The History of Maria Kittle
|←Author:Ann Eliza Bleecker||The History of Maria Kittle
|Bleecker's epistolary novel, The History of Maria Kittle, was written in the form of a letter to Miss Susan Ten Eyck. The novel took the Indian Captivity story genre in new directions, as it was possibly the first American fictional account focusing on Native Americans.|
The History of MARIA KITTLE,
In a Letter to Miss Ten Eyck.
Tomhanick, December, 1779
HOWEVER fond of novels and romances you may be, the unfortunate adventures of one of my neighbours, who died yesterday, will make you despise that fiction, in which, knowing the subject to be fabulous, we can never be so truly interested. While this lady was expiring, Mrs. C V , her near kinswoman, related to me her unhappy history, in which I shall now take the liberty of interesting your benevolent and feeling heart.
MARIA KITTLE was the only issue of her parents, who cultivated a large farm on the banks of the Hudson, eighteen miles above Albany. They were persons of good natural abilities, improved by some learning; yet, conscious of a deficiency in their education, they studied nothing so much as to render their little daughter truly accomplished.
MARIA was born in the year 1721. Her promising infancy presaged a maturity of excellencies; every amiable quality dawned through her lisping prattle; every personal grace attended her attitudes and played over her features. As she advanced through the playful stage of childhood, she became more eminent than a Penelope for her industry; yet, soon as the sun declined, she always retired with her books until the time of repose, by which means she soon informed her opening mind with the principles of every useful science. She was beloved by all her female companions, who, though they easily discovered her superior elegance of manners, instead of envying, were excited to imitate her. As she always made one in their little parties of pleasure on festival days, it is no wonder that she soon became the reigning goddess among the swains. She was importuned to admit the addresses of numbers, whom she politely discarded, and withdrew herself awhile from public observation. How ever, the fame of her charms attracted several gentlemen of family from Albany, who intruded on her retirement, soliciting her hand. But this happiness was reserved for a near relation of hers, one Mr. KITTLE, whose merits had made an impression on her heart. He, although not handsome, was possessed of a most engaging address; while his learning and moral virtues more particularly recommended him to her esteem. Their parents soon discovered their reciprocal passion, and highly approving of it, hastened their marriage, which was celebrated under the most happy auspices.
MARIA was fifteen when married. They removed to his farm, on which he had built a small neat house, surrounded by tall cedars, which gave it a contemplative air. It was situated on an eminence, with a green inclosure in the front, graced by a well cultivated gar den on one side, and on the other by a clear stream, which rushing over a bed of white pebble, gave them a high poliih, that cast a soft gleam through the water.
Here they resided in the tranquil enjoyment of that happiness which so much merit and innocence deserved: the indigent, the sorrowful, the unfortunate were alwayssure of consolation when they entered those peaceful doors. They were almost adored by their neighbours, and even the wild savages themselves, who often resorted thither for refreshments when hunting, expressed the greatest regard for them, and admiration of their virtues.
In little more than a year they were blessed with a daughter, the lovelier resemblance of her lovely mother: as she grew up, her graces increasing, promised a bloom and understanding equal to hers; the Indians, in particular, were extremely fond of the smiling ANNA; whenever they found a young fawn, or caught a brood of wood-ducks, or surprised the young beaver in their daily excursions through the forests, they presented them with pleasure to her; they brought her the earliest strawberries, the scarlet plumb, and other delicate wild fruits in painted baskets.
How did the fond parents hearts delight to see their beloved one so universally caressed! When they sauntered over the vernal fields with the little prattler wantoning before them collecting flowers and pursuing the velvet elusive butterfly, MARIA'S cheek suffusing with rapture, " Oh my dear," she would say, " we "are happier than human beings can expect to be; how trivial are the evils annexed to our situation! may God avert that our heaven be limited to this life!"
Eleven years now elapsed before Mrs. KITTLE discovered any signs of pregnancy: her spouse silently wished for a son, and his desires were at length gratified; she was delivered of a charming boy, who was named, after him, WILLIAM.
A French and Indian war had commenced sometime before; but about eight months after her delivery, the savages began to commit the most horrid depredations on the English frontiers. Mr. KITTLE, alarmed at the danger of his brothers, who dwelt near Fort-Edward, (the eldest being just married to a very agreeable young woman) invited them to reside with him during the war.
They were scarce arrived when the enemy made further incursions in the country, burning the villages and scalping the inhabitants, neither respecting age or sex. This terribly alarmed Mrs. KITTLE; she began to prepare for flight, and the next evening after receiving this intelligence, as she and Mr. KITTLE were busily employed in packing up china and other things, they were accosted by several Indians, whose wigwams were contiguous to the village of Schochticook, and who always seemed well affected to the English. An elderly savage undertook to be prolocutor, and desired the family to compose themselves, assuring them they should be cautioned against any approaching danger. To inforce his argument, he presented MARIA with a belt interwoven with silk and beads, saying, "There, receive my token of friendship: we go to dig up the hatchet, to sink it in the heads of your enemies; we shall guard this wood with a wall of fire you shall be safe." A warm glow of hope deepened in MARIA'S cheek at this - Then ordering wine to be brought to the friendly savages, with a smile of diffidence, "I am afraid," said she, " necessity may oblige you to abandon us, or neglect of your promise may deprive us of your protection." Neglect of my promise!" he retorted with some acrimony: "No, MARIA, I am a true man; I shoot the arrow up to the Great Captain every new moon: depend upon it, I will trample down the briars round your dwelling, that you do not hurt your feet." MARIA now retired, bowing a grateful acknowledgment, and leaving the savages to indulge their festivity, who passed the night in the most vociferous mirth.
