Read Chapter IV. of Wyandotte, free online book, by James Fenimore Cooper, on

  Hail! sober evening!  Thee the harass’d brain
  And aching heart with fond orisons greet;
  The respite thou of toil; the balm of pain;
  To thoughtful mind the hour for musing meet,
  ’Tis then the sage from forth his lone retreat,
  The rolling universe around espies;
  ’Tis then the bard may hold communion sweet
  With lovely shapes unkenned by grosser eyes,
  And quick perception comes of finer mysteries.


In the preceding chapter we closed the minuter narrative with a scene at the Hut, in the spring of 1765.  We must now advance the time just ten years, opening, anew, in the month of May, 1775.  This, it is scarcely necessary to tell the reader, is bringing him at once up to the earliest days of the revolution.  The contest which preceded that great event had in fact occurred in the intervening time, and we are now about to plunge into the current of some of the minor incidents of the struggle itself.

Ten years are a century in the history of a perfectly new settlement.  The changes they produce are even surprising, though in ordinary cases they do not suffice to erase the signs of a recent origin.  The forest is opened, and the light of day admitted, it is true; but its remains are still to be seen in multitudes of unsightly stumps, dead standing trees, and ill-looking stubs.  These vestiges of the savage state usually remain a quarter of a century; in certain region they are to be found for even more than twice that period.  All this, however, had captain Willoughby escaped, in consequence of limiting his clearing, in a great measure, to that which had been made by the beavers, and from which time and natural decay had, long before his arrival, removed every ungainly object.  It is true, here and there a few acres had been cleared on the firmer ground, at the margin of the flats, where barns and farm buildings had been built, and orchards planted; but, in order to preserve the harmony of his view, the captain had caused all the stumps to be pulled and burnt, giving to these places the same air of agricultural finish as characterized the fields on the lower land.

To this sylvan scene, at a moment which preceded the setting of the sun by a little more than an hour, and in the first week of the genial month of May, we must now bring the reader in fancy.  The season had been early, and the Beaver Manor, or the part of it which was cultivated, lying low and sheltered, vegetation had advanced considerably beyond the point that is usual, at that date, in the elevated region of which we have been writing.  The meadows were green with matted grasses, the wheat and rye resembled rich velvets, and the ploughed fields had the fresh and mellowed appearance of good husbandry and a rich soil.  The shrubbery, of which the captain’s English taste had introduced quantities, was already in leaf, and even portions of the forest began to veil their sombre mysteries with the delicate foliage of an American spring.

The site of the ancient pond was a miracle of rustic beauty.  Everything like inequality or imperfection had disappeared, the whole presenting a broad and picturesquely shaped basin, with outlines fashioned principally by nature, an artist that rarely fails in effect.  The flat was divided into fields by low post-and-rail fences, the captain making it a law to banish all unruly animals from his estate.  The barns and out-buildings were neatly made and judiciously placed, and the three or four roads, or lanes, that led to them, crossed the low-land in such graceful curves, as greatly to increase the beauty of the landscape.  Here and there a log cabin was visible, nearly buried in the forest, with a few necessary and neat appliances around it; the homes of labourers who had long dwelt in them, and who seemed content to pass their lives in the same place.  As most of these men had married and become fathers, the whole colony, including children, notwithstanding the captain’s policy not to settle, had grown to considerably more than a hundred souls, of whom three-and-twenty were able-bodied men.  Among the latter were the millers; but, their mills were buried in the ravine where they had been first placed, quite out of sight from the picture above, concealing all the unavoidable and ungainly-looking objects of a saw-mill yard.

As a matter of course, the object of the greatest interest, as it was the most conspicuous, was the Hutted Knoll, as the house was now altogether called, and the objects it contained.  Thither, then, we will now direct our attention, and describe things as they appeared ten years after they were first presented to the reader.

