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

  “Heart leaps to heart ­the sacred flood
  That warms us is the same;
  That good old man ­his honest blood
  Alike we fondly claim.”


Although Nick commenced his progress with so much seeming zeal and activity, his speed abated, the moment he found himself beyond the sight of those he had left in the woods.  Before he reached the foot of the cliff, his trot had degenerated to a walk; and when he actually found he was at its base, he seated himself on a stone, apparently to reflect on the course he ought to pursue.

The countenance of the Tuscarora expressed a variety of emotions while he thus remained stationary.  At first, it was fierce, savage, exulting; then it became gentler, soft, perhaps repentant.  He drew his knife from its buckskin sheath, and eyed the blade with a gaze expressive of uneasiness.  Perceiving that a clot of blood had collected at the junction with the handle, it was carefully removed by the use of water.  His look next passed over his whole person, in order to ascertain if any more of these betrayers of his fearful secret remained; after which he seemed more at ease.

“Wyandotte’s back don’t ache now,” he growled to himself.  “Olé sore heal up.  Why Cap’in touch him?  T’ink Injin no got feelin’?  Good man, sometime; bad man, sometime.  Sometime, live; sometime, die.  Why tell Wyandotte he flog ag’in, just as go to enemy’s camp?  No; back feel well, now ­nebber smart, any more.”

When this soliloquy was ended, Nick arose, cast a look up at the sun, to ascertain how much of the day still remained, glanced towards the Hut, as if examining the nature of its defences, stretched himself like one who was weary, and peeped out from behind the bushes, in order to see how those who were afield, still occupied themselves.  All this done, with singular deliberation and steadiness, he arranged his light dress, and prepared to present himself before the wife and daughters of the man, whom, three hours before, he had remorselessly murdered.  Nick had often meditated this treacherous deed, during the thirty years which had elapsed between his first flogging and the present period; but circumstances had never placed its execution safely in his power.  The subsequent punishments had increased the desire, for a few years; but time had so far worn off the craving for revenge, that it would never have been actively revived, perhaps, but for the unfortunate allusions of the victim himself, to the subject.  Captain Willoughby had been an English soldier, of the school of the last century.  He was naturally a humane and a just man, but he believed in the military axiom that “the most flogging regiments were the best fighting regiments;” and perhaps he was not in error, as regards the lower English character.  It was a fatal error, however, to make in relation to an American savage; one who had formerly exercised the functions, and who had not lost all the feelings, of a chief.  Unhappily, at a moment when everything depended on the fidelity of the Tuscarora, the captain had bethought him of his old expedient for insuring prompt obedience, and, by way of a reminder, he made an allusion to his former mode of punishment.  As Nick would have expressed it, “the old sores smarted;” the wavering purpose of thirty years was suddenly and fiercely revived, and the knife passed into the heart of the victim, with a rapidity that left no time for appeals to the tribunal of God’s mercy.  In half a minute, Captain Willoughby had ceased to breathe.

Such had been the act of the man who now passed through the opening of the palisade, and entered the former habitation of his victim.  A profound stillness reigned in and around the Hut, and no one appeared to question the unexpected intruder.  Nick passed, with his noiseless step, round to the gate, which he found secured.  It was necessary to knock, and this he did in a way effectually to bring a porter.

“Who dere?” demanded the elder Pliny, from within.

“Good friend ­open gate.  Come wid message from cap’in.”

The natural distaste to the Indians which existed among the blacks of the Knoll, included the Tuscarora.  This disgust was mingled with a degree of dread; and it was difficult for beings so untutored and ignorant, at all times to draw the proper distinctions between Indian and Indian.  In their wonder-loving imaginations, Oneidas, Tuscaroras, Mohawks, Onondagas, and Iroquois were all jumbled together in inextricable confusion, a red man being a red man, and a savage a savage.  It is not surprising, therefore, that Pliny the elder should hesitate about opening the gate, and admitting one of the detested race, though a man so well known to them all, in the peculiar situation of the family.  Luckily, Great Smash happened to be near, and her husband called her to the gate by one of the signals that, was much practised between them.

