Forty Years Since.
Oliver D. Cooke & Sons,
L.S.Locus sigili. Be it remembered, That on the 1824-04-3030th day of April, in the forty-eighth year of the independence of the United States of America, Oliver D. Cooke & Sons, of the said district, have deposited in this office the title of a Book, the right whereof they claim as proprietors, in the words following, to wit: Sketch of Connecticut, Forty Years Since. Land of my Sires! What mortal hand Can e’er untie the filial band That knits me to thy rugged strand. .
In conformity to the act of Congress of the United States, entitled, An act for the encouragement of learning, by securing the copies of Maps, Charts, and Books, to the authors and proprietors of such copies, during the times therein mentioned.
Charles A. Ingersoll,Clerk of the District of Connecticut A true copy of Record, examined and sealed by me,
Charles A. Ingersoll,Clerk of the District of Connecticut
Roberts & Burr, Printers.
Sketch of Connecticut, Forty Years Since.
Not far from where the southern limits of Connecticut meet the waters of the sea, the town of N―― is situated. As you approach from the west, it exhibits a rural aspect, of meadows intersected by streams, and houses overshadowed with trees. Viewed from the eastern acclivity, it seems like a citadel guarded by parapets of rock, and embosomed in an ampitheatre of hills, whose summits mark the horizon with a waving line of dark forest green. Entering at this avenue, you perceive that its habitations bear few marks of splendour, but many of them, retiring 1 0021(1)v 2 behind the shelter of lofty elms, exhibit the appearance of comfort and respectability. Travelling southward about two miles, through the principle road, the rural features of the landscape are lost, in the throng of houses, and bustle of men. The junction of two considerable streams here forms a beautiful river, which, receiving the tides of the sea, rushes with a short course into its bosom.
Mast peer over ware-houses, and streets rise above streets, with such irregularity that the base of one line of buildings sometimes overlooks the roofs of another. Here Man, incessantly combating the obstacles of Nature, is content to hang his dwelling upon her rocks, if he may but gather the treasures of her streams. Yet spots of brightness, and of beauty occur amid these eagle-nests upon the cliff; gardens of flowers; bold and romantic shores; pure, broad, sparkling waters; white sails dancing at the will of the breeze; boats gliding beneath bridges, or between islands of verdure, with sportive and graceful motion, like the slight gossamer in the sun-beam.
Between these two sections of the town, which, though sisters, bear no family resemblance, is a landscape, which some writer of romance might be pleased to describe. It is about a mile from the mouth of the smallest of the two streams just mentioned, which, winding its way through green meadows with a mild course, is fringed with the willow, and many aquatic shrubs, bending their drooping branches to kiss its noiseless tide. Suddenly it assumes the form of a cataract. Dashing tumultuously from rock 0031(2)r 3 to rock; it sends forth from their excavations, deep, hollow sounds; as if thunders were born in those unvisited caverns. Tossing and foaming over the masses that obstruct its channel, it becomes compressed within narrow limits by two lofty precipices. One, rises frowning and perpendicular like the walls of a castle. A few hardy evergreens cling to its crown, and mark the spot whence the hunted Pequots were forced, by their conquerors the Mohegans, to their fatal plunge from time into eternity. Fancy, awakened by tradition, sometimes paints their forms mingling with the dark, slow waters that circle the base of that fearful cliff; or hears their spirits shrieking amid the clamour of the cataract. The opposite rampart presents a chain of rocks, of less towering height, interspersed with lofty trees, displaying the names of many who have visited and admired this wild and picturesque scenery. The enthusiast of Nature, who should conquer its precipitous descent, and stand upon the margin of the flood which creeps in death-like stillness through this guarded defile, might see on his right, the foam, the vapour, the tossing of a tempestuous conflict; on his left, a broad chrystal mirror, studded with emerald islets, and bounded by romantic shores, where peaceful mansions, embosomed in graceful shades, are seen through vistas of green. Beneath, the black and almost motionless waters seem, to him who gazes intently, like the river of forgetfulness, annihilating the traces of a passing world. Above, the proud cliff rears its waving helmet, 0041(2)v 4 as if in defiance of the bowing cloud. To hear the voice of Nature in passionate strife, and at the same moment to gaze upon her slumbering calmness; to be lost in contemplation upon the mortal contrast; then startled into awe by her strong features of majesty; leave the mind uncertain whether, in this secluded temple, beauty ought most to charm, or awe to enchain it, or devotion to absorb all other sensations in reverence to the invisible God.
Retracing our steps to the northern division of N――, we find a society remarkable for the preservation of primitive habits. There, was exhibited the singular example of an aristocracy, less intent upon family aggrandizement, than upon becoming illustrious in virtue; and of a community where industry and economy almost banished want. Domestic subordination taught the young to honour the old, while the temperance and regularity which prevailed gave to age both contentment and health. The forty years, which have elapsed since the period of this sketch, have wrought many changes; but some features of similarity remain. That luxury which enervates character, and undermines the simple principles of justice, and charity, has found its ravages circumscribed by the example of those to whom wealth gave influence. An unusual number of individuals, whose first steps were in humble life, have risen to the possession of riches, not by fortunate accidents, or profuse gains, by lotteries or by war, but through an industry which impoverished none, 0051(3)r 5 and a prudence which as resolutely frowned upon waste of time, as waste of money. It has been thought that the advantages, arising from a favourable situation for commerce, and from a surrounding country eminently agricultural, languished for want of vigorous enterprize. Yet a source of wealth still less fluctuating has been discovered, in lessening the number of factitious wants, and pruning the excrescences of fashion and folly. A more moral state of society can scarcely be imagined, than that which existed within the bosom of these rocks. Almost it might seem as if their rude summits, pointing in every direction, had been commissioned to repel the intrusion of vice. In this department of the town was the mansion of Madam L――. It raised its broad, dignified front, without other decorations than the white rose, and the sweet brier, rearing their column of beauty and fragrance, quite to the projection of the roof. In front, was a court of shorn turf, like the richest velvet, intersected by two paved avenues to the principal entrances, and enclosed by a white fence, resting upon a foundation of hewn stone. On each side of the antiquated gate waved the boughs of a spruce, intermingling their foliage, and defying, in their evergreen garb, the changes of climate. The habitation, which faced the rising sun, had on its left, and in the rear of its long range of offices, two large gardens for vegetables and fruit. A third, which had a southern exposure, and lay beneath the windows of the parlour, was partially devoted to flowers. There, in quadrangles, triangles,1* 0061(3)v 6 angles, and parallelograms, beds of mould were thrown up, and regularly arranged, according to what the florists of that age denominated a knot. There, in the centre, the flaunting peony reared its head like a queen upon her throne, surrounded by a guard of tulips, arrayed as courtiers in every hue, deep crimson, buff streaked with vermillion, and pure white mantled with a blush of carmine. In the borders, the purple clusters of the lilac, mingled with the feathery orb of the snow-ball, and the pure petals of the graceful lily. Interspersed were various species of the rose, overshadowing snow-drops, and daffodils the earliest heralds of Spring—the violet, whose purple eye seems half to beam with intelligence—the hyacinth, the blue-bell, and the guinea-hen in its mottled robe.
There were also all the personified flowers—gaudy soldiers in green—the tawdry ragged lady—the variegated batchelor—the sad mourning bride—and the monk in his sombre hood. The larkspur mingled with the sweet pea, and the humble fumatory grew at the foot of the proud crown imperial, which lifted its cluster of flowers, and crest of leaves, with patrician haughtiness. A broad walk divided this garden into neatly equal compartments. The western part, covered with rich turf, and interspersed with fruit trees, displayed at its extremity a summer-house, encircled by a luxuriant vine, and offering a delightful retreat from a fervid sun. Seated beneath the canopy of fragrant clusters, you might see the velvet-coated peach, 0071(4)r 7 the rich plum with its purple, or emerald robe, and the orange-coloured pear bruising itself in its fall. Raspberries, supporting themselves by the fence, interwove their branches with the bushes that lined it, as if ambitious to form an impervious hedge; while at their feet, the red and white strawberry offered its treasures. Near the same region was a small nursery of medicinal plants; for the mind which had grouped so many pleasures for the eye and the taste of man, had not put out of sight his infirmities, or forgotten where it was written, in the garden was a sepulchre. There, arose the rough leafed sage, with its spiry efflorescence, the hoarhound foe of consumption, the aprient cumphrey, the aromatic tansy, and the bitter rue and wormwood. There, also, the healing balm was permitted to flourish, and the pungent peppermint for distillation. Large poppies, scattered here and there, perfected their latent anodyne, and hop-vines, clasping the accustomed arches, disclosed from their aromatic clusters some portion of their sedative powers. Through these scenes of odiferous wildness Madam L―― often wandered, and like our very first mother, amused herself by removing whatever marred its beauty, and cherishing all that heightened its excellence.
Her alert step, and animated aspect would scarcely permit the beholder to believe that the weight of almost seventy years oppressed her; though the spectacles, that aided her in distinguishing weeds from plants, proved that time had not spared to levy some tribute upon his favourite.0081(4)v 8 ite. Her fair, open forehead, clear expressive blue eye, and finely shaped countenance displayed that combination of intellect with sensibility, which marked her character. A tall and graceful person, whose symmetry age had respected, gave dignity to a deportment which the sorrows of life had softened. A vein of playful humour had been natural to her youth, and might still occasionally be detected in her quick smile, and kindling eye. Yet this was divested of every semblance of asperity by the spirit of a religion, breathing love to all mankind. Her voice had that peculiar and exquisite tone, which seems an echo of the soul’s harmony. Her brow was circled with thin folds of the purest cambrick, whose whiteness was contrasted with the broad, black ribband which compressed them, and the kerchief of the same colour, pinned in quaint and quaker-like neatness over her bosom. Her countenance in its silence spoke the language of peace within, good will to all around, and the sumblimated joy of one, whose kingdom is not of this world. Her liberality was proverbial. She loved the poor and the sick, as if they were unfortunate members of her own family. To afford them relief, was not a deed of ostentation, but a source of heartfelt delight. She considered herself as the obligated party, when an opportunity was presented of distributing His bounty, who by entrusting her with riches had constituted her as his almoner, and would at last require an account of her stewardship. Her piety was not a strife about doctrines, though the articles of her belief 0091(5)r 9 were by no means indifferent to her. She thought the spirit of controversy should be held in subjection to that, which moveth to love and to good works.
She disclaimed that bigotry which desires to extinguish every light which its own hand has not kindled. She looked upon the varying sects of Christians, as travellers pursuing different roads to the same eternal city.
This liberality of sentiment was deserving of more praise, forty years since than in our times, when superior illumination bears with stronger influence upon the mists of prejudice. Educated in the metropolis of the state, the daughter of its first magistrate, born of a family of high respectability, introduced by marriage into the aristocracy of N――, conscious that her excellencies were so appreciated by those around her, that she was considered almost as being of an higher order, it would not have been wonderful if some haughtiness had marked her exterior, at a period when those distinctions signified more than they do at present. But that self-complacency, which is the most spontaneous growth of the unrenovated heart, was early checked by a religion which taught her not to glory save in the cross of Christ. Afflictions also humbled the hopes which might have unwisely aspired, or laboured to lay too deep a foundation on the earth. She had borne the yoke in her youth. The early death of her parents was strong discipline for a tender spirit. Her husband was endued by nature with every excellence to awaken her attachment and confidence. His mind, enlarged 0101(5)v 10 by the best education which this country afforded, had pursued its scientific researches in Europe, and become exalted both by extensive knowledge, and rational piety. It was his pleasure to employ his wealth in the relief of indigence, and the encouragement of enterprise. He was early revered as the patron of merit in obscurity, and his name is still enrolled by the grateful town which gave him birth, as first in the list of its benefactors. United in the warmth of his earliest affections to a kindred spirit, they shared all the blessings of a perfect union of hearts.
Many years of conjugal felicity had been their portion. But she was at last appointed to watch the progress of a protracted and fatal disease, and to mark with still keener anguish the mental decay of him who had been her instructor and counsellor. I have seen an end of all perfection, she said, as his strong and brilliant powers yielded to the sway of sickness and when she bent in agony over his grave, she put her trust in the widow’s God. The earlier part of their union had seen three sons rising like olive-plants around their table. The eldest exhibited at the age of seven a precocity of intellect, and maturity of character, which at once astonished and delighted the beholder. To store his memory with moral and sublime passages, to sit a solitary student over his book, to request explanations of subjects beyond his reason, were his pleasures. The sports of his contemporaries were emptiness to him, and while he forebore to censure, he withdrew himself from them. Within his reflecting 0111(6)r 11 mind, was a desire to render himself acceptable to his Maker. Though younger than the Jewish king, who, at the age of eight years, separated himself for the search of wisdom, he began like him to seek the God of his Fathers. When he requested from his parents their nightly blessing to hallow his repose, the often inquired, with an interesting solemnity, Do you think that my Father in Heaven will be pleased with me this day? To a soul thus embued with the principles of religion, it was sufficient to point out that the path of duty was illumined with the smile of the Almighty, and to deter from the courses of evil, by the assurance of his displeasure.
The second had a form of graceful symmetry, and a complexion of feminine delicacy. The tones of his voice promised to attain the melting richness of his mother’s, as a bud resembles the perfect flower. He possessed that rapid perception, and tremulous sensibility, which betoken genius. His character, even in infancy, displayed those delicate involutions, and keen vibrations of feeling, which mark the most poignant susceptibility of pleasure or of pain. His was the spirit on which the unfeeling world delights to wreak her tyranny; as the harsh hand shivers the harp-strings which it has not the skill to controul.
The youngest, just completing his third year, was the picture of health, vigour and joy. His golden curls clustered round a bold forehead which spoke the language of command, like some infant warrior. His erect head, and prominent chest, evinced uncommon strength, and so full 0121(6)v 12 of glee was this happy and beautiful being, that the mansion or its precincts rang, from morning till night, with the clamour of his sports, or the shouts of his laughter. Active, unwearied, and intelligent, he seemed to bear, within his breast, and upon his brow, the consciousness that he was one of the lords of creation.
On these three objects of affection and solicitude of the parents centered. Often they spake to each other of their differing lineaments of character, consulted on the methods of eradicating what was defective, or confirming what was lovely, and often contemplated the part they might hereafter act in life, with a thrilling mixture of fear and of hope. But for this anxiety it had been written, in the infinite councils, that there was no need. In one week, all these beloved beings were laid in the grave. In one week, and the arms of the mourning parents remained forever vacant. Death, whose shadow is without order, respected in this awful instance the claims of priority. He first smote the eldest at his studies. His languishing was short. I go to my Father in Heaven, he said, and without a struggle ceased to breathe. His disease was so infectious, that it was necessary to commit him immediately to the earth.
As the bereaved parents returned from his grave, of whom, they had said, this same shall comfort us concerning all our toil, they found the second, bowing, like a pale flowret upon its broken stem. Pain fed upon his frail frame, as a moth fretting a garment. Anguish visited,0132(1)r 13 ed, and tried every nerve, yet, if he might but lay his head upon his mother’s bosom, he would endure without repining. Tears quivered in his soft, blue eyes, like dew in the bell of the hyacinth, if she were no longer visible. Yet, when in a moment she returned, a smile of the spirit would beam through, and rule the convulsions of physical agony. My son, said his father, let us be willing that you should go to your Saviour, and to your brother in heaven. But the suffering child, who could imagine no heaven brighter than the indulgence of his own young affections, sighed incessantly as death approached. Yet his convulsed brow resumed partial tranquillity, when his mother’s voice poured forth, in trembling, agonizing harmony, the sacred music of the hymn he loved. It was then that he breathed away his spirit, fancying that angels hastened him to rise, and learn their celestial melodies. But, ere his heart ceased to throb, the destroyer had laid his hand upon the youngest, the beautiful, the brave. Unconsciousness miserably changed a countenance, which was ever lighted by the glow of intelligence, or the gladness of mirth. Unbroken sleep seemed setling without resistance upon him, who had never been willing even for a moment to be at rest. Yet nature on the eve of dissolution aroused to an afflicting contest with her conqueror. Cries and struggles were long and violent, and now and then a reproachful glance would be bent upon his parents, as if the victim wondered why they should lend no aid to his conflict.2 0142(1)v 14
Cold, big drops started thick upon his temples, and his golden hair streamed with the dews of pain. It was a fearful sight to see a child so struggle with the king of terrors. At length with one long sob he yielded, and moaning sank to rest.
The little white monument still marks the couch of the three brothers. Its silence is eloquent on the uncertainty of the hopes of man—on the bitterness that tinges the brightest fountains of his joy.
Such were the adversities to which the heart of Madam L―― had been subjected. Her blossoms had been riven from her, as a fig-tree shaketh its untimely figs before the blast. An affecting memorial of her feelings, at this period, is still preserved, where, in a poetical form, she pours out her sorrows before Him who has afflicted her, and urges with the most afflicting earnestness, that her spirit may not lose the benefits of his discipline. After the calmness of resignation had soothed the tumult of woe, she seldom spoke of her griefs. She kept them sacred for the communiucation of her soul with its Maker. Yet they diffused over her cheerful and faithful discharge of duty, a softness, a sympathy with those who mourned, a serene detachment of confidence from terrestrial things, which realized the tender descriptions of a recent, moral poet: When the wounds of woe are healing, When the heart is all resign’d ’Tis the solemn feast of feeling, ’This the Sabbath of the mind.
Our sketch commences at the opening of the year 17841784. Winter had subtracted from the charms of the landscape, by substituting for its variegated garniture a robe of uniform hue. It had, like the envious brethren of Joseph, rent the coat of many colours. Still, the brightness of the pure white surface, the conical mounds which attested the play of the elements, the incrustations clinging in every fanciful form to boughs sparkling with the beams of morning, gave brilliancy to scenery, which more favouring seasons had forsaken.
The war of revolution, which for a long period had drained the resources of the country, had been terminated for a space of somewhat more than two years. The British Colonies of America were numbered among the nations. The first tumults of joy subsiding, discovered a government not organized, and resting upon insecure foundations. Gold might be discerned among the materials of the future temple, but the hand of a refining was needed, to purge the dross, and to take away all the 0162(2)v 16 tin. Light had sprung from chaos; but the voice of the Architect, had not yet caused the day-spring to know his place.
In Connecticut, the agitation, which pervaded the general council of the nation, was unknown. The body of the people trusted in the wisdom of those heroes and sages of whom they had furnished their proportion. They believed that the hands, which had been strengthened to lay the foundation of their liberty, amid the tempest of war, would be enabled to complete the fabric, beneath the smiles of peace. In gratitude, and quietness of spirit, they rested beneath the shadow of their own vine; and had they possessed no law, would have been a law unto themselves.
We return to N――, which might be considered, at this period, the strong hold of steady habits, and moderated desires. The family of Madam L―― was usually enlivened by the residence of some of her relations. The daughter of a beloved sister had been adopted by her, soon after the death of her three sons. She had taken a maternal pleasure in superintending the unfolding of a character, whose maturity afforded her the consolations of an endearing intercourse. A heart of sensibility—a rapid and strong intellect—superiority in those attainments of her sex, which give comfort and elegance to the domestic department—a liberal soul, indignant at meanness and oppression, and imbued with deep reverence towards God, were the characteristics of this object of her 0172(3)r 17 affections. She depended much on this gentle and zealous companion, during the mental decay of her husband; but, soon after his decease, shuddered as she remarked the pale cheek and hollow eye of this dear friend, whose delicate frame was gradually resigning the elasticity of health.
All the powers of medicine were exerted to mitigate the sufferings of a long, nervous consumption; until attenuated like a shadow, her mind still gathering brightness amid the wasting of its tabernacle, her spirit was exhal’d, and went to heaven. This bereavement was recent, and the heart of the aged mourner felt a deep void, whenever her eye rested upon the places usually occupied by this daughter and friend.
She was now soothed by the society of a son of her husband’s only sister, who, since the death of his uncle, had made her house his home, except during an interval of absence in England and France. His accurate mind, stored with knowledge, which a wide sphere of observation had given him the means of acquiring, rendered him both an interesting and instructive companion. Nor did he forget to profit from those treasures of wisdom, which he daily beheld falling from the lips of age. He was particularly fond of the science of Natural History, and of exploring those labyrinths in which nature delights to involve her operations, where she has made men, both the habitant of a region of wonders, and a link in their mysterious chain. His aged relative, whom he revered as a 2* 0182(3)v 18 parent, and by whom his attachment was reciprocated, used familiarly to style him her philosophical nephew. By the light-minded, he was considered reserved, and by the ignorant, haughty; but those, who were worthy to comprehend him, discovered a heart, alive to the impulses of friendship and affection, and a mind, occupied in a tissue of thought too intricate for vulgar comprehension; or balancing the delicate and almost imperceptible points of moral principle.
Besides this nephew, the family of Madam L―― comprised, at the present time, only herself, and two domestics. These were blacks, and descendents of ancestors who had originally been slaves, before the voice of a wise and free people decreed the abolition of slavery. Several Africans had been owned by the father of her husband, in whose family she had become an inmate at the time of her marriage. His death took place, at the advanced age of ninety-two, while his frame still possessed vigour, and his unimpaired mind expatiated freely upon the past, and looked undaunted toward the future. Temperance had guarded his health, and economy the fortune, which his industry had acquired. Religion had been his anchor from his youth, sure and stedfast; and, with the dignity of a patriarch, he descended to the tomb, illustrious at once, by the good name he bequeathed to his offspring, and by the lustre which their virtues in turn, reflected upon him. He lived at a time, when to hold in servitude the children of Africa, had not been set in a true light by 0192(4)r 19 the eloquence and humanity of a more favoured age. Clarkson, and Wilberforce had not then arisen to unlock indignantly the secrets of their prison-house, nor Cowper, to bid the eye of sensibility weep over their wrongs. In the community, where the lot of this venerable patriarch had been cast, they were found in the families of a few men of wealth, nurtured as dependants, but never oppressed as slaves. Under his roof they were treated with uniform kindness, and after the accession of his son to the paternal estate, received their freedom.
Two descendants of these servants born in the house, still continued with Madam L――, one as a hireling, the other for the sake of his clothing, board and education, until his minority should cease. Beulah, who had reached twenty-second winter, was an athletic, industrious female, grave in her deportment, and of strict honesty. Cuff, her brother, was her junior by six years, active, and of an affectionate disposition, with some mixture of African humour. Both were attached to their mistress, like the vassals of feudal times, regarding her as but a little lower than the angels. She cherished their unaffected regard, by a sway of equanimity, and gentleness, professing herself to be, like the Vicar of Wakefield, an admirer of happy human faces.
It was now Saturday night, and the setting sun ushered in that stillness which used to mark its return, forty years since, in Connecticut. Every ware-house, and shop was shut, and man, like the creation around him, seemed 0202(4)v 20 relapsing into quietness and repose. There was something both soothing and dignified in the solemnity with which this period was then observed. Labour and revelry were alike laid aside, and a pause of silence announced the approach of that day, which the Creator consecrated.
It seemed like the deference of a reflecting spirit, conscious that its habitual vocations were earthly, and unwilling, without purifying itself from their defilement, to rush into those services, which, to be acceptable, are required to be holy. It was like the change of garments of the Levitical priesthood, ere they entered the Sanctuary. Our puritanic fathers then said to their worldly cares, as Abraham to his servants at the base of Mount Moriah, abide ye here, while I go yonder and worship.
They maintained that, if according to scripture, the evening and the morning constituted the first day, the Sabbath embraced the preceding evening within its appointed limits. So strictly did they enjoin the sanctification of Saturday night, that it might be said of them in that season, as it was of the Egyptians during their tempest of hail, he who feared the word of the Lord, made his servants, and his cattle flee into their house. The penal laws, which guarded the observance of the Sabbath among our ancestors at the first settlement of this country, had relaxed in their severity. Still, to travel on that day was considered an offence, meriting close examination from those vested with authority and ending in restraint, unless the sickness or distress of distant relations sanctioned0212(5)r 21 ed the measure. Sunday airings, were then unknown, and would have been deemed as an iniquity to be punished by the judges. So fully had the saint-like simplicity of our predecessors embued Saturday eve with the sanctity of the subsequent morn, that seldom were the wheels of the traveller, or his voice, asking admission at the inns, known to disturb the silence of this hallowed period. Labourers restored to their places the instruments of their weekly toil; mechanics the implements of their trade; students their books of entertainment, and every good man and true, was supposed to be convening his family around the domestic altar.
In the parlour of Madam L――, this was a season of solitary and heartfelt meditation. The reflection of a clear woodfire gleamed fitfully upon the crimson moreen curtains, gilded clock, ebony-framed mirror, and polished wainscot, ere light glimmered more brightly from two stately, antiquated candlesticks. The lady was seated in her rocking-chair, which stood in its accustomed corner. A favourite grey-robed cat, with neck and paws of the most exquisite whiteness, sat at the feet of her mistress, gazing wistfully in her face. Slowly erecting herself, she advanced a soft velvet paw to the hand which rested upon the arm of the chair, as if to remind its owner of ancient friendship, or to claim some expression of fondness. Finding herself unnoticed, she removed her station to a green cushion in the vicinity, and turning round thrice, betook 0222(5)v 22 herself to repose, in the attitude of a caterpillar, coiled upon a fresh verdant leaf.
On a small round table, lay the Scriptures and Young’s Night Thoughts, the favourite poem of Madam L――. The latter was open at that canto, where the author so feelingly describes the loss of friends, and her spectacles laid therein, as if to preserve some striking passage for further perusal, which she indulged in those contemplations which it awakened. Her brow resting on her hand, displayed the emotions of a soul, whose strong susceptibility to the influences of religion had tempered, purified, sublimated. Before her, past in review, the pictured scenes of childhood, the gaiety of youth, the sorrows of maturity, the loneliness of age. Memory awoke Grief from the slumber into which time had soothed her, and revived her long buried energies. The mourner seemed to see her mother, the soft nurse of her infancy, the watchful monitress of her childhood, again smitten by an unseen hand, and covered suddenly with the paleness of the tomb: one moment, bending over her plants, in the sweet recesses of her garden, the next, lying lifeless among them, blasted by Him who maketh all the glory of man, as the flower of grass.
Her father, venerable for years, and high in publick honour, was again stretched before her, in the agonies of dissolving nature. Once more, his farewell tone faltered on her ear, as she wiped the dews from his temples, My daughter! visit the fatherless, and the widow in 0232(6)r 23 their afflictions, and keep thyself unspotted from the world. Her faithful obedience to this admonition, uttered from the confines of another state, might have cheered her heart, had it been wont to linger amid the recollections of its own virtue. The tissue of her good deeds, which was extolled by others as woven by a perfect hand, she was accustomed to scan, as to administer to her humility.
Such influence had imagination in this hour of excited feeling, that almost, her husband, the companion of her youth, seemed present, in his accustomed seat by her side. In fancy, she gazed upon his mild features, radiant with the beams of intelligence. Half she listened to his voice, explaining the axioms of science, or pouring forth the spirit of benevolence. Then came the prattling tones of children, the smile, the sport, the winning attitudes of those three boys, who returned no more. But illusion vanished, and more bitterly than her melancholy poet, she might have apostrophized the grim conqueror; Thy dart flew thrice and thrice my peace was slain, And thrice, ere thrice, yon moon had fill’d her horn.
Yet no repining mingled with her sorrow. She loved Him who had chastened her; and raising upward eyes, whose pure azure shone through the big tear, she uttered in the low tone of mental devotion; I thank Thee that I am not alone, for Thou art with me. Tenderly impressed by a renovation of her woes, yet gratefully revolving the short space which separated her from her beloved, 0242(6)v 24 her sainted ones—she sang in tones of the gentlest melody that beautiful hymn of Watts— There is a land of pure delight, Where saints immortal reign; Infinite day excludes the night, And pleasure banish pain
At its close, she relapsed into a train of animating, devotional contemplations, admirably fitting the mind for the duties of that day, on which the Reedemer, whom she loved, ascended from the tomb.
Around the fire of her domestics, quietness and comfort, though of a different nature, predominated. The clean-wash’d floor, well brush’d shoes, and preparations for a Sunday’s dinner, shewed that the householders of that time provided, in their domestic regulations, that their servants also might attend the worship of the sanctuary, and enjoy the privileges of a day of rest. Neatness and order, in which the ancient house-keeping matrons certainly yield not the palm to their daughters, or granddaughters, prevailed throughout the simply-furnished apartment. The dressers, unpainted, but as white as the nature of the wood permitted them to be, sustained the weight of rows of pewter, emulous of silver in its beautiful lustre.
A long oaken table in their vicinity, once used at refecions, when the family comprised many more members, but now summoned to do service only on ironing days, emitted as much lustre as the strength of a brawny arm 0253(1)r 25 daily applied to its surface, could produce. A heavy oaken cupboard, the sound of whose opening doors was music to the mendicant, and the neighbouring poor, and five or six tall chairs, with rush bottoms, completed the furniture. A wooden seat or sofa, commonly called a settle, was immoveably fixed, not far from the ample expanse of the fire-place. Over the mantle-piece, was a high and narrow shelf, which, at its western extremity, was multiplied into a triple row of shorter ones; forming a repository for a servant’s library. This was composed principally of pamphlet sermons, or what was considered Sunday reading—ere the writer of novels had engrossed that department. Approximating to this library, hung the roasting-jack; which, when put in motion, with its complicated machinery extending from garret to cellar, alarmed the unlearned by its discordant sounds, and awoke in the minds of the superstitious some indefinite suspicion of the agency of evil spirits. On the broad hearth-stone, sat Beulah and her brother; the former, in token of seniority occupying the post of honour, in front of a blazing fire; the latter, with due decorum ensconced in a corner. The brow of the ebon damsel exhibited a more than usual cast of solemnity, by way of testifying respect to a New- Testament, on whose pages her eyes were devoutly fixed.
Cuffee regarded her for some minutes, as if doubtful whether an interruption of her studies would be tolerated. At length, with a long yawn, he hazarded the experiment, of expatiating on the excellence of the supper he 3 0263(1)v 26 had recently eaten. To distinguish Saturday night, by a dish of beans baked with pork, was one of the peculiarities of their native town. Many of the oldest householders could recollect no instance in which this ancient custom had been violated beneath their roof; and children sometimes formed an inseparable connection in their minds, between this prelusive dish, and the duties of the Sabbath. The inhabitants still preserve this usage of their ancestors, as faithfully as the sons of Rechab transmitted his prohibition of wine to their remote posterity. Cuffee, finding his exordium unchecked, proceeded to relate with proportionable astonishment, that once within the memory of an aged man of his own colour, the Saturday-night Statute-act was violated, at the inn where he was servitor.
Next mornin, said he, elevating his eyes with becoming gravity, next mornin, they ebery soul forget it be Sabba-day. They go ’bout their work—wash, scour —Misse take her knitten-work—Massa write his ’counts —Brister go to barn—thrash grain.
He described their utter consternation, when the bell from an adjoining steeple reminded them of their transgression; and the haste with which they made themselves ready to appear in the sanctuary.
He next proceeded to state, on the authority of a young man of his acquaintance, the dire disasters which befel his father’s household, for a similar omission. Their residence was on Bean-hill, a section of the town, where this 0273(2)r 27 important article is required to appear on the table, twice in a week, on the evenings of Wednesday and Saturday. This ordinance, it seems, had once been neglected since the building of their house. That night, a strange uproar awoke every member of the family, and frightful dreams disturbed their repose. Lo! in the morning, their culinary furnace was found prostrate, and every brick dislodged from its station; as if invisible agents had assumed the punishment of the offence. Cuffee though somewhat diffuse in his narrations, drew no sign of attention from his sister, who greatly valued herself upon a solemn deportment at devotional seasons. At length, slowly rolling towards him an eye, where white remarkably predominated, she inquired inointo the nature of the book, which he held unopened in his hand.
Catechize, he replied, with the tone of an indolent boy at school, equally reluctant to study, or to recite his lesson. But Beulah, moved with righteous zeal, drew her chair into a line with his, and enveloping the volume in her huge hand, took it from his with no gentle grasp.
By dint of spelling, she rendered the title-page vocal, which proved to be, The Scholar’s Introduction to the Science of Arithmetic. By Master Edward Cocker.
That’s a Catechise-Book, I s’pose! she exclaimed with commendable asperity. Her brother hastily proceeded to justify himself, on the ground of a mistake made in the volume, before the candle was lighted. Wishing however to divert attention from this view of the 0283(2)v 28 subject, he descanted upon the carelessness of the owner of this ancient volume, who had torn sundry leaves, besides decorating the blank spaces with ill-drawn pictures, and blots. He repeated a quaint saying, purporting that those who deface their books, have within them that principle of carelessness, which leads to want and disgrace. To his expressions of wonder that the name of Benedict Arnold, so often occurred, in almost illegible scrawls, Beulah replied that this was the book, which taught the elements of arithmetic to the traitor of that name, who resided in that house for several years, as one of the clerks of her deceased master. Unable to resist the temptation of displaying superiour knowledge, her pious taciturnity vanished. She spoke eloquently of his enormities in burning a neighbouring town, and putting to death all the brave defenders of the fort; many of whom had been his acquaintance, and friends. She complained that, after landing on the devoted spot, and dining with a worthy lady, who took great pains for his accommodation, he ordered her house to be the first set on fire.
She described the men of her native place, marching to the relief of their distressed neighbours, as soon as the sound of the cannon reached then, and their wives and daughters weeping at the doors and windows, as they departed. In enlarging upon the losses sustained by the conflagration of so many buildings, she could not avoid descanting upon the quantity of eatables that were destroyed, especially the oceans of butter and lard, 0293(3)r 29 which were seen frying in the cellars; naturally feeling strongest sympathy for the waste of these condiments, which in her culinary art she most highly valued. But she dwelt with the deepest interest upon an exploit of a female of her own colour, which whom she profest a particular acquaintance, calling her Aunt Rose. It seems that Arnold, fatigued with the contest, had paused to quench his battle-thirst at a well. As he stooped over it, this ebon heroine, who had been commissioned to hold his horse, made some questionable advances towards him, and had actually grasped his ancles, to precipitate him into the pit. Proving unsuccessful in her enterprize, she found it expedient to withdraw with unusual despatch.
That very night, subjoined Beulah, Aunt Rose, hab most remarkable dream. She ’tink she die, and go rite to Heaven, All beautiful place, no hard work dere. Presently come in, her Misse, and all her darters lookin exceedin grand. Where’s Rose? they cry. Tell her get supper. Aunt Rose feel strange courage. She speak out to ’em and say, how you ’spect me to get supper? Don’t ye see there’s no kitchen in Heaven?
Beulah then launched into a new tide of invective, against the wicked traitor, as she styled him, until Cuffee inquired if he had no good quality, observing that his mistress said, that we should not forget to speak of the good, as well as the evil in the characters of our fellow creatures. The maiden, inly reproved, deigned no answer; but suddenly began to realize that their conversation3* 0303(3)v 30 sation was too diffuse for Saturday night. This she perceived much more readily, when she herself ceased to be the chief speaker. After a decent pause, she explained her doubts to her brother, with an empathic nasal twang, whether he had yet proceeded in the Assembly of Divines’ Catechism as far as Effectual Calling; adding, that long before she had reached his age, she was able to repeat the whole, with the proofs, and ask herself the questions, into the bargain.
I wonder, he replied, who had not rudder ax demselves questions, dan hab any body else. Den if you can’t answer ’em, no matter; no body to scold ’bout it.
The ringing of the bell, which on Saturday night, like the old Norman curfew, was always at eight o’clock, reminded them that much time had been spent, and until nine, the stated hour for retiring, each seemed absorbed in their respective studies.
In the vicinity of the town which we have described, was the residence of a once powerful tribe of Indians. But diminished in numbers, and oppressed by a sense of degradation, the survivers exhibited the melancholy remnant of a fallen race, like that almost extinguished embers of a flame, once terrible in wildness. The aged remembered the line of their hereditary kings, now becomes extinct; the younger preserved in tradition faint gleams of the glory which had departed. Yet, in the minds of all, was a consciousness that their anceastors possessing the land, in which they were now as strangers, and from whence their offspring were vanishing as a guest that tarrieth but a night. The small territory, on which they resided, was secured to them by government; and its fertile soil would have been more than adequate to their wants, had they been assiduous in its cultivation. But those roving habits, which form their national characteristic, are peculiarly averse from the laborious application, and minute details of agriculture. Here and there, a corn-field without enclosure might be seen, displaying its yellow treasures0323(4)v 32 ures beneath a ripening sun; but such was their native improvidence, that the possessor, ere the return of another Autumn, would be as destitute of food, as he who had neither earing nor harvest. The productions of a little spot of earth, near the door of many of them, denominated a garden, supplied them during the gentler seasons, with the more common vegetables; yet so reckless were they of futurity, that cold winter’s want was unthought of, as long as it was unfelt, and the needs of to-morrow never disturbed the revel of to-day. In their simple estimation, he was a man of wealth, whose dominion extended over a cow; yet it was wealth rather to be wondered at, than envied. To roam freely over the forest, and drink the pure breath of the mountains; to earn with their arrow’s point, the food of the passing day, and wrap themselves in a blanket from the chill of midnight, seemed all the riches they coveted—all the happiness they desired.
These were, however, more properly, the lineaments of their character, in its native nobleness. Civilization had excluded them from the forests, their original empire, and awakened new wants which they were inadequate to supply. It had familiarized them to the sight of the white man’s comforts, without teaching them the industry by which they are purchased. It had introduced them to vices, which destroyed their original strength, like the syren pointing in derision to the humbled Sampson, whose locks her own hand had shorn. Thus they sacrificed the virtues of their savage state, and fell short of the advantages0333(5)r 33 vantages which a civilized one bestows; and striking, as it were, both upon Scylla and Charybdis, made shipwreck of all.
Still some interesting features might be traced amid this assemblage of gloom; some individuals remained, around whom, as around Philipœmon, the last of the Greeks, gleams of brightness lingered. A few warriors, who, in the contest of 17551755, dared death for the country which had subjugated them, still survived, to speak, with flashing eyes, of battle, and of victory. Some, who had shared the toils of that recent ear which had emancipated from British thraldom one who was to rank among the nations of the earth, remained, to shew their wounds, so poorly requited. Many might still be found, in whose hearts, gratitude, hospitality, and inviolable faith, the ancient characteristics of their race, were not extinguished.
But over the greater mass hung the cloud of intemperance, indolence, and mental degradation. Consciousness of their own state, and of the contempt of others, presented hopeless obstacles to every reforming hand, except His who brought light out of chaos. The dwelings of this dilapidated tribe, though universally in a state of rudeness, exhibited considerable variety of appearance. Occasionally, the ancient wigwam might be detected, lifting its cone-like head among the bushes; then a tenement of rough logs, reeking with smoke, would present its more substantial, though less romantic structure. These, which fronted the road, were usually of boards, 0343(5)v 34 sometimes containing two rooms, with a chimney of stones, and admitting comparative comfort. Trees, loaded with small apples, yielded their spontaneous refreshment to those, who never cultured the young sapling when the parent stock decayed.
