The Pioneers, Or, The Sources Of The Susquehanna
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
A tale of the early settlement of Otsego County, New York, ten years after the close of the Revolution. The tract of country described was originally included in Albany County; it then became, by division, a part of Montgomery County, and finally, after the peace of 1783, was set off as a county by itself. The name Otsego is said to be compounded of the Indian Ot, a place of meeting, and Sego or Sago, the ordinary term of salutation by the aborigines of the region. The story, which opens in 1793, was the earliest written of the Leather-Stocking Tales. The character of Leather-Stocking is a creation, and most of the others are fictitious. Templeton is, of course, Cooperstown.
MARMADUKE TEMPLE, of Quaker origin, his ancestor having come into the country with William Penn, was the wealthiest landholder in Otsego County and held its highest judicial station. His parents had been enabled to give him a better education than the common schools afforded, and he had thus formed acquaintances with persons somewhat higher than himself in the social scale. In the select school which he at-tended he had formed an intimacy with Edward Effingham, the son of a wealthy family of high court connections, who thought it a degradation to its members to descend to the pursuits of commerce, and who never emerged from the privacy of domestic life unless to preside in the councils of the colony, or to bear arms in her defense. When, after forty years of active service, the father of Edward retired with the rank of major, he became a man of the first consideration in his native colony of New York and maintained a domestic establishment of comparative splendor.
Edward, the friend of Marmaduke, was the Major's only child, and on his marriage with a lady to whom the father was particularly partial the Major gave him his whole estate, thus throwing himself on his son's filial piety for his own future maintenance. One of the first acts of the young man, on coming into the possession of wealth, was to seek his early friend, who had been left at the death of his father in somewhat straitened circumstances, and to proffer assistance, which was gratefully accepted. A mercantile house was established in Philadelphia, of which Temple was the ostensible proprietor while Effingham was, in secret, entitled to an equal share in the profits.
This connection was kept secret for two reasons: first, Major Effingham, the father, had a supreme contempt for Quakers, and, as Temple was then quite the Quaker in externals, the son did not care to encounter the prejudices of the father in that respect; and secondly, to the descendant of a line of soldiers commerce seemed a degrading pursuit. Marmaduke directed the operations of the house in a way to afford rich returns, and after his marriage with a lady without the pale and influence of the Society of Friends, there seemed a prospect of removing the veil from the intercourse of the two friends, when the troubles that preceded the War of the Revolution put an end to it. Effingham was intensely loyal, while Temple warmly espoused the cause of the colonists.
A short time before the battle of Lexington, Effingham, already a widower, transmitted to Marmaduke, for safe-keeping, all his valuable effects and papers. When the war began in earnest he took the field at the head of a provincial corps, and all intercourse ceased between the friends. 'When it became necessary to leave Philadelphia, Marmaduke took the precaution to remove his effects, including the papers of his friend, beyond the reach of the royal forces. During the war he served his country in various civil capacities with credit and ability; but he also looked out for his own interests; for when the confiscated estates of loyalists came under the hammer, he appeared in New York and purchased much property at low prices, among others the Effingham estates. When the war ended Mr. Temple turned his attention to the settlement of the tracts he had purchased. His property rapidly increased and he was already ranked among the most wealthy and important of his countrymen. To inherit this wealth he had but one child, a daughter, Elizabeth, who had been educated at one of the best schools of the period. He had gone to bring this daughter home to preside over a household that had too long wanted a mistress, when an incident occurred that led to remarkable consequences.
It was just before Christmas. The Judge and his daughter, riding in a sleigh driven by a negro, had come in sight of their home and the village of Templeton hard by, when the baying of hounds was heard.
"Hold up, Aggy," said he, "there is old Hector. Leather-Stocking has started game in the hills. Now, Bess, if thou canst stand fire, perhaps I will give thee a saddle for thy Christmas dinner."
The Judge took out of the sleigh a double-barreled fowling-piece, and was about to move forward when a fine buck darted into the path a few rods ahead. Both barrels were discharged at him, but apparently without effect, when a third report and then a fourth caused the animal to leap high in the air and then fall and roll over the crust with its own velocity.
