The Pioneers by James Fenimore Cooper
"I am dumb.
During the five or six minutes that elapsed before the youth and Major reappeared. Judge Temple and the sheriff together with most of the volunteers, ascended to the terrace, where the latter began to express their conjectures of the result, and to recount their individual services in the conflict. But the sight of the peace-makers ascending the ravine shut every mouth.
On a rude chair, covered with undressed deer-skins, they supported a human being, whom they seated carefully and respectfully in the midst of the assembly. His head was covered by long, smooth locks of the color of snow. His dress, which was studiously neat and clean, was composed of such fabrics as none but the wealthiest classes wear, but was threadbare and patched ; and on his feet were placed a pair of moccasins, ornamented in the best manner of Indian ingenuity. The outlines of his face were grave and dignified, though his vacant eye, which opened and turned slowly to the faces of those around him in unmeaning looks, too surely’ announced that the period had arrived when age brings the mental imbecility of childhood.
Natty had followed the supporters of this unexpected object to the top of the cave, and took his station at a little distance behind him, leaning no his rifle, in the midst of his pursuers, with a fearlessness that showed that heavier interests than those which affected himself were to be decided. Major Hartmann placed himself beside the aged man, uncovered, with his whole soul beaming through those eyes which so commonly danced with frolic and humor. Edwards rested with one hand familiarly but affectionately on the chair, though his heart was swelling with emotions that denied him utterance.
All eyes were gazing intently, but each tongue continued mute. At length the decrepit stranger, turning his vacant looks from face to face, made a feeble attempt to rise, while a faint smile crossed his wasted face, like an habitual effort at courtesy, as he said, in a hollow, tremulous voice:
"Be pleased to be seated, gentlemen. The council will open immediately. Each one who loves a good and virtuous king will wish to see these colonies continue loyal. Be seated--I pray you, be seated, gentlemen. The troops shall halt for the night."
"This is the wandering of insanity!" said Marmaduke: "who will explain this scene."
"No, sir," said Edwards firmly, "‘tis only the decay of nature; who is answerable for its pitiful condition, remains to be shown."
"Will the gentlemen dine with us, my son?" said the old stranger, turning to a voice that he both knew and loved. "Order a repast suitable for his Majesty’s officers. You know we have the best of game always at command,"
"Who is this man?" asked Marmaduke, in a hurried voice, in which the dawnings of conjecture united with interest to put the question.
"This man," returned Edwards calmly, his voice, how ever, gradually rising as he proceeded; "this man, sir, whom you behold hid in caverns, and deprived of every-thing that can make life desirable, was once the companion and counsellor of those who ruled your country. This man, whom you see helpless and feeble, was once a warrior, so brave and fearless, that even the intrepid natives gave him the name of the Fire-eater. This man, whom you now see destitute of even the ordinary comfort of a cabin, in which to shelter his head, was once the owner of great riches--and, Judge Temple, he was the rightful proprietor of this very soil on which we stand. This man was the father of------"
"This, then," cried Marmaduke, with a powerful emotion, "this, then, is the lost Major Effingham!"
"Lost indeed," said the youth, fixing a piercing eye on the other.
"And you! and you!" continued the Judge, articulating with difficulty.
"I am his grandson."
A minute passed in profound silence. All eyes were fixed on the speakers, and even the old German appeared to wait the issue in deep anxiety. But the moment of agitation soon passed. Marmaduke raised his head from his bosom, where it had sunk, not in shame, but in devout mental thanksgivings, and, as large tears fell over his fine, manly face, he grasped the hand of the youth warmly, 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."
"He’s true as ter steel!" shouted Major Hartmann; " titn’t I tell you, lat, dat Marmatuke Temple vas a friend dat woult never fail in ter dime as of neet?"
"It is true, Judge Temple, that my opinions of your conduct have been staggered by what this worthy gentle man has told me. When I found it impossible to convey my grandfather back whence the enduring love of this old man brought him, without detection and exposure, I went to the Mohawk in quest of one of his former comrades, in whose justice I had dependence. He is your friend, Judge Temple, but, if what he says be true, both my father and myself may have judged you harshly."
"You name your father!" said Marmaduke tenderly-- "was he, indeed, lost in the packet?"