Their situation afforded conveniences for their favourite employment of fishing; and a few boats in their possession, enabled them to pursue their victims into the deep waters.
The females were more easily initiated into the habits of civilized life. These, they readily saw diminished their labours, and augmented their consequence. Still, the prerogative of dominion, entrusted to man by his Maker, is tenaciously cherished by the American Indian. He slowly yields, to the courtesy of example, the custom of making his weaker companion the bearer of burdens, and the servant of his indolence. In this perishing tribe, the secondary sex were far the most docile, whether religious truth, or domestic economy were the subjects of instruction.
Still the distaff, the needle, and the loom were less congenial to their inclinations, than the manufacture of brooms, mats, and baskets. In the construction of the latter, considerable ingenuity was often manifested; and their extensive knowledge of the colouring matter, contained in the juices of plants and herbs, enabled them to adorn these fabrics with all the hues of the rainbow. Bending beneath a load of these fabrics, and often the 0353(6)r 35 additional weight of a pappoose, or babe, deposited in a large basket and fastened around the neck, with a leathern strap, might be seen, walking through the streets of the town, after a weary journey from their own settlement, the descendents of the former lords of the soil, perhaps the daughters of kings. Clad in insufficient apparel after the American fashion, with a little round bonnet of blue cloth, in the shape peculiar to themselves, and somewhat resembling a scallop-shell, and a small blanket thrown over the shoulders, if the season were cold, they would enter every door in search of a market. There, in the soft, harmonious tones, by which the voice of the female native is distinguished, they would patiently inquire for a purchaser. If all their humble applications were negatived, they might be heard requesting in the same gentle utterance a little refreshment, or a morsel of bread for the infant at their back. I will not say that these entreaties were always in vain—but the poor, famished dog, which would be crouching at the feet of the suppliant, was too happy if he could obtain a fleshless bone, to allay the cravings of hunger.
These females, when employed, as they sometimes were, in the families of whites, to repair worn chairs, were uniformly industrious, and grateful for any trifling favour. In their own culinary processes, they were studious of comfort as far as their rude notions, and imperfect knowledge extended. Dishes composed of green corn, and beans boiled with clams, and denominated Succatash, 0363(6)v 36 the same grains parched nicely, and pulverized, by the name of Yokeag, fish, or birds, prepared in different ways, with cakes of Indian meal baked in ashes, or before the fire upon a flat board, gave variety to their simple repasts.
They were likewise the physicians of their tribe. They regarded no toil in travelling, or labour in searching the thickets, for medicinal plants and roots. To sooth the agony of pain, or conquer the malignity of disease, was a victory, which their affectionate hearts prized more than the warrior, who intoxicated with false glory, boasts of the lives he has destroyed. Their knowledge of aperients and cathartics, was extensive; their antidotes to poison were also considered powerful, and their skill in the healing of wounds was said to have been justly valued in time of war. Such were the females in their best estate; and such the poverty and degeneracy of the once powerful tribe of Mohegans.
Yet, strange as it may seem, amid their degradation they retained strong traits of national pride. In the gravity, and dignity of brow, which the better sort assumed, might be traced a lingering remnant of the creed of their ancestors, that the red man was formed before his white brethren, and of better clay. The proud recollections of royalty were cherished with particular tenacity; and the most distant ramification of the blood of their kings, preserved in tradition with all the Cambrian enthusiasm. The place of burial for their monarchs was never suffered to 0374(1)r 37 be polluted by the ashes of the common people. It is still visible, with its decaying monuments, in the southern part of the town; and its mouldering inscriptions have appeared in the records of recent travellers. A few years only have elapsed, since a Mohegan who was employed in mowing, in the northern part of town, and a Pequot who was passing through it, both died on the same day, apparently destroyed by the excessive heat of the weather; perhaps, the victims of some latent disease. Coffins were provided by the inhabitants, and the bodies laid therein with all the demonstrations of respect, which they were accustomed to pay to the forsaken tenement of a soul. Most of the population of Mohegan attended the obsequies, which were solemnized upon the Square, opposite the Court-house. As the clergyman lifed his voice in pathetic tones, to Him who hath made of one blood, all who dwell upon the face of the earth, the females thronged to his side, as if they loved and revered the ambassador of that Great Spirit, who giveth life and taketh it away. Tears flowed over their sad faces, as they gazed upon the lifeless forms; but on the countenances of the men, was a dark expression, as if they remembered that they were but servants, where once their fathers were lords. This recollection occupied their minds more than the scene which mournfully illustrated the equality of man. At length the dissatisfied spirit revealed itself in words. Graves had been prepared for the unfortunate men, in the burial-place of the northern parish of N――, 4 0384(1)v 38 whose white monuments might be seen through the trees, which surrounded the green where they were assembled.
These men shall not lie side by side, they exclaimed, with their usual conciseness and energy. Ask ye why? In one of them is the blood of our kings. He was sixteenth cousin to our last monarch. The other is an accursed Pequot. Think ye the same earth shall cover them? No! Their spirits would contend in their dark habitation. The noble soul would scorn to see the vile slumberer so near. They could not arise and walk together in the shadowy regions, for their everlasting home is not the same.
Such was the haughty spirit, which lurked in the bosom of an oppressed, a crushed people. They could not forget the throne that was overturned, though they grovelled among worms at its footstool.
Yet this tribe, now so despised, was once formidable to our ancestors. Its friendship was courted, and its aid, during the wars with Philip, in the seventeenth century, was very important to them in the infancy of their colony. It was, at that time, formidable both for the extent of territory, and number of warriors. Its power was increased by the conquest of Sassacus, king of the Pequots, who at the arrival of the English had under his dominion 26 sachems, and 700 warriors; and also by the subjugation of the Nipmucks, whose strong hold was in Oxford, in Massachusetts, though their dominion extended over a part of Connecticut. These conquests were achieved by the enterprise0394(2)r 39 prise and talents of Uncas, a monarch whose invincible courage would have been renowned in history, did he not belong to a proscribed race; whose wisdom might place him by the side of the son of Laertes, had we but an Homer to immortalize his name; and whose friendship for our fathers ought to secure him a place in the annals of our gratitude. Originally of the nation of the Pequots, he revolted against the tyranny of Sassacus, whose kingdom comprised the whole sea-coast of Connecticut. Uncas partook of his blood, and had a command among his warriors, but rebelled against his arbitrary rule, and departed from his jurisdiction.
Considerable address must have been requisite to render himself the monarch of another tribe, and make the royal honours hereditary in his family. When, at the arrival of our ancestors, the enmity of the Pequots discovered itself in such terrible forms of conspiracy and murder, that unable to perform in safety the duties of the consecrated day of rest, armed sentinels were stationed at the threshold of their churches. Uncas continued their unalterable ally. When the bravery of Mason staked, as it were, the existence of Connecticut on the firmness of one little band, Uncas, with his warriors, partook every hardship, shared every danger, and, by his counsels, and superiour knowledge of the modes of Indian warfare, greatly facilitated the victory over their ferocious foes. His presence of mind, in any sudden emergency, would have ranked him among heroes, had he borne a part in the wars of Rome. 0404(2)v 40 Thrice, assassins were employed against his life, and succeeded in wounding him, but he discovered no perturbation. One, bribed by Miantonimoh, his deadly enemy, in 16431643, shot him through the arm, but, like the wretch employed against the great Coligny by the Medicean faction, fled, without daring to meet the eye of the hero. Another, instigated by the treacherous Ninigrate, in 16481648, approached him as he stood unsuspiciously in a ship, and pierced his breast with a sword. But the wound was not mortal, and, in both instances, his cool and majestic deportment evinced his contempt of treachery, and his superiority to the fear of death. But, though prodigal of his own blood when danger impended, he was tenacious of the lives of his people.
Sequasson, a sachem on Connecticut River, having destroyed one of his subjects, and refused to make reparation, Uncas challenged him to single combat, and slew him; cancelling with his blood the debt of justice, which he had scorned to acknowledge. The same tenderness for the lives of his followers may be discerned when they were drawn up in battle array, against the force of Miantonimoh, his mortal foe. During the short pause which preceded the encounter, the Mohegan monarch, lofty in native valour, approaching from his ranks, stretched forth his hand toward his antagonist, and said,—
Here are many brave men; but the quarrel is ours, Miantonimoh. Come forth, let us fight together. If you 0414(3)r 41 destroy me, my men shall be yours; if you fall, yours shall be mine.
The haughty king of the Narragansetts answered proudly,—
My men came to fight, and they shall fight.
They fought and they were defeated. The vanquished leader was taken prisoner by Uncas, who, contrary to the expectations of his followers, restrained that rage of vengeance, which savages rank among their virtues. He led his captive to Hartford, and delivered him to the justice of the Colony, submitting his personal resentment to the sanction of laws, which he acknowledged to be more wise than his own. They decreed his death, on account of many crimes, and restored the victim to his conquerer. Uncas returned with him to the spot where the battle was fought, and when the carnage, which Miantonimoh had caused, was before his eyes, an Indian executioner cleft his head with a hatchet. Uncas, having yielded so much to the forms of justice, now testified some adherence to the savage customs of his country; which, if fully observed, would have demanded the torture of the criminal. Severing a piece of flesh from the shoulder of his lifeless enemy, he devoured it with expressions of triumph. The fallen monarch was then laid in a grave, over which a heap of stones was raised, and the spot, which is a short distance north-east of N――, bears the name of Sachem’s Plain to this day; as an Israelitish valley was denominated 4* 0424(3)v 42 Absalom’s Dale, from the pillar erected in remembrance of that false prince.
The character of Uncas comprehended many noble properties. He was indignant at oppression, of invincible valour, of inflexible friendship, careful of the lives of his people with parental solicitude, possessing presence of mind in danger, wisdom in council, and a Spartan contempt of personal hardship and suffering. The historians of that age, who were accustomed to represent the natives in shades of indiscriminate blackness, have been careful to give us the reverse of the picture. They assure us that the wisdom, by which they profited, partook too much of art and strategem to be worth of commendation. They inform us that he was tyrannical, in his administration, to the remnant of Pequots who were subjected to his dominion. This was undoubtedly true, yet William the Conqueror, with all his superior advantages of education and Christianity, was more oppressive to his Saxon vassals, than this Pagan king. They also accuse him of having been inimical to the Christian faith. Probably the independent mind of the Pagan preferred the mythology in which he had been nurtured, to the tenets of invaders, who, however zealously they might point his race to another world, evinced little disposition to leave them a refuge in this. Possibly, he might have thought the injunctions of the Prince of Peace, not well interpreted by the bloodshed that marked the steps of his followers. Yet, under the pressure of age, and at the approach of 0434(4)r 43 death, he pondered the terms of the gospel, which in his better days, he had not appreciated, and felt the value of that hope, which is an anchor to the soul. Like the patriarch Joseph, he gave commandment concerning his bones. He had selected, during health, a spot for his interment; and his dying request was, that all the royal family might be laid in the same sepulchre. His people revered the injunction of their deceased king, and continued to lay his descendants in that hallowed ground, until the royal line became extinct. It is situated within the town of N――, about seven miles from the common burial place of Mohegan.
Uncas was succeeded by his son Owaneco, commonly called Oneco, who continued a faithful ally of our fathers, during the wars with Philip, when the destruction of the colony was attempted by more than 3000 warriors. On the 1671-12-099th of December, 1671, when Massachusetts and Connecticut hazarded a battle with Philip, and the combined force of the Nipmucks and Narragansetts, Oneco accompanied them with 300 warriors.
They endured without complaint; the hardships of a march at that inclement season, and displayed the same firmness in the cause of another, which the whites evinced in their own. On their arrival where the enemy were embodied, after sustaining a sharp conflict with an advanced party, they found that the greatest part of the force was in the fort with their king, in the centre of a morass. This was ascertained to be of unusual height, great strength, 0444(4)v 44 and so artful a construction, that only one person could enter it at a time without the utmost difficulty. The troops, on approaching it, found themselves in a hazardous situation, being seriously annoyed by the fire from within the fortification, without the power of acting upon the defensive. In the council of officers, held at this critical juncture, Oneco exclaimed, with all a hero’s enthusiasm,—
I will scale these walls. My people shall follow me.
They assented with surprize and gratitude, and instantly Oneco, with his bravest warriors, was seen at the top of the fort. From hence they hurled their tomahawks, and took deadly aim with their fire-arms, among the mass within. In their steps ascended the intrepid Capt. Mason, the first among the whites who hazarded so perilous an adventure. Here he received his mortal wound, and the troops from Connecticut who followed him, sustained the heaviest share in the loss of that day. Six hours the horrible contest continued. Through the huge logs of the fort, blood streamed in torrents, and of the great numbers, which it contained, scarcely 200 escaped.
New-England, that day, bewailed the death or wounds of between 5 and 600 of her colonists, and of this loss more than a fourth part was sustained by her faithful allies, the Mohegans. Three hundred wounded men were borne, by their companions, 16 miles to a place of safety, on the day of this fatiguing battle. Many of these perished, in consequence of a storm of snow, which rendered 0454(5)r 45 the march almost impracticable; and 400 soldiers were disabled from action by the severe cold. In all these dangers and sufferings, Oneco never shrunk from his friends, or refused any aid, which it was in his power to offer. Sometime afterwards, in a conflict with the Narragansetts, he rendered out ancestors essential aid, and by his followers, the wily sachem, Cononchet was destroyed in a river, where he had sought concealment. Again he hazarded his life, and his people, in a battle, where the Narragansetts, led on by their queen, the wife of Philip, were defeated, after displaying great valour. Until 16751675, when the campaigns of Philip were terminated by his death, Oneco continued to lead his men into every scene of danger, which threatened his allies. Frequently unnoticed, and usually unrewarded, he suffered nothing to shake the constancy of his friendship, or to induce disobedience to the command of his deceased father, never to swerve from his oath to the English. When the Machiavelian policy of Philip was ultimately defeated by the undaunted Capt. Church, the head of that troubler of Israel, was presented him by the warriors of Oneco, who had drawn him from beneath the waters, where, like the unfortunate Duke of Monmouth, he had sought shelter.
The historians of that day, who were more accustomed to stigmatize, than to praise the natives, could not withhold the epithet of lion hearted, from the name of Oneco. Yet, whether his merits have ever been fully acknowledged0464(5)v 46 knowledged by the descendents of those whose existence he was instrumental in preserving, let our national annals bear witness. He died childless, and was succeeded by his brother Joshua, a peaceful prince, who is scarcely mentioned in the records of that age, except as executing deeds for the conveyance of lands to the English. As soon as they obtained respite from war, the same spirit, which incited the more southern settlers to search for gold, moved them to desire the possession of all the patrimony of the aborigines.
Soon, said these unhappy people, we shall not have land enough left, on which to spread our blankets.
Mahomet, the eldest son of Uncas, inheriting a warlike disposition, had slain, in a private feud, one of his people who had given him offence. The avenger of blood, who by their laws is permitted to take the life of the murderer, slew the young prince ere he was crowned. Uncas, then hoary with age, deeply regretted the loss of his favourite son, but was too wise to complain of the ancient laws of his tribe. Covering his face, for a short time, to conceal the anguish of a parent for his first-born, he again raised his eyes, and said with an unmoved countenance,—
It is well, my people. Let him be carried to his grave.
Joshua was succeeded by the brother-kings, Benjamin and Samuel. The first being the eldest, had the right to reign, and was saluted by the nation as its sovereign. 0474(6)r 47 The younger, manifesting a more pliant disposition to the will of the colonists, was supported by them. He adopted a military dress, and was fond of the customs and conversation of the whites. The elder, strong in native eloquence, drew around him the strength of his tribe. Like Cyrus and Artaxerxes, the rival monarchs of Persia, separate interests awoke their ambition, yet not like them did they lift their hand against each other in battle. Kindred blood restrained the animosity which their partizans would fain have fomented; and their example is a reproof to more civilized combatants, who can not only forget that they had but one father, but even that one God created them. At length the elder king paid the debt of nature, and though he had been wise and humane, yet among the adherents of his brother was no mourning. But death, as if determining that the grief should be general, smote the younger also, and they reposed in one grave. On the tomb-stone of the favourite of our ancestors, the following epitaph was inscribed. It was the production of a late celebrated physician of N――, whose memory is embalmed by excellence and piety, more than by his poetical talents. For beauty, wit, and manly sense, For temper mild, and eloquence, For courage bold, and things wauregan, He was the glory of Mohegan.
The line of the royalty of this tribe became extinct in the person of Isaiah Uncas, who received a partial education0484(6)v 48 tion at the seminary of President Wheelock, in Connecticut, but seemed not to inherit either the intellect, or enterprise, which distinguished the founder of that dynasty.
It has been mentioned that the tribe of natives, whose traditions we have partially gathered, retained amid its degeneracy, some individuals worthy of being rescued from oblivion. Among these, history has been most faithful in preserving the lineaments of their spiritual guide, the Rev. Samson Occom. He received instruction in the sciences and in the Christian faith, from the Rev. E. Wheelock, afterwards President of Dartmouth College. The sympathies of this excellent man were aroused by the ignorance of a race, at once rapidly vanishing, and miserably despised. Regardless of the censure which stamped him as an enthusiast, and a visionary, he commenced a school for them in Lebanon, (Connecticut,) about the middle of the eighteenth century, and by his disinterested efforts for their improvement and salvation, deserves an illustrious rank among Christian philanthropists. Occom was his first pupil, and his intellectual advances, and genuine piety, compensated the labours of his revered instructor. After a residence of several years in the family of his benefactor, he became the teacher of a school on Long Island, and endeavoured to impart the 5 0505(1)v 50 rudiments of divine truth, to the Montauk tribe, who were in his vicinity. His piety, and correct deportment procured for him a license to preach the gospel to his benighted brethren. He travelled through various tribes, enduring the hardships of a missionary, and faithfully doing the work of an evangelist. His eloquence, particularly in his native language, was very impressive, and his discourses in English were well received, from the pulpits of the largest and most polished congregations in the United States. In 17651765, he crossed the Atlantic, and was welcomed in England, with a combination of strong curiosity, and ardent benevolence, which were highly gratifying to him. Here his mind was enlarged by extensive intercourse with the wise and the good, with some of whom he continued to maintain a correspondence throughout life. At his return, he commenced the discharge of the duties of his station, with increased ardour, and an interesting humility. He delighted much in devotional poetry, and presented a volume of hymns, selected by himself, to his American brethren, which together with the letters which are preserved, evince his correct knowledge of our language, and the predominance of religious sentiments in his mind. His residence was not stationary until near the close of his life, but at the period of this sketch, he was with his brethren of the Mohegan tribe. They listened to his instructions with awe, and regarded him with affectionate interest. When in explaining to them the sufferings of a Saviour, his eyes would overflow, and 0515(2)r 51 a more than earthly fervour pervade his features and expressions, they felt convinced that he loved what he imparted, and honoured his sincerity. But when he enforced the wrath of the Almighty against impenitence, his tones rising with his theme, the terrours of the law bursting from his lips, they forgot the lowliness of his station, the subdued meekness of his character, and trembled as if they had heard rising among the mountains, the voice of the Eternal Spirit.
Robert Ashbow was the chieftain, the counsellor of the tribe. Descended from the royal family, he was tenacious of that shadowy honour; yet he who might decry such an empty distinction, could not long scan him, without perceiving that nature had enrolled him among her nobility. She had endued him with a noble form, and an eye, whose glance seemed to penetrate the secrets of the soul. His lofty forehead spoke the language of command, though his countenance when at rest wore a cast of gravity, even to melancholy, as if his habitual musings were among the broken images of other days. Yet his kindling brow, and the curl of his strongly compressed lip could testify the fiery enthusiasm of eloquence, or the most terrible emotions of anger. Some acquaintance with books had aided the vigour of his intellect, and he was fond of associating with the better class of whites, because he could thus gratify his thirst for knowledge. When the general government of the states had become settled upon a permanent foundation, Robert Ashbow was permitted to 0525(2)v 52 represent his people in the council of the nation, and received from some of the most distinguished Senators, proofs that his talents were duly estimated, and his opinions honoured. In religion, he was somewhat more than a skeptick, and less than a believer. He was familiar with the language of scripture, and assented to the excellence of its precepts, yet was perplexed at the division of faith from practice, which he beheld in many who professed to obey it. His adorations of the Great Spirit were stated and reverential. On the death of the Son of God for man, and on the nature of the gospel breathing peace, and goodwill, he reflected with awe, and admiration, but he suffered his reasoning powers to be perplexed with the faults, the crimes of Christians. Perhaps also, the command to love our enemies, interfered too palpably with his code of honour, or with that spirit of revenge, which his proud soul had been taught to nourish as a virtue.
John Cooper deserves also to be mentioned, were it only because he was the most wealthy man in his tribe. It would be unpardonable to forget this distinction, in a country like ours, where wealth so often supplies the place of every other ground of merit; and where it is understood by the body of the people, if not literally the one thing needful, yet the best illustration of what is shadowed forth in scripture, as the pearl of great price, which the wise merchantman will sell all to obtain.
The habitation of John bore no external marks of splendour, but beside a numerous household, his jurisdiction 0535(3)r 53 extended over a yoke of oxen, two cows, and sundry swine, riches heretofore unknown among the unambitious sons of Mohegan.
He was also a patient, and comparatively skilful agriculturalist. He had a supply of the implements of husbandry, for himself and sons, and availed himself of the labours of the plough, which his countrymen, either from dislike of toil, or jealousy at innovation, too generally neglected. The corn of John Cooper might be known from that of his neighbours, by its tall, regular ranks, and more abundant sheaves. Its interstices were filled with the yellow pumpkin, and the green crooked- neck’d squash, and its borders adorned with the prolific field bean. A large stack of hay furnished the winter food of his animals, as he had not yet aspired to the luxury of a barn. He was regarded by some of his brethren with a suspicious eye; not that they envied his possessions, for they had not learned to place wealth first on the list of virtues. But they imagined that he approximated too closely to the habits of white men, whom if they regarded as friends, they could not wholly forget had been invaders. They conceived poverty to be less degrading than daily toil, and thought he could not be a true Indian, who would not prefer the privations of one, to the slavery of the other. But John found patient industry favourable not only to his condition but to his character. His regular supply of necessary articles removed those temptations to intemperance, which arise from the alternation of famine 5* 0545(3)v 54 and profusion. Labour prompted his health, and providence of comforts for his family inspired a soothing self satisfaction. His untutored mind also found the connexion, which has been thought to exist between agriculture and natural religion. While committing his seed to the earth, he thought of Him who made both the earth and her son who feeds upon her bosom. He remembered that all his toil would be fruitless, unless that Great Spirit should give his smile to the sun, and to the rain that matured the harvest. Softened by such contemplations, his heart became prepared for the truths of revealed religion. Mr. Occom found him a docile student in the school of his Saviour, and imparted to him with delight the knowledge of the word that bringeth salvation. The husbandman submitted himself to the teaching of the Spirit, and embraced the Christian faith. His employment became dearer than ever, and he was continually drawing from its spiritual emblems, to animate gratitude, or to deepen humility. When subjecting to cultivation an unbroken piece of ground, the brambles which invested it, would remind him of the spontaneous vices of the unrenovated heart. Their end is to be burned, he would say internally, and such had been mine, but for thy mercy, my God. The pure spring that gave refreshment to his weariness, restored to his thought that fountain, which cleanseth from sin, and of which he who drinketh shall thirst no more. In the storm which frustrated his hopes, he traced the wisdom of Him, who giveth not account of his ways unto man, but 0555(4)r 55 from the cloud sendeth forth the bow of promise to renew his trust, and the sunbeam to cheer his toil. In the cultured fields, clothed with their various garb, he perceived an emblem of the righteous man, bringing forth good fruits, out of faith unfeigned: in the harvest bowing to the reaper, he beheld him ready to be gathered into the garner of eternal life. Thus increasing in knowledge and, piety, Mr. Occom considered him an useful assistant in his stated instructions to the people and thought of committing them to his spiritual charge, when he was compelled to be absent. But though they acknowledged that what John Cooper said of religion was well, and his prayers to the Great Spirit sufficiently long, it was evident that he did not possess their entire confidence, and some of them could not refrain from saying, that they never yet saw an Indian so eager after both worlds. Near the dwelling of John was that of Arrowhamet the warrior, or Zachary as he was familiarly called, by the name of his baptism. Tall, erect and muscular, he seemed to defy the ravages of time, though the records of his memory proved, that seventy winters had passed over him. He had borne a part in the severe campaign, which preceded the defeat of Braddock, and shared the hardships of the war of revolution, as the firm friend of the Americans. The taciturnity of his nation prevented that garrulous recitation of the minutiæ of his drama, to which aged soldiers are often addicted; but sometimes, when induced to speak of his battles, his flashing eye, and lofty form rising still 0565(4)v 56 more high, attested his military enthusiasm. His wife, Martha, who with him had embraced the Christian religion, was a descendant of the departed royalty of Mohegan. Their attachment for each other was strong, and exemplified on his part, by more of courteousness, on hers by more of affectionate expression, than was common to the reserve of their nation. Their tenement consisted of two rooms, with a shed in the rear, for the deposite of tools, or the rougher household utensils.
It was encompassed with a little garden of herbs and vegetables, and the whole wore an unusual aspect of neatness and comfort. But a mysterious personage had been added to that family, which had not within the memory of the young, comprised but Zachary and Martha. More than two years had elapsed, since a female had been observed to share their shelter, and to sit at their board. The Indians had remarked with surprise that she was of the race of the whites, young, and apparently in ill health, as she never quitted the mansion. They at first had testified some disgust, but as in their visits to the old warrior and his companion, she had always looked mildly on them, and spoken gently, they came to the conclusion, that the pale squaw was wauregan, or good. Any inquiry respecting the guest was uniformly answered,— She is our daughter; and perceiving that their friends did not wish to be pressed on the subject, they resigned their researches, and considered the stranger as a denizen, and a friend.0575(5)r 57
The Indian possesses in such respects a native politeness, which might sometimes be a salutary model to more civilized communities. It is an accomplishment which their neighbours of Yankee origin might however be slow in acquiring. They seem to have elevated into a virtue, that close inspection of the concerns of their neighbour, which almost always precludes attention to their own, and doubtless think that their knowledge of the contents of his cellar and garret, the management of his kitchen, the genealogy of his guests, and his secrets so far as they might be ascertained, a suitable employment for those who are commanded to love their neighbour as themselves.
It might have been remarked, however, that since the arrival of this stranger; the dress of old Zachary was arranged with a more scrupulous attention to neatness. No rents were observed in any part of his apparel, and where they threatened to make their appearance, the delicate stitches of no untaught needle might be traced. The broad gold band, which had been the present of an officer, as a testimony of valour, was now constantly worn upon his well-brush’d hat; and old Martha was arrayed every afternoon in a plain black silk gown, made in a very proper and becoming manner. The interiour of the humble house evinced the daily use of the broom, and near its door two bee-hives, ranged upon a rough bench, sent forth the cheerful hum of industry. Beds of thyme and sage lent their aromatic essence to the winged throng, which might be seen settling upon them with intense 0585(5)v 58 pleasure, in the earliest ray of the morning sun. The department of medicinal herbs was gradually enlarged, as they were found to promote the comfort of the drooping inmate, and Martha had become too old to seek them as she was wont in the woods. She busied herself frequently in the construction of work-baskets, whose smooth compartments displayed the light touches of a pencil, to whose delicacy the natives laid no claim. The zeal of these hospitable beings to promote the accomodation of their guest was very remarkable. Zachary would push his rude boat into the distant waters, that he might obtain supplies of those fish which were accounted most rare, or of such oysters as might allure the appetite of an invalid. When he carried to the market articles of domestic manufacture, he never returned without having expended some portion of his little gains, in the purchase of a few crackers, or a small quantity of wheat flour, or perhaps some of the tropical subacid fruits, which are so grateful to the parched lip on the sufferer from febrile disease. Martha brought with maternal tenderness, the morning draught of milk warm from the cow, who in her rude tenement in the rear of the building quietly ruminated. She would present also on a clean wooden plate, a dessert from her bee-hive, for the knowledge of whose management, she was indebted to the gentle being on whom her care centered. She would also search the adjoining fields for the first ripe strawberries, and whortleberries in their season, and bring them in a little basket of green leaves, 0595(6)r 59 that their freshness and fragrance might tempt the sickening palate. An emaciated hand would receive these gifts, and a face white as marble beam with a faint smile, while a soft voice uttered, I thank you Mother. But all seemed in vain, the lilly grew paler upon its stem, and seemed likely to sink into the grave, lonely and beautiful, with all its mysteriousness unrevealed.
One more personage deserves to be noticed ere we close this brief catalogue. Maurice, or as he was called before his baptism Kehoran, was deemed by his countrymen the most singular of men. Yet so accustomed had they become to his habits, that they almost ceased to be an object of animadversion. Years had elapsed since he withdrew himself from the residence of man, and became the tenant of a cave, at the base of a rock, at a considerable distance from the principal settlement. Nature had there formed an irregular apartment of about twenty feet in length, and varying in height and breadth. Its aperture, much below the stature of a man, was of a triangular shape, and apparently made by the disruption of the rock, which formed the roof of the cavern. It was partially closed by rolling against it a large stone which was found within, among other rubbish, which the hermit had removed. Here Maurice dwelt, subsisting upon the roots and berries, which the shaggy forest overhanging his roof supplied, and quenching his thirst at a spring which ran bubbling from the rocky height, and, gliding past his door like a riband-snake, disappeared in the adjoining 0605(6)v 60 thicket. A bed of skins afforded him a place of repose, and the severity of his life distressed even the natives, who were accustomed to despise hardships and privation. Maurice was tall, and emaciated, clad in a rough mantle of skins, fastened round his loins with a strip of bark. At a distance he might be taken for a miserable Franciscan, and as he approached, the crucifix always borne around his neck, revealed the religion which he professed. It was the general opinion that the terrible penances which he endured, had been enjoined as an expiation for some unknown crime. It was remembered by the oldest inhabitants that he had been a warrior, and a hunter of athletic frame, and keen eye. Now, when a partridge rested near him, or a squirrel sprang from the branch where he stood, he had been observed to raise his arm involuntarily, as if to bend his bow, then dropping it suddenly to exclaim, No! No! there is blood enough already. His feet were bare, and often wounded by thorns, and his white beard which he suffered not to be cut, rested upon his breast. Every autumn he disappeared, and was no more seen, until the opening spring permitted him to inhabit his cave, and resume his usual regimen. It was at length understood, that in his intervals of absence, he travelled to Canada, to visit the Jesuit who converted him, and to become confirmed in the faith which he had embraced. But the present winter he had omitted this stated journey. Some fancied that his beloved instructor was dead, but the majority concluded 0616(1)r 61 that the infirmities of age precluded the hermit from the fatigues of his pilgrimage. He was seen to guide his tottering steps by a staff, and to look vacantly at surrounding objects, as if his eye was dim to their proportions. The hair upon his head had become thin, and whiter than silver, yet he defended it by no covering from the blast or from the tempest. He now received with unwonted kindness, additional clothing, or occasional food from his countrymen, but if they offered him flesh, he would repel it with disgust, saying, it must never pass the lips of Maurice. The benevolence of Mr. Occom was strongly excited in his behalf. He visited him in his cell, relieved his famine, and urged him to accept of a milder faith and rely on the expiation of his Redeemer, and not on the mortification of his frail, decaying body. He would listen calmly to his discourses, but when he touched upon any peculiar tenet of the Roman church, would wave his withered hand, with all its wasted energy, and exclaim your way is not my way.
The charities of Madam L―― had become proverbial. Not only did the sufferers in her vicinity resort to her under the pressure of calamity, but the roving beggar trusted to find in her mansion, relief or shelter. These mendicants, not being restrained at that period by the fear of work-houses, were more numerous in proportion, and vastly more at ease in their peregrinations than at the present day. Although there were not among them, as in England, any selling of stands or circuits, fortunes secretly amassed, or establishments which transformed the gains of the day into nocturnal revels, where the cripple danced, and the blind recovered their sight; yet there existed that system of sympathetic intelligence, by which the houses of the bountiful were seldom unvisited, or those of the churl entered. Madam L――, being one day summoned to the kitchen to receive a guest of that order, was accosted in piteous tones by a man, who raised himself with difficulty by the aid of a staff upon one limb, while 0646(2)v 64 the other was so bandaged that it seemed an useless appendage. This he said was disabled by a shot at the battle of the Eutaw Springs, where, being left senseless on the field, his head was dreadfully lacerated by the tomahawks of the Indians. A swelling, and excoriation upon his arm, which he also exhibited, he termed a Rose-Cancer. Moved by such a combination of ills, and ever alive to the sufferings of those who fought the battles of our revolution, the Lady bestowed upon him alms, which rendered him eloquent in thanksgiving, and ordered him some dinner. As she retired to her parlour, Cuff following said in a suppressed voice, He been here afore, Ma’am. He no more lame, than I lame.
Returning and scrutinizing him more closely as he partook of his repast, she recognized in his face, half covered by the large cap which concealed his wound, some resemblance to a recent applicant. Were you here, a short time since? she inquired. No—God bless your soul, Ma’am, answered the man, rapidly. I never see your blessed face till this day, regarding Cuff with eyes inflamed with anger. Beulah then spoke,—three weeks ago yesterday, he come here, walking on two legs, without any hurt in his head, or Rose-Cancer. Put a spoon in your calabash-mouth, and see if that will keep down your false tongue, said the beggar, in his hoarse, natural voice; forgetting the melancholy notes, to which he at first set his articulation. Hastily seizing the pack, from which he had unharness’d himself, that he might more 0656(3)r 65 easily take refreshment, he slipped the strap over his neck with such an ill grace, as to dislodge the cap, which he said he was obliged always to keep over his wound, because the air made it ache tormentedly. This unfortunate occurrence discovered an unscalped head, with a thick growth of hair. The wrinkles, with which he had plaited his forehead, suddenly disappeared before the emotion, which put disguise to flight; for, though probably long inured to dissimulation, he could not without some compunction be stripped of his mask, in the presence of abused goodness. You are the man, said the Lady in a calm voice, who, a short time since, requested charity for a houseless wife and seven children, whose little home, erected by your industry, was burnt at midnight. You wept, as you said, that your eldest daughter, who was sick, perished in the flames. Did you not tell me the name of the village within the borders of Massachusetts, where your family remained, shelterless, and that you were in haste to gain a little aid, that you might return and comfort them? To this mild appeal the dissembler had no answer. He would have repelled anger with imprudence, but undeserved gentleness silenced him. Busying himself to collect his cap, hat and staff, he unconsciously found his useless limb, very serviceable in facilitating his exit. Fear not, said the Lady, that I shall reclaim the alms I have given you. But remember, though you may sometimes deceive your fellow-creatures, there is a Judge whom you cannot escape, whose eyes are 6* 0666(3)v 66 like a consuming fire to all iniquity. Returning to her parlour, she found her brother Dr. L――, waiting to make her his daily visit. He was the only brother of her deceased husband, and a few years younger than herself. The residence of his family was opposite her own; and the unrestrained intercourse, which had ever been maintained, greatly alleviated her loneliness. Dr. L―― was a man of great goodness of heart, and exemplary life. Gentleness of manner, moderation in sentiment, and sincere piety were his characteristicks. As he approached the close of a long life, (for more than fourscore years were allotted him,) benevolence became more and more his distinguishing feature; as the stream expands more widely, as it prepares to enter the bosom of that sea, where its course terminates. Invariable temperance, and a mind a stranger to those starts of passion which disorder the wheels of existence, gave him an age of unbroken activity and health; cheered by the sight of his children’s children, springing up like olive plants around his path. He lived to see the eyes of this beloved sister closed in death, when she had nearly attained fourscore years and ten. The fraternal attachment, which had been nourished for more than half a century by the sympathies of daily intercourse, did not fully reveal its strength, till its ties were sundered. Bowing down, he walked heavily, as one who mourneth for his mother,—and in two years slumbered near her, beneath the clods of the valley.
At the period of this sketch, he was in his grand climacterick,0676(4)r 67 terick, with a florid brow, and a step like youthful agility. He was of small stature, and correct proportions, and in his attire preserved those ancient fashions, which were then thought to give consistency and dignity to the form which time had honoured. A white, full bottomed wig, beautifully curled, shaded his venerable brow. This was surmounted by a low-crowned three-cornered hat, or, during his favourite rides on horseback, by one with a deep brim, to afford shelter to the eyes. His nicely plaited stock, long waistcoat, and silver buckles, never yielded to modern innovations; and the neatness, which distinguished his dress, extended through his mansion, and its precincts. It also pervaded every branch of the domestic department, and like the spirit of order, promised to be an heirloom to his family. Such was the person to whom Madam L――, with the freedom of sisterly intercourse, related the adventure which had just occurred in her kitchen. I have long wished, he remarked, for an opportunity to converse with you on this subject. I believe that you are often deceived by those who solicit your charity. The good are not easily suspicious, and the wicked take advantage of it.
I know brother, she replied, that I have sometimes given to the unworthy. The occurrence of to-day is by no means a solitary one. Yet how can we always discriminate, unless we could read the heart? That suspicion, which would guard us against dissimulation in one instance, might turn us from the prayer of real want in 0686(4)v 68 another. I have thought that while our reliance was upon a Benefactor, kind to the unthankful and evil, we ought not to hold, with too strict a hand, the balance of merit, when we hear the complaint of misery. I cannot find that our Saviour hath said Relieve only the righteous,, but the poor ye have always with you, and whenever ye will ye may do them good. Does he not almost make them His substitute? me ye have not always,—as if they were to furnish proof of our compassion, when He should be raised above the ills of humanity? When I have thus reflected on this passage, I have felt that I had rather relieve ten unworthy claimants, than to neglect one suffering servant of my Lord.
These sentiments, said Dr. L――, might be expected from the benevolence of your heart. Yet while we indulge in charitable feelings, we should be careful not to reward deceit, or cherish vice. We are commanded not to do evil that good may come? Is it not possible that, from a zeal to do good, evil may arise? It is always safe to give food to the hungry, and clothing to the naked, and kind words to him who is of a heavy heart. But the indiscriminate gift of money enables the drunkard to repeat his sin, and the indolent to become more vicious. Benevolence is blessed in itself, but it must be associated with discretion, ere it can confer blessings on others. The science of medicine is salutary, but if the physician use but one remedy for every disease, he will sometimes occasion death. Yet I would not speak as if 0696(5)r 69 you alone were liable to deception from those who solicit charity. It is but a short time since a young man brought to my house a paper, signed by several persons, declaring him to be deaf and dumb from his birth. His conduct comported with this declaration. His questions were unintelligible to me, and his eye possessed that earnest, inquiring gaze, which characterizes that interesting, and unfortunate race. Affected at the lot of a being, cut off from all the privileges and joys of society, I was preparing to impart liberally to his wants. My wife, regarding him with a penetrating look, said she had no doubt he was an imposter, who could hear and speak as well as any of us. He could not avoid turning his head as if to listen, and, more moved by resentment than good manners, answered You lie!
