"When the operation was over, my anxiety to see her face returned. After an ineffectual effort to untie the cord, I became impatient, and seizing the knife that lay on the table, ripped open the muslin that hid her features! My God! The knife dropped from my hand, and penetrating the floor, quivered upright at my feet, while every member of my body trembled in unison with it! I raised my hands with my fingers spread out to the utmost tension. My mouth fell open, and my eyes felt as if they were straining to leap from my head. It was Laura—the loved, adored Laura—my Laura! My friends heard me repeat the name, and marked with surprise and concern my inexplicably miserable condition. They gathered round me, and endeavoured to divert my attention from the dead and now gory body. It was in vain. I heeded not their words, but gazed steadfastly at the sad features of Laura, with my hands still uplifted. I was speechless, deaf, and immovable. No tear moistened my eyes, but burning thoughts rushed through my brain. My heart was cold, cold. Ah, I remembered how I had loved her once! I thought of the time when I was happy to bow down at her feet, and in good faith attribute to her many of the pure qualities pertaining to risen angels. And this was her end! The beautiful and innocent—the loving and beloved—the high born and wealthy—the light and joy of fond and indulgent parents—had been beguiled by the infernal tempter to make one step aside from the straight and narrow-path of duty—and this was the result! The sensitive and guileless girl became an incarnate fiend, callous to every modest and virtuous impulse—scorned by the honest and good, and hating and undermining the redeeming principles of her species—rushing from the high station which her ancestors had arduously laboured for generations to attain, and voluntarily taking up her abode in the dens of squalid misery and indelible pollution—closing her eyes to the might and majesty of a merciful God, beckoning her to his eternal throne in heaven, and giving heed to the fatal devices of the enemy of mankind, till she was dragged down, down to the innermost depths of a raging and roaring hell! Such was the fate of Laura. Such is the fate of thousands who willingly err, though it be ever so slight, for the sake of enjoying an impious gratification. Poor Laura! Oh, how I loved her! But it is bootless to think of her now.
"I was gently forced from the dissecting-room by my friends, and conducted to my home in silence—in silence, because I had no words for any one. I pressed their hands at the door of my mansion, and bowing, they departed for their homes to muse over the incidents of the evening. I entered my silent chamber, but not to rest. I threw open the casement and gazed out at the genial rays of the moon. The dark green leaves of the linden trees were motionless, and the silvery rays struggling through them cast a checkered and faint tint of mingled light and shade on the pavement beneath. The cool fresh air soothed my throbbing temples. I sank back in my seat and gazed up at the innumerable stars in the boundless sky. I thought the stellar host glittered with unusual brilliance, as if there were a joyous and holy revelry going on in heaven. My heart grew calm. I felt a conviction that true happiness, and purity of thought and purpose were inseparable. I knew that the contaminations of the world had overthrown many a righteous resolve, and linked the noblest minded with infamy. I thought of Laura. The seductions of the world had literally prostrated an angel before my eyes. I determined to leave the world, if not for ever, at least as long as its temptations to err, in the remotest degree, were liable to beset my path. I came hither."
When Glenn finished his narrative, Roughgrove rose in silence, and producing a small Bible that he always carried about his person, read in a low, but distinct and impressive tone, several passages which were peculiarly applicable to the state of their feelings. Glenn then approached the couch where William slumbered peacefully. A healthful perspiration rested on his forehead, and a sweet smile played upon his lips, indicating that his dreams were not among the savage scenes in which he had so lately mingled. Mary, who had fallen asleep while seated at his side, overcome with silent watching, yet rested with her head on the same pillow, precisely in the same attitude she reclined when Glenn began his recital. Roughgrove took her in his arms, and placing her softy at her brother's feet, bestowed a kiss upon her brow, and retired with Glenn to rest.
Balmy spring—Joe's curious dream—He prepares to catch a fish—Glenn —William and Mary—Joe's sudden and strange appearance—La-u-na—The trembling fawn—The fishing sport—The ducking frolic—Sneak and the panther.
It was now the first week in May. Every vestige of winter had long since disappeared, and the verdure of a rich soil and mild temperature was fast enrobing the earth with the freshest and most pleasing of colours. Instead of the dreary expanse of ice that had covered the river, its waters now murmured musically by in the early morn—its curling eddies running along the sedgy shore, while the rising sun slowly dissipated the floating mists; and the inspiring notes of all the wild variety of birds, contributed to invest the scene with such charms as the God of nature only can impart, and which may only be fully enjoyed and justly appreciated by guileless and unsophisticated mortals.
Glenn rambled forth, and, partaking the harmony that pervaded the earth, air, and waters, his breast swelled with a blissful exultation that can never be known amid the grating voices of contending men, or experienced in crowded cities, where many confused sounds vibrate harshly and distracting on the ear. He stood in his little garden among the flowers that Mary had planted, and watched the humming-birds poised among the trembling leaves, their tiny wings still unruffled by the dew, while their slender beaks inhaled the sweet moisture of the variegated blossoms. Long he regarded the enchanting scene, unconscious of the flight of time, and alike regardless of the past and the future in his all-absorbing admiration of the present, wherein he deemed he was not far remote from that Presence to which time and eternity are obedient—when his phantasm was abruptly and unceremoniously put to flight by his man Joe, who rushed out of the house with a long rod in his hand; yawning and rubbing his eyes, as if he had been startled from his morning slumber but a moment before.
"What's the matter?" demanded Glenn.
"It was a wapper!" said Joe.
"Where?" asked Glenn.
"I'll tell you. I dreamt I was sitting on a rock, down at the ferry, with this rod in my hand, fishing for perch, when a thundering big catfish, as long as I am, took hold. I dreamt he pulled and I pulled—sometimes he had me in the water up to my knees, and sometimes I got him out on dry land. But he always flounced and kicked back again. Yet he couldn't escape, because the hook was still in his mouth, and when he jumped into the river I jumped to the rod, and so we had it over and over—"
"And now have done with it," said Glenn, interrupting him. "What are you holding the rod now for?"
"I'm going to try to catch him," said Joe, with unaffected simplicity.
"Merely because you had this dream!" continued Glenn, his features relaxing into a smile.
"Yes—I believe in dreams," said Joe. "Once, when we were living in Philadelphia, I had one of these same dreams. It was just about the same hour—"
"How do you know what hour it was you dreamt about the fish?" again interrupted Glenn.
"Why—I—," stammered Joe, "I'm sure it was about daybreak, because the sun rose a little while after I got out."
"That might be the case," said Glenn, "if you were to dream about the same thing from sun-down till sun-up. And I believe the fish was running in your head last night before I went to bed, for you were then snoring and jerking your arms about."
"Well, I'll tell you my other dream, anyhow. I dreamt I was walking along Spruce Street wharf with my head down, when all at once my toe struck against a red morocco pocket-wallet; I stooped down and picked it up and put it in my pocket, and went home before I looked to see what was in it."
"Well, what was in it when you did look?" asked Glenn.
"There was a one thousand dollar note on the Bank of the United States, with the president's and cashier's names on it, all genuine. Oh, I was so happy! I put it in my vest-pocket and sewed it up."
"But what have you done with it since?" asked Glenn.
"I—Hang it! it was only a dream!" said Joe, unconsciously feeling in his empty pocket.
 Thousands have had similar dreams about similar notes since Joe's dream.—Printer's Devil.
"But what has that dream to do with the fish?" pursued Glenn.
"I'll tell you," said Joe. "When I got up in the morning and discovered it was a dream, I slipped on my clothes as quickly as possible and set off for the wharf. When I got there, I walked along slowly with my head down till at length my toe struck against an oyster-shell. I picked it up, and while I was looking at it, the captain of a schooner invited me on board of his vessel to look at his cargo of oysters, just stolen from Deep Creek, Virginia. He gave me at least six dozen to eat!"
"And this makes you have faith in such dreams?" asked Glenn, striving in vain to repress his laughter.
"I got something by the dream," said Joe. "I had a first rate oyster-breakfast."
"But what has all this to do with the fish?" continued Glenn; "perhaps, instead of the fish, you expect to catch a frog this time. You will still be an Irishman, Joe. Go and try your luck."
"St. Patrick forbid that I should be any thing else but an Irishman! I should like to know if an Irishman ain't as good as anybody else, particularly when he's born in America, as I was? But the dream in Philadelphia did have something to do with a fish. Didn't I catch a fish? Isn't an oyster a fish? And it had something to do with this fish, too. I've been bothering my head ever since I got up about what kind of bait to catch him with, and I'm sure I never would have thought of the right kind if you hadn't mentioned that frog just now. I recollect they say that's the very best thing in the world to bait with for a catfish. I'll go straight to the brook and hunt up a frog!" Saying this, Joe set out to execute his purpose, while Glenn proceeded to Roughgrove's house to see how William progressed in his studies.
The intelligent youth, under the guidance of Roughgrove, Glenn, and his unwearying and affectionate sister, was now rapidly making amends for the long neglect of his education while abiding with the unlettered Indians. He had already gone through the English grammar, and was entering the higher branches of study. The great poets of his own country, and the most approved novelists were his companions during the hours of relaxation; for when the illimitable fields of intellect were opened to his vision, he would scarce for a moment consent to withdraw his admiring gaze. Thus, when it was necessary for a season to cease his toil in the path of learning, he delighted to recline in some cool shade with a pleasing book in his hand, and regale his senses with the flowers and refreshing streams of imaginative authors. And thus sweetly glided his days. Could such halcyon moments last, it were worse than madness to seek the wealth and honours of this world! In that secluded retreat, though far from the land of his nativity, with no community but the companionship of his three or four friends and the joyous myriads of birds—no palaces but the eternal hills of nature, and no pageantry but the rays of the rising and setting sun streaming in prismatic dies upon them, the smiling youth was far happier than he would have been in the princely halls of his fathers, where the sycophant only bent the knee to receive a load of gold, and the friend that might protect him on the throne would be the first to stab him on the highway.