Mrs. KITTLE, with a sort of exultation, related the subject of their conference to her husband, who had absented himself on their first appearance, having formed some suspicion of the sincerity of their friendship, and not being willing to be duped by their dissimulation: "And now," added MARIA smiling, "our fears may again subside: Oh my dear! My happiness is trebled into rapture, by seeing you and my sweet babes out of danger." He only sighed, and reaching his arm round her polished neck, pressed her to his bosom. After a short pause, "My love," said he, "be not too confident of their fidelity; you surely know what a small dependence is to be placed on their promises: however, to appear suspicious might be suddenly fatal to us; we will therefore suspend our journey to Albany for a few days." Though MARIA'S soul saddened at the conviction of this truth; though her fears again urged her to propose immediate flight, yet she acquiesced; and having supped with the family, this tender pair sunk asleep on the bosom of rest.
Early the next morning Mr. KITTLE arose, first impressing a kiss on MARIA'S soft cheek, as she slumbered with her infant in her arms. He then awaked his brother, reminding him that he had proposed a hunting match the preceding evening. "It is true," replied PETER, but since hostilities have commenced so near us as the Indians inform, I think it rather imprudent to quit the family." - " Come, come," .replied the other, " do not let us intimidate the neighbours by cloistering ourselves up with women and children." - "I reject the thought," rejoined PETER, "of being afraid." Then having dressed himself, while his brother charged their pieces, they left the house, and traversed the pathless grass for many hours without perceiving any thing but small birds, who filled the fragrant air with melody. "PETER," said Mr. KITTLE; casting his eyes around the lovely landscape, "what a profusion of sweets does Nature exhale to please her intelligent creatures! I feel my heart expand with love and gratitude to heaven- every moment, nor can I ever be grateful enough. I have health and competence, a lovely fond wife whose smile would calm the rudest storm of passion, and two infants blossoming into perfections; all my social ties are yet unbroken - PETER, I anticipate my heaven - But why my brother, do you turn pale? what dreadful idea stiffens your features with amazement? what in God's name ails you, PETER? are you unwell? sit down under this tree awhile." To the interrogatories PETER replied, "Excuse my weakness, I am not unwell, but an unusual horror chilled my blood; I felt as if the damps of death prest already round my soul; but the vapour is gone off again, I feel quite better." Mr. KITTLE cheered his brother, attributing his emotion to fear; who, by this time, having reassumed his composure, entered into discourse with cheerfulness, refusing to return home without having killed anything.
Then rising, they proceeded through lofty groves of pine, and open fields that seemed to bend under the heavy hand of Ceres. At last, disappointment and fatigue prevailed on them to return home. They had gone farther than they apprehended; but passing along the bank of the river within a few miles of Mr. KITTLE'S, they spied a fat doe walking securely on the beach, which PETER softly approaching, levelled his piece with so good an aim that the animal dropped instantly at the explosion. This seeming success was, however, the origin of their calamities; for immediately after, two savages appeared, directed in their course by the firing. Setting up a loud yell, they ran up to the brothers and discharged their fire-arms. Mr. KITTLE started back, but PETER received a brace of balls in his bosom. He recoiled a few steps back, and then sunk down incompassed by those deadly horrors of which in the morning he had a presentiment. Mr. KITTLE stood awhile aghast, like a person just waked from a frightful dream; but on seeing the Indian advancing to tear the scalp from his dying brother, he suddenly recollected himself, and shot a bullet through his head: then grappling with the other, who was loading again, he wrestled his firelock from him, and felled him to the ground with the but-end of it. This was no time for reflection or unavailing laments; the danger was eminent: so leaving, the savages for dead, with a mournful silence, Mr. KITTLE hastened to throw the deer from off his horse, and laid his bleeding brother across him.
When our souls are gloomy, they seem to cast a shade over the objects that surround us, and make nature correspondent to our feelings: so Mr. KITTLE thought the night fell with a deeper gloom than usual. The soft notes of evening birds seemed to be the responses of savage yells. The echo of his tread, which he never before regarded, now rung dismally hollow in his ears. Even the rustling of the winds through the leaves seemed attended with a solemnity that chilled him with cold tremors. As he proceeded with his mournful charge, his feelings were alarmed for his dear MARIA; he dreaded the agitation and distress this venture would throw her in: but it was unavoidable!
The sound of his horses feet no sooner invaded the ears of MARIA , than seizing a light she sprung with a joyful impatience to the door, and was met by her partner pale and bloody, who endeavoured to prevent too sudden a discovery of this calamity. But at the first glance she comprehended the whole affair, and retiring a few steps, with the most exquisite agony, in her countenance, "Oh Mr. KITTLE!" she cried, clasping her hands together, "it is all over - we are betrayed - your brother is killed!" - " Too true, oh, too fatally true!" replied he, falling on his knees beside her as she sunk down, "my angel! the very savages that solemnly engaged to protect us have deprived him of life; but I am yet alive, my MARIA, be comforted - I will instantly procure carriages, and before morning you and your innocents shall be beyond the reach of their malevolence."
By this time the family had crouded about them, and with grievous wailings were, inquiring the particulars of this sad adventure. Mr. KITTLE having related every circumstance with brevity, ordered the corpse to be laid in a remote chamber, desiring at the same time a horse to be saddled for him. Then, more oppressed by his wife's griefs than his own, he led the disconsolate fair to her chamber, where being seated, she sighing demanded where he intended to go at that time of night. "Only," said he, "to the village of Schochticook to hire a couple of wagons; I shall return in an hour I hope, with a proper guard to secure our retreat from this hostile place." MARIA was silent; at length she burst into a flood of tears, which his endearments only augmented. Then, expostulating with him, "Is it not enough," cried she, "that you have escaped one danger, but must you be so very eager to encounter others? besides, you are spent with sorrow and fatigue - let one of your brothers perform this silent expedition." "It is impossible," replied the tender husband; "how can I dare to propose a danger to them from which I would shrink myself? Their lives are equally precious with mine: but God may disappoint our fears, my love!" He would have continued, but his spouse, rising from her seat, interrupted him " At least, my dear, before you leave us, give your lovely babes a farewell embrace, that if fate should - should separate us, that yet shall sweeten our hours cf absence." Here she found herself clasped in her comfort's arms, who exclaimed, "My MARIA! I love you passionately, and if the least shadow of danger did appear to attend this night's travel, for your sake, for my blessed children's sake I would decline it: but I have left the Indians lifeless, who no doubt attacked us from some private pique; nor will they be discovered until morning." - "Well then," MARIA answered, "I no longer oppose you; forgive my fears." Meanwhile, as she stept to the cradle for her suckling, the fair ANNA, who was listening at the door anxious to hear her parents sentiments on this occasion, quitted her station and flew to them swift as light; dropping on her knees before her father, and looking up in his face with the most attractive graces and the persuasive eloquence of simplicity. Her neck and features were elegantly turned, her complexion fairer than the tuberose, and contrasted by the most shining ringlets of dark hair. Her eyes, whose brilliancy was softened through the medium of tears, for a while dwelt tenderly on his countenance. At length, with a voice scarce audible, she sighed out, "Oh papa! do not leave us; if any accident should happen to you, mamma will die of grief, and what will become, of poor ANNA and BILLY? who will care for me? who will teach me when my papa, my mamma's papa is gone?" "My sweet child," replied he, embracing her and holding her to his bosom, "there is no danger; I shall return in an hour, and before tomorrow you shall be safe on the plains of Albany and my heart shall exult over the happiness of my family."