What, inquired the Lady, do you consider the best method of doing good, with the least possible harm? Undoubtedly, that of relieving the poor, through their own industry, he answered. Thus, instead of the degradation of beggary, you elevate their character, with the consciousness of a right improvement of time. If they are addicted to vices, you diminish their strength, by destroying indolence. You dry up the streams, by choking the fountain. A Christian should seek not merely to relieve bodily want, but to elevate moral character. If you support the children of an intemperate man, you take from him the strongest possible motive to reformation and industry. In those countries where establishments for the indigent 0706(5)v 70 have been the most abundant, charity has at length discovered, that the way to multiply the poor, is to provide for the poor; or in other words to destroy their motives of action.
Your theory, my brother, no one can question; the difficulty seems in reducing it to practice. The sick, and the infant must ever be an exception, and those also, who devote themselves to their comfort. The class of roving mendicants would also evade it, until the community shall be so impressed as to erect houses for their restraint and labour. To the families of the poor, who have health, it applies itself, as the most natural, and efficacious system of relief. I have ever found wool and flax gladly received, and wrought by poor, virtuous females. Their children can assist them in some parts of the toil, and thus industrious habits are implanted, where otherwise a vagrant idleness might take root. When these domestic manufactures have exceeded my own wants, I have sometimes disposed of them at reduced prices among those who have wrought them. Thus their families are clad in durable materials, instead of those insufficient fabrics, which the poor often purchase for the sake of cheapness, but which vanish long before one inclement season has past. I have usually found it expedient not to render them payment in money, but in those articles which are necessary to comfortable subsistence; for I believe the cause of poverty will often be found to exist in the destitution of that economy, which warns against spending the little all for that which is not bread, and 0716(6)r 71 the labour for that which satisfieth not. This system of charity creates such an intimacy and freedom of detail, that opportunities are discovered, where medicines for sickness, and books for children may be distributed with great advantage. This laborious system, have you then been pursuing, so silently that I had not discovered it? said her brother. What I began for a reproof ends as usual in the commendation, that, many daughters have done virtuously, but thou still excellest. I pray you, answered the Lady, to mention nothing of what I have imparted to you. The detail was given merely for the sake of the inference, that the system was too extensive for an individual. To be rendered effectual, it should be supported, by an association of the charitable. It ought to comprise a warehouse, where materials for labour should be furnished, the manufactures exposed for sale, and a stock of articles kept, suitable to be rendered in payment. This should be superintended by the directors of the institution; and a poor, and pious widow, might receive a salary for attending in it. A collection of such medicines, as might be administered safely without application to a physician, might also be connected with it, and would often prevent serious sickness in those, whose strenghstrength is put in daily requisition, without the power of obtaining necessary cordials. Books of instruction for children, and of consolation for the aged and sorrowful, should also be kept for gratuitous distribution. I have thought that a Charity School, if it were kept but on Saturday0726(6)v 72 urday afternoons, might give opportunity of teaching many valuable precepts to the children of those who laboured in this institution. It might at least then be ascertained how they had passed their time during the week, and if they were prepared to attend in a proper manner, the exercises of the approaching Sabbath.
The great objection to this excellent system, said Dr. L――, will be found in the love of ease. The rich had generally rather satisfy the poor, and their own consciences, at the least expense of time and thought. These objects are accomplished by the gift of money, and a claim to the title of bountiful is thus easily procured. This mode of relief involves no troublesome inquiry into the sources of want-no difficult, and perhaps abortive attempt to awaken industry. To the actings of this indolent spirit, we ae all more or less prone. This moves us even in the education of our children, to overlook instead of exterminating the ramifications of evil, and to cover an injury, which will probably affect them throughout the whole of life, with the soft name of affectionate indulgence.
Their conversation was interrupted by a low rap at the door, and the entrance of a woman apparently in humble life. A cloak of homemade cloth covered a form whose size promised great strength; and a decent black bonnet partially concealed a face, where health and an expression of cheerful contentment reigned. I have brought home Ma’am, she said the rest of the yarn which you wished0737(1)r 73 ed to have spun. If you have any more flax, I should be very glad to take it.—Sit down Mrs. Rawson, said Madam L――. You never seem to be tired, while any work remains. Have you walked three miles this cold, unpleasant day?—Any body who is strong, and well, need not complain of walking a few miles, Ma’am. Some part of the way is rather wet, but since I’ve been able through your help to get such a pair of strong shoes, I don’t mind any sort of walking. What a blessed thing it is, when the hearts of the rich are turned to give work to the poor, and assist them to get the necessaries of life, for themselves and families.
Heaven, said Dr. L――, helps those who are willing to help themselves. Have you any children, good woman?—O yes sir. God be thanked. What a lonely creature I should be without them. We live almost a mile from any neighbour, and they are company and comfort to me. Some folks blame me, because I don’t put them to service. But there are only two of them, and they’re very serviceable to me. The boy is twelve years old, and he takes care of the little spot of garden that we have, and raises vegetables, and cuts my wood inn the winter, and when he can work out a day or two, with the farmers, he’s willing and thankful to do it, to get a little provision for me, or help pay my rent. The girl is two years younger, and does the chores while I spin. She takes to the wheel too, herself, as natural as a duck runs to the water. My eldest son wanted to follow the seas like his 7 0747(1)v 74 father. It was a trial to me, but I remembered that he had the same protector on the water, as on the land. When he went away, he said—Mother, keep up a good heart. I shall come back, and bring you something to help you along. Oh! with what delight I used then to read the 107th Psalm, which speaks of them that go down to the sea in ships; to do business in the great waters, how they see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep. Many a time, when I have lain awake, in stormy nights, when my bed has shook under me with the winds that rock’d the house, I have thought perhaps my poor boy is among those who mount up to the heavens, and go down again to the depths, with their soul melted because of trouble. The again it would come into my mind, who knows but he will cry unto the Lord, and he will bring him out of his distresses. That thought comforted me. If he can only be made to seek his God, in the days of his youth, what matter is it though he should suffer, and his mother’s heart ache? all would be well in the end. When it came time to expect him back, I found myself too anxious and impatient, for one who ought to trust all to God. One day, when I was looking for him, a wagon drove up to the door. My heart was in my mouth. A man got out, and brought me a chest, and said, This belonged to your son. He died of a fever, a fortnight before we arrived on this coast. My tongue was speechless—something said to me, be still! and know that I am God. All day long, as I went about 0757(2)r 75 my work, that boy seemed to stand beside me, with his face between smiles and tears, as when he last said Good bye, mother. When I went to bed, and all was darkness, his pale corpse lay stretched before me, and I trembled with agony as when I bore him. But through that long sleepless night, the same voice repeated, Be still! and know that I am God. The next day, I opened his chest. There lay all the clothes, that those dear hands had toiled to procure, and that I had made for him. But oh! what a blessing. Wrapt up in the choicest manner, I found a prayer, which he had himself written. It has been my comfort ever since, when I have grieved, as a mother will grieve for her first-born. Then I could turn to the psalm, which had been my companion in his absence, and say, Oh! that men would praise the Lord for his goodness! and for his wonderful works to the children of men. How merciful that he was not thrown overboard, without a moment’s time to beg favour of God. But if the child of many prayers did, in his sickness, pray himself for salvation, and be heard, what more have I to desire? Sometimes in my dreams, I have seen him as an angel, walking on the waves, and reaching his hand toward me.—God grant that I may not be deceived in my hope. She paused, to wipe the tears that were escaping down her cheeks; and recollecting herself, said, I ought to ask pardon, for talking so much about my own poor concerns. Madam L―― perceiving that her brother was interested in the narration, said, I am always edified to 0767(2)v 76 hear the events of your life, my good Mrs. Rawson; for you keep in view the Hand that rules, both under the cloud, and in the sun-shine. I wish you would relate to my brother, what you have told me, respecting your husband.
He was a man, she answered, of better education, than people in his station always enjoy. I married him, when I was sixteen, and my whole endeavour was to please him. I did not consider that it is our duty to seek first the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness. My husband was an ambitious man; and at last became master of a vessel. He was always looking for great things, but seemed to be unfortunate. While he was gone whole years, I would live upon as little as would keep life in me, so as not to be a burden to him; and sometimes when I was sick, and would have been thankful for six-pence, to buy medicine, a letter would come from him, full of nothing but poetry. Yet I was rejoiced to see only a line, written by his hand, because of the love I bore him. Once, when my babes and I were really in want of food, there came from him a present to me, of a gold ring, and his picture as big as life. The children were frightened to death, at the sight of such a great face, that did not talk; and they cried and screamed so, that I had to carry it up garret, and turn it backside out. I sold the gold ring, and brought Indian meal, and some wool to spin stockings for our bare feet. I would have sold the picture, but nobody would buy it. I thought it was not becoming in me to keep such a costly thing. I wrote to 0777(3)r 77 my husband, if you had but sent me a piece of meat as big as the picture, I should know what to do with it. Here are three little mouths, waiting to be filled, that call you Father. But he meant all in kindness. Once he sent me money to buy a small house, which he liked. But the man, who had the care of it, spent it, and before he got ready to pay me, he failed, and could not. Yet I found that what I repined at, was in mercy. Not long after, that very house took fire in the night, and burnt down: and who knows, but what if we had lived there, one of the children might have been burned in it?— After some time, my husband came home, a poor, sick creature, with a leg to be taken off. I felt as if I knew not which way to turn, to make him comfortable. But strength came with the need. The doctor was favourable in his bill, and I was able to be about, both day and night. My husband suffered every thing in the operation, and in the sickness afterwards. He was disappointed at being so poor, when he had promised himself riches; and all together made him very unhappy, and violent. His oaths and curses made me tremble, but I knew that he was in misery, and my prayers rose for him with almost every breath. Those, who heard him speak to me, thought he was unkind, but they did not know what he suffered. My voice was always cheerful to him; but, when he slept, I took time to weep. My greatest sorrow was, that he seemed to be hastening into the presence of his Maker, with a heart bitter against him. If he awoke, and I was not by, 7* 0787(3)v 78 he would shriek after me in a voice that frightened me, saying that when I was away, evil spirits came to tear him. Yet when I appeared, he would sometimes say, that my sight was hateful to him, as theirs. His pain, made him loath all creatures, and himself also. But God in mercy, gave him a better frame of spirit. For a month before his death, there were no blasphemies, but prayers for patience. He would ask me to read from the good book, and listen with tears. I feared to say much to him, because of his weakness; but I thanked my Father in Heaven for his altered mind. When he died, he looked at me, and his children, with a mild pleasant face, and though he was not able to speak, it seemed as if there was peace within his heart. I asked him, if he could leave his fatherless children with God, and he bowed his head with a smile, that lifted a weight from my heart. For many months, the sound of his groans lingered in my ears, both when I lay down, and when I rose up, but I commended my soul to the God of the widow, and was preserved.
And were you able, said Dr. L――, to support your children entirely by your own industry?
Oh! that would have been but a light matter, Sir, replied Mrs. Rawson, for they were all healthy, and willing to help according to their years. We ate our humble food with a good appetite, and found at night that the sleep of the labourer is sweet, and rose in the morning with thankful hearts to Him who permitted us to live in his good and beautiful world. Once, when we were eating 0797(4)r 79 our breakfast of potatoes, the youngest boy, who was then about five years old, lifted up to me his bright eye, and rosy face, and said, Mother, when I am a little bigger, the farmers will hire me to work, and then I shall bring you home, a bushel of rye. But what made me feel for a little while, as if I did not know how to get along, was when my father and mother came to live with me, just after I was left a widow. I was willing to work my fingers to the bone for them, but they were old, and infirm people, and my house was very small, and I feared that I could not make them comfortable. It did seem to me too, that my sister, who sent them down to me from Vermont, was better able to take care of them than I; for she had a husband, and a good farm, and was well-off in the world— while I had to work early and late to get my children bread. But I thought again—God has ordered it, and he will provide; though I have not even a barrel of meal, or a cruse of oil, like the widow in the Old Testament. And so it was—we were all able to live upon the little that my hands obtained, until my poor mother became sick and bedrid; and then the good people were very kind to help me to medicines, and comfortable things for her. She was a heavy woman, and in lifting her I strained my breast, so that it has never been strong since. But how much more did she endure for me in my infancy—and how small a part could I pay the mother, who had patience with my helpless and wayward years. Often have I thought, when I was broke of my rest for many nights, and had 0807(4)v 80 laboured hard in the day, O if I could ever find it in my heart to forsake my father and mother, how could I hope that the Lord would take me up in my distresses. And I thank Him who gave me the strength unto the end; for their aged eyes blessed me, when their voice was lost in death. Surely goodness and mercy have followed me all the days of my life; and I believe there will always be a handful of corn, on the mountain-tops for me.
God will bless you, good woman, said Dr. L――, he will be your shield in necessity, and reward your piety in another world. Then rising to depart, he put something in the hand of his sister, saying, Be my almoner, you know how best to make it acceptable to her. I perceive there are some, to whom it is safe to give money—in whose hands it ceases to be the root of evil, and bringeth forth good and peaceable fruits.
In the neighbourhood of Madam L――, was a tenement, inhabited by an aged African, whose name was Primus. To him she extended not only her benevolent offices, but her kind regard. Venerable at once for years and virtues, he was respected both by the young and old. His countenance displayed the characteristicks of the country of his birth; and though his features might war with all our ideas of beauty, yet their expression caused the eye to rest on them with complacency. Seldom is matter more completely modified by mind, than it was in this case; where the mild eye, beaming love to mankind, made the beholder forget the jutting forehead, and depressed nostrils, by which it was encompassed. A gentle, yet dignified deportment, a politeness which seemed natural to him, and the white blossoms of the grave, curling closely around his temples, suffered not materially in their effect, from the complexion which an African sun had burnt upon him. It was remarked, by children in the streets, that on one bowed so low, or turned out their toes so well as Primus; nor was their reverence for his character0827(5)v 82 acter abated, because they found him guilty of a skin not coloured like their own. Early instructed in reading, and the principles of religion, he had imbibed an ardent love for the Scriptures, and stored his memory with a surprising number of their passages. If the great Selden merited the name of a walking dictionary, Primus might have been styled a living concordance. At the private religious meetings, which were occasionally held by the pious, it was customary, when any text was under discussion, whose place was doubtful in the memory of the speaker, to appeal to the venerable African. Then, from some remote corner, a modest voice would be heard, to pronounce with precision, respecting the chapter and verse. This information, which humility generally connected with some expression of doubt, was almost invariably found a sure word of testimony; for he had made the Bible his sole study from his youth, exercising his memory, not only on its substance, but on its links of connexion and dependance, as the historian clings to chronology, to systematize the facts, with which his mind overflows.
Primus had been, for more than half a century, a member of the Congregational Church in his vicinity. We might say an ornament also, if the circle of Christian duties, and spiritual graces, were ever found so unmingled with imperfection, as to justify such an epithet. At that most solemn ordinance, appointed by the Saviour to keep in remembrance his death till he come, the devotion, the 0837(6)r 83 humility, the gratitude of this participant could scarcely escape observation. When he bent over the mysterious symbols, with an eye now fixed on the earth, now humbly raised as if in the language of an ancient supplicant, let thy servant wash the feet of these servants of my Lord, those, who knew the purity of his life, would often utter mentally,―― When the Archangel’s trump shall blow, And souls to bodies join, Millions shall wish their lives below, Had been as pure as thine.
His home, which was comfortable, and comprised two stories, more spacious than usually fall to the lot of Africans in this country, was provided for him by the family whom he had served in his youth. They had become justly attached to him for his excellent qualities, and for them, he testified the zeal of an old feudal retainer. Though four-score years had passed over him, he still preferred supplying his moderate wants by occasional labour in the gardens of his neighbours, to a dependance on the industry of his daughters who resided with him. Their habitation was situated near a ledge of dark, broken rocks; between whose base and its walls, rose a School-house of brick, which still remains, though no vestige is left of the abode of the good African. The noisy inmates of that seminary of learning used often to pay a passing visit to Father Primus. He kept a small stock of walnuts for the good, hence, the good were most frequently his guests. Often would the red tinge in their cheeks fade, and the 0847(6)v 84 dancing blood at their gay hearts be cold for a moment, while he explained to them the only picture in his habitation, the tearing of the forty and two children, who mocked at the bald-head prophet. The furious deportment of the two she-bears, the various attitudes of torture and death in which the victims appeared, and the solemn enunciation of that old, grey-headed man, made this part of the bible better understood than others by the breathless listeners, and impressed on their minds the turpitude of reviling age and piety, more than the formal instruction of the pulpit. Sometimes he would indulge them with the story of his captivity, and many a little bosom would beat indignantly, and tears would gush from many a fair eye, at hearing that he was a child like themselves, when he was torn from his native land to be made a slave. His narrative, when divested of its vernacular, ran thus:—I was born in that part of Africa, which lies between the Rivers Gambia and Senegal. The king of our tribe possessed a small territory, about fifty miles from the western coast. The dwelling of my parents was on a branch of the river Senegal. Its humble roof was overshadowed by lofty palm-trees, and near it grew yams, and plantains for our food. Orange trees, and shaddocks were abundant there, and the pine-appple might be seen, thrusting forth its head like a young cabbage, wherever we trod. There was war, at the time I was captured, between our king, and the chief of a neighbouring nation. It was begun, in order to obtain prisoners to sell to the dealers0858(1)r 85 ers in slaves. It is not one of the slightest evils of the slave-trade, that it kindles war among tribes, who would otherwise be at peace. The sight of an European sail is the signal for dissension and robbery, and ere the ship has arrived at its harbour, cottages have blazed, and blood has flowed. Those, who were comparatively innocent, are rendered sinful by those who have more light and knowledge than themselves, so that the Africans who inhabit the shores, are worse than those in the interiour, who have never seen a Christian. Nations, who deal in slaves, have factors or merchants stationed along the coasts, to instigate the avaricious and wicked natives to sell their own countrymen. Thus private robberies, and civil wars add to the desolations of Africa. The whites, also, sail in vessels, or boats up the principal rivers, and make victims of those who may escape the pursuit of their agents. They sometimes march with considerable force into the country, and seize whole families, leaving only the sick and the aged. Alas! they have not always left these, to mourn the loss of all their race. They have staid to destroy those lives, which they deemed not worthy their capture. When the English ship arrived which bore me from Africa, my father was summoned to aid in defending our tribe against the inroads of a powerful chief. I had attained the age of ten years, and was left to stay by the bed of a sick mother. I said to her in my simplicity— I see people coming towards us with a white skin, and their voices have a strange sound. 8 0868(1)v 86 Hide yourself, my son! she hastily exclaimed, these are the men who make slaves of us. But, in a moment, their grasp was upon my shoulder. She shrieked in agony—Take him not away, he is our only one. Spare him, he is my all. He is but a child, what service can he render you? Take me, and leave him, for when this sickness departs, my hand is stronger than his. See! I am well already. I will labour for you, and be your slave; but let him stay to comfort his father. Ere she had finished speaking, they had torn me away. I gazed back on my dear home, and saw that she had crept to the door, for she was unable to walk. There she lay grovelling, following me with her eyes, and filling the air with incessant screams, while she implored the gods of Africa to restore her child. All that day we travelled, and in the course of it were joined by large parties of slaves. Muffled, they were not permitted to speak to each other, but groans were heard, and tears fell without measure. Chained together, two and two, they were driven along by the lash like beasts. At night, when we all lay down to sleep, an arm, raised as high as its fetters would permit, encircled me, and I heard the whispered words, rest your head on my bosom. I knew the voice of my father. But I could not look up, for my heart was heavier, to find him in that place of torment. He had been disarmed and sold by the treachery0878(2)r 87 ry of his own countrymen, whom he was hazarding his life to defend. The next day we were put on board the slave-ship. Here our miseries were increased, to what seemed at first view insupportable. We were forced between two low decks, where the grown people could not stand upright. So crowded were we, that scarcely twenty inches of space were allotted each in his living coffin. Our sufferings for want of air, in this confined prison, I cannot adequately describe. When in bad weather, the tarpaulin was drawn over the hole whence we received fresh air, the noise of hundreds drawing their breath as if in suffocation, was mingled with piercing cries of kickeraboo! we die! we die! Every day, except in cases of severe storms, they were brought on deck to take their dinner, which consisted of boiled horse-beans, and rice. After this they were compelled to jump for exercise, as high as their chains would permit. If they refused, they were punished with the cat of nine tails; if they complied, the irons on their limbs caused excoriations of the flesh, and sprains of the joints. They were ordered to sing also. But only lamentations were heard, or fragments of songs, broken with sobs, speaking of the palm-tree shade, and the home of their fathers. Their thrilling and mournful voices, with whatever burden they burst forth, ended in the same word, Africa! dear Africa! When the short space allotted to breathe the fresh air had expired, if any testified reluctance to be packed into 0888(2)v 88 their living tombs, they were quickened by the lash. Yet if I could only be placed, where I might see the face of my father, I seemed to forget a part of my sorrow. But at length, as I watched him, tears were continually lying upon his burning cheek. His head declined upon his breast, and he forebore to look at me, save with deadly, despairing eyes. A terrible sickness was beginning among the slaves. The contagion spread rapidly, for those who might have escaped, were often chained to the diseased, the dying, and the dead. Numbers were removed to what was called the hospital. Here they were indeed permitted room to stretch themselves out, which had been before denied them. But it was upon rough boards, where the motion of the ship tore the flesh from their bones. Soon, there were spaces enough to be seen, but they were reddened with the blood of the dead who had filled them. Every day, the plunging of bodies into the ocean was heard, with no more concern than if beasts were consigned to its depths. Stern joy sat upon the faces of the sufferers. They complained not, as they suffocated in the pestilent atmosphere. They thought that they were escaping their oppressors, and returning to the home of their ancestors. My father was among the first victims. I feigned sickness, that I may be near where he lay. Not a groan escaped him, though his body was one continued wound. Constantly panting for air, which was denied him, his 0898(3)r 89 parched lips could scarcely utter an articulate sound. But as he drew his last, long gasp, he said,— Come with me, my son! to the fields of pure light, where are no white men, no slaves. I was stupid for many days, as one whose mind had forsaken his body. Yet I escaped the pestilence. So terrible was it, that out of 800, comparatively few remained. More attention was paid to the health of the survivors, as the owners began to fear it would be a losing voyage. We had now more room, and a less corrupted atmosphere, and no more deaths occurred save a few of broken hearts. The ship landed her crew in New-York, from whence a few of the slaves were sent to Connecticut. This state had not then prohibited their importation; nor has it until recently decreed, that whoever is born within its jurisdiction, shall be free. My lot was cast in this place, with a kind master who at his death gave me freedom. I was about his person and he required no task of me, beyond my years and strength. He first told me that I had a soul, which must be forever in heaven or hell. He taught me to read in my bible, of the God who had created man, of the Saviour who died to redeem him. And oh! that knowledge was worth more to me, than all I had suffered, all I had lost. Had I continued in Africa, I should have been a worshipper of idols that cannot save. Ah! what if this short life were all of it sorrow, if when it endeth, we might carry 8* 0908(3)v 90 with us a hope that can never fail, a glory that can never die.
It has been mentioned that this good old African, had a daughter who resided with him. She was the sole surviving offspring of a wife who had been many years dead, and bore no resemblance to her father, either in person or mind. Without being decidedly vicious, she might be ranked among those many personages who prove that merit is not hereditary. Having but little employment at home, she was by profession both spy and gossip; not that the union of these departments is particular, or monopolized by females of her colour and station. Seldom was any occurrence in the household of her neighbours, unknown to her. The incipient designs of courtship and matrimony were favourite subjects for her boasted discernment, or malignant prediction, and it might be said of her that— She hated men, because they lov’d not her, And hated women because they were lov’d.
She was time-keeper, for all who came within the range of her acquaintance. No single-lady, who approached the frontier of desperation, could presume to curtail a year from the fearful calendar, if Flora were near to bring her back to the correct computation of her own date. That portion of the affections, which Nature had introduced into the system of this wayward dame, were more liberally bestowed upon animals, than upon her own kind. Cats were her principal favourites, and wandered around her precincts, in every shade and diversity of colour. 0918(3)r 91 Under her clement, they waxed fat, and multiplied exceedingly. At her meals, she was the centre of a circle, who, with lynx eyes, watched every movement of her hand to her lips, and with discordant growling, grudged every morsel which was not bestowed upon them. Sometimes she might be heard by those who passed her mansion, addressing her dependents with every appellation of fondness; at others, with bitter vituperations; while their shrill voices, now mingling with her cadence, and anon leading the concert, gave notice that they were paying the penalty of some petty larceny on the larder. Frequently she was seen, issuing from her habitation, her tall, gaunt form clad in a sky-blue tammy petticoat, partially concealed from view by a short, faded, scarlet cloak, bearing a basket of kittens to display their beauty to some amateur, or put them to service with some rat-infested householder. Following, with distracted haste, the mother Grimalkin might be traced, tossing her whiskers, and uttering piteous moans; occasionally infixing her claws, in the stiff blue petticoat, that she might thereby climb to her kidnapped offspring. The bereaved parent would be either consoled with caresses, or distracted by a blow, as the caprice of the dame might dictate.
Another object claimed her attention, though in an inferiour degree. On the utmost limit of the parapet of rock, which flanked her suburbs, was a solitary barberry-bush, which possibly she felt bound to patronize, by virtue of her name, as Goddess of Flowers. To this spot, the visits 0928(4)v 92 of the children, from the adjacent temple of science, wee constant as the advances of its fructification. Even the leaves did not come amiss, as study is known to be an provocative of appetite. When its drupes began to assume their crimson tinge, dire were the labours, and sore the watchings of Flora, between the depredations of the urchins without, and the cats within. At this season of the year, her irascible propensities predominated; and many a little girl has vanished like a frighted bird from the contested bush; and many a stout boy, with teeth on edge from the rough acid of the unripe fruit, has lingered to shout defiance at the threats which assailed him.
Her principal amusement, amid the pressure of avocations like these, was to trace in the aspect of the sky, signs of a portending storm. No mariner, whose life balances upon the cloud, transcended her in this species of discernment; for she could gather amid the unsullied brightness of a summer sky, omens of elemental conflict. Her delight was amid the convulsions of nature, and the deformities of character. This love of scandal led her to dread the reproofs of Madam L――, and to avoid her presence, except when she found it expedient to solicit some favour. Her father was ever received with kindness, and even with affection, as a brother in Christ, notwithstanding his bonds. But when she made her visitations to set forth her poverty, before this benevolent lady, she invariably received, with her gift, some admonition 0938(5)r 93 whose severity induced her to murmur as she returned to her dwelling.
It is well enough, for aught I know, for rich people to be so mighty good; but poor folks have not had so much eddecation, and must take the world as they find it.
Yet she found that punishment invariably attends the indulgence of unkind feelings, though conscience may have become too obtuse to administer it. The terrours of superstition haunted her, and the wakeful hours of night, were rendered miserable by fears of ghosts and spectres. No Neapolitan ever believed more firmly in the influence of an evil eye, than she in the system of witchcraft. The tragical scenes acted at Salem, in the preceding century, had been rendered familiar to her, by the pages of a torn book, which she perused on Sundays, as a substitute for the bible. All things monstrous, or mysterious were traced by her to a similar source. The unknown stranger who had sought refuge in the abode of old Zachary at Mohegan, was to her a meet subject for explanation dire. She had no doubt, she was one of that race who held communion with evil spirits. Her living among Indians was a sure proof of that. She had heard that when people were in pursuit of her, she would cast a mist before their eyes, that they could not discover her. She believed that at her first arrival, there was a blue flame and a strong scent of sulphur; and hinted that, if the Authority of the Town, were as strict as the ought to be, old Zachary would be committed to prison, and the 0948(5)v 94 creature whom nobody knew, tied in a sack, and thrown into the river, to see if she would sink or swim. Then lowering her voice, she would assert that other people, as well as herself, were confident that she was a witch, for that she had been seen to rise in the air upon a broomstick so high, that she appeared no larger than a nighthawk. This mischievous narrator found listeners; for at that period, low scandal, and the belief in the contracts of man with evil demons, were popular among the vulgar. Superstition has since vanished before the sway of superiour illumination; but slander still thrives on the faults of mankind. They are still forced into daily circulation, though not always by those, whom society condemns as ignorant, worthless, or malignant.
If to confer happiness be the greatest luxury, he who has learned to impart it, with the least labour, may be considered an adept in a highly important science. Whoever is ambitious of this distinction would be wise, sometimes to consult the enjoyment of children. Here the elastic, unsubdued spirit will co-operate with his design, and those obstacles, which arise from habitual sorrow, deep knowledge of the infirmity of our nature, or sickening acquaintance with the insufficiency of earthly pleasures, are not to be encountered. Theirs are the joys by Fancy fed, Less pleasing when possest, The tear forgot, as soon as shed, The sun-shine of the breast.
This truth was well understood by Madam L――, and practised with that ardour which the love of benevolence excited. Her object was not that indulgence of the appetites, and passions of children, which many indolent teachers, and misguided parents seem to consider their chief good, and the surest method of conciliating affection. She percieved that the fondness, manifested for those who procured them selfish gratifications, was not an enduring 0968(6)v 96 attachment; and endeavoured by a judicious mixture of kindness and instruction, to win their confidence, and impress the truth, that they were rational and accountable beings.
It was often her custom, on the afternoons of their stated release from school, to assemble around her the younger children of the neighbourhood. An invitation of this sort was viewed by them as an honour to be boasted of, as well as a pleasure to be enjoyed. On those gala-days, they might be seen, seated in groups around her feet, watching with sparkling eyes the quick movements of her scissors, producing for their amusement, groups of dancing girls, dexterously cut from white paper, tall trees, with prominent buds and leaves, and squirrels, apparently ready to spring from bough to bough. When these fanciful creations had sufficed for a time, a small cabinet of curiosities would often be produced, and sundry little heads might be observed hanging over it in such close contact, that the gold and chesnut of their locks blended in beautiful irregularity. There, counters were considered as coins, and trifles of slight value esteemed as splendid rarities: yet, perhaps the connoisseur criticising the touches of the artist, or the antiquary bending over his hoard, might have exchanged their heartfelt satisfaction with this sportive group, and sustained no loss. Anon, the variable little beings would be searching for some new source of bliss; as if Nature had already taught them that novelty was the charm of earthly pleasure, but withheld the bitter certainty0979(1)r 97 tainty that all is vanity. One of the most enterprising might be discerned, mounted on a high chair, with hand extended above the head, to a well known depository of books for children. Then would be seen descending into the wide-spread white apron of another, a shower of tiny volumes, with gilded covers, equally the admiration, and desire of all. There were divers copies of The Bag of Nuts ready cracked, the renowned history of Goody Margery Two-Shoes, and the marvellous and dreadful exploits of the Giant Grumbolumbo. The volumes of that period, appropriated to children, were generally of meagre variety, and questionable excellence. Miss Edgeworth had not then arisen to embody the traits of nature and of feeling, in a vehicle of the most enchanting simplicity; nor Miss More, to build, upon the events of humble life, a column of pure morality, and majestic piety; nor Mrs. Sherwood, to convey to the understanding the precepts of a sublime faith, through the medium of the softened affections. The pens of the sage, and the historian, had not then learned to accommodate themselves gracefully tot he capacities of infancy. Watts had indeed set the example of subduing poetical inspiration to the level of untutor’d intellect. He had lured the highborn Urania, to warble the cradle hymn; but he had then neither precedent nor imitator. Great will be the responsibility of the present generation. For them Genius has descended to definition, and Science disrobed herself of the mystery of ages. But as no blessing is without 9 0989(1)v 98 alloy, it is not to be feared that these privileges, through Profusion, may frustrate their own design? If, through their aid, no royal road to astronomy has been discovered, has not something very like a dunce’s avenue to literature, been laid open? Will the mind, which is released from the necessity of laborious research, obtain that pre-eminence which habits of application can alone bestow? Are we not in some danger of having more superficial, than profound students? The superiour learning of the ancients, has been resolved into a single circumstance, —the scarcity of books. We would not willingly see a return of that scarcity; yet it might be well for education to impress on youth the importance of making itself master of the necessary elementary works, as thoroughly as if there were none beside. This might demand a perseverance which would disturb the repose of indolence, but it would strengthen the energies of intellect. The respect, which, forty years since, was shewn to the extrinsic value of books, did not diminish the sense of their intrinsic worth. The maxim, then enforced, both by the parent and pedagogue, that it was shameful to deface and destroy them, heightened the estimation of their contents; as, in monarchical governments, the sacredness of the person of the King gives weight to his prerogative. Now, the idler in school finds no method of escaping his lesson more convenient, than to render it illegible, or to mislay, and destroy his book.
Madam L――, educated in the sobriety and economy of 0999(2)r 99 more ancient times, entrusted her volumes to the little readers, with repeated injunctions not to tear, tarnish, or turn down the leaves. These directions usually accompanied those also, which she gave as presents, and so well were they obeyed, that it was a general remark, no books retained their beauty so long as hers, whether lent, given away, or retained in her own library.
Some of these fairy forms might sometimes be descried in closer contact with the Lady, displaying their powers of recitation. Then, might be heard, in every variety of emphasis and intonation, the standard pieces of the day, How doth the little busy bee,—Abroad in the meadows to see the young lambs,—or, Though I am young, a little one. Thus, an opportunity was afforded for inquiry into their different grades of improvement at school, and for those admonitions, respecting the value of time, industry, and correct habits, which she was as faithful to impress as she was happy to adapt to different dispositions, and degrees of improvement.
These little groups could not be persuaded to seperate, without a song from their kind patroness. Her memory, well stored with songs which had been fashionable in her youth, and her voice, of great melody and compass, were always at the command of these lilliputian visitants; for she felt that she not only thus gave them pleasure, but cherished gentle, and virtuous sentiments. The distracted Lady, a tender and melancholy complaint of a young female, bereft of reason, was a great favourite with 1009(2)v 100 the auditors. So was Indulgent parents dear, an ancient ballad of considerable length, and most tragical character. Many an eye, that sparkled with curiosity, when the hero of the tale, moved by love, sought the hand of a maid of low degree, was dilated with horrour, when his proud mother took the life of the kneeling fairone; or was suffused with tears, when the unfortunate youth, discovering the deed, and reproaching the guilty murdress— ――――his rapier drew, And pierc’d his bosom through, And bade this world adieu, Forevermore.
The address of the Ghost of Pompey to his wife Cornelia, was considered as the climax of this part of the entertainment. It is here subjoined, as a specimen of the grave song, admired at that period among the better educated part of the community. Its antiquity is not known to the writer, but it has been used as a song in Connecticut, for more than a century. From lasting and unclouded day, From joys refin’d, above allay, And from a spring without decay— I come!—by Cynthia’s borrow’d beams. To visit my Cornelia’s dreams, And give them yet sublimer themes. Behold the man thou lov’dst before! Pure streams have wash’d away his gore, And Pompey now shall bleed no more. 1019(3)r 101 By death, this glory I assume, Nor could I bear the fearful doom, To outlive the liberties of Rome By me, her changeful fate was tried, Her honour was my dearest pride. I for it liv’d, and with it died. Nor shall my vengeance be withstood, Nor unattended with a flood of Roman and Egyptian blood; Cæsar himself it shall pursue, His days shall troubled be, and few, And he shall fall by treason too. He, by severity divine, Shall swell the offerings at my shrine. As I was his, he shall be mine. Regret thy woes, my Love, no more, For Fate shall waft thee soon ashore, And to thy Pompey, thee restore; Where, past the fears of sad removes, We’ll entertain our deathless loves, In beauteous and immortal groves: There, none a tyrant’s crown shall wear, No Cæsar be dictator there, Nor shall Cornelia shed a tear.
Perhaps some young mind imperceptibly imbibed a love for the lore of Rome, from the explanations often connected with these quaint stanzas, whose tune, by her manner of execution, possessed exquisite harmony. Inquiries, from the more intelligent, would invariably follow, about Rome and Cæsar, and Cynthia’s borrow’d beams, which the Lady answered in such a manner as to excite 9* 1029(3)v 102 stronger curiosity. She would then direct them to proper books for gaining requisite knowledge, and propose questions to be answered respecting it, at their next meeting. Frequently, during the intervals of these parties, the infant students might be heart asking each other, do you know perfectly where Rome was? and how large? and who was its founder? and what were the characters of Pompey and Cæsar? and why Cynthia’s beams are said to be borrow’d beams? Each was anxious to render the most clear account to their kind benefactress, who often rewarded patient research, with some book adapted to excite it anew. But, not satisfied with sowing the seeds of knowledge in the soil of infancy, she sought to implant the germs of piety. Her stock of devotional pieces of music was large; many of them simple in their construction, —all rendered delightful by her powers of voice, and perfect elocution. One called Solitude, and commencing with What voice is this I hear? and another, which the children familiarly styled Ah me! were earnestly sought for, and seemed to inspire a mixture of softened and solemn feeling. While shepherds watch’d their flocks by night, was understood by them as a close of their musical entertainment, or a signal that as much as was proper had been accorded. Yet a few tender remarks usually followed, on the character of that Saviour who was thus represented as bringing peace and good will, with a brief illustration of their duty in order to gain his love. An early supper was given to these joyous guests, most of 1039(4)r 103 whom were accustomed to retire to slumber with the birds. Full of pleasure, which seemed more dignified than that usually exemplified in childhood, because it was derived from a higher source, they seperated, praising the benevolent Lady, who expressed such an interest in their welfare.
A description of scenes like these will doubtless be condemned by many, as puerile. They will immediately discern in it proofs of that mental dotage, which leads us, in our second childhood, to cling tenderly to the most minute traces of the first.
They may perhaps inquire, of what consequence is it if the children of another age were amused and improved at the same time? Probably of none, to those who are willing theirs should find amusement, at the expense of improvement. But it was deemed of some importance, in pourtraying a character which really existed, to represent things as they were. It was not thought improper to follow the smaller streams, which might diverge from so pure a fountain. The science of conferring happiness depends less upon splendid achievements, and fortuitous combinations of circumstance, than upon those smaller occurrences, which vary the common lot of existence: as the evidence of piety, is not so much in sustaining great affliction, as in surmounting those slighter perplexities, where, if we may use the expression, the soul imagines herself to be out of sight of the Deity. Yet might this simple delineation, of what one of the best of human beings was, in the humbler walks of her benevolence, induce1049(4)v 104 duce but one heart to exercise the same friendly influence over the welfare of the rising generation, cheerfully should this volume sustain all the censure which the critic might pronounce. More than one of those, who now bend beneath the burdens of maturity, can look back to the scenes of happy youthful instruction which have been here depicted, then upward to the realm of glory, and say,— If some faint love of goodness glow in me, Pure Spirit! I first caught that flame from thee.
