The Pioneers by James Fenimore Cooper
"Nathanielís coat, sir, was not fully made,
After winding along the side of the mountain, the road, on reaching the gentle declivity which lay at the base of the hill, turned at a right angle to its former course, and shot down an inclined plane, directly into the village of Templeton. The rapid little stream that we have already mentioned was crossed by a bridge of hewn timber, which manifested, by its rude construction and the unnecessary size of its framework, both the value of Labor and the abundance of materials. This little torrent, whose dark waters gushed over the limestones that lined its bottom, was nothing less than one of the many sources of the Susquehanna; a river to which the Atlantic herself has extended an arm in welcome. It was at this point that the powerful team of Mr. Jones brought him up to the more sober steeds of our travellers. A small hill was risen, and Elizabeth found herself at once amidst the incongruous dwellings of the village. The street was of the ordinary width, notwithstanding the eye might embrace, in one view, thousands and tens of thousands of acres, that were yet tenanted only by the beasts of the forest. But such had been the will of her father, and such had also met the wishes of his followers. To them the road that made the most rapid approaches to the condition of the old, or, as they expressed it, the down countries, was the most pleasant; and surely nothing could look more like civilization than a city, even if it lay in a wilderness! The width of the street, for so it was called, might have been one hundred feet; but the track for the sleighs was much more limited. On either side of the highway were piled huge heaps of logs, that were daily increasing rather than diminishing in size, notwithstanding the enormous fires that might be seen through every window.
The last object at which Elizabeth gazed when they renewed their journey, after their encountre with Richard, was the sun, as it expanded in the refraction of the horizon, and over whose disk the dark umbrage of a pine was stealing, while it slowly sank behind the western hills. But his setting rays darted along the openings of the mountain he was on, and lighted the shining covering of the birches, until their smooth and glossy coats nearly rivalled the mountain sides in color. The outline of each dark pine was delineated far in the depths of the forest, and the rocks, too smooth and too perpendicular to retain the snow that had fallen, brightened, as if smiling at the leave-taking of the luminary. But at each step as they descended, Elizabeth observed that they were leaving the day behind them. Even the heartless but bright rays of a December sun were missed as they glided into the cold gloom of the valley. Along the summits of the mountains in the eastern range, it is true, the light still lingered, receding step by step from the earth into the clouds that were gathering with the evening mist, about the limited horizon, but the frozen lake lay without a shadow on its bosom; the dwellings were becoming already gloomy and indistinct, and the wood-cutters were shouldering their axes and preparing to enjoy, throughout the long evening before them, the comforts of those exhilarating fires that their labor had been supplying with fuel. They paused only to gaze at the passing sleighs, to lift their caps to Marmaduke, to exchange familiar nods with Richard, and each disappeared in his dwelling. The paper curtains dropped behind our travellers in every window, shutting from the air even the firelight of the cheerful apartments, and when the horses of her father turned with a rapid whirl into the open gate of the mansion-house, and nothing stood before her but the cold dreary stone walls of the building, as she approached them through an avenue of young and leafless poplars, Elizabeth felt as if all the loveliness of the mountain-view had vanished like the fancies of a dream. Marmaduke retained so much of his early habits as to reject the use of bells, but the equipage of Mr. Jones came dashing through the gate after them, sending its jingling sounds through every cranny of the building, and in a moment the dwelling was in an uproar.
