Infomotions, Inc.Hardscrabble; or, the fall of Chicago. a tale of Indian warfare / Richardson, John, 1796-1852


Richardson, John, 1796-1852


Hardscrabble; or, the fall of Chicago. a tale of Indian warfare












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Title: Hardscrabble
       The Fall of Chicago: A Tale of Indian Warfare
Author: John Richardson
Release Date: February, 2004 [EBook #5169]
[Yes, we are more than one year ahead of schedule]
[This file was first posted on May 27, 2002]
[Date last updated: July 18, 2005]
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Charles Franks and Distributed Proofers.
HARDSCRABBLE; or, The Fall of Chicago
A Tale of Indian Warfare
by John Richardson
It was on a beautiful day in the early part of the month
of April, 1812, that four persons were met in a rude
farm-house, situated on the Southern Branch of the Chicago
river, and about four miles distant from the fort of that
name. They had just risen from their humble mid-day meal,
and three of them were now lingering near the fire-place,
filled with blazing logs, which, at that early season,
diffused a warmth by no means disagreeable, and gave an
air of cheerfulness to the interior of the smoke-discolored
He who appeared to be master of the establishment was a
tall, good looking man of about forty-five, who had,
evidently, been long a denizen of the forest, for his
bronzed countenance bore traces of care and toil, while
his rugged, yet well-formed hands conveyed the impression
of the unceasing war he had waged against the gigantic
trees of this Western land. He was habited in a
hunting-frock of grey homespun, reaching about half way
down to his knee, and trimmed with a full fringe of a
somewhat darker hue. His trowsers were of the same
material, and both were girt around his loins by a common
belt of black leather, fastened by a plain white buckle,
into which was thrust a sheath of black leather also,
containing a large knife peculiar to the backwoodsmen of
that day. His feet were encased in moccasins, and on his
head, covered with strong dark hair, was carelessly donned
a slouched hat of common black felt, with several plaited
folds of the sweet grass, of the adjoining prairie for
a band. He was seemingly a man of strong muscular power,
while his stern dark eye denoted firmness and daring.
The elder of the two men, to whom this individual stood,
evidently, in the character of a superior, was a short
thick-set person of about fifty, with huge whiskers that,
originally black, had been slightly grizzled by time.
His eyebrows were bushy and overhanging, and almost
concealed the small, and twinkling eyes, which it required
the beholder to encounter more than once before he could
decide their true color to be a dark gray. A blanket coat
that had once been white, but which the action of some
half dozen winters had changed into a dirty yellow,
enveloped his rather full form, around which it was
confined by a coarse worsted sash of mingled blue and
red, thickly studded with minute white beads. His trowsers,
with broad seams, after the fashion of the Indian legging,
were of a dark crimson, approaching to a brick-dust color,
and on his feet he wore the stiff shoe-pack, which, with
the bonnet bleu on his grizzled head, and the other parts
of his dress already described, attested him to be what
he was--a French Canadian. Close at his heels, and moving
as he moved, or squatted on his haunches, gazing into
the face of his master when stationary, was a large dog
of the mongrel breed peculiar to the country--evidently
with wolf blood in his veins.
His companion was of a different style of figure and
costume. He was a thin, weak-looking man, of middle
height, with a complexion that denoted his Saxon origin.
Very thin brows, retrousse nose, and a light gray eye in
which might be traced an expression half simple, half
cunning, completed the picture of this personage, whose
lank body was encased in an old American uniform of faded
blue, so scanty in its proportions that the wrists of
the wearer wholly exposed themselves beneath the short,
narrow sleeves, while the skirts only "shadowed not
concealed," that part of the body they had been originally
intended to cover. A pair of blue pantaloons, perfectly
in keeping, on the score of scantiness and age, with the
coat, covered the attenuated lower limbs of the wearer,
on whose head, moreover, was stuck a conical cap that
had all the appearance of having been once a portion of
the same uniform, and had only undergone change in the
loss of its peak. A small black leather, narrow ridged
stock was clasped around his thin, and scare-crow neck,
and that so tightly that it was the wonder of his companions
how strangulation had so long been avoided. A dirty, and
very coarse linen shirt, showed itself partially between
the bottom of the stock, and the uppermost button of the
coat, which was carefully closed, while his feet were
protected from the friction of the stiff, though nearly
wornout, military shoes, by wisps of hay, that supplied
the absence of the sock. This man was about five and
The last of the little party was a boy. He was a raw-boned
lad of about fourteen years of age, and of fair complexion,
with blue eyes, and an immense head of bushy hair, of
the same hue, which seemed never to have known the use
of the comb. His feet were naked, and his trowsers and
shirt, the only articles of dress upon him at the moment,
were of a homespun somewhat resembling in color the
hunting frock of his master. A thick black leather strap
was also around his loins--evidently part of an old bridle
The two men first described, drew near the fire and
lighted their pipes. The ex-militaire thrust a quid of
tobacco into his cheek, and taking up a small piece of
pine board that rested against the chimney corner, split
a portion off this with his jack-knife, and commenced
whittling. The boy busied himself in clearing the table,
throwing occasionally scraps of bread and dried venison,
which had constituted the chief portion of the meal, to
the dog, which, however, contrary to custom, paid little
attention to these marks of favor, but moved impatiently,
at intervals, to the door, then returning, squatted
himself again on his haunches, at a short distance from
his master, and uttering a low sound betwixt a whine and
a growl, looked piteously up into his face.
"Vat the devil is de matter wid you, Loup Garou?" remarked
the Canadian at length, as, removing the pipe from his
lips, he stretched his legs, and poised himself in his
low wood-bottomed chair, putting forth his right hand at
the same time to his canine follower. "You not eat, and
you make noise as if you wish me to see one racoon in de
"Loup Garou don't prate about coons I guess," drawled
the man in the faded uniform, without, however, removing
his eyes from the very interesting occupation in which
he was engaged. "That dog I take it, Le Noir, means
something else--something more than we human critters
know. By gosh, boss," looking for the first time at him
who stood in that position to the rest of the party--"If
WE can't smell the varmint, I take it Loup Garou does."
At this early period of civilization, in these remote
countries, there was little distinction of rank between
the master and the man--the employer and the employed.
Indeed the one was distinguished from the other only by
the instructions given and received, in regard to certain
services to be performed. They labored together--took
their meals together--generally smoked together--drank
together--conversed together, and if they did not
absolutely sleep together, often reposed in the same
room. There was, therefore, nothing extraordinary in the
familiar tone in which the ci-devant soldier now addressed
him whose hired help he was. The latter, however, was in
an irritable mood, and he answered sharply.
"What have you got into your foolish head now, Ephraim
Giles? You do nothing but prophesy evil. What varmint do
you talk of, and what has Loup Garou to do with it? Speak,
what do you mean?--if you mean anything at all."
As he uttered this half rebuke, he rose abruptly from
his chair, shook the ashes from his pipe, and drew himself
to his full height, with his back to the fire. There had
been nothing very remarkable in the observation made by
the man to whom he had addressed himself, but he was in
a peculiar state of mind, that gave undue importance to
every word, sounding, as it did, a vague presentiment of
some coming evil, which the very singular manner of the
dog had created, although he would scarcely acknowledge
this to himself.
The man made no reply, but continued whittling, humming,
at the same time, the air of "Yankee Doodle."
"Answer me, Ephraim Giles," peremptorily resumed his
master; "leave off that eternal whittling of yours, if
you can, and explain to me your meaning."
"Etarnal whittling! do you call it, Boss? I guess it's
no such thing. No man knows better nor you, that, if I
can whittle the smallest stick in creation, I can bring
down the stoutest tree as well as ere a fellow in Michigan.
Work is work--play is play. It's only the difference, I
reckon, of the axe and the knife."
"Will you answer my question like a man, and not like a
fool, as you are?" shouted the other, stooping, and
extending his left hand, the fingers of which he insinuated
into the stock already described, while, with a powerful
jerk, he both brought the man to his feet, and the blood
into his usually cadaverous cheek.
Ephraim Giles, half-throttled, and writhing with pain,
made a movement as if he would have used the knife in a
much less innocent manner than whittling, but the quick,
stern eye of his master, detected the involuntary act,
and his hand, suddenly relinquishing its hold of the
collar, grasped the wrist of the soldier with such a
vice-like pressure, that the fingers immediately opened,
and the knife fell upon the hearth.
The violence of his own act, brought Mr. Heywood at once
to a sense of the undue severity he had exercised towards
his servant, and he immediately said, taking his hand:
"Ephraim Giles, forgive me, but it was not intended. Yet,
I know not how it is, the few words you spoke just now
made me anxious to know what you meant, and I could not
repress my impatience to hear your explanation."
The soldier had never before remarked so much dignity of
manner about his Boss, as he termed Mr. Heywood, and this
fact, added to the recollection of the severe handling
he had just met with, caused him to be a little more
respectful in his address.
"Well, I reckon," he said, picking up his knife, and
resuming his whittling, but in a less absorbed manner,
"I meant no harm, but merely that Loup Garou can nose an
Injin better than ere a one of us."
"Nose an Indian better than any one of us! Well, perhaps
he can--he sees them every day, but what has that to do
with his whining and growling just now?"
"Well, I'll tell you, Boss, what I mean, more plain-like.
You know that patch of wood borderin' on the prairie,
where you set me to cut, t'other day?"
"I do. What of that?"
"Well, then, this mornin' I was cuttin' down as big an
oak as ever grew in Michigan, when, as it went thunderin'
through the branches, with noise enough to scare every
buffalo within a day's hunt, up started, not twenty yards
from it's tip, ten or a dozen or so of Injins, all gruntin'
like pigs, and looking as fierce as so many red devils.
They didn't look quite pleasant, I calcilate."
"Indeed," remarked Mr. Heywood, musingly; "a party of
Pottawattamies I presume, from the Fort. We all know
there is a large encampment of them in the neighborhood,
but they are our friends."
"May-be so," continued Ephraim Giles, "but these varmint
didn't look over friendly, and then I guess the
Pottawattamies don't dress in war paint, 'cept when they
dance for liquor."
"And are you quite sure these Indians were in their war
paint?" asked his master, with an ill-concealed look of
"No mistake about it," replied Giles, still whittling,
"and I could almost swear, short as the squint was I got
of 'em, that they were part of those who fought us on
the Wabash, two years ago."
"How so, den, you are here, Gile. If dey wicked Injin,
how you keep your funny little cap, an' your scalp under
de cap?"
This question was asked by the Canadian, who had hitherto,
while puffing his pipe, listened indifferently to the
conversation, but whose attention had now become arrested,
from the moment that his fellow-laborer had spoken of
the savages, so strangely disturbed by him.
"Well, I don't exactly know about that, myself," returned
the soldier, slightly raising his cap and scratching his
crown, as if in recollection of some narrowly escaped
danger. "I reckon, tho', when I see them slope up like
a covey of red-legged pattridges, my heart was in my
mouth, for I looked for nothin' else but that same
operation: but I wur just as well pleased, when, after
talkin' their gibberish, and makin' all sorts of signs
among themselves, they made tracks towards the open
"And why did you not name this, the instant you got home?"
somewhat sternly questioned Mr. Heywood.
"Where's the use of spilin' a good dinner?" returned the
soldier. "It was all smokin' hot when I came in from
choppin', and I thought it best for every man to tuck it
in before I said a word about it. Besides, I reckon I
don't know as they meant any harm, seein' as how they
never carried off my top-knot;--only it was a little
queer they were hid in that way in the woods, and looked
so fierce when they first jumped up in their nasty paint."
"Who knows," remarked Mr. Heywood, taking down his rifle
from the side of the hut opposite to the chimney, and
examining the priming, "but these fellows may have tracked
you back, and are even now, lurking near us. Ephraim
Giles, you should have told me of this before."
"And so," replied the soldier, "I was goin' to, when Loup
Garou began with his capers. Then it was I gave a parable
like, about his scentin' the varmint better nor we human
critters could."
"Ephraim Giles," said Mr. Heywood, sharply, while he
fixed his dark eye upon him, as if he would have read
his inmost soul, "you say that you have been a soldier,
and fought with our army on the Wabash. Why did you leave
the service?"
"Because," drawled the ex-militaire, with a leering
expression of his eye, "my captin was a bad judge of good
men when he had 'em, and reckoned I was shammin' when I
fell down rale sick, and was left behind in a charge made
on the Injins at Tippecanoe. I couldn't stand the abuse
he gave me for this, and so I left him."
"Cool, indeed," sneered Mr. Heywood; "now then, Ephraim
Giles, hear my opinion. Your captain thought you were a
coward, for he judged you from your conduct. I, too,
judge you from your conduct, and have no hesitation in
pronouncing you to be a rogue or a fool."
"Well, I want to know!" was the only rejoinder of the
man, as he went on unconcernedly with his whittling.
"Le Noir," said his master to the Canadian, who, imitating
his example, had taken down a long duck gun from the same
side of the hut, "take your dog with you and reconnoitre
in the neighborhood. You speak Indian, and if any of
these people are to be seen, ascertain who they are and
Here he was interrupted by the gradually approaching
sounds of rattling deer hoofs, so well known as composing
one of the lower ornaments of the Indian war-dress, while,
at the same moment, the wild moaning of Loup Garou, then
standing at the front door-way, was renewed even more
plaintively than before.
Mr. Heywood's cheek blanched. It was not with fear, for
he was a man incapable of fear in the common acceptation
of the word, but independently of certain vague
apprehensions for others, his mind had been in a great
degree unhinged by an unaccountable presentiment of evil,
which instinctively had come over it that day. It was
this, that, inducing a certain irresoluteness of thought
and action, had led him into a manifestation of peevish
contradiction in his address to Ephraim Giles. There are
moments, when, without knowing why, the nerves of the
strongest--the purposes of the wisest, are unstrung--and
when it requires all our tact and self-possession to
conceal from others, the momentary weakness we almost
blush to admit to ourselves.
But there was no time for reflection. The approach to
the door was suddenly shaded, and in the next instant
the dark forms of three or four savages, speedily followed
by others, amounting in all to twelve, besides their
chief, who was in the advance, crossed the threshold,
and, without uttering a word, either of anger or salutation,
squatted themselves upon the floor. They were stout,
athletic warriors, the perfect symmetry of whose persons
could not be concealed even by the hideous war-paint with
which they were thickly streaked--inspiring anything but
confidence in the honesty or friendliness of their
intentions. The head of each was shaved and painted as
well as his person, and only on the extreme crown had
been left a tuft of hair, to which were attached feathers,
and small bones, and other fantastic ornaments peculiar
to their race--a few of them carried American rifles--the
majority, the common gun periodically dealt out to the
several tribes, as presents from the British Government,
while all had in addition to their pipe-tomahawks the
formidable and polished war-club.
Such visitors, and so armed, were not of a description
to remove the apprehensions of the little party in the
farm-house. Their very silence, added to their dark and
threatening looks, created more than mere suspicion--a
certainty of evil design--and deeply did Mr. Heywood
deplore the folly of Ephraim Giles in failing to apprise
him of his meeting with these people, at the earliest
moment after his return. Had he done so, there might have
been a chance, nay, every assurance of relief, for he
knew that a party from the fort, consisting of a
non-commissioned officer and six men, were even now
fishing not more than two miles higher up the river. He
was aware that the boy, Wilton, was an excellent runner,
and that within an hour, at least, he could have reached
and brought down that party, who, as was their wont, when
absenting themselves on these fishing excursions, were
provided with their arms. However, it might not yet be
too late, and he determined to make the attempt. To call
and speak to the boy aside, would, he was well aware,
excite the suspicions of his unwelcome guests, while it
was possible that, as they did not understand English,
(so at least he took it for granted) a communication made
to him boldly in their presence, would be construed into
some domestic order.
"Wilton," he said calmly to the boy, who stood near the
doorway with alarm visibly depicted on his countenance,
and looking as if he would eagerly seize a favorable
opportunity of escape, "make all haste to the fishing
party, and tell Corporal Nixon who commands it, to lose
no time in pulling down the stream. You will come back
with them. Quick, lose not a moment."
Delighted at the order, the boy made no answer, but
hatless--shoeless as he was, disappeared round the corner
of the house. Strange to say, the Indians, although they
had seemingly listened with attention to Mr. Heywood
while issuing these directions, did not make the slightest
movement to arrest the departure of the boy, or even to
remark upon it--merely turning to their chief, who uttered
a sharp and satisfied "ugh."
During all this time, Mr. Heywood and Le Noir stood at
some little distance from the Indians, and nearly on the
spot they had occupied at their entrance, the one holding
his rifle, the other his duck-gun, the butts of both,
resting on the floor. At each moment their anxiety
increased, and it seemed an age before the succor they
had sent for could arrive. How long, moreover, would
these taciturn and forbidding-mannered savages wait before
they gave some indication of overt hostility, and even
if nothing were done prior to the arrival of the fishing
party, would these latter be in sufficient force to awe
them into a pacific departure? The Indians were twelve
in number, exclusive of their chief, all fierce and
determined. They, with the soldiers, nine; for neither
Mr. Heywood nor Le Noir seemed disposed to count upon
any efficient aid from Ephraim Giles, who, during this
dumb scene, continued whittling before the Indians,
apparently as cool and indifferent to their presence, as
if he had conceived them to be the most peaceably disposed
persons in the world. He had, however, listened attentively
to the order given to Wilton by his master, and had not
failed to remark that the Indians had not, in any way,
attempted to impede his departure.
"What do you think of these people, Le Noir," at length
asked Mr. Heywood, without, however removing his gaze
from his visitors. "Can they be friendly Pottawattamies?"
"Friendly Pottawattamies! no, sare," returned the Canadian
seriously, and shrugging up his shoulders. "Dey no dress,
no paint like de Pottawattamie, and I not like der black
look--no, sare, dey Winnebago."
He laid a strong emphasis on the last word, and as he
expected, a general "ugh" among the party attested that
he had correctly named their tribe.
While they were thus expressing their conjectures in
regard to the character and intentions of their guests,
and inwardly determining to sell their lives as dearly
as possible if attacked. Ephraim Giles had risen from
his seat in the corner of the chimney, and with his eyes
fixed on the stick he was whittling, walked coolly out
of the door, and sauntered down the pathway leading to
the river. But if he had calculated on the same indifference
to his actions that the Indians had manifested towards
the boy, he was mistaken. They all watched him keenly as
he slowly sauntered towards the water, and then, when he
had got about half way, the chief suddenly springing to
his feet, and brandishing his tomahawk demanded in broken,
but perfectly intelligible English, where he was going.
"Well, I want to know," exclaimed the soldier, turning
round, and in a tone indicating surprise that he had thus
been questioned--"only goin over thar," he continued,
pointing to the haystacks on the opposite side of the
river, around which stood many cattle, "goin I guess to
give out some grub to the beasts, and I'll he back in no
time, to give you out some whisky." Then, resuming his
course, he went on whittling as unconcernedly as before.
The chief turned to his followers, and a low, yet eager
conversation ensued. Whether it was that the seeming
indifference of the man, or his promise of the whisky on
his return, or that some other motive influenced them,
they contented themselves with keeping a vigilant watch
upon his movements.
Mr. Heywood and the Frenchman exchanged looks of surprise;
they could not account for the action of Ephraim Giles,
for although it was his office to cross the river daily
for the purpose he had named, it had never been at that
period of the day. How the Indians could suffer his
departure, if their intentions were really hostile, it
was moreover impossible for them to comprehend; and in
proportion as the hopes of the one were raised by this
circumstance, so were those of the other depressed.
Mr. Heywood began to think that the suspicions of the
Canadian were unfounded, and that their guests were,
after all, but a party of warriors on their way to the
Fort, either for purposes of traffic with the only merchant
residing in its vicinity, or of business with the officer
commanding. It was not likely, he reasoned, that men
coming with hostile designs, would have suffered first
the boy to be despatched on a mission which, obscurely
as he had worded his directions, must in some measure
have been understood by the chief; and, secondly, permitted
Ephraim Giles to leave the house in the manner just
seen--particularly when the suspicion entertained by him
as well as by Le Noir and himself, must have been apparent.
But the Canadian drew no such inference from these facts.
Although he could not speak the Winnebago language, he was
too conversant with the customs of the Indians, to perceive,
in what they permitted in this seeming confidence, anything
but guile. He felt assured they had allowed the boy to
depart on his errand SOLELY that they might have a greater
number of victims in their power. Nothing was more easy,
numerous as they were, than to despatch THEM, and then,
lying in ambush among the trees that skirted the banks, to
shoot down every one in the fishing boat before a landing
could be effected, and preparations made for defence; while,
in the indifference of their conduct in regard to the
departure of Ephraim Giles, he saw but a design to disarm
suspicion, and thus induce them to lay by their arms, the
reports of which would necessarily alarm the party expected,
and so far put them on their guard as to defeat their plans.
The very appearance of Giles, moreover, crossing the water,
if seen by the descending boat would, he thought they
imagined, be a means of lulling the party into security,
and thus rendering them a more easy prey.
While the master and the servant were thus indulging
their opposite reflections, without, however, making any
intercommunication of them, Ephraim Giles, who had now
thrust his knife and stick into the pocket of his short
skirt, shoved off the only canoe that was to be seen,
and stepping into it, and seizing the paddle, urged it
slowly, and without the slightest appearance of hurry,
to the opposite bank, where, within less than ten minutes,
he had again hauled it up. Then, as coolly ascending the
bank, he approached one of the haystacks, and drew from
it a few handfuls of fodder which he spread upon the
ground, continuing to do so, as the cattle assembled
around, until he had gained the outermost haystack
bordering immediately upon the wood. This reached, he
gave a loud yell, which was promptly answered by the
Indians, who had continued to watch his movements up to
the very moment of his disappearance; and darting along
a narrow path which skirted the wood, ran with all his
speed towards the Fort. His flight had not lasted five
minutes, when the reports of several guns, fired from
the direction he had just quitted, met his ear, and urged
him to even greater exertion, until at length, haggard
and breathless, he gained his destination, and made his
way to the commanding officer, to whom he briefly detailed
the startling occurrences he had witnessed.
The Fort of Chicago, at that period, stood upon a portion
of the same ground occupied by its successor, and was,
in fact, a very epitome of a fortress. On the western
side, two block-houses constituted its chief defence,
while on the north, a subterranean passage led from the
parade-ground to the river, near the banks of which it
had been erected. The uses of this sally port were
two-fold--firstly, to afford the garrison a supply of
water in the event of a siege--secondly, to facilitate
escape, if necessary. The country around, now the seat
of fruitfulness and industry, was at that time a wilderness,
tenanted only by the savage, and by the few daring and
adventurous whites who had devoted their lives to purposes
of traffic, yet whose numbers was so small as to induce
them, with a view to their safety, to establish themselves
as near the Fort as possible. Roads, there were none,
and the half formed trail of the Indian furnished the
only means of communication between this distant port,
and the less thinly-settled portions of Michigan. Nor
were these journeys of frequent occurrence, but performed
at long intervals, by the enterprising and the robust
men--who feared not to encounter privations and
hardships--camping at night in the woods, or finding a
less desirable repose in the squalid wigwam of the
uncertain Indian.
The mouth of the Chicago River was then nearly half a
mile more to the southward than it is now. At a short
distance from the lake, which gives its name to the
territory, it soon branched off abruptly to the north,
and then again, taking another turn, pursued its original
westernly coarse, and, passing near the Fort, gave to
the latter the appearance of a slightly elevated peninsula,
separated only from the water by a gentle declivity of
no great extent. On the same side of the river was the
Government Agency House, and at about a quarter of a mile
from that, a spot generally used as a place of encampment
by the friendly Indians--at that moment occupied by a
numerous band of Pottawattamies. Immediately opposite to
the Fort, stood the residence and trading establishment
of Mr. Mackenzie--a gentleman who had long mixed with
the Indians--had much influence with, and was highly
regarded by them; and, close to his abode, lived with
his family, consisting of his wife and her sister, French
Canadians like himself, Ouilmette, one of the most attached
of his people, and enjoying almost equal popularity with
the red men. About a quarter of a mile beyond Ouilmettes,
and immediately opposite to the Pottawattamie encampment,
from which it was divided only by the river, was another
small but neat dwelling. This belonged to Mr. Heywood,
and was then inhabited by his wife and daughter, whom he
would not permit to reside at the farm, as well on account
of its rudeness of accommodation, as of the dread of
exposing them, in that remote situation, to the very
danger which we have seen he had himself so recently
Such was the civilian population of that sparsely inhabited
country in 1812. Let us now see the strength of its
For the defence of so distant an outpost, almost cut off,
as we have already shown, from communication with the
more inhabited portions of the States, the American
government had not thought it requisite to provide more
than a single company of soldiers, a force utterly
inadequate to contend in a case of emergency, with the
hordes of savages that could be collected around them
within a few hours, and WEEKS before any efficient succor
could be obtained. This error, grave at any time, in
those who sought to extend the influence of their name
and arms throughout that fertile region which has now,
within little more than a quarter of a century, become
the very head of American commerce and navigation, was
especially so at this particular epoch, when the Indian
spirit, stirred to action by the great chief who had so
recently measured his strength with his hated enemies at
Tippecanoe, was likely to be aroused on all occasions
where facility of conquest seemed to present itself. And,
yet, that government well knew that there were, even at
that moment, difficulties existing between themselves
and Great Britain of a character to lead to an interruption
of the friendly intercourse that had hitherto subsisted
between the two countries, and which, if suffered to
ripen into hostilities, would necessarily, associate many
of the Indian tribes with the forces of England, drawing
down certain destruction on those remoter posts, whose
chief reliance on immunity from danger, lay, in a great
degree, in the array of strength they could oppose to
their subtle and calculating enemy.
This company, consisting, of seventy-five men--many of
them married and with families--was under the command of
an officer whose conduct throughout the eventful and
trying scenes about to be recorded, has often been the
subject of much censure--with what justice our readers
must determine.
Captain Headley was one of those officers who, without
having acquired no greater rank at the age of forty than
he now possessed, had served in the army of the United
States from his boyhood, and was, in all the minutiae of
the service, a strict disciplinarian. He had, moreover,
acquired habits of deference to authority, which caused
him, on all necessary occasions, to regulate his conduct
by the orders of his superiors, and so strongly was this
engrafted on his nature, that while he possessed mind
and energy sufficient to plan the most feasible measures
himself, his dread of that responsibility which
circumstances had now forced upon him, induced the utmost
disinclination to depart from the letter of an instruction
once received, and unrevoked.
These, however, were purely faults of his military
education. To a commanding person and dignified manners,
Captain Headley united a mind highly cultivated, and
feelings and sentiments which could not fail to secure
the respect even of those who were most ready to condemn
that caution and prudence of character which so eminently
distinguished his career as a subordinate soldier. It
was well known and conceded that, if he erred, the error
grew not so much out of his own want of judgment, but
was rather the fruit of the too great deference to
authority which led him, implicitly, to adopt the judgment
of others. In the private relations of life, he was
deservedly esteemed, excelling in all those higher
accomplishments that ensure favor with society, and seldom
fail to win for their possessor the approbation of women.
Such, indeed, had been his success in this particular
application of the gifts with which nature had endowed
him, that he had, for some years, been the possessor of
the affections and the hand of one of the noblest of her
sex, whom, however, we shall take a later opportunity of
introducing to the reader.
The next officer in rank was Lieutenant Elmsley, married
also, and about ten years the junior of Headley. From
causes, which will be explained in the coarse of our
narrative, the subaltern did not incline to place that
confidence in the measures and judgment of his captain,
which, it has been shown, the latter almost invariably
accorded to HIS superiors, and hence arose feelings,
that, without absolutely alienating them--for, in their
relative military positions this could never be--rendered
their intercourse daily more and more formal, until, in
the end, a sentiment almost of enmity prevailed. In a
remote garrison like this such an evil was the more to
be regretted, even while there was the greater probability,
from absence of serious occupation, of its occurrence.
The junior subaltern was Ensign Ronayne, a high-spirited
young Southerner, who had now been three years at the
post, and within that period, had, by his frank demeanor,
and handsome person, won the regard of all--military and
civil--there and in the neighborhood. Enterprising,
ardent, fearless, and chivalrous, this young man had
passed the first year of what he, then, considered little
short of banishment, in a restless desire for adventure;
but at the end of that period, came a marked change over
him, and the spirit that had panted exclusively for
action, now bent before a gentler and a holier influence.
Last of the officers of this little fort, was the surgeon.
Doctor Von Vottenberg, who as his name would imply, was
a descendant from one of the earlier Dutch settlers in
the colonies. There was nothing remarkable about this
gentleman. He was short, stoat, rather of a bilious
temperament--clever in his profession, and much addicted
to compounding whisky punch, which he not only brewed,
but drank most satisfactorily. What other attributes and
accomplishments he possessed, the incidents herein related
must develop.
It has been said that, on its Western side, the Fort was
protected by two block-houses, while on the northern a
sally port communicated with the tower. On each side of
the sally port were two small stores, reserved for the
ammunition and arms, and for the provisions and spare
clothing of the garrison. On the north and south faces,
rose a series of small low wooden buildings, appropriated
to the officers, and capable of containing thrice the
number now occupying them. The southern face, or that
which looks towards the locale of the scene described in
our last chapter, was now the residence of the commanding
officer, and of his senior subordinate, who, with their
families and domestics, tenanted the whole of that range
of buildings, with the exception of one large room in
the centre, generally used as a hall of council with the
Indians. In the other range, precisely similar in
construction, were quartered Ensign Ronayne and the
surgeon Von Vottenberg, who each, however occupied but
one apartment. The central and largest serving as their
mess-room. The other half of the building was vacant, or
rather had been so, until the doctor obtained the permission
of the commanding officer to use it as a temporary
surgery--the hospital being a distinct edifice between
the two block-houses. These latter, capacious for the
size of the fort, accommodated the non-commissioned
officers and men--the company being divided as equally
as possible between the two.
Without the whole of these buildings stood a strong
stockade, about twelve feet high, loop-holed for musquetry,
with a bastion at each angle, facing the four principal
points of the compass, on each of which was placed a
small gun, that the men had been trained to work. The
entrance to the fort was from the westward, and in the
direction of the agency house, which two of these bastions
immediately flanked.
The guard consisted of a non-commissioned officer and
nine men--three sentries being furnished for the necessary
duties--one for the stores already described--another
for the commanding officer's quarters--the mess-room and
the surgery, and the third for the, southern bastion,
upon which floated the glorious stars and stripes of the
Union. A fourth sentry at the gate had been dispensed
with, in consequence of the proximity to it of the
guard-house. This, was a small building immediately in
front of the hospital, which, with the gate, came
particularly under the surveillance of the non-commissioned
officer of the guard.
With the character for strict attention to discipline,
which has been ascribed to Captain Headley, it will be
easily understood that every man on duty was expected to
be as correct in the execution of its details, as though
he had been at the Head Quarters of his regiment, or at
the Seat of Government itself. The utmost regard to dress,
and to the efficiency of arms was moreover enjoined, and
so far did their commander feel indisposed to trust the
inspection of them to the non-commissioned officer of
the guard, that, although there were in the Fort, but
two regimental officers besides himself, he had, from
the moment of assuming the command, required them
alternately to perform the necessary duties; superintending
the relief of guards, and parading all men off duty and
out of hospital, in full dress, at least once in the
twenty-four hours.
At the outset, this had been a source of much discontent
with the men, who conceiving that, in that remote region,
the rigor of the service might be dispensed with, almost
openly expressed their desire that there might be sent
to command them, some officer less severe in his exactions.
This had been reported to Captain Headley by his senior
subaltern, from whose manner, while communicating the
information, it was apparent that he did not wholly
disapprove of a remonstrance against measures which
involved the sacrifice of his own comfort. His superior
was not slow to remark this, he, however, quietly observed
that he was not, at his years, and in his responsible
position, to be told the duty required to be performed
by the troops under his command; and that, if he perceived
any symptoms of insubordination, he would take the proper
means to suppress it. The lieutenant made no reply, but
bit his lip, and withdrew. This was the first manifestation
of any thing approaching to disunion, between these two
Lieutenant Elmsley, although by no means a negligent
officer, was no disciplinarian. He could not but look
upon formal guard mountings and parades, in that isolated
quarter, as unnecessary--serving only to create discontent
amongst the men, and to induce them--the unmarried
especially--to desert, whenever an opportunity presented
itself; while, bringing the subject more immediately home
to himself, he deemed it to be a needlessly severe tax
upon the only two subalterns of the garrison. This, he
thought might, situated as they were, have been dispensed
with, without the slightest inconvenience to the service;
and the duty left to the superintendence of the non-
commissioned part of the force. Hence his annoyance with
his superior.
But Captain Headley was of a different opinion. He thought
that the very remoteness of his post, rendered it the
more necessary that no appearance of carelessness should
be remarked by the tribes of Indians, who were in the
vicinity, and who, however amicable their relations THEN
with the United States, might later, from caprice or
events yet unforeseen, take advantage of the slightest
negligence, to attempt the destruction of all.
