The Pioneers by James Fenimore Cooper
"Your creeds and dogmas of a learned church
While the congregation was separating, Mr. Grant approached the place where Elizabeth and her father were seated, leading the youthful female whom we have mentioned in the preceding chapter, and presented her as his daughter. Her reception was as cordial and frank as the manners of the country and the value of good society could render it; the two young women feeling, instantly, that they were necessary to the comfort of each other, The Judge, to whom the clergyman’s daughter was also a stranger, was pleased to find one who, from habits, sex, and years, could probably contribute largely to the pleasures of his own child, during her first privations on her removal from the associations of a city to the solitude of Templeton; while Elizabeth, who had been forcibly struck with the sweetness and devotion of the youthful suppliant, removed the slight embarrassment of the timid stranger by the ease of her own manners. They were at once acquainted; and, during the ten minutes that the "academy" was clearing, engagements were made between the young people, not only for the succeeding day, but they would probably have embraced in their arrangements half of the winter, had not the divine interrupted them by saying:
"Gently, gently, my dear Miss Temple, or you will make my girl too dissipated. You forget that she is my housekeeper, and that my domestic affairs must remain unattended to, should Louisa accept of half the kind offers you are so good as to make her."
"And why should they not be neglected entirely, sir?" interrupted Elizabeth. "There are but two of you; and certain I am that my father’s house will not only contain you both, but will open its doors spontaneously to receive such guests. Society is a good not to he rejected on account of cold forms, in this wilderness, sir; and I have often heard my father say, that hospitality is not a virtue in a new country, the favor being conferred by the guest."
"The manner in which Judge Temple exercises its rites would confirm this opinion; but we must not trespass too freely. Doubt not that you will see us often, my child, particularly during the frequent visits that I shall be compelled to make to the distant parts of the country. But to obtain an influence with such a people," he continued, glancing his eyes toward the few who were still lingering, curious observers of the interview, "a clergyman most not awaken envy or distrust by dwelling under so splendid a roof as that of Judge Temple."
"You like the roof, then, Mr. Grant," cried Richard, who had been directing the extinguishment of the fires and other little necessary duties, and who approached in time to hear the close of the divine’s speech. "I am glad to find one man of taste at last. Here’s ‘Duke. now, pretends to call it by every abusive name he can invent; but though ‘Duke is a tolerable judge, he is a very poor carpenter, let me tell him. Well, sir, well, I think we may say, without boasting, that the service was as well per formed this evening as you often see; I think, quite as well as I ever knew it to be done in old Trinity--that is, if we except the organ. But there is the school-master leads the psalm with a very good air. I used to lead myself, but latterly I have sung nothing but bass. There is a good deal of science to be shown in the bass, and it affords a fine opportunity to show off a full, deep voice. Benjamin, too, sings a good bass, though he is often out in the words. Did you ever hear Benjamin sing the ‘Bay of Biscay, 0?"
"I believe he gave us part of it this evening," said Marmaduke, laughing. "There was, now and then, a fearful quaver in his voice, and it seems that Mr. Penguillian is like most others who do one thing particularly well; he knows nothing else. He has, certainly, a wonderful partiality to one tune, and he has a prodigious self- confidence in that one, for he delivers himself like a northwester sweeping across the lake. But come, gentlemen, our way is clear, and the sleigh waits. Good-evening, Mr. Grant. Good-night, young lady-- remember you dine beneath the Corinthian roof, to-morrow, with Elizabeth."
The parties separated, Richard holding a close dissertation with Mr. Le Quoi, as they descended the stairs, on the subject of psalmody, which he closed by a violent eulogium on the air of the "Bay of Biscay, 0," as particularly connected with his friend Benjamin’s execution.
During the preceding dialogue, Mohegan retained his seat, with his head shrouded in his blanket, as seemingly inattentive to surrounding objects as the departing congregation was itself to the presence of the aged chief, Natty, also, continued on the log where he had first placed himself, with his head resting on one of his hands, while the other held the rifle, which was thrown carelessly across his lap. His countenance expressed uneasiness, and the occasional unquiet glances that he had thrown around him during the service plainly indicated some unusual causes for unhappiness. His continuing seated was, how ever, out of respect to the Indian chief. to whom he paid the utmost deference on all occasions, although it was mingled with the rough manner of a hunter.