No heart ought more warmly to respond these sentiments, than that which now thrills, even to tears, while the hand traces this feeble transcript of its benefactress. That gratitude, which hovers round her bright image, revolts, both at the veil which conceals it, and at the faintness of its own pencil. It is not meet here to speak of personal obligations, of the kindness that encouraged a lonely spirit, and the monitions that strove to guide it in the way to heaven. The still voice of memory is idle music in the ear of the world. Thus far, the full heart has forced the pen to trespass. The reminder shall be inscribed upon a tablet which fades not, and which will be spread where the righteous hear the words, Inasmuch as ye have done good unto one of the least of these, ye have done it unto me.
There was, about this noble female, an union of majesty with mildness, which I have never seen equalled. 1059(5)r 105 Doubtless, much of excellence exists in modern times, and my lot has been so graciously cast by heaven, as often to bring me into contact with some of the purest and best, some who still retain traces of that disinterested benevolence, which the cynic pronounces to have fled from the earth. Yet, whether it be that more of sublimity really belonged to the worthies of ancient days, or whether the moral perceptions, like the physical tastes, of childhood possess a keenness, a zest, which never again return, I cannot say; but there seems to me nothing now on earth, like the hallowed, saintlike dignity of a few who were serenely awaiting their departure from this world, where I had just entered it.
Should any visitant of N―― ever direct his steps to the spot, where its lifeless inhabitants rest from their labours, perchance he might decry a simple white stone, bearing one inspired passage from the man of wisdom. At its foot, a smaller monument testifies, that Death smiteth the bud in its greenness, and that a mother has thrice wept. By its side, another speaks, in its marble stillness, the words of the mortal poet, What tho’ we wade in wealth, or soar in fame? Earth’s highest station ends in, here he lies, And dust to dust! concludes her noblest song.
Let the stranger, who discovers these vestiges, know that his foot presses the dust of her, of whom the world was not worthy. And, if he believe that the righteous 1069(5)v 106 shall rise to immortality, at the voice of the archangel, and at the trump of God, let him kneel over their slumbering ashes, and breathe the soul’s voiceless prayer, that he may live their life.
The agricultural part of Madam L――’s possessions, or as it is styled in New-England landed estate, was situated in one of the smaller towns in the vicinity of that where she resided. It was under the care of a farmer of undoubted integrity, and industry, who rendered her, with great punctuality, her stipulated share of its products. His father had been, for many years, tenant of the same estate. After him, a younger son succeeded to this trust, but died at an early age. The present occupant, being the only remaining branch of the family, and feeling an affection for the abode of his infancy, returned from up country, where, to use his own expression, he had moved to make room for brother Zedekiah; and resumed with delight the culture of those fields, where he had driv- team when a leetle boy.
Madam L―― had often taken pleasure in his conversation, which was marked with that plain common-sense, 1089(6)v 108 which seems the birthright of the New-England farmer, while the simplicity of his opinions on some subjects, and the oddity of his dialect, administered to her entertainment.
Calling one morning on his patroness, for whom he cherished a respect, almost bordering on adoration, he was requested to walk into her parlour. This he had ever refused to do, under pretence that his shoes were clumsy, and he was afraid of meeting some of the gentlefolks, whose ways he was not used to. But she being somewhat indisposed, and declining to go into her kitchen, he appeared at the door, with a well meant bow, which the dandies of the present day, who deal principally in nods and shrugs, might consider a semi-prostration. The revolution, which in giving us liberty, obliterated almost every vestige of the politenes of the old school, had not then done its work completely. Individuals were found, forty years since, in every grade of society, who having been educated when a bow was not an offence to fashion, nor respect for age a relic of monarchy, continued the exercise of both, without being hooted at as aristocrats, or quizzed as antidiluvians.
Farmer Larkin was dressed in a suit of stout cloth, whose deep brown colour was produced by an infusion of the bark of the butternut. It had grown the preceding summer upon his own sheep, and after sustaining many processes of mutation in the domestic laboratory, now appeared upon his own person. The mail of Diomede was 10910(1)r 109 not more invulnerable than the shafts of the Trojans, than this to the attacks of winter; and if a crevice ever appeared in it, the arts of housewifery were in instant requisition, like armourer accomplishing the knight, with busy hammers closing rivets up.
A neat broad brimmed hat, which his father had worn on great occasions for half a score of years, a drab coloured great-coat, with deep cuffs, and huge buttons, both taken from the Sunday wardrobe, out of reverence to the Lady, and vast shoes of the skin of that animal whom the Brahmins worship, completed his array. His countenance, where the blasts of winter, and heats of summer had long set their seal, exhibited that decision, and contempt of bodily hardship, which in ancient Sparta was dignified as a virtue. It also displayed that mixture of sobriety with contentment, resting on the basis of moderated desires, and humble piety, which often gives the agriculturalist of our country a dignity, which Sparta in her pride never knew.
Mr. Larkin, at entering the apartment, seemed desirous to make his way on that narrow stripe of the floor, which in those days was always permitted to surround the carpet. At length a large table, which he doubted whether it were decorous for him to move, obstructed his course, and he exclaimed with some perplexity,—
I must tread on the kiverlid. The Lady suppressing a smile, said,—
I beg, good Mr. Larkin, that you would step on the 10 11010(1)v 110 coverlet. It would save Beulah some labour, who prides herself on the whiteness of the floor, which she daily scours.
Thus assured, he made one or two strides towards a chair which she placed for him, walking on tiptoe, and murmuring with some regret, as he rested his heels upon the hearth,—
Your ha-ath too, is clean as a cheeny tea-cup, Ma’am. I hate to put my coarse huffs on it. But I ha’nt been used to seein’ kiverlids spread on the floor to walk on. We are glad to get ’em to kiver us up with a nights. This looks like a boughten one, he added, examining the figure, and feeling its texture. ’Tis exeedin’ curous. They must have had a pretty many treadles in the loom, that wove this.
The Lady remarked that the use of carpets, like other luxuries, was gaining ground too rapidly among those who were often deficient in real comfort. Silks and satins put out the kitchen-fire, as a wise man has said.
Ay, Ma’am, he answered, just so I tell my young gals, when they get a teasin’ their mammy, for somethin’ fine and gay. See to your under-riggin’, I tell ’em, and keep yourselves whole and neat. It’s as much as I can do, to get along, says I, in any comfortable kind of a way with such a snarl on ye. And if there was’nt so many, says I, and I was a monied man, ye should not go a flauntin’ around with your top-knots, for there’s no use in ’em, but to make young folks vain, and silly ones stare. If ye larn 11110(2)r 111 to be extravagant, ye’ll be likely to be old gals all your days, for men are afeard to marry women who spend money, and never make it.
The Lady expressed her approbation of his correct judgement, and inquired after the welfare of his family.
All stout and hearty, thank’e Ma’am. My wife sent compliments to you, and Molly tell’d me to say, that she was a thousand times beholden to you, for your good present. She, and all on ’em, wishes you a happy New- Year.
I thank them for their kind recollections. Molly, I think, is the plump girl with such rosy cheeks.
Why, as for that matter, they’re all in the same situation, as plump as patridges, and swarmin’ round like bees. Molly’s the oldest on’em, and as fat as butter. She’ll be fourteen years old, come the --02-10tenth day o’ February—and that will be Sabba-day arter next. She weighs about twice as much as you do, Ma’am, I guess. She’s rather more stocky than her mother, and I hope will be as smart for bizness. She’ll spin her run o’ tow-yarn, or woollen, afore dinner; and she has wove six yards a day, of yardwide sheetin’. She takes in weavin’, when any body will hire it done, and so buys herself her bettermost cloes, which is a help to me. Jehoiakim, the oldest boy—he’s named arter his grandaddy—and is a stout, stirrin’ youngster. He’ll hoe nearabout as much corn in an hour, as I can; and cold winter days, he’ll chop and sled wood through the snow, without frettin’ a bit. But I s’pose ’tant 11210(2)v 112 right and fittin’ to brag about my children, Ma’am. It seems as if I thought my geese were all swans.
It gives me pleasure, my good friend, to hear of the welfare of your family, and the habits of industry in which you are training them. I hope that you are also careful, that their minds are stored with useful knowledge.
O yes Ma’am. They all go to the deestrict-school, more than ha-af o’ the winter; though it’s nigh upon two mild from the house. In the summer time, it’s kept a leetle spell by a woman—and then the younger ones go, to keep ’em out o’ the way o’ them who are glad to work at home. I s’pose they larn somethin’ about sewin’ and readin’. But Tim, the third child, he’s the boy for larnin’. He took a prodigious likin’ to books, when he was a baby; and if you only show’d him one, he’d put it rite into his mouth, and stop squallin’. He ’ant but eleven year old now; and when he gets a newspaper, there’s no whoa to him, no more than to our black ox when he sees the haystack, till he’s read it clear through, advertisements and all. The Master says that he’s the smartest of all the boys about spellin’, and now he takes to cypherin’ marvellously. So that I don’t know but sometime or other, he may be hired to keep our deestrict-school. But I hope my heart, an’t lifted up with pride, at sich great prospects, for I know that God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace unto the humble.
I trust you will always remember that humility is necessary to our religion. But it is equally your duty to 11310(3)r 113 receive the gifts of God with gratitude, and to enjoy them with a cheerful spirit. I know not that I recollect the names of all your children.
It’s no wonder that ye don’t Ma’am, there’s such a neest on ’em. They’re as thick as hops round the fire this winter. There’s Roxey and Reuey, they’re next to Tim, and look like twins. They pick the wool, and card tow, and wind quills, and knit stockins and mittins for the fokes in the house; and I’ve brought some down with me to day, to see if they’ll buy ’em to the marchants’ shops, and let ’em have a couple o’ leetle small shawls. Then there’s Keziah, she ’ant but a trifle over six year old, and I recken she has a kins of hard time on’t; for she takes most o’ the care o’ the three youngest ones. Jehu is about as big as she is, and pretty obstopolous, so that I have to take him in hand, once in a while. Then there’s young Tryphena, and the baby Tryphosa, who’s rather tendsome, and Keziah’s tied to ’em a’most every minute when she ’ant abed. So her Mammy is able to see to the cheese-tubs, for you know, sich a dairy as we have keeps a woman pretty tight to’t. There’s nine o’ the young ones, Ma’am, and as I said afore, the oldest is but e’en a just fourteen. Yet I shall be sorry to have one less, though I should work off my, fingers’ eends clear to the bone to maintain ’em. I’m willin’ to slave for ’em, but I mean they shall do their part, and not grow up in idleness to laff, and make game of their old hard-workin’ parents, and 10* 11410(3)v 114 be moths in the world, arter they get to be men and women.
The paternal narrative was interrupted by Cuffe bearing refreshments; for the Lady seldom permitted any one to leave her mansion, without partaking its hospitality. A well warmed mynce-pye, and a mug of sparkling cider, she had supposed would be useful in guarding the farmer from the extreme cold of his ride; and he soon convinced her, by his formidable attacks on both, that she had not misjudged in the question of what was palatable. After despatching his refection, and some business respecting the farm, he hesitated slightly and said—
I wonder now, if you’d take it hard, Ma’am, if I should trouble you with some o’ my own family consarns, and ax your advice about ’em, seein’ you’ve had more years, and experunce than I? The Lady assured him of her willingness both to listen, and to serve him, according to her ability.Well then, it’s all about my nephew, Amariah Stutson. He’s liv’d with me now goin’ on ten year. About the time o’ my movin’ into York State, his daddy died, and the children were all necessitated to be put out. My old woman, she set on me to take this boy, cause he was her sister Jemima’s son, and she always set great store by ’Mima. I tell’d her he was a spindlin’ white-liver’d thing, and never’d stand the fever and agy in the new countries. But she kept at me, till she had her way, as women are pretty apt to do; and he did better than I expected,11510(4)r 115 pected, and grow’d up to a chunked, healthy youngster. He’ll be 19 year old, come next April-fool-day; and I meant to a done well by Amariah, when he got to be of age, and give him a decent settin’ out, and then hired him by the month, if so be that he was agreeable to’t, and pay him the money. But he’s growin‘’ despate unstiddy of late, ever since the judgement o’ God upon our church, and congregation, in lettin’ the Methodist loose among us. You ha’nt heard of our chastisement for our backslidins, and lukewarmness, have ye, Ma’am? Poor Deacon Bump takes it to heart so sadly, that he’s grown thin as a June-shad. Why these people have hired a room rite over acrost the way from our meetin-house, and when our worthy minister begins the service a Sabba-day mornin’, they begin what they call their exercises, and what with their screechin’ and scramin’, and singin’ and tumblin’ down, they make sich a racket, that it’s utterly unpossible for us to hear any thing to be edified with. They hold out longer than we too, and have love-feasts, and night-meetins, and a deal that I can’t make neither head nor tail on, and I grieve to say that Amariah is gittin’ bewitched arter ’em. I’m sure I don’t know what religion there can be in sich actions, and as for their lungs, if they wa’nt made o’ soal-luther, I’m sure they’d be wore into holes like a honey-comb.
The Methodists, my good friend, though their manner of worship differs from ours, must not be thought destitute 11610(4)v 116 of true piety. They sometimes exhibit an excess of that zeal, which we are reproached for being deficient in. We should guard against condemning those, who differ from us in opinions, or forms. They may have as much sincerity as ourselves, and though man judgeth according to the outward appearance, you know who looketh upon the heart.Land of Goshen! why Lady! you don’t think that all the crutters, who call themselves Christians, are as right as we, do ye? There’s the Episcopalians, I went to their church, once a the landin’ a’ Christmas I think they call’d it. I took it at first, for merry-makin’, there was so many green branches plastered up here and there; but they kept such a perpechual jumpin’ up and sittin’ down, that afore they’d done it made my bones ache as bad as a hard day’s work. What religion there is in readin’ prayers out of a book, I never could see. Then there’s the Baptists, who think a man is to be saved, by sousing over head and ears in cold water. But these Methodist folks seem to me the most strangest of all. Why they don’t hold the doctrine o’ lection, and them that won’t believe the Bible, when it’s as plain to ’em as the nose on their face, have denied the faith, and are worse than an infidel. They make a long talkin’ too, about arrivin’ at parfection, and Amariah he holds forth consarnin’ it. But I’m sure he’s a great deal more unparfect than he was, when he was just a larnin’ by heart his catechise, that no meer man since the fall is able to keep the commandments. Now, he must go racin’ to all the night 11710(5)r 117 meetins’, and that makes my boys unstiddy, and teaze to go long with him. They shan’t stir a step while I live. Was’nt their honoured grandaddy deacon in the Presbyterian meetin’ fifteen years and better? They sha’nt scandalize him, while I have the rule over ’em. But as I was sayin’ of Amariah, he tells his experunces a their meetin’s, and sometimes at twelve o’clock at night, he’ll wake up in his bed, and scrame some o’ the Methodist hymns so loud, that he sets the baby a roarin’, bein’ scared, and no crutter in the house can get one wink o’sleep till he’s a mind to give over. Then if I, or his A-ant, open our heads to say one word to him about it, then he makes a towse, and is parsecuted, and I s’pose tells an experunce out on’t to Mr. Snortgrass, his minister, who is a terrible tonguey man.
Your situation, good Mr. Larkin, requires considerable delicacy. Yet I can assure you, that Mr. Whitfield, the leader of a great part of the sect of Methodists, was a man of real excellence and piety. My husband, who was educated in the same faith which we profess, and was sincerely attached to its precepts, possessed that liberality of soul which I strive to imitate, and gave to differing sects the praise of whatever virtue they displayed. Mr. Whitfield was always an honoured guest at our house, when he made his excursions through this part of the country. I will relate a little anecdote of him, which may prove to you, how much his thoughts were fixed upon a future state. Soon after the death of our three little sons, he breakfasted with us. Some Chocolate was 11810(5)v 118 brought in, and the recollection of their fondness for that beverage, and of their recent burial, brought tears to my eyes. My husband explained the emotion by saying, she thinks of the olive-plans that once flourished around our table, and in one week were smitted. The Divine for a moment raised his eyes upwards, then laying his hand upon the head of my husband said, with a vivacity and earnestness which characterized him, My dear Doctor! what a lift is this towards heaven.
Well Ma’am, I s’pose that was clever enough since you think so. But most folks would say it sounded despate like want o’ feelin’, not to seem to be sorry for you, nor nothin’ sich-like. Now, what would ye have me to do about Amariah’s business, for it’s high time for me to be a gittin’ under way, Ma’am.
Mr. Larkin, your own good sense will guard you against any violent opposition to a young man who, if he is deceived, deserves pity, if sincere, candour. This strong excitement will be likely to pass away, if you do not nourish it by waking angry passions. Extremes are not apt to be lasting, and, in any case, moderation will be most effectual. Remember, my friend, that contention about doctrines, is neither that love which is the evidence of the Spirit, not that holiness, without which no man shall see God. And I doubt not that you will feel, after a little more reflection, that, as long as we are so compassed about with infirmity, we should dread to judge, lest we also be judged, or to condemn, lest we be condemned.
The severity of the wintry season had apparently subsided. The frosts had begun to evacuate their strong holds, and through the intervals of dissolving snow, tufts of soft green were visible. But, by one of those sudden revolutions, to which the climate of New-England is subject, the approaches of spring were checked by the returning ravage of winter. A violent storm from the northeast arose, attended with great quantities of sleet and snow. The trees bent heavily beneath their load, while huge drifts covered the fences, and lay in banks against the walls of houses. In some instances, much toil was required, ere the inmates could remove the rampart from their doors and windows, and emerge into the light of day. Heavy sleds, with each a score of oxen, traversed the roads, beat a path for the imprisoned inhabitants.
In Mogehan, most of the wigwams, which stood within range of the winds, were hidden. Yet, in a few instances, the cone of the arbour-like dwelling, thatched with matting, was seen like a dark hillock, breaking the dazzling and dreary surface. The habitants forcing their way from their buried abodes, surveyed the change, which 12010(6)v 120 the tempest of night had wrought, with that equanimity which distinguishes the North American Indian. To testify surprise, they considered as a betraying weakness
An instance of this was exhibited among one of the tribes in the vicinity of Niagara, during the total eclipse of the Sun, in the 1806summer of 1806. As they had heard no prediction of the event, and a similar one had not occurred for several centuries, it was believed that they would scarecely be able to refrain from expressions of astonishment. When the sky suddenly became dim, and the stars appeared at noon-day, they were observed by some travellers, viewing the progress of the phenomenon with great attention; but at the same time remarking, with their usual apathy, that they had seen such things before.
On the present occasions, those natives of Mohegan, who obtained egress more easily from their partially encumbered cells, were moved by sympathy to lend assistance to their less fortunate neighbours. Night was approaching, ere this labour, with their insufficient implements, had been successfully accomplished. A party of these pioneers met their minister, who had left his abode with the same benevolent intention.
My children, he said, we must force our way to the cave of old Maurice. Who knows that he perished not, amid the storm, and cold of the past night?
Animated by the words and example of their guide, they commenced the difficult course. Often they struggled through deep mounds, as the swimmer breasts the 12111(1)r 121 wave, ere they saw the still distant pile of rock, rising like the white turrets of a castle. Mr. Occom, though less athletic than most of his companions, was the first to lay his hand upon the stone door of the recluse, inquiring in a gentle voice, Maurice, may your friends come in to you?
Precautions had been necessary at entering the cavern when the door was closed, as it usually irritated the austere hermit. Thrice the question was repeated, and at each interval the speaker betrayed emotion. Perchance thus the Median king trembled, when listening at the den of lions, he feared that the prisoner had become a victim to their rage. No sound was heard, and the minister, extending his hand toward the closed entrance, said who shall roll us the stone, from the door of the sepulchre?
Robert Ashbow and John Cooper instantly advanced, and removed the heavy fragment of the rock. The shock brought a weight of snow from the roof of the cavern. They forced their way through the low aperture, which admitted scarcely a ray of light. Groping amid the gloom, they percieved something like a low statue of stone, with a hand resting against the wall. It was rigid, and motionless as the rock, upon which it reclined. It was in a kneeling posture. Robert raised it in his arms, and with the aid of his companion, bore it from its dismal abode. The glassy and immoveable eyes, seemed to have started from their sockets, and their stony glare was awful. The hand, in its stiffen’d grasp, enclosed a 11 12211(1)v 122 crucifix, and the joints of the bended knees were firm as adamant.
He has kept his Lent with such strictness, said John Cooper, that the feeble spark of life was almost smothered before this storm blew upon it.
The dark Angel, who demands the spirit, said Robert Ashbow, saw in it devotion, as the altar from whence incense rises.
Happy is that servant, replied Mr. Occom, whom his Lord when he cometh, shall find watching.
Zachary, who, notwithstanding his age, had been moved by warmth of heart, to join the search for the desolate hermit, anxiously surveyed the body, pressing his hand alternately upon the temples and the bosom. He then wrapped it closely in the skins, which had formed its miserable bed, and directed it to be borne with care to the nearest habitation.
Know ye, how deep is the dwelling of the soul? he exclaimed, How long it may linger within its dark house, when lips of clay pronounce it gone to the shades of its fathers?
The body was borne to the house of John Cooper, and laid upon the bed. Zachary chafed the temples with vinegar, immersed the limbs in cold water to expel the frost, and rubbed them for a long time with an animal oil to soften their rigidity of fibre. At short intervals, he endeavoured to pass through the lips the decoction of a 12311(2)r 123 powerful plant, styled in the nomenclature of the natives, life to the dead.
A convulsive motion of the eye-lids, and at length a deep, tremulous sob confirmed the hopes of the aged warriour. Warmth, friction, and the exhibition of cordials recalled the wandering spirit to its earthly abode, just as the morning dawned. During the night, broken exclamations attested the return of life, and his hands grasped at something above his head, as if the flitting visions of a disordered intellect encompassed him.
I know ye! at length he uttered in a hollow voice, rolling his eyes upward, I know ye. That head was cleft many a year since. Why have ye not healed the wound? Ye bid it gape to torment me. Those locks are bright. Why do ye shake them at me? They drop hot blood upon my soul. Oh! here are hundreds of accursed spirits, reeking from the eternal lake. Avaunt! I go not your way! Satan I know, but who are ye?
During the agonies of resuscitation, his cried were frequent, Go your way! I know ye! with menacing gestures of the hands.
At length, Mr. Occom, bending over him, said tenderly do you know me, Maurice?
After a short pause, a hoarse voice relied yes, I know thee too, a blind leader of the blind. Thinkest thou to be within the pale of salvation? Thou! an alien from the holy mother church. Thou! who leadest thy silly flock among pit-falls, where is no shelter in the day 12411(2)v 124 of wrath. Soon, he made an ineffectual effort to kneel, and was observed, by the motion of his lips, and occasional elevation of the crucifix, to be in deep prayer. Afterwards, he lay more calmly, as if in meditation, but resolutely refused the cordials which they presented to him.
No! No! he vociferated, Maurice hath vowed, that nothing but water should pass his polluted lips, until that glorious day, when Jesus brake the strong bars of the tomb.
What you call Easter has nearly arrived, said John Cooper. Unless you take something to support your weakness, you will never again rejoice at the anniversary of the rising of your Lord.
The ascetic, fixing his withering eyes on the speaker, said, thou thinkest Maurice such a blasted tree that he cannot compute times, and seasons. Know I not that seventeen days of the period of humiliation yet remain? Maurice will keep his vow. If he enter into heaven ere it be accomplished, he will fast and mourn there until Lent be past. He will not taste the new wine of the kingdom, until the voices and thunderings around the throne proclaim, Christ is risen, is risen.
Observing the children of John Cooper, to speak in low voices of his recovery, he addressed them in a milder tone.
To your young eyes Maurice seems as the dry tree, whose roots quit the earth, that its head may rest there. 12511(3)r 125 Yet has he numbered fewer years than many, whose hairs are not white like his. He was young and full of vigour, when Braddock, and his soldiers strewed the earth, like autumn leaves. He saw Washington lay that proud warriour in his lowly grave—Washington, who was then preparing like a bold, broad river, to run his course toward a sea of glory. Maurice was then called the warriour Kehoran. It was said of him, his eye is bright in battle, and his foot fleet in the chase, like the deer upon the mountain-tops. Kehoran drew his first breath in this valley, and he loved it when his heart was young. He thought not then, to die like the miserable Maurice. But he has grown old before his time. Sorrow and penance have wasted his strength. Yet in his bosom hath been a goad, sharper than that of famine. Ask ye, what bows the body sooner than age? what traces deeper furrows on the forehead than care? what sheds snows upon the temples, whiter than the frost of grief? I tell ye—it is guilt.
Mr. Occom, with that majesty which he well knew how to assume, standing near the bed of the sufferer, said,
Maurice! I adjure thee by the living God, before whom thou art about to appear, and by thy hope of heaven, to confess the sin which lieth upon thy conscience, while there is space for repentance.
Canst thou absolve me from my sin? inquired a deep voice, as if from the recesses of the tomb.
There is none, replied the Pastor, who hath power on earth, to forgive sins, save God only.11* 12611(3)v 126
Thou art weak as thy faith! exclaimed the recluse with scorn upon every feature. How feeble would be the penitence, thou shouldst prescribe! As miserable as the hope, which thou canst offer. Holy Mother of God! Would that Father Paul were near me. Oh! that my soul may behold him, where he standeth amid the seraphim, when she shall have past the fires of purgatory.
He lay for some time exhausted, as if in slumber, then starting, said, I know thee! Thou art Death! Maurice hath never turned from thee in battle. He will go with thee. Thou art sweeter than mortal life. Ha! whom bringest thou? His dark wings overshadow thee. He desireth to rend my soul in pieces! Is there none to deliver? I see a fair woman! She stretcheth her hand to save me. Take that hatchet from her head! alas! I planted it deep there. She mocks at me. She is gone. I sink in a sea of blood.
Again he became absorbed in devotion, praying to the holy Saints, and entreating the blessed Virgin to intercede with her Son in his behalf. A sun-beam fell through the casement upon his bed This, he said, more calmly, is my last morning upon the earth. A hand that ye cannot see, beckons me away. Still it waits a little. Know ye wherefore? That I may pour out the dregs of my guilt. So shall the soul travel lighter upon her dreary passage. Heard ye ever the name of M‘Rae? Yes! M‘Rae! M‘Rae! For years I have not dared to pronounce that name. Even now, the demons shriek it in my ears. They write it in flame upon the walls. It scorches12711(4)r 127 es my heart. Avaunt! Avaunt! I tell ye, I will unburden by soul, though ye bid the heavens cleave above, and the earth beneath me.
Pressing his hands upon his temples, he remained motionless for a short interval, apparently seeking to recover strength for some great effort, and then proceeded.Before the war between these colonies, and the mother who planted them, I led a wandering life, visiting the tribes of Indians, who were scattered throughout the Canadas. At length, I became stationary in one of the towns near the frontier. Here, I was found by Father Paul, a priest of the most holy order of the Jesuits. Moved by Christian compassion, he had for many years endeavoured to pour the light of heavenly truth upon the benighted natives of this country. Such benevolence he had, that the soul of an Indian was precious in his eyes, as that of a prince upon the throne. Grateful for his instructions, I daily attended the mass. His eloquence was more than mortal. He received me as his son in the most holy faith. When the cloud of war arose, I wished to return to my kindred, and join the standard of my tribe. He said, God commandeth thee to lift thy sword for the people, among whom thou hast beheld the light from heaven. I obeyed, and went forth in battle for England, though often with a heavy heart. Sometimes, at midnight, stood beside me the form of my deceased king. Bending his dark brows, he would upbraid me as a traitor. Cold dews hung upon my forehead, and I lay trembling, and sleepless til 12811(4)v 128 the morn. But the terrour of that unearthly frown was forgotten, when the voice of Father Paul repeated, God commandeth thee. When Burgoyne with his troops began to enter the provinces, I was placed with a band of natives, under a young British officer. Proud of my strength and valour, I sought the front of danger, and his eye distinguished me. Once, at the dawn of day, he sent for me to his tent. He, whose heart was a stranger to fear, trembled as he spoke—Maurice, thou hast a true heart. I adjure thee to keep secret what I intrust to thee, and lend me thine aid. I promised to be his friend; and often his tongue faltered with emotion, as he proceeded. We are within a league of Fort Edward. It is to be attacked. The inhabitants have fled,—all, save one whom I hold dearer than life. I loved her, long ere this war made intercourse with the Provincials, rebellion. My residence was near hers, when the mother-country, and her children were at peace. She waits me there, though all her household have departed. Such faith hath she in my truth. But when the ravage commences, how can I save her? She must be brought hither, and the priest must unite us, ere we depart hence. Were I to go for her, I should be condemned as a traitor to my king. Thou mayest go with safety. I have chosen thee for this embassy, so dear to my soul, because thy heart is true. Take with thee ten associates, whom I will amply reward. Lead for her my own horse. Give her this letter, and she will put herself under thy care. She hath the heart of a 12911(5)r 129 lion, though the glance of her eye is like that of the dove. I will meet thee at the door of my tent with a holy man, who, in making us both one, shall remove from my soul every earthly fear. Have I said that her name is M‘Rae? And now wilt thou be faithful to my trust?—I replied, The Holy Mother of God be my witness, that no hand but mine shall present her unto thee. My heart was proud at this confidence of my chief. Instantly I prepared to execute his orders. Ten trusty natives accompanied me. We soon arrived at the house of the fair-one, which was forsaken by all but her, and one servant maid. I held up the letter, as she first perceived us, that the hand-writing of her lover might remove the dread of our countenances. Her maiden shrieked, and fled, when she saw us painted, and attired for war. But that beautiful maiden, pressing to her lips the letter, and taking from it a lock of his hair which it contained, waited only to throw on her veil, and came forth to meet us. I lifted her upon the noble steed, which curved his neck, and moved more gently, as if he knew that he bore the treasure of his master. Her long hair, black as the raven’s wing, was folded in braids around her head; and her full eye, of the same colour, was perpetually looking out for the tent of her lover. Her lips smiled fearlessly when she spoke, and on her cheek trembled something, like the glow of the morning sky when it expects the Sun. I beheld her, and exulted in the joy of my commander. Half our journey was already achieved. I led on slowly, lest 13011(5)v 130 weariness should cast a shade over the tender, and beautiful. Suddenly, issuing from the woods, a party of Canadian Indians intercepted our path. They had learnt, from the imprudence of one of my followers, the ample reward which had been promised for slight service, and determined themselves to obtain it. Cutlasses clashed, and blood flowed upon the earth. Foemen fell, with their hatchets each in the other’s head. All my party, but two, were slain. More had fallen of the enemy, yet they still outnumbered us. Their chief took the bridle of the maiden, to lead her away. My blood boiled that he should win the prize, which I had vowed to deliver myself. She had fainted, and her face, like marble, lay upon the neck of the animal who bore her. The rage of hell inspired me. I cleft that beautiful head with my hatchet. The light grey of the horse was stained with blood, and he fled, affrighted, dragging the body. My opponent pursued him, and tore off the scalp of the victim, with its shining tresses. I fought with him a long, and furious contest. My blood flowed, but I snatched the trophy from his dying hand, and turned not away until I had cut him in pieces. I seemed to accomplish the remainder of my journey in an instant. The flames of passion consumed thought, and bore me forward as on an eagle’s wings. The sun arose as I returned to camp. The morning was bright, as the hopes of the bridegroom. I met him, coming from his tent with the priest who was to sanction his vows. Ere he could speak, I held the scalp 13111(6)r 131 before him. He knew those dark locks, and fell to the earth, as if in death. I was hurried to prison by enraged soldiers, who wished to tear me in pieces on the spot. So blinded had I been in the heat of battle, that I had expected my chief would commend me for courage, and firmness in his cause, even amid his disappointment. I believed that I had done my duty being faithful to my vow, that no hand but mine should bring the maiden, whether living or dead. Thus an apostle thought he was doing God service, by persecuting and destroying the saints. But, in my miserable dungeon, I had leisure for reflection. There, I learned that General Burgoyne had condemned to death all he survivers of both parties, and that our execution was delayed only till two of the fugitives were found, who had concealed themselves in the forests. Two dreary nights passed over me in my loathsome cell. On the third, Father Paul stood beside me. The terrible deed had reached him, and he travelled over the space that divided us, to visit a wretch in bonds. I prostrated myself upon the earth before him, and made my confession. Knowest thou, he said, That the next sun will rise upon thy corpse, hanging disgracefully between the earth and heaven? It must not be, that a son of the holy Church, should thus be a spectacle for the scorn of heretics. She commands thy rescue. I have achieved it. With me is a Canadian native, an obstinate scoffer at the high mysteries of our faith. He is to enter thy cell, and assume thy garb. Thou art to pass outward 13211(6)v 132 in his. His size, and appearance are favourable to the strategem. The goaler is bribed to my interest, and ere morning thou mayest be far from the steps of thy pursuers. Life is sweet, I answered,—ashamed of my own weakness.” But holy Father, what service have I rendered this man, that he should willingly give his life for mine? He knows nothing of my purpose, said Father Paul, He is my servant, I have required him to remain in this cell, all night, and thou mayest go forth with me to perform a vow. He thinks that, ere morning, I shall liberate him. Long have I laboured for his conversion in vain. The Holy Inquisition would condemn him to the rack, for blasphemies against the mass. Mercifully I substitute a milder death. Thy execution is appointed at the hour, when the murder was committed. At this early season, it is possible that the deception may pass unnoticed. I have given him a stupefying drug, so that he will be unable to make protestations of innocence, perhaps will be unconscious of the scene. At any rate thou must escape as far as possible, under cover of the night. I shall commence, with equal speed, a tour of instruction among the uncivilized natives. Turn thy steps toward thy kindred, and native country. And now, he added, with a deep solemnity, kneel, and receive the doom of penance, with which thine absolution is purchased. Throughout the war, lift thy hand upon neither side. Seek out some lonely cell, and live like the imprisoned monk. Every year, come to me as a pilgrim, with thy 13312(1)r 133 feet uncovered, and make thy confession, and I will pardon thy sins. I departed, but my heart accused me, for leaving behind the unsuspicious Canadian. Yet I knew that Father Paul would command nothing but what was right, and he was to me in the place of God. Every autumn, when the harvest moon lifted her horn, I have gone to him with my bleeding feet, beseeching him to absolve me, and have returned to my cave when the white man traces his first furrow on the earth. My last pilgrimage was performed with difficulty. Thorns mangled my feet, and the stormy blasts scattered my few white hairs. I arrived, but he whom I sought was not there. Three days and nights I lay upon his grave, until I saw high visions, and heard voices which I may not utter. Methought I stood in the midst of a pale assembly, and was about to speak. Chilling eyes gazed on me, and I saw that I was surrounded by the dead. Yet they clamoured with hollow voices, he is one of us, and a fearful tone from beneath said,—Come! Then I knew I was to die. I returned to my cavern, and increased my penance. Withered roots, and water were my sustenance, and every hour in the day, and night, I told my beads. Ah! little do ye know the torments of a sinful soul, propitating its Maker. I have prayed, until my cavern was thick set with faces, and with fiery eyes; so that midnight was light about me. Sometimes they have deafened me with peals of hellish laughter, but when they have tried to rivet their burning 12 13412(1)v 134 chains upon me, I have shaken the crucifix at them and conquered.
Maurice relapsed into deep silence, but resolutely refused whatever they held to his lips. Mr. Occom lifted his voice in earnest prayer for the sinful, and apparently departing soul. His auditors pressed near to him, as the flock in fear or danger surround their shepherd. During the orison, the features of Maurice were convulsed, and vehement, but unintelligible exclamations burst from his quivering lips. Soon after its close, he started up in the bed, throwing his hands into violent action, as if contending with enemies in the air. His eyes flamed with rage, even when they were frozen in their sockets by the ice of death. Large drops started over his distorted forehead, but the horrible convulsion was short. Sinking down, he set his teeth firmly, as if in mortal combat, and clenching the crucifix in his rigid hand—expired.
The sway of Winter was now broken. His ruffian winds, which had howled and moaned through the many rocky defiles of N――, as if they were reverberating in the cave of Eolus, subsided into fitful gales, or sighed in humid breezes. The roads were no longer enlivened by the sound of sleigh-bells, and the neighbouring farmers exchanged the sled which had long conveyed their products to market, for the heavy wheel’d, and creaking wain. The boys, who had been seen, during the daily school-intervals, descending with suprizing velocity the steep, snowy declivities, or marking with armed heel, graceful circles upon a surface of ice, now resigned the instruments of their favourite sports. Those, who had been nurtured in the economical habits of their fathers, restored to the accustomed peg in the barn, or tool-house, their sled and skates, carefully anointed with oil, as a preservative of the wood, and the metal, which was entered into their composition, covered with paper, as an additional security against the rust. Some there are, in these modern 13612(2)v 136 days, who would sneer at the plebeian toil, which seeks to give a longer date to objects of such trifling value. Yet those, who are most forward to tax with the name of meanness that saving knowledge which they are too indolent to practise, are not always more elevated above mercenary motives, or more accessible to the claims of charity, than those who, in a consistent economy, lay the foundation of both justice and liberality.
But we return, from this digression, to our original plan of attending Madam L―― on an excursion to the house of her agriculturalist. The roads had not yet attained that settled state, when a ride may be considered a pleasure; yet she did not hesitate whether on that account she should defer the business which she wished to transact. She had not been educated when it was a test of sensibility to be alarmed at every imaginary danger, or a mark of refinement to magnify every trifling inconvenience.
It was one of those fine mornings, in which a softer season makes its first effectual resistance against the lingering claims of winter; like a buxom infant springing from the arms of a wrinkled dame, whose caresses chill it. Still the influence of the Sire of Storms was perceptible. The small streams moved but torpidly, between margins of ice, or beneath a thin veil which might have hidden their progress, had it not been revealed by a cold, subterranean murmuring. Over the larger rivers small boats were seen gliding, while their cheerful navigators repelled with long poles those masses of ice which essayed too near an approach;13712(3)r 137 proach; or supporting themselves on their slippery surface, collected the drift-wood which adhered to them. Other labourers were busily employed in replacing bridges, which the swollen waters had injured or destroyed; for seldom did the spring-tide floods pass N――, but the faces of the inhabitants gathered gloom from the prospect of an additional weight of taxation. While the solitary amateur admired the wrath of the resounding streams, the richer, and less romantic burgher would calculate the cost, like Marlow in the well-furnished inn, apprehending, how horridly a fine side-board, and marble chimney-piece would swell the reckoning. But the labourers, who had nothing to pay, and foresaw gain from being employed about broken bridges, and dilapitated fences, contented themselves with lamenting, in a less rueful tone, the evils of their almost insular situation. Considerable loss and suffering had frequently been sustained in the southern extreme of the town, which occupied the ground at the junction of the two principal rivers. These waters, when swollen by dissolving snows, and the increased revenue of their tributaries, came rushing down with great power. Inundated streets, merchants lamenting the loss of their goods, and sometimes of the warehouses which contained them; or millers gazing with uplifted hands after their floating fabrics, attested the ravages of the triumphant flood. Here and there, the sharp eaves of a fisherman’s hut, or the upper story of some building of larger dimensions would rise above the encompassing 12* 13812(3)v 138 element; while the boats employed to take from their windows the sick, or the softer sex, encountered continual obstacles from trees partly immersed, and fences planted like chevaux de frise, beneath the treacherous waters.