On a stone platform, of rather small proportions, considering the size of the building, Richard and Hiram had, conjointly, reared four little columns of wood, which in their turn supported the shingled roofs of the portico-- this was the name that Mr. Jones had thought proper to give to a very plain, covered entrance. The ascent to the platform was by five or six stone steps, somewhat hastily laid together, and which the frost had already begun to move from their symmetrical positions, But the evils of a cold climate and a superficial construction did not end here. As the steps lowered the platform necessarily fell also, and the foundations actually left the super structure suspended in the air, leaving an open space of a foot between the base of the pillars and the stones on which they had originally been placed. It was lucky for the whole fabric that the carpenter, who did the manual part of the labor, had fastened the canopy of this classic entrance so firmly to the side of the house that, when the base deserted the superstructure in the manner we have described, and the pillars, for the want of a foundation, were no longer of service to support the roof, the roof was able to uphold the pillars. Here was, indeed, an unfortunate gap left in the ornamental part of Richardís column; but, like the window in Aladdinís palace, it seemed only left in order to prove the fertility of its masterís resources. The composite order again offered its advantages, and a second edition of the base was given, as the booksellers say, with additions and improvements. It was necessarily larger, and it was properly ornamented with mouldings; still the steps continued to yield, and, at the moment when Elizabeth returned to her fatherís door, a few rough wedges were driven under the pillars to keep them steady, and to prevent their weight from separating them from the pediment which they ought to have supported.
From the great door which opened into the porch emerged two or three female domestics, and one male. The latter was bareheaded, but evidently more dressed than usual, and on the whole was of so singular a formation and attire as to deserve a more minute description. He was about five feet in height, of a square and athletic frame, with a pair of shoulders that would have fitted a grenadier. His low stature was rendered the more striking by a bend forward that he was in the habit of assuming, for no apparent reason, unless it might be to give greater freedom to his arms, in a particularly sweeping swing, that they constantly practised when their master was in motion. His face was long, of a fair complexion, burnt to a fiery red; with a snub nose, cocked into an inveterate pug; a mouth of enormous dimensions, filled with fine teeth; and a pair of blue eyes, that seemed to look about them on surrounding objects with habitual contempt. His head composed full one-fourth of his whole length, and the cue that depended from its rear occupied another. He wore a coat of very light drab cloth, with buttons as large as dollars, bearing the impression of a "foul anchor." The skirts were extremely long, reaching quite to the calf, and were broad in proportion. Beneath, there were a vest and breeches of red plush, somewhat worn and soiled. He had shoes with large buckles, and stockings of blue and white stripes.
This odd-looking figure reported himself to be a native of the county of Cornwall, in the island of Great Britain. His boyhood had passed in the neighborhood of the tin mines, and his youth as the cabin-boy of a smuggler, between Falmouth and Guernsey. From this trade he had been impressed into the service of his king, and, for the want of a better, had been taken into the cabin, first as a servant, and finally as steward to the captain. Here he acquired the art of making chowder, lobster, and one or two other sea-dishes, and, as he was fond of saying, had an opportunity of seeing the world. With the exception of one or two outports in France, and an occasional visit to Portsmouth, Plymouth, and Deal, he had in reality seen no more of mankind, however, than if he had been riding a donkey in one of his native mines. But, being discharged from the navy at the peace of Ď83, he declared that, as he had seen all the civilized parts of the earth, he was inclined to make a trip to the wilds of America We will not trace him in his brief wanderings, under the influence of that spirit of emigration that some times induces a dapper Cockney to quit his home, and lands him, before the sound of Bow-bells is out of his ears, within the roar of the cataract of Niagara; but shall only add that at a very early day, even before Elizabeth had been sent to school, he had found his way into the family of Marmaduke Temple, where, owing to a combination of qualities that will be developed in the course of the tale, he held, under Mr. Jones, the office of major- domo. The name of this worthy was Benjamin Penguillan, according to his own pronunciation; but, owing to a marvellous tale that he was in the habit of relating, concerning the length of time he had to labor to keep his ship from sinking after Rodneyís victory, he had universally acquired the nick name of Ben Pump.
By the side of Benjamin, and pressing forward as if a little jealous of her station, stood a middle-aged woman, dressed in calico, rather violently contrasted in color with a tall, meagre, shapeless figure, sharp features, and a somewhat acute expression of her physiognomy. Her teeth were mostly gone, and what did remain were of a tight yellow. The skin of her nose was drawn tightly over the member, to hang in large wrinkles in her cheeks and about her mouth. She took snuff in such quantities as to create the impression that she owed the saffron of her lips and the adjacent parts to this circumstance; but it was the unvarying color of her whole face. She presided over the female part of the domestic arrangements, in the capacity of housekeeper; was a spinster, and bore the name of Remarkable Pettibone. To Elizabeth she was an entire stranger, having been introduced into the family since the death of her mother.