Better, he thought, that they who received the pay of
the Government, for upholding its interests and dignity,
should be subject to a frequent recurrence of duty--not
in itself particularly irksome-than that an important
post--the nucleus of the future prosperity of the
State--should be perilled by the absence of that vigilance
which ought to characterize the soldier. If he allowed
to be retrenched, or indeed left unemployed, any of that
military exhibition, which tends to impress upon the many
the moral superiority of the few, where, he argued, would
be their safety in the hour of need; and if those duties
were performed in a slovenly manner, and without due
regard to SCENIC effect, the result would be to induce
the wily savage to undervalue that superiority which
discipline chiefly secured to the white warrior. Captain
Headley was discriminating and observant. He had, more
than once, remarked the surprise and admiration created
among the Indians who had access within the stockade, at
the promptness and regularity of the system introduced
into it, and this, of itself, was a sufficient motive to
cause him to persevere in the course his judgment had
Such was the condition of affairs at the moment when
Ephraim Giles, breathless with speed, and fancying the
party of Winnebagoes close upon his heels, made his entry
into the Fort. The news he brought was of a nature to
assemble the officers, as well as many of the men and
women, all anxious to hear the details of an occurrence,
which now, for the first time since their arrival at the
Fort, had created serious apprehension. But there was
one of the party who manifested more than ordinary
uneasiness. His impatience was great, and, after having
whispered a few words in the ear of Captain Headley, and
received an affirmative reply, coupled with an injunction
of caution, he left the building in haste, and proceeded
towards the block-houses, where, selecting half a dozen
men, and ordering them to arm on the instant, he passed
with them through the gate--sprang into a large scow
which was unchained from its moorings, on the bank of
the river, and pulled in the direction of the house
already said to have been occupied by the wife and
daughter of Mr. Heywood.
Meanwhile, Captain Headley closely interrogated the
fugitive as to the number and appearance of the Indians
who had created all this alarm, their probable object in
visiting the farm in this seemingly hostile manner, and
the number of shots he had heard fired. To all these
questions the soldier, who had now, in some degree,
recovered from his panic, replied in the usual drawling
tone, his stick and knife, which had been drawn forth
again from his pocket, in which he had deposited them in
crossing from the farm-house, affording him his usual
amusement, but nothing, of course, was elicited beyond
what has already been related. Whether any one had been
killed in the house, or the guns merely discharged to
frighten the fugitive, or that the reports had proceeded
from the fishing party that had been sent for, with a
view to alarm the Indians, and deter them from the
commission of outrage, were surmises that severally
occurred to Captain Headley, but without enabling him to
arrive at any definite opinion. That there was cause for
apprehension, there was no doubt. The appearance of a
band of strange Indians in the neighborhood, however
small in number, dressed in their war-paint, gave earnest
of coming trouble, not only through their own acts, but
through the influence of example on the many other tribes
whom they had been accustomed to look upon as friends
and allies. In the midst of these reflections arose a
feeling of self-gratulation that he had preserved that
discipline and strict attention to duty, which, he knew,
that all must now admit to have been correct, and which,
if any difficulty did occur, could not fail to prove of
the utmost importance.
His first consideration now was the safety of the small
fishing party, to which allusion has more than once been
made in the preceding pages, and which it was a source
of satisfaction to him to recollect were, in accordance
with an order never departed from on these and similar
excursions, furnished with the necessary arms and
ammunition, although only in their fatigue dress.
"Mr. Elmsley," he said turning to that officer, who stood
waiting his orders, "who commands the fishing party?"
"Corporal Nixon, sir," replied the lieutenant, at once
entering into his motive for the inquiry, "a brave, but
discreet soldier, and one who, I am sure, will evince
all necessary resolution, should he see anything of these
Indians. The men who are with him are also fine young
fellows, and among our best shots."
"I am glad to hear this," was the rejoinder, "but still,
twelve Indians firing from the woods upon half their
number in an open boat, and taken by surprise, would, I
fear, render the activity, courage, and skill of these
latter but of little avail. My hope is, that Corporal
Nixon may see nothing of them, but that, on the contrary,
if he has been apprised by the boy, as the fellow says
he was to be, of their presence at Heywood's farm, he
will make his way back without stopping, or at least,
use every precaution to conceal himself, until he can
drop down under cover of the darkness."
"What, sir," said the lieutenant, with a surprise he
could ill conceal, "would you desire him not to afford
the necessary succor to Mr. Heywood, if, indeed, he should
be in time to render any service?"
"Mr. Elmsley," remarked his captain, somewhat sternly,
"my sympathy for the fate of those at the farm, is,
perhaps quite as strong as yours, but I have a higher
stake at issue--a higher object than the indulgence of
personal sympathy. I can ill afford, threatening as
appearances are at this moment, to risk the lives of six
men, the best you say in the fort, out of the very small
force at my disposal. Nothing must be left undone to
secure their safety. Order a gun to be fired immediately
from the southern bastion. It will be distinctly heard
by the party, and if not already apprised of the existing
danger they will at once understand the signal. Moreover
the report may have the effect of alarming the savages."
Lieutenant Elmsley withdrew to execute the order, and
soon after the dull booming of a cannon was heard
reverberating throughout the surrounding woods, and
winding its echoes along the waters of the narrow and
tranquil Chicago. So unusual an event as this excited a
good deal of speculation, not only among the inmates of
the Fort, but among the numerous friendly Indians encamped
without, who, wholly unacquainted with the cause of the
alarm, were, by the strict orders of Captain Headley,
kept ignorant of the information of which Ephraim Giles
had been the bearer--
That night there was a more than usual vigilance exercised
by the sentinels, and although the rest of the garrison
were exempt from extraordinary duty, the watchful and
anxious commanding officer slept not until dawn.
At a distance of about two miles above Heywood's farm,
and on the southern branch of the Chicago, which winds
its slightly serpentine course between the wood and the
prairie. There was at the period of which we treat, a
small deep bay formed by two adjacent and densely wooded
points of land, in the cool shades of which the pike,
the black bass, and the pickerel loved to lie in the heat
of summer, and where, in early spring, though in less
numbers, they were wont to congregate. This was the
customary fishing spot of the garrison--six men and a
non-commissioned officer, repairing there almost daily,
with their ample store of lines and spears, as much,
although not avowedly, for their own amusement, as for
the supply of the officer's table. What remained, after
a certain division among these, became the property of
the captors, who, after appropriating to themselves what
was necessary for their next day's meal, distributed the
rest among the non-commissioned, and men of the company.
As the season advanced, and the fish became more plenty,
there was little limitation of quantity, for the freight,
nightly brought home, and taken with the line and spear
alone, was sufficient to afford every one abundance. In
truth, even in the depth of winter, there was little
privation endured by the garrison--the fat venison brought
in and sold for the veriest trifle by the Indians--the
luscious and ample prairie hen, chiefly shot by the
officers, and the fish we have named, leaving no necessity
for consumption of the salt food with which it was but
indifferently stored.
On the day on which our narrative has commenced, the
usual fishing party had ascended the river at an early
hour, for the newness of the season and the shortness of
the days rendered it an object that they should be on
the accustomed haunt as soon as possible. They had left
the Fort at daylight, passing Heywood's farm at the moment
when, for the purpose of foddering the cattle on the
opposite bank, he, with the boy Wilton, was crossing to
the very canoe in which Ephraim Giles afterwards made
his escape--the latter with the Canadian, being engaged
in felling trees higher up the river.
Arrived at the little bay to which we have just adverted,
the boat was fastened to the gnarled trunk of a tree,
which projected over the deep water at the nearest point,
and the party, taking with them their fishing rods, baits,
and haversacks, but leaving their spears and muskets in
the boat, dispersed themselves at short distances along
the curve that formed the bay, which, however, was not
more than three hundred yards in extent, from point to
When they first cast their lines into the water, the
sun's rays were clearly visible through the thick wood
in their rear. The early morning, too, had been cold--almost
frosty--so much so, that the wild ducks, which generally
evinced a good deal of shyness, NOW, seemingly emboldened
by the briskness of the atmosphere, could be seen gliding
about in considerable numbers, about half a mile below
them; while the fish, on the contrary, as though
dissatisfied with the temperature of their element,
refused to do what the men called "the amiable," by
approaching the hook. Their occupation had been continued
until long past mid-day, during which time not more than
a dozen fish had been taken. Vexed at his ill luck, for
he had not had even a nibble, one of the men flung his
rod upon the bank, impatiently, and then, seating himself
on the projecting root of a large tree, declared it was
all nonsense to play the fool any longer, and that the
most sensible thing they could do, was to take their
dinners--smoke their pipes--and wash the whole down with
a little of the Monongahela.
"I say, Collins," remarked the corporal, good-naturedly,
"we shall have poor fare for the officers' mess, let
alone our own, if we all follow your example, and give
up so soon. But, as you say, it's time to have some grub,
and we'll try our luck afterwards."
"Rome wasn't built in a day," said the man who had been
fishing next to Collins, and drawing in his line also,
"we've a good many hours left yet."
Following the recommendation of the corporal, the rest
of the party sat down on the edge of the bank, and,
opening their haversacks, produced each his allowance
of corn bread and venison, or salted pork, after dispatching
which, with the aid of their clasp knives, they took a
refreshing "horn" from the general canteen that Collins
carried suspended over his shoulder, and then drew forth
and lighted their pipes.
As the latter puffed away with a vigor that proved either
a preoccupied mind, or extreme gratification with the
weed, he cast his eyes carelessly down the stream, where
a large description of duck, called by the French natives
of the country, the cou rouge, from the color of their
necks, were disporting themselves as though nothing in
the shape of a fire arm was near them--now diving--now
rising on their feet, and shaking their outstretched
wings, now chasing each other in limited circles, and
altogether so apparently emboldened by their immunity
from interruption, as to come close to the bank, at a
distance of little more than fifty yards from the spot
where he sat.
"It's very ridiculous," he at length remarked, pouring
forth at the same time, an unusual volume of smoke, and
watching the curling eddies as they rose far above his
head--"it's very ridiculous, I say, the captin's order
that we sha'nt fire. Look at them ducks--how they seem
to know all about it, too!"
"By gosh!" said another, "I've a good notion to fetch my
musket, and have a slap into them. Shall I, corporal?"
"Certainly not, Green," was the answer. "If it was known
in the Fort I had permitted any of the party to fire, I
should be broke, if I did'nt get picketed for my pains,
and none of us would ever get out again."
"No great harm in that, either," said the man who had
made the novel observation that Rome had not been built
in a day.
The corporal looked sharply at the last speaker, as if
not fully comprehending his meaning.
"Jackson means no great harm if we never got out again,"
interposed Collins, "and I think as he does, for I see
no fun in rowing four or five miles to fish, and scarcely
getting a sight of one."
"Well, but Collins, that's not always our luck. I'm sure
we've had sport enough before. It must be because the
weather's rather cold today, that the fish won't bite."
"It's of no use his grumbling, Philips," remarked Corporal
Nixon, "we're here, not so much for own sport as on a
duty for the garrison. Let me hear no more of this,
"Well, corporal that's true enough," said Green, "but
dash me if it isn't temptin' to see them fellows there
stealin' upon us, and we lookin' on, and doin' nothin'."
"What fellows do you mean?" inquired the corporal, suddenly
starting to his feet, and looking down the river.
"Why, them ducks to be sure, see how they come sailin'
up to us, as if they knowed all about the captin's
order--no jumpin' or friskin' now, but all of a heap
"Yes, but I say, what's that black looking thing beyond
the ducks?" asked one who had not hitherto spoken, pointing
his finger.
"Where, where, Weston?" exclaimed one or two voices, and
the speakers looked in the direction indicated.
"Hang me if it isn't a bear," said Collins in a low,
anxious tone; "that's the chap that has sent the ducks
so near us. Do let me have a crack at him, corporal. He's
large enough to supply us all with fresh meat for three
days, and will make up for the bad fishing. Only one shy,
corporal, and I engage not to miss him"
Sure enough, there was, in the centre of the stream, a
dark object, nearly half a mile distant, which all joined
in pronouncing to be a bear. It was swimming vigorously
across to their aide of the river.
"I think we might take him as he lands," observed Green.
"What say you, corporal; I reckon you'll let us try THAT,
if you won't let us fire?"
"Stay all where you are," was the reply. "I can manage
him myself with a spear, if I can only be in time before
he reaches the shore. If not, it's no matter, for I won't
allow a trigger to be pulled."
Corporal Nixon was a tall, active, strong-limbed Virginian.
He soon cleared the space that separated them from the
boat, and jumping to the stern, seized one of the fishing
spears, and then moved on through: the wood that densely
skirted the bank. But he had not been five minutes gone
when he again made his appearance, not immediately by
the half-formed path he had previously taken, but by a
slight detour to the rear.
"Hist, hist," he said in an audible whisper, as soon as
he saw that he was perceived, motioning at the same time
with his hand to enjoin silence, and concealment. Then,
beckoning to Weston to join him; he again moved along
the path with the light tread of one who fears to alarm
an object unconscious of interruption.
All had the sense to understand that there was some good
reason for the caution of the corporal, and with the
exception of Weston, who had promptly obeyed the signal,
busily, but silently resumed their morning's occupation.
First, a quarter of an hour, and then minute after minute
passed slowly away, yet there was no sign of the return
of their companions. What could be the meaning of this?
If the bear had not proved to be too much for them, they
ought to have killed him, and rejoined them before this.
Curiosity, nay, apprehension finally overcame the strong
sense of obedience to orders, which had been literally
drilled into them, and they all, at the suggestion of
Green, dropped their rods on the bank, and moved cautiously
in the direction that had been taken by the corporal and
Weston. Great, however, was the surprise of Collins, then
a little in advance, when, on nearing the spot where the
boat lay moored, he beheld, not those of who they were
in search, but a naked, and hideously painted savage, in
the very act of untying the rope by which the skiff was
fastened to the knotted and projecting root of the tree.
Sensible that there was impending danger, although he
knew not of what precise kind, inasmuch as there was no
Reason to apprehend anything hostile from the Indians,
with--all of whom around the fort, they had always been
on friendly terms, he sprang forward to arrest the
movement. But the distance was several rods, and the
savage, alarmed by the rustling made among the foliage
and brushwood in his rear, now put his shoulder to the
boat, and, in the next instant would have had it far
across this stream, had not a hand suddenly protruded
from beneath the hollow clump of earth on which the tree
grew, grasped him firmly by the ankle, even while in the
act of springing into the forcibly impelled skiff. In
a moment or two, he grappled tightly with his hands upon
the bow of the boat, but, finding the pressure on his
imprisoned limb too great for resistance, he relinquished
his hold, falling upon his face in the water, from which
he was dragged, although without violence, by Corporal
Nixon, who had emerged from his hiding-place.
When the Indian was suffered to rise, there was a
threatening expression on his countenance, which, not
even the number of those by whom he was now surrounded
could check, and he made an involuntary motion of his
hand to his scalping knife, the only weapon with which
he was armed, that lay in the sheath dangling from his
girdle. Seeing, however, that there was no hostile
disposition manifested by the party, he speedily
relinquished his first impulse, and stood upright before
them with a bold, but calm look.
"What you want with boat?" asked the corporal, almost
involuntarily, and without the slightest expectation that
his question would be understood.
"Me want 'em cross," replied the Indian, pointing to the
opposite woods.
"But why you come in bear skin?" and, in his turn, the
corporal pointed with his finger in the direction in
which the supposed bear had been seen.
"Ugh!" grunted the savage doggedly, finding that he had
been detected in his disguise.
"What nation you?--Pottawattamie?"
"Wah! Pottawattamie!"
"Curious enough," pursued the corporal, addressing himself
to his comrades. "I don't half like the look of the
fellow, but I suppose it's all right. We musn't offend
him. You chief?", he continued, pointing to a large silver
medal suspended over the breast of the athletic and
well-proportioned Indian.
"Yes, me chief. Pottawattamie chief," and he made a sign
in the direction of the Fort, near which the encampment
of that tribe lay.
"You friend, then?" remarked the corporal, extending his
"Yes, me friend," he answered promptly, brightening up
and taking the proffered hand; "you give 'em boat?"
"Do you see any thing green in my eye?" asked the Virginian,
incapable, even under the circumstances, of repressing
the indulgence of his humor.
But the party questioned, although speaking a little
English, was not sufficiently initiated in its elegancies
to comprehend this; so, he merely answered with a "ugh!"
while the greater portion of the men laughed boisterously,
both at the wit of the corporal, and at the seeming
astonishment it excited.
This mirth by no means suited the humor of the Indian.
He felt that it was directed towards himself, and again
he stood fierce, and with a dilating frame before them.
Corporal Nixon at once became sensible of his error. To
affront one of the friendly chiefs would, he knew, not
only compromise the interests of the garrison, but incur
the severe displeasure of the commanding officer, who
had always enjoined the most scrupulous abstinence from
any thing offensive to them.
"I only meant to say," he added, as he again extended
his hand. "I can't give 'em boat. White chief" and he
pointed in the direction of the Fort, "no let me."
"Ugh!" exclaimed the Indian, his stern features again
brightening up with a last hope. "'Spose come with Injin?"
For a moment or two, the corporal hesitated whether or
not to put the man across, but when he reflected on the
singular manner of his advent, and other circumstances
connected with his appearance among them, his customary
prudence came to his aid, and while avoiding all ground
for offence by his mode of refusal, he gave him peremptorily
to understand that there was an order against his suffering
the boat to leave its present station.
Again the countenance of the Indian fell, even while his
quick eye rolled incessantly from one to the other of
the group. "You no give 'em boat--Injin swim," he at
length observed.
"Just as you please," answered corporal Nixon. "By and
bye, sogers go to the Fort--take Injin with 'em."
"Wah! Injin cross here," and as he spoke, he sprang again
to the bow of the boat, and at a single bound cleared
the intervening space to the very stern.
Several heavy splashes in the water.--a muttered curse
from the corporal--some confusion among his men, and the
savage was seen nearly half-way across the river, swimming
like an eel to the opposite shore.
"Damn the awkward brute!" exclaimed the former, angrily.
"How many muskets are there overboard, Jackson?"
"Only three--and two cartouch boxes."
"ONLY three indeed! I wish the fellow had been at old
Nick, instead of coming here to create all this confusion.
Is the water deep at the stern?"
"Nearly a fathom I reckon," was the reply.
"Then, my lads, you must look out for other fish to-day.
Jackson, can you see the muskets at the bottom?"
"Not a sign of them, corporal," answered the man, as
lying flat on the boat, he peered intently into the water.
"The bottom is covered with weeds, and I can just see
the tails of two large pikes wriggling among them. By
Gemini, I think if I had my rod here, I could take them
"Never mind them," resumed the corporal, again delivering
himself of a little wit; "muskets will be of far more
use to us just now than pikes. We must fish them up--there
will be the devil to pay if we go home without them."
"Then there's no other way than diving for them," said
Jackson, still looking downwards. "Not even the glitter
of a barrel can I see. They must have buried themselves
in the weeds. I say, Weston," slightly raising his head
and turning his face to the party named, "You're a good
"Yes, and Collins is better than me."
"Well then, here's at it," resumed Jackson, rising and
commencing to strip. "It's only by groping and feeling
that we can find the arms, and when once we've tumbled
on 'em, it will be easy enough to get 'em up with one
hand, while we swim with the other. We must plunge here
from the stern," he added, as the men whom he had named
jumped on board and commenced stripping themselves.
"How came the Injin to knock the muskets overboard,
Corporal?" inquired one of the party who had not yet
spoken--a fat, portly man, with a long hooked nose, and
a peaked chin.
"I'm dashed," replied Nixon, "if I can tell myself, though
I was looking at him as he jumped from one end of the
boat to the other. All I know is, the firelocks were
propped against the stern of the boat as we placed them,
with the backs of the cartouch boxes slung under the
ramrods, and I suppose, for I don't know how else it
could be done, that instead of alighting on the seat, he
must have passed it, and putting his foot on the muzzles,
tipped them with the weight of his body, head over heels
into the water."
"Corporal," Ventured Collins, as he removed his last
garment, "you asked that painted chap if he saw anything
green in your eye. Now, that's as it may be, but hang
me, if it wasn't a little green to take him for a
"And how do you know he was'nt a Pottawattamie? Who made
you a judge of Indian flesh?" retorted the corporal, with
an air of dissatisfaction.
"Didn't he say he was, and didn't he wear a chiefs medal?"
"Say? Yes, I'll be bound he'd say and wear anything to
gull us, but I'm sure he's no Pottawattamie. I never seen
a Pottawattamie of that build. They are tall, thin,
skinny, bony fellows--while this chap was square, stoat,
broad-shouldered, and full of muscle."
Corporal Nixon pondered a little, because half-convinced,
but would not acknowledge that he could have been mistaken.
"Are you all ready?" he at length inquired, anxious, like
most men, when driven into a corner on one topic, to
introduce another.
"All ready," answered Jackson, taking the first plunge
in the direction in which he knew the muskets must have
Before following his example, the others waited for his
report. This was soon made. He had got hold of one of
the muskets, and partly lifted it from its bed, but the
net-work of strong weeds above it, opposing too much
resistance, he had been compelled to quit his hold, and
came to the surface of the water for air.
"Here's for another trial," shouted Collins, as he made
his plunge in the same direction. In a few seconds he
too, reappeared, bearing in his right hand, not a firelock,
but the two missing cartouch boxes.
"Better luck next time," remarked corporal Nixon. "I
think my lads, if two of you were to separate the weeds
with your hands, so as to clear each musket, the other
might easily bring it up."
The suggestion of the corporal was at once acted upon,
but it was not, until after repeated attempts had been
made to liberate the arms, from their Web-like canopy,
that two were finally brought up and placed in the boat.
The third they groped for in vain, until at length, the
men, dispirited and tired, declared it was utterly useless
to prosecute the search, and that the other musket must
be given up as lost.
This, however, did not suit the views of the correct
corporal. He said, pointedly, that he would almost as
soon return without his head as without his arms, and
that the day having been thus far spent without the
accomplishment of the object for which they were there,
he was determined to devote the remainder to the search.
Not being a bad diver himself, although he had not hitherto
deemed it necessary to add his exertions to those of his
comrades, he now stripped, desiring those who had preceded
him to throw on their shirts and rest themselves for
another plunge, when he should have succeeded in finding
out where the missing musket had lodged.
"What's that?" exclaimed Jackson, pointing to a small,
dark object, of a nearly circular shape, which was floating
about half way between the surface of the place into
which the divers had plunged, and the weeds below.
His companions turned their eyes in the direction indicated,
but, almost immediately after Jackson had spoken, it had
disappeared wholly from view.
"What did it loot like?" asked the corporal.
"It must have been a mush rat," returned Jackson, "there's
plenty of them about here, and I reckon our diving has
disturbed the nest."
Corporal Nixon now took his leap, but some paces farther
out from the shore than his companions had ventured upon
theirs. The direction was the right one. Extending his
arms as he reached a space entirely free from weeds, his
right hand encountered the cold barrel of the musket,
but as he sought to glide it along, in order that he
might grasp the butt, and thus drag it endwise up, his
hand disturbed some hairy substance which rested upon
the weapon causing it to float slightly upwards, until
it came in contact with his naked breast. Now, the corporal
was a fearless soldier whose nerves were not easily
shaken, but the idea of a nasty mush rat, as they termed
it, touching his person in this manner, produced in him
unconquerable disgust, even while it gave him the desperate
energy to clutch the object with a nervous grasp, and
without regard to the chance of being bitten in the act,
by the small, sharp teeth of the animal. His consternation
was even greater when, on enclosing it within his rough
palm, he felt the whole to collapse, as though it had
been a heavy air-filled bladder, burst by the compression
of his fingers. A new feeling-a new chain of ideas now
took possession of him, and leaving the musket where it
was, he rose near the spot from which he first started,
and still clutching his hairy and undesirable prize,
threw it from him towards the boat, into the bottom of
which it fell, after grazing the cheek of Collins.
"Pooh! pooh! pooh," spluttered the latter, moving as if
the action was necessary to disembarrass him of the
unsightly object no longer there.
A new source of curiosity was now created, not only among
the swimmers, but the idlers who were smoking their pipes
and looking carelessly on. All now, without venturing to
touch the loathsome looking thing, gathered around it
endeavoring to ascertain really what it was. "What do
you make of the creature?" asked corporal Nixon, who,
now ascending the side of the boat, observed how much
the interest of his men had been excited.
"I'm sure I can't say," answered Jackson. "It looks for
all the world like a rat, only the hair is so long. Dead
enough though, for it does not budge an inch."
"Let's see what it is," said the man with the long hooked
nose, and the peaked chin.
By no means anxious, however, to touch it with his hands,
he took up the spear and turned over and over the clammy
and motionless mass.
"Just as I thought," exclaimed the corporal, with a
shudder, as the weapon unfolding the whole to view,
disclosed alternately the moistened hair and thick and
bloody skin of a human head.
"Gemini," cried Jackson, how came this scalp here, it
has been freshly taken--this very day--yet how could it
get here?"
"Depend upon't," said Green, "that chief that was here
just now, could tell somethin' about it, if he had a
"Then he must have had it in his breech-cloth," remarked
the corporal seriously, for not a rag besides had he
about him. "No, no it couldn't be him, and yet it's very
"Of course it couldn't be him," maliciously interfered
Collins, who had so far conquered his first disgust, as
to take the object of discussion into his own hands, "for
you know he was a Pottawattamie, and therefore wouldn't
scalp for the world."
"But whose can it be?" resumed Jackson, and how did it
get here, I am sure its that of a boy."
"Could it have floated here from the farm?" half questioned
Green musingly.
"Somethin' struck me like shots from that quarter, about
an hour before the Injin swam across, and dash me, now
I recollect it, I'm sure I heard a cry, just after the
corporal left us to go after that bear."
"Nonsense," said the Virginian, "how could it float
against the stream, and as for the shots you think you
heard, you most have taken Ephraim Giles's axe blows for
them. Besides, you couldn't hear shots at that distance.
If you did, it most be from some of the hunters."
"But the cry, corporal," urged Jackson, "what say you to
the cry Green says he heard when you left us?"
"All stuff; did anybody else hear it besides Green, you
were all sitting on the bank with him?"
No one answering in the affirmative, Corporal Nixon
declared the thing to be impossible, or he should have
heard it too; nor could he see what connection there was
between that cry--supposing there had been one--and the
facts that had come immediately under their own observation.
"Hist," interrupted Collins, placing one hand upon the
speaker's shoulder, and with the other directing his
attention to what, now seen by the whole of the party,
was ill calculated to re-assure them.
Stealthily gliding through the fresh and thinly foliaged
wood, that skirted the opposite shore, yet almost concealed
from view, Corporal Nixon now beheld the crouching forms
of several armed Indians, nearly naked, and evidently in
war costume. They were following the serpentine course
necessitated by the interposing trees, and seeking
cautiously to establish themselves behind cover on the
very verge of the bank.
"Back men for your lives, there's nothing friendly there,"
exclaimed the Virginian the moment that his glance had
taken in the scene, "out with the arms, and divide the
dry ammunition. Collins, you are a smart fellow, do you
and Green set to work and light a fire, but out of sight,
and dry the muskets as fast as you can. There are twelve
pounds in each of the five remaining cartouch boxes,
these will do for a spell. Jackson, Philips, tree
yourselves, while Cass lies flat in the stern, and keeps
a good look out on the devils, without exposing himself.
Now, my lads, do all this very quietly, and as if you
didn't think there was danger at hand. If they see any
signs of fear, they will pitch it into you directly. As
it is, they are only waiting to settle themselves, and
do it at their leisure."
"Pity they don't make a general of you, corporal," remarked
Collins, as he proceeded quietly with Green to the execution
of the duty assigned to them. "I guess Washington himself
couldn't better command a little army. Is your battle order
finished, general?"
"None of your nonsense, master Collins, this is no time
for jesting. Go and dry these arms, and when you have
them so that they can send a bullet from their throats,
join Jackson and Philips in covering the boat. Weston
and I will take up our first station."
And in less time than we have taken to describe the cause
of the alarm, and the instructions given in consequence,
the men had hastened to execute the several duties assigned
to them on shore, while Cass remained, not only with a
view of showing the Indians that the boat was not wholly
unguarded, but to be enabled to inform his comrades, who
could distinctly hear him without rendering any particular
elevation of the voice necessary, of any important movement
on the part of the former. This quietude of arrangement
on the part of Corporal Nixon had, seemingly, been not
without effect. It was evident that the Indians had no
suspicion that they had been seen, and even when the men
coolly quitted the boat, they showed no impatience
indicative of an impression that the party were seeking
to shield themselves from an impending danger.
"This silence is strange enough," said the corporal to
his companion, after they had been some minutes secreted
in the cavity from which the departure of the Indian with
the boat had been arrested. "I almost wish they would
fire a shot, for that would at once tell us how to act,
and what we are to expect, whether they are friendly
Indians or not."
But no shot was fired, and from the moment when the men
quitted the boat, and took up their positions, everything
had continued silent as the grave on the opposite shore,
and not the vestige of an Indian could be seen.
"But for that scalp," again remarked the corporal, "I
should take the party to have been friendly Indians,
perhaps just returned from a buffalo hunt, and come down
to the water to drink. They are surely gone again."
"Look there," said Weston, in a subdued tone, while he
placed his hand on the shoulder of his superior, as both
lay crouched in their hiding-place, "look there, corporal,"
and he pointed with his finger to the opposite bank.
"Do you see that large, blackish log lying near the
hickory, and with its end towards us?"
"I do--what of it?"
"Well, don't you see something crouching like between
the log and the tree--something close up to both. See!
it moves now a little."
Corporal Nixon strained his gaze in the direction indicated,
but was obliged to admit that, although he distinctly
enough saw the log and the tree, he could not discern
any between thing them.
"NOW, do you see it?" again eagerly inquired Weston, as,
at that moment, the same animal was seen to turn itself
within the very limited space which had been indicated.
"Yes, I see it now," replied the Virginian, "but it's as
likely to be a hog as a man, for anything I can make of
that shape; a hog that has been filling his skin with
hickory nuts, and is but now waking out of his sleep.
Still, as the Injins were there just now, it may be that
if they're gone, they've left a spy behind them. We'll
soon know how matters stand, for it won't do to remain
here all night. Cass," addressing the man in the boat
who was seated low in the stern, only occasionally taking
a sly peep, and immediately withdrawing his head, "place
your cap on the rudder, and lie flat in the bottom. If
they are there, and mean to fire at all, they will try
their hands at THAT."
"I hope they are good marksmen, corporal," replied the
man, as raising his right arm, he removed his forage cap
and placed it so that the upper half only could be seen.
"I've no great fancy for those rifle bullets, and give
them a wide berth when I can."
"Now are you convinced?" asked Weston, addressing the
corporal, as both distinctly saw the object upon which
their attention had been anxiously fixed, raise his head
and shoulders, while he deliberately rested his rifle
against the log on his right.
"Close down, Cass--don't move," enjoined the Virginian;
"the bait has taken, and we shall have a shot presently."
Two almost imperceptible jets of spiral smoke, and crack,
crack, went two rifles, while simultaneously with the
report, fell back into the boat, the perforated forage
cap. Both balls had passed through it, and lodged in the
heart of the tree to which the skiff was moored, and
behind which Jackson and Philips had taken their stand.
Evidently believing that they had killed a man, the whole
of the band, hitherto concealed behind logs and trees, now
rose to their feet, and uttered a fierce and triumphant yell.
"Devilish good firin', that," remarked Green, whose face
had been touched by a splinter of bark torn from the tree
by one of the balls.
"Don't uncover yourselves, my lads," hastily commanded
the corporal; "all the fellows want now is to see us
exposed, that they may have a crack at us."
"We've dried the muskets after a fashion," said Collins,
as he now approached Jackson and Philips. "Give us a
cartridge, and let's see if we can't match the varmint
at that sort of work." Then, having loaded, he, without
asking the corporal's permission, leaned his musket
against the tree, and taking a steady aim at the man who
had fired from the point first noticed by Weston, drew
the trigger.
The shot had evidently taken effect, for two other Indians
were now seen going to the assistance of their comrade,
whom they raised from the ground (where all had secreted
themselves after the yell), and hurried to the rear.
A loud cheer burst from the lips of Collins, which was
answered immediately by the whole of the savages, who,
from various contiguous points, sprang again to their
feet, and vociferating the war-whoop, dashed into the
river nearly up to their necks, seemingly thirsting to
overcome the only obstacle which prevented them from
getting at their desired victims.
But, at the very moment, when several of them were holding
their rifles aloft with their right hand, securing their
powder-horns between their teeth, while Corporal Nixon
issued to his men injunctions, not to pull another trigger
until the savages should begin to swim, to the astonishment
of all, came the sullen and unusual booming of the cannon
from the Fort.
For a moment, the men, taking their eyes off the sights
of their muskets, listened attentively for a repetition
of the shot, but no second report reached their ears.
"That," said Green, "was a warnin' for us."
"It was," observed the corporal. "Had the danger been
THERE, they would have fired again. Depend upon it, my
lads, there's more going on about here than we think. So
don't throw away your ammunition. Every bullet you send
must tell!"
"Well, we can but sell our scalps as dearly as possible,"
interposed Collins, who had again loaded, and was now in
the act of raising and supporting his, musket against
the tree. "But look--see how the fellows are stealing off?"
"Don't fire, then, don't fire," hastily enjoined the
corporal. "If they will go quietly, let them. We must
not lose our time dallying here, but make our way back
to the Fort. That gun was meant to recall us, as well as
to warn us, and luckily it has frightened the Indians,
so they won't care to attack us again."
Meanwhile the band of Winnebagoes, obeying, as it seemed,
the command of their leader, whom Collins swore he could
identify from his figure, even at that distance, to be
the man who had attempted to carry off the boat, quitted
the river for the cover of the woods, and, after an
earnest consultation, retreated slowly in the direction
of the prairie, without clamor of any description.
"Well rid of them, if they are gone," exclaimed the
corporal, not a little relieved by their departure. "We
must keep a sharp look out though, and see if they return."
"How many of them are there?" asked Jackson; "can you
give a guess, Collins?"
"About a dozen I should say--indeed I counted as many as
they passed through the small patch of clearing made by
Eph. Giles's axe."
