Frederic Jesup Stimson - (j. S. Of Dale) (united States, 1855) King Noanett (1896)
This story was intended to be the joint work of Mr. Stimson and the late John Boyle O'Reilly. The plan had been discussed by the authors, and the outline of the story fixed, but nothing had been written when Mr. O'Reilly died. Mr. Stimson then worked out the plan alone. The story purports to narrate the experiences of a young Englishman who was transported for taking part in an uprising of adherents of King Charles against the Commonwealth established by Cromwell. The early scenes are laid in southwestern England, beginning in 1657, but the action is soon transferred to Virginia, and thence to Massachusetts. The version that we present here has been revised and approved by the author.
WAS but a stripling of twenty when I met my lady on a Devonshire moor. She was the grand-daughter of Colonel Penruddock, a stubborn adherent of King Charles. This was in 1657, when, as you know, the Commonwealth was enthroned in England, with Cromwell at its head.
I was no partizan in these high matters, having only a fatherless boy's knowledge of them, but if I had chosen my colors because of my associations I should have been for the Commonwealth, as that was the side espoused by my grandfather with whom I lived; still, as Miss St. Aubyn was for Charles, so was I, and on the occasion of John Penruddock's futile uprising at South Molton, I took my share with him to the small extent of saving his life when a Roundhead would have shot him. That night I went to save my love, whose grandfather Penruddock's house was burned.
I found that she had escaped; but in a room of that burning house was an ivory crucifix, and one night on the moor I had heard a man's voice singing an old Jacobite tune. For my complicity in rebellion I was arrested, with Penruddock and others, and brought to trial. My fate was deportation to Virginia. What became of Penruddock, who was tried later, I could not learn; but there were rumors that he had been hanged, drawn, and quartered. So I had to sail for America in the most dismal ignorance concerning the fate of my lady, whom I loved with all the blind, unreasoning ardor of which youth is capable.
During the voyage I was fortunate in becoming firm friends with Miles Courtenay, a humorous, fight-loving, and true-hearted Irishman, who, like me, had been convicted of disloyalty to the Commonwealth. There were in the ship's company a number of young women, sent to be wives of the colonists, and among them a maid, Jennifer, whom Miles protected from the rascally attentions of the ship's mate. By the exercise of his smiling audacity, which made him ever a favorite with women and caused him to be trusted by men, Miles obtained for her a transfer from the steerage to the cabin; and after we had come ashore he also saved her from being married to a colonist, managing to get her engaged as a servant on a plantation not far from Jamestown. For ourselves, we were bound over, to all intents and purposes slaves, to different planters, Miles for three years and I for ten. Long before the expiration of Miles's term we three escaped and made our way together to Boston.
While we were on this perilous journey Miles confided to me the real reason why he had urged flight to New England, for he had been our leader in the escape. He, too, had loved a lady across the water, but he was in better favor with fortune than I, for he knew at least this much: that she had gone to the New England provinces; and he was bent on searching every settlement until he found her.
"Will she wait for you?" I asked him.
"Nay, that I know not," said he, "for I never told her my love. That is where fate has dealt better by you, for you and your lady had come to an understanding. In my case there was not time. But I shall find her. The country is not so populated yet that anybody by the name of Clerke can escape discovery."
It appeared that little Jennifer was coming to think too well.
of Miles, and, at his request, undertook the ungrateful task of warning her that his affections were engaged elsewhere. She was evidently startled by the information, but, with no appreciable hesitation, declared that she herself would help him find his lady,
"Clerke, is it?" said she, "Very well, I, too, will inquire everywhere for persons of that name."
We obtained employment for Jennifer in the family of Colonel Jones, who lived in a fine house on Beacon Hill, and I entered the service of Savil Simpson, a cordwainer. Miles would not undertake business, or any form of steady employment. He had some money and earned a little more at odd jobs, but he spent all he earned, and most of his time, in traveling all over the provinces, visiting every settlement in Massachusetts Bay, Ply-mouth, and Providence Plantations, and exploring those regions westward where only pioneers lived in scattered houses. Thus he came to know the country more thoroughly, perhaps, than any one man at that time, but he found no trace of the Clerke family. There were, of course, others of that name, or names nearly like it, to whom he went whenever and wherever he heard of them, but at no time was his persistence properly re-warded, or did he become entirely discouraged. "I shall find her," he would say, and set his lips firmly, only to open them immediately for a gay jest or a rollicking song.