"He was. He had left me, after several years of fruit less application and comparative poverty, in Nova Scotia, to obtain the compensation for his losses which the British commissioners had at length awarded. After spending a year in England, he was returning to Halifax, on his way to a government to which he had been appointed, in the West Indies, intending to go to the place where my grand father had sojourned during and since the war, and take him with us."
"But thou!" said Marmaduke, with powerful interest; "I had thought that thou hadst perished with him."
A flush passed over the cheeks of the young man, who gazed about him at the wondering faces of the volunteers, and continued silent. Marmaduke turned to the veteran captain, who just then rejoined his command, and said:
"March thy soldiers back again, and dismiss them, the zeal of the sheriff has much mistaken his duty.--Dr. Todd, I will thank you to attend to the injury which Hiram Doolittle has received in this untoward affair,--Richard, you will oblige me by sending up the carriage to the top of the hill.--Benjamin, return to your duty in my family."
Unwelcome as these orders were to most of the auditors, the suspicion that they had somewhat exceeded the whole some restraints of the law, and the habitual respect with which all the commands of the Judge were received, induced a prompt compliance.
When they were gone, and the rock was left to the parties most interested in an explanation, Marmaduke, pointing to the aged Major Effingham, said to his grand son:
"Had we not better remove thy parent from this open place until my carriage can arrive?"
"Pardon me, sir, the air does him good, and he has taken it whenever there was no dread of a discovery. I know not how to act, Judge Temple; ought I, can I suffer Major Effingham to become an inmate of your family?"
"Thou shalt he thyself the judge," said Marmaduke. Thy father was my early friend, He intrusted his fortune to my care. When we separated he had such confidence in me that he wished on security, no evidence of the trust, even had there been time or convenience for exacting it. This thou hast heard?"
"Most truly, sir," said Edwards, or rather Effingham as we must now call him.
"We differed in politics. If the cause of this country was successful, the trust was sacred with me, for none knew of thy father’s interest, if the crown still held its sway, it would he easy to restore the property of so loyal a subject as Colonel Effingham. Is not this plain?‘"
"The premises are good, sir," continued the youth, with the same incredulous look as before.
"Listen--listen, poy," said the German, "Dere is not a hair as of ter rogue in ter het of Herr Tchooge."
"We all know the issue of the struggle," continued Marmaduke, disregarding both. "Thy grandfather was left in Connecticut, regularly supplied by thy father with the means of such a subsistence as suited his wants. This I well knew, though I never had intercourse with him, even in our happiest days. Thy father retired with the troops to prosecute his claims on England. At all events, his losses must be great, for his real estates were sold, and I became the lawful purchaser. It was not unnatural to wish that he might have no bar to its just recovery."
"There was none, but the difficulty of providing for so many claimants."
"But there would have been one, and an insuperable one, and I announced to the world that I held these estates, multiplied by the times and my industry, a hundredfold in value, only as his trustee. Thou knowest that I supplied him with considerable sums immediately after the war."
"You did, until--"
"My letters were returned unopened. Thy father had much of thy own spirit, Oliver; he was sometimes hasty and rash." The Judge continued, in a self-condemning manner; " Perhaps my fault lies the other way: I may possibly look too far ahead, and calculate too deeply. It certainly was a severe trial to allow the man whom I most loved, to think ill of me for seven years, in order that he might honestly apply for his just remunerations. But, had he opened my last letters, thou wouldst have learned the whole truth. Those I sent him to England, by what my agent writes me, he did read. He died, Oliver, knowing all, he died my friend, and I thought thou hadst died with him"
"Our poverty would not permit us to pay for two passages," said the youth, with the extraordinary emotion with which he ever alluded to the degraded state of his family ; " I was left in the Province to wait for his return, and, when the sad news of his loss reached me, I was nearly penniless."
"And what didst thou, boy?" asked Marmaduke in a faltering voice.
"I took my passage here in search of my grandfather; for I well knew that his resources were gone, with the half pay of my father. On reaching his abode, I learned that he had left it in secret; though the reluctant hireling, who had deserted him in his poverty, owned to my urgent en treaties, that he believed he had been carried away by an -old man who had formerly been his servant. I knew at once it was Natty, for my father often--"
"Was Natty a servant of thy grandfather?" exclaimed the Judge.