"Ha! Natty," he cried, "had I known you were in ambush, I should not have fired."
"Did ye think to stop a full-grown buck with that popgun, Judge ?"
"Here are two hurts: one through the neck and the other through the heart. It is by no means certain, Natty, but I gave him one of the two."
"If there are two balls through the deer, weren't there two rifles fired? And you will own yourself that the buck fell at the last shot, which was sent from a truer and a younger hand than yourn or mine. I can live without the venison, though I am a poor man, but I don't love to give up my lawful dues in a free country."
An air of sullen dissatisfaction pervaded the manner of the hunter during this speech, which the Judge perceived.
"Nay, Natty," he replied with undisturbed good humor, "it is for the honor I contend. A few dollars will pay for the venison; but what will requite me for the lost honor of a buck's tail in my cap? What say you, friend?" he continued, turning to Natty's companion, a man who stood leaning on his rifle.
"That I killed the deer," he answered with haughtiness.
"I am outvoted," replied the Judge with a smile. "But what say you, young man; will three dollars pay you for the buck?"
"First let us determine the question of right," said the youth, firmly but respectfully, and in language far superior to his appearance. "With how many shot did you load your gun ? "
"With five, sir," said the Judge. "Are they not enough to slay a buck?"
"One would do it; but you fired in this direction, and here are four bullets in the tree."
"You are making out the case against yourself," said the Judge, laughing, as he examined the fresh marks in the bark of the pine; "where is the fifth?"
"Here!" said the youth, throwing back his coat and exhibiting a hole in his under garment through which blood was oozing.
"Good God!" exclaimed the Judge with horror. "Quick! get into my sleigh; it is but a mile to the village, where surgical aid can be obtained. Thou shalt live with me till thy wound be healed, ay, and forever afterward."
"I thank you for your good intention, but I must decline your offer. I have a friend who would be uneasy were he to hear that I am hurt and away from him."
"But I buy your deer. Here, this will repay thee, both for thy shot and my own."
The youth bowed at the offer of the bank-note, but replied: "Excuse me; I have need of the venison."
"Take it, I entreat you," said the Judge; and, lowering his voice to a whisper, he added, "it is for a hundred dollars."
The youth seemed to hesitate an instant, and then, blushing, again declined the offer. "Surely, surely, young man—sir," cried Elizabeth, throwing back the hood which concealed her features, "you would not pain my father so much as to have him think that he leaves thus a fellow creature whom he has injured. I entreat you to go with us, and receive medical aid."
Unable to resist the kind urgency of the travelers, and the advice of Leather-Stocking, who said he was now too old to try to cut out a bullet, the youth, though still with evident reluctance, suffered himself to be persuaded to enter the sleigh.
As the horses started, he called out to his companion, who declined to accompany him:
"Natty, say nothing of the shot, nor of where I am going; remember, Natty, as you love me."
"Trust old Leather-Stocking," returned the hunter significantly.
After the young man had had his wound dressed by the doctor of the village, who had been summoned to the Judge's house, he arose to go, saying: "There remains but one thing more to be settled; and that is our respective rights to the deer, Judge Temple."
"I acknowledge it to be thine," said Marmaduke. "In the morning thou wilt call here, and we can adjust this as well as more important matters. Aggy will convey you to your friend in the sleigh."
"But, sir, I cannot go without a part of the deer," he replied, seemingly struggling with his feelings.
"Put the deer in the sleigh," said the Judge to an attendant, "and have the youth conveyed to the hut of Leather-Stocking. But, sir, I trust that I shall see thee again, in order to compensate thee for the wrong I have done thee."
"I am called Edwards," replied the hunter, " Oliver Edwards. I am easily to be seen, for I live nigh by, and am not afraid to show my face, never having injured any man."
"It is we who have injured you, sir," said Elizabeth. "If you decline our assistance you will give my father great pain. He would gladly see you in the morning."
The young man gazed at the fair speaker until his earnest look brought the blood to her temples, and replied: "In the morning, then, will I return, and see Judge Temple."