A spreading elm stood near the door of Roughgrove's house, and beneath its clustering boughs William and Mary were seated on a rude bench, entirely screened from the glaring light of the sun. A few paces distant the brook glided in low murmurs between the green flags and water violets over its pebbly bed. The morning dew yet rested on the grass in the shade. The soft sigh of the fresh breeze, as it passed through the motionless branches of the towering elm, could scarce be heard, but yet sufficed ever and anon to lift aside the glossy ringlets that hung pendent to the maiden's shoulders. The paroquet and the thrush, the bluebird and goldfinch, fluttered among the thick foliage and trilled their melodies in sweetest cadence. Both the brother and sister wore a happy smile. Happy, because the innocence of angels dwelt in the bosom of the one, and the memory of his guileless and blissful days of childhood possessed the other. Occasionally they read some passages in a book that lay open on Mary's lap, describing the last days of Charles I., and then the bright smile would be dimmed for a moment by a shade of sadness.
"Oh! poor man!" exclaimed Mary, when William read of the axe of the executioner descending on the neck of the prostrate monarch.
"It is far better to dwell in peace in such a quiet and lonely place as this, than to be where so many cruel men abide," said William, pondering.
"Ah me! I did not think that Christian men could be so cruel," said Mary, a bright tear dropping from her long eyelash.
"But the book says he was a tyrant and deserved to die," continued the youth, his lips compressed with firmness.
"He's coming!" exclaimed Mary, suddenly, and the pitying thought of the unfortunate Charles vanished from her mind. But as she steadily gazed up the path a crimson flush suffused her smooth brow and cheek, and she rose gracefully, and with a smile of delight, welcomed Glenn to the cool and refreshing shade of the majestic elm.
"You have come too late. William has already said his lesson, and I'm sure he knew it perfectly," said Mary, half-reproachfully and half-playfully.
"Mary don't know, Mr. Glenn; because I am now further advanced than she is," said William.
"But what kept you away so long this beautiful morning?" continued the innocent girl. "Don't you see the dew is almost dried away in the sun, and the morning-glories are nearly all closed?"
"I was lingering in the garden among the delicate flowers you gave me Mary; and the green and golden humming-birds charmed me so that I could not tear myself away," replied our hero, as he sat down between the brother and sister.
"I shall go with brother William on the cliff and get some wild roses and hare-bells, and then all your humming-birds will leave you and stay here with me," said Mary, smiling archly.
"But you will be the prettiest bird among them, and flower too, to my eyes," said Glenn, gazing at the clear and brilliant though laughing eyes of the pleased girl.
"If that were the case, why did you linger so long in the garden?" asked the maid, with some seriousness.
"I should not have done so, Mary, but for Joe, who, you know, will always be heard when he has any thing to say; and this morning he had a ludicrous dream to tell me."
"I like Joe a great deal—he makes me laugh every time I see him. And you must tell me what he said, and how he looked and acted, that I may know whether you did right to stay away so long," said the thoughtless and happy girl, eager to listen to the accents of the one whose approach had illumined her features with the mystical fires of the heart.
Glenn faithfully repeated every word and gesture of his dialogue with Joe, and the unsophisticated girl's joyous laugh rang merrily up the echoing vale in sweet accompaniment with the carols of the feathered songsters.
When the narration ended, they both turned with surprise to William, who, instead of partaking their hilarity as usual, sat perfectly motionless in deep thought, regarding with apparent intensity the straggling spears of grass that grew at his feet. The book he had taken up, which had dropped from Mary's lap when she hastily rose at the approach of Glenn, now fell unobserved by him from his relaxed hand. His face became unusually pale. His limbs seemed to be strangely agitated, and the pulsations of his heart were audible.
"What's the matter, dear brother?" cried Mary, in alarm.
"La-u-na—LA-U-NA!" he exclaimed, and, sinking softly down on his knees, applied his ear close to the ground in a listening attitude.
"Dear brother William! do tell Mary what ails you! What is La-u-na!" said the startled and distressed girl, with affectionate concern.
"La-u-na—THE TREMBLING FAWN!" cried William, pantingly.
"Listen" said Glenn, checking Mary when she was about to repeat her inquiry. A plaintive flute-like sound was heard at intervals, floating on the balmy and almost motionless air down the green-fringed vale. At times it resembled the mournful plaint of the lonely dove, and then died away like the last notes of the expiring swan.
Before many minutes elapsed another sound of quite a different character saluted their ears. This was a rustling among the bushes, heard indistinctly at first, while the object was far up the valley, but as it approached with fearful rapidity, the rushing noise became tremendous, and a few moments after, when the trembling sumachs parted in view, they beheld Joe! He dashed through the briers interspersed among the undergrowth, and plunged through the winding brook that occasionally crossed his path, as if all surrounding obstacles and obstructions were contemptible in comparison with the danger behind! Leaping over intervening rocks, and flying through dense clusters of young trees that ever and anon threatened to impede his progress, he at length reached the spot where the little group still remained seated. Without hat or coat, and panting so violently that he was unable to explain distinctly the cause of his alarm, poor Joe threw himself down on the earth in the most distressed and pitiable condition.
"What have you seen? What is the cause of this affright?" asked Glenn.
"I—oh—they—coming!" cried Joe, incoherently.
"What is coming?" continued Glenn.
"I—Indians!" exclaimed he, springing up and rushing into the house.
"They are friendly Indians, then," said Mary; "because the hostile ones never come upon us at this season of the year."
"So I have been told," said Glenn; "but even the sight of a friendly Indian would scare Joe."
"It is La-u-na!" said William, still attentively listening.
"What is La-u-na?" interrogated Mary, again.
"The Trembling Fawn!" repeated William, with emphasis, in a mysterious and abstracted manner. Presently he stood up and intently regarded the dim path over-shadowed by the luxuriant foliage that Joe had so recently traversed, and an animated smile played upon his lips, and dark, clear eyes sparkled with a thrill of ecstasy.
A slight female form, emerged from the dark green thicket, and glided more like a spirit of the air than a human being towards the wondering group. Her light steps produced no sound. In each hand she held a rich bouquet of fresh wild flowers, and leaves and blossoms were fantastically, though tastefully, arranged in her hair and on her breast. A broad, shining gold band decked her temples, but many of her raven ringlets had escaped from their confinement, and floated out on the wind as she sped towards her beloved.
"La-u-na! La-u-na!" cried William, darting forward frantically and catching the girl in his arms. He pressed her closely and fondly to his heart, and she hid her face on his breast. Thus they clung together several minutes in silence, when they were interrupted by Roughgrove, whose attention had been attracted by the sudden affright of Joe.
"William, my dear boy," said the grieved old man, "you must not have any thing to do with the Indians—you promised us that you would not—"
"Leave us!" said the youth, sternly, and stamping impatiently.
"Do, father!" cried Mary, who looked on in tears, a few paces apart; "brother won't leave us again—I'm sure he won't—will you, William?"
"No, I will not!" exclaimed the youth. The Indian girl comprehended the meaning of his words, and, tearing, away from his embrace, stood with folded arms at his side, with her penetrating and reproachful eyes fixed full upon him, while her lips quivered and her breast heaved in agitation. All now regarded her in silence and admiration. Her form was a perfect model of beauty. Her complexion was but a shade darker than that of the maidens of Spain. Her brows were most admirably arched, and her long silken lashes would have been envied by an Italian beauty. Her forehead and cheeks were smooth, and all her features as regular as those of a Venus. The mould of her face was strictly Grecian, and on her delicate lips rested a half-formed expression of sad regret and firm resolution. Her vestments were rich, and highly ornamented with pearls and diamonds. She wore a light snowy mantle made of swan skins, on which a portion of the fleecy down remained. Beneath, the dress was composed of skins of the finest finish, descending midway between her knees and ankles, where it was met by the tops of the buckskin moccasins, that confined her small and delicately-formed feet. Her arms, which were mostly concealed under her mantle, were bare from the elbows down, and adorned at the wrists with silver bands.
"Why, hang it all! Was there nothing running after me but this squaw?" asked Joe, who had ventured forth again unobserved, and now stood beside Glenn and Mary.
"Silence!" said Glenn.
"Oh, don't call her a squaw, Joe—she's more like an angel than a squaw," said Mary, gazing tenderly at the lovers, while tears were yet standing in her eyes.
"I won't do so again," said Joe, "because she's the prettiest wild thing I ever saw; and if Mr. William don't marry her, I will."
"Keep silent, Joe, or else leave us," again interposed Glenn.
"I'll go catch my fish. I had just found a frog, and was in the act of catching it, when I saw the sq—the—her—and I thought then that I would just run home and let you know she was coming before I took it. But I remember where it was, and I'll have it now in less than no time." Saying this, Joe set off up the valley again, though not very well pleased with himself for betraying so much alarm when there was so little danger.
"La-u-na, I am no Indian," said William, at length, in the language of her tribe, and much affected by her searching stare.