Mrs. KITTLE now approached with her playful infant in her arms; but its winning actions extorted nothing but groans from her pained bosom, which was more stormy than Ontario-Lake, when agitated by fierce winds, Mr. KITTLE perceiving this uncommon emotion, gently took the child from her, and repeatedly kissed it, while new smiles dimpled its lovely aspect. " Oh!" said he to himself, "this gloom that darkens MARIA'S soul is supernatural! it seems dreadfully portentious! Shall I yet stay?" But here a servant informing him that his horse was ready, he blushed at his want of fortitude; and having conquered his irresolution, after the most affecting and solemn parting, he quitted his house never to review it more!
MARIA then walked sadly back again, and having assembled the family in a little hall, they closed and barred the doors. Mrs. COMELIA KITTLE, MARIA'S sister-in-law, was far advanced in her pregnancy, which increased her husband's uneasiness for her; and they were debating in what manner to accommodate her at Albany, when the trampling of feet about the house, and a yell of complicated voices, announced the Indians arrival. Struck with horror and consternation, the little family crowded together in the center of the hall, while the servants at this alarm, being in a kitchen distant from the house, saved themselves by a precipitate flight. The little BILLY, frightened at such dreadful sounds, clung fast to his mother's throbbing breast, while ANNA, in a silent agony of amazement, clasped her trembling knees. The echo of their yells yet rung in long vibrations through the forest, when, with a thundering peal of strokes at the door, they demanded entrance. Distraction and despair sat upon every face. MARIA and her companions gazed wildly at each other, till, upon repeated menaces and efforts to break open the door, COMELIA's husband, giving all for lost, leisurely advanced to the door. COMELIA seeing this, uttered a great shriek, and cried out, " O God! what are your doing, my rash, rash, unfortunate husband! you will be sacrificed!" Then falling on her knees, she caught hold of his hand and sobbed out, "O pity me! have mercy on yourself, on me, on my child!" "Alas! my love," said he, half turning with a look of distraction, "what can we do? let us be resigned to the will of God." So saying he unbarred the door, and that instant received a fatal bullet in his bosom, and fell backward writhing in agonies of death; the rest recoiled at this horrible spectacle, and huddled in a corner, sending forth the most piercing cries: in the interim the savages rushing in with great shouts, proceeded to mangle the corpse, and having made an incision round his head with a crooked knife, they tugged off his bloody scalp with barbarous triumph. While this was perpetrating, an Indian hideously painted, strode ferociously up to COMELIA, (who sunk away at the sight, and fainted on a chair) and cleft her white forehead deeply with his tomahawk. Her fine azure eyes just opened, and then suddenly closing forever, she tumbled lifeless at his feet. His sanguinary soul was not yet satisfied with blood; he deformed her lovely body with deep gashes; and, tearing her unborn babe away, dashed it to pieces against the stone wall; with many additional circumftances of infernal cruelty.
During this horrid carnage, the dead were stripped, and dragged from the house, when one of the hellish band advanced to MARIA, who circling her babes with her white arms, was sending hopeless petitions to heaven, and bemoaning their cruelly lost situation: as he approached, expecting the fatal stroke, she endeavoured to guard her children, and with supplicating looks, implored for mercy. The savage attempted not to strike; but the astonished ANNA sheltered herself behind her mamma, while her blooming suckling quitting her breaft, gazed with a pleasing wonder on the painted stranger. MARIA soon recognized her old friend that presented her with the belt, through the loads of shells and feathers that disguised him. This was no time, however, to irritate him, by reminding him of his promise; yet, guessing her thoughts, he anticipated her remonstrance. " MARIA," said he, "be not afraid, I have promised to protect you; you shall live and dance with us around the fire at Canada: but you have one small encumbrance, which if not removed, will much impede your progress thither." So saying he seized her laughing babe by the wrists, and forcibly endeavoured to draw him from her arms. At this, terrified beyond conception, me exclaimed, "O God! leave me, leave my child! he shall not go, though a legion of devils should try to separate us!" Holding him still fast, while the Indian applied his strength to tear him away, gnashing his teeth at her opposition; " Help! God of heaven!" screamed she, "help! have pity, have mercy on this infant! O God! O Christ! can you bear to see this? O mercy! mercy! mercy! let a little spark of compassion save this unoffending, this lovely angel!" By this time the breathless babe dropt its head on its bosom; the wrists were nigh pinched off, and feeling him just expiring, with a dreadful shriek she resigned him to the merciless hands of the savage, who instantly dashed his little forehead against the stones, and casting his bleeding body at some distance from the house, left him to make his exit in feeble and unheard groans. Then indeed, in the