The young companion of these two ancient inhabitants of the forest remained also standing before the extinguished brands, probably from an unwillingness to depart without his comrades. The room was now deserted by all but this group, the divine, and his daughter. As the party from the mansion-house disappeared, John arose, and, dropping the blanket from his head, he shook back the mass of black hair from his face, and, approaching Mr. Grant, he extended his hand, and said solemnly:
"Father, I thank you. The words that have been said, since the rising moon, have gone upward, and the Great Spirit is glad. What you have told your children, they will remember, and be good." He paused a moment, and then, elevating himself with the grandeur of an Indian chief, he added: "If Chingachgook lives to travel toward the setting sun, after his tribe, and the Great Spirit carries him over the lakes and mountains with the breath of his body, he will tell his people the good talk he has heard; and they will believe him; for who can say that Mohegan has ever lied?"
"Let him place his dependence on the goodness of Divine mercy," said Mr. Grant, to whom the proud consciousness of the Indian sounded a little heterodox, "and it never will desert him. When the heart is filled with love to God, there is no room for sin. But, young man, to you I owe not only an obligation, in common with those you saved this evening on the mountain, but my thanks for your respectable and pious manner in assisting in the service at a most embarrassing moment. I should be happy to see you sometimes at my dwelling, when, perhaps, my conversation may strengthen you in the path which you appear to have chosen. It is so unusual to find one of your age and appearance, in these woods, at all acquainted with our holy liturgy, that it lessens at once the distance between us, and I feel that we are no longer strangers. You seem quite at home in the service; I did not perceive that you had even a book, although good Mr. Jones. had laid several in different parts of the room."
"It would be strange if I were ignorant of the service of our church, sir," returned the youth modestly; "for I was baptized in its communion and I have never yet attended public worship elsewhere. For me to use the forms of any other denomination would be as singular as our own have proved to the people here this evening."
"You give me great pleasure, my dear sir," cried the divine, seizing the other by the hand, and shaking it cordially. "You will go home with me now--indeed you must--my child has yet to thank you for saving my life. I will-listen to no apologies. This worthy Indian, and your friend, there, will accompany us. Bless me! to think that’ he has arrived at manhood in this country, without entering a dissenting * meeting-house!"
"No, no," interrupted the Leather-Stocking, "I must away to the wigwam; there’s work there that mustn’t be forgotten for all your churchings and merry-makings. Let the lad go with you in welcome; he is used to keeping company with ministers, and talking of such matters; so is old John, who was christianized by the Moravians abouts the time of the old war. But I am a plain unlarned man, that has sarved both the king and his country, in his day, agin’ the French and savages, but never so much as looked into a book, or larnt a letter of scholarship, in my born days. I’ve never seen the use of much in-door work, though I have lived to be partly bald, and in my time have killed two hundred beaver in a season, and that without counting thc other game. If you mistrust what I am telling you, you can ask Chingachgook there, for I did it in the heart of the Delaware country, and the old man is knowing to the truth of every word I say."
"I doubt not, my friend, that you have been both a valiant soldier and skilful hunter in your day," said the divine; "but more is wanting to prepare you for that end which approaches. You may have heard the maxim, that ‘young men may die, but that old men must’"
"I’m sure I never was so great a fool as to expect to live forever," said Natty, giving one of his silent laughs; "no man need do that who trails the savages through the woods, as I have done, and lives, for the hot months, on the lake streams. I’ve a strong constitution, I must say that for myself, as is plain to be seen; for I’ve drunk the Onondaga water a hundred times, while I’ve been watching the deer- licks, when the fever-an’-agy seeds was to be seen in it as plain and as plenty as you can see the rattle snakes on old Crumhorn. But then I never expected to hold out forever; though there’s them living who have seen the German flats a wilderness; ay! and them that’s larned, and acquainted with religion, too; though you might look a week, now, and not find even the stump of a pine on them; and that’s a wood that lasts in the ground the better part of a hundred years after the tree is dead."