"But you were once the young chief that led our warriors to battle, and caught La-u-na's heart. I heard you were a pale-face after you were taken away from us; and I thought if you would not fly back to La-u-na, like the pigeon that escapes from the talons of the eagle and returns to its mate, then I would lose you—forget you—hate you. I tried, but I could not do it. When the white moon ran up to the top of the sky, and shone down through the tall trees in my face, I would ever meet you in the land of dreams, with the bright smile you used to have when you were wont to put your arm around me and draw me so gently to your breast. I was happy in those dreams. But they would not stay. The night-hawk flew low and touched my eyes with his wings as he flapped by, and I awoke. Then my breast was cold and my cheeks were wet. The katydids gathered in the sweet rose-bushes about me and sung mournfully. La-u-na was unhappy. La-u-na must see her Young Eagle, or go to the land of spirits. She called her wild steed to her side, and, plucking these flowers to test his fleetness, sprang upon him and flew hither. He is now grazing in the prairie at the head of the valley; and here are the blossoms, still alive, fresh and sweet." The trembling and tearful girl then gently and sadly strewed the flowers over the grass at her feet.
"Sweet La-u-na!" cried William, snatching up the blossoms and pressing them to his lips, "forgive the young chief; he will still love you and never leave you again."
"No—no—no!" said the girl, shaking her head in despair; "the pale face youth will not creep through the silent and shady forest with La-u-na any more. He will gather no more ripe grapes for the Trembling Fawn. He will not bathe again in the clear waters with La-u-na. He will give her no more rings of roses to put on her breast. The Trembling Fawn is wounded. She must find a cool shade and lie down. The dove will perch over her and wail. She will sing a low song. She will close her eyes and die."
"Oh, no!" cried William, placing his arms around her tenderly, "La-u-na must not die, or if she does, she shall not die alone. Why will not La-u-na dwell with me among my friends?" The girl started and exhibited signs of mingled delight and doubt, and then replied—
"The pale maiden would hate La-u-na, and the gray-head would drive her away."
"No, La-u-na," said William; "they would all love you, and we would be so happy! Say you will stay with me here, and you shall be my wife, and I will have no other love. My sister is sweet and mild as La-u-na, and my father will always be kind."
The dark eyes of the girl assumed an unwonted lustre, and she turned imploringly to Mary, Glenn, and Roughgrove.
"Oh!" cried William, in his native tongue, addressing his white friends; "let La-u-na dwell with us! She is as innocent as the lily by the brook, and as noble as a queen. Father," he continued, stepping forward and taking Roughgrove's hand, "you won't refuse my request! And you, sister Mary, I know you will love her as dearly as you do me. And you, my friend," said he, turning to Glenn, "will soon hear her speak our own language, and she will cull many beautiful flowers for you that the white man never yet beheld. Grant this," added the youth, after pausing a few moments, while his friends hung their heads in silence, "and I will remain with you always; but if you refuse, I must fly to the forest again."
"Stay! Oh, brother, you shall not go!" cried Mary, and rushing forward, she threw her arms round his neck. The Indian girl kissed her pale brow, and smiled joyfully, when the youth told her that Mary was his dear sister.
"He loves her, and her affection for him is imperishable!" said Glenn.
"And why may they not be happy together, if they dwell with us?" asked Roughgrove, pondering.
"There is no reason why they should not be. Let us tell them to remain and be happy," said Glenn.
When fully informed that she might abide with them and still love her Young Eagle, La-u-na was almost frantic with ecstasy. She looked gratefully and fondly on her new friends, and pressed their hands in turn. She seemed to be more especially fond of Mary, and repeatedly wound her smooth and soft arms affectionately about her waist and neck.
William led his Indian bride to the seat under the spreading green tree, and signified a desire to commune with her alone. When seated together on the rude bench, the maiden's hand clasped in William's, Mary fondly kissed them both and withdrew in company with Roughgrove and Glenn. Roughgrove prostrated himself in prayer when within the house. Mary ran up to the top of the beetling cliff to cull flowers, and Glenn directed his steps down the valley towards the river, whither Joe had preceded him with the frog he had succeeded in capturing.
Glenn was met about midway by Joe, who was returning slowly, with peculiar marks of agitation on his face. He had neither frog, rod, nor fish in his hand.
"I thought you were fishing," remarked Glenn.
"So I am," replied Joe; "and I've had the greatest luck you ever heard of."
"Well, tell me your success."
"I had a bite," continued he, "in less than three minutes after I threw in my hook. It was a wapper! When he took hold I let him play about awhile with a slack line, to be certain and get it well fixed in his mouth. But when I went to draw up, the monster made a splash or two, and then whizzed out into the middle of the river!"
"Where was the hook?" asked Glenn.
"In his mouth, to be sure," replied Joe.
"And the line?"
"Fast to the rod."
"And the rod?"
"Fast to the line!" said Joe, "and following the fish at the rate of ten knots, while I stood on the bank staring in utter astonishment."
"Then, where was your great success?" demanded Glenn.
"It was a noble bite," said Joe.
"But you were the bitten one," remarked Glenn, scanning Joe's visage, which began to assume a disconsolate cast.
"If I'd only been thinking about such a wapper, and had been on my guard," said Joe, "splash me if he should ever have got my rod away in that manner—I'd have taken a ducking first!"
"Have you no more lines?" asked Glenn.
"No," replied Joe, "none but your's."
"You are welcome to it—but be quick, and I will look on while you have your revenge."
Joe sprang nimbly up the hill, and in a few minutes returned with fresh tackle and another frog that he found on his way. They then repaired to the margin of the river; but before Joe ventured to cast out his line again he made the end of the rod fast to his wrist by means of a strong cord he had provided for that purpose. But now his precaution seemed to have been unnecessary, for many minutes elapsed without any symptoms of success.
Glenn grew impatient and retired a few paces to the base of the cliff, where he reclined in an easy posture on some huge rocks that had tumbled down from a great height, and lay half-imbedded in the earth. Here he long remained with his eyes fixed abstractedly on the curling water, and meditated on the occurrence he had recently witnessed. While his thoughts were dwelling on the singular affection and constancy of the Indian girl, and the probable future happiness of her young lord, his reflections more than once turned upon his own condition. The simple pleasantries that had so often occurred between Mary and himself never failed to produce many unconscious smiles on his lips, and being reciprocated and repeated day after day with increased delight, it was no wonder that he found himself heaving tender sighs as he occasionally pictured her happy features in his mind's eye. He now endeavoured to bestow some grave consideration on the tender subject, and to think seriously about the proper mode of conducting himself in future, when he heard the innocent maiden's clear and inspiring voice ringing down the valley and sinking in soft murmuring echoes on the gliding stream. Soon his quick ear caught the words, which he recognised to be a short ballad of his own composing, that had been written at Mary's request. He then listened in silence, without moving from his recumbent position.
THE CRUEL MAIDEN.
She heard his prayer and sweetly smiled, Then frown'd, and laughing fled away; But the poor youth, e'en thus beguiled, Still would pray.
He'd won her heart, but still she fled, And laugh'd and mock'd from dell and peak While his sad heart, that inward bled, Was fit to break!
Where the bright waters lead adown The moss-green rocks and flags among, He paused—and on his brow a frown Darkly hung!
A shriek came down the peaceful vale, Full soon the maid was at his side, Her ringlets flowing, and cheeks all pale, A willing bride!
Glenn long remained motionless after the sounds died away, as if endeavouring to retain the soothing effect of the ringing notes that had so sweetly reverberated along the jutting peaks of the towering cliff!
"I've got a bite!" exclaimed Joe, bending over the verge of the bank and stretching his arms as far as possible over the water, while his line moved about in various directions, indicating truly that a fish had taken the hook.
"Hold fast to the rod this time, Joe," remarked Glenn, who became interested in the scene.
"Won't I? Its tied fast to my wrist."
"Is it not time to pull him up?" asked Glenn, seeing that the fish, so far from being conscious of peril, inclined towards the shore with the line in quest of more food.
"Here goes!" said Joe, jerking the rod up violently with both hands. No sooner did the fish feel the piercing hook in his mouth than he rose to the surface, and splashing the water several feet round in every direction, darted quickly downwards, in spite of the strenuous efforts of Joe to the contrary.
Nevertheless, Joe entertained no fears about the result; and the fish, as if apprized of the impossibility of capturing the rod, ran along parallel with the shore, gradually approaching the brink of the water, and seemingly with the intention to surrender himself at the feet of the piscator. But this was not his purpose. When Joe made another strong pull, in the endeavour to strand him in the shallow water, the fish again threw up the spray (some of which reached his adversary's face,) and, turning his head outwards, ran directly away from the shore.
"Pull him back, Joe!" said Glenn.
"I am trying with all my might," replied Joe, "but he's so plaguy strong he won't come, hang him!"
"He'll get away if you don't mind!" continued Glenn, evincing much animation in his tones and gestures.
"I'll be drenched if he does!" said Joe, with his arm, to which the rod was lashed, stretched out, while he endeavoured to plant his feet firmly in the sand.
"He'll have you in the water—cut the rod loose from your wrist!" cried Glenn, as Joe's foothold gave way and he was truly drawn into the water.
"Oh, good gracious! I've got no knife! Give me your hand!" cried Joe, vainly striving to untie the cord. "Help me! Oh, St. Peter!" he continued, imploringly, as the fish drew him on in the water, in quick but reluctant strides. "Oh! I'm gone!" he cried, when the water was midway to his chin, and the fish pulling him along with increasing rapidity.