unutterable anguish of her soul, she fell prostrate, and rending away her hair, she roared out her sorrows with a voice louder than natural, and rendered awfully hollow by too great an exertion. "O barbarians!" she exclaimed, "surpassing devils in wickedness! so may a tenfold night of misery enwrap your black souls, as you have deprived the babe of my bosom, the comfort of my cares, my blessed cherub, of light and life - O hell! are not thy flames impatient to cleave the center and engulph these wretches in thy ever burning waves? are there no thunders in Heaven - no avenging Angel no - God to take notice of such Heaven defying cruelties?" Then rushing to her dead infant with redoubled cries, and clapping her hands, she laid herself over his mangled body; again softened in tears and moans, she wiped the blood from his ghastly countenance, and prest him to her heaving bosom, alternately caressing him and her trembling ANNA, who, clinging to her with bitter wailings, and kissing her hands and face, entreated her to implore the savages for mercy. "Do, my angel mamma," she urged, "do beg them yet to pity - beg them yet to save you for my poor, poor papa's sake! - Alas! if we are all killed, his heart will break! Oh! they can't be rocks and stones! Don't cry mamma, they will spare us!" Thus the little orator endeavoured to console her afflicted mother; but their melancholy endearments were soon interrupted by the relentless savages, who having plundered the house of every valuable thing that was portable, returned to MARIA, and rudely catching her arm, commanded her to follow them; but repulsing them with the boldness of despair, "Leave me, leave me," she said, "I cannot go - I never will quit my murdered child! Too cruel in your mercies', you have given me life only to prolong my miseries!" Meanwhile the lovely ANNA, terrified at the hostile appearance of the enemy, left her mamma struggling to disengage herself from the Indians, and fled precipitately to the house. She had already concealed herself in a closet, when Mrs. KITTLE pursuing her, was intercepted by flames, the savages having fired the house. The wretched child soon discovered her deplorable situation, and almost suffocated by the smoke, with piercing cries called for help to her dear, dear mother. - Alas! what could the unhappy parent do? whole sheets of flames rolled between them, while in a phrenzy of grief she screamed out, "O my last treasure! my beloved ANNA! try to escape the devouring fire - come to me my sweet child - the Indians will not kill us - O my perishing babe! have pity on your mother - do not leave me quite destitute!" Then turning to the calm villains who attended her, she cried, "Why do you not attempt to rescue my sweet innocent? can your unfeeling hearts not bear to leave me one - a solitary single one?" Again calling to her ANNA, she received no answer, which being a presumption of her death, the Indians obliged MARIA and her brother HENRY to quit the house, which they effected with some difficulty, the glowing beams falling around them and thick volumes of smoke obscuring their passage. The flames now struck a long splendor through the humid atmosphere, and blushed to open the tragical scene on the face of heaven. They had scarce advanced two hundred yards with their reluctant captives, when the flaming structure tumbled to the earth with a dreadful crash. Our travellers by instinct turned their eyes to the mournful blaze; and MARIA, bursting afresh into grievous lamentations, cried, "There, there my brother, my children are wrapt in arching sheets of flames, that used to be circled in my arms! they are entombed in ruins that breathed their slumbers on my bosom! yet, oh! their spotless souls even now rise from this chaos of blood and fire, and are pleading our injured cause before our God, my brother!" He replied only in sighs and groans; he scarcely heard her; horror had froze up the avenues of his soul; and all amazed and trembling, he followed his leaders like a person in a troublesome dream.
The distant flames now cast a fainter light, and the northern breeze bent the columns of smoke over the south horizon. Sad and benighted they wandered through almost impenetrable swamps, forded the broad stream of Tomhanick and the rapid river of Hosack; they passed through deserted settlements, where the yelling of solitary dogs increased the solemnity of midnight, nor halted till the stars, emitting a feebler lustre, presaged the approach of day. MARIA, overcome by sorrow and fatigue, immediately sunk helpless at the foot of a tree, while the savages (who were six in number) kindled a fire, and prepared their meal, (in a calabash) which consisted only of some parched maize pulverized and enriched with the fat of bears flesh. Observing MARIA had fallen asleep, they offered not to disturb her, but invited HENRY KITTLE to partake of their repast. He durst not refuse them; and having swallowed a few mouthfuls of their unpalatable, food, and accepted of a pipe of tobacco, he desired leave to repose himself, which being readily granted, they soon followed his example, and sunk asleep, leaving two centinels to guard against surprise, which precaution they always make use of.
I am sorry, dear SUSAN, to quit MARIA in this interesting part of her history; but order requires that we should now return to her spouse, whom we left on his way through the wood.
