name in consequence of the verdant aspect which it bore in European eyes,--received its first white settlers from Virginia and Pennsylvania. Among these early colonists were the families of Holt and Houston,--represented by two fearless borderers, famous in their day as Indian hunters;--men ready with the tomahawk and rifle, but not less distinguished, perhaps, for the great attachment which existed between them. Long intercourse in trying periods--the habit of referring to each other in moments of peril--constant adventures in company--not to speak of similar tastes and sympathies in numerous other respects, had created between them a degree of affection, which it would be difficult, perhaps, to find among persons of more mild and gentle habits. Each had his family--his wife and little ones--and, traversing the mountain paths which lie between Virginia and the Carolinas, they came in safety to the more southern of the last-named colonies. Charmed with the appearance of the country, they squatted down upon the borders of Reedy River, not very far from the spot now occupied by the pleasant town of Greenville. Family division, for the present, there was none. Congeniality of tastes, the isolation of their
abodes, the necessity of concentration against the neighbouring Indian nation of Cherokees, kept them together; and, continuing the life of the hunter, rather than that of the farmer, John Holt and Arthur Houston pursued the track of bear, deer, and turkey, as before, with a keenness of zest which, possibly, derived its impulse quite as much from attachment to one another, as from any great fondness for the pursuit itself.
Meanwhile, their families, taking fast hold upon the soil, began to flourish together after a fashion of their own. Flourish they did, for the boys thrived, and the girls grew apace. But tradition has preserved some qualifying circumstances in this history, by which it would seem that their prosperity was not entirely without alloy. The sympathies between Mesdames Holt and Houston were not, it appears, quite so warm and active as those which distinguished the intercourse of their respective husbands. Civil enough to one another in the presence of the latter, they were not unfrequently at "dagger-draw" in their absence. The husbands were not altogether ignorant of this condition of things at home, but they had their remedy; and there is little doubt that, like some other famous sportsmen of my acquaintance, they became happy hunters only when there was no longer any hope that they could become happy husbands. Now, as quarrels most commonly owe their spirit and excellence to the presence of spectators, we may assume that some portion of the virulence of our two wives underwent diminution from the absence of those before whom it might hope to display itself with appropriate eloquence; and the wrath of the dames, only exhibited before their respective children, was very apt to exhale in clouds, and slight flashes, and an under-current of distant thunder. Unhappily, however, the evil had consequences of which the weak mothers little thought, and the feud was entailed to the children, who, instead of assimilating, with childish propensities, in childish sports, took up the cudgels of their parents, and under fewer of the restraints,--arising from prudence, and the recognition of mutual necessities,--by which the dames were kept from extreme issues, they played the aforesaid cudgels about their mutual heads, with a degree of earnestness that very frequently rendered necessary the interposition of their superiors.
The miserable evil of this family feud fell most heavily upon the natures of the two eldest boys, one a Holt, the other a Houston,--spoiling their childish tempers, impressing their souls with fearful passions, and embittering their whole intercourse.
At this period young Houston has reached the age of fourteen, and Holt of twelve years of age. The former was a tall, slender, and very handsome youth; the latter was short, thickset, and of rather plain, unpromising appearance. But he was modest, gentle, and subdued in temper, and rather retiring and shy. The former, on the contrary, was bold, vain, and violent--the petted boy of his mother, insolent in his demands, and reckless in his resentments--a fellow of unbending will, and of unmeasured impulses. He had already gone forth as a hunter with his father; he had proved his strength and courage; and he longed for an opportunity to exercise his youthful muscle upon his young companion, with whom, hitherto,--he himself could not say how or why--his collisions had fallen short of the extremities of personal violence. For such an encounter the soul of young Houston yearned; he knew that Holt was not wanting in strength--he had felt that in their plays together; but he did not doubt that his own strength, regularly put forth, was greatly superior.
One day the boys had gone down together to the banks of Reedy River to bathe. There they met a deformed boy of the neighbourhood, whose name was Acker. In addition to his deformity, the boy was an epileptic, and such was his nervous sensibility, that, merely to point a finger at him in mischief, was apt to produce in him the most painful sensations. Sometimes, indeed, the pranks of his playmates, carried too far, had thrown him into convulsions. This unhappy lad had but just recovered from a sickness produced by some such practices, and this fact was well known to the boys. Disregarding it, however, John Houston proceeded to amuse himself with the poor boy. Holt, however, interposed, and remonstrated with his companion, but without effect. Houston persisted, until, fairly tired of the sport, he left the diseased boy in a dreadful condition of dreadful excitement and bodily exhaustion. This done, he proceeded to bathe.
Meanwhile, with that sort of cunning and vindictiveness which often distinguishes the impaired intellect of persons subject to
such infirmities, the epileptic boy watched his opportunity, and stole down, unobserved, to the river's edge, among the rocks, where the boys had placed their clothes. There he remained in waiting, and when John Houston appeared to dress himself, and was stooping down for his garments, the epileptic threw himself violently upon him, bore him to the ground, and, grasping a heavy rock, would have beaten out the brains of the offending lad, but for the timely assistance of Arthur Holt, who drew off the assailant, deprived him of his weapon, and gave his comrade a chance to recover, and place himself in a situation to defend himself.
But Acker, the epileptic boy, was no longer in a condition to justify the hostility of any enemy. His fit of frenzy had been succeeded by one of weeping, and, prostrate upon the ground, he lay convulsed under most violent nervous agitation. While he remained in this state, John Houston, who had now partially dressed himself, furious with rage at the indignity he had suffered, and the danger he had escaped, prepared to revenge himself upon him for this last offence; and, but for Arthur Holt, would, no doubt, have subjected the miserable victim to a severe beating. But the manly nature of Arthur resented and resisted this brutality. He stood between the victim and his persecutor.
"You shall not beat him, John--it was your own fault. You begun it."
"I will beat you then," was the reply.
"No! you shall not beat me, either."
"Ha! Take that!"
The blow followed on the instant. A first blow, and in the eye, too, is very apt to conclude an ordinary battle. But this was to be no ordinary battle. Our young hero was stunned by the blow;--the fire flashed from the injured eye;--but the unfairness of the proceeding awakened a courage which had its best sources in the moral nature of the boy; and, though thus taken at advantage, he closed in with his assailant, and, in this manner, lessened the odds at which he otherwise must have fought with one so much taller and longer in the arms than himself. In the fling that followed, John Houston was on his back. His conqueror suffered him to rise.
"Let us fight no more, John," he said, on relaxing his hold; "I don't want to fight with you."
The answer, on the part of the other, was a renewal of the assault. Again was he thrown, and this time with a considerable increase of severity. He rose with pain. He felt his hurts. The place of battle was stony ground. Fragments of rock were at hand. Indignant and mortified at the result of the second struggle--aiming only at vengeance--the furious boy snatched up one of these fragments, and once more rushed upon his companion. But this time he was restrained by a third party--no less than his own father--who, unobserved, had emerged from the neighbouring thicket, and, unseen by the combatants, had witnessed the whole proceeding. The honourable nature of the old hunter recoiled at the conduct of his son. He suddenly took the lad by the collar, wrested the stone from him, and laying a heavy hickory rod some half dozen times over his shoulders, with no moderate emphasis, sent him home, burning with shame, and breathing nothing but revenge.
IN the space of five years after this event, the two fathers yielded their scalps to the Cherokees, and upon the young men, now stretching to manhood, devolved the task of providing for their families. The patriarchal sway was at an end, and, with it, all those restraining influences by which the external show of peace had been kept up. It was to be a household in common no longer. But a short time had elapsed, when a domestic storm of peculiar violence determined the dames to separate for ever; and, while the family of Holt, under the management of young Arthur, remained at the old settlement near Reedy River, the Houstons proceeded to Paris Mountain, some seven miles off,--in the neighbourhood of which may be found, at this day, some traces of their rude retreat. The settlement at Reedy River, meanwhile, had undergone increase. New families had arrived, and the first foundations were probably then laid of the flourishing village which now borders the same lovely stream. The sons grew up, but not after the fashion of their fathers. In one respect only did John Houston resemble his parent--he was a hunter. Arthur Holt, on the other hand, settled down into a methodical, hard-working farmer, who, clinging to his family fireside, made it cheerful, and diffused the happiest influences around it. He grew up strong rather than handsome, good rather than conspicuous; and, under his persevering industry and steady habits, his mother's family, now his own, reached a condition of comfort before unknown. The family of young Houston, by which we mean his mother, sister, and a younger brother, did not flourish in like degree. Yet Houston had already acquired great reputation as a hunter. In the woods he seemed literally to follow in his father's footsteps. He had his accomplishments also. He was certainly the handsomest youth in all the settlements; of a bold carriage, lofty port, free, open, expressive countenance, tall of person and graceful of movement.
It was some qualification of these advantages that the morale of John Houston was already something more than questionable in the public opinion of the settlement. His tastes were vicious,--his indulgences in strong drink had more than once subjected him to humiliating exposures, but as yet they had produced caution rather than dislike among his associates. Among the women, however, they were not suspected to exist, or, if known or suspected, weighed very little against the graces of a fine person, a dashing, easy carriage, and a free "gift of the gab," which left him quite as unrivalled among the debaters as he was among the dancers.
Among the families settled down upon Reedy River, was that of Marcus Heywood, a Virginia cavalier, a fine hearty gentleman of the old school, polished and precise, who had seen better days, and was disposed very much to insist upon them. He brought with him into the little colony a degree of taste and refinement, of which, before his coming, the happy little neighbourhood knew nothing; but, unhappily for all parties, he survived too short a time after his arrival, to affect very favourably, or very materially, the sentiments and manners of those about him. He left his widow, a lady of fifty, and an only daughter of sixteen, to lament his loss. Mrs. Heywood was a good woman, an excellent housewife, a kind matron, and all that is exemplary at her time of life; but Leda Heywood, her daughter, was a paragon;--in such high terms is she described by still-worshiping tradition, and the story that comes down to us, seems, in some respects, to justify the warmth of its eulogium. At the period of her father's death, Leda was only sixteen; but she was tall, well-grown, and thoughtful beyond her years. The trying times in which she lived--frequent travel--the necessity of vigilance--the duties which naturally fall upon the young in new countries--conspired to bring out her character, and to hurry to maturity an intellect originally prompt and precocious. Necessity had forced thought into exercise, and she had become acute, observant, subdued in bearing, modest in reply, gentle, full of womanly solicitude, yet so calm in her deportment that, to the superficial observer, she wore an aspect,--quite false to the fact,--of great coldness and insensibility. Her tastes were excellent;
she sang very sweetly--and when you add to the account of her merits, that she was really very lovely, a fair, blue-eyed, graceful creature,--you need not wonder that one day she became a heroine! A heroine! poor Leda! Bitterly, indeed, must she have wept, in after times, the evil fortune that doomed her to be a heroine!
But Leda was a belle before she became a heroine. This was, perhaps, the more unfortunate destiny of the two. She was the belle of Reedy River, called by hunter, and shepherd, and farmer, "the blue-eyed girl of Reedy River," to whom all paid an involuntary tribute, to whom all came as suitors, and, with the rest, who but our two acquaintances, John Houston and Arthur Holt. At first they themselves knew not that they were rivals, but the secret was one of that sort which very soon contrived to reveal itself. It was then that the ancient hate of John Houston revived, in all its fury. If Arthur Holt was not conscious of the same feelings exactly, he was yet conscious of an increased dislike of his old companion. With that forbearance which, whether the fruit of prudence or timidity, Arthur Holt had always been careful to maintain in his intercourse with his former associate, he now studiously kept aloof from him as much as possible. Not that this reserve and caution manifested itself in any unmanly weakness. On the contrary, no one could have appeared more composed, when they met, than Arthur Holt. It is true that, in the actual presence of Leda Heywood, he was rather more embarrassed than his rival. The reader will not need to be reminded that we have already described him as being naturally shy. This bashfulness showed badly in contrast with the deportment of John Houston. If the difference between the manner of the two young men, in approaching their mistress, was perceptible to herself and others, it was little likely to escape the eyes of one who, like John Houston, was rendered equally watchful both by hate and jealousy. But, unconscious of any bashfulness himself, he could not conceive the influence of this weakness in another. He committed the grievous error of ascribing the disquiet and nervous timidity of Arthur Holt to a very different origin; and fondly fancied that it a rose from a secret dread which the young man felt of his rival. We shall not say what degree
of influence this notion might have had, in determining his own future conduct towards his rival.
Some months had passed away, since the death of Colonel Heywood, in this manner, and the crowd of suitors had gradually given way to the two to whom our own attention has been more particularly turned. Events, meanwhile, had been verging towards a very natural crisis; and the whisper, on all hands, determined that Leda Heywood was certainly engaged, and to John Houston. This whisper, as a matter of course, soon reached the ears of the man whom it was most likely to annoy.
Arthur Holt could not be said to hope, for, in truth, Leda Heywood had given him but little encouragement; still he was not willing to yield in despair, for, so far as he himself had observed, she had never given any encouragement to his rival. At all events, there was a way of settling the matter, which the stouthearted fellow determined to take at the earliest moment. He resolved to propose to Leda, a measure which he would sooner have adopted, but for a delicate scruple arising from the fact that he had made himself particularly useful to her mother, who, in her widowhood, and in straitened circumstances, was very glad to receive the help and friendly offices of the young farmer. These scruples yielded, however, to the strength of his feelings; and one evening he had already half finished his toilet with more than usual care, in order to the business of a formal declaration, when, to his own surprise and that of his family, John Houston abruptly entered the humble homestead. It was the first visit which he had paid since the separation of the two families, and Arthur saw at a glance that it had its particular object. After a few moments, in which the usual civilities were exchanged, John Houston, rising as he spoke, said abruptly to Arthur--
"You seem about to go out, and perhaps we may be walking in the same direction. If so, I can say what I have to say, while we're on the road together."
"I am about to go to see the Widow Heywood."
"Very good! our road lies the same way."
The tones of Houston were more than usually abrupt as he spoke, and there was a stern contracting of the brow, and a fierce flashing of the eye, while he looked upon the person he
addressed, which did not escape the observation of Arthur, and excited the apprehensions of his mother. On some pretence, she drew her son into her chamber ere he went forth, and in few, but earnest words, insisted that John Houston meant harm.
"If you will go with him, Arthur, take this pistol of your father's in your bosom, and keep a sharp look-out upon him. Man never meant evil if John Houston does not mean it now."
We pass over her farther remonstrances. They made little impression upon Arthur, but, to quiet her, he put the weapon into his bosom--half ashamed--as he did so--of a concession that seemed to look like cowardice.
The two young men set out together, and the eyes of the anxious mother followed them as long as they were in sight. They took the common path, which led them down to the river, just below the falls. When they had reached the opposite shore, and before they had ascended the rocks by which it is lined, John Houston, who had led, turned suddenly upon his companion, and thus addressed him:
"Arthur Holt, you may wonder at my coming to see you today, for I very well know that there is no love lost between us. You like me as little as I like you. Nay, for that matter, I don't care how soon you hear it from my lips,--I hate you, and I shall always hate you! We were enemies while we were boys,--we are enemies now that we are men; and I suppose we shall be enemies as long as we live. Whether we are to fight upon it, is for you to say."
Here he paused and looked eagerly into the eyes of his companion. The latter regarded him steadily, but returned no answer. He evidently seemed to await some farther explanation of the purpose of one who had opened his business with an avowal so startling and ungracious. After a brief pause, Houston proceeded:
"The talk is that you're a-courting Leda Heywood--that you mean to offer yourself to her--and when I see how finely you've rigged yourself out for it to-night, I'm half inclined to believe you're foolish enough to be thinking of it. Arthur Holt, this must not be! You must have nothing to do with Leda Heywood."
He paused again--his eyes keenly searching those of his rival.
The latter still met his glance with a quiet sort of determination, which betrayed nothing of the effect which the words of the other might have produced upon his mind. Houston was annoyed. Impatiently, again, he spoke, as follows:
"You hear me,--you hear what I say?"
"Yes, I hear you, John Houston."
"Well!--you want my answer, I suppose? You shall have it! This it is. If you are a madman or a fool, that is no reason why I should not do as I please!"
The other was about to interrupt him,--but Holt persisted:
"Let me finish, John Houston. I heard you patiently--now, hear me! I am no fighting man, and as heaven is above us, I have no wish to quarrel; but I am ready to fight whenever I can't do better. As for being bullied by you, that is out of the question. I am not afraid of you, and never was, as you should have known before this, and as you may know whenever the notion suits you to try. I am now, this very moment, going to see Leda Heywood, and I mean to ask her hand."
"That you shall never do!" exclaimed the other, whose passions had been with difficulty kept down so long--"That, by the Eternal! you shall never do!"--and as he spoke, drawing a knife from his belt, he rushed upon Arthur Holt, with a promptness and fury that left the latter in no doubt of the bloody and desperate purposes of his foe. But the coolness of the young farmer was his safeguard in part, and to the weapon, so thoughtfully furnished him by his mother, he was indebted for the rest. He had kept a wary watch upon the movements of Houston's eye, and read in its glance the bloody purpose of his soul, the moment ere he struck. Retreating on one side, he was ready, when the latter turned a second time upon him, with his presented pistol.
"It is well for both of us, perhaps," said he, quietly, as he cocked and held up the weapon to the face of the approaching Houston, "that this pistol was put into my hands by one who knew you better than I did; or you might this moment have my blood upon your soul. Let us now part, John Houston. If you are bent to go from this to Widow Heywood's,--the path is open
to you,--go! I will return home, and seek some other time, when there's no chance of our meeting; for I neither wish to kill you nor to be killed by you. Which will you do--go forward or return? Take your choice--I yield the path to you."
The fury of the baffled assassin may be imagined. It is not easy to describe it. But he was in no condition of mind to visit Leda Heywood, and, after exhausting himself in ineffectual threatenings, he dashed once more across the foaming torrents of Reedy River, leaving Arthur Holt free to pursue his way to the cottage of his mistress. This he did, with a composure which the whole exciting scene, through which he had passed, had entirely failed to disturb. Indeed, the events of this interview appeared to have the effect, only, of strengthening the resolve of the young farmer, for, to confess a truth, the good fellow was somewhat encouraged--by certain expressions which had dropped from Houston, in his fury,--to hope for a favourable answer to his suit. We may as well say, in this place, that the frenzy of the latter had been provoked by similar stories reaching his ears to those which had troubled Arthur.
When they separated, and Arthur Holt went forward to the cottage of Widow Heywood, it was with a new and most delightful hope awakened in his bosom.
BUT he was doomed to disappointment. He was rejected,--tenderly, but firmly. Leda Heywood was not for him; and resigning himself to the denial, with the instincts of a man by nature strong, and inured by trial to disappointments, Arthur Holt retired from the field of Love, to cultivate more certain fruits in those of Ceres and Pomona. Had the mind of the young farmer been morbidly affected, his mortification would have been heightened by subsequent events. Three days afterwards, Leda Heywood accepted the hand of his enemy, John Houston! Philosophers will continue to seek in vain for the cause of that strange perversity, by which the tastes, even of the finest women, are sometimes found to be governed. There is a mystery here beyond all solution. The tastes and sympathies of Leda Heywood and John Houston did not run together;--there was, in reality, no common ground, whether of the affections or of the sentiments, upon which they could meet. But he sought, and wooed, and won her;--they were married; and, to all but Arthur Holt, the wonder was at an end after the customary limits of the ninth day. The wonder, in this case, will be lessened to the reader if two or three things were remembered. Leda Heywood was very young, and John Houston very handsome. Of the wild passions of the latter she knew little or nothing. She found him popular--the favourite of the damsels around her, and this fact, alone, will account for the rest. But we must not digress in speculations of this nature. The parties were married, and the honeymoon, in all countries and climates, is proverbially rose-coloured. The only awkward thing is, that, in all countries, it is but a monthly moon.
The wedding took place. The honeymoon rose, but set somewhat earlier than usual. With the attainment of his object, the passion of John Houston very soon subsided, and we shall make a long story conveniently short by saying, in this place, that it was not many weeks before Leda Heywood (or as we must now
call her,) Leda Houston, began to weep over the ill-judged precipitation with which she had joined herself to a man whose violent temper made no allowances for the feelings, the sensibilities, and tastes of others. No longer restrained by the dread of losing his object, his brutalities shocked her delicacy, while his fierce passions awoke her fears. She soon found herself neglected and abused, and learned to loathe the connection she had formed, and to weep bitter tears in secret. To all this evil may be added the pressure of poverty, which now began to be more seriously felt than ever. The hunter life, always uncertain, was still more so, in the case of one like John Houston, continually led into indulgences which unfitted him, sometimes for days together, to go into the woods. Carousing at the tavern with some congenial natures, he suffered himself to be little disturbed by home cares; and the privations to which his wife had been subjected even, before her marriage, were now considerably increased. It will be remembered that the Widow Heywood was indebted (perhaps even more than she then knew) to the generous care of Arthur Holt. Her resources from this quarter were necessarily withdrawn on the marriage of her daughter with Houston, not so much through any diminution of the young farmer's sympathy for the objects of his bounty, as from a desire to withdraw from any connexion or communion, direct or indirect, with the family of his bitterest foe. Knowing the fierce, unreasoning nature of Houston, he was unwilling to expose to his violence the innocent victims of his ill habits--a consequence which he very well knew would follow the discovery of any services secretly rendered them by Holt. But these scruples were soon compelled to give way to a sense of superior duty. It soon came to his knowledge that the unhappy women -- mother and daughter -- were frequently without food. John Houston, abandoned to vicious habits and associates, had almost entirely left his family to provide for themselves. He was sometimes absent for weeks--would return home, as it appeared, for no purpose but to vent upon his wife and mother-in-law the caprices of his ill-ordered moods, and then depart, leaving them hopeless of his aid. In this condition, the young farmer came again to their rescue. The larder was provided regularly and bountifully. But Leda knew not at first
whence this kindly succor came. She might have suspected--nay, did suspect--but Arthur Holt proceeded so cautiously, that his supplies came to the house with the privity of Widow Heywood only.
To add to Leda's sorrows, two events now occurred within a few months of each other, and both in less than sixteen months after her marriage, which were calculated to increase her burthen, and to lessen, in some respect, her sources of consolation: the birth of a son and the death of her mother. These events drew to her the assistance of neighbours, but the most substantial help came from Arthur Holt. It was now scarcely possible to conceal from Leda, as he had hitherto done, his own direct agency in the support of her family. She was compelled to know it, and--which was still more mortifying to her spirit--conscious as she was of the past--she was compelled to receive it. Her husband's course was not materially improved by events which had so greatly increased the claims and the necessities of his wife. The child, for a time, appealed to his pride. It was a fine boy, who was supposed and said to resemble himself. This pleased him for a while, but did not long restrain him from indulgences, which, grateful to him from the first, had now acquired over him all the force of habit. He soon disappeared from his home, and again, for long and weary periods, left the poor Leda to all the cares and solitude, without the freedom, of widowhood.
But a circumstance was about to occur, which suddenly drew his attention to his home. Whether it was that some meddlesome neighbour informed him of the assistance which his wife derived from Arthur Holt, or that he himself had suddenly awakened to the inquiry as to the source of her supplies, we cannot say; but certain it is that the suspicions of his evil nature were aroused; and he who would not abandon his low and worthless associates for the sake of duty and love, was now prompted to do so by his hate. He returned secretly to the neighbourhood of his home, and put himself in a place of concealment.
The cottage of the Widow Heywood was within three quarters of a mile of Reedy River, on the opposite side of which stood the farm of Arthur Holt. This space the young farmer
was accustomed nightly to cross, bearing with him the commodity, whether of flour, honey, milk, meat, or corn, which his benevolence prompted him to place on the threshold of his sad and suffering neighbour. There was a little grove of chestnut and other forest trees, that stood about two hundred yards from Leda's cottage. A part of this grove belonged to their dwelling; the rest was unenclosed. Through this grove ran one of the lines of fence which determined the domain of the cottage. On both sides of the fence, in the very centre of this thicket, there were steps, gradually rising, from within and without, to its top,--a mode of constructing a passage frequent in the country, which, having all the facilities of a gateway, was yet more permanent, and without its disadvantages. To this point came Arthur Holt nightly. On these steps he laid his tribute, whether of charity or a still lingering love, or both, and, retiring to the thicket, he waited, sometimes for more than an hour, until he caught a glimpse of the figure of Leda, descending through the grove, and possessing herself of the supply. This done, and she departed; the young farmer, sighing deeply, would turn away unseen, unsuspected, perhaps, and regain his own cottage.
On these occasions the two never met. The Widow Heywood, on her deathbed, had confided to her daughter the secret of her own interviews with Arthur, and he, to spare himself as well as Leda, the pain of meeting, had appointed his own and her hour of coming, differently. Whether she, at any time, suspected his propinquity, cannot be conjectured. That she was touched to the heart by his devotion, cannot well be questioned.
For five weary nights did the malignant and suspicious eyes of John Houston, from a contiguous thicket, watch these proceedings with feelings of equal hate and mortification. Filled with the most foul and loathsome anticipations--burning to find victims--to detect, expose, destroy--he beheld only a spectacle which increased his mortification. He beheld innocence superior to misfortune--love that did not take advantage of its power--a benevolence that rebuked his own worthlessness and hardness of heart--a purity on the part of both the objects of his jealousy, which mocked his comprehension, as it was so entirely above any capacity of his own, whether of mind or heart, to appreciate.
It was now the fifth night of his watch. He began to despair of his object. He had seen nothing to give the least confirmation to his suspicions. His wife had appeared only as she was, as pure as an angel;--his ancient enemy not less so. He was furious that he could find no good cause of fury, and weary of a watch which was so much at variance with his habits. He determined that night to end it. With the night, and at the usual hour, came the unfailing Arthur. He placed his bowl of milk upon the steps, his sack of meal, a small vessel of butter, and a neat little basket of apples. For a moment he lingered by the fence, then slipping back, adroitly ensconced himself in a neighbouring thicket, from whence he could see every movement of the fair sufferer by whom they were withdrawn. This last movement of the young farmer had not been unseen by the guilty husband. Indeed, it was this part of the proceeding which, more than any thing beside, had forced upon him the conviction that the parties did not meet. She came, and she, too, lingered by the steps, before she proceeded to remove the provisions. Deep was the sigh that escaped her--deeper than usual were her emotions. She sank upon one of the steps--she clasped her hands convulsively--her lips moved--she was evidently breathing a spontaneous prayer to heaven, at the close of which she wept bitterly, the deep sobs seeming to burst from a heart that felt itself relieved by this mournful power of expression.
Was it the echo of her own sighs--her sobs--that came to her from the thicket? She started, and with wild eye gazing around her, proceeded with all haste to gather up her little stores. But in this she was prevented. The answering sigh, the sob,--coming from the lips of his hated rival and ancient enemy, had gone, hissingly, as it were, into the very brain of John Houston. He darted from his place of concealment, dashed the provisions from the hands of his wife, and, with a single blow, smote her to the earth, while he cried out to Holt in the opposite thicket, some incoherent language of insults and opprobrium. The movement of the latter was quite as prompt, though not in season to prevent the unmanly blow. He sprang forward, and, grasping the offender about the body, lifted him with powerful effort from the earth, upon which he was about to hurl him again with all the
fury of indignant manhood, when Leda leapt to her feet, and interposed. At the sound of her voice, the very tones of which declared her wish, Arthur released his enemy, but with no easy effort. The latter, regaining his feet, and recovering in some degree his composure, turned to his wife and commanded her absence.
"I cannot go--I will not--while there is a prospect of bloodshed," was her firm reply.
"What! you would see it, would you? Doubtless, the sight of my blood would delight your eyes! But hope not for it!--Arthur Holt, are you for ever to cross my path, and with impunity? Shall there never be a settlement between us? Is the day of reckoning never to come? Speak! Shall we fight it out here, in the presence of this woman, or go elsewhere, where there will be no tell-tale witnesses? Will you follow me?"
"Go not,--follow him not,--Arthur Holt. Go to your home! I thank you, I bless you for what you have done for me and mine;--for the mother who looks on us from heaven,--for the child that still looks to me on earth. May God bless you for your charity and goodness! Go now, Arthur Holt--go to your own home--and look not again upon mine. Once more, God's blessings be upon you! May you never want them."
There was a warmth, an earnestness, almost a violence in the tone and manner of this adjuration, so new to the usually meek and calm deportment of his wife, that seemed, on a sudden, to confound the brutal husband. He turned on her a vacant look of astonishment. He was very far from looking for such boldness--such audacity--in that quarter. But his forbearance was not of long duration, and he was already beginning a fierce and almost frenzied repetition of his blasphemies, when the subdued, but firm answer of Arthur Holt again diverted his attention. The good sense of the young farmer made him at once sensible of the danger to the unhappy woman of using any language calculated to provoke the always too prompt brutality of the husband, and, stifling his own indignation with all his strength, he calmly promised compliance with her requisitions.
"There are many reasons," he added, "why there should be no strife between John Houston and myself; we were boys together,
our fathers loved one another; we have slept in the same bed."
"That shall not be your excuse, Arthur Holt," exclaimed the other, interrupting him; "you shall not escape me by any such pretences. My father's name shall not shelter your cowardice."
"Ay, cowardice! cowardice! What are you but an unmanly coward!"
There was a deep, but quiet struggle, in the breast of Arthur, to keep down the rising devil in his mood; but he succeeded, and turning away, he contented himself with saying simply:
"You know that I am no coward, John Houston--nobody better than yourself. You will take good heed how you approach such cowardice as mine."
"Do you dare me!"
"No! no!" cried the wife, again flinging herself between them. Away, Arthur Holt, why will you remain when you see what I am doomed to suffer?"
"I go, Leda, but I dread to leave you in such hands. God have you in his holy keeping!"
WE pass over a period of eighteen months. In this time John Houston had sold out the little cottage near Reedy River, and had removed his wife to the residence of his mother near Paris Mountain. Why he had not adopted this measure on the demise of Widow Heywood is matter of conjecture only. His own mother was now dead, and it was the opinion of those around, that it was only after this latter event that he could venture upon a step which might seem to divide the sceptre of household authority--a point about which despotical old ladies are apt to be very jealous. His household was as badly provided for as ever, but some good angel, whose presence might have been suspected, still watched over the wants of the suffering wife, and the hollow of an ancient chestnut now received the stores which we have formerly seen placed upon the rude blocks near the thicket fence in Greenville. Whether John Houston still suspected the interference of his hated playmate we cannot say. The prudent caution of the latter availed so that they did not often meet, and never under circumstances which could justify a quarrel. But events were ripening which were to bring them unavoidably into collision. We are now in the midst of the year 1776. The strife had already begun, of Whig and Tory, in the upper part of South Carolina. It happened-some time in 1774 that the afterwards notorious Moses Kirkland stopped one night at the dwelling of John Houston. This man was already busy in stirring up disaffection to the popular party of the State. He was a man of loose, vicious habits, and irregular propensities. He and John Houston were kindred spirits; and the hunter was soon enlisted under his banners. He was out with Kirkland in the campaign of 1775, when the Tories were dispersed and put down by the decisive measures of General Williamson and William Henry Drayton. It so happened that Arthur Holt made his appearance in the field, also for the first time, in the army of Williamson.
The two knew that they were now opponents as they had long been enemies. But they did not meet. The designs of Kirkland were baffled, his troops dispersed, and the country settled down into a condition of seeming quiet. But it was a seeming quiet only. The old wounds festered, and when, in 1780, the metropolis of the State fell into the hands of the British, yielding to captivity nearly the whole of its military power, the Tories resumed their arms and impulses with a fury which long forbearance had heightened into perfect madness. Upon the long and melancholy history of that savage warfare which followed, we need not dwell. The story is already sufficiently well known. It is enough to say that John Houston distinguished himself by his cruelties. Arthur Holt threw by the plough, and was one of Butler's men for a season. With the decline of British power in the lower, the ascendancy in the upper country finally passed over to the Whigs. Both parties were now broken up into little squads of from ten to fifty persons;--the Tories, the better to avoid pursuit, the Whigs, the better to compass them in all their hiding-places.
It was a cold and cheerless evening in the month of November that Arthur Holt, armed to the teeth, stopped for the night, with a party of eleven men, at a cottage about fourteen miles from his own dwelling on the banks of Reedy River.
An hour had not well elapsed, before Arthur Holt found some one jerking at his shoulder. He opened his eyes and recognised the epileptic of whom mention was made in the early part of our narrative. Acker was still an epileptic, and still, to all appearance, a boy;--he was small, decrepit, pale, and still liable to the shocking disease, the effects of which were apparent equally in his withered face and shrivelled person. But he was not without intelligence, and his memory was singularly tenacious of benefits and injuries. Eagerly challenging the attention of Arthur Holt, he proceeded to tell him that John Houston had only two hours before been seen with a party of seven, on his way to the farm at Paris Mountain, where, at that very moment, he might in all probability be found. By this time the troopers, accustomed to sudden rousings, were awake and in possession of the intelligence. It was greedily listened to by all but Arthur Holt. John Houston
was particularly odious in his own neighbourhood. Several of the inhabitants had fallen victims to his brutality and hate. To take him, living or dead,--to feed the vengeance for which they thirsted,--was at once the passion of the party. It was with some surprise that they found their leader apathetic and disposed to fling doubt upon the information.
"I know not how you could have seen John Houston, Peter Acker, with seven men, when we left him behind us, going below, and crossing at Daniel's Ford on the Ennoree, only two days ago."
"'Twas him I seed, Captain, and no other. Don't you think I knows John Houston? Oughtn't I to know him? Wasn't it he that used to beat me, and duck me in the water? I knows him. 'Twas John Houston, I tell you, and no other person."
"You are mistaken, Peter--you must be mistaken. No horse could have brought him from the Ennoree so soon."
"He's on his own horse, the great bay. 'Tis John Houston, and you must catch him and hang him."
One of the party, a spirited young man, named Fletchall, now said:
"Whether it's Houston and his men or not, Captain Holt, we should see who the fellows are. Acker ought to know Houston, and though we heard of him on the Ennoree, we may have heard wrong. It's my notion that Acker is right; and every man of Reedy River, that claims to be a man, ought to see to it."
There was a sting in this speech that made it tell. They did not understand the delicacy of their Captain's situation, nor could he explain it. He could only sigh and submit. Buckling on his armour, he obeyed the necessity, and his eager troop was soon in motion for the cottage of Houston at Paris Mountain. There, two hours before, John Houston had arrived. He had separated from his companions. It was not affection for his wife that brought Houston to his home. On the contrary, his salutation was that of scorn and suspicion. He seemed to have returned, brooding on some dark imagination or project. When his wife brought his child, and put him on his knees, saying with a mournful look of reproach, "You do not even ask for your son!" the reply, betraying the foulest of fancies--"How know I that he is!" showed
too plainly the character of the demon that was struggling in his soul. The miserable woman shrunk back in horror, while his eyes, lightened by a cold malignant smile, pursued her as if in mockery. When she placed before him a little bread and meat, he repulsed it, exclaiming: "Would you have me fed by your Arthur?" And when she meekly replied by an assurance that the food did not come from him, his answer, "Ay, but I am not so sure of the sauce!" indicated a doubt so horrible, that the poor woman rushed from the apartment with every feeling and fibre of her frame convulsed. Without a purpose, except to escape from suspicions by which she was tortured, she had turned the corner of the enclosure, hurrying, it would seem, to a little thicket, where her sorrows would be unseen, when she suddenly encountered Arthur Holt, with a cocked pistol in his grasp. The troopers had dismounted and left their horses in the woods. They were approaching the house cautiously, on foot, and from different quarters. The object was to effect a surprise of the Tory;--since, armed and desperate, any other more open mode of approach might, even if successful, endanger valuable life. The plan had been devised by Arthur. He had taken to himself that route which brought him first to the cottage. His object was explained in the few first words with Leda Houston.
"Arthur Holt!--you here!" was her exclamation, as she started at his approach.
"Ay; and your husband is here!"
"No, no!" was the prompt reply.
"Nay, deny not! I would save him--away! let him fly at once. We shall soon be upon him!"
A mute but expressive look of gratitude rewarded him, while, forgetting the recent indignities to which she had been subjected, Leda hurried back to the cottage and put Houston in possession of the facts. He started to his feet, put the child from his knee, though still keeping his hand upon its shoulder, and glaring upon her with eyes of equal jealousy and rage, he exclaimed--
"Woman! you have brought my enemy upon me!"
To this charge the high-souled woman made no answer, but her form became more erect, and her check grew paler, while her exquisitely chiselled lips were compressed with the effort to
keep down her stifling indignation. She approached him as if to relieve him of the child; but he repulsed her, and grasping the little fellow firmly in his hands, with no tenderness of hold, he lifted him to his shoulder, exclaiming--
"No! he shares my danger! he goes with me. He is at least your child--he shall protect me from your--"
The sentence was left unfinished as he darted through the door! With a mother's scream she bounded after him, as he took his way to the edge of the little coppice in which his horse was fastened. The agony of a mother's soul lent wings to her feet. She reached him ere he could undo the fastenings of his horse, and, seizing him by his arm, arrested his progress.
"What!" he exclaimed; "you would seize--you would deliver me!"
"My child! my child!" was her only answer, as she clung to his arm, and endeavoured to tear the infant from his grasp.
"He goes with me! He shall protect me from the shot!"
"You will not, cannot risk his precious life."
"Do I not risk mine?"
"My son--your son!"
"Were I sure of that!"
"God of heaven! help me! Save him! save him!"
But there was no time for parley. A pistol-shot was fired from the opposite quarter of the house, whether by accident, or for the purpose of alarm, is not known, but it prompted the instant movement of the ruffian, who, in order to extricate himself from the grasp of his wife, smote her to the earth, and in the midst of the child's screams hurried forward with his prize. To reach the coppice, to draw forth and mount his horse, was the work of an instant only. The life of the hunter and the partisan had made him expert enough in such performances. Mounted on a splendid bay, of the largest size and greatest speed, he lingered but a moment in sight, the child conspicuously elevated in his grasp, its head raised above his left shoulder, while one of its little arms might be seen stretching towards his mother, now rising from the earth. At this instant Arthur Holt made his appearance. From the wood, where he had remained as long as he might, he had beheld the brutal action of his enemy. It was the
second time that he had witnessed such a deed, and his hand now convulsively grasped and cocked his pistol, as he rushed forward to revenge it. But the unhappy woman rose in time to prevent him. Her extended arms were thrown across his path. He raised the deadly weapon above them.
"Would you shoot! oh, my God! would you shoot! Do you not see my child! my child!"
The action of Arthur was suspended at the mother's words; and, lifting the child aloft with a powerful arm, as if in triumph and defiance, the brutal father, putting spurs to his horse, went off at full speed. A single bound enabled the noble animal to clear the enclosure, and, appearing but a single moment upon the hillside, the mother had one more glimpse of her child, whose screams, in another moment, were drowned in the clatter of the horse's feet. She sunk to the ground at the foot of Arthur, as his comrades leapt over the surrounding fence.
PURSUIT under present circumstances was pretty much out of the question--yet Arthur Holt determined upon it. John Houston was mounted upon one of the most famous horses of the country. He had enjoyed a rest of a couple of hours before the troopers came upon him. The steeds of the latter, at all times inferior, were jaded with the day's journey. Any attempt at direct pursuit would, therefore, in all probability, only end in driving the Tory out of the neighbourhood, thus increasing the chances of his final escape. This was by no means the object of the party, and when Arthur ordered the pursuit, some of his men remonstrated by showing, or endeavouring to show, that such must be the effect of it. Arthur Holt, however, had his own objects. But his commands were resisted by no less a person than Leda herself.
"Do not pursue, Arthur, for my sake, do not pursue. My child!--he will slay my child if you press him hard. He is desperate. You know him not. Press him not, for my sake,--for the child's sake,--but let him go free."
The entreaty, urged strenuously and with all those tears and prayers which can only flow from a mother's heart, was effectual--at least to prevent that direct pursuit which Arthur had meditated. But, though his companions favoured the prayers of the wife and mother, they were very far from being disposed to let the Tory go free. On the contrary, when, a little after, they drew aside to the copse for the purpose of farther consultation, Arthur Holt found, to his chagrin, that his course with regard to Houston was certainly suspected. His comrades assumed a decision in the matter which seemed to take the business out of his hands. Young Fletchall did not scruple to say, that he was not satisfied with the spirit which Arthur had shown in the pursuit; and the hints conveyed by more than one, in the course of the discussion, were of such a nature, that the mortified Arthur
threw up his command; a proceeding which seemed to occasion no regret or dissatisfaction. Fletchall was immediately invested with it, and proceeded to exercise it with a degree of acuteness and vigour which soon satisfied the party of his peculiar fitness for its duties. His plan was simple but comprehensive. He said: "We cannot press the pursuit, or we drive him off; but we can so fix it as to keep him where he is. If we do not press him, he will keep in the woods, near abouts, till he can find some chance of getting the child to the mother again. There's no doubt an understanding between them. She knows where to find him in the woods, or he'll come back at night to the farm. We must put somebody to watch over all her movements. Who will that be?"
The question was answered by the epileptic, Acker, who, unasked, had hung upon the skirts of the party.
"I will watch her!"
"Yes! I'm as good a one as you can get."
"Very well! but suppose you have one of your fits, Acker!"
"I won't have one now for two weeks. My time's over for this month."
"Well, in two weeks, I trust, his time will be over too. We will get some twenty more fellows and make a ring round him. That's my plan. Don't press, for I wouldn't have him hurt the child; but mark him when he aims to pass the ring."
The plan thus agreed on, with numerous details which need not be given here, was immediately entered upon by all parties. Arthur Holt alone took no share in the adventure. The design was resolved upon even without his privity, though the general object could not be concealed from his knowledge. On throwing up his commission he had withdrawn from his comrades, under a show of mortification, which was regarded as sufficiently natural by those around him to justify such a course. He returned to his farm on Reedy River, but he was no indifferent or inactive spectator of events.
Meanwhile, John Houston had found a temporary retreat some six miles distant from the dwelling of his wife. It was a spot seemingly impervious, in the density of its woods, to the steps of
man. A small natural cavity in a hillside had been artificially deepened, in all probability, by the bear, who had left it as a heritage to the hunter to whom he had yielded up his cars. The retreat was known to the hunter only. He had added, from time to time, certain little improvements of his own. Cells were opened on one side, and then the other. These were strewn with dried leaves and rushes, and, at the remote inner extremity, a fourth hollow had been prepared so as to admit of fire, the smoke finding its way through a small and simple opening at the top. All around this rude retreat the woods were dense, the hunter being at particular pains to preserve it as a place of secrecy and concealment. Its approach was circuitous, and the very entrance upon it, one of those happy discoveries, by which nature is made to accomplish the subtlest purposes of art. Two gigantic shafts, shooting out from the same root, had run up in diverging but parallel lines, leaving between them an opening through which, at a moderate bound, a steed might make his way. On each side of this mighty tree the herbage crowded closely; the tree itself seemed to close the passage, and behind it care was taken, by freely scattering brush and leaves, to remove any traces of horse or human footsteps. In this place John Houston found refuge. To this place, in the dead of night, the unhappy Leda found her way. How she knew of the spot may be conjectured only. But, prompted by a mother's love and a mother's fears, she did not shrink from the task of exploring the dreary forest alone. Here she found her miserable husband, and was once more permitted to clasp her infant to her bosom. The little fellow slept soundly upon the rushes, in one of the recesses of the cave. The father sat at the entrance, keeping watch over him. His stern eye looked upon the embrace of mother and child with a keen and painful interest; and when the child, awakened out of sleep, shrieking with joy, clung to the neck of the mother, sobbing her name with a convulsive delight, he turned from the spectacle with a single sentence, muttered through his closed teeth, by which we may see what his meditations had been--"Had the brat but called me father!" The words were unheard by the mother, too full of joy to be conscious of any thing but her child and her child's recovery.
When, however, before the dawn of day, she proposed to leave him and take the child with her, she was confounded to meet with denial.
"No!" said the brutal father. "He remains with me. If he is my child, he shall remain as my security and yours. Hear me, woman! Your ruffians have not pursued me; your Arthur Holt knows better than to press upon me; but I know their aims. They have covered the outlets. They would make my captivity secure. I wish but three days; in that time, Cunningham will give them employment, and I shall walk over them as I please. But, during that time, I shall want food for myself and horse--perhaps you will think there is some necessity for bringing food to the child. I do not object to that. Bring it then yourself, nightly, and remember, the first show of treachery seals his fate!"
He pointed to the child as he spoke.
"Great God!" she exclaimed. "Are you a man, John Houston! Will you keep the infant from me!"
"Ay!--you should thank heaven that I do not keep you from him also. But away! Bring the provisions! Be faithful, and you shall have the child. But, remember! if I am entrapped, he dies!"
We pass over the horror of the mother. At the dawn of day, as she was hurrying, but not unseen, along the banks of Reedy River, she was encountered by Arthur Holt.
"I went to your house at midnight, Leda, to put you on your guard," was the salutation of the farmer. "I know where you have been, and can guess what duty is before you. I must also tell you its danger."
He proceeded to explain to her the watch that was put upon her movements, and the cordon militaire by which her husband was surrounded.
"What am I to do!" was her exclamation, as, wringing her hands, the tears for the first time flowed freely from her eyes.
"I will tell you! Go not back to your cottage, till you can procure the child. Go now to the stone heap on the river bank below, which they call the 'Giant's Coffin.' There, in an hour from now, I will bring you a basket of provisions. The place
is very secret, and before it is found out that you go there, you will have got the child. Nightly, I will fill the basket in the same place, which, at the dawn, you can procure. Go now, before we are seen, and God be with you!"
They separated--the young farmer for his home, and Leda for the gloomy vault which popular tradition had dignified with the title of the "Giant's Coffin." This was an Indian giant, by the way, whose exploits, in the erection of Table Mountain, for gymnastic purposes, would put to shame the inferior feats of the devil, under direction of Merlin or Michael Scott. But we have no space in this chapter for such descriptions. Enough if we give some idea of the sort of coffin and the place of burial which the giant selected for himself, when he could play his mountain pranks no longer. The coffin was a vaulted chamber of stone, lying at the river's edge, and liable to be overflowed in seasons of freshet. It took its name from its shape. Its area was an oblong square, something more than twelve feet in length, and something less than five in breadth. Its depth at the upper end was about six feet, but it sloped gradually down, until, at the bottom, the ends lay almost even with the surrounding rocks. The inner sides were tolerably smooth and upright--the outer presented the appearance of huge boulders, in no way differing from the ordinary shape and externals of such detached masses. The separate parts had evidently, at one period, been united. Some convulsion of nature had fractured the mass, and left the parts in a position so relative, that tradition might well be permitted to assume the labours of art in an achievement which was really that of nature alone. To complete the fancied resemblance of this chamber to a coffin, it had a lid; a thin layer of stone, detached from the rest, which, as the earth around it had been loosened and washed away by the rains, had gradually slid down from the heights above, and now in part rested upon the upper end of the vault. The boys at play, uniting their strength, had succeeded in forcing it down a foot or more, so that it now covered, securely from the weather, some four or five feet of the "Giant's Coffin." It was at this natural chamber that Arthur Holt had counselled Leda Houston to remain, until he could bring the promised supply of provisions. This he did,
punctually, at the time appointed, and continued to do until it ceased to be necessary; to this spot did the wretched wife and mother repair before dawn of every morning, bearing her burden with all the uncomplaining meekness of a broken heart. We must suppose, in the meantime, that the cordon has been drawn around the tract of country in which it was known that Houston harboured. The news was spread, at the same time, that an attack might be expected from Bloody Bill Cunningham, or some of his men; and the consequence was, that the country was every where in arms and vigilant. A feeling of pity for Leda Houston, who was generally beloved, alone prevented the more daring young men from pressing upon the fugitive, hunting him, with dog and fire, and bringing the adventure to a fierce and final issue. Meanwhile, the epileptic, Acker, was active in the business which he had undertaken. He was partially successful--but of his proceedings we must speak at another moment.
The situation of Leda Houston was in no ways improved by the diligence, the patience, the devotion which she displayed in her servitude. She did not seem to make any progress in subduing the inexorable nature of her husband. She was permitted to be with and to feed her child; to clasp him to her bosom when she slept, and to watch over his sleep with that mixed feeling of hope and fear, which none but a mother knows. But these were all her privileges. The brutal father, still insinuating base and unworthy suspicions, declared that the child should remain, a pledge of her fidelity, and a partial guaranty for his own safety.