In addition to these, were three or four subordinate menials, mostly black, some appearing at the principal door, and some running from the end of the building, where stood the entrance to the cellar-kitchen.
Besides these, there was a general rush from Richardís kennel, accompanied with every canine tone from the howl of the wolf-dog to the petulant bark of the terrier. The master received their boisterous salutations with a variety of imitations from his own throat, when the dogs, probably from shame of being outdone, ceased their out- cry. One stately, powerful mastiff, who wore round his neck a brass collar, with "M. T." engraved in large letters on the rim, alone was silent. He walked majestically, amid the confusion, to the side of the Judge, where, receiving a kind pat or two, he turned to Elizabeth, who even stooped to kiss him, as she called him kindly by the name of "Old Brave." The animal seemed to know her, as she ascended the steps, supported by Monsieur Le Quoi and her father, in order to protect her from falling on the ice with which they were covered. He looked wistfully after her figure, and when the door closed on the whole party, he laid himself in a kennel that was placed nigh by, as if conscious that the house contained some thing of additional value to guard.
Elizabeth followed her father, who paused a moment to whisper a message to one of his domestics, into a large hall, that was dimly lighted by two candies, placed in high, old-fashioned, brass candlesticks. The door closed, and the party were at once removed from an atmosphere that was nearly at zero, to one of sixty degrees above. In the centre of the hall stood an enormous stove, the sides of which appeared to be quivering with heat; from which a large, straight pipe, leading through the ceiling above, carried off the smoke. An iron basin, containing water, was placed on this furnace, for such only it could be called, in order to preserve a proper humidity in the apartment. The room was carpeted, and furnished with convenient, substantial furniture, some of which was brought from the city, the remainder having been manufactured by the mechanics of Templeton. There was a sideboard of mahogany, inlaid with ivory, and bearing enormous handles of glittering brass, and groaning under the piles of silver plate. Near it stood a set of prodigious tables, made of the wild cherry, to imitate the imported wood of the sideboard, but plain and without ornament of any kind. Opposite to these stood a smaller table, formed from a lighter-colored wood, through the grains of which the wavy lines of the curled maple of the mountains were beautifully undulating. Near to this, in a corner, stood a heavy, old-fashioned, brass-faced clock, incased in a high box, of the dark hue of the black walnut from the seashore. An enormous settee, or sofa, covered with light chintz, stretched along the walls for nearly twenty feet on one side of the hail; and chairs of wood, painted a light yellow, with black lines that were drawn by no very steady hand, were ranged opposite, and in the intervals between the other pieces of furniture. A Fahrenheit's thermometer in a mahogany case, and with a barometer annexed, was hung against the wall, at some little distance from the stove, which Benjamin consulted, every half hour, with prodigious exactitude. Two small glass chandeliers were suspended at equal distances between the stove and outer doors, one of which opened at each end of the hall, and gilt lustres were affixed to the frame work of the numerous side-doors that led from the apartment. Some little display in architecture had been made in constructing these frames and casings, which were surmounted with pediments, that bore each a little pedestal in its centre; on these pedestals were small busts in blacked plaster-of-Paris. The style of the pedestals as well as the selection of the busts were all due to the taste of Mr. Jones. On one stood Homer, a most striking likeness, Richard affirmed, "as any one might see, for it was blind," Another bore the image of a smooth-visaged gentleman with a pointed beard, whom he called Shakespeare. A third ornament was an urn, which; from its shape, Richard was accustomed to say, intended to represent itself as holding the ashes of Dido. A fourth was certainly old Franklin, in his cap and spectacles. A fifth as surely bore the dignified composure of the face of Washington. A sixth was a nondescript, representing "a man with a shirt-collar open," to use the language of Richard, "with a laurel on his head-it was Julius Caesar or Dr. Faustus; there were good reasons for believing either,"
The walls were hung with a dark lead-colored English paper that represented Britannia weeping over the tomb of Wolfe, The hero himself stood at a little distance from the mourning goddess, and at the edge of the paper. Each width contained the figure, with the slight exception of one arm of the general, which ran over on the next piece, so that when Richard essayed, with his own hands, to put together this delicate outline, some difficulties occurred that prevented a nice conjunction; and Britannia had reason to lament, in addition to the loss of her favoriteís life, numberless cruel amputations of his right arm.