"You are a good swimmer, Joe—be not alarmed, and you will not be hurt," said Glenn, half inclined to laugh at his man's indescribable contortions and grimaces, and apprehending no serious result.
"Ugh!" cried Joe, the water now up to his chin, and the next moment, when in the act of making a hasty and piteous entreaty, his head quickly dipped under the turbid surface and disappeared entirely. Glenn now became alarmed; but, when in the act of divesting himself of his clothing for the purpose of plunging in to his rescue, Joe rose again some forty paces out in the current, and by the exertion of the arm that was free he was enabled to keep his head above the water. The current was very strong, and the fish, in endeavouring; to run up the stream with his prize in tow, made but little headway, and a very few minutes sufficed to prove that it was altogether unequal to the attempt. After having progressed about six rods, Joe's head became quite stationary like a buoy, or a cork at anchor, and then, by degrees, was carried downward by the strong flow as the fish at length became quite exhausted.
"Now for it, Joe—swim towards the shore with him!" cried Glenn.
"He's almost got my shoulder out of place!" replied Joe, blowing a large quantity of water out of his mouth.
"I see his fin above the water," said Glenn; "struggle manfully, Joe, and you will capture him yet!"
"I'll die but I'll have him now—after such a ducking as this!" said Joe, approaching the shore with the almost inanimate fish, that was no longer able to contend against his superior strength. When he drew near enough to touch the bottom, he turned his head and beheld his prize floating close behind, and obedient to his will.
It required the strength of both Glenn and Joe to drag the immense catfish (for such it proved to be) from its native element. It was about the length and weight of Joe, and had a mouth of sufficient dimensions to have swallowed a man's head. It was given to the ferrymen, who had witnessed the immersion, and were attracted thither to render assistance.
"I suppose you have now had enough of the fish?" remarked Glenn, as they retraced their steps homeward.
"I'll acknowledge that I'm satisfied for the present; but I was resolved to have satisfaction!" replied Joe.
"Yes, but you have had it with a vengeance; and I doubt not that your apparent contentment is but cold comfort," continued Glenn.
"I'm not a bit cold—I shan't change my clothes, and I'm ready for any other sport you like," said Joe.
"If you really suffer no inconvenience from the wet—and this fine warm day inclines me to believe you—we will take our guns and walk out to the small lakes on the borders of the prairie."
"Splash it"—began Joe.
"No—duck it," interrupted Glenn.
"Well, I should like to know exactly what you mean—whether you are in earnest about going to the ponds, or whether you are joking me for getting ducked—as there's nothing in them now to shoot but ducks, and it may have popped into your head just because I had the ducking," said Joe.
"I am in earnest," said Glenn; "I do not wish to annoy William, or to meet Roughgrove and Mary until their domestic arrangements are all completed."
"That's strange," said Joe.
"What's strange?" asked Glenn, quickly.
"Why, your not wanting to meet Miss Mary. I say it is most mysteriously strange," replied Joe.
"Say nothing more about it, and think less," said Glenn, striding in advance, while a smile played upon his lip.
"But I can't help dreaming about it—and my dreams all come true," said Joe.
"What have you been dreaming—but never mind—bring out the guns," said Glenn, pausing at the gate of the inclosure, and not venturing to hear Joe recite the dream about himself and Mary.
When possessed of the necessary implements, they set out towards the groves that bordered the prairie, among which were several lakes of clear water, not more than fifty or sixty paces in diameter, where the various wild fowl, as well as the otter and the muskrat, usually abounded. Our hero had previously anticipated some sport of this nature, and constructed blinds on the verge of the lakes, and cut paths through the clustering bushes to reach them stealthily. The lake they now approached was bounded on one side by the green meadow-like prairie, and fringed on the other by hazel thickets, with an occasional towering elm that had survived the autumnal fires.
The morning breeze had subsided, and a delightful calm prevailed. A thousand wild flowers, comprising every hue, filled the air with delicious fragrance, while no sound was heard but the melody of happy birds.
"I think I see a duck!" whispered Joe, as they moved slowly along the path in a stooping posture.
"Where?" asked Glenn, as they crept softly to the blind and cast their eyes over the clear unruffled water.
"I thought I saw one on the muskrat house; but he must have gone to the other side," responded Joe, now looking in vain for it, and closely scanning the little hillocks that had been thrown up in the lake by the muskrats.
"You must have been mistaken," said Glenn; "suppose we go to the other lakes."
"No, I wasn't mistaken—I'd swear to it—be quiet and keep a bright look-out, and we'll see him again in a minute or two," replied Joe, who stood in an attitude of readiness to fire at an instant's warning.
"What is that?" asked Glenn, just then actually observing a small brown object moving behind the hillock.
"Wait till I see a little more of it," said Joe, with his finger on the trigger.
"Don't fire, Joe! its a man's cap!" exclaimed Glenn, detecting under the dark brim the large staring eyes of a human being, apparently evincing a sense of imminent peril; and the next moment the muzzle of a gun pointing above their heads came in view.
"Dod rot it, look up that tree!"
The smile that began to play on our hero's features on recognizing the voice of Sneak was quickly dispelled and succeeded by horror when he cast his eyes upward and beheld an enormous panther, stooping, and on the eve of springing upon him!
"Oh!" exclaimed Joe, letting his gun fall, and falling down himself, bereft alike of the power of escape and the ability to resist.
"Be quiet!" said Glenn, endeavouring to raise his gun, which had become entangled in the bushes; but before he could execute his purpose Sneak fired, and the ferocious animal came tumbling down through the branches and fell at his feet.
"Ugh! Goodness!" exclaimed Joe, his hat striken down over his eyes by the descending panther, and, leaping over the frail barrier of bushes into the water, he plunged forward and executed a series of diving evolutions, as if still endeavouring to elude the clutches of the carnivorous beast, which he imagined was after him.
"Dod—come out of the pond! Its dead—didn't you hear me shoot?" said Sneak, who had by this time paddled a little canoe in which he had been seated to the shore. But Joe continued his exercises, his crushed hat not only depriving him of sight, but rendering him deaf to the laughter that burst from Glenn and Sneak. Sneak ran round to the opposite side of the lake to a point that Joe was approaching, (though all unconscious of his destination,) and remained there till the poor fellow pushed his half-submerged head against the grass, when he seized him furiously and bore him a few paces from the water, in spite of his cries and struggles.
"I ain't the painter!" said Sneak, at length weary of the illusion, and dragging Joe's hat from his head.
"Ha! hang it! ha!" cried Joe, staring at Sneak and Glenn in bewilderment. "Where is it?" he cried, when in some degree recovered from his great perturbation.
"Didn't you hear me shoot? Of course its dead!" replied Sneak.
"Which do you prefer, Joe, ducking or fishing?" asked Glenn.
"I never saw a feller duck his head so," said Sneak.
"Ha! ha! ha! you thought I was frightened, and trying to get away from the panther! But you were much mistaken. I was chasing a muskrat—I got wet in the river, and was determined to see—"
"You couldn't see your own nose!" interrupted Sneak.
"If I couldn't see, I suppose I could hear him run!" replied Joe.
"You couldn't 'ave heard thunder!" said Sneak.
"Did you ever try it?" asked Joe.
"No," replied Sneak.
"Then you don't know," replied Joe; "and now I'm ready to kill a duck," he continued, looking up at a number of water-fowl sailing round and awaiting their departure to dip into the water.
"I will leave you here, Joe. When you hear me fire at the other lake, you may expect the ducks that escape me to visit you," observed Glenn, and immediately after disappeared in the bushes.
"And I'll take the painter's hide off," said Sneak, going with Joe to the blind, where he quietly commenced his labour, that Joe's sport might not be interrupted.
Several flocks of geese and ducks yet flew round above, and gradually drew nearer to the earth, but still fearful of danger and cautiously reconnoitering the premises.
"Suppose I pink one of them on the wing?" said Joe, looking up.
"I don't believe you kin," said Sneak, as he tugged at the panther's hide.
"Wait till they come round the next time, and I'll show you—so look out," said Joe.
"I'll not look—there's no occasion for my seeing—I'm not after a muskrat," responded Sneak, stripping the skin from the animal, and laughing at his own remark. When the ducks came round again, Joe fired, and sure enough one of them fell—descending in a curve which brought it directly on Sneak's cap, knocking it over his eyes.
"Dod rot it! hands off, or I'll walk into you!" exclaimed Sneak, rising up in a hostile attitude.
"Good! that's tit for tat," cried Joe, laughing, as he loaded his gun.
"You didn't do it a purpose," said Sneak, "nor I won't jump into the water nother."
"Yes I did!" continued Joe, much pleased at the occurrence.
"You didn't do any sich thing—or we'd have to fight; but nobody could do sich a thing only by accident. You'd better load your gun, and be ready by the time the next comes," added Sneak, again tearing asunder the panther's skin.
"I thought I had loaded," said Joe, forgetting he had performed that operation, and depositing another charge in his old musket.
Presently Glenn's gun was heard, and in a few minutes an immense flock of geese and ducks, mingled together, flew over the bushes and covered the face of the lake. Joe very deliberately fired in the midst of them, and the rebound of his gun throwing him against Sneak, who was still in a stooping posture, they both fell to the ground.
"I did that on purpose, I'll take my oath—I knew you had put in two loads," said Sneak, rising up.