"Can they have started for the farm?" observed the corporal
musingly; "if so, my lads, we had better get away as soon
as possible, for there they will find canoes to cross."
"Why, sure they can swim across well enough. The river
is not so wide as to prevent them from doing it on a
pinch," remarked Philips.
"Of course they can," answered Collins, "but not without
having their rifles as well soaked as our muskets were
a little while ago. I say, corporal, I understand now
the trick of that cunning chief. He jumped upon the arms
purposely to overturn them into the river, when he found
he couldn't get the boat, and all our firelocks over with
"Yes, that WAS a trick," remarked Jackson, "but, corporal,
you havn't told us how the dickens that fellow came there,
instead of the bear you went to spear."
"There is no time to talk about it, seriously rejoined
the Virginian. Some night when we are on guard, I will
tell you what little I know. At present let us see to
getting back to our post. Collins, you are the crack shot
of the party, are you loaded?"
"I am, corporal," returned the man somewhat self-
sufficiently, "have you got another Injin for me to sink.
If so, just point him out, and if this good barrel of
Uncle Sam's don't do his job in no time, I'll give up
all claim to having hit the first fellow."
"Not just yet," answered his superior, "but hear my
orders. You'll follow the path along the bank, and move
along carefully, until you reach Heywood's stacks. Conceal
yourself behind one of them, until we come down with the
boat, and keep a sharp lookout on all that you see passing
in and round the farm. Now remember, Collins, not a shot,
unless it be to save your life, or else you will get us
all into a scrape."
"Never fear me, General Nixon, and he touched his cap
with all the respect he would have accorded to an officer
of that rank. I brought one of the imps down, and that,
I reckon, is nearly as good work for one day, as filling
the old boat with fish, or having a slap at them ducks,
as I wanted this morning. But now I'm off, if I see
anything shall I halloo out, and let you know there's
"Not by a long chalk," returned the corporal. "All I want
you to do is to keep your tongue in your head and your
eyes open. If you see anything to alarm you, come back
quietly and let us know. We shall be moving down close
to the bank of the river; and now start."
Collins threw his musket to the trail, and advanced
cautiously, though fearlessly, along the scarcely
perceptible pathway--interrupted, at every third or fourth
step by creeping vines that protruded from the earth,
and rendered it necessary, in order to prevent his
tripping, that he should raise his feet somewhat in the
manner of a horse with the string-halt.
He had not proceeded half a mile, when, at an angle of
the ill-defined path, formed by a point where the river
was the narrowest, he was started at the sight of a human
body lying across his course, evidently on its face,
though the head was concealed from view by the trunk of
a large tree that bordered upon the road. His first
impulse was to turn back and acquaint the corporal with
what he had discovered; but a few minutes of reflection
satisfying him of the ridicule he should incur in reporting,
without being able to state with accuracy on WHAT, he
boldly advanced. On approaching it, he found that the
body was lifeless, while from the red and scalpless head,
previously hidden from his view, were exuding gouts of
thick blood that trickled slowly over the pale features
of a youth of tender age, the expression of which had
been worked up into an intensity of terror, and there
remained. At a few paces from the head, and close upon
the edge of the bank, lay a dressed bear skin which had
evidently been saturated with water, but was now fast
drying in the air and what little sunlight was occasionally
thrown upon it, through the dense branches of the forest.
There are situations in which the mind is moved to do
that from which in cooler moments it would shrink with
disgust. It chanced that Collins had retained the scalp
so singularly found at the bottom of the river, by Corporal
Nixon, and this circumstance at once determined him.
Instead of hastening by an object so appalling, Collins
rested his musket against a tree, and taking the scalp
from between the ramrod and the stock, where he had
introduced it, knelt by the body, and spreading out the
humid skin to its fullest extent, applied it to the
bleeding excavation. As he had suspected, they corresponded
exactly, making all due allowance for the time they had
been separated, and he had no longer a doubt that the
mutilated boy was Mr. Heywood's help, Wilton. A much more
important discovery than this, however, resulted from
his vain endeavor to recognise the boy from his features,
they were so contracted by terror, as has already been
said, and so covered with blood as to be indistinguishable.
But on turning him upon his back, and passing his hands
over his face, Collins was surprised to find that there
was not that icy chill which he had expected, but on the
contrary the faint warmth that indicates suspended,
animation; and deeper yet was the gratification of the
rude soldier, when, on opening the shirt and placing his
hand on the heart of the boy, he felt an occasional
spasmodic pulsation, denoting that life was not utterly
With an eagerness to preserve life, strongly in contrast
with his recent exultation in destroying it, his anxiety
for the recovery of the boy was almost paternal. Fortunately
the latter part of the day had been free from the chilliness
of the morning, so that, although the naked skull must
have been some hours exposed, the comparatively bland
state of the atmosphere gave fair earnest that the brain
itself, even if affected, had not sustained a mortal
injury. Spreading wide the scalp in his open palm, Collins
now breathed heavily upon it, until it attained what he
conceived to be the necessary warmth, when gently applying
it to the denuded crown, to which be fitted it as well
as he could, he passed his handkerchief, which he had
removed from his throat, over it, and under the chin of
the boy in such a manner as to prevent the chill of the
approaching night from affecting the injured part. This
done, he poured through his closed lips a few drops of
whisky from the canteen, and then raising him gently on
his left shoulder, he rose from his stooping posture,
and seizing in his right hand his musket, which he
continued at the trail, pursued his route to the haystacks
as directed.
In the meantime, Corporal Nixon, with the remainder of
the fishing party, was slowly descending the river,
hugging the eastern shore as closely as possible, in
order that, if attacked suddenly, they might, on the
instant, leap into the river, and covering themselves by
the boat, fight their enemies at less disadvantage. The
corporal himself and Weston kept a vigilant look out,
the one at the bow, the other at the stern, while the
four remaining men, Jackson, Philips, Green, and Cass
pulled so noiselessly that the dip of their oars, and
their unavoidable jar in the row-locks, could not be
heard at a distance of more than ten yards. At this slow
rate much time was necessarily consumed, so that it was
quite dark when they reached the traverse opposite the
farm, where Ephraim Giles had crossed some hours before,
and whither Collins had been dispatched to make
The patience of the latter had been much tried, for it
seemed an age had elapsed before his comrades made their
appearance. The sun was just setting as he reached the
innermost haystack, and his anxiety for his charge had
become intense. Seeing the canoe drawn up on the beach,
and the paddles in it, he had a strong inclination to
cross and procure some efficient relief for the insensible
boy, but the silence that reigned around the dwelling
awed him, and he checked the natural impulse. Not a soul
was to be seen, not a voice to be heard, not even the
barking of Loup Garou, the bleating of a sheep, or the
lowing of an ox. What could this mean? and was the fate
of the boy connected with that of the other inmates of
the farm? If so, where were they?
Another consideration induced Collins to suppress his
first impulse, and that was the apprehension that his
strange charge would be detained by Mr. Heywood, when
his only chance of recovery lay in the speedy examination,
and dressing his injuries by the surgeon of the garrison.
There was no alternative then, but to wait patiently for
the arrival of the boat into which the boy could be
placed; and so conveyed to the fort. Meanwhile, as the
night air was becoming chill, and a slight fog rising
from the water, the considerate soldier did all he could
to shield his protege from their pernicious effect.
Strewing on the ground a few armfuls of hay, taken from
the nearest of the stacks, around which the hungry cattle
now gathered, eager for their food, he extended on it
the yet inanimate form of the youth, embracing the body
in order to impart to it the benefit of animal heat and
in this position, his head being slightly raised, eagerly
endeavored to discern through the darkness not only what
might be seen on the opposite shore, but the approach of
the party in the boat.
The sun had now been down some time, and so dark was it
that, in that narrow space, obscured by the blending
shadows of the tall forests on either shore, it was
difficult, at five yards distance, to make out anything
on the water, unaccompanied by light or sound. This
silence was anything but agreeable to Collins, whose
imagination, excited by the later occurrences of the day,
was filled with, strange misgivings, as he looked in vain
for the customary lights in the farm-house. The fishing
party had never been out so late, and yet, at the first
fall of darkness, they had been accustomed to see the
place exhibiting at least one light; and the absence of
this now caused Collins heartily to wish himself in the
boat, and safely moored under cover of the fort. Not that
the soldier was influenced by the apprehension of personal
danger, but because the deep gloom, the solitude and
silence of the scene, coupled with his newly-awakened
interest in the almost corpse that lay in close contact
with his person, impressed him with a sort of superstitious
feeling, not at all lessened by the knowledge that his
only companion, at that moment, belonged rather to the
grave than to the upper earth.
At length his anxiety was relieved. The sound of the
oars, cautiously pulled, faintly met his ear, and then
the boat could be indistinctly seen approaching the canoe.
To this succeeded a low call uttered by the corporal.
Collins replied in a similar tone, and then bearing the
body of the boy, still enveloped in the bear skin, he in
less than a minute, rejoined his party.
The astonishment of the latter may be conceived on
beholding so unexpected a sight, nor was their feeling
of awe diminished when their comrade had briefly related
what had occurred since he left them.
"Strange enough, this," remarked the corporal musingly;
"stranger still, there's no light in the house. It's
neither too early nor too late for that. I'll tell you
what, my lads, if any thing has happened we must know
the worst--it will never do to go back to the Fort,
without being able to give some notion of what took place
under our very noses."
"What would Mr. Ronayne say, if we did?" added Jackson.
"Yes! and what would that sweet young lady, Miss Heywood,
think of us, if we returned without giving some good news
of her father. Why she never would look upon us kindly
"Right, Philips," said Weston, "and I'm sure I'd rather
offend the captain himself, any day, than do anything to
displease her. God grant we bring her no bad news."
"Amen," said the corporal, gravely, for he, like Collins,
had some strong misgivings, arising naturally from the
utter darkness and silence that continued to prevail in
and around the farm-house. "Are you all loaded? Look to
your primings, but make no noise. Somebody must take
charge of the beat though. Who volunteers to remain,
while the rest follow me to the house?"
"I do--I'll remain," said Collins, "one of you can take
my musket"
"What, Collins, do you shirk the thing," sneered the man
with the long nose and the peaked chin; "have you had
enough to-day, or do you fear the ghost of the fellow
you knocked over?"
"I fear neither man or ghost, as you well know,
Nutcrackers," warmly rejoined Collins, "but I take it,
there's no great courage in making a fuss about going
where there's no enemy to be found. If there has been
danger in that quarter, I take it, it's passed, and as
somebody must stop in the boat, why 'not me as well as
"Just so," said the corporal. "Cass, this is no time to
run your rigs. You see well enough that Collins wishes
to stop behind, on account of the boy he hopes to bring
to life. Little chance of that, I fear, but if he thinks
so, it would be unchristian to disappoint him. And now
push off, but make no noise."
The order was obeyed. In a few minutes the bow of the
boat touched the landing-place, when all but Collins,
who was at the helm, slipped noiselessly ashore. The
corporal repeated his instructions--how to act under
emergency and if separated--and moved along the path
leading to the house. Meanwhile Collins pulled back into
the stream, and remained stationary in the centre.
The farm-house was, as we have said, of very rude
construction--such a one as could only spring up in so
remote a region, and among so sparse a population. With
the exception of the roof, the frame-work of which had
been covered with raw buffalo hides, it was built wholly
of rough logs, notched at the ends in a sort of dove-tail
fashion, and when not lying closely, filled in with chunks
of wood, over which a rude plaster of mud had been thrown,
so that the whole was rendered almost impervious to water,
while it ran little risk from the agency of fire. It had
two rooms on the ground floor--one smaller than the other,
used as a dormitory, and containing all the clothes or
"traps," as they designated them, of the household. The
other served as eating-room, parlor, and kitchen, and
extended over, at least, three-fourths of the area. It
was provided with two doors--one facing the river and
close to the partition which divided the rooms--the other
occupying a remoter position to the rear. The windows of
this apartment were two in number, and, equidistant from
the doors, were considerably elevated above the floor.
These apertures had been formed by simply sawing a few
of the logs, so as to complete squares, into which were
fitted rude sashes, each containing four small panes of
a greenish, and by no means, transparent glass, and
connected by strong leathern hinges. In winter the
necessary warmth was afforded, by shutters put up and
barred from within. The southern gable or dormitory, was
provided in the centre with one window of similar size
and construction. The upper floor, a sort of granary and
depot for the provisions of the family, was ascended by
means of a ladder, and through a square aperture just
large enough to admit with ease the body of a man.
There was, in rear of the house, a rather extensive
corn-field, and beyond the northern gable, where the
chimney stood, an orchard yet in its infancy, but promising
future abundance, while at the opposite, or south end of
the building, a large but very highly cultivated garden,
was now undergoing the customary spring process of digging
and manuring, and indeed on that very morning, Mr. Heywood
had been busily engaged in this occupation with the boy
Wilton, his men being employed, the one in field labor,
the other as we have seen, in chopping wood.
In the rear of the garden, and opposite to the corn-field,
from which it was separated by a road leading to the
wood, was a tolerably sized barn, likewise constructed
of rude logs, not, however, filled in. The lower part of
this was used as a stable; the upper or loft, roofed with
bark, contained the preceding year's unhusked crop from
the corn-field, while contiguous to it, and to the rear,
was another oblong square building, constructed in the
same manner, but without loft. This, partitioned and
covered simply with unhewn logs, served not only as a
pen for sheep and pigs, but as a roasting-place for the
feathered portion of the stock.
The orchard on the one side, and the garden on the other,
extended to the bank of the river--a zig-zag, or snake-fence
separating them from the road, in the centre of which,
and at about ten feet from the door of the dwelling,
rose a majestic walnut tree then in early blossom.
Immediately beyond this tree, was a low enclosure which
intersected the road, passing across from the kitchen-garden
to the orchard, and forming the only court or yard upon
the premises.
When Corporal Nixon, with his little party, had cautiously
advanced some few paces towards the house, he caused them
to separate, Cass and Jackson leaping the fence which
bounded the orchard, and Green and Philips that of the
garden, while he himself, with Weston, pursued the pathway
in front. The better to be prepared for any sudden
attack, bayonets had been quietly fixed, and the firelocks
at the full cock, carried at the trail--this latter
precaution after the detached files had crossed the
The night, as has already been said, was very dark, and
each succeeding minute seemed to increase the obscurity,
so that it was rather from their familiarity with the
ground, than from any clear indication of correctness of
course, that the little band were enabled to preserve
their necessary unity. At length the tall shadows of the
walnut tree came suddenly upon the sight of the corporal,
but so completely absorbing was the darkness in the
heavier gloom, that, without being aware of it's proximity,
he stumbled against the low and slight enclosure, which,
yielding to the impetus of his motion, feeble even as
that was, caused him to fall forward on his face, his
musket dropping from his grasp without, however, going off.
A low growl from a dog succeeded, and before the Virginian
could even make the attempt to rise, the animal had sprang
upon, and fastened his teeth into his shoulder, shaking
him so violently, that it was not until Weston, who had
now crossed the enclosure, came up to his assistance,
guided by the sound of the struggle, that the dog could
be made to relinquish his hold.
"Loup Garou--Loup Garou, old fellow, what's the matter
with you," said the latter coaxingly, as he caressed the
neck of the dog, which he had identified, and now sought
to appease.
Evidently recognising a friend in the utterer of his
name, the animal turned suddenly around, licked the hand
of Weston, and then sent forth a long and piteous howl.
"Mercy, what is that?" suddenly exclaimed the corporal,
who having regained his legs and musket, had moved on a
pace or two.
"Where! what?" asked Weston, coming up to his side.
In the darkness before them, there was a deeper darkness
that bore the indistinct appearance of a human form,
lying in a stooping posture close to the trunk of the
A vague presentiment of the truth flashed upon the mind
of the Virginian, who enjoining silence on his companion,
advanced close to the object, and laid his hand upon it.
There could be no longer a doubt. The blanket coat, and
woollen sash, which he first touched, and then the shoe
pack, told him in unmistakable language that it was Le
Noir, the Canadian owner of the dog. He shook him, and
twice, in a low voice called him by name. But there was
no answer, while the body stiff and motionless, fully
revealed the fate of the unfortunate man.
Meanwhile, Loup Garou, which had followed, squatted
himself at the head, which was hanging over the front of
what they knew, from its handles and the peculiar odor,
exhaling from it, to be a wheel-barrow filled with manure,
and then commenced licking--moaning at the same time in
a low and broken whine.
"What can the dog mean by that?" whispered Weston.
"Don't you hear him licking his dead master's face, and
telling his sorrow in his own way," answered the corporal
as, in order to assure himself, he dropped his hand to
the mouth of the dog; but no sooner had he done so, than
he drew it suddenly back with a shudder of disgust and
hastily wiped it, clammy with the blood that yet trickled
from the scalped head of the murdered man.
A low whistle was here given on the left, and a few yards
above, that startled the Virginian, for it was the signal
agreed upon if anything suspicious, should be noticed by
the other parties. He promptly answered it in a different
call, and in another minute Green and Philips had joined
him. "What have you seen?" he inquired, not regarding
the exclamation of surprise of the new comers, at the
unexpected sight before them.
"We've seen nothin' its so dark," answered Green, "but
unless the cattle have got into the garden, there's
somethin' else movin' there. Philips and I listened after
we heard the dog howl the first time, for we could hear
as if somethin' like steps were stopped suddenly when he
moaned the second time we listened again, and thought
the same thing."
"They couldn't be cattle," added Philips, "for the cattle
are all kept on the other side."
"Only the young stock, and them as ain't used about the
farm," remarked Weston.
"Well, but what kind of steps were they?" eagerly questioned
the corporal, whose, imagination was filled not more with
the danger that seemed to be near them, than with the
censure of himself he feared he should incur, on his
return to the fort, for having subjected the party to
risk. "Surely you can tell between the tread of cattle
and the steps of men."
"I should say they, weren't the steps of cattle; they
were too light for that. Though they couldn't help crushin'
the dry sticks and rubbish they couldn't help seein'
lyin' in the way. Don't you think so Philips?"
"I did, corporal, and so sure did I guess them to be no
cattle that it was me that whistled."
"Then there's no use in going farther," remarked the
Virginian gravely. "Even if we get to the house, we
can't see anything in it for the darkness, and the poor
fellow shows plain enough that it's to use looking out
to save Mr. Heywood or Ephraim Giles. Come, my lads, we
must get back to the boat, and down stream as quick and
as quiet as we can."
Giving his own low whistle of recall, he was answered
from the opposite direction, and in a few minutes Cass
and Jackson made their appearance.
These latter were, briefly questioned whether they had
seen anything, and great was the anxiety of all when it
was known that they had also heard in the orchard but in
a fainter manner, what had attracted the attention of
Green and Philips in the garden.
"Why didn't you give the signal then, as directed?"
"Because," answered Cass, "We weren't quite sure about
it, and feared the whistle might tell the Injins, if any
were near, our whereabouts."
Scarce had this explanation been given, when the attention
of all was arrested by a loud clear shout of the corporals'
name, evidently uttered by Collins.
"Into the house--into the house," exclaimed the same
voice. "The Injins are creeping up to you."
As these words came ringing upon the silence of the night
the dull steps in rapid advance through the two enclosures
were now distinctly heard, while the flash of a gun fired
in their rear, lighted up the forms of three or four
savages, gliding up to them by the pathway by which the
corporal had come.
The danger was imminent, the necessity for securing the
important position imperative, and without waiting for
the order of their superior, or even uttering a word,
the whole of the party, acting upon the caution of Collins,
made a rush towards the front entrance of the house,
which they gained at the very moment when the rattling
of the snake-fences, and the total overthrow of the slight
enclosure, announced that their enemies were thus near
in pursuit.
Fortunately the door was wide open, so that they had all
passed in, when the Indians on either flank, as though
by previous arrangement, poured in their cross fire,
towards that common centre, without, however, striking
anything but the logs.
Terrific and continuous yells succeeded, and well was it
that, with cool promptitude, the corporal had sought,
and found behind the door, where he knew they were usually
kept, the strong bars, three in number, that secured the
heavy panels, for as many of the Indians as could find
room to act together, now applied their shoulders to the
frame with such violence, that but for those timely
safeguards, it must have yielded. During more than five
minutes they persevered in their efforts, the men waiting
anxiously in attitude of preparation for the result, when
all at once they ceased, and their footsteps were heard
cautiously retiring.
"Quick, look to the back-door, two of you," commanded
the corporal in an eager, but low tone, "they are going
round; there, if that is not secured we are lost."
Green and Philips sprang forward towards the point
indicated, but the latter in his excitement stumbled
heavily against something, and fell at his length upon
the floor, exclaiming: "I've fallen over a dead man, and
am half drowned in his blood."
His companion who had escaped this obstruction, had
scarcely time to assure the corporal that the back door
was already barred, a fact which he had discovered by
dint of feeling, when the latch was first heard gently
tried, then the door violently assaulted. Another loud
and angry yell from the Indians announced their
disappointment, then several shots were fired at the
door, and two or three balls could be heard dropping and
rolling upon the floor, after having passed through the
heavy planks.
"Safe enough now for a while, my lads," said the corporal
exultingly, "and we can have, a little breathing time.
Who's got the means of striking a light, that we may see
where we are, and what we're about?"
"I have," answered Green, as taking a flint, steel, and
tinder from his pocket, he, with a couple of strokes,
ignited the latter, and approached the hearth, which the
faint light from the burning "punk" enabled him to reach.
The fire had long since gone out, but the crisp and
blackened embers, soon grew under the care of the soldier
into light sufficient to render objects in the apartment
gradually more and more distinguishable.
While this process was going on, the rest, leaning on
their muskets, were anxiously grouped around the spot
where Philips had fallen. At first, only the outline of
a man of large stature and proportions could be seen
lying in a cramped position, as if produced by some strong
convulsive agony, and then when the fire began to kindle
and crackle, the dress could be distinguished, and then
as the light grew brighter, the scalpless head, and then
the marked and distorted features of the murdered master
of the house, who lay in a pool of blood that slowly
trickled along the crevices of the floor. His hands were
firmly clenched upon the barrel of a rifle which had been
broken off at the stock, that now lay a few yards beyond,
while the features, sternly set in death, bore a mingled
expression of defiance and resolution. A cut, as from a
tomahawk had laid open his left temple, while on several
parts of his body could be seen thick encrustations of
blood that had exuded through the rent clothing, marking
the seat of several stabs and gunshot wounds. It was
evident that Mr. Heywood had not lost his life without
a desperate, struggle, for independently of the testimony
afforded by his broken rifle, which he seemed to have
used with fierce determination, the heavy table had been
overthrown, and the few articles of necessary furniture
in the room evidently displaced.
"What a tale, this, to carry back," gravely remarked
Weston. "I wouldn't take the corporal's stripes to-morrow,
and be the first man to tell Miss Heywood of it."
"Supposing we get back at all," said Cass. "Though we're
safe enough for the present, I've no notion these devils
will let us off go soon."
"There's no great danger now," interrupted the corporal.
"I defy them, if they're not stronger than we saw them
this morning, to get into the house, with six good
firelocks to defend it."
"But they may set fire to it, and burn us out," persevered
the apprehensive man with the hooked nose and the peaked
chin; "I've heard of those things before."
"Burn your granny out, Nutcrackers; look at them logs
well, and say if it would'nt take hell-fire itself to
burn 'em through in a month, but corporal, had'nt we
better divide the ammunition. We don't know, as Cass
says, what the imps are about, and what trouble they may
give us yet."
"Right, Green, there's nothing like being on the sure
side, and so, my lads look to the pouches. Weston, there's
a candle in that stone bottle on the shelf--light it,
and put it on the table as soon as you have got that on
its legs again."
The examination was soon made. Each small cartouch box,
expressly made for light excursions, contained, with the
exception of the single cartridge which Collins had fired,
the usual allowance of fifteen rounds. Two of these
however--those of Green and Philips--had been so saturated
by long immersion in the water, that they were wholly
unserviceable. They were therefore emptied and dried,
and the deficiency supplied from the pouches of their
comrades, thus leaving about a dozen charges to each man.
"A small stock of ammunition, this, I guess, to stand a
long siege on an empty belly," drawled forth Cass.
"Just like you--always croakin'," sneered Green, "and
always thinking of your belly. Why man, you've more
ammunition there, I take it, than ever you'll fire away
in your life."
"And if we haven't enough," said the corporal, going to,
and taking down and shaking a powder horn, which hung
suspended from the wall, that had evidently been overlooked
by the Indians, "here are a dozen more charges at least,
and the balls of the cartridges have not, I take it, lost
their power to drill a hole into a fellow because they've
been considerably well ducked. But hark! what noise is
A low, grating sound, as of some heavy body rubbing
against the ground, was now audible at short intervals,
to seemed to proceed from the southern gable--but not a
voice was heard. From the moment when they had uttered
their cry of disappointment, on finding the back entrance
secured, the Indians had preserved the utmost silence.
Suddenly a yell, pealed from the direction of the river,
caused them for the first time to revert to the exposed
position of the unfortunate Collins.
"Poor fellow," said Green, dashing away a tear. "I wish
he was with us. Somehow or other, I feel as if we should
all have a better chance in a fight, were that lad in
the middle of it."
"We shall never see him more!" gravely observed the
Virginian; "That shot fired just after he warned us, did
his business, depend upon it, and if that one didn't, it
is not likely the blood-hounds would let him off after
robbing them of their prey: no, no, poor Collins has lost
his life in saving us."
Again the yell was repeated, and from the same quarter.
The corporal sprang to the ladder which communicated with
the loft, and having placed it under the window on the
front, hastily ascended and looked out, for no one had
hitherto thought of closing an opening, from which no
danger was, seemingly, to be apprehended.
The darkness which had been so excessive at the moment
of their entrance, had greatly diminished--so much so,
that he could trace the forms of two or three of the
warriors who were stooping low, apparently engaged with
some object lying on the very bank of the river.
"Scalping and mutilating the poor fellow, no doubt," he
muttered fiercely to himself, "but here goes to revenge
Forgetting his usual prudence, he, in the strong excitement
of the moment, drew up the butt of his musket to his
shoulder, and as well as his cramped position would
permit, covered one of the savages, but while in the very
act of pulling the trigger, they all fell prostrate, and
the bullet whizzed harmlessly over them. In the next
instant a ball, aimed at himself, and fired from another
quarter, passed through the window, grazing the shoulder
slightly bitten by Loup Garou, and lodged in the opposite
logs of the room. A third loud yell followed as the
corporal drew in his head and disappeared from the window.
The Indians evidently thought he had been hit, and thus
gave utterance to their triumph.
"There's that grating sound again," remarked Weston.
All now listened, and heard much more distinctly than
before the peculiar sound. Then followed a scratching
and bumping of something heavy against the end of the
"I have it," said the Virginian. "They've dragged the
ladder from the barn, and are trying to fix it under the
bedroom window. Cass, do you and Philips go in and see
what they're doing. But close the door after you that
they may not pick you off by the light."
The door was cautiously opened and again shut as soon as
the men had entered. They looked up at the window, which,
in the darkness that prevailed around, was distinctly
enough visible, but although open, nothing met their
glance of a nature to startle them, nor could any movement
be heard without.
"Hold my firelock," whispered Cass to his companion,
"while I try and get a look out. I know poor Le Noir's
bed is directly under the window, and I don't think THAT
is too high, if I stand on the pillow."
He now cautiously groped his way to the bed, on ascending
which, being a tall man, he found the top of his head to
be on a level with the sill of the window. This was not
sufficient for his purpose, and he sought to elevate
himself still more. In attempting, with this view, to
place himself on the head-board, he missed his footing,
and fell with some force between the head of the bed,
and the rode log wall. To his dismay, he found that his
feet had rested not upon the hard floor of the apartment,
but upon something soft and yielding, which his imagination,
strongly excited by the events of the day, led him
unhesitatingly to conclude, was the flesh of a human
"A light corporal--a light!" he shouted, regardless of
every thing, but his desire to release himself from his
present situation. "Bring a light. Here's a fellow, who
has got hold of me by the leg!"
"Take your musket then and bayonet him," said Philips,
coolly, as he pushed towards the struggling man the butt
end of his firelock, which at length reached his hands.
At the same time, Corporal Nixon, rendered equally
imprudent by the suddenness of the demand for his presence,
entered, followed by Weston, bearing the candle.
Nothing can, we conceive, be in worse taste in a fictitious
narrative, than the wanton introduction of the ludicrous
upon the solemn, but when in an historical tale these
extremes do occur, fidelity forbids the suppression of
the one, lest it should mar the effect of the other. Such
is the necessity under which we find ourselves.
The first act of the corporal, on seeing how matters
stood, was to pull back the bedstead behind which Cass
was imprisoned, so as wholly to uncover him and his
assailant, but the surprise of all may be imagined, when,
instead of an Indian, with whom they believed him to be
struggling, they beheld an immense turkey-cock, well
known to them all, which was partly under the foot of
the soldier--partly in a boarded drain or reservoir which
passed from the apartment into a large hog trough, that
lay along the wall and daily received the refuse of the
various meals. The bird, furious with pain, was burying
its beak into the leg of the soldier, while he, with the
butt end of his musket aloft, and the bayonet depressed,
offered the most burlesque representation of St. George
preparing to give his mortal thrust to the dragon.
In spite of the danger by which they were beset, it was
impossible for the men to restrain the indulgence of
their humor at this singular sight, nor was the disposition
at all checked, when they saw the bayonet descend and
actually transfix the intruder to the floor-causing him
to droop his head, and thus free Cass from his furious
"If that's the way you kill your enemies, Nutcrackers,
we promise to eat them up for you--as many as you like,"
and as he spoke, Green advanced and seized the dying bird
by the throat; but as he pulled it suddenly away, a dark
human hand was observed to relinquish its hold of the
feet, and rapidly disappear.
The mirth of the men was now succeeded by a seriousness
befitting the occasion, for it was clear to all that this
occurrence, absurd as it was, had been the means of
betraying a new plan of the enemy to get into the house.
If the drain was large enough to admit of the passage of
the bird--always remarkable for its size--it was highly
possible that some of the more slightly formed Indians,
might force their way through it also. They had evidently
tried to see if it could be done--the turkey-cock having
been put forward as a "feeler," and the necessity of
either closing the avenue, or weakening their strength
by keeping a man constantly on the watch, was now obvious.
"Find something to stop up that hole with Cass," ordered
the corporal.
"I can see nothing," replied the other, after a few
moments search, unless we stop it with the bedding."
"A wise plan that. The Injins would soon set fire to it,
and if they didn't burn us out, they would soon smoke us
out. Either would suit their purpose."
"Let him stuff it with his head, corporal," interposed
Green, "I'm sure that's thick enough for a plug."
"Perhaps there's a head in it already," suggested Philips,
"there was a hand just now--the other may have followed."
"By jingo I'll try," returned Green, "I'd give a week's
grog to be able to prick a feller with this playthin'"
So saying, he knelt upon the floor, and holding his musket
in a horizontal position, a few inches above it, he gave
a furious thrust into the aperture. To his astonishment,
for notwithstanding his half bravado, he had not seriously
anticipated such a result, he found the advance of his
weapon slightly arrested by a yielding body, and even had
not a sharp cry of pain from the other extremity of the
trough, satisfied him of the fact, the peculiar sensation
he experienced as the steel overcame the resistance was
sufficient to convince Green, little accustomed even as he
had been to bayonet men, that the bayonet had entered into
some soft part of the human body.
To the cry of the wounded man, succeeded a savage and
threatening yell from the united band, and now re-commenced
the grating sound which had two or three times before
excited the conjectures of the besieged.
"Ah I yell away you devils; that's all the good you'll
get," exclaimed Green, exulting at his success; "but
don't take so tight a grip of my bayonet. I say, Philips,
lend us a hand, if I shan't lose my musket with that
fellow strugglin' like a speared Mascalinga."
Both now pulled at the firelock, with all their strength.
Suddenly the resistance ceased, and they fell sideways
on the floor, bringing the musket with them, but without
the bayonet. At the same moment a shot was fired into
the aperture, and the ball whizzing by the ear of Philips,
and passing through Green's right leg, lodged in the
partition beyond.
"Stand aside, men," shouted the corporal, "stand from
before that hole, or we shall be marks in this light for
the skulking villains,"
Jackson, who had been dispatched for one of the small
round hickory logs that lay piled up in a corner near
the chimney, now approached with on that was just large
enough to fit tightly in the aperture. All seized it,
and taking the precaution to keep their legs out of
danger, jammed one end into the mouth of the drain, adding
afterwards a few heavy blows from the axes of Le Noir
and Ephraim Giles, which had been found in a corner of
the room.
"Now then," said the Virginian, after having examined
the small window of the bed room, and securely fastened
the shutter--"we've not much more to fear. They're two
to one its true, but I defy them to do us much harm before
daylight, when, I take it they'll be off, if not sooner."
"Well, then, corporal," suggested Green, "I vote that as
we're pretty safe, and have yet that piece of plunder,
we set to work and cook it, for I'm devilish hungry, and
so I think we must all be, seeing as how we hain't had
a regular meal the whole day, besides if we rummage the
place, we may chance to light upon somethin' else. I see
the varmint have carried off the nice row of venison hams
that used to hang up round the chimney, but there may
be somethin' in the loft."
"No bad thought that of yours, Green," answered the
corporal, "Cass, you killed the bird, you must pluck it
and grill it."
"That's what I call taking it sensibly," said the latter
leaning his musket against the wall, and dragging the
heavy turkey to the kitchen-corner, where seated on the
very chair on which poor Mr. Heywood had smoked his last
pipe, he commenced plucking out the feathers by handfuls.