Four days had now elapsed in this manner. On the morning of the fifth, at a somewhat later hour than usual, she re-appeared with her basket, and, having set down her stores, proceeded to tell her husband of the arrival of a certain squad of troopers, "Butler's men," known for the fierce hostility with which they hunted the men of "Cunningham." The tidings gave him some concern. He saw in it the signs of a dogged determination of the neighbourhood to secure him at all hazards; since, from what he knew of the present condition of the war, these men could be required in that quarter only for some such purpose.
They were wanted elsewhere. "Did you see them?" was the question, which she answered in the negative. "Who told you then of their arrival?" She was silent! Her countenance underwent a change. "Woman! you have spoken with Holt! These are his provisions!" With a blow of his foot he struck the basket from her hand, and, in his fury, trampled upon the scattered stores. It was with difficulty that the unhappy woman gathered up enough to pacify the hunger of the child. That day was passed in sullen and ferocious silence on his part--on hers in mute caresses of her boy. His darker suspicions were in full force, and darker thoughts came with them. "Could I but know!" he muttered. "The child has my mouth and nose; but the forehead, the hair, the eyes,--are his!" Convulsed with terrible fancies, the miserable man hurried to the entrance of the cavern, and throwing himself upon the earth, leaned back, and looked up through the leafy openings at the bits of sky that were suffered to appear above. In this gloomy mood and posture, hours passed by as moments. It was midnight. A change of weather was at hand. The stars were hidden--the sky overcast with clouds, while the winds, seeming to subside, were moaning through the woods as one in a deep and painful sleep. The sound, the scene, were congenial with the outlaw's soul. It was full of angry elements that only waited the signal to break forth in storm. Suddenly, he was roused from his meditations by the cessation of all sounds from within the cave. The mother slept there, she had been playing with the child, and he upon her bosom. Nature, in her case, had sunk, in spite of sorrow, under fatigue. And she slept deeply, her slumbers broken only by a plaintive moaning of those griefs that would not sleep. With a strange curiosity Houston seated himself quietly beside the pair, while his eyes keenly perused the calm and innocent features of the child. Long was the study, and productive of conflicting emotions. It was interrupted with a start, and his eyes involuntarily turned, with even a less satisfied expression, upon the features of his wife.
But it was not to watch or to enjoy the beauty which he beheld, that John Houston now bent his dark brows over the sleeping
countenance of his wife. The expression in his looks was that of a wild and fearful curiosity suddenly aroused. She had spoken in her sleep. She had uttered a word--a name--which, of all others, was most likely, from any lips, to awaken his most angry emotions,--from her lips, most terrible. The name was that of Arthur Holt,--and she still murmured. The ears of the suspicious husband were placed close to her lips, that none of the whispered sounds might escape him. He heard enough to open to him a vista, at the extremity of which his diseased imagination saw the worst shapes of hate and jealousy. With the pressing thought in her memory of the tasks before her, she spoke of the little basket--the bread--the bottle of milk, the slender slices of ham or venison--which she had been accustomed to receive and bring. Then came the two words, "Giant's Coffin," and the quick fancy of the outlaw, stimulated by hate and other passions, immediately reached, at a bound, the whole narrative of her dependence upon Holt and her meetings with him at the "Giant's Coffin!"
A dark smile passed over his countenance. It was the smile of a demon, who is at length, after long being baffled, in possession of his prey. Leda slept on--soundly slept--for nature had at length coerced the debtor, and compelled her rights--and the hour was approaching when it was usual for her to set out on her nightly progress. The resolution came, quick as lightning, to the mind of the ruffian. He rose stealthily from the rushes,--drew his pistols from his belt, silently examined the flints, and, looking at the knife in his bosom, stole forth from the cavern. With a spirit exulting with the demoniac hope of assuring himself of a secret long suspected, and of realizing a vengeance long delayed,--and familiar, night and day, with every step in his progress, he hurried directly across the country to the banks of Reedy River. The night, by this time, had become tempestuous. Big drops of rain already began to fall; but these caused no delay to the hardy outlaw. He reached the river, and, moving now with cautious steps from rock to rock, he approached the "Giant's Coffin" with the manner of one who expects to find a victim and an enemy. One hand grasped a pistol, the other a knife!--and, stealing onward with the pace of the Indian,
he hung over the sides of the "Coffin," and peered into its dark chamber with his keenest eyes. It was untenanted. "I am too soon," he muttered. "Well! I can wait!" And where better to await the victim--where more secure from detection--than in the vault which lay before him!--one half covered from the weather and shut in from all inspection,--that alone excepted, for which he had come prepared. The keen gusts of wind which now came across the stream laden with rain, was an additional motive to this movement. He obeyed the suggestion, passed into the mouth of the "Coffin;" and, crouching from sight, in a sitting posture, in the upper or covered part of the chamber, he sat with the anxiety of a passion which did not, however, impair its patience, awaiting for his foe.
He had not reached this position unseen or unaccompanied. We have already intimated that Acker, the epileptic, had made some progress in his discoveries. With the singular cunning, and the wonderful acuteness which distinguish some of the faculties, where others are impaired in the same individual, he had contrived, unseen and unsuspected, to track Leda Houston to the place of her husband's concealment. He had discovered the periods of her incoming and departure, and, taking his rest at all other periods, he was always prepared to renew his surveillance at those moments when the wife was to go forth. He had barely resumed his watch, on the night in question, when he was surprised to see Houston himself and not his wife emerging from the cave. He followed cautiously his footsteps. Light of foot, and keeping at convenient distance, his espionage was farther assisted by the wind, which, coming in their faces, effectually kept all sounds of pursuit from the ears of the outlaw. His progress was not so easy when the latter emerged from the woods, and stood upon the banks of the river. His approach now required more caution; but, stealing on from shrub to shrub, and rock to rock; Acker at length stood--or rather crouched--upon the brink of the river also, and at but small distance from the other. But of this distance he had ceased to be conscious. He was better informed, however, when, a moment after, he heard a dull, clattering, but low sound, which he rightly conjectured to have been caused by some pressure upon the lower lid
of the Coffin, which, being somewhat pendulous, was apt to vibrate slightly, in spite of its great length and weight, under any pressure from above. This sound apprised Acker of the exact whereabouts of the outlaw, and his keen eyes at length detected the dim outline of the latter's form, as he stood upon the lid of the Coffin, the moment before he disappeared within its recesses. Encouraged to advance, by the disappearance of the other, the Epileptic did so with extreme caution. He was favoured by the hoarse tumbling of the water as it poured its way among the rocks, and by the increasing discords of the wind and rain, which now came down in heavy showers. As he crawled from rock to rock, with the stealthy movement of a cat along some precipitous ledge, shrinking and shivering beneath the storm, his own desire for shelter led him suddenly to the natural conclusion that Houston had found his within the vault. The ideas of Acker came to him slowly; but, gradually, as he continued to approach, he remembered the clattering of the Coffin-lid,--he remembered how, in his more youthful days, the boys, with joint strength, had forced it to its present place, and he conceived the sudden purpose of making the Coffin of the Giant, that also of the deadly enemy whose boyish persecutions he had neither forgot nor forgiven. To effect his present object, which, suddenly conceived, became for the time an absorbing thirst, a positive frenzy, in his breast,--he concentrated all his faculties, whether of mind or of body, upon his task. His pace was deliberate, and, so stealthy, that he reached the upper end of the Coffin, laid himself down beside it, and, applying his ear to one of the crevices, distinctly heard the suppressed breathings of the man within. Crawling back, he laid his hands lightly and with the greatest care upon the upper and heavier end of the stone. His simple touch, so nicely did it seem to be balanced, caused its vibration; and with the first consciousness of its movement, Houston, whom we must suppose to have been lying down, raising his pistol with one hand, laid the other on one of the sides of the vault, with the view, as it was thought, to lift himself from his recumbent position. He did so just as the huge plate of stone was set in motion, and the member was caught and closely wedged between the mass and the side of the
Coffin upon which it rested. A slight cry broke from the outlaw. The fingers were crushed, the hand was effectually secured. But for this, so slow was the progress of the stone, that it would have been very easy for Houston to have scrambled out before the vault was entirely closed in. Slowly, but certainly, the lid went down. Ignorant of the peculiar occasion of the outlaw's groans, the Epileptic answered them with a chuckle, which, had the former been conscious, would have taught him his enemy. But he had fainted. The excruciating agony of his hurt had been too much for his strength. Acker finished his work without interruption; then piling upon the plate a mountain of smaller stones, he dashed away in the direction of Holt's cottage. Here he encountered the young farmer, busy, as was usual about that hour, in making up his little basket of provisions. A few words from the Epileptic sufficed to inform him that they were no longer necessary--that Houston was gone--fled--utterly escaped, and now, in all probability, beyond pursuit. Such was the tale he told. He had his policy in it. The characteristic malignant cunning which had prompted him to the fearful revenge which he had taken upon his enemy, was studious now to keep it from being defeated. To have told the truth, would have been to open the "Giant's Coffin," to undo all that had been done, and once more let free the hated tyrant upon whose head he had visited the meditated retribution of more than twenty years. Acker well knew the generous nature of the young farmer, and did not doubt that, if he declared the facts, Arthur would have proceeded at once to the rescue of the common enemy. He suppressed all show of exultation, made a plausible story--it matters not of what sort--by which to account for the flight of Houston; and, the consequence was, that, instead of proceeding as before to the "Giant's Coffin," Arthur Holt now prepared to set out for the "Hunter's Cave." But the day had broke in tempest. A fearful storm was raging. The windows of heaven were opened, the rain came down in torrents, and the wind went forth with equal violence, as if from the whole four quarters of the earth. The young farmer got out his little wagon, and jumping in, Acker prepared to guide him to the place of retreat.
"The river is rising fast, Peter," was the remark of Arthur
as he caught a glimpse of the swollen stream as it foamed along its way.
"Yes!" said the other, with a sort of hiccough, by which he suppressed emotions which he did not venture to declare: "Yes! I reckon 'twon't be many hours afore it fills the 'Coffin.' "
"If it keeps on at this rate," returned the other, "one hour will be enough to do that."
"Only one, you think?"
"Yes! one will do!"
Another hiccough of the Epileptic appropriately finished the dialogue.
LEDA awakened from her deep sleep to find herself alone with the child. She was startled and alarmed at the absence of her husband; but as the child was left--the great, and we may add, the only, object for which she could have borne so much--she was satisfied. On assuring herself of the departure of Houston from the cave, she would unhesitatingly have taken hers also--but the storm was now raging without, and, persuaded that her husband had taken advantage of its violence to cross the barriers, she gathered up the fragments of the last night's supper, and was busy in giving her boy his little breakfast, when roused by the voice of Arthur Holt. The story of the Epileptic was soon told--as he had related it to Arthur. In this story, as there was nothing improbable, both parties put implicit faith; and, cloaking mother and child as well as he might, the young farmer bore them through the close thicket to the place, some three hundred yards without, where, on account of the denseness of the wood, he had been compelled to leave the wagon. The horse of Houston, the "Big Bay," was next brought forth, but as Acker could neither be persuaded to mount, or take him in charge, he was restored to the covert until a better opportunity for removing him. To the surprise of the young farmer, the Epileptic was equally firm in refusing to go with him in the wagon. "I don't mind the rain," said he, "it can't hurt me." "He will get his death," said Leda. "Not he," replied Arthur, as Acker scampered through the woods; "the water always helps him in his fits." While the wagon took one course, he took another. Little did they suspect his route. A terrible feeling carried him back to Reedy River--to a pitiless watch above that natural tomb in which he had buried his living victim.
Meanwhile, what of Houston? When he recovered his consciousness, the vault had been closed upon him; the flat mass, once set in motion, had slid down the smooth edges of the
upright sides with uninterrupted progress, and now lay above him, shutting out light almost equally with hope. But a faint glimmering reached the interior of the cell, from a crevice on one side, where, in consequence of some inequality of the edges, the lid had not settled fairly down upon it. It was the side opposite to that in which his fingers had been crushed, and where the stone still maintained its hold upon the mutilated member. He heard the whistling of the wind, the hoarse rush of the waters, and the heavy fall of the rain without, and a shuddering sense of his true situation rushed instantly upon his soul. For a moment he sank back, appalled, oppressed; but the numbing pain of his injured hand and wrist, up to his elbow, recalled him to the necessity of effort. Houston was a man of strong will and great energies. Though at the first moment of consciousness oppressed and overcome, the outlaw soon recovered himself. It was necessary that he should do something for his extrication. The light shut out, if not entirely the air, is one of those fearful facts to rouse a man in his situation and of his character, to all his energies. But the very first movement was one to awaken him still more sensibly to his dangers. Having arisen to grasp the sides of the vault, which, in the place where he had laid his hand was fully five feet high, his position when fixed there, was that of a man partially suspended in the air. His right hand could barely touch the floor of the chamber. His left was utterly useless. In this position he could not even exert the strength which he possessed; and, after an ineffectual effort, he sank back again in momentary consternation. The horror of that moment, passed in thought,--the despair which it occasioned--was the parent of new strength. He came to a terrible decision. To avail himself of his right hand, it was necessary that he should extricate the other. He had already tried to do so, by a vain effort at lifting the massive lid of his coffin. The heavy plate no longer vibrated upon a pivot. It had sunk into a natural position, which each upright evenly maintained. The hand was already lost to him. He resolved that it should not render the other useless. With a firmness which might well excite admiration, he drew the couteau de chasse from his bosom, and deliberately smote off the mutilated
fingers at the joints; dividing the crushed parts--bone and tendon,--from the uninjured,--falling heavily back upon the stone floor the moment the hand was freed. But this time he had not fainted, though the operation tended to restore the hand, which had been deadened by the pressure and pain of its position, to something like sensibility. But such pain was now but slightly felt; and, wrapping the hand up in his handkerchief, he prepared with due courage for the difficult task before him. But the very first effort almost convinced him of its hopelessness. In vain did he apply the strength of his muscular arm, the force of his broad shoulders, his sinewy and well-supported frame. Forced to crouch in his narrow limits, it was not possible for him to apply, to advantage, the strength which he really possessed; and, from the extreme shallowness of his cell in the lower extremity, he was unable to address his efforts to that part where the stone was thinnest. At the upper part, where he could labour, the mass was greatly thicker than the rest; and it was the weight of this mass, rather than the strength of Acker,--the momentum once given it from above,--that carried the plate along to the foot of the plane. His exertions were increased as his strength diminished--the cold sweat poured from his brow,--and, toiling against conviction--in the face of his increasing terrors,--he at length sunk back in exhaustion. From time to time, at brief intervals, he renewed his toils, each time with new hope, each time with a new scheme for more successful exertion. But the result was, on each occasion, the same; and, yielding to despair, he threw himself upon the bottom of his cell and called death to his relief.
While thus prostrate, with his face prossed upon the chilling pavement, he suddenly starts, almost to his feet, and a new terror seizes upon his soul. He is made conscious of a new and pressing danger. Is it the billows of the river--the torrents swollen above their bounds--that beat against the walls of his dungeon? Is it the advancing waters that catch his eye glimmering faint at his feet, as they penetrate the lower crevice of the coffin? A terrible shudder shook his frame! He cannot doubt this new danger, and he who, a moment before, called upon death to relieve him from his terrors, now shouts, under
worse terrors, at the prospect of his near approach in an unexpected shape. It is necessary that he should employ all his strength--that he should make other and more desperate efforts. He rises, almost erect. He applies both arms--the maimed as well as the sound,--almost unconscious of the difference, to the lid of his tomb. "Buried alive!" he cries aloud--"Buried alive!" and at each cry, his sinewy arms shoot up--his broad shoulders are raised:--his utmost powers, concentrated upon the one point, in the last effort of despair, must surely be successful. His voice shouts with his straining sinews. He feels the mass above him yielding. Once more--and once again,--and still he is encouraged. The lid vibrates--he could not be deceived,--but oh! how slightly. Another trial--he moves it as before, but as his strength fails, his efforts relax,--and it sinks down heavily in its place. Breathless, he crouches in his cell. He listens! Is it a footstep?--It is a movement!--the stones fall about the roof of his narrow dwelling. A human agency is above. "Hurrah!" he cries--"Hurrah! Throw off the stone--crush it--break it! There is no time to be lost!" For a moment he fancies that the movement above is one intended for his relief. But what mean these rolling stones? A new apprehension possesses him in the very moment of his greatest hope. He rises. Once more he extends his arms, he applies his shoulders; but he labours now in vain. His strength is not less--his efforts are not more feebler--in this than in his former endeavours. He cannot doubt the terrible truth! New stones have been piled above his head. He is doomed! His utmost powers fail to move the mass from its place. His human enemy is unrelenting. He cries to him in a voice of equal inquiry and anguish.
"Who is there? what enemy? who? Speak to me! who is above me? Who? Who!"
Can it be? He is answered by a chuckle--a fell, fiendish laugh--the most terrible sort of answer. Can it be that a mortal would so laugh at such a moment? He tries to recall those to whom he has given most occasion for vindictiveness and hate. He names "Arthur Holt!" He is again answered by a chuckle, and now he knows his enemy.
"God of heaven!" he exclaims, in the bitter anguish of his discovery, "and can it be that I am doomed to perish by this most miserable of all my foes!"
Once more he rushes against the mass above him, but this time with his head alone. He sinks down stunned upon the floor, and is aroused by the water around him. Inch by inch it rises. He knows the character of the stream. It will be above him, unless he is relieved, in less than an hour. The proud and reckless outlaw is humbled. He condescends to entreat the wretched creature to whom he owes his situation. He implores forgiveness--he promises reward. He begs--he threatens--he execrates. He is answered by a chuckle as before; the Epileptic sits upon his coffin-lid, and the doomed man can hear his heels without, as they beat time with the winds and waters, against the sides of his tomb. Meanwhile, the water presses in upon him--he feels its advance around him--it is now about his knees--in another moment it is every where. It has gradually ascended the plane--it now spreads over the entire floor of his dungeon. He grasps his pistols, which he had laid down beside him, and applies their muzzles to his head. He is too late. They are covered with water, and refuse fire. His knife is no longer to be found. It had dropped from his right hand when he smote off the fingers of the left, and had probably rolled down the plane to the bottom, where, covered with water, it is impossible to recover it. Hope within, and hope from without, have failed him equally; and, except in prayer, there is no refuge from the pang of death. But prayer is not easy to him who has never believed in the efficacy of its virtues. How can he pray to be forgiven, who has never been taught to forgive. He tries to pray! The Epileptic without, as he stoops his ear, can catch the fragmentary plea, the spasmodic adjuration, the gasping, convulsive utterance, from a throat around which the waters are already wreathing with close and unrelaxing grasp. Suddenly the voice ceases--there is a hoarse murmur--the struggle of the strong man among the waters, which press through the crevices between the lid and the sides of the dungeon. As the convulsion ceases, the Epileptic starts to his feet, with a terror which he had not felt before; and, looking
wildly behind him as he ran, bounded up the sides of the neighbouring hills.
Thus ends our legend of the "Giant's Coffin." Tradition does not tell us of the farther fortunes of Leda Houston. Some pages of the chronicle have dropped. It is very certain, however, that Arthur Holt, like Benedick, lived to be a married man, and died the father of several children--the descendants of some of whom still live in the same region. Of the "Coffin" itself, some fragments, and, it is thought, one of the sides, may be shown, but it was "blown up" by the very freshet which we have described, and the body of Houston drifted down to the opposite shore. It was not till long after that Acker confessed the share which he had in the manner of his death and burial.
Short be the shrift and sure the cord.--SCOTT.
THE pretty little settlement of Orangeburg, in South Carolina, was an old and flourishing establishment before the Revolution. It was settled, as well as the contiguous country, by successive troops of German Palatines, who brought with them all the sober industry, and regular perseverance, characteristic of their country. They carried the cultivation of indigo in Carolina to a degree of perfection, on which they prospered, thriving, without much state, and growing great in wealth, without provoking the attention of their neighbours to the fact. To this day their descendants maintain some of these characteristics, and, in a time of much cry and little wool, when it is no longer matter of mortification for a vain people to confess a want of money, they are said to respond to the "I O U," of their more needy acquaintance, by knocking the head out of a flour barrel, and unveiling a world of specie, which would renovate the credit of many a mammoth bank. The good old people, their ancestors, were thrifty in other respects; clean and comfortable in their houses; raising abundance of pigs and poultry; rich in numerous children, whom they reared up in good works and godliness, with quite as much concern, to say no more, as they addressed to worldly objects. They lived well--knew what surprising moral benefits accrue from a due attention to creature comforts; and, if they spent little money upon foreign luxuries, it was only because they had learned to domesticate so many of their own.
Home, indeed, was emphatically their world, and they found a world in it. Frank hospitality, and the simple sorts of merriment which delight, without impairing the unsophisticated nature, were enjoyed among them in full perfection; and, from Four Holes to Poplar Springs, they were emphatically one and the same, and a very happy people.
Our present business lies in this region, at a period which we may state in round numbers, as just five years before the Revolution. The ferment of that event, as we all know, had even then begun--the dispute and the debate, and the partial preparation--but the details and the angry feeling had been slow in reaching our quiet farmers along the Upper Edisto. The people were not good English scholars, preserving, as they did in many places, the integrity of the unbroken German. Here and there, it had suffered an English cross, and, in other places, particularly in the village, the English began to assert the ascendancy. But of newspapers they saw nothing, unless it were the venerable South Carolina Gazette, which did little more than tell them of the births, marriages and deaths in the royal family, and, at melancholy intervals, of the arrival in Charleston of some broad-bottomed lugger from Bremen, or other kindred ports in Faderland. The events which furnished materials to the village publican and politician, were of a sort not to extend their influence beyond their own ten-mile horizon. Their world was very much around them, and their most foreign thoughts and fancies still had a savour of each man's stable-yard. They never interfered in the slightest degree with the concerns of Russia or Constantinople, and I verily believe that if they had happened to have heard that the Great Mogul were on his last legs, and knew the secret of his cure, they would have hesitated so long before advising him of its nature, that the remedy would come too late to be of any service. And this, understand me, not because of any lack of Christian bowels, but simply because of a native modesty, which made them reluctant to meddle with any matters which did not obviously and immediately concern themselves. They were, certainly, sadly deficient in that spirit of modern philanthropy which seems disposed to meddle with nothing else. Their hopes and fears, strifes and excitements, were all local. At worst a
village scandal, or farm-yard jealousy--a squabble between two neighbours touching a boundary line, or cattle pound, which ended in an arbitration and a feast, in which cherry and domestic grape--by no means the simple juice of either--did the duty of peacemakers, and were thrice blessed accordingly. Sometimes--a more serious matter--the tall lad of one household would fail to make the proper impression upon the laughing damsel of another, and this would produce a temporary family estrangement, until Time, that great consoler, would furnish to the injured heart of the sufferer, that sovereignest of all emollients--indifference! Beyond such as these, which are of occurrence in the best regulated and least sophisticated of all communities, there were precious few troubles among our people of the North Edisto, which they could not easily overcome.
But the affair which I am about to relate, was an exception to the uniform harmlessness and simplicity of events among them, and the better to make the reader understand it, I must take him with me this pleasant October evening, to a snug farm-house in the Forks of Edisto--a part of the country thus distinguished, as it lies in the crotch formed by the gradual approach of the two branches of Edisto river, a few miles above the spot of their final junction. Our farmer's name is Cole. He is not rich, but not poor--one of those substantial, comfortable men of the world, who has just enough to know what to do with it, and just little enough to fancy that if he could get more he should know what to do with that also. His farm, consisting of five or six hundred acres, is a competence, but a small part of which is cleared and in cultivation. He has but two slaves, but he has two strapping sons, one of twelve, the other of fourteen, who work with the slaves, and upon whom, equally with them, he bestows the horse-whip when needed, with as bountiful a hand as he bestows the hommony. But if he counts but precious little of gold and silver among his treasures, he has some treasures which, in those days of simplicity, were considered by many to be much more precious than any gold or silver. Like Jephthah, Judge of Israel, he has a daughter--nay, for that matter, he has two of them, and one of them, the eldest, is to be married this very evening. Philip Cole was no Judge of Israel, but he loved
his daughters not the less, and the whole country justified his love. The eyes of the lads brightened, and their mouths watered at the bare mention of their names, and the sight of them generally produced such a commotion in the hearts of the surrounding swains, that, as I have heard averred a hundred times by tradition, they could, on such occasions, scarcely keep their feet. Keep their feet they could not, on such nights as the present, when they were not only permitted to see the lasses, but to dance it with them merrily. Dorothy Cole, the eldest, was as fine a specimen of feminine mortality, as ever blossomed in the eyes of love; rather plumpish, but so well made, so complete, so brightly eyed, and so rosily cheeked, that he must be a cold critic indeed, who should stop to look for flaws--to say, here something might be pared off, and here something might be added. Such fine women were never made for such foolish persons. But Margaret, the younger, a girl of sixteen, was unexceptionable. She was her sister in miniature. She was beautiful, and faultless in her beauty, and so graceful, so playful, so pleasantly arch, and tenderly mischievous--so delightful, in short, in all her ways, that in looking upon her you ceased to remember that Eve had fallen--you still thought of her in Eden, the queen of its world of flowers, as innocent and beautiful as the very last budding rose amongst them. At all events, this was the opinion of every body for ten miles round, from Frank Leichenstein, the foreign gentleman--a German on his travels--to Barnacle Sam, otherwise Samuel Moore, a plain raftsman of the Edisto.
The occasion, though one of gaiety, which brought the company together, was also one of gloom. On this night the fair Dorothy would cease to be a belle. All hopes, of all but one, were cut off by her lately expressed preference for a farmer from a neighbouring district, and the young men assembled to witness nuptials which many of them looked on with envy and regret. But they bore, as well as they might, with the mortification which they felt. Love does not often kill in modern periods, and some little extra phlegm may be allowed to a community with an origin such as ours. The first ebullitions of public dissatisfaction had pretty well worn off before the night of the wedding, and, if the beauty of the bride, when she stood up that
night to receive the fatal ring, served to reawaken the ancient flame in the breasts of any present, its violence was duly overcome in the reflection that the event was now beyond recall, and regrets utterly unavailing. The frolic which succeeded, the good cheer, the uproar, and the presence of numerous other damsels, all in their best, helped in no small degree to lessen the discontent and displeasure of the disappointed. Besides, there was the remaining sister, Margaret, a host in herself, and so gay, and so good-natured, so ready to dance and sing, and so successful in the invention of new modes of passing time merrily, that, before the bride disappeared for the night, she was half chagrined to discover that nobody--unless her new-made husband--now looked to where she stood. Her sway was at an end with the hopes of her host of lovers.
THE revels were kept up pretty late. What with the ceremony, the supper, the dancing, and the sundry by-plays which are common to all such proceedings, time passed away without the proper consciousness of any of the parties. But all persons present were not equally successful or equally happy. It was found, after a while, that though Margaret Cole smiled, and talked, and played, and danced with every body, there was yet one young fellow who got rather the largest share of her favours. What rendered this discovery particularly distressing was the fact that he was a stranger and a citizen. His name was Wilson Hurst, a genteel looking youth, who had recently made his appearance in the neighbourhood, and was engaged in the very respectable business of a country store. He sold calicoes and ribbons, and combs, and dimity, and the thousand other neat, nice matters, in which the thoughts and affections of young damsels are supposed to be quite too much interested. He was no hobnail, no coarse unmannered clown; but carried himself with an air of decided ton, as if he knew his position, and was resolute to make it known to all around him. His manner was calculated to offend the more rustic of the assembly, who are always, in every country, rather jealous of the citizen; and the high head which he carried, the petty airs of fashion which he assumed, and his singular success with the belle of the Forks, all combined to render the conceited young fellow decidedly odious among the male part of the assembly. A little knot of these might have been seen, toward the small hours, in earnest discussion of this subject, while sitting in the piazza they observed the movements of the unconscious pair, through a half opened window. We will not listen at present to their remarks, which we may take for granted were sufficiently bitter; but turn with them to the entrance, where they have discovered a new arrival. This was a large man, seemingly rather
beyond the season of youth, who was now seen advancing up the narrow avenue which led to the house.
"It's Barnacle Sam!" said one.
"I reckon," was the reply of another.
"It's he, by thunder!" said a third, "wonder what he'll say to see Margaret and this city chap? He's just in time for it. They're mighty close."
"Reckon he'll bile up again. Jest be quiet now, till he comes."
From all this we may gather that the person approaching is an admirer of the fair Margaret. His proximity prevented all further discussion of this delicate subject, and the speakers at once surrounded the new comer.
"Well, my lads, how goes it?" demanded this person, in a clear, manly accent, as he extended a hand to each. "Not too late, I reckon, for a fling on the floor; but I had to work hard for it, I reckon. Left Charleston yesterday when the sun was on the turn; but I swore I'd be in time for one dash with Margaret."
"Reckon you've walked for nothing, then," said one with a significant shake of the head to his fellows.
"For nothing! and why do you think so?"
"Well, I don't know, but I reckon Margaret's better satisfied to sit down jest now. She don't seem much inclined to foot it with any of us."
"That's strange for Margaret," said the new comer; "but I'll see how my chance stands, if so be the fiddle has a word to say in my behalf. She aint sick, fellows?"
"Never was better--but go in and try your luck."
"To be sure I will. It'll be bad luck, indeed, when I set my heart on a thing, and walk a matter of seventy miles after it, if I couldn't get it then, and for no reason that I can see; so here goes."
With these words, the speaker passed into the house, and was soon seen by his companions--who now resumed their places by the window--in conversation with the damsel. There was a frank, manly something in the appearance, the face, carriage and language of this fellow, that, in spite of a somewhat rude exterior and coarse clothing, insensibly commanded one's respect. It was very evident that those with whom he had spoken, had accorded
him theirs--that he was a favourite among them--and indeed, we may say, in this place, that he was a very general favourite. He was generous and good natured, bold, yet inoffensive, and so liberal that, though one of the most industrious fellows in the world, and constantly busy, he had long since found that his resources never enabled him to lay by a copper against a rainy day. Add to these moral qualities, that he was really a fine looking fellow, large and well made, with a deep florid complexion, black hair, good forehead and fine teeth, and we shall wonder to find that he was not entirely successful with the sex. That he was not an economist, and was a little over the frontier line of forty, were perhaps objections, and then he had a plain, direct way of speaking out his mind, which was calculated, sometimes, to disturb the equanimity of the very smoothest temper.
It was perceived by his companions that Margaret answered him with some evident annoyance and embarrassment, while they beheld, with increasing aversion, the supercilious air of the stranger youth, the curl of his lips, the simpering, half-scornful smile which they wore, while their comrade was urging his claims to the hand of the capricious beauty. The application of the worthy raftsman--for such was the business of Barnacle Sam--proved unavailing. The maiden declined dancing, pleading fatigue. The poor fellow said that he too was fatigued, "tired down, Miss Margaret, with a walk of seventy miles, only to have the pleasure of dancing with you." The maiden was inexorable, and he turned off to rejoin his companions. The immoderate laughter in which Margaret and the stranger youth indulged, immediately after Barnacle Sam's withdrawal, was assumed by his companions to be at his expense. This was also the secret feeling of the disappointed suitor, but the generous fellow disclaimed any such conviction, and, though mortified to the very heart, he studiously said every thing in his power to excuse the capricious girl to those around him. She had danced with several of them, the hour was late, and her fatigue was natural enough. But the malice of his comrades determined upon a test which should invalidate all these pleas and excuses. The fiddle was again put in requisition, and a Virginia reel was resolved upon. Scarcely were the parties summoned to the floor, before Margaret
made her appearance as the partner of young Hurst. Poor Barnacle walked out into the woods, with his big heart ready to break. It was generally understood that he was fond of Margaret, but how fond, nobody but himself could know. She, too, had been supposed willing to encourage him, and, though by no means a vain fellow, he was yet very strongly impressed with the belief that he was quite as near to her affections as any man he knew. His chagrin and disappointment may be imagined; but a lonely walk in the woods enabled him to come back to the cottage, to which he was drawn by a painful sort of fascination, with a face somewhat calmed, and with feelings, which, if not subdued, were kept in proper silence and subjection. He was a strong-souled fellow, who had no small passions. He did not flare up and make a fuss, as is the wont of a peevish nature, but the feeling and the pain were the deeper in due proportion to the degree of restraint which he put upon them. His return to the cottage was the signal to his companions to renew their assaults upon his temper. They found a singular satisfaction in making a hitherto successful suitor partake of their own frequent mortifications. But they did not confine their efforts to this single object. They were anxious that Barnacle Sam should be brought to pluck a quarrel with the stranger, whose conceited airs had so ruffled the feathers of self-esteem in all of their crests. They dilated accordingly on all the real or supposed insolences of the new comer--his obvious triumph--his certain success--and that unbearable volley of merriment, which, in conjunction with Margaret Cole, he had discharged at the retreating and baffled applicant for her hand. Poor Barnacle bore with all these attempts with great difficulty. He felt the force of their suggestions the more readily, because the same thoughts and fancies had already been traversing his own brain. He was not insensible to the seeming indignity which the unbecoming mirth of the parties had betrayed on his retiring from the field, and more than once a struggling devil in his heart rose up to encourage and enforce the suggestions made by his companions. But love was stronger in his soul than hate, and served to keep down the suggestions of anger. He truly loved the girl, and though he felt very much like trouncing the
presumptuous stranger, he subdued this inclination entirely on her account.
"No! no! my lads," said he, finally, "Margaret's her own mistress, and may do as she pleases. She's a good girl and a kind one, and if her head's turned just now by this stranger, let's give her time to get it back in the right place. She'll come right, I reckon, before long. As for him, I see no fun in licking him, for that's a thing to be done just as soon as said. If he crosses me, it'll do then--but so long as she seems to have a liking for him, so long I'll keep my hands off him, if so be he'll let me."
"Well," said one of his comrades, "I never thought the time would come when Barnacle Sam would take so much from any man."
"Oh hush! Peter Stahlen; you know I take nothing that I don't choose to take. All that know me, know what I am, and they'll all think rightly in the matter; and those that don't know me may think just what they please. So good night, my lads. I'll take another turn in the woods to freshen me."
WE pass over much of the minor matter in this history. We forbear the various details, the visitings and wanderings, the doings of the several parties, and the scandal which necessarily kept all tongues busy for a season. The hope so confidently expressed by Barnacle Sam, that the head of his beauty, which had been turned by the stranger, would recover its former sensible position after certain days, did not promise to be soon realized. On the contrary, every succeeding week seemed to bring the maiden and her city lover more frequently together; to strengthen his assurance, and increase his influence over her heart. All his leisure time was consumed either at her dwelling or in rambles with her alone, hither and thither, to the equal disquieting of maid and bachelor. They, however, had eyes for nobody but one another--lived, as it were, only in each other's regards, and, after a month of the busiest idleness in which he had ever been engaged, Barnacle Sam, in very despair, resumed his labours on the river by taking charge of a very large fleet of rafts. The previous interval had been spent in a sort of gentlemanly watch upon the heart and proceedings of the fair Margaret. The result was such as to put the coup de grace to all his own fond aspirations. But this effect was not brought about but at great expense of pride and feeling. His heart was sore and soured. His temper underwent a change. He was moody and irritable--kept aloof from his companions, and discouraged and repulsed them when they approached him. It was a mutual relief to them and himself when he launched upon the river in his old vocation. But his vocation, like that of Othello, was fairly gone. He performed his duties punctually, carried his charge in safety to the city, and evinced, in its management, quite as much skill and courage as before. But his performances were now mechanical--therefore carried on doggedly, and with no portion of his former spirit. There was now no catch of song, no famous shout or whistle, to be heard by the farmer
on the bank, as the canoe or the raft of Barnacle Sam rounded the headlands. There was no more friendly chat with the wayfarer--no more kind, queer word, such as had made him the favourite of all parties before. His eye was now averted--his countenance troubled--his words few--his whole deportment, as well as his nature, had undergone a change; and folks pointed to the caprice of Margaret Cole as the true source of all his misfortunes. It is, perhaps, her worst reproach that she seemed to behold them with little concern or commiseration, and, exulting in the consciousness of a new conquest over a person who seemed to rate himself very much above his country neighbours, she suffered herself to speak of the melancholy which had seized upon the soul of her former lover with a degree of scorn and irreverence which tended very much to wean from her the regard of the most intimate and friendly among her own sex.
Months passed away in this manner, and but little of our raftsman was to be seen. Meanwhile, the manner of Wilson Hurst became more assured and confident. In his deportment toward Margaret Cole there was now something of a lordly condescension, while, in hers, people were struck with a now expression of timidity and dependence, amounting almost to suffering and grief. Her face became pale, her eye restless and anxious, and her step less buoyant. In her father's house she no longer seemed at home. Her time, when not passed with her lover, was wasted in the woods, and at her return the traces of tears were still to be seen upon her cheeks. Suspicion grew active, scandal busied herself, and the young women, her former associates, were the first to declare themselves not satisfied with the existing condition of things. Their interest in the case soon superseded their charity;
"For every wo a tear may claim,
Except an erring sister's shame."
Conferences ensued, discussions and declarations, and at length the bruit reached the ears of her simple, unsuspecting parents. The father was, when roused, a coarse and harsh old man. Margaret was his favourite, but it was Margaret in her glory, not Margaret in her shame. His vanity was stung, and in the interview
to which he summoned the unhappy girl, his anger, which soon discovered sufficient cause of provocation, was totally without the restraints of policy or humanity.
A traditionary account--over which we confess there hangs some doubt--is given of the events that followed. There were guests in the dwelling of the farmer, and the poor girl was conducted to a neighbouring outhouse, probably the barn. There, amid the denunciations of the father, the reproaches of the mother, and the sobs, tears and agonies of the victim, a full acknowledgment was extorted of her wretched state. But she preserved one secret, which no violence could make her deliver. She withheld the name of him to whom she owed all her misfortunes. It is true, this name was not wanting to inform any to whom her history was known, by whom the injury was done; but of all certainty on this head, derived from her own confession, they were wholly deprived. Sitting on the bare floor, in a state of comparative stupor, which might have tended somewhat to blunt and disarm the nicer sensibilities, she bore, in silence, the torrent of bitter and brutal invective which followed her developments. With a head drooping to the ground, eyes now tearless, hands folded upon her lap--self-abandoned, as it were--she was suffered to remain. Her parents left her and returned to the dwelling, having closed the door, without locking it, behind them. What were their plans may not be said; but, whatever they were, they were defeated by the subsequent steps taken, in her desperation of soul, by the deserted and dishonoured damsel.
WE still continue to report the tradition, though it does not appear that the subsequent statements of the affair were derived from any acknowledged witness. It appears that, after the night had set in, Margaret Cole fled from the barn in which she had been left by her parents. She was seen, in this proceeding, by her little brother, a lad of eight years old. Catching him by the arm as they met, she exclaimed--"Oh, Billy, don't tell, don't tell, if you love me!" The child kept the secret until her flight was known, and the alarm which it occasioned awakened his own apprehensions. He described her as looking and speaking very wildly; so much so as to frighten him. The hue and cry was raised, but she was not found for several hours after, and then--but we must not anticipate.
It appears--and we still take up the legend without being able to show the authorities--it appears that, as soon as she could hope for concealment, under cover of the night, she took her way through unfrequented paths in the forest, running and walking, toward the store of Wilson Hurst. This person, it appears, kept his store on the road-side, some four miles from the village of Orangeburg, the exact spot on which it stood being now only conjectured. A shed-room, adjoining the store, he occupied as his chamber. To this shed-room she came a little after midnight, and tapping beneath the window, she aroused the inmate. He rose, came to the window, and without opening it, demanded who was there. Her voice soon informed him, and the pleading, pitiful, agonizing tones, broken and incoherent, told him all her painful story. She related the confession which she had made to her parents, and implored him at once to take her in, and fulfil those promises by which he had beguiled her to her ruin. The night was a cold and cheerless one in February--her chattering teeth appealed to his humanity, even if her condition had not invoked his justice. Will it be believed that the wretch refused her?
He seemed to have been under the impression that she was accompanied by her friends, prepared to take advantage of his confessions; and, under this persuasion, he denied her asseverations--told her she was mad--mocked at her pleadings, and finally withdrew once more, as if to his couch and slumbers.
We may fancy what were the feelings of the unhappy woman. It is not denied to imagination, however it may be to speech, to conjecture the terrible despair, the mortal agony swelling in her soul, as she listened to the cold-blooded and fiendish answer to her poor heart's broken prayer for justice and commiseration. What an icy shaft must have gone through her soul, to hearken to such words of falsehood, mockery and scorn, from those lips which had once pleaded in her ears with all the artful eloquence of love--and how she must have cowered to the earth, as if the mountains themselves were falling upon her as she heard his retiring footsteps--he going to seek those slumbers which she has never more to seek or find. That was death--the worst death--the final death of the last hope in her doomed and desolated heart. But one groan escaped her--one gasping sigh--the utterance, we may suppose, of her last hope, as it surrendered up the ghost--and then, all was silence!
THAT one groan spoke more keenly to the conscience of the miserable wretch within than did all her pleadings. The deep, midnight silence which succeeded was conclusive of the despair of the wretched girl. It not only said that she was alone, abandoned of all others--but that she was abandoned by herself. The very forbearance of the usual reproaches--her entire submission to her fate--stung and goaded the base deceiver, by compelling his own reflections, on his career and conduct, to supply the place of hers. He was young, and, therefore, not entirely reckless. He felt that he lacked manliness--that courage which enables a man to do right from feeling, even where, in matters of principle, he does not appreciate the supremacy of virtue. Some miserable fears that her friends might still be in lurking, and, as he could not conjecture the desperation of a big heart, full of feeling, bursting with otherwise unutterable emotions, he flattered himself with the feeble conclusion, that, disappointed in her attempts upon him, the poor deluded victim had returned home as she came. Still, his conscience did not suffer him to sleep. He had his doubts. She might be still in the neighbourhood--she might be swooning under his window. He rose. We may not divine his intentions. It may have been--and we hope so for the sake of man and humanity--it may have been that he rose repentant, and determined to take the poor victim to his arms, and do all the justice to her love and sufferings that it yet lay in his power to do. He went to the window, and leant his ear down to listen. Nothing reached him but the deep soughing of the wind through the branches, but even this more than once startled him with such a resemblance to human moaning that he shuddered at his place of watch. His window was one of those unglazed openings in the wall, such as are common in the humbler cottages of a country where the cold is seldom of long duration, and where the hardy habits of the people render them comparatively careless of those agents of comfort
which would protect against it. It was closed, not very snugly, by a single shutter, and fastened by a small iron hook within. Gradually, as he became encouraged by the silence, he raised this hook, and, still grasping it, suffered the window to expand so as to enable him to take into his glance, little by little, the prospect before him. The moon was now rising above the trees, and shedding a ghastly light upon the unshadowed places around. The night was growing colder, and in the chill under which his own frame shivered, he thought of poor Margaret and her cheerless walk that night. He looked down for her immediately beneath the window, but she was not there, and for a few moments his eyes failed to discover any object beyond the ordinary shrubs and trees. But as his vision became more and more accustomed to the indistinct outlines and shadowy glimpses under which, in that doubtful light, objects naturally presented themselves, he shuddered to behold a whitish form gleaming fitfully, as if waving in the wind, from a little clump of woods not forty yards from the house. He recoiled, closed the window with trembling hands, and got down upon his knees--but it was to cower, not to pray--and he did not remain in this position for more than a second. He then dressed himself, with hands that trembled too much to allow him, without much delay, to perform this ordinary office. Then he hurried into his shop--opened the door, which he as instantly bolted again, then returned to his chamber--half undressed himself, as if again about to seek his bed--resumed his garments, re-opened the window, and gazed once more upon the indistinct white outline which had inspired all his terrors. How long he thus stood gazing, how many were his movements of incertitude, what were his thoughts and what his purposes, may not be said--may scarcely be conjectured. It is very certain that every effort which he made to go forth and examine more closely the object of his sight and apprehensions, utterly failed--yet a dreadful fascination bound him to the window. If he fled to the interior and shut his eyes, it was only for a moment. He still returned to the spot, and gazed, and gazed, until the awful ghost of the unhappy girl spoke out audibly, to his ears, and filled his soul with the most unmitigated horrors.
BUT the sound of horses' feet, and hurrying voices, aroused him to the exercise of his leading instinct--that of self-preservation. His senses seemed to return to him instantly under the pressure of merely human fears. He hurried to the opposite apartment, silently unclosed the outer door, and stealing off under cover of the woods, was soon shrouded from sight in their impenetrable shadows. But the same fascination which had previously led him to the fatal window, now conducted him into that part of the forest which contained the cruel spectacle by which his eyes had been fixed and fastened. Here, himself concealed, crouching in the thicket, he beheld the arrival of a motley crowd--white and black--old Cole, with all the neighbours whom he could collect around him and gather in his progress. He saw them pass, without noticing, the object of their search and his own attention--surround his dwelling--heard them shout his name, and finally force their way into the premises. Torches were seen to glare through the seams and apertures of the house, and, at length, as if the examination had been in vain, the party reappeared without. They gathered in a group in front of the dwelling, and seemed to be in consultation. While they were yet in debate, the hoofs of a single horse, at full speed, were heard beating the frozen ground, and another person was added to the party. It did not need the shout with which this new comer was received by all, to announce to the skulking fugitive that, in the tall, massive form that now alighted among the rest, he beheld the noble fellow whose love had been rejected by Margaret for his own--Barnacle Sam. It is remarkable that, up to this moment, a doubt of his own security had not troubled the mind of Hurst; but, absorbed by the fearful spectacle which, though still unseen by the rest, was yet ever waving before his own spell-bound eyes, he had foregone all farther considerations of his own safety. But the appearance of this man, of whose character, by this time, he had full knowledge, had dispelled
this confidence; and, with the instinct of hate and fear, shuddering and looking back the while, he silently rose to his feet, and stealing off with as much haste as a proper caution would justify, he made his way to one of the landings on the river, where he found a canoe, with which he put off to the opposite side. For the present, we leave him to his own course and conscience, and return to the group which we left behind us, and which, by this time, has realized all the horrors natural to a full discovery of the truth.
The poor girl was found suspended, as we have already in part described, to the arm of a tree, but a little removed from the dwelling of her guilty lover, the swinging boughs of which had been used commonly for fastening horses. A common handkerchief, torn in two, and lengthened by the union of the parts, provided the fatal means of death for the unhappy creature. Her mode of procedure had been otherwise quite as simple as successful. She had mounted the stump of a tree which had been left as a horse-block, and which enabled her to reach the bough over which the kerchief was thrown. This adjusted, she swung from the stump, and passed in a few moments--with what remorse, what agonies, what fears, and what struggles, we will not say--from the vexing world of time to the doubtful empire of eternity! We dare not condemn the poor heart, so young, so feeble, so wronged, and, doubtless, so distraught! Peace to her spirit!
It would be idle to attempt to describe the tumult, the wild uproar and storm of rage, which, among that friendly group, seemed for a season to make them even forgetful of their grief. Their sorrow seemed swallowed up in fury. Barnacle Sam was alone silent. His hand it was that took down the lifeless body from the accursed tree--upon his manly bosom it was borne. He spoke but once on the occasion, in reply to those who proposed to carry it to the house of the betrayer. "No! not there! not there!" was all he said, in tones low--almost whispered--yet so distinctly heard, so deeply felt, that the noisy rage of those around him was subdued to silence in the sterner grief which they expressed. And while the noble fellow bore away the victim, with arms as fond, and a solicitude as tender, as if the lifeless form could still feel, and the cold defrauded heart could still respond to love, the
violent hands of the rest applied fire to the dwelling of the seducer, and watched the consuming blaze with as much delight as they would have felt had its proprietor been involved within its flaming perils. Such, certainly, had he been found, would have been the sudden, and perhaps deserved judgment to which their hands would have consigned him. They searched the woods for him, but in vain. They renewed the search for him by daylight, and traced his footsteps to the river. The surrounding country was aroused, but, prompted by his fears, and favoured by his fortune, he had got so completely the start of his enemies that he eluded all pursuit; and time, that dulls even the spirit of revenge, at length served to lessen the interest of the event in the minds of most of the survivors. Months went by, years followed--the old man Cole and his wife sunk into the grave; hurried prematurely, it was thought, by the dreadful history we have given; and of all that group, assembled on the fatal night we have just described, but one person seemed to keep its terrible aspect forever fresh before his eyes--and that was Barnacle Sam.