"It shall be my task," said Marmaduke, as soon as Edwards was gone, "to provide in some manner for the youth. Yet I anticipate some trouble in inducing him to accept my services. He showed a marked dislike, I thought, Bess, to my offer of a residence here for life."
"Really, dear sir," said Elizabeth, "I have not studied the gentleman so closely as to read his feelings in his countenance. I dare say Benjamin can tell you something about him."
"Ay, I have seen the boy before," said Benjamin, who acted as a sort of major-domo on the premises; "he hove in sight about three weeks since in company with Natty Bumppo, bringing the scalp of a wolf for the bounty. Leather-Stocking says he's a sure shot and certain death to wild beasts."
"Does he live in the hut of Bumppo?" asked the Judge.
"Cheek by jowl; the two are always together. They say the young man is a hall-breed, and that his father was a Delaware chief."
On the following day, when Judge Temple again met the young man, he said :
"I have greatly injured you, Mr. Edwards, but fortunately it is in my power to compensate you. My kinsman, Richard Jones, has received an appointment that will deprive me of his assistance, and leaves me destitute of one who might greatly aid me with his pen. My doors are open to you. Become my assistant and receive such compensation as your services will deserve."
Edwards at first declined, on the plea that such duties would interfere too much with other more important business; but when Elizabeth added her entreaties to her father's, he yielded and consented to become an inmate of Judge Temple's house, with the understanding that it was to be only an experiment, and that the engagement could be rescinded by either party at will.
This agreement on the part of the young hunter was partly due perhaps to an Indian called Chingachgook or the Great Snake, who had been christened John Mohegan on his acceptance of Christianity. He was a great friend of Natty Bumppo's, and was often a visitor at his cabin. He had listened with great interest to the offers of the Judge, and when he saw Edwards's evident disinclination to accept them, he drew nearer to them and said :
"Listen to your Father; his words are old. Let the Young Eagle and the Great Land Chief eat together; let them sleep, without fear, near each other. Learn to wait, my son; you are a Delaware, and an Indian warrior knows how to be patient."
After the young man and his friends had departed, Mr. Jones, not altogether pleased with the accession to the house-hold, remarked :
"Really, my dear Marmaduke, I think you did exercise the Christian virtue of patience to the utmost. I was disgusted with his airs. In what apartment is he to be placed, sir, and at what table is he to receive his nectar and ambrosia?"
"I am but too happy, Dickon, to tempt him to eat with ourselves," said the Judge. "He is to fill the station of a gentleman. Let him receive the treatment due to his place."
Meanwhile Leather-Stocking, the Indian, and Edwards had left the village and were crossing the frozen lake towards the mountain, when Edwards said:
"Who could have foreseen this a month since! I have consented to serve Marmaduke Temple,—to be an inmate in the dwelling of the greatest enemy of my race; yet what better could I do ? The servitude cannot be long; and when the motive for submitting to it ceases to exist, I will shake it off like dust from my feet."
"Is he a Mingo, that you will call him enemy?" asked Chingachgook.
"Well, I'm mistrustful, John," said Leather-Stocking, "of such smooth speakers. I've known the whites talk fair when they wanted the Indian lands most. This I will say, though white myself and born of honest parents."
"I will submit," said the youth. "I will forget, old Mohegan, that I am the descendant of a Delaware chief, who once was master of these noble hills and vales. Yes, I will become his bondsman—his slave."
Such were the incidents that led to the coming into Judge Temple's family of this unknown youth, whose sudden elevation excited no surprise in that changeful country. He attended strictly and earnestly to his duties during the day, but his nights were often spent in the hut of Leather-Stocking, the intercourse between the three hunters being maintained with a certain air of mystery, but with much zeal and apparent interest to all parties. While Natty and the Mohegan seldom came to the mansion-house, Edwards sought every leisure moment to visit his old abode, from which he would often return in the gloomy hours of night, through the snow, or, if detained late, with the morning sun.
"It is not at all remarkable," said Richard; "a half-breed can never be weaned from savage ways; and for one of his lineage, the boy is much nearer civilization than could be expected."