"This is but time, my good friend," returned Mr. Grant, who began to take an interest in the welfare of his new acquaintance, "but I would have you prepare for eternity. It is incumbent on you to attend places of public worship, as I am pleased to see that you have done this evening. Would it not he heedless in you to start on a day’s toil of hard hunting, and leave your ramrod and flint behind?"
"It must be a young hand in the woods," interrupted Natty, with another laugh, "that didn’t know how to dress a rod out of an ash sapling or find a fire-stone in the mountains. No, no, I never expected to live forever; but I see, times be altering in these mountains from what they was thirty years ago, or, for that matter, ten years. But might makes right, and the law is stronger than an old man, whether he is one that has much laming, or only like me, that is better now at standing at the passes than in following the hounds, as I once used to could. Heigh-ho! I never know’d preaching come into a settlement but it made game scarce, and raised the price of gunpowder; and that’s a thing that’s not as easily made as a ramrod or an Indian flint."
The divine, perceiving that he had given his opponent an argument by his own unfortunate selection of a comparison, very prudently relinquished the controversy; although he was fully determined to resume it at a more happy moment, Repeating his request to the young hunter with great earnestness, the youth and Indian consented to ac company him and his daughter to the dwelling that the care of Mr. Jones had provided for their temporary residence. Leather-Stocking persevered in his intention of returning to the hut, and at the door of the building they separated.
After following the course of one of the streets of the village a short distance. Mr. Grant, who led the way, turned into a field, through a pair of open bars, and entered a footpath, of but sufficient width to admit one person to walk in at a time. The moon had gained a height that enabled her to throw her rays perpendicularly on the valley; and the distinct shadows of the party flitted along on the banks of the silver snow, like the presence of aerial figures, gliding to their appointed place of meeting. The night still continued intensely cold, although not a breath of wind was felt. The path was beaten so hard that the gentle female, who made one of the party, moved with ease along its windings; though the frost emitted a low creaking at the impression of even her light footsteps.
The clergyman in his dark dress of broadcloth, with his mild, benevolent countenance occasionally turned toward his companions, expressing that look of subdued care which was its characteristic, presented the first object in this singular group. Next to him moved the Indian, his hair falling about his face, his head uncovered, and the rest of his form concealed beneath his blanket. As his swarthy visage, with its muscles fixed in rigid composure, was seen under the light of the moon, which struck his face obliquely, he seemed a picture of resigned old age, on whom the storms of winter had beaten in vain for the greater part of a century; but when, in turning his head, the rays fell directly on his dark, fiery eyes, they told a tale of passions unrestrained, and of thoughts free as air. The slight person of Miss Grant, which followed next, and which was but too thinly clad for the severity of the season, formed a marked contrast to thc wild attire and uneasy glances of the Delaware chief; and more than once during their walk, the young hunter, himself no insignificant figure in the group, was led to consider the difference in the human form, as the face of Mohegan and the gentle countenance of Miss Grant, with eyes that rivalled the soft hue of the sky, met his view at the instant that each turned to throw a glance at the splendid orb which lighted their path. Their way, which led through fields that lay at some distance in the rear of the houses, was cheered by a conversation that flagged or became animated with the subject. The first to speak was the divine.
"Really," he said, "it is so singular a circumstance to meet with one of your age, that has not been induced by idle curiosity to visit any other church than the one in which he has been educated, that I feel a strong curiosity to know the history of a life so fortunately regulated. Your education must have been excellent; as indeed is evident from your manners and language. Of which of the States are you a native, Mr. Edwards? for such, I believe, was the name that you gave Judge Temple."
"Of this! I was at a loss to conjecture, from your dialect, which does not partake, particularly, of the peculiarities of any country with which I am acquainted. You have, then, resided much in the cities, for no other part of this country is so fortunate as to possess the constant enjoyment of our excellent liturgy."
The young hunter smiled, as he listened to the divine while he so clearly betrayed from what part of the country he had come himself; but, for reasons probably connected with his present situation, he made no answer.