The luckless cause of these unnatural divisions now announced his presence in the halt by a loud crack of his whip.
"Why, Benjamin! you Ben Pump! is this the manner in which you receive the heiress?" he cried. "Excuse him, Cousin Elizabeth. The arrangements were too intricate to be trusted to every one; but now I am here, things will go on better. --Come, light up, Mr. Penguillan, light up, light up, and let us see One anotherís faces. Well, ĎDuke, I have brought home your deer; what is to be done with it, ha?"
"By the Lord, squire," commenced Benjamin, in reply, first giving his mouth a wipe with the back of his hand, "if this here thing had been ordered sumíat earlier in the day, it might have been got up, díye see, to your liking. I had mustered all hands and was exercising candles, when you hove in sight; but when the women heard your bells they started an end, as if they were riding the boat swainís colt; and if-so-be there is that man in the house who can bring up a parcel of women when they have got headway on them, until theyíve run out the end of their rope, his name is not Benjamin Pump. But Miss Betsey here must have altered more than a privateer in disguise, since she has got on her womanís duds, if she will take offence with an old fellow for the small matter of lighting a few candles."
Elizabeth and her father continued silent, for both experienced the same sensation on entering the hall. The former had resided one year in the building before she left home for school, and the figure of its lamented mistress was missed by both husband and child.
But candles had been placed in the chandeliers and lustres, and the attendants were so far recovered from surprise as to recollect their use; the oversight was immediately remedied, and in a minute the apartment was in a blaze of light.
The slight melancholy of our heroine and her father was banished by this brilliant interruption; and the whole party began to lay aside the numberless garments they had worn in the air.
During this operation Richard kept up a desultory dialogue with the different domestics, occasionally throwing out a remark to the Judge concerning the deer; but as his conversation at such moments was much like an accompaniment on a piano, a thing that is heard without being attended to, we will not undertake the task of recording his diffuse discourse,
The instant that Remarkable Pettibone had executed her portion of the labor in illuminating, she returned to a position near Elizabeth, with the apparent motive of receiving the clothes that the other threw aside, but in reality to examine, with an air of curiosity--not unmixed with jealousy--the appearance of the lady who was to supplant her in the administration of their domestic economy. The housekeeper felt a little appalled, when, after cloaks, coats, shawls, and socks had been taken off in succession, the large black hood was removed, and the dark ringlets, shining like the ravenís wing, fell from her head, and left the sweet but commanding features of the young lady exposed to view. Nothing could be fairer and more spotless than the forehead of Elizabeth, and preserve the appearance of life and health. Her nose would have been called Grecian, but for a softly rounded swell, that gave in character to the feature what it lost in beauty. Her mouth, at first sight, seemed only made for love; but, the instant that its muscles moved, every expression that womanly dignity could utter played around it with the flexibility of female grace. It spoke not only to the ear, but to the eye. So much, added to a form of exquisite proportions, rather full and rounded for her years, and of the tallest medium height, she inherited from her mother. Even the color of her eye, the arched brows, and the long silken lashes, came from the same source; but its expression was her fatherís. Inert and composed, it was soft, benevolent, and attractive; but it could be roused, and that without much difficulty. At such moments it was still beautiful, though it was a little severe. As the last shawl fell aside, and she stood dressed in a rich blue riding-habit, that fitted her form with the nicest exactness; her cheeks burning with roses, that bloomed the richer for the heat of the hall, and her eyes lightly suffused with moisture that rendered their ordinary beauty more dazzling, and with every feature of her speaking countenance illuminated by the lights that flared around her, Remarkable felt that her own power had ended
The business of unrobing had been simultaneous. Marmaduke appeared in a suit of plain, neat black; Monsieur Le Quoi in a coat of snuff- color, covering a vest of embroidery, with breeches, and silk stockings, and buckles--that were commonly thought to be of paste. Major Hartmann wore a coat of sky-blue, with large brass buttons, a club wig, and boots; and Mr. Richard Jones had set off his dapper little form in a frock of bottle-green, with bullet-buttons, by one of which the sides were united over his well-rounded waist, opening above, so as to show a jacket of red cloth, with an undervest of flannel, faced with green velvet, and below, so as to exhibit a pair of buckskin breeches, with long, soiled, white top-boots, and spurs; one of the latter a little bent, from its recent attacks on the stool.
