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

                   “Her pallid face displayed
  Something, methought, surpassing mortal beauty. 
  She presently turn’d round, and fixed her large, wild eyes. 
  Brimming with tears, upon me, fetch’d a sigh,
  As from a riven heart, and cried:  He’s dead!”


Maud had been so earnest, and so much excited, that the scarcely reflected on the singularity and novelty of her situation, until she was seated, as described at the close of the last chapter.  Then, indeed, she began to think that she had embarked in an undertaking of questionable prudence, and to wonder in what manner she was to be useful.  Still her heart did not fail her, or her hopes altogether sink.  She saw that Nick was grave and occupied, like a man who intended to effect his purpose at every hazard; and that purpose she firmly believed was the liberation of Robert Willoughby.

As for Nick, the instant his companion was seated, and he had got a position to his mind, he set about his business with great assiduity.  It has been said that the lean-to like the cabin, was built of logs; a fact that constituted the security of the prisoner.  The logs of the lean-to, however, were much smaller than those of the body of the house, and both were of the common white pine of the country; a wood of durable qualities, used as it was here, but which yielded easily to edged tools.  Nick had a small saw, a large chisel, and his knife.  With the chisel, he cautiously commenced opening a hole of communication with the interior, by removing a little of the mortar that filled the interstices between the logs.  This occupied but a moment.  When effected, Nick applied an eye to the hole and took a look within.  He muttered the word “good,” then withdrew his own eye, and, by a sign, invited Maud to apply one of hers.  This our heroine did, and saw Robert Willoughby, reading within a few feet of her, with a calmness of air, that at once announced his utter ignorance of the dire event that had so lately occurred, almost within reach of his arm.

“Squaw speak,” whispered Nick; “voice sweet as wren ­go to Major’s ear like song of bird. ­Squaw speak music to young warrior.”

Maud drew back, her heart beat violently, her breathing became difficult, and the blood rushed to her temples.  But an earnest motion from Nick reminded her this was no time for hesitation, and she applied her mouth to the hole.

“Robert ­dear Robert,” she said, in a loud whisper, “we are here ­have come to release you.”

Maud’s impatience could wait no longer; but her eye immediately succeeded her mouth.  That she was heard was evident from the circumstance that the book fell from the Major’s hand, in a way to show how completely he was taken by surprise.  “He knows even my whispers,” thought Maud, her heart beating still more violently, as she observed the young soldier gazing around him, with a bewildered air, like one who fancied he had heard the whisperings of some ministering angel.  By this time, Nick had removed a long piece of the mortar; and he too, was looking into the buttery.  By way of bringing matters to an understanding, the Indian thrust the chisel through the opening, and, moving it, he soon attracted Willoughby’s attention.  The latter instantly advanced, and applied his own eye to the wide crack, catching a view of the swarthy face of Nick.

Willoughby knew that the presence of this Indian, at such a place, and under such circumstances, indicated the necessity of caution.  He did not speak, therefore; but, first making a significant gesture towards the door of his narrow prison, thus intimating the close proximity of sentinels, he demanded the object of this visit, in a whisper.

“Come to set major free,” answered Nick.

“Can I trust you, Tuscarora?  Sometimes you seem a friend, sometimes an enemy.  I know that you appear to be on good terms with my captors.”

“Dat good ­Injin know how to look two way ­warrior must, if great warrior.”

“I wish I had some proof, Nick, that you are dealing with me in good faith.”

“Call dat proof, den!” growled the savage, seizing Maud’s little Land, and passing it through the opening, before the startled girl was fully aware of what he meant to do.

Willoughby knew the hand at a glance.  He would have recognised it, in that forest solitude, by its symmetry and whiteness, its delicacy and its fullness; but one of the taper fingers wore a ring that, of late, Maud had much used; being a diamond hoop that she had learned was a favourite ornament of her real mother’s.  It is not surprising, therefore, that he seized the pledge that was thus strangely held forth, and had covered it with kisses, before Maud had presence of mind sufficient, or strength to reclaim it.  This she would not do, however, at such a moment, without returning all the proofs of ardent affection that were lavished on her own hand, by giving a gentle pressure to the one in which it was clasped.

“This is so strange, Maud! ­so every way extraordinary, that I know not what to think,” the young man whispered soon as he could get a glimpse of the face of the sweet girl.  “Why are you here, beloved, and in such company?”