“Who you t’ink out-dere?” asked Pliny the elder of his consort, with a very significant look.

“How you t’ink guess, olé Plin? ­You ’spose nigger wench like Albonny wise woman, dat she see t’rough a gate, and know ebbery t’ing, and little more!”

“Well, dat Sassy Nick.  What you say now?

“You sartain, olé Plin?” asked Mistress Smash, with a face ominous of evil.

“Sartain as ear.  Talk wid him ­he want to come in.  What you t’ink?”

“Nebber open gate, olé Plin, till mistress tell you.  You stay here ­ dere; lean ag’in gate wid all you might; dere; now I go call Miss Maud.  She all alone in librarim, and will know what best.  Mind you lean ag’in gate well, olé Plin.”

Pliny the elder nodded assent, placed his shoulders resolutely against the massive timbers, and stood propping a defence that would have made a respectable resistance to a battering-ram, like another Atlas, upholding a world.  His duty was short, however, his ‘lady’ soon returning with Maud, who was hastening breathlessly to learn the news.

“Is it you, Nick?” called out the sweet voice of our heroine through the crevices of the timber.

The Tuscarora started, as he so unexpectedly heard those familiar sounds; for an instant, his look was dark; then the expression changed to pity and concern, and his reply was given with less than usual of the abrupt, guttural brevity that belonged to his habits.

“’Tis Nick ­Sassy Nick ­Wyandotte, Flower of the Woods,” for so the Indian often termed Maud. ­“Got news ­cap’in send him.  Meet party and go along.  Nobody here; only Wyandotte.  Nick see major, too ­say somet’ing to young squaw.”

This decided the matter.  The gate was unbarred, and Nick in the court in half-a-minute.  Great Smash stole a glance without, and beckoned Pliny the elder to join her, in order to see the extraordinary spectacle of Joel and his associates toiling in the fields.  When they drew in their heads, Maud and her companion were already in the library.  The message from Robert Willoughby had induced our heroine to seek this room; for, placing little confidence in the delicacy of the messenger, she recoiled from listening to his words in the presence of others.

But Nick was in no haste to speak.  He took the chair to which Maud motioned, and he sate looking at her, in a way that soon excited her alarm.

“Tell me, if your heart has any mercy in it, Wyandotte; has aught happened to Major Willoughby?”

“He well ­laugh, talk, feel good.  Mind not’ing.  He prisoner; don’t touch he scalp.”

“Why, then, do you wear so ominous a look ­your face is the very harbinger of evil.”

“Bad news, if trut’ must come.  What you’ name, young squaw?”

“Surely, surely, you must know that well, Nick!  I am Maud ­your old friend, Maud.”

Pale-face hab two name ­Tuscarora got t’ree.  Some time, Nick ­ sometime, Sassy Nick ­sometime, Wyandotte.”

“You know my name is Maud Willoughby,” returned our heroine, colouring to the temples with a certain secret consciousness of her error, but preferring to keep up old appearances.

“Dat call you’ fader’s name, Meredit’; no Willoughby.”

“Merciful Providence! and has this great secret been known to you, too, Nick!”

“He no secret ­know all about him.  Wyandotte dere.  See Major Meredit’ shot. He good chief ­nebber flog ­nebber strike Injin.  Nick know fader, know moder ­know squaw, when pappoose.”

“And why have you chosen this particular moment to tell me all this?  Has it any relation to your message ­to Bob ­to Major Willoughby, I mean?” demanded Mauo, nearly gasping for breath.

“No relation, tell you,” said Nick, a little angrily.  “Why make relation, when no relation at all.  Meredit’; no Willoughby.  Ask moder; ask major; ask chaplain ­all tell trut’!  No need to be so feelin’; no you fader, at all.”

“What can you ­what do you mean, Nick?  Why do you look so wild ­so fierce ­so kind ­so sorrowful ­so angry?  You must have bad news to tell me.”