The same agricultural finish as prevailed on the flats pervaded every object on the Knoll, though some labour had been expended to produce it.  Everything like a visible rock, the face of the cliff on the northern end excepted, had disappeared, the stones having been blasted, and either worked into walls for foundations, or walls for fence.  The entire base of the Knoll, always excepting the little precipice at the rivulet, was encircled by one of the latter, erected under the superintendence of Jamie Allen, who still remained at the Hut, a bachelor, and as he said himself, a happy man.  The southern-face of the Knoll was converted into lawn, there being quite two acres intersected with walks, and well garnished with shrubbery.  What was unusual in America, at that day, the captain, owing to his English education, had avoided straight lines, and formal paths; giving to the little spot the improvement on nature which is a consequence of embellishing her works without destroying them.  On each side of this lawn was an orchard, thrifty and young, and which were already beginning to show signs of putting forth their blossoms.

About the Hut itself, the appearance of change was not so manifest.  Captain Willoughby had caused it to be constructed originally, as he intended to preserve it, and if formed no part of his plan to cover it with tawdry colours.  There it stood, brown above, and grey beneath, as wood or stone was the material, with a widely projecting roof.  It had no piazzas, or stoups, and was still without external windows, one range excepted.  The loops had been cut, but it was more for the benefit of lighting the garrets, than for any other reason, all of them being glazed, and serving the end for which they had been pierced.  The gates remained precisely in the situation in which they were, when last presented to the eye of the reader!  There they stood, each leaning against the wall on its own side of the gateway, the hinges beginning to rust, by time and exposure.  Ten years had not produced a day of sufficient leisure in which to hang them:  though Mrs. Willoughby frequently spoke of the necessity of doing so, in the course of the first summer.  Even she had got to be so familiarized to her situation, and so accustomed to seeing the leaves where they stood, that she now regarded them as a couple of sleeping lions in stone, or as characteristic ornaments, rather than as substantial defences to the entrance of the dwelling.

The interior of the Hut, however, had undergone many alterations.  The western half had been completed, and handsome rooms had been fitted up for guests and inmates of the family, in the portion of the edifice occupied by the latter.  Additional comforts had been introduced, and, the garners, cribs and lodgings of the labourers having been transferred to the skirts of the forest, the house was more strictly and exclusively the abode of a respectable and well-regulated family.  In the rear, too, a wing had been thrown along the verge of the cliff, completely enclosing the court.  This wing, which overhung the rivulet, and had, not only a most picturesque site, but a most picturesque and lovely view, now contained the library, parlour and music-room, together with other apartments devoted to the uses of the ladies, during the day; the old portions of the house that had once been similarly occupied being now converted into sleeping apartments.  The new wing was constructed entirely of massive squared logs, so as to render it bullet-proof, here being no necessity for a stone foundation, standing, as it did, on the verge of a cliff some forty feet in height.  This was the part of the edifice which had external windows, the elevation removing it from the danger of inroads, or hostile shot, while the air and view were both grateful and desirable.  Some extra attention had been paid to the appearance of the meadows on this side of the Knoll, and the captain had studiously kept their skirts, as far as the eye could see from the windows, in virgin forest; placing the barns, cabins, and other detached buildings, so far south as to be removed from view.  Beulah Willoughby, a gentle, tranquil creature, had a profound admiration of the beauties of nature; and to her, her parents had yielded the control of everything that was considered accessary to the mere charms of the eye; her taste had directed most of that which had not been effected by the noble luxuriance of nature.  Wild roses were already putting forth their leaves in various fissures of the rocks, where earth had been placed for their support, and the margin of the little stream, that actually washed the base of the cliff, winding off in a charming sweep through the meadows, a rivulet of less than twenty feet in width, was garnished with willows and alder.  Quitting this sylvan spot, we will return to the little shrub-adorned area in front of the Hut.  This spot the captain called his glacis, while his daughters termed it the lawn.  The hour, it will be remembered, was shortly before sunset, and thither nearly all the family had repaired to breathe the freshness of the pure air, and bathe in the genial warmth of a season, which is ever so grateful to those who have recently escaped from the rigour of a stern winter.  Rude, and sufficiently picturesque garden-seats, were scattered about, and on one of these were seated the captain and his wife; he, with his hair sprinkled with grey, a hale, athletic, healthy man of sixty, and she a fresh-looking, mild-featured, and still handsome matron of forty-eight.  In front, stood a venerable-looking personage, of small stature, dressed in rusty black, of the cut that denoted the attire of a clergyman, before it was considered aristocratic to wear the outward symbols of belonging to the church of God.  This was the Rev. Jedidiah Woods, a native of New England, who had long served as a chaplain in the same regiment with the captain, and who, being a bachelor, on retired pay, had dwelt with his old messmate for the last eight years, in the double capacity of one who exercised the healing art as well for the soul as for the body.  To his other offices, he added that of an instructor, in various branches of knowledge, to the young people.  The chaplain, for so he was called by everybody in and around the Hut, was, at the moment of which we are writing, busy in expounding to his friends certain nice distinctions that existed, or which he fancied to exist, between a tom-cod and a chub, the former of which fish he very erroneously conceived he held in his hand at that moment; the Rev. Mr. Woods being a much better angler than naturalist.  To his dissertation Mrs. Willoughby listened with great good-nature, endeavouring all the while to feel interested; while her husband kept uttering his “by all means,” “yes,” “certainly,” “you’re quite right, Woods,” his gaze, at the same time, fastened on Joel Strides, and Pliny the elder, who were unharnessing their teams, on the flats beneath, having just finished a “land,” and deeming it too late to commence another.