"Yes, but I ain't hurt—falling over you saved me, or else I'd a thrashed you or got a thrashing," replied Joe, his good humour recovered on beholding some fifteen or twenty dead and wounded ducks and geese on the surface of the water. By the time he had collected his birds, by means of Sneak's canoe, Glenn, who had met with the like success, emerged from the bushes on the opposite verge of the lake, bearing with him his game. Being well satisfied with the sport, he and Joe retraced their steps homeward.
The bright morning—Sneak's visit—Glenn's heart—The snake hunt—Love and raspberries—Joe is bitten—His terror and sufferings—Arrival of Boone—Joe's abrupt recovery—Preparations to leave the west —Conclusion.
The sun rose the next morning in unusual glory. Not a breath of air stirred the entranced foliage of the dark green trees in the valleys, and the fresh flowers around exhaled a sweet perfume that remained stationary over them. The fawn stood perfectly still in the grassy yard, and seemed to contemplate the grandeur of the enchanting scene. The atmosphere was as translucent as fancy paints the realms of the blest, and quite minute objects could be distinctly seen far over the river many miles eastward. Nor were any sounds heard save the occasional chattering of the paroquet in the dense forest across the river, a mile distant, and yet they appeared to be in the immediate vicinity. The hounds lay extended on the ground with their eyes open, more in a listless than a watchful attitude. The kitten was couched on the threshold (the door having been left open to admit the pure air,) and looked thoughtfully at the rising sun. The large blue chanticleer was balanced on one foot with an eye turned upwards as if scanning the heavens to guard against the sudden attack of the far-seeing eagle. Nature seemed to be indulging in a last sweet morning slumber, if indeed not over-sleeping herself, while the sun rose stealthily up and smiled at all her charms exposed!
"Hillo! ain't you all up yit? Git up, Joe, and feed your hosses," cried Sneak, approaching the gate on the outside, and thus most unceremoniously dispelling the charm that enwrapped the premises.
"Who's there?" cried Joe, springing up and rubbing his eyes.
"It's me—dod, you know who I am. Come, open the gate and let me in."
"What's the matter, Sneak? Are the Indians after you?" said Joe, running out, but pausing at the gate for an answer before he drew back the bolt.
"No—I thought-you had sense enough by this time to know no Indians ain't going to come this time a-year. Let me in!" added he, impatiently.
"What are you doing with them long sticks?" asked Joe, opening the gate and observing two hickory poles in Sneak's hand. "Are you going to try your luck fishing?"
"No, nor ducking nother," replied he, sarcastically.
"Plague it, Sneak," said Joe, deprecatingly, "never mind that affair; you were mistaken about my being frightened. The next chance I get I'll let you see that I'm not afraid of any thing."
"Well, I want you to go with me on a spree this morning that'll try you."
"What are you going to do?" asked Joe, with some curiosity in his looks.
"I'm going a snaking," said Sneak.
At this juncture the dialogue was arrested by the appearance of Glenn, whose brow was somewhat paler than usual, and wore an absent and thoughtful cast; yet his abstract meditations did not seem altogether of a painful nature.
"Joe," said he, "I want you to exercise the horses more in the prairie. They are getting too fat and lazy. If they cannot be got on the boat when we leave here, we will have to send them by land to St. Louis."
"Dod—you ain't a going to leave us?" cried Sneak.
"Well, I thought something was in the wind," said Joe, pondering, "but it'll break Miss Mary's—"
"Pshaw!" replied Glenn, quickly interrupting him; "you don't know what you are talking about."
"Well, I can't say I do exactly," said Joe; "but I know its a very mysterious matter."
"What is such a mysterious matter?" asked Glenn, smiling.
"Why, you—Miss Mary"—stammered Joe.
"Well, what is there mysterious about us?"
"Hang it, you know!" replied Joe.
"Pshaw!" repeated Glenn, striding out of the inclosure, and descending the path leading to Roughgrove's house, whither he directed Joe to follow when he had galloped the horses.
"Have you got any licker in the house?" asked Sneak, staring at the retreating form of Glenn.
"No—its all gone. Why do you ask?" returned Joe.
"Becaise that feller's drunk," said Sneak, with a peculiar nod.
"No he ain't—he hasn't drunk a drop for a month."
"Then he's going crazy, and you'd better keep a sharp look-out."
"I know what's the matter with him—he's in love!" said Joe.
"Then why don't he take her?" asked Sneak.
"I don't know," replied Joe; "maybe he will, some day. Now for a ride—how are you, Pete?" he continued, opening the stable door and rubbing the pony's head that was instantly thrust out in salutation.
"I'll ride the hoss," said Sneak.
"Will you? I'm glad of it," said Joe, "for that'll save me the trouble of leading him."
"That's jest what I come for," said Sneak, "becaise this hot morning the snakes are too thick to fight 'em on foot."
"Can you see many of them at a time?"
"Well, I reckon you kin."
"Won't they bite the horses?"
"No, the hosses knows what a snake is as well as a man, and they'll keep a bright eye for 'emselves, while we stave out their brains with our poles," said Sneak.
In a few minutes the companions were mounted, and with the fawn skipping in advance, and the hounds in the rear, they proceeded gayly out toward the prairie on a snaking expedition.
The sunlight was now intensely brilliant, and the atmosphere, though laden with the sweet perfume of the countless millions of wild flowers, began to assume a sultriness that soon caused the horses and hounds to loll out their tongues and pant as they bounded through the rank grass. Ere long the riders drew near a partially barren spot in the prairie, where from some singular cause the grass was not more than three inches high. This spot was circular, about fifty paces in diameter, and in the centre was a pool of bright water, some fifty feet in circumference. The grass growing round this spot was tall and luxuriant, and terminated as abruptly at the edge of the circle as if a mower had passed along with his sharp scythe.
"Sneak, I never saw that before," said Joe, as they approached, while yet some forty paces distant. "What does it mean?"
"You'll see presently," said his companion, grasping more firmly the thick end of his rod, as if preparing to deal a blow. "When I was out here this morning," he continued, "they were too thick for me, and I had to make tracks."
"What were too thick for you?" asked Joe, with a singular anxiety, and at the same time reining in his pony.
"Why, the snakes," said Sneak with much deliberation. "I was a-foot then, and from the style in which they whizzed through the grass, I was afraid too many might git on me at a time and choke me to death. But now I'm ready for 'em; they can't git us if we manage korect."
"I won't go!" said Joe.
"Dod, they ain't pisen!" said Sneak; "they're nearly all black racers, and they don't bite. Come on, don't be such a tarnation coward; the rattlesnakes, and copper-heads, and wipers, won't run after us; and if they was to, they couldn't reach up to our legs. This is a glorious day for snaking—come on, Joe!"
Joe followed at a very slow and cautious pace a few steps farther, and then halted again.
"What're you stopping for agin?" asked Sneak.
"Sneak, the pony ain't tall enough!"
"That's all the better," replied Sneak; "you can whack 'em easier as they run—and then they can't see you as fur as they kin me. I'll swap hosses with you."
"No you won't!" replied Joe, whipping forward again. But he had not advanced many seconds before he drew up once more. This time he was attracted by the unaccountable motions of the fawn, a short distance ahead. That animal was apparently striking some object on the ground with its feet, and ever and anon springing violently to one side or the other. Its hair stood erect on its back, and it assumed a most ferocious aspect. Now it would run back toward the men a moment, and, wheeling suddenly, again leap upon the foe, when its feet could be heard to strike against the ground; then it plunged forward, and after making a spring beyond, would return to the attach.
"Here, Ringwood! Jowler!" cried Joe, and the hounds ran forward to the spot pointed out to them. But no sooner had they gone far enough to see the nature of the enemy that the fawn was attacking, than they turned away affrighted, and with their tails hanging down retreated from the scene of action.
They rode up and surveyed more closely the strange battle. The fawn, becoming more and more enraged, did not suspend hostilities at their approach. They paused involuntarily when, within a few feet of the object, which proved to be a tremendous rattlesnake, some five feet in length, and as thick as a man's arm. It was nearly dead, its body, neck, and head, exhibited many bloody gashes cut by the sharp hoofs of the fawn. Every time the fawn sprang upon it, it endeavoured in vain to strike its fangs into its active foe, which sprang away in a twinkling, and before it could prepare to strike again, the fatal hoofs would inflict another wound on its devoted head. It grew weaker and weaker, and finally turned over on its back, when the infuriated deer, no longer compelled to observe cautionary measures, soon severed its head entirely from the body and stood over it in triumph.
"Pete can do that if a deer can!" said Joe, somewhat emboldened at the death of so formidable a reptile, and beholding the fixed though composed gaze of the pony as he stood with his head turned sideways towards the weltering snake.
"Sartinly he kin," said Sneak, standing up in his stirrups, and stretching his long neck to its utmost tension to see if any snakes were in the open area before them.
"Do you see any, Sneak?" asked Joe, now grasping his rod and anxious for the fray.
"I see a few—about forty, I guess, lying in the sun at the edge of the water."
"Sneak, there's too many of them," said Joe.
"Dod—you ain't a going to back out now, I hope. Don't you see your pony snuffing at 'em? He wants to dash right in among 'em."
"No he don't," said Joe—"he don't like the smell, nor I either—faugh!"
"Why, it smells like May-apples—I like it," said Sneak; "but there ain't more than one or two copper-heads there—they're most all racers. Come on, Joe—we must gallop right through and mash their heads with our sticks as we pass. Then after a little while we must turn and dash back agin—that's the way to fix 'em."
"You must go before," said Joe.