“Why bad to you ­he no fader ­only fader friend.  You can’t help it ­fader die when you pappoose ­why you care, now, for dis?”

Maud now actually gasped for breath.  A frightful glimpse of the truth gleamed before her imagination, though it was necessarily veiled in the mist of uncertainty.  She became pale as death, and pressed her hand upon her heart, as if to still its beating.  Then, by a desperate effort, she became more calm, and obtained the power to speak.

“Oh! is it so, Nick! ­can it be so!” she said; “my father has fallen in this dreadful business?”

“Fader kill twenty year ago; tell you dat, how often?” answered the Tuscarora, angrily; for, in his anxiety to lessen the shock to Maud, for whom this wayward savage had a strange sentiment of affection, that had grown out of her gentle kindnesses to himself, on a hundred occasions, he fancied if she knew that Captain Willoughby was not actually her father, her grief at his loss would be less.  “Why you call dis fader, when dat fader.  Nick know fader and moder. ­Major no broder.”

Notwithstanding the sensations that nearly pressed her to the earth, the tell-tale blood rushed to Maud’s cheeks, again, at this allusion, and she bowed her face to her knees.  The action gave her time to rally her faculties; and catching a glimpse of the vast importance to all for her maintaining self-command, she was enabled to raise her face with something like the fortitude the Indian hoped to see.

“Trifle with me no longer, Wyandotte, but let me know the worst at once.  Is my father dead? ­By father, I mean captain Willoughby?”

“Mean wrong, den ­no fader, tell you.  Why young quaw so much like Mohawk?”

“Man ­is captain Willoughby killed?”

Nick gazed intently into Maud’s face for half a minute, and then he nodded an assent.  Notwithstanding all her resolutions to be steady, our heroine nearly sank under the blow.  For ten minutes she spoke not, but sat, her head bowed to her knees, in a confusion of thought that threatened a temporary loss of reason.  Happily, a flood of tears relieved her, and she became more calm.  Then the necessity of knowing more, in order that she might act intelligently, occurred to her mind, and she questioned Nick in a way to elicit all it suited the savage to reveal.

Maud’s first impulse was to go out to meet the body of the captain, and to ascertain for herself that there was actually no longer any hope.  Nick’s account had been so laconic as to leave much obscurity, and the blow had been so sudden she could hardly credit the truth in its full extent.  Still, there remained the dreadful tidings to be communicated to those dear beings, who, while they feared so much, had never anticipated a calamity like this.  Even Mrs. Willoughby, sensitive as she was, and wrapped up in those she loved so entirely, as she was habitually, had been so long accustomed to see and know of her husband’s exposing himself with impunity, as to begin to feel, if not to think, that he bore a charmed life.  All this customary confidence was to be overcome, and the truth was to be said.  Tell the fact to her mother, Maud felt that she could not then; scarcely under any circumstances would she have consented to perform this melancholy office; but, so long as a shadow of doubt remained on the subject of her father’s actual decease, it seemed cruel even to think of it.  Her decision was to send for Beulah, and it was done by means of one of the negresses.

So long as we feel that there are others to be sustained by our fortitude, even the feeblest possess a firmness to which they might otherwise be strangers.  Maud, contrary to what her delicate but active frame and sweetness of disposition might seem to indicate, was a young woman capable of the boldest exertions, short of taking human life.  Her frontier training had raised her above most of the ordinary weaknesses of her sex; and, so far as determination went, few men were capable of higher resolution, when circumstances called for its display.  Her plan was now made up to go forth and meet the body, and nothing short of a command from her mother could have stopped her.  In this frame of mind was our heroine, when Beulah made her appearance.

“Maud!” exclaimed the youthful matron, “what has happened! ­why are you so pale! ­why send for me?  Does Nick bring us any tidings from the mill?”

“The worst possible, Beulah.  My father ­my dear, dear father is hurt.  They have borne him as far as the edge of the woods, where they have halted, in order not to take us by surprise.  I am going to meet the ­to meet the men, and to bring father in.  You must prepare mother for the sad, sad tidings ­yes, Beulah, for the worst, as everything depends on the wisdom and goodness of God!”