He was a changed man. If the previous desertion and caprice of the wretched Margaret, who had paid so heavy a penalty for the girlish injustice which she had inflicted on his manly heart, had made him morose and melancholy, her miserable fate increased this change in a far more surprising degree. He still, it is true, continued the business of a raftsman, but, had it not been for his known trustworthiness, his best friends and admirers would have certainly ceased altogether to give him employment. He was now the creature of a moodiness which they did not scruple to pronounce madness. He disdained all sort of conference with those about him, on ordinary concerns, and devoting himself to the Bible, he drew from its mystic, and to him unfathomable, resources, constant subjects of declamation and discussion. Its thousand dark prophecies became unfolded to his mind. He denounced the threatened wrath of undesignated ages as already at the door--called upon the people to fly, and shouted wildly in invocation of the storm. Sometimes, these moods would disappear, and, at such times, he would pass through the crowd with drooping head and hands, the humbled and resigned victim to a sentence which seemed destined for his utter annihilation. The change in his physical
nature had been equally great and sudden. His hair, though long and massive, suddenly became white as snow; and though his face still retained a partial fulness, there were long lines and heavy seams upon his cheeks, which denoted a more than common struggle of the inner life with the cares, the doubts, and the agonies of a troubled and vexing existence. After the lapse of a year, the more violent paroxysms of his mood disappeared, and gave place to a settled gloom, which was not less significant than his former condition of an alienated mind. He was still devoted to religion--that is to say, to that study of religious topics, which, among ignorant or thoughtless people, is too apt to be mistaken for religion. But it was not of its peace, its diffusing calm, its holy promise, that he read and studied. His favourite themes were to be found among the terrible judgments, the fierce vengeances, the unexampled woes, inflicted, or predicted, in the prophetic books of the Old Testament. The language of the prophets, when they denounced wrath, he made his own language; and when his soul was roused with any one of these subjects, and stimulated by surrounding events, he would look the Jeremiah that he spoke--his eyes glancing with the frenzy of a flaming spirit--his lips quivering with his deep emotions--his hands and arms spread abroad, as if the phials of wrath were in them ready to be emptied--his foot advanced, as if he were then dispensing judgment--his white hair streaming to the wind, with that meteor-likeness which was once supposed to be prophetic of "change, perplexing monarchs." At other times, going down upon his rafts, or sitting in the door of his little cabin, you would see him with the Bible on his knee--his eyes lifted in abstraction, but his mouth working, as if he then busied himself in calculation of those wondrous problems, contained in the "times and half times," the elucidation of which, it is supposed, will give us the final limit accorded to this exercise of our human toil in the works of the devil.
IT was while his mind was thus occupied, that the ferment of colonial patriotism drew to a head. The Revolution was begun, and the clamours of war and the rattle of arms resounded through the land. Such an outbreak was the very event to accord with the humours of our morbid raftsman. Gradually, his mind had grasped the objects and nature of the issue, not as an event simply calculated to work out the regeneration of a decaying and impaired government, but as a sort of purging process, the great beginning of the end, in fact, by which the whole world was to be again made new. The exaggerated forms of rhetoric in which the orators of the time naturally spoke, and in which all stump orators are apt to speak, when liberty and the rights of man are the themes--and what themes, in their hands, do not swell into these?--happily chimed in with the chaotic fancies and confused thoughts which filled the brain of Barnacle Sam. In conveying his rafts to Charleston, he took every opportunity of hearing the great orators of that city--Gadsden, Rutledge, Drayton and others--and imbued with what he had heard, coupling it, in singular union, with what he had read--he proceeded to propound to his wondering companions, along the road and river, the equally exciting doctrines of patriotism and religion. In this way, to a certain extent, he really proved an auxiliary of no mean importance to a cause, to which, in Carolina, there was an opposition not less serious and determined, as it was based upon a natural and not discreditable principle. Instead now of avoiding the people, and of dispensing his thoughts among them only when they chanced to meet, Barnacle Sam now sought them out in their cabins. Returning from the city after the disposal of his rafts, his course lay, on foot, a matter of seventy miles through the country. On this route he loitered and lingered, went into by-places, and sought in lonely nooks, and "every bosky bower," "from side to side," the rustics of whom he either knew or heard. His own history,
by this time, was pretty well known throughout the country, and he was generally received with open hands and that sympathy, which was naturally educed wherever his misfortunes were understood. His familiarity with the Bible, his exemplary life, his habits of self-denial, his imposing manner, his known fearlessness of heart; these were all so many credentials to the favour of a simple and unsophisticated people. But we need dwell on this head no longer. Enough, in this place, to say that, on the first threat of the invader against the shores of Carolina, Barnacle Sam leapt from his rafts, and arrayed himself with the regiment of William Thompson, for the defence of Sullivan's Island. Of his valour, when the day of trial came, as little need be said. The important part which Thompson's riflemen had to play at the eastern end of Sullivan's Island, while Moultrie was rending with iron hail the British fleet in front, is recorded in another history. That battle saved Carolina for two years, but, in the interregnum which followed, our worthy raftsman was not idle. Sometimes on the river with his rafts, earning the penny which was necessary to his wants, he was more frequently engaged in stirring up the people of the humbler classes, by his own peculiar modes of argument, rousing them to wrath, in order, as he conclusively showed from Holy Writ, that they might "escape from the wrath to come." This logic cost many a tory his life; and, what with rafting, preaching and fighting, Barnacle Sam was as busy a prophet as ever sallied forth with short scrip and heavy sandal on the business of better people than himself.
During the same period of repose in Carolina from the absolute pressure of foreign war, and from the immediate presence of the foreign enemy, the city of Charleston was doing a peculiar and flourishing business. The British fleets covering all the coast, from St. Augustine to Martha's Vineyard, all commerce by sea was cut off, and a line of wagons from South, and through North Carolina, to Virginia and Pennsylvania, enabled the enterprising merchants of Charleston to snap their fingers at the blockading squadrons. The business carried on in this way, though a tedious, was yet a thriving one; and it gave many a grievous pang to patriotism, in the case of many a swelling tradesman, when the final investment of the Southern States compelled
its discontinuance. Many a Charleston tory owed his defection from principle, to this unhappy turn in the affairs of local trade. It happened on one occasion, just before the British army was ordered to the South, that General Huger, then in command of a fine regiment of cavalry, somewhere near Lenud's Ferry on the Santee, received intelligence which led him to suspect the fidelity of a certain caravan of wagons which had left the city some ten or twelve days before, and was then considerably advanced on the road to North Carolina. The intelligence which caused this suspicion, was brought to him by no less a person than our friend Barnacle Sam, who was just returning from one of his ordinary trips down the Edisto. A detachment of twenty men was immediately ordered to overtake the wagons and sift them thoroughly, and under the guidance of Barnacle, the detachment immediately set off. The wagons, eleven in number, were overhauled after three days' hard riding, and subjected to as close a scrutiny as was thought necessary by the vigilant officer in command. But it did not appear that the intelligence communicated by the raftsman received any confirmation. If there were treasonable letters, they were concealed securely, or seasonably destroyed by those to whom they were entrusted; and the search being over, and night being at hand, the troops and the persons of the caravan, in great mutual good humour, agreed to encamp together for the night. Fires were kindled, the wagons wheeled about, the horses were haltered and fed, and all things being arranged against surprise, the company broke up into compact groups around the several fires for supper and for sleep. The partisan and the wagoner squatted, foot to foot, in circles the most equal and sociable, and the rice and bacon having been washed down by copious draughts of rum and sugar, of which commodities the Carolinas had a copious supply at the time of the invasion--nothing less could follow but the tale and the song, the jest and the merry cackle, natural enough to hearty fellows, under such circumstances of equal freedom and creature comfort. As might be guessed from his character, as we have described it, Barnacle Sam took no part in this sort of merriment. He mixed with none of the several groups, but, with his back against a tree, with crossed hands, and chin upon his breast, he lay soundly
wrapt in contemplation, chewing that cud of thought, founded upon memory, which is supposed to be equally sweet and bitter. In this position he lay, not mingling with any of the parties, perhaps unseen of any, and certainly not yielding himself in any way to the influences which made them temporarily happy. He was in a very lonely and far removed land of his own. He had not supped, neither had he drank, neither had he thirsted, nor hungered, while others indulged. It was one peculiarity of his mental infirmities that he seemed, whenever greatly excited by his own moods, to suffer from none of the animal wants of nature. His position, however, was not removed from that of the rest. Had his mind been less absorbed in its own thoughts--had he willed to hear--he might have been the possessor of all the good jokes, the glees and every thoughtless or merry word, which delighted those around him. He lay between two groups, a few feet only from one, in deep shadow, which was only fitfully removed as some one of those around the fire bent forward or writhed about, and thus suffered the ruddy glare to glisten upon his drooping head or broad manly bosom. One of these groups--and that nearest him--was composed entirely of young men. These had necessarily found each other out, and, by a natural attraction, had got together in the same circle. Removed from the restraints and presence of their elders, and after the indulgence of frequent draughts from the potent beverage, of which there was always a supply adequate to the purposes of evil, their conversation soon became licentious; and, from the irreverent jest, they soon gave way to the obscene story. At length, as one step in vice, naturally and inevitably,--unless promptly resisted--impels another--the thoughtless reprobates began to boast of their several experiences in sin. Each strove to outdo his neighbour in the assertion of his prowess, and while some would magnify the number of their achievements, others would dilate in their details, and all, at the expense of poor, dependent woman. It would be difficult to say--nor is it important--at what particular moment, or from what particular circumstance, Barnacle Sam was induced to give any attention to what was going on. The key-note which opened in his own soul all its dreadful remembrances of horror, was no doubt to be found
in some one word, some tone, of undefinable power and import, which effectually commanded his continued attention, even though it was yielded with loathing and against the stomach of his sense. He listened with head no longer drooping, eyes no longer shut, thought no longer in that far and foreign world of memory. Memory, indeed, was beginning to recover and have a present life and occupation. Barnacle Sam was listening to accents which were not unfamiliar to his ear. He heard one of the speakers, whose back was turned upon him, engaged in the narrative of his own triumphs, and every syllable which he uttered was the echo of a dreadful tale, too truly told already. The story was not the same--not identical in all its particulars--with that of poor Margaret Cole; but it was her story. The name of the victim was not given--and the incidents were so stated, that, without altering the results, all those portions were altered which might have placed the speaker in a particularly base or odious position. He had conquered, he had denied his victim the only remedy in his power--for was he to confide in a virtue, which he had been able to overcome?--and she had perished by her own hands. This was the substance of his story; but this was not enough for the profligate, unless he could show how superior were his arts of conquest, how lordly his sway, how indifferent his love, to the misery which it could occasion; a loud and hearty laugh followed, and, in the midst of the uproar, while every tongue was conceding the palm of superiority to the narrator, and his soul was swelling with the applause for which his wretched vanity had sacrificed decency and truth, a heavy hand was laid upon his shoulder, and his eyes, turning round upon the intruder, encountered those of Barnacle Sam!
"Well, what do you want?" demanded the person addressed. It was evident that he did not recognize the intruder. How could he? His own mother could not have known the features of Barnacle Sam, so changed as he was, from what he had been, by wo and misery.
"You! I want you! You are wanted, come with me!"
The other hesitated and trembled. The eye of the raftsman was upon him. It was the eye of his master--the eye of fate. It was not in his power to resist it. It moved him whither it
would. He rose to his feet. He could not help but rise. He was stationary for an instant, and the hand of Barnacle Sam rested upon his wrist. The touch appeared to smite him to the bone. He shuddered, and it was noted that his other arm was extended, as if in appeal to the group from which he had risen. Another look of his fate fixed him. He shrunk under the full, fierce, compelling glance of the other. He shrunk, but went forward in silence, while the hand of the latter was still slightly pressed upon his wrist.
NEVER was mesmeric fascination more complete. The raftsman seemed to have full confidence in his powers of compulsion, for he retained his grasp upon the wrist of the profligate, but a single moment after they had gone from the company.
"Come! Follow!" said the conductor, when a few moments more had elapsed, finding the other beginning to falter.
"Where must I go? Who wants me?" demanded the criminal, with a feeble show of resolution.
"Where must you go--who wants you; oh! man of little faith--does the soldier ask of the officer such a question--does the sinner of his judge? of what use to ask, Wilson Hurst, when the duty must be done--when there is no excuse and no appeal. Come!"
"Wilson Hurst! Who is it calls me by that name? I will go no farther."
The raftsman who had turned to proceed, again paused, and stooping, fixed his keen eyes upon those of the speaker so closely that their mutual eyebrows must have met. The night was star-lighted, and the glances from the eyes of Barnacle Sam flashed upon the gaze of his subject, with a red energy like that of Mars. "Come!" he said, even while he looked. "Come, miserable man, the judgment is given, the day of favour is past, and lo! the night cometh--the night is here."
"Oh, now I know you now I know you--Barnacle Sam!" exclaimed Hurst, falling upon his knees. "Have mercy upon me--have mercy upon me!"
"It is a good prayer," said the other, "a good prayer--the only prayer for a sinner, but do not address it to me. To the Judge, man, to the Almighty Judge himself! Pray, pray! I will give you time. Pour out your heart like water. Let it run upon the thirsty ground. The contrite heart is blessed though it be
doomed. You cannot pray too much--you cannot pray enough. In the misery of the sinner is the mercy of the Judge."
"And will you spare me? Will you let me go if I pray?" demanded the prostrate and wretched criminal with eagerness.
"How can I? I, too, am a sinner. I am not the judge. I am but the officer commanded to do the will of God. He has spoken this command in mine ears by day and by night. He has commanded me at all hours. I have sought for thee, Wilson Hurst, for seven weary years along the Edisto, and the Congaree and Santee, the Ashley, and other rivers. It has pleased God to weary me with toil in this search, that I might the better understand how hard it is for the sinner to serve him as he should be served! 'For I thy God am a jealous God!' He knew how little I could be trusted, and he forced me upon a longer search and upon greater toils. I have wearied and I have prayed; I have toiled and I have travelled; and it is now, at last, that I have seen the expected sign, in a dream, even in a vision of the night. Oh, Father Almighty, I rejoice, I bless thee, that thou hast seen fit to bring my labours to a close--that I have at length found this favour in thy sight. Weary have been my watches, long have I prayed. I glad me that I have not watched and prayed vainly, and that the hour of my deliverance is at hand. Wilson Hurst, be speedy with thy prayers. It is not commanded that I shall cut thee off suddenly and without a sign. Humble thyself with speed, make thyself acceptable before the Redeemer of souls, for thy hour is at hand."
"What mean you?" gasped the other
"Judgment! Death!" And, as he spoke, the raftsman looked steadfastly to the tree overhead, and extended his arm as if to grasp the branches. The thought which was in his mind was immediately comprehended by the instinct of the guilty man. He immediately turned to fly. The glimmering light from the fires of the encampment could still be seen fitfully flaring through the forest.
"Whither would you go?" demanded the raftsman, laying his hand upon the shoulder of the victim. "Do you hope to fly from the wrath of God, Wilson Hurst? Foolish man, waste not the moments which are precious. Busy thyself in prayer. Thou
canst not hope for escape. Know that God hath sent me against thee, now, on this very expedition, after, as I have told thee, after a weary toil in search of thee for a space of seven years. Thou hast had all that time for repentance while I have been tasked vainly to seek thee even for the same period of time. But late, as I went out from the city, there met me one near Dorchester, who bade me set forth in pursuit of the wagon-train for the north, but I heeded not his words, and that night, in a vision, I was yet farther commanded. In my weak mind and erring faith, me-thought I was to search among these wagons for a traitor to the good cause of the colony. Little did I think to meet with thee, Wilson Hurst. But when I heard thy own lips openly denounce thy sins; when I heard thee boastful of thy cruel deed to her who was the sweetest child that ever Satan robbed from God's blessed vineyard--then did I see the purpose for which I was sent--then did I understand that my search was at an end, and that the final judgment was gone forth against thee. Prepare thyself, Wilson Hurst, for thy hour is at hand."
"I will not. You are mad! I will fight, I will halloo to our people," said the criminal, with more energetic accents and a greater show of determination. The other replied with a coolness which was equally singular and startling.
"I have sometimes thought that I was mad; but now, that the Lord hath so unexpectedly delivered thee into my hands, I know that I am not. Thou may'st fight, and thou may'st halloo, but I cannot think that these will help thee against the positive commandment of the Lord. Even the strength of a horse avails not against him for the safety of those whom he hath condemned. Prepare thee, then, Wilson Hurst, for thy hour is almost up."
He laid his hand upon the shoulder of the criminal as he spoke. The latter, meanwhile, had drawn a large knife from his packet, and though Barnacle Sam had distinguished the movement and suspected the object, he made no effort to defeat it.
"Thou art armed," said he, releasing, as he spoke, his hold upon the shoulder of Hurst. "Now, shalt thou see how certainly the Lord hath delivered thee into my hands, for I will not strive against thee until thou hast striven. Use thy weapon upon me. Lo! I stand unmoved before thee! Strike boldly and see what
thou shalt do, for I tell thee thou hast no hope. Thou art doomed, and I am sent this hour to execute God's vengeance against thee."
The wretch took the speaker at his word, struck with tolerable boldness and force, twice, thrice upon the breast of the raftsman, who stood utterly unmoved, and suffering no wound, no hurt of any sort. The baffled criminal dropped his weapon, and screamed in feeble and husky accents for help. In his tremour and timidity, he had, after drawing the knife from his pocket, utterly forgotten to unclasp the blade. He had struck with the blunted handle of the weapon, and the result which was due to so simple and natural a cause, appeared to his cowardly soul and excited imagination as miraculous. It was not less so to the mind of Barnacle Sam.
"Did I not tell thee! Look here, Wilson Hurst, look on this, and see how slight a thing in the hand of Providence may yield defence against the deadly weapon. This is the handkerchief by which poor Margaret Cole perished. It has been in my bosom from the hour I took her body from the tree. It has guarded my life against thy steel, though I kept it not for this. God has commanded me to use it in carrying out his judgment upon thee."
He slipt it over the neck of the criminal as he spoke these words. The other, feebly struggling, sunk upon his knees. His nerves had utterly failed him. The coward heart, still more enfeebled by the coward conscience, served completely to paralyze the common instinct of self-defence. He had no strength, no manhood. His muscles had no tension, and even the voice of supplication died away, in sounds of a faint and husky terror in his throat--a half-stifled moan, a gurgling breath--and --
WHEN Barnacle Sam returned to the encampment he was alone. He immediately sought the conductor of the wagons, and, without apprising him of his object, led him to the place of final conference between himself and Hurst. The miserable man was found suspended to a tree, life utterly extinct, the body already stiff and cold. The horror of the conductor almost deprived him of utterance. "Who has done this?" he asked.
"The hand of God, by the hand of his servant, which I am! The judgment of Heaven is satisfied. The evil thing is removed from among us, and we may now go on our way in peace. I have brought thee hither that thou may'st see for thyself, and be a witness to my work which is here ended. For seven weary years have I striven in this object. Father, I thank thee, that at the last thou hast been pleased to command that I should behold it finished!"
These latter words were spoken while he was upon his knees, at the very feet of the hanging man. The conductor, availing himself of the utter absorption in prayer of the other, stole away to the encampment, half-apprehensive that he himself might be made to taste of the same sharp judgment which had been administered to his companion. The encampment was soon roused, and the wagoners hurried in high excitement to the scene. They found Barnacle Sam still upon his knees. The sight of their comrade suspended from the tree, enkindled all their anger. They laid violent, hands upon his executioner. He offered no resistance, but showed no apprehension. To what lengths their fury would have carried them may only be conjectured, but they had found a rope, had fitted the noose, and in a few moments more they would, in all probability, have run up the offender to the same tree from which they had cut down his victim, when the timely appearance of the troopers saved him from such a fate. The esprit de corps came in seasonably for his preservation. It was
in vain that the wagoners pointed to the suspended man--in vain that Barnacle Sam avowed his handiwork--"He is one of us," said the troopers; and the slightest movement of the others toward hostility was resented with a handling so rough, as made it only a becoming prudence to bear with their loss and abuses as they best might. The wonder of all was, as they examined the body of the victim, how it was possible for the executioner to effect his purpose. Hurst was a man of middle size, rather stoutly built, and in tolerably good case. He would have weighed about one hundred and thirty. Barnacle Sam was of powerful frame and great muscle, tall and stout, yet it seemed impossible, unless endued with superhuman strength, that, unaided, he could have achieved his purpose; and some of the troopers charitably surmised that the wagoner had committed suicide; while the wagoners, in turn, hurried to the conclusion that the executioner had found assistance among the troopers. Both parties overlooked the preternatural strength accruing, in such a case, from the excited moral and mental condition of the survivor. They were not philosophers enough to see that, believing himself engaged upon the work of God, the enthusiast was really in possession of attributes, the work of a morbid imagination, which seemed almost to justify his pretensions to a communion with the superior world. Besides, they assumed a struggle on the part of the victim. They did not conjecture the influence of that spell by which the dominant spirit had coerced the inferior, and made it docile as the squirrel which the fascination of the snake brings to its very jaws, in spite of all the instincts which teach it to know how fatal is the enemy that lurks beneath the tree. The imbecile Hurst, conscious as it were of his fate, seems to have so accorded to the commands of his superior, as to contribute, in some degree, to his designs. At all events, the deed was done; and Barnacle Sam never said that the task was a hard one.
It was reserved for an examination of the body to find a full military justification for the executioner, and to silence the clamours of the wagoners. A screw bullet was found admirably folded in the knot of his neck kerchief, which, it seems, was not withdrawn from his neck when the kerchief of Margaret Cole was employed for a more deadly purpose. In this bullet was a note
in cypher, addressed to Clinton, at New York, describing the actual condition of Savannah, evidently from the hands of some one in that quarter. In a few months after this period Savannah was in possession of the British.
Barnacle Sam was tried for the murder of Hurst before a civil tribunal, and acquitted on the score of insanity; a plea put in for him, in his own spite, and greatly to his mortification. He retired from sight, for a space after this verdict, and remained quiet until a necessity arose for greater activity on the part of the patriots at home. It was then that he was found among the partisans, always bold and fearless, fighting and suffering manfully to the close of the war.
It happened, on one occasion, that the somewhat celebrated Judge Burke, of South Carolina, was dining with a pleasant party at the village of Orangeburg. The judge was an Irish gentleman of curious humour, and many eccentricities. He had more wit than genius, and quite as much courage as wisdom. The bench, indeed, is understood to have been the reward of his military services during the Revolution, and his bulls in that situation are even better remembered than his deeds in the other. But his blunders were redeemed by his humour, and the bar overlooked his mistakes in the enjoyment of his eccentricities. On the present occasion the judge was in excellent mood, and his companions equally happy, if not equally humorous with himself. The cloth had been removed, and the wine was in lively circulation, when the servant announced a stranger, who was no other than Barnacle Sam. Our ancient was known to the judge and to several of the company. But they knew him rather as the brave soldier, the successful scout, the trusty spy and courier, than as the unsuccessful lover and the agent of God's judgment against the wrong doer. His reception was kind; and the judge, taking for granted that he came to get a certificate for bounty lands, or a pension, or his seven years' pay, or something of that sort, supposed that he should get rid of him by a prompt compliance with his application. No such thing. He had come to get a reversal of that judgment of the court by which he had been pronounced insane. His acquittal was not an object of his concern. In bringing his present wish to the knowledge of the
judge he had perforce to tell his story. This task we have already sufficiently performed. It was found that, though by no means obtrusive or earnest, the good fellow was firm in his application, and the judge, in one of his best humours, saw no difficulty in obliging him.
"Be plaised, gentlemen," said he, "to fill your glasses. Our revision of the judgment in the case of our excellent friend, Sergeant Barnacle, shall be no dry joke. Fill your glasses, and be raisonably ripe for judgment. Sit down, Sergeant Barnacle, sit down, and be plaised to take a drhap of the crathur, though you leave no other crathur a drhap. It sames to me, gentlemen of the jury, that our friend has been hardly dealt with. To be found guilty of insanity for hanging a tory and a spy--a fellow actually bearing despatches to the enemy--sames a most extraordinary judgment; and it is still more extraordinary, let me tell you, that a person should be suspected of any deficiency of sense who should lay hands on a successful rival. I think this hanging a rival out of the way an excellent expadient; and the only mistake which, it sames to me, our friend Sergeant Barnacle has made, in this business, was in not having traed him sooner than he did."
"I sought him, may it please your honour, but the Lord did not deliver him into my hands until his hour had come," was the interruption of Barnacle Sam.
"Ah! I see! You would have hung him sooner if you could. Gentlemen of the jury, our friend, the sergeant, has shown that he would have hung him sooner if he could. The only ground, then, upon which, it sames to me, that his sanity could have been suspected, is thus cleared up; and we are made to say that our worthy friend was not deficient in that sagacity which counsels us to execute the criminal before he is guilty, under the good old rule that prevention is better than cure--that it is better to hang thirty rogues before they are proved so, rayther than to suffer one good man to come to avil at their hands."
It is needless to say that the popular court duly concurred with the judge's humorous reversal of the former decision; and Barnacle Sam went his way, perfectly satisfied as to the removal of all stain from his sanity of mind.
"I am but mad, North--North-West: when the wind is southerly, I know a hawk from a handsaw."--HAMLET.
WE had spent a merry night of it. Our stars had paled their not ineffectual fires, only in the daylight; and while Dan Phoebus was yet rising, "jocund on the misty mountain's top," I was busy in adjusting my foot in the stirrup and mounting my good steed "Priam," to find my way by a close cut, and through narrow Indian trails, to my lodgings in the little town of C.--, on the very borders of Mississippi. There were a dozen of us, all merry larks, half mad with wine and laughter, and the ride of seven miles proved a short one. In less than two hours, I was snugly snoozing in my own sheets, and dreaming of the twin daughters of old Hansford Owens.
Well might one dream of such precious damsels. Verily, they seemed, all of a sudden, to have become a part of my existence. They filled my thoughts, excited my imagination, and,--if it be not an impertinence to say any thing of the heart of a roving lad of eighteen,--then were they at the very bottom of mine.--Both of them, let me say,--for they were twins, and were endowed with equal rights by nature. I was not yet prepared to say what was the difference, if any, between their claims. One was fair, the other brown; one pensive, the other merry as the cricket of Venus. Susannah was meek as became an Elder's daughter; Emmeline so mischievous, that she might well have worried the
meekest of the saints in the calendar from his propriety and position. I confess, though I thought constantly of Susannah, I always looked after Emmeline the first. She was the brunette--one of your flashing, sparkling, effervescing beauties,--perpetually running over with exultation--brimfull of passionate fancies that tripped, on tiptoe, half winged, through her thoughts. She was a creature to make your blood bound in your bosom,--to take you entirely off your feet, and fancy, for the moment, that your heels are quite as much entitled to dominion as your head. Lovely too,--brilliant, if not absolutely perfect in features--she kept you always in a sort of sunlight. She sung well, talked well, danced well--was always in air--seemed never herself to lack repose, and, it must be confessed, seldom suffered it to any body else. Her dancing was the crowning grace and glory. She was no Taglioni--not an Ellsler--I do not pretend that. But she was a born artiste. Every motion was a study. Every look was life. Her form subsided into the sweetest luxuriance of attitude, and rose into motion with some such exquisite buoyancy, as would become Venus issuing from the foam. Her very affectations were so naturally worn, that you at length looked for them as essential to her charm. I confess--but no! Why should I do any thing so foolish?
Susannah was a very different creature. She was a fair girl--rather pale, perhaps, when her features were in repose. She had rich soft flaxen hair, and dark blue eyes. She looked rather than spoke. Her words were few, her glances many. She was not necessarily silent in silence. On the contrary, her very silence had frequently a significance, taken with her looks, that needed no help from speech. She seemed to look through you at a glance, yet there was a liquid sweetness in her gaze, that disarmed it of all annoyance. If Emmeline was the glory of the sunlight--Susannah was the sovereign of the shade. If the song of the one filled you with exultation, that of the other awakened all your tenderness. If Emmeline was the creature for the dance,--Susannah was the wooing, beguiling Egeria, who could snatch you from yourself in the moments of respite and repose. For my part, I felt that I could spend all my mornings with the former, and all my evenings with the latter. Susannah with her
large, blue, tearful eyes, and few, murmuring and always gentle accents, shone out upon me at nightfall, as that last star that watches in the vault of night for the coming of the sapphire dawn.
So much for the damsels. And all these fancies, not to say feelings, were the fruit of but three short days acquaintance with their objects. But these were days when thoughts travel merrily and fast--when all that concerns the fancies and the affections, are caught up in a moment, as if the mind were nothing but a congeries of instincts, and the sensibilities, with a thousand delicate antennæ, were ever on the grasp for prey.
Squire Owens was a planter of tolerable condition. He was a widower, with these two lovely and lovable daughters--no more. But, bless you! Mine was no calculating heart. Very far from it. Neither the wealth of the father, nor the beauty of the girls, had yet prompted me to think of marriage. Life was pleasant enough as it was. Why burden it? Let well enough alone, say I. I had no wish to be happier. A wife never entered my thoughts. What might have come of being often with such damsels, there's no telling; but just then, it was quite enough to dance with Emmeline, and muse with Susannah, and--vive la bagatelle!
I need say nothing more of my dreams, since the reader sufficiently knows the subject. I slept late that day, and only rose in time for dinner, which, in that almost primitive region, took place at 12 o'clock, M. I had no appetite. A herring and soda water might have sufficed, but these were matters foreign to the manor. I endured the day and headache together, as well as I could, slept soundly that night, with now the most ravishing fancies of Emmeline, and now the pleasantest dreams of Susannah, one or other of whom still usurped the place of a bright particular star in my most capacious fancy. Truth is, in those heydey days, my innocent heart never saw any terrors in polygamy. I rose a new man, refreshed and very eager for a start. I barely swallowed breakfast when Priam was at the door. While I was about to mount, with thoughts filled with the meek beauties of Susannah,--I was arrested by the approach of no less a person than Ephraim Strong, the village blacksmith.
"You're guine to ride, I see."
"To Squire Owens, I reckon."
"Well, keep a sharp look out on the road, for there's news come down that the famous Archy Dargan has broke Hamilton gaol."
"And who's Archy Dargan?"
"What! don't know Archy? Why, he's the madman that's been shut up there, it's now guine on two years."
"A madman, eh?"
"Yes, and a mighty sevagerous one at that. He's the cunningest white man going. Talks like a book, and knows how to get out of a scrape,--is jest as sensible as any man for a time, but, sudden, he takes a start, like a shying horse, and before you knows where you are, his heels are in your jaw. Once he blazes out, it's knife or gun, hatchet or hickory--any thing he can lay hands on. He's kill'd two men already, and cut another's throat a'most to killing. He's an ugly chap to meet on the road, so look out right and left."
"What sort of man is he?"
"Well, I reckon, he's about your heft. He's young and tallish, with a fair skin, brown hair, and a mighty quick keen blue eye, that never looks steddily nowhere. Look sharp for him. The sheriff with his 'spose-you-come-and-take-us'--is out after him, but he's mighty cute to dodge, and had the start some twelve hours afore they missed him."
THE information thus received did not disquiet me. After the momentary reflection that it might be awkward to meet a madman, out of bounds, upon the highway, I quickly dismissed the matter from my mind. I had no room for any but pleasant meditations. The fair Susannah was now uppermost in my dreaming fancies, and, reversing the grasp upon my whip, the ivory handle of which, lined with an ounce or two of lead, seemed to me a sufficiently effective weapon for the worst of dangers, I bade my friendly blacksmith farewell, and dashed forward upon the high road. A smart canter soon took me out of the settlement, and, once in the woods, I recommended myself with all the happy facility of youth, to its most pleasant and beguiling imaginings. I suppose I had ridden a mile or more--the story of the bedlamite was gone utterly from my thought--when a sudden turn in the road showed me a person, also mounted, and coming towards me at an easy trot, some twenty-five or thirty yards distant. There was nothing remarkable in his appearance. He was a plain farmer or woodman, clothed in simple homespun, and riding a short heavy chunk of an animal, that had just been taken from the plough. The rider was a spare, long-legged person, probably thirty years or thereabouts. He looked innocent enough, wearing that simple, open-mouthed sort of countenance, the owner of which, we assume, at a glance, will never set any neighbouring stream on fire. He belonged evidently to a class as humble as he was simple,--but I had been brought up in a school which taught me that the claims of poverty were quite as urgent upon courtesy as those of wealth. Accordingly, as we neared each other, I prepared to bestow upon him the usual civil recognition of the highway. What is it Scott says--I am not sure that I quote him rightly--
"When men in distant forests meet,
They pass not as in peaceful street."
And, with the best of good humour, I rounded my lips into a smile, and got ready my salutation. To account somewhat for its effect when uttered, I must premise that my own personal appearance at this time, was rather wild and impressive. My face was full of laughter and my manners of buoyancy. My hair was very long, and fell in masses upon my shoulder, unrestrained by the cap which I habitually wore, and which, as I was riding under heavy shade trees, was grasped in my hand along with my riding whip. As the stranger drew nigh, the arm was extended, cap and whip lifted in air, and with free, generous lungs, I shouted --"good morning, my friend,--how wags the world with you to-day?"
The effect of this address was prodigious. The fellow gave no answer,--not a word, not a syllable--not the slightest nod of the head,--mais, tout au contraire. But for the dilating of his amazed pupils, and the dropping of the lower jaw, his features might have been chiselled out of stone. They wore an expression amounting to consternation, and I could see that he caught up his bridle with increased alertness, bent himself to the saddle, half drew up his horse, and then, as if suddenly resolved, edged him off, as closely as the woods would allow, to the opposite side of the road. The undergrowth was too thick to allow of his going into the wood at the spot where we encountered, or he certainly would have done so. Somewhat surprised at this, I said something, I cannot now recollect what, the effect of which was even more impressive upon him than my former speech. The heads of our horses were now nearly parallel--the road was an ordinary wagon track, say twelve feet wide--I could have brushed him with my cap as we passed, and, waving it still aloft, he seemed to fancy that such was my intention,--for, inclining his whole body on the off side of his nag, as the Cumanche does when his aim is to send an arrow at his enemy beneath his neck--his heels thrown back, though spurless, were made to belabour with the most surprising rapidity, the flanks of his drowsy animal. And, not without some effect. The creature dashed first into a trot, then into a canter, and finally into a gallop, which, as I was bound one way and he the other, soon threw a considerable space between us.
"The fellow's mad!" was my reflection and speech, as, wheeling
my horse half about, I could see him looking backward, and driving his heels still into the sides of his reluctant hack. The next moment gave me a solution of the matter. The simple countryman had heard of the bedlamite from Hamilton jail. My bare head, the long hair flying in the wind, my buoyancy of manner, and the hearty, and, perhaps, novel form of salutation with which I addressed him, had satisfied him that I was the person. As the thought struck me, I resolved to play the game out, and, with a restless love of levity which has been too frequently my error, I put the whip over my horse's neck, and sent him forward in pursuit. My nag was a fine one, and very soon the space was lessened between me and the chase. As he heard the footfalls behind, the frightened fugitive redoubled his exertions. He laid himself to it, his heels paddling in the sides of his donkey with redoubled industry. And thus I kept him for a good mile, until the first houses of the settlement grew visible in the distance. I then once more turned upon the path to the Owens', laughing merrily at the rare chase, and the undisguised consternation of the countryman. The story afforded ample merriment to my fair friends Emmeline and Susannah. "It was so ridiculous that one of my appearance should be taken for a madman. The silly fellow deserved the scare." On these points we were all perfectly agreed. That night we spent charmingly. The company did not separate till near one o'clock. We had fun and fiddles. I danced by turns with the twins, and more than once with a Miss Gridley, a very pretty girl, who was present. Squire Owens was in the best of humours, and, no ways loth, I was made to stay all night.
A NEW day of delight dawned upon us with the next. Our breakfast made a happy family picture, which I began to think it would be cruel to interrupt. So snugly did I sit beside Emmeline, and so sweetly did Susannah minister at the coffee urn, and so patriarchally did the old man look around upon the circle, that my meditations were all in favour of certain measures for perpetuating the scene. The chief difficulty seemed to be, in the way of a choice between the sisters.
"How happy could one be with either,
Were t'other dear charmer away."
I turned now from one to the other, only to become more bewildered. The lively glance and playful remark of Emmeline, her love smiling visage, and buoyant, unpremeditative air, were triumphant always while I beheld them; but the pensive, earnest look of Susannah, the mellow cadences of her tones, seemed always to sink into my soul, and were certainly remembered longest. Present, Emmeline was irresistible; absent, I thought chiefly of Susannah. Breakfast was fairly over before I came to a decision. We adjourned to the parlour,--and there, with Emmeline at the piano, and Susannah with her Coleridge in hand--her favourite poet--I was quite as much distracted as before. The bravura of the one swept me completely off my feet. And when I pleaded with the other to read me the touching poem of "Genevieve"--her low, subdued and exquisitely modulated utterance, so touching, so true to the plaintive and seductive sentiment, so harmonious even when broken, so thrilling even when most checked and hushed, was quite as little to be withstood. Like the ass betwixt two bundles of hay, my eyes wandered from one to the other uncertain where to fix. And thus passed the two first hours after breakfast.
The third brought an acquisition to our party. We heard the
trampling of horses' feet in the court below, and all hurried to the windows, to see the new comer. We had but a glimpse of him--a tall, good-looking personage, about thirty years of age, with great whiskers, and a huge military cloak. Squire Owens met him in the reception room, and they remained some half hour or three quarters together. It was evidently a business visit. The girls were all agog to know what it was about, and I was mortified to think that Emmeline was now far less eager to interest me than before. She now turned listlessly over the pages of her music book, or strummed upon the keys of her piano, with the air of one whose thoughts were elsewhere. Susannah did not seem so much disturbed,--she still continued to draw my attention to the more pleasing passages of the poet; but I could see, or I fancied, that even she was somewhat curious as to the coming of the stranger. Her eyes turned occasionally to the parlour door at the slightest approaching sound, and she sometimes looked in my face with a vacant eye, when I was making some of my most favourable points of conversation.
At length there was a stir within, a buzz and the scraping of feet. The door was thrown open, and, ushered by the father, the stranger made his appearance. His air was rather distingué. His person was well made, tall and symmetrical. His face was martial and expressive. His complexion was of a rich dark brown; his eye was grey, large, and restless--his hair thin, and dishevelled. His carriage was very erect; his coat, which was rather seedy, was close buttoned to his chin. His movements were quick and impetuous, and seemed to obey the slightest sound, whether of his own, or of the voices of others. He approached the company with the manner of an old acquaintance; certainly, with that of a man who had always been conversant with the best society. His ease was unobtrusive,--a polite deference invariably distinguishing his deportment whenever he had occasion to address the ladies. Still, he spoke as one having authority. There was a lordly something in his tones,--an emphatic assurance in his gesture,--that seemed to settle every question; and, after a little while, I found that, hereafter, if I played on any fiddle at all, in that presence, it was certainly not to be the first. Emmeline and Susannah had ears for me no longer. There was
a something of impatience in the manner of the former whenever I spoke, as if I had only interrupted much pleasanter sounds; and, even Susannah, the meek Susannah, put down her Coleridge upon a stool, and seemed all attention, only for the imposing stranger.
The effect upon the old man was scarcely less agreeable. Col. Nelson,--so was the stranger called--had come to see about the purchase of his upper mill-house tract--a body of land containing some four thousand acres, the sale of which was absolutely necessary to relieve him from certain incumbrances. From the conversation which he had already had with his visitor, it appeared that the preliminaries would be of easy adjustment, and Squire Owens was in the best of all possible humours. It was nothing but Col. Nelson,--Col. Nelson. The girls did not seem to need this influence, though they evidently perceived it; and, in the course of the first half hour after his introduction, I felt myself rapidly becoming de trop. The stranger spoke in passionate bursts,--at first in low tones,--with halting, hesitating manner, then, as if the idea were fairly grasped, he dilated into a torrent of utterance, his voice rising with his thought, until he started from his chair and confronted the listener. I cannot deny that there was a richness in his language, a warmth and colour in his thought, which fascinated while it startled me. It was only when he had fairly ended that one began to ask what had been the provocation to so much warmth, and whether the thought to which we had listened was legitimately the growth of previous suggestions. But I was in no mood to listen to the stranger, or to analyze what he said. I found my situation quite too mortifying--a mortification which was not lessened, when I perceived that neither of the two damsels said a word against my proposed departure. Had they shown but the slightest solicitude, I might have been reconciled to my temporary obscuration. But no! they suffered me to rise and declare my purpose, and made no sign. A cold courtesy from them, and a stately and polite bow from Col. Nelson, acknowledged my parting salutation, and Squire Owens attended me to the threshold, and lingered with me till my horse was got in readiness. As I dashed through the gateway, I could hear the rich voice of Emmeline swelling exultingly with the tones of her
piano, and my fancy presented me with the images of Col. Nelson, hanging over her on one hand, while the meek Susannah on the other, was casting those oblique glances upon him which had so frequently been addressed to me. "Ah! pestilent jades," I exclaimed in the bitterness of a boyish heart; "this then is the love of woman."
CHEWING such bitter cud as this, I had probably ridden a good mile, when suddenly I heard the sound of human voices, and looking up, discovered three men, mounted, and just in front of me. They had hauled up, and were seemingly awaiting my approach. A buzzing conversation was going on among them. "That's he!" said one. "Sure?" was the question of another. A whistle at my very side caused me to turn my head, and as I did so, my horse was caught by the bridle, and I received a severe blow from a club above my ears, which brought me down, almost unconscious, upon the ground. In an instant, two stout fellows were upon me, and busy in the praiseworthy toil of roping me, hands and feet, where I lay. Hurt, stung, and utterly confounded by the surprise, I was not prepared to suffer this indignity with patience. I made manful struggle, and for a moment succeeded shaking off both assailants. But another blow, taking effect upon my temples, and dealt with no moderate appliance of hickory, left me insensible. When I recovered consciousness, I found myself in a cart, my hands tied behind me, my head bandaged with a red cotton handkerchief, and my breast and arms covered with blood. A stout fellow rode beside me in the cart, while another drove, and on each side of the vehicle trotted a man, well armed with a double-barrelled gun.
"What does all this mean?" I demanded. "Why am I here? Why this assault? What do you mean to do with me?"
"Don't be obstropolous," said one of the men. "We don't mean to hurt you; only put you safe. We had to tap you on the head a little, for your own good."
"Indeed!" I exclaimed, the feeling of that unhappy tapping upon the head, making me only the sorer at every moment--"but will you tell me what this is for, and in what respect did my good require that my head should be broken?"
"It might have been worse for you, where you was onbeknown,"
replied the spokesman,--"but we knowd your situation, and sarved you off easily. Be quiet now, and--"
"What do you mean--what is my situation?"
"Well, I reckon we know. Only you be quiet, or we'll have to give you the skin."
And he held aloft a huge wagon whip as he spoke. I had sufficient proof already of the unscrupulousness with which my companions acted, not to be very chary of giving them farther provocation, and, in silent misgiving, I turned my head to the opposite side of the vehicle. The first glance in this quarter revealed to me the true history of my disaster, and furnished an ample solution of the whole mystery. Who should I behold but the very fellow whom I had chased into town the day before. The truth was now apparent. I had been captured as the stray bedlamite from Hamilton jail. It was because of this that I had been "tapped on the head--only for my own good." As the conjecture flashed upon me, I could not avoid laughter, particularly as I beheld the still doubtful and apprehensive visage of the man beside me. My laughter had a very annoying effect upon all parties. It was a more fearful sign than my anger might have been. The fellow whom I had scared, edged a little farther from the cart, and the man who had played spokesman, and upon whom the whole business seemed to have devolved, now shook his whip again--"None of that, my lad," said he, "or I'll have to bruise you again. Don't be obstroplous."
"You've taken me up for a madman, have you?" said I.
"Well, I reckon you ought to know what you are. There's no disputing it."
"And this silly fellow has made you believe it?"
"You've made a great mistake."
"Don't think it."
"But you have: Only take me to C--, and I'll prove it by General Cocke, himself, or Squire Humphries, or any body in the town."
"No! no! my friend,--that cock won't fight. We aint misdoubting at all, but you're the right man. You answer all the descriptions, and Jake Sturgis here, has made his affidavy that
you chased him, neck and neck, as mad as any blind puppy in a dry September, for an hour by sun yesterday. We don't want no more proof."
"And where do you mean to carry me?" I enquired, with all the coolness I was master of.
"Well, we'll put you up in a pen we've got a small piece from here; and when the sheriff comes, he'll take you back to your old quarters at Hamilton jail, where I reckon they'll fix you a little tighter than they had you before. We've sent after the sheriff, and his 'spose-you-come-and-take-us,' and I reckon they'll be here about sun-down."
HERE was a "sitiation" indeed. Burning with indignation, I was yet sufficiently master of myself to see that any ebullition of rage on my part, would only confirm the impressions which they had received of my insanity. I said little therefore, and that little was confined to an attempt to explain the chase of yesterday, which Jake Sturgis had made the subject of such a mischievous "affidavy." But as I could not do this without laughter, I incurred the danger of the whip. My laugh was ominous.--Jake edged off once more to the roadside; the man beside me, got his bludgeon in readiness, and the potent wagon whip of the leader of the party, was uplifted in threatening significance. Laughter was clearly out of the question, and it naturally ceased on my part, as I got in sight of the "pen" in which I was to be kept secure. This structure is one well known to the less civilized regions of the country. It is a common place of safe keeping in the absence of gaols and proper officers. It is called technically a "bull pen," and consists of huge logs, roughly put together, crossing at right angles, forming a hollow square,--the logs too massy to be removed, and the structure too high to be climbed, particularly if the prisoner should happen to be, like myself, fairly tied up hand and foot together. I relucted terribly at being put into this place. I pleaded urgently, struggled fiercely, and was thrust in neck and heels without remorse; and, in sheer hopelessness and vexation, I lay with my face prone to the earth, and half buried among the leaves, weeping, I shame to confess it, the bitter tears of impotence and mortification.
Meantime, the news of my capture went through the country;--not my capture, mark me, but that of the famous madman, Archy Dargan, who had broke Hamilton jail. This was an event, and visitors began to collect. My captors, who kept watch on the outside of my den, had their hands full in answering questions. Man, woman and child, Squire and ploughboy, and, finally,
dames and damsels, accumulated around me, and such a throng of eyes as pierced the crevices of my log dungeon, to see the strange monster by whom they were threatened, now disarmed of his terrors, were,--to use the language of one of my keepers--"a power to calkilate." This was not the smallest part of my annoyance. The logs were sufficiently far apart to suffer me to see and to be seen, and I crouched closer to my rushes, and buried my face more thoroughly than ever, if possible, to screen my dishonoured visage from their curious scrutiny. This conduct mightily offended some of the visitors.
"I can't see his face," said one.
"Stir him with a long pole!"--and I was greatly in danger of being treated as a surly bear, refusing to dance for his keeper; since one of mine seemed very much disposed to gratify the spectator, and had actually begun sharpening the end of a ten foot hickory, for the purpose of pricking me into more sociableness. He was prevented from carrying his generous design into effect by the suggestion of one of his companions.
"Better don't, Bosh; if ever he should git out agen, he'd put his ear mark upon you."
"Reckon you're right," was the reply of the other, as he laid his rod out of sight.
Meanwhile, the people came and went, each departing visitor sending others. A couple of hours might have elapsed leaving me in this humiliating situation, chained to the stake, the beast of a bear garden, with fifty greedy and still dissatisfied eyes upon me. Of these, fully one fourth were of the tender gender; some pitied me, some laughed, and all congratulated themselves that I was safely laid by the heels, incapable of farther mischief. It was not the most agreeable part of their remarks, to find that they all universally agreed that I was a most frightful looking object. Whether they saw my face or not, they all discovered that I glared frightfully upon them, and I heard one or two of them ask in under tones, "did you see his teeth--how sharp!" I gnashed them with a vengeance all the while, you may be sure.
THE last and worst humiliation was yet to come--that which put me for a long season out of humour with all human and woman nature. Conscious of an unusual degree of bustle without, I was suddenly startled by sounds of a voice that had been once pleasingly familiar. It was that of a female, a clear, soft, transparent sound, which, till this moment, had never been associated in my thoughts with any thing but the most perfect of all mortal melodies. It was now jangled harsh, like "sweet bells out of tune." The voice was that of Emmeline. "Good heavens!" I exclaimed to myself--` can she be here?" In another instant, I heard that of Susannah--the meek Susannah,--she too was among the curious to examine the features of the bedlamite, Archy Dargan."