The number that Sneak mentioned was not exaggerated. On the contrary, additions were constantly made to the number. The surface of the pool was continually agitated by the darting serpents striking at the tadpoles and frogs, while on the margin many were writhing in various fantastic contortions in their sports. Nearly all of them were large, and some could not have been less than eleven feet long. They were evidently enjoying the warm rays of the sun, and at times skipped about with unwonted animation. Now one of the largest would elevate his black head some four feet from the ground, while the others wrapped themselves around him, and thus formed the dark and horrid spectacle of a pyramid of snakes! Then falling prostrate with their own weight, in less than a twinkling they were dispersed and flying over the smooth short grass in every direction, their innumerable scales all the time emitting a low buzzing sound as they ran along. Every moment others glided into the area from the tall grass, and those assembled thither rushed towards them in a body to manifest a welcome.
"Now's the time!" cried Sneak, rushing forward, followed by Joe. When Joe's eyes fell upon the black mass of serpents, he made a convulsive grasp at the reins with an involuntary resolution to retreat without delay from such a frightful scene. But the violence of his grasp severed the reins from the bit, and the pony sprang forward after the steed, being no longer subject to his control! There was no retreating now! Sneak levelled his rod at a cluster just forming in a mass two feet above the ground, and crushed the hydra at a blow! Joe closed his eyes, and struck he knew not what—but Sneak knew, for the blow descended on his head—though with feeble force. In an instant the horsemen had passed to the opposite side of the area and halted in the tall grass. Looking back, they beheld a great commotion among the surviving snakes. Some glided into the pool, and with bodies submerged, elevated their heads above the surface and darted out their tongues fiercely. Others raced round the scene of slaughter with their heads full four feet high, or gathered about the dead and dying, and lashed the air with their sharp tails, producing sounds like the cracking of whips. The few copper-heads and rattlesnakes present coiled themselves up with their heads in the centre in readiness to strike their poison into whatever object came within their reach.
So sudden had been the onset of the horsemen that the surprised serpents seemed to be ignorant of the nature of the foe, and instead of flying to the long grass to avoid a recurrence of bloodshed, they continued to glide round the pool, while their number increased every moment.
"What'd you hit me on the head for?" asked Sneak, after regarding the snakes a moment, and then turning to Joe, the pony having still kept at the heels of the steed in spite of his rider's efforts to the contrary.
"Oh, Sneak," cried Joe, in tones somewhat tremulous, "do, for goodness' sake, let us go away from here!"
"I sha'n't do any such thing—what'd you hit me on the head for?"
"I thought I was a killing a snake," replied Joe.
"Do I look like a snake?" continued Sneak, turning round, when for the first time he discovered the condition of his companion's bridle.
"Sneak, let's ride away!" said Joe.
"And leave all them black sarpents yander poking out their tongues at us? I won't go till I wear out this pole on 'em. Ha! ha! ha! I thought you hadn't spunk enough to gallup through 'em on your own accord," said Sneak, looking at the pony, and knowing that he would follow the steed always, if left to his own inclination.
"Come, Sneak, let's go home!" continued Joe, in a supplicating tone.
"Come! let's charge on the snakes agin!" said Sneak, raising the rod, and fixing his feet in the stirrups.
"Hang me if I go there again!" said Joe, throwing down his rod.
"You're a tarnation coward, that's what you are! But you can't help yourself," replied Sneak.
"I'll jump off and run!" said Joe, preparing to leap to the ground.
"You jest do now, and you'll have forty sarpents wrapped round you in less than no time."
At that moment two or three racers swept between them with their heads elevated as high as Joe's knees, and entered the area.
"Oh goodness!" cried Joe, drawing up his legs.
"Git down and git your pole," said Sneak.
"I wouldn't do it if it was made of gold!"
"If you say you'll fight the snakes, I'll git it for you—I'm a going to stay here till they're all killed," continued Sneak.
"Give it to me, then—I'll smash their brains out the next time!" said Joe, with desperate determination.
"But you musn't hit me agin!" said Sneak, dismounting and handing up the weapon to Joe, and then leaping on the steed again.
"Sneak, you're no better than a snake, to bring me into such a scrape as this!" said Joe, leaning forward and scanning the black mass of serpents at the pool.
In a few minutes they whipped forward, Sneak in advance, and again they were passing through the army of snakes. This time Joe did good service. He massacred one of the coiled rattlesnakes at a blow, and his pony kicked a puffing viper to atoms. Sneak paused a moment at the pool, and dealt his blows with such rapidity that nearly all the black racers that survived glided swiftly into the tall grass, and one of the largest was seen by Joe to run up the trunk of a solitary blasted tree that stood near the pool, and enter a round hole about ten feet from the ground.
But if the serpents were mostly dispersed from the area around the pool, they were by no means all destroyed; and when the equestrians were again in the tall grass, they found them whizzing furiously about the hoofs of their horses. Once or twice Sneak's horse sprang suddenly forward in pain, being stung on the ham or shoulder by the tails of the racers as they flew past with almost inconceivable rapidity.
"Oh! St. Peter! Sneak!" cried Joe, throwing back his head, and lifting up his knees nearly to his chin.
"Ha! ha! ha! did one of 'em cut you, Joe? They hurt like fury, but their tails ain't pisen. Look what a whelk they've made on the hoss."
"Sneak, why don't you get away from this nasty place! One of them shot right over the pony's neck a while ago, and came very near hitting me on the chin."
"You must hit 'em as they come. Yander comes one—now watch me!" Saying this, Sneak turned the steed so as to face a tremendous racer about forty paces distant, that was approaching with the celerity of the wind with its head above the tall grass. When it came within reach of his rod, he bestowed upon it a blow that entirely severed the head, and the impetus with which it came caused the body to fly over the steed, and falling upon the neck of the pony, with the life yet remaining (for they are constrictors,) instantly wrapped in a half dozen folds around it! Pete snorted aloud, and, springing forward, ran a hundred paces with all the fleetness of which he was capable. But being unable to shake off the terrible incumbrance, with his tongue hanging out in agony, he turned back and ran directly for the horse. When he came up to the steed, he pushed his head under his neck, manifesting the greatest distress, and stamping and groaning as if becoming crazed.
"Dod! let me git hold of him!" cried Sneak, bending forward and seizing the snake by the tail. The long head-less body gave way gradually, and becoming quite relaxed fell powerless and dead to the earth.
"Oh, Sneak, let's go!" said Joe, trembling, his face having turned as pale as death while Pete was dashing about in choking agony under the tight folds of the serpent.
"Smash me if I go as long as there's a snake left!" replied Sneak, striking down another huge racer; but this one, having its back broken, remained stationary.
Thus he continued to strike down the snakes as long as any remained on the field; and, as they became scarce, Joe grew quite valorous, and did signal service. At length the combat ceased, and not a living serpent could be seen running.
"Sneak, we've killed them all—huzza!" cried Joe, flourishing his rod.
"Yes, but you didn't do much—you're as big a coward as ever."
"Oh, I wasn't afraid of them, Sneak," said Joe; "I was only a little cautious, because it was the first time I ever went a snaking."
"Yes, you was mighty cautious! if your bridle hadn't broke, you'd have been home long ago."
"Pshaw, Sneak!" said Joe; "you're much mistaken. But how many do you think we've killed?"
"I suppose about a quarter of a cord—but I've heard tell of men's killing a cord a day, easy."
"You don't say so! But how does it happen so many are found together? When I go out I can never find more than a dozen or so."
"There's a snake den under that clear place," said Sneak, "where they stay all winter—but its not as big a den as some I've seen."
"I don't want to see more than I have to-day!" said Joe, whipping past the steed as they started homewards, having mended his bridle. But as he paced along by the decayed tree mentioned above, he saw the glistening eyes of the large racer peering from the hole it had entered, and he gave it a smart blow on the head with his rod and spurred forward. The next moment, when Sneak came up, the enraged serpent sprang down upon him, and in a twinkling wound himself tightly round his neck! Sneak's eyes started out of his head, and being nearly strangled he soon fell to the earth. Joe looked on in amazement, but was too much frightened to assist him. And Sneak, unable to ask his aid, only turned his large eyes imploringly towards him, while in silence he vainly strove to tear away the serpent with his fingers. He thrust one hand in his pocket for his knife, but it had been left behind! He then held out his hand to Joe, and in this dumb and piteous manner begged him to lend him his knife. Joe drew it from his pocket, but could not brace his nerves sufficiently to venture within the suffocating man's reach. At length he bethought him of his pole, and opening the blade thrust it in the end of it and cautiously handed it to Sneak. Sneak immediately ran the sharp steel through the many folds of the snake, and it fell to the ground in a dozen pieces! The poor man's strength then completely failed him, and he rolled over on his back in breathless exhaustion. Joe rendered all the assistance in his power, and his companion soon revived.
"Dod rot your skin!" exclaimed Sneak, getting up and seizing Joe by the collar.
"Hang it, it wasn't me! it was the snake!" said Joe, extricating his neck from his companion's grasp.
"What'd you hit the sarpent for?"
"Why, I wanted to kill him."
"Then why didn't you help me to get it away from my neck?"
"You didn't ask me," said Joe, with something like ingenuousness, though with a most provoking application.
"I couldn't speak! The tarnation thing was squeezing my neck so tight I couldn't say a word. But I looked at you, and you might 'ave understood me. Never mind, you'll git a snake hold of you some of these days."
"I'll keep a sharp look out after this," said Joe. "But Sneak, I'll swear now you were not born to be hung."