“Oh!  Maud, this is dreadful!” exclaimed the sister, sinking into a chair ­“What will become of mother ­of little Evert ­of us all!”

“The providence of the Ruler of heaven and earth will care for us.  Kiss me, dear sister ­how cold you are ­rouse yourself, Beulah, for mother’s sake.  Think how much more she must feel than we possibly can, and then be resolute.”

“Yes, Maud ­very true ­no woman can feel like a wife ­unless it be a mother ­”

Here Beulah’s words were stopped by her fainting.

“You see, Smash,” said Maud, pointing to her sister with a strange resolution, “she must have air, and a little water ­and she has salts about her, I know.  Come, Nick; we have no more time to waste ­you must be my guide.”

The Tuscarora had been a silent observer of this scene, and if it did not awaken remorse in his bosom, it roused feelings that had never before been its inmates.  The sight of two such beings suffering under a blow that his own hand had struck, was novel to him, and he knew not which to encourage most, a sentiment allied to regret, or a fierce resentment, that any should dare thus to reproach, though it were only by yielding to the grief natural to their situation.  But Maud had obtained a command over him, that he knew not how to resist, and he followed her from the room, keeping his eyes riveted the while on the pallid face of Beulah.  The last was recalled from her insensibility, however, in the course of a few minutes, through the practised attentions of the negresses.

Maud waited for nothing.  Motioning impatiently for the Tuscarora to lead the way, she glided after him with a rapidity that equalled his own loping movement.  She made no difficulties in passing the stockade, though Nick kept his eyes on the labourers, and felt assured their exeunt was not noticed.  Once by the path that led along the rivulet, Maud refused all precautions, but passed swiftly over it, partially concealed by its bushes.  Her dress was dark, and left little liability to exposure.  As for Nick, his forest attire, like the hunting shirt of the whites, was expressly regulated by the wish to go to and fro unseen.

In less than three minutes after the Indian and Maud had passed the gate, they were drawing near to the melancholy group that had halted in the forest.  Our heroine was recognised as she approached, and when she came rushing up to the spot, all made way, allowing her to fall upon her knees by the side of the lifeless body, bathing the placid face of the dead with her tears, and covering it with kisses.

“Is there no hope ­oh!  Joyce,” she cried, “can it be possible that my father is actually dead?”

“I fear, Miss Maud, that his honour has made his last march.  He has received orders to go hence, and, like a gallant soldier as he was, he has obeyed, without a murmur;” answered the serjeant, endeavouring to appear firm and soldier-like, himself.  “We have lost a noble and humane commander, and you a most excellent and tender father.”

“No fader,” ­growled Nick, at the serjeant’s elbow, twitching his sleeve, at the same time, to attract attention.  ’Serjeant know her fader.  He by; I by, when Iroquois shoot him.”

“I do not understand you, Tuscarora, nor do I think you altogether understand us; the less you say, therefore, the better for all parties.  It is our duty, Miss Maud, to say ‘God’s will be done,’ and the soldier who dies in the discharge of his duty is never to be pitied.  I sincerely wish that the Rev. Mr. Woods was here; he would tell you all this in a manner that would admit of no dispute; as for myself, I am a plain man, Miss Maud, and my tongue cannot utter one-half that my heart feels at this instant.”

“Ah!  Joyce, what a friend ­what a parent has it pleased God to call to himself!”

“Yes, Miss Maud, that may be said with great justice ­if his honour has left us in obedience to general orders, it is to meet promotion in a service that will never weary, and never end.”

“So kind; so true; so gentle; so just; so affectionate!” said Maud, wringing her hands.

“And so brave, young lady.  His honour, captain Willoughby, wasn’t one of them that is always talking, and writing, and boasting about fighting; but when anything was to be done, the Colonel always knew whom to send on the duty.  The army couldn’t have lost a braver gentleman, had he remained in it.”

“Oh! my father ­my father,” ­cried Maud, in bitterness of sorrow, throwing herself on the body and embracing it, as had been her wont in childhood ­“would that I could have died for you!”