"Let fasting without, and feasting within be the word;
but its mortal dry eating that great he turkey, without
something to wash it down. I say, Philips, you are a good
hand at foraging--don't you think you could find out a
little of the Wabash there," and he pointed to the loft.
Philips approached the ladder with the intention of making
a search, but the Virginian checked him.
"Stop a moment," he said, "until I have had another look
out in front." Thus saying he cautiously ascended to his
former position, the view from which was much less
indistinct than before. The obscurity had, in a great
degree, passed away, so much so, that all objects within
the area formed by the enclosures of the garden and the
orchard were thrown into perceptible relief. His first
thought was to cast his glance upon the water, hoping,
he scarcely knew why, that something might be seen of
the skiff which had contained the unfortunate Collins.
Disappointed in that quarter, his eye next turned upon
the walnut tree, the white blossoms of which had dropped
around and upon the spot, where lay the body of the
ill-fated Le Noir, at whose head was still squatted, as
when he had left him, his faithful dog. There was much
in this trait of devotion on the part of the animal which
could not fail to awaken sympathy even in the roughest
heart, and although the corporal was not particularly
sentimental, he could not but be deeply touched by the
contrast forced upon him, between the moaning animal and
the wild lust for blood which reigned in the hearts of
their unprovoked assailants. His first impulse was to
call approvingly to the dog, but the next moment's
reflection on the folly of such a proceeding stifled the
impulse. Then his attention was called not only to the
perfect immunity from further outrage of the victim and
his follower, but to the profound silence, and absence
of danger which seemed to exist in that quarter. That
the Indians had not departed, although they had not been
heard since the yell that followed the cry produced by
the thrust from Green's bayonet, he felt confident, and
it now seemed to him that they must be directing their
efforts against some other part of the building.
No sooner had he admitted this last belief, than he again
descended, and raising the ladder himself, bore it
noiselessly to the spot whence it had been removed, then
ordering the candle to be extinguished, and the embers
to be drawn together, so as to deaden the light of the
fire, he with Green and Weston crept up the ladder, Cass
being left to complete the preparation of the turkey the
best way he could, while Philips and Jackson, posted at
the back and front doors, listened attentively for the
slightest sound of danger, which being heard, they were
at once to warn the party above.
When the corporal had gained the top of the ladder, Green,
who was the last, having yet his foot on the first step,
the former was evidently startled by some new danger.
But just as he was in the act of springing to the upper
floor, the ladder, too frail to sustain their united
weight, snapped suddenly asunder in the middle and fell
with some noise, thus separating him from his companions.
Regardless of this and having secured his own footing,
he now moved cautiously towards the opposite end of the
loft, where a small opening, about two feet in length,
and one in height, seemingly intended as a ventilator,
appeared nearly vertical to the window of the bed-room
below. Casting his glance downwards through the opening,
he beheld five or six savages standing grouped together,
leaning on their guns, and apparently watching some object
above them. This, naturally, drew the corporal's attention
to the same quarter, when to his dismay he found that
the long ladder usually kept at the barn was now resting
against the gable of the house, not three feet from the
right corner of the aperture, through which he gazed. In
an instant it occurred to him that this had been the work
of the Indians, and at once accounted for the grating
sounds that had so often met his ears that night. There
could be no doubt that the plan of the enemy now was to
enter the roof, which could be done by removing part of
the raw buffalo hides of which it was composed. Indeed
it was a slight noise made in the direction of that very
angle of the roof where the ladder now stood, that had
caught his attention on first putting his head through
the aperture while preceding his men. This had suddenly
ceased at the moment when the ladder broke and fell, nor
had there been a repetition of the sound. Still, satisfied
that some discovery of the true designs of the Indians
would result from his remaining a little longer, he
continued at the opening, which was too small to betray
his presence if using precaution, while it enabled him
to observe the movements of the enemy. Soon afterwards
he heard them speaking in earnest but low tones, as if
addressing somebody above them, and then a prolonged
yell, which was answered by others from the front of the
house, echoed through the surrounding forests. Even amid
the horrid discord, the quick ear of the Virginian, now
painfully on the stretch, caught the same sound that had
first attracted his attention. It was exactly at the
angle of the roof, and only a pace or two from him. The
peculiar noise was not to be mistaken even by an unpractised
ear. It was, evidently, that of a knife, not very sharp,
cautiously cutting through a tough and resisting leather.
The corporal became now more anxious than ever, but this
feeling did not in the slightest degree, disturb his
self-possession, or cause him to waver in the resolution
he had from the first adopted. He waited patiently, until,
as he expected, he heard a corner of one of the buffalo
hides turned up, and beheld reflected, against the
back-ground of light, thus suddenly introduced, the upper
part of a human being, whose shorn head, covered on the
crown with straight and slightly streaming feathers, too
plainly indicated his purpose. What a target for the
bullet--what an object for the bayonet of the soldier,
who, had not prudence and coolness interposed, had
certainly used one or the other. But the Virginian had
hit upon another, and as he conceived, a better plan to
get rid of his enemy, and in his fate, of further probable
annoyance from his ferocious companions. It was not his
object to let himself be seen, or that the Indians should
even suspect that they had been detected in this new
device, for he was well aware that if he fired, or used
his bayonet against the man, those below would rush up
the ladder to succeed him, and by their weight prevent
the accomplishment of what he had in view; therefore cut
off as he in a measure was, from his party, it was
incumbent on him to adopt the only sure means of relief
from danger, and that without a moment of delay.
While the Indian, who finding, evidently, that the orifice
he had made in the roof was not yet large enough for his
purpose, had dropped the incised portion of the hide,
and was again using his knife; the Virginian, stooping
slightly at the off-side of the window, ascertained that
the feet of the former were resting on one of the upper
steps of the ladder. This was what he desired, and all
he now wanted was a hard, flat substance to fasten on
the point of his bayonet. After reflecting vainly for a
few moments how this was to be attained, he suddenly
bethought him of his thick-soled ammunition-boots. Removing
one of these without noise, he pierced the inner leather,
by pressing it firmly against the point of the bayonet,
so as to secure without allowing it to pass through.
Then, cautiously protruding his musket from the opening,
he slowly advanced it, until the sole of the boot touched
the frame of the ladder, not two feet under the round on
which the Indian stood. Here for a moment he allowed the
barrel, concealed by the low depending eaves, to rest
against the jamb of the aperture. His anxiety was now
worked up to the highest possible pitch, for he feared,
notwithstanding his success so far, that something might
yet occur to defeat his purpose, and thus peril not only
his own life, but the lives of the whole of the party
below. Three minutes he remained in this trying position
of uncertainty, which seemed to him as so many hours.
Presently, however, the Indian on the roof, having
evidently accomplished his task, and believing from the
silence that had for some time pervaded around, that no
one was near him, spoke in a low tone to his companions,
who now cautiously crept towards the ladder.
This was the moment for action. The Virginian, who,
although expecting this, had watched their movements with
aching interest, now summoned his whole strength, and
while the first savage below was upon the ladder, pushed
his musket with such violence against the sole, that it
carried it rapidly over the corner of the house, before
the Indian could find presence of mind to throw himself
upon the roof--a sudden backward jerk of the weapon
liberated the bayonet, the extreme point of which only
had entered the wood, and as the Virginian withdrew this,
he could distinctly see the unfortunate savages fall
headlong from the top of the ladder, uttering, as both
descended, a fearful cry of dismay, which was responded
to by fierce yells from the lips of their companions,
who hastened to their succor.
"Well done, that!" said the corporal, exultingly, and
half-aloud to himself, as he slapped his thigh, in a
manner to denote his own self-approval. "That's what I
call doing the business as it should be done. The attempt,"
and he smiled at the conceit, "was not a bootless one to
us all, though it has been a BOOT LESS one to ME."
To understand this facetiousness of the Virginian, it
must be understood that on withdrawing his bayonet, the
boot which it had only slightly pierced, had slipped from
the weapon and fallen to the ground simultaneously with
the other heavier bodies, whose more marked sound had
absorbed its own. It therefore escaped the notice of the
"Hilloa there!" he continued in a louder key; "there's
no more danger in this quarter, my lads. Show us a light,
and if Cass has that turkey ready, we'll have some supper.
For my part, I'm devilish sharp set. Here, Green, take
my musket, and give me the candle."
Surprised at the corporal's unwonted humor, for they had
been led to apprehend, from the noise made by the falling
ladder, and the excitement evidently prevailing among
the Indians, that some new act of treachery was about to
be tried by them, the men gathered underneath the opening,
Green taking his musket from the hands of the Virginian,
while in return, he mounted on one of the low chairs,
and extending his arm far above, handed him the light.
After a few minutes search, the corporal appeared again
at the mouth of the loft, not only with a demijohn
half-filled with whisky, but with a large loaf of brown
bread, and part of a shoulder of dried venison, from
which nearly one-half had been chipped away in slices.
This, indeed, was a prize, and the men looked at the
articles of necessary supply, as they were successively
handed down, with an earnestness which denoted, that
whatever might be their apprehensions of danger from
without, they by no means coveted fighting on an empty
stomach. After having lowered the treasures he had been
so fortunate as to secure, the Virginian swung himself
down by his hands, without difficulty, upon the lower
The fire had been again revived, and having ordered
Jackson up into the loft, to keep watch at the small-window,
and apprise him if any attempt should be made to replace
the ladder, the corporal for the first time lighting his
pipe, sat down to ruminate on his position, and consider
the means by which the party were to be taken back to
the fort. Further serious apprehensions in regard to
their safety he did not now entertain, for baulked, as
the Indians had been, in all their attempts to get into
the house, he felt persuaded that it was more with a view
to annoy and alarm, than with any hope of eventual success,
that they still lingered in the neighborhood. Had they
been in a situation to continue the siege longer than
the morning, the case might have been different. But it
was obvious that in order to secure their own safety,
alarmed as they most know the governor would be at the
absence of the party under his command, they would not
remain longer than daylight exposed to the chances of
being themselves closely assailed from without.
Such was the reasoning of the Virginian, whose greatest
source of discomfort now was the apprehension of serious
reprimand, if not something worse, from the austere
Captain Headley, whose displeasure, he was certain, would
be so much the greater on account of the loss of the
unfortunate Collins. He looked at his watch, but to his
great annoyance, found that it had stopped, the hour-hand
pointing to one o'clock. How long it had been run down,
he could not tell, but from the time which had elapsed
since their abandonment of the boat, and arrival in the
house, he did not think it could be less than four in
the morning.
Desirous to satisfy himself by the appearance of the
heavens, he arose, and with the aid of Green, placed the
table under the window commanding a view of the river.
This being too low, a chair was placed upon it, thus
affording the corporal the advantage of greater elevation
than he had derived from the use of the ladder itself.
Everything was again quiet. Not a sound broke the stillness,
save the howling of a few wolves, which, probably, attracted
by the scent of the human blood that had been spilt that
day, and by the exposed corpse that was now strewed with
white blossoms from the tree beneath which it lay, were,
by the increasing light, indistinctly seen on the opposite
shore. But not their savage cry of hunger alone was heard.
Ever and anon, in reply to their fierce howling was heard
the snappish bark of Loup Garou, as, leaping on the body
of his unconscious master, he lashed his tail, and seemed
to bid defiance to those whose errand he seemed so
perfectly to divine.
"Poor dog! you shall never want a master while I can keep
you," half murmured the corporal, as he now turned his
gaze upon the water, anxious to see if any trace could
be found there of the skiff and its missing occupant.
Nothing, however, came within his view, but just as he
was preparing to descend from the window, the outline of
the boat, for from its peculiar shape he easily identified
it as their own, riveted his attention as it passed
quickly up the river, filled with seven or eight savages
in their war-dress, and having at the bow what had the
appearance of a pole, from the top of which dangled a
human scalp.
"Gone at last," he exclaimed, after a moment's pause,
"but with poor Collins' scalp along with them. Cass," he
added, as he sprang to the floor, "if that turkey is fit
to eat let's have it directly, and you, Weston, look
about and see if there is any more water to be had. Make
haste, now, for we shall have to tramp it to the fort as
soon as it's daylight. The devils are gone and carried
off the boat."
Not less anxious than himself to be once more on their
way to the fort, which some of them, on entering the
house that night, had scarcely hoped to reach alive, the
men, leaning their muskets against the side of the room,
assisted in preparing the rude, but grateful meal, of
which they stood so much in need, and which was to sustain
them during the short-approaching march. The table having
been placed in the centre of the room, and on it the
demijohn, and bread and venison, Green and Weston, the
latter of whom had been unsuccessful in his search for
water, seized each a leg and a wing of the ample turkey,
which now denuded and disembowelled, Cass had scientifically
carved in its raw state, and held them in the blaze of
the fire, waiting patiently until the blackness of the
outside should give promise of corresponding warmth
within. Its slayer held the body of the bird over the
fire in a similar manner, the poker having been thrust
into the abdomen. They all sat, or rather stood in a
squatting position with their faces to the fire.
"Well, now, I reckon we shall make six considerable shares
of this," drawled Cass, looking fondly at the carcass,
which was slowly but temptingly spluttering before him
at the fire. "Are you any ways particular, Green?--what
part suits your taste best, Weston--a leg or a wing? For
my part I always stick to the carcass."
"Faith, and I like both, and a slice of the breast to
boot. I'm just the fellow, now the varmints are gone,
that could eat all of them."
"Yes, but you know," returned the temporary chef de
cuisine, "it must be share and share alike--there's two
legs--two wings and the breast, and the back slit in
two--that just makes six portions, and we're six men in
"Cast lots fiddlestick," said Green, "what portion do
you expect, Nutcrackers? unless it's the neck, and the
scaly part of the leg, the Injin had hold of when you so
bravely sent your bayonet through her feathers."
"Well, only think how cunning of the fellows," remarked
Weston, "who'd ever have thought they would try that
fashion to get in, cramming an old turkey before them to
clear the way, and get in his craw the first bullet that
might be sent."
"Yes, and the tight grip the fellow had of him by the
leg. Just look, Green, the mark of the devil's hand may
be upon him yet. It was the right leg, and that's it you
"Bosh! what do you expect me to find there but the marks
of your dirty paws while plucking him, I'm too devilish
hungry for such nonsense, Nutcrackers; but show me the
Injin that would venture to touch his legs now. If I
wouldn't mark him, then my name's not Seth Green."
Scarcely had he finished speaking, when a dark naked
human hand was slowly protruded over his shoulder, and
seized not the leg of the turkey, which Green now grasped
with unconscious and convulsive energy, but a brand from
the fire.
In his terror at that strange and unexpected appearance,
he dropped the body of the bird in the glowing embers,
and uttering a faint cry, turned half round and beheld
what filled him with the deepest dismay: his companions,
scarcely less terrified than himself, sprang together to
their feet, with the intention of rushing to their muskets,
but all hope of recovering them was gone. The savage who
had snatched the fire was no longer there then, but half
a dozen others in their war-paint stood between them and
their firelocks. It seemed as if they were sensible that
their very silence inspired more awe and apprehension in
the bosoms of their defenceless enemies than could have
done the most turbulent expression of their triumph. They
had evidently entered by the back door, which was now
quite open, and grouped around the body of Mr. Heywood,
were apparently more interested in the dead than in the
living. Not a sign was there of the corporal, and Philips
stood as if paralyzed, leaning, musket in hand, against
the opposite entrance.
Leaving the little party in the dismay occasioned by
their new position, and that at a moment when they believed
themselves secured from further interruption or danger,
we must now return to the Fort, where their long-continued
absence, coupled with the startling tidings conveyed by
Ephraim Giles, had created equal anxiety and apprehension.
It will be recollected that during the examination of
the latter, Ensign Ronayne had, after communicating with
the commanding officer, suddenly departed across the
river, taking with him a few armed men. The destination
of this little party was the cottage occupied by Mrs.
Heywood and her daughter, who, with a woman servant, were
the sole occupants of a dwelling, simple in construction,
but decorated, both within and without, by the hand of
good taste. It was a low, one-storied building, painted
white, with green window-blinds and shutters, and a
verandah of trellis work of the same color, that extended
a few feet square round the principal entrance. On either
side, rose to the roof, on parallel lines, and at equal
distances, cords of strong twine, on which already had
began to interlace themselves, the various parasites
indigenous to the soil, which winter had robbed of their
freshness, but which a southern sun was now evidently
vivifying and re-invigorating. A small garden of about
half-an-acre, surrounded by a similar trellis-work,
extended equally in front, and on the sides of the
house--while the graceful form given to the various beds,
and the selection of the plants and flowers, which,
although still in their dormant state, were yet
recognizable--testified the refined taste of those who
had assisted at their culture. The pathway, which was
recently gravelled from the adjacent sand-hills, ran in
a straight line from the verandah, toward the little
green gate, opening on the front of the garden, took a
semi-circular sweep on either side, at about one-third
of the distance from the gate. This form had been given
to it for the purpose of affording room for the creation
of a mound, on the summit of which had been placed a
small summer-house, octagon in shape, and constructed of
the same description of trellis-work. The sloping sides
of the mound itself, were profusely covered with dahlias,
rhododendrons, geraniums, and other plants of the most
select kind--the whole forming, when in bloom, a circle
of floral magnificence. A short and narrow path, just
large enough to admit of the passage of one person at a
time, led to the entrance of the summer-house, which,
facing the gate, was also shaded from the light and heat
of the sun's rays, by closely interlacing vines.
At the bottom of this artificial mound, and near the
pathway, a small spud, such as is used for pruning, was
stuck into some earth, newly drawn round a splendid tiger
lily, and on the handle of the spud, were loosely thrown
a white silk jacket, a blue velvet cap, and a light pink
scarf--evidencing that no ordinary gardener had been that
day employed in bringing into new life the gorgeous
beauties of the variegated parterre.
"Little did I think," mused the young officer, as, leaving
his party at the, gate, and hastening towards the cottage,
his eye fell upon those articles of dress--"little did
I imagine when I threw off these things a few hours since,
to obey a summons to the Fort, that on my return to them,
it would be with this heavy heart, and as the bearer of
these tidings--but I must be cautious in my disclosure.
Dear girl, here she is!"
"Why, Ronayne, what in the name of Heaven is the meaning
of all this? Are you here to take the castle by storm,
with all these armed warriors? A few hours since you were
a man of peace, and now I behold in you a most approved
and valiant knight of the true American school. Sword,
cap, feather, epaulet, blue broad-cloth, and silver. Well
it must be confessed that you are not a bad imitation of
a soldier, in that garb, and it is in pity to me, I
suppose, that you do not wear it oftener. But seriously,
Harry, do satisfy my curiosity, and tell me the reason
of this unusual--manner of visit!"
The question was asked playfully, but in tones replete
with sweetness, by a tall and elegantly-formed girl, who
on turning the further circle of the walk, in her approach
to her favorite flower-bed, had for the first time, beheld
the young officer, and the party stationed at the gate.
"Nay, dear Maria," returned the youth, deeply grieved at
the thought of casting a gloom over the spirits of her
who thus rallied him. "I am sorry to say my errand is
not one of mere parade--I have come to announce that
which will give you pain; and but that I am charged with
the agreeable duty of making you a prisoner, I never
should have had the courage to be the bearer of the
Miss Heywood turned very pale, less at the words even
than at the manner of the young officer, who it was
evident, felt all the weight of the task he had undertaken.
"Ronayne," she said, her voice suddenly assuming a rich
melancholy of intonation, in strange contrast with her
first address, "there is more in this than you would
acquaint me with. But, tell me," and she fixed her large
dark eyes on his--"tell me all. What pain is it you fear
to occasion me, and how is it connected with my being a
prisoner? Ha!" and she grasped his arm, and betrayed deep
agitation--"surely nothing in my father's conduct--"
"No, no, Maria," returned the youth, quickly, "far from
anything of the kind, and yet it is of your father I
would speak. But have you heard nothing since I left you.
Have you seen no one?"
"I have heard nothing--seen not a soul from without,"
she answered, as he tenderly pressed the hand he had
taken--"But, Ronayne," she pursued, with melancholy
gravity--"a sudden light dawns upon me--my heart tells
me that some misfortune or other has happened, or is
about to happen--you say you would speak about my father.
You are the bearer of ill-news in regard to him. Yes, I
know it is so; tell me, Harry," and she looked imploringly
up to him, "am I not right?--my father has been attacked
by Indians, and he has fallen. Oh! you do not deny it!"
"Nay, dearest Maria, I know nothing of the kind, although
I will not conceal from you that there is danger--you
have guessed correctly as to the Indians having been at
the farm, but little certain is known as to the result
of their visit. That half idiot Ephraim Giles, has come
in with some wild story, but I daresay he exaggerates."
Miss Heywood shook her head doubtingly. "You deceive me,
Ronayne--with the best intention, but still you deceive
me. If you really think the rumor be exaggerated, why
your own restlessness and seriousness of manner? Harry,
this is no time for concealment, for I feel that I can
better bear the truth NOW than LATER. Do not hesitate
then to tell me all you know."
"True, my love, this is no time for concealment since
such be the state of your feelings. I was unwilling to
admit my own apprehension on the subject, fearing that
you might be ill-prepared for the disclosure; but after
what you have just urged, the blow can never fall less
heavily than now. You must know, then, that a party of
hostile Indians have, there is too much reason to fear,
used violence toward the inmates of the farm-house, but
to what extent we have no means of knowing; though such
is the alarm created by their presence that Headley, who
you know is the very soul of caution, has ordered every
white in the neighborhood of the Fort, to be removed for
safety within its walls."
"Would that instead of THAT," remarked Miss Heywood, with
solemnity, "he had despatched those soldiers, whom I see
there fully armed, to the rescue of my poor father.
Perhaps he might be saved yet--the house is strong, and
might be defended for some time, even by a couple of
"And me at their head. Is it not so, Maria?" inquired
the youth.
"Yes, and you at their head, dear Ronayne," repeated Miss
Heywood; "to no one sooner would I be indebted for my
father's safety, as no one would, I am sure, more cheerfully
attempt his deliverance."
The young American mused a moment, and then rejoined,
despondingly; "Were these men at my disposal, Maria, how
gladly would I hasten to encounter every difficulty, the
removal of which would spare your gentle bosom those
pangs; but you know Headley would never permit it. His
prudence is a mania, and even were he to yield his
consent--let me not sustain you with delusive hopes--I
fear it would be too late."
"God's will be done," she ejaculated, as the large tears
fell trickling down her pallid cheeks, "but what will
become of my poor and now nearly death-stricken-mother,
when she hears of this?"
"The blow is indeed a fearful one, but act, I pray you,
with courage. Consider, too, your own safety. No one
knows the force of the Indians, or how soon they may be
here. Go in, dearest, prepare what you may more immediately
require for a few days, and my men will carry your trunks
down to the scow which is waiting to receive you."
"And if I should consent to go, Ronayne, you know my poor
mother cannot rise from her bed. What do you propose to
do with her? To remove her, and let her know WHY she is
removed, would soon finish the work her debilitating
disease has begun."
"I have made every necessary provision," answered the
young officer, glad to find that her thoughts could be
diverted from the immediate source of her sorrow. "Elmsley's
wife, to whom I spoke a few hurried words on leaving, is
even now preparing for your temporary reception, and I
have thought of an excuse to be given to your mother.
You must for once in your life use deceit, and say that
Van Vottenberg desires her presence in the fort, because
his duties have become so severe that he can no longer
absent himself to bestow upon her that professional care
she so much requires. Nay, look not so incredulous. I am
aware that the pretext is a meagre one, but I cannot at
present think of a better; and in her enfeebled state
she will not dwell upon the strangeness of the plea. Go
on then, I entreat you, and desire Catherine to collect
what you will want, while my men carry to the scow such
articles of furniture as will be most useful to you in
your new quarters. Quick, dear Maria, I implore you,
there has already been too much time lost, and I expect
every moment an order from Headley to return immediately."
Sensible of a pressing emergency. Miss Heywood, with a
beating heart, regained the cottage, in which so many
blissful hours had been passed within the last two years,
undisturbed by a care for the future, while the young
officer joining his men, left one to take care of the
arms of the party, and with the remainder hastened to
the house making as little noise as possible, in order
not to disturb the invalid. Having chosen such articles
of furniture as he knew Mrs. Elmsley was most deficient
in, and among these a couch and a couple of easy-chairs
(which latter indeed were the work of his own hands),
they were conveyed to the scow in two trips, and then
followed three or four trunks into which had been thrown,
without regard to order, such wearing apparel, and
necessaries of the toilet as the short period allowed
for preparation had permitted the agitated girl to put
together. The most delicate part of the burden, however,
yet remained to be removed, and that was the invalid
herself. Desiring his men to remain without, the youth,
whose long and close intimacy with the family rendered
such a step by no means objectionable, entered the
apartment of Mrs. Heywood, who had already been prepared
by her daughter for the removal, and with the assistance
of Catherine raised the bed on which she lay, and
transferred it to a litter brought for the occasion. This
they carefully bore through the suite of small and
intervening rooms to the front, where two of the men
relieved them, Catherine walking at the side, and
unnecessarily enjoining caution at every step.
"This is, indeed, an unexpected change, Ronayne," said
Miss Heywood, sadly, "but this morning, and I was so
happy, and now! These poor flowers, too (for after having
fastened the windows and doors of the house, they were
now directing their course towards the mound), that
parterre which cost us so much labor, yes, such sweet
labor, must all be left to be destroyed by the hand of
some ruthless savage. Yet, what do I say," she pursued,
in a tone of deep sorrow, "I lament the flowers; yes,
Ronayne, because they have thriven under your care, and
yet, I forget that my father perhaps no longer lives;
that my beloved mother's death may be the early consequence
of this removal. Yet think me not selfish. Think me not
ungrateful. Come what may, you will yet be left to me.
No, Harry," and she looked up to him tearfully, "I shall
never be utterly destitute, while you remain."
"Bless you, thrice bless you for these sweet avowals of
your confidence," exclaimed the youth, suddenly dropping
her arm, and straining her passionately to his heart.
"Yes, Maria, I shall yet remain to love, to cherish, to
make you forget every other tie in that of husband--to
blend every relationship in that of one."
"Nay, Ronayne," she quickly returned, while the color
mounted vividly to her cheek, under the earnest ardor of
his gaze, "I would not now unsay what I have said, and
yet I did not intend that my words should exactly bear
that interpretation--nor is this a moment--"
"But still you will be my wife--tell me, Maria?" and he
looked imploringly into her own not averted eyes. "You
will be the wife, as you have long been the friend and
companion of your Ronayne--answer me. Will you not?"
Her head sank upon his shoulder, and the heaving of her
bosom, as she gently returned his embrace, alone conveyed
the assurance he desired. She was deeply affected. She
knew the ardent, generous nature of her lover, and she
felt that every word that had just fallen from his lips,
tended only to unravel the true emotions of his heart:
but soothing as was his impassioned language, she deemed
it almost criminal, at such a moment, to listen to it.
"Nay, dearest Harry," she said, gently disengaging herself
from his embrace, "we will be seen. They may wonder at
our delay, and send somebody back from the scow. Let us
"You are right," replied the young officer, again passing
her arm through his own, while they continued their route,
"excess of happiness must not cause me to commit an
imprudence so great, as that of suffering another to
divine the extent. Yet one word more, dear Maria! and
ah! think how much depends upon your answer. WHEN shall
I call you mine?"
"Oh! speak not now of that, Ronayne--consider the position
of my father--my mother's health."
"It is for that very reason that I do ask it," returned
the youth. "Should Heaven deprive you of the one, as it
in some degree threatens you with the loss of the other,
what shall so well console you as the tenderness of him
who is blessed with your love?"
"Hush, Harry," and she fondly pressed his arm--"they will
hear you."
They had now approached the scow, into which the men,
having previously deposited the furniture and trunks,
were preparing to embark the litter upon which Mrs.
Heywood lay extended, with an expression of resignation
and repose upon her calm features, that touched the hearts
of even these rude men. Her daughter, half-reproaching
herself for not having personally attended to her transport,
and only consoled by the recollection of the endearing
explanation with her lover, which had chanced to result
from her absence, now tenderly inquired how she had borne
it, and was deeply gratified to find that the change of
air, and gentle exercise to which she had been subjected,
had somewhat restored her. Here was one source of care
partly removed, and she felt, if possible, increased
affection for the youth to whose considerate attention
was owing this favorable change in the condition of a
parent, whom she had ever fondly loved.
It was near sunset when Ronayne, who, with the robust
Catherine, had carefully lifted the invalid into the
centre of the scow, reached the landing-place below the
Fort. Here were collected several of the women of the
company, and among them Mrs. Elmsley, who had come down
to meet and welcome those for whose reception she had
made every provision the hurried notice she had received
would permit. The young officer had been the first to
step on shore, and after he had whispered something in
her ear, she for a moment communicated with the group of
women--then advanced to meet Miss Heywood, whom her lover
was now handing from the scow. She embraced her with a
tenderness so unusually affectionate, that a vague
consciousness of the true cause flashed across the mind
of the anxious girl, recalling back all that inward grief
of soul, which the deep emotion of an engrossing love
had for a time absorbed.
In less than half-an-hour the fugitives were installed
in the council hall, and in another small apartment,
dividing it from the rooms occupied by the Elmsleys. The
ensign, having seen that all was arranged in a suitable
manner in the former, went out to the parade-ground,
leaving the ladies in charge of their amiable hostess,
and of the women she had summoned to assist in bearing
the latter into the Fort.
On his way to his rooms, he met Captain Headley returning
from an inspection of the defences. He saluted him, and
was in the act of addressing him in a friendly and familiar
tone, when he was checked by the sharply-uttered remark:
"So, sir, you are returned at last. It seems to me that
you have been much longer absent than was necessary."
The high spirit of the youth was chafed. "Pardon me,
sir," he answered haughtily, "if I contradict you. No
one of the least feeling would have thought of removing
such an invalid as Mrs. Heywood is, without using every
care her condition required. Have you any orders for me,
Captain Headley?" he concluded, in a more respectful
manner, for he had become sensible, the moment after he
had spoken, of his error in thus evincing asperity under
the reproof of his superior.
"You are officer of the guard, I believe, Mr. Ronayne?"
"No, sir, Mr. Elmsley relieved me this morning."
At that moment the last-named officer came up, on his
way to the ensign's quarters, when, the same question
having been put to him, and answered in the affirmative,
Captain Headley desired that the moment the fishing-party
came in they should be reported to him. "And now,
gentlemen," he concluded, "I expect you both to be
particularly on the alert to-night. The absence of that
fishing-party distresses me, and I would give much that
they were back."
"Captain Headley," said the ensign, quickly and almost
beseechingly, "let me pick out a dozen men from the
company, and I pledge myself to restore the party before
mid-day to-morrow. Nay, sir," seeing strong surprise and
disapproval on the countenance of the commandant, "I am
ready to forfeit my commission if I fail--"
"Are you mad, Mr. Ronayne, or do you suppose that I am
mad enough to entertain such a proposition, and thus
weaken my force still more? Forfeit your commission if
you fail! Why, sir, you would deserve to forfeit your
commission, if you even succeeded in any thing so wholly
at variance with military prudence. Gentlemen, recollect
what I have said--I expect you to use the utmost vigilance
to-night, and, Mr. Elmsley, fail not instantly to report
the fishing-boat." Thus enjoining, he passed slowly on
to his quarters.
"D--n your military prudence, and d--n your pompous
cold-bloodedness!" muttered the fiery ensign between his
teeth--scarcely waiting until his captain was out of
"Hush," interrupted Elmsley in a whisper. "He will hear
you. Ha!" he continued after a short pause, during which
they moved on towards the mess-room, "you begin to find
out his amiable military qualities, do you! But tell
me, Ronayne, what the deuce has put this Quixotic expedition
into your head? What great interest do you take in these
fishermen, that you should volunteer to break your shins
in the wood, this dark night, for the purpose of seeking
them, and that on the very day when your ladye faire
honors these walls, if I may so dignify our stockade,
with her presence for the first time. Come, come, thank
Headley for his refusal. When you sit down to-morrow
morning, as I intend you shall, to a luxurious breakfast
of tea, coffee, fried venison, and buckwheat-cakes, you
will find no reason to complain of his adherence to
military prudence."
"Elmsley," returned his friend, seriously, "I can have
no disguise from you at such a moment. You know my regard
for Maria Heywood, although you cannot divine its depth,
and could I but be the means of saving her father, you
can well understand the joy I should feel."
"Certainly, my dear fellow, but you know as well as
myself, that there exists not the shadow of a hope of
this. That scarecrow, Giles, half-witted as he is, tells
too straightforward a story."
"Elmsley," persisted his friend, "there is every hope--
every reasonable expectation that he may yet survive.
Maria herself first opened my eyes to the possibility,
for, until then, I had thought as you do; and deeply did
her words sink in my heart, when she said, reproachfully,
that, instead of sending a party to escort her, it would
have been far better to dispatch them to the farm, where
her father might, at that moment, be sustaining a siege--
the house being strong enough to admit of a temporary
defence, by even a couple of persons."
"And what said you to that?"
"What could I say? I looked like a fool, and felt like
a school-boy under the iron rod of a pedagogue--but I
"And what did you resolve, my enterprising KNIGHT errant?"
"You have just heard my proposal to the gentleman who
piques himself upon his military prudence." returned the
youth, with bitter irony.
"Yes, and he refused you. What then?"
"True, and what then," and he nodded his head impatiently.
"You will sleep upon it, my dear fellow, after we have
had a glass of the Monongahela, and the pipe. Thus
refreshed, you will think better of it in the morning."
"We will have the Monongahela and the pipe, for truly I
feel that I require something to soothe, if not absolutely
to exhilarate me; but no sleep for me this night. Elmsley,"
he added, more seriously, "you will pass me out of the gate?"