Beulah, her pretty face shaded by a large sun-bonnet, was superintending the labours of Jamie Allen, who, finding nothing just then to do as a mason, was acting in the capacity of gardener; his hat was thrown upon the grass, with his white locks bare, and he was delving about some shrubs with the intention of giving them the benefit of a fresh dressing of manure.  Maud, however, without a hat of any sort, her long, luxuriant, silken, golden tresses covering her shoulders, and occasionally veiling her warm, rich cheek, was exercising with a battledore, keeping Little Smash, now increased in size to quite fourteen stone, rather actively employed as an assistant, whenever the exuberance of her own spirits caused her to throw the plaything beyond her reach.  In one of the orchards, near by, two men were employed trimming the trees.  To these the captain next turned all his attention, just as he had encouraged the chaplain to persevere, by exclaiming, “out of all question, my dear sir” ­though he was absolutely ignorant that the other had just advanced a downright scientific heresy.  At this critical moment a cry from Little Smash, that almost equalled a downfall of crockery in its clamour, drew every eye in her direction.

“What is the matter, Desdemona?” asked the chaplain, a little tartly, by no means pleased at having his natural history startled by sounds so inapplicable to the subject.  “How often have I told you that the Lord views with displeasure anything so violent and improper as your outcries?”

“Can’t help him, dominie ­nebber can help him, when he take me sudden.  See, masser, dere come Olé Nick!”

There was Nick, sure enough.  For the first time, in more than two years, the Tuscarora was seen approaching the house, on the long, loping trot that he affected when he wished to seem busy, or honestly earning his money.  He was advancing by the only road that was ever travelled by the stranger as he approached the Hut; or, he came up the valley.  As the woman spoke, he had just made his appearance over the rocks, in the direction of the mills.  At that distance, quite half a mile, he would not have been recognised, but for this gait, which was too familiar to all at the Knoll, however, to be mistaken.

“That is Nick, sure enough!” exclaimed the captain.  “The fellow comes at the pace of a runner; or, as if he were the bearer of some important news!”

“The tricks of Saucy Nick are too well known to deceive any here,” observed Mrs. Willoughby, who, surrounded by her husband and children, always felt so happy as to deprecate every appearance of danger.

“These savages will keep that pace for hours at a time,” observed the chaplain; “a circumstance that has induced some naturalists to fancy a difference in the species, if not in the genus.”

“Is he chub or tom-cod, Woods?” asked the captain, throwing back on the other all he recollected of the previous discourse.

“Nay,” observed Mrs. Willoughby, anxiously, “I do think he may have some intelligence!  It is now more than a twelvemonth since we have seen Nick.”