“Why you let go on so,” grumbled Nick, again. “No her fader ­you know dat, serjeant.”

Joyce was not in a state to answer.  His own feelings had been kept in subjection only by military pride, but they now had become so nearly uncontrollable, that he found himself obliged to step a little aside in order to conceal his weakness.  As it was, large tears trickled down his rugged face, like water flowing from the fissures of the riven oak Jamie Allen’s constitutional prudence, however, now became active, admonishing the party of the necessity of their getting within the protection of the Hut.

“Death is at a’ times awfu’,” said the mason, “but it must befall young and auld alike.  And the affleection it brings cometh fra’ the heart, and is a submission to the la’ o’ nature.  Nevertheless we a’ hae our duties, so lang as we remain in the flesh, and it is time to be thinking o’ carryin’ the body into some place o’ safety, while we hae a prudent regard to our ain conditions also.”

Maud had risen, and, hearing this appeal, she drew back meekly, assumed a manner of forced composure, and signed to the men to proceed.  On this intimation, the body was raised, and the melancholy procession resumed its march.

For the purpose of concealment, Joyce led the way into the bed of the stream, leaving Maud waiting their movements, a little deeper within the forest.  As soon as he and his fellow-bearers were in the water, Joyce turned and desired Nick to escort the young lady in, again, on dry land, or by the path along which she had come out.  This said, the serjeant and his companions proceeded.  Maud stood gazing on the sad spectacle like one entranced, until she felt a sleeve pulled, and perceived the Tuscarora at her side.

“No go to Hut,” said Nick, earnestly; “go wid Wyandotte.”

“Not follow my dear father’s remains ­not go to my beloved mother in her anguish.  You know not what you ask, Indian ­move, and let me proceed.”

“No go home ­no use ­no good.  Cap’in dead ­what do widout commander.  Come wid Wyandotte ­find major ­den do some good.”

Maud fairly started in her surprise.  There seemed something so truly useful, so consoling, so dear in this proposal, that it instantly caught her ear.

“Find the Major!” she answered.  “Is that possible, Nick?  My poor father perished in making that attempt ­what hope can there be then for my success?”

“Plenty hope ­much as want ­all, want.  Come wid Wyandotte ­he great chief ­show young squaw where to find broder.”

Here was a touch of Nick’s consummate art.  He knew the female bosom so well that he avoided any allusion to his knowledge of the real relation between Robert Willoughby and Maud, though he had so recently urged her want of natural affinity to the family, as a reason why she should not grieve.  By keeping the Major before her eyes as a brother, the chances of his own success were greatly increased.  As for Maud, a tumult of feeling came over her heart at this extraordinary proposal.  To liberate Bob, to lead him into the Hut, to offer his manly protection to her mother, and Beulah, and little Evert, at such an instant, caught her imagination, and appealed to all her affections.

“Can you do this, Tuscarora” ­she asked, earnestly, pressing her hand on her heart as if to quiet its throbbings.  “Can you really lead me to Major Willoughby, so that I may have some hope of liberating him?”

“Sartain ­you go, he come.  I go, he no come.  Don’t love Nick ­t’ink all Injin, one Injin ­t’ink one Injin, all Injin.  You go, he come ­he stay, find more knife, and die like Cap’in.  Young squaw follow Wyandotte, and see.”

Maud needed no more.  To save the life of Bob, her well-beloved, he who had so long been beloved in secret, she would have gone with one far less known and trusted than the Tuscarora.  She made an eager gesture for him to proceed, and they were soon on their way to the mill, threading the mazes of the forest.

Nick was far from observing the precautions that had been taken by the captain, in his unfortunate march out.  Acquainted with every inch of ground in the vicinity of the Dam, and an eye-witness of the dispositions of the invaders, he had no occasion for making the long detour already described, but went to work in a much more direct manner.  Instead of circling the valley, and the clearing, to the westward, he turned short in the contrary direction, crossed the rivulet on the fallen tree, and led the way along the eastern margin of the flats.  On this side of the valley he knew there were no enemies, and the position of the huts and barns enabled him to follow a path, that was just deep enough in the forest to conceal his movements.  By taking this course, besides having the advantage of a clear and beaten path, most of the way, the Tuscarora brought the whole distance within a mile.