Elizabeth had a friend in Louisa Grant, the daughter of the Rev. Mr. Grant, the rector of the church in the village. One day the two met Edwards as they were ascending the hill. As the young man had now been an inmate of the house about five months, a certain degree of intimacy had sprung up between him and Elizabeth.
"Your father is not pleased that you should walk unattended in the hills, Miss Temple. If I might offer myself as a protector—"
"Does my father select Mr. Oliver Edwards as the organ of his displeasure?" interrupted the lady.
"Good Heavens! you misunderstand my meaning; I should have said `uneasy' for `not pleased.' I am his servant, madam, and yours. With your consent, I will keep nigh you on the mountain."
"I thank you, Mr. Edwards; but where there is no danger, no protection is required. We have a body-guard. Here, Brave—Brave!" The dog, a huge mastiff, came to her with a stately gait, and the two resumed their walk.
"I am afraid, Elizabeth," said Louisa, looking back, "that we have mortified Oliver. He is still standing where we left him. Perhaps he thinks us proud."
"He thinks justly," said Miss Temple. "We are too proud to admit of such attentions from a young man in an equivocal position. I would give much, Louisa, to know all that those rude logs have heard and witnessed." They were both looking at Natty Bumppo's hut at the instant.
"I am sure," replied Lousia, "they would tell nothing to the disadvantage of Mr. Edwards."
"Perhaps not; but they might at least tell who he is."
"Why, dear Miss Temple, we know that already. Your cousin Richard says the kings of England used to keep gentle-men as agents among the Indians, and that they frequently sent their children to England and even to colleges to be educated. This is the way he accounts for the liberal manner in which Mr. Edwards has been taught."
"Mr. Richard Jones, dear, has a theory for everything; but has he one to explain the reason why that hut is the only habitation within fifty miles of us whose door is not open to every person who may choose to lift its latch?"
"I have never heard him say anything on the subject," replied Louisa; "but I suppose that, as they are poor, they are anxious to keep the little that they honestly own."
The two went on alone up the mountain, and were attacked by a painter or panther, which, in defense of her cub, killed old Brave, and was about to spring on the nearly unconscious girls when killed by a shot from Leather-Stocking's rifle.
At the same time that his daughter was walking with Louisa up the mountain, Judge Temple was riding with the sheriff, Richard Jones, in search of a mine which the latter believed to exist on its slope. Richard, fertile in theories, had assumed that there was some latent reason for the coming of Indian John and Oliver Edwards to the hut of Natty Bumppo, and for the evident secrecy in regard to the cabin.
"I have seen Mohegan and Leather-Stocking, with my own eyes, going up and coming down the mountain with spades and picks; and others have seen them carrying things into their hut after dark in a secret and mysterious manner. Mr. Edwards then appears. The frosts prevent their digging, and he avails himself of a lucky accident to get into good quarters. But even now he is quite half his time in that hut many hours every night. They are smelting, Duke, they are smelting."
"Richard," said the Judge, "there are many reasons against the truth of thy conjectures; but thou hast awakened suspicions which must be satisfied. Where is it they have been digging? I must know the reasons of their making an excavation on my land."
" We'll be safe in visiting it," said Richard, "as they are all on the lake fishing. Come this way."
They had dismounted and fastened their horses. Judge Temple followed the sheriff up a steep path to a sort of natural opening in the hillside, in front of which lay a pile of earth, some of it fresh. On entering they found an excavation some twenty feet wide and nearly twice that distance in depth, the roof being a natural stratum of rock. Looking near by in the bushes, the sheriff found the tools that had been used in the work.
" Judge Temple, are you satisfied?"
"Perfectly, that there is something mysterious and perplexing in this business; yet I see no signs of ore."
The Judge took an accurate survey of the place, so as to be able to find it again, and the two returned to their horses. They separated when they reached the road to the valley, and the Judge soliloquized as he dropped his reins and let his horse pick his way down:
"There may be more in this than I supposed. I have suffered my feeling to blind my reason, in admitting an unknown youth into my dwelling. I will have Leather-Stocking before me, and extract the truth by a few plain questions."