The village of Schochticock is situated on a circular plain, surrounded by high hills, rising in form of an amphitheatre. Mr. KITTLE had just gained the verge, when, chancing to cast his eyes around, he perceived the whole southern hemisphere suddenly illuminated with a bright blaze; however, being accustomed to the forest's being often fired to clear it from the under-wood, he was not much surprised, but proceeded to descend the hill. On his arriving with the account of his brother's murder, the place was put in the highest commotion; the men fitting up their arms, and the women clamouring about them, highly importunate to be removed to Albany; but the night being very dark, this manoeuvre was deferred till morning; nor could Mr. KITTLE prevail on a single person to return with him during the darkness: he felt himself strangely agitated at this disappointment, and refusing to repose himself, with great impatience he watched the first orient beam of Phosphor, which appearing, he set off for home with two wagons and a guard of three Indians. As he approached his late happy dwelling, his bosom dilated with the pleding hope of soon extricating his beloved family from danger; he chid the slowness of the carriages, and felt impatient to dissipate the apprehensions of MARIA, to kiss the pendant tear from her eye, and press his sportive innocents to his bosom. While these bright ideas played round his soul, he lifted up his eyes, and through an opening in the woods beheld his farm: but what language can express his surprise and consternation at seeing his habitation so suddenly desolated! a loud exclamation of amaze burst from the whole company at so unexpected a view - the blood revolted from Mr. KITTLE'S cheek - his heart throbbed under the big emotion, and all aghast, spurring on his horse, he entered the inclosure with full speed. - Stop here unhappy man! here let the fibres of thy heart crack with excruciating misery - let the cruel view of mangled wretches, so nearly allied to thee, extort drops of blood from thy cleaving bosom! - It did - it did. Uttering a deep groan he fell insensible from his horse, while his attendants, hastening towards him, were shocked beyond conception at the dismal spectacle; and, starting back with averted eyes from the dead, were thunder struck, not having power to move or speak. After awhile two Indians (who being used to sanguinary scenes, recovered themselves first) took a blanket, and walking backward to the mangled COMELIA, threw it over her naked body; the others then timidly advanced, and Mr. KITTLE opening his eyes, groaned again bitterly; then railing himself on his knees, with a look of unutterable anguish, he called upon his dear MARIA. Alas! no voice but the solemn repetition of his own cries was articulated to him: then rising with an air of distraction, he stalked round the bloody scene, and examined the dead bodies; first uncovering the pale visage of COMELIA, he surveyed in silence her distorted features; but perceiving it was not MARIA, he gently laid the cloth over again, and turning furiously, caught up his ghastly infant, whose little body was black with contusions, and his skull horribly fractured. Almost fainting under his mournful load, and staggering at the dreadful discovery, he deposited it again on the bloody earth, and clapping his hands to gether repeatedly, with violence, "O hell! hell!" he cried, "you cannot inflict torments so exquisite as those I now suffer! how am I crushed to the center! how deeply am I degraded below the worms of the sod! O my children! my children! "where are you now? O my wife! my "MARIA! the beloved of my bosom, are you too fallen a sacrifice? Why do I survive these miseries, my God? how can mortality support them? burst - burst my srinking heart, and punish a wretch for not having died in the defence of such lovely and innoccent beings! Oh! why was I absent in this fatal hour? why did not their groans vibrate on my soul that I might have flown to their aid ?" Thus wildly lamenting and wandering among the smoaking ruins, he picked up some of the calcined bones of his once beautiful ANNA. At this sight despair shook his soul afresh, new agonies convulsed his features, and dropping the sad evidence of his miseries, he extended his arms to Heaven, and roared out, "Revenge! great God! revenge if thou art just and kind as represented! Oh! that I had the power of an archangel to thunder eternal horrors on the guilty wretches who have blasted the bud of my happiness, who have darkened the brightest eyes that ever opened on the light!"
The men here interfering, to console him observed, the bones were probably those of his brother PETER; but on finding his skeleton entire, Mr. KITTLE insisted that it must have been MARIA and ANNA, who, having hid themselves, had doubtless perished in the flames. Again, in the furious extravagance of passion, he tore the hair from his head, and casting himself prostrate on the ashes, he gathered the crumbling bones to his bosom, while the big drops of anguifh issued at every pore, till life, unable longer to sustain the mental conflict, suspended her powers, and once more deprived him of sensation. His companions having laid him on a wagon, now conferred together in what manner to proceed, and apprehending an attack from the savages, they unanimously concluded to lay the dead bodies on the remaining carriage, and make the beft of their way to Schochticook, which they accordingly performed with great silence and expedition.
You may judge, my dear, what a panic the appearance of this mournful cavalcade struck over the inhabitants of this defenceless village. Mr. KITTLE was gently laid on a bed, and being let blood, his respiration became less obstructed, though he continued senseless till his unfortunate family were interred. Six weeks elapsed before he recovered any degree of strength; but even then he appeared pale and emaciated, like a second LAZARUS; his disposition was entirely changed, his looks were fierce, his attitudes wild and extravagant, and his convention, which formerly was sensible, commanding attention by a musical voice, now was incoherent, and his cadence deep and hollow, rather inspiring terror than any pleasing sensation. Thirsting for revenge, and perceiving that solitude only tended to corrode his moments with the blackest melancholy, he soon after entered the British service in the capacity of gentleman volunteer, and signalized himself by his prudence and intrepidity, attracting the particular notice of his officers, who being affected with his misfortunes, proffered their services to him with so much friendship and candour, as obliged him to accept of them, and yet lightened the obligation.
But doubtless, my dear, your generous sensibility is alarmed at my silence about Mrs. KITTLE; I think we left her reposingg under a tree: she was the first that awaked as the sun began to exhale the crystal globules of morning, when half rifmg, and reclining on her elbow, she surveyed the lovely landscape around her with a deep sigh; they were on an eminence that commanded an unlimited prospect of the country every way. The birds were cheerful; the deer bounded fearless over the hills; the meadows blushed with the enamel of FLORA: but grief had saddened every object in her sight; the whole creation seemed a dark blank to the fair mourner. Again recollection unlocked the sluices of her eyes, and her soft complaints disturbed her savage com panions, who, rising and kindling up the dying embers, began to prepare their victuals, which they invited her to partake of. This she declined with visible detestation; and turning to her brother, with the dignity of conscious merit in distress, " No," said she, "I never will "receive a morsel from those bloody hands yet dropping with recent murder! let me peris - let the iron hand of famine first pinch out my vitals and send me after my children!" Notwithstanding this, HENRY added his solicitations that she should accept some refreshment, reminding her of the consequence of her fatal resolution, which could be deemed no otherwise then suicide. Finding this had no effect, he tried to touch her feelings on a softer key - "Remember, MARIA," said he, "you have a tender husband yet living; would you wish to deprive him of every earthly consolation? Would you add affliction to affliction, and after he has performed the sorrowful obsequies of his children, to crush all his remaining hope by the news of your voluntary death? No, live my sister! be assured he will soon get us exchanged, when soft sympathies shall wash away your sorrows; and after a few years, who knows but the smiles of a new lovely progeny may again dawn a paradise of happiness on you." MARIA was affeeted, and half raising her eyes from the earth, she replied, "O my brother! how consoling do your words sink on my heart! though my reason tells me your arguments are improbable and fallacious, yet it soothes the tempest of my soul - I will try to live - perhaps I may again behold my dear, dear, dear husband!" Here a flood of tears interrupted her.