For my part, I was equally unsuccessful in getting information about Miss St. Aubyn. I wrote letters to which no answers came. I inquired of all newcomers to Boston about the fate of John Penruddock. There were conflicting reports. Some had it that his sentence had been commuted, others that he had somehow escaped and gone to the Continent, but just where no one could say. Mr. Simpson sent me to the Barbadoes as super-cargo, a venture that profited me much in money, which I tried to turn to dearer account by getting the Governor to write to England for information as to Penruddock and Miss St. Aubyn; but nothing ever came of it. The Governor wrote, and more than a year later he told me no trace of Penruddock or the lady had been found. And all this while I was hard put to it to maintain a cheerful demeanor, for truly my heart and all that made life tolerable had been left in England.
Although Miles had traveled the country over, and would not commit himself to any commercial undertaking, he yet would not leave the province. Here he was bound to stay till such time as he had discovered the whereabouts of Miss Clerke. As there was no war to gratify his taste for fighting, and as he dearly loved hunting, he decided at last to acquire a tract of land in the wilds and settle upon it. He persuaded me to join him in this venture, which I could do without separating myself wholly from the opportunities offered by association with Mr. Simpson. We obtained patent to land lying on the Charles, a few miles west of Dedham. Beyond was unbroken wilderness, so far as white men were concerned, except for the Hartford trail, which lay not far away. To the south was the country of King Philip, for whom we felt no concern; but nearer—that is, between King Philip's country and our patent was a tribe so hostile that our very approach to our forest domain was attended by battle in which we killed one Indian and one of our two white employees was wounded. This tribe was ruled by a chief of great renown, King Noanett; but he was not in the attacking party, which was led by a kind of lieutenant of the King, called Pomham. We patched up a truce with him, by the terms of which we were not to invade the country to the south, and Noanett's Indians were not to molest us.
This truce was broken not very long afterward by me. We had cleared land sufficient to justify plowing, and I went east-ward to buy oxen. ,Returning with the animals, I thought to ease the journey by leaving the thickly grown region of the crooked river and pursuing a course in a more direct line south of the stream. This brought me unwittingly upon Noanett's territory. It seemed he was always prepared for war, for scouts were stationed ever at what he considered his frontier. They attacked me, Indian fashion, unseen, and killed both my oxen. I was made prisoner and was taken, unconscious—for I had fallen and lay stunned—into Noanett's presence. He was an aged, white-haired man, horribly painted, and was the embodiment of taciturnity. Pomham acted as interpreter. I protested vigorously that they had wrongfully destroyed my property, to which they responded that I had invaded their country. Then I insisted that I was on a peaceful errand, and, to make the matter short, Noanett was persuaded to my view. The King handed me some silver slugs in compensation for the oxen, and I was blindfolded and led away, and eventually was set at liberty within easy walk of our patent. Noanett also gave me to under-stand that for one year we might count on cultivating our land without molestation.
This was a comparatively satisfactory outcome of the matter, especially as, when I next journeyed to Boston, I found that the slugs of silver were pure metal, worth more than the price of another yoke of oxen. But the slugs aroused the cupidity of my friends Simpson and Jones. They regarded them as evidence that King Noanett had discovered a valuable mine, and nothing would do but white men must get possession of it. I would not sanction any action during the term of the truce; but when that had expired I could not prevent Jones and Simpson from coming to us with canoes filled with trinkets which they thought to barter with Noanett for his mine. Miles was ready for the undertaking, as it promised some fighting; but, good soldier though he was, he led us to such a defeat as I suppose no whites had ever endured at the hands of the red men.
We approached Noanett's country by a small stream that ran quietly between thick growths of alders. Of a sudden the stream rose in a mighty wave that overturned all our canoes and threw us into the trees. I clung to a limb with one hand, the other being helpless, for my arm was broken. Miles escaped unhurt. Being ahead and alert, he had jumped ashore the moment he saw the wave coming. The stream had been dammed for just such a contingency as our approach, and at the critical moment the sluices had been opened to overwhelm us. The men from Boston had had quite enough of the venture; and as I was now useless, the enterprise was abandoned.