"Pass you out of what?" exclaimed the other, starting
from the chair on which he had thrown himself only the
moment before. "What do you mean, man?"
"I mean that, as officer of the guard, you alone can pass
me through after dark, and this service you must render me."
"Why! where are you going? Single-handed like Jack the
Giant Killer to deliver, not a beautiful damsel from the
fangs of a winged monster, but a tough old backwoodsman
from the dark paws of the savage?"
"Elmsley," again urged the ensign, "you forget that Mr.
Heywood is the father of my future wife."
"Ah! is it come to that at last. Well, I am right glad
of it. But, my dear Ronayne," taking and cordially pressing
his hand, "forgive my levity. I only sought to divert
you from your purpose. What I can do for you, I will do;
but tell me what it is you intend."
"Yet, Elmsley, before we enter further into the matter,
do you not think that you will incur the serious displeasure
of Military Prudence?"
"If he discovers that you are gone, certainly; and I
cannot see how it can be otherwise; he will be in the
fidgets all night, and probably ask for you; but even if
not THEN, he will miss you on parade in the morning."
"And what will be the consequence to you? Answer me
candidly, I entreat."
"Then, candidly, Ronayne, the captain likes me not well
enough to pass lightly over such a breach of duty. The
most peremptory orders have, since the arrival of this
startling news, been given not to allow any one to leave
the fort, and (since you wish me to be sincere) should
I allow you to pass, it will go hard with my commission."
"How foolish of me not to have thought of that before!
How utterly stupid to ask that which I ought to have
known myself; but enough, Elmsley. I abandon the scheme
altogether. You shall never incur that risk for me."
"Yet understand me," resumed the other, "if you really
think that there is a hope of its proving more than a
mere wild goose chase, I will cheerfully incur that risk;
but on my honor, Ronayne, I myself feel convinced that
nothing you can do will avail."
"Not another word on the subject," answered his friend;
"here is what will banish all care, at least for the
His servant had just entered, and deposited on the
mess-table hot and cold water, sugar, lime-juice, pipes,
tobacco, and tumblers; when the two officers with Von
Vottenberg who had just come in from visiting Mr. Heywood,
sat down to indulge their social humors. Whilst the
latter, according to custom, mixed the punch, which when
made was pronounced to be his chef d'oeuvre, Elmsley
amused himself with cutting up the tobacco, and filling
the pipes. The ensign, taking advantage of their occupation,
indulged himself in a reverie that lasted until the
beverage had been declared ready.
The presence of the doctor, acting as a check upon the
further allusion by the friends to the topic that had
hitherto engrossed their attention, the little conversation
that ensued was of a general nature, neither of them,
however, cared much to contribute to it, so that the
doctor found and pronounced them for that evening anything
but entertaining companions. He, however, consoled himself
with copious potations from the punch-bowl, and filled
the room with dense clouds of smoke, that were in
themselves, sufficient to produce the drowsiness that
Ronayne pleaded in excuse of his taciturnity.
After his second glass, Elmsley, reminding the ensign
that he expected him as well as the punch-brewer to
breakfast with him in the morning at eight o'clock
precisely, took his departure for the guard room, for
the night.
It was about seven o'clock on the morning succeeding the
occurrences detailed in the preceding chapters, that
Lieutenant Elmsley waited on the commanding officer, to
relate that the fishing boat was at length in sight.
These tidings were communicated as Captain Headley was
preparing to sit down to breakfast--a refreshment, to
which the fatigue of mind and body he had undergone during
the night had not a little disposed him. True, however,
to his character, he stayed not for the meal, but instantly
arose, and taking his telescope accompanied the subaltern
to the flagstaff battery, whence the best view of the
river was commanded.
"Any thing to report, Mr. Elmsley; but I presume not, or
it scarcely would have been necessary for me to ask the
"Nothing, sir, of any consequence," replied the lieutenant
after a moment's hesitation, "beyond a slight altercation
that took place between a drunken Pottawattamie and the
sergeant of the guard--but it was of a nature too.
trivial to disturb you about."
"What was it, Mr. Elmsley?" inquired his superior, abruptly
turning to him.
"The Indian who had probably been lying dead drunk during
the day within the Fort, and had evidently just awakened
from his sleep, was anxious to go to his encampment, but
the sergeant, strictly obeying the order he had received
from me, refused to open the gate, which seemed to annoy
the Indian very much. At that moment I came up. I knew
well of course that the order was not meant to extend
rigidly to our Indian friends, the great mass of whom
might be offended by the detention of one of their number,
and I desired the sergeant to pass him through. Was I
right, sir?"
"Perfectly, Mr. Elmsley; we must not offend those of the
Indian tribes that are disposed to be friendly toward
us, for no one knows how soon we may require their aid.
The official advices I have received not only from Detroit
but from Washington are of a nature to induce apprehension
of hostilities between Great Britain and the United
States; therefore, it would, as you justly observe, and
just now particularly, be extremely bad policy to offend
those whom it is so much our interest to conciliate.
Still you ought to have reported the circumstance to me,
and not acted on your own responsibility."
Lieutenant Elmsley bit his lip, and could scarcely control
a movement of impatience. "I am glad, however, sir," he
resumed after a pause, "that you find no fault with my
conduct; I confess I had some little uneasiness on that
score, for with you I felt that I had no right to assume
the responsibility, but I knew that you had retired to
your rooms, and I was unwilling to disturb you."
"You ought to have known, Mr. Elmsley, that where duty
is concerned I can never be disturbed. However, no matter.
What you did was correctly done; only in future, fail
not to make your report. The slightest unauthorized step
might be a false one, and that, under all the circumstances,
is to be avoided."
Whatever the subaltern thought of the seeming self-
sufficiency which had dictated the concluding part of
the lecture of the commanding officer, he made no further
observation, and both in silence pursued the remainder
of their short route to the bastion.
Many of the men, dressed and accoutred for the morning
parade, which usually took place at about nine o'clock,
were grouped around, and anxiously watching the approach
of the boat, as of something they had despaired of ever
again beholding. Captain Headley drew his telescope to
the proper focus, and after looking through it a few
"Thank Heaven, all is right--they are all there, although
it is quite unaccountable to me how they could have been
detained until this morning. And, oh! it seems they have
taken a heavy draught of fish, for, although I cannot
see the bottom of the boat, their feet are raised as if
to prevent crushing or injuring something beneath them.
But hold! there is something wrong, too. I do not see
the usual number of muskets piled in the stern. How can
this be, Mr. Elmsley?"
"Perhaps there is not the same number of men," suggested
the lieutenant--"some of them, for causes connected with
their detention, may be coming by land."
"Not at all. There are seven men. I think seven men
compose the fishing party; do they not?"
"Six men, besides the non-commissioned officer; yes, sir."
"I can make out Corporal Nixon, for he is steering and
facing me, but for the others, I do not know them well
enough to distinguish. Here, Mr. Elmsley, take the glass,
and try what you can make of them."
The lieutenant gazed through the glass a moment, and then
pronounced name after name, as the men severally came
under the range of the lens. "Yes, sir, as you say,
there is Corporal Nixon steering--then, with, their backs
to us, and pulling, are first, Collins, then Green, then
Jackson, then Weston, then Cass, and then Philips. But
what they have in the bottom of the boat, for I now can
see that plain enough, is not fish, sir, but a human
body, and a dog crouched at its side. Yes! it is indeed
the Frenchman's dog--Loup Garou."
"Well, I want to know!" exclaimed Ephraim Giles, who had
ascended the bastion, and now stood amid the group of
men, "I take it, that if that's Loup Garou, his master
can't be far off. I never knowed them to be separate."
"Yes, sir, that is certainly a dead body," pursued the
lieutenant--"somebody killed at the farm, no doubt. Have
you any orders for the direction of the party, when they
land, sir?" he inquired, as he handed back the glass to
the captain.
"Just desire the drum to beat to parade," was the answer.
"It wants only a few minutes of guard-mounting, and by
the time the men have fallen in, and the roll is called,
the boat will be here. Where is Mr. Ronayne?"
"I have not seen him this morning, sir, but believe that
he is in his own rooms. He, however, knows the hour, and
doubtless will be here presently."
"When the men have fallen in, come and report to me,"
said the captain, as he descended from the bastion, and
proceeded to his own quarters, to eat his untasted
The lieutenant touched his cap in assent, and then, having
despatched a man with orders to the temporary drum-major,
crossed over to the apartments of the ensign, anxious
not only to excuse himself for not being able to receive
his friend to his own breakfast, at the hour he had named,
but to prepare him for the reception of the body of Mr.
Heywood, which he doubted not, was that now on its way
for interment at his own house.
On entering the mess-room, in which they had taken their
punch, the previous evening, everything bore evidence of
a late debauch. Ashes and tobacco were liberally strewed
upon the table, while around the empty bowl, were, in
some disorder, pipes and glasses--one of each emptied of
all but the ashes and sediment--the other two only
half-smoked, half-full, and standing amid a pool of wet,
which had evidently been spilt by a not very steady hand.
The windows were closed, so that the smoke clung to what
little furniture there was in the room, and the whole
scent of the place was an abominable compound of stale
tobacco and strong whisky.
A loud snoring in the room on his right attracted his
attention. He knew that it was Von Vottenberg's, and he
entered to see what had kept him in bed until that late
hour. The surgeon, only half-undressed, was fast asleep,
not within, but on the outside of the bed-clothes. Somewhat
disgusted at the sight, for Elmsley was comparatively
abstemious, he shook him not very gently, when the doctor,
opening his eyes with a start, half-rose upon his elbow.
"Ha!" he exclaimed, "I know you mean to say that breakfast
is waiting; I had forgotten all about it, old fellow."
"I mean nothing of the kind," was the reply, "but I
recommend you to lose no time in dressing and turning
out. The men are already on parade, and if Captain Headley,
finding that you are absent, tends over here to inquire
the cause, I would not give much for your future chances
of swallowing whisky-punch within the walls of Chicago."
"Eh? what! what!" spluttered the surgeon, as he jumped
up, drew on his boots, dipped his face in a basin of
water, and hastily completed his toilet. In less than
five minutes he was on parade.
Meanwhile, Lieutenant Elmsley, after giving this warning,
had passed again through the mess-room, and knocked at
Ronayne's door. But there was no answer.
"Hilloa, Ronayne," he called loudly, as he turned the
handle of the latch, "are YOU in bed too?"
But no Ronayne was there. He looked at the bed--like the
doctor's, it had been laid upon, but no one had been
within the clothes.
What was the meaning of this? After a few moments of
delay, he flew back to Von Vottenberg's room, but the
latter was already gone. Retracing his steps, he met
Ronayne's servant entering at the mess-room door.
"Where is your master?" he inquired. "How is it that he
is not in his room--has not been in bed?"
"Not been in bed?" repeated the lad, with surprise. "Why,
sir, he told me last night that he was very drowsy and
should lie late; and, that he mightn't be disturbed, he
desired me to sleep in one of the block-houses. I was
only to wake him in time for guard-mounting, and as it
wants but ten minutes to that, I am just come to call him."
"Clean out the mess-room directly--open the windows, and
pat every thing in order," said the lieutenant, fearing
that Captain Headley might, on hearing of the absence of
the young officer, pay his quarters a visit in search of
some clue to the cause. "I see it all," he mused, as he
moved across the parade-ground. "He would not, generous
fellow, get me into a scrape, by making me privy to his
design, and to avoid the difficulty of the gate, has got
over the pickets somewhere--yet, if so, he must have had
a rope, and assistance of some kind, for he never could
have crossed them without. Yet, where can he be gone,
and what could he have expected to result from his mad
scheme? Had he waited until now, he would have known by
the arrival of the fishing-party with their sad charge,
how utterly useless was all this risk."
"Well, Mr. Elmsley," said the captain, who now appeared
at the front of his own door, fully dressed for parade,
and preparing to issue forth in all the stateliness of
"The parade is formed, sir," remarked the lieutenant,
confusedly, "but I cannot find the officer of the guard."
"Sir!" exclaimed Captain Headley.
"I cannot find Mr. Ronayne, sir--I have myself been over
to his quarters, and looked into his bed-room, but it is
clear that he has not been in bed all night."
"What is the meaning of all this? Send Doctor Von Vottenberg
here immediately."
And lucky was it for that gentleman that the officer who
now desired his attendance on the commandant had roused
him from that Lethean slumber in which he had been, only
a few minutes before, so luxuriously indulging.
"Doctor Von Vottenberg," commenced the captain, as soon
as that official made his appearance before him; "you
are quartered with Mr. Ronayne. Have you seen any thing
of him last night or this morning--no evasion, nay,"
seeing that the doctor's brow began to be overclouded,
"I mean no attempt to shield the young man by a suppression
of the truth."
"I certainly saw him last night, Captain Headley, but
not at a very late hour. We took a glass or two of punch,
and smoked a couple of pipes together, but we both went
to bed early, and for my part, I know that I slept so
soundly as to have heard nothing--seen nothing, until I
got up this morning."
The doctor spoke truly as to the time of their retirement
to rest, for the ensign had left him early in the night,
while he had found his way to his own bed, early in the
"The boat is nearing the landing-place, sir," reported
the sergeant of the guard, who now came up, and more
immediately addressed Lieutenant Elmsley.
This information, for the moment, banished the subject
under discussion. "Let the men pile their arms," ordered
Captain Headley; "and when this is done, Mr. Elmsley,
follow me to the landing-place."
In a few minutes both officers were there. The boat was
within fifty yards, when the subaltern joined his captain;
and the oarsmen, evidently desirous of doing their best
in the presence of the commanding officer, were polling
silently and with a vigor that soon brought it to its
accustomed berth.
"What body is that, Corporal Nixon?" inquired the latter,
"and how is it that you are only here this morning?"
"Sir," answered the corporal, removing one of his hands
from the steer-oar, and respectfully touching his cap,
"it's poor Le Noir, the Frenchman, killed by the Injins
yesterday, and as for our absence, it couldn't be helped,
sir; but it's a long report I have to make, and perhaps,
captain, you would like to hear it more at leisure than
I can tell it here."
By this time the men had landed from the boat, leaving
the Canadian to be disposed of afterwards as the commanding
officer might direct. The quick eye of the latter
immediately detected the slight limping of Green, whose
wound had become stiff from neglect, cold, and the cramped
position in which he had been sitting in the boat.
"What is the matter with this man?" he inquired of the
corporal. "What makes him walk so stiffly?"
"Nothing much the matter, captain," was the indifferent
reply. "It's only a ball he got in his leg in the scrimmage
last night."
"Ha! the first gun-shot wound that has come under my
treatment during the three long years I have been stationed
here. Quick, my fine fellow, take yourself to the hospital,
and tell the orderly to prepare my instruments for
"Scrimmage last night; what do you mean, Corporal
Nixon--whom had you the scrimmage with?"
These remarks fell at the same moment from the lips of
the commander and those of the surgeon, the latter rubbing
his hands with delightful anticipation of the treat in
store for him.
"With the Indians, captain," replied Nixon; "the Indians
that attacked Mr. Heywood's farm."
"Captain Headley," interrupted the lieutenant, with
unusual deference of manner, for he was anxious that no
further reference should be made to the subject in presence
of the invalids and women, who, attracted by the news of
the arrival of the boat, had gathered around, partly from
curiosity, partly for the purpose of getting their expected
supply of fish, "do you not think it better to examine
Corporal Nixon first, and then the others in turn?"
"Very true, Mr. Elmsley, I will examine them separately
in the orderly-room to see how far their statements
agree; yet one question you can answer here, corporal.
You say that it is the body of Le Noir, killed by the
Indians. Where is Mr. Heywood, then?"
The generous Elmsley felt faint, absolutely sick at heart
on hearing this question; the very object be had in view
in proposing this private examination was thereby threatened
with discomfiture.
"Mr. Heywood has been carried off by the Indians," calmly
replied the corporal, yet perceptibly paling as he spoke.
"Indeed! this is unfortunate. Let the men go to their
barracks, and there remain until I send for them," ordered
the commandant. "You, corporal, will come to me at the
orderly-room, in half an hour from this. That will be
sufficient time for you to clean yourself, and take your
breakfast. None of your party, I presume, have had their
breakfast yet?"
"No, your honor," answered Green, who seemed to fancy
that his wound gave him the privilege of a little license
in the presence of his chief, "not unless an old turkey,
the grandfather of fifty broods, and as tough as shoe-
leather, can be called a breakfast."
Captain Headley looked at the speaker sternly, but took
no other notice of what he, evidently, deemed a very
great liberty, than to demand how he presumed to disobey
the order of the surgeon. Then desiring him to proceed
forthwith to the hospital and have his leg dressed, he
himself withdrew after postponing the parade to one
"And are you sure, Nixon, that Mr. Heywood has been
carried off by the Indians," asked Lieutenant Elmsley,
the revulsion of whose feelings on hearing the corporal's
answer to the question put by Captain Headley had been
in striking contrast with what he had experienced only
a moment before; "are you quite sure of this?"
The interrogatory was put, immediately after the commanding
officer had retired, doubtingly, in a low tone, and apart
from the rest of the men.
"I saw them carry him off myself, sir," again deliberately
said the corporal. "The whole of the party saw it too."
"Enough, enough," pursued the lieutenant, in a friendly
tone. "I believe you, Nixon. But another question. Were
you joined last night by any one of the regiment? recollect
The corporal declaring that nothing in the shape of an
American uniform had come under his notice, since he
departed from the Fort the preceding evening, the officer
next turned his attention to the boat.
"What are you fumbling about there, Collins?" he asked,
rather sharply--"Why do you not go and join your mess?"
This was said as the rest of the party were now in the
act of moving off with their muskets and fishing apparatus.
"Poor fellow!" interposed the corporal, "he is not himself
to-day; but I am sure, Mr. Elmsley, you will not be hard
upon him, when I tell you that, but for him, there wouldn't
be a man of us here of the whole party."
"Indeed!" exclaimed the lieutenant, not a little surprised
at the information; "but we shall hear all about that
presently; yet what is he fidgetting about at the bottom
of the bow of the boat?"
"There's another body there, sir, besides Le Noir's. It's
that of the poor boy at Heywood's--an Indian scalped him
and left him for dead. Collins, who put a bullet into
the same fellow, not an hour afterwards, found the boy
by accident, while retreating from the place where we
had the first scrimmage with the red devils. He was still
breathing, and he took every pains to recover him, but
the cold night air was too much for him, and he died in
the poor fellow's arms."
"Well, this is a strange night's adventure, or rather
series of adventures," remarked the lieutenant half aside
to himself. "Then, I suppose," he resumed, more immediately
addressing the corporal, "he has brought the body of the
boy to have him interred with Le Noir?"
"Just so, sir, for he mourns him as if he had been his
own child," answered Nixon, as the officer departed--
"here, Loup Garou, Loup Garou," and he whistled to the
dog. "Come along, old fellow, and get some breakfast."
But Loup Garou would not stir at the call of his new
master. Sorrow was the only feast in which he seemed
inclined to indulge, and he continued to crouch near the
body of the Canadian as impassible and motionless as if
he was no longer of earth himself.
"Come along, Collins," gently urged the Virginian,
approaching the boat, where the former was still feeling
the bosom of the dead boy in the vain hope of finding
that life was not yet extinct. "It's no use thinking
about it; you have done your duty as a soldier, and as
a good man, but you see he is gone, and there is no help
for it. By and by, we will bury them both together; but
come along now. The dog will let nobody near them."
"Dash me, corporal, if I ever felt so queer in my life!"
answered Collins, in a melancholy tone, strongly in
contrast with his habitual brusque gaiety; "but, as you
say, it's no use. The poor lad is dead enough at last,
and my only comfort now is to bury him, and sometimes
look at his grave."
The half-hour given by Captain Headley to the men to
clean themselves and eat their breakfasts, afforded his
subaltern ample time to take his own, which had all this
time been waiting. When he readied his rooms he found
that he had another ordeal to go through. Mrs. Elmsley
was already at the bead of the table, and pouring out
the coffee, with Miss Heywood seated on her left--the
latter very pale, and having evidently passed a sleepless
night. As the officer entered the room, a slight flush
overspread her features, for she looked as if she expected
him to be accompanied by another, but when he hastily
unbuckled his sword, and placed it, with his cap, on a
side-table, desiring his wife to lose no time in pouring
out the coffee, as he must be off again immediately, she
felt, she knew not wherefore, very sick at heart, and
became even paler than before. Nor was she at all re-assured
by the tone of commiseration in which, after drawing a
chair to her side, and affectionately pressing her hand,
he inquired after her own and her mother's health.
"Why, George," said Mrs. Elmsley, who remarked this change
in her friend, and in some degree divined the cause,
"where are Mr. Ronayne and the doctor? You told me last
night they were to breakfast here--and see, one, two,
three, four, five cups (pointing at each with her finger),
I have prepared accordingly. Indeed, I scarcely think
this young lady would have made her appearance at the
breakfast-table, had she not expected to meet--who was
it, my dear? and she turned an arch look upon her friend
--"ah! I know now--Von Vottenberg."
"Nay, I have no more need of disguise from your husband
than from yourself, Margaret," replied Miss Heywood, her
coloring cheek in a measure contradicting her words--"it
was Harry Ronayne I expected; but," she added, with a
faint smile, "do not imagine I am quite so romantic as
not to be able to take my breakfast, because he is not
present to share it; therefore if you please, I also will
trouble you for a cup of coffee."
"All in good time," remarked Mrs. Elmsley. "I dare say,
Ronayne is engaged in some duty which has prevented him
from keeping his engagement as punctually as he could
have desired. We shall certainly see him before the
breakfast things are removed."
"It seems to me," said her husband, who was taking his
meal with the appetite of any other than a hungry man,
and even with a shade of vexation on his features, "that
you all appear to be very much in the dark here. Why,
Margaret, have you not heard what has occurred during
the night, as well as this morning?"
"How should I have heard any thing, George?" replied Mrs.
Elmsley. "I have seen no one since you went out this
morning--who could have communicated news from without?
Surely you ought to know that. Will you have more coffee?"
"No, thank you--I have no appetite for coffee or for any
thing else. I almost wish I had not come. Dear Maria,"
he added, impetuously, taking Miss Heywood's hand in his
own; "I know you have a noble--a courageous heart, and
can bear philosophically what I have to tell you."
"I can bear much," was the reply, accompanied by a forced
smile, that was contradicted by the quivering of the
compressed lip; "and if I could not, I find I must begin
to learn. Yet what can you have to tell me, my dear Mr.
Elmsley, more than I already divine--my poor father--"
and the tears started from her eyes.
"Ha! there at least, I have comfort for you--although
there has been sad work at the farm--the fishing-party
have come in with the bodies of poor Le Noir and the boy
Wilton, but they all say that Mr. Heywood was carried
off a prisoner by the Indians."
"Carried off a prisoner," repeated Miss Heywood, a sudden
glow animating her pale features--"oh! Elmsley, thank you
for that. There is still a hope then?"
"There is indeed a hope; but, dearest Miss Heywood, why
must I heal with one hand and wound with the other. If
I give comparative good news of your father, there is
another who ought to be here, and whose absence at this
moment is to me at once a pain and a mystery."
"You mean Harry Ronayne?" she said, hesitatingly, but
without manifesting surprise.
"Where the foolish fellow has gone," he continued, "I do
not know, but he has disappeared from the Fort, nor has
he left the slightest clue by which he may be traced."
"Does Captain Headley know this?" she inquired,
recollecting, that part of the conversation that had
passed between them the preceding day, in reference to
the succor that might have been afforded at the farm.
"He does. I made the report of Ronayne's absence to him
personally, and the doctor was summoned to state if he
had seen any thing of him. He, however, was as ignorant
as a man, who had been drunk during the night, and was
not yet quite sober in the morning, could well be. The
captain was as much surprised as displeased, but further
inquiry was delayed on the sergeant of the guard coming
up and announcing the near approach of the boat containing
the fishing-party."
"Tell me, dear Mr. Elmsley," said Miss Heywood, after a
few moments of seeming reflection; "what is your own
opinion of the matter? How do you account--or have you
at all endeavored to account for Ronayne's absence?"
"I can easily understand the cause," he replied, "but
confound me if I can attempt to divine the means he took
to accomplish his object."
He then proceeded to relate the circumstances of his
proposal to Captain Headley--the abrupt refusal he had
met with--his subsequent application to himself to pass
him out of the gate, and the final abandonment of his
request when he found that his acquiescence would seriously
compromise him, as officer of the guard.
"Noble Harry!" thought Miss Heywood--"your confusion,
your vexation of yesterday, arose from not being able to
follow your own generous impulses: but now I fully
understand the resolve you secretly made--and all for my
sake. Do not think me very romantic," she said aloud to
Mr. Elmsley, "but really, Margaret, I cannot despair
that all will yet, and speedily, be well. The only fear
I entertain is that the strict Captain Headley may rebuke
him in terms that will call up all the fire of his nature,
and induce a retort that may prove a source of serious
misunderstanding--unless, indeed, the greatness of the
service rendered, plead his justification."
"Now that we are on the subject, dear Miss Heywood,"
remarked Elmsley, "let me once for all disabuse you of
an impression which I fear you entertain--or is it so?
Do you think that Ronayne has had an opportunity of
joining the party at the farm?"
"Certainly, I do," she answered, gravely, "or why should
he have gone forth? Pray do not rob me of what little
comfort, in expectation, I have left."
"That he went forth madly and single-handed for the
purpose, I can believe--nay, I am sure of it; but I grieve
to add that he has not been seen there."
"This, indeed, is strange," she returned in faltering
tones, and with ill-disguised emotion, for, hitherto she
had been sustained by the belief that he was merely
lingering behind the party, in order to satisfy himself
of facts, the detail of which could not fail to be
satisfactory to her ear. "How know you this?"
"I questioned Corporal Nixon, who commanded the party,
and who apprised me of Mr. Heywood's having been carried
off by the Indians, for I was deeply anxious, as you may
presume, to know what had become of my friend--and this
far less even for my own sake than for yours."
"And his answer was?" and there was deep melancholy in
the question.
"That no American uniform had come under his notice during
his absence from the Fort, save those of the party he
commanded. These, as far as I can recollect, were his
precise words."
"Mr. Elmsley," said a sentry, who now appeared at the
door of the breakfast-parlor, "Captain Headley waits for
you in the orderly room."
"Is Corporal Nixon there?" asked the lieutenant.
"He is, sir."
"Good, Dixon, I shall be there immediately."
"God bless you," he continued, to Miss Heywood, when the
man had departed. "We shall, perhaps, elicit from him,
something that will throw light upon the obscure part of
this matter. Margaret, do not leave the dear girl alone,
but cheer up her spirits, and make her hope for the best."
So saying, he shook her hand affectionately, pushed back
his chair from the table, and resuming his cap and sword,
left the friends together, promising to return as soon
as the examination of the man should be concluded.
Mr. Heywood's history may be told in a few words. He was
the son of an officer who had served in one of the American
partizan corps, during the Revolution, and had been killed
at the attack made by General Green upon the stronghold
of Ninety-Six, in the South. At that time he was a mere
youth, and found himself a few years after, and at the
age of eighteen, without fortune, and wholly dependent
upon his own resources. The war being soon ended, his
naturally enterprising disposition, added to great
physical strength, induced him to unite himself with one
of the many bands of adventurers that poured into the
then, wilds of Kentucky, where, within five years, and
by dint of mere exertion and industry, he amassed money
enough to enable him to repair to Charleston, in South
Carolina, and espouse a lady of considerable landed
property, with whom he had formed a partial engagement,
prior to his entering on that adventurous life. The only
fruit of this union was a daughter, and here, as far as
fortune was concerned, they might have enjoyed every
comfort in life, for Mrs. Heywood's property was
principally situated in the neighborhood, but her husband
was of too restless a nature to content himself with a
sedentary life. He had at the outset embarked in commerce
--the experience of a few years, however, convincing him
that he was quite unsuited to such pursuits, he had the
good sense to abandon them before his affairs could be
involved. He next attempted the cultivation of the estate,
but this failing to afford him the excitement he craved,
he suddenly took leave of his family, and placing every
thing under the control of a manager, once more obeyed
the strong impulse, which urged him again to Kentucky.
Here, following as a passion the occupation of his earlier
years, he passed several seasons, scarcely communicating
during that period, with his amiable and gentle wife,
for whom, however, as well as for his daughter--now
fifteen years of age, and growing rapidly into womanhood
--he was by no means wanting in affection. Nor was his
return home THEN purely a matter of choice. Although
neither quarrelsome nor dissipated in his habits, he had
had the misfortune to kill, in a duel, a young lawyer of
good family who had accompanied him to Kentucky, and had
consequently fled. Great exertions were made by the
relatives of the deceased to have him arrested on the
plea that the duel, the result of a tavern dispute, had
been unfair on the part of the survivor. As there was
some slight ground for this charge, the fact of Mr.
Heywood's flight afforded increased presumption of his
guilt, and such was the publicity given to the matter by
his enemies, that the rumor soon reached Charleston, and
finally, the ears of his family.
Revealing, in this extremity, his true position to his
wife, Mr. Heywood declared it to be his intention either
to cross the sea, or to bury himself forever in the
remotest civilized portion of their own continent, leaving
her however, to the undisturbed possession of the property
she had brought him, which would of course descend to
their child.
But Mrs. Heywood would not listen to the proposal. Although
she had much to complain of, and to pain her, all
recollection of the past faded from her memory, when she
beheld her husband in a position of danger, and even in
some degree of humiliation, for she was not ignorant that
even in the eyes of people not over scrupulous, ineffaceable
infamy attaches to the man, who, in a duel, aims with
unfair deliberation at the life of his opponent; and
anxious to satisfy herself that such a stain rested not
on the father of her child, she conjured him to tell her
if such really was the case. He solemnly denied the fact,
although he admitted there were certain appearances
against him, which, slight as they were, his enemies had
sought to deepen into proofs--and in the difficulty of
disproving these lay his chief embarrassment.
The tone--the manner--the whole demeanor of Mr. Heywood
carried conviction with his denial, and his wife at once
expressed her determination to renounce for his sake,
all those local ties and associations by which she had
been surrounded from childhood, and follow his fortunes,
whithersoever they might lead. This, she persisted, she
was the more ready and willing to do, because her daughter's
education having been some months completed, under the
best masters, there was now no anxiety on her account,
other than what might arise from her own sense of the
contemplated change.
Maria Heywood was accordingly summoned to the consultation
--made acquainted with her father's position, and the
necessity for his instant departure from that section of
the country--and finally told that with her it rested to
decide, not only whether he should go alone, but if they
accompanied him, whether it should be to Europe, or to
the Far West.
"Rest with me to decide!" exclaimed the warm-hearted girl
as she threw herself into her mother's arms. "Oh, how
good of you both thus to consult me, whose duty it is to
obey. But do not think that it is any privation for me
to leave this. I cannot claim the poor merit of the
sacrifice. I have no enjoyment in cities. Give me the
solitude of nature, books, and music, and I will live in
a wigwam without regret."
"Dear enthusiast," said Mrs. Heywood, pressing her fondly
to her heart; "I knew well in what spirit would be your
answer. You decide then for the Far West?"
"Oh, yes, dear mamma! the Far West for me--no Europe.
Give me the tall, dense forests of our own noble land!
I desire no other home--long have I pictured to myself
the vast lakes--the trackless woods and the boundless
prairies of that region of which I have read so much,
and now," she concluded, with exaltation, "my fondest
wishes will be realized, and I shall pass my life in the
midst of them. But, dear papa, to what particular spot
do we go?"
"To Chicago, my noble girl! It is the remotest of our
Western possessions, and quite a new country. There I
may hope to pass unheeded, but how will you, dear Maria,
endure being buried alive there, when so many advantages
await you here?"
"Only figuratively, papa," she replied with a pensive
smile stealing over her fine intellectual features. "Have
no fear for me on that score, for depend upon it, with
so much natural beauty to interest, it will be my own
fault, if I suffer myself to be buried alive. What think
you, dear mamma?"
"I think with you, my child," replied Mrs. Heywood,
looking approvingly at her daughter, "that it is our
duty, as it assuredly will be our pleasure to accompany
your father wherever he may go."
It was now arranged that Mr. Heywood, furnished with a
considerable sum of money in gold, should set out alone
on the following night for their new destination, and
make the necessary preparations for their reception,
while his wife, through her agent, should endeavor to
dispose of the estate. As it would require some time
for this, and as the arrangements at Chicago could not
well be completed within several months, it was settled
that they should meet at Albany, early in the following
autumn, where they should proceed to take possession of
their new abode. For his better security and freedom from
interruption, Mr. Heywood, while travelling, was to assume
a feigned name, but his own was to be resumed immediately
after his arrival at Chicago, for neither he nor his
family could for a moment think of increasing the suspicion
of guilt, by continuing a name that was not their own;
and, finally, as a last measure of precaution, the free
servants of the establishment, had, with the exception
of Catharine, whom they were to take with them, been
discharged, while a purchaser having fortunately been
found, the slaves, with the estate, were handed over to
a new master, proverbial for his kindness to that usually
oppressed race. By these means they found themselves
provided with funds more than adequate to all their future
wants, the great bulk of the sum arising from the sale
of the estate being vested in two of the most stable
banks of the Union.