When the young lady had extricated herself from her garments, she was at liberty to gaze about her, and to examine not only the household over which she was to preside, but also the air and manner in which the domestic arrangements were conducted. Although there was much incongruity in the furniture and appearance of the hall, there was nothing mean. The floor was carpeted, even in its remotest corners. The brass candlesticks, the gilt lustres, and the glass chandeliers, whatever might be their keeping as to propriety and taste, were admirably kept as to all the purposes of use and comfort. They were clean and glittering in the strong light of the apartment.
Compared with the chill aspect of the December night without, the warmth and brilliancy of the apartment produced an effect that was not unlike enchantment. Her eye had not time to detect, in detail, the little errors which in truth existed, but was glancing around her in de light, when an object arrested her view that was in strong contrast to the smiling faces and neatly attired person ages who had thus assembled to do honor to the heiress of Templeton.
In a corner of the hall near the grand entrance stood the young hunter, unnoticed, and for the moment apparently forgotten. But even the forgetfulness of the Judge, which, under the influence of strong emotion, had banished the recollection of the wound of this stranger, seemed surpassed by the absence of mind in the youth himself. On entering the apartment, be had mechanically lifted his cap, and exposed a head covered with hair that rivalled, in color and gloss, the locks of Elizabeth. Nothing could have wrought a greater transformation than the single act of removing the rough fox-skin cap. If there was much that was prepossessing in the countenance of the young hunter, there was something even noble in the rounded outlines of his head and brow. The very air and manner with which the member haughtily maintained itself over the coarse and even wild attire in which the rest of his frame was clad, bespoke not only familiarity with a splendor that in those new settlements was thought to be unequalled, but something very like contempt also.
The hand that held the cap rested lightly on the little ivory-mounted piano of Elizabeth, with neither rustic restraint nor obtrusive vulgarity. A single finger touched the instrument, as if accustomed to dwell on such places. His other arm was extended to its utmost length, and the hand grasped the barrel of his long rifle with something like convulsive energy. The act and the attitude were both involuntary, and evidently proceeded from a feeling much deeper than that of vulgar surprise. His appearance, connected as it was with the rough exterior of his dress, rendered him entirely distinct from the busy group that were moving across the other end of the long hall, occupied in receiving the travellers and exchanging their welcomes; and Elizabeth continued to gaze at him in wonder. The contraction of the strangerís brows in creased as his eyes moved slowly from one object to another. For moments the expression of his countenance was fierce, and then again it seemed to pass away in some painful emotion. The arm that was extended bent and brought the hand nigh to his face, when his head dropped upon it, and concealed the wonderfully speaking lineaments.
"We forget, dear sir, the strange gentleman" (for her life Elizabeth could not call him otherwise) "whom we have brought here for assistance, and to whom we owe every attention."
All eyes were instantly turned in the direction of those of the speaker, and the youth rather proudly elevated his head again, while he answered:
"My wound is trifling, and I believe that Judge Temple sent for a physician the moment we arrived."