As this conversation was held in English, the savages were inquisitive to know the subject of it, at the same time enjoining them both never to utter a syllable in their presence except in their own uncouth dialect, which, as they perfectly understood, they could not excuse themselves from. HENRY then informed them that his sister, objecting to their method of preparing food, had desired him to prevail with them to indulge her in dressing her meals herself. This they readily granted, and farther to ingratiate themselves in the prisoners' fa vour, they dispatched a young Indian to hunt for partridges or quails in the groves adjoining them: He instantly returned with a brood of wood-pigeons, scarcely fledged, which he presented to HENRY, who cleaned and broiled them on sticks with an officious solicitude to please his sister which she observed wjth a look of gratitude, and taking a pigeon from the stick, began to eat more from complaisance than from inclination. HENRY was delighted at her ready acquiescence, and their repast being ended, they proceeded on their tiresome journey with less repining than the preceding night. MARIA was exempted from carrying a burden, yet she found the fatigue almost intolerable. They continually passed through a scene of conflagration, the savages firing every cottage in their way, whose mournful blaze catching the dry fields of grain, would scorch off hundreds of acres in a few moments, and form a burning path for their destroyers. As the sun advanced to his zenith, its rays beat fiercely on our travellers, augmented by the crackling flames around them; when meeting with a cool stream of water, MARIA was commanded to sit down (being over-heated) while the rest approached the rivulet: the Indian that guarded MARIA was stooping down to drink, when a loud rustling among the leaves and trampling of bushes attracted his attention; he listened awhile seemingly much alarmed, then starting up suddenly, he flew to MARIA, and caught hold of her hair, aiming his hatchet at her head: the consequence was obvious, and her fate seemed inevitable; yet, with a stoical composure, she folded her arms across, and waited the fatal stroke with perfect resignation; but while the weapon was yet suspended over her, chancing to look around, he perceived the noise to proceed from a large deer, whose antlers were entangled in the branches of a thicket. Though an uncivilized inhabitant of the forest, he blsshed at his precipitancy, and returning the inftrument of death to his girdle, after some hesitation made this apology: "MARIA, this sudden discovery is well for you; I thought we had been pursued, and we never suffer our prisoners to be re-taken; however, I was imprudent to attempt your life before there was a probability of your being rescued:" then desiring her to rise and drink, he quickly shot the deer, his associates helping him to skin it. Instead of quenching her thirst she sat down pensive on the flowery margin, casting her eyes carelessly on the stream: she knew not whether to esteem her late deliverance from death a happy providence or protraction of misery. Observing the spotted trout, and other fish, to dart sportively across the water, she could not help exclaiming, "Happy! happy animals! you have not the fatal gift of reason to embitter your pleasures; you cannot anticipate your difficulties by apprehension, or prolong them by recollection; incapable of offending your Creator, the blessings of your existence are secured to you: Alas! I envy the meanest among ye!" A gush of tears concluded her soliloquy; and being called to attend the company, she arose, and they began their journey for the afternoon. HENRY desiring to have a piece of venison (having left it behind, seldom incommoding themselves with more than the hide and tallow) they re turned and obliged him with a haunch, which was very fat: at the next interval of travel he dressed it for himself and MARIA. In the evening they crossed the river somewhat below Fort-Edward, in a canoe left hid under some bushes for that purpose. They observed the most profound silence until they entered the woods again; but it was very late before they halted, which they did in a deep hollow, surrounded by pines whose tops seemed to be lost in the clouds. It was necessary here to light a fire, for the wolves howled most dreadfully, and the whole forest rung with the cries of wild beasts of various sorts. The confines of hell could not have given MARIA more dismal ideas than her present situation: the horrid gloom of the place, the scowling looks of her murderous companions, the shrill shrieks of owls, the loud cries of the wolf, and mournful screams of panthers, which were redoubled by distant echoes as the terrible sounds seemed dying away, shook her frame with cold tremors - she sunk under the oppression of terror, and almost fainted in, HENRY'S arms; however, on perceiving the beasts durst not approach the light, but began to retire, she became a little more assured, and helped HENRY to erect a booth of pine branches, making a bed of the same materials in it while he prepared their supper: having eaten, and kindled a large fire in the front of her arbour, she laid down and soon fell in a deep sleep. She felt herself refreshed by this unexpected repose, and the next morning, with some alacrity, continued her journey, hoping at last to arrive at some Christian setslement. Arriving at Lake-Champlain, they raifed a wigwam on the bank, expecting the coming of Indians from the opposite shore to carry them over.
Here our unfortunate captives were stript of their habits, already rent to pieces by briers, and attired each with remnants of old blankets. In this new dress Mrs. KITTLE ventured to expostulate with the savages, but it was talking to the stormy ocean; her complaints served only to divert them; so retiring among the bushes, she adjusted her coarse dress somewhat decently, and then seating herself silently under a spreading tree, indulged herself in the luxury of sorrow. HENRY, sensible that they expected more fortitude from him, and that if he sunk under his adverse fortune he should be worse treated, affected to be cheerful; he assisted them in catching salmon, with which the lake abounds; an incredible quantity of wild fowl frequenting the lake also, he laid snares for those of the lesser sort, (not being allowed fire-arms) and succeeded so well that his dexterity was highly commended, and night coming on, they regaled themselves on the fruits of their industry. The night was exceedingly dark, but calm; a thick mist hovered over the woods, and the small ridgy waves softly rolled to the shore, when suddenly a large meteor, or fiery exhalation, passed by them with surprising velocity, casting on every side showers of brilliant sparkles. At sight of this phenomenon the Indians put their heads between their knees, crying out in a lamentable voice, "Do not! do not! do not!" continuing in the same attitude until the vapour disappeared. HENRY, with some surprise, demanded the reason of this exclamation, to which they replied, "What he had seen was a fiery dragon on his passage to his den, who was of so malevolent a temper, that he never failed, on his arrival there, to inflict some peculiar calamity on mankind." In about five minutes after the earth was violently agitated, the waves of the lake tumbled about in a strange manner, seeming to emit flashes of fire, all the while attended with most tremendous roarings, intermixed with loud noises, not unlike the explosion of heavy cannon. Soon as the Indians perceived it was an earthquake, they cried out, "Now he comes home!" and casting themselves in their former posture, filled the air with dismal howlings. This was a terrible scene to MARIA, who had never been witness to so dreadful a convulsion of Nature before; she started up and fled from her savage companions towards an eminence at some distance, where, dropping on her knees, she emphatically implored the protection of Heaven: however, she was followed by an Indian and HENRY; the latter, highly affected with her distresses taking hold of her trembling hand, "But why, my sister!" said he, "have you fled from us? Is the gloom of a forest more cheering than the synpathising looks of a friend?" "No, my brother!" replied MARIA; "but the thought was suggested to me, that the supreme God perhaps was preparing to avenge himself of these murderers by some awful and uncommon judgment, and I fled from them as Lot did from Sodom, lest I might be involved in the punishment of their guilt." They conversed in English, which displeasing the Indian, he ordered them to return to the wigwam, threatening to bind MARIA fast if she offered to elope again. The shock being over, silence again spread through the realms of darkness, when a high wind arose from the north and chilled our half-naked travellers with excessive cold. The savages (whose callous skins were proof against the inclement weather) not caring to continue their fires, lest they should be discovered and surprised by some English party, they passed here a very uncomfortable night; but the wind subsiding, and the sky growing clear, the sun rose peculiarly warm and pleasant, streaming ten thousand rays of gold across the lake. MARIA had scarcely performed her orations, when the savages, forming a circle round her and HENRY, began to dance in a most extravagant manner, and with antic gestures that at another time would have afforded mirth to our travellers. Having continued their exercise some time, they incontinently drew out boxes of paint, and began to ornament their captives with a variety of colours; one having crossed their faces with a stroke of vermillion, another would intersect it with a line of black, and so on until the whole company had given a specimen of their skill or fancy.