"Dear me," said Emmeline, "is he in that place?"
"What a horrid place!" said Susannah.
"It's the very place for such a horrid creature," responded Emmeline.
"Can't he get out, papa?" said Susannah. "Isn't a mad person very strong?"
"Oh! don't frighten a body, Susannah, before we have had a peep," cried Emmeline; "I declare I'm afraid to look--do, Col. Nelson, peep first and see if there's no danger."
And there was the confounded Col. Nelson addressing his eyes to my person, and assuring his fair companions, my Emmeline, my Susannah, that there was no sort of danger,--that I was evidently in one of my fits of apathy.
"The paroxysm is off for the moment, ladies,--and even if he were violent, it is impossible that he should break through the pen. He seems quite harmless--you may look with safety."
"Yes, he's mighty quiet now, Miss,"--said one of my keepers encouragingly, "but it's all owing to a close sight of my whip. He was a-guine to be obstroplous more than once, when I shook
it over him--he's usen to it, I reckon. You can always tell when the roaring fit is coming on--for he breaks out in such a dreadful sort of laughing."
"Ha! Ha!--he laughs does he--Ha! Ha!" such was the somewhat wild interruption offered by Col. Nelson himself. If my laugh produced such an effect upon my keeper, his had a very disquieting effect upon me. But, the instinctive conviction that Emmeline and Susannah were now gazing upon me, prompted me with a sort of fascination, to lift my head and look for them. I saw their eyes quite distinctly. Bright treacheries! I could distinguish between them--and there were those of Col. Nelson beside them--the three persons evidently in close propinquity.
"What a dreadful looking creature!" said Susannah.
"Dreadful!" said Emmeline, "I see nothing so dreadful in him. He seems tame enough. I'm sure, if that's a madman, I don't see why people should be afraid of them."
"Poor man, how bloody he is!" said Susannah.
"We had to tap him, Miss, a leetle upon the head, to bring him quiet. He's tame and innocent now, but you should see him when he's going to break out. Only just hear him when he laughs."
I could not resist the temptation. The last remark of my keeper fell on my ears like a suggestion, and suddenly shooting up my head, and glaring fiercely at the spectators, I gave them a yell of laughter as terrible as I could possibly make it.
"Ah!" was the shriek of Susannah, as she dashed back from the logs. Before the sounds had well ceased, they were echoed from without, and in more fearful and natural style from the practised lungs of Col. Nelson. His yells following mine, were enough to startle even me.
"What!" he cried, thrusting his fingers through the crevice, "you would come out, would you,--you would try your strength with mine. Let him out,--let him out! I am ready for him, breast to breast, man against man, tooth and nail, forever and forever. You can laugh too, but--Ha! Ha! Ha!--what do you say to that? Shut up, shut up, and be ashamed of yourself. Ha! Ha! Ha!"
There was a sensation without. I could see that Emmeline
recoiled from the side of her companion. He had thrown himself into an attitude, had grappled the logs of my dungeon, and exhibited a degree of strange emotion, which, to say the least, took every body by surprise. My chief custodian was the first to speak.
"Don't be scared, Mr.--there's no danger--he can't get out."
"But I say let him out--let him out. Look at him, ladies--look at him. You shall see what a madman is--you shall see how I can manage him. Hark ye, fellow,--out with him at once. Give me your whip--I know all about his treatment. You shall see me work him. I'll manage him,--I'll fight with him, and laugh with him too--how we shall laugh--Ha! Ha! Ha!"
His horrible laughter,--for it was horrible--was cut short by an unexpected incident. He was knocked down as suddenly as I had been, with a blow from behind, to the astonishment of all around. The assailant was the sheriff of Hamilton jail, who had just arrived and detected the fugitive, Archy Dargan--the most cunning of all bedlamites, as he afterwards assured me,--in the person of the handsome Col. Nelson.
"I knew the scamp by his laugh--I heard it half a mile," said the sheriff, as he planted himself upon the bosom of the prostrate man, and proceeded to leash him in proper order. Here was a concatenation accordingly.
"Who hev' I got in the pen?" was the sapient inquiry of my captor--the fellow whose whip had been so potent over my imagination.
"Who? Have you any body there?" demanded the sheriff.
"I reckon!--We cocht a chap that Jake made affidavy was the madman."
"Let him out then, and beg the man's pardon. I'll answer for Archy Dargan."
My appearance before the astonished damsels was gratifying to neither of us. I was covered with mud and blood,--and they with confusion.
"Oh! Mr. --, how could we think it was you, such a fright as they've made you."
Such was Miss Emmeline's speech after her recovery. Susannah's was quite as characteristic.
"I am so very sorry, Mr.--."
"Spare your regrets, ladies," I muttered ungraciously, as I leapt on my horse. "I wish you a very pleasant morning."
"Ha! Ha! Ha!" yelled the bedlamite, writhing and bounding in his leash--"a very pleasant morning."
The damsels took to their heels, and went off in one direction quite as fast as I did in the other. Since that day, dear reader, I have never suffered myself to scare a fool, or to fall in love with a pair of twins; and if ever I marry, take my word for it, the happy woman shall neither be a Susannah, nor an Emmeline.
WE were on the Savannah river when the corn was coming up; at the residence of one of those planters of the middle country, the staid, sterling, old-time gentlemen of the last century, the stock of which is so rapidly diminishing. The season was advanced and beautiful; the flowers every where in odour, and all things promised well for the crops of the planter. Hopes and seed, however, set out in March and April, have a long time to go before ripening, and when I congratulated Mr. Carrington on the prospect before him, he would shake his head, and smile and say, in a quizzical inquiring humour, "wet or dry, cold or warm, which shall it be? what season shall we have? Tell me that, and I will hearken with more confidence to your congratulations. We can do no more than plant the seed, scuffle with the grass, say our prayers, and leave the rest to Him without whose blessing no labour can avail."
"There is something more to be done, and of scarcely less importance it would seem, if I may judge from the movements of Scipio--kill or keep off the crows."
Mr. Carrington turned as I spoke these words; we had just left the breakfast table, where we had enjoyed all the warm comforts of hot rice-waffles, journey-cake, and glowing biscuit, not to speak of hominy and hoe-cake, without paying that passing acknowledgment to dyspeptic dangers upon which modern physicians so earnestly insist. Scipio, a sleek, well-fed negro, with a round, good-humoured face, was busy in the corner of the apartment;
one hand employed in grasping a goodly fragment of bread, half-concealed in a similar slice of fried bacon, which he had just received from his young mistress;--while the other carefully selected from the corner, one of half-a-dozen double-barrelled guns, which he was about to raise to his shoulder, when my remark turned the eye of his master upon him.
"How now, Scipio, what are you going to shoot?" was the inquiry of Mr. Carrington.
"Crow, sa; dere's a dratted ugly crow dat's a-troubling me, and my heart's set for kill 'um."
"One only; why Scip, you're well off if you hav'n't a hundred. Do they trouble you very much in the pine land field?"
"Dare's a plenty, sa; but dis one I guine kill, sa, he's wuss more nor all de rest. You hab good load in bote barrel, mossa?"
"Yes, but small shot only. Draw the loads, Scip, and put in some of the high duck; you'll find the bag in the closet. These crows will hardly let you get nigh enough, Scipio, to do them any mischief with small shot."
"Ha! but I will trouble dis black rascal, you see, once I set eye 'pon um. He's a cussed ugly nigger, and he a'n't feared. I can git close 'nough, mossa."
The expression of Scipio's face, while uttering the brief declaration of war against the innumerable, and almost licensed pirates of the cornfield, or rather against one in particular, was full of the direst hostility. His accents were not less marked by malignity, and could not fail to command our attention.
"Why, you seem angry about it, Scipio; this crow must be one of the most impudent of his tribe, and a distinguished character."
"I'll 'stinguish um, mossa,--you'll see. Jist as you say, he's a mos' impudent nigger. He no feared of me 't all. When I stan' and look 'pon him, he stan' and look 'pon me. I tak' up dirt and stick, and trow at um, but he no scare. When I chase um, he fly dis way, he fly dat, but he nebber gone so far, but he can turn round and cock he tail at me, jist when he see me 'top. He's a mos' cussed sassy crow, as ebber walk in a cornfield."
"But Scip, you surprise me. You don't mean to say that it is one crow in particular that annoys you in this manner."
"De same one ebbery day, mossa; de same one;" was the reply.
"How long has this been?"
"Mos' a week now, massa; ebber sence las' Friday."
"Indeed! but what makes you think this troublesome crow always the same one, Scipio? Do you think the crows never change their spies?"
"Enty, I know um, mossa; dis da same crow been trouble me, ebber since las' Friday. He's a crow by hese'f, mossa. I nebber see him wid t'oder crows he no hab complexion ob t'oder crow, yet he's crow, all de same."
"Is he not black like all his tribe?"
"Yes, he black, but he ain't black like de t'oder ones. Dere's someting like a grey dirt 'pon he wing. He's black, but he no pot black--no jet;--he hab dirt, I tell you, mossa, on he wing, jis' by de skirt ob he jacket--jis yer;" and he lifted the lappel of his master's coat as he concluded his description of the bird that troubled him.
"A strange sort of crow indeed, Scipio, if he answers your description. Should you kill him, be sure and bring him to me. I can scarcely think him a crow."
"How, no crow, mossa? Enty, I know crow good as any body! He's a crow, mossa,--a dirty, black nigger ob a crow, and I'll shoot um t'rough he head, sure as a gun. He trouble me too much; look hard 'pon me as ef you bin gib um wages for obersee. Nobody ax um for watch me, see wha' I do! Who mak' him obersheer?"
"A useful crow, Scipio; and now I think of it, it might be just as well that you shouldn't shoot him. If he does such good service in the cornfield as to see that you all do your work, I'll make him my overseer in my absence!"
This speech almost astounded the negro. He dropped the butt of the gun upon the floor, suffered the muzzle to rest in the hollow of his arm, and thus boldly expostulated with his master against so strange a decision.
"No shoot um, mossa; no shoot crow dat's a-troubling you. Dickens, mossa, dat's too foolish now, I mus' tell you; and to tell you de blessed trut', ef you don't shoot dis lazy crow I tell you ob, or le' me shoot 'um, one or t'oder, den you
mus' take Scip out ob de cornfiel', and put 'noder nigger in he place. I can't work wid dat ugly ting, looking at me so sassy. When I turn, he turn; if I go to dis hand, why, he's dere; if I change 'bout, and go t'oder hand, dere's de critter, jis de same. He nebber git out ob de way, 'till I run at um wid stick."
"Well, well, Scipio, kill your crow, but be sure and bring him in when you do so. You may go now."
"I hab um to-night for you, mossa, of God spare me. Look ya, young missis, you hab any coffee lef' in de pot; I tanks you."
Jane Carrington,--a gentle and lovely girl of seventeen--who did the honours of the table, supplied Scipio's wants, and leaving him to the enjoyment of his mug of coffee, Mr. C. and myself walked forth into the plantation.
The little dialogue just narrated had almost entirely passed out of my mind, when, at evening, returning from his labours in the cornfield, who should make his appearance but Scipio. He came to place the gun in the corner from which he had taken it; but he brought with him no trophies of victory. He had failed to scalp his crow. The inquiry of his master as to his failure, drew my attention to the negro, who had simply placed the weapon in the rest, and was about to retire, with a countenance, as I thought, rather sullen and dissatisfied, and a hang-dog, sneaking manner, as if anxious to escape observation. He had utterly lost that air of confidence which he had worn in the morning.
"What, Scipio! no crow?" demanded his master.
"I no shoot, sa," replied the negro, moving off as he spoke, as if willing that the examination should rest there. But Mr. Carrington, who was something of a quiz, and saw that the poor fellow laboured under a feeling of mortified self-conceit, was not unwilling to worry him a little further.
"Ah, Scip, I always thought you a poor shot, in spite of your bragging; now I'm sure of it. A crow comes and stares you out of countenance, walks round you, and scarcely flies when you pelt him, and yet, when the gun is in your hands, you do nothing. How's that?"
"I tell you, mossa, I no bin shoot. Ef I bin shoot, I bin hurt um in he head for true; but dere' no use for shoot, tel you can get shot, enty? Wha' for trow 'way de shot?--you buy 'em,--he cos' you money; well, you hab money for trow 'way? No! Wha' den--Scip's a big rascal for true, ef he trow 'way you money. Dat's trow 'way you money, wha's trow 'way you shot,--wha's trow you corn, you peas, you fodder, you hog-meat, you chickens and eggs. Scip nebber trow 'way you property, mossa; nobody nebber say sich ting."
"Cunning dog--nobody accuses you, Scipio. I believe you to be as honest as the rest, Scipio, but haven't you been throwing away time; haven't you been poking about after this crow to the neglect of your duty. Come, in plain language, did you get through your task to-day?"
"Task done, mossa; I finish um by tree 'clock."
"Well, what did you do with the rest of your time? Have you been at your own garden, Scipio?"
"No, sa; I no touch de garden."
"Why not? what employed you from three o'clock?"
"Dis same crow, mossa; I tell you, mossa, 'tis dis same dirty nigger ob a crow I bin looking arter, ebber since I git over de task. He's a ting da's too sassy and aggrabates me berry much. I follow um tel de sun shut he eye, and nebber can git shot. Ef I bin git shot, I nebber miss um, mossa, I tell you."
"But why did you not get a shot? You must have bungled monstrously, Scipio, not to succeed in getting a shot at a bird that is always about you. Does he bother you less than he did before, now that you have the gun?"
"I spec' he mus' know, mossa, da's de reason; but he bodder me jis' de same. He nebber leff me all day I bin in de cornfield, but he nebber come so close for be shoot. He say to he sef, dat gun good at sixty yard, in Scip hand; I stan' sixty, I stan' a hundred; ef he shoot so far, I laugh at 'em. Da's wha' he say."
"Well, even at seventy or eighty yards, you should have tried him, Scipio. The gun that tells at sixty, will be very apt to tell at seventy or eighty yards, if the nerves be good that hold it, and the eye close. Try him even at a hundred, Scipio, rather than lose your crow; but put in your biggest shot."
THE conference ended with this counsel of the master. The fellow promised to obey, and the next morning he sallied forth with the gun as before. By this time, both Mr. Carrington and myself had begun to take some interest in the issue thus tacitly made up between the field negro and his annoying visiter. The anxiety which the former manifested, to destroy, in particular, one of a tribe, of which the corn-planter has an aversion so great as to prompt the frequent desire of the Roman tyrant touching his enemies, and make him wish that they had but one neck that a single blow might despatch them--was no less ridiculous than strange; and we both fell to our fancies to account for an hostility, which could not certainly be accounted for by any ordinary anxiety of the good planter on such an occasion. It was evident to both of us that the imagination of Scipio was not inactive in the strife, and, knowing how exceeding superstitious the negroes generally are, (and indeed, all inferior people,) after canvassing the subject in various lights, without coming to any rational solution, we concluded that the difficulty arose from some grotesque fear or fancy, with which the fellow had been inspired, probably by some other negro, on a circumstance as casual as any one of the thousand by which the Roman augur divined, and the soothsayer gave forth his oracular responses. Scipio had good authority for attaching no small importance to the flight or stoppage of a bird; and, with this grave justification of his troubles, we resolved to let the matter rest till we could join the negro in the cornfield, and look for ourselves into the condition of the rival parties.
This we did that very morning. "'Possum Place,"--for such had been the whimsical name conferred upon his estate by the proprietor, in reference to the vast numbers of the little animal, nightly found upon it, the opossum, the meat of which a sagacious negro will always prefer to that of a pig,--lay upon the Santee
swamp, and consisted pretty evenly of reclaimed swamp-land, in which he raised his cotton, and fine high pine-land hammock, on which he made his corn. To one of the fields of the latter we made our way about mid-day, and were happy to find Scipio in actual controversy with the crow that troubled him. Controversy is scarce the word, but I can find no fitter at this moment. The parties were some hundred yards asunder. The negro was busy with his hoe, and the gun leaned conveniently at hand on a contiguous and charred pine stump, one of a thousand that dotted the entire surface of the spacious field in which he laboured. The crow leisurely passed to and fro along the alleys, now lost among the little hollows and hillocks, and now emerging into sight, sometimes at a less, sometimes at a greater distance, but always with a deportment of the most lord-like indifference to the world around him. His gait was certainly as stately and as lazy as that of a Castilian the third remove from a king and the tenth from a shirt. We could discover in him no other singularity but this marked audacity; and both Mr. Carrington's eyes and mine were stretched beyond their orbits, but in vain, to discover that speck of "gray dirt upon he wing," which Scipio had been very careful to describe with the particularity of one who felt that the duty would devolve on him to brush the jacket of the intruder. We learned from the negro that his sooty visiter had come alone as usual,--for though there might have been a sprinkling of some fifty crows here and there about the field, we could not perceive that any of them had approached to any more familiarity with the one that annoyed him, than with himself. He had been able to get no shot as yet, though he did not despair of better fortune through the day; and, in order to the better assurance of his hopes, the poor fellow had borne what he seemed to consider the taunting swagger of the crow all around him, without so much as lifting weapon, or making a single step towards him.
"Give me your gun," said Mr. Carrington. "If he walks no faster than now, I'll give him greater weight to carry."
But the lazy crow treated the white man with a degree of deference that made the negro stare. He made off at full speed with the first movement towards him, and disappeared from sight
in a few seconds. We lost him seemingly among the willows and fern of a little bay that lay a few hundred yards beyond us.
"What think you of that, Scip?" demanded the master. "I've done more with a single motion than you've done for days, with all your poking and pelting. He'll hardly trouble you in a hurry again, though, if he does, you know well enough now, how to get rid of him."
"The negro's face brightened for an instant, but suddenly changed, while he replied,--
"Ah, mossa, when you back turn, he will come 'gen--he dah watch you now."
Sure enough,--we had not proceeded a hundred yards, before the calls of Scipio drew our attention to the scene we had left. The bedevilled negro had his hand uplifted with something of an air of horror, while a finger guided us to the spot where the lazy crow was taking his rounds, almost in the very place from whence the hostile advance of Mr. Carrington had driven him; and with a listless, lounging strut of aristocratic composure, that provoked our wonder quite as much as the negro's indignation.
"Let us see it out," said Mr. C., returning to the scene of action. "At him, Scipio; take your gun and do your best."
But this did not seem necessary. Our return had the effect of sending the sooty intruder to a distance, and, after lingering some time to see if he would reappear while we were present, but without success, we concluded to retire from the ground. At night, we gathered from the poor negro that our departure was the signal for the crow's return. He walked the course with impunity, though Scipio pursued him several times, and towards the close of day, in utter desperation, gave him both barrels, not only without fracturing a feather, but actually, according to Scip's story, without occasioning in him the slightest discomposure or alarm. He merely changed his place at each onset, doubled on his own ground, made a brief circuit, and back again to the old station, looking as impudently, and walking along as lazily as ever.
SOME days passed by and I saw nothing of Scipio. It appears, however, that his singular conflict with the lazy crow was carried on with as much pertinacity on the one side, and as little patience on the other, as before. Still, daily, did he provide himself with the weapon and munitions of war, making as much fuss in loading it, and putting in shot as large as if he purposed warfare on some of the more imposing occupants of the forest, rather than a simple bird, so innocent in all respects except the single one of corn-stealing, as the crow. A fact, of which we obtained possession some time after, and from the other negroes, enlightened us somewhat on the subject of Scipio's own faith as to the true character of his enemy. In loading his gun, he counted out his shot, being careful to get an odd number. In using big buck he numbered two sevens for a load; the small buck, three; and seven times seven duck shot, when he used the latter, were counted out as a charge, with the studious nicety of the jeweller at his pearls and diamonds. Then followed the mystic process of depositing the load within the tube, from which it was to issue forth in death and devastation. His face was turned from the sunlight; the blaze was not suffered to rest upon the bore or barrel; and when the weapon was charged, it was carried into the field only on his left shoulder. In spite of all these preparations, the lazy crow came and went as before. He betrayed no change of demeanour; he showed no more consciousness of danger; he submitted to pursuit quietly, never seeming to hurry himself in escaping, and was quite as close an overseer of Scipio's conduct, as he had shown himself from the first. Not a day passed that the negro failed to shoot at him; always, however, by his own account, at disadvantage, and never, it appears, with any success. The consequence of all this was, that Scipio fell sick. What with the constant annoyance of the thing, and a too excitable imagination, Scipio, a stout fellow nearly six feet high, and half
as many broad, laid himself at length in his cabin, at the end of the week, and was placed on the sick-list accordingly. But as a negro will never take physic if he can help it, however ready he may be to complain, it was not till Sunday afternoon, that Jane Carrington, taking her customary stroll on that day to the negro quarters, ascertained the fact. She at once apprised her father, who was something of a physician, (as every planter should be,) and who immediately proceeded to visit the invalid. He found him without any of the customary signs of sickness. His pulse was low and feeble, rather than full or fast; his tongue tolerably clean; his skin not unpleasant, and, in all ordinary respects Scipio would have been pronounced in very good condition for his daily task, and his hog and hominy. But he was an honest fellow, and the master well knew that there was no negro on his plantation so little given to "playing 'possum," as Scipio. He complained of being very unwell, though he found it difficult to designate his annoyances, and say where or in what respect his ailing lay. Questions only confused and seemed to vex him, and, though really skilful in the cure of such complaints as ordinarily occur on a plantation, Mr. Carrington, in the case before him, was really at a loss. The only feature of Scipio's disease that was apparent, was a full and raised expression of the eye, that seemed to swell out whenever he spoke, or when he was required to direct his attention to any object, or answer to any specific inquiry. The more the master observed him, the more difficult it became to utter an opinion, and he was finally compelled to leave him for the night, without medicine, judging it wiser to let nature take the subject in hand until he could properly determine in what respect he suffered. But the morrow brought no alleviation of Scipio's sufferings. He was still sick as before--incapable of work,--indeed, as he alleged, unable to leave his bed, though his pulse was a little exaggerated from the night previous, and exhibited only that degree of energy and fulness, which might be supposed natural to one moved by sudden physical excitement. His master half-suspected him of shamming, but the lugubrious expression of the fellow's face, could scarcely be assumed for any purpose, and was to all eyes as natural as could be. He evidently though himself in a bad way. I suggested
some simple medicine, such as salts or castor oil--any thing, indeed, which could do no harm, and which could lessen the patient's apprehensions, which seemed to increase with the evident inability of his master to give him help. Still he could scarcely tell where it hurt him; his pains were every where, in head, back, shoulder, heels, and strange to say, at the tips of his ears. Mr. C. was puzzled, and concluded to avoid the responsibility of such a case, by sending for the neighbouring physician.
Dr. C--, a very clever and well-read man, soon made his appearance, and was regularly introduced to the patient. His replies to the physician were as little satisfactory as those which he had made to us; and, after a long and tedious cross examination by doctor and master, the conclusion was still the same. Some few things, however, transpired in the inquiry, which led us all to the same inference with the doctor, who ascribed Scipio's condition to some mental hallucination. While the conversation had been going on in his cabin--a dwelling like most negro houses, made with poles, and the chinks stopped with clay,--he turned abruptly from the physician to a negro girl that brought him soup, and asked the following question.
"Who bin tell Gullah Sam for come in yer yesserday?"
The girl looked confused, and made no answer.
"Answer him," said the master.
"Da's him--why you no talk, nigger?" said the patient authoritatively. "I ax you who bin tell Gullah Sam for come in yer yesserday?"
"He bin come?" responded the girl with another inquiry.
"Sure, he bin come--enty I see um wid he dirty gray jacket, like dirt on a crow wing. He tink I no see um--he 'tan dere in dis corner, close de chimney, and look wha's a cook in de pot. Oh, how my ear bu'n--somebody's a talking bad tings 'bout Scipio now."
There was a good deal in this speech to interest Mr. Carrington and myself; we could trace something of his illness to his strife with the crow; but who was Gullah Sam? This was a question put both by the doctor and myself, at the same moment.
"You no know Gullah Sam, enty? Ha! better you don't
know 'um--he's a nigger da's more dan nigger--wish he min' he own bis'ness."
With these words the patient turned his face to the wall of his habitation, and seemed unwilling to vouchsafe us any farther speech. It was thought unnecessary to annoy him with farther inquiries, and, leaving the cabin, we obtained the desired information from his master.
"Gullah Sam," said he, "is a native born African from the Gold Coast, who belongs to my neighbour, Mr. Jamison, and was bought by his father out of a Rhode Island slaver, some time before the Revolution. He is now, as you may suppose, rather an old man; and, to all appearances, would seem a simple and silly one enough; but the negroes all around conceive him to be a great conjurer, and look upon his powers as a wizard, with a degree of dread, only to be accounted for by the notorious superstition of ignorance. I have vainly endeavoured to overcome their fears and prejudices on this subject; but the object of fear is most commonly, at the same time, an object of veneration, and they hold on to the faith which has been taught them, with a tenacity like that with which the heathen clings to the idol, the wrath of which he seeks to deprecate, and which he worships only because he fears. The little conversation which we have had with Scipio, in his partial delirium, has revealed to me what a sense of shame has kept him from declaring before. He believes himself to be bewitched by Gullah Sam, and, whether the African possesses any power such as he pretends to or not, is still the same to Scipio, if his mind has a full conviction that he does, and that he has become its victim. A superstitious negro might as well be bewitched, as to fancy that he is so."
"And what do you propose to do?" was my inquiry.
"Nay, that question I cannot answer you. It is a work of philosophy, rather than of physic, and we must become the masters of the case, before we can prescribe for it. We must note the fancies of the patient himself, and make these subservient to the cure. I know of no other remedy."
THAT evening, we all returned to the cabin of Scipio. We found him more composed--sane, perhaps, would be the proper word--than in the morning, and, accordingly, perfectly silent on the subject of Gullah Sam. His master took the opportunity of speaking to him in plain language.
"Scipio, why do you try to keep the truth from me? Have you ever found me a bad master, that you should fear to tell me the truth?"
"Nebber say sich ting! Who tell you, mossa, I say you bad?" replied the negro with a lofty air of indignation, rising on his arm in the bed.
"Why should you keep the truth from me?" was the reply.
"Wha' trut' I keep from you, mossa?"
"The cause of your sickness, Scipio. Why did you not tell me that Gullah Sam had bewitched you?"
The negro was confounded.
"How you know, mossa?" was his demand.
"It matters not," replied the master, "but how came Gullah Sam to bewitch you?"
"He kin 'witch den, mossa?" was the rather triumphant demand of the negro, who saw, in his master's remark, a concession to his faith, which had always been withheld before. Mr. Carrington extricated himself from the dilemma with sufficient promptness and ingenuity.
"The devil has power, Scipio, over all that believe in him. If you believe that Gullah Sam can do with you what he pleases, in spite of God and the Saviour, there is no doubt that he can; and God and the Saviour will alike give you up to his power, since, when you believe in the devil, you refuse to believe in them. They have told you, and the preacher has told you, and I have told you, that Gullah Sam can do you no sort of harm, if you will refuse to believe in what he tells you. Why then do you believe
in that miserable and ignorant old African, sooner than in God, and the preacher, and myself?"
"I can't help it, mossa--de ting's de ting, and you can't change 'um. Dis Gullah Sam--he wus more nor ten debble--I jis' laugh at 'um t'oder day--tree week 'go, when he tumble in de hoss pond, and he shake he finger at me, and ebber since he put he bad mout' pon me. Ebber sence dat time, dat ugly crow bin stand in my eyes, whichebber way I tu'n. He hab gray dirt on he wing, and enty dere's a gray patch on Gullah Sam jacket? Gullah Sam hab close 'quaintan' wid dat same lazy crow da's walk roun' me in de cornfield, mossa. I bin tink so from de fuss; and when he 'tan and le' me shoot at 'um, and no 'fraid, den I sartain."
"Well, Scipio," said the master, "I will soon put an end to Sam's power. I will see Mr. Jamison, and will have Sam well flogged for his witchcraft. I think you ought to be convinced that a wizard who suffers himself to be flogged, is but a poor devil after all."
The answer of the negro was full of consternation.
"For Chris' sake, mossa, I beg you do no sich ting. You lick Gullah Sam, den you lose Scipio for eber and eber, amen. Gullah Sam nebber guine take off de bad mout' he put on Scip, once you lick em. De pains will keep in de bones--de leg will dead, fuss de right leg, den de lef, one arter t'oder, and you nigger will dead, up and up, till noting lef for dead but he head. He head will hab life, when you kin put he body in de hole, and cubbur um up wid du't. You mus' try n'oder tings, mossa, for get you nigger cure--you lick Gullah Sam, 'tis kill um for ebber."
A long conversation ensued among us, Scipio taking occasional part in it; for, now that his secret was known, he seemed somewhat relieved, and gave utterance freely to his fears and superstitions; and determined for and against the remedies which we severally proposed, with the authority of one, not only more deeply interested in the case than any one beside, but who also knew more about it. Having unscrupulously opposed nearly every plan, even in its inception, which was suggested, his master, out of all patience, at last exclaimed,
"Well, Scipio, it seems nothing will please you. What would you have? what course shall I take to dispossess the devil, and send Gullah Sam about his business?"
After a brief pause, in which the negro twisted from side to side of his bed, he answered as follows:
"Ef you kin trow way money on Scip, mossa, dere's a way I tink 'pon, dat'll do um help, if dere's any ting kin help um now, widout go to Gullah Sam. But it's a berry 'spensive way, mossa."
"How much will it cost?" demanded the master. "I am not unwilling to pay money for you, either to cure you when you are sick, as you ought to know by my sending for the doctor, or by putting more sense into your head than you seem to have at present. How much money do you think it will take to send the devil out of you?"
"Ha! mossa, you no speak 'spectful 'nough. Dis Gullah Sam hard to move; more dan de lazy crow dat walk in de cornfield. He will take money 'nough; mos' a bag ob cotton in dese hard times."
"Pshaw--speak out, and tell me what you mean!" said the now thoroughly impatient master.
"Dere's an old nigger, mossa, dat's an Ebo,--he lib ober on St. Matt'ew's, by de bluff, place of Major Thompson. He's mighty great hand for cure bad mout'. He's named 'Tuselah, and he's a witch he sef, worse more nor Gullah Sam. Gullah Sam fear'd um--berry fear'd um. You send for 'Tuselah, mossa, he eos' you more nor twenty dollars. Scipio git well for sartin, and you nebber yerry any more 'bout dat sassy crow in de cornfield."
"If I thought so," replied Mr. Carrington, looking round upon us, as if himself half ashamed to give in to the suggestions of the negro; "if I thought so, I would certainly send for Methuselah. But really, there's something very ridiculous in all this."
"I think not," was my reply. "Your own theory will sustain you, since, if Scipio's fancy makes one devil, he is equally assured, by the same fancy, of the counter power of the other."
"Besides," said the doctor, "you are sustained by the proverb, 'set a thief to catch a thief.' The thing is really curious. I shall be anxious to see how the St. Matthew's wizard overcomes him of Santee; though, to speak truth, a sort of sectional interest
in my own district, would almost tempt me to hope that he may be defeated. This should certainly be my prayer, were it not that I have some commiseration for Scipio. I should be sorry to see him dying by inches."
"By feet rather," replied his master with a laugh. "First the right leg, then the left, up and up, until life remains to him in his head only. But, you shall have your wish, Scipio. I will send a man to-morrow by daylight to St. Matthew's for Methuselah, and if he can overcome Gullah Sam at his own weapons, I shall not begrudge him the twenty dollars."
"Tenks, mossa, tousand tenks," was the reply of the invalid; his countenance suddenly brightening for the first time for a week, as if already assured of the happy termination of his affliction. Meanwhile, we left him to his cogitations, each of us musing to himself, as well on the singular mental infirmities of a negro, at once sober, honest, and generally sensible, and that strange sort of issue which was about to be made up, between the respective followers of the rival principles of African witchcraft, the Gullah and the Ebo fetishes.
THE indulgent master that night addressed a letter to the owner of Methuselah, stating all the circumstances of the case, and soliciting permission for the wizard, of whom such high expectations were formed, or fancied, to return with the messenger, who took with him an extra horse that the journey might be made with sufficient despatch. To this application a ready assent was given, and the messenger returned on the day after his departure, attended by the sage personage in question.
Methuselah was an African, about sixty-five years of age, with a head round as an owl's, and a countenance quite as grave and contemplative. His features indicated all the marked characteristics of his race, low forehead, high cheek bone, small eyes, flat nose, thick lips, and a chin sharp and retreating. He was not more than five feet high, and with legs so bowed that--to use Scipio's expression, when he was so far recovered as to be able again to laugh at his neighbour,--a yearling calf might easily run between them without grazing the calf. There was nothing promising in such a person but his sententiousness and gravity, and Methuselah possessed these characteristics in remarkable degree. When asked--
"Can you cure this fellow?" his answer, almost insolently expressed, was,--
"I come for dat."
"You can cure people who are bewitched?"
"He no dead?"
"Belly well; I cure em;--can't cure dead nigger."
There was but little to be got out of such a character by examination, direct or cross; and attending him to Scipio's wigwam, we tacitly resolved to look as closely into his proceedings as we could, assured, that in no other way could we possibly hope to arrive at any knowledge of his modus operandi in so curious a case.
Scipio was very glad to see the wizard of St. Matthew's, and pointing to a chair, the only one in his chamber, he left us to the rude stools, of which there happened to be a sufficient supply.
"Well, brudder," said the African abruptly, "wha's matter?"
"Ha, Mr. 'Tuselah, I bin hab berry bad mout' put 'pon me."
"I know dat--you eyes run water--you ears hot--you hab knee shake--you trimble in de joint."
"You hit um; 'tis jis' dem same ting. I hab ears bu'n berry much," and thus encouraged to detail his symptoms, the garrulous Scipio would have prolonged his chronicle to the crack of doom, but that the wizard valued his time too much, to suffer any unnecessary eloquence on the part of his patient.
"You see two tings at a time?" asked the African.
"How! I no see," replied Scipio, not comprehending the question, which simply meant, do you ever see double? To this, when explained, he answered in a decided negative.
" 'Tis a man den, put he bad mout' 'pon you," said the African.
"Gor-a-mighty, how you know dat?" exclaimed Scipio.
"Hush, my brudder--wha' beas' he look like?"
"He's a d--n black nigger ob a crow--a dirty crow, da's lazy for true."
"Ha! he lazy--you sure he ain't lame?"
"He no lame."
Scipio then gave a close description of the crow which had pestered him, precisely as he had given it to his master, as recorded in our previous pages. The African heard him with patience, then proceeded with oracular gravity.
" 'Tis old man wha's trouble you!"
"Da's a trute!"
"Hush, my brudder. Whay you bin see dis crow?"
"Crow in de cornfiel', Mr. 'Tuselah; he can't come in de house."
"Who bin wid you all de time?"
"Jenny--de gal--he 'tan up in de corner now."
The magician turned and looked upon the person indicated by Scipio's finger--a little negro girl, probably ten years old. Then turning again to Scipio, he asked,
"You bin sick two, tree, seben day, brudder--how long you bin on you bed?"
"Since Saturday night--da's six day to-day."
"And you hab nobody come for look 'pon you, since you bin on de bed, but dis gal, and de buckrah?"
Scipio confessed to several of the field negroes, servants of his own master, all of whom he proceeded to describe in compliance with the requisitions of the wizard, who, as if still unsatisfied, bade him, in stern accents, remember if nobody else had been in the cabin, or, in his own language, had "set he eye 'pon you."
The patient hesitated for awhile, but the question being repeated, he confessed that in a half-sleep or stupor, he had fancied seeing Gullah Sam looking in upon him through the half-opened door; and at another time had caught glimpses, in his sleep, of the same features, through a chink between the logs, where the clay had fallen.
"Ha! ha!" said the wizard, with a half-savage grin of mingled delight and sagacity--"I hab nose,--I smell. Well, brudder, I mus' gib you physic,--you mus' hab good sweat to-night, and smood skin to-morrow."
Thus ended the conference with Scipio. The man of mystery arose and left the hovel, bidding us follow, and carefully fastening the door after him.
This done, he anointed some clay, which he gathered in the neighbourhood, with his spittle, and plastered it over the lintel. He retired with us a little distance, and when we were about to separate, he for the woods, and we for the dwelling-house, he said in tones more respectful than those which he employed to Mr. Carrington on his first coming,
"You hab niggers, mossa--women is de bes'--dat lub for talk too much?"
"Yes, a dozen of them."
"You sen' one to de plantation where dis Gullah Sam lib, but don't sen' um to Gullah Sam; sen' um to he mossa or he missis; and borrow someting--any ting--old pot or kettle--no matter if you don't want 'em, you beg um for lend you. Da's 'nough."
Mr. Carrington would have had the wizard's reasons for this wish, but finding him reluctant to declare them, he promised his
consent, concluding, as was perhaps the case, that the only object was to let Gullah Sam know that a formidable enemy had taken the field against him, and in defence of his victim.* * Since penning the above conjecture, I remember a story which was related to me several years ago, by a venerable country lady of South Carolina, who, to the merit of telling a good story well, added the equally commendable merit of always believing the story which she told--in which it was insisted upon, in these controversies between rival wizards, and, if I mistake not, in all cases where witch or wizard aimed to operate, that, to obtain complete success, it was necessary that they should succeed in borrowing something out of the house which was to be the scene of their diablerie. In this story, though a mere boy at the time, I can well remember the importance attached by a mother to the instructions which she gave her daughter, on going abroad, to lend nothing out of the house, under any circumstances, or to any body, during her absence. She had scarcely disappeared,--the story went on to relate,--before an old woman of the neighbourhood, whose intentions were already suspected, came to borrow a sieve. The girl, without admitting her into the house, for the door had been locked by the provident mother, answered her demand through the window by an unvarying refusal. Baffled in her aim by the child's firmness, the prayers and entreaties of the applicant were changed into the bitterest abuse and execrations, clearly showing, whatever might have been her pretensions or powers of evil, the devilish malignity of purpose which she entertained.
This would seem to account for his desire that the messenger should be a woman, and one "wha' lub for talk too much." He then obtained directions for the nearest path to the swamp, and when we looked that night into the wigwam of Scipio, we found him returned with a peck of roots of sundry sorts, none of which we knew, prepared to make a decoction, in which his patient was to be immersed from head to heels. Leaving Scipio with the contemplation of this steaming prospect before him, we retired for the night, not a little anxious for those coming events which cast no shadow before us, or one so impenetrably thick, that we failed utterly to see through it.
* Since penning the above conjecture, I remember a story which was related to me several years ago, by a venerable country lady of South Carolina, who, to the merit of telling a good story well, added the equally commendable merit of always believing the story which she told--in which it was insisted upon, in these controversies between rival wizards, and, if I mistake not, in all cases where witch or wizard aimed to operate, that, to obtain complete success, it was necessary that they should succeed in borrowing something out of the house which was to be the scene of their diablerie. In this story, though a mere boy at the time, I can well remember the importance attached by a mother to the instructions which she gave her daughter, on going abroad, to lend nothing out of the house, under any circumstances, or to any body, during her absence. She had scarcely disappeared,--the story went on to relate,--before an old woman of the neighbourhood, whose intentions were already suspected, came to borrow a sieve. The girl, without admitting her into the house, for the door had been locked by the provident mother, answered her demand through the window by an unvarying refusal. Baffled in her aim by the child's firmness, the prayers and entreaties of the applicant were changed into the bitterest abuse and execrations, clearly showing, whatever might have been her pretensions or powers of evil, the devilish malignity of purpose which she entertained.
IN the morning, strange to say, we found Scipio considerably better, and in singularly good spirits. The medicaments of the African, or more likely the pliant imagination of the patient himself, had wrought a charm in his behalf; and instead of groaning at every syllable, as he had done for several days before, he now scarcely uttered a word that was not accompanied by a grin. The magician seemed scarcely less pleased than his patient, particularly when he informed us that he had not only obtained the article the woman was sent to borrow, but that Gullah Sam had been seen prowling, late at night, about the negro houses, without daring, however, to venture nigh that of the invalid--a forbearance which the necromancer gave us to understand, was entirely involuntary, and in spite of the enemy's desire, who was baffled and kept away by the spell contained in the ointment which he had placed on the lintel, in our presence the evening before. Still, half-ashamed of being even quiescent parties merely to this solemn mummery, we were anxious to see the end of it, and our African promised that he would do much towards relieving Scipio from his enchantment, by the night of the same day. His spells and fomentations had worked equally well, and Scipio was not only more confident in mind, but more sleek and strong in body. With his own hands, it appears, that the wizard had rubbed down the back and shoulders of his patient with corn-shucks steeped in the decoction he had made, and, what was a more strange specific still, he had actually subjected Scipio to a smarter punishment, with a stout hickory, than his master had given him for many a year. This, the poor fellow not only bore with Christian fortitude, but actually rejoiced in, imploring additional strokes when the other ceased. We could very well understand that Scipio deserved a whipping for laughing at an aged man, because he fell into the water, but we failed to ascertain from the taciturn wizard, that this was the rationale of an application
which a negro ordinarily is never found to approve. This over, Scipio was again put to bed, a green twig hung over the door of his cabin within, while the unctuous plaster was renewed freshly on the outside. The African then repeated certain uncouth sounds over the patient, bade him shut his eyes and go to sleep, in order to be in readiness and go into the fields by the time the sun was turning for the west.
What," exclaimed Mr. Carrington, "do you think him able to go into the field to-day? He is very weak; he has taken little nourishment for several days."
"He mus' able," returned the imperative African; "he 'trong 'nough. He mus' able--he hab for carry gun."
With these words the wizard left us without deigning any explanation of his future purposes, and, taking his way towards the swamp, he was soon lost to our eyes in the mighty depth of its shrouding recesses.
When he returned, which was not till noon, he came at once to the mansion-house, without seeking his patient, and entering the hall where the family was all assembled, he challenged our attention as well by his appearance as by his words. He had, it would seem, employed himself in arranging his own appearance while in the swamp; perhaps, taking one of its thousand lakes or ponds for his mirror. His woolly hair, which was very long, was plaited carefully up, so that the ends stuck out from his brow, as pertly and pointedly as the tails of pigs, suddenly aroused to a show of delightful consciousness on discovering a forgotten corn-heap. Perhaps that sort of tobacco, known by the attractive and characteristic title of "pigtail," would be the most fitting to convey to the mind of the reader the peculiar form of plait which the wizard had adopted for his hair. This mode of disposing of his matted mop, served to display the tattooed and strange figures upon his temples,--the certain signs, as he assured us, of princely rank in his native country. He carried a long wand in his hand, freshly cut and peeled, at one end of which he had tied a small hempen cord. The skin of the wand was plaited round his own neck. In a large leaf he brought with him a small portion of some stuff which he seemed to preserve very carefully, but which appeared to us to be nothing more than coarse
sand or gravel. To this he added a small portion of salt, which he obtained from the mistress of the house, and which he stirred together in our presence until the salt had been lost to the eye in the sand or gravel, or whatever might have been the article which he had brought with him. This done, he drew the shot from both barrels of the gun, and in its place, deposited the mixture which he had thus prepared.
"Buckrah will come 'long now. Scipio guine looka for de crow."
Such were his words, which he did not wait to hear answered or disputed, but taking the gun, he led the way towards the wigwam of Scipio. Our anxiety to see the conclusion of the adventure, did not suffer us to lose any time in following him. To our surprise, we found Scipio dressed and up; ready, and it would seem perfectly able, to undertake what the African assigned him. The gun was placed in his hands, and he was told to take his way to the cornfield as usual, and proceed to work. He was also informed by the wizard, with a confidence that surprised us, that the lazy crow would be sure to be there as usual; and he was desired to get as close as he could, and take good aim at his head in shooting him.
"You sure for hit um, brudder," said the African; "so, don't 'tan too long for look. Jis' you git close, take you sight, and gib um bot' barrel. But fuss, 'fore you go, I mus' do someting wid you eye."
The plaster was taken from the door, as Scipio passed through it, re-softened with the saliva of the wizard, who, with his finger, described an arched line over each of the patient's eyes.
"You go 'long by you'sef now, brudder, and shoot de crow when you see um. He's a waiting for you now, I'spec'."
We were about to follow Scipio to the field, but our African kept us back; and leading the way to a little copse that divided it from the swamp, he took us to its shelter, and required us to remain with him out of sight of the field, until some report from Scipio or his gun, should justify us in going forth.
HERE we remained in no little anxiety for the space of nearly two hours, in which time, however, the African showed no sort of impatience, and none of that feverish anxiety which made us restless in body and eager, to the last degree, in mind. We tried to fathom his mysteries, but in vain. He contented himself with assuring us that the witchcraft which he used, and that which he professed himself able to cure, was one that never could affect the white man in any way. He insisted that the respective gods of the two races were essentially very different; as different as the races themselves. He also admitted that the god of the superior race was necessarily equal to the task of governing both, while the inferior god could only govern the one--that of taking charge of his, was one of those small businesses, with which it was not often that the former would soil his hands. To use his own phrase, "there is a god for de big house, and another for de kitchen."
While we talked over these topics, and strove, with a waste of industry, to shake the faith of the African in his own peculiar deities and demons, we heard the sound of Scipio's gun--a sound that made us forget all nicer matters of theology, and set off with full speed towards the quarter whence it came. The wizard followed us slowly, waving his wand in circles all the way, and pulling the withes from his neck, and casting them around him as he came. During this time, his mouth was in constant motion, and I could hear at moments, strange, uncouth sounds breaking from his lips. When we reached Scipio, the fellow was in a state little short of delirium. He had fired both barrels, and had cast the gun down upon the ground after the discharge. He was wringing his hands above his head in a sort of phrensy of joy, and at our approach he threw himself down upon the earth, laughing with the delight of one who has lost his wits in a dream of pleasure.
"Where's the crow?" demanded his master.
"I shoot um--I shoot um in he head--enty I tell you, mossa, I will hit um in he head? Soon he poke he nose ober de ground, I gib it to um. Hope he bin large shot. He gone t'rough he head,--t'rough and t'rough. Ha! ha! ha! If dat crow be Gullah Sam! if Gullah Sam be git in crow jacket, ho, mossa! he nebber git out crow jacket 'till somebody skin um. Ha! ha! ho! ho! ho! ki! ki! ki! ki! la! ki! Oh, mossa, wonder how Gullah Sam feel in crow jacket!"
It was in this strain of incoherent exclamation, that the invalid gave vent to his joyful paroxysm at the thought of having put a handful of duck shot into the hide of his mortal enemy. The unchristian character of his exultation received a severe reproof from his master, which sobered the fellow sufficiently to enable us to get from him a more sane description of his doings. He told us that the crow had come to bedevil him as usual, only--and the fact became subsequently of considerable importance,--that he had now lost the gray dirt from his wing, which had so peculiarly distinguished it before, and was now as black as the most legitimate suit ever worn by crow, priest, lawyer, or physician. This change in the outer aspect of the bird had somewhat confounded the negro, and made him loth to expend his shot, for fear of wasting the charmed charge upon other than the genuine Simon Pure. But the deportment of the other--lazy, lounging, swaggering, as usual--convinced Scipio in spite of his eyes, that his old enemy stood in fact before him; and without wasting time, he gave him both barrels at the same moment.
"But where's the crow?" demanded the master.
"I knock um ober, mossa; I see um tumble; 'speck you find um t'oder side de cornhill."
Nothing could exceed the consternation of Scipio, when, on reaching the designated spot, we found no sign of the supposed victim. The poor fellow rubbed his eyes, in doubt of their visual capacities, and looked round aghast, for an explanation, to the wizard who was now approaching, waving his wand in long sweeping circles as he came, and muttering, as before, those strange uncouth sounds, which we relished as little as we understood. He
did not seem at all astonished at the result of Scipio's shot, but abruptly asked of him--"Whay's de fus' water, brudder Scip?"
"De water in de bay, Mass 'Tuselah," was the reply; the speaker pointing as he spoke to the little spot of drowned land on the very corner of the field, which, covered with thick shoots of the small sweet bay tree,--the magnolia glauca,--receives its common name among the people from its almost peculiar growth.
"Push for de bay! push for de bay!" exclaimed the African, "and see wha' you see. Run, Scip; run, nigger--see wha' lay in de bay!"
These words, scarcely understood by us, set Scipio in motion. At full speed he set out, and, conjecturing from his movement, rather than from the words of the African, his expectations, off we set also at full speed after him. Before we reached the spot, to our great surprise, Scipio emerged from the bay, dragging behind him the reluctant and trembling form of the aged negro, Gullah Sam. He had found him washing his face, which was covered with little pimples and scratches, as if he had suddenly fallen into a nest of briars. It was with the utmost difficulty we could prevent Scipio from pummelling the dreaded wizard to death.