Occasionally, a bridge from some neighbouring town has been borne along, a reluctant visiter; in one instance a structure of this sort glided by, displaying in unbroken majesty a toll-gate, upon whose top most bar, a red-wing’d cockerel was perched. Having evinced his fidelity to his favourite roost, by adhering to it during all the shocks of its midnight disruption, morn beheld the undaunted bird, clapping his wings as he passed the town, and sending forth shrill notes of triumph, from excitement at his extraordinary voyage of discovery.
Once, an infant, in his cradle-ark, suddenly washed from the cabin of his slumbering parents, glided over the bosom of the pitiless surge. He was rescued—not by the daughter of Pharoah, and her maidens, but by the father urging on his light boat with eager strokes, while the mother, not standing among the flags by the river’s brink, but wading unconsciously into the cold, slippery channel, received with extended arms, the babe smiling as he awoke.
But the Spring, which we describe, had witnessed no uncommon accident. On the contrary, the breaking up of the frosts of Winter had been peculiarly favourable. The course of Madam L――, being directed toward the west, led her gradually from the vicinity of the larger 13912(4)r 139 rivers, into a country, beautifully peninsulated by small winding streamlets. Already the turf, seen through melting snows, shewed the first tints of its mantle of green, seemingly to promise early vegetation.
The trees with their swelling buds confessed the action of genial warmth, and the squirrel issuing from his nest at their roots, eyed the traveller for a moment, ere he commenced his half aerial course. The blue-bird sent forth a few clear notes, as if to remind his more tardy companions, that the time of the singing of birds has come.
Madam L―― was attentive to every change of nature, whose works she loved. In her heart was a perpetual spring of cheerfulness, which, throwing a charm over every season, rendered her peculiarly susceptible to the delights of that which was now unfolding, so redolent, and full of the Creator’s beauty. Her ride, which extended to the distance of about five miles, and which it has been mentioned was directed to the house of her farmer, did not terminate until the sun had a little passed the meridian. She had paused for some time at the abode of good Mrs. Rawson, which was on the road; for, as usual, charity constituted a part of the business which had led her from home. Finding one of the children sick, she had remained so long at the dwelling of poverty, that she thought it probable she might reach Farmer Larkin’s at the time of his recess from labour at noon. Her equipage, which moved rather slowly, was a chaise, whose form displayed none of the light and graceful elegance of 14012(4)v 140 modern times. Its heavy body was painted a dun yellow, and studded thick at the sides, and edges with brass nails. This supported a top, whose wide and low dimensions jutted over in so portentous a manner, that had a person of the height of six feet essayed to be benefitted by its shelter, he must have persisted in maintaining that altitude, which Dr. Franklin recommended to those who would enter his study. Its clumsy footstep, and uncurved shaft was so near the ground, as greatly to facilitate the exploit of ascending, and likewise to diminish the danger of a fall, in case of accident. This vehicle, which was of venerable antiquity, was the first of its kind which had been seen in the streets of N――. In those early days, it was viewed as a lamentable proof of aristocratic pride, particularly as on the back might be traced the semblance of a coat of arms. It was now so much reverenced by its owner, that she could never consent to subject it to those changes of fashion, which the taste of her younger friends suggested. To her there was a sacredness, even in the form of whatever had administered to the comfort of the departed, and the beloved. She loved better to lay her hand where theirs had lain, than to bury it amid the garniture of a gorgeous coach. Such also was the good sense of her cotemporariescontemporaries, that they bowed not to her with slighter respect, nor pointed her out to strangers with less enthusiasm, because she declined to make her equipage the herald of her wealth, or the sole interpreter of her merit. It was drawn by a heavy black steed, who, 14112(5)r 141 some fifteen years before, had been in his prime, and who had as much the habit of stopping at the abodes of poverty, as Peveril’s Black Hastings had of turning towards the window of mourning.
He was also cherished by his kind mistress, for the same reason that she valued the vehicle to which he was harnessed.
He is like me, she would sometimes say, in having seen his best days, and I love to be reminded by that faithful animal how deeply I have entered the vale of years.
Her attachment to this favoured servant seemed to be reciprocal; for, when she occasionally visited him in his abode, he would raise his long black visage from the well-fill’d rack, and greet her with a loving sound, the echo of the neigh of his better years. With his mane some white hairs were mingling, and the elasticity of his youthful step had changed into the heavy tramp of a loaded dray-horse; yet he was still strong and sure-footed, and his clumsiness seemed as much the result of full feeding, and want of exercise, as of the weight of age. In summer, he was carefully guarded from the depredations of flies by a net made of twine, while one of bleached cotton with tassels and balls, exquisitely white, overshadowed his huge frame, when he bore his load on Sundays to the house of God.
Such was the steed, and such was the equipage, which now approached the abode of Mr. Larkin. It was a long, low 14212(5)v 142 unpainted house, with narrow casements, situated about half a mile from the main road. Near it was a substantial barn, surrounded by a large yard, where a number of animals assembled exhibited an appearance of comfort, which denoted at once a kind and cheerful master. Cuffee alghting, removed the bars, which formed, or rather obstructed, the rustic entrance to the demesne; and then addressed a few soothing words to his horse, who advanced his head, and bent down his quivering ear, as if the sounds of the human voice were either comprehended, or beloved.
As Madam L―― entered she heard, in the clattering of knives and forks, the reason why she was not as usual welcomed at the door. Unwilling to interrupt the reflection of the family, she took a seat unobserved. She found herself in the best room of the mansion, but to this the inhabitants of the neighbouring villages would assign, neither the name of parlour, hall or drawing-room, avoiding the example of their city acquaintance, as the ancient reformers did the abominations of the Church of Rome. Adhering to their habits of precision as tenaciously as to their ideas of simplicity, they gave to this most honourable room an appellation derived from its bearing upon the cardinal points. The one under present consideration, being visited by the latest beams of the setting sun, and the first breathings of the summer breeze, was denominated the south-west room. As the furniture of this best apartment of Farmer Larkin may serve as a 14312(6)r 143 sample of the interiour of most of the Sanctum Sanctorums of the better sort of agriculturists at that early period, it may be well to add a brief description.
The bed, an indispensable appendage, was without either curtains, or high posts, and decorated with a new woollen coverlet, where the colour of red gorgeously predominated over the white and green, with which it was intermingled. So small a space did it occupy, that if, like Og, king of Bashan, whose gigantic height was predicated from his bedstead of nine cubits, the size of our farmers should have been estimated by the dimensions of their places of repose, posterity would do them immense injustice.
A buffet, or corner-cupboard was a conspicuous article, in which were arranged a set of bright, pewter plates, some red and white cups and saucers, not much larger than what now belong to a doll’s equipage, and a pyramidal block-tin tea-pot. The lower compartment of this repository, which was protected by a door, furnished a receptacle for the Sabbath-day hats and bonnets of the children, each occupying its own place upon the shelves. In the vicinity was what was denominated a chist o’ draws, namely, a capacious vault of stained pine, which, opening like a chest, contained the better part of the wardrobe of the master and mistress of the family; while, beneath, space was left for two or three drawers, devoted to the accomodation of the elder children. But the masterpiece of finery was a tea-table, which, elevating its round 14412(6)v 144 disk perpendicularly, evinced that it was more for show than use.
Its surface displayed a commendable lustre, protected by a penal statute from the fingers of the children. But an unruly kitten used to take delight in viewing, on the lower extremity of that polished orb, a reflection of her own round face, and formidable whiskers. Unhappily mistaking the appearance of these for an adversary, she imprinted thereon the marks of her claws, too deeply for all the efforts of the good housewife to efface, and soon after expiated her crime upon the scaffold. A looking-glass, much smaller than the broad expansion of the Farmer’s face, hung against the roughly plastered, yet unsullied wall. A few high, strait-back’d chairs, and a pair of small andirons nicely black’d, whose heads bore a rude resemblance to the human form divine, completed the inventory of goods and chattels. Over the low, wide fireplace, hung in a black frame, without the superfluity of a glass, the family record, legibly penned, with a space very considerately left for future additions. The apartment had an air of neatness, beyond what was then generally observed in the houses of those who made the dairy, and spinning-wheel, their prime objects of attention. The white floor was carefully sanded, and at each door a broad mat, made of the husks of the Indian corn, claimed tribute from the feet of those who entered. Where Madam L―― was seated, she had a full view of the family, surrounding their peaceful board, and so cordially engaged14513(1)r 145 gaged in doing justice to its viands, that not a glance wandered to the spot which she occupied.
The table, covered with a coarse white cloth, bore at the head a large supply of boiled beef, and pork, served up in a huge dish of glazed ware, of a form between platter and bowl, though it probably would rank with the latter genus. A mass of very fine cabbage appeared in the same reservoir, like a broad, emerald islet, flanked with parsnips and turnips, the favourite long and short saace of the day. At the bottom of the board was an enormous pudding of Indian meal, supported by its legitimate concomitants, a plate of butter, and jug of molasses. Four brown mugs of cider, divided into equal compartments the quadrangle of the board, and the wooded trenchers, which each one manfully maintained, were perfectly clean and comfortable.
Farmer Larkin, and his wife, not deeming it a point of etiquette to seperate as far as the limits of the table would permit, shared together the post of honour by the dish of meat. At the left hand of the father, sat his youngest son, and at the right hand of the mother, her youngest daughter. Thus the male line, beginning at Jehu, and touching every one according to his age, passed over the heads of Timothy and Jehoiakim, ending in Amariah, the nephew, and would-be Methodist. On the other hand, the female line, from the mother, who held in her lap the chubbed Tryphosa, passed with geometrical precision through the spaces allotted to Tryphena, Keziah, Roxey and Reuey, 13 14613(1)v 146 terminating with buxom Molly. She was indeed a damsel of formidable size, but of just proportions, and employed her brawny arm, in cutting slices from a large loaf of brown bread, which she distributed with great exactness by each trencher, as soon as her father had stocked it with meat, and her mother garnished it with vegetables. There was something pleasing in the sight of so many healthy and cheerful faces, and in the domestic order which evidently prevailed. The first course past in silence, except that Farmer Larkin said to his wife,—
Do pray, Mammy, put down Tryphosa on the floor, and give her a crust o’ bread to gnaw. I can’t bear to see ye always a carryin’ some burden or other, so that ye get no rest even at meal times.
The wife obediently placed the plump infant in a humbler station, who lifed up its broad blue eyes, as if it thought itself aggrieved, until the father reaching it a piece of bread, said,—there, baby, larn to take care o’ yourself.
It soon became so much absorbed with its fragment of the staff of life, as to make no overtures to return to the arms of itits mother. In a short time, each trencher, neatly scraped, was presented to Molly for a slice of the pudding in her vicinity, to which Amariah carefully added the usual condiments. When Tim’s plate, in due rotation, was replenished, the farmer said,—
Amariah, that boy did not do his ta-a-sk this mornin’. Don’t ye put any lasses on his puddin’. Lazy folks 14713(2)r 147 sha-ant fare so well as others in my house. That’s right an’t it Tim, to larn ye to be industrious?
Yes Father, said the boy, eating his dry pudding without complaint, and with the air of one who intended to profit by the justice which he acknowledged. The meal was accompanied by a few questions from the parents, to which the younger members returned brief answers; but refrained from holding light conversation among themselves, with far greater sense of propriety, than is always witnessed at the tables of the professedly polite. At the close of the repast, the Father, bowing his head, uttered brief but hearty thanks to the Giver of all Mercies, during which even the youngest children stood as if in an act of devotion. They had been taught that the food of each day, however homely, was a favour; that it was both a duty and pleasure to thank Him who bestowed it; and that it was sinful to do this with a light, irreverent deportment. Madam L――, touched at this scene of domestic order, harmony and devotion, though that the careless, the proud, or the epicure, who would scorn these humble inmates, might still receive from them a salutary lesson. Perchance, in her mind was a train of thought, similar to what inspired the ploughman-poet, when he exclaimed— From scenes like these, old Scotia’s grandeur springs, Which makes her lov’d at home, rever’d abroad— Princes and lords are but the breath of kings, An honest man’s the noblest work of God. As she came forward from the apartment, where she had remained unobserved, she was received with the most 14813(2)v 148 cordial delight by every individual. The good Farmer approached with a fervent welcome tempered with respect, and the matron with an apology for not having met her at the door, little imagining that she had so long been their guest. Bows and court’sies multiplied among the junior class, as they were kindly addressed by the Lady. Molly produced with great rapidity a plate of nut-cakes and cheese, a basket of fine apples, and a glass of metheglin. Roxey and Reuey ran to add a saacer of presarved barberries, from the jar, which was filled with fruit gathered and prepared by their own hands, for a dessert on extraordinary occasion. Jehoiakim also hastened to convey refreshments to Cuffee, who in turn presented him with some grafts from the Vergaloue, the Bennet, and the Winter Pear, eulogizing their respective merits; and not forgetting to add, that his Mistress had eight bery large fine tree, most hundred year old.
Mrs. Larkin, after the Lady had concluded her business with her husband, was anxious to shew her dairy, where the large cheeses, turned and rubbed daily by her own hands, and the stores of gold-coloured butter, arranged with perfect neatness, attested her industry, and good housewifery. Madam L―― took pleasure in conversing with this worthy family, where each fulfilled their part, with such faithfulness, and harmony. She distributed to each of the children some little present adapted to their age. To the older ones she gave books, after questioning them on the contents of those which she had last presented,14913(3)r 149 ed, and expressing satisfaction that they had been preserved with so much attention. To Amariah she gave a New Testament, saying with kindness, that she had marked with a pencil some passages which she thought applicable to him, and doubted not that he would perceive that religion was confined to no particular sect, but was valued in the eye of the Almighty according to its effects upon the heart and life. Amid expressions of sincere gratitude and affection from all, she took her leave, with more heartfelt satisfaction that is found among the courtly pomp of a ceremonious party; Where e’en while Fashion’s brightest arts decoy, The heart, distrusting asks, if this be joy?
Such, forty years since, were most of the agriculturalists, who tenanted the lands of others in the villages of Connecticut. Uncorrupt integrity, and reverence for religion were their distinguishing characteristics; and their families were nurtured in that industry, and subordination, which are the germs of the strength and peace of communities. By no profession might that beautiful passage of inspiration be with more justice assumed as a motto, in simplicity, and godly sincerity we have our conversation in the world.
Since that period, those luxuries and refinements, which spread so rapidly in our cities, have pervaded, in some degree, the abodes of the tillers of the earth. They are becoming a more enlightened race than their fathers, and from their habitations have issued some of our most distinguished13* 15013(3)v 150 tinguished merchants, statesmen and divines. Their sons have been distinguished in our seminaries of science, for the zeal with which they have pursued knowledge, and the indefatigable application with which they have supplied the defects of early culture. When the sons of rich men, languid from indulgence, have shrunk from mental effort as insupportable hardship, and fallen a prey to those vices which indolence creates, the offspring of those who hold the plough have wrested from their feeble hands the prize of honour, and pressed on in the path of their country’s praise and pride. There is, in the pursuits of agriculture, a salutatory discipline both for the body and mind, as they are gradually developed. That hardihood of frame, which despises privation, or change of elements, is more congenial to elevation of character, than the enervating nurture of patrician families, where animal tastes are pampered, at the expense of vigour and intellect, and ease of body promoted, even to the bondage of the free spirit. Possibly also, in the simplicity of man’s primeval occupation, there may be, like the angels hovering over Eden, natural and invisible guards around the avenues of innocence, cheerfulness, and that religion which springs from a view of the Creator in his works.
Agriculture has been, in the New-England States, a source of wealth, less splendid indeed than some others, but far less fluctuating. It has been a fountain, not always as profuse in its streams as avarice or ambition might desire, but perennial when sought by industry and prudence.15113(4)r 151 dence. How frequently does it happen, in our republican government, that a fortune, acquired by the economical agriculturalist, furnishes the means of vanity and pride to his son; who, removing to the city, and educating his children in indolence, prepares them to squander the inheritance of their ancestors. The next generation, born in poverty, seek an antidote in labour, and find that tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood leads on to fortune.
Many such instances had fallen under the observation of Madam L――, and her silent reflections upon them were not interrupted, until her approach to the Turnpike, a few miles from her residence. There she saw an unusual bustle, and heard the tones of the red-faced gatekeeper, elevated like the hoarse croak of a raven. But these were overpowered by the loud brogue of an Irishman of enormous stature, who mounted on a pony ready to sink beneath the weight of the rider, contested the rate of toll:—
I tell ye, I’ll not be paying nine-pence for travelling on such a confounded bog of a road, with the danger of breaking my neck into the bargain.
Zounds! roared the sturdy, square shouldered Englishman, lifting up his shoemaker’s hammer, by the aid of which, with the profits of his gate, he earned a subsistence for his family, are ye not able to read the printed board befor eyourbefore your face, or d’ye think ye’re in Cork, where clublaw will silence the jailors.15213(4)v 152
Of what use, my dair, said Paddy without regarding the threat, of what use is that sort of a whirligig thing, which bears some indifferent likeness to the cross of St. Patrick?
It is the wicket, where people on foot go through for nothing, replied the toll-keeper, approaching to shut the gate, which, not apprehending any contention, he had thrown open at the arrival of the passenger. But Paddy, dismounting with as much haste, as Lord Marmion displayed in clearing the falling portcullis of the indignant Earl of Douglas, threw his arms round his shadow of a steed, and lifted him fairly over the debateable ground. Then turning about, he walked through the wicket, and resuming his seat upon the wretched animal, shouted to the amazed toll-keeper,—
If a man may walk through your limboes by himself, without any burden at all, for nothing, my jewel, should not he be desarving of some pay, when he carries a baste upon his shoulders? And so, ye’re so covetous in this beggarly country, as never to be giving so much as a drop of drink to a friend, who has left the swatest island in the world, just to be travelling through this wilderness among thieves, and lubberly pickpockets.
Without waiting to hear the torrent of recrimination, which burst from the lips of the baffled toll-gatherer, he pursued his journey, with a peal of laughter, which echoed from the surrounding rocks and woods, as if a colony of Hiberians were mocking from beneath their canopy. 15313(5)r 153 Madam L―― reached the gate, at the moment when its enraged superintendant was preparing for pursuit. His square, thick figure, bustling about with uncommon agility, had a comic appearance, while on his brow was somewhat of that eager impatience, with which he of Bosworth field exclaimed, my kingdom for a horse. The Lady suddenly changed the fierce expression of his countenance, by putting into his hand, with her own toll, the sum for which his recreant brother of Erin was indebted; and kindly wishing him a good afternoon, departed with a smile of that conciliating spirit, which prompted the patriarch’s exhortation to his kinsman, let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and my herdsmen and thy herdsmen, for we be bretheren.
The wandering natives, in their visits to N――, ever found a kind reception at the mansion of Madam L――. They were accustomed to point it out at a distance, as the weary traveller recognizes the house of refreshment, and repose. Here they knew that their wants would be relieved, and their simple industry promoted. It might be said that they were encouraged here to hold an annual convention. A custom was established by our pious ancestors, immediately after the settlement of New-England, of setting apart a day in Autumn, for publick and private gratitude to the Giver of all good. This, which might originally have been intended as an imitation of the Israelitish festival of in-gathering, had been gradually lowered, by the interpretations of their descendants, from a day of sacred gratitude, to one of good eating and drinking. Still there were connected with it many cheerful, and interesting associations; the return of absent children, the union of dispersed families around the domestick altar, and the offering of praise, by the ministers of religion, to the Father of all. This was a season, when anciently the rich remembered the poor, and sent portions from their own 15613(6)v 156 tables to the needy. It was the practice in the household of Madam L―― to make a large quantity of pastry, expressly for the natives of Mohegan. This secured an almost universal attendance of the females, who holding a neat basket of their own manufacture, would thankfully receive it in the luxury for their expectant families. It was pleasant to Madam L―― to see their dark red brows beam with gentle feelings, and to hear them speaking in the softest tones, their native language to the little ones who accompanied them. She knew each by name, and they would gaze upon her, with the most reverent, and trusting affection, when she addressed them. This people are reserved on the subject of their necessities. They view the wealth of the whites, without envy, or desire of personal appropriation. If they have been denominated the nation of poverty, they could never have been justly styled a nation of beggars. Their little store they freely impart to the wants of another, and cultivate hospitality as faithfully as they cherish gratitude. By that sympathy with which a benevolent female enters into the hearts of her own sex, Madam L―― became so well acquainted with the respective characters of her pensioners, as to adapt judiciously to each the presents of clothing, or other useful articles, which at this season she prepared for them. They possessed so humble a spirit of gratitude for the gifts bestowed, that none was disposed to cavil if the portion of her neighbour seemed more valuable; or to doubt the wisdom of the giver, in doing what she would 15714(1)r 157 with her own. Each rejoiced in he individual share of bounty, and in that which was allotted to others; and venerated, as a benefactress, her who regarded with interest an outcast, and perishing race.
One morning, Mr. Occom, and Robert Ashbow were announced, the minister and chieftain of the tribe. After a little conversation, the former said—
I come, Madam, to take leave of you, and in the name of my nation, who depart with me, to give you thanks for your continued kindness. A large part of them have consented to accompany me to a tract of land, given them by their brethren of the Oneida tribe, on the condition of their removing thither, and cultivating it.
Is there not already land enough in their possession, in this vicinity, said the Lady, for their subsistence, if they would attend to its culture?
Alas! Madam, he replied, my brethren are degenerate plants. They are but shadows of their ancestors. I wish to associate their broken spirits with others less degraded. Peradventure the Almighty, upon this humble foundation, may yet build a temple to his praise.
Do you accompany these emigrants? inquired the Lady of the Chief. His melancholy brow seemed to gather darkness, as he answered haughtily—
Ask the mother, if she forsakes the cradle of her son, because disease hath wasted him? Does the bear scorn to defend her cub, because the arrow of the hunter hath wounded it? Does the bird hate her nest, while her 14 15814(1)v 158 offspring are unfledg’d, and helpless? And should not man be more merciful than beasts of the field, and wiser than the fowls of heaven?
You are not willing then, she replied, that your tribe should seperate from the home of their Fathers.
Lady! said the chieftain sternly, that man hath stood before me, day after day, urging, like the prophet of Israel, let this people go. Like him of Egypt with the harden’d heart, I long answered, I will not let them go. But a decree was made plain to my soul. The terrible blackness of prophecy unfolded itself. I saw written, the dispersion of all our race. I was dumb. I opened not my mouth for many days. Then in my bitterness I said—let them go forth! Such as are for the sword, to the sword; and such as are for the famine; to the famine; or to the pestilence; or to the wild beast of the forest. Each, his own way to the grave—let him go!
There was a pause of some emotion, and the Chief added mournfully—
Long ere our doom was revealed to us, if began to be accomplished. Where are the Pequots, once numerous as the stars, whose strong holds ruled the waves of the sea-coast? Where are the Narragansetts, the natural enemies of our tribe? They vanished long before our nation, as we now sink beneath yours. All are gone. All—save a little chaff for the winds to sweep away. I would have prevented this division of my perishing people. I would have lifted my voice against it. The words of their Chief 15914(2)r 159 should have prevailed over those of the man of God. But I saw that Fate had determined evil against us. The shades of our fallen kings uttered in my ears. In the darkness of night-visions, their voice hath entered my soul. I heard it, as if winds murmured from some hollow cave—Our people are water scattered upon the ground. None shall gather it.
There was an interval of silence, and then the Lady expressed, to the unhappy chief, her good will for his people. Not heeding the remark, he continued in the same voice, as if pursuing an unbroken current of thought—
Who shall break the chain that binds our race to destruction? Once, it might have been cut by the sword. But where now is the arm of the warriour? Strength hath perished from among the people. The avenging spirit hath lifted his hand against us. Who can stay it? What matters it, where he shall overtake us, whether upon the mountain tops, or in the wilderness, or the forest, where no ray hath penetrated? Wherever we flee, he will follow, and fulfill the curse. Therefore have I consented to let my people go, whom else I would have commanded to shed the last drop of their blood on the tombs of their fathers. But for me, though I should be left alone, as a blasted tree upon the desolate rock, yet will I stay, and pour my last breath where the death-sigh of my kings arose.
It would seem at first view, said Mr. Occom as if the sentence of extinction were indeed passing upon 16014(2)v 160 our race, as that of dispersion was executed upon the peculiar people. Yet we hope in the mercy of Him, who hateth nothing that he has made. We pray that his goodness may yet be manifested in the calling of us, Gentiles. We trust, Madam, that your favoured race, who are exalting the country to a glory which under us it could never have known, will yet impress with civilization and Christianity, the features of our roving and degraded character. Then it will be but a small matter to have yielded to you these perishable possessions, if through you, we become heirs to the kingdom of heaven.
Why are those, said the Chief, who expect an inheritance in the skies, so ready to quarrel about the earth, their mother? Why are Christians so eager to wrest from others lands, when they profess that it is gain for them to leave all, and die? Ah! what hath been the sin of our nation, above that of all other nations, that our name must be blotted from among the living? For what crime is our heritage taken away, and given to another people? On the land which our fathers gave us, we may not set our feet, except as strangers. Like shadows we flee away to our sepulchres. Even these are no longer ours. Monuments of those whom our fathers knew not, are there, and the dust of the Indian is scattered by the winds. Ere long, white men will cease to crush us, for we will cease to be.
Chief of the Mohegans! said the Pastor, all men, all nations of men, have sinned. In this world retribution16114(3)r 161 tion is not perfect. It becomes not us to contend with Him, who dealeth more lightly with us than our iniquities deserve. Saith not that holy book, whose words thy strong memory so well cherisheth, wherefore should a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins?
Did all our kings, and chiefs, he inquired, offend the God of Christians? Why does he thus draw out his anger to the latest generations? Are we sinners above all men, that we are made as driven stubble before our enemies?
My brother speaks like a native, said the minister addressing the Lady. Oh! that he may yet say as a Christian, though clouds and darkness are round about Jehovah, justice and judgement are the foundations of his throne.
God forbid! said the Chief, that Robert should blame the religion of Christians. Shall the snow-wreath lift itself against the sun-beam? But that religion is for white men. The God, who ordained it, is angry at the red man of the forest. He will frown upon him until he die. Let him pray then to that Great Spirit who watched over his fathers, whether his throne be amid the roll of mighty waters, or where the tempest folds its wings. The white man may seek the God who loveth him, who hath given him a book from heaven, and continually calleth to the torn that he will heal, to the smitten that he will bind him up. But where shall the poor Indian turn in his sorrow, but to that spirit of mystery, which hath led 14* 16214(3)v 162 him on through darkness, all his life long? He was hungry, and his bow satisfied him. Thirsty, and drank of the brook. He dies, and will He, who nourished his body, slay his soul? Can the spirit, which He breathed into clay, perish like the gale which sighs once, and is not? Doth not the smoke ascend, and the cinders go downward to the earth, when the fuel that fed the flame is consumed?
Connect your natural religion, with that which is revealed from above, said the Pastor. Whether you call Him who ruleth over all, the Great Spirit, or Jehovah; strive to enter into his Heaven. To whom do the promises of the gospel address themselves with more force, than to a race like ours, homeless and despised?
I know that the shades of my fathers live, he replied, but not in the white man’s Heaven. On earth they lived not as brothers, though ye say that one Father created them. Ye say that in your Heaven, they go no more out. But the spirit of the red man must wander; as on earth, so in heaven. If it might not rove, it would faint amid the islands of bliss. Your holy book tells of the great city in Heaven, the New-Jerusalem, which is built of pure gold. It is described with gates of pearl, and the streets of transparent glass. Our Heaven is not so. The poor Indian would fear to enter such a glorious place. He is contented to lie down in the forest, whose lofty columns prop the blue arch of the skies, and to see the moon look forth in brightness from her midnight throne. 16314(4)r 163 This is splendour enough for his untutor’d soul. He loves not the pomp of cities. He loves better to stand on the cliff, where the cloud rests, and gaze upon the troubled ocean, while the voice of its storms dies beneath his feet. He loves to feel himself to be but a drop in its bosom, swallowed up in the vast and awful creation. Ye say that your Jehovah is a God of wisdom. Will he then carry to one place souls, which like contending elements, can have no communion? Would he kindle war in Heaven if he be a Spirit of love?
Mr. Occom, raised his eyes upwards, as if they uttered Thy light alone, is able to dissolve this darkness! Preparing to depart, he approached the Lady, and said—
I could not leave this part of the country, Madam, without saying to you, that your bounty, and that of your deceased partner can never be forgotten, either by the natives who go, or by those who remain behind. In their prayers, they will commend you to that God whom in truth you worship. My people were hungry, and you have given them bread. Naked, and you clothed them. Sick, and you visited them. Lady! I seek not to praise man, but God, who hath breathed goodness into his heart. Yet there is written a book of remembrance, and the righteous need not shrink from it in the day of scrutiny, for the traces of errour, over which Repentance weeps, shall be blotted out in the blood of Calvary. Farewell, blessed Lady! When, before the throne of mercy, you remember the sorrowful, let the outcast Indian share in your petitions.16414(4)v 164
The sorrow-stricken Chief drew near, and bowed with the deepest reverence upon the hand which was extended to him.
Think not Robert condemneth all thy race. Out of the bitterness of a heavy heart he has spoken. Yet he can see the dew-drop sparkling in its pureness, amid the darkest path. He can distinguish the herb of life though the venomous vine overshadow it. He can love those, who shall hereafter be angels, though he come not himself into their holy place.
Soon after the departure of these visitants, Dr. L―― entered, and said,—
The affliction, which our Church expected, has arrived. Her venerable pastor, Dr. L*** is dead. The ides of March 17841784, will long be remembered in her annals as a time of mourning.
I have frequently thought, she replied, that, if anniversaries of both our sorrows and our joys were faithfully kept, the dealings of the Almighty would be more deeply impressed on the heart, for its instruction in righteousness. A tablet of individual, domestick, and social vicissitudes, would serve as a monument to recall the past, and as a way-mark to direct the future. The record of our adversities is not easily forgotten; but, when the Sun of Mercy beams upon us, we do not always, like the Israelites, set up a stone of remembrance, and say hitherto hath the Lord helped us. Our beloved minister has departed, full of days, and full of honour. Four 16514(5)r 165 score and ten years were appointed him, yet but a short time has elapsed, since he spoke to us from the pulpit. The tones of his voice were dear to me, and his countenance ever restored the memory of scenes of happiness, in which his friendship had participated, or of affliction, in which his piety had administered consolation.
How majestic was his presence, he answered, when he enforced the obligations of conscience, and he terrours of the law. He spoke with a power that forced the guilty to tremble. With what an overflowing fullness would his mind illustrate points, which the thoughtless had deemed of minor importance? In prayer his solemnity was so striking, that I think none could listen to him, without revering that devotion by which he was inspired.
I have been peculiarly impressed with this, my brother, during the exciting events of our recent war. In his humility for our occasional defeat, his gratitude for deliverances, his thanksgiving at the result, he seemed to pour out his whole soul, in that variety of sacred language, with which the prophets recite the battles of the hosts of Israel. Yet there were some who were fatigued with the length of his orisons, and others who objected to the narrations which they contained. The nurse of my niece, who was a member of the Church of England, remarked that his prayers seemed principally intended to convey information to the Lord.
Were Gabriel on earth, he replied, there would 16614(5)v 166 undoubtedly be some to object to the strain of his devotion. I have heard our departed minister censured for credulity, because in one or two instances, he gave thanks for victory, which afterwards proved a defeat. But, amid the variety of rumours which, during our long war, often deceived professed politicians, how could he be expected always to discern between correct and false information; he, whose integrity of soul would render him one of the last to suspect others. I have recently heard, also, some uneasiness expressed at the length of his sermons. It seems that some of our audience have tutored their minds to perform so skilfully the office of an hour-glass, that they can ascertain the moment, when the speaker passes the limit of sixty minutes. All beyond is to them weariness and vanity. They are not indifferent to any other species of gain; but goodly pearls without price are scorned if they are presented in large numbers, or in a capacious casket. Yet these cavillers are principally among the younger part of our auditors, who have not yet attained the piety of their fathers. They feel the winter’s cold, or the summer’s heat, more sensibly than the peril of their souls. If the stoves and furs of Russia could be introduced into our places of worship, changing an inclement season into the softness of Spring, I fear that even then they would scarcely listen, without murmuring, to a discourse of an hour and a half in length. Ah! I fear that days are coming, when sound doctrine must be stinted, both in weight and measure; and when it will be thought 16714(6)r 167 necessary, so to refine and gild truth, as to destroy its specific nature. So that there yet may be a time, when the spirit of the gospel will be held secondary to the vehicle in which it is presented, and men will hear sermons, not for the purpose of laying conscience open to their power, but to employ the mind in criticism upon their construction. Our aged Pastor might have had the satisfaction of reflecting, that he never curtailed the copiousness of his theme, or allayed its pungency, for the accommodation of ears polite.
To me, she replied, his performances were ever consistent with each other, and with the holy dignity of one appointed to lead the sacramental host of God’s elect. And it has given me great pleasure, in my visits to him during his decline, to perceive, that his strenuousness about particular doctrines had become absorbed in the sublimity of the great plan of salvation. While we are ascending the hill of life, little obstructions or aids seem of great importance; but when we reach the summit, if the Sun of Glory beams there, the whole journey appears but as one path of light. His happy spirit wondered where were the obstacles that had impeded its course. They vanished, when it sat so peacefully on the threshold of the gate of Heaven.
This I have also observed, my sister, in recent conversation with him. Undoubtedly, many of those opinions, which we now defend with asperity, will appear divested of importance, when the light of another world 16814(6)v 168 shines upon them. Our clergyman seemed to gather gentleness and charity, while he went downward to the grave, as the sun sheds a more serene lustre, when he trembles at the gates of the west. I witnessed an affecting occurrence of this nature, in the chamber of his sickness. The Divine of a neighbouring township differed from him, in the interpretation of a particular doctrine, and a dispute on this point had been conducted with considerable acrimony. Like the strife between Paul and Barnabas, it caused a suspension of their accustomed intercourse. For many years, their friendly exchange of pulpits had ceased. A meeting between them was effected, by Mr. S――, the young colleague, and successor of our departed guide. They pressed each other’s hands, and tears fell down like rain. Brother! said the dying clergyman, raising himself on his couch, underneath thee be the everlasting arms. One thing is needful. I trust that we both have faith in our Redeemer, and shall dwell together eternally, where one spirit of love pervadeth all. Those who know with what tenacity learned men of ardent temperament adhere to their favourite theories, will fully estimate the extent of this sacrifice.
It does more honour to his piety, she answered, than all the books of controversy, which he could have written. To contend, is the dictate of our nature; to desist from strife, the victory of a divine motive. This reconciliation must have been highly satisfactory to the benevolent feelings of our young minister. His filial 16915(1)r 169 deportment towards this patriarch in the Church, and the solemnity with which he adminsters the appointed ordinances, reflect honour upon the religion which he professes. In prayer, he condenses, as it were, the spirit of devotion, and gives it force even among the inattentive. I have seldom heard any thing more pathetic than his performances in the house which Death has entered, where there is such an expressive adaptation of manner, countenance, and supplication, to the sorrows of the mourner, and the desires of the penitent heart.
These excellencies, said Dr. L――, he possesses in an eminent degree; and his union, with one of our most ancient and respectable families, affords reason to hope that he will continue with us. In length of days, and in exemplary piety, may he equal his reverend predecessor, that mighty man so eloquent in the Scriptures. To us, who are going down into the dust, many would deem it of little importance, who shall stand as watchman upon the walls of Zion. Yet it ought never to be a matter of indifference, who shall be the spiritual guide of our children. Those, who desire religion to be honoured when they are no more, should not only teach their descendants to obey its precepts, but to revere its ministers.
On the ensuing Sunday, Mr. Occom gave his farewell discourse to the separating tribe. It was founded on that part of Scripture, which describes the division of land among the people brought out of Egypt, and the departure of the half tribe of Manasseh, to a distant inheritance with the Reubenites, and Gadites—Now to one-half of this tribe, Moses had given possession in Bashan: but unto the other half thereof, gave Joshua a possession, among their brethren on the other side of Jordan westward. The object of his address was to calm the current of perturbed feelings, to strengthen the ground of confidence in Him who who appointeth the bounds of man’s habitation and to enforce the motives of a faithful obedience to his commands. The following day, all Mohegan were assembled upon the banks of the river. There lay the boats, prepared to convey to their distant abode the emigrants, whose number was about two hundred there were sorrowful countenances, and solemn partings, and mutual good wishes, and blessings. Amid the throng, the lofty figure of the young warriour Ontologon was seen, 17215(2)v 172 bending in deep conversation with a maiden. They loved each other, and she would have joined his enterprize, but the sickness of an infirm mother incited duty to conquer love.
Would to God, that I might lead thee by the hand to my boat, said the dark eyed youth. I would throw over thee an awning of the deer-skin, and neither wind or rain should visit thee. Our voyage should be prosperous, because thou wert with me, and in storms the Great Spirit would have mercy upon me for thy sake. I would build thee a cabin in our new country, and thou shouldest be all the world to me.
Ontologon, said the maiden, thou art young, and thy arm is strong. Thou art sufficient to thine own subsistence, thine own joys. My mother languishes, and is sick—who shall feed her? If I depart with thee, who shall comfort her? Hath she any other child, to make the corn grow around her habitation, or to seek in the woods those roots which ease her pains? Her groans would raise from its sepulchre the spirit of my father. It would curse the daughter who could forsake, for her own pleasures, the cry of misery in that home, where her own infant cries were soothed. It would frown on her who could bid to make her own grave that mother whose breast had given her nourishment. That frown would wither my soul, even while thy love cherished it. Tempt me no more Ontologon. The sound of thy voice is sweeter to my ear, than the song of the bird making its first nest in the spring. 17315(3)r 173 My eyes pour forth water at thy words, but my heart is fixed.
I will not leave thee Zenelasie, said the lover. My boat shall pursue the fish into the deepest waters, and my arrow bring the birds from the highest boughs for thee. Thou shalt watch by the couch of thy mother; but let me be thy husband, Zenelasie, and sustain the heart that pours life into hers.