About this time Miles came to the habit of working by night and sleeping by day. He did the felling of trees, for his active nature rejoiced in strenuous exercise. "Moore," he whispered one day, "she is dead." Of course I knew to whom he alluded, and I turned upon him a startled look of inquiry. Then he told me how, when we were overwhelmed by Noanett's flood, and he was tossed high on the bank, he had seen her robed in white. I was grievously affected and sought as best I could to dispel the fantasy from his mind, but to no avail. Miles clung to his belief that he had seen the wraith of his lady, and we talked no more of it, for I felt that argument would but increase his disorder.
I was the one always who made the necessary journeys to Boston, and on these occasions I called on Jennifer. She never failed to send a letter back to Miles, and she was always eager for news of his search for his lady. Once she visited us, quite unexpectedly, coming up the river with Colonel Jones, who had not wholly given up hope of obtaining possession of Noanett's mine. It was evening, and Miles had gone wandering into the forest for the night. I knew that when the moon rose he would ply his ax in the clearing not far from our house, and so I told Jennifer she would better wait till that time before trying to see him. In the interval she told us a striking story.
Her situation with Colonel Jones's family had so much improved that she was no longer a menial, but had much liberty of action; and she had become a voluntary visitor to the afflicted. Thus she fell in with a sick Indian, a captive whose tribe, he in-formed her, had once captured a white man named Clerke who had a maiden with him. Clerke impressed the Indians with his skill in medicine. He seemed to them to be a powerful wizard, and they respected and feared him. The maiden had what Jennifer's Indian called a totem, to which she prayed, and which she gave to the dying to kiss. He had been of service to her in the perilous days of her early captivity, and in return she taught him what she could of Christianity, and eventually gave him her totem. The Indian had lost all trace of her whereabouts, but the influence she had exerted on his mind remained, and in his way he was a devout Christian. He knew he was dying, and in his last conscious moment he gave Jennifer the young woman's totem.
This "totem" was an ivory crucifix, beautifully carved. Needless to say that Jennifer believed it to have been the property of Miles's lady.
We went at last to the clearing where Miles worked at night, but he was not there. After waiting some time, I noticed a path leading down toward a swamp, and we decided to follow it. It brought us, by means of a fallen log which served as a bridge, to a little island in the swamp, densely grown with cedar. The foliage had been made thicket still by wattles of boughs, but there was a clear entrance to a rectangular spate front which every tree had been cut. This space was about five yards square, level, and as clean as a house-floor. At the farther end was a rude altar and a great cross hewn of stripped wood and covered with forest vines; and before this we saw Miles kneeling in prayer. We stood there a moment in motionless awe. Then Jennifer went to the altar and placed the ivory crucifix upon it. Miles apparently did not observe her presence or action, and we withdrew silently.
When we had coin back to out house we found runner just arrived from Meadfield with intelligence that King Philip had attacked the village. I fired my gun as a signal to Miles to come, and in short order he was with us. Let pass the horrors we saw that night; for of course we hastened to Meadfield with such men as we could muster, and what happened there is familiar history. Ï am here concerned more with our personal affairs. On our way to the burning village Miles showed me the crucifix.
"It belonged to her," said he. "I gave it to her, and last night I was visited by the Holy Virgin, who returned it to me. Now will you believe that she is dead?"
I could not tell him what virgin it was that had brought him the relic of his lady until after the fighting at Meadfield; but when Ï did repeat Jennifer's story I was relieved to observe that he believed the. The illusion left his mind, and in place of it came a renewed determination to search the world over for Miss Clerke. It seemed from some things the dying Indian had told Jennifer that Clerke might have gone among the Mohawks, and we were quite decided to travel westward until we had come to those Indians; but immediate departure on that journey was impossible, for when we returned to our house we found that a snakeskin stuffed with powder and ball had been left there with a paper on which was written in fair English script: "From Pomham." This we knew to be a declaration of war, and, even in our excited preparation for battle, we wondered who had done the Indian king's writing for him.
There was small time for speculation, for the attack was soot made. Our house was surrounded by a strong stockade, we had About a score of defenders all told, and plenty of ammunition. We gave the attacking party such a storm of hot iron and lead that the Indians quickly tired of the combat and retreated.