“It is more than twice twelvemonth, my dear; I have not seen the fellow’s face since I denied him the keg of rum for his ‘discovery’ of another beaver pond.  He has tried to sell me a new pond every season since the purchase of this.”

“Do you think he took serious offence, Hugh, at that refusal?  If so, would it not be better to give him what he asks?”

“I have thought little about it, and care less, my dear.  Nick and I know each other pretty well.  It is an acquaintance of thirty years’ standing, and one that has endured trials by flood and field, and even by the horse-whip.  No less than three times have I been obliged to make these salutary applications to Nick’s back, with my own hands; though it is, now, more than ten years since a blow has passed between us.”

“Does a savage ever forgive a blow?” asked the chaplain, with a grave air, and a look of surprise.

“I fancy a savage is quite as apt to forgive it, as a civilized man, Woods.  To you, who have served so long in His Majesty’s army, a blow, in the way of punishment, can be no great novelty.”

“Certainly not, as respects the soldiers; but I did not know Indians were ever flogged.”

“That is because you never happened to be present at the ceremony ­but, this is Nick, sure enough; and by his trot I begin to think the fellow has some message, or news.”

“How old is the man, captain?  Does an Indian never break down?”

“Nick must be fairly fifty, now.  I have known him more than half that period, and he was an experienced, and, to own the truth, a brave and skilful warrior, when we first met.  I rate him fifty, every day of it.”

By this time the new-comer was so near, that the conversation ceased, all standing gazing at him, as he drew near, and Maud gathering up her hair, with maiden bashfulness, though certainly Nick was no stranger.  As for Little Smash, she waddled off to proclaim the news to the younger Pliny, Mari, and Great Smash, all of whom were still in the kitchen of the Hut, flourishing, sleek and glistening.

Soon after, Nick arrived.  He came up the Knoll on his loping trot, never stopping until he was within five or six yards of the Captain, when he suddenly halted, folded his arms, and stood in a composed attitude, lest he should betray a womanish desire to tell his story.  He did not even pant but appeared as composed and unmoved, as if he had walked the half-mile he had been seen to pass over on a trot.

“Sago ­Sago,” cried the captain, heartily ­“you are welcome back, Nick; I am glad to see you still so active.”

“Sago” ­answered the guttural voice of the Indian, who quietly nodded his head.

“What will you have to refresh you, after such a journey, Nick ­our trees give us good cider, now.”

“Santa Cruz better,” ­rejoined the sententious Tuscarora.

“Santa Cruz is certainly stronger” answered the captain laughing, “and, in that sense, you may find it better.  You shall have a glass, as soon as we go to the house.  What news do you bring, that you come in so fast?”

“Glass won’t do.  Nick bring news worth jug.  Squaw give two jug for Nick’s news.  Is it barg’in?”

“I!” cried Mrs. Willoughby ­“what concern can I have with your news.  My daughters are both with me, and Heaven be praised! both are well.  What can I care for your news, Nick?”

“Got no pap-poose but gal?  T’ink you got boy ­officer ­great chief ­up here, down yonder ­over dere.”

“Robert! ­Major Willoughby!  What can you have to tell me of my son?”

“Tell all about him, for one jug.  Jug out yonder; Nick’s story out here.  One good as t’other.”

“You shall have all you ask, Nick.” ­These were not temperance days, when conscience took so firm a stand between the bottle and the lips. ­“You shall have all you ask, Nick, provided you can really give me good accounts of my noble boy.  Speak, then; what have you to say?”

“Say you see him in ten, five minute.  Sent Nick before to keep moder from too much cry.”