"I am delighted to meet with you, my young friend, for I think an ingenuous mind, such as I doubt not yours must be, will exhibit all the advantages of a settled doctrine and devout liturgy. You perceive how I was compelled to bend to the humors of my hearers this evening. Good Mr. Jones wished me to read the communion, and, in fact, all the morning service; but, happily, the canons do not require this of an evening. It would have wearied a new congregation; but to-morrow I purpose administering the sacrament, Do you commune, my young friend?"
"I believe not, sir," returned the youth, with a little embarrassment, that was not at all diminished by Miss Grant’s pausing involuntarily, and turning her eyes on him in surprise; "I fear that I am not qualified; I have never yet approached the altar; neither would I wish to do it while I find so much of the world clinging to my heart."
"Each must judge for himself," said Mr. Grant; "though I should think that a youth who had never been blown about by the wind of false doctrines, and who has enjoyed the advantages of our liturgy for so many years in its purity, might safely come. Yet, sir, it is a solemn festival, which none should celebrate until there is reason to hope it is not mockery. I observed this evening, in your manner to Judge Temple, a resentment that bordered on one of the worst of human passions, We will cross this brook on the ice; it must bear us all, I think, in safety. Be careful not to slip, my child." While speaking, he descended a little bank by the path, and crossed one of the small streams that poured their waters into the lake; and, turning to see his daughter pass, observed that the youth had advanced, and was kindly directing her footsteps. When all were safely over, he moved up the opposite bank, and continued his discourse. "It was wrong, my dear sir, very wrong, to suffer such feelings to rise, under any circumstances, and especially in the present, where the evil was not intended."
"There is good in the talk of my father," said Mohegan, stopping short, and causing those who Were behind him to pause also; "it is the talk of Miquon. The white man may do as his fathers have told him; but the ‘Young Eagle’ has the blood of a Delaware chief in his veins; it is red, and the stain it makes can only be washed out with the blood of a Mingo."
Mr. Grant was surprised by the interruption of the Indian, and, stopping, faced the speaker. His mild features were confronted to the fierce and determined looks of the chief, and expressed the horror he felt at hearing such sentiments from one who professed the religion of his Saviour. Raising his hands to a level with his head, he exclaimed:
"John, John! is this the religion that you have learned from the Moravians? But no--I will not be so uncharitable as to suppose it. They are a pious, a gentle, and a mild people, and could never tolerate these passions. Listen to the language of the Redeemer: ‘But I say unto you, love your enemies; bless them that curse you; do good to them that hate you; pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you.’ This is the command of God, John, and, without striving to cultivate such feelings, no man can see Him."
The Indian heard the divine with attention; the unusual fire of his eye gradually softened, and his muscles relaxed into their ordinary composure; but, slightly shaking his head, he motioned with dignity for Mr. Grant to resume his walk, and followed himself in silence, The agitation of the divine caused him to move with unusual rapidity along the deep path, and the Indian, without any apparent exertion, kept an equal pace; but the young hunter observed the female to linger in her steps, until a trifling distance intervened between the two former and the latter. Struck by the circumstance, and not perceiving any new impediment to retard her footstep, the youth made a tender of his assistance.
"You are fatigued, Miss Grant," he said; "the snow yields to the foot, and you are unequal to the strides of us men. Step on the crust, I entreat you, and take the help of my arm, Yonder light is, I believe, the house of your father; but it seems yet at some distance."
"I am quite equal to the walk," returned a low, tremulous voice; "but I am startled by the manner of that Indian, Oh! his eye was horrid, as he turned to the moon, in speaking to my father. But I forgot, sir; he is your friend, and by his language may be your relative; and yet of you I do not feel afraid."
The young man stepped on the bank of snow, which firmly sustained his weight, and by a gentle effort induced his companion to follow. Drawing her arm through his own, he lifted his cap from his head, allowing the dark locks to flow in rich curls over his open brow, and walked by her side with an air of conscious pride, as if inviting an examination of his utmost thoughts. Louisa took but a furtive glance at his person, and moved quietly along, at a rate that was greatly quickened by the aid of his arm.