Just then he caught a glimpse of Elizabeth and Louisa descending the mountain path, and riding up to them he dismounted and joined them. Their vivid description of their encounter with the panther put all thoughts of mines and excavations out of his head; and Leather-Stocking was brought once more to his recollection, not as a lawless squatter, but as the preserver of his child.
When they arrived at the house, Judge Temple found Hiram Doolittle awaiting him, to get a search-warrant to ex-amine the cabin of Natty Bumppo, who was suspected of having killed a deer out of season.
"Thou art a magistrate, Mr. Doolittle; issue the warrant thyself. Why trouble me with it?"
"Why, it's the first complaint under the law, and as you have set your heart on enforcing it, I thought it best that the authority should come from you."
"Well, go into my office," said the Judge, perceiving that his reputation for impartiality was at stake; "I will join you and sign the warrant."
"It is more terrific in sound than in reality," he explained to Elizabeth, who was about to remonstrate. "It will be only to examine his cabin and find the animal, when you can pay the penalty out of your own pocket, Bess."
But when Hiram went with others to the hut of Leather-Stocking, the old hunter met them rifle in hand, and refused them admission; and when Hiram persisted and put his foot on the threshold, Natty hurled him twenty feet down the bank.
This made Leather-Stocking amenable to a charge of assaulting a magistrate in the discharge of his duty. Judge Temple, indignant at this, said to his daughter:
"Our plans are defeated. The obstinacy of Leather-Stocking has brought down the indignation of the law on his head, and it is now out of my power to avert it. When he appears before me, as his judge, he shall find that his former conduct shall not aggravate any more than his services shall extenuate his crime."
The result was that Leather-Stocking was cast into jail, from which Edwards released him. Elizabeth, who had called at the prison to press money on the old man, was unsuccessful in inducing him to accept it, but promised to meet him the following day at noon on top of the mountain with a can of the best gunpowder.
At the appointed time Elizabeth and Louisa set out to carry the can up the mountain; but when they reached the bridge Louisa declared that she was not equal to going on the hill where they had so lately had so terrible an adventure. Elizabeth stood a moment in deep reflection, then, shaking off her irresolution, determined to keep her promise if she had to go alone. Bidding Louisa wait for her at the edge of the wood, she hastened up the hill and soon stood on a cleared space on the summit, which commanded a view of the village. There she found John Mohegan, the Indian, seated on the trunk of a fallen oak. He was in full panoply of paint and feathers, as if dressed for some great occasion, and his eyes were fixed and solemn.
"Where is Leather-Stocking, John? I have brought him this canister of powder. Will you take charge of it for him?"
As the old Indian raised his head and took the canister, Miss Temple suddenly became conscious of volumes of smoke over their heads, whirling in eddies and intercepting the view.
"What means it, John?" she cried. "I feel a heat like the glow of a furnace."
Before the Indian could reply, a voice shouted in the woods: "Where are you, old Mohegan? The woods are on fire!"
Oliver Edwards appeared the next instant. "Miss Temple!" he exclaimed. "You here! Come instantly—this way!"
"Shall we leave the Indian?" she asked.
"Do not regard him. He is used to such scenes. Hasten; Miss Temple. Fly ! the struggle is for life."
They sought every means of escape, but in vain. The whole surrounding mountain seemed enveloped in flame and smoke. Elizabeth, nearly overcome, said: "Leave me, Ed-wards. Tell my father—my poor, bereaved father—"
"Leave you!" exclaimed Edwards. "Oh, Miss Temple, how little you have known me! No, no, dearest Elizabeth, I may die with you, but I can never leave you!"
"Gal, where be ye, gal!" shouted a voice, and Leather-Stocking rushed on to the terrace, his deerskin cap gone, and his hair burnt. "Follow me! It's a matter of life and death for us all!"
Natty tried to arouse the Indian, but he refused to stir. "The Great Spirit says, 'Come!' Let Mohegan die!"
Deerslayer, seeing that it was useless to say more, hastily threw the chief on his back and led the way through an opening in the rocks to a terrace below, while Edwards, enveloping Miss Temple in Natty's deerskin, followed until they reached a place where they could breathe freely. Natty placed the Indian on the ground, and Elizabeth sank down, her heart swelling with conflicting emotions.