"What's the matter with your face, Sam?" demanded Mr. Carrington.
"Hab humour, Mass Carrington; bin trouble berry mosh wid break out in de skin."
"Da shot, mossa--da shot. I hit um in crow jacket; but whay's de gray di't? Ha! mossa, look yer; dis de black coat ob Mass Jim'son dat Gullah Sam hab on. He no wear he jacket with gray patch. Da's make de diff'rence."
The magician from St. Matthew's now came up, and our surprise was increased when we saw him extend his hand, with an appearance of the utmost good feeling and amity, to the rival he had just overcome.
"Well, brudder Sam, how you come on?"
The other looked at him doubtfully, and with a countenance in which we saw, or fancied, a mingling expression of fear and hostility; the latter being evidently restrained by the other. He
gave his hand, however, to the grasp of Methuselah, but said nothing.
"I will come take supper wid you to-night, brudder Sam," continued the wizard of St. Matthew's, with as much civility as if he spoke to the most esteemed friend under the sun. "Scip, boy, you kin go to you mossa work--you quite well ob dis bus'ness."
Scipio seemed loth to leave the company while there appeared something yet to be done, and muttered half aloud,
"You no ax Gullah Sam, wha' da' he bin do in de bay."
"Psha, boy, go 'long to you cornfiel'--enty I know," replied Methuselah. "Gullah Sam bin 'bout he own bus'ness, I s'pose. Brudder, you kin go home now, and get you tings ready for supper. I will come see you to-night."
It was in this manner that the wizard of St. Matthew's was disposed to dismiss both the patient and his persecutor; but here the master of Scipio interposed.
"Not so fast, Methuselah. If this fellow, Sam, has been playing any of his tricks upon my people, as you seem to have taken for granted, and as, indeed, very clearly appears, he must not be let off so easily. I must punish him before he goes."
"You kin punish um more dan me?" was the abrupt, almost stern inquiry of the wizard.
There was something so amusing as well as strange in the whole business, something so ludicrous in the wo-begone visage of Sam, that we pleaded with Mr. Carrington that the whole case should be left to Methuselah; satisfied that as he had done so well hitherto, there was no good reason, nor was it right, that he should be interfered with. We saw the two shake hands and part, and ascertained from Scipio that he himself was the guest of Gullah Sam, at the invitation of Methuselah, to a very good supper that night of pig and 'possum. Scipio described the affair as having gone off very well, but he chuckled mightily as he dwelt upon the face of Sam, which, as he said, by night, was completely raw from the inveterate scratching to which he had been compelled to subject it during the whole day. Methuselah the next morning departed, having received, as his reward, twenty dollars from the master, and a small pocket Bible from the young mistress of the negro; and to this day, there is not a negro in the surrounding
country--and many of the whites are of the same way of thinking--who does not believe that Scipio was bewitched by Gullah Sam, and that the latter was shot in the face, while in the shape of a common crow in the cornfield, by the enchanted shot provided by the wizard of St. Matthew's for the hands of the other.
The writer of this narrative, for the sake of vitality and dramatic force, alone, has made himself a party to its progress. The material has been derived as much from the information of others, as from his own personal experience; though it may be as well to add, that superstition among the negroes is almost as active to this day, in the more secluded plantations, as it was prior to the revolution. Nor is it confined to the negro only. An instance occurred only a few years ago,--the facts of which were given me by a gentleman of unquestionable veracity,--in which one of his poor, uneducated white neighbours, labouring under a protracted, and perhaps, novel form of disease, fancied himself the victim of a notorious witch or wizard in his own district, and summoned to his cure the rival wizard of another. Whether the controversy was carried in the manner of that between Gullah Sam and Methuselah, I cannot say; nor am I sure that the conquest was achieved by the wizard summoned. My authorities are no less good than various, for the procès nécromantique, as detailed above. It may be that I have omitted some of the mummery that seemed profane or disgusting; for the rest--
"I vouch not for the truth, d'ye see,
But tell the tale as 'twas told to me."
WHEN I was a boy, it was the custom of the Catawba Indians --then reduced to a pitiful remnant of some four hundred persons, all told--to come down, at certain seasons, from their far homes in the interior, to the seaboard, bringing to Charleston a little stock of earthen pots and pans, skins and other small matters, which they bartered in the city for such commodities as were craved by their tastes, or needed by their condition. They did not, however, bring their pots and pans from the nation, but descending to the low country empty-handed, in groups or families, they squatted down on the rich clay lands along the Edisto, raised their poles, erected their sylvan tents, and there established themselves in a temporary abiding place, until their simple potteries had yielded them a sufficient supply of wares with which to throw themselves into the market. Their productions had their value to the citizens, and, for many purposes, were considered by most of the worthy housewives of the past generation, to be far superior to any other. I remember, for example, that it was a confident faith among the old ladies, that okra soup was always inferior if cooked in any but an Indian pot; and my own impressions make me not unwilling to take sides with the old ladies on this particular tenet. Certainly, an iron vessel is one of the last which should be employed in the preparation of this truly southern dish. But this aside. The wares of the Indians were not ill made, nor unseemly to the eye. They wrought with much cleaner hands than they usually carried; and if their vases were
sometimes unequal in their proportions, and uncouth in their forms, these defects were more than compensated by their freedom from flaws and their general capaciousness and strength. Wanting, perhaps, in the loveliness and perfect symmetry of Etruscan art, still they were not entirely without pretensions of their own. The ornamental enters largely into an Indian's idea of the useful, and his taste pours itself out lavishly in the peculiar decorations which he bestows upon his wares. Among his first purchases when he goes to the great city, are vermilion, umber, and other ochres, together with sealing wax of all colours, green, red, blue and yellow. With these he stains his pots and pans until the eye becomes sated with a liberal distribution of flowers, leaves, vines and stars, which skirt their edges, traverse their sides, and completely illuminate their externals. He gives them the same ornament which he so judiciously distributes over his own face, and the price of the article is necessarily enhanced to the citizen, by the employment of materials which the latter would much rather not have at all upon his purchases. This truth, however, an Indian never will learn, and so long as I can remember, he has still continued to paint his vessels, though he cannot but see that the least decorated are those which are always the first disposed of. Still, as his stock is usually much smaller than the demand for it, and as he soon gets rid of it, there is no good reason which he can perceive why he should change the tastes which preside over his potteries.
Things are greatly altered now-a-days, in these as in a thousand other particulars. The Catawbas seldom now descend to the seaboard. They have lost the remarkable elasticity of character which peculiarly distinguished them among the aboriginal nations, and, in declining years and numbers, not to speak of the changing circumstances of the neighbouring country, the ancient potteries are almost entirely abandoned. A change has taken place among the whites, scarcely less melancholy than that which has befallen the savages. Our grandmothers of the present day no longer fancy the simple and rude vessels in which the old dames took delight. We are for Sêvre's Porcelain, and foreign goods wholly, and I am saddened by the reflection that I have seen the last of the Indian pots. I am afraid, henceforward, that
my okra soup will only be made in vessels from Brummagem; nay, even now, as it comes upon the table, dark, dingy and discoloured to my eye, I think I see unequivocal tokens of metallic influence upon the mucilaginous compound, and remember with a sigh, the glorious days of Catawba pottery. New fashions, as usual, and conceited refinements, have deprived us of old pleasures and solid friends. A generation hence, and the fragment of an Indian pot will be a relic, a treasure, which the lover of the antique will place carefully away upon the upper shelf of the sanctum, secure from the assaults of noisy children and very tidy housekeepers, and honoured in the eyes of all worthy-minded persons, as the sole remaining trophy of a time when there was perfection in one, at least, of the achievements of the culinary art. I am afraid that I have seen the last of the Indian pots!
But let me avoid this melancholy reflection. Fortunately, my narrative enables me to do so. It relates to a period when this valuable manufacture was in full exercise, and, if not encouraged by the interference of government, nor sought after by a foreign people, was yet in possession of a patronage quite as large as it desired. To arrive at this important period we have only to go back twenty years--a lapse made with little difficulty by most persons, and yet one which involves many and more trying changes and vicissitudes than any of us can contemplate with equanimity. The spring season had set in with the sweetest of countenances, and the Catawbas, in little squads and detachments, were soon under way with all their simple equipments on their backs for the lower country. They came down, scattering themselves along the Edisto, in small bodies which pursued their operations independently of each other. In this distribution they were probably governed by the well known policy of the European Gipseys, who find it much easier, in this way, to assess the several neighbourhoods which they honour, and obtain their supplies without provoking apprehension and suspicion, than if they were, en masse, to concentrate themselves on any one plantation. Their camps might be found in famed loam-spots, from the Eutaws down to Parker's Ferry, on the Edisto, and among the numerous swamps that lie at the head of Ashley River, and skirt the Wassamasaw country. Harmless usually, and perfectly inoffensive, they were
seldom repelled or resisted, even when they made their camp contiguously to a planter's settlements; though, at such periods, the proprietor had his misgivings that his poultry yard suffered from other enemies than the Wild-cat, and his hogs from an assailant as unsparing as the Alligator. The overseer, in such cases, simply kept a sharper lookout than ever, though it was not often that any decisive consequences followed his increased vigilance. If the Indians were at any time guilty of appropriation, it was not often that they suffered, themselves to be brought to conviction. Of all people, they, probably, are the most solicitous to obey the scripture injunction, and keep the right hand from any unnecessary knowledge of the doings of the left.
ONE morning, early in this pleasant season, the youthful proprietor of a handsome plantation in the neighbourhood of the Ashley River, might have been seen taking his solitary breakfast, at a moderately late hour, in the great hall of his family mansion. He was a tall, fine-looking young man, with quick, keen, lively gray eyes, that twinkled with good humour and a spirit of playful indulgence. A similar expression marked his features in general, and lessened the military effect of a pair of whiskers, of which the display was too lavish to be quite becoming. He had but recently come into possession of his property, which had been under the guardianship of an uncle. His parents had been cut off by country fever while he was yet a child, and, as an only son, he found, at coming of age, that his estates were equally ample and well managed. He was one of those unfortunate young bachelors, whose melancholy loneliness of condition is so apt to arrest the attention, and awaken the sympathies of disinterested damsels, and all considerate mothers of unappropriated daughters, who are sufficiently well-informed in scripture authority, to know that "it is not meet for man to be alone." But young Col. Gillison was alone, and continued, in spite of good doctrine, to be alone for several long years after. Into the causes which led to this strange and wilful eccentricity, it forms no part of our object to inquire. Our story does not so much concern the master of the plantation as one of his retainers, whom the reader will please to imagine that he has seen, more than once, glancing his eye impatiently from the piazza through the window, into the apartment, a waiting the protracted moment when his young master should descend to his breakfast. This was a stout negro fellow, of portly figure and not uncomely countenance. He was well made and tall, and was sufficiently conscious of his personal attractions, to take all pains to exhibit them in the most appropriate costume and attitude. His pantaloons were of very excellent nankin, and
his coat, made of seersucker, was one of the most picturesque known to the southern country. It was fashioned after the Indian hunting shirt, and formed a very neat and well-fitting frock, which displayed the broad shoulders and easy movements of Mingo--for that was the negro's name--to the happiest advantage.
Mingo was the driver of the estate. The driver is a sort of drill-sergeant to the overseer, who may be supposed to be the Captain. He gets the troops in line, divides them into squads, sees to their equipments, and prepares them for the management and command of the superiors. On the plantation of Col. Gillison, there was at this time no overseer; and, in consequence, the importance of Mingo was not a little increased, as he found himself acting in the highest executive capacity known to his experience. Few persons of any race, colour, or condition, could have had a more elevated idea of their own pretensions than our present subject. He trod the earth very much as its Lord--the sovereign shone out in every look and movement, and the voice of supreme authority spoke in every tone. This feeling of superiority imparted no small degree of grace to his action, which, accordingly, would have put to shame the awkward louting movements of one half of those numbed and cramped figures which serve at the emasculating counters of the trading city. Mingo was a Hercules to the great majority of these; and, with his arms akimbo, his head thrown back, one foot advanced, and his hands, at intervals, giving life to his bold, and full-toned utterance, he would startle with a feeling not unlike that of awe, many of those bent, howed and mean-looking personages who call themselves freemen, and yet have never known the use, either of mind or muscle, in one twentieth part the degree which had been familiar to this slave.
At length, after a delay which evidently did not diminish the impatience of Mingo, his young master descended to the breakfast room. His appearance was the signal for the driver to enter the same apartment, which he accordingly did without pause or preparation.
"Well, Mingo," said the young man, with lively tones--"what's the word this morning? Your face seems full of news! and now that I consider you closely, it seems to have smitten your
body also. You look fuller than I have ever seen you before. Out with your burden, man, before you burst. What sow's littered--what cow's cast her calf--how many panels in the fence are burnt--how many chickens has the hawk carried off this morning? What! none of these?" he demanded, as the shake of the head, on the part of his hearer, which followed every distinct suggestion of the speaker, disavowed any subject of complaint from those current evils which are the usual subject of a planter's apprehension. "What's the matter, then, Mingo?"
"Matter 'nough, Mossa, ef we don't see to it in time," responded Mingo, with a becoming gravity. "It's a needcessity," a driver's English is sometimes terribly emphatic, "it's a needcessity, Sir, to see to other cattle, besides hogs and cows. The chickens too, is intended to, as much as they wants; and I ha'nt lost a panel by fire, eber sence Col. Parker's hands let the fire get 'way by Murray's Thick. There, we did lose a smart chance, and put as back mightily, I reckon; but that was in old mossa's time, and we had Mr. Groning, den, as the obershar--so, you see, Sir, I couldn't be considered bound 'sponsible for that; sence I've had the management, there ha'nt been any loss on my plantation of any kind. My fences ha'nt been burn, my cattle's on the rise, and as for my hogs and chickens, I reckon there's not a plantation on the river that kin make so good a count at Christmas. But--"
"Well, well, Mingo," said the youthful proprietor, who knew the particular virtue of the driver, and dreaded that his tongue should get such headway as to make it unmanageable--"if there's no loss, and no danger of loss--if the hogs and chickens are right, and the cattle and the fences--we can readily defer the business until after breakfast. Here, boy, hand up the coffee."
"Stop a bit, Mossa--it aint right--all aint right--" said the impressive Mingo--"it's a business of more transaction and deportance than the cattle and the fences--it's--"
"Well, out with it then, Mingo--there's no need for a long preamble. What is the trouble?"
"Why, Sir, you mus' know," began the driver, in no degree pleased to be compelled to give his testimony in any but his own fashion, and drawling out his accents accordingly, so as to increase
the impatience of his master, and greatly to elongate the sounds of his own voice--sounds which he certainly esteemed to be among the most musical in nature.--"You mus' know den, Sir, that Limping Jake came to me a while ago, tells me as how, late last night, when he was a-hunting 'possum, he came across an Indian camp, down by the 'Red Gulley.' They had a fire, and was a-putting up the poles, and stripping the bark to cover them. Jake only seed two of them; but it's onpossible that they'll stick at that. Before we know anything, they'll be spreading like varmints all about us, and putting hands and teeth on every thing, without so much as axing who mout be the owner."
"Well, Mingo, what of all this?" demanded the master, as the driver came to a pause, and looked volumes of increased dignity, while he concluded the intelligence which he meant to be astounding.
"Wha' of all this, Mossa!--Why, Sir, de'rs 'nough of it. Ef the hogs and the chickens didn't go before, they'll be very apt to go now, with these red varmints about us."
"Surely, if you don't look after them; but that's your business, Mingo. You must see to the poultry houses yourself, at night, and keep a close watch over these squatters so long as they are pleased to stay."
"But, Mossa, I aint gwine to let 'em stay! To my idee, that's not the wisdom of the thing. Now, John Groning, the obershar of old mossa--though I don't much reprove of his onderstanding in other expects, yet he tuk the right reason, when he druv them off, bag and baggage, and wouldn't let hoof nor hide of 'em stretch off upon the land. I ha'nt seen these red varmints, myself, but I come to let you know, that I was gwine out to asperse, and send 'em off, under the shake of a cowhide, and then there's no farther needcessity to keep a look out upon them. I'm not willing to let such critters hang about my plantation."
The reader has already observed, that an established driver speaks always of his charge as if it were a possession of his own. With Mingo, as with most such, it was my horse, my land, my ox, and my ass, and all that is mine. His tone was much subdued, as he listened to the reply of his master, uttered in accents something sterner than he had been wont to hear.
"I'm obliged to you, Mingo, for coming to inform me of your intentions. Now, I command you to do nothing of this sort. Let these poor devils remain where they are, and do you attend to your duty, which is to see that they do no mischief. If I mistake not, the 'Red Gulley' is the place where they have been getting their clay ever since my grandfather settled this plantation."
"That's a truth, Sir, but--"
Let them get it there still. I prefer that they should do so, even though I may lose a hog now and then, and suffer some decrease in the fowl yard. I am pleased that they should come to the accustomed place for their clay--"
"But, Sir, only last year, John Groning druv 'em off."
"I am the better pleased then, at the confidence they repose in me. Probably they know that John Groning can no longer drive them off. I am glad that they give me an opportunity to treat them more justly. They can do me little harm, and as their fathers worked in the same holes, I am pleased that they, too, should work there. I will not consent to their expulsion for such small evils as you mention. But I do not mean, Mingo, that they shall be suffered to infest the plantation, or to do any mischief. You will report to me, if you see any thing going wrong, and to do this while they stay; you will look very closely into their proceedings. I, myself, will have an eye upon them, and if there be but two of them, and they seem sober, I will give them an allowance of corn while they stay."
"Well, but Mossa, there's no needcessity for that, and considering that the Corn-House aint oberfull--"
"No more at present, Mingo. I will see into the matter during the day. Meanwhile, you can ride out to the 'Red Gulley,' see these people, and say to them, from me, that, so long as they behave themselves civilly, they may remain. I am not satisfied that these poor wretches should be denied camping ground and a little clay, on a spot which their people once possessed exclusively. I shall probably see them after you, and will then be better able to determine upon their deserts."
MINGO retired from the conference rather chap-fallen. He was not so well satisfied with the result of his communication. He had some hope to commend himself more than ever to his youthful master by the zeal and vigilance which he had striven to display. Disappointed in this hope, he was still further mortified to perceive how little deference was shown him by one, whose youthful judgment he hoped to direct, and of whose inexperience he had possibly some hope to take advantage. He loved to display his authority, and sometimes seemed absolutely to fancy himself the proprietor, whose language of command he had habituated himself to employ; on the present occasion, he made his way from the presence of his master with no complacent feelings, and his displeasure vented itself very unequivocally upon a favourite hound who lay at the foot of the outer steps, and whom he kicked off with a savage satisfaction, and sent howling to his kennel. A boy coming to him with a message from the kitchen, was received with a smart application of his wagon whip, and made to follow the example, if he did not exactly imitate the peculiar music of the hound. Mingo certainly made his exit in a rage. Half an hour after, he might have been seen, mounted on his marsh tacky, making tracks for the "Red Gulley," determined, if he was not suffered to expel the intruders, at least, to show them that it was in his power, during their stay, to diminish very considerably the measure of their satisfaction. His wrath--like that of all consequential persons who feel themselves in the wrong, yet lack courage to be right--was duly warmed by nursing; and, pregnant with terrible looks and accents, he burst upon the little encampment at "Red Gulley," in a way that "was a caution" to all evil doers!
The squatters had only raised one simple habitation of poles, and begun a second which adjoined it. The first was covered in with bushes, bark and saplings; the second was slightly advanced, and the hatchet lay before it, in waiting for the hand by
which it was to be completed. The embers of a recent fire were strewed in front of the former, and a lean cur--one of those gaunt, far sighted, keen nosed animals which the Indians employed; dock tailed, short haired, bushy eyed--lay among the ashes, and did not offer to stir at the appearance of the terror-breathing Mingo. Still, though he moved not, his keen eyes followed the movements of the Driver with as jealous a glance as those of his owner would have done; while the former alighted from his horse, peered around the wigwam, and finally penetrated it. Here he saw nobody, and nothing to reward his scrutiny. Reappearing from the hut, he hallooed with the hope of obtaining some better satisfaction, but his call was unanswered. The dog alone raised his head, looked up at the impatient visitor, and, as if satisfied with a single glance, at once resumed his former luxurious position. Such stolidity, bad enough in an Indian, was still more impertinent in an Indian dog; and, forgetting every thing but his consequence, and the rage with which he had set out from home, Mingo, without more ado, laid his lash over the animal with no measured violence of stroke. It was then that he found an answer to his challenge. A clump of myrtles opened at a little distance behind him, and the swarthy red cheeks of an Indian man appeared through the aperture, to which his voice summoned the eyes of the assailant.
"You lick dog," said the owner, with accents which were rather soft and musical than stern, "dog is good, what for you lick dog?"
Such a salutation, at the moment, rather startled the imperious driver; not that he was a timid fellow, or that his wrath had in the least degree abated; but that he was surprised completely. Had the voice reached him from the woods in front, he would have been better prepared for it; but, coming from the rear, his imagination made it startling, and increased its solemnity. He turned at the summons, and, at the same moment, the Indian, making his way through the myrtles, advanced toward the negro. There was nothing in his appearance to awaken the apprehensions of the latter. The stranger was small and slight of person, and evidently beyond the middle period of life. Intemperance, too, the great curse of the Indian who has long been a dweller in contact with the Anglo-Saxon settler--(the French, par parenthese,
seem to have always civilized the Indian without making him a drunkard)--had made its ravages upon his form, and betrayed itself in every lineament of his face. His step, even while he approached the negro, was unsteady from the influence of liquor; and as all these signs of feebleness became obvious to the eye of Mingo, his courage, and with it his domineering insolence of character, speedily returned to him.
"Lick dog!" he exclaimed, as he made a movement to the Catawba, and waved his whip threateningly, "lick dog, and lick Indian too."
"Lick Indian--get knife!" was the quiet answer of the savage, whose hand, at the same instant, rested upon the horn handle of his couteau de chasse, where it stuck in the deerskin belt that girdled his waist.
"Who's afeard?" said Mingo, as he clubbed his whip and threw the heavy loaded butt of it upon his shoulder. The slight frame of the Indian moved his contempt only; and the only circumstance that prevented him from instantly putting his threat into execution, was the recollection of that strange interest which his master had taken in the squatters, and his positive command that they should not be ill treated or expelled. While he hesitated, however, the Catawba gave him a sufficient excuse, as he fancied, for putting his original intention into execution. The threatening attitude, partial advance of the foe, together with the sight of the heavy handled whip reversed and hanging over him, had, upon the mind of the savage, all the effect of an absolute assault. He drew his knife in an instant, and flinging himself forward to the feet of the negro, struck an upright blow with his weapon, which would have laid the entrails of his enemy open to the light, but for the promptitude of the latter, who, receding at the same instant, avoided and escaped the blow. In the next moment, levelling his whip at the head of the stooping Indian, he would most probably have retorted it with fatal effect, but for an unlooked for interruption. His arms were both grappled by some one from behind, and, for the perilous moment, effectually prevented from doing any harm. With some difficulty, he shook off the last comer, who, passing in front, between the hostile parties, proved to be an Indian woman.
BEFORE this discovery was fairly made, the wrath of Mingo had been such as to render him utterly forgetful of the commands of his master. He was now ready for the combat to the knife; and had scarcely shaken himself free from his second assailant, before he advanced with redoubled resolution upon the first. He, by the way, equally aroused, stood ready, with closed lips, keen eye and lifted knife, prepared for the encounter. All the peculiarities of the Indian shone out in the imperturbable aspect, composed muscles, and fiery gleaming eyes of the now half-sobered savage; who, as if conscious of the great disparity of strength between himself and foe, was mustering all his arts of war, all his stratagems and subtleties, to reduce those inequalities from which he had every thing to apprehend. But they were not permitted to fight. The woman now threw herself between them; and, at her appearance, the whip of Mingo fell from his shoulder, and his mood became instantly pacific. She was the wife of the savage, but certainly young enough to have been his daughter. She was decidedly one of the comeliest squaws that had ever enchanted the eyes of the Driver, and her life-darting eyes, the emotion so visible in her face, and the boldness of her action, as she passed between their weapons, with a hand extended toward each, was such as to inspire him with any other feelings than those which possessed him towards the squatters. Mingo was susceptible of the tender influences of love. As brave as Julius Cæsar, in his angry mood, he was yet quite as pliant as Mark Antony in the hour of indulgence; and the smile of one of the ebon damsels of his race, at the proper moment, has frequently saved her and others from the penalties incurred by disobedience of orders, or unfinished tasks. Nor were his sentiments towards the sex confined to those of his master's plantation only. He penetrated the neighbouring estates with the excursive and reckless nature of the Prince of Troy, and, more than once, in consequence
of this habit, had the several plantations rung with wars, scarcely less fierce, though less protracted than those of Ilium. His success with the favoured sex was such as to fill him with a singular degree of confidence in his own prowess and personal attractions. Mingo knew that he was a handsome fellow, and fancied a great deal more. He was presumptuous enough--surely there are no white men so!--to imagine that it was scarcely possible for any of the other sex, in their sober senses, to withstand him. This impression grew singularly strong, as he gazed upon the Indian woman. So bright an apparition had not met his eyes for many days. His local associations were all staling--the women he was accustomed to behold, had long since lost the charm of novelty in his sight--and, with all his possessions, Mingo, like Alexander of Macedon, was still yearning for newer conquests. The first glance at the Indian woman, assured his roving fancies that they had not yearned in vain. He saw in her a person whom he thought destined to provoke his jaded tastes anew, and restore his passions to their primitive ascendancy. The expression of his eye softened as he surveyed her. War fled from it like a discomfited lion; and if love, squatting quietly down in his place, did not look altogether so innocent as the lamb, he certainly promised not to roar so terribly. He now looked nothing but complacence on both the strangers; on the woman because of her own charms; on the man because of the charms which he possessed in her. But such was not the expression in the countenance of the Indian. He was not to be moved by the changes which he beheld in his enemy, but still kept upon him a wary watch, as if preparing for the renewal of the combat. There was also a savage side-glance which his keen fiery eyes threw upon the woman, which seemed to denote some little anger towards herself. This did not escape the watchful glance of our gay Lothario, who founded upon it some additional hope of success in his schemes. Meanwhile, the woman was not idle nor silent. She did not content herself with simply going between the combatants, but her tongue was active in expostulation with her sovereign, in a dialect not the less musical to the ears of Mingo because he did not understand a word of it. The tones were sweet, and he felt that they counselled peace and good will to the
warrior. But the latter, so far as he could comprehend the expression of his face, and the mere sounds of his brief, guttural replies, had, like Sempronius, a voice for war only. Something, too, of a particular harshness in his manner, seemed addressed to the woman alone. Her answers were evidently those of deprecation and renewed entreaty; but they did not seem very much to influence her Lord and master, or to soften his mood. Mingo grew tired of a controversy in which he had no share, and fancied, with a natural self-complacency, that he could smooth down some of its difficulties.
"Look yer, my friend," he exclaimed, advancing, with extended hand, while a volume of condescension was written upon his now benignant features--"Look yer, my friend, it's no use to be at knife-draw any longer. I didn't mean to hurt you when I raised the whip, and as for the little touch I gin the dog, why that's neither here nor there. The dog's more easy to squeal than most dogs I know. Ef I had killed him down to the brush at his tail eend, he could'nt ha' holla'd more. What's the sense to fight for dogs? Here--here's my hand--we won't quarrel any longer, and, as for fighting, I somehow never could fight when there was a woman standing by. It's onbecoming, I may say, and so here's for peace between us. Will you shake?"
The proffered hand was not taken. The Indian still kept aloof with the natural caution of his race; but he seemed to relax something of his watchfulness, and betrayed less of that still and deliberate anxiety which necessarily impresses itself upon the most courageous countenance in the moment of expected conflict. Again the voice of the woman spoke in tones of reconciliation, and, this time, words of broken English were audible, in what she said, to the ears of the Driver. Mingo fancied that he had never heard better English--of which language he considered himself no humble proficient--nor more sweetly spoken by any lips. The savage darted an angry scowl at the speaker in return, uttered but a single stern word in the Catawba, and pointed his finger to the wigwam as he spoke. Slowly, the woman turned away and disappeared within its shelter. Mingo began to be impatient of the delay, probably because of her departure, and proceeded, with more earnestness than before, to renew his proposition
for peace. The reply of the Indian, betrayed all the tenacity of his race in remembering threats and injuries.
"Lick dog, lick Indian; lick Indian, get knife--hah!"
"Who's afeard!" said the Driver. "Look yer, my friend: 'taint your knife, let me tell you, that's gwine to make me turn tail on any chicken of your breed. You tried it, and what did you git? Why, look you, if it hadn't been for the gripe of the gal--maybe she's your daughter, mout-be your sister?--but it's all one--ef it hadn't been her gripe which fastened my arm, the butt of my whip would have flattened you, until your best friend couldn't ha' said where to look for your nose. You'd ha' been all face after that, smooth as bottom land, without e'er a snag or a stump; and you'd have passed among old acquaintance for any body sooner than yourself. But I'm no brag dog--nor I don't want to be a biting dog, nother; when there's nothing to fight for. Let's be easy. P'rhaps you don't feel certain whose plantation you're on here. Mout be if you know'd, you'd find out it wa'nt altogether the best sense to draw knife on Mingo Gillison.--Why, look you, my old boy, I'm able to say what I please here--I makes the law for this plantation--all round about, so far as you can see from the top of the tallest of them 'ere pine trees, I'm the master! I look 'pon the pine land field, and I say, 'Tom, Peter, Ned, Dick, Jack, Ben, Toney, Sam-- boys--you must 'tack that field to-morrow,' I look 'pon the swamp field, and I say to 'nother ten, 'boys, go there!'--high land and low land, upland and swamp, corn and cotton, rice and rye, all 'pen 'pon me for order; and jis' as Mingo say, jis' so they do. Well, wha' after dat! It stands clear to the leetlest eye, that 'taint the best sense to draw knife on Mingo Gillison; here, on he own ground. 'Spose my whip can't do the mischief, it's a needcessity only to draw a blast out of this 'ere horn, and there'll be twenty niggers 'pon you at once, and ebery one of dem would go off wid 'he limb. But I ain't a hard man, my fren', ef you treat me softly. You come here to make your clay pots and pans. Your people bin use for make 'em here for sebenty nine--mout-be forty seben year--who knows? Well, you can make 'em here, same as you been usen to make 'em, so long as you 'habe you'self like a gemplemans. But none of your
knife-work, le' me tell you. I'll come ebery day and look 'pon you. 'Mout-be, I'll trade with you for some of your pots. Clay-pot is always best for bile hom'ny."
We have put in one paragraph the sum and substance of a much longer discourse which Mingo addressed to his Indian guest. The condescensions of the negro had a visible effect upon the squatter, the moment that he was made to comprehend the important station which the former enjoyed; and when the Indian woman was fairly out of sight, Richard Knuckles, for such was the English name of the Catawba, gradually restored his knife to his belt, and the hand which had been withheld so long, was finally given in a gripe of amity to the negro, who shook it as heartily as if he had never meditated towards the stranger any but the most hospitable intentions. He was now as affectionate and indulgent, as he had before shown himself hostile; and the Indian, after a brief space, relaxed much of the hauteur which distinguishes the deportment of the Aborigines. But Mingo was pained to observe that Richard never once asked him into his wigwam, and, while he remained, that the squaw never once came out of it. This reserve betokened some latent apprehension of mischief; and the whole thoughts of our enamoured Driver were bent upon ways and means for overcoming this austerity, and removing the doubts of the strangers. He contrived to find out that Caloya--such was the woman's name--was the wife of the man; and he immediately jumped to a conclusion which promised favourably for his schemes. "An ole man wid young wife!" said he, with a complacent chuckle, "Ah, ha! he's afeard!--well, he hab' good 'casion for fear'd, when Mingo Gillison is 'pon de ground."
BUT though warmed with these encouraging fancies, our conceited hero found the difficulties to be much more numerous and formidable than he had anticipated. The woman was as shy as the most modest wife could have shown herself, and no Desdemona could have been more certainly true to her liege lord. Mingo paid no less than three visits that day to the wigwam, and all without seeing her, except at his first coming, when she was busied with, but retired instantly from, her potteries, in which Richard Knuckles took no part, and seemingly no interest. Lazy, like all his race, he lay in the sun, on the edge of the encampment, with an eye but half open, but that half set directly upon the particular movements of his young wife. Indians are generally assumed to be cold and insensible, and some doubts have been expressed, whether their sensibilities could ever have been such as to make them open to the influence of jealousy. These notions are ridiculous enough; and prove nothing half so decidedly as the gross ignorance of those who entertain them. Something, of course, is to be allowed for the natural differences between a civilized and savage people. Civilization is prolific, barbarism sterile. The dweller in the city has more various appetites and more active passions than the dweller in the camp; and the habits of the hunter, lead, above all things, to an intense gathering up of all things in self; a practice which tends, necessarily, to that sort of independence which is, perhaps, neither more nor less than one aspect of barrenness. But, while the citizen is allowed to have more various appetites and intenser passions in general, the Indian is not without those which, indeed, are essential to constitute his humanity. That he can love, is undeniable--that he loves with the ardour of the white, may be more questionable. That he can love, however, with much intensity, may fairly be inferred from the fact that his hate is subtle and is nourished with traditional tenacity and reverence.
But the argument against the sensibility of the savage, in his savage state, even if true, would not apply to the same animal in his degraded condition, as a borderer of the white settlements. Degraded by beastly habits, and deprived by them of the fiercer and warlike qualities of his ancestors, he is a dependent, (and jealousy is a creature of dependence)--a most wretched dependent, and that, too, upon his women--she who, an hundred years ago, was little other than his slave, and frequently his victim. In his own feebleness, he learns to esteem her strength; and, in due degree with his own degradation, is her rise into importance in his sight. But it does not matter materially to our present narrative, whether men should, or should not agree, as to the sensibilities of the savage to the tender passion. It is probable, that few warlike nations are very susceptible of love; and as for the middle ages, which might be urged as an exception to the justice of this remark, Sismondi is good authority to show that Burke had but little reason to deplore their loss:"Helas! cet heroisme universel nous avons nomme la chevalerie, n'exista jamais comme fictions brillantes!" There were no greater brutes than the warriors of the middle ages.
Richard Knuckles, whether he loved his young wife or not, was certainly quite as jealous of her as Othello was of his. Not, perhaps, so much of her affections as of her deference; and this, by the way, was also something of the particular form of jealousy under which the noble Moor suffered. The proud spirit chafes that another object should stand for a moment between his particular sunlight and himself. His jealousy had been awakened long before, and this led to his temporary separation from his tribe. Caloya, it may be added, yielded, without a murmur, to the caprices of her lord, to whom she had been given by her father. She was as dutiful as if she loved him; and, if conduct alone could be suffered to test the quality of virtue, her affection for him was quite as earnest, pure and eager, as that of the most devoted woman. That she could not love him, is a conclusion only to be drawn from the manifest inequalities between them. He was old and brutal--a truly worthless, sottish savage--while she, if not a beauty, was yet comely to the eye, very youthful,
and, in comparison with Indian squaws in general, remarkably tide in person, and good humoured in disposition.
Our hero, Mingo, was not only persuaded that she could not love Knuckles, but he equally soon became convinced that she could be made to love himself. He left no opportunity untried to effect this desirable result; and, after a most fatiguing trial, he succeeded so far in a part of his scheme as to beguile the husband into good humour if not blindness. Returning towards nightfall to the camp, Mingo brought with him a "chunk-bottle" of whiskey, the potency of which, over the understanding of an Indian, he well knew; and displaying his treasure to Knuckles, was invited by him, for the first time, with a grunt of cordiality, to enter the wigwam of the squatters. The whiskey while it lasted convinced Knuckles, that he had no better friend in the world than Mingo Gillison, and he soon became sufficiently blinded by its effects, to suffer the frequent and friendly glances of the Driver towards his wife, without discovering that they were charged with any especial signs of intelligence. Yet never was a more ardent expression of wilful devotion thrown into human eyes before. Mingo was something of an actor, and many an actor might have taken a goodly lesson of his art from the experienced Driver. He was playing Romeo, an original part always, to his own satisfaction. Tenderness, almost to tears, softened the fiery ardour of his glance, and his thick lips grew doubly thick, in the effort to throw into them an expression of devoted languor. But all his labour seemed to go for nothing--nay, for something worse than nothing--in the eyes of the faithful wife. If her husband could not see the arts of the amorous negro, she would not see them; and when, at supper, it sometimes became necessary that her eyes should look where the lover sat, the look which she gave him was stony and inexpressive--cold to the last degree; and, having looked, it would be averted instantly with a haste, which, to a less confident person would have been vastly discouraging and doubtful. As it was, even the self-assured Mingo was compelled to acknowledge, in his mental soliloquy that night as he made his way homeward, that, so far his progress was not a subject of brag, and scarcely of satisfaction. The woman, he felt, had resisted his glances, or,
which was much worse, had failed to see them. But this was owing, so he fancied, entirely to her caution and the natural dread which she had of her fiercely minded sovereign. Mingo retired to his couch that night to plan, and to dream of plans, for overcoming the difficulties in the way of his own, and, as he persisted in believing, the natural desires of Caloya. It may be stated in this place, that, under the new aspects which the squatters had assumed in his eyes, he did not think it necessary to make any very copious statement of his proceedings to his master; but, after the fashion of certain public committees, when in difficulty among themselves, he wisely concluded to report progress and beg permission to sit again.
"DEM 'ere Indians," he said the next morning to his master--"dem 'ere Indians--der's only two ob 'em come yet, sir--I aint altogether sure about 'em--I has'n't any exspecial 'spicion, sir, from what I seed yesterday, that they's very honest in particklar, and then agen, I see no reasons that they aint honest. It mout be, they might steal a hen, sir, if she was reasonable to come at--it mout be, they mout eben go deeper into a hog;--but then agen, it mout'n't be after all, and it wouldn't be right justice to say, tell a body knows for certain. There's no telling yet, sir. An Indian, as I may say, naterally, is honest or he aint honest;--and there's no telling which, sir, 'tell he steals something, or tell he goes off without stealing;--and so all that kin be done, sir, is to find out if he's a thief; and I think, sir, I'm in a good way to git at the rights of the matter before worse comes to worsor. As you say, Mossa, it's my business to see that you ain't worsened by 'em."
Without insisting that Col. Gillison entirely understood the ingenious speech of his driver, we can at least assert, with some confidence, that he was satisfied with it. Of an indolent disposition, the young master was not unwilling to be relieved from the trouble of seeing himself after the intruders; and though he dismissed the amorous Mingo with an assurance, that he would take an early opportunity to look into their camp, the cunning driver, who perhaps guessed very correctly on the subject of his master's temperament, was fully persuaded that his own movements would suffer no interruption from the command or supervision of the other. Accordingly, sallying forth immediately after breakfast, he took his way to the encampment, where he arrived in time to perceive some fragments of a Catawba dejeune which, while it awakened his suspicions, did not in any measure provoke his appetite. There were numerous small well-picked bones, which might have been those of a squirrel, as Richard Knuckles some-what
gratuitously alleged, or which might have been those of one of his master's brood-hens, as Mingo Gillison half suspected. But, though he set forth with a declared resolve not to suffer his master's interests to be "worsened," our driver did not seem to think it essential to this resolution to utter his suspicions, or to search more narrowly into the matter. He seemed to take for granted that Richard Knuckles had spoken nothing but the truth, and he himself showed nothing but civility. He had not made his visit without bringing with him a goodly portion of whiskey in his flask, well knowing that no better medium could be found for procuring the confidence and blinding the jealous eyes of the Indian. But he soon discovered that this was not his true policy, however much he had fancied in the first instance that it might subserve it. He soothed the incivilities of the Catawba, and warmed his indifference by the liquor, but he, at the same time, and from the same cause, made him stationary in the camp. So long as the whiskey lasted, the Indian would cling to the spot, and when it was exhausted he was unable to depart. The prospect was a bad one for the Driver that day in the camp of the squatters, since, though the woman went to her tasks without delay, and clung to them with the perseverance of the most devoted industry, the Hunter was neither able nor willing to set forth upon his. The bow was unbent and unslung, lying across his lap, and he, himself, leaning back against his tree, seemed to have no wish beyond the continued possession of the genial sunshine in which he basked. In vain did Mingo, sitting beside him, cast his wistful eyes towards the woman who worked at a little distance, and whom, while her husband was wakeful, he did not venture to approach. Something, he thought, might be done by signs, but the inflexible wife never once looked up from the clay vessel which her hands were employed to round--an inflexibility which the conceited negro ascribed not so much to her indifference to his claims, as to her fears of her savage husband. We must not forget to say that the tongue of the Driver was seldom silent, however much his thoughts might be confused and his objects baffled. He had a faith in his own eloquence, not unlike that of the greater number of our young and promising statesmen; and did not doubt, though he could not speak
to the woman directly, that much that he did say would still reach her senses, and make the desired impression. With this idea, it may be readily supposed that he said a great many things which were much better calculated to please her, than to meet the assent of her husband.
"Now," for example, continuing a long dissertation on the physiological and psychological differences between his own and the Indian race, in which he strove to prove to the satisfaction of the Catawba, the infinite natural and acquired superiorities of the former,--"Now," said he, stretching his hand forth towards the toiling woman, and establishing his case, as he thought conclusively, by a resort to the argumentum ad hominem--"now, you see, if that 'ere gal was my wife instead of your'n, Knuckles, do you think I'd let her extricate herself here in a br'iling sun, working her fingers off, and I lying down here in the grass a-doing nothing, and only looking on? No! I'd turn in and give her good resistance; 'cause why, Knuckles? 'Cause, you see, it's not, I may say, a 'spectable sight to see the woman doing all the work what's a needcessity, and the man a-doing nothing. The woman warn't made for hard work at all. My women I redulges--I never pushes 'em--I favours them all that I kin, and it goes agin me mightily, I tell you, when it's a needcessity to give 'em the lash. But I scores the men like old Harry. I gives them their desarbings; and if so be the task ain't done, let them look out for thick jackets. 'Twont be a common homespun that'll keep off my cuts. I do not say that I overwork my people. That's not the idee. My tasks is a'most too easy, and there's not a nigger among 'em that can't get through, if he's exposed that way, by tree o'clock in de day. The women has their task, but they're twice as easy, and then I don't open both eyes when I'm looking to see if they've got through 'em. 'Tain't often you hear my women in trivilation; and, I know, it stands to reason what I'm telling you, that a black Gentlemen is always more 'spectable to a woman than an Indian. Dere's your wife now, and dere's you. She ain't leff her business since I bin here, and you haint gone to your'n, nor you ain't gin her a drop of the whiskey. Not to say that a gal so young as that ought to drink whiskey and chaw tobacco--but for the sake of compliment now, 'twas only right that you should ha' ax her
to try a sup. But then for the working. You ain't offered to resist her; you ain't done a stroke since breakfast. Ef you was under me, Knuckles, I'd a laid this green twig over your red jacket in a way that would ha' made a 'possum laugh."
"Eh!" was the only exclamation of the half drunken Indian, at this characteristic conclusion of the negro's speech; but, though Knuckles said nothing that could denote his indignation at the irreverent threat, which, though contingent only, was excessively annoying to the amour propre of the Catawba, there was a gleam of angry intelligence which flashed out for a moment from his eyes and his thin lips parted to a grin that showed his white teeth with an expression not unlike that of a wolf hard pressed by one more daring cur than the rest. Either Mingo did not see this, or he thought too lightly of the prowess of his companion to heed it. He continued in the same strain and with increasing boldness.
"Now I say, Knuckles, all that's onbecoming. A woman's a woman, and a man's a man. A woman has her sort of work, and it's easy. And a man has his sort of work, and that's hard. Now, here you make this poor gal do your work and her own too. That's not fair, it's a despisable principle, and I may say, no man's a gempleman that believes it. Ha'n't I seed, time upon time, Indian men going along, stiff and straight as a pine tree, carrying nothing but a bow and arrow, and mout be, a gun; and, same time, the squaws walking a most double under the load. That's a common ex-servation. Iv'e seed it a hundred times. Is that 'spectful or decent to the fair seck? I say no; and I'll stand by and leave it to any tree gentlemen of any complexion, ef I ain't right."
It was well, perhaps, for the maintenance of peace between the parties, that Knuckles was too drunk and too ignorant to comprehend all that was spoken by the Driver. The leading idea, however, was sufficiently clear for his comprehension, and to this he answered with sufficient brevity and phlegm.
"Indian woman is good for work--Indian man for hunt; woman is good for hab children; man for shoot--man for fight. The Catawba man is very good for fight;" and as the poor, miserable creature spoke, the fire of a former and a better day, seemed to kindle his cheeks and give lustre to his eye. Probably, the memory of that traditional valour which distinguished the people
to which he belonged in a remarkable degree, in comparison with the neighbouring nations, came over his thoughts, and warned him with something like a kindred sentiment with those which had been so long forgotten by his race.
"Oh, go 'long!" said the negro. "How you talk, Knuckles! wha make you better for fight more dan me? Ki, man! Once you stan' afore Mingo, you tumble. Ef I was to take you in my arms and give you one good hug, Lor' ha' massy 'pon you! You'd neber feel yourself after that, and nothing would be lef' of you for you wife to see, but a long greasy mark, most like a little old man, yer, 'pon my breast and thighs. I never seed the Indian yet that I could'nt lick, fair up and down, hitch cross, or big cross, hand over, hand under, arm lock and leg lock, in seventeen and nine minutes, by the sun. You don't know, Knuckles, else you would'nt talk so foolish. Neber Indian kin stan' agen black man, whedder for fight or work. That's the thing I'm talking 'bout. You can't fight fair and you can't work. You aint got strengt' for it. All your fighting is bush fighting and behind tree, and you' woman does the work. Now, wha' make you lie down here, and not go 'pon you' hunting? That's 'cause you're lazy. You come look at my hands, see 'em plough, see 'em hoe, see 'em mak' ditch, cut tree, split rail, buil' house--when you see dem, you'll see wha' I call man. I would'nt give tree snap of a finger for any pusson that's so redolent as an Indian. They're good for nothing but eat."
"Catawba man is good for fight!" sullenly responded the Indian to a speech which the negro soon found to have been imprudently concerted and rashly spoken, in more respects than one. "Nigger man and squaw is good for work!" continued the other disdainfully, his thin lips curling into an expression of scorn which did not escape the eyes of Mingo, obtuse as his vanity necessarily made him. "Catawba man is a free man, he can sleep or he can hunt," pursued the savage, retorting decidedly upon the condition of the slave, but without annoying the sleek, well fed and self-complacent driver. "Nigger man ain't free man--he must work, same like Indian squaw."
"Oh, skion! Oh! skion! wha's all dat, Knuckles? You don't know wha' you say. Who make you free? wha' make you
free? How you show you got freedom, when here you expen' 'pon poor woman for work your pot, and half de time you got not'ing to put in 'em. Now, I is free man! Cause, you see my pot is always full, and when I does my work like a gempleman,--who cares? I laughs at mossa jist the same as I laughs at you. You free eh?--you! Whay you hab coat like mine? Whay, you hab breeches? Why, Knuckles, you aint decent for stan' 'fore you wife. Dat's trut' I'm telling you. How you can be free when you aint decent? How you can be free when you no work? How you can be free when you half-starbing all de time? When you aint got blanket to you' back--when you aint got fat 'pon you rib. When here, you expen' 'pon my land to get the mud-stuff for you' pots and pans! Psho, psho, Knuckles, you don't know wha' you talk 'bout. You aint hab sensible notion of dem tings wha make free pusson. Nebber man is freeman, ef he own arm can't fill he stomach. Nebber man is freeman if he own work can't put clothes 'pon he back. Nebber man is freeman--no, nor gempleman neider, when he make he purty young wife do all de work, him lying same time, wid he leg cross and he eye half shut, in de long grass smelling ob de sunshine. No, no, Knuckles, you must go to you' work, same as I goes to mine, ef you wants people to desider you a freeman. Now you' work is hunting--my work is for obersee my plantation. It's a trut', your work aint obermuch--'taint wha' gempleman kin call work altogedder, but nebber mind, it's someting. Now, wha for you no go to you' work? Come, I gwine to mine. You strike off now 'pon your business. I reckon you' wife can make he pots, same as ef we bin' stan' look 'pon 'em. Woman don't like to be obershee, and when I tink 'pon de seck, I don't see any needcessity for it."
