Abbildungen der Seite

old woman who brought him his morning meal. The curiosity of the tribe was satisfied, and the relatives of the deceased were weary of insulting him. At length the shadow of a human figure fell upon


green before the door, and the next instant the well-remembered form and face of beauty made its appearance. The maiden laid her hand on the shoulder of the sentinel, and pointed to the sky where a bald eagle was sailing away to the east. The majestic bird at length alighted on the top of a tall tree, at the distance of about half a mile, balanced himself for a moment on his talons, then closed his wings and settling on his perch, looked down into the village, as if seeking for his prey.

If thy bow be faithful and thy arrow keen,” said the maiden, “I will keep watch over the prisoner until thy return." The savage threw a glance at the captive, as if to assure himself that every thing was safe, and immediately disappeared in the forest.

The young woman then entered the cabin. She came with a plan of escape which she had formed for the captive. There was no time to be lost; the chiefs of the tribe were to return the next day, and then he must expect to be guarded with greater strictness than ever. It were long to repeat the conversation which ensued. The young warrior implored his beautiful deliverer to


accompany him in his flight. He assured her that liberty would be bitter without her, and that her presence and her pity would almost compensate him for the tortures which awaited him in case he should remain. He spoke of the danger she might incur if it were known that she had aided his escape, and had thus disappointed the vengeance of her tribe, and he protested that he would rather die by the death of fire than expose her to the slightest peril.

Why should I waste time in telling what has already so often been told? The conclusion was natural—it was inevitable. The heart of a young female of nineteen, in every nation and every state of society, is soft and susceptible, and when besieged at once by love and compassion, is too certain to yield. The maiden made the warrior repeat again and again his promises of affection and constancy, as if they were a security against any unfortunate consequences of the imprudence she was going to commit. She ended by believing all he said, and by consenting to become his wife and the companion of his escape.

6 But I cannot go to thy tribe,” said she; “ for then thou wouldst be obliged to raise the tomahawk against my people, and I may not abide in the habitation of him who seeks to spill the blood of my friends. If thou wilt take me for the guide of thy path, I


will bring thee to a hiding-place, where the arrows of thy enemies cannot reach thee, and where we may remain sheltered until this cloud of war be overpast."

The youth hesitated. “ Nay then,"continued she, “I may not go with thee. I will cut thy cords, and the Good Spirit will guide thee to the land of thy friends."

This was enough: love prevailed for once over the desire of warlike glory, in the bosom of a descendant of the Mohawks, and it was settled that the flight should take place that night.

They had just arrived at this conclusion when the man who guarded the prisoner returned. He had been absent the longer because the eagle had changed his perch, and had alighted on a tree at a still greater distance than the first. He had succeeded in bringing down the bird, and was now displaying its huge wings with evident satisfaction at the success of his aim. The maiden pulled from them a handful of the long grey feathers, as the reward of having shown him to the guard, and departed.

The midnight of that day found the captive awake in the cabin, and his keepers stretched on a mat asleep by the door. They had begun to guard him with the less vigilance because he had

made no attempt, and shown no disposition to escape. He thought he heard the light sound of a footstep approaching; he raised his head, and listened attentively. Was it the rustling of leaves in the neighbouring wood that deceived him, or the heavily drawn breath of the sleepers, or the weltering of the river on whose banks the village stood ? These were the only sounds he was now able to distinguish. A ray of moonlight shone through a crevice in the cabin, and fell across the bodies of his sleeping guards. As his eye rested on this, he saw it gradually widening, and, soon after, the mat that hung over the opening which served for a door-way was wholly withdrawn, and the light figure of the maiden appeared. She stepped cautiously and slowly over the slumbering men, and approaching him, with a sharp knife severed, without noise, the cords that confined him, and stealing back to the door, beckoned to him to follow.

He did so, planting his foot at every step, gradually on the floor from the point to the heel, and pausing between, until he was out of the cabin. His heart bounded within him when he found himself standing in the free air and the white moonlight, with his limbs unbound. They took a path which led westward through the woods, and after following it for several rods, the maiden turned aside

and took from a thick clump of cedars a musket, a powder-horn, and a bag of balls, which she put into his hands. She next handed him a wolfskin mantle, which she motioned him to throw over his shoulder, and placed on his head a kind of cap, on which nodded a tuft of feathers, plucked from the wings of the very eagle his sentinel had so lately killed. She then drew forth a bow and a sheaf of arrows, and striking again into the path, proceeded with a rapid pace. It was not long before they heard the small waves of the river tapping the shore; they descended a steep bank, and the broad Hudson lay glittering before them in the moonlight. A canoe, his own

-he knew it at a glance-lay moored under the bank, and rocking lightly on the tide. They entered it; the warrior took one oar, the maiden another; they pushed off from the shore, and were speedily on their way down the river.

They glided by the shore where now stands the town of Newburgh, then a steep bank covered with tall trees, since renowned as the spot where the stern virtue of Washington awed into shame and silence the disposition that was rising among a discontented army to offer him a military crown. Far below, the moonlight dimly showed, embosomed among the mountains, a woody promontory, round which the river turned and disappeared


« ZurückWeiter »