"Certainly," said Marmaduke: "I have not forgotten the object of thy visit, young man, nor the nature of my debt.
"Oh!" exclaimed Richard, with something of a waggish leer, "thou owest the lad for the venison, I suppose that thou killed, Cousin ĎDuke! Marmaduke! Marmaduke! That was a marvellous tale of thine about the buck! Here, young man, are two dollars for the deer, and Judge Temple can do no less than pay the doctor. I shall charge you nothing for my services, but you shall not fare the worst for that. Come, come, ĎDuke, donít he down hearted about it; if you missed the buck, you contrived to shoot this poor fellow through a pine-tree. Now I own that you have beat me; I never did such a thing in all my life."
"And I hope never will," returned the Judge, "if you are to experience the uneasiness that I have suffered; but be of good cheer, my young friend, the injury must be small, as thou movest thy arm with apparent freedom.
"Donít make the matter worse, ĎDuke, by pretending to talk about surgery," interrupted Mr. Jones, with a contemptuous wave of the hand: "it is a science that can only be learned by practice. You know that my grandfather was a doctor, but you havenít got a drop of medical blood in your veins. These kind of things run in families. All my family by my fatherís side had a knack at physic. ĎThere was my uncle that was killed at Brandywine--he died as easy again as any other man the regiment, just from knowing how to hold his breath naturally. Few men know how to breathe naturally."
"I doubt not, Dickon," returned the Judge, meeting the bright smile which, in spite of himself, stole over the strangerís features, "that thy family thoroughly under stand the art of letting life slip through their lingers."
Richard heard him quite coolly, and putting a hand in either pocket of his surcoat, so as to press forward the skirts, began to whistle a tune; but the desire to reply overcame his philosophy, and with great heat he exclaimed:
"You may affect to smile, Judge Temple, at hereditary virtues, if you please; but there is not a man on your Patent who donít know better. Here, even this young man, who has never seen anything but bears, and deer, and woodchucks, knows better than to believe virtues are not transmitted in families. Donít you, friend?"
"I believe that vice is not," said the stranger abruptly; his eye glancing from the father to the daughter.
"The squire is right, Judge," observed Benjamin, with a knowing nod of his head toward Richard, that bespoke the cordiality between them, "Now, in the old country, the kingís majesty touches for the evil, and that is a disorder that the greatest doctor in the fleet, or for the matter of that admiral either: canít cure; only the kingís majesty or a man thatís been hanged. Yes, the squire is right; for if-so-be that he wasnít, how is it that the seventh son always is a doctor, whether he ships for the cockpit or not? Now when we fell in with the mounsheers, under De Grasse, díye see, we hid aboard of us a doctor--"
"Very well, Benjamin," interrupted Elizabeth, glancing her eyes from the hunter to Monsieur Le Quoi, who was most politely attending to what fell from each individual in succession, "you shall tell me of that, and all your entertaining adventures together; just now, a room must be prepared, in which the arm of this gentleman can be dressed."
"I will attend to that myself, Cousin Elizabeth," observed Richard, somewhat haughtily. "The young man will not suffer because Marmaduke chooses to be a little obstinate. Follow me, my friend, and I will examine the hurt myself."
"It will be well to wait for the physician," said the hunter coldly; "he cannot be distant,"
Richard paused and looked at the speaker, a little astonished at the language, and a good deal appalled at the refusal. He construed the latter into an act of hostility, and, placing his hands in the pockets again, he walked up to Mr. Grant, and, putting his face close to the countenance of the divine, said in an undertone:
"Now, mark my words--there will be a story among the settlers, that all our necks would have been broken but for that fellow--as if I did not know how to drive. Why, you might have turned the horses yourself, sir; nothing was easier; it was only pulling hard on the nigh rein, and touching the off flank of the leader. I hope, my dear sir, you are not at all hurt by the upset the lad gave us?"
The reply was interrupted by the entrance of the village physician.