"You be dod rot!" replied Sneak, leaping on the steed, and turning towards the river.
"I would have cut him off myself, Sneak," said Joe, musing on the odd affair as they rode briskly along, "if I hadn't been afraid of cutting your throat. I knew you wasn't born to be hung."
"Ha! ha! ha! that was the tightest place that ever I was in," said Sneak, regaining his good humour, and diverted at the strange occurrence.
"Didn't he bite you?" asked Joe.
"No, a black snake can't bite—they havn't got any fangs. If it had been a rattlesnake or a viper, I'd been a gone chicken. I don't think I'll ever leave my knife behind again, even if I wasn't to go ten steps from home. Dod—my neck's very sore."
The companions continued the rest of the way in silence. When they reached home, and returned the horses to the stable, they proceeded down the path to Roughgrove's house to report their adventure.
Glenn and Mary, William and La-u-na, were seated under the spreading elm-tree, engaged in some felicitous conference, that produced a most pleasing animation in their features.
Mary immediately demanded of Joe a recital of his adventures that morning. He complied without reluctance, and his hearers were frequently convulsed with laughter as he proceeded, for he added many embellishments not narrated by the author. Sneak bore their merriment with stoical fortitude, and then laughed as heartily as themselves at his own recent novel predicament.
La-u-na asked Sneak if he had been bitten by any of the poisonous snakes. Sneak of course replied in the negative, but at the same time desired to know the name of the plant that was used by the Indians with universal success when wounded by the fangs of the rattlesnake. The girl told him it was the white plantain that grew in the prairies.
"I'll go and get some right straight," said Joe, "because I don't know what moment I may be bitten."
"Never mind it, Joe," said Glenn, rising. "We are now going to gather wild raspberries on the cliff south of and we want you and Sneak to assist us."
"Well—I like raspberries, and they must be ripe by this time, if the chickens havn't picked them all before us."
"Dod—if the chickens have ett 'em can that make 'em green agin?" replied Sneak to Joe's Irishism.
"You'd better learn how to read before you turn critic," said Joe, taking up the baskets that had been brought out of the house. He then led the way, quarrelling all the time with Sneak, while Glenn, placing Mary's arm in his, and William imitating the example, followed at a distance behind.
When the party reached the raspberry thicket, they found truly that the fowls were there before them, though quite an abundance of the delicious berry still remained untouched. A few moments sufficed to drive the feathered gatherers away, and then without delay they began to fill their baskets.
Many were the hearty peals of joyous laughter that rang from the innocent lovers while momentarily obscured by the green clustering bushes. Ere long they were dispersed in various parts of the thicket, and Glenn and Mary being separated from the rest, our hero seized the opportunity to broach a tender subject.
"Mary," said he, and then most unaccountably paused.
"Well," said she turning her glorious dark blue eyes full upon him.
"I have something of moment to say to you, if you will listen attentively—and I know not a more fitting time and place than this to tell it. Here is a natural bower surrounded by sweet berries, and shielded from the sun by the fragrant myrtle. Let us sit on this mossy rock. Will you listen?" he continued, drawing her close to his side on the seat in the cool retreat.
"Have I ever refused to listen to you? do I not love to hear your voice?" said the confiding and happy girl.
"Bless you, Mary—my whole heart is yours!" exclaimed our hero, seizing a rapturous kiss from the coral lips of the maiden. Mary resisted not, nor replied; while tears, but not of grief, glistened on her dark lashes.
"You will not reject my love, Mary? Why do you weep?"
"It is with joy—my heart is so happy that tears gush out in spite of me!"
"Will you then be mine?" continued Glenn, winding his arm round her yielding waist.
"Forever!" she replied, and, bowing her head slightly, a shower of dark silken tresses obscured her blushing face, and covered our hero's panting breast. Thus they remained many moments in silence, for their feelings were too blissful for utterance.
"Are you always happy, Mary?" said Glenn, at length, taking her little white hand in his.
"No!" she replied, with a sigh.
"When you are away, I sometimes fear the Indians—or a snake—or—or something may harm you," said she, falteringly.
"I thank thee, Mary, for thinking of me when I am away."
"I always think of thee!" said she.
"Ay, by day—and thou art ever with me in my dreams."
"And I will be with thee always!"
"Do!" said she.
"But dost thou not sometimes repine that thy life is thus spent in the wilderness far from the busy world?"
"I sometimes wish I could see the beautiful cities I read of—but when I think of the treacheries and miseries of the world, I look at the pure fresh flowers, and list to the sweet birds around me, and then I think there is more happiness to be enjoyed here than anywhere else."
"And such is truly the case," said Glenn, pondering "But then, Mary, we all have obligations to discharge. We were created for society—to associate with our species, and while mingling with kindred beings, it is our duty to bestow as many benefits on them as may be within the scope of our power."
"You think, then, we should leave our western home?" she asked, with undisguised interest.
"Wilt thou not consent to go?"
"If you go, I will go!" said she.
"And now I declare I will not go unless thou art willing."
"But is it a duty?" she asked.
"Your fa—Mr. Roughgrove says so."
"Then let us go! But why did you not say father?"
"He is not your father."
"No!" exclaimed the maid, turning pale.
"I will tell thee all, Mary." And Glenn related the story of the maiden's birth. "Now, Mary," he continued, "thou knowest thine own history. Thou art of a noble race, according to the rules of men—nay, thy blood is royal—if thou wouldst retract thy plighted faith (I should have told thee this before,) speak, and thy will shall be done!"
"Oh! Charles! I am thine, THINE ONLY, were I born an angel!" she cried, throwing herself into his arms. At this juncture a violent rustling was heard in the bushes not far distant, and the next moment Joe's voice rang out.
"Oh me! Oh St. Peter! Oh murder! murder! murder!" cried he. Instantly all the party were collected round him. He lay in a small open space on the grass, with his basket bottom upward at his side, and all the berries scattered on the ground.
"What is the matter?" asked Glenn.
"Oh, I'm snake-bitten! I'm a dead man! I'm dying!" cried he, piteously.
"That's a fib," said Sneak, "bekaise a dead man can't be a dying."
"Let me see," said William, stooping down to examine the place on which Joe's hands were convulsively pressed. With some difficulty he pulled them away, and tearing down the stocking, actually saw a small bleeding puncture over the ankle bone!
"What kind of a snake was it?" asked Glenn in alarm. "A rattlesnake—Oh!"
"Did you see it?" continued Glenn, knowing Joe's foible, though it was apparent he suffered from some kind of a wound.
"I heard it rattle. Oh, my goodness! I'm going fast! I'm turning blind!"
La-u-na told him to run to the house and cover the wound with salt, and remain quiet till Sneak could obtain some plantain leaves from the prairie. Joe sprang up and rushed down the hill. Sneak set out in quest of the antidote, and the rest directed their steps homeward.
When they reached Roughgrove's house, they found Joe lying in the middle of the floor on his back, and groaning most dolefully. He had applied the salt to the wound as directed, and covered it and his whole leg so plentifully with bandages that the latter seemed to be as thick as his body.
"How do you feel now, Joe?" asked Glenn.
"I'm a dead man!" said he.
La-u-na told him not to be alarmed, and assured him there was no danger.
"But I'll die before Sneak can get back!"
"Your voice is too strong to fear that," said William; "but do you suffer much pain?"
"Oh, I'm in agony!" said he, rolling back his eyes.
"Where does the pain lie?" asked Glenn.
"Oh, St. Peter! all over me! In my toes, ankles, legs, arms, heart, throat, mouth, nose, and eyes! Oh, I'm in tortures! I'm blind—I can't see any of you!"
At this moment Roughgrove, who had been over the river on a visit to Boone, entered the apartment with the renowned hunter at his side. When fully informed of the circumstances, Boone stooped down and felt Joe's pulse.
"The strokes are irregular," said Boone.
"Oh heaven!" exclaimed Joe.
"But that may be caused by fright," continued Boone.
"Oh goodness! it ain't that—I'm a dying man!"
"Is the leg much swollen?" asked Boone, endeavouring to ascertain without taking off the bandages.
"Oh! oh! don't do that! it'll kill me in a minute—for its swelled fit to burst!" cried Joe, shrinking from Boone's grasp.
"All the cases of snake-bite that I have seen differ from this. I have always found the swollen limb nearly devoid of feeling. Did you kill the snake?"
"Tell me precisely the place where you were standing when it bit you—there is a mystery about it that I must solve."
"Oh—it was—I can't speak! my breath's going fast! Oh! Paternoster—"
William then described the spot to Boone in such precise terms that the old woodman declared he would immediately repair thither and endeavour to find the snake. He accordingly set out in the direction indicated without further delay; while Roughgrove, believing that poor Joe was really on the verge of eternity, strove to comfort his departing spirit with the consolation that religion affords.
"Oh! that ain't the right one!" exclaimed Joe, pushing away the Episcopal prayer-book held by Roughgrove.
"Then here is one you cannot object to," said Roughgrove, opening the Bible.
"Oh, that's not it, either!" cried Joe, in great distress. "Is there no priest in this region? I'm a Roman Catholic—oh!"
"Can you not confess your sins directly to God—the God who is everywhere, and governs all things?" said the aged man, impressively, and with animation.
"I have prayed," said Joe; "but now I want the ointment!"
"Your body, which must be placed in the damp cold earth, needs no oil. It is far better to purify the soul, which perishes not," said Roughgrove, in fervent and tremulous tones.