The Indian darted a fierce glance at the authoritative negro, and simply exclaiming, "Eh! Eh!" rose from his position, and tottering towards the spot where the woman was at work, uttered a few brief words in her ear which had the immediate effect of sending her out of sight, and into the hovel. He then returned quietly to his nest beneath the tree. Mingo was somewhat annoyed by the conviction that he had overshot his object, and had provoked the always eager suspicions of the savage. Knuckles
betrayed no sort of intention to go on the hunt that day; and his fierce glances, even if he had no words to declare his feelings, sufficiently betrayed to the negro the jealousies that were awakened in his mind. The latter felt troubled. He fancied that, in the pursuit of his desires, were the woman alone concerned, he should have no difficulty, but he knew not what to do with the man. To scare him off was impossible--to beguile him from his treasure seemed equally difficult, and, in his impatience, the dogmatical driver, accustomed to have his will instantly obeyed, could scarcely restrain himself from a second resort to the whip. A moment's reflection brought a more prudent resolution to his mind, and seeing that the squatters were likely to go without food that day, he determined to try the effect which the presentation of a flitch of his master's bacon would have, upon the jealousy of the husband, and the affections of the wife. With this resolution, he retired from the ground, though without declaring his new and gracious purpose to either of the parties whom it was intended especially to benefit.
THE flitch was brought, boiled, and laid before the squatters. It was accompanied by a wholesome supply of corn bread; and this liberality, which had, for its sanction, in part, the expressed determination of the master, had for its effect, the restoration of Mingo to that favour in the mind of the savage, which his imprudent opinions had forfeited. Even a jealous Indian, when so very hungry as our Catawba, and so utterly wanting in resources of his own, cannot remain insensible to that generosity, however suspicious, which fills his larder with good cheer in the happy moment. He relaxed accordingly, Mingo was invited into the hovel, and made to partake of the viands which he had provided. A moderate supply of whiskey accompanied the gift, enough to give a flavour to the meal, yet not enough to produce intoxication. Mingo was resolved henceforth, to do nothing which would keep himself and Knuckles from an uninterrupted pursuit of their several game. But while the meal lasted, he saw but few results, beyond the thawing of Knuckles, which promised him success in his object. Caloya was, if possible, more freezing than ever. She never deigned him the slightest acknowledgment for his numerous civilities, which were not merely profitless, but which had the additional disadvantage of attracting the eyes, and finally re-awakening the jealous apprehensions of Knuckles; still, the good cheer was so good, and the facility with which it had been procured, so very agreeable to a lazy Indian, that he swallowed his dissatisfaction with his pottage, and the meal passed over without any special outbreak. Mingo, so near the object of his desire, was by no means disposed to disputation with her husband, and contented himself with only an occasional burst of declamation, which was intended rather for her ears than for those of her lord. But he strove to make amends for their forbearance, by addressing the most excruciating glances across the table to the fair
--glances which she did not requite with favour, and which she did not often seem to see.
Mingo was in hopes, when dinner was over, that Knuckles would take up his bow and arrows, and set forth on the hunt. To this he endeavoured, in an indirect manner, to urge the savage. He told him that game was plenty in the neighbouring woods and swamps--that deer might be found at all hours, and even proceeded to relate several marvellous stories of his own success, which failed as well to persuade as to deceive the hunter. The whiskey being exhausted by this time, and his hunger being pacified, the jealous fit of the latter returned upon him with all the vigour of an ague. "Why," he asked himself, "should this negro steal his master's bacon to provide Richard Knuckles with a dinner? Because Richard Knuckles has a young wife, the youngest and handsomest of the whole tribe. Why should he urge me to go hunting, and take such pains to show me where the buck stalks, and the doe sleeps, but that he knows I must leave my doe behind me? Why should he come and sit with me half a dozen times a day, but that he may see and sit with my young wife also?" An Indian reasons very much like every body else, and jumps very rationally to like conclusions. The reserve of Knuckles grew with his reflections, and Mingo had sense enough to perceive that he could hope for no successful operations that day. The woman was sent from the presence, and her husband began to exhibit very decided symptoms of returning sulks. He barely answered the civilities of the driver, and a savage grin displayed his white teeth, closely clenched, whenever his thin lips parted to reply. The parting speech of the negro was not precisely the D. I. O. of the rattle-dandy of fashionable life, but was very much like it. If he did not swear like a trooper at bidding adieu, he marked every step on his way homewards with a most bitter oath.
But success is no ripe fruit to drop at the first opening of the mouth of the solicitous. Mingo was not the person to forego his efforts, and he well knew from old experience, that a woman is never so near won, as when she seems least willing. He was not easily given to despair, however he might droop, and the next day, and the next, and the next, found him still a frequent visitor
at the camp of Knuckles; and still he provided the corn, the bacon, and the whiskey, and still he found the Catawba a patient recipient of his favours. The latter saw no reason to leave home to hunt venison when his larder was so easily provided, and the former could not, but at some discredit, discontinue the liberal practices which he had so improvidently begun.
But if Knuckles was not unwilling to be fed after this fashion, he was not altogether insensible to some of the conditions which it implied. He could not but perceive that the negro had his objects, and those objects his jealous blood had led him long before to conjecture with sufficient exactness. He raged inwardly with the conviction that the gallant, good looking, and always well dressed Driver sought to compass his dishonour; and he was not without the natural fears of age and brutality that, but for his own eminent watchfulness, he might be successful. As there was no equality in the conditions of himself and wife, there was but little confidence between them--certainly none on his part;--and his suspicions--schooled into silence in the presence of Mingo, as well because of the food which he brought, as of the caution which the great physical superiority of the latter was calculated to inspire--broke out with unqualified violence when the two were alone together. The night of the first day when Mingo provided the table of the squatters so bountifully, was distinguished by a concussion of jealousy, on the part of Knuckles, which almost led the poor woman to apprehend for her life. The effects of the good cheer and the whiskey had subsided and the departure of Mingo was the signal for the domestic storm.
"Hah! hah! nigger is come for see Ingin wife. Ingin wife is look 'pon nigger--hah?"
It was thus that he begun the warfare. We have endeavoured to put into the Indian-English, as more suitable to the subject, and more accessible to the reader, that dialogue which was spoken in the most musical Catawba. The reply of the woman, though meekly expressed, was not without its sting.
"Ingin man eats from nigger hand, drinks from nigger bottle, and sits down by nigger side in the sunshine. Is Caloya to say, nigger go to the cornfield--Ingin man go look for meat?"
The husband glared at the speaker with fiery eyes, while his teeth gleamed maliciously upon her, and were suddenly gnashed in violence, as he replied:
"Hah! Ingin man must not look pon his wife! Hah! Ingin woman says--' go hunt, man, go--that no eyes may follow nigger when he crawls through the bush. Hah!' "
"Caloya is blind when the nigger comes to the camp. Caloya looks not where he lies in the sunshine with the husband of Caloya. Is Enefisto (the Indian name for Knuckles) afraid of nigger?--is he afraid of Caloya?--let us go: Caloya would go to her people where they camp by the Edisto."
"Hah! What said Chickawa, to Caloya? Did he say, come to our people where they camp by the Edisto? Wherefore should Caloya go beside the Edisto--Hah?"
This question declared another object of the husband's jealousy. The woman's reply was as wild as it was immediate.
"Caloya see not Chickawa--she sees not the nigger--she sees the clay and she sees the pans--and she sees Enefisto--Enefisto has said, and her eyes are shut to other men."
The woman turned away without another word, and re-entering the miserable wigwam, slunk out of sight in the darkest corner of it. Thither she was pursued by the inveterate old man, and there, for some weary hours, she suffered like language of distrust and abuse without uttering a sentence either of denial or deprecation. She shed no tears, she uttered no complaints, nor did her tormentor hear a single sigh escape from her bosom; yet, without question, her poor heart suffered quite as much from his cruelty and injustice, as if her lips had betrayed all the extravagant manifestations known to the sorrows of the civilized.
IT is at least one retributive quality of jealousy, to torment the mind of the tormentor quite as much, if not more, than it does that of the victim. The anger of Richard Knuckles kept him awake the better part of the night; and, in his wakefulness, he meditated little else than the subject of his present fears. The indirect reproaches of his wife stung him, and suggested, at the same time, certain additional reasons for his suspicions. He reflected that, while he remained a close sentinel at home, it was impossible that he should obtain sufficient evidence to convict the parties whom he suspected, of the crime which he feared; for, by so doing, he must deprive the sooty Paris, who sought his hovel, of every opportunity for the prosecution of his design. With that morbid wilfulness of temper which marks the passions of man aroused beyond the restraints of right reason, he determined that the negro should have his opportunity; and, changing his plans, he set forth the next morning before day-peep, obviously for the purpose of hunting. But he did not remain long absent. He was fortunate enough just after leaving his cabin to shoot a fat wild turkey from his roost, on the edge of a little bay that stood about a mile from his camp; and with this on his shoulder, he returned stealthily to its neighbourhood, and, hiding himself in the covert, took such a position as enabled him to keep a keen watch over his premises and all the movements of Caloya. Until ten o'clock in the day he saw nothing to produce dissatisfaction or to alarm his fears. He saw the patient woman come forth according to custom, and proceed instantly to the "Red Gulley," where she resumed her tasks, which she pursued with quite as much industry, and, seemingly, much more cheerfulness than when she knew that he was watching. Her lips even broke forth into song while she pursued her tasks, though the strain was monotonous and the sentiment grave and melancholy. At ten o'clock, however, Knuckle's ague returned as he saw the negro make
his appearance with wonted punctuality. The Indian laid his heaviest shaft upon the string of his bow, and awaited the progress of events. The movements of Mingo were made with due circumspection. He did not flatter himself, at first, that the field was clear, and looked round him with grave anxiety in momentary expectation of seeing the husband. His salutation of the wife was sufficiently distant and deferential. He began by asking after the chief, and received an answer equally cold and unsatisfactory. He gathered from this answer, however, that Knuckles was absent; but whether at a distance or at hand, or for how long a period, were important items of intelligence, which, as yet, he failed to compass; and it was only by a close cross-examination of the witness that he arrived at the conclusion, that Knuckles had at length resumed the duties of the hunter. Even this conclusion reached him in a negative and imperfect form.
"Shall Ingin woman say to Ingin man, when he shall hunt and where, and how long he shall be gone?" demanded the woman in reply to the eager questioning of the negro.
"Certainly not, most angelical" was the elevated response of the black, as his lips parted into smiles, and his eyes shot forth the glances of warmer admiration than ever. The arrow of Knuckles trembled meanwhile upon the string.
"Certainly not, most angelical!--but Ingin man, ef he lob and respects Indian woman, will tell her all about his consarns without her axing. I'm sure, most lubly Caloya, ef you was wife of mine, you should know all my outgivings and incomings, my journeyings and backslidings, to and fro,--my ways and my wishes;--there shouldn't be nothing that I wouldn't let you know. But there's a mighty difference, you see, twixt an old husband and a young one. Now, an old man like Knuckles, he's mighty close--he don't talk out his mind like a young fellow that's full of infections--a young fellow like me, that knows how to look 'pon a handsome young wife, and treat her with proper respectableness. Do you think now, ef you was wife of mine, that I'd let you do all that work by yourself? No! not for all the pots and jars twixt this and Edisto forks! Ef I did ask you to do the pans, and round 'em, and smooth 'em, and put the red stain 'pon em, why that wouldn't be onreasonable, you see, 'cause sich delical
and slim fingers as woman's has, kin always manage them despects better than man's--but then, I'd dig the clay for you, my gal--I'd work it, ef I hadn't horse, I'd work it with my own legs--I'd pile it up 'pon the board, and cut the wood to make the fire, and help you to burn it; and when all was done, I'd bend my own shoulders to the load, and you should follow me to Charleston, like a Lady, as you is. That's the way, my gal, that I'd treat wife of mine. But Ingin don't know much 'bout woman, and old Ingin don't care;--now, black Gempleman always has strong infections for the seck--he heart is tender--he eye is lub for look 'pon beauty--he hab soul for consider 'em in de right way, and when he sees 'em bright eye, and smood, shiny skin, and white teet', and long arm, and slender wais', and glossy black hair, same like you's, ah, Caloya, he strengt' is melt away widin 'em, and he feels like not'ing only so much honey, lub and infections. He's all over infections, as I may say. Wha' you tink?"
Here the Driver paused, not so much from having nothing more to say, as from a lack of the necessary breath with which to say it. Knuckles heard every word, though it would be an error to assume that he understood one half. Still, the liquorish expression in the face of the negro sufficiently illustrated his meaning, to satisfy the husband that the whole speech was pregnant with the most audacious kind of impertinence. The reflection upon his weight of years, and the exulting reference to his own youth and manhood, which Mingo so adroitly introduced, was, however, sufficiently intelligible and insulting to the Catawba, and he hesitated whether to draw the arrow to its head at once and requite this second Paris for his affront, even in the midst of it, or to await until farther wrong should yield him a more perfect justification for the deed. He reflected upon the danger of the attempt, and his resolution was already taken as to the mode and direction of his flight. But a morbid wish to involve Caloya in the same fate--a lingering desire to find a sanction in her weakness and guilt for all his own frequent injustice and brutality, determined him to await her answer, and see to what extremities the negro would be permitted to carry his presumption. Strange to say, the answer of the wife, which was such as must
have satisfied a husband that loved truly, gave him no gratification.
"Black man is too foolish!" said the woman with equal brevity and scorn in reply to the long speech of the Driver.
"Don't say so, most lubly of all the Catawba gals--you don't mean what you say for sartain. Look you--yer is as nice a pullet as ever was roasted, and yer is some hard biled eggs, and hoecake. I reckon that old fellow, your husband, aint brung in your breckkus yet; so you must be mighty hungry by this time, and there's no better stay-stomach in the worl than hard biled eggs. It's a mighty hard thing to work tell the sun stands atop of your head, afore getting any thing to go 'pon: I guessed how 'twould be, and so I brung you these few eatables."
He set down a small basket as he spoke, but the woman did not seem to perceive it, and manifested no sort of disposition to avail herself of his gift and invitation.
"What! you wont take a bite?"
"Enefisto will thank you when he come," was the answer, coldly spoken, and the woman toiled more assiduously, while she spoke, at her potteries.
"Enefisto!--oh, that's only an Ingin name for Knuckles, I s'pose. But who care for him, Caloya? Sure, you don't care 'bout an old fellow like that--fellow that makes you work and gives you not eben dry hominey? Prehaps, you're feard he'll beat you; but don't you feard--neber he kin lay heaby hand 'pon you, so long as Mingo is yer."
Could Mingo have seen the grin which appeared upon the mouth of the Indian as he heard these words, and have seen the deliberateness with which he thrice lifted the shaft and thrust its point between the leaves so as to bear upon his heart, he might have distrusted his own securities and strength, and have learned to be more respectful in estimating the powers of his foe. But the Indian seemed to content himself with being in a state of preparedness and in having possession of the entire field. He did not shoot; his worse feelings remained unsatisfied--he saw nothing in the deportment of Caloya which could feed the morbid passion which prevailed over all others in his breast, and he probably
forbore wreaking his malice upon the one victim, in hopes that by a little delay he might yet secure another.
"Black man is too foolish. Why he no go to his work? Catawba woman is do her work."
"And I will help you, my gal. It's mighty hard to do all by you self, so here goes. Lor', if I was your husband, Caloya, instead of that old fellow, Knuckles, you should be a lady--I'd neber let you touch a pot or a pan, and you should hab a frock all ob seersuck jist like this."
As the negro spoke, he threw off his hunting shirt, which he cast over a bush behind him, rolled up his shirt sleeves, displaying his brawny and well made arms to the woman--perhaps the chief motive for his present gallant proceeding--and, advancing to the pile of clay in which Caloya was working, thrust his hands into the mass and began to knead with all the energy of a baker, striving with his dough. The woman shrank back from her place, as she received this new accession of labour, and much to the annoyance of Mingo, retired to a little distance, where she seemed to contemplate his movements in equal surprise and dissatisfaction. Meanwhile, a change had taken place in the mood and movements of Knuckles. The sight of the gaudy garment which Mingo had hung upon the myrtle bushes behind him, awakened the cupidity of the Catawba. For a time, a stronger passion than jealousy seized his mind, and he yearned to be the possessor of a shirt which he felt assured would be the envy of the tribe. It hung in his eyes like a fascination--he no longer saw Caloya--he no longer heeded the movements of the negro who had been meditating so great an injury to his honour and peace of mind; and, so long as the bright stripes of the seersucker kept waving before him, he forgot all his own deeply meditated purposes of vengeance. The temptation at last became irresistible. With the stealthy movement of his race, he rose quietly from the spot where he had been lurking, sank back in the depths of the woods behind him, and, utterly unheard, unobserved and unsuspected by either of the two in front, he succeeded in making a compass, still under cover, which brought him in the rear of the myrtles on which the coat was suspended. Meanwhile, Mingo, with his face to the kneading trough, and his back upon the endangered
garment, was in the full stream of a new flood of eloquence, and the favourite Seersucker disappeared in the rapid grasp of the husband, while he was most earnest, though at a respectful distance, in an endeavour to deprive the Indian of a yet dearer possession. In this aim his arguments and entreaties were equally fond and impudent; and with his arms buried to the elbows in the clay, and working the rigid mass as if life itself depended upon it, he was pouring forth a more unctuous harangue than ever, when, suddenly looking up to the spot where Caloya had retreated, his eye rested only upon the woods. The woman had disappeared from sight. He had been "wasting his sweetness on the desert air"--he had been talking to the wind only. Of this, at first, he was not so perfectly assured.
"Hello!" he exclaimed, "Whare you gone, Caloya? Hello--hello! Whoo--whoo--whoop!"
He waited in silence until he became convinced that his responses were those only of the echo.
"Can't be!" he exclaimed, "can't be, he gone and lef' me in de middle of my talking! Caloya, Caloya,--Hello, gal! hello!--whay you day? Whoo! whoop!"
Utter silence followed the renewal of his summons. He stuck his fingers, coated as they were with clay, into his wiry shock of wool--a not unfrequent habit with the negro when in a quandary,--and, could the blushes of one of his colour have been seen, those of Mingo would have been found of a scarlet beyond all comparison as the conviction forced itself upon him, that he was laughed at and deserted.
"Cuss de woman!" he exclaimed, "wha make me lub em so. But he mus'nt tink for git 'way from me wid dis sort of acceedint. 'Speck he can't be too fur; ef he day in dese woods wha' for keep me from fin' 'em. As for he husband, better he no meet me now. Ef he stan' in my way tree minutes, I'll tumble em sure as a stone."
Thus soliloquizing, he darted into the woods, traversing every opening and peeping behind every bush and tree for a goodly hour, but without success. Man and wife had disappeared with a success and secrecy equally inscrutable. Breathless and angry he emerged once more, and stood within the camp. His anger
put on the aspect of fury, and disappointment became desperation. He looked round for the dog, intending to renew the flogging which he had administered on the first day of his acquaintance, and in bestowing which he had been so seasonably interrupted by the owner; but the cur had departed also; and no signs remained of any intention on the part of the squatters to resume their temporary lodging place, but the rude specimens of clay manufacture, some two dozen pots and pans, which stood under a rude shelter of twigs and bushes, immediately adjoining the wigwam. These, with foot and fist, Mingo demolished, trampling, with the ingenious pains-taking of a wilful boy, the yet unhardened vases out of all shape and character into the earth on which they rested. Having thus vented his spleen and displayed a less noble nature than he usually pretended to, the driver proceeded to resume his coat, in mood of mind as little satisfied with what he had done in his anger as with the disappointment that had provoked it. But here a new wonder and vexation awaited him. His fingers again recurred to his head, but no scratching of which they were capable, could now keep him from the conviction that there was "magic in the web of it." He looked and lingered, but he was equally unsuccessful in the search after his hunting shirt, as for his good humour. He retired from the ground in some doubt whether it was altogether safe for him to return to a spot in which proceedings of so mysterious a character had taken place. All the events in connection with his new acquaintance began to assume a startling and marvellous character in his eyes;--the lazy dog;--the old husband of a wife so young and lovely! What could be more strange or unnatural! But her flight--her sudden disappearance, and that too at a time when he was employing those charms of speech which heretofore had never proved ineffectual! Mingo jumped to the conclusion that Knuckles was a Catawba wizard, and he determined to have nothing more to do with him:--a determination which he maintained only until the recollection of Caloya's charms made him resolve, at all hazards, to screen her from so ugly an enchanter.
BUT a little time had passed after Mingo had left the camp when Knuckles returned to it. He approached with stealthy pace, keeping himself under cover until he found that the enemy had departed. During the search which the Driver had made after himself and wife, he had been a quiet observer of all his movements. He fancied that the search was instituted for the recovery of the hunting shirt, and did not dream that his wife had left the ground as well as himself to the single possession of the visitor. When he returned and found her gone, his first impression was that she had departed with the negro. But a brief examination of their several footsteps, soon removed his suspicions and enabled him to pursue the route which the woman had taken on leaving the camp. He found her without difficulty, as she came forward, at his approach, from the copse in which she had concealed herself. He encountered her with the bitterest language of suspicion and denunciation. His jealousy had suffered no decrease in consequence of his failure to find cause for it; but fattening from what it fed on--his own consciousness of unworthiness--the conviction that he did not deserve and could not please one, so far superior and so much younger than himself--vented itself in coarse charges and vindictive threats. With the patience of Griselda, the Catawba woman followed him in silence to the camp, where they soon found cause for new affliction in the discovery which they there made, of the manner in which the disappointed Driver had vented his fury upon their wares. The wrath of Knuckles increased at this discovery, though it did not, as it should have done, lead to any abatement of his jealous feeling towards his wife. Perhaps, on the contrary, it led to the farther proceeding of extremity, which he now meditated, and which he began to unfold to her ears. We forbear the unnecessary preliminaries in the conversation which followed between them, and which were given simply
to a re-assertion, on his part, of old and groundless charges, and on hers of a simple and effortless denial of them. Her final reply, spoken of course in her own language, to the reiterated accusation, was such as to show that even the exemplary patience which she had hitherto manifested was beginning to waver. There was something in it to sting the worthless old sinner, not with a feeling of remorse, but of shame and vexation.
"If Enefisto loves not the black man, wherefore does he take the meat which he brings, and the poison drink from his bottle? If he loves not the black man, wherefore takes he the garment which wrapt his limbs? Caloya loves not the black man, and has eaten none of his meat, has drank none of his poison water, and has stolen none of his garments. Let Enefisto cast the shirt over the myrtles, and now, now, let the woman go back to seek her people that camp on the waters of the Edisto. Caloya looks not where the black man sits; Caloya sees not where he stands, and hears not when he speaks. Caloya hears only a snake's hissing in her ears. Enefisto believes not the woman, and she cares not much to speak;--but let him take up the hatchet and the bow, and she will follow where he leads. Let her go to her people, where there is no black man. She would not stay at the 'Red Gulley,' where the black man comes."
"But she would go to the Edisto where is Chickawa? Hah! Caloya shall stay by the 'Red Gulley,' where is Enefisto--she shall not go to the Edisto where is Chickawa. Enefisto sees; Enefisto knows."
"Ah, and Caloya knows! Caloya knows! Enefisto sees Chickawa and the nigger Mingo every where. But let Enefisto take up his hatchet and go from this place. See," pointing to the broken pottery, "there is nothing to stay for. The nigger will break the pans when she makes them."
"Enefisto will take up the hatchet,--he will drive it into the head of the nigger. He will not go where Caloya may see Chickawa. She shall stay by the 'Red Gulley,' and when Mingo, the nigger comes, she shall smile upon him. She shall go into the wigwam. Then will he go to her in the wigwam--Hah?"
"What would Enefisto?" demanded the squaw in some consternation
at this seeming and very sudden change in the disposition of her spouse.
"Mingo will say to Caloya, 'come, old man is gone hunting, come. Am I not here for Caloya, come. I love Caloya, let Caloya love Mingo, come!' "
"But Caloya hates Mingo, Caloya will spit upon the nigger!" was the indignant exclamation.
"Oh, no, no!" was the almost musical and certainly wild reply of the husband, while a savage smile of scorn and suspicion covered his features. "Caloya knows not what she says--she means not what she says. Nigger is young man--Enefisto is old man. Nigger hab good meat--Enefisto is old hunter, he cannot see where the deer sleep, he cannot follow the deer in a long chase, for his legs grow weary. Caloya loves young man who can bring her 'nough venison and fine clothes, hah? Let Caloya go into the wigwam, and nigger will say 'come,' and Caloya will come."
"Never!" was the indignant answer. "Caloya will never come to the nigger--Caloya will never come to Chickawa. Let Enefisto strike the hatchet into the head of Caloya, for his words make her very wretched. It is better she should die."
"Caloya shall live to do the will of Enefisto. She shall go where Mingo comes into the wigwam, and when he shall follow her, she shall stay and look upon him face to face. Mingo is young,--Caloya loves to look upon young man. When he shall put his hand upon the shoulder of Caloya then shall Caloya put her hand upon his. So shall it be--thus says Enefisto."
"Wherefore shall it be so?"
"Thus says Enefisto. Will Caloya say no?"
"Let Enefisto kill Caloya ere her hand rests upon the shoulder of Mingo. The hatchet of Enefisto--"
"Shall sink into the head of the nigger, when his hand is upon the shoulder of Caloya."
"It is done. Does Caloya hear?"
"Will she go into the wigwam when Mingo comes?"
"She will go."
"And when he follows her,--when he puts his hand upon her shoulder, and looks, Ha! ha! ha!--looks thus, thus, into her eyes"--his own assumed an expression, or he strove at that moment to make them assume an expression of the most wilful love,--an attempt in which he signally failed, for hate, scorn and jealousy predominating still, gave him a most ghastly aspect, from which the woman shrunk with horror--"when he looks thus into her eyes, then will Caloya put her hand upon the shoulder of Mingo and hold him fast till the hatchet of Enefisto goes deep into his head. Will Caloya do this,--Ha? Will Caloya look on him thus, and grasp him thus, until Enefisto shall strike him thus, thus, till there shall be no more life in his forehead?"
A moment's pause ensued, ere the woman spoke.
"Let Enefisto give the hatchet to Caloya. Caloya will herself strike him in the head if he goes after her into the wigwam."
"No! Caloya shall not. Enefisto will strike. Caloya shall grasp him on the shoulder. Enefisto will see by this if Caloya loves not that the black man should seek her always in the wigwam of the chief. Is Caloya ready--will she do this thing?"
"Caloya is ready--she will do it."
"Ha! ha!--black man is foolish to come to the camp of Enefisto, and look on the woman of Enefisto. He shall die."
MINGO GILLISON almost stumbled over his young master that morning, as he was returning home from his visit so full of strange and unwonted incidents. The latter was about to visit the camp of the squatters in compliance with his promise to that effect, when diverted from his intention by the intelligence which the negro gave him, that the Indians were gone from home. Somehow, it seemed to Mingo Gillison, that it was no part of his present policy that his master should see the intruders. A consciousness of guilt--a conviction that he had not been the faithful custodian of the interests given to his charge, and that, in some respects, they had suffered detriment at his hands, made him jealously apprehensive that the mere visit of his owner to the Red Gulley, would bring his defection to light.
"But where's your coat, Mingo?" was the natural question of Colonel Gillison, the moment after meeting him. Mingo was as ready as any other lover at a lie, and taking for granted that Jove would laugh at this, quite as generously as at a more dangerous perjury, he told a long cock-and-a-bull story about his having had it torn to such a degree in hunting cattle the evening before, as to put it beyond the power of recovery by the seamstress.
"A handsome coat, too, Mingo: I must give you another."
Mingo was gratified and expressed his acknowledgments quite as warmly as it was in his power to do under the feeling of shame and undesert which at that moment oppressed him. His master did not fail to see that something had occurred to lessen the assurance of his driver, and diminish the emphasis and abridge the eloquence of his usual speech, but being of an inert disposition of mind, he was not curious enough to seek the solution of a circumstance which, though strange, was unimportant. They separated after a few inquiries on the part of the latter, touching various plantation topics, to all of which the answers of Mingo
were uttered with a sufficient degree of readiness and boldness to make them satisfactory. The master returned to the residence, while Mingo went off to the negro quarter to meditate how to circumvent Richard Knuckles, and win the smiles of his handsome but haughty wife.
It was probably two hours after the supper things had been removed, that the youthful proprietor of the estate of which Mingo held the highly important office in the duties of which we have seen him busy, was startled by the easy opening of the door of the apartment in which he sat, groping through the newspapers of the day, and, immediately after, by the soft tread of a female footstep, heedfully set down upon the floor. He turned at the unusual interruption, for it may as well be stated passingly, that young Gillison had set out in life with notions of such inveterate bachelorship that his domestic establishment was not suffered to be invaded by any of the opposite sex in any capacity. It is not improbable, that, later in life, his rigour in this respect, may have undergone some little relaxation, but as we are concerned with present events only, it will be no object with us either to speculate upon or to inquire into the future. Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof. Enough for us that his present regulations were such as we have here declared them, and had been laid down with so much emphasis in his household, on coming to his estate, that he turned upon the servant,--for such he assumed the intruder to be--with the determination to pour forth no stinted measure of anger upon the rash person who had shown herself so heedless of his commands.
The reader will be pleased to express no surprise, when we tell him that the nocturnal visitant of our young bachelor was no other than the Indian woman, Caloya. She had threaded her way, after nightfall, through all the mazes of the plantation, and, undiscovered and unnoticed, even by the watch dog who lay beneath the porch, had penetrated into the mansion and into the presence of its master. She had probably never been in the same neighbourhood before, but with that sagacity,--we might almost deem it an instinct--which distinguishes the North American Indian, probably, beyond all other people,--she had contrived to elude every habitation which lay between the "Red Gulley" and the dwelling-house--to
avoid contact with the negro houses of fifty slaves, and keep herself concealed from all observation, until that moment when she pleased to discover herself. The surprise of Gillison was natural enough. He rose, however, as soon as he was conscious that the intruder was a stranger, and perceiving her to be an Indian, he readily concluded that she must be one of the squatters at the "Red Gulley," of whom the eloquent Mingo had given him such emphatic warning. With that due regard for the sex which always distinguishes the true gentleman, even when the particular object which calls for it may be debased and inferior, Gillison motioned her to a chair, and, with a countenance expressing no other feelings than those of kindness and consideration, inquired into her wants and wishes. His language, to one of a tribe whom it is customary to regard as thieves and beggars, would have proved him to be something less hostile to the sex, than his household regulations would altogether seem to indicate.
Caloya advanced with firmness, and even dignity, into the apartment. Her deportment was equally respectful and unconstrained. Her face was full of sadness, however, and when she spoke, it might have been observed that her tones were rather more tremulous than usual. She declined the proffered seat, and proceeded to her business with the straightforward simplicity of one having a single purpose. She began by unfolding a small bundle which she carried beneath her arm, and in which, when unrolled and laid upon the table, Col. Gillison fancied he discovered a strong family likeness to that hunting shirt of his driver, of the fate of which he had received such melancholy intelligence a few hours before. But for the particularity of Mingo, in describing the rents and rips, the slits and slashes of his favourite garment, the youthful proprietor would have rashly jumped to the conclusion that this had been the same. His large confidence in the veracity of Mingo, left him rather unprepared for the narrative which followed. In this narrative, Caloya did not exhibit the greatest degree of tenderness towards the amorous driver. She freely and fully declared all the particulars of his forced intimacy with herself and husband from the beginning; and though, with instinctive feminine delicacy, she suppressed every decided overture which the impudent Mingo had made to herself par amours, still
there was enough shown, to enable his master to see the daring game which his driver, had been playing. Nor, in this narrative, did the woman omit to inform him of the hams and eggs, the chickens and the corn, which had been brought by the devoted negro in tribute to her charms. Up to this point, the story had assumed none but a ludicrous aspect in the sight of the young planter. The petty appropriations of his property of which Mingo had been guilty, did not awaken any very great degree of indignation, and, with the levity of youth, he did not seem to regard in the serious light which it merited, the wanton pursuit and lascivious purposes of the driver. But as the woman quietly proceeded in her narrative, and described the violence which had destroyed her pottery, the countenance of the master darkened. This act seemed one of such determined malignity, that he inly determined to punish it severely. The next statement of Caloya led him to do more justice to virtue, and make a darker estimate yet of the doings of his driver. She did not tell him that her husband was jealous, but she unfolded the solemn requisition which he had last made of her to secure the arms of Mingo in her embrace, while he revenged himself for the insults to which he had been subjected with the sharp edge of the hatchet. The young planter started as he heard the statement. His eye was fixed intently and inquiringly upon the calm, resolute, and seemingly frozen features of the speaker. She ceased to speak, and the pause of a few seconds followed ere Gillison replied:
"But you and your husband surely mean not to murder the fellow, my good woman? He has done wrong and I will have him punished; but you must not think to use knife and hatchet upon him."
"When Enefisto says 'strike' to Caloya--Caloya will strike! Caloya is the woman of Enefisto. Let not Mingo come into the wigwam of the Indian."
Gillison could not doubt her resolution as he heard the deliberate and subdued accents of her voice, and surveyed the composed features of her countenance. The determination to do the bidding of her husband was there expressed in language the least equivocal. His own countenance was troubled; he had not resolved what course to pursue, and the woman, having fulfilled
her mission, was about to depart. She had brought back the stolen coat, though, with the proper tenderness of a wife, she omitted to say that it had been stolen. According to her story Mingo had left it behind him on the myrtles. Her second object had been to save the driver from his fate, and no more effectual mode suggested itself to her mind than by revealing the whole truth to the master. This had been done and she had no further cause to stay. The young planter, after he had instituted a series of inquiries from which he ascertained what were the usual periods when Mingo visited the encampment, how he made his approaches, and in what manner the hovel was built, and where it lay, did not seek to delay her longer. His own knowledge of the "Red Gulley"--a knowledge obtained in boyhood--enabled him to form a very correct notion of all the circumstances of the place; and to determine upon the particulars of a plan which had risen in his mind, by which to save his driver from the danger which threatened him. This done, he begged her to await for a few moments his return, while he ascended to an upper chamber, from whence he brought and offered her a piece of bright calico, such as he well knew would be apt to provoke the admiration of an Indian woman; but she declined it, shaking her head mournfully as she did so, and moving off hurriedly as if to lose the temptation from her sight as quickly as possible. Gillison fancied there was quite as much of despondency as pride in her manner of refusing the gift. It seemed to say that she had no heart for such attractions now. Such indeed was the true exposition of her feelings. What pride could she have in gorgeous apparel, allied to one so brutal, so cruel, so worthless as her husband; and why should she care for such display, when, by his jealous policy, she was withdrawn from all connection with her people, in whose eyes alone she might desire to appear attractive. But the young planter was not to be refused. He would have forced the gift upon her, and when she suffered it to drop at her feet, he expressed himself in words of remonstrance, the tones of which were, perhaps, of more influence than the sense.
"Why not take the stuff, my good woman? You have well deserved it, and much more at my hands. If you do not take it, I will think you believe me to be as bad as Mingo."
She looked at him with some earnestness for a few seconds, then stooping, picked up the bundle, and immediately placed it beneath her arm.
"No, no!" she said, "white man is good. Black man is bad. Does the master remember? Let not Mingo come into the wigwam of Enefisto."
Colonel Gillison promised that he would endeavour to prevent any further mischief, and, with a sad smile of gratitude upon her countenance, the woman retired from his presence as stealthily as she came. He had enjoined her, if possible, to avoid being seen on leaving the settlement, and it was not hard for one of Catawba birth to obey so easy an injunction. She succeeded in gaining the "Red Gulley" undiscovered, but there, to her consternation, who should she encounter, at the very first glance, but the impudent and formidable Mingo, sitting, cheek-by-jowl, with her jealous husband, each, seemingly, in a perfect mood of equal and christian amity. It was a sight to gratify the credulous, but Caloya was not one of these.
MEANWHILE, the youthful master of the veteran Mingo, meditated in the silence of his hall, the mode by which to save that amorous personage from the threatened consequences of his impertinence. Not that he felt any desire to screen the fellow from chastisement. Had he been told that husband and wife had simply resolved to scourge him with many stripes, he would have struck hands and cried "cheer" as loudly as any more indifferent spectator. But the vengeance of the Catawba Othello, promised to be of a character far too extreme, and, the inferior moral sense and sensibility of both Indian and negro considered, too greatly disproportioned to the offence. It was therefore necessary that what he proposed to do should be done quickly; and, taking his hat, Colonel Gillison sallied forth to the negro quarter, in the centre of which stood the superior habitation of the Driver. His object was simply to declare to the unfaithful servant that his evil designs and deeds were discovered, as well by himself as by the Catawba--to promise him the due consequences of his falsehood to himself, and to warn him of what he had to fear, in the event of his again obtruding upon the privacy of the squatters. To those who insist that the working classes in the South should enjoy the good things of this world in as bountiful a measure as the wealthy proprietors of the soil, it would be very shocking to see that they lived poorly, in dwellings which, though rather better than those of the Russian boor, are yet very mean in comparison with those built by Stephen Girard, John Jacob Astor, and persons of that calibre. Nay, it would be monstrous painful to perceive that the poor negroes are constantly subjected to the danger of ophthalmic and other diseases, from the continued smokes in which they live, the fruit of those liberal fires which they keep up at all seasons, and which the more fortunate condition of the poor in the free States, does not often compel them to endure at any. It would not greatly lessen the evil of this cruel destiny, to know that each
had his house to himself, exclusively; that he had his little garden plat around it, and that his cabbages, turnips, corn and potatoes, not to speak of his celery, his salad, &c., are, in half the number of cases, quite as fine as those which appear on his master's table. Then, his poultry-yard, and pig-pen--are they not there also?--but then, it must be confessed that his stock is not quite so large as his owner's, and there, of course, the parallel must fail. He has one immunity, however, which is denied to the owner. The hawk, (to whose unhappy door most disasters of the poultry yard are referred,) seldom troubles his chickens--his hens lay more numerously than his master's, and the dogs always prefer to suck the eggs of a white rather than those of a black proprietor. These, it is confessed, are very curious facts, inscrutable, of course, to the uninitiated; and, in which the irreverent and sceptical alone refuse to perceive any legitimate cause of wonder. You may see in his hovel and about it, many little additaments which, among the poor of the South, are vulgarly considered comforts; with the poor of other countries, however, as they are seldom known to possess them, they are no doubt regarded as burthens, which it might be annoying to take care of and oppressive to endure. A negro slave not only has his own dwelling, but he keeps a plentiful fire within it for which he pays no taxes. That he lives upon the fat of the land you may readily believe, since he is proverbially much fatter himself than the people of any other class. He has his own grounds for cultivation, and, having a taste for field sports, he keeps his own dog for the chase--an animal always of very peculiar characteristics, some of which we shall endeavour one day to analyse and develope. He is as hardy and cheerful as he is fat, and, but for one thing, it might be concluded safely that his condition was very far before that of the North American Indian--his race is more prolific, and, by increasing rather than diminishing, multiply necessarily, and unhappily the great sinfulness of mankind. This, it is true, is sometimes urged as a proof of improving civilization, but then, every justly-minded person must agree with Miss Martineau, that it is dreadfully immoral. We suspect we have been digressing.
Col. Gillison soon reached the negro quarter, and tapping at the
door of the Driver's wigwam, was admitted, after a brief parley, by the legitimate spouse of that gallant. Mingo had been married to Diana, by the Reverend Jonathan Buckthorn, a preacher of the Methodist persuasion, who rode a large circuit, and had travelled, with praiseworthy charity, all the way from Savannah River, in all weathers, and on a hard going nag, simply to unite this worthy couple in the holy bonds of wedlock. At that time, both the parties were devout members of the Church, but they suffered from frequent lapses; and Mingo, having been engaged in sundry liaisons--which, however creditable to, and frequent among the French, Italian and English nobility, are highly censurable in a slave population, and a decisive proof of the demoralizing tendency of such an institution--was, at the formal complaint of the wife, "suspended" from the enjoyment of the Communion Table, and finally, on a continuance of this foreign and fashionable practice, fully expelled from all the privileges of the brotherhood. Diana had been something of a termagant, but Mingo had succeeded in outstorming her. For the first six months after marriage, the issue was considered very doubtful; but a decisive battle took place at the close of that period, in which the vigorous woman was compelled to give in and Mingo remained undisputed master of the field. But though overthrown and conquered, she was not quiescent; and her dissatisfaction at the result, showed itself in repeated struggles, which, however, were too convulsive and transient, to render necessary any very decided exercise of the husband's energies. She growled and grumbled still, without cessation, and though she did not dare to resent his frequent infidelities, she nevertheless pursued them with an avidity, and followed the movements of her treacherous lord with a jealous watchfulness, which proved that she did not the less keenly feel them. Absolute fear alone made her restrain the fury which was yet boiling and burning in her soul. When her master declared his desire to see Mingo, what was her answer? Not, certainly, that of a very dutiful or well satisfied spouse.
"Mingo, mossa? Whay him dey? Ha! mossa, you bes' ax ebbry woman on de plantation 'fore you come to he own wife. I bin marry to Mingo by Parson Buckthorn, and de Parson bin make
Mingo promis' for lub and 'bey me, but he forget all he promise tree day after we bin man and wife. He nebber bin lub 't all; and as for 'bey,--lor' ha' massy 'pon me, mossa, I speak noting but de trute when I tell you,--he 'bey ebbry woman from yer to town 'fore he 'bey he own dear wife. Der's not a woman, mossa, 'pon de tree plantation, he aint lub more dan Di. Sometime he gone to Misser Jacks place--he hab wife dere! Sometime he gone to Misser Gabeau--he hab wife dere! Nex' time, he gone to Squir' Collins,--he hab wife dere! Whay he no hab wife, mossa? Who can tell? He hab wife ebbry which whay, and now, he no sacrify, he gone--you aint gwine to bleeb me, mossa, I know you aint--he gone and look for wife at Indian camp, whay down by de 'Red Gulley.' De trute is, mossa, Mingo is a mos' powerful black rascal of a nigger as ebber lib on gentleman plantation."
It was fortunate for young Gillison that he knew something of the nature of a termagant wife, and could make allowances for the injustice of a jealous one. He would otherwise have been persuaded by what he heard that his driver was one of the most uncomely of all the crow family. Though yielding no very credulous faith to the complaints of Diana, he still found it impossible to refuse to hear them; and all that he could do by dint of perseverance, was to diminish the long narratives upon which she was prepared to enter to prove her liege lord to be no better than he should be. Having exhausted all his efforts and his patience in the attempt to arrive at some certain intelligence of the husband's "whereabouts," without being able to divert the stream of her volubility from the accustomed channels, he concluded by exclaiming--
"Well, d--n the fellow, let him take the consequences. He stands a chance of having his throat cut before twenty-four hours are over, and you will then be at liberty, Di., to get a husband who will be more faithful. Should Mingo not see me by ten o'clock to-morrow, he's a dead man. So, you had better stir your stumps, my good woman, and see after him, unless you are willing to be a widow before you have found out a better man for your husband. Find Mingo and send him to me to-night, or he's a dead man to-morrow."
"Le' 'em dead--who care? He d'zarb for dead. I sure he no care if Di bin dead twenty tousand time. Le' 'em dead!"
Gillison left the hut and proceeded to other parts of the settlement where he thought it not improbable that the driver might be found; but a general ignorance was professed by all the negroes with respect to the particular movements of that worthy; and he soon discovered that his search was fruitless. He gave it up in despair, trusting that he should be able to succeed better at an hour seasonably early in the morning, yet half disposed, from his full conviction of his roguery, to leave the fellow to his fate.
Strange to say, such was not the determination of the dissatisfied Diana. Wronged and neglected as she had been, and was, there was still a portion of the old liking left, which had first persuaded her to yield her youthful affections to the keeping of this reckless wooer; and though she had avowed her willingness to her young master, that the "powerful black rascal of a nigger" should go to the dogs, and be dog's meat in twenty-four hours, still, better feelings came back to her, after due reflection, to soften her resolves. Though not often blessed with his kind words and pleasant looks, now-a-days, still, "she could not but remember such things were, and were most precious to her."
Left to herself, she first began to repeat the numberless conjugal offences of which he had been guilty; but the memory of these offences did not return alone. She remembered that these offences brought with them an equal number of efforts at atonement on the part of the offender; and when she thought of his vigorous frame, manly, dashing and graceful carriage, his gorgeous coat, his jauntily worn cap, his white teeth, and the insinuating smile of his voluminous lips, she could not endure the idea of such a man being devoted to a fate so short and sudden as that which her young master had predicted. She had not been told, it is true, from what quarter this terrible fate was to approach. She knew not under what aspect it would come, but the sincerity of her master was evident in his looks, words, and general air of anxiety, and she was convinced that there was truth in his assurance. Perhaps, her own attachment for the faithless husband--disguised as it was by her continual grumbling and discontent--was sufficiently strong to bring about this conviction easily. Diana determined to save her husband, worthless and wicked as he was,--and possibly,
some vague fancy may have filled her mind as she came to this resolution, that, gratitude alone, for so great a service, might effect a return of the false one to that allegiance which love had hitherto failed to secure. She left her dwelling to seek him within half an hour after the departure of her master. But the worst difficulty in her way was the first. She trembled with the passion of returning jealousy when she reflected that the most likely place to find him would be at the "Red Gulley" in instant communion with a hateful rival--a red Indian--a dingy squaw,--whose colour, neither white nor black, was of that sort, which, according to Diana in her jealous mood, neither gods nor men ought to endure. Her husband's admiration she naturally ascribed to Catawba witchcraft. She doubted--she hesitated--she almost re-resolved against the endeavour. Fortunately, however, her better feelings prevailed. She resolved to go forward--to save her husband--but, raising her extended hands and parted fingers, as she came to this determination, and gnashing her teeth with vindictive resolution as she spoke, she declared her equal resolve to compensate herself for so great a charity, by sinking her ten claws into the cheeks of any copper coloured damsel whom she should discover at the Red Gulley in suspicious propinquity with that gay deceiver whom she called her lord. Having thus, with due solemnity, registered her oath in Heaven--and she was not one under such circumstances to "lay perjury upon her soul"--she hurried away under the equal impulse of a desire to save Mingo, and to "capper-claw" Caloya. It was not long after, that young Gillison, who was more troubled about the fate of his driver than he was willing to acknowledge even to himself, came to a determination also to visit the "Red Gulley." A little quiet reflection, after he had reached home, led him to fear that he might not be in season to prevent mischief if he waited till the morning for Mingo's appearance; and a sudden conjecture that, at that very moment, the audacious negro might be urging his objects in the wigwam of the squatters, made him fearful that even his instant interference would prove too late. As soon as this conjecture filled his mind, he seized his cap, and grasping his rifle, and calling his favourite dog, set forth with all possible speed towards the spot, destined to be memorable forever after, in all local chronicles, in consequence of these events.
THE horror and vexation of Caloya may be imagined, when, on returning from her visit to the master of the impudent Mingo, she discovered him, cheek-by-jowl, with her husband. The poor woman was miserable in the extreme from various causes. Resolved steadfastly and without scruple to do the will of her jealous spouse, she yet shrank from the idea of perpetrating the bloody deed which the latter contemplated, and which was so suitable to the fierce character of Indian vindictiveness. She was, in fact, a gentle, though a firm, simple, and unaffected woman, and had not this been the prevailing nature of her heart, the kindness with which Gillison had received, and the liberality with which he had treated her, would have been sufficient to make her reluctant to do any thing which might be injurious to his interests.
But, taught in the severe school of the barbarian those lessons which insist always upon the entire subordination of the woman, she had no idea of avoiding, still less of rebelling against, the authority which prescribed her laws. "To hear was to obey," and with a deep sigh she advanced to the wigwam, with a firm resolution to do as she had been commanded, though, with a prayer in her mind, not the less fervent because it remained unspoken by her lips, that the fearful necessity might pass away, and her husband be prevented, and she be spared, the commission of the threatened deed.
It was deemed fortunate by Caloya, that, observing the habitual caution of the Indian, she had kept within the cover of the woods until the moment when she came within sight of the wigwam. This caution enabled her still to keep from discovery, and "fetching a compass" in the covert so as to pass into the rear of the hut, she succeeded by pulling away some fragments of the bark which covered it, in entering its narrow precincts without having been perceived. With a stealthy footstep and a noiseless motion, she deposited her bundle of calicoes in a corner of the hut, and sinking
down beside it, strove to still even those heavings of her anxious bosom, which she fancied, in her fears, might become audible to the persons without.