With the money he took with him, carefully deposited in
his saddlebags, for he performed the whole of the journey
on horseback, Mr. Heywood had caused the cottage already
described, to be built and furnished from Detroit, in
what, at that period, and so completely at the ultima
thule of American civilization, was considered a style
of great luxury. He had, however, shortly prior to his
setting out for Albany, purchased several hundred acres
of land, about two miles up the Southern branch of the
Chicago, leaving instructions with Le Noir, whom he had
engaged for a long term of service, to erect upon it a
log building and outhouses. This he had been induced to
do from that aching desire for physical exertion which
had been familiar to him from boyhood, and which he felt
could never be sufficiently indulged within the limited
compass of the little village itself--subjected as he
must be to the observation of the curious and the
impertinent. He returned from Albany after a few months'
absence, in the autumn of 1809, bringing with him his
friends who occupied the cottage, while he himself obtained
their assent that he should inhabit the farm house,
completed soon after his return. Here he cut with his
own hands, many a cord of the wood that his servants
floated down in rafts, not only for his own family, but
to supply the far more extensive wants of the garrison,
with which, however, he had little or no intercourse,
beyond that resulting from his business relations.
Such was the condition of things at the period at which
our narrative has opened. Maria Heywood had now been
three years an occupant of the cottage, and within that
time solitude and habits of reflection had greatly matured
her mind, as years had given every womanly grace to her
person. The past had also tended much to form her
character, upon which the development of physical beauty
so often depends. At her first debut into society at
Charleston, in her fourteenth year--an age that would
have been considered premature, but for the rapidity with
which form and intellect are known to ripen in that
precocious climate--she had received, but listened with
indifference to the vapid compliments of men whose
shallowness she was not slow to detect, and whose homage
conveyed rather a fulsome tribute to her mere personal
beauty, than a correct appreciation of her heart and
understanding. Not that it is to be inferred that she
prided herself unduly upon this latter, but because it
was by that standard of conduct chiefly, that she was
enabled to judge of the minds of those who evinced so
imperfect a knowledge of the female heart, when, emerging
from the gaiety of girlhood, it passes into the earnestness
of womanly feeling.
But although cold--almost repellant to all who had poured
their ephemeral and seldom varying homage in her ear--no
woman's heart ever beat with more kind--more generous--more
devoted sentiments, than her own. Possessed of a vivid
imagination, which the general quietude of her demeanor
in a great degree disowned, she had already sketched
within her glowing mind her own beau ideal, whose image
was a talisman to deaden her heart against the influence
of these soulless realities.
With such sentiments as these had Maria Heywood cheerfully
consented to accompany her parents to that secluded spot,
from which there was little probability of a speedy
return; but solitude, so far from weakening the strong
impressions that had entwined themselves around her heart,
from the moment of her emancipation from childhood, only
served to invest them with new power. The more her feelings
repined--the more expanded her intellect--the stronger
became the sense of absence of one who could enter into,
and in some degree, give a direction to all her thoughts
and emotions--sharing with her the rich fruit that
springs from the consciousness of kindred associations
of mind. But this was the secret of her own heart--of
the heart of one whose personal attractions were well
suited to the rich and overflowing character of her soul,
and who had now attained that age which gives eloquent
expression to every movement of the ripely moulded form.
Above the middle size, the figure of Maria Heywood was
at once gracefully and nobly formed. Her face, of a
chiselled oval, was of a delicate olive tint, which well
harmonized with eyes of a lustrous hazel, and hair of
glossy raven black. A small mouth, bordered by lips of
coral fulness, disclosed, when she smiled, teeth white
and even; while a forehead, high for her sex, combined
with a nose, somewhat more aquiline than Grecian, to give
dignity to a countenance that might, otherwise, have
exhibited a character of voluptuous beauty. Yet, although
her features, when lighted up by vivacity or emotion,
were radiant with intelligence; their expression when in
repose was of a pensive cast, that, contrasted with her
general appearance, gave to it a charm, addressed at once
to sense and sentiment, of which it is impossible, by
description, to give an adequate idea. A dimpled cheek,
an arm, hand and foot, that might have served the statuary
as a model, completed a person which, without exaggeration,
might be deemed almost, if not wholly faultless.
The habits of Mr. Heywood were of that peculiar nature
--his desire of isolation from every thing that could be
called society was so obvious, that for the first year
of the residence of the family at Chicago, scarcely any
intercourse had been maintained between the inmates of
the cottage and the officers' wives; and it was only on
the occasion of the commanding officer giving a party,
to celebrate the anniversary of American Independence on
the following year, that the first approach to an
acquaintance had been made. It had been deemed by him a
matter of duty to invite all of the few American families
that were settled in the neighborhood, and of course the
Heywoods were of the number. On the same principle of
conventionalism the invitation was accepted, and not
slight was the surprise of the ladies of the garrison,
when they found in the secluded occupants of the cottage,
to whom they had assigned a doubtful position in society,
those to whom no effort of their own prejudice could
refuse that correct estimate, which quiet dignity without
ostentation, is ever certain to command.
At the announcement of the names of Mrs. and Miss Heywood,
the somewhat stately Mrs. Headley was disposed to receive
with hauteur the inmates of the cottage, but no sooner
had Maria Heywood, accompanied by her gentle mother,
entered the apartment with the easy and composed air of
one to whom the drawing-room is familiar, than all her
prejudices vanished, and with a heart warming towards
her, as though she, had been the cherished sister of her
love, she arose, pressed her hand affectionately and
welcomed her to the Fort with the sincerity of a generous
and elevated nature, anxious to repair its own wrong.
From that period, both by the wife of the commandant,
and by Mrs. Elmsley--the only two ladies in the garrison,
Maria Heywood was as much liked and courted, as she had
previously been disregarded. To deny that the noble girl
did in some measure exult in this change, would be to do
wrong to the commendable pride of a woman, who feels that
the unjust prejudice which had cast a false shadow over
her recent life, has at last been removed, and that the
value, of which she was modestly conscious, began to be
It was at this party that her acquaintance with the young
Southerner had commenced, and it is needless to trace
the gradual rise of an attachment which similarity of
tastes had engendered. Naturally of an ardent disposition,
the youth had, as we have remarked on a previous occasion,
hitherto loved to indulge in the excitement of the wild
sports of the forest and the prairie, as the only present
means of giving freedom to that spirit of enterprise, so
usually wedded to the generous and unoccupied mind; but,
from the period of his acquaintance with Maria Heywood,
a total change had come over his manner of life. The
hunt--the chase--and the cup that so often succeeded,
were now almost wholly abandoned, and his only delight
NOW in excursions was to ride with her across the prairie,
or to pull her in his light skiff either along the shores
of the Michigan, or through the various branches of the
river, contemplating the beautiful Heavens by moonlight,
and indulging in speculations, which were not more the
fruit of romantic temperament, than of the intensity of
Love. He had, moreover, four dogs trained to draw her in
a light sledge of his own device and construction, in
winter. In these rambles she was usually accompanied
either by Mrs. Headley, or by the wife of his friend and
brother subaltern, and after the invigorating exercise
of the day, his evenings, whenever he could absent himself
from the Fort, were devoted within the cottage to books,
magic, and the far more endearing interchange of the
resources of their gifted minds. In summer there were
other employments of a domestic character, for in addition
to their rides, walks, and excursions on the water, both
found ample scope for the indulgence of their partiality
for flowers, in the taste for practical horticulture
possessed by Ronayne, under whose care had grown the
luxuriant beauty which every where pervaded the little
garden, and made it to the grateful girl a paradise in
Thus had passed nearly two years, and insensibly, without
a word of love having been breathed, each felt all the
security which a consciousness of being beloved alone
could yield, and that assurance imparted to their manner
and address when alone a confiding air, the more
endearing from the silence of their lips. But although
no word uttered by themselves proclaimed the existence
of the secret and holy compact, not only were they fully
sensible of it themselves, but it was obvious to all
--even to the least observant of the garrison, and many
were there, both among the soldiers and their wives--by
all of whom the young ensign was liked for his openness
and manliness of character--who expressed a fervent hope
that the beautiful and amiable Miss Heywood would soon
become the bride of their favorite officer. This it was,
which had led the men of the fishing-party to express in
their way, their sorrow for the young lady, when she
should hear of the events at the farm-house, even while
passing their rude encomiums on the sweetness of
disposition of her, whom they already regarded as the
wife of their young officer.
It was nearly noon, and Lieutenant Elmsley had not yet
made his appearance with the promised report. Maria
Heywood had, after passing an hour with her mother,
returned to the breakfast-room, which it will be
recollected opened immediately upon the barrack-square.
Her friend being engaged with her domestic affairs, which
every lady was at that period in a measure compelled to
superintend, she had thrown herself (still in her morning
dishabille) on a couch with a book in her hand, but with
a mind wholly distracted from the subject of its pages.
After continuing some time thus, a prey to nervous
anxiety, as much the result of Elmsley's long absence as
of her former fears, the sound of the fifes and drums
fell startlingly, she knew not wherefore, upon her ear
and drew her to the door. The men were falling in, and
in the course of a few minutes the little line was formed
a few yards to her left, with its flanks resting on
either range of building, so that the mess-room door,
then open, was distinctly visible in front. At the same
moment, Captain Headley and the lieutenant, followed by
Corporal Nixon and the other men of the fishing-party--
Green only excepted--passed out of the orderly room on
her right, moved across, and took up their position in
front of the parade.
"God bless me, Maria, what is that, or is it his ghost!"
suddenly and unguardedly exclaimed Mrs. Elmsley, who
had that moment joined her friend--placing her arm at
the same time round her waist.
"What do you mean, Mar--" but before Maria Heywood could
complete her sentence, all power of speech was taken from
her in the emotion with which she regarded what, after
a momentary glance, met her view.
It was her lover, fully equipped for parade, and walking
towards the men with a calm and deliberate step, which
seemed to evince total unconsciousness that any thing
unusual had happened.
"Here is a chair, my love--you really tremble as if the
man was a ghost. Now then, we shall have a scene between
him and our amiable commandant."
"God forbid!" tremulously answered the almost bewildered
girl; "I am the cause of all."
"You! Stuff, Maria. What nonsense you talk, for a sensible
girl. How should you be the cause? but, positively,
Ronayne can never have been away from the Fort."
"Do you think so, Margaret?"
"I am sure of it. Only look at him. He is as spruce as
if he had only just come out of a band-box. But hush,
not a word. There, that's a dear. Lean your head against
my shoulder. Don Bombastes speaks!"
"No sign of Mr. Ronayne yet?" demanded Captain Headley,
his back turned to the slowly advancing officer, whose
proximity not one of the men seemed inclined to announce,
possibly because they feared rebuke for insubordination.
Mr. Elmsley, he pursued to that officer, who, acting on
a significant half-glance from his friend, was silent
also as to his approach. "Let a formal report of his
absence without leave, be made to me immediately after
the parade has been dismissed."
"Nay, sir," said the ensign, in his ordinary voice and
close in the ear of the speaker, "not as having been absent
from duty, I trust. I am not aware that I have ever missed
a guard or a parade yet, without your leave."
At the first sound of his voice, the surprised commandant
had turned quickly round, and there encountered the usual
deferential salute of his subordinate.
"But, Mr. Ronayne, what means this? Where, sir, have you
been? and, if not absent, why thus late? Do you know that
the men have already been paraded, and that when required
for your guard, you were not to be found?"
"The fatigues of the night, Captain Headley," returned
the young officer, with some hesitation of manner; "the
incessant watching--surely there--"
"I knew he had not been out of the Fort. Courage, Maria!
was audible to the men who were nearest to the speaker,
from Elmsley's doorway.
"I know what you would urge, Mr. Ronayne," remarked the
captain; you would offer this in plea for your late
appearance. I make all due allowance in the matter; but,
let me tell you, sir, that an officer who thoroughly
understands his duty, and consults the interests of the
service, would make light of these matters, in cases of
strong emergency."
"Poor Ronayne!" sighed Maria, to her friend. "This is
terrible to his proud spirit. In presence of the whole
of the men, too!"
"I told you, my dear, there would be a row, but never
fear--Elmsley be there. See, he is looking significantly
at us, as if to call our attention to what is passing."
The lieutenant had been no less astonished than the
captain, at the unexpected appearance of Ronayne--even
more so, indeed--because he had observed, without, however,
remarking on it, the cool and unhastened pace at which
he moved along the square, from the direction of the
mess-room. "Now it is coming," he thought, and half-
murmured to himself, as he saw the crimson gathering on
his brow, during the last harsh address of his superior.
"Captain Headley," said the young man, drawing himself
up to his full height, and somewhat elevating his voice,
for be had remarked there were other and dearer eyes upon
him, than those immediately around. "I WILL NOT be spoken
to in this manner, before the men. If you think I have
been guilty of a breach of duty or of discipline, I am
prepared to meet your charges before the proper tribunal,
but you shall not take the liberty of thus addressing me
in public parade. My sword, sir," and he unbuckled it,
and offered the handle, "is at, your disposal, but I deny
your further right."
"No, no, no!" shouted several men from the ranks
"No. no, no!" repeated almost every man of the fishing-
party, in even more energetic tones, while the commanding
officer was glancing his eye keenly and rapidly along
the little line, to detect those who had set the example
of insubordination.
"Ugh! wah! good soger!" came from one of a small party
of Indians in the rear, as the disconcerted captain
turned, frowningly, from the men in front to those who
had followed him from the orderly room, and now stood
grouped on the inner flank.
"What is the meaning of all this?" he cried, in a loud
and angry voice.
"Am I braved in my own command, and by my own men? Mr.
Elmsley, who are these Indians, and how came they in?"
"They are a part of the encampment without, sir. There
was no order given against their admission this morning,
besides it is Winnebeg, and you have said that the gates
of the Fort was to be open to him at all hours."
"Ah! Winnebeg, my friend, how do you do. I did not know
it was you or your people. You know you are always
"How do, gubbernor," answered the chief, coming round
from the rear of the line, and taking the proffered
hand--"'Spose not very angry now--him good warrior--him
good soger," and he pointed to the young subaltern.
"Ensign Ronayne is, no doubt, very sensible to your good
opinion," remarked the captain, with evident pique; "but,
Winnebeg, as I am sure you never allow a white man to
interfere with you, when you find fault with your young
chiefs, you must let me do the same."
"What find him fault for?" asked the chief, with some
surprise; "brave like a devil!"
"Captain Headley," interposed the ensign, with some
impatience, "am I to surrender my sword, or resume my
But the captain either could not, or would not give a
direct answer. "Can you give me a good reason, Mr.
Ronayne, why I should not receive your sword? Do you deny
that you have been guilty of neglect of duty?"
"In what?" was the brief demand.
"In being absent from the Fort, without leave, sir."
"Indeed! To substantiate that, you must bring proofs,
Captain Headley. Who," and he looked around him, as if
challenging his accuser, "pretends to have seen me beyond
these defences?"
The commandant was for some moments at a loss, for he
had not anticipated this difficulty. At length he resumed.
"Was it not to be absent without leave, that, when the
guard was all ready to be marched off, you were not to
be found?"
"Had the guard been marched off, or the parade even
formed, I should of course, have come justly under your
censure, Captain Headley; but it was not so--you ordered
the parade and guard-mounting for a later hour. I am here
at that hour."
"Hem!" returned the commandant, who was in some degree
obliged to admit the justice of the remark; "you defend
yourself more in the spirit of a lawyer, than of a soldier,
Mr. Ronayne, but all this difficulty is soon set at rest.
I require but your simple denial that you have been absent
from the Fort, within the last twenty-four hours. That
given, I shall be satisfied."
"And that, sir," was the firm reply of the youth, "I am
not disposed to give. I am not much versed in military
prudence, Captain Headley," he pursued, after a few
moments' pause, and in a tone of slight irony, which that
officer did not seem to perceive, "but at least sufficient
to induce me to reserve what I have to say for my defence.
You have charged me, sir, with having been absent from
the Fort without leave; and it is for you to prove that
fact before a competent authority."
"March off your guard, Mr. Ronayne," was the abrupt
rejoinder of the commandant, for he liked not the
continuation of a scene in which the advantage seemed
not to rest with him, but with the very party whom he
had sought to chasten; "Mr. Elmsley dismiss the parade.
I had intended promoting on the spot, Corporal Nixon and
private Collins for their conduct yesterday, but the
gross insubordination I have just seen, has caused me to
change my mind. Neither shall have the rank intended,
until the guilty parties are named. I give until the hour
of parade to-morrow for their production, and if, by that
time, their names are not laid before me, no such promotion
shall take place while I command the garrison. Dismiss
the men, sir. Here, Winnebeg, my good fellow, you have
come at a good moment. I have dispatches to send to
Detroit this very evening, and I know no one I can trust
so well as yourself."
"Good," was the answer, "Winnebeg always ready to do him
order--no angry more, gubbernor, with young chief,"
pointing to the ensign, as he moved off with his small
guard. "Dam good soger--you see dis?" and he touched his
scalping-knife with his left hand, and looked very
"No, Winnebeg, not angry any more," was the reply; "but
how do you know him to be good soger? What has your
scalping-knife to do with it?"
"Winnebeg know all," said the chief gravely, as he laid
his heavy hand upon the shoulder of the commandant, "but
can't tell. Young chief say no, and Winnebeg love young
This remark forcibly struck Captain Headley, and brought
back to his mind, certain recollections. He, however,
asked no further question, but pointed, as they moved in
the direction of his own apartments, towards the sun,
showing by his gesture that it was not too early to take
the mid-day dram.
"Where the devil have you been, man, and with what
confounded impudence you got through the scrape," was
remarked at a distant part of the same ground, and at
the same moment with the conversation just given.
"How is Maria?" eagerly asked Ronayne. "When shall I see
"Well enough to hear all that passed between you and
Military Prudence," returned his friend; "but that is no
answer to my question."
"There was nothing like braving it," answered the other
evasively; "but I say, Elmsley, I am devilish hungry,
that breakfast you invited me to last night is over long
ago, of course." This last sentence was uttered in a mock
piteous tone.
"Just what I was going to speak about, my dear boy. We
have had number ONE, but before half an hour, we shall
be seated at number TWO. When your sergeant has relieved
his sentries, come over and you will find a piping hot
"Will it be quite consistent with military prudence to
leave my guard so soon, after the lecture I have had?"
remarked the ensign, with a smile--"but, ah! I had nearly
forgotten. Elmsley, I must say a few words to you before
I go in, and a better opportunity cannot be afforded than
while we are walking from this to your place. Just go
then, and order the breakfast as you propose, and return
here. I shall have completed the arrangements of the
guard by that time, and all that I have to ask of you,
can be answered as we go along."
"I hope it is no great secret you have to impart," returned
the lieutenant, "for I am a sad hand at the mysterious,
and shall be sure to tell my wife, if I do not tell Maria."
"Not you--you will tell neither, but au revoir."
At the moment when Ensign Ronayne removed his sword, with
the intention of handing it to his commanding officer,
in anticipation of the arrest which he expected, Maria
Heywood, little conversant with those military formalities,
and apprehending from the previous high tone of her lover,
that something fearful was about to occur, had not
absolutely fainted, but become so agitated, that Mrs.
Elmsley was induced to take her back to the sofa, on
which she had previously been reclining. As she was
leaving her chair, Mrs. Headley, whose attention had also
been arrested by the loud and angry voice of her husband,
came from her own door and joined the little group,
anxiously inquiring the cause of the disturbance without.
In a few brief sentences, and as correctly as she was
able, Mrs. Elmsley explained to her the circumstances,
and although her attentive auditor offered no very pointed
remark, it was evident from her manner that she deeply
deplored that strict military punctilio, which had led
the husband whom she both loved and esteemed, to place
himself in a false position with his own force--for that
it was a false position in some degree, to provoke
insubordination, and yet be without the power to punish
it, she had too much good sense not to perceive. She felt
the more annoyed, because she had on more than one
occasion, observed that there was not that unanimity
between her husband and Lieutenant Elmsley, which she
conceived ought to exist between parties so circumstanced
--a commander of a remote post, and his second in command,
on whose mutual good understanding, not only the personal
security of all might depend, but the existence of those
social relations, without which, their isolated position
involved all the unpleasantness of a voluntary banishment.
This had ever been to her a source of regret, and she
had on several occasions, although in the most delicate
and unobtrusive manner, hinted at the fact; but the man
who doated upon her, and to whom, in all other respects,
her desire was law, evinced so much inflexibility in all
that appertained to military etiquette, that she had
never ventured to carry her allusions beyond the light
commentary induced by casual reference to the subject.
If then she lamented that unfortunate coolness, if not
absolute estrangement, which existed between Lieutenant
Elmsley and her husband, bow much more acutely did she
feel the difficulty of the position now, when the only
other responsible officer of the garrison--and that a
young man of high feeling and accomplishment, whom she
had ever liked and admired--was fast being led into the
same antagonism. Nay, what rendered the matter more
painful to her, was the fact of the latter being the
lover, or perhaps the affianced of a girl, whom she
regarded with a fervor not often felt by one woman for
another, and for whose interests she could have made
every sacrifice, not affecting those of her husband.
Such were the women who were now seated on the ottoman,
engaged more in their own reflections, than in conversation,
when Lieutenant Elmsley entered the room, announcing that
the truant would shortly be in for breakfast, which, he
requested, might be instantly prepared in the usual
manner, only adding thereto a couple of bottles of claret.
"Ah! pardon me, Mrs. Headley," he added, somewhat stiffly,
as his wife left the room to issue the necessary orders,
"I did not see you, or I should have been rather more
ceremonious in my domestic communications."
Mrs. Headley slightly colored. She was sensible that
pique towards her husband, and a belief that she wholly
shared his sentiments, had induced this rather sarcastic
"By no means, Mr. Elmsley. I trust you will not put ME
down as a stranger, whatever your disposition to others."
There was a significance in the manner in which this was
said, that deeply touched the lieutenant, and his tone
immediately changed.
"Then, I take you at your word," he said. "It is a long
time since I have had the pleasure of seeing you here,
and you must positively join our second breakfast. I know
Captain Headley is engaged with Winnebeg, whom he purposes
sending off this evening with despatches, so that you
will not be missed for at least an hour. There, look at
Miss Heywood's imploring look--she pleads with her eyes
in my favor, although there is no chance, it appears, of
getting a word from her lips."
"Nay," remarked the other, who had rallied from her late
despondency, on hearing the object of the breakfast; "you
are very unreasonable, Mr. Elmsley. You do not deserve
that I should speak to you to-day, and I am not quite
sure that I shall."
"And pray, fair lady, why not? Wherein have I had the
misfortune to offend?"
"Ah! do you forget? You promised to bring me a certain
report of certain occurrences, and yet instead of that,
not a word have you condescended to address to me until
this moment."
"I plead guilty," he answered deprecatingly, "but pray
for a suspension of sentence, until the return of one
through whose influence I hope to obtain your pardon! I
go now," he whispered, "to lead him to your feet."
"Well, what is the great question you have to put to me?"
said the lieutenant to his friend, whom he had rejoined,
and with whom he now returned slowly towards the house--"one
involving a case of life and death it might be imagined,
from the long face you put on when alluding to the matter."
"Nay, not exactly that, but still involving a good deal.
Tell me frankly, Elmsley, has Miss Heywood heard any
further account of the events at the farm-house?"
"She has heard the report brought in by Nixon and the
rest of the fishing-party."
"And what was that, I pray you?" eagerly returned the
"That Mr. Heywood had been carried off by the Indians."
"From whom did she hear it?"
"It was I who told her, on the strength of what the
corporal reported, not only to myself, but to Captain
"You are a considerate fellow, Elmsley," said his friend,
warmly pressing his hand. "I thank you for that, and now
that the great question, as you term it, is answered, I
am quite ready for the promised breakfast. Did these
fellows bring home any fish? I have a great fancy for
fish this morning."
"No; they brought home dead men," and the lieutenant
looked searchingly into the face of his companion, dwelling
on every word, moreover, as if he would convey that he
(Ronayne), knew perfectly well what freight the boat had
brought to the Fort.
Further remark was prevented by their arrival at their
destination--the front-door being open, and revealing
the little party within. The first upon, whom the young
officer's eye fell, was Mrs. Headley, of whose intended
presence, his friend had not thought of apprising him.
Still smarting under a keen sense of the severity of
reproof of his commanding officer, and falling into the
common error of involving the wife in the unamiability
of the husband, Ronayne would have retired, even at the
risk of losing his breakfast, and, what was of far more
moment to him, of delaying his meeting with her to whom
his every thought was devoted. But when Mrs. Headley,
who had remarked the movement, came forward to the door,
and gave him her hand with all the warmth and candor of
her noble nature, the pique vanished from his mind, and
in an instant, he, like Elmsley, evinced that devotion
and regard for her, which her fascinating manner could
not fail to inspire.
The sense of constraint being thus banished by the only
one whose presence had occasioned it, the party, after
a few minutes low conversation between the lovers, sat
down gaily to a meal--half-break fast, half-luncheon, at
which the most conspicuous actor was the lately reprimanded
"Really, Mr. Ronayne, you must have met with a perfect
chapter of adventures during your absence last night.
You have devoured the last four fresh eggs, my cook says,
there were in the house--three limbs of a prairie fowl,
and nearly the half of a young bear ham. Do, pray, tell
us where you have been to gain such an appetite? Indeed
you must--I am dying to know."
"My dear Mrs. Elmsley," he replied, coloring, "where
should I have been but in the Fort?"
"True! where SHOULD you have been, indeed; but this is
not the point, my hungry gentleman. Where WERE you? If
I was, I KNOW WHO," she added, significantly, "I should
have my suspicions, unless, indeed, you have already
confessed within the few minutes you have been in the
"Nay, do not imagine I have so much influence over the
truant, as to compel him to the confessional," said Maria
Heywood. "I assure you I am quite as much in the dark as
any one present."
"Come, Mr. Ronayne, recount your adventures," added Mrs.
Headley. "Recollect you are not on parade now, or exactly
before the sternest Court of Inquiry in the world, and
should therefore, entertain no dread of punishment on
your self-conviction."
"Thus urged and encouraged," said the ensign, during one
of the short pauses of his knife and fork, which, in
truth, he had handled as much to study what he should
say, as to satisfy his hunger; "who could resist such
pleading, were there really any thing to communicate;
but I am quite at a loss to conceive why so general an
opinion seems to prevail that I have been out of the
Fort, and in quest of adventure. Why not rather ascribe
my tardiness at parade to some less flattering cause--a
head-ache--fatigue from night-watching--indolence, or
even a little entetement, arising from the denial of a
very imprudent request I made to Captain Headley last
evening, to allow me the command of a detachment for a
particular purpose. Pardon me, I have made quite a speech,
but indeed you compel me."
"Let us drown this inquisition in a bumper of claret,"
interposed Elmsley, coming to the assistance of his
friend, whose motive for thus parrying inquiry into his
conduct, he thought he could divine. "I say, my dear
fellow, you may wish yourself a head-ache--fatigue--
indolence, or even a little entetement every morning of
your life, if it is to be cured in this manner. This is
some of the most splendid Lafayette that ever found its
way into these western wilds. Look well at it. It is of
the clearest, the purest blood of the grape--taste it
again. A bottle of it will do you no harm if you had
twenty guards in charge."
As he had desired and expected, the introduction of his
remarks on the wine proved not only a means of changing
the conversation, but of causing the ladies to withdraw
from the table, round which they had been sitting, rather
to keep the young officer company, than to participate
in the repast themselves. Mrs. Headley was the first to
"Give me your arm, and see me home," she said carelessly,
to Ronayne, who now having finished his breakfast, had
also risen. "Do not be jealous, my dear Miss Heywood,
but you will later know, if you do not know already, that
the wife of the commanding officer always appropriates
to herself, the handsomest unmarried young officer of
the regiment."
Both Ronayne and his betrothed were too quick of
apprehension not to perceive, under this light gaiety,
a deep interest, and a desire to convey to them both,
that, if unhappily, there did not exist a cordial
understanding between her husband and the former, in
matters purely military, and in relation to subjects
which should have no influence over private life, she
was by no means, a party to the disunion.
"Not very difficult to choose between the handsomest and
the cleverest of the unmarried officers of the garrison
of Chicago," replied Maria Heywood with an effort at
cheerfulness; "therefore, Mr. Ronayne, I advise you not
to be too much elated by Mrs. Headley's compliment. After
that caution, I think you may be trusted with her."
"What a noble creature, and what a pity she has so cold
and pompous a husband," remarked Lieutenant Elmsley, as
Mrs. Headley disappeared from the door-way. "I never knew
her so well as this morning, and upon my word, Margaret,
were both HE and YOU out of the way, I should be greatly
tempted to fall in love with her."
"You would act wisely if you did, George; I have always
thought most highly of her. She is, it is true, a little
reserved in manner, but that I am sure comes wholly from
a certain restraint, imposed upon her by her husband's
formality of character. I say I am sure of this, for
there have been occasions when I have seen her exhibit
a warmth of address, as different from her general
demeanor, as light is from shadow."
"Perhaps Headley has systematically drilled her into the
particular bearing that ought to be assumed by the wife
of the commandant of a garrison."
"Nay, George! that is not generous, but I know you are
not serious in what you say. You judge Mrs. Headley
better, and that she is not a woman to be so drilled.
She has too much good sense, despite all her partiality
for her husband, to allow herself to be improperly
influenced, where her judgment condemns; and although,
as his wife, she must necessarily act in concert with
him, it by no means follows that she approves unreservedly,
all that he does."
"You are a dear, noble creature yourself!" exclaimed the
gratified Elmsley, as he fondly embraced his wife. "There
is nothing I love so much as to see one woman warm in
the defence of another--one so seldom meets with that
sort of thing. What, Maria, tears?"
"Yes--tears of pleasure!" she answered earnestly, as she
held her handkerchief to her eyes--"tears of joy to see
so much generosity of feeling among those whom I have so
much reason to esteem and admire. You are right," she
pursued, addressing Mrs. Elmsley, "she is indeed a noble
woman. Perhaps I may justly be accused of a little
partiality, for I never can forget the frank and cordial
proffers of friendship with which she received me on the
first night of my appearance here."
"Ha! Von Vottenberg to the rescue!" exclaimed Elmsley,
with sudden animation, as the stout figure of the former
shaded the door-way. "Well, doctor, have you passed away
in the evaporation produced by fright, the violent
head-ache you were suffering from this morning? If not,
try that claret. It is capital stuff, and a tumbler of
it will make up for the breakfast you have lost."
"Faith, and there is no breakfast lost, that I can
perceive," chuckled the doctor, seating himself
unceremoniously at the table, and commencing upon the
remains of the bear ham, and prairie hen.
"I fear the tea and coffee are cold," said Mrs. Elmsley;
"let me get some hot for you?"
"By no means, my dear Mrs. Elmsley, I could not think of
such slops with generous claret at my elbow. Nay, do not
look offended. Your tea and coffee are always of the
best, but they do not just now, suit my taste. Miss
Heywood, how do you do this morning? How is your gentle
mother? I have called expressly to see her. Elmsley,
where is that runaway, Ronayne?"
And where indeed was he? They had not walked more than
three or four paces, when Mrs. Headley, after some little
hesitation, addressed him thus:--
"Mr. Ronayne, notwithstanding your evident desire to
conceal the fact, I can plainly see that you were not
within the Fort last night. I can fully comprehend that
your motive for absenting yourself, has been praiseworthy,
but you must also admit that the reproof you met with
this morning, was not altogether undeserved. Pray do not
start or look grave, for, believe me, I am speaking to
you only as a friend--indeed it was to have the opportunity
of convincing you that I am such, that I asked you to
escort me."
"Really, Mrs. Headley," interrupted the young officer,
little divining to what all this was to tend, and feeling
not altogether at his ease, from the abruptness with
which the subject had been introduced, "I feel as I ought,
the interest you profess to take in me, but how is that
connected either with my asserted absence, or the reproof
it entailed?"
"It is so far connected with it, that I wish to point
out the means by which any unpleasant result may be
"Unpleasant result! Mrs. Headley?"
"Yes, unpleasant result, for I have too good an opinion
of you not to believe that any thing tending to destroy
the harmony of our very limited society, would be considered
such by you."
"I am all attention, Madam. Pray, proceed."
"The pithiness of your manner does not afford me much
encouragement yet I will not be diverted from my purpose,
even by that. You have had the Commandant's lecture,"
she continued, with an attempt at pleasantry, "and now
you must prepare yourself for (pardon the coinage of the
term) that of the Commandantess."
"The plot thickens," said the ensign, somewhat sharply--
"both the husband and the wife. Jupiter Tonans and Juno
the Superb in judgment upon poor me in succession. Ah!
that is too bad. But seriously, Mrs. Headley, I shall
receive with all due humility, whatever castigation you
may choose to inflict."
"No castigation I assure you, Ronayne, but wholesome
advice from one, who, recollect, is nearly old enough to
be your mother. However, you shall hear and then decide
for yourself."
"Although," she pursued, after a short pause, "we women
are supposed to know nothing of those matters, it would
be difficult, in a small place like this, to be ignorant
of what is going on. Hence it is that I have long since
remarked, with pain and sorrow, the little animosity
which exists between Headley and yourself--(I will not
introduce Mr. Elmsley's name, because what I have to say
has no immediate reference to him), and the almost daily
widening breach. Now, Ronayne, I would appeal to your
reason. Place yourself for a moment in my husband's
position. Consider his years, nearly double your own--his
great responsibility and the peculiar school of discipline
in which he has been brought up. Place yourself, I repeat,
in his position, and decide what would be your sentiments
if, in the conscientious discharge of your duty, you
thought yourself thwarted by those very men--much your
juniors both in years and military experience--on whose
co-operation you had every fair reason to rely."
"You have, my dear Mrs. Headley, put the case forcibly
yet simply." returned the ensign, who had listened with
marked deference to the whole of her remonstrance. "In
such a case I should feel no slight annoyance, but why
imagine that I have sought to thwart Captain Headley?"
"Was it not apparently to thwart him--bear in mind I
speak to you dispassionately and as a friend--to refuse
in the presence of the whole garrison this morning to
account for your absence of last night, which might have
been easily explained, had you been so disposed?"