"Oh!—Oh! Ugh!" cried Joe, in a deep guttural voice, and turning over on his face. His fears had evidently been increased by the solemn tone and look of Roughgrove.
"Don't be alarmed, Joe," said Glenn, turning him again on his back. "Sneak will soon be here, and La-u-na says the plantain will be sure to cure you. William tells me that he has seen the Indians permit the snakes to bite them for a mere trifle in money, so certain were they of being restored by the plant. And indeed he never knew a bite to terminate fatally."
"But I'm afraid Sneak won't come in time," replied Joe, somewhat comforted.
"Pshaw! he won't loiter in a case of this kind—he knows it is no joke," continued Glenn.
"But suppose he can't find any plantain—then I'm dead to a certainty! Oh me!"
"Does the pain increase much?" asked Mary.
"Oh, yes! its ten times worse than it was ten minutes ago! I'm going fast—I can't move either leg now," he continued, in a weak utterance.
Glenn grew uneasy. Joe was pale—very pale, and breathed hard.
Boone entered, with a smile on his lip.
"Have you got the plantain?" asked Joe, in feeble accents, with his languid eyes nearly closed, thinking it was Sneak.
"Sit up and tell me how you feel," said Boone, in vain striving to repress his smile.
"Oh, St. Peter! I haven't strength enough to lift my hand," said Joe, his eyes still closed.
"Did you find the snake?" asked Glenn.
"Yes," replied Boone. Joe groaned audibly. "I will tell you all about it," he continued; "I found the spot where Joe had been gathering the berries, and tracked him without difficulty to every bush he visited by the bruised grass under his foot-prints. At length I came to the cluster of bushes where he received the wound. I stood in his cracks and saw where he had plucked the raspberries. When about to cast down my eyes in quest of the snake, suddenly I felt a blow on my own ankle!"
"Did the same snake bite you?" asked Mary, quickly.
"Yes," replied Boone, still smiling. Joe opened his eyes, and after gazing a moment at Boone, asked him if he did not suffer much pain.
"Fully as much as you do—but hear me through. I sprang back with some violence, I admit, but I did not run away. Lifting my cane, I returned with a determination to kill the snake. I stooped down very low to ascertain the precise position of its head, which was concealed by a large mullen leaf—I saw its eyes and its bill—"
"What!" exclaimed Joe, rising up on his elbow with unwonted vigour, and his eyes riveted on the speaker.
"Yes, its bill", continued Boone. "And while my cane was brandished in the air and about descending on its devoted head, a low clucking arrested my arm, and approaching closer to it than before, and gazing steadfastly a moment, I lowered my cane to its usual position, and fell back laughing on the grass among the raspberries you had dropped."
"Mr. Boone—Mr. Boone!" cried Joe, springing up in a sitting attitude, and seizing the hand of the veteran, "for Heaven's sake tell me what it was?"
"It was an old SITTING HEN!" said Boone.
"Upon your honour?" continued Joe, leaping upon his feet, and staring the aged hunter in the face, while his eyes gleamed with irrepressible hope and anxiety.
"It was nothing else, upon my honour," replied Boone, laughing in concert with the rest.
"Huzza! huzza!! huzza!!!" shouted Joe, casting the bandages hither and thither, and dancing nimbly over the floor. "Fal-de-lal—tider-e-i— tider-e-o— tider-e-um!" he continued, in frenzied delight, and, observing Sneak at the door with an armful of plantain (who had returned in time to witness his abrupt recovery, and now continued to regard him with wonder and doubt—at times thinking he was delirious,) skipped up and held out both hands, as if inviting him to dance.
"Dod rot it, your leg ain't swelled a bit!" said Sneak.
"Don't use that bad word, Sneak," said Mary.
"I won't—but dod—he's had me running all over—"
"Tider-e-i—tider-e-um!" continued Joe, still dancing, while the perspiration streamed over his face.
"Have done with this nonsense, Joe!" said Glenn, "or else continue your ridiculous exercises on the grass in the yard. You may rejoice now, but this affair will be sport for others all your life. You will not relish it so much to-morrow."
"I'd rather all the world would laugh at me alive and kicking, than that one of you should mourn over my dead body," replied Joe, leaping over Sneak, who was sitting in the door, and striding to the grass plot under the elm, where he continued his rejoicings. Sneak followed, and, sitting down on the bench in the shade, seemed to muse with unusual gravity at the strange spectacle presented by Joe.
This was Joe's last wild western adventure. The incident was soon forgotten by the party in the house. Serious and sad thoughts succeeded the mirthful scene described above. Roughgrove had brought Boone thither to receive their last farewell! The renowned woodman and warrior wore marks of painful regret on his pale features. The rest were in tears.
"William," said Roughgrove, "listen to a tale concerning thy birth and parentage, which I feel it to be my duty to unfold. Your sister has already learned the story from your friend, who sits beside her. But I will repeat it to all present. You who are the most interested can then determine whether it shall ever be disclosed to other ears. The secret was long locked in my bosom, and it was once my purpose to bury it with my body in the grave. I pondered long on the subject, and prayed to Heaven to be instructed. I have satisfactory evidence in my own heart that I have acted correctly." He then related the history of the twins, as we have given it to the reader. When he concluded, La-u-na, who had betrayed much painful interest during the recital, threw her arms round William's neck, and wept upon his breast.
"Why do you weep, La-u-na?" asked the youth.
"La-u-na must die!" said she; "her William will leave her and forget her. The wild rose will bend over her grave—the brook will murmur low at her cold feet—the rabbit will nip the tender grass by her tombstone at night-fall—the katydid will chirp over her, and the whippor-will will sing in vain. William will forget her! Poor La-u-na!"
"No—La-u-na! no! Thou shalt go with me and be my bride, or else I will remain with thee! Death only shall separate us!" said the youth, drawing the slight form of the Indian maiden closer to his heart, and imprinting a rapturous kiss on her smooth forehead.
"We will all go together," continued Roughgrove, "save our beloved friend here, who tells me that no earthly consideration could induce him to dwell in cities among civilized men."
"True," said Boone; "I would not exchange my residence in the western wilds for the gorgeous palaces of the east. Yet I think you do right in returning to the society which you were destined to adorn. I shall grieve when I miss you, but I will not persuade you to remain. Every one should act according to the dictates of his conscience. It is my belief that Providence guides our actions. You, my friends, were fitted and designed to move in refined society, and by your example and influence to benefit the world around you. The benefits bestowed by me will not be immediate, nor altogether in my day. I am a PIONEER, formed by nature. Where I struggle with the savage and the wild beast, my great grandchildren will reside in cities, I must fulfil my mission."
At this moment Joe and Sneak appeared at the door.
"There's a covered flat-boat just landed down at the ferry," said Joe.
"It is from the island above," said Roughgrove, "and the one I have had constructed for our voyage down the river."
"Are we going, sure enough?" asked Joe.
"Yes; to-morrow," said Glenn.
"Dod—are you all going off?" asked Sneak, rolling round his large eyes, and stretching out his neck to an unusual length.
"All but me, Sneak," said Boone.
"And you won't be any company for me. Dod—I've a notion to go too! If I could foller any thing to make a living in Fillydelfa—"
"If you go with us, you shall never want—I will see that you are provided for," said Glenn.
"It's a bargain!" said Sneak, with the eager emphasis characteristic of the trading Yankee.
"But poor Pete—the horses!" said Joe.
"There are stalls in the boat for them," said Roughgrove.
"Huzza! I'm glad. Huzza!" cried Joe.
* * * * *
The next morning beamed upon them in beauty—and in sadness. The sun rose in majesty, and poured his brilliant and inspiring rays on peak and valley and plain. But the hearts of the peaceful wanderers throbbed in sorrow as they gazed for the last time on the scene before them. Though it had been identified with the many perilous and painful encounters with savages, yet the quivering green leaves above, the sparkling brook below, and the soft melody of happy birds around, were intimately associated with some of the most blissful moments of their lives.
La-u-na retired to a lonely spot, and poured forth a farewell song to the whispering spirits of her fathers. Long her steadfast gaze was fixed on the blue sky, as if communing with the departed kings from whom she descended. At length her tears vanished like a shower in the sunshine, and a bright smile rested upon her features, as if her prayer had been heard and all she asked were granted! Prophetic vision! While the race from which she separated is doomed to extinction in the forest, the blood she mingled with the Anglo-Saxon race may yet be destined to sway the councils of a mighty empire.
William mused in silence, guarding at a distance the bride of his heart, and not venturing to intrude upon her devotions. The past was like a dream to him—the present a bright vision—the future a paradise!
Glenn and Mary were seated together, regarding with impatience the brief preparations to embark. Boone, Roughgrove, Sneak, and Joe were busily engaged lading the vessel. Sneak had hastily brought thither his effects, and without a throe of regret abandoned his house for ever to the owls. Joe succeeded with but little difficulty in getting the horses on board. The fawn, the kitten, the hounds, and the chickens were likewise taken along.
And now all was ready to push out into the current. All were on board. Boone bid them an affectionate adieu in silence—in silence, but in tears. The cable was loosened, and the boat was wafted down on its journey eastward. William and La-u-na sat upon the deck, and gazed at the receding shore, rendered dear by hallowed recollections. Glenn and Mary stood at the prow, and as they marked the fleeting waters, their thoughts dwelt on the happy future. Roughgrove was praying. Joe was caressing the pony. Sneak was counting his muskrat skins. And thus we must bid them adieu.