To account for the return of Mingo Gillison to the spot where he had been guilty of so much impertinence, and had done so much mischief, is not a difficult matter. It will here be seen that he was a fellow whom too much authority had helped to madden--that he was afflicted with the disease of intense self-consequence, and that his passions, accordingly, were not always to be restrained by prudence or right reason. These qualities necessarily led to frequent errors of policy and constant repentings. He had not many moral misgivings, however, and his regrets were solely yielded to the evil results, in a merely human and temporary point of view, which followed his excesses of passion and frequent outbreaks of temper. He had not well gone from the "Red Gulley" after annihilating the pottery thereof, without feeling what a fool he had been. He readily conceived that his rashness would operate greatly, not only against his success with the woman, but against his future familiarity with the man. It was necessary that he should heal the breach with the latter if he hoped to win any favours from the former; and, with this conviction, the rest of the day was devoted to a calm consideration of the modus operandi by which he might best succeed in this desire. A rough investigation of the moral nature of an Indian chief, led Mingo to the conclusion that the best defence of his conduct, and the happiest atonement which he could offer, would be one which was addressed to his appetites rather than to his understanding. Accordingly, towards nightfall, having secured an adequate supply of whiskey--that bane equally of negro and Indian--he prepared with some confidence, to re-appear before the parties whom he had so grievously offended. He had his doubts, it is true, of the sort of reception which he should meet;--he was not altogether sure of the magical effect of the whiskey, in promoting christian charity, and leading the savage to forgiveness; but none of the apprehensions of Mingo were of personal danger. He would have laughed to scorn a suggestion of harm at the hands of so infirm and insignificant a person as Richard Knuckles; and looking upon his own stout limbs and manly frame, he would have found
in the survey, a sufficient assurance that Mingo Gillison was equally irresistible to man and wife. It was with a boldness of carriage, therefore, that corresponded adequately with the degree of confidence which he felt in his equal powers of persuasion, and the whiskey, rather than his personal prowess, that he appeared that night before the hovel of the squatters. He found Knuckles alone, and seated a little in advance of his habitation. The Indian was sober from the necessity of the case. The policy of the negro had not lately allowed him liquor, and he had not himself any means for procuring it. He watched the approach of the enemy without arising from the turf, and without betraying in his look any of that hostility which was active in his bosom. His face, indeed, seemed even less grave than usual, and a slight smile upon his lips, in which it would have tasked a far more suspicious eye than that of Mingo to have discovered anything sinister, betrayed, seemingly, a greater portion of good humour than usually softened his rigid and coarse features. Mingo approached with a conciliating grin upon his visage, and with hands extended in amity. As the Indian did not rise to receive him, he squatted down upon his haunches on the turf opposite, and setting down the little jug which he brought between them, clapped the Indian on his shoulders with a hearty salutation, which was meant to convey to the other a pleasant assurance of his own singular condescension.
"Knuckles, my boy, how you does? You's bex with me, I reckons, but there's no needcessity for that. Say I did kick over the pots and mash the pans?--well! I can pay for 'em, can't I? When a man has got the coppers he's a right to kick; there's no use to stand in composition with a fellow that's got the coppers. He kin throw down and he kin pick up--he kin buy and he kin sell; he kin break and he kin men'; he kin gib and he kin tak'; he kin kill and he kin eat--dere's no'ting he can't do ef he hab money--he's mossa to all dem d--d despisable rackrobates, what's got no coppers. I once bin' ye'r a sarmint from Parson Buck, thorn, and he tink on dis object jis' as you ye'r me tell you. He tex' is take from de forty-seben chapter--I 'speek it's de forty-seben--which say, 'what he gwine to profit a gempleman what's mak' de best crop in de world, if he loss he soul,'--which is de
same t'ing, Knuckles, you know, as ef I was to ax you, wha's de difference ef Mingo Gillison kick over you' pans and pots, and bre'k 'em all to smash, and ef he pick 'em, like he pick up eggs, widout bre'k any, so long as he pay you wha' you ax for 'em. You sell 'em, you git you money, wha' matter wha' I do wid 'em arter dat? I bre'k 'em or I men' 'em, jis' de same t'ing to you. 'Spose I eat 'em, wha's de difference? He stick in Mingo stomach, he no stick in your'n; and all de time de coppers is making purty jingle in you' pocket. Well, my boy, I come to do de t'ing now. I bre'k you' pots, I 'tan ye'r to pay you for 'em. But you mus' be t'irsty, my old fellow, wid so much talking--tak' a drink 'fore we exceed to business."
The Catawba needed no second invitation. The flavour of the potent beverage while the negro had been so unprofitably declaiming, ascended to his nostrils with irresistible influence, in spite of the stopper of corn cob which imperfectly secured it, and which, among the negroes of the Southern plantations, makes a more common than seemly apology for a velvet cork. The aroma of the beverage soon reconciled Knuckles to the voice of his enemy, and rendered those arguments irresistible, which no explanations of Mingo could ever have rendered clear. As he drank, he became more and more reconciled to the philosophy of his comrade, and, strengthened by his draughts, his own became equally explicit and emphatic.
"Ha! Ha! Biskey good too much!" was the long drawn and fervent exclamation which followed the withdrawal of the reluctant vessel from his lips.
"You may say dat wid you' own ugly mout', Dick, and tell no lie nother," was the cool response. "Any biskey is good 'nough, but dat's what I calls powerful fine. Dat' fourt' proof, gennywine, and 'trong like Sampson, de Philistian. Der's no better in all Jim Hollon's 'stablishment. We gin a mighty great price for it, so it ought to be good, ef ther's any justice done. But don't stan', Knuckles--ef you likes it, sup at it again. It's not like some women's I know--it gives you smack for smack, and holds on as long as you let it."
"Huh!--woman's is fool!" responded the savage with an air of resentment which his protracted draught of the potent beverage
did not altogether dissipate. The reference to the sex reminded him of his wife, and when he looked upon the speaker he was also reminded of his presumptuous passions, and of the forward steps which he had taken for their gratification. But his anger did not move him to any imprudence so long as the power of reflection was left him. It was only as his familiarity with the bottle advanced that his jealous rage began to get the better of his reason and lead him into ebullitions, which, to a more acute or less conceited person than Mingo, would have certainly betrayed the proximity of that precipice in the near neighbourhood of which he stood. The savage grew gradually eloquent on the subject of woman's worthlessness, weakness, folly, &c.; and as the vocabulary of broken and imperfect English which he possessed was any thing but copious, his resort to the Catawba was natural and ready to give due expression to his resentment and suspicions.
"Huh! woman is fool--Ingin man spit 'pon woman--ehketee --boozamogettee!--d--n,--d--n,--damn! tree d--n for woman!--he make for cuss. Caloya Ganchacha!--he dog,--he wuss dan dog--romonda!--tree time dog! anaporee, toos-wa-ne-dah! Ingin man say to woman, go! fill you mout' wid grass,-- woman is dog for cuss!"
The English portion of this blackguardism is amply sufficient to show the spirit of the speaker, without making necessary any translation of that part of the speech, which, in his own dialect, conceals matter far more atrocious. Enough was understood by Mingo, as well from the action and look of the Catawba, as from the vulgar English oath which he employed in connection with his wife's sex and name, to convince the negro that Caloya was an object rather of hate than of suspicion to her worthless husband. As this notion filled his sagacious cranium, new hopes and fancies followed it, and it was with some difficulty that he could suppress the eager and precipitate utterance of a scheme, which grew out of this very grateful conjecture.
"You no lub woman, Knuckles,--eh?"
"Huh! woman is dog. Ingin man say to dog--go! and he go!--say to dog, come, and he come! Dog hunt for meat, woman's put meat in de pot! Woman is dog and dog is woman.
Nomonda-yaw-ee--d--n tree time--wassiree--woman is free time d--n!"
"Well, Knuckles, old boy! take a drink! You don't seem to defections womans no how!"
"Prehaps you don't altogether know what I mean by defections? Well, I'll tell you. Defections means a sort of chickenlub; as if you only had it now and then, and something leetler than common. It aint a pow'rful attack,--it don't take a body about de middle as I may say, and gib 'em an up and down h'ist. It's a sort of lub that lets you go off when you chooses, and come back when you wants to, and don't keep you berry long about it. That's to say, it's a sort of defections."
A monosyllable from the Indian, like the last, attested any thing but his mental illumination in consequence of the very elaborate metaphysical distinctions which Mingo had undertaken. But the latter was satisfied that Knuckles should have become wiser if he had not; and he proceeded, making short stages toward the point which he desired to attain.
"Well, now, Knuckles, if so be you don't affections womans, what makes you keeps her 'bout you? Ef she's only a dog in your sight, why don't you sen' her a-packing? Ingin man kin find somebody, I 'speck, to take care ob he dog for 'em."
"Heh? Dog--wha' dog?"
"Dat is to say--but take a drink, old fellow! Take a long pull--dat jug's got a long body, an' you may turn it upside down heap o' times 'fore you'll git all the life out of it. It gin my arm a smart tire, I kin tell you, to tote it all the way here! Dat is to say--but sup at it agin, Knuckles,--please de pigs, you don't know much about what's good, or you would'nt put it down, tell the red water begins to come into you' eyes."
"Aw--yaw--yaw! Biskey good too much!"
Was the exclamation, accompanied with a long drawn, hissing sound, of equal delight and difficulty, which issued spontaneously from the Indian's mouth, as he withdrew the jug from his lips. The negro looked at him with manifest satisfaction. His eyes were suffused with water, and exhibited a hideous stare of excitement and imbecility. A fixed glaze was overspreading them
fast, revealing some of those fearful aspects which distinguish the last fleeting gleams of consciousness in the glassy gaze of the dying. Portions of the liquor which, in his feebleness he had failed to swallow, ran from the corners of his mouth; and his fingers, which still clutched the handle of the jug, were contracted about it like the claws of a vulture in the spasms of a mortal agony. His head, as if the neck were utterly unsinewed, swung from side to side in his repeated efforts to raise it to the usual Indian erectness, and, failing in this attempt, his chin sunk at last and settled down heavily upon his breast. He was evidently in prime condition for making a bargain, and, apprehensive that he might have overdone the matter, and that the fellow might be too stupid even for the purposes of deception, Mingo hastened with due rapidity to make the proposition which he had conceived, and which was of a character with the audacity of his previous designs.
"Well, Knuckles, my frien', what's to hender us from a trade? Ef so be you hates woman's and loves Biskey--ef woman's is a d--n dog, and biskey is de only ting dat you most defections in dis life,--den gib me you d--n dog, and I'll gib you 'nough and plenty of de ting you lub. You yerry me?"
"Aw, yaw, yaw, yaw! Biskey berry good!" A torrent of hiccoughs concluded the reply of the Indian, and for a brief space rendered the farther accents of the negro inaudible even to himself.
"To be sure,--da's trute! Biskey is berry good, and da's wha' I'm sayin' to you, ef you'd only pay some detention. I'm a offering you, Knuckles--I'm offering to buy you dog from you. I'll gib you plenty biskey for you dog. Wha' you say, man? eh?"
"Aw, yaw! Black man want Ingin dog!" The question was concluded by a faint attempt to whistle. Drunkenness had made the Catawba more literal than usual, and Mingo's apprehensions increased as he began to apprehend that he should fail entirely in reaching the understanding of his companion.
"Psho! git out, Knuckles, I no want you' four-legged dog--it's you' two-legged dog I day arter. Enty you bin call you
woman a dog? Enty you bin say, dat you wife, Caloya, is d--n dog?"
"Ya-ou! ramonda yau-ee, Caloya! woman is tree time d--n dog!"
"To be sure he is. Da's wha we bin say. Now, I want dog, Knuckles; and you hab dog wha's jis suit me. You call him Caloya--you dog! You sell me Caloya, I gie you one whole barrel biskey for da same dog, Caloya."
"Hah!" was the sudden exclamation of the Indian, as this impudent but liberal offer reached his senses; but, whether in approbation or in anger, it was impossible, in the idiot inexpressiveness of his drunken glance, for the negro to determine. He renewed his offer with certain additional inducements in the shape of pipes and tobacco, and concluded with a glowing eulogy upon the quality of his "powerful, fine, gennywine, fourt' proof," the best in Holland's establishment, and a disparaging reference to the small value of the dog that he was prepared to buy with it. When he finished, the Indian evidently comprehended him better, and laboured under considerable excitement. He strove to speak, but his words were swallowed up in hiccoughs, which had been increasing all the while. What were his sentiments, or in what mind he received the offer, the negro vainly strove, by the most solicitous watchfulness, to ascertain; but he had too completely overdosed his victim, and the power of speech seemed entirely departed. This paralysis did not, however, extend entirely to his limbs. He struggled to rise, and, by the aid of a hickory twig which grew beside him, he succeeded in obtaining a doubtful equilibrium, which he did not, however, very long preserve. His hand clutched at the knife within his belt, but whether the movement was designed to vindicate his insulted honour, or was simply spasmodic, and the result of his condition, could not be said. Muttering incoherently at those intervals which his continual hiccoughing allowed, he wheeled about and rushed incontinently towards the hovel, as if moved by some desperate design. He probably knew nothing definitely at that moment, and had no precise object. A vague and flickering memory of the instructions he had given to his wife, may have mingled in with his thoughts in his drunken mood, and probably prompted him to the
call which he thrice loudly made upon her name. She did not answer, but, having heard in her place of concealment the offensive proposition which the negro had made her husband, she now crouched doubly closely and cautious, lest the latter, under this novel form of provocation, might be moved to vent his wrath upon her head. Perhaps, too, she fancied, that by remaining quiet, she might escape the necessity of contributing in any wise to the execution of the bloody plot in which his commands had engaged her. Whatever may have been her fear, or the purposes of the husband, Caloya remained silent. She moved not from the corner in which she lay, apprehensively waiting events, and resolved not to move or show herself unless her duty obviously compelled her.
Mingo, meanwhile, utterly blinded by his prodigious self-esteem, construed all the movements of the Catawba into favourable appearances in behalf of his desires; and when Knuckles entered the hovel calling upon his wife, he took it for granted that the summons had no other object than to deliver the precious commodity into his own hands. This conviction warmed his imagination to so great a degree, that he forgot all his prudence, and following Knuckles into the wigwam, he prepared to take possession of his prize, with that unctuous delight and devotedness which should convince her that she too had made an excellent bargain by the trade. But when he entered the hovel, he was encountered by the savage with uplifted hatchet.
"Hello, Knuckles, wha' you gwine to do wid you' hatchet? You wouldn't knock you bes' frien' 'pon de head, eh?"
"Nigger is d--n dog!" cried the savage, his hiccoughs sufficiently overcome by his rage to allow him a tolerable clear utterance at last. As he spoke the blow was given full at the head of the driver. Mingo threw up his left hand to ward off the stroke, but was only partially successful in doing so. The keen steel smote the hand, divided the tendon between the fore-finger and thumb, and fell with considerable force upon the forehead.
"Oh you d--n black red-skin, you kill mossa best nigger!" shrieked the driver, who fancied, in the first moment of his pain, that his accounts were finally closed with the world. The blood, streaming freely from the wound, though it lessened
the stunning effects of the blow, yet blinded his eyes and increased his terrors. He felt persuaded that no surgeon could do him service now, and bitterly did he reproach himself for those amorous tendencies which had brought him to a fate so unexpected and sudden. It was the very moment when the exhortations of the Rev. Jonathan Buckthorn would have found him in a blessed state of susceptibility and saving grace. The evil one had not suffered so severe a rebuke in his present habitation for a very long season. But as the Reverend Jonathan was not nigh to take advantage of the circumstance, and as the hapless Mingo felt the continued though impotent struggle of his enemy at his feet, his earthly passions resumed their sway, and, still believing that he had not many hours to live, he determined to die game and have his revenge in his last moments. The Catawba had thrown his whole remaining strength into the blow, and the impetus had carried him forward. He fell upon his face, and vainly striving and striking at the legs of his opponent, lay entirely at his mercy; his efforts betraying his equal feebleness and fury. At first Mingo doubted his ability to do anything. Though still standing, he was for some time incapable of perceiving in that circumstance any strong reason for believing that he had any considerable portion of vitality left, and most certainly doubted his possession of a sufficient degree of strength to take his enemy by the throat. But with his rage came back his resolution, and with his resolution his vigour.
"Ef I don't stop your kicking arter dis, you red sarpent, my name's Blind Buzzard. Ef Mingo mus' dead, you shall dead too, you d--n crooked, little, old, red rascal. I'll squeeze you t'roat, tell you aint got breat' 'nough in you body to scar' 'way musquito from peeping down your gullet. Lor' ha' massey!--to 'tink Mingo mus' dead 'cause he git knock on de head by a poor, little, shrinkle up Injun, dat he could eat up wid he eyes and no make tree bite ob he carcass."
This reflection increased the wrath of the negro, who prepared with the most solemn deliberation to take the Indian's life by strangling him. With this design he let his knee drop upon the body of the prostrate Knuckles, while his hand was extended in order to secure an efficient grasp upon his throat. But his movements
had been closely watched by the keen-eyed Caloya from the corner where she crouched, who, springing forward at the perilous moment, drew the hatchet from the hand of the sprawling and unconscious savage and took an attitude of threatening which effectually diverted the anger of the negro. Surprised at her appearance, rather than alarmed at her hostility, he began to conjecture, in consequence of the returning passion which he felt, that his danger was not so great as he had at first fancied. The sight of those charms which had led him into the danger, seemed to induce a pleasant forgetfulness of the hurts which had been the result of his rashness; and with that tenacity of purpose which distinguishes a veteran among the sex, the only thought of Mingo was the renewal of his practices of evil. He thought no more of dying, and of the Reverend Jonathan Buckthorn, but with a voice duly softened to the gentler ears which he was preparing to address, he prefaced his overtures by a denunciation of the "dead-drunk dog what was a-lying at his foot." A wretch, as he loudly declared, who was no more worthy of such a woman than he was worthy of life.
"But der's a man wha's ready to tak' you, my lubly one, and tak' care ob you, and treat you as you d'zarb. He's a gempleman--he's no slouch, nor no sneak. He's always dress in de bes'--he's always hab plenty for eat and plenty for drink--der's no scarcity where he hab de mismanagement; and nebber you'll hab needcessity for work, making mud pot and pan, ef he tak' you into his defections. I reckon, Caloya, you's want for know who is dat pusson I tell you 'bout. Who is dat gempleman wha's ready for do you so much benefactions? Well! look a' yer, Caloya, and I reckon you'll set eye on de very pusson in perticklar."
The woman gave him no answer, but still, with weapon uplifted, kept her place, and maintained a watch of the utmost steadfastness upon all his movements.
"Wha'! you won't say not'ing? Can't be you care someting for dis bag of feaders, wha's lie at my foot!"
With these words the irreverent negro stirred the body of Knuckles with his foot, and Caloya sprang upon him in the same instant, and with as determined a hand as ever her husband's had been, struck as truly, though less successfully, at the forehead of
her wooer. This time, Mingo was rather too quick to suffer harm from a feebler arm than his own. His eye detected her design the moment she moved, and he darted aside in season to avoid the blow. With equal swiftness he attempted to seize her in his arms the instant after, but, eluding his grasp, she backed towards the entrance of the wigwam, keeping her weapon uplifted, and evidently resolved to use it to the best advantage as soon as an opportunity offered. Mingo was not to be baffled in this fashion--the difficulties in the way of his pursuit seemed now reduced to a single issue--the husband was hors de combat, and the wife--she certainly held out only because she was still in his presence. To this moment, Mingo never doubted that his personal prowess and pretensions had long since impressed Caloya with the most indulgent and accessible emotions. He advanced, talking all the while in the most persuasive accents, but without inducing any relaxation of watchfulness or resolution on the part of the woman. He was prepared to rush upon, and wrest the hatchet from her hand--and farther ideas of brutality were gathering in his mind--when he was arrested by the presence of a new and annoying object which suddenly showed itself at the entrance and over the shoulder of the Indian woman. This was no other than his lawful spouse, Diana.
"Hello, Di! what de dibble you come for, eh?"
"I come for you, to be sure. Wha' de dibble you is doing yer, wid Injun woman?"
Surprised at the strange voice, and feeling herself somewhat secure in the presence of a third person, Caloya ventured to look round upon the new comer. The sight of her comely features was a signal of battle to the jealous wife, who, instantly, with a fearful shriek, struck her talons into the cheeks of her innocent rival, and followed up the assault by dashing her head into her face. The hatchet fell involuntary upon the assailant, but the latter had too successfully closed in, to receive much injury from the blow, which, however, descended upon her back, between the shoulders, and made itself moderately felt. Diana, more vigorous than the Indian woman, bore her to the earth, and, doubtlessly, under her ideas of provocation, would have torn her eyes from their sockets, but for the prompt interposition of her husband, who, familiar with
the marital rights sanctioned by the old English law, prostrated her to the earth with a single blow of his fist. He might have followed up this violence to a far less justifiable extent, for the audacity which his wife had shown had shocked all his ideas of domestic propriety, but that he was interrupted before he could proceed further by a hand which grasped tightly his neckcloth from behind, and giving it a sudden twist, curtailed his powers of respiration to a most annoying degree. He turned furiously though with difficulty upon the new assailant, to encounter the severe eyes of his young master.
Here was an explosion! Never was an unfaithful steward more thoroughly confounded. But the native impudence of Mingo did not desert him. He had one of the fairest stories in the world to tell. He accounted for every thing in the most rational and innocent manner--but in vain. Young Gillison had the eye of a hawk when his suspicions were awakened, and he had already heard the testimony of the Indian woman, whom he could not doubt. Mingo was degraded from his trust, and a younger negro put over him. To compensate the Indian woman for the injuries which she received, was the first care of the planter as he came upon the ground. He felt for her with increased interest as she did not complain. He himself assisted her from the ground and conducted her into the wigwam. There, they found Knuckles almost entirely insensible. The liquor with which the negro had saturated him, was productive of effects far more powerful than he had contemplated. Fit had succeeded to fit, and paralysis was the consequence. When Gillison, looked upon him, he saw that he was a dying man. By his orders, he was conveyed that night to the settlement, where he died the next day.
Caloya exhibited but little emotion, but she omitted no attention. She observed the decorum and performed all the duties of a wife. The young planter had already learned to esteem her, and when, the day after the funeral, she prepared to return to her people, who were upon the Edisto, he gave her many presents which she received thankfully, though with reluctance.
A year after, at the same season, the "Red Gulley" was occupied by the whole tribe, and the evening following their arrival, Col. Gillison, sitting within the hall of his family mansion, was
surprised by the unexpected appearance of Caloya. She looked younger than before, comelier, and far more happy. She was followed by a tall and manly looking hunter, whom she introduced as her husband, and who proved to be the famous Chickawa, of whom poor old Knuckles had been so jealous. The grateful Caloya came to bring to the young planter a pair of moccasins and leggins, neatly made and fancifully decorated with beads, which, with her own hands, she had wrought for him. He received them with a sentiment of pleasure, more purely and more enduringly sweet than young men are often apt to feel; and, esteeming her justly, there were few articles of ordinary value in his possession with which he would not sooner have parted, than the simple present of that Catawba woman.
* The three chapters which constitute this narrative, originally formed part of a plan which I meditated of dealing with the early histories of the South, somewhat after the manner of Henry Neele, in his Romance of English History. Of course I did not mean to follow slavishly in the track pointed out by him, nor, indeed, would the peculiar and large difference between our respective materials, admit of much similarity of treatment. The reader must understand that the essential facts, as given in these sketches, are all historical, and that he is in fact engaged in the perusal of the real adventures of the Spanish voyager, enlivened only by the introduction of persons of whom history says nothing in detail--speaking vaguely, as is but too much her wont, of those whose deficient stature fails to inform or to influence her sympathies. It is the true purpose of fiction to supply her deficiencies, and to correct her judgments. It will be difficult for any chronicler to say, of what I have written, more than that he himself knows nothing about it. But his ignorance suggests no good reason why better information should not exist in my possession.
SEBASTIAN CABOT is supposed to have been the first European voyager who ever laid eyes upon the low shores of Carolina. He sailed along the coast and looked at it, but did not attempt to land,--nor was such a proceeding necessary to his objects. His single look, according to the laws and morals of that day, in civilized Europe, conferred a sufficient right upon the nation by which he was employed, to all countries which he might discover, and to all people, worshipping at other than Christian altars, by whom they might be occupied. The supposed right, however, thus acquired by Cabot, was not then asserted by the English whom he
served. It was reserved for another voyager, who, with greater condescension, surveyed the coast and actually set foot upon it. This was Lucas Velasquez de Ayllon, whose adventures in Carolina we propose briefly to relate. Better for him that he had never seen it!--or, seeing it, if he had posted away from its shores for ever. They were the shores of destiny for him. But he was a bad man, and we may reasonably assume that the Just Providence had ordained that his crimes should there meet with that retribution which they were not likely to encounter any where else. Here, if he found paganism, he, at the same time, found hospitality; and here, if he brought cunning, he encountered courage! Fierce valour and generous hospitality were the natural virtues of the Southern Indians.
But we must retrace our steps for a brief period. Some preliminaries, drawn from the history of the times, are first necessary to be understood.--The feebleness of the natives of Hayti, as is well known, so far from making them objects of pity and indulgence in the sight of other Spanish conquerors, had the contrary effect of converting an otherwise brave soldiery into a reckless band of despots, as brutal in their performances as they were unwise in their tyrannies. The miserable Indians sunk under their domination. The blandness of their climate, its delicious fruits, the spontaneous gifts of nature, had rendered them too effeminate for labour and too spiritless for war. Their extermination was threatened; and, as a remedial measure, the benevolent father, Las Casas,--whose humanity stands out conspicuously in contrast with the proverbial cruelty and ferocity of his countrymen,--suggested the policy of making captures of slaves, to take the places of the perishing Haytians, from the Caribbean Islands and from the coasts of Florida. The hardy savages of these regions, inured to war, and loving it for its very dangers and exercises, were better able to endure the severe tasks which were prescribed by the conquerors. This opened a new branch of business for these bold and reckless adventurers. Predatory incursions were made along the shores of the Gulf, and seldom without profit. In this way one race was made to supersede another, in the delicious country which seems destined never to rear a population suited to its characteristics. The stubborn and
sullen Caribbean was made to bend his shoulders to the burden, but did not the less save the feeble Haytian from his doom. The fierce tribes of Apalachia took the place of the delicate limbed native of the Ozama; and, in process of years, the whole southern coasts of North America became tributary, in some degree, to the novel and tyrannical policy which was yet suggested by a spirit of the most genuine benevolence.
The business of slave capture became somewhat more profitable than the fatiguing and protracted search after gold--a search much more full of delusions than of any thing substantial. It agreed better with the hardy valour of those wild adventurers. Many bold knights adopted this new vocation. Among these was one Lucas Velasquez de Ayllon, already mentioned as succeeding Cabot in his discovery of Carolina. He was a stern, cold man, brave enough for the uses to which valour was put in those days; but having the narrow contracted soul of a miser, he was incapable of noble thoughts or generous feelings. The love of gold was the settled passion of his heart, as it was too much the passion of his countrymen. He soon distinguished himself by his forays, and was among the first to introduce his people to a knowledge of Carolina, where they subsequently made themselves notorious by their atrocities. Some time in the year 1520, he set forth, in two ships, on an expedition of this nature. He seems to have been already acquainted with the region. Wending north, he soon found himself in smooth water, and gliding along by numberless pleasant islands, that broke the billows of the sea, and formed frequent and safe harborages along the coasts of the country. Attracted by a spacious opening in the shores, he stood in for a prominent headland, to which he gave the name of Cape St. Helena; a name which is now borne by the contiguous sound. The smoothness of the waters; the placid and serene security of this lovely basin; the rich green of the verdure which encountered the eyes of the adventurers on all sides, beguiled them onward; and they were at length rejoiced at the sight,--more grateful to their desire than any other, as it promised them the spoils which they sought--of numerous groups of natives that thronged the lands-ends at their approach. They cast anchor
near the mouth of a river, which, deriving its name from the Queen of the country, is called, to this day, the Combahee.
The natives were a race as unconscious of guile as they were fearless of danger. They are represented to have been of very noble stature; graceful and strong of limb; of bright, dark, flashing eyes, and of singularly advanced civilization, since they wore cotton clothes of their own manufacture, and had even made considerable progress in the arts of knitting, spinning and weaving. They had draperies to their places of repose; and some of the more distinguished among their women and warriors, wore thin and flowing fringes, by way of ornament, upon which a free and tasteful disposition of pearls might occasionally be seen. Like many other of the native tribes, they were governed by a queen whose name has already been given. The name of the country they called Chicora, or, more properly, Chiquola.
Unsuspecting as they were brave, the savages surrounded the vessels in their boats, and many of them even swam off from shore to meet them; being quite as expert in the water as upon the land. The wily Spaniard spared no arts to encourage and increase this confidence. Toys and implements of a kind likely to attract the eyes, and catch the affections, of an ignorant people, were studiously held up in sight; and, by little and little, they grew bold enough, at length, to clamber up the sides of the ships, and make their appearance upon the decks. Still, with all their arts, the number of those who came on board was small, compared with those who remained aloof. It was observed by the Spaniards that the persons who forbore to visit them were evidently the persons of highest consequence. Those who came, as constantly withdrew to make their report to others, who either stayed on the land, or hovered in sight, but at a safe distance, in their light canoes. De Ayllon shrewdly conjectured that if he could tempt these more important persons to visit his vessels, the great body of the savages would follow. His object was numbers; and his grasping and calculating soul scanned the crowds which were in sight, and thought of the immense space in his hold, which it was his policy and wish to fill. To bring about his object, he spared none of the customary modes of temptation. Beads and bells were sparingly distributed to those who came,
and they were instructed by signs and sounds to depart, and return with their companions. To a certain extent, this policy had its effect, but the appetite of the Spaniard was not easily glutted.
He noted, among the hundred canoes that darted about the bay, one that was not only of larger size and better construction than the rest, but which was fitted up with cotton stuffs and fringes like some barge of state. He rightly conjectured that this canoe contained the Cassique or sovereign of the country. The canoe was dug from a single tree, and was more than forty feet in length. It had a sort of canopy of cotton stuff near the stern, beneath which sat several females, one of whom was of majestic demeanour, and seemed to be an object of deference with all the rest. It did not escape the eyes of the Spaniards that her neck was hung with pearls, others were twined about her brows, and gleamed out from the folds of her long glossy black hair, which, streaming down her neck, was seen almost to mingle with the chafing billows of the sound. The men in this vessel were also most evidently of the better order. All of them were clad in fringed cotton stuffs of a superior description to those worn by the gathering multitude. Some of these stuffs were dyed of a bright red and yellow, and plumes, similarly stained, were fastened in many instances to their brows, by narrow strips of coloured fringe, not unfrequently sprinkled artfully with seed pearl.
The eyes of De Ayllon gloated as he beheld this barge, from which he did not once withdraw his glance. But, if he saw the importance of securing this particular prize, he, at the same time, felt the difficulty of such a performance. The Indians seemed not unaware of the special value of this canoe. It was kept loof, while all the rest ventured boldly alongside the Spanish vessels. A proper jealousy of strangers,--though it does not seem that they had any suspicion of their particular object--restrained the savages. To this natural jealousy, that curiosity which is equally natural to ignorance, was opposed. De Ayllon was too sagacious to despair of the final success of this superior passion. He redoubled his arts. His hawk's bells were made to jingle from the ship's side; tinsel, but bright crosses--the holiest sign in the exercise of his religious faith--were hung in view,
abused as lures for the purposes of fraud and violence. No toy, which had ever yet been found potent in Indian traffic, was withheld from sight; and, by little and little, the unconscious arms of the Indian rowers impelled the destined bark nearer and nearer to the artful Spaniards. Still, the approach was slow. The strokes of the rowers were frequently suspended, as if in obedience to orders from their chiefs. A consultation was evidently going on among the inmates of the Indian vessels. Other canoes approached it from the shore. The barge of state was surrounded. It was obvious that the counsellors were averse to the unnecessary exposure of their sovereigns.
It was a moment of anxiety with De Ayllon. There were not twenty Indians remaining on his decks; at one time there had been an hundred. He beheld the hesitation, amounting to seeming apprehension, among the people in the canoes; and he now began to reproach himself with that cupidity, which, grasping at too much, had probably lost all. But so long as curiosity hesitates there is hope for cupidity. De Ayllon brought forth other lures: he preferred fraud to fighting.
"Look!" said a princely damsel in the canoe of state, as a cluster of bright mirrors shone burningly in the sunlight. "Look!"--and every eye followed her finger, and every feminine tongue in the vessel grew clamorous for an instant, in its own language, expressing the wonder which was felt at this surpassing display. Still, the canoe hung, suspended on its centre, motionless. The contest was undecided: a long, low discussion was carried on between a small and select number in the little vessel. De Ayllon saw that but from four to five persons engaged in this discussion. One of these, only, was a woman--the majestic but youthful woman, of whom we have already given a brief description. Three others were grave middle-aged men; but the fourth was a tall, bright-eyed savage, who had scarcely reached the term of manhood, with a proud eager aspect, and a form equally combining strength and symmetry. He wore a coronet of eagle feathers, and from his place in the canoe, immediately next that of the queen, it was inferred correctly by the Spanish captain that he was her husband. He spoke earnestly, almost angrily; pointed several times to the ships, whenever the objects of attraction
were displayed; and, from his impatient manner, it was very clear that the counsel to which he listened did not correspond with the desires which he felt. But the discussion was soon ended. De Ayllon waved a bright scimitar above his head, and the young chief in the canoe of state started to his feet, with an unrestrainable impulse, and extended his hand for the gift. The brave soul of the young warrior spoke out without control when he beheld the true object of attraction. De Ayllon waved the weapon encouragingly, and bowed his head, as if in compliance with his demand. The young savage uttered a few words to his people, and the paddles were again dipped in water; the bark went forward, and, from the Spanish vessel, a rope was let down to assist the visitors as soon as they were alongside.
The hand of the young chief had already grasped the rope, when the fingers of Combahee, the queen, with an equal mixture of majesty and grace, were laid upon his arm.
"Go not, Chiquola," she said, with a persuasive, entreating glance of her deep, dark eyes. He shook off her hand impatiently, and, running up the sides of the vessel, was already safely on the deck, before he perceived that she was preparing to follow him. He turned upon her, and a brief expostulation seemed to follow from his lips. It appeared as if the young savage was only made conscious of his imprudence, by beholding hers. She answered him with a firmness of manner, a dignity and sweetness so happily blended, that the Spanish officers; who had, by this time, gathered round them, looked on and listened with surprise. The young chief, whom they learned to call by the name of Chiquola--which they soon understood was that of the country, also--appeared dissatisfied, and renewed his expostulations, but with the same effect. At length he waved his hand to the canoe, and, speaking a few words, moved once more to the side of the ship at which she had entered. The woman's eye brightened; she answered with a single word, and hurried in the same direction. De Ayllon, fearing the loss of his victims, now thought it time to interfere. The sword, which had won the eyes of the young warrior at first, was again waved in his sight, while a mirror of the largest size was held before the noble features of the Indian princess. The youth grasped the weapon, and laughed with a delighted
but brief chuckle as he looked on the glittering steel, and shook it hurriedly in the air. He seemed to know the use of such an instrument by instinct. In its contemplation, he forgot his own suspicions and that of his people; and no more renewing his suggestions to depart, he spoke to Combahee only of the beauties and the use of the new weapon which had been given to his hands.
The woman seemed altogether a superior person. There was a stern mournfulness about her, which, while it commanded respect, did not impair the symmetry and sweetness of her very intelligent and pleasing features. She had the high forehead of our race, without that accompanying protuberance of the cheek bones, which distinguished hers. Her mouth was very small and sweet, like that which is common to her people. Her eyes were large, deeply set, and dark in the extreme, wearing that pensive earnestness of expression which seems to denote presentiment of many pangs and sorrows. Her form, we have already said, was large and majestical; yet the thick masses of her glossy black hair streamed even to her heels. Superior to her companions, male as well as female, the mirror which had been put into her hands--a glance at which had awakened the most boisterous clamours of delight among her female attendants, all of whom had followed her into the Spanish vessel--was laid down, after a brief examination, with perfect indifference. Her countenance, though not uninformed with curiosity, was full of a most expressive anxiety. She certainly felt the wonder which the others showed, at the manifold strange objects which met their eyes; but this feeling was entertained in a more subdued degree, and did not display itself in the usual language of surprise. She simply seemed to follow the footsteps of Chiquola, without participating in his pleasures, or in that curiosity which made him traverse the ship in every accessible quarter, from stem to stern, seeking all objects of novelty, and passing from one to the other with an appetite which nothing seemed likely soon to satiate.
Meanwhile, the example set by their Queen, the Cassiques, the Iawas, or Priests, and other headmen of the Nation, was soon followed by the common people; and De Ayllon had the satisfaction, on exchanging signals with his consort, to find that both ships were crowded with quite as many persons as they could possibly
carry. The vessel under his immediate command was scarcely manageable from the multitudes which thronged her decks, and impeded, in a great measure, all the operations of the crew. He devised a remedy for this evil, and, at the same time, a measure very well calculated to give complete effect to his plans. Refreshments were provided in the hold; wines in abundance; and the trooping savages were invited into that gloomy region, which a timely precaution had rendered more cheerful in appearance by the introduction of numerous lights. A similar arrangement conducted the more honourable guests into the cabin, and a free use of the intoxicating beverages, on the part of the great body of the Indians, soon rendered easy all the remaining labours of the wily Spaniard. The hatches were suddenly closed when the hold was most crowded, and two hundred of the unconscious and half stupid savages were thus entrapped for the slave market of the City of Columbus.
In the cabin the same transaction was marked by some distinguishing differences. The wily De Ayllon paid every attention to his guests. A natural homage was felt to be the due of royalty and rank, even among a race of savages; and this sentiment was enforced by the obvious necessity of pursuing that course of conduct which would induce the confidence of persons who had already shown themselves so suspicious. De Ayllon, with his officers, himself attended Chiquola and the Queen. The former needed no persuasion. He freely seated himself on the cushions of the cabin, and drank of the proffered wines, till his eyes danced with delight, his blood tingled, and his speech, always free, became garrulity, to the great annoyance of Combahee. She had followed him with evident reluctance into the interior of the vessel; and now, seated with the rest, within the cabin, she watched the proceedings with a painful degree of interest and dissatisfaction, increasing momently as she beheld the increasing effect upon him of the wine which he had taken. She herself utterly declined the proffered liquor; holding herself aloof with as much natural dignity as could have been displayed by the most polished princess of Europe. Her disquiet had made itself understood by her impatience of manner, and by frequent observations in her own language, to Chiquola. These, of course, could be understood
only by themselves and their attendants. But the Spaniards were at no loss to divine the purport of her speech from her tones, the expression of her face, and the quick significant movements of her hands.
At length she succeeded in impressing her desires upon Chiquola, and he rose to depart. But the Spaniards had no intention to suffer this. The plot was now ready for execution. The signal had been made. The entrance to the cabin was closed, and a single bold and decisive movement was alone necessary to end the game. De Ayllon had taken care silently to introduce several stout soldiers into the cabin, and these, when Chiquola took a step forward, sprang upon him and his few male companions and bore them to the floor. Chiquola struggled with a manful courage, which, equally with their forests, was the inheritance of the American Indians; but the conflict was too unequal, and it did not remain doubtful very long. De Ayllon saw that he was secure, and turned, with an air of courteous constraint, to the spot where Combahee stood. He approached her with a smile upon his countenance and with extended arms; but she bestowed upon him a single glance; and, in a mute survey, took in the entire extent of her misfortune. The whole proceeding had been the work of an instant only. That she was taken by surprise, as well as Chiquola, was sufficiently clear; but her suspicions had never been wholly quieted, and the degree of surprise which she felt did not long deprive her of her energies. If her eye betrayed the startled apprehension of the fawn of her native forests, it equally expressed the fierce indignation which flames in that of their tameless eagle. She did not speak as De Ayllon approached; and when, smiling, he pointed to the condition of Chiquola, and with extended arms seemed to indicate to her the hopelessness of any effort at escape, she hissed at him, in reply, with the keen defiance of the angry coppersnake. He advanced--his hand was stretched forth towards her person--when she drew up her queenly form to its fullest height; and, with a single word hurriedly spoken to the still struggling Chiquola, she turned, and when De Ayllon looked only to receive her submission, plunged suddenly through the stern windows of the cabin, and buried herself in the deep waters of the sea.
"Now mounts he the ocean wave, banished, forlorn,
Like a limb from his country cast bleeding and torn."
THE flight of Combahee, and her descent into the waters of the bay, were ominous of uproar. Instantly, the cry of rage arose from a thousand voices. The whole body of the people, as with a common instinct, seemed at once to comprehend the national calamity. A dozen canoes shot forth from every quarter, with the rapidity of arrows in their flight, to the rescue of the Queen. Like a bright mermaid, swimming at evening for her own green island, she now appeared, beating with familiar skill the swelling waters, and, with practised hands, throwing behind her their impelling billows. Her long, glossy, black hair was spread out upon the surface of the deep, like some veil of network meant to conceal from immodest glances the feminine form below. From the window of the cabin whence she disappeared, De Ayllon beheld her progress, and looked upon the scene with such admiration as was within the nature of a soul so mercenary. He saw the fearless courage of the man in all her movements, and never did Spaniard behold such exquisite artifice in swimming on the part of any of his race. She was already in safety. She had ascended, and taken her seat in one of the canoes, a dozen contending, in loyal rivalry, for the privilege of receiving her person.
Then rose the cry of war! Then sounded that fearful whoop of hate, and rage, and defiance, the very echoes of which have made many a faint heart tremble since that day. It was probably, on this occasion, that the European, for the first time, listened to this terrible cry of war and vengeance. At the signal, the canoes upon the bay scattered themselves to surround the ships;
the warriors along the shore loosened the fasts of the boats, and pushed off to join the conflict; while the hunter in the forests, stopped sudden in the eager chase, sped onward, with all the feeling of coercive duty, in the direction of those summoning sounds.
The fearless Combahee, with soul on fire, led the van. She stood erect in her canoe. Her form might be seen from every part of the bay. The hair still streamed, unbound and dripping, from her shoulders. In her left hand she grasped a bow such as would task the ability of the strong man in our day. Her right hand was extended, as if in denunciation towards that
Built in the eclipse and rigged with curses dark,"
in which her husband and her people were held captive. Truly, hers was the form and the attitude for a high souled painter;--one, the master of the dramatic branches of his art. The flashing of her eye was a voice to her warriors;--the waving of her hand was a summons that the loyal and the brave heart sprang eager to obey! A shrill signal issued from her half parted lips, and the now numerous canoes scattered themselves on every side as if to surround the European enemy, or, at least, to make the assault on both vessels simultaneous.
The Spaniard beheld, as if by magic, the whole bay covered with boats. The light canoes were soon launched from the shore, and they shot forth from its thousand indentations as fast as the warriors poured down from the interior. Each of these warriors came armed with the bow, and a well filled quiver of arrows. These were formed from the long canes of the adjacent swamps; shafts equally tenacious and elastic, feathered with plumes from the eagle or the stork, and headed with triangular barbs of flint, broad but sharp, of which each Indian had always a plentiful supply. The vigour with which these arrows were impelled from the string was such, that, without the escaupil or cotton armour which the Spaniards generally wore, the shaft has been known to pass clean through the body of the victim. Thus armed and arranged, with numbers constantly increasing, the people of Combahee, gathering at her summons, darted boldly
from the shore, and, taking up positions favourable to the attack, awaited only the signal to begin.
Meanwhile, the Spanish ships began to spread forth their broad wings for flight. Anticipating some such condition of things as the present, the wily De Ayllon had made his preparations for departure at the same time that he had planned the scheme for his successful treachery. The one movement was devised to follow immediately upon the footsteps of the other. His sails were loosened and flapping in the wind. To trim them for the breeze, which, though light, was yet favourable to his departure, was the work of a moment only; and ere the word was given for the attack, on the part of the Indians, the huge fabrics of the Spaniards began to move slowly through the subject waters. Then followed the signal. First came a shaft from Combahee herself; well aimed and launched with no mean vigour; that, striking full on the bosom of De Ayllon, would have proved fatal but for the plate mail which was hidden beneath his coat of buff. A wild whoop succeeded, and the air was instantly clouded by the close flight of the Indian arrows. Nothing could have been more decided, more prompt and rapid, than this assault. The shaft had scarcely been dismissed from the string before another supplied its place; and however superior might have been the armament of the Spanish captain, however unequal the conflict from the greater size of his vessels, and the bulwarks which necessarily gave a certain degree of protection, it was a moment of no inconsiderable anxiety to the kidnappers! De Ayllon, though a base, was not a bloody-minded man. His object was spoil, not slaughter. Though his men had their firelocks in readiness, and a few pieces of cannon were already prepared and pointed, yet he hesitated to give the word, which should hurry into eternity so many ignorant fellow beings upon whom he had just inflicted so shameful an injury. He commanded his men to cover themselves behind the bulwarks, unless where the management of the ships required their unavoidable exposure, and, in such cases, the persons employed were provided with the cotton armour which had been usually found an adequate protection against arrows shot by the feeble hands of the Indians of the Lucayos.
But the vigorous savages of Combahee were a very different
race. They belonged to the great family of the Muscoghees; the parent stock, without question, of those indomitable tribes which, under the names of Yemassee, Stono, Muscoghee, Mickasukee, and Seminole, have made themselves remembered and feared, through successive years of European experience, without having been entirely quelled or quieted to the present hour. It was soon found by De Ayllon that the escaupil was no protection against injury. It baffled the force of the shaft but could not blunt it, and one of the inferior officers, standing by the side of the commander, was pierced through his cotton gorget. The arrow penetrated his throat, and he fell, to all appearance, mortally wounded. The Indians beheld his fall. They saw the confusion that the event seemed to inspire, and their delight was manifested in a renewed shout of hostility, mingled with screams, which denoted, as clearly as language, the delight of savage triumph. Still, De Ayllon forbore to use the destructive weapons which he had in readiness. His soldiers murmured; but he answered them by pointing to the hold, and asking:
"Shall we cut our own throats in cutting theirs? I see not present enemies but future slaves in all these assailants."
It was not mercy but policy that dictated his forbearance. But it was necessary that something should be done in order to baffle and throw off the Indians. The breeze was too light and baffling, and the movements of the vessels too slow to avoid them. The light barks of the assailants, impelled by vigorous arms, in such smooth water, easily kept pace with the progress of the ships. Their cries of insult and hostility increased. Their arrows were shot, without cessation, at every point at which an enemy was supposed to harbour himself; and, under the circumstances, it was not possible always to take advantage of a cover in performing the necessary duties which accrued to the seamen of the ships. The Indians had not yet heard the sound of European cannon. De Ayllon resolved to intimidate them. A small piece, such as in that day was employed for the defence of castles, called a falconet, was elevated above the canoes, so that the shot, passing over the heads of their inmates, might take effect upon the woods along the shore. As the sudden and sullen roar of this unexpected thunder was heard, every Indian sunk upon his
knees; every paddle was dropped motionless in the water; while the uplifted bow fell from the half-paralyzed hands of the warrior, and he paused, uncertain of safety, but incapable of flight. The effect was great, but momentary only. To a truly brave people, there is nothing more transient than the influence of panic. When the Indian warriors looked up, they beheld one of their people still erect--unalarmed by the strange thunder--still looking the language,--still acting the part of defiance,--and, oh! shame to their manhood, this person was their Queen. Instead of fear, the expression upon her countenance was that of scorn. They took fire at the expression. Every heart gathered new warmth at the blaze shining from her eyes. Besides, they discovered that they were unharmed. The thunder was a mere sound. They had not seen the bolt. This discovery not only relieved their fears but heightened their audacity. Again they moved forward. Again the dart was clapt upon the string. Singing one chorus, the burden of which, in our language, would be equivalent to a summons to a feast of vultures, they again set their canoes in motion; and now, not as before, simply content to get within arrow distance, they boldly pressed forward upon the very course of the ships; behind, before, and on every side; sending their arrows through every opening, and distinguishing, by their formidable aim, every living object which came in sight. Their skill in the management of their canoes; in swimming; their great strength and agility, prompted them to a thousand acts of daring; and some were found bold enough to attempt, while leaping from their boats, beneath the very prow of the slowly advancing vessels, to grasp the swinging ropes and thus elevate themselves to individual conflict with their enemies. These failed, it is true, and sank into the waters; but such an event implied no sort of risk to these fearless warriors. They were soon picked up by their comrades, only to renew, in this or in other forms, their gallant but unsuccessful efforts.