Thou hast given thy word to the chiefs and warriours, she answered. Make not thyself false for a woman. I will not see the finger pointed at thee, and hear the brave say, Ontologon hath no soul. Thou wouldst soon be as the chained lion, for love is a fleeting flame. Oh! son of Lodonto. It falls like a band of snow from the breast of the warriour. The heart has other voices, than those which it utters in the spring, in the bloom of flowers. Be wise, and it shall breathe music, when the frosts of winter shall come, and the flowers are faded. Go then where are wider waters, and hihgerhigher mountains than these. The eye of the pale race blasts our glory. We fleet before them, as the brook vanishes in the summer. Go then to the country, where are none but red men, and let thy name be among their bravest.
The dark-brow’d youth replied, Ah! whither shall we go, and not hear the speech of the white man? If we hide in the thickest forest, he is there, and the loftiest trees fall before him. If we dive beneath the darkest waters, his ships cover them, ere we can rise again. We 15* 17415(3)v 174 cannot fly so swiftly that he overtakes us not; so far but he is there before us. He speaks, and our wigwams vanish, and his cities spring up, like the mushroom, in one night. It is written upon the earth, and in the sky, that the Indians must perish, and the white man blot out his name. Yet fear not that the soul of Ontologon shall bow. No! he will go to another land where the ancient spirit of his race hath yet a little resting-place, like a wayfaring man, who tarrieth for a night. When it slumbers, he will awake it; when it departs, he will follow it. If it die, he will die also, and there shall his grave be. Ontologon will be first among the hunters, and captain among the brave. He will gain a name for thy sake, and when thy mother sleeps where is no waking, he will return and claim thee.
Go then warriour! said the maiden, throwing off the melancholy that had marked her tone. Go, bold son of Lodonto, whose arm was mighty in battle. Yet speak not of the death of her who bore me. I will guard her as the apple of my eye. Who knoweth but she may yet rise up from her sorrows, as the drooping willow rises after the storm? Who knows but she may yet lat her head on my grave, and mourn. A little while, and I shall no longer see thy noble form, towering above the loftiest. I will watch thee, as thy oars bear thee from our shore. When thy boat is as a speck, I shall know it, from those which surround it. When it loses itself in darkness, I will lay my face in the dust, and weep. But what are the tears 17515(4)r 175 of a woman. Regard them not, O son of Lodonto! Think of the fame of our fathers, ere the glory departed from them. When the Sun sinks to his rest, or rising reddens the hill-tops, and I speak to Him whom the eye seeth not, thy name, Ontologon, will be first,—last in my prayer. I would not that thou shouldst know all the weakness of my heart. Be thou strong in the day of evil, and the Great Spirit give thee a name among thy race.
Scarcely had she finished speaking, when the Pastor of the tribe, having ended his private farewells, and benedictions, advanced to the centre of the circle. His head was uncovered, and traces of emotion were visible on his brow. Waving his hand the throng seperated, those who were to depart, from those who were to remain. There was a brief and heavy silence, during which he past his hand over his eyes. Then, gathering firmness as he proceeded, he spoke with the tenderness of a father, who sees the children, whom he has reared, departing from the paternal abode; yet with the solemnity of a spiritual teacher, who desires above all things, the edification of his flock.
Think ye not, as ye thus divide, neighbour from neighbour, and friend from friend, and parent from child—think ye not of that eternal seperation at the last day, where on one side shall be anthems of joy, on the other wailing and gnashing of teeth? And what hand shall then remove you one from another, as a shepherd divideth the sheep from the goats? What herd but that which was pierced 17615(4)v 176 for you, which is still stretched out to draw every soul of you within the Ark of the Covenant? See that ye refuse not Him who speaketh from Heaven; for there remaineth no other sacrifice for sin. Hoary heads arise here and there among you. Fathers! God only knoweth whether I shall see your faces again on earth. I charge ye by the fear of Jehovah, by the love of Christ, by the consolations of the Holy Spirit, that ye look upon my face with joy, when this earth, and these heavens shall vanish like a scroll. Here also stand those, whom age has not bowed down—the youth in his strength—and the babe of a few summers. Remember that Death hath set his seal upon you also. He forgetteth none both of woman. Many herbs are cut down or wither in their greenness. Few are brought to the harvest, fully ripe. See that none of you disobey Him, whose anger ye cannot bear. If you hear my voice no more upon earth, remember, whenever you stand upon this river’s brink, that I warned you with tears to make your Judge your friend. See that not one of you, drink the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture, where is no hope.
Kneeling upon the young turf, he commended them in fervent supplication, to the keeping of an Almighty Protector; and rising, gave his paternal benediction to all. Laying his hand upon the head of John Cooper, whom he desired should be a shepherd to his flock, until his next visitation, he said, receive him! he hath corrupted no man, he hath defrauded no man.—The blessing of the Almighty 17715(5)r 177 be upon thee, replied the pious husbandman. May his dews refresh the new branch of thy planting, and his sunbeams remember the broken tree thou leavest behind thee. Saith not his holy word that there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease? Thus may it be with our people—with our Church. Though the root thereof wax old in the earth, and the stock thereof die in the ground, yet through the scent of water may it bud, and bring forth boughs as a plant. Amen! said their Pastor, and bowing himself to the people, turned his steps downward to the water. This was understood as the signal for departure, and every emigrant entered his boat. It had been concerted that a parting hymn should be sung, expressive of their sympathies and devout hopes. It rose in deep and solemn melody from the waters, while the measured stroke of the oar gave it energy, as it softened in distance. From the shore the response swelled fitfully, and in its cadence were heard the voices of those that wept. It was like the music on the coast of Labrador, where, amid the cold blasts, the poor Esquimaux raises his anthem, at the departure of their yearly mission ship, which brings relief to his poverty, and sheds light on his darkness. It was like the music of the Jews, at the foundation of their second temple, where the sound of cymbal and trumpet, could not be distinguished from the noise of the weeping of those who remembered the glory of their first holy and beautiful house. At length 17815(5)v 178 all was silent. The echo died upon the waters, and the sob upon the shore. Each might be seen, slowly taking his way to his respective abode, yet often lingering to try if, amid the diminishing throng, the brother could distinguish the boat of his brother, or the father of his son. Last of all Zenelasie was seen, wrapping her head in her mantle, and flying like a young roe to the habitation of her mother.
But long after her departure, the form of Robert, the mournful Chief, was discovered slowly pacing the bank of the river. He had spoken a few words, with animated gesture to the remainder of his tribe, ere they dispersed, and had then sought to conceal himself from them. His pride would not permit his heart to unburden itself in their presence, or to reveal to his inferiours how deeply it was pierced. He wandered silently onward, his head declined upon his breast, until he reached the solitary recess, which still bears the name of the chair of Uncas. It is a rude seat, formed by Nature in the rock, and so encompassed with masses of the same material, and embosomed in the thicket, as to be almost impervious to the eye, except from the water. When, in the seventeenth century, the fort of that monarch was invested by the Narragansetts, and his people perishing with famine, he took measures to inform the English of their perilous situation, and was found seated in this rude recess, anxiously watching the river, when those supplies arrived which rescued him from destruction. These were conveyed in a large 17915(6)r 179 canoe from Saybrook, under cover of darkness, by an enterprising man of the name of Leffingwell, to whom uncas, as a testimony of gratitude, gave a large tract of land, comprising the whole of the present town of N――. There the king sat, on the throne furnished by Nature, with no guard, but the shapeless columns of stone, whose mossy helmets waved over him, and no canopy but the midnight cloud, listening with throbbing heart, for the dash of that oar, on which hung his only hope. At a distance were his famishing people, and his besieging foes holding the wardance, which preceded their morning battle, and their expected victory. On the same seat, after the lapse of more than a hundred years, reclined this lonely Chief of a diminished and dispersed tribe. Behind him was no fort, no warriours. Upon the still waters, where his eye rested, was no hope. The setting Sun threw his lustre over them for a moment, as if they were an expanse of liquid silver, and illumined the bold, broad forehead of the Chieftain, half-hidden by his dark clustering locks, over which a slight tinge of snow had been scattered, not by time, but by sorrow. He watched the last rays, and as they faded into twilight exclaimed in agony, Thou shalt rise again in glory:—but for us there is no returning, —no dawn. He concealed his brow with his hands, and his bursts of grief were long, and passionate. None were there to report, I saw my Chief mourning. Day, at her return, found him in the same spot—in the same attitude, as when she sank to repose. Starting, as her beams 18015(6)v 180 discovered him, through the misty mountain-tops, he left communing with the shades of his fathers, and sought the remnant of his people.
Madam L―― felt a deep interest in those soldiers who had borne the burdens of our revolution. It was one of her favourite maxims, that their services would be better estimated when the blessings, won by their toil, were more widely diffused, and more fully realized. Could she have seen through the vista of future years, a band, small, feeble, and hoary, yet bending less beneath the burdens of age, than those of poverty, going forth like the widow of Zarepta, to gather sticks to dress a handful of meal, that they might eat it and die; she would scarcely have been convinced that these were the defenders of her country. Had she seen, in vision, a mother redeemed from servitude by the blood of her sons, yet withholding from their necessities a scant pittance, till by far the greater number of them had sought refuge where wounds fester no more, she would not have acknowledged such an emblem of the land that gave her birth. She could not have been induced to believe, that her dear native country, like the officer of the Egyptian king, in his transition from a prison to a place near the throne, remembered not Joseph, but forgat him.16 18216(1)v 182
The place of her residence had furnished many of those veterans who, during a war of eight years, had rarely tasted the charities of home, and sweet domestick life. Some had fallen while the fields were sown with blood, others had returned to share the blessings of their harvest. A few survived with broken frames, and debilitated constitutions, living spectacles of woe to their disconsolate families. To these that charitable Lady extended her unwearied friendship. Medicine for their sicknesses, food for their tables, and condescending kindness to their sorrowful spirits, she distributed with that judgment which accompanies a discriminating mind.
One of these unfortunate beings, who frequently came to sit an hour with her when she was at leisure, used to style himself the Captain of her band of pensioners. He was a man of powerful frame, strong features, and ardent character. His good right hand which had so often toiled to procure bread for the lambs of his household, had been cleft from his body by a sabre, as he raised it to ask for quarter in an unsuccessful combat. A crutch, which his left hand had painfully wrought out, and inscribed with the date of his last battle, supplied the loss of a limb, which had been amputated in consequence of a neglected wound. Pain, sickness, and the untold miseries of a prison-ship, had destroyed the vigour of a muscular frame, and given the wrinkles of age to one who had not seen half a century.18316(2)r 183
Madam L―― listened with interest to his narratives, and often wondered at the elasticity with which his spirit soared above the ruins of his frame. One morning as he was seated with her, his only hand resting upon the crutch that stood by his side, he said—
I should take more pleasure in coming to this house, Madam, if I could but forget that the traitor Arnold used to reside in it. I don’t like to sit in seats, where he sat.
I am sorry, Anderson, replied the Lady, that any such image should interfere with the comfort of your visits. I have no particular satisfaction in retracing the connection of Benedict with our family. He was received by my husband, more from the solicitations of a widowed mother, than from any prepossessing traits of character. He evinced, at the age of twelve, those qualities which distinguished his manhood. He possessed a courage, and contempt of hardship, which would have been interesting, had they not been associated with dispositions delighting to inflict pain. His intellect was rapid and powerful, but he was impatient of controul, and devoid of integrity.
I remember him, said the soldier, in his boyish days. He loved to cut young birds to pieces, and to laugh at the mourning of their parents, and to torture every thing that was weaker than himself. There is nothing that I check my boys sooner for than cruelty to animals. It will make you like Arnold, I say to them, and no traitor shall be son of mine. I once met him when a boy at the mill, where we both came with corn. He quarrelled with 18416(2)v 184 the miller for making him wait, and then amused himself by clinging to the wheel, and going with it fearlessly as it turned in the water. I wondered at his dangerous sport, and his bold words. I knew not then that I should live to see his strive to plunge his country into perdition.
The Lady, ever intent to find some soul of goodness in things evil, replied,—
Arnold possessed courage, and presence of mind, in an eminent degree. At his unsuccessful attack on Canada, with the lamented Montgomery, he displayed superiour valour. You know also, that he sustained extreme hardship, in his march through the wilderness from Kennebeck. Beside the labour of travelling over pathless mountains, and swamps, he and his men were reduced to the necessity of feeding on the vilest substances, even on the remnants of their own shoes. That he possessed active, as well as enduring courage has often been proved. In his battle with Sir Guy Carleton on Lake Champlain, after signalizing his valour, he was so solicitous about a point of honour, as to prefer blowing up his own frigate to striking the American flag to the enemy. His radical faults were want of feeling, and of moral principle. His fondness for pomp, and splendid equipage led him to the meanest acts of fraud, when in command at Philadelphia. His vindictive spirit never forgave the reprimand which was there given him by Washington, in pursuance of the decree of the court, appointed to investigate his conduct. From that period, revenge, and treason employed his 18516(3)r 185 meditations. He probably procured the command at West-Point, with the deliberate design of delivering to the foe that rock of our military salvation.
Anderson who could scarcely endure to yield the traitor that measure of fame which he had earned, felt particularly uneasy to hear it from lips that he revered, and answered with warmth—
I have heard his courage doubted, Madam. At Saratoga, where he so madly defied danger, he was known to have been intoxicated. I recollect how angry he was, at the battle of Bemis-heights, because the command was not given to him instead of General Gates. He came upon the field in very ill-humour, and brandished his sword so carelessly, that he wounded in the head an officer who stood near. Then plunging foolishly into the most perilous scenes of action, he had his leg fractured; and I heard the surgeon of the hospital say, that he was so peevish, and furious at his confinement, and pain, that no one liked to be near him.
Madam L――, perceiving that the object of honest Anderson’s aversion bade fair to monopolize his whole visit, made an attempt to change the current of his thought.
There is a story, she said, which I always hear from you, with peculiar satisfaction. I refer to the battle of Bunker-hill, which you may perhaps recollect you have not described to me for a very long time.
The expression of the soldier’s face suddenly changed. 16* 18616(3)v 186 Debility and poverty vanished from his mind. His tall form was raised erectly, and his tone became more free and bold as he recited his first feat of arms. The Last Mistrel evinced not more of a warriour’s pride when he exclaimed— For I have seen war’s lightning flashing, Seen the claymore ’gainst bayonet clashing, Seen through red blood the war-horse dashing; And scorn’d amid that dreadful strife To yield a step for death, or life.
You will remember, Madam, said the soldier, that it was warm weather for the month of June, when the action, to which you allude, took place. It was on the evening of the 1775-06-1616th, that we were ordered to march to Bunker-hill. It had been rumoured that the British troops intended to take possession of it, and we were directed to prevent them. People say now that Prescott made a mistake, and fortified Breed’s-hill instead of Bunker’s. But the name is of little consequence, as long as the victory remains. We marched in perfect silence, lest we should be discovered by some of Gage’s centinels. But some of us could not refrain from cursing the vile wretch, who was cooping up the distressed Bostonians, like lambs in a quick-set hedge. We did not arrive on the ground till near midnight. Then we commenced our labours, and it seemed as if the Almighty prospered us. Before day-light our fortifications were completed. At dawn, the British saw with great surprise, what had been done so near them, without their discovering it before. Perhaps 18716(4)r 187 the evil-minded Saul was not more dismayed, when the stripling David displayed, from a neighbouring hill, the spear, and the cruse of water, which he had stolen from his head while he slept. They acknowledged that Yankees could work well, and afterwards found that they were able to fight as well. Early the next spring, when we threw up fortifications with great despatch on Dorchester Heights, General Howe on discovering them the next morning, through a thick fog, which, like a vessel looming at sea, made them appear larger than they really were, struck his forehead in great wrath, exclaiming, what shall I do! These rebels do more in one night, than my army can accomplish in weeks.
But I beg pardon, Madam, for wandering from my subject. As soon as our entrenchments struck the eye of the British, a terrible fire opened upon us from Copp’s- hill, the war-ships, and floating batteries, so that we might pick up shot, and bombs, wherever we turned. We were much fatigued after the severe toil of a sleepless night, but none of us could think of taking rest; and what was worse, we were poorly supplied with provisions. I can see at this moment General Putnam moving round among us, and animating every man who drooped, by his bold and cheerful voice. All night he was in the midst of our labours, directing and bearing a part. While the morning was yet gray, a detachment of somewhat more than an hundred men was despatched, under Captain Knowlton, to take post on the left hand of the breast-work. I 18816(4)v 188 knew not, as I hastened on with them, what a dangerous station it would prove. Yet if I had, I should not have drawn back, for my heart was high. When we reached the spot, we were employed in placing one rail-fence parallel with another, and filling the interval with the new- mown hay which strewed the field,—that field where men were soon to lie thick as herbs beneath the sharp sithe. In the course of the forenoon, a few more soldiers arrived, increasing our numbers to about 1500. We made but a scanty dinner, though those of us who had watched all night, and got no breakfast, were rather sharp-set. Yet it seemed as if no man thought of food, or of rest, so full was his heart of those liberties, which he was about to defend. At one o’clock, a thick, dark smoke spread over the skirts of the hill. We had scarcely time to exclaim— See! Charlestown with its fair houses, and beautiful spire burning, ere we saw our foes marching toward us. Soon the smoke of the town, and that of the cannon mingled, rising in heavy volumes towards the sky. Prescott flourished his sword, till it cast a gleam like lightning among us; and Putnam’s voice thundered hoarsely, Remember Lexington.
Ah! said the Lady, it was at the report of the blood shed at Lexington that, like the Roman Cincinnatus, he cast the plough from his hand, and leaving his unfinished furrow, rode in one day nearly seventy miles to join the American camp. Washington repeatedly paid high tribute to his bravery, and his virtues.18916(5)r 189
Smiling at the praise of his favourite general, the veteran proceeded:—Knowlton, also, the commander of our little band, was a lion-hearted man, and his lieutenants did their duty bravely. Colonel Stark, with his New-Hampshire back-woodsmen, took deadly aim as if in their own forests. The British lines, partly wrapt in smoke, marched up with colours flying. At their head, came Generals Howe, and Pigot, with a contemptuous, yet noble demeanour. Three thousand well-disciplined men followed them, supported by field artillery. First marched the grenadiers, with their lofty caps, and glittering bayonets. We were commanded to reserve our fire, until they were within a few yards of us. When they reached that spot, it was wonderful how many plumed heads fell. Dismayed at our furious, and fatal discharge, they at length fled precipitately towards their boats. Their officers pursued, menacing them with drawn swords. With difficulty they were forced to rally. A second time they came forward, fought with great valour, suffered terrible slaughter, and retreated. The officers, who forced them a third time to the charge, said to each other, with melancholy countenances— It is butchery again to lead these brave fellows to that fatal spot. General Clinton stood with Burgoyne, upon Copp’s- hill, gazing through his spy-glass to see the chastisement of the rebels. But, when he marked movements of distress19016(5)v 190 tress in the British lines, he flew to joint them, and was seen, hurrying with distracted steps to unite with Howe, and his council. Then they increased the fire from their ships of war, changed the position of their cannon so as to rake the inside of our breast-work, and advanced with fresh resolution, attacking our redoubt on three sides at once. The carnage became dreadful. At this important crisis, our ammunition was exhausted, and that decided the fate of the day. Could we but have obtained the materials of defence, the British would never have driven us from that hill. Perhaps they might have buried us in its bosom. You know, Madam, our redoubt was lost. I never can bear to say that we retreated, or that the English took it; but it was lost by the fortune of war. When it was found necessary for us to retire, the enemy attempted to force our little band from the rail-fence, in order to cut off the retreat of the main body. This they found no such easy matter. We fought till not a cartridge was left, and then gave them a parting salute with the but- end of our muskets, as they leaped into our entrenchments. Half our number lay lifeless, or wounded among us. Yet even the dying forbore to groan, listening for our cry of victory. Four comrades were shot beside me. Their warm blood poured over my feet. One of them was my brothers, whom I loved as my own soul. Falling he said— 19116(6)r 191 Here are yet three cartridges. Take them, and God be with you. Strange as it may seem, I who could never, from my infancy, see him suffer pain without sharing in it, took the cartridges from his quivering hand, and paused not a moment to mourn. I cannot tell how many times I fired, with the same aim that I have taken at the fox in his speed, and the pigeon in the air, when they have fallen. My musket burst, and I snatched another from the dead hand of a comrade. The Almighty have mercy on the souls, who were sent by me to their last account. When we were compelled to retire, not having a round of powder left, and being unprovided with bayonets, our only path was over a neck of land, where we were exposed to a cross-fire from a man of war, and two floating batteries. Our loss, in that perilous combat, was less severe than could have been expected, and would almost have been forgotten, had not the brave Warren fallen. He was a godlike man, and the idol of the people. He had performed prodigies of valour that day, seeking the front of danger. After the musket-shot struck him, an elegant man, in the uniform of a British officer, was seen to withdraw his arm from that of General Howe, and run towards the fallen, with great rapidity. Waving his sword to disperse the regulars who followed him, he bent over General Warren, and said in a tremulous tone— My dear friend, I hope you are not much hurt. The fallen hero lifted his glazed eye to him, and faintly19216(6)v 192 ly smiling, expired. This officer was Colonel Small, who had been much in this country previously to the war, and had formed many friendships here. He was once so near our redoubt, during the battle, that a line of marksmen took aim at him, perceiving by his uniform that he held rank in the army. Putnam saw them, and striking up the muzzles of their pieces with his sword, exclaimed— For God’s sake, spare that man. I love him as a brother I think I can hear at this moment, the voice of my old general, so bold and loud. Notwithstanding his rough exteriour, he had a tender heart for the wounded and the prisoner.
I knew him, said the Lady, as a friend of my husband, and occasionally our honoured guest. He had a kind and generous nature, scorning dissimulation in all its forms. Though he possessed valour, which even in the language of his foes made him willing to lead where any dared to follow, his energetic soul was gentle in its affections, and easily moved to pity. I find we are always ready to recount the virtues of those who have aided in delivering our country; yet we ought not to forget the merits of our enemies. Were any in the British lines peculiarly conspicuous during this battle?
Madam, answered the veteran, had they shewn less courage, we should have deserved less praise. Howe was in all places, and in the midst of every thing, always 19317(1)r 193 animated, and collected. He was wounded in the foot, but disregarded it till the action was over. Major Pitcairn, who was so active at Lexington, distinguished himself here. At the taking of the redoubt, he was one of the first to spring into our breast-work. The day is ours, he shouted with a clear, glad voice. He had scarcely closed his lips, ere aballa ball passed through his body. His son, Captain Pitcairn, a fine young man, caught him in his arms as he fell, and bore him to the boat, where he soon died.
The enemy complained of the great proportion of valuable officers, who were that day fatally singled out by our marksmen. Ninety were among the slain and wounded; some of them the flower of their army and nobility. General Gage himself confessed a total loss of nearly eleven hundred. Among us, those who died upon the field of battle or soon after, amounted to about one hundred and thirty. More than twice that number were wounded. The whole of these, including prisoners, fell short of five hundred. We were defeated solely by the want of ammunition, and when we retired were obliged to leave several pieces of artillery behind us. It was a stirring time, Madam, and every thing was well enough, except our being obliged to retreat. I always wish to leave that out of the story.
It was a retreat, my friend, she answered, which produced the effect of a victory. This was a battle where the vanquished seemed to reap the harvest, and the victors to mourn. It might almost be styled the Thermopylæ17 19417(1)v 194 læ of our revolution. It raised the doubting spirit of our people, and taught them confidence in the resources of their own strength. Those, who retained possession of the field, were humbled at the gallant bearing of undisciplined troops, and depressed at the magnitude of their own loss. It was the first time tat they had seen military skill, and the terrour of a royal name how before the rude enthusiasm of liberty. It was a difficult page in the lesson of humiliation. For my own part, I have never since looked upon that green hill, or at the tomb of the warriours who sleep in its bosom, without numbering them among the silent but powerful agents who influenced our destinies as a nation.
The narrator of Bunker-hill had not taken his leave, when two gentlemen entered, who like him had served through the war, but with a different fortune. They were of the distinguished family of ――, an sons of a gentleman who, by enterprize in commercial pursuits, had acquired an ample fortune, and, by that energy of character which gives man influence over his fellows, had become the founder of one of the most respectable aristocracies which dignified his native place. He had been an officer in the war of 17551755, and his death occurred at about the period of this sketch. The latter years of his life had been marked by some aberrations of intellect, like that of Otis, the early advocate of the liberties of Massachusetts, whose memory the classic pen of Tudor has embalmed. General ――, the eldest of his five sons, was of small stature, but of correct, and graceful symmetry. Firm in camps, and wise in council, in refined society he was gentleness itself. The friend of Washington, an inmate of his military family, and highly respected by the soldiers under his command, he bore into domestick life, 19617(2)v 196 the spirit of that dovelike gospel which he loved. He was accompanied by his younger brother Colonel ――, whose noble form the military habit well became, and whose countenance was considered as a model of manly beauty. While yet a boy, pursuing his studies at Yale College, the war commenced; and his bold spirit prompted him to rush from academic shades to the toils of the tented field. He continued firm throughout the whole contest, and rose through the different grades of command to that of Lieutenant-Colonel, while yet in the early stages of manhood.
The army has been called a school for manners, even by those who consider it hostile to morals, and to the better interests of man. The association of lofty spirits, inured to danger in all its forms, and emulous of heroic deeds, may naturally give energy, and elevation to the character, which in the piping time of peace, has little scope for action. But, among the officers of our revolution, this was blended with a gallantry, a courtesy, which in mixed society threw around the somewhat of the enchantment of the age of chivalry. It produced a cast of manners, which was peculiarly admired among females; who found an almost irresistible charm in the graceful condescension of those, so long accustomed to command. This deportment distinguished both these visitants of Madam L――, though modified by their different characteristics.
They might have been compared to the two Gracchi, 19717(3)r 197 save the elder had more gentleness of soul, and the younger less ambition for popularity, than their ancient prototypes. After offering their respects to the Lady, whom from childhood they had honoured as an epitome of all that was noble in woman, they spoke kindly to the the poor soldier, who had risen at their entrance.
Sit down, my good fellow, said General ――, ” I am sorry that you have lost so much, by your country’s gain.
General, he answered, unconsciously elevating his crutch to his shoulder, as if it had been a musket, I have lost only a hand and a leg. Many have lost more, and seen their country enslaved beside. I had rather this head should have gone likewise, than to have heard that shout of victory when Burgoyne was taken.
The piercing eye of Colonel ―― flashed with a warriour’s pleasure. The recollection of that event was dear to his soul. He knew not then how conspicuous his own noble form should appear in later times, on the canvas of the illustrious Trumbull; deputed both to witness, and pourtray the brilliant events which led to his country’s liberty. But the picture of the memory was, at that moment, more vivid in the eye of Colonel ――, than it could have been rendered by the pencil of the artist.
Glowing recollections, and proud feeling, retouched the traces of the scene; and in an instant countless images thronged around him. The deeply marked, and interesting countenance of Burgoyne, the ill-concealed melancholy17* 19817(3)v 198 choly of his officers, amid the formalities of their capitulation, the martial demeanour of Gates, the energetic, open countenance of Knox, the sullen faces of the British soldiery, the half-suppressed rage with which they grounded their arms, produced a combination of joy and rapturous gratitude, softened by pity, which can scarcely be imagined but by an actor in those tumultuous scenes. The very tones of the music, which guided their march, seemed again to vibrate on his year, and the foliage of the Saratoga forests, bright with the opposing hues of autumn, to wave in accordance.
Interesting groups filled the back ground of this mental picture. The funeral of General Frazer, the incessant cannonade upon his grave; the uncovered head of the clergyman, who absorbed in the services of heaven, heeded not the war upon earth; the pale, delicate, beautiful countenance of Lady Ackland, committing herself to the waters in an open boat, amid the darkness and storms of night, or presenting to General Gates the open and wet letter of Burgoyne, in which her protection was supplicated, or entreating with the exquisite tones of female fortitude in anguish, permission to attend her imprisoned and desperately wounded husband; the magnanimous Schuyler, as he took in his arms the three little children of the Baroness Reidesel, reassuring the spirits of the stranger, and the captive, by his tenderness to her helpless offspring; these, and many more touching images were called19917(4)r 199 ed forth by the allusion of the disabled soldier to the surrender of Burgoyne.
The transient reverie of Colonel ―― was dispelled by the voice of the Lady, kindly mentioning Anderson, who had been the last speaker.
I take so much pleasure, she said, in his narratives, that I sincerely regret any draw-back should exist to his part of the satisfaction in visiting me. So strong are his patriotic feelings, that he likes not to be long in a house, which, for so many years, gave shelter to General Arnold.
I feel strongly indignant, said Colonel ――, that my native place should have given birth to the only traitor, who ever existed among the officers of the United States.
When we recollect, replied Madam L――, that our contest had, at first, all the repulsive features of a civil war—when we balance the labours, the privations, the discouragements of our officers, with the infirmities of human nature, I have often been surprized, and always grateful to God, that this instance of treason was solitary.
There was, said General ――, a circumstance connected with the history of Arnold, with which, Madam, you may not have been familiar; as it was for some time known only to a few, who possessed the confidence of Washington. The treason was discovered by him, on his arrival at West-Point, from Hartford in 17811781. He was astonished at perceiving marks of disorder, and at learning20017(4)v 200 ing that Arnold was absent, whom he expected would have received him at the fortress. Recrossing the Hudson, he went to the General’s house, and found Mrs. Arnold in a state of sudden, and violent distraction. Tearing her hair, she could scarcely be restrained by her women, and the two aids-de-camp of her husband, from rushing into the streets. At the sight of Washington, her frenzy was redoubled, with cries of Depart! depart! thou demon, sent to torment me. Then a horrible suspicion of treason first entered the mind of the Commander in Chief. Soon the circumstances of the traitor’s escape were made known, by the men who returned from rowing him on board the Vulture. He had endeavoured to bribe them also to desertion, by promises of promotion, and British gold. Finding them resolute, he forced them to trust their lives to a miserable boat, retaining for his own use, the barge in which they had innocently conveyed him to the enemy. Intelligence arrived of the capture of André, and Washington, inexpressibly afflicted, hastened to the army which, under the command of General Greene, was encamped in the vicinity of Tappan. He immediately summoned to his presence Major Lee, of the celebrated legion of Virginia horse, an intrepid officer, and worthy the confidence of his Chief. When he came, Washington was alone, and writing in his tent. The glimmering light of the camp displayed a countenance, pale with anxiety and watching. His noble, and commanding appearance seemed to derive new interest from the grief which shaded 20117(5)r 201 his features. It was a searching, yet serene sorrow, such as perchance might mark the brow of some guardian angel, who saw the object of his affectionate tutelage, plunging into perdition. He rose as Major Lee entered, and said in a voice whose deep, and manly tones were softened into exquisite modulation—Heaven only knows where the treason of Arnold will end. Imputations are cast, through him, upon one whom I hold most pure, and noble. Have you, among your bold, Virginian spirits, any man capable of a daring, delicate, and perilous enterprize? Know you any one willing to risk life, liberty, and what is more, honour, upon a desperate stake, where the chance of success is but as one against a thousand dangers? Did you say that honour must also be thrown into the balance, my General? inquired Lee. And what is the counterpoise? The punishment of treason, replied Washington with energy, the thanks of his country, the friendship of his Chief, perhaps the rescue of an unfortunate victim more sinned against, than sinning. Lee bent his eyes to the earth, in deep thought. Again he raised them, beaming with affection, to his beloved commander. Yet he looked one moment to Heaven, as if for assurance, ere he spoke. I do know such a man; and but one. He is a native of my own Loudon county. Thought but twenty-four years of age, he does honour to Virginia. He is the serjeant-major20217(5)v 202 jor of my cavalry, and has served since 1776’76 with unsullied reputation. His courage equals any danger, and his perseverance is invincible. But in points of integrity he will be found inflexible. I know not how far it is the will of your Excellency, that his honour should be put to the proof. The cloud passed from the forehead of Washington, as he said— Heaven be praised. My friend, you have raised a heavy weight from my soul. He then gave him his instructions with that minuteness, and accuracy, which he ever preserved even in the most perplexing, and dreadful exigencies. Lee returned to the camp, and summoned to a private conference his faithful officer. As he entered, his tall, finely proportioned form, in the imposing dress of the Virginia cavalry, exhibited a commanding appearance. His grave countenance betokened a character, enduring, and undaunted, such as adversity sometimes forms. His black eye, keen in its glances, but almost melancholy when at rest, indicated a man dexterous to read the secrets of others, and cautious to conceal his own. His black hair, cut according to the military fashion, still evinced some disposition to wreathe itself into those close curls, which had given his youth a cast of romantic beauty. His broad shoulders, and joints firmly knit, gave evidence of native strength, confirmed by severity of toil. 20317(6)r 203 I have sent for you, Champé, said his commander, to entrust to you an expedition which requires inviolable secrecy. The soldier bowed. I have chosen you to this confidence, because I have long known your valour, and integrity. I commit to you what may influence your destiny, beyond the power of present calculation. It may secure that promotion which is so dear to a brave man, or it may lead to an untimely grave. Again the soldier bowed with an unmoved countenance. But, as the outlines of the mysterious plan were developed, his features confessed the varying interests of wonder, enthusiasm, and distress. He respectfully preserved silence, until his commander had ceased to speak. The his emotion became extreme. He traversed the tent with hasty strides, and his breathing was thick, and strong, as one who approaches convulsion. The bold Champé, who often rode unmoved up to the sabre’s edge, trembled, and could scarcely articulate— I cannot think of desertion. I would serve my Commander in Chief with the last drop in my veins, and the last breath of my soul. But why does he solicit me to appear as betrayer of my country? It is indispensable, answered Lee, that you join the ranks of the enemy, and identify yourself with them. How else can you expect to circumvent the traitor, and bring him to his country’s justice? It is the particular 20417(6)v 204 order of Washington, that you offer him no personal injury, but restore him to be made a public example. There was a settled sorrow on the brow of the soldier, and he almost gasped for utterance, as he said Speak not to me of desertion! Lee approached him, as he traversed the tent with unequal steps, and waving all circumstances of rank, drew his arm within his own, and spoke in a low voice, words which made him start. He exclaimed rapidly— It is false. The army holds not an officer more loyal to the liberties of America, than him you mention. The suspicion was created by the execrable Arnold. If, as you say, it might be in my power to prove its falsity, I know of nothing that would sooner tempt me to accede to your purpose. Would to God, it were at the expense of my blood, and not of my integrity. His emotion redoubled, and his breast heaved strongly against the band which compressed it. This was the parting struggle. Lee was astonished at the length of his resistance. I knew, he said, that the plan was replete with peril. Therefore I entrusted it to you. I said, I have known Champé from his youth. He will not shrink from danger. It seems I was mistaken. Since you are more moved by the semblance of present evil, than the prospect of immense good, you are released from all obligation, save that of secrecy. Leave my tent. I will seek for another, who shall clear innocence from suspicion, bring 20518(1)r 205 treason to punishment, fulfil the wishes of Washington, and merit the thanks of his country. Major Lee, said the soldier calmly, this appeal was unnecessary. I had resolved to go when I last spoke. You know me too well to believe that any part of my hesitation has arisen from fear. Delighted to secure this cautious, and intrepid agent, Lee gave him particular instructions, accompanied by the kindest wishes, and recommended an immediate departure. Champé hastened to the camp, wrapt himself in his cloak, silently arrayed his horse, and began his adventurous journey. He knew that his first danger was from the pursuit of his own people; who, since the crime of Arnold, had been full of watchfulness, and suspicion. Lee sat in his tent, ruminating upon the danger, and magnanimity of Champé, and following in imagination the speed of his faithful war-horse. Half an hour since his departure had not elapsed, when suddenly the officer of the day stood before him. In hurried accents, he said— A dragoon has been seen to leave our camp. He was challenged by a patrole, but put spurs to his horse, and escaped. I beg your pardon. replied the Major. The fatigues of the day had so exhausted me, that I was half slumbering, and did not comprehend your communication. It was repeated, and he answered— It was undoubtedly some countryman. During the whole war but one dragoon has deserted. I am sorry that 18 20618(1)v 206 you suspect we harbour any such base souls in our Virginia legion. Indignant at his indifference, the officer replied— The deserter is believed to be no less a person than your sergeant-major. His horse, and arms are missing from their quarters. I have to request immediate orders for pursuit. These Lee was compelled to grant, after prolonging the conversation as much as possible. Immediately a band equipped for pursuit appeared in front of his tent. On inspecting them, he said to the lieutenant at their head— I have a particular service for you in the morning. Call Cornet Middleton to the command of this party. This arrangement was partly to create delay, that the fugitive might have more the advance of his pursuers; and partly from a knowledge of the tenderness of Middleton’s disposition, which he thought would prevent him from inflicting personal injury on his victim. The design of delay was soon frustrated by the appearance of Cornet Middleton, spurring his horse in front of his associates. Such command of countenance had Lee, that not a muscle moved, as he delivered his orders in a distinct, deliberate tone— Pursue as far as you can with safety Sergeant Champé, who is suspected of desertion to the enemy. He has been seen to take the road leading to Paulus-hook. Bring him alive , that he may suffer in the presence of the army; but if he resist, kill him. 20718(2)r 207 The tramp of the horses, put to full speed, instantly succeeded his words. He strained his eyes after them, in agony. It was midnight, and rain fell in protracted showers. Champé had the advance of his pursuers scarcely one hour. He will be overtaken, exclaimed Lee. I have destroyed a brave, and honourable man. Securing the entrance of his tent, he threw himself upon the earth, in bitterness of soul. Groans burst from his manly bosom, and deeply he execrated the perfidy of Arnold, which had been the cause of all this woe. Rain had fallen soon after the departure of Champé, which enabled his pursuers, with the aid of the lights they bore, to discern his track. It was for him an unfortunate circumstance, that the front shoes of the horses of those dragoons had a private mark by which their impression was distinctly known to each other. This precaution, which had often proved useful, now greatly enhanced his danger. Middleton, with his men, occasionally dismounted to examine these impressions; and as no other horse had past since the shower, mistake was impossible. Day broke when they were several miles north of the village of Bergen. Ascending an eminence, just before reaching the Three Pigeons, they descried Champé not half a mile in front. Vigilant and active, he also, at the same moment descried them. Putting spurs to his horse, he determined to outstrip them. Middleton, calling on his men to imitate him, urged his horse to breathless speed. Recollecting20818(2)v 208 collecting a shorter route through the woods, to the bridge below Bergen, which diverged from the great road near the Three Pigeons, he directed a sergeant with five dragoons to take it, and obtain possession of the bridge. Champé also recollected this shorter road, but, thinking it probable that Middleton would avail himself of it, felt constrained to avoid it. He also knew that it was generally preferred by those parties of our men who were returning from the neighbourhood of the enemy, on account of the concealment which the shade of its trees afforded. Fruitful in expedients, he with great presence of mind resolved to relinquish his original destination to Paulus- hook, and seek refuge from two British gallies, which usually lay a few miles east of Bergen. Entering this village, he turned to his right, and disguising his track as much as possible, by choosing the beaten roads, directed his course towards Elizabeth-town Point. The sergeant, with his dragoons, concealed himself at the bridge, expecting every moment to dart upon his prey. Thither Cornet Middleton also soon arrived, and found, to his extreme mortification, that the victim had eluded his stratagem. Returning a short distance, he inquired of the villagers of Bergen, if a dragoon had been seen that morning, alone, and preceding him. They answered in the affirmative, but their information of his route varied. The pursuers, in great chagrin, dispersed through the whole village to search for the track of his horse. It was discovered just at the spot where, leaving the village, he 20918(3)r 209 had taken the road towards the Point. They flew with the speed of lightning. Again the fugitive was descried. His eye was also bent upon them; and they perceived that, notwithstanding the rapidity of his course, he had lashed his valice to his shoulders, and that he carried his drawn sword in his hand. The pursuit was rapid, and close. Not more swiftly does the eagle pursue the dove through the air. They were within a few hundred yards of him. They shouted with eager joy. The heart of the fugitive beat with tumultuous sensation, lest the gallies where he sought refuge might not be there. In an instant, he perceived their white sails; and for the first time blest the flag of his country’s foe. A long marsh, and the deep waters lay between him, and the ark of safety. He sprang from his horse, and plunged into the morass. His pursuers arrived, and dismounted also. Champé, struggling with the tenacious and deceitful footing, and sometimes sinking in the slimy pool, still held his glittering sword high above his head. Reaching the brink of the river, he threw away his cloak, and scabbard, lest they might obstruct his desperate enterprize. He threw his broad breast upon the waters, and divided them with Herculean strokes. But, in his extremity, his trusty sword escaped from his grasp, and the head of the bold dragoon sunk for a moment, as if in despondency, or sorrow. 18* 21018(3)v 210 At this crisis, a fire commenced from the gallies upon the cavalry on shore, some of whom, like the horsemen of Pharoah, were preparing to plunge in after him, who thus boldly made for himself a path through the deep. But a light boat, with rapid oar, approached him, and bore him on board the gallies. The British had been watchful of the strife, and drawing the inference that Champé was a pursued deserter, determined to protect him. Cornet Middleton collected his scattered band, and returned to the camp, chagrined, and in silence. It was three in the afternoon ere they arrived, yet Lee had not yet left his tent. So sorely did the agitation of his mind affect physical energy, that he almost seemed the victim of intermittent fever. He was roused by a shout. It was universal and prolonged— The traitor is slain. The second Arnold has met his doom. Rushing from his tent, he saw the horse of Champé led on, with his cloak, and the scabbard of his trusty sword. The eye of the fiery animal was rolling, and blood-shot, and his sides heaved deeply, more in anger, than from toil. To Lee it seemed that he was mourning for his master. I knew, he sighed, that Champé loved thee as a brother, thou forsaken animal! Thou hast been his companion these five years, in all dangers, by night and by day. Consumed by heat, or chilled by frost, when sleep departed from his eyes, thou wert with him. 21118(4)r 211 Groaning audibly he returned to his tent, exclaiming— The blood of my bravest man is upon my soul to all eternity. Cornet Middleton entered. The Major read the settled gloom upon his brow, and his hopes rekindled. The traitor has eluded me, he said, and as he retraced the adventure, Lee had need of all of his self-controul to repress the rapture that kindled in his eye. His sickness vanished. Throwing himself upon his horse, he hastened to head-quarters, and sought a private interview with the Commander in Chief. Thrice Washington pressed hard the hand of his Major; and once a bright moisture glistened in his eye, as he heard the loyalty, the perils, the escape of the faithful Champé.