An exclamation from Maud followed; then the ardent girl was seen rushing down the lawn, her hat thrown aside; and her bright fair hair again flowing in ringlets on her shoulders.  She flew rather than ran, in the direction of the mill, where the figure of Robert Willoughby was seen rushing forward to meet her.  Suddenly the girl stopped, threw herself on a log, and hid her face.  In a few minutes she was locked in her brother’s arms.  Neither Mrs. Willoughby nor Beulah imitated this impetuous movement on the part of Maud; but the captain, chaplain, and even Jamie Allen, hastened down the road to meet and welcome the young major.  Ten minutes later, Bob Willoughby was folded to his mother’s heart; then came Beulah’s turn; after which, the news having flown through the household, the young man had to receive the greetings of Mari’, both the Smashes, the younger Pliny, and all the dogs.  A tumultuous quarter of an hour brought all round, again, to its proper place, and restored something like order to the Knoll.  Still an excitement prevailed the rest of the day, for the sudden arrival of a guest always produced a sensation in that retired settlement; much more likely, then, was the unexpected appearance of the only son and heir to create one.  As everybody bustled and was in motion, the whole family was in the parlour, and major Willoughby was receiving the grateful refreshment of a delicious cup of tea, before the sun set.  The chaplain would have retired out of delicacy, but to this the captain would not listen; he would have everything proceed as if the son were a customary guest, though it might have been seen by the manner in which his mother’s affectionate eye was fastened on his handsome face, as well as that in which his sister Beulah, in particular, hung about him, under the pretence of supplying his wants, that the young man was anything but an every-day inmate.

“How the lad has grown!” said the captain, tears of pride starting into his eyes, in spite of a very manful resolution to appear composed and soldier-like.

“I was about to remark that myself, captain,” observed the chaplain.  “I do think Mr. Robert has got to his full six feet ­every inch as tall as you are yourself, my good sir.”

“That is he, Woods ­and taller in one sense.  He is a major, already, at twenty-seven; it is a step I was not able to reach at near twice the age.”

“That is owing, my dear sir,” answered the son quickly, and with a slight tremor in his voice, “to your not having as kind a father as has fallen to my share ­or at least one not as well provided with the means of purchasing.”

“Say none at all, Bob, and you can wound no feeling, while you will tell the truth. My father died a lieutenant-colonel when I was a school-boy; I owed my ensigncy to my uncle Sir Hugh, the father of the present Sir Harry Willoughby; after that I owed each step to hard and long service.  Your mother’s legacies have helped you along, at a faster rate, though I do trust there has been some merit to aid in the preferment.”

“Speaking of Sir Harry Willoughby, sir, reminds me of one part of my errand to the Hut,” said the major, glancing his eye towards his father, as if to prepare him for some unexpected intelligence.

“What of my cousin?” demanded the captain, calmly.  “We have not met in thirty years, and are the next thing to strangers to each other.  Has he made that silly match of which I heard something when last in York?  Has he disinherited his daughter as he threatened?  Use no reserve here; our friend Woods is one of the family.”

“Sir Harry Willoughby is not married, sir, but dead.”

“Dead!” repeated the captain, setting down his cup, like one who received a sudden shock.  “I hope not without having been reconciled to his daughter, and providing for her large family?”

“He died in her arms, and escaped the consequences of his silly intention to marry his own housekeeper.  With one material exception, he has left Mrs. Bowater his whole fortune.”

The captain sat thoughtful, for some time; every one else being silent and attentive.  But the mother’s feelings prompted her to inquire as to the nature of the exception.

“Why, mother, contrary to all my expectations, and I may say wishes, he has left me twenty-five thousand pounds in the fives.  I only hold the money as my father’s trustee.”

“You do no such thing, Master Bob, I can tell you!” said the captain, with emphasis.

The son looked at the father, a moment, as if to see whether he was understood, and then he proceeded ­

“I presume you remember, sir,” said the major, “that you are the heir to the title?”

“I have not forgot that, major Willoughby; but what is an empty baronetcy to a happy husband and father like me, here in the wilds of America?  Were I still in the army, and a colonel, the thing might be of use; as I am, I would rather have a tolerable road from this place to the Mohawk than the duchy of Norfolk, without the estate.”

“Estate there is none, certainly,” returned the major, in a tone of a little disappointment, “except the twenty-five thousand pounds; unless you include that which you possess where you are; not insignificant, by the way, sir.”

“It will do well enough for old Hugh Willoughby, late a captain in His Majesty’s 23d Regiment of Foot, but not so well for Sir Hugh.  No, no, Bob.  Let the baronetcy sleep awhile; it has been used quite enough for the last hundred years or more.  Out of this circle, there are probably not ten persons in America, who know that I have any claims to it.”