As for Maud, she asked no questions, solicited no pauses, manifested no physical weakness.  Actively as the Indian moved among the trees, she kept close in his footsteps; and she had scarcely begun to reflect on the real nature of the undertaking in which she was engaged, when the roar of the rivulet, and the formation of the land, told her they had reached the edge of the glen below the mills.  Here Nick told her to remain stationary a moment, while he advanced to a covered point of the rocks, to reconnoitre.  This was the place where the Indian had made his first observations of the invaders of the valley, ascertaining their real character before he trusted his person among them.  On the present occasion, his object was to see if all remained, in and about the mills, as when he had last left the spot.

“Come” ­said Nick, signing for Maud to follow him ­“we go ­fools sleep, and eat, and talk.  Major prisoner now; half an hour, Major free.”

This was enough for the ardent, devoted, generous-hearted Maud.  She descended the path before her as swiftly as her guide could lead, and, in five more minutes, they reached the bank of the stream, in the glen, at a point where a curvature hid the rivulet from those at the mill.  Here an enormous pine had been laid across the torrent; and, flattened on its upper surface, it made a secure bridge for those who were sure of foot, and steady of eye.  Nick glanced back at his companion, as he stepped upon this bridge, to ascertain if she were equal to crossing it, a single glance sufficing to tell him apprehensions were unnecessary.  Half a minute placed both, in safety, on the western bank.

“Good!” muttered the Indian; “young squaw make wife for warrior.”

But Maud heard neither the compliment nor the expression of countenance which accompanied it.  She merely made an impatient gesture to proceed.  Nick gazed intently at the excited girl; and there was an instant when he seemed to waver in his own purpose; but the gesture repeated, caused him to turn, and lead the way up the glen.

The progress of Nick now, necessarily, became more guarded and slower.  He was soon obliged to quit the common path, and to incline to the left, more against the side of the cliff, for the purposes of concealment.  From the time he had struck the simple bridge, until he took this precaution, his course had lain along what might have been termed the common highway, on which there was always the danger of meeting some messenger, travelling to or from the valley.

But Nick was at no loss for paths.  There were plenty of them; and the one he took soon brought him out into that by which Captain Willoughby had descended to the lean-to.  When the spot was reached where Joyce had halted, Nick paused; and, first listening intently, to catch the sound of noises, if any might happen to be in dangerous proximity, he addressed his companion: 

“Young squaw bold,” he said, encouragingly; “now want heart of warrior.”

“I can follow, Nick ­having come so far, why distrust me, now?”

“’Cause he here ­down dere ­woman love man; man love woman ­dat right; but, no show it, when scalp in danger.”

“Perhaps I do not understand you, Tuscarora ­but, my trust is in God; he is a support that can uphold any weakness.”

“Good! ­stay here ­Nick come back, in minute.”

Nick now descended to the passage between the rocks and the lean-to, in order to make certain that the major still remained in his prison, before he incurred any unnecessary risk with Maud.  Of this fact he was soon assured; after which he took the precaution to conceal the pool of blood, by covering it with earth and stones.  Making his other observations with care, and placing the saw and chisel, with the other tools, that had fallen from the captain’s hand, when he received his death-wound, in a position to be handy, he ascended the path, and rejoined Maud.  No word passed between our heroine and her guide.  The latter motioned for her to follow; then he led the way down to the cabin.  Soon, both had entered the narrow passage; and Maud, in obedience to a sign from her companion, seated herself on the precise spot where her father had been found, and where the knife had passed into his heart.  To all this, however, Nick manifested the utmost indifference.  Everything like ferocity had left his face; to use his own figurative language, his sores smarted no longer; and the expression of his eye was friendly and gentle.  Still it showed no signs of compunction.