"You are but little acquainted with this peculiar people, Miss Grant," he said, "or you would know that revenge is a virtue with an Indian. They are taught, from infancy upward, to believe it a duty never to allow an injury to pass unrevenged; and nothing but the stronger claims of hospitality can guard one against their resentments where they have power."
"Surely, sir," said Miss Grant, involuntarily withdrawing her arm from his, "you have not been educated with such unholy sentiments?"
"It might be a sufficient answer to your excellent father to say that I was educated in the church," he returned; "but to you I will add that I have been taught deep and practical lessons of forgiveness. I believe that, on this subject, I have but little cause to reproach myself; it shall he my endeavor that there yet be less."
While speaking, he stopped, and stood with his arm again proffered to her assistance. As he ended, she quietly accepted his offer, and they resumed their walk.
Mr. Grant and Mohegan had reached the door of the former's residence, and stood waiting near its threshold for the arrival of their young companions. The former was earnestly occupied in endeavoring to correct, by his precepts, the evil propensities that he had discovered in the Indian during their conversation; to which the latter listened in Profound but respectful attention. On the arrival of the young hunter and the lady, they entered the building. The house stood at some distance from the village, in the centre of a field, surrounded by stumps that were peering above the snow, bearing caps of pure white, nearly two feet in thickness. Not a tree nor a shrub was nigh it; but the house, externally, exhibited that cheer less, unfurnished aspect which is so common to the hastily erected dwellings of a new country. The uninviting character of its outside was, however, happily relieved by the exquisite neatness and comfortable warmth within.
They entered an apartment that was fitted as a parlor, though the large fireplace, with its culinary arrangements, betrayed the domestic uses to which it was occasionally applied. The bright blaze from the hearth rendered the light that proceeded from the candle Louisa produced unnecessary; for the scanty furniture of the room was easily seen and examined by the former. The floor was covered in the centre by a carpet made of rags, a species of manufacture that was then, and yet continues to be, much in use in the interior; while its edges, that were exposed to view, were of unspotted cleanliness. There was a trifling air of better life in a tea-table and work-stand, as well as in an old-fashioned mahogany bookcase; but the chairs, the dining- table, and the rest of the furniture were of the plainest and cheapest construction, Against the walls were hung a few specimens of needle- work and drawing, the former executed with great neatness, though of somewhat equivocal merit in their designs, while the latter were strikingly deficient in both,
One of the former represented a tomb, with a youthful female weeping over it, exhibiting a church with arched windows in the background. On the tomb were the names, with the dates of the births and deaths, of several individuals, all of whom bore the name of Grant. An extremely cursory glance at this record was sufficient to discover to the young hunter the domestic state of the divine. He there read that he was a widower; and that the innocent and timid maiden, who had been his companion, was the only survivor of six children. The knowledge of the dependence which each of these meek Christians had on the other for happiness threw an additional charm around the gentle but kind attentions which the daughter paid to the father.
These observations occurred while the party were seating themselves before the cheerful fire, during which time there was a suspension of discourse. But, when each was comfortably arranged, and Louisa, after laying aside a thin coat of faded silk, and a gypsy hat, that was more becoming to her modest, ingenuous countenance than appropriate to the season, had taken a chair between her father and the youth, the former resumed the conversation.
"I trust, my young friend," he said, "that the education you have received has eradicated most of those revengeful principles which you may have inherited by descent, for I understand from the expressions of John that you have some of the blood of the Delaware tribe. Do not mistake me, I beg, for it is not color nor lineage that constitutes merit; and I know not that he who claims affinity to the proper owners of this soil has not the best right to tread these hills with the lightest conscience."
Mohegan turned solemnly to the speaker, and, with the peculiarly significant gestures of an Indian, he spoke:
"Father, you are not yet past the summer of life; your limbs are young. Go to the highest hill, and look around you. All that you see, from the rising to the setting sun, from the head-waters of the great spring, to where the ‘crooked river’* is hid by the hills, is his. He has Delaware blood, and his right is strong.
But the brother of Miquon is just; he will cut the country in two parts, as the river cuts the lowlands, and will say to the ‘Young Eagle,’ ‘Child of the Delawares! take it--keep it; and be a chief in the land of your fathers.’"