"Of that too were you ignorant?" said the youth in evident surprise.
"How should I know it? I never met the Major, nor was the name of Bumppo ever mentioned to me. I knew him only as a man of the woods, and one who lived by hunting. Such men are too common to excite surprise."
"He was reared in the family of my grandfather; served him for many years during their campaigns at the West, where he became attached to the woods; and he was left here as a kind of locum tenens on the lands that old Mohegan (whose life my grandfather once saved) induced the Delawares to grant to him when they admitted him as an honorary member of their tribe.
"This, then, is thy Indian blood?"
"I have no other," said Edwards, smiling--" Major Effingham was adopted as the son of Mohegan, who at that time was the greatest man in his nation; and my father, who visited those people when a boy, received the name of the Eagle from them, on account of the shape of his face, as I understand. They have extended his title to me, I have no other Indian blood or breeding; though I have seen the hour, Judge Temple, when I could wish that such had been my lineage and education."
"Proceed with thy tale," said Marmaduke.
"I have but little more to say, sir, I followed to the lake where I had so often been told that Natty dwelt, and found him maintaining his old master in secret; for even he could not bear to exhibit to the world, in his poverty and dotage, a man whom a whole people once looked up to with respect."
"And what did you?"
"What did I? I spent my last money in purchasing a rifle, clad myself in a coarse garb, and learned to be a hunter by the side of Leather- Stocking. You know the rest, Judge Temple."
"Ant vere vas olt Fritz Hartmann?" said the German, reproachfully; "didst never hear a name as of olt Fritz Hartmann from ter mout of ter fader, lat?"
"I may have been mistaken, gentlemen," returned the youth, ‘but I had pride, and could not submit to such an exposure as this day even has reluctantly brought to light. I had plans that might have been visionary; but, should my parent survive till autumn, I purposed taking him with me to the city, where we have distant relatives, who must have learned to forget the Tory by this time. He decays rapidly," he continued mournfully, "and must soon lie by the side of old Mohegan."
The air being pure, and the day fine, the party continued conversing on the rock, until the wheels of Judge Temple’s carriage were heard clattering up the side of the mountain, during which time the conversation was maintained with deep interest, each moment clearing up some doubtful action, and lessening the antipathy of the youth to Marmaduke. He no longer objected to the removal of his grand father, who displayed a childish pleasure when he found himself seated once more in a carriage. When placed in the ample hall of the mansion- house, the eyes of the aged veteran turned slowly to the objects in the apartment, and a look like the dawn of intellect would, for moments flit across his features, when he invariably offered some use less courtesies to those near him, wandering painfully in his subjects. The exercise and the change soon produced an exhaustion that caused them to remove him to his bed, where he lay for hours, evidently sensible of the change in his comforts, and exhibiting that mortifying picture of human nature, which too plainly shows that the propensities of the animal continue even after the nobler part of the creature appears to have vanished.
Until his parent was placed comfortably in bed, with Natty seated at his side, Effingham did not quit him. He then obeyed a summons to the library of the Judge, where he found the latter, with Major Hartmann, waiting for him.
"Read this paper, Oliver," said Marmaduke to him, as he entered, "and thou wilt find that, so far from intending thy family wrong during life, it has been my care to see that justice should be done at even a later day."
The youth took the paper, which his first glance told him was the will of the Judge. Hurried and agitated as he was, he discovered that the date corresponded with the time of the unusual depression of Marmaduke. As he proceeded, his eyes began to moisten, and the hand which held the instrument shook violently.
The will commenced with the usual forms, spun out by the ingenuity of Mr. Van der School: but, after this subject was fairly exhausted, the pen of Marmaduke became plainly visible. In clear, distinct, manly, and even eloquent language, he recounted his obligations to Colonel Effingham, the nature of their connection, and the circumstances in which they separated. He then proceeded to relate the motives of his silence, mentioning, however, large sums that he had forwarded to his friend, which had been returned with the letters unopened. After this, he spoke of his search for the grandfather who unaccountably disappeared, and his fears that the direct heir of the trust was buried in the ocean with his father.