"But, my dear Mrs. Headley, why is it persisted in, that
I was absent--and even if such were the case, might not
I have had a good reason for refusing to commit myself
by the avowal."
"Admitting this, could you have maintained your position
without, in a measure, setting his authority at defiance
--thus encouraging the men to do the same. Was this right,
I ask? Was this officer-like?"
"Well, no, perhaps not. I blush not to make the admission
to YOU, for indeed, there is no resisting so bewitching
a master in petticoats. Yet, what would you have me do?"
"Ah, now, I begin to entertain some hope of you," she
replied, in a gayer tone, placing her hand at the same
time familiarly on his shoulder and looking approvingly
in his face. "Ronayne, you are engaged--perhaps will
shortly become the husband of the noble girl, whom I love
even as though she were my own daughter--yes," she repeated
energetically, as she felt his grateful pressure of her
hand, "even as though she were my own daughter--nay,
you know I like yourself for your open, although rather
too impetuous character. Do you then think that feeling
this it can be any other than a source of deep pain and
vexation to me, to see those in whom I feel so much
interest, alienated from each other--in some degree even
mutually hating and hated?"
"Yet, what would you have me to do, my dear Mrs. Headley?
Some concession I suppose, must be made. Any thing in
honor and in reason will I do for your sake," returned
the young officer, deeply touched by her manner and
"This I wish you to do, Ronayne. Take the first favorable
opportunity, either while on guard to-day, or when relieved
to-morrow, to see Headley privately, and by such language
as you well know how to use, remove the unfavorable
impression you have left on his mind--depend upon it,
although extremely cold and inflexible when apparently
braved, my husband has a warm and generous--aye, a noble
heart, and will freely grant what is frankly solicited.
Bear in mind, moreover, Ronayne, that it is no humiliation
to admit error when conscious of having committed it;
and if this be so in the social relations of life, how
much less derogatory is it in a military sense."
"Say no more, dearest Mrs. Headley, since it is your
wish, I will go, no matter what the reception I encounter;
and any further rebuke I may meet with, I will cheerfully
endure for your sake."
"Now then, Ronayne, you are once more yourself, the
generous, high-minded boy, in whom I delighted, even as
a mother would delight in her son, when you first arrived
here about three years ago. Yet, recollect that not only
_I_ shall be gratified and benefitted by this, but YOU
and YOURS. Let but this unhappy discord terminate, and
we shall then be what soldiers and those connected with
them, ought ever to be--one undivided family. And now,
for the present, farewell."
"God bless you!" fervently exclaimed the ensign, as he
took his leave of the graceful and noble wife of the
commanding officer, with emotions that fully testified
the effect produced upon him by her generous confidence
and candor.
From the frequent reference made by Mrs. Headley to her
own riper years, one might have been induced to consider
her rather in the decline of life; but such was not the
case. Her splendid and matronly figure might indeed have
impressed the superficial observer with the belief that
she had numbered more than forty summers, but the unchained
and luxuriant hair--the white, even and perfect teeth--
the rich, full lip, and unwrinkled brow, and smooth and
brilliant cheek, would not have permitted the woman most
jealous of her charms, could such have been found, to
pronounce her more than six-and-thirty, which was, indeed,
her age. It was a source of gratification to her to
consider and represent herself as older than she really
was; and if she had any peculiarity--a weakness it could
not be called--it was that of loving to look upon those
younger persons who claimed a place in her friendship
and esteem, as though she actually stood in the maternal
relation to them. This may have, in some degree, arisen
from the fact of her having ever been childless herself.
As Ronayne approached Elmsley's house on his return, a
remarkably handsome and noble-looking Indian--quite a
youth--was leaning against the frame of the door, and
according to the simple habit of his race, indulging his
curiosity by looking at, and admiring all that he beheld
within. Elmsley himself had gone out, but Von Vottenberg,
still seated at the breakfast-table, was discussing, with
its remains, the now nearly finished claret, while Mrs.
Elmsley and Maria Heywood were seated on the sofa opposite
to the door, passing their whispered remarks on the
Indian, whose softened dark glances occasionally fell
with intense admiration on the former, when he fancied
the act unseen, but as instantly were withdrawn, when he
perceived that it was observed.
Mrs. Elmsley was endeavoring to dissipate the dejection
of her friend by rallying her, as the young officer came
to the door, on the evidently new conquest she had made.
The Indian turned to look at the intruder upon his pleasant
musings, when a "wah!" expressive of deep satisfaction
escaped him, and at the same moment, Ronayne grasped,
and cordially shook his hand.
"Ha! there is his formidable rival, and seemingly his
friend," whispered Mrs. Elmsley, in the ear of Maria--
"handsome fellows, both of them, so much so, that were
I single, like you, I should have some difficulty in
choosing between them."
As she uttered these words, a sharp and unaccountable
pang, sudden and fleeting as electricity, shot through
the frame of her friend. The blood suddenly receded from
her cheek, and then rapidly returning, suffused it with
a burning heat.
"What is the matter, my love? Are you ill, you looked so
pale just now?" tenderly inquired Mrs. Elmsley.
"I cannot account for what I experienced. It was a feeling
different from any I had ever known before--a strange,
wild, and inexplicable dread of I know not what. But it
has passed away. Take no notice of it, dear, before
"Mrs. Elmsley," said the latter, almost using force to
induce the modest-looking young Indian to enter the
room, "will you allow me first to introduce my friend
Waunangee to you, and then to give him a glass of claret?
Forgive the liberty I take, but I confess a good deal of
obligation to him, and would fain do the civil in return."
"Indeed! what a set speech for a glass of wine. Give it
to him by all means, if it is only for his beautiful
eyes--that is to say, if the doctor has left any--or
stay, I will get another bottle."
"By no means," returned the young officer, "this
unconscionable man has just left about half a tumbler
foil, and I do not intend he shall have more. Waunangee,"
he pursued, after filling and presenting him with the
glass, "that is the lady of the house," pointing to Mrs.
Elmsley, "you must drink to her health."
"And dis you handsome squaw," remarked the Indian, a
moment or two after having tossed off the wine, which
quickly circulated through his veins. "Dis you wife!"
he repeated, throwing his expressive eyes upon Miss
Heywood, while a rich glow lighted up his dark, but
finely formed features.
"Hush!" said Ronayne, making a sign to intimate that he
was not to indulge in such observations.
But even the small quantity of wine he had taken was
acting potently on the fast animating Indian. "Dis no
you squaw--dis Waunangee squaw," he said, with strong
excitement of manner. "Waunangee, see him beautiful,
Waunangee got warm heart--love him very much!"
"Tolerably well for a modest youth!" exclaimed the laughing
Mrs. Elmsley. "Who would have thought that one with
those soft black eyes, more fitted for a woman than a
man, would hazard so glowing a speech, after an acquaintance
of barely five minutes?"
"Who says Chicago doesn't abound in adventure?" sneered
Von Vottenberg, as he arose and passed into the apartment
of his patient. "I shall certainly write a book about
this when I get back into the civilized world, and entitle
it 'The Loves of the Handsome Waunangee, and the Beautiful
"You had better write 'The Loves of the Fat Von Vottenberg,
and his Mistress, Whisky Punch,'" remarked Ronayne,
peevishly, for in spite of himself, he felt annoyed at
an observation, which he thought delicacy might have
spared. "Come, Waunangee, my good friend, we must go."
But the young Indian was not so easily led. "Waunangee
have him first dis nice squaw," he said, with all that
show of dogged obstinacy which so usually distinguishes
his race, when under the influence of liquor, and bent
upon the attainment of a particular object.
"Hear me, Waunangee," replied the other, placing his hand
upon his shoulder, and now, that Mrs. Elmsley only was
present with his affianced, feeling less scruple in
explaining to the young savage--"that is my squaw--my
"Why you no tell him so?" asked the youth, gravely, and
with an air of reproach, while, at the same time, he
fixed his soft and melancholy eyes upon Miss Heywood.
"Waunangee love officer's squaw--but Waunangee good heart.
Shake him hand, my friend," he continued, walking up to
her, and tendering his own, while, singular as it seemed
to all, a tear dimmed his eye, and stole down his cheek.
"'Spose no Waunangee wife--you Waunangee's friend?"
The generous but trembling girl, shook cordially the hand
that rested in her own, and assured the youth, in a way
easily intelligible to him, that, as the friend of her
husband, and she blushed deeply, as the moment afterwards
she became sensible she had used a word, she could not
but feel to be premature, she would always regard him
with friendship and esteem.
"What a nice little scene we might get up out of this
morning's adventure," said the ever gay Mrs. Elmsley, as
Waunangee, after having shaken hands with herself, departed
with Ronayne. "Really, my dear, he is a fine looking,
and certainly a warm-hearted fellow, that Wau--Wan--what's
his name, Maria?"
"Waunangee. I know not how it is, Margaret, or why--I
should attach so much importance to the thing, but if
ever those glimpses of the future, called presentiments,
had foundation in truth, that young Indian is destined
to exercise some sort of influence over my fate."
"You do not mean that he is to supplant Ronayne, I hope,"
returned her friend, trying to laugh her oat of the
serious mood, in which she seemed so much inclined to
"How can you speak so, Margaret? No, my presentiment is
of a different character. But it is very foolish and
silly to allow the feeling to weigh with me. I will try
to think more rationally. Say nothing of this, however,
and least of all to Ronayne."
"Not a word, dearest. Good bye for the present. I must
look after the dinner. You know who dines with us."
A look expressive of the deep sense she entertained of
the consideration of her friend, was the only commentary
of Miss Heywood, as she passed into her mother's apartment.
It was now the middle of May. A month had elapsed since
the events detailed in the preceding chapters. The
recollection of the outrage at Heywood's farm, committed
early in April was fast dying away, save in the bosoms
of those more immediately interested in the fate of its
proprietor, and apprehensions of a repetition of similar
atrocities had, in a great measure, ceased. A better
understanding between the commanding officer and his
subordinates--the result of a long private interview,
which Ensign Ronayne had had with the former, on the
morning after his promise to Mrs. Headley, followed by
an apology on parade that day, had arisen. Corporal Nixon
was now Sergeant Nixon--Collins had succeeded to him,
and Le Noir and the boy--Catholic and Protestant--had
been buried in one grave. Ephraim Giles filled the office
of factotum to Von Vottenberg, whose love of whisky
punch, was, if possible, on the increase. Winnebeg, the
bearer of confidential despatches, announcing the hostile
disposition and acts of certain of the Winnebagoes, had
not returned, and Waunangee, who, recovered from the
fumes of the claret, had, in an earnest manner, expressed
to Ronayne contrition for the liberty he had taken with
Miss Heywood, had departed from the neighborhood, no one
knew whither. Harmony, in a word, had been some days
restored in the Fort, and the only thing that detracted
from the general contentment, was the uncertainty
attending the fate of Mr. Heywood--regretted less,
however, for his own sake, than for that of his amiable
daughter, who vainly sought to conceal from her friends,
the anxiety induced by an absence, the duration of which
it was utterly impossible to divine. As for Mrs. Heywood,
she was still in ignorance, so well had things been
managed by the Elmsleys, that any of the fearful scenes
had occurred. She still believed her husband to be at
the farm.
But, as it was not likely she could much longer remain
in ignorance of what had been the subject of conversation
with every one around her, it was advised by Von Vottenberg,
that, as the warmth of spring was now fully developed,
and all dread of the Indians resuming their hostile visit,
at an end, she should be conveyed back to the cottage,
the pure air around which, was much more likely to improve
her health, than the confined atmosphere of the Fort.
She had accordingly been removed thither early in May,
accompanied by her daughter and Catherine.
Ronayne, of course, become once more a daily visitor,
and soon beneath his hand, the garden began again to
assume the beautiful garb it had worn at that season,
for the last two years. The interviews of the lovers
here, freed from the restraints imposed upon them while
in the Fort, had resumed that fervent character which
had marked them on the afternoon of the day when they so
solemnly interchanged their vows of undying faith. They
now no longer merely looked their love. They spoke of
it--drank in the sweet avowal from each others lips, and
luxuriated in the sweet pleasure it imparted. They were
as the whole world to each other, and although language
could not convey a warmer expression of their feelings,
than had already gone forth from their lips, still was
the repetition replete with a sweetness that never palled
upon the ear. Like the man who never tires of gazing upon
his gold, so did they never tire of the treasures of the
expressed love, that daily grew more intense in their
hearts. And yet, notwithstanding this utter devotedness
of soul--notwithstanding her flattering heart confessed
in secret the fullest realization of those dreams which
had filled and sustained her in early girlhood--albeit
the assurance the felt that, in Ronayne, she had found
the impersonation of the imaginings of her maturer life,
still whenever he urged her in glowing language to name
the day when she would become his wife, she evaded an
answer, not from caprice, but because she would not bring
to him a heart clouded by the slightest tinge of that
anxiety with which ignorance of her father's fate, could
not fail to shade it. A painful circumstance which happened
about that period, at length, however, brought affairs
to a crisis.
It was a lovely evening towards the close of May, and
after a somewhat sultry morning which had been devoted
to a ride on horseback along the lakeshore--Mrs. Headley
and Mrs. Elmsley, who had accompanied them, having returned
home, that Ronayne and his betrothed sat in the little
summer-house already described. Mrs. Heywood who had been
so far recovered from her weakness by the change of air,
as to take slight exercise in the garden, supported by
her daughter, and the young officer, had on this occasion
expressed a wish to join them, in order that she might
inhale the soft breeze that blew from the south, and
enjoy once more the scenery of the long reach of the
river, which wound its serpentine course from the direction
of the farm. To this desire no other objection was offered,
than what was suggested by her companions, from an
apprehension that the fatigue of the ascent would be too
great for her. She, however, persisted in her wish,
declaring that she felt herself quite strong enough--an
assertion for which her returning color gave some evidence.
They ceased to oppose her. It was the first time the
invalid had been in the summer-house, since the same
period the preceding spring, and naturally associating
the recollection of her husband, with the familiar objects
in the distance, she took her daughter's hand, and said
in a low and husky voice, that proved how much she had
overrated her own strength:
"How is it, Maria, my love, that we have seen nothing of
your father, lately? I have never known him, since we
have been in this part of the country, to be so long
absent from us at one time."
"Nay, dear mamma," returned the pained girl, the tears
starting to her eyes, in spite of her efforts to restrain
them, "I do not exactly know what can detain him. Perhaps
he is not at the farm," and here her tears forced their
way--"you know, dearest mamma, that he is very fond of
long hunting excursions."
"Yes, but, my child, why do you weep? Surely there is
nothing in that to produce such emotion. He will soon be
back again."
"Oh! yes, I hope so. Forgive me, my dear mamma, but I
have a very bad head-ache, and never felt more nervous
than I do this evening. Perhaps it is the effect of my
ride in the heat of the sun. Shall we go on. It is nearly
sunset, and I dread your being exposed to the night-air."
"Oh! it is so delicious," softly returned the invalid;
"I feel as if I had not lived for the last twelve months,
until now. Only a little while longer, shall I not, Mr.
Ronayne? Perhaps I may never have an opportunity of
ascending to this summer-house again."
During this short conversation, trifling in itself, but
conveying, under the circumstances, so much subject for
deep and painful reflections, the young officer had
evinced much restlessness of manner, yet without interposing
any other remark than to join Miss Heywood's entreaties
that her mother would suffer herself to be conducted
home, before the dew should begin to fall. In order,
moreover, as much as possible to leave them uninterrupted
in the indulgence of their feelings, he had from the
first risen, and stood with his back to them, within the
entrance of the summer house, and was now, with a view
to drown their conversation to his own ear, whistling to
Loup Garou, sitting on his haunches outside the garden-gate,
looking fixedly at him.
Touched by the account he had received of the fidelity
of the dog, he, had, with the consent of Sergeant Nixon,
who was glad to secure for his favorite so kind a protector,
become possessed of him from the moment of his return
home; and time, which had in some degree blunted the
sorrow of the animal for the loss of one master, rendered
equally keen his instinct of attachment for the other.
Within the month he had been his, every care had been
taken by Ronayne himself, as well as by his servant, to
wean the mourner from the grave of Le Noir, on which,
for the first few days, he had lain, absorbed in
grief--refusing all food, until, yielding at length to
the voice of kindness, his memory of the past seemed to
have faded wholly away.
Ronayne, however, from a fear of exciting unpleasant
recollections in those who were not ignorant of the former
position of the dog, had endeavoured as much as possible,
to prevent him from crossing the river during his visits
to the cottage; but, within the last four or five days,
Loup Garou would not thus be kept back, and when expelled
from the boat, had swam across, taking up his station at
the gate, beyond which, however, he did not presume to
pass, as if sensible that the delicate parterres within,
were interdicted ground, and there generally lay squatted
with his nose resting on the grass, between his outstretched
fore-paws, until his master came forth on his return home.
The unexpected and encouraging whistle of the latter on
this occasion, which had been given in pure unconsciousness,
caused him to prick his ears, and uttering a sharp cry,
he sprang over the gate, bounding rapidly towards the
eminence on which his master stood. About half-way between
its base and the summit, there was a beautiful rose-bush
which had been planted by Ronayne, and from which he had
plucked two flowers, for the mother and daughter, during
the ascent, and presented with a hand that was observed
by Maria Heywood to tremble, and a cheek unwontedly pale.
On arriving opposite the rose-tree, the animal suddenly
stopped, and putting his nose to the ground close under
it, and sniffing almost furiously, uttered a prolonged
and melancholy howl, while, with his fore-paws he began
to scratch up the loose earth around, regardless of the
voice of his master, who renewed his whistling, and called
upon him almost angrily to desist.
Alarmed at this perseverance of action, the ensign
descended to the spot--laid hands on Loup Garou, and
sought to remove him, but the animal, strong of neck--
full in the chest--and on the present occasion, under
the influence of furious impulse, was not to be restrained.
The moaning of the dog--the descent-the corrective voice
of his master, and the seeming struggle of both to attain
opposite purposes, naturally attracted the attention of
those above, and they both rose and neared to the doorway
Ronayne had so recently quitted. Their horror may well
be imagined when, on looking down, they found that the
dog had already uncovered a human body, which, though
disfigured and partially decomposed, filial and conjugal
affection too clearly distinguished as the father of the
one, the husband of the other!
Uttering a feeble shriek, Mrs. Heywood fell insensible
within the threshold of the summer-house, while her
daughter, less overwhelmed, but with feelings impossible
to describe, stooped and chafed her mother's temples,
and notwithstanding a horrid thought, which, despite her
own will, shot through her mind, that the man to whom
she had given every affection of her heart, was in some
degree connected with this horrid spectacle, she called
vehemently to him for assistance.
The situation of the perplexed officer was scarcely less
painful. On the one hand, feeling all the necessity of
retaining his grasp of Loup Garou, as the only means of
preventing him from further uncovering of the body--on
the other, urged by the summons of her, whom he knew,
from her very manner, to be in possession of this fearful
secret, his mind become a perfect chaos, and large drops
of perspiration streamed from his brow. In this irritating
dilemma, a sudden transport of rage took possession of
his heart, and seizing Loup Garou with both his hands,
he so compressed them around his throat, that the dog,
already exhausted with his exertions, was half-strangled
before being raised with a frantic effort, and dashed
with violence upon the body he had so unhappily been
instrumental in discovering.
Scarcely had this been done--a low moaning from Loup
Garou, as if reproaching him for the act, alone denoting
that he breathed, when the ensign flew up the steps of
the summer-house, and regardless of the involuntary
half-shudder of his betrothed, as he approached, caught
the insensible invalid in his arms, and so carrying her,
that her eyes, if she should open them, could not encounter
the horrid spectacle below, again rapidly descended, and
hurried towards the house. Maria Heywood, on passing the
rose-tree so recently prized, but now so abhorrent to
her sight, could not resist a strong impulse to look upon
the mysteries so strangely unveiled, but although the
twilight had not yet passed away, nothing could be seen
but the displaced earth, and stretched over the excavation
he himself had made, the motionless body of the dog.
Sick at heart, and with wild and unconnected images
floating through her heated brain, she followed almost
mechanically to the cottage.
This was no time for ceremony. When answering the loud
ring, Catherine appeared hurriedly at the door, Ronayne
bore his inanimate charge into her bedroom, and in silence
and deep grief, sought, by every means in his power, to
restore her. But all his efforts proving vain, he, in a
state of mind difficult to describe, tore a leaf from
his pocket-book, wrote a few hurried lines to Elmsley,
requesting him to allow his wife to come over immediately
with Von Vottenberg, and when they had departed, to call
upon Captain Headley and explain the cause of his absence.
This note he gave to Catherine, with instructions to
cross in the boat which was waiting for himself, and to
return with Mrs. Elmsley, or if she did not come, with
the doctor.
When left together, beside the insensible body of Mrs.
Heywood, the lovers experienced for the first time, a
feeling of restraint, for in the hearts of both, were
passing thoughts which neither seemed desirous of imparting.
But, Maria Heywood, gentle as she was, was not of a
character long to endure the state of uncertainty under
which she labored. The strange wild apprehensions which
had arisen, she knew not how or why, had so preyed upon
her quiet, that suspense became intolerable, and at
length, addressing her lover in a voice, never more
melancholy or touching than at that moment, and looking
at him with an expression of deep sadness, while the
large tears trickled down her cheeks.
"Ronayne, you know--you must have known--your whole
conduct throughout this affair, proves you must have
known of my poor father's death, and of his rude--almost
insulting burial in that fatal spot. How he came hither,
you best can tell. Oh! Harry, it is very cruel thus to
have reposed the confidence of the entire soul, and then
to have been disappointed. This cruel discovery will be
the means of destroying my peace forever, unless you give
the explanation which alone can restore our confidence
in each other--yet how can I, with these glaring truths
before my eyes, expect that you will?"
"Insulting burial! oh, Maria, I feel that I never loved
you more than now when you would break my heart with this
unkindness." He bent his head upon the same pillow, upon
which reclined the unconscious head of the mother of the
woman whom he so ardently loved, and wept tears of
bitterness and sorrow.
"I cannot stand this, Ronayne, dear Ronayne, whatever
you be--whatever you may have done, I love you with all
the ardor of the most devoted soul! But," she continued,
more composedly, "forgive me, if my feelings and my
judgment are at issue. One question I must ask, cost what
it may, for I cannot longer endure this agony of suspense
--no, for your sake I cannot endure it. How is it that
you have always made a secret--a mystery even to me, of
the motive of your absence on that fatal night succeeding
the massacre at the firm."
"Dear Maria. I can well forgive the question in the
excitement which must have been produced in you by the
startling events of this evening."
"Ronayne," she mournfully interrupted--"your sudden
interference with the dog--your struggle with him--nay,
your very manner of speaking now, convince me that you
knew my father lay buried beneath that rose-tree. In
candor, answer me. Yes or no."
"And, admitting I had had that knowledge, Maria--can you
imagine no good reason for my forbearing all allusion to
the subject?"
"Yet, why conceal the fact from one who had supposed you
could have no concealment from her--and then again, how
am I to reconcile the circumstance of my poor father
having been reported to be a prisoner--a report which,
sanctioned by yourself, left me not utterly hopeless--and
the fact of his burial here--evidently with your knowledge."
"Maria," returned Ronayne, impressively, and with an
expression of much pain at the remark, "as I have already
said, I can make every allowance, in recollection of the
painful scene of which I have, in some degree, been the
cause, but is it generous--is it quite appreciating my
character and my feelings towards yourself, to doubt that
I had intended from the first, and at a fitting moment,
to explain every thing to you?"
Again was the confidence of the generous girl established,
and with almost passionate warmth, she exclaimed. "Oh!
Ronayne, forgive--forgive me, but this melancholy--this
harrowing occurrence has made me so far not myself--that
I almost hate myself. Tell me, dear Ronayne, do you
forgive me?"
"Yes, from the bottom of my soul, do I forgive you, and
yet, dearest, there is nothing to forgive, for how could
it be otherwise, than that your poor and sorely tried
heart should be subjected to wild imaginings inexplicable
to yourself. The ordeal to which you have been submitted,
is a severe one, but I am sure your oppressed heart will
be greatly lightened when you shall have been in possession
of the truth connected with this most melancholy affair--
your regard for me, will if possible, be even greater
than before. Pardon this seeming vanity. I make the
assertion because I know it will not a little console
you, under this terrible infliction."
It was a strange sight, that of these lovers, hitherto
so devoted and now only temporarily half-doubting, talking
of the fate of one parent while leaning over the apparent
death-bed of the other.
"Ronayne, dear Ronayne, I am satisfied--fully, wholly
satisfied, and as you observe, the assurance which you
have now given me, will form my chief support under this
double affliction," and she pointed, weeping, to her
mother, whose scarcely perceptible breathing alone attested
that she lived.
"Maria," he said tenderly and gravely, as he took her
hand in his, over the invalid--"the hour of your promise
is come--the fate of your father is known--would that it
had been less abruptly revealed--and were other inducement
to keep it wanting, is it not to be found here? But at
this moment I will ask nothing which you may feel reluctance
in granting. To-morrow we will speak of this again--to-morrow
you shall know how much I have sought--how much I have
risked--to soften the pang which I knew would, soon or
late be inflicted on her whom I so love."
"Generous--kind--considerate Ronayne, I can fully understand
you, yet, ah! what must you think of me, who could for
a moment doubt your power to explain every act of your
life, however ambiguous in appearance. But what is that
paper you have taken from your pocket-book?"
"One that I have long designed for your perusal. It was
written a few days after the events at the farm, and I
have since then frequently determined to place it in your
hands in order that, in the sacredness of solitude, you
might indulge in the bitter tears its few pages will
wring from you; but too selfish--yes, selfish, and severely
am I punished for it--to suffer the joy of the hour to
be broken in upon by sadness, I have hitherto delayed
putting you in possession of that which, if only
communicated a day earlier, would have spared us this
painful scene. But I hear footsteps approaching. They
must be those of Mrs. Elmsley and the doctor, with
Catherine. Be not surprised, dearest, if I leave you soon
after they enter, for I have something to do this evening
which will require my presence in the Fort. Early in the
morning, however, I shall be here."
"I understand well what demands your presence elsewhere,"
she returned with a look of deep gratitude and love. "Oh!
Ronayne, whatever may happen," and the tears streamed
down her pale face, as she pointed to her mother--"hear
me declare that whatever you may ask of me one month
hence, I shall not consider myself justified in refusing."
Scarcely had he time to impress upon her lips his deep
but chastened sense of happiness, when the party expected,
entered the room--Von Vottenberg immediately applying
himself to an examination of the patient, whose condition,
it was evident from his unusually grave look, he conceived
to be highly critical.
Dreading to hear his opinion pronounced in the presence
of his betrothed, and the more so, because he had in some
degree been its cause, the young officer, after having
warmly shaken hands with Mrs. Elmsley, whom he thanked
for her prompt attention, urged her to do all in her
power to soothe Maria, to whom, at parting, he also
offered his hand, while his eye was eloquent with the
feelings he could not well openly express.
He first directed his course towards the rose-bush, and
approached it with a feeling almost similar to what would
have been experienced by him, had he been the actual
murderer of Mr. Heywood. Loup Garou was sitting crouched
near the head and was so far recovered as to growl rather
fiercely at him, as he approached. On hearing the voice
of his master, not in anger but in conciliation, he arose,
slightly wagged his tail, and came forward slowly and
crouching, as if in dread of further punishment, his lip
uncurled, showing all his upper teeth, and with a short,
quick sneeze, peculiar to his half-wolf-blooded race.
Calling gently to the animal, he preceded him to the
gate, desiring him to wait there until he returned--an
injunction evidently understood by the dog, which,
crouching down in his accustomed posture, ventured not
to move. With the small spud, already alluded to, and
then near the rose-tree, he put back in small quantities
the displaced earth, until the ghastly face, indistinctly
seen in the star-light, was again wholly hidden from
view. This done, he approached the bank of the river,
followed by the dog, and gave a shrill whistle, which,
without being answered, speedily brought over the boat
in which he now embarked for the opposite shore.
His first care was to seek Elmsley, who, as officer of
the guard, was up accoutred for duty, and was now looking
over an old "Washington Intelligencer," that had been
read at least a dozen times before, while he smoked his
pipe and sipped from a bowl of whisky punch, which Von
Vottenberg had just finished brewing, when so suddenly
summoned to the cottage.
After Ronayne had detailed to his friend the occurrences
of the evening, and communicated his views, they both
issued forth to the guard-room, where Sergeant Nixon
happened to be upon duty. With the latter, a brief
conversation was held by Ronayne, ending with an injunction
for him to come to Lieutenant Elmsley's quarters and
announce to him (the former), when certain arrangements
which had been agreed upon, were completed.
Returned to the abode of the latter, the young officer
required no very great pressing to induce him to join
his superior in the beverage, to which anxiety of mind
not less than fatigue of body had so much disposed him,
yet of which both partook moderately. While so employed,
and awaiting the appearance of the sergeant, Ronayne,
who had now no motive for further mystery or concealment,
detailed at the request of his friend, but in much more
succinct terms than he had done in the paper he had handed
to Maria Heywood, the circumstances connected with his
absence from the Fort, on the night of the attack upon
the farm, and the means taken by him to attain the object
in which he had been thwarted by Captain Headley.
"You dam Yankee, stop Injin when him go wigwam," commenced
Ronayne, rising at the same time and imitating the action
of one unsteady from intoxication. "'Spose tell him
"Ah! you horrid wretch--I see it all now, yet could I
have been so imposed upon? You then were the pretended
drunken Indian I let out that night? Upon my word, Master
Ronayne. I never will forgive you for that trick."
"Yes you will, old fellow. It was the only way to save
you from a scrape, but I confess I have often since
laughed in my sleeve at the recollection of the manner
in which I deceived you."
"Hang me if you didn't play your part to admiration, but
the best of the jest is, that on reporting the circumstance
to Headley, on the following morning, he said I had acted
perfectly right; so had you known this when you had that
scene on the parade, you might have pleaded his sanction.
However, all that is over. Now then for your adventure."
"The tale is soon told," began Ronayne. "On the evening
when you and Von Vottenberg were so busy, the one in
concocting his whisky-punch--the other in cutting up the
Virginia, I was sacking my brain for a means to accomplish
my desire to reach the farm, where I had a strong
presentiment, from the lateness of the hour, without
bringing any tidings of them, the fishing-party were,
with Mr. Heywood and his people, in a state of siege,
and I at length decided on what seemed to me to be the
only available plan. I was not sorry to see you leave
after taking your second glass, for I knew that I should
have little difficulty in sewing up the doctor, whose
tumbler I repeatedly filled, and made him drink off after
sundry toasts, while he did not perceive--or was by no
means sorry if he did--that I merely sipped from my own.
When I thought he had swallowed enough to prevent him
from interfering with my project, I bade him good night
and left him, knowing well that in less than ten minutes
he would be asleep. Instead, however, of going to bed,
I hastened at once to preliminaries, having first got
rid of my servant whom I did not wish to implicate, by
making him acquainted with my intended absence. But tell
me, did you examine my room at all the next day?"
"I did."
"And found nothing missing?"
"Nothing. I scouted everywhere, and found only yourself
wanting--the bed unrumpled, and everything in perfect
bachelor order."
"And that leather dress, my dear fellow, in which I once
paid a visit to the camp of Winnebeg, from whose squaw,
indeed, I had bought it. You know it generally hangs
against the wall at the foot of my bed."
"Ah! now I recollect, that was not there certainly,
although I did not notice its absence then--so then, that
was the dress you went out in, and I such a goose as not
to remark it."
"Because you know that I had had the precaution to throw
a blanket over it in the most approved Pottawattamie
style, while my features were colored with gambouge and
Indian ink."
"Well, say no more about that--I am ashamed to have been
so taken in by a Johnny Raw. We will now suppose you
kicked out of the Fort. Did I not kick you out," he added
humorously, "and say, begone, you drunken dog, and never
show your ugly face here again!"
"On the contrary," returned his junior in the same mocking
strain, "you were but too glad to be civil when I threatened
you with the 'gubbernor!'"
"Once out of the Fort," he gravely continued, "my course
was plain. I immediately went to the wigwam of Winnebeg,
whom I found seated, with his toes almost in the embers
of an expiring fire, and smoking his last pipe previous
to wrapping himself up for the night in his blanket. You
may imagine his surprise, when, after some little
difficulty, he recognized in that garb, and at that hour,
particularly after the events of the day, with which he
had been made acquainted by Mr. Frazer, before the latter,
with his family, took refuge in the Fort. Still, true to
the dignified reserve of his race, he concealed as much
as possible what was passing in his mind, and made me
sit by his side, near which, I have omitted to say, was
an extremely handsome young Indian, whom he presented to
me as his son, and then bade me tell him the object of
my visit.
"Of course I knew enough of Indian etiquette to be
satisfied that I should gain by not attempting to hurry
matters, and I accordingly suppressed my own impatience
while taking a few whiffs from the pipe he courteously
offered to me. Winnebeg then received it back, and while
he sat with his eyes fixed intently on the fire, puffed
away in an attitude of profound attention which encouraged
me to proceed.
"When he had heard all I had to say in regard to the
fears I entertained for the absent party--for I did not
confine my profession of interest to ONE--my vain
application to the commandant, and my strong reliance
upon him to send a party of his young men with me to the
farm, his eye suddenly kindled--his countenance assumed
a more animated expression, and removing the pipe from
his lips, and puffing forth a more than usual volume of
smoke, he cordially shook my hands, saying something in
Indian to his son, who immediately sprang to his feet,
and disappeared from the tent.