“You will trust me, Bob ­Nick comes as your friend.  Aid him all you can, now, and be silent.  When free, then will be the time to learn all.”

A sign of assent succeeded, and the major withdrew a step, in order to ascertain the course Nick meant to pursue.  By this time, the Indian was at work with his knife, and he soon passed the chisel in to the prisoner, who seized it, and commenced cutting into the logs, at a point opposite to that where the Tuscarora was whittling away the wood.  The object was to introduce the saw, and it required some labour to effect such a purpose.  By dint of application, however, and by cutting the log above as well as that below, sufficient space was obtained in the course of a few minutes.  Nick then passed the saw in, through the opening, it exceeding his skill to use such a tool with readiness.

By this time, Willoughby was engaged with the earnestness and zeal of the captive who catches a glimpse of liberty.  Notwithstanding, he proceeded intelligently and with caution.  The blanket given him by his captors, as a pallet, was hanging from a nail, and he took the precaution to draw this mil, and to place it above the spot selected for the cut, that he might suspend the blanket so as to conceal what he was at, in the event of a visit from without.  When all was ready, and the blanket was properly placed, he began to make long heavy strokes with the tool, in a way to deaden the sound.  This was a delicate operation; but the work’s being done behind the blanket, had some effect in lessening the noise.  As the work proceeded, Willoughby’s hopes increased; and he was soon delighted to hear from Nick, that it was time to insert the saw in another place.  Success is apt to induce carelessness; and, as the task proceeded, Willoughby’s arm worked with greater rapidity, until a noise at the door gave the startling information that he was about to be visited.  There was just time to finish the last cut, and to let the blanket fall, before the door opened.  The saw-dust and chips had all been carefully removed, as the work proceeded, and of these none were left to betray the secret.

There might have been a quarter of a minute between the moment when Willoughby seated himself, with his book in his hand, and that in which the door opened.  Short as was this interval, it sufficed for Nick to remove the piece of log last cut, and to take away the handle of the saw; the latter change permitting the blanket to hang so close against the logs as completely to conceal the hole.  The sentinel who appeared was an Indian in externals, but a dull, white countryman in fact and character.

“I thought I heard the sound of a saw, major,” he said listlessly; “yet everything looks quiet, and in its place here!”

“Where should I get such a tool?” Willoughby coolly replied; “and what is there here to saw?”

“’Twas as nat’ral, too, as the carpenter himself could make it, in sound!”

“Possibly the mill has been set in motion by some of your idlers, and you have heard the large saw, which, at a distance, may sound like a smaller one near by.”

The man looked incredulously at his prisoner for a moment; then he drew to the door, with the air of one who was determined to assure himself of the truth, calling aloud as he did so, to one of his companions to join him.  Willoughby knew that no time was to be lost.  In half-a-minute, he had passed the hole, dropped the blanket before it, had circled the slender waist of Maud with one arm, and was shoving aside the bushes with the other, as he followed Nick from the straitened passage between the lean-to and the rock.  The major seemed more bent on bearing Maud from the spot, than on saving himself.  Her feet scarce touched the ground, as he ascended to the place where Joyce had halted.  Here Nick stood an instant, with a finger raised in intense listening.  His practised ears caught the sound of voices in the lean-to, then scarce fifty feet distant.  Men called to each other by name, and then a voice directly beneath them, proclaimed that a head was already thrust through the hole.

“Here is your saw, and here is its workmanship!” exclaimed this voice.

“And here is blood, too,” said another.  “See! the ground has been a pool beneath those stones.”

Maud shuddered, as if the soul were leaving its earthly tenement, and Willoughby signed impatiently for Nick to proceed.  But the savage, for a brief instant, seemed bewildered The danger below, however, increased, and evidently drew so near, that he turned and glided up the ascent.  Presently, the fugitives reached the descending path, that diverged from the larger one they were on, and by which Nick and Maud had so recently come diagonally up this cliff.  Nick leaped into it, and then the intervening bushes concealed their persons from any who might continue on the upward course.  There was an open space, however, a little lower down; and the quick-witted savage came to a stand under a close cover, believing flight to be useless should their pursuers actually follow on their heels.

The halt had not been made half-a-dozen seconds, when the voices of the party ascending in chase, were heard above the fugitives.  Willoughby felt an impulse to dash down the path, bearing Maud in his arms, but Nick interposed his own body to so rash a movement.  There was not time for a discussion, and the sounds of voices, speaking English too distinctly to pass for any but those of men of English birth, or English origin, were heard disputing about the course to be taken, at the point of junction between the two paths.