The sergeant-major of dragoons, continued General ――, ”was kindly received on board the British gallies, and sent to New-York. After passing the usual interrogations before the adjutant-general, he was taken into the presence of Sir Henry Clinton. Not doubting the sincerity of a man who had encountered such dangers in order to join his standard, he inquired with great emphasis—How may this spirit of defection among the American troops be best excited? Are any general offices suspected of being concerned in the conspiracy of Arnold? What is the prevailing opinion respecting the doom of André? Is not the popularity of Washington with the army declining? To these insidious questions Champé returned wary answers. The haughty features of Clinton relaxed into a sarcastic smile, and putting gold into his hand, he directed him to wait on General Arnold. He is forming, said he, An American legion for the service of his Majesty. You must have a command in it since you so well understand how to baffle the rebels. 21418(5)v 214 Champé was presented to Arnold by an officer. He found him in one of those elegant mansions, which suffered so much from the wantonness of abuse by the British soldiery. Fond of pomp, and elated by it, he regarded the dragoon with an arrogant, inquisitorial look. The Virginia cavalry had borne such a high reputation for intrepidity in their country’s cause, that he could scarcely believe that one of them stood before him in the character of a deserter. Yet, amid the assumed haughtiness of his manner, it seemed as if the consciousness of his crime came suddenly over him, and callous as was his heart, he dared not offer the Virginian the hand of a traitor. A letter from the commander of the gallies, who had witnessed the circumstances of the escape, was enclosed to him by one of the aids of Sir Henry Clinton. He perused it, and his doubts vanished. Hurrying toward Champé with his quick, limping gait, he said— I am glad to see that you are so wise a man. You shall have the same station in my legion, which you have held in that of the rebels. This was a fiery ordeal to Champé. He had submitted to the exposure of his escape, and to the ignominy resulting from imputed treachery, without repining, considering them as the sacrifice necessary to be made for the attainment of that great good which Hope was offering. But to bear arms against that country, for which he had fought, spent watchful nights upon the cold ground, and sent his midnight prayer to heaven, was more than he 21518(6)r 215 could sustain. Scarcely could he withhold his hand from plunging a sword into the heart of the traitor. Scarcely, with all his characteristic calmness, could be command utterance to say, that he wished to retire from war, for he was aware that if, in its various vicissitudes, he should fall into the hands of the Americans, a gibbet, at which his soul revolted, would be his inevitable doom. The blood mounted to the forehead of the traitor, at this refusal. Champé marked the rising storm of passion, and hastening to quell it, said— Nevertheless, I have a martial disposition. It may be that my mind cannot rest, to see the glory of war, and not partake it. If it prove so, I will avail myself of your offer. Arnold was satisfied, and appointed him quarters near himself. The dragoon, sensible that the greatest circumspection was necessary, endeavoured so to conduct as to lull suspicion. His first object was to convey letters to Lee. But to so dangerous an attempt many obstacles were interposed. In his private instructions, he had been directed to a person on whose aid he might rely; one of that class of adventurous and patriotic spirits, who submitted to the most humiliating disguises, to obtain intelligence for their country’s good. Their dangers were more affecting than those incurred upon the field of battle; for with them, the punishment of defeat was ignominious death, and the reward of victory inglorious concealment. Females frequently dared the perils connected with a system of espionage21618(6)v 216 pionage, and like the Saxon king amusing himself with his harp, in the camp of the foe, secretly unstrung the sinews of the enemy’s strength. A delay of several days intervened, ere Champé found it practicable to elude his attendants, and go in search of this unknown coadjutor. It was beneath the cover of a gloomy evening, when rain fell in torrents, that he ventured cautiously to open the door of a small dwelling in the suburbs of the city. A man was here, hovering over a miserable fire, and hastily stripping feathers from some dead poultry. A basket of eggs, as if for the market of the next day, stood near him on a bench. He started at the British uniform, and playing with the long hair which hung over his eyes, said in the tone of an idiot— Here’s fine fowls, your honour,—fine for the spit, Sir. Will you buy some fresh eggs? three for sixpence. Then lifting the basket, he ran with childish haste to exhibit it to the stranger. Champé fixed upon him his keen black eye, and repeated with deep intonation the watch-word which had been given him by Lee. Instantaneously the half bent form became erect, and the fidgeting, wandering movements of idiocy were exchanged for the light of an intelligent countenance. Securely bolting the door, he drew a chair for Champé, and listened to his brief conversation with deep emotion. As he gave him, at parting, the letter to be conveyed to the American camp, he would fain have put into his hand a piece of gold. But the spy, as if touched by the spear of Ituriel, 21719(1)r 217 rose to the full height of six feet, and extending his arm in an attitude of native majesty, and uncovering his head, where a deep scar severed the thick locks, said— You mistake me. Suppose ye that gold is payment for these scars—this disgrace—this wretchedness? Ought you not better to read the heart, where the love of its country lies so deep, that many waters cannot quench it, neither the floods drown it? Here, a miserable outcast, I think of my desolate country, and my heart bleeds, not for itself, but for her. Half-abashed at the lofty demeanour of the spy, Champé pressed his hand, and departed. The next day, Major Lee communicated to Washington, in his marquee the following letter in cypher. New-York, 1781-10-10October 10th, 1781 With the circumstances of my escape you were undoubtedly made acquainted, at the return of my pursuers. The bearer will inform you that my reception on board the gallies, and at this place, has been favourable to our wishes. I am able confidently to assure you, that the suspicions excited by Arnold are false as himself. Not one of our officers is supposed by the British to be otherwise than inimical to their cause. Only one has fallen, one son of perdition. To have the pleasure of doing this justice to fidelity, balances the evils of my situation. I was yesterday compelled to a most afflicting step, but one indispensable to the completion of our plan. It was necessary for me to accept a commission in the traitor’s legion, that I might 19 21819(1)v 218 have uninterrupted access to his house. Thither he usually returns at midnight, and previously to retiring, walks a short time in his garden. There I am to seize, and gag him, and with the assistance of this trusty spy, bear him to a boat, which will be in readiness. In case of interrogation, we shall say, that we are carrying an intoxicated soldier to the guard-house. Some of the pales from the garden fence are to be previously removed, that our silent passage to the alley may be facilitated. On the night, which the bearer is commissioned to appoint, meet me at Hoboken, with twenty of the Virginia cavalry, those brothers of my soul, and there, God willing, I will deliver to your hand, the troubler of Israel. John Champe Unforeseen circumstances occurred to protract the enterprise. Lee longed for the appointed day with the impatience of a lover. At length it arrived, and with a party of dragoons he repaired to Hoboken. Three led- horses, completely accoutred, accompanied the train. The beautiful steed of Champé was one of the number, and Lee could scarcely restrain his joy, as he saw him proudly champing his bit, and anticipated the pleasure with which his faithful officer would again remount him. He concealed himself with his party in a thick wood. Evening drew on, it seemed, more slowly than ever. Dark clouds partially enveloped the atmosphere. A few faint stars were occasionally visible. The eye of Lee was continuously upon the waters, and before the appointed21919(2)r 219 ed hour, he fancied that he head the dash of oars, and the watch-word in the voice of Champé. Midnight passed, the dawn gleamed, the morning opened, but no boat appeared. Disappointed, and full of apprehension for the safety of his faithful emissary, Lee collected his party, and returned to consult with Washington. Several days of anxiety intervened, ere the arrival of the trusty spy, from whom he learned that a sudden movement of Arnold disconcerted their plan, but a few hours before the time appointed for its execution. He changed his quarters to superintend the embarkation of his troops, who were transferred from their barracks to ships, destinied for some secret expedition. This was afterwards ascertained to be for the shores of Virginia. Thither poor Champé was obliged to accompany the traitor, whose depredations upon his beloved native state he was compelled to witness. There, at the peril of his life, he escaped, and passing through North Carolina, often hiding whole days in thickets, and suffering the severity of famine, he at length joined the army which was in pursuit of Lord Rawdon. Reduced almost to a skeleton, he hastened to Major Lee, and threw himself at his feet, a broken-hearted man. His commander raised him in his arms, and tears flowed over his manly cheeks. Addressing himself to an officer of a noble countenance, who stood intently viewing the scene, he said— General Greene, the worth of this man is incalculable. 22019(2)v 220 You know something of his virtues, but half of his sufferings has not been told you. The veteran received him as a brother. There is nothing like a participation in common danger to cement the hearts of men together. Friendship formed in prosperity may be sincere; but those, tied by adversity, are like gold from the furnace. Lee directed the disconsolate Champé to Washington, and ordered his servant to bring him the horse, and cloak, which were brought back by Cornet Middleton. It was an affecting sight to see the soldier meet his favourite animal. Till that moment he had preserved his manhood. But, when he saw that mute companion of his dangers again standing by his side, he threw his arms around his curving neck, and wept like a child. Washington gave to the disheartened man, that comfort which a noble mind, replete with tenderness, knows so well to administer. Go, my friend, said he, to your own Loudon county. Let the intercourse of kind affections sooth your spirit. In the failure of your designs, you deserve more praise, than many victors whom the world has applauded. I cannot again risk you in this war. Your life is too valuable to me, and to your country, to be again exposed to the dangers of battle, or to the hazard of that vengeance, which the enemy would inflict, if you became their prisoner. Champé received his discharge, and retired to private 22119(3)r 221 life, embellishing it with his virtues, and carrying with him, what was to him above all price, the friendship of Washington.
How, inquired Colonel ――, had this enterprise reference to the liberation of André?
It was ardently hoped by Washington, replied his brother, that the capture of Arnold might develop some circumstance of palliation, which would permit us to restore the amiable André to his friends. This was, however, the dictate of compassionate feelings, rather than of sober judgment. But long ere Champé could bring his designs to their termination, the unfortunate and nobleminded André had confessed the character in which he came, and by the sentence of the court-martial had been led to execution.
That interesting man, said the Lady, and the firmness with which he suffered, made a deep impression upon all classes of persons in our community. In this instance, and in the imprisonment of young Asgill, in retaliation for the unprincipled murder of Huddy by Lippincut, Washington subjected his wishes to the controul of policy.
But he could not suppress his sympathies, said Colonel ――. They were visible in his changed countenance, when he spoke of their misfortunes. You have justly admired, Madam, the firmness of André; yet there is a circumstance respecting one of our own Connecticut men, which, though less applauded, is worthy of equal honour. When the retreat of Washington left the British 19* 22219(3)v 222 in possession of Long-Island, it became exceedingly important to know their plan of operations. Application for that purpose, was made to Captain Knowlton, whose name will remind Anderson of the rail-fence, and of the terrible carnage at Bunker-hill. Nathan Hale, a native of Connecticut, a young man with the rank of captain, urged earnestly for the hazardous service. He passed in disguise to the island, obtained the most important information, and was on the point of departure. At that moment he was suddenly apprehended, and carried before Sir William Howe. Scorning dissimulation, he frankly acknowledged for what purpose he came. He was ordered for execution the next morning, and treated in the most unfeeling manner. It was in vain that he requested the attendance of a clergyman, or even the favour of a bible for one moment. Letters written to a mother, and the dearest friends of his heart, were destroyed. The reason given by the provost-marshall for this singular cruelty, was—The rebels shall never know that they have in their army, a man capable of dying with such firmness. A stranger, exposed to the bitterness of insult, without a glance of pity, or a tear of sympathy, he approached the gallows with an undaunted air, uttering the heroic sentiment— I lament that I have only one life to lose in the service of my country. Neither hope of promotion, nor pecuniary reward, had 22319(4)r 223 incited him to this enterprise. His sole motive was patriotism; yet he sleeps without a stone, almost without a record. How different was his treatment, so disgraceful to humanity, from the tender attentions bestowed on André by Washington! How different the barbarity of his murder from the poignant regret with which Washington signed the warrant for the execution of André!
It can never be necessary, said the Lady, to add bitterness to the severity of the law. Justice, and cruelty have no affinity; it is the depravity of man which blends them. In the character of Washington, sympathies and energies are finely mingled. We are always glad to find that a hero does not forfeit the sensibilities of a man.
It is easy, said Colonel ――, to pass encomiums on the virtues of Washington, for it is always safe to do so. But we, who saw him without restraint, who knew the secret trials which he endured, are most sensible how far beneath his merits is the meed of fame. While to a distant observer he might seem the most fortunate of men, hidden darts were piercing him. His disinterested labours were not always correctly estimated. Congress sometimes blamed, often opposed his wisest measures. It concealed within its bosom, a faction, anxious to supplant him. Instigated by the malicious calumniator, Conway, and the vindictive, and unprincipled Charles Lee, their object was to supersede him, and elevate Gates upon the ruin of his reputation. His perplexities were greatly increased, by the brief, and inadequate periods of the enlistment of his 22419(4)v 224 soldiers; so that often, on the eve of some important action, when all his effective strength was required, his army would be disbanding, and vanishing like a shadow.
The wants of the soldiers, said Gen. ――――, were also to him a source of continual sorrow. Ill-clothed, ill- fed, and scantily provided with ammunition, he was compelled to struggle with his pity, and enforce that rigid discipline and subordination, without which an army is an unmixed evil. In their winter-quarters, particularly at Valley-Forge, and Morristown, where, through the crevices of the miserable log-huts which they had themselves constructed, they were heard complaining for food, for want of which their half-naked, emaciated forms were famishing; when the traces of their feet upon the snow and ice, were red with their own blood, how did Washington strive to relieve their comfortless condition. With what fatherly compassion would he listen to their complaints; yet with what firmness decree justice to their offences. How would he sooth them into patience, while his own heart was bleeding. Yet, in the midst of his sorrows, with what dignity and serenity of soul, would he meet the darkest vicissitudes, and be prepared for the most unforeseen exigencies. It was to his officers a source of wonder, as well as of admiration, that when the most important transactions were committed to his guidance, he never neglected the most minute attentions.
I have been surprised said the Lady, at his power of uniting calm and deliberative wisdom, with promptness and energy of execution. I have supposed 22519(5)r 225 that the structure of mind, which enables a man to philosophize, did not naturally dispose him to the performance of difficult and daring deeds. But he, whom Heaven raised up for its own great purpose, seemed to combine, without contradiction, opposing qualities.
I shall never forget, said Colonel ――, that mixture of noble feeling with urbanity, with which, in the early stage of the contest, he refused to treat with the commissioners from Lord and Admiral Howe, because they studiously avoided the acknowledgement of those titles, with which the independence of his country demanded. To his expanded mind, those titles were less than nothing and vanity. But he would not dispense with the respect, which was due to his nation through her representative. How firm and dignified was his demeanour when, in the winter of 17761776, the despondence of the people appeared in every imaginable form, when the enlistments of his insufficient army were expiring every month, and they could be induced neither to remain, nor to contend. How bright was the glance of his eye when, after performing prodigies of valour at Monmouth, and enduring without complaint the excessive heat of that terrible day, he lay down upon the earth his cloak for a short repose that night, expecting to renew the battle ere the dawn of morning. But his countenance has, at no period, made a more indelible impression upon my mind, than at the passage of the Delaware; when by a brilliant strategem, he revived the hopes of a dejected nation. I think I again see the banks covered with snow, as they were during the intense22619(5)v 226 tense cold of that Christmas night. Seated upon his noble horse, and attended by General Greene, he superintended the hazardous embarkation, with the serenity of a superiour being. In retracing this group, the athletic form and open countenance of his black servant Bill always recurs to my memory, with his upturned eye fixed affectionately upon his master, as if he were the arbiter of his fate. On a slippery and steep eminence at some distance, the intrepid Knox directed the passage of the artillery. His steed seemed to tread in air, and he displayed the same firmness, with which he continued to stand, as one of the pillars of the temple of Liberty, until the storm which rocked her foundations had past. The soldiers forced the horses, with their baggage, down the slippery banks, and the slight boats, in which they encountered the masses of ice borne down by the river, seemed emblematical of the struggles of an infant nation with one, whose armour, and whose tone threatened destruction.
Could Colonel ―― have anticipated the events of forty years, he might have seen the magnificent pencil of Sully forcibly illustrating his own description of the memorable Passage of the Delaware.
Madam L――, always moved by the praises of Washington, replied—
Such an union of goodness with greatness, of deliberative wisdom with energy of execution, of attention to the most minute concerns amid the transaction of the greatest, rank our Washington, not only among the first of heroes, but the best of men.
Chapter X VI.
Spring, with her varying charms, was now every day dispensing some new gift to the earth. The tardiness of her first advance was compensated by the rapidity with which she changed every thing subject to her influence; as a timid child, ripening into the loveliness of womanhood, glides gracefully through those paths, which her feet at first trembled to approach. The period was arriving, when the two most delightful seasons of the year stand, as it were, on each other’s boundary, blend their unfinish’d work, dip their pencils in each other’s dies, and like the rival goddesses, contend before the sons of earth for the palm of beauty. Even the rude settlement of the children of the forest put on its beautiful garments. They, whom their more fortunate brethren scarcely admitted within the scale of humanity, were not shut out by pitying nature from her smiles, or her exuberance. Through the rich green velvet of her fields, the pure fountains looked up with chrystal eyes, in silent joy. Bolder streams murmured over rocky beds, occasionally falling in cascades, like a restless spirit afflicted with the turmoils, and tossings of the world. Wild flowers expanded their petals, 22819(6)v 228 trees their blossoms, birds filled their retreats with harmony, or soared high, poured louder tones of transport, until it seemed that every thicket, and every wave of air uttered the strain, Thou makest the outgoings of the morning, and of the evening to rejoice.
The abode of old Zachary and Martha felt the influence of this enlivening season. Already their aromatic herbs yielded a pure essence to the busy inhabitants of the hives, and their cow cropped with delight the juicy food of her little pasture. A rose-bush near their door displayed its swelling buds, and the woodbine protruded its young tendrils, to reach the window of the invalid. But within the walls, was Age which knew no spring, and Youth, fading like a blasted flower; night that could know no dawning, and a morn that must never ascend to noon. The day had closed over the inhabitants of that peaceful habitation. The old warriour, and his wife were seated in the room appropriated to their mysterious guest. Reclining in a chair, which the ingenuity of Zachary had so constructed as to answer the purposes of both seat and couch, and wrapped in a loose dress of light calico, she watched the rising of the full, round, silver moon, like one who loves its beams, yet feels that he must soon bid it a returnless farewell. The bright, brown locks of that beautiful being, twined in braids around a head of perfect symmetry, and falling in profuse curls over her brow, formed a strong contrast to the snow of her cheek, and seemed to deepen the hue of her soft, blue eye. But the snows of her cheek 22920(1)r 229 were now tinted with that ominous flush, whose brief loveliness Death lends, as a signal of his approaching triumph. Sometimes, it gave to her eye a ray of such unearthly brightness, that the tender-hearted Martha could not gaze on it without a tear. She had remarked with grief to her husband, that the form of the uncomplaining victim was becoming rapidly emaciated, and respiration feeble and laborious, and that all her culinary arts were exerted in vain to stimulate appetite. The invalid gazed long at the moon, with her forehead resting on a hand of purest whiteness, which, partially shaded by the rich curls that hung over it, seemed to display the flexile fingers of childhood. Turning her eyes from the beautiful orb, she observed those of the aged couple bent upon her with intense earnestness. A long pause ensued. Something, that refused utterance, seemed to agitate her. But they, marking the emotion which varied a countenance usually so serene and passionless, forebore to break the silence lest they should interrupt her musings, and dreaded to hear her speak, lest it should be of separation. At length, a voice tremulous and musical as the tones of a broken harp, was heard to say—
Father! you may recollect hearing me mention that I was educated a child of the Church of England. I love her sacred services, though I have long been divided from them. A clergyman of that order lives within a few miles of us. I feel a desire to see him, and once 20 23020(1)v 230 more to partake of the holy Sacrament. Will you bear my request to him, Father?
The feet of Zachary shall travel any where for the comfort of his daughter, said the old warriour, rising to receive a letter which she held towards him.
I knew it would be necessary to give some explanation of my birth and education, before I could expect the favour which my heart desires. You see now, Father, why I requested you to procure a few sheets of paper from the town. I have written in few words, for my hand is weak. Perhaps I may yet intrust to the man of God all my history, if I shall be strengthened to record it. Pausing, she added, But it must not meet his eye, till mine is closed.
Martha rose, with that undefinable sensation which moves us to shrink from any subject by which our feelings are agonized, and throwing up the casement for a moment, through which the soft, humid air of Spring breathed, said—
Have you seen, Oriana, how your woodbine grows? Soon it will be raising its young blossoms to look at you, through the window.
It will remind you of me, kind Mother, she said, and may its fragrance be soothing to you, even as your tenderness has been to the lonely, and withering heart.
Again there was silence, and then the aged man, raising his head from his bosom where it had declined, spake in 23120(2)r 231 a voice which, as he proceeded, grew more calm, and distinct.
Daughter! I understand thee. It is vain that we strive to conceal from each other a truth, with which we are all acquainted. I am glad that thou hast spoken thy mind to us. Yet is my soul at this moment weak as that of an infant, though in battle no eye hath seen me turn to shun the death, which I dealt to others. My daughter! Zachary could lie down in his grave, and not tremble. Yet his heart is soft, when he sees one so young, and beautiful, falling like the green leaf before the blast. Zachary is old, but his mind is selfish. He had desired to look on thy brow, during the short space that he hath yet to measure. He hath prayed the Eternal, that his ears might continue to hear thy voice; for it was sweet to them. His heart wished to have something to love, which should not be as himself, every day decaying like the tree stripped of its branches, and mouldering at the root. But he must humble his heart. Thou hast told him that God giveth grace unto the humble. Thou hast read unto him, from thine holy book, till he has bowed in penitence, and sought with tears in the silent midnight for salvation through Christ. What shall he, and Martha do, when thou art taken from them? Who will have patience with their ignorance, as thou hast done? Who will kindly teach them the way of life? Ask I what we shall do, as if we had yet an hundred years to dwell 23220(2)v 232 on earth? We shall soon sleep in that grave, to which thou art hastening.
Whither I go, ye know, answered the same sweet, solemn voice, and the way ye know. Hope in Him who ye have believed. Like me, ye must soon slumber in the dust; but His power shall raise ye up at the last say. The Eternal, in whose sight shades of complexion, and distinctions of rank are as nothing, He who looketh only upon the heart, bless you for your love to the outcast, and lead you to that abode, where all which is benevolent, and pure shall be gathered, and sundered no more.
She then laid her hand on her Prayer-book, which with a small bible was always near her on the table, and Martha rose to light the lamp, which had hithero been neglected.
It is in vain, Mother! she said, “ with a lamb-like smile. I am too much exhausted to say with you my evening prayer. Pray for yourselves, and for me, that we may meet where is no infirmity or pain, and where sorrow fleeteth away.
Then, as if regretting that the night should draw over them without their accustomed devotions, looking upward she repeated with deep pathos, a few verses from the fourteenth of John.
Let not your heart be troubled. Ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions, &c.23320(3)r 233
The old warriour rising to take his leave for the night, held his hands over her head, and pronounced in deep tones the blessing of his nation. This he retained probably from early associations, though he was now the disciple of a better faith.
The Great Spirit, who dwelleth where the Sun hideth himself, and where the tempest is born, guide thee with strength. He who maketh the earth fruitful, and the sky bright, and the heart of man glad, smile on thee, and give thee rest.
Martha remained to render some attentions to the sufferer. She removed her gently from her reposing seat to the bed, gave her an infusion which was useful to repel inflammation, and quiet restlesness. But she dared not trust her voice beyond a whisper, lest it should yield wholly to her emotion. After her services were completed, she lingered, as if unwilling to leave the pillow of the sufferer.
Mother! said the broken voice, kind, tender mother, go to thy rest. Oriana hath now no pain. Sleep will descend upon her. She will not leave thee this night. But soon she must begin her journey to the land of souls. What then? She hath hope in her death, to pass from darkness to eternal sunshine. Weep not, mother! but lift your heart to the Father of consolation. I believe that whither I go, thou shalt come also. I shall return no more; but thou and thy beloved shall come unto me. There will be scarcely time to mourn, ere, like the gliding of a shadow, the parents shall follow their child.20* 23420(3)v 234
A celestial smile was upon her brow, which would have cheered the grief of the aged woman, but for the reflection she must so soon behold it no more. So strongly did her affectionate heart cling to this cherished object, that sorrow shuddered at the thought that the beautiful tabernacle must be dissolved, even while Faith shadowed forth the joy of the liberated spirit.
The first rays of the sun found Zachary on the way to the clergyman whom Oriana had designated. He paused not on his weary journey. Travellers who passed him, had they thought it fitting to bestow so much attention on an Indian, might have perceived the tears occasionally rolled over the furrows of his cheek, or hung upon his eyelashes, which like a fringe of silver, resembled in colour the few hairs which were scattered upon his temples.
Zachary’s heart is proud, he would say, in communing with himself. The good prophet, when the desire of his eyes was removed with a stroke, wept not, neither made lamentation. It was so, for she read it to me. She, who will soon open her blessed bible no more. And Martha, she will grieve more than Zachary, for her heart is weaker. Be strong, old warriour, that thou mayest comfort the woman. Thou, whose heart did never shrink in battle, what aileth thee, that it is now dissolved? Thou art old, Zachary, and thy hairs are like snow; wherefore shouldst thou mourn any more, for what the world taketh away? Gathering strength from these meditations, his step became firm, and his head erect, as he 23520(4)r 235 reached the southern part of the town, where the clergyman resided. Presenting the letter, the reverend man perused it, and said with affectionate feeling—
My brother, I will come to-morrow to your house.
The afternoon of the succeeding day, the clergyman was seen fastening his horse to the fence that enclosed the garden of Zachary. He approached with the slow step, and benevolent countenance, which were indicative of his character. Firmness in the truth and mildness in the expression of it distinguished his conversation among men. Filial trust in his God taught him to consider all as brethren, and no hand raised the bruised reed more tenderly than his. When a child, the amusements of that giddy period had no charms for him, in comparison with those studies which nourish intellect. Thirteen summers had not past over him ere he made his election in favour of that Church to which he faithfully devoted the remainder of his life. So uninfluenced was this determination, that his parents and friends, who belonged to a different sect, were ignorant of the arguments by which his belief was fortified until he adduced them as a reason of the hope that was in him. After spending his youth in collegiate studies, he found that the sect to which he had devoted himself was so far from enjoying popularity, that not a single person existed in this country, to administer to him the vows of ordination. He crossed the Atlantic, and received holy orders from the Bishop of London, in 17681768. From that period he had been connected23620(4)v 236 nected with the parish in which he now resided; and his attachment to the flock, and to the faith which he had taught it, was among the warmest affections of his heart. During the reign of those strong passions which our revolutionary struggle excited, the single circumstance of his adherence to the Church of England created him enemies among the more violent partizans, both political and puritanical. His amiable virtues, and pious life were as dust in the balance which the hand of enmity poised. For three years the doors of his church were closed; but, from house to house, he broke the bread of life to his little flock, exhorting them to submit to principalities and powers. In this day of darkness, he was pressed to receive a lucrative clerical establishment in England; but he chose to adhere to the little community which he had planted, through evil report and good report. Now the rage of contest had subsided, and he again led his beloved followers to the sanctuary to pay their stated services to the God of peace and consolation. When, on the first Sunday after their exile, they convened in their consecrated temple, such was the saintly expression of his countenance, and such the effect of his remarkably melodious voice, as he uttered From the rising of the sun, even unto the going down of the same, my name shall be great among the Gentiles, and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering, and such were the recollections, tender, melancholy, and soothing, which arose at the appearance of their venerated pastor 23720(5)r 137237 again in his much loved pulpit, that a burst of tears mingled with their devotions, and sobs ascended with their praises.
Such was the man who, like a shepherd seeking his sheep in remote places, now entered the abode of Zachary and Martha. He received their respectful salutations with that smile for which he was distinguished—a smile which seemed the irradiation of a spirit, whose light was not kindled beneath the stars. He appeared struck with the exceeding beauty of the stranger; and, comparing it with the rude apartment, and the dark faces of her aged attendants, he could scarcely forbear exclaiming, verily we have this treasure in earthen vessels, but the excellency of the power is of God, and not of man. After a conversation of considerable length with the invalid, during which he became fully satisfied of her religious education, correct belief, and happy spiritual state, he prepared to administer to her that most holy rite which her soul desired. Exhausted by the efforts of discourse, and by the warmth of her gratitude for the approaching privilege, she laid herself on her couch, as a pale lilly surcharged with dew reclines its head upon the stalk. Zachary and Martha rose to depart.
These are Christians, Oriana remarked, In heart and in life. They have been baptized many years since, by Mr. Occom, their departed minister. I can bear witness that they know, and love the truth. May they not partake with us, to the edification of their souls?23820(5)v 238
The clergyman, regarding them steadfastly, but kindly, inquired—
Are ye in perfect charity with all men?
Bowing himself down, the old warriour replied solemnly—
We are. Your religion has taught even us Indians, to forgive our enemies.
Approach then, said the minister of Heaven, approach, ye who do truly, and earnestly repent you of your sins, and are in love and charity with your neighbours, and intend to lead a new life, following the commandments of God.
They kneeled by the bed of the sufferer. Often did the tears roll in tides over the face of old Martha, and the strong frame of the warriour tremble with emotion, as that voice so deep-ton’d, so sweet, so solemn poured, in its varying modulation, the sublime language of the most holy office of religion, through the breathless silence of their abode. But she, who, reduced to the weakness of infancy, might have been supposed to be the most agitated, was as calm and unmoved as the lake, on which shines nothing but the beam of heaven. Raised above every cause of earthly excitement, she seemed to have a foretaste of the happy consummation that awaited her. And, when the clergyman, with uplifted eyes, pronounced the Gloria in excelsis, a voice of such thrilling, exquisite melody warbled from couch, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men, 23920(6)r 239 that in the devotion of that moment one might have fancied that the harp of angels, was once more pouring the advent melody over the vallies of Bethlehem. The heart of the good man was touched, and a tear starting to his mild eye, attested the accordance of his soul with the sympathies of the scene. His voice faltered as he uttered the benediction, to which the aged warriour, bowing his face to the earth, pronounced distinctly, Amen.
A pause of several minutes ensued after this holy ordinance. Each seemed fearful of interrupting the meditation of another; and all felt as if a human voice would be almost profanation amidst the heavenly calmness which had descended upon them. Every Christian, who has participated with sincere, and elevated devotion in this sacred banquet, must have been sensible how empty, and even painful are the first approaches of worldly conversation to the sublimated spirit. Like Moses, admitted to the mysterious mountain, she dreads too suddenly to mingle with the multitude at its base; happy if, like him, she may illumine the brow with celestial brightness, as a witness of her communion with the Eternal.
The clergyman at length broke the silence by inquiring, with his native benevolence, if there were not some article of comfort which might alleviate her sufferings, and which she would permit him to procure; or if she would not wish to consult a physician on the nature of her disease.
I desire nothing, she added, but what the care of these kind beings provide for me. Their knowledge of 24020(6)v 240 medicine is considerable, and they prepare with skill assuasive and soothing remedies, drawn from the bosom of that earth to which I am returning. With the nature of my disease I am acquainted. I saw all its variations in my mother, for whom the utmost exertions of professional skill availed nothing. I feel upon my heart a cold hand, and where it will lead me, I know. You, reverend Father, can give me all that my brief earthly pilgrimage requires. You can speak to me of the hope of Heaven, when my ear is closed to the sound of other voices; and, when my eye grows dim in death, it will brighten to behold, and bless you.
Pressing her hand, the servant of peace and consolation took his leave, promising frequently to visit her, and entreating her to rely upon his friendship. Zachary and Martha followed him. Even the skirts of his garment were dear to them, since he had imparted comfort to their beloved one. Shaking hands with each, as he mounted his horse, he said, I see that she will not long tarry with you. She is ready to commune with angels, and hasten to join them. What a privilege have you enjoyed in her instructions! Pray that ye may tread in her steps. They stood gazing at him, till his form faded in distance, and the warriour, whose retentive memory was stored with many passages of scripture, gathered from the daily readings of Oriana, repeated as he returned to her—How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger, that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace, that saith unto Zion, thy God reigneth.
Three weeks had elapsed since the first interview of the good clergyman with Oriana, during which period he had frequently seen her. He was one who found leisure both for duties, and for pleasures, because he systematically divided his time; and in his duties, his pleasures lay. Complaints of the toil which his profession imposed, of the drudgery of writing sermons, and the labour of instructing the young, were never heard from him; for he loved to be about his Master’s business. Content with a stipend, which the effeminacy of modern times would pronounce insufficient for the necessaries of life, he taught his family by example the art of cheerfully sustaining privations, and of sacrificing their own wishes to the good of others. He never studied to disjoin self-denial from benevolence; and his conduct, and even his countenance was an illustration of the inspired direction, respecting the sons of Levi—Ye shall give them no possession in Israel, I am their possession; ye shall mete out to them no inheritance, I am their inheritance. In his intercourse 21 24221(1)v 242 with Oriana, his spiritual consolations were ever mingled with solicitude for her earthly comfort. His wife, to whom he had communicated what he knew of the interesting invalid, continually sent by him cordials, and little delicacies, which it was her pleasure to prepare for the sick. His little children, moved by kindness at once hereditary, and impressed by education, would add, what she always received with peculiar gratitude, a bouquet of the flowers, which their own hands had cultivated. He had occasionally proposed to Oriana a removal to his residence, hoping that a change of habitation might be beneficial to her health. But the idea was painful to her. She could not think of parting from those, who had cherished her with such undivided tenderness, and whose happiness had become interwoven with her presence. Thanking him for his fatherly solicitude, she would say—
The pomp and circumstance of life, to one about to leave it, reveal their own emptiness. To have our necessities ministered unto by hands which are never weary, our pains mitigated by hearts which are never cold, is all which a disease fatal like mine can ask. Fear not that I am entirely burdensome to their poverty. My small stock is not yet expanded, nor will it be until my animal wants are at an end. Yet more than the perishable part is provided for. Your prayers, your instructions, Father, strengthen my soul for her approaching flights. More than contented, grateful, and happy, she waiteth till her change come. Sometimes, when I lie sleepless, yet composed, 24321(2)r 243 thoughts so serene pass over me, that I almost think I hear the voice of my Redeemer, saying through the silence of midnight, when I sent ye forth without purse, or scrip, lacked ye any thing? and I answer, nothing Lord,
The gentle sufferer requested of her spiritual guide that her history might not be mentioned among his acquaintance. Visits of curiosity, she remarked, would only interrupt the short space allotted her, which she wished to employ in preparations for her departure; and those of charity were unnecessary to a being, whose ties to the world were so broken that her dependence upon it was annihilated.
It can now give me nothing, she said, but it may take something away.
He perceived that she wished to detach her mind from surrounding objects, and cultivate a deep acquaintance with her heart; as Cosmo de Medici, in his last sickness, closed his eyes that he might see more clearly. He could understand a desire, which some would be in danger of mistaking for affectation, or perverseness, or enthusiasm. He could sympathize in the aspirations of a soul, desiring to be alone with its God. He prevailed on her, however, to admit the attentions of a physician, who came, and inquired minutely into the progress of her disease, and the mode of treatment to which it had been subjected. He approved the light nutriment of milk, and fruits, which she had adopted, examined the herbs, and plants, 24421(2)v 244 whose infusions she had used, and seemed surprized at their judicious adaptation to the different stages of her malady. The knowledge professed by our natives of the virtues of medicinal plants was not at that period understood. Barton had not then given the world his researches or enriched our Pharmacopoeïa with the discoveries of the children of the forest.