Soon after two canoes arrived, in which they passed over the lake, which was uncommonly serene and pleasant. They proceeded not far on their way before they were obliged to halt for two days, on account of MARIA'S inability to travel, her feet being greatly swoln and lacerated by the flinty path. At length, by easy stages, they came in view of an Indian settlement, when MARIA'S long unbent features relaxed into a half smile, and turning to HENRY, "Here, my brother!" said she, "I shall find some of my own sex, to whom simple Nature, no doubt, has taught humanity; this is the first precept she inculcates in the female mind, and this they generally retain through life, in spite of every evil propensity." As she uttered this elogium in favour of the fair, the tawny villagers, perceiving their approach, rushed promiscuously from their huts with an execrable din, and fell upon the weary captives with clubs and a shower of stones, accompanying their strokes with the most virulent language; among the rest an old deformed squaw, with the rage of a Tisiphone, flew to MARIA, aiming a pine-knot at her head, and would certainly have given the wretched mourner her quietus had she not been opposed by the savage that guarded Mrs. KITTLE: he at first mildly expostulated with his passionate countrywoman; but finding the old hag frantic, and insatiable of blood, he twisted the pine-knot from her hand and whirled it away to some distance, then seizing her arm roughly and tripping up her heels, he laid her prostrate, leaving her to howl and yell at leisure, which she performed without a prompter. MARIA was all in a tremor, and hastily followed her deliverer, not caring to risk another encounter with the exasperated virago. By this time the rage and tumult of the savages subsiding, the new-comers were admitted into a large wigwam, in the center of which blazed a fire. After they were seated, several young Indians entered with baskets of green maize in the ear, which, having roasted before the fire, they distributed among the company.
Mrs. KITTLE and her brother complaining of the bruises they met with at their reception, an old Indian seemed to attend with great concern; then leaving the place, in a little time returned with a bundle of aromatic herbs under his arm, the juice of which he expressed by rubbing them between two stones with flat surfaces; this he gave them to drink, applying the leaves externally. They instantly found relief from the medical quality of this extraordinary plant, and composing themselves to sleep, expected a good night's repose; but they were mistaken, for their entertainers growing intoxicated with spirituous liquors, which operating differently, it produced a most complicated noise of yelling, talking, singing, and quarrelling: this was a charm more powerful than the wand of Hermes to drive away sleep: but grown familiar with sorrow and disappointment, MARIA regarded this as a trifle, and when HENRY expressed his concern for her, smiling, she replied, " We must arm ourselves with patience, my brother! we can combat with fate in no other manner."
It were endless to recapitulate minutely every distress that attended the prisoners in their tedious journey; let it suffice, that having passed through uncommon misery, and imminent danger, they arrived at Montreal. Here the savages were joined by several scalping parties of their tribe, and having previously fresh painted themselves, appeared in hideous pomp, and performed a kind of triumphal entry. The throng of people that came out to meet them, threw MARIA in the most painful sensations of embarrassment; but as the clamours and insults of the populace increased, a freezing torpor succeeded, and bedewed her limbs with a cold sweat - strange chimeras danced before her sight - the actings of her soul were suspended - she seemed to move mechanically, nor recollected herself till she found she was seated in the Governor's hall, surrounded by an impertinent, inquisitive circle of people, who were inquiring into the cause of her disorder, without attempting any thing towards her relief. Discovering her situation, she blushingly withdrew to a dark corner from the public gaze, and could not help sighing to herself, " Alas! but a very few days ago I was hailed as the happiest of women - my fond husband anticipated all my desires - my children smiled round me with filial delight - my very servants paid me the homage due to an angel! - O my God! what a sudden, what a deplorable transition! I am fallen below contempt!" As she thus moralized on her situation, an English woman (whom humanity more than curiosity had drawn to the place) approached MARIA, and observing her tears and deep dejection, took hold of her hand, and endeavoured to smile; but the soft impulses of nature were too strong for the efforts of dissimulation - her features instantly saddened again, and she burst into tears, exclaiming, (with a hesitating voice,) "Poor, forlorn creature! where are thy friends! perhaps the dying moments of thy fond parent, or husband, have been cruelly embittered with the sight of thy captivity! perhaps now thy helpless orphan is mourning for the breast which gave him nourishment! or thy plaintive little ones are wondering at the long absence of their miserable mother!" - Oh! no more! no more!" interrupted MARIA; your pity is severer than savage cruelty - I could stand the shock of fortune with some degree of firmness, but your soft sympathy opens afresh the wounds of my soul! my losses are beyond your conjecture - I have no parent, no sportive children, and, I believe, no husband, to mourn and wish for me!" These words were succeeded by an affecting silence on both sides: meanwhile the Indians testified their impatience to be admitted to the Governor by frequent shouts; at length his Excellency appeared, and having held a long conference with the savages, they retired with his Secretary, and our prisoners saw them no more.