“Go by the lower,” called out one, from the rear; “he will run down the stream, and make for the settlements on the Hudson.  Once before, he has done this, as I know from Strides himself.”

“D –­n Strides!” answered another, more in front.  “He is a sniveling scoundrel, who loves liberty, as a hog loves corn for the sake of good living.  I say go the upper, which will carry him on the heights, and bring him out near his father’s garrison.”

“Here are marks of feet on the upper,” observed a third, “though they seem to be coming down, instead of going up the hill.”

“It is the trail of the fellows who have helped him to escape.  Push up the hill, and we shall have them all in ten minutes.  Push up ­push up.”

This decided the matter.  It appeared to Willoughby that at least a dozen men ran up the path, above his head, eager in the pursuit, and anticipating success.  Nick waited no longer, but glided down the cliff, and was soon in the broad path which led along the margin of the stream, and was the ordinary thoroughfare in going to or from the Knoll.  Here the fugitives, as on the advance, were exposed to the danger of accidental meetings; but, fortunately, no one was met, or seen, and the bridge was passed in safety.  Turning short to the north, Nick plunged into the woods again, following the cow-path by which he had so recently descended to the glen.  No pause was made even here.  Willoughby had an arm round the waist of Maud, and bore her forward, with a rapidity to which her own strength was altogether unequal.  In less than ten minutes from the time the prisoner had escaped, the fugitives reached the level of the rock of the water-fall, or that of the plain of the Dam.  As it was reasonably certain that none of the invaders had passed to that side of the valley, haste was no longer necessary, and Maud was permitted to pause for breath.

The halt was short, however, our heroine, herself, now feeling as if the major could not be secure until he was fairly within the palisades.  In vain did Willoughby try to pacify her fears and to assure her of his comparative safety; Maud’s nerves were excited, and then she had the dreadful tidings, which still remained to be told pressing upon her spirits, and quickening all her natural impulses and sentiments.

Nick soon made the signal to proceed, and then the three began to circle the flats, as mentioned in the advance of Maud and her companion.  When they reached a favourable spot, the Indian once more directed a halt, intimating his own intention to move to the margin of the woods, in order to reconnoitre.  Both his companions heard this announcement with satisfaction, for Willoughby was eager to say to Maud directly that which he had so plainly indicated by means of the box, and to extort from her a confession that she was not offended; while Maud herself felt the necessity of letting the major know the melancholy circumstance that yet remained to be told.  With these widely distinct feelings uppermost, our two lovers saw Nick quit them, each impatient, restless and uneasy.

Willoughby had found a seat for Maud, on a log, and he now placed himself at her side, and took her hand, pressing it silently to his heart.

“Nick has then been a true man, dearest Maud,” he said, “notwithstanding all my doubts and misgivings of him.”

“Yes; he gave me to understand you would hardly trust him, and that was the reason I was induced to accompany him.  We both thought, Bob, you would confide in me!”

“Bless you ­bless you ­beloved Maud ­but have you seen Mike ­has he had any interview with you ­in a word, did he deliver you my box?”

Maud’s feelings had been so much excited, that the declaration of Willoughby’s love, precious as it was to her heart failed to produce the outward signs that are usually exhibited by the delicate and sensitive of her sex, when they listen to the insinuating language for the first time.  Her thoughts were engrossed with her dreadful secret, and with the best and least shocking means of breaking it to the major.  The tint on her cheek, therefore, scarce deepened, as this question was put to her, while her eye, full of earnest tenderness, still remained riveted on the face of her companion.

“I have seen Mike, dear Bob,” she answered, with a steadiness that had its rise in her singleness of purpose ­“and he has shown me ­ given me, the box.”

“But have you understood me, Maud? ­You will remember that box contained the great secret of my life!”

“This I well remember ­yes, the box contains the great secret of your life.”

“But ­you cannot have understood me, Maud ­else would you not look so unconcerned ­so vacantly ­I am not understood, and am miserable!”

“No ­no ­no” ­interrupted Maud, hurriedly ­“I understand all you have wished to say, and you have no cause to be ­” Maud’s voice became choked, for she recollected the force of the blow that she had in reserve.

“This is so strange! ­altogether so unlike your usual manner, Maud, that there must be some mistake.  The box contained nothing but your own hair, dearest.”