The physician recommended the continuance of the regimen which had been pursued, prescribing only some simple additions; and, on his return, told his reverend companion that the case of the invalid was beyond the reach of medicine.
She probably has derived from her parents the poison which feeds on her vitals. Nature cannot long cope with an enemy, who has already entered her citadel. But, if I mistake not, there will be no struggle of the soul, when its tabernacle is dissolved.
No, answered his friend, she has long been convinced, that to depart, and to be with Christ is far better. It would seem as if this must always be the effect of mortal disease upon the Christian. Yet such is the weakness of faith, such the infirmity of man at his best estate, that sometimes fear predominates most, when hope is about to be changed into glory. I have supposed that your profession, which familiarizes man at once with the mystery of his own construction, and the indefinite varieties of suffering to which it is liable, would have a strong affinity with that piety, which points the mortal part to its Maker,24521(3)r 245 ker, and the immortal to its home. Why is it then that, among our many healers of the body, we find so few qualified to act as physicians to the soul?
The disciple of Esculapius, who was also a follower of Christ, replied—
Whoever penetrates into the secret springs of his frame, must be constrained to acknowledge that he is fearfully and wonderfully made. Anatomy, like Astronomy, points the eye of an infinite Architect. But simply to acknowledge the existence of a God is far from being the whole of Christianity. Thus far the devils believe, while they tremble. You have thought, Sir, that a constant view of the pains, and infirmities of our race ought to awaken piety. Thus the most eloquent apostle asserted, that the goodness of God ought to lead men to repentance. But the perverseness, which in one case produces ingratitude, in the other generates pride. He boasts that his science can arrest the ravages of disease, and tear the victory from death. So that Him, in whose hand is his breath, hath he not glorified. Besides, our familiarity with all the modifications of distress blunts the sensibility, through which alone it can convey a lesson to the heart. Our danger is of materialism, of resting in natural religion, or of elevating the pride of science into the place of God. From all these His Spirit can deliver us.
This excellent man, who happily blended piety with professional skill, resided in the northern part of the town, and was the writer of that epitaph on a son of the departed21* 24621(3)v 246 ed royalty of Mohegan, which appeared at the close of the third chapter. His memory is still revered, and the celebrity which he acquired in the science of medicine, is still enjoyed by his descendants. Soon after the conversation which has been related, he stopped on a visit of charity, ti which he was so much accustomed, that it was said his horse turned involuntarily towards the abodes of poverty. The divine, thanking him for his attention to the mysterious invalid, pursued his homeward journey.
Exhausted in body, but confirmed in faith, Oriana waited her dissolution. Such was the wasting of her frame, that she seemed reduced to a spiritual essence, trembling, and ready to be exhaled. Every pure morning, she desired the casement to be thrown open, that the fresh air might visit her. But at length, this from an occasional gratification became an object of frequent necessity, to aid laborious respiration. The couch, which she had been resolute in leaving while her strength permitted, was now her constant refuge. The febrile symptoms of that terrible disease, which delights to prey on the most fair and excellent, gradually disappeared but debility increased to an almost insupportable degree. Smiles now constantly sat upon her face, and seemed to indicate that the bitterness of death had already passed. The irritation of pain, which had marked her features, subsided into a tranquil loveliness, which sometimes brightened into joy, as one who felt that redemption draweth nigh. One night, sleep had not visited her eyes; for, whenever her sense 24721(4)r 247 began to be lulled into transient repose, the spirit in its extasy seemed to revolt against such oppression, desirous to escape to that region, where it should slumber no more, through fullness of bliss.
Calling to her bedside, at the dawn of morning, the old warriour, for her mother for several nights had watched beside her, she said—
Knowest thou, Father, that I am now about to leave thee?
Fixing his keen glance upon her for a moment, and kneeling at her side, he answered—
I know it, my daughter. Thy blue eye hath already the light of that sky to which thou art ascending. Thy brow hath the smile of the angels who wait for thee.
Martha covered her face with her hands, and hid it on the couch, fearful lest she might see agony in one so beloved. Yet she fixed on that pallid countenance another long, tender gaze, as the expiring voice said—
I go, where is no shade of complexion—no trace of sorrow. I go to meet my parents, who died in faith; my Edward, whose trust was in his Redeemer. I shall see thy daughter, and she will be my sister, where all is love. Father! Mother! that God, whom you have learned to worship, whose spirit dwells in your hearts, guide you thither also.
Extending to each a hand, cold as marble, she said—
I was a stranger, and ye took me in: sick, and ye 24821(4)v 248 ministered unto me. And now I go unto Him, who hath said the merciful should obtain mercy.
They felt that the chilling clasp of her fingers relaxed, and saw that her lips moved inaudibly. They knew that she was addressing Him, who was taking her unto himself. A smile not to be described passed, like a gleam of sunshine, over her countenance; and they heard the words joy unspeakable, and full of glory. Something more was breathed in the faintest utterance, but she closed not the sentence—it was finished in Heaven.
There was long silence in the apartment, save the sobs of the bereaved Martha, and at long intervals a deep sigh, as if bursting from the bottom of the breast of the aged warriour. Then he rose from the earth where he had stooped his forehead, and took the hand of his companion.
We have heard, he said, before we were Christians, that too much grief is displeasing to the Great Spirit. Let us pray to that God, to whom she has returned. She hath taught us to call Him Father, who was once terrible to our thought. She was as the sun in our path. But she hath set behind the dark mountains. Hath set did I say? No. She hath risen to a brighter sky, and beams of her light will sometimes visit us. Thou hast wept for two daughters, Martha. One, thou didst nurse upon thy breast. But was she dearer than this? Did not the child of our adoption lie as near to our heart, as she to whom we gave life? Henceforth, we shall be made childless no more. Let us dry up the fountain of our sorrows. Let us pray 24921(5)r 249 together to Him who maketh the heart soft, and bindeth it up.
The day seemed of indeterminable length to the aged mourners, who, long accustomed to measure time by the varieties of solicitude, felt that the loss of the sole object of their care had given to the hours a weight, under which they heavily moved.
In the afternoon, the clergyman, who for several days had not visited their habitation, was seen to approach it. Zachary went to meet him. The agitation, which had so long marked the manner of the grief-stricken warriour, had subsided; and he moved with the calm dignity which was natural to him. His deportment seemed an illustration of the words of the king of Israel, when his child was smitten:—
She is dead. Wherefore should I mourn? Can I bring her back again? I shall go to her, but she shall not return to me.
Bowing to the clergyman, he said—
She, whom you seek, is not here. She arose ere the sun looked upon the morning. Come, see the place where she lay.
Departing from the distant respect bordering upon awe, which he had been accustomed to testify towards the guide of Oriana, he led him by the hand to the apartment, as if he felt that in the house of death all distinctions were levelled, and all men made equal.25021(5)v 250
Martha lifted up a white sheet, and discovered the lifeless form clad in a robe and cap of the purest cambrick, which those beautiful hands had prepared, and preserved for the occasion. Rich and profuse curls still clustered round an oval forehead, which bore no furrow of care, or trace of pain. Long, silken eye-lashes fringed the immoveable lids, which concealed, in their marble caskets, gems forever sealed from the gaze of man. But whoever has beheld beauty, which Death has blanched but not destroyed; or has hung over the ruins of the Creator’s fairest workmanship, deserted by life, but not by love; may have realized that moment of thrilling tenderness, of speechless awe, which he should in vain attempt to describe.
It is finished! said the divine, lowering his head; but no tear stole over his placid countenance. He believed that if there is joy among the angels in Heaven over one sinner that repenteth, there ought at least to be resignation on earth, when a saint is admitted to their glorious company. Kneeling down he prayed with the mourners, and after the orison, said—
Great is the blessing which has been lent to you, my friends. Her prayers, her instructions, her example, how precious were they all to you! May thee, through the aid of the Holy Spirit, lead you where she has gone.
My heart is sorrowful, said old Martha, because my ears hear no more the sound of her voice. Every 25121(6)r 251 place, in which she has sat, speaks the name of Oriana. I go to it, but she is not there.
The clergyman spoke kind words of comfort to them, as to his bretheren; andereand ere he departed, made arrangements for the funeral solemnities, that the bones of the stranger might rest in consecrated earth. Two days elapsed, and the scene changed to the burial ground of the religious community, to which he ministered. An open grave was seen there, and a few forms flitting among the shades which environed the spot, as if watching for some funeral train. The passing-bell, echoing from rock to rock, fell with its solemn, measured sound upon their ear, as they roved amid the mouldering remains of their fellow creatures. There was here but few monuments, and none whose splendour could attract the attention of the traveller. It might seem as if those, who here slumbered, had realized the fallacy of those arts, by which man strives to adhere to the remembrance of his kind.
Perhaps, among this group, were some recent mourners, who felt their wounds bleed afresh at the sight of an open grave. Perhaps some parent might there be seen, bowing in agony over the newly covered bed of his child; some daughter, kneeling to kiss the green turf upon the breast of her mother; some lover, weeping amid the ruins of his hope, or casting an unopened rose bud on the grave of her who had perished in beauty. Alas! how many varieties of grief had that narrow spot witnessed, since it cast a heavy mantle over the head of its first tenant.25221(6)v 252 ant. How many hearts had there laid the idol of their worship, and withered over the broken altar. How many sad spirits had there buried the roses that adorned their bower; and passed the remainder of their pilgrimage under the cloud.
Here too, with the sigh of mourning perhaps mingled the pang of compunction: for how few can say, when the earth covers their beloved ones, between us, nothing has transpired at which memory should blush—nothing been omitted, on which regret can feed—nothing done, which tenderness would wish to alter—nothing left undone, which duty, or religion could supply? Perhaps some, amid that group, might realize that the thorn of the conscience can rankle, long after the wound of God’s visitation had been healed. Others might there have wandered, in whose hearts Time had blunted the arrow of Grief. The shrine, once empty in the sanctuary of their soul, filled by some other image; and were it possible that the tomb should restore to their arms that tenant whom they once thought to lament with eternal tears, might there not be some barrier to joy, some change in love, wrought by the silent mutation of years? Yet of whatever nature were the reflections of the group, who circled with light footstep, the cold turf-altar of the dead, they were soon interrupted by the approach of a procession. It was first seen indistinctly through trees—the winding over the bridge—then pacing, with solemn step, and slow, the base of one of the principal streets. Then turning obliquely, 25322(1)r 253 it entered the western road, which, skirting the banks of the river, led directly to that narrow house, where the pale assembly slumbered. As they pursued their course, the rough, broken rocks, towering on their right hand, and in their rear the bustle of the town, might seem an emblem of the paths and pursuits of the worldling: while, on their left, the pure, placid current, reflecting the brightness of a sun already approaching the horizon, typified the repose of the saint, when he resteth from his labours, and his works follow him.
Next to the bier, walked the aged wariour, and his wife; like the patriarch, who would go down to the grave to his son mourning. The Chieftain Robert, and John Cooper followed, with heads declined; as those who had testified friendship for the deceased, without having been acquainted with her history. Many of the natives of Mohegan, two and two, in decent dresses, next appeared, wishing to shew respect to old Zachary, whom they all loved. A number of the inhabitants of the town were seen to close the procession. They had heard, from the benevolent clergyman, some notice of the departed; and had walked out a mile to meet those who came to discharge the last offices of respect to the mysterious stranger. He, ascending the steps, where he had so often preceded the trains of sorrow, uncovered a head where care had already begun to shed its snows. The peculiar melody of his voice was never more apparent, than when its soothing, and impressive tones poured forth on the silence of the 22 25422(1)v 254 funeral scene, I am the resurrection, and the life, saith the Lord. The attention of the natives to this solemn service was almost breathless. It seemed as if their humbled, dejected countenances were an illustration of that pathetic portion of it, Man that is born of a woman, is of few days, and full of misery. Tears rolled over the face of old Martha at the words, He cometh up and is cut down like a flower, he fleeth as it were a shadow, and never continueth in one stay. The hollow sound of the clods falling upon the lid of the coffin, and the voice, earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust, drew a deep groan from the hoary warriour. John Cooper, who, strongly attached to the customs of Mr. Occom, had listened with some touch of sectarian feeling, was so much affected at the introduction of the passage, write! blessed are the dead, who die in the Lord, that, forgetting he was in a burying place of the Church of England, he responded fervently, Amen. At the close of the service, the divine approached old Zachary, and took him by the hand. He stood like some tall tree in the forest firm at the root, but whose boughs are marked by a winter which can know no spring. His few silver locks waved in the light breeze that was rising; and his eyes, bent upon the grave, were tearless. Bowing down at the salutation of the clergyman, he said in a calm tone—I look for the resurrection from the dead, for the life of the world to come. Martha, whose erect and dignified form, had never yielded to time, now bent with sorrow. Clasping the 25522(2)r 255 offered hand between both hers, she put into it a packet, saying, she left this for you, and she blessed you, when the cold dew was on her forehead like rain-drops. John Cooper bowed reverently, and the chief, stalking with his majestic port toward him who had officiated, said Father! thou hast spoken well. The Great Spirit is pleased with words like these, and with a life like thine.
The clergyman, after his return from performing the last pious offices for Oriana, read the following letter, which had been presented to him at her grave.You have expressed a wish, my dear and reverend benefactor, to possess a more particular acquaintance with my history, than my weakness has yet permitted me to impart. I will, as God may give me strength, recount some of its circumstances, to meet your eye when mine is closed in dust. It will be then be time enough to lift the veil of mystery, when I shall no longer be pained at the curiosity of strangers, or affected by their opinion. You, Sir have without suspicion reposed confidence in the imperfect narrative, which has been entrusted to you. You have not, as the cold-hearted multitude might have done, wounded with the cruelty of distrust a heart long sinking beneath the visitation of God. You will not now believe that a spirit, nurtured in the love of truth, could use guile, 22* 25822(3)v 258 when on the threshold of His presence, who hateth every false way. I was born in Blackburn, in the county of Lancashire, in England, and descended of obscure, but virtuous ancestors. My father, whose name was Selden, was devoted to the pursuits of agriculture. He married rather late in life, and died while I was yet a child. With the profits of his industry, my mother purchased a neat cottage in a retired spot, where she devoted herself to my welfare. Her education had been superiour to what is usually found among those of her rank; and the few books which she possessed, aided by the force of her example, excited in me an early taste for reading. I can scarcely imagine a lot more congenial with happiness than ours. Our income was adequate to our wants; and that industry, which preserved our health, gave us the power of administering to the necessities of others. When my daily share of labour was completed, my recreations were to tend my flowers, to read, to converse with my mother while we were both employed with our needles, or to join my voice to that of the birds who surrounded our habitation. I was under the pastoral charge of the Rev. Mr. Owen, of the Established Church, a man of the most ardent piety, and indefatigable zeal in the instruction of his flock. By him I was baptized in infancy, and weekly catechized in my knowledge of those doctrines, which he explained with simplicity, and illustrated by example. I have often reflected with gratitude that by him I was prepared for the 25922(4)r 259 vows of confirmation, and by his hand led to that holy sacrament which our Saviour has instituted for the penitent believer. It was impossible to attend to his injunctions without cultivating that close acquaintance with the heart, that scrutiny into its springs of action, which induce deep humility, and a renunciation of merit, save through the mediation of Him, who offered himself without spot to God. To the blessing of the Holy Spirit on the instructions of this beloved guide do I impute, that the foundation of my faith was laid even in childhood so strong, that it does not fail me now, in my hour of trial. Mingled also with the pursuits of piety, was a thirst for knowledge. But to this my lot afforded only a limited gratification. Edward Merton, the son of a family of distinction in the vicinity, became interested to teach me what wealth afforded him the means of acquiring. His noble mind, enlarged by the circle of the sciences, took pleasure in imparting to others its own riches. Most of his evenings were passed at our cottage, in reading to us the works of authors, which we had no other means of obtaining. That joy seemed to animate him, with which the benevolent mind gives food to the hungry, or opens a fountain to the thirsty soul. To my simple mind, he seemed as a pure spirit bowing from the skies to elevate an inferiour race. At length it became evident that he loved the mind which he had himself adorned; like him who, imparting fire from heaven to an inert mass, became its adorer. Authorized in cherishing a virtuous attachment,26022(4)v 260 ment, it increased every day, and every night I thanked my Creator with exuberant gratitude, for the fullness of my joy. Yet my heart too much exulted, too exclusively trusted to the earth, and at the moment when I thought my sky the brightest, it was involved in a cloud of woe. Edward’s only surviving parent was a father, a proud, and mercenary man. Two sons were his sole offspring, and the idea that one should marry a cottager was insupportable. With the threat of disinheritance, he commanded him to relinquish the design; and I, educated with high ideas of filial obedience, entreated him to submit, though my heart felt that it must break at his desertion. Nothing, however, was able to destroy the inviolable affection of that exalted being. To me, a novice in the school of sorrow, this trial appeared too much for endurance, until it was appointed to be swallowed up in a greater affliction. My mother, whose health had been delicate from her youth, and who had long been subject to symptoms of disease, which she laboured to conceal from me, now rapidly declined. I watched in agony, day and night, the struggles of a gentle spirit, disengaging itself from clay. Her resignation to the divine will was scarcely shaded by maternal anxiety; for she trusted to leave her orphan to the protection of one, who loved the orphan’s God. Sometimes she would join our hands, as we kneeled together by her couch, saying with a smile, My children, you will be happy, though I am gone. Yet forget not to seek greater happiness; for ah! if you come not to me, 26122(5)r 261 at last, there will be mourning in Heaven. I had forborne to communicate to her the opposition of Edward’s father to our union, lest it might embitter her parting moments. But as her sickness approached its fatal termination, he was himself summoned to his last account. He had been for some time absent, superintending an estate in Ireland, and encountering a storm in the Channel, was drowned on his homeward passage. He gave by will all his possessions to his eldest son, to whom he was partial, and who resembled him in character. Edward came to us depressed at the depth of his poverty. But my heart with deep gratitude thanked the Eternal Sire, that I might now return his affection without the imputation of mercenary motives, and relieved from the dread of a father’s malediction. He departed for a few days to seek some prospect of maintenance, and returned only in time to support me to my mother’s grave. The fatal disease, which has set its seal upon me, triumphed over both my parents. The bitterness of my orphanage was consoled by the voice of love as pure, as ardent, as holy, as ever dwelt in the breast of man. So firmly was it returned, that I heard, without repining, that the only resource which remained was to join the army, then about to embark for America under Earl Cornwallis. We were married, and my little patrimony, which in consequence of my mother’s sickness had become somewhat encumbered with debt, was sold. Hand in hand, we parted from that sweet cottage, to encounter the perils 26222(5)v 262 of ocean, and war in a foreign land. Methought that little retreat never looked so beautifully as when we were leaving it. Its roses, and woodbines breathed fragrantly, and the smooth-shorn grass before it was like the richest velvet. With the warmth of seventeen, I was attached to every spot which had ministered to the joy of a childhood whose traces were yet recent in my memory. I gazed on the white roof of the home, hallowed by the last breath of my mother, until trees hid it from my view. Yet all the attractions of my native country vanished, as shadows, before my vow’d affection to him, for whose sake I was willing to become a wanderer. He was my all, and the idolatry of my soul was perfect. Therefore its altar of earth was removed, and the image to which it offered incense was broken. I will not detain you, Reverend Sir, with the dangers of our voyage, or the hardships of a life in camps. Like the servitude of Jacob, they seemed to me as nothing for the love I bare him. But in time of battle, my wretchedness was extreme. It was then that, imploring protection for my husband, I first learned what was meant by the agony of prayer. Of a daring, and invincible spirit, he was ambitious to stand foremost in the ranks of danger. His intrepidity gained the attention of his officers, and led to his promotion. This stimulated his military enthusiasm, and when I entreated him to be careful of his life for my sake, he would answer firmly, but with tenderness, In the scenes to which my duty calls me 26322(6)r 263 there can be no protector but the God of battles. Is he not also a God of the widow? But from the details of war I have ever shrunk, and now my trembling hand, and fluttering heart admonish me to be brief. Seldom has one, who possessed such native aversion from all varieties of strife, such an instinctive horrour at the sight of blood-shed, been appointed to share the fortunes of a soldier. During the investment of Yorktown, in the autumn of 17811781, he was almost constantly divided from me, either on some post of fatigue, or exposure. The minute scenes of that eventful period are engraved on my memory, as with the point of a diamond. Often have I retraced the circumstances of the last night which I passed in that fatal spot. The atmosphere was faintly lighted by stars, shedding that dim, doubtful beam, which disposes the mind to melancholy contemplation. I was alone, and the heaviness of my solitude in a strange land oppressed my heart like a physical weight. The works of the allied French and Americans were every day brought more nearly to us. In the form of a crescent they spread themselves before us, cutting off our communication with the neighbouring country. The ships of France, anchored at the mouth of York River, prevented our receiving supplies from thence, or aid from Sir Henry Clinton, who in New-York awaited our fate with anxiety. A fixed gloom might be seen on the countenance of Cornwallis; and Tarleton, who had hithero poured his bold soul into the enterprise, was suffering pain, and dejection 26422(6)v 264 from a wound. The prospects of our army were dark in the extreme, and I was continually agitated with fears for my sole earthly stay. To dissipate the melancholy impressions which thronged my soul, I ascended to the top of the house to take a view of that glorious firmament, which had so often led my thoughts from the woes of earth to the tranquillity of heaven. But the thunder of a terrible cannonade drew my attention to the surrounding scene. The whole peninsula seemed to tremble beneath the engines of war. Bombs, from the batteries of both parties, were continually crossing each others path. Like blazing meteors their luminous trains traversed each other, with awful sublimity. Sometimes I heard that hissing sound, when in their fall they excavate the earth, and rend in atoms whatever opposes them. Once I saw the severed, mangled limbs of several British soldiers thrown into the air, by their explosion. I fancied that I heard a groan of agony in the voice that I loved, and listened till sensation almost forsook me. Suddenly, a flame sprang forth from the bosom of the river. It was a column of ineffable brightness. The waters seemed to feed it, and every moment it rose higher, and extended wider, as if uncertain whether first to enfold the earth, or the heavens. Then two smaller furnaces burst forth near it, breathing intense fires in spiral forms, beautiful and dreadful. I gazed, till the waters glowed in one dazzling expanse, and I know not but the Almighty in anger at the crimes of man, was kindling around him an ocean of flame; as He once poured26523(1)r 265 ed over him a deluge of waters. But nothing could hush the incessant roar of these engines of death; and I thought that man would continue to pursue his brother with hatred, even to the conflagration of the day of doom. When the influence of an excited imagination had subsided, I found that this splendid and fearful pageant was the burning of the Charon, one of our ships of war, with two smaller vessels at anchor in the river, which had been set on fire by a heated shell from the French battery. Chilled with the damps of evening, I descended, and threw myself upon my sleepless couch. My health had for some time suffered for want of exercise in the open air, from which I was precluded by the impossibility of enjoying the company, and protection of my husband. On the afternoon of the following day, he entered his apartment. It was Sunday, 1781-10-14October 14th, for misery stamped the date indelibly on my soul. He told me that he was to remain with me, until evening should call him forth to his watch upon the ramparts. He requested me to read the service for the day from the Prayer-book; for we had endeavoured, as far as possible amid the privations of our existence, to hallow the day of God by private devotion. As I closed the volume, the sun forsook the horizon, leaving a beautifully serene sky. He proposed a walk, to which I gladly assented; and as the means of prolonging it, without attracting particular attention in streets filled with soldiers, desired me to wear a suit of his military apparel. Yielding to his reasoning, I consented thus to array myself; and we strolled 23 26623(1)v 266 onward, admiring the scenery which, at that season in the American climate, is so peculiarly brilliant. We indulged in a conversation, which selected from the past the most soothing recollections, and gilded the future with the pencil of hope. We followed the course of the fortifications until we had passed, almost unconsciously, the last redoubt. The shadows of evening were beginning to conceal the landscape, when we heard the trampling of many feet. The white uniform of the French, and presently that of the Americans were seen, through the trees which skirted our path. My husband had scarcely time to draw his sword, when a volley of shot was poured upon us. A bullet pierced his breast, and he fell without life. I fell with him, senseless as himself. I recovered from my swoon to mourn that I lived, and to feel more than the bitterness of death. Sometimes I fancied that he clasped my hand; but it was only the trickling of his blood through my own. I imagined that he sighed; but it was the breathing of the hollow wind through the reeds where his head lay. I heard the horrible uproar of war in the neighbouring redoubts, the roar of cannon, the clashing of swords, and the cry of men. I knew that the enemy was in the town, but I made no attempt to escape. Whither should I have flown? Among my own people I was a stranger, and were it possible that I should reach England, who would succour me there? An hour passed in the madness of grief, while I was clasping the lifeless form, and supplicating to be made like unto it. A small party 26723(2)r 267 passed, speaking with uncouth voices. I saw that they were American Indians, and wished to escape. I forgot, in my inconsistency, that I had a moment before exclaimed with the prophet, who mourned his smitten gourd, take now away my life, I pray thee; it is better for me to die, than to live. My movements betrayed me, and they took me prisoner. They were leaving the town, and I expected to have been conveyed to the American camp. But they continued to journey throughout the night, and from their conversation I learned that two redoubts had been taken by the Americans and French, with desperate valour. This was the daring action, in which La Fayette led on the Americans, and De Viomenil the French, which preceded but four days the surrender of Earl Cornwallis. The party which had slain my husband, was the advance- guard, under the command of Colonel Hamilton; and those who had taken me captive, were a small number of natives led by a Delaware Chief. They were connected with some embassy which had been sent, as far as I could understand their broken explanations, to discover the state of affairs at Yorktown; and being there at the time of this encounter, had joined the Americans, partly as actors, and partly as spies. Thus was I in the power of beings, whom I had ever contemplated as the most savage of mankind. I followed them, as we rove in a terrible dream unable either to resist, or to awake. Stupified with grief, I was for many days unequal to the sense of my misery. Yet the captors, so far from testifying the cruelty I had anticipated,26823(2)v 268 ted, were attentive to my wants. Of their food, which was principally game shot as they travelled, and roasted before fires kindled in the forest, they always presented me an ample share, even when they were themselves but scantily supplied. When I was weary, they would construct a kind of litter, and carry me for a time upon their shoulders. I exerted myself to endure hardship as courageously as possible, fearing they might suspect my disguise; but they appeared to consider my effeminacy as the result of that civilization which they constantly decried. A British soldier, said they, is never so good on a march, as an Indian squaw. But as I began to arouse from the stupor, which the overwhelming rapidity of my affections had occasioned, a horrible idea took possession of my mind. I imagined they were protecting my life with such care, in order to sacrifice it in that savage manner, of which I had frequently heard descriptions. This terrour obtained predominance over grief. When I lay down to sleep in the forest, wrapped closely in my blanket, and surrounded by the dark-brow’d warriours, no slumber visited me; for before my diseased imagination swam continually images of the prisoner at the stake, the flame, the death-song, and all the features of savage vengeance, and exultation. Plans of escape occupied every night, and every day revealed their impracticability. During this season of excitement, I felt no fatigue. My strength was more than equal to the labour imposed: so much is the mind capable of modifying26923(3)r 269 ifying its terrestrial companion. I hoped that, as our route led through a more populous country, we should occasionally lodge in towns; where I fancied greater facility of escape might be offered. But they avoided suffering me to pass through the more populous settlements, and uniformly preferred the shelter of forests, to the abodes of white men, whom I found they still considered as intruders, and doubtful friends. On our arrival at a large town in Pennsylvania, they made me, as usual, travel through the outskirts with a guard of four men. Those, who entered, perceived demonstrations of extravagant joy, and were informed that the surrender of Cornwallis had taken place on the 1781-10-1818th of October, and that peace was confidently expected. They made no stay at this place, except to purchase a large quantity of whiskey; and pressing on with great rapidity, prepared to pass the night within the borders of an extensive, and lofty forest. Here they made a fire, and proceeded to strip the bark from some young saplings. Their words were in their own language, but their gestures were mysterious; and their eyes were often directed towards me, with an expression of fierceness. The black shade of the forest, whose top seemed to reach the skies, the glare of the wide, red flame, falling upon the giant forms of those warriours, with their uncouth habits, wild locks, and savage countenances, formed a picture, which I cannot even now retrace without shuddering. Loud words arose, as if a contest was about to begin. The party contained a few Mohegans23* 27023(3)v 270 gans; but the principal numbers were Delawares, or Lenni-Lenape, as they styled themselves. I believed that my hour was come, and that the strife was between the two nations, respecting different modes of torture. An old warriour of the former tribe sat solitary, taking no part in the conflict, but observing its progress with great attention. He avoided the spirituous liquors, with which all were becoming inflamed, and seemed to reserve himself for action in some important juncture. I thought that I had previously seen him regarding me with the eyes of pity, and said mentally, is it possible that Heaven will raise up in my extremity, a friend in this aged man? I remembered that he was called Arrowhamet, and was treated with respect for his courage and wisdom. When the strife grew violent, he arose, and approached the Delaware Chief. They conversed together, during which both parties preserved silence. Then they parted, and the Lenni-Lenape murmured aloud. Their Chief calmed them, with the simple expressions, Arrowhamet is old. He has fought bravely. His temples are white as the snows of the Allegheny. Young men must submit to the warriour, who wears the crown of time. They then commenced their war-dance, and in the violence of that amusement, and the fumes of intoxication, merged their anger atand disappointment. It was long past midnight, ere they all lay down to sleep. Arrowhamet approached me, and throwing over me his blanket, said, The night is chill. All now will be quiet. Compose your mind, that 27123(4)r 271 your body may be able to bear fatigue. He stretched himself at some distance, between me, and the slumbering group. It was impossible for me to find repose, and I saw that my aged guardian also slept not. His eyes were raised upward, as if he contemplated the Maker of that majestic blue arch, where a few stars faintly twinkled. I said silently, can it be that an Indian thinks of God? Ah! I knew not then, of what deep devotion their souls were susceptible. Judge, into what fearful surprize I was startled from my reverie, when a low voice uttered, Oriana! Is thy mind wakeful? Fear not to sleep. Thou art redeemed from torture. No flame shall touch you. Believe what the old warriour has spoken, and rest in peace. Why do you call me Oriana? I inquired, trembling with astonishment. Didst thou then think the eye of Arrowhamet was so dim that it could not read thy brow? that his heart was so cold as to forget the hand that gave him bread? Am I known then to your comrades? I asked. No thought but mine has comprehended thee. Arrowhamet shall be as the bars of the grave to thy secret. To all but me, thou appearest as if thy disguise were truth. How have you acquired knowledge, above all your companions, and what have you spoken about my giving you food? 27223(4)v 272 I knew that face, he answered tenderly, when the torches first glared upon it, and the cry of war was around. It was deadly pale, but I knew it was the face of her who had given me bread. Thou sayest, when have I fed thee? So will the righteous ask at the last day. Thou writest the traces of thy charity in the sand, but the famished prisoner graves them in the rock forever. I was with the men of Colonel Buford, on the waters of the Santee River, where out of four hundred, only fifty-three escaped the sword of Tarleton. I saw an hundred hands of brave men raised to implore mercy. They were stricken off by the sabres of the horsemen, who soon trampled upon their bodies. But why tell I thee tales of blood? whose heart is tender as that of an infant. I have said that few were saved. With them I went into captivity. Some pined away, and died in their sorrows. Seventeen moons have since beamed upon their graves. Remember thou an old Indian, who leaned against a tree, near thy tent? He leaned upon it, because he was weak, and his blood wasted by famine? He asked not for food, yet thou gavest it to him. Thou rememberest him not? Well! Thou wilt never forget the youth, who was near, in the door of thy tent. His voice was like the flute of his own country, when he said, Oriana. But how did I see him next? His beautiful forehead was cold, and his noble breast red with his own blood. I saw thee also. Thou wert as one dead. But how could I be mistaken in the hand that had given me bread? I determined to take 27323(5)r 173273 thee from my people, that I might feed thee when thou didst hunger, and be thy staff when thou wert weary. To this end I have laboured. The purpose is accomplished, and thou art safe. Was I then right in supposing myself destined to the torture? The chief had said that this night his people should avenge on thee, their young men who had been slain in battle. So fixed were the Lenni-Lenape upon thy death, that I obtained power to rescue thee with difficulty. Indians will generally submit their will to the hoary head. But they continually replied, Our mighty men have fallen before the warriours of his country. Two sons of our Sachem were cut in pieces by their swords. The blood of the brave cries for vengeance. If we give it not ere the rising of dawn, let their souls frown on us forever. But how were you able to accomplish your compassionate design? He hesitated for a moment, ere he replied— The natives of this country, have a custom of which thou art ignorant. He, who is deprived of a near relative by death, is permitted to fill the void in his heart from among the captives, whom the fortune of war gives into the hands of his nation. This is called the rite of adoption. It has snatched the prisoner from the stake, when the fire was scorching his vitals. Without the force of this claim I could not have saved thee from the raging passions of my countrymen; for the footstep of death was nearer to thee than mine. Pausing, he added, in a 27423(5)v 274 tone of tenderness, I had once a daughter. An only one, as the apple of my eye. But she faded. She went down to the grave, ere she blossomed in womanhood. There was silence; and afterwards I expressed with warmth, my gratitude to my deliverer. The solemn hour of midnight had long passed; yet the forest seemed to assume a still darker hue, and the decaying fires, scarcely cast a feeble ray upon the scattered forms of the slumbering warriours. Daughter! said the aged man, rest in peace. I watch over thee. I have prayed the Great Spirit that I may lead thee in safety to my home, and put thy hand into the hand of my wife. Knowest thou why she will love thee? Why the tears will cover her face, when she looketh upon thine? Because thou wilt remind her heart of the blossom whose growth she nursed, whose blasting she bemoaned. Be not angry at what I say. She had a dark brow, and her garb was like the children of red men. Yet, as she went down into the dust, there was upon her lips a smile, and in her eye a tender melancholy, like thine. He ceased, oppressed with emotion. Pressing his hands upon his forehead, he laid it on the earth. Presently raising his head, I saw that his eyes was dazzling, but tearless. Wilt thou accept my adoption? he inquired. Wilt thou bow thyself, for a time, to be called the daughter of old Arrowhamet? I have said that it need be but for a time. My home is near the shores of the great waters. 27523(6)r 275 They shall bear thee to thy people, when thy heart sickens at the rude ways of Indians. I assured him of my acceptance, in such terms as an outcast ought to address to his sole earthly benefactor. Apparently gratified, he raised his lofty form erect, and laying one hand upon my head, while he lifted the other towards heaven, ratified with great solemnity his rite of adoption. Thou! whose way is upon the winds—through the deep waters—within the dark cloud—Spirit of Truth! before whom the shades of our fathers walk in fields of everlasting light, hear—confirm—bless. He added a few words in his native language, and stretching himself upon the ground in an attitude of repose, said, It is enough. Sleep now, my daughter. I will pray thy God to protect thee. Thy God, is my God. I am called among warriours, Arrowhamet; but the name of Zachary was given me, when I bowed to the baptism of Christians. Thou wilt no longer fear me, when thou art convinced that our God is the same. Lost in wonder, in gratitude, in praise, to the Almighty Preserver, I made my own orison with many tears, and sank into such a refreshing sleep, as had not visited me since my captivity. I awoke not, till the Sun, like a globe of gold, was burnishing the crowns of the kings of the forest. Nothing worthy of narration occurred, on the remainder of our journey. The supernatural strength, which had hitherto sustained me, gradually vanished; and during27623(6)v 276 ring a great part of the distance, I was borne on the shoulders of the natives. In a short time, the Mohegans separated from the Lenni-Lenape, to return to their habitations, having completed the period of their engagement. In passing through a considerable town, I sold a valuable watch and necklace, gifts of my Edward in his happiest days. The sum which they produced, is not yet expended. It will probably suffice for the purposes of my interment. My reception from old Martha was soothing to my weary heart. From that moment to this, her maternal kindness has never slumbered. With the most watchful care, she has suited my aliment to my situation; and by her knowledge of the virtues of plants, has mitigated my pain. Kindness, from whatever hand, is dear to the isolated and suffering heart. At my first admission into this humble abode, I cherished a hope of returning to England. Yet to what should I have returned? Only to the graves of my parents. With the disconsolate and eloquent Logan, I might say, there runs not a drop of my blood in the veins of any living creature. Who is there to mourn for me? Not one. Throughout the whole range of my native country, was there a cottage to afford me shelter, or friends to minister to me, day and night, like these aged beings? But with whatever attractions the land, where I first drew breath, would sometimes gleam upon my exiled eye, all hope of again sharing them has been long since extinguished.27724(1)r 277 ed. The disease, to which my early youth evinced a predisposition, and which I probably inherit from both parents, soon revealed itself. Its progress was at first slow; but every month, I became conscious of its latent ravages. My retreat, which to most beholders would have seemed as comfortless as it is obscure, so accorded with my subdued feelings, that, like the disciple who desired a tabernacle upon the mountain of mystery, I have often exclaimed, Master! it is good to be here. Here, I have learned to estimate a race, to which I had ever done injustice. Those, whom I had previously stigmatized as the slaves of barbarity, ignorance, and obduracy, were appointed to exhibit to my view continually traces of philanthropy, intellect, and devotion, inviolable attachment, and deathless gratitude for trivial kindness; which, however the civilized world may affect to scorn in the cabin of the red man, she does not often find in the palaces of kings. Here I have felt, how vain is that importance which we attach to shades of complexion, and gradations of rank; how less than nothing the pageantry of pomp, and the tinsel of wealth appear, when God taketh away the soul. The Almighty has here appointed me to realize the nature of those phantoms which had often held me in bondage, that renouncing all other dominion, my affections might own supreme allegiance to him. It was necessary that the pride of my heart should be subdued by affliction: and affliction having had perfect work, has terminated in peace. Yet I quit not this 24 27824(1)v 278 existence, like the ascetic for whom it has no allurements. Its opening was gilded by what the world calls happiness, and its close with a joy to which that world is a stranger. For your instructions, your prayers, my Father, receive the blessings of one who will soon have neither name, nor memorial among men. Your last benevolent office, will be to lay her wasted frame where saints slumber. May she meet you at their resurrection in light. Her last request is that you would sometimes grant a visit, and a prayer to those, who were parents to her without the bonds of affinity; philanthropists, without hope of the world’s applause; Christians, though proscribed as the heritors of a savage nature; and who will also, she trusts, be heirs of heaven, through faith in Him who hath promised that the merciful shall obtain mercy.