The major coloured, and he played with the spoon of his empty cup, stealing a glance or two around, before he answered.

“I beg your pardon, Sir Hugh ­my dear father, I mean ­but ­to own the truth, never anticipating such a decision on your part, I have spoken of the thing to a good many friends ­I dare say, if the truth were known, I’ve called you the baronet, or Sir Hugh, to others, at least a dozen times.”

“Well, should it be so, the thing will be forgotten.  A parson can be unfrocked, Woods, and a baronet can be unbaroneted, I suppose.”

“But, Sir William” ­so everybody called the well-known Sir William Johnson, in the colony of New York ­“But, Sir William found it useful, Willoughby, and so, I dare say, will his son and successor, Sir John,” observed the attentive wife and anxious mother; “and if you are not now in the army, Bob is.  It will be a good thing for our son one day, and ought not to be lost.”

“Ah, I see how it is, Beulah; your mother has no notion to lose the right of being called Lady Willoughby.”

“I am sure my mother, sir, wishes to be called nothing that does not become your wife; if you remain Mr. Hugh Willoughby, she will remain Mrs. Hugh Willoughby.  But papa, it might be useful to Bob.”

Beulah was a great favourite with the captain, Maud being only his darling; he listened always to whatever the former said, therefore, with indulgence and respect.  He often told the chaplain that his daughter Beulah had the true feelings of her sex, possessing a sort of instinct for whatever was right and becoming, in woman.

“Well, Bob may have the baronetcy, then,” he said, smiling.  “Major Sir Robert Willoughby will not sound amiss in a despatch.”

“But, Bob cannot have it, father,” exclaimed Maud ­“No one can have it but you; and it’s a pity it should be lost.”

“Let him wait, then, until I am out of the way; when he may claim his own.”

Can that be done?” inquired the mother, to whom nothing was without interest that affected her children.  “How is it, Mr. Woods? ­ may a title be dropped, and then picked up again? ­how is this, Robert?”

“I believe it may, my dear mother ­it will always exist, so long as there is an heir, and my father’s disrelish for it will not be binding on me.”

“Oh! in that case, then, all will come right in the end ­though, as your father does not want it, I wish you could have it, now.”

This was said with the most satisfied air in the world, as if the speaker had no possible interest in the matter herself, and it closed the conversation, for that time.  It was not easy to keep up an interest in anything that related to the family, where Mrs. Willoughby was concerned, in which heart did not predominate.  A baronetcy was a considerable dignity in the colony of New York in the year of our Lord, 1775, and it gave its possessor far more importance than it would have done in England.  In the whole colony there was but one, though a good many were to be found further south; and he was known as “Sir John,” as, in England, Lord Rockingham, or, in America, at a later day, La Fayette, was known as “The Marquis.”  Under such circumstances, then, it would have been no trifling sacrifice to an ordinary woman to forego the pleasure of being called “my lady.”  But the sacrifice cost our matron no pain, no regrets, no thought even:  The same attachments which made her happy, away from the world, in the wilderness where she dwelt, supplanted all other feelings, and left her no room, or leisure, to think of such vanities.  When the discourse changed, it was understood that “Sir Hugh” was not to be “Sir Hugh,” and that “Sir Robert” must bide his time.

“Where did you fall in with the Tuscarora, Bob?” suddenly asked the captain, as much to bring up another subject, as through curiosity.  “The fellow had been so long away, I began to think we should never see him again.

“He tells me, sir, he has been on a war path, somewhere out among the western savages.  It seems these Indians fight among themselves, from time to time, and Nick has been trying to keep his hand in.  I found him down at Canajoharie, and took him for a guide, though he had the honesty to own he was on the point of coming over here, had I not engaged him.”

“I’ll answer for it he didn’t tell you that, until you had paid him for the job.”

“Why, to own the truth, he did not, sir.  He pretended something about owing money in the village, and got his pay in advance.  I learned his intentions only when we were within a few miles of the Hut.”