“Yes; nothing else.  It was my hair; I knew it the instant I saw it.”

“And did it tell you no secret? ­Why was Beulah’s hair not with it?  Why did I cherish your hair, Maud, and your’s alone?  You have not understood me!”

“I have, dear, dear Bob! ­You love me ­you wished to say we are not brother and sister, in truth; that we have an affection that is far stronger ­one that will bind us together for life.  Do not look so wretched, Bob; I understand everything you wish to say.”

“This is so very extraordinary! ­So unlike yourself, Maud, I know not what to make of it!  I sent you that box, beloved one, to say that you had my whole heart; that I thought of you day and night; that you were the great object of my existence, and that, while misery would be certain without you, felicity would be just as certain with you; in a word, that I love you, Maud, and can never love another.”

“Yes, so I understood you, Bob.” ­Maud, spite of her concentration of feeling on the dreadful secret, could not refrain from blushing ­“It was too plain to be mistaken.”

“And how was my declaration received?  Tell me at once, dear girl, with your usual truth of character, and frankness ­can you, will you love me in return?”

This was a home question, and, on another occasion, it might have produced a scene of embarrassment and hesitation.  But Maud was delighted with the idea that it was in her power to break the violence of the blow she was about to inflict, by setting Robert Willoughby’s mind at ease on this great point.

“I do love you, Bob,” she said, with fervent affection beaming in every lineament of her angel face ­“have loved you, for years ­how could it be otherwise?  I have scarce seen any other to love; and how see you, and refrain?”

“Blessed, blessed, Maud ­but this is so strange ­I fear you do not understand me ­I am not speaking of such affection as Beulah bears me, as brother and sister feel; I speak of the love that my mother bore my father ­of the love of man and wife” ­

A groan from Maud stopped the vehement young man, who received his companion in his arms, as she bowed her head on his bosom, half fainting.

“Is this resentment, dearest, or is it consent?” he asked, bewildered by all that passed.

“Oh!  Bob ­Father ­father ­father!”

“My father! ­what of him, Maud?  Why has the allusion to him brought you to this state?”

“They have killed him, dearest, dearest Bob; and you must now be father, husband, brother, son, all in one.  We have no one left but you!”

A long pause succeeded.  The shock was terrible to Robert Willoughby, but he bore up against it, like a man.  Maud’s incoherent and unnatural manner was now explained, and while unutterable tenderness of manner ­a tenderness that was increased by what had just passed ­was exhibited by each to the other, no more was said of love.  A common grief appeared to bind their hearts closer together, but it was unnecessary to dwell on their mutual affection in words.  Robert Willoughby’s sorrow mingled with that of Maud, and, as he folded her to his heart, their faces were literally bathed in each other’s tears.

It was some time before Willoughby could ask, or Maud give, an explanation.  Then the latter briefly recounted all she knew, her companion listening with the closest attention.  The son thought the occurrence as extraordinary as it was afflicting, but there was not leisure for inquiry.

It was, perhaps, fortunate for our lovers that Nick’s employment kept him away.  For nearly ten minutes longer did he continue absent; then he returned, slowly, thoughtful, and possibly a little disturbed.  At the sound of his footstep, Willoughby released Maud from his arms, and both assumed an air of as much tranquillity as the state of their feelings would allow.

“Better march” ­said Nick, in his sententious manner ­“Mohawk very mad.”

“Do you see the signs of this?” asked the major, scarce knowing what he said.

“Alway make Injin mad; lose scalp.  Prisoner run away, carry scalp with him.”

“I rather think, Nick, you do my captors injustice; so far from desiring anything so cruel, they treated me well enough, considering the circumstances, and that we are in the woods.”

“Yes; spare scalp, ’cause t’ink rope ready.  Nebber trust Mohawk ­all bad Injin.”

To own the truth, one of the great failings of the savages of the American forests, was to think of the neighbouring tribes, as the Englishman is known to think of the Frenchman, and vice versa; as the German thinks of both, and all think of the Yankee.  In a word, his own tribe contains everything that is excellent, with the Pawnee, the Osage and Pottawattomie, as Paris contains all that is perfect in the eyes of the bourgeois, London in those of the cockney, and this virtuous republic in those of its own enlightened citizens; while the hostile communities are remorselessly given up to the tender solicitude of those beings which lead nations, as well as individuals, into the sinks of perdition.  Thus Nick, liberalized as his mind had comparatively become by intercourse with the whites, still retained enough of the impressions of childhood, to put the worst construction on the acts of all his competitors, and the best on his own.  In this spirit, then, he warned his companions against placing any reliance on the mercy of the Mohawks.