"I feel too much for words," she said, raising her beaming eyes to Edwards's face. "I am grateful, Oliver, for this miraculous escape; and, next to my God, to you."
The little platform on which they rested was hard by the cave which Judge Temple and the sheriff had visited a few days before. The body of Chingachgook, who died soon after he reached a place of safety, was carried into it; and this furnished a sufficient reason for not inviting Miss Temple to take shelter within though rain began to fall. When she was sufficiently recovered, Oliver conducted her down to the road where the voices of men in search of her were heard. Before parting, Oliver found opportunity to say, in a fervent manner which she was at no loss to understand :
"The moment of concealment is over, Miss Temple. By this time to-morrow I shall remove a veil that it has perhaps been my weakness to keep around me and my affairs so long.
God bless you! I hear your father's voice coming up the road. Thank Heaven, you are safe again!" He sprang into the woods without waiting for an answer; and the next minute she was clasped in her father's arms.
Edwards was true to his word. On the following day the sheriff with a posse comitatus went up the mountain prepared to arrest Natty and those who had abetted his escape from prison. Leather-Stocking was ready to defend the entrance with his rifle against the noisy crowd, when Judge Temple arrived on the ground, and soon restored peace. As soon as quiet was gained, Edwards and another bore out of the cave the figure of an aged man seated in a chair, whom they set down carefully in the midst of the assembly. His clothes, of fine material, were threadbare and patched, and his feet were covered with Indian moccasins. Long snow-white locks fell over a grave and dignified face, but his vacant eye, which turned from one to another of the bystanders, too surely announced the mental imbecility of childhood. A faint smile crossed his wasted face as he said, in tremulous tones:
"Be pleased to be seated, gentlemen; I pray you, be seated. The troops shall halt for the night."
"Who is this man?" asked Marmaduke in a hurried voice.
"This man," returned Edward calmly, "whom you behold hid in huts and caverns and deprived of everything that can make life desirable, was once the companion and counselor of those who ruled your country, and the owner of great riches; this man, Judge Temple, was the rightful proprietor of the soil on which we stand. This man was the father of—"
"This, then," cried Marmaduke with emotion, "is the lost Major Effingham! And you? and you?"
"I am his grandson."
A minute passed in silence. Then Marmaduke grasped the hand of the youth and said:
"Oliver, I forgive all thy harshness—all thy suspicions. I now see it all. I forgive thee everything but suffering this aged man to dwell in such a place, when not only my habitation, but my fortune, were at his and thy command."
The mystery of Natty's cabin and its inmates was easily explained. Natty Bumppo had been a servant in the family of Major Effingham, with whom he had served many years in campaigns in the West, where he became attached to the woods; and had been left as a kind of locum tenens on lands that old Mohegan had induced the Delawares to grant the Major when he was admitted an honorary member of the tribe. Major Effingham had been adopted by Chingachgook, then the greatest man in his nation, and given the name of the Eagle, which led to his grandson's being called the Young Eagle, this constituting his only title to Indian blood. Judge Temple had never seen Major Effingham, the father of his friend and secret partner, to whom he was so deeply indebted; and he had always supposed that the latter, as well as his son, had perished by shipwreck in Nova Scotia. Major Effingham had unaccountably disappeared after the war, and Judge Temple had long sought him in vain, little dreaming that he was living so near him in the hut of his old servant, Natty Bumppo. When all was explained and the Judge announced that half his property be-longed justly to Oliver, tears fell from the eyes of the young man as he recognized the good faith of Marmaduke.
"Do you yet doubt us, Oliver?" asked Elizabeth.
"I have never doubted you I" cried he, as he sprang to seize
her hand; "no, not one moment has my faith in you wavered." "And my father—"
"God bless him!"
"I thank thee, my son," said the Judge. "But we have both erred; thou hast been too hasty, and I have been too slow. One half of my estates shall be thine as soon as it can be conveyed to thee; and I suppose the other, if my suspicions prove true, will speedily follow."
With that he united the hand he held with that of Elizabeth.