“I’m glad to find, Bob, that you give the place its proper name.  How gloriously Sir Hugh Willoughby, Bart., of The Hut, Tryon county, New York, would sound, Woods! ­Did Nick boast of the scalps he has taken from the Carthaginians?”

“He lays claim to three, I believe, though I have seen none of his trophies.”

“The Roman hero! ­Yet, I have known Nick rather a dangerous warrior.  He was out against us, in some of my earliest service, and our acquaintance was made by my saving his life from the bayonet of one of my own grenadiers.  I thought the fellow remembered the act for some years; but, in the end, I believe I flogged all the gratitude out of him.  His motives, now, are concentrated in the little island of Santa Cruz.”

“Here he is, father,” said Maud, stretching her light, flexible form out of a window.  “Mike and the Indian are seated at the lower spring, with a jug between them, and appear to be in a deep conversation.”

“Ay, I remember on their first acquaintance, that Mike mistook Saucy Nick, for Old Nick.  The Indian was indignant for a while, at being mistaken for the Evil Spirit, but the worthies soon found a bond of union between them, and, before six months, he and the Irishman became sworn friends.  It is said whenever two human beings love a common principle, that it never fails to make them firm allies.”

“And what was the principle, in this case, captain Willoughby?” inquired the chaplain, with curiosity.

“Santa Cruz.  Mike renounced whiskey altogether, after he came to America, and took to rum.  As for Nick, he was never so vulgar as to find pleasure in the former liquor.”

The whole party had gathered to the windows, while the discourse was proceeding, and looking out, each individual saw Mike and his friend, in the situation described by Maud.  The two amateurs ­ connoisseurs would not be misapplied, either ­had seated themselves at the brink of a spring of delicious water, and removing the corn-cob that Pliny the younger had felt it to be classical to affix to the nozzle of a quart jug, had, some time before, commenced the delightful recreation of sounding the depth, not of the spring, but of the vessel.  As respects the former, Mike, who was a wag in his way, had taken a hint from a practice said to be common in Ireland, called “potatoe and point,” which means to eat the potatoe and point at the butter; declaring that “rum and p’int” was every bit as entertaining as a “p’int of rum.”  On this principle, then, with a broad grin on a face that opened from ear to ear whenever he laughed, the county Leitrim-man would gravely point his finger at the water, in a sort of mock-homage, and follow up the movement with such a suck at the nozzle, as, aided by the efforts of Nick, soon analyzed the upper half of the liquor that had entered by that very passage.  All this time, conversation did not flag, and, as the parties grew warm, confidence increased, though reason sensibly diminished.  As a part of this discourse will have some bearing on what is to follow, it may be in place to relate it, here.

“Ye’re a jewel, ye be, ould Nick, or young Nick!” cried Mike, in an ecstasy of friendship, just after he had completed his first half-pint.  “Ye’re as wilcome at the Huts, as if ye owned thim, and I love ye as I did my own brother, before I left the county Leitrim ­paice to his sowl!”

“He dead?” asked Nick, sententiously; for he had lived enough among the pale-faces to have some notions of then theory about the soul.

“That’s more than I know ­but, living or dead, the man must have a sowl, ye understand, Nicholas.  A human crathure widout a sowl, is what I call a heretick; and none of the O’Hearns ever came to that.”

Nick was tolerably drunk, but by no means so far gone, that he had not manners enough to make a grave, and somewhat dignified gesture; which was as much as to say he was familiar with the subject.

“All go olé fashion here?” he asked, avoiding every appearance of curiosity, however.

“That does it ­that it does, Nicholas.  All goes ould enough.  The captain begins to get ould; and the missus is oulder than she used to be; and Joel’s wife looks a hundred, though she isn’t t’irty; and Joel, himself, the spalpeen ­he looks ­” a gulp at the jug stopped the communication.

“Dirty, too?” added the sententious Tuscarora, who did not comprehend more than half his friend said.

“Ay, dir-r-ty ­he’s always that.  He’s a dirthy fellow, that thinks his yankee charactur is above all other things.”