After their exit the Governor turning round to MARIA and HENRY, demanded who they were? Mrs. KITTLE'S perplexity prevented her reply; but HENRY, in a most respectful manner, gave him a succinct account of their misfortunes. The Governor perceiving him sensible and communicative, interrogated him farther, but he modestly declined giving any political intelligence. Observing that MARIA suffered greatly in this interview, he soon concluded it, after having presented several pieces of calicoes and stuffs to them, desiring they would accept what they had occasion for. Mrs. KITTLE immediately singled out a piece of black calimanco with tears of gratitude to her benefactor; who, smiling, observed she might chuse a gayer colour, as he hoped her distresses were now over. MARIA shook her head in token of dissent, but could make no reply. He then dismissed them, with a small guard, who was directed to provide them with decent lodgings.
HENRY was accommodated at a baker's, while his sister, to her no small satisfaction, found herself placed at the Englim woman's, who, on her arrival, had expressed so much good nature, She had' scarcely entered, when Mrs, D-- , presenting her with a cordial, led her to a couch, insisting on her reposing there a little, "For," says me, "your waste of spirits requires it."
This tenderness, which MARIA had long been a stranger to, relaxed every fibre of her heart; she again melted into tears; but it was a gush of grateful acknowledgment, that called a modest blush of pleasure and perplexity on Mrs. D--'s cheek. Being left alone, she soon fell in a profound sleep; and her friend having prepared a comfortable repast, in less than an hour awaked her, with an invitation to dinner - "And how do you find yourself, my sister?" said she instinctively, seizing MARIA'S hand and compressing it between hers; "may we hope that you will assist us in conquering your dejection?" - MARIA smiled benignly through a crystal atmosphere of tears, and kissing the hand of her friend, arose. Having dined, and being now equipped in decent apparel, MARIA became the admiration and esteem of the whole family. The tempest of her soul subsided in a solemn calm; and though she did not regain her vivacity, she became agreeably conversable.
In a few days, however, she felt the symptoms of an approaching fever. She was alarmed at this, and intimating to Mrs. D-- her fears of becoming troublesome, "Do not be concerned," returned that kind creature; "my God did not plant humanity in my breast to remain there an inactive principle." MARIA felt her oppression relieved by this generous sentiment; and indeed found her friendship did not consist in profession, as she incessantly tended her during her illness with inexpressible delicacy and solicitude. When she was again on the recovery, Mrs. D-- one day ordered a small trunk covered with Morocco leather to be brought before her, and opening it, produced several sets of fine linen, with some elegant stuffs and other necessaries. "See," said she, " what the benevolence of Montreal has done for you. The ladies that beg your acceptance of these things, intend likewife to enhance the favour, by waiting on you this afternoon." " Ah!" interrupted MARIA, "I want them not; this one plain habit is enough to answer the purpose of dress for me. Shut the chest, my dear Mrs. D , and keep them as a small compensation for the immense trouble I have been to you." "If this is your real sentiment," replied her friend, (shutting the chest, and presenting her the key,) "return your gifts to the donors; and since you will reward me for my little offices of friendship, only love me, and believe me disinterested, and I shall be overpaid." "I see I have wronged your generosity," answered MARIA. "Pardon me, my sister, I will offend no more. I did not think you mercenary - but - but - I meant only to disengage my heart of a little of its burden." As this tender contest was painful to both parties, Mrs. D-- rising abruptly, pretended some business, promising to return again directly.
In the afternoon MARIA received her visitants in a neat little parlour. She was dressed in a plain suit of mourning, and wore a small muslin cap, from which her hair fell in artless curls on her fine neck: her face was pale, though not emaciated, and her eyes streamed a soft languor over her countenance, more bewitching than the sprightliest glances of vivacity. As they entered she arose, and advancing, modestly received their civilities, while Mrs. D-- handed them to chairs: but hearing a well-known voice, she hastily lifted up her eyes, and screamed out in an accent of surprise, "Good Heaven! may I credit my senses? My dear Mrs BRATT, my kind neighbour, is it really you that I see?" Here she found herself clasped in her friend's arms, who, after a long subsiding sigh, broke into tears. The tumult of passion at length abating "Could I have guessed, my MARIA," said she, " that you was here, my visit should not have been deferred a moment after your arrival: but I have mourned with a sister in affliction, (permit me to present her to you,) and while our hearts were wrung with each other's distress, alas! we inquired after no foreign calamity." Being all seated, "I "dare not," resumed MARIA, " ask after your family; I am afraid you only have escaped to tell me of them." -- "Not so, my sister," cried Mrs. BRATT; "but if you can bear the recollection of your misfortunes, do oblige me with the recital." The ladies joined their intreaty, and Mrs. KITTLE complied in a graceful manner.
After some time spent in tears, and pleasing melancholy, tea was brought in; and towards sunset Mrs. D-- invited the company to walk in the garden, which being very small, consisted only of a parterre, at the farther end of which stood an arbour covered with a grape-vine. Here being seated, after some chat on indifferent subjects, MARIA desired Mrs. BRATT, (if agreeable to the company) o acquaint her with the circumstances of her capture. They all bowed approbation; and after some hesitation Mrs. BRATT be gan: ---
My heart, ladies, shall ever retain a sense of the happiness I enjoyed in the society of Mrs. KITTLE and several other amiable persons in the vicinage of Schochticook, where I resided. She in particular cheered my lonely hours of widowhood, and omitted nothing that she thought might conduce to my serenity. I had two sons; she recommended the education of them to my leisure hours. I accepted of her advice, and found a suspension of my sorrows in the execution of my duty. They soon improved beyond