But these efforts might yet be successful. Ships in those days were not the monstrous palaces which they are in ours. An agile form, under favouring circumstances, might easily clamber up their sides; and such was the equal activity and daring of the savages, as to make it apparent to De Ayllon that it would
need something more decisive than had yet been done, on his part, to shake himself free from their inveterate hostility. At a moment when their fury was redoubled and increased by the impunity which had attended their previous assaults,--when every bow was uplifted and every arrow pointed under the eye of their Queen, as if for a full application of all their strength, and skill and courage;--her voice, now loud in frequent speech, inciting them to a last and crowning effort; and she herself, erect in her bark as before, and within less than thirty yards of the Spanish vessel;--at this moment, and to avert the storm of arrows which threatened his seamen who were then, perforce, busy with the rigging in consequence of a sudden change of wind;--De Ayllon gave a signal to bring Chiquola from below. Struggling between two Spanish officers, his arms pinioned at the elbows, the young Cassique was dragged forward to the side of the vessel and presented to the eyes of his Queen and people, threatened with the edge of the very weapon which had beguiled him to the perfidious bark.
A hollow groan arose on every hand. The points of the uplifted arrows were dropped; and, for the first time, the proud spirit passed out of the eyes of Combahee, and her head sunk forward, with an air of hopeless self-abandonment, upon her breast! A deep silence followed, broken only by the voice of Chiquola. What he said, was, of course, not understood by his captors; but they could not mistake the import of his action. Thrice, while he spoke to his people, did his hand, wresting to the utmost the cords upon his arms, smite his heart, imploring, as it were, the united arrows of his people to this conspicuous mark. But the Amazon had not courage for this. She was speechless! Every eye was turned upon her, but there was no answering response in hers; and the ships of the Spaniard proceeded on their way to the sea with a momently increasing rapidity. Still, though no longer assailing, the canoes followed close, and kept up the same relative distance between themselves and enemies, which had been observed before. Combahee now felt all her feebleness, and as the winds increased, and the waves of the bay feeling the more immediate influence of the ocean, rose into long heavy swells, the complete conviction of her whole calamity seemed to
rush upon her soul. Chiquola had now been withdrawn from sight. His eager adjurations to his Queen and people, might, it was feared, prompt them to that Roman sort of sacrifice which the captive himself seemed to implore; and perceiving that the savages had suspended the assault, De Ayllon commanded his removal. But, with his disappearance, the courage of his Queen revived. Once more she gave the signal for attack in a discharge of arrows; and once more the captive was set before their eyes, with the naked sword above his head, in terrorem, as before. The same effect ensued. The arm of hostility hung suspended and paralyzed. The cry of anguish which the cruel spectacle extorted from the bosom of Combahee, was echoed by that of the multitude; and without a purpose or a hope, the canoes hovered around the course of the retreating ships, till the broad Atlantic, with all its mighty billows, received them.--The vigorous breath of the increasing wind, soon enabled them to shake off their hopeless pursuers. Yet still the devoted savages plied their unremitting paddles; the poor Queen straining her eyes along the waste, until, in the grey of twilight and of distance, the vessels of the robbers were completely hidden from her sight.
Meanwhile, Chiquola was hurried back to the cabin, with his arms still pinioned. His feet were also fastened and a close watch was put upon him. It was a courtesy which the Spaniards considered due to his legitimacy that the cabin was made his place of imprisonment. With his withdrawal from the presence of his people, his voice, his eagerness and animation, all at once ceased. He sunk down on the cushion with the sullen, stolid indifference which distinguishes his people in all embarrassing situations. A rigid immobility settled upon his features; yet De Ayllon did not fail to perceive that when he or any of his officers approached the captive, his eyes gleamed upon them with the fury of his native panther;--gleamed bright, with irregular flashes, beneath his thick black eye-brows, which gloomed heavily over their arches with the collected energies of a wild and stubborn soul.
"He is dangerous," said De Ayllon, "be careful how you approach him."
But though avoided he was not neglected. De Ayllon himself
proffered him food; not forgetting to tender him a draught of that potent beverage by which he had been partly overcome before. But the sense of wrong was uppermost, and completely subdued the feeling of appetite. He regarded the proffer of the Spaniard with a keen, but composed look of ineffable disdain; never lifted his hand to receive the draught, and beheld it set down within his reach without indicating, by word or look, his consciousness of what had been done. Some hours had elapsed and the wine and food remained untouched. His captor still consoled himself with the idea that hunger would subdue his stubbornness;--but when the morning came, and the noon of the next day, and the young savage still refused to eat or drink, the case became serious; and the mercenary Spaniard began to apprehend that he should lose one of the most valuable of his captives. He approached the youth and by signs expostulated with him upon his rejection of the food; but he received no satisfaction. The Indian remained inflexible, and but a single glance of his large, bright eye, requited De Ayllon for his selfish consideration. That look expressed the hunger and thirst which in no other way did Chiquola deign to acknowledge; but that hunger and thirst were not for food but for blood;--revenge, the atonement for his wrongs and shame. Never had the free limbs of Indian warrior known such an indignity--never could indignity have been conceived less endurable. No words can describe, as no mind can imagine, the volume of tumultuous strife, and fiercer, maddening thoughts and feelings, boiling and burning in the brain and bosom of the gallant but inconsiderate youth;--thoughts and feelings so strangely subdued, so completely hidden in those composed muscles,--only speaking through that dilating, but fixed, keen, inveterate eye!
De Ayllon was perplexed. The remaining captives gave him little or no trouble. Plied with the liquors which had seduced them at first, they were very generally in that state of drunkenness, when a certainty of continued supply reconciles the degraded mind very readily to any condition. But with Chiquola the case was very different. Here, at least, was character--the pride of self-dependence; the feeling of moral responsibility; the ineradicable consciousness of that shame which prefers to
feel itself and not to be blinded. De Ayllon had known the savage nature only under its feebler and meaner aspects. The timid islanders of the Lucayos--the spiritless and simple natives of Hayti--were of quite another class. The Indian of the North American continent, whatever his vices or his weaknesses, was yet a man. He was more. He was a conqueror--accustomed to conquer! It was his boast that where he came he stood; where he stood he remained; and where he remained, he was the only man! The people whom he found were women. He made them and kept them so.--
"Severe the school that made them bear
The ills of life without a tear;
And stern the doctrine that denied
The sachem fame, the warrior pride,
Who, urged by nature's wants, confess'd
The need that hunger'd in his breast:--
Or, when beneath his foeman's knife,
Who utter'd recreant prayer for life;--
Or, in the chase, whose strength was spent,
Or, in the fight, whose knee was bent;
Or, when with tale of coming fight,
Who sought his allies' camp by night,
And, ere the missives well were told,
Complain'd of hunger, wet and cold:--
A woman, if in strife, his foe,
Could give, yet not receive, a blow;--
Or if, undextrously and dull,
His hand and knife should fail to win
The dripping warm scalp from the skull
To trim his yellow mocasin!"
Such was the character of his race, and Chiquola was no recreant. Such was his character. He had no complaint. He looked no emotions. The marble could not have seemed less corrigible; and, but for that occasional flashing from his dark eye, whenever any of his captors drew near to the spot where he sat, none would have fancied that in his bosom lurked a single feeling of hostility or discontent. Still he ate not and drank not. It was obvious to the Spaniard that he had adopted the stern resolution to forbear all sustenance, and thus defeat the malice of his enemies. He had no fear of death, and he could not endure bonds.
That he would maintain that resolution to the last, none could doubt who watched his sullen immobility--who noted the fact, that he spoke nothing, neither in the language of entreaty nor complaint. He was resolved on suicide! It is an error to suppose, as has been asserted, that the Indians never commit suicide. The crime is a very common one among them in periods of great national calamity. The Cherokee warrior frequently destroyed himself when the small pox had disfigured his visage: for, it must be remembered, that an Indian warrior is, of all human beings, one of the vainest, on the score of his personal appearance. He unites, as they are usually found united even in the highest states of civilization, the strange extremes of ferocity and frivolity.
De Ayllon counselled with his officers as to what should be done with their captive. He would certainly die on their hands. Balthazar de Morla, his lieutenant--a stern fierce savage himself--proposed that they should kill him, as a way of shortening their trouble, and dismissing all farther cares upon the project.
"He is but one," said he, "and though you may call him King or Cassique, he will sell for no more than any one of his own tribe in the markets of Isabella. At worst, it will only be a loss to him, for the fellow is resolved to die. He will bring you nothing, unless for the skin of his carcase, and that is not a large one."
A young officer of more humanity, Jaques Carazon, offered different counsel. He recommended that the poor Indian be taken on deck. The confinement in the cabin he thought had sickened him. The fresh air, and the sight of the sky and sea, might work a change and provoke in him a love of life. Reasoning from the European nature, such advice would most probably have realized the desired effect; and De Ayllon was struck with it.
"Let it be done," he said; and Chiquola was accordingly brought up from below, and placed on the quarter deck in a pleasant and elevated situation. At first, the effect promised to be such as the young officer had suggested. There was a sudden looking up, in all the features of the captive. His eyes were no longer cast down; and a smile seemed to pass over the lips
which, of late, had been so rigidly compressed. He looked long, and with a keen expression of interest at the sky above, and the long stretch of water before and around him. But there was one object of most interest, upon which his eyes fastened with a seeming satisfaction. This was the land. The low sandy shores and island slips that skirt the Georgia coast, then known under the general name of Florida, lay on the right. The gentleness of the breeze, and smoothness of the water, enabled the ships, which were of light burthen, to pursue a course along with the land, at a small distance, varying from five to ten miles. Long and earnestly did the captive gaze upon this, to him, Elysian tract. There dwelt tribes, he well knew, which were kindred to his people. From any one of the thousand specks of shore which caught his eye, he could easily find his way back to his queen and country! What thoughts of bliss and wo, at the same moment, did these two images suggest to his struggling and agonized spirit. Suddenly, he caught the eyes of the Spanish Captain gazing upon him, with a fixed, inquiring glance; and his own eyes were instantly averted from those objects which he alone desired to see. It would seem as if he fancied that the Spaniard was able to look into his soul. His form grew more erect beneath the scrutiny of his captor, and his countenance once more put on its former expression of immobility.
De Ayllon approached, followed by a boy bringing fresh food and wine, which were once more placed within his reach. By signs, the Spaniard encouraged him to eat. The Indian returned him not the slightest glance of recognition. His eye alone spoke, and its language was still that of hate and defiance. De Ayllon left him, and commanded that none should approach or seem to observe him. He conjectured that his stubbornness derived something of its stimulus from the consciousness that eyes of strange curiosity were fixed upon him, and that Nature would assert her claims if this artificial feeling were suffered to subside without farther provocation.
But when three hours more had elapsed, and the food still remained untouched, De Ayllon was in despair. He approached Chiquola, attended by the fierce Balthazar de Morla.
"Why do you not eat, savage!" exclaimed this person, shaking
his hand threateningly at the Indian, and glancing upon him with the eyes of one, only waiting and anxious for the signal to strike and slay. If the captive failed to understand the language of the Spaniard, that of his looks and action was in no wise unequivocal. Chiquola gave him glance for glance. His eye lighted up with those angry fires which it shed when going into battle; and it was sufficiently clear to both observers, that nothing more was needed than the freedom of hand and foot to have brought the unarmed but unbending savage, into the death grapple with his insulting enemy. The unsubdued tiger-like expression of the warrior, was rather increased than subdued by famine; and even De Ayllon recoiled from a look which made him momentarily forgetful of the cords which fastened the limbs and rendered impotent the anger of his captive. He reproved Balthazar for his violence, and commanded him to retire. Then, speaking gently, he endeavoured to soothe the irritated Indian, by kind tones and persuasive action. He pointed to the food, and, by signs, endeavoured to convey to his mind the idea of the painful death which must follow his wilful abstinence much longer. For a few moments Chiquola gave no heed to these suggestions, but looking round once more to the strip of shore which lay upon his right, a sudden change passed over his features. He turned to De Ayllon, and muttering a few words in his own language, nodded his head, while his fingers pointed to the ligatures around his elbows and ancles. The action clearly denoted a willingness to take his food, provided his limbs were set free. De Ayllon proceeded to consult with his officers upon this suggestion. The elder, Balthazar de Morla, opposed the indulgence.
"He will attack you the moment he is free."
"But," replied the younger officer, by whose counsel he had already been brought upon the deck--"but of what avail would be his attack? We are armed, and he is weaponless. We are many, and he is but one. It only needs that we should be watchful, and keep in readiness."
"Well!" said Balthazar, with a sneer, "I trust that you will be permitted the privilege of undoing his bonds; for if ever savage had the devil in his eye, this savage has."
"I will do it," replied the young man, calmly, without seeming
to heed the sneer. "I do not fear the savage, even if he should grapple with me. But I scarcely think it possible that he would attempt such a measure. He has evidently too much sense for that."
"Desperate men have no sense!" said the other; but the counsels of the younger officer prevailed with De Ayllon, and he was commissioned to undo the bonds of the captive. At the same time every precaution was taken, that the prisoner, when set free, should do the young man no hurt. Several soldiers were stationed at hand, to interpose in the event of danger, and De Ayllon and Balthazar, both with drawn swords, stood beside Jaques Carazon as he bent down on one knee to perform the duty of supposed danger which had been assigned him. But their apprehensions of assault proved groundless. Whether it was that Chiquola really entertained no design of mischief, or that he was restrained by prudence, on seeing the formidable preparations which had been made to baffle and punish any such attempt, he remained perfectly quiescent, and, even after his limbs had been freed, showed no disposition to use them.
"Eat!" said De Ayllon, pointing to the food. The captive looked at him in silence, but the food remained untouched.
"His pride keeps him from it," said De Ayllon. "He will not eat so long as we are looking on him. Let us withdraw to some little distance and watch him."
His orders were obeyed. The soldiers were despatched to another quarter of the vessel, though still commanded to remain under arms. De Ayllon with his two officers then withdrew, concealing themselves in different situations where they might observe all the movements of the captive. For a time, this arrangement promised to be as little productive of fruits as the previous ones. Chiquola remained immovable, and the food untouched. But, after a while, when he perceived that none was immediately near, his crouching form might be seen in motion, but so slightly, so slily, that it was scarcely perceptible to those who watched him. His head revolved slowly, and his neck turned, without any corresponding movement of his limbs, until he was able to take in all objects, which he might possibly see, on almost every part of the deck. The man at the helm, the sailor on the yard, while
beholding him, scarcely saw the cat-like movement of his eyes. These, when he had concluded his unobtrusive examination of the vessel, were turned upon the shore, with the expression of an eager joy. His heart spoke out its feelings in the flashing of his dilating and kindled eyes. He was free. That was the feeling of his soul! That was the feeling which found utterance in his glance. The degrading cords were no longer on the limbs of the warrior, and was not his home almost beneath his eyes? He started to his feet erect. He looked around him; spurned the food and the wine cup from his path, and shrieking the war whoop of his tribe, with a single rush and bound, he plunged over the sides of the vessel into those blue waters which dye, with the complexion of the Gulf, the less beautiful waves of the Atlantic.
This movement, so unexpected by the captors, was quite too sudden for them to prevent. De Ayllon hurried to the side of his vessel as soon as he distinguished the proceeding. He beheld, with mingled feelings of admiration and disappointment, where the bold savage was buffeting the billows in the vain hope of reaching the distant shores. A boat was instantly let down into the sea, manned with the ablest seamen of the ship. It was very clear that Chiquola could neither make the land, nor contend very long with the powerful waters of the deep. This would have been a task beyond the powers of the strongest man, and the most skilful swimmer, and the brave captive had been without food more than twenty-four hours. Still he could be seen, striving vigorously, in a course straight as an arrow for the shore; rising from billow to billow; now submerged, still ascending, and apparently without any diminution of the vigour with which he began his toils.
The rowers, meanwhile, plied their oars, with becoming energy. The Indian, though a practiced swimmer, began, at length, to show signs of exhaustion. He was seen from the ship, and with the aid of a glass, was observed to be struggling feebly. The boat was gaining rapidly upon him. He might be saved. It needed only that he should will it so. Would he but turn and employ his remaining strength in striving for the boat, instead of wasting it in an idle effort for those shores which he could never more hope to see!
"He turns!" cried De Ayllon. "He will yet be saved.
The boat will reach him soon. A few strokes more, and they are up with him!"
"He turns, indeed," said Carazon, "but it is to wave his hand in defiance."
"They reach him--they are up with him!" exclaimed the former.
"Ay!" answered the latter, "but he sinks--he has gone down."
"No! they have taken him into the boat!"
"You mistake, sir, do you not see where he rises? almost a ship's length on the right of the boat. There spoke the savage soul. He will not be saved!"
This was true. Chiquola preferred death to bondage. The boat changed its course with that of the swimmer. Once more it neared him. Once more the hope of De Ayllon was excited as he beheld the scene from the ship; and once more the voice of his lieutenant cried discouragingly--
"He has gone down, and for ever. He will not suffer us to save him."
This time he spoke truly. The captive had disappeared. The boat, returning now, alone appeared above the waters, and De Ayllon turned away from the scene, wondering much at the indomitable spirit and fearless courage of the savage, but thinking much more seriously of the large number of pesos which this transaction had cost him. It was destined to cost him more, but of this hereafter.
"-- Bind him, I say;
Make every artery and sinew crack;
The slave that makes him give the loudest shriek,
Shall have ten thousand drachmas! Wretch! I'll force thee
To curse the Pow'r thou worship'st."
BUT the losses of De Ayllon were not to end with the death of his noble captive, the unfortunate Chiquola. We are told by the historian, that "one of his vessels foundered before he reached his port, and captors and captives were swallowed up in the sea together. His own vessel survived, but many of his captives sickened and died; and he himself was reserved for the time, only to suffer a more terrible form of punishment. Though he had lost more than half of the ill-gotten fruits of his expedition, the profits which remained were still such as to encourage him to a renewal of his enterprise. To this he devoted his whole fortune, and, with three large vessels and many hundred men, he once more descended upon the coast of Carolina."* * History of South Carolina, page 11.
* History of South Carolina, page 11.
Meanwhile, the dreary destiny of Combahee was to live alone. We have heard so much of the inflexibility of the Indian character, that we are apt to forget that these people are human; having, though perhaps in a small degree, and in less activity, the same vital passions, the same susceptibilities--the hopes, the fears, the loves and the hates, which establish the humanity of the whites. They are colder and more sterile,--more characterized by individuality and self-esteem than any more social people; and these characteristics are the natural and inevitable results of their habits of wandering. But to suppose that the Indian is "a man without a tear," is to indulge in a notion equally removed from
poetry and truth. At all events, such an opinion is, to say the least of it, a gross exaggeration of the fact.
Combahee, the Queen of Chiquola, had many tears. She was a young wife;--the crime of De Ayllon had made her a young widow. Of the particular fate of her husband she knew nothing; and, in the absence of any certain knowledge, she naturally feared the worst. The imagination, once excited by fear, is the darkest painter of the terrible that nature has ever known. Still, the desolate woman did not feel herself utterly hopeless. Daily she manned her little bark, and was paddled along the shores of the sea, in a vain search after that which could never more be found. At other times she sat upon, or wandered along, the headlands, in a lonely and silent watch over those vast, dark, dashing waters of the Atlantic, little dreaming that they had already long since swallowed up her chief. Wan and wretched, the sustenance which she took was simply adequate to the purposes of life. Never did city maiden more stubbornly deplore the lost object of her affections than did this single-hearted woman. But her prayers and watch were equally unavailing. Vainly did she skirt the shores in her canoe by day;--vainly did she build her fires, as a beacon, to guide him on his home return by night. His people had already given him up for ever; but love is more hopeful of the object which it loves. She did not yet despair. Still she wept, but still she watched; and when she ceased to weep, it was only at moments when the diligence of her watch made her forgetful of her tears.
The season was becoming late. The fresh and invigorating breezes of September began to warn the tribes of the necessity of seeking the shelter of the woods. The maize was already gathered and bruised for the stocks of winter. The fruits of summer had been dried, and the roots were packed away. The chiefs regarded the condition of mind under which their Queen laboured with increasing anxiety. She sat apart upon the highest hill that loomed out from the shore, along the deep. She sat beneath the loftiest palmetto. A streamer of fringed cotton was hung from its top as a signal to the wanderer, should he once more be permitted to behold the land, apprizing him where the disconsolate widow kept her watch. The tribes looked on from a distance unwilling
to disturb those sorrows, which, under ordinary circumstances, they consider sacred. The veneration which they felt for their Queen increased this feeling. Yet so unremitting had been her self-abandonment--so devoted and unchangeable her daily employments, that some partial fears began to be entertained lest her reason might suffer. She had few words now for her best counsellors. These few words, it is true, were always to the purpose, yet they were spoken with impatience, amounting to severity. The once gentle and benignant woman had grown stern. There was a stony inflexibility about her glance which distressed the observer, and her cheeks had become lean and thin, and her frame feeble and languid, in singular contrast with that intense spiritual light which flashed, whenever she was addressed, from her large black eyes.
Something must be done! such was the unanimous opinion of the chiefs. Nay, two things were to be done. She was to be cured of this affection; and it was necessary that she should choose one, from among her "beloved men,"--one, who should take the place of Chiquola. They came to her, at length, with this object. Combahee was even then sitting upon the headland of St. Helena. She looked out with straining eyes upon the sea. She had seen a speck. They spoke to her, but she motioned them to be silent, while she pointed to the object. It disappeared, like a thousand others. It was some porpoise, or possibly some wandering grampus, sending up his jets d'eau in an unfamiliar ocean. Long she looked, but profitlessly. The object of her sudden hope had already disappeared. She turned to the chiefs. They prostrated themselves before her. Then, the venerable father, Kiawah,--an old man who had witnessed the departure of an hundred and twenty summers,--rose, and seating himself before her, addressed her after the following fashion:
"Does the daughter of the great Ocketee, look into the grave of the warrior that he may come forth because she looks?"
"He sleeps, father, for Combahee. He has gone forth to hunt the deer in the blue land of Maneyto."
"Good! he has gone. Is the sea a hunting land for the brave Chiquola? Is he not also gone to the blue land of spirits?"
"Know'st thou? Who has told Kiawah, the old father? Has it come to him in a dream?"
"Chiquola has come to him."
"He is a hunter for Maneyto. He stands first among the hunters in the blue forests of Maneyto. The smile of the Great Spirit beckons him to the chase. He eats of honey in the golden tents of the Great Spirit."
"He has said? Thou hast seen?"
"Even so! Shall Kiawah say to Combahee the thing which is not? Chiquola is dead!"
The woman put her hand upon her heart with an expression of sudden pain. But she recovered herself with a little effort.
"It is true what Kiawah has said. I feel it here. But Chiquola will come to Combahee?"
"Yea! He will come. Let my daughter go to the fountain and bathe thrice before night in its waters. She will bid them prepare the feast of flesh. A young deer shall be slain by the hunters. Its meat shall be dressed, of that shall she eat, while the maidens sing the song of victory, and dance the dance of rejoicing around her. For there shall be victory and rejoicing. Three days shall my daughter do this; and the night of the third day shall Chiquola come to her when she sleeps. She shall hear his voice, she shall do his bidding, and there shall be blessings. Once more shall Combahee smile among her people."
He was obeyed religiously. Indeed, his was a religious authority. Kiawah was a famous priest and prophet among the tribes of the sea coast of Carolina--in their language an Iawa,--a man renowned for his supernatural powers. A human policy may be seen in the counsels of the old man; but by the Indians it was regarded as coming from a superior source. For three days did Combahee perform her lustrations, as required, and partake plentifully of the feast which had been prepared. The third night, a canopy of green bushes was reared for her by the sea side around the palmetto where she had been accustomed to watch, and from which her cotton streamer was still flying. Thither she repaired as the yellow moon was rising above the sea. It rose, bright and round, and hung above her tent, looking down
with eyes of sad, sweet brilliance, like some hueless diamond, about to weep, through the green leaves, and into the yet unclosed eyes of the disconsolate widow. The great ocean all the while kept up a mournful chiding and lament along the shores. It was long before Combahee could sleep. She vainly strove to shut her eyes. She could not well do so, because of her expectation, and because of that chiding sea, and those sad eyes of the moon, big, wide, down staring upon her. At length she ceased to behold the moon and to hear the ocean; but, in place of these, towards the rising of the morning star, she heard the voice of Chiquola, and beheld the young warrior to whom her virgin heart had been given. He was habited in loose flowing robes of blue, a bunch of feathers, most like a golden sunbeam, was on his brow, bound there by a circle of little stars. He carried a bow of bended silver, and his arrows looked like darts of summer lightning. Truly, in the eyes of the young widow, Chiquola looked like a very god himself. He spoke to her in a language that was most like a song. It was a music such as the heart hears when it first loves and when hope is the companion of its affections. Never was music in the ears of Combahee so sweet.
"Why sits the woman that I love beside the cold ocean? Why does she watch the black waters for Chiquola? Chiquola is not there."
The breathing of the woman was suspended with delight. She could not speak. She could only hear.
"Arise, my beloved, and look up at Chiquola."
"Chiquola is with the Great Spirit. Chiquola is happy in the blue forests of Maneyto;" at length she found strength for utterance.
"No! Chiquola is cold. There must be fire to warm Chiquola, for he perished beneath the sea. His limbs are full of water. He would dry himself. Maneyto smiles, around him are the blue forests, he chases the brown deer, till the setting of the sun; but his limbs are cold. Combahee will build him a fire of the bones of his enemies, that the limbs of Chiquola may be made warm against the winter."
The voice ceased, the bright image was gone. In vain was it that the woman, gathering courage in his absence, implored him
to return. She saw him no more, and in his place the red eye of the warrior star of morning was looking steadfastly upon her.
But where were the enemies of Chiquola? The tribes were all at peace. The war-paths upon which Chiquola had gone had been very few, and the calumet had been smoked in token of peace and amity among them all. Of whose bones then should the fire be made which was to warm the limbs of the departed warrior? This was a question to afflict the wisest heads of the nation, and upon this difficulty they met, in daily council, from the moment that the revelation of Chiquola was made known by his widow. She, meanwhile, turned not once from her watch along the waters where he had disappeared! For what did she now gaze? Chiquola was no longer there! Ah! the fierce spirit of the Indian woman had another thought. It was from that quarter that the pale warriors came by when he was borne into captivity. Perhaps, she had no fancy that they would again return. It was an instinct rather than a thought, which made her look out upon the waters and dream at moments that she had glimpses of their large white-winged canoes.
Meanwhile, the Iawas and chief men sat in council, and the difficulty about the bones of which the fire was to be made, continued as great as ever. As a respite from this difficulty they debated at intervals another and scarcely less serious question:
"Is it good for Combahee to be alone?"
This question was decided in the negative by an unanimous vote. It was observed, though no argument seemed necessary, that all the younger and more handsome chiefs made long speeches in advocacy of the marriage of their Queen. It was also observed that, immediately after the breaking up of the council, each darted off to his separate wigwam, and put on his newest mocasins, brightest leggins, his yellowest hunting shirt, and his most gorgeous belt of shells. Each disposed his plumes after the fashion of his own taste, and adjusted, with newer care, the quiver at his back; and each strove, when the opportunity offered, to leap, dance, run, climb, and shoot, in the presence of the lovely and potent woman.
Once more the venerable Iawa presented himself before the Queen.
"The cabin of my daughter has but one voice. There must be another. What sings the Coonee Latee? (mocking-bird.) He says, 'though the nest be withered and broken, are there not sticks and leaves; shall I not build another? Though the matewing be gone to other woods, shall no other voice take up the strain which I am singing, and barter with me in the music which is love?' Daughter, the beloved men have been in council; and they say, the nest must be repaired with newer leaves; and the sad bird must sing lonely no longer. Are there not other birds? Lo! behold them, my daughter, where they run and bound, and sing and dance. Choose from these, my daughter,--choose the noblest, that the noble blood of Ocketee may not perish for ever."
"Ah!"--she said impatiently--"but have the beloved men found the enemies of Chiquola? Do they say, here are the bones?"
"The Great Spirit has sent no light to the cabin of council."
"Enough! when the beloved men shall find the bones which were the enemies of Chiquola, then will the Coonee Latee take a mate-wing to her cabin. It is not meet that Combahee should build the fire for another hunter before she has dried the water from the limbs of Chiquola!"
"The Great Spirit will smile on their search. Meanwhile, let Combahee choose one from among our youth, that he may be honoured by the tribe."
"Does my father say this to the poor heart of Combahee?"
"It is good."
"Take this," she said, "to Edelano, the tall brother of Chiquola. He is most like the chief. Bid him wear it on his breast. Make him a chief among our people. He is the choice of Combahee."
She took from her neck as she spoke, a small plate of rudely beaten native gold, upon which the hands of some native artist, had, with a pointed flint or shell, scratched uncouth presentments of the native deer, the eagle, and other objects of their frequent observation.
"Give it him--to Edelano!"--she added; "but let him not come to Combahee till the beloved men shall have said--these
are the bones of the enemies of Chiquola. Make of these the fires which shall warm him."
There was something so reasonable in what was said by the mourning Queen, that the patriarch was silenced. To a certain extent he had failed of his object. That was to direct her mind from the contemplation of her loss by the substitution of another in his place--the philosophy of those days and people, not unlike that of our own, leading people to imagine that the most judicious and successful method for consoling a widow is by making her a wife again as soon as possible. Combahee had yielded as far as could be required of her; yet still they were scarcely nearer to the object of their desire: for where were the bones of Chiquola's enemies to be found?--He who had no enemies! He, with whom all the tribes were at peace? And those whom he had slain,--where were their bodies to be found? They had long been hidden by their friends in the forests where no enemy might trace out their places of repose. As for the Spaniards--the white men--of these the Indian sages did not think. They had come from the clouds, perhaps,--but certainly, they were not supposed to have belonged to any portion of the solid world to which they were accustomed. As they knew not where to seek for the "pale faces," these were not the subjects of their expectation.
The only person to whom the proceedings, so far, had produced any results, was the young warrior, Edelano. He became a chief in compliance with the wish of Combahee, and, regarded as her betrothed, was at once admitted into the hall of council, and took his place as one of the heads and fathers of the tribe. His pleasant duty was to minister to the wants and wishes of his spouse, to provide the deer, to protect her cabin, to watch her steps--subject to the single and annoying qualification, that he was not to present himself conspicuously to her eyes. But how could youthful lover--one so brave and ardent as Edelano--submit to such interdict? It would have been a hard task to one far less brave, and young, and ardent, than Edelano. With him it was next to impossible. For a time he bore his exclusion manfully. Set apart by betrothal, he no longer found converse or association with the young women of the tribe; and his soul was accordingly taken up with the one image of his Queen and future
spouse. He hung about her steps like a shadow, but she beheld him not. He darted along the beach when she was gazing forth upon the big, black ocean, but he failed to win her glance. He sang, while hidden in the forest, as she wandered through its glooms, the wildest and sweetest songs of Indian love and fancy; but her ear did not seem to note any interruption of that sacred silence which she sought. Never was sweeter or tenderer venison placed by the young maidens before her, than that which Edelano furnished; the Queen ate little and did not seem to note its obvious superiority. The devoted young chief was in despair. He knew not what to do. Unnoticed, if not utterly unseen by day, he hung around her tent by night. Here, gliding by like a midnight spectre, or crouching beneath some neighbouring oak or myrtle, he mused for hours, catching with delighted spirit every sound, however slight, which might come to his ears from within; and occasionally renewing his fond song of devoted attachment, in the hope that, amidst the silence of every other voice, his own might be better heard. But the soughing of the sad winds and the chafing of the waters against the sandy shores, as they reminded the mourner of her loss, were enough to satisfy her vacant senses, and still no token reached the unwearied lover that his devotion had awakened the attention of the object to whom it was paid.
Every day added to his sadness and his toils; until the effect began to be as clearly visible on his person as on hers; and the gravity of the sages became increased, and they renewed the inquiry, more and more frequently together, "Where can the bones of Chiquola's enemies be found?"
The answer to this question was about to be received from an unexpected quarter. The sun was revolving slowly and certainly while the affairs of the tribe seemed at a stand. The period when he should cross the line was approaching, and the usual storms of the equinox were soon to be apprehended. Of these annual periods of storm and terror, the aborigines, through long experience, were quite as well aware as a more book-wise people. To fly to the shelter of the forests was the policy of the Indians at such periods. We have already seen that they had been for some time ready for departure. But Combahee gave no heed
to their suggestions. A superstitious instinct made them willing to believe that the Great Spirit would interfere in his own good time; and, at the proper juncture, bestow the necessary light for their guidance. Though anxious, therefore, they did not press their meditations upon those of their princess. They deferred, with religious veneration, to her griefs. But their anxiety was not lessened as the month of September advanced--as the days became capricious,--as the winds murmured more and more mournfully along the sandy shores, and as the waters of the sea grew more blue, and put on their whiter crests of foam. The clouds grew banked in solid columns, like the gathering wings of an invading army, on the edges of the southern and southeastern horizon. Sharp, shrill, whistling gusts, raised a warning anthem through the forests, which sounded like the wild hymn of the advancing storm. The green leaves had suddenly become yellow as in the progress of the night, and the earth was already strewn with their fallen honours. The sun himself was growing dim as with sudden age. All around, in sky, sea and land, the presentments were obvious of a natural but startling change. If the anxieties of the people were increased, what were those of Edelano? Heedless of the threatening aspects around her, the sad-hearted Combahee, whose heaviest storm was in her own bosom, still wilfully maintained her precarious lodge beneath the palmetto, on the bleak head-land which looked out most loftily upon the sea. The wind strewed the leaves of her forest tent upon her as she slept, but she was conscious of no disturbance; and its melancholy voice, along with that of the ocean, seemed to her to increase in interest and sweetness as they increased in vigour. She heeded not that the moon was absent from the night. She saw not that black clouds had risen in her place, and looked down with visage full of terror and of frowning. It did not move her fears that the palmetto under which she lay, groaned within its tough coat of bark, as it bent to and fro beneath the increasing pressure of the winds. She was still thinking of the wet, cold form of the brave Chiquola.
The gloom thickened. It was the eve of the 23d of September. All day the winds had been rising. The ocean poured in upon the shores. There was little light that day. All was fog, dense
fog, and a driving vapour, that only was not rain. The watchful Edelano added to the boughs around the lodge of the Queen. The chief men approached her with counsel to persuade her to withdraw to the cover of the stunted thickets, so that she might be secure. But her resolution seemed to have grown more firm, and duly to increase in proportion to their entreaties. She had an answer, which, as it appealed to their superstitions, was conclusive to silence them.
"I have seen him. But last night he came to me. His brow was bound about with a cloud, such as goes round the moon. From his eye shot arrows of burning fire, like those of the storm. He smiled upon me, and bade me smile. 'Soon shalt thou warm me, Combahee, with the blazing bones of mine enemies. Be of good cheer--watch well that ye behold them where they lie. Thou shalt see them soon.' Thus spoke the chief. He whispers to my heart even now. Dost thou not hear him, Kiawah? He says soon--it will be soon!"
Such an assurance was reason good why she should continue her desolate and dangerous watch. The generous determination of the tribe induced them to share it with her. But this they did not suffer her to see. Each reared his temporary lodge in the most sheltered contiguous places, under his favourite clump of trees. Where the growth was stunted, and the thicket dense, little groups of women and children were made to harbour in situations of comparative security. But the warriors and brave men of the tribe advanced along the shores to positions of such shelter as they could find, but sufficiently nigh to their Queen to give her the necessary assistance in moments of sudden peril. The more devoted Edelano, presuming upon the prospective tie which was to give him future privileges, quietly laid himself down behind the isolated lodge of the princess, with a delight at being so near to her, that made him almost forgetful of the dangers of her exposed situation.
He was not allowed to forget them, however! The storm increased with the progress of the night. Never had such an equinoctial gale been witnessed, since the memory of Kiawah. The billows roared as if with the agony of so many wild monsters under the scourge of some imperious demon. The big trees of
the forest groaned, and bent, and bowed, and were snapped off, or torn up by the roots; while the seas, surcharged with the waters of the Gulf, rushed in upon the land and threatened to overwhelm and swallow it. The waves rose to the brow of the headland, and small streams came flashing around the lodge of Combahee. Her roof-tree bent and cracked, but, secure in its lowliness, it still stood; but the boughs were separated and whirled away, and, at the perilous moment, the gallant Edelano, who had forborne, through a natural timidity, to come forward until the last instant, now darted in, and with a big but fast beating heart, clasped the woman of his worship to his arms and bore her, as if she had been a child, to the stunted thickets which gave a shelter to the rest. But, even while they fled--amidst all the storm--a sudden sound reached the ears of the Queen, which seemed to awaken in her a new soul of energy. A dull, booming noise, sullen, slow rolling, sluggish,--something like that of thunder, rolled to their ears, as if it came from off the seas. No thunder had fallen from the skies in the whole of the previous tempest. No lightning had illuminated to increase the gloom. "What is that sound," said the heart of Combahee, filled with its superstitious instincts, "but the thunder of the pale-faces--the sudden thunder which bellows from the sides of their big-winged canoes?"
With this conviction in her mind, it was no longer possible for Edelano to detain her. Again and again did that thunder reach their ears, slowly booming along the black precipices of the ocean. The warriors and chiefs peered along the shores, with straining eyes, seeking to discover the hidden objects; and among these, with dishevelled hair, quivering lips, eyes which dilated with the wildest fires of an excited, an inspired soul, the form of Combahee was conspicuous. Now they saw the sudden flash--now they heard the mournful roar of the minute gun--and then all was silent.
"Look closely, Kiawah--look closely, Edelano; for what said the ghost of Chiquola?--'watch well! Soon shall ye see where the bones of my enemies lie.'--And who were the enemies of Chiquola? Who but the pale-faces? It is their thunder that we hear--the thunder of their big canoes. Hark, ye hear it now,--and hear ye no cries as of men that drown and struggle?
Hark! Hark! There shall be bones for the fire ere the day opens upon us."
And thus they watched for two hours, which seemed ages, running along the shores, waving their torches, straining the impatient sight, and calling to one another through the gloom. The spirit of the bravest warrior quailed when he beheld the fearless movements of Combahee, down to the very edges of the ocean gulf, defying the mounting waves, that dashed their feathery jets of foam, twenty feet above them in the air. The daylight came at last, but with it no relaxation of the storm. With its light what a picture of terror presented itself to the eyes of the warriors--what a picture of terror--what a prospect of retribution! There came, head on shore, a noble vessel, still struggling, still striving, but predestined to destruction. Her sails were flying in shreds, her principal masts were gone, her movement was like that of a drunken man--reeling to and fro--the very mockery of those winds and waters, which, at other periods, seem only to have toiled to bear her and to do her bidding. Two hundred screaming wretches clung to her sides, and clamoured for mercy to the waves and shores. Heaven flung back the accents, and their screams now were those of defiance and desperation. Combahee heard their cries, detected their despair, distinguished their pale faces. Her eyes gleamed with the intelligence of the furies. Still beautiful, her wan, thin face,--wan and thin through long and weary watching, exposure and want of food--looked like the loveliness of some fallen angel. A spirit of beauty in the highest degree--a morning star in brightness and brilliance,--but marked by the passions of demoniac desolation, and the livid light of some avenging hate. Her meagre arms were extended, and waved, as if in doom to the onward rushing vessel.
"Said I not," she cried to her people,--"Said I not that there should be bones for the fire, which should warm the limbs of Chiquola?--See! these are they. They come. The warrior shall be no longer cold in the blue forests of the good Maneyto."
While one ship rushed headlong among the breakers, another was seen, bearing away, at a distance, under bare poles. These were the only surviving vessels of the armament of Lucas de Ayllon. All but these had gone down in the storm, and that which
was now rushing to its doom bore the ill-fated De Ayllon himself. The historian remarks--(see History of South Carolina, p. 11,)--"As if the retributive Providence had been watchful of the place, no less than of the hour of justice, it so happened that, at the mouth of the very river where his crime had been committed, he was destined to meet his doom." The Indian traditions go farther. They say, that the form of Chiquola was beheld by Combahee, standing upon the prow of the vessel, guiding it to the place set apart by the fates for the final consummation of that destiny which they had allotted to the perfidious Spaniards. We will not contend for the tradition; but the coincidence between the place of crime and that of retribution, was surely singular enough to impress, not merely upon the savage, but also upon the civilized mind, the idea of an overruling and watchful justice. The breakers seized upon the doomed ship, as the blood-hounds seize upon and rend the expiring carcass of the stricken deer. The voice of Combahee was heard above the cries of the drowning men. She bade her people hasten with their arrows, their clubs, their weapons of whatever kind, and follow her to the beach. She herself bore a bow in her hand, with a well filled quiver at her back; and as the vessel stranded, as the winds and waves rent its planks and timbers asunder, and billows bore the struggling and drowning wretches to the shore, the arrows of Combahee were despatched in rapid execution. Victim after victim sunk, stricken, among the waters, with a death of which he had had no fear. The warriors strode, waist deep, into the sea, and dealt with their stone hatchets upon the victims. These, when despatched, were drawn ashore, and the less daring were employed to heap them up, in a vast and bloody mound, for the sacrifice of fire.
The keen eyes of Combahee distinguished the face of the perfidious De Ayllon among the struggling Spaniards. His richer dress had already drawn upon him the eyes of an hundred warriors, who only waited with their arrows until the inevitable billows should bear him within their reach.
"Spare him!" cried the widow of Chiquola. They understood her meaning at a glance, and a simultaneous shout attested their approbation of her resolve.
"The arrows of fire!" was the cry. The arrows of reed and flint were expended upon the humble wretches from the wreck. The miserable De Ayllon little fancied the secret of this forbearance. He grasped a spar which assisted his progress, and encouraged in the hope of life, as he found himself spared by the shafts which were slaying all around him, he was whirled onward by the breakers to the shore. The knife touched him not--the arrow forbore his bosom, but all beside perished. Two hundred spirits were dismissed to eternal judgment, in that bloody hour of storm and retribution, by the hand of violence. Senseless amidst the dash of the breakers,--unconscious of present or future danger, Lucas De Ayllon came within the grasp of the fierce warriors, who rushed impatient for their prisoner neck deep into the sea. They bore him to the land. They used all the most obvious means for his restoration, and had the satisfaction to perceive that he at length opened his eyes. When sufficiently recovered to become aware of what had been done for him, and rushing to the natural conclusion that it had all been done in kindness, he smiled upon his captors, and, addressing them in his own language, endeavoured still further, by signs and sounds, to conciliate their favour.
"Enough!" said the inflexible Combahee, turning away from the criminal with an expression of strong disgust--
"Enough! wherefore should we linger? Are not the limbs of Chiquola still cold and wet? The bones of his enemies are here--let the young men build the sacrifice. The hand of Combahee will light the fire arrow!"
A dozen warriors now seized upon the form of De Ayllon. Even had he not been enfeebled by exhaustion, his struggles would have been unavailing. Equally unavailing were his prayers and promises. The Indians turned with loathing from his base supplications, and requited his entreaties and tears with taunts, and buffetings, and scorn! They bore him, under the instructions of Combahee, to that palmetto, looking out upon the sea, beneath which, for so many weary months, she had maintained her lonely watch. The storm had torn her lodge to atoms, but the tree was unhurt. They bound him to the shaft with withes of grape vines, of which the neighbouring woods had their
abundance. Parcels of light-wood were heaped about him, while, interspersed with other bundles of the resinous pine, were piled the bodies of his slain companions. The only living man, he was the centre of a pile composed of two hundred, whose fate he was now prepared to envy. A dreadful mound, it rose conspicuous, like a beacon, upon the head-land of St. Helena; he the centre, with his head alone free, and his eyes compelled to survey all the terrible preparations which were making for his doom. Layers of human carcasses, followed by layers of the most inflammable wood and brush, environed him with a wall from which, even had he not been bound to the tree, he could never have effected his own extrication. He saw them pile the successive layers, sparing the while no moment which he could give to expostulation, entreaty, tears, prayers, and promises. But the workmen with steady industry pursued their task. The pile rose,--the human pyramid was at last complete!
Combahee drew nigh with a blazing torch in her hand. She looked the image of some avenging angel. She gave but a single glance upon the face of the criminal. That face was one of an agony which no art could hope to picture. Hers was inflexible as stone, though it bore the aspect of hate, and loathing, and revenge! She applied the torch amid the increased cries of the victim, and as the flame shot up, with a dense black smoke to heaven, she turned away to the sea, and prostrated herself beside its billows. The shouts of the warriors who surrounded the blazing pile attested their delight; but, though an hundred throats sent up their united clamours, the one piercing shriek of the burning man was superior, and rose above all other sounds. At length it ceased! all ceased! The sacrifice was ended. The perfidy of the Spaniard was avenged.
The sudden hush declared the truth to the Queen. She started to her feet. She exclaimed:--
"Thou art now blessed, Chiquola! Thou art no longer cold in the blue forests of Maneyto. The bones of thy enemies have warmed thee. I see thee spring gladly upon the chase;--thine eye is bright above the hills;--thy voice rings cheerfully along the woods of heaven. The heart of Combahee is very glad that thou art warm and happy."
A voice at her side addressed her. The venerable Kiawah, and the young Edelano were there.
"Now, thou hast done well, my daughter!" said the patriarch. "Chiquola is warm and happy in heaven. Let the lodge of Combahee be also warm in the coming winter."
"Ah! but there is nothing to make it warm here!" she replied, putting her hand upon her heart.
"The bird will have its mate, and build its nest, and sing a new song over its young."
"Combahee has no more song."
"The young chief will bring song into her lodge. Edelano will build a bright fire upon the hearth of Combahee. Daughter! the chiefs ask, 'Is the race of Ocketee to perish?' "
"Combahee is ready," answered the Queen, patiently, giving her hand to Edelano. But, even as she spoke, the muscles of her mouth began to quiver. A sudden groan escaped her, and, staggering forward, she would have fallen but for the supporting arms of the young chief. They bore her to the shade beneath a tree. They poured some of their primitive specifics into her mouth, and she revived sufficiently to bid the Patriarch unite her with Edelano in compliance with the will of the nation. But the ceremony was scarcely over, before a second and third attack shook her frame with death-like spasms. They were, indeed, the spasms of death--of a complete paralysis of mind and body. Both had been too severely tried, and the day of bridal was also that of death. Edelano was now the beloved chief of the nation, but the nation was without its Queen. The last exciting scene, following hard upon that long and lonely widow-watch which she had kept, had suddenly stopped the currents of life within her heart, as its currents of hope and happiness had been cut off before. True to Chiquola while he lived, to the last moment of her life she was true. The voice of Edelano had called her his wife, but her ears had not heard his speech, and her voice had not replied. Her hand had been put within his, but no other lips had left a kiss where those of Chiquola had been. They buried her in a lovely but lonely grove beside the Ashepoo. There, the Coonee-Latee first repairs to sing in the opening of spring, and the small blue violet peeps out from her grave as if in homage to
her courage and devotion. There the dove flies for safety when the fowler pursues, and the doe finds a quiet shelter when the beagles pant on the opposite side of the stream. The partridge hides her young under the long grass which waves luxuriantly above the spot, and the eagle and hawk look down, watching from the tree-tops in vain. The spirit of the beautiful Princess presides over the place as some protecting Divinity, and even the white man, though confident in a loftier and nobler faith, still finds something in the spot which renders it mysterious, and makes him an involuntary worshipper! Ah! there are deities which are common to all human kind, whatever be the faith which they maintain. Love is of this sort, and truth, and devotion; and of these the desolate Combahee had a Christian share, though the last deed of her life be not justified by the doctrine of Christian retribution. Yet, look not, traveller, as in thy bark thou sailest beside the lovely headlands' of Saint Helena, at the pile of human sacrifice which thou seest consuming there. Look at the frail lodge beneath the Palmetto, or wander off to the dark groves beside the, Ashepoo and think of the fidelity of that widowed heart.
"She died for him she loved--her greatest pride
That, as for him she lived, for him she died:
Make her young grave,
Sweet fancies, where the pleasant branches lave
Their drooping tassels in some murmuring wave!"
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