Nick’s countenance became illuminated with an expression nowise akin to that produced by rum, and he fastened on his companion one of his fiery gazes, which occasionally seemed to penetrate to the centre of the object looked at.

“Why pale-face hate one anoder?  Why Irishman don’t love yankee?”

“Och! love the crathure, is it?  You’d betther ask me to love a to’d” ­ for so Michael would pronounce the word ‘toad.’  “What is there to love about him, but skin and bone!  I’d as soon love a skiliten.  Yes ­an immortal skiliten.”

Nick made another gesture, and then he endeavoured to reflect, like one who had a grave business in contemplation.  The Santa Cruz confused his brain, but the Indian never entirely lost his presence of mind; or never, at least, so long as he could either see or walk.

“Don’t like him” ­rejoined Nick.  “Like anybody?”

“To be sure I does ­I like the capt’in ­och, he’s a jontleman ­ and I likes the missus; she’s a laddy ­and I likes Miss Beuly, who’s a swate young woman ­and then there’s Miss Maud, who’s the delight of my eyes.  Fegs, but isn’t she a crathure to relish!”

Mike spoke like a good honest fellow, as he was at the bottom, with all his heart and soul.  The Indian did not seem pleased, but he made no answer.

“You’ve been in the wars then, Nick!” asked the Irishman, after a short pause.

“Yes ­Nick been chief ag’in ­take scalps.”

Ach!  That’s a mighty ugly thrade!  If you’d tell ’em that in Ireland, they’d not think it a possibility.”

“No like fight in Ireland, hah?”

“I’ll not say that ­no, I’ll not say that; for many’s the jollification at which the fighting is the chafe amusement.  But we likes thumping on the head ­not skinning it.”

“That your fashion ­my fashion take scalp.  You thump; I skin ­which best?”

“Augh! skinnin’ is a dreadthful operation; but shillaleh-work comes nately and nat’rally.  How many of these said scalps, now, may ye have picked up, Nick, in yer last journey?”

“T’ree ­all man and woman ­no pappoose.  One big enough make two; so call him four.”

“Oh!  Divil burn ye, Nick; but there’s a spice of your namesake in ye, afther all.  T’ree human crathures skinned, and you not satisfied, and so ye’ll chait a bit to make ’em four!  D’ye never think, now, of yer latther ind?  D’ye never confess?”

“T’ink every day of dat.  Hope to find more, before last day come.  Plenty scalp here; ha, Mike?”

This was said a little incautiously, perhaps, but it was said under a strong native impulse.  The Irishman, however, was never very logical or clear-headed; and three gills of rum had, by no means, helped to purify his brain.  He heard the word “plenty,” knew he was well fed and warmly clad, and just now, that Santa Cruz so much abounded, the term seemed peculiarly applicable.

“It’s a plinthiful place it is, is this very manor.  There’s all sorts of things in it that’s wanted.  There’s food and raiment, and cattle, and grain, and porkers, and praiching ­yes, divil burn it, Nick, but there’s what goes for praiching, though it’s no more like what we calls praiching than yer’e like Miss Maud in comeliness, and ye’ll own, yourself, Nick, yer’e no beauty.”

“Got handsome hair,” said Nick, surlily ­“How she look widout scalp?”

“The likes of her, is it!  Who ever saw one of her beauthy without the finest hair that ever was!  What do you get for your scalps? ­are they of any use when you find ’em?”

“Bring plenty bye’m-by.  Whole country glad to see him before long ­den beavers get pond ag’in.”

“How’s that ­how’s that, Indian?  Baiver get pounded?  There’s no pound, hereabouts, and baivers is not an animal to be shut up like a hog!”

Nick perceived that his friend was past argumentation, and as he himself was approaching the state when the drunkard receives delight from he knows not what, it is unnecessary to relate any more of the dialogue.  The jug was finished, each man very honestly drinking his pint, and as naturally submitting to its consequences; and this so much the more because the two were so engrossed with the rum that both forgot to pay that attention to the spring that might have been expected from its proximity.