Major Wilioughby, however, had now sufficient inducements to move, without reference to the hostile intentions of his late captors.  That his escape would excite a malignant desire for vengeance, he could easily believe; but his mother, his revered heart-broken mother, and the patient, afflicted Beulah, were constantly before him, and gladly did he press on, Maud leaning on his arm, the instant Nick led the way.  To say that the lovely, confiding being who clung to his side, as the vine inclines to the tree, was forgotten, or that he did not retain a vivid recollection of all that she had so ingenuously avowed in his favour, would not be rigidly accurate, though the hopes thus created shone in the distance, under the present causes of grief, as the sun’s rays illumine the depths of the heavens, while his immediate face is entirely hidden by an eclipse.

“Did you see any signs of a movement against the house, Nick?” demanded the major, when the three had been busily making their way, for several minutes, round the margin of the forest.

The Tuscarora turned, nodded his head, and glanced at Maud.

“Speak frankly, Wyandotte ­”

“Good!” interrupted the Indian with emphasis, assuming a dignity of manner the major had never before witnessed.  “Wyandotte come ­Nick gone away altogeder.  Nebber see Sassy Nick, ag’in, at Dam.”

“I am glad to hear this, Tuscarora, and as Maud says, you may speak plainly.”

“T’ink, den, best be ready.  Mohawk feel worse dan if he lose ten, t’ree, six scalp.  Injin know Injin feelin’.  Pale-face can’t stop red-skin, when blood get up.”

“Press on, then, Wyandotte, for the sake of God ­let me, at least, die in defence of my beloved mother!”

“Moder; good! ­Doctor Tuscarora, when death grin in face!  She my moder, too!”

This was said energetically, and in a manner to assure his listeners that they had a firm ally in this warlike savage.  Little did either dream, at that instant, that this same wayward being ­the creature of passion, and the fierce avenger of all his own fancied griefs, was the cause of the dreadful blow that had so recently fallen on them.

The sun still wanted an hour of setting, when Nick brought his companions to the fallen tree, by which they were again to cross the rivulet.  Here he paused, pointing to the roofs of the Hut, which were then just visible through the trees; as much as to say that his duty, as a guide, was done.

“Thank you, Wyandotte,” said Willoughby; “if it be the will of God to carry us safely through the crisis, you shall be well rewarded for this service.”

“Wyandotte chief ­want no dollar.  Been Injin runner ­now be Injin warrior.  Major follow ­squaw follow ­Mohawk in hurry.”

This was enough.  Nick passed out of the forest on a swift walk ­but for the female, it would have been his customary, loping trot ­followed by Willoughby; his arm, again, circling the waist of Maud, whom he bore along scarce permitting her light form to touch the earth.  At this instant, four or five conches sounded, in the direction of the mills, and along the western margin of the meadows.  Blast seemed to echo blast; then the infernal yell, known as the war-whoop, was heard all along the opposite face of the buildings.  Judging from the sounds, the meadows were alive with assailants, pressing on for the palisades.

At this appalling moment, Joyce appeared on the ridge of the roof, shouting, in a voice that might have been heard to the farthest point in the valley ­

“Stand to your arms, my men,” he cried; “here the scoundrels come; hold your fire until they attempt to cross the stockade.”

To own the truth, there was a little bravado in this, mingled with the stern courage that habit and nature had both contributed to lend the serjeant.  The veteran knew the feebleness of his garrison, and fancied that warlike cries, from himself, might counterbalance the yells that were now rising from all the fields in front of the house.

As for Nick and the major, they pressed forward, too earnest and excited, to speak.  The former measured the distance by his ear; and thought there was still time to gain a cover, if no moment was lost.  To reach the foot of the cliff, took just a minute; to ascend to the hole in the palisade, half as much time; and to pass it, a quarter.  Maud was dragged ahead, as much as she ran; and the period when the three were passing swiftly round to the gate, was pregnant with imminent risk.  They were seen, and fifty rifles were discharged, as it might be, at a command.  The bullets pattered against the logs of the Hut, and against the palisades, but no one was hurt.  The voice of Willoughby opened the gate, and the next instant the three were within the shelter of the court.