"After a lapse of time which seemed to me as an age, the
youth re-appeared with a dozen young warriors, all armed
and decked in their war paint. They remained grouped
round the entrance for a few minutes, while Waunangee
changed his own dress, and Winnebeg provided me with a
rifle, tomahawk and scalping-knife. Thus accoutred I took
the lead with the former, and after cautiously creeping
through the encampment, passed along the skirt of the
wood that almost overhung the river. We moved off at a
quick walk, but soon our pace increased to a half-run,
so anxious were we all to get to the farm.
"We had not proceeded more than half-way when we saw a
small boat, which I immediately distinguished as that
belonging to the fishing-party, slowly descending the
river. The Indians simultaneously, and as if governed by
one common instinct, dropped flat on the ground, as I
supposed to remain unseen until the boat should come
opposite to them, while I, uncertain by whom it was
occupied, and anxious to ascertain, after whispering a
few words to Waunangee, moved cautiously in advance along
the shore. When I had crept up about fifty yards, I could
distinctly see that it was one of our men, and I immediately
hailed to know who he was, and where the remainder of
the party were.
"Scarcely had he answered 'Collins,' and commenced a few
words of explanation of the cause of his being there and
alone, when the forms of two Indians, which I fancied I
had before detected creeping along the shore, regulating
their stealthy progress by that of the boat, started into
full height, and silently bounded towards me--one a little
in advance of the other. The moment was critical. They
were not twenty paces from me, and I have often since
wondered at the presence of mind I preserved. It occurred
to me that they would not commit the imprudence of using
firearms so near the Fort, and that steel only would be
resorted to by them. This suggested my own course. Throwing
my rifle upon the beach in order that Collins, who was
now pulling for the shore, might seize and use it as
occasion should require, I grasped the scalping-knife in
my left hand, and with my tomahawk in my right, did not
wait for the attack, but rushed upon the foremost Indian,
for I knew that my only chance of success lay in the
killing or disabling of one before his comrade could come
up. At the same time, both to apprise Waunangee of my
position, and to daunt my adversaries, I uttered one of
these tremendous yells, you know I so well can imitate,
and receiving the blow of his tomahawk upon my own, thrown
up in true military guard, plunged my knife into his body
with such suddenness and force, that on examining it
afterwards, I found that at least half an inch of the
tapering handle had followed the blade. The savage fell
dead without uttering a groan, a sight which, instead of
checking the advance of his companion, rather urged him
to revenge his fall. He had now come up with me, brandishing
his tomahawk, when I put myself again on my guard,
purposing to use my knife as I had done before, but at
the very moment when the descent of his weapon was expected
by me, he was suddenly seized from behind, raised from
his feet, and thrown upon the ground. This was the act
of Collins, who had gained the shore just after the first
Indian fell, and had flown to my assistance.
"At the same moment, Waunangee, who, with his warriors
had started up on hearing my loud yell of defiance, came
quickly to the spot, and they were not a little astounded
to see an Indian, whom they instantly pronounced to be
a Winnebago, lying motionless at my feet, nor was their
respect for me at all lessened, when on handing my
scalping-knife from one to the other, they perceived what
a proficient I was in the use of their own favorite weapon.
"Of course I was not silly enough to detract from my own
glory, by admitting that it was as much the result of
accident as of design. They made signs for me to scalp
him, but having no particular desire to possess this
trophy of my successful hand to hand encounter, one of
the young men asked me to waive my right in his favor.
This I did, and the scalp of the Winnebago was soon
dangling from his waist. The other spoils I did not
object to, and his rifle, tomahawk, and knife are now
in Winnebago's tent, until there offers a favorable
opportunity of bringing them to my quarters. But to
"So much time had been passed in the examination of the
body of the slain Winnebago, that his comrade had found
ample time to escape. The Pottawattamies had not seen
him, and Collins, after having temporarily disabled him,
had run up to afford me further assistance, on seeing
advancing in the rear, those whom he took to be of the
same hostile party. Thus left unwatched, the savage had
managed to creep away into the wood, and when attention
was at length drawn to him, he was not to be seen.
"When Collins had explained the position of the party at
the farm, whose danger, on finding himself of no service
there, he was then on his way to report, I proposed to
Waunangee that half of his warriors should ascend by
land, while the remainder with himself, accompanied me
in the boat. We accordingly separated, and made what
haste we could to our destination--the party on shore
regulating their progress by that of the boat. During
the descent my anxiety was very great, for my whole soul
was bent upon the attainment of one object--that of
restoring Mr. Heywood unharmed to his family. But the
absence of all sound indicating conflict was by no means
favorable, and I had already begun to fear that the
silence which prevailed, was but the result of victory
on the part of the hostile band who had departed, when
suddenly the loud, fierce yell of disappointment which
burst from them, as I have since understood, when a ladder
by which they attempted to enter was thrown from the roof
by Nixon, rang encouragingly upon my ear, and urged me
to increased exertion. Our progress, however, was by no
means proportioned to my anxiety, for somehow or other,
only two oars were in the boat, and, as the Indians did
not much care or know how to pull in time, the task
devolved wholly upon Collins and myself. At length, just
as the day was beginning to dawn, we reached the farm-house,
about a hundred yards beyond which we put in and landed,
making a detour by the barn, so as to meet the remainder
of our little force in the rear, and thus to place the
enemy, if actually surrounding the house, between two
"After waiting, however, some little time, and finding
every thing quiet, my apprehensions increased, for,
although not the sign of a Winnebago could be seen, so
profound was the stillness within, that I began to think
the whole of the party had been either captured or
murdered. Suddenly, however, while hesitating as to the
course to be pursued--for I feared that if the party were
all right, and the enemy departed, they might fire upon
us as we approached--I saw a man in American undress
uniform, whom I had no difficulty in recognizing as
Corporal Nixon, issue from the back of the house with a
basket in his hands, and turning the corner with an
appearance of much caution, make hastily for the river.
Directing Waunangee, whose two bands had now joined, and
were then lying closely concealed in the barn, to enter
the house as cautiously and noiselessly as possible, I
hastened after Nixon, from whom, after recovering from
his first fright at finding himself unarmed, and in the
power of one whom he naturally took for one of his recent
assailants, I received a brief account of all that had
occurred. On entering the house with him, shortly
afterwards, what a contrast was present--on the one hand
the ludicrous--the horrible on the other.
"Close within the doorway lay the dead body of Mr.
"The dead body of Mr. Heywood!" exclaimed Elmsley, starting
from his chair in almost dismay at the intelligence. "How
comes it, Ronayne, that you have never spoken of this
"No interruption, Elmsley--hear me to the close--close
within the doorway, I repeat, lay the dead body of Mr.
Heywood--his face much disfigured--and his large frame
almost rigid in a pool of clotted blood. Imagine what a
sight this was to me, whose sole object and hope it had
been to restore the father in safety to the daughter,
although at intervals during the route, I had more than
once dreaded something of the sort. Stupefied at the
spectacle, I felt my heart to sicken, as the idea of the
grief by which Maria would be overwhelmed when this sad
tale should be revealed to her, rose to my imagination.
But even then my presence of mind did not desert me, and
I already determined on what was to be done. In some
degree consoled by this, I raised my glance from the body
to observe what further atrocity had been committed.
Three or four Indians were grouped around, evidently
regarding the corpse with deep interest, for Mr. Heywood
had often hunted with them, and given them refreshments
when stopping to rest at his place, while on their way
to the Fort laden with game. Further on the great body
of Waunangee's people were standing leaning on their
rifles, and enjoying the mistake of three of our fellows,
who naturally taking them, from the great resemblance of
dress, to be their enemies who had obtained an entrance,
were holding aloft, in an attitude of defiance--one a
huge poker thrust through the carcass of an enormous
bird, and two others a blackened leg and wing, evidently
belonging to the same animal, which they ever and anon
brandished over their heads, while their eyes were rivetted
on the dusky forms before them. The wooden partition
sustained their muskets, from which the interposing
Indians had cut them off, and against the front door of
the house, which was closed and barred, leaned the only
armed man of the party, deprived, however, of all power
of action."
"What a scene for some American Hogarth!" interrupted
the lieutenant, "and how graphically you have described
it. I can see the picture before me now."
"I confess," answered Ronayne, "I could not even, amid
all my own painful feelings, suppress a smile at its
extreme absurdity, for the appearance of three men seeking
to defend themselves from what they believed to be fierce
and blood-thirsty enemies, with the burnt carcass and
limbs of an old turkey-cock, was such a burlesque on the
chivalrous, that, knowing as I did how little their
supposed enemy was to be dreaded, I could not suppress
thoughts which, while they forced themselves upon me, I
was angry at allowing myself to entertain. To understand
the scene fully, you must have looked on it yourself.
Had I recounted this to you yesterday, or even this
morning, I could have filled up the picture more
grotesquely, and yet not less truly. But now I have too
great a weight on my spirits to give more than a simple
"At the announcement of my name and purpose, the statue
at the door became suddenly disenchanted--the legs and
wings fell--a man dropped lightly from the loft, musket
in hand, and Cass only, with his gaze intently fixed on
the mocking savages before him, of whom he took me indeed
to be one, continued his defensive attitude with the
poker, nor was it until I had advanced and taken his
weapon from him, amid the loud laughter of the young
Indians, that he finally came to his senses. And yet,
after all, poor devil, his distrust was but natural.
"No time was to be lost. While some of the men were,
according to my instructions, wrapping in a blanket the
body of Mr. Heywood, after removing from it what blood
they could, and the others bore to the boat the unfortunate
Le Noir, whom I had not at first distinguished, so
completely had he been covered over by his dog and walnut
blossoms, I took the corporal aside, and explained to
him how important it was that nothing should be known at
the Fort of the fate of Mr. Heywood. On his asking what
he should say if questioned, I desired him (with some
hesitation, I confess, for I knew I was setting a bad
example to the men, which only the peculiar circumstances
of the case could justify), to give an evasive answer,
and say that the Indians had carried him off with them,
which indeed would be the fact, as I intended him to be
borne away by the party I had brought. I told him,
moreover, that at a fitting opportunity, I would explain
every thing to Captain Headley, and take all the
responsibility upon myself.
"On his promptly saying that he would, I added that the
men of his party should be made acquainted with my wish,
and asked if I might depend upon their secrecy. He replied
that there was not a man among them who did not so love
Miss Heywood, as to run the risk of any punishment, rather
than utter one word that could be the means of giving
her pain, and that while on the way down he would take
care to warn them.
"Elmsley, I was touched at this--almost to tears--for it
was a source of proud yet tender pleasure to me--much
more so than I can express--to know that Maria was so
great a favorite with these rude-hearted fellows. Assured
that every thing was right, I told the corporal to embark
his men immediately, and pull for the Fort, while I, with
Waunangee and his Indians proceeded by land with the body
of Mr. Heywood.
"'Don't you think, sir,' said the corporal, hesitatingly,
as he prepared to execute my orders--'don't you think it
would be well for the ladies' sake that they should not
be reminded of the name of this place, more than can be
"'Undoubtedly, Nixon, but what do you mean?'
"'Why, sir, I mean that as poor Mr. Heywood never can be
here again, it would be better nothing should be left to
remind them of the bloody doings of yesterday.'
"'And what other name would you give it?' I asked.
"'If it was left to me, Mr. Ronayne,' replied the corporal;
'I would call it HARDSCRABBLE, on account of the hard
struggle the fellows must have had with Mr. Heywood,
judging from his wounds and his broken rifle, before they
mastered him.'
"'Then, HARDSCRABBLE be it,' I said, 'not that I can
really see it will make much difference in calling the
thing to mind, yet it would scarcely be fair to deny to
you, who have so bravely defended the place, the privilege
of giving it a new name, if the old one is to be abandoned.'
"'Thank you, sir,' returned Nixon, 'but if you hadn't
come to our assistance, I don't know what the upshot
might have been, I suspect that fellow whose comrade you
killed, sent them off sooner than they intended.'
"'No more of that, Nixon--and now do you remember what
you are to say when you get back to the Fort?'
"'I do, sir, and every man shall be told to say as I
do--but about the new name, Mr. Ronayne,' he pursued,
returning, after he had gone a few paces, 'do you think,
sir, Mrs. Heywood will consent to it?'
"'My good fellow,' I answered, 'recollect that Mrs.
Heywood must know nothing about it--at least for the
present. I will settle all that later. In the mean time,
as you have called it HARDSCRABBLE, so let it remain.'
"And HARDSCRABBLE that scene of blood is called to this
"I had at first apprehended," pursued Ronayne, "that the
Indians would evince disinclination to carry the body so
long a distance, or even at all, but on Waunangee explaining
my desire, they all to my surprise, expressed even eagerness
to meet my wishes, for, as he assured me, the young men
looked upon me as a great warrior who had achieved a deed
of heroism that might procure the distinction of a chief,
and entitling me to their services in all things.
"I certainly thought my honors cheaply enough purchased;
however I was but too glad to appropriate to myself the
respect and good-will which the killing of the Winnebago
had entailed--and matters were soon arranged.
"The body having been removed outside, and the doors
secured as well as, under the circumstances, could be
done, one of the warriors cut from a tree in the adjacent
wood, a semi-circular piece of tough and flexible bark,
about six feet in length, and in the hollow of this, the
murdered father of Maria Heywood, already swathed tightly
in a blanket, was placed. A long pole was then passed
through the equi-distant loops of cord that encircled
the whole, and two of the Indians having, with the
assistance of their companions, raised it upon their
shoulders, it was thus borne--the parties being relieved
at intervals--over the two long miles of road that led
to the skirt of the woods near the encampment. Here the
body of Indians stopped, while Waunangee and myself
repaired to the tent of his father, who no sooner had
heard detailed by his son the account of my Winnebago
killing practice of the preceding evening, than he
overwhelmed me with congratulations, and looked proudly
on the knife, still stained with a spot or two of blood,
which I returned to him, and which he restored to its
usual resting-place on his hip.
"Perceiving that Winnebeg was, like his young men, ready
to do any thing for me. I explained to him my desire to
convey the body of Mr. Heywood across the river, and
bury him secretly in his own grounds, but that it was
necessary, in order to do this effectually, that he and
his son should go with me, and by some circuitous route.
Entering at once into my views, he said he would show me
a place where we could cross without being seen either
from the Fort or from his own encampment, and then led
the way back to the wood where the party were still
"The rest is soon told. Dismissing the young men into
the encampment. Winnebeg, with his son, bore the body
within the skirt of the wood, until we reached a bend of
the river hidden from observation, where a canoe with
paddles was drawn up on the beach. There we crossed, and
going round to the rear of the cottage, entered the
garden, and proceeded to the upper end, where at the
summer house, near a favorite rose-tree of Maria's, I
dug with my own hands a hasty grave, in which Winnebeg
and Waunangee placed the body--its only coffin being the
bark that was swathed around it. Of course I always
intended to disinter it at some future, but not distant
period, and bestow upon it the usual rites of burial.
"This painful task accomplished, and the soil having been
carefully replaced, so as to leave no inequality of
surface, I accompanied my friends back by the same route,
and about nine o'clock left the Pottawattamie encampment
with them and a few other warriors of the tribe for the
Fort, which in the crowd I entered without difficulty or
creating suspicion. Watching my opportunity, I stole to
the rear of my bed-room--opened and entered the window--
changed my dress, and made my appearance on parade as
you saw."
"All is ready, sir," said Sergeant Nixon, entering just
as he had concluded, and before Elmsley could offer any
remark on this singular adventure--"the coffin is in the
scow, and Corporal Collins, Green and Philips are there
also with their shovels, ropes, and picks. If Mr. Elmsley
will give me permission," and he touched his cap to that
officer. "I will go too, sir."
"As sergeant of the guard--no, Nixon, my good fellow,
that will never do. The three men you have named, are,
with myself, quite enough. Be on the look-out though, to
let us in on our return. Have you provided a dark lantern?"
"Yes, sir, Collins has the lantern belonging to the guard
"Good. I will follow you in a moment, Elmsley," he
continued, rising and draining off his half-emptied glass,
"lend me your prayer-book. I wish that you could be
present at this dismal ceremony, but of course that is
wholly out of the question."
"It is, indeed, my dear fellow. It would never do for us
both to be absent. Not only ourselves but the men would
be brought into the scrape, for you know Headley always
sleeps with one eye open."
"I do not like to do any thing clandestinely," remarked
the ensign--"particularly after our reconciliation with
him. Moreover, it is, as you say, in some degree
compromising the men and myself with them. I have a great
mind before I start to see and explain every thing to
Headley, and obtain his sanction to my absence."
"Nonsense," returned his friend, "he will never know it;
besides it is possible that he may refuse to let you go
before morning, and your object is, of course, to have
every thing finished to-night. Take my advice; go without
speaking to him on the subject, and if your remorse of
conscience," and he smiled archly, "be so great afterwards,
as to deprive you of more rest and appetite than you lost
after killing that poor devil of a Winnebago, go to him
as you did before--confess that you have again been a
naughty boy--ask his pardon, and I am sure he will forgive
the crime."
"Well, I believe you are right. Be it so. Adieu, I shall
be back within a couple of hours at the latest."
"If you do, you will in all probability find me still
poring over this old Intelligencer, which is full of
rumors of approaching war with the British."
"I shall be more inclined to hug my pillow," replied the
ensign as he departed, "for I must again cross to the
cottage, and be back here before guard-mounting to-morrow."
Within ten minutes the party--two of them having borne
the empty coffin, and the corporal the necessary implements,
stood near the rose-tree in the garden. The body of Mr.
Heywood was disinterred--the bark in which it lay wound
round with many folds of a large sheet, and placed in
the coffin, which after being screwed down, was deposited
in a grave dug at least five feet under the surface. Then
commenced the burial service, which was read by the young
officer in a slow and impressive tone, and by the light
of the shaded lantern, which, falling obliquely upon the
forms of the men, discovered them standing around the
grave--one foot resting on the edge--the other drawn
back, as they awaited the signal to lower their almost
offensive burden into its last resting-place. At length
the prayers for the dead were ended, and the grave was
carefully filled up, leaving as before, no inequality,
but too deep to attract the scent of Loup Garou. Then
after having dug up a few small roots of the sweet briar,
and placed them at intervals on the newly-turned earth.
Ronayne crossed with his little party to the Fort, glad
to obtain a few hours of that repose, for which the
harassing events of the day had so much predisposed him.
The fourth of July 1812, was a more than usual gala-day
in the little Fort of Chicago, for in addition to the
National Jubilee, there was to be celebrated one of a
private, yet not less interesting nature. On that evening
Ensign Ronayne was to espouse, in the very room in which
he had first been introduced to her the woman he had so
long and so ardently loved, and who, her mother having
after a severe struggle become convalescent, had conformably
to her promise, yielded a not reluctant consent to his
proposal that this day of general joy, should be that of
the commencement of their own happiness.
At that remote period, and in the absence of duly ordained
clergymen, it was customary for marriages to be performed
by the Governors of Districts and by commanding officers
of distant Forts, and these, perfectly legal, were
subsequently as inclination, or scruple of conscience
induced, celebrated in the usual manner. The early
marriages of British subjects in Canada, soon after its
conquest from the French, as well as many of those of
the colonies now known as the United States, took place
in this manner, and the custom had been continued until
increased population provided the means of securing that
spiritual comfort, which it must, of course, have been
impossible for one dressed in a red coat instead of a
black one, to impart.
But neither Maria Heywood or Ronayne stood much on this
punctilio. Provided the ceremony was legal, and according
to the customs of the country, it mattered little who
married them--the governor of a district--the commandant
of a garrison, or a Gretna Green blacksmith--had they
felt at all disposed to avail themselves of the services
of the latter.
It was a lovely day, and every thing seemed to smile upon
the denizens of that region, from the early dawn until
the setting of the sun. Officers and men were in their
brightest uniforms--the women and children in their
holiday dresses. A splendid new Star Spangled Banner--the
work of Maria Heywood's hands--floated in the dazzling
rays of the sun, upon the southern bastion of the Fort.
Joy and pride sat on every brow. They exulted at the
recollection of that hardly won freedom from injustice,
which was that day to be celebrated for the thirty-sixth
At noon the cannon thundered forth their bursts of
rejoicing. This was the signal for the numerous
Pottawattamies outside, all of whom had decked themselves
for the occasion, to approach nearer to the Fort. On the
glacis they discharged their guns and rifles, and seemed
to have but one spirit with the allies to whom they
appeared to have devoted themselves. Winnebeg, however,
though long expected, had not yet returned, and nothing
yet had been seen of Waunangee, since his departure on
the day following the little incident which occurred in
Elmsley's apartments.
Contrary to that unnatural etiquette which enjoins that
two betrothed persons, who are expected to be inseparable
after marriage, should never show themselves together in
public immediately before, Ronayne had after parade
ascended the rampart, with Maria Heywood leaning upon
his arm, occasionally glancing at the group of
gaily-costumed Indians, who were amusing themselves on
the green, but oftener admiring the lovely view, softened
by distance, which was presented in various points, and
particularly towards the farm--the theatre of events
which the otherwise happy girl, could not at that moment
avoid bringing to her recollection.
While gazing in that direction, her eye fell upon the
form of a young Indian who was leaning against the corner
of the picketed bastion on her left, in the shallow, dry,
and grass-covered ditch that surrounded it. At first her
glance caught an indistinct human form dressed in the
Indian garb, but as her gaze settled on the object, her
surprise was great to recognise Waunangee, who was even
then looking at her with the same softened and eloquent
expression, which had given her so much anxiety on a
former occasion. The impression produced upon her was
exactly what it had been then--indescribable--inexplicable
to herself.
"What is the matter, my love?" inquired Ronayne tenderly,
and pressing her arm to his heart--"what fixes your
attention below?" then seeing the Indian himself. "Ah!
Waunangee, my friend!" he exclaimed, "where have you been
all this time? Come round to the gate and shake hands
with my wife."
"No, no, no, do not call him up, Ronayne--you cannot
think how much the presence of that Indian troubles me."
"Nay, dearest Maria, you are not yourself. Why continue
this strong dislike against the poor fellow? I thought
you had quite forgiven him."
Was it accident--was it modesty, or was it a consciousness
that his presence was not desired by at least one of the
parties, that prevented the young Indian from obeying
the summons of the officer. Whatever the cause, he assumed
a serious mein, and playing one of those melancholy airs
which so often, at that time, might be heard proceeding
from the rude flute of their race, walked slowly away.
"I fear you have offended him, Maria. Oh! if you knew--"
"Ronayne--dearest Harry!" interrupted his betrothed--"I
have never said anything of this before to you, because,
after all, it is but an idle fancy, yet I cannot divest
myself of the idea that this Indian, interesting and
prepossessing as he is, is somehow or other connected
with my future fate. Nay," as the young officer smiled
in playful mockery, "you may ridicule my presentiment,
which is, I confess, so much at variance with good sense,
that I almost blush to introduce the subject, but still
I cannot banish the impression."
"Then, I will assist you in doing so, dearest, even though
at the risk of re-opening a newly-closed wound," remarked
her lover, with deep affection of manner. "In my narrative
of those events, hastily thrown together, which I gave
you on that memorable night, when I suffered for a period,
almost the torments of the damned, I did not, it seems
to me, name the young Indian, who, with his father, so
greatly aided me on my return to the farm, and even bore
upon his shoulders the sacred charge."
"No, Harry, you did not," quickly rejoined Maria Heywood;
"but I know now whom you mean. It was Waunangee."
"It was," said the ensign--"I know your knowledge of that
fact will change your feelings towards him."
"They are changed--even at this moment, and henceforth
I shall be to him as a sister. Ah! how ungrateful must
I have appeared to the poor fellow. I shall conquer this
silly weakness: I have misunderstood my own impressions,
and it must have been that I have mistaken the influence
Waunangee has had for that which is to be. Call him up
now, Ronayne, and I will cheerfully give him my hand,
and promise to love him as a brother in return for the
devotion he has evinced, not less for you than for my
poor father."
"Time enough, repentant sinner," returned the young
officer, at the same time casting his glance rapidly over
the group of Indians, who were amusing themselves at
various athletic games. "I can see nothing of him. Your
evident displeasure," he added playfully, "has destroyed
his peace, as indeed you might have known from that
plaintive ditty. However, dearest girl, I shall see him
soon, and make him promise to be present this evening at
the nuptials of his friend and sister. Nay, if I had not
engaged Elmsley, I should insist on his being my bridesman."
The only notice taken of this sally was a faint smile
from his companion, who now descended with him from the
rampart and proceeded to the apartments of Mrs. Elmsley,
where her mother and herself had once more been visitors
for the last few days. Here they separated to meet again
in the evening--Ronayne directing his attention to his
various duties, and looking out at intervals for his
young Indian friend.
It was night. No accident had occurred beyond the laceration
of two of Ephraim Giles's fingers, who having that day
been presented with a new suit by the doctor--the fac-simile
in fashion of the old--had been whittling almost in front
of one of the guns when discharged, and lost, with the
skin of his finger, both his stick and his knife. The
sultriness of the day had been succeeded by a cool and
refreshing air. Gaiety and content every where prevailed,
and many were the voices--male and female--that exclaimed,
as allusion was made to the ceremony all knew, to be in
progress: "God bless them, and make them happy, as they
deserve to be." A large tub of whisky-punch, the gift of
the commanding officer, had been brewed by Von Vottenberg,
for their mid-day revel, and this, all had been unanimous
in pronouncing the best medicine the doctor had ever
administered to them; and now in small social messes,
seated round their rude tables, covered with tin goblets,
and pitchers of the same metal--the mothers with their
children at their side or upon their knees, and the
fathers and unmarried men puffing clouds of smoke from
their short pipes--which they filled from two others
placed on an elevated settle--one in each block house
--which the happy Ronayne had given them on the occasion.
Even the guard was moderately supplied, and the sentries
alone, pacing to and fro in their limited walk, felt the
bitterness of privation, as they counted the minutes that
must elapse before they could join in the festivities
which the loud voice and ringing laugh, occasionally
wafted to their ears, told them were in progress.
In the rooms of the commanding officer there was more
than the usual manifestation of the anniversary. All had
dined at an early hour, but a large side-board that stood
in one corner of the council room--always fitted up on
these occasions--was covered with vases containing wines,
liqueurs, juleps, and punches of various kinds--the latter
the work of the indefatigable son of Esculapius, and of
these the host and his guests partook freely, in
commemoration of the day. At the opposite end of the room
had been raised a sort of tribune for the orator of the
day, but as it was intended the address should be impromptu,
no name had been mentioned, nor could any one know, until
the moment when the majority of voices should select him
on whom the office was to devolve. In the fear entertained
by each that he should be the party selected, the glass,
to impart the necessary courage, was not spared. But he
who was not in the room, or of the number of those devoted
to the punch-bowl was the person chosen. As if by one
impulsive consent, Ronayne, who was seated in the inner
room, and discoursing of any thing but politics to his
betrothed, found himself loudly called upon--knew it
was in vain to object--and reluctantly rose in obedience
to the summons.
"Come young gentleman," said Captain Headley, entering
with an air of gaiety by no means usual to him, "you are,
it appears, in all things," and he bowed significantly
to Maria Heywood, "the chosen of the evening--but
recollect," he added, as he drew his arm through his own,
and proceeded towards the larger apartment where Ronayne
was awaited, "as you acquit yourself of YOUR duty, so
shall I of MINE."
"I shall do my best, sir," replied the youth, in the same
light tone, "but of the two orations, I know which will
be the best suited to my own taste."
The other ladies, with the exception of Mrs. Heywood,
had also risen, and now stood grouped near Captain Headley,
who, with Maria Heywood on his arm, leaned against the
door-way separating the two rooms--while Ronayne, amid
cheers and congratulations, made his way to the tribune,
at the farther end of the apartment.
His address was necessarily not long--for independently
of the impatience he could not but entertain at that
moment of all subjects but that nearest his heart, he
was by no means ambitious of making a display of his
powers of elocution. Yet, notwithstanding this, he treated
his theme in so masterly a manner, and in such perfectly
good taste, omitting all expressions of that rancor
towards Great Britain, which forms so leading a feature
in American orations on this occasion, and yet reflecting
honor on the land of his birth--alluding, moreover, to
the high position even then occupied by the nation, and
the future greatness which he predicted, from its laws,
its institutions, and peculiar form of government, awaited
it--that Maria Heywood could not fail to experience a
secret pride in the warm, and evidently sincere acclamation
of the little party present, attesting as they did, their
estimate of the worth of him, who in another hour, would
be her own for life.
As Ronayne descending from the tribune, passed to the
other side of the room, he looked out of the door which
had been left open, not more on account of the heat, than
to afford the men and their families an opportunity of
hearing the discourse thus delivered--almost the first
person who came under his glance was Waunangee, for whose
admission he had given orders to the serjeant of the
guard, and who now, in compliance with his pressing
entreaty, had attended. He was becomingly dressed in deer
skin, richly embroidered, pliant and of a clear brown
that harmonized well with the snowy whiteness of his
linen shirt, which was fastened with silver brooches,
while on the equally decorated leggins, he wore around
the ankle, strings of minute brass bells. On his head
floated the rich plumage of various rare birds, but no
paint was visible beyond the slightest tint of vermilion
on the very top of each cheek-bone, rendering even more
striking the expression of his soft dark eyes.
Beckoning to him, Ronayne drew the young Indian within
the door, which had he not accidentally distinguished
him in the crowd, he was quite too modest to enter alone.
Then drawing his arm through his own, he led him, coloring
and embarrassed at the novelty of the scene, to the place
where Captain Headley was still lingering with his charge.
The moment they were near enough, the latter held out
her hand to Waunangee, and with all the warmth of her
generous nature, pressed that which he extended. The
young Indian colored more deeply even than before--his
hand trembled in hers--and the look of thankfulness which
he bent upon her, in return for this unmistakable
confidence, had all the touching melancholy of expression
which she had remarked in them at their first meeting.
Again a mingled sentiment of confusion and distrust
suffused the cheek, and for a moment oppressed the spirit
of Maria Heywood in despite of herself, and she almost
wished Waunangee had not returned. The thought however,
was momentary. She felt the folly, the injustice of her
feelings, and anxious to atone for them, she nervously
--almost convulsively grasped the hand of the Indian,
carried it to her lips, and said in her full, sweet and
earnest tones, that he must ever be her brother as she
would ever be his sister.
"And now," said Captain Headley to the young officer,
"what reward do you expect for your maiden oration? What
shall it be, Miss Heywood?"
"I will spare her the trouble of an answer," interposed
Ronayne, as he took the arm which had just disengaged
itself from that of the commandant, and placed it within
his own, "until you have set your seal to the priceless
gift," and his eyes looked all the intensity of his
feeling; "I part not with it again."
"Every thing is ready is the next room," answered Captain
Headley--"go in. When I have announced that the ceremony
is about to take place, I shall hasten to give you the
dear girl for life," and imprinting a kiss upon her brow,
he passed on to those who were paying their homage to
the punch-bowl, and discussing the merits of the oration
just delivered.
It was with a flushed cheek, and a beating heart that
Maria Heywood was led by Ronayne, radiant with hope and
joy, to the little table covered with plain, white linen,
and illuminated by half a dozen tall candles, behind
which the commanding officer had placed himself on an
elevated estrade.
All of the guests were grouped around, a little in the
rear, while Lieutenant Elmsley stood on the right hand
of his friend, and his wife on the left of the betrothed.
Next to her, in an arm chair, which, provided with rollers,
was easily moved, Mrs. Heywood--and with her beautiful
arms reposing on the high back of this, stood Mrs. Headley
in graceful attitude, watching the ceremony with almost
maternal interest. Immediately behind Ronayne, from whom
he evidently did not like to be separated, stood Waunangee,
with an air of deep dejection, yet casting glances rapidly
from one to the other of his two friends.
When the young officer, after having formally received
the bride from her mother, whose strength barely permitted
her to rise and go through that part of the ceremony,
proceeded to place the ring upon the finger of his wife,
it fell, either from nervousness or accident upon the
matted floor. Quick as thought, Waunangee, who had now
his whole attention bent upon the passing scene, stooped,
picked it up, and attempted to place it on the finger,
still extended, for which it was designed.
"Gently, Waunangee, my good fellow," said the officer,
piqued not less at his own awkwardness at such a moment,
than at the outre act of the youth, from whom he rather
unceremoniously took it--"the husband only does this."
"Wah!" involuntarily exclaimed the other, his cheek
becoming brighter, and his eyes kindling into sudden
fierceness, while his hand intuitively clutched the handle
of his knife--yet the moment afterwards relinquished it.
The motion had been so quick, indeed, that only Mr.
Headley and the bride herself had noticed it.
Still fascinated as it were by the novel scene, Waunangee
moved not away, but the expression of his eyes had wholly
changed. There was no longer to be remarked there the
great melancholy of the past--but the wild restless,
flashing glance that told of strong excitement within.
When immediately afterwards they knelt, and had their
hands joined by Captain Headley, Waunangee bent eagerly
forward, as if apprehensive of losing the slightest part
of the ceremonial, but when at the conclusion, Ronayne
saluted his wife in the usual manner, his cheek became
suddenly pale as its native hue would permit, and with
folded arms and proud attitude he withdrew slowly from
the place he had hitherto occupied, to mingle more with
the crowd behind.
When Ronayne, who, remembering the little incident of
the ring, and the possible pique Waunangee might feel,
turned to look for him, that he might again present his
bride in her new character, he was no where to be seen,
nor was he ever again beheld within the precincts of that
And under those singular and somewhat ominous circumstances,
were the long-delayed nuptials of Harry Ronayne and Maria
Heywood--the great favorites of the garrison--celebrated
to the joy of all within the Fort of Chicago.
End of the Project Gutenberg EBook of Hardscrabble, by John Richardson
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