"Never!" exclaimed the young hunter, with a vehemence that destroyed the rapt attention with which the divine and his daughter were listening to the Indian. "The wolf of the forest is not more rapacious for his prey than that man is greedy of gold; and yet his glidings into wealth are subtle as the movements of a serpent."
"Forbear, forbear, my son, forbear," interrupted Mr. Grant. "These angry passions most be subdued. The accidental injury you have received from Judge Temple has heightened the sense of your hereditary wrongs. But remember that the one was unintentional, and that the other is the effect of political changes, which have, in their course, greatly lowered the pride of kings, and swept mighty nations from the face of the earth. Where now are the Philistines, who so often held the children of Israel in bondage? or that city of Babylon, which rioted in luxury and vice, and who styled herself the Queen of Nations in the drunkenness of her pride? Remember the prayer of our holy litany, where we implore the Divine Power--’that it may please thee to forgive our enemies, persecutors, and slanderers, and to turn their hearts. The sin of the wrongs which have been done to the natives is shared by Judge Temple only in common with a whole people, and your arm will speedily be restored to its strength."
"This arm!" repeated the youth, pacing the floor in violent agitation. "Think you, sir, that I believe the man a murderer? Oh, no! he is too wily, too cowardly, for such a crime. But let him and his daughter riot in their wealth--a day of retribution will come. No, no, no," he continued, as he trod the floor more calmly--" it is for Mohegan to suspect him of an intent to injure me; but the trifle is not worth a second thought." He seated himself, and hid his face between his hands, as they rested on his knees.
"It is the hereditary violence of a native’s passion, my child," said Mr. Grant in a low tone to his affrighted daughter, who was clinging in terror to his arm. "He is mixed with the blood of the Indians, you have heard; and neither the refinements of education nor the advantages of our excellent liturgy have been able entirely to eradicate the evil. But care and time will do much for him yet."
Although the divine spoke in a low tone, yet what he uttered was heard by the youth, who raised his head, with a smile of indefinite expression, and spoke more calmly:
"Be not alarmed, Miss Grant, at either the wildness of my manner or that of my dress. I have been carried away by passions that I should struggle to repress. I must attribute it, with your father, to the blood in my veins, although I would not impeach my lineage willingly; for it is all that is left me to boast of. Yes! I am proud of my descent from a Delaware chief, who was a warrior that ennobled human nature. Old Mohegan was his friend, and will vouch for his virtues."
Mr. Grant here took up the discourse, and, finding the young man more calm, and the aged chief attentive, he entered into a full and theological discussion of the duty of forgiveness. The conversation lasted for more than an hour, when the visitors arose, and, after exchanging good wishes with their entertainers, they departed. At the door they separated, Mohegan taking the direct route to the village, while the youth moved toward the lake. The divine stood at the entrance of his dwelling, regarding the figure of the aged chief as it glided, at an astonishing gait for his years, along the deep path; his black, straight hair just visible over the bundle formed by his blanket, which was sometimes blended with the snow, under the silvery light of the moon. From the rear of the house was a window that overlooked the lake; and here Louisa was found by her father, when he entered, gazing intently on some object in the direction of the eastern mountain. He approached the spot, and saw the figure of the young hunter, at the distance of half a mile, walking with prodigious steps across the wide fields of frozen snow that covered the ice, toward the point where he knew the hut inhabited by the Leather- Stocking was situated on the margin of the lake, under a rock that was crowned by pines and hemlocks. At the next instant, the wild looking form entered the shadow cast from the over-hanging trees, and was lost to view.
"It is marvellous how long the propensities of the savage continue in that remarkable race," said the good divine; "but if he perseveres as he has commenced, his triumph shall yet be complete. Put me in mind, Louisa, to lend him the homily ‘against peril of idolatry,’ at his next visit."
"Surety, father, you do not think him in danger of relapsing into the worship of his ancestors?"
"No, my child," returned the clergyman, laying his hand affectionately on her flaxen locks, and smiling; "his white blood would prevent it; but there is such a thing as the idolatry of our passions."