As soon as it was light we pursued, and invaded Noanett's country by the same route we had taken when our mission was concerned with bartering for a silver mine. This time no pent-up waters were released to overwhelm us, but we found that the stream had been skilfully dammed in three places. Above the last dam was Noanett's village, now deserted. It had many evidences of a higher degree of civilization than had been attained by any other tribe of which we had knowledge. Colonel Jones, who accompanied us, found abundant signs that the Indian king had worked in metals; but careful search revealed nothing of value in the neighborhood.
We might have searched farther than we did, had not shots from the direction of our house warned us to return. We did so with all haste, and those who had been left to guard the place told us that during our absence a great flotilla of canoes had passed up the river bearing King Noanett and all his people. Jennifer had seen the King and also a young English lady who sat in his canoe, and who seemed to be weeping. Miles and I exchanged glances. Thus we told each other that it would not be necessary to journey to the land of the Mohawks. We decided without debate to pursue Noanett and, if possible, surround his party so that the battle might be final, and with as little delay as possible our force took to the river. Jennifer begged so hard for permission to accompany us that I took her in my canoe.
It was about sunset when we came to a place from which the smoke of the Indians' camp was visible. It was evident that pursuit was not feared, Noanett reasoning undoubtedly that all white men would concentrate against the forces of King Philip. Our plan then was to divide our force, a part to march through the forest and come down upon the camp from the farther side, while the rest attacked from this position where we all were at the moment. Before it was dark I reconnoitered the approach to Noanett's camp; for it was to be my part to lead the attack from this direction. I climbed a hill that descended steeply on the other side, and at the base, just below me, I saw the tents of the enemy. From the largest, evidently King Noanett's tent, came a young woman—a white woman. She stood looking dreamily around, as it seemed, and presently her face was turned toward me. I knew that face! It was that of the love I had left in England.
It would be vain to attempt any description of my emotions. Suffice it that when I returned to our camp I apprised Miles of what I had seen, and assured him that as soon as we had rescued Miss St. Aubyn I would set out with him for the land of the Mohawks to find Miss Clerke.
"God bless thee, Moore," he responded. "Art quite sure you love her still, and that she loves you?"
I told him I made no doubt of either, and he proceeded straightway to lay out the plan of our attack. He departed soon afterward with chosen men to get on the other side of the Indians.
Just before dawn Miles delivered his attack from up-stream. All Noanett's Indians ran to meet it. My men, therefore, rushed down on the camp and captured it without a struggle, for there were left there only the King and my lady. They came from the tent as we drew near, and I announced myself. What passed between us when she recognized me I have no need to say, but it was little, for just then the King came forth. His face was not painted, and I saw that he was John Penruddock. Hardly had this recognition taken place when the battle up-stream demanded our attention. My men and I ran to the re-lief of Miles, and so completed the capture of Noanett's band.
But Miles was pierced with a spear, and it was well that Jennifer had come with us, for he suffered her to attend him as he would not any other. We removed him to our house, hoping still to save his life. He would not see me, and on no account would he permit Miss St. Aubyn to see him. We could not understand this, but we humored his desire until one night when, Jennifer having been absent a little while from his room, he disappeared. Jennifer believed she knew where to find him, and sped toward the chapel in the swamp. Miss St. Aubyn and I followed. When we arrived there Miles was dead, and then, and not till then, did my lady see him.
"Miles Courtenay!" she exclaimed at once.
"You knew him?" said I.
"He helped us escape from England," she replied. "With-out him we could have done nothing. He never knew who we were, for my grandfather had already taken the name of Clerke and would not reveal his real identity to anybody." And it was his voice I had heard singing on the moor.
She never had known of his love, and it was not till the night before our attack on "King Noanett" that Miles suspected that he and I loved the same lady. I look back on that evening now and see evidence that he had reconnoitered the position as well as I, and I have no doubt that he saw the lady, and that my joyous revelation was the first intimation he had of the true situation. And so he chose to die to leave me happy and in ignorance.
I returned to England with John Penruddock and my lady, and we were married there; but although Charles had come into his own, affairs did not prosper with us in the old country, and we returned to make our home here in the wilderness that Miles Courtenay helped to clear.
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
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