After, in short, recounting in a clear narrative, the events which our readers must now he able to connect, he proceeded to make a fair and exact statement of the sums left in his care by Colonel Effingham. A devise of his whole estate to certain responsible trustees followed; to hold the same for the benefit, in equal moieties, of his daughter, on one part, and of Oliver Effingham, formerly a major in the army of Great Britain, and of his son Ed ward Effingham, and of his son Edward Oliver Effingham, or to the survivor of them, and the descendants of such survivor, forever, on the other part. The trust was to endure until 1810, when, if no person appeared, or could be found, after sufficient notice, to claim the moiety so devised, then a certain sum, calculating the principal and interest of his debt to Colonel Effingham, was to be paid to the heirs-at-law of the Effingham family, and the bulk of his estate was to be conveyed in fee to his daughter, or her heirs.
The tears fell from the eyes of the young man, as he read this undeniable testimony of the good faith of Marmaduke, and his bewildered gaze was still fastened on the paper, when a voice, that thrilled on every nerve, spoke near him, saying:
"Do you yet doubt us, Oliver?"
"I have never doubted you!" cried the youth, recovering his recollection and his voice, as he sprang to seize the hand of Elizabeth ; "no, not one moment has my faith in you wavered."
"And my father--"
"God bless him!"
"I thank thee, my son," said the Judge, exchanging a warm pressure of the hand with the youth ; "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 they can be conveyed to thee; and, if what my suspicions tell me be true, I suppose the other must follow speedily." He took the hand which he held, and united it with that of his daughter, and motioned toward the door to the Major.
"I telt yon vat, gal!" said the old German, good-humoredly ; "if I vas as I vas ven I servit mit his grand-fader on ter lakes, ter lazy tog shouldn’t vin ter prize as for nottin’."
"Come, come, old Fritz," said the Judge; "you are seventy, not seventeen; Richard waits for you with a bowl of eggnog, in the hall."
"Richart! ter duyvel!" exclaimed the other, hastening out of the room; "he makes ter nog as for ter horse. vilt show ter sheriff mit my own hants! Ter duyvel! I pelieve he sweetens mit ter Yankee melasses!"
Marmaduke smiled and nodded affectionately at the young couple, and closed the door after them. If any of our readers expect that we are going to open it again, for their gratification, they are mistaken.
The tete-a-tete continued for a very unreasonable time---how long we shall not say; but it was ended by six o’clock in the evening, for at that hour Monsieur Le Quoi made his appearance agreeably to the appointment of the preceding day, and claimed the ear of Miss Temple. He was admitted ; when he made an offer of his hand, with much suavity, together with his "amis beeg and leet’, his pčre, his mere and his sucreboosh." Elizabeth might, possibly, have previously entered into some embarrassing and binding engagements with Oliver, for she declined the tender of all, in terms as polite, though perhaps a little more decided, than those in which they were made.
The Frenchman soon joined the German and the sheriff in the hall, who compelled him to take a seat with them at the table, where, by the aid of punch, wine, and egg nog, they soon extracted from the complaisant Monsieur Le Quoi the nature of his visit, it was evident that he had made the offer, as a duty which a well- bred man owed to a lady in such a retired place, before he had left the country, and that his feelings were but very little, if at all, interested in the matter. After a few potations, the waggish pair persuaded the exhilarated Frenchman that there was an inexcusable partiality in offering to one lady, and not extending a similar courtesy to another. Consequently, about nine, Monsieur Le Quoi sallied forth to the rectory, on a similar mission to Miss Grant, which proved as successful as his first effort in love.
When he returned to the mansion-house, at ten, Richard and the Major were still seated at the table. They at tempted to persuade the Gaul, as the sheriff called him, that he should next try Remarkable Pettibone. But, though stimulated by mental excitement and wine, two hours of abstruse logic were thrown away on this subject; for he declined their advice, with a pertinacity truly astonishing in so polite a man.
When Benjamin lighted Monsieur Le Quoi from the door, he said, at parting:
"If-so-be, Mounsheer, you’d run alongside Mistress Pettybones, as the Squire Dickens was bidding ye, ‘tis my notion you’d have been grappled; in which case, d’ye see, you mought have been troubled in swinging clear agin in a handsome manner; for thof Miss Lizzy and the parson’s young ‘un be tidy little vessels, that shoot by a body on a wind, Mistress Remarkable is summat of a galliot fashion: when you once takes ‘em in tow, they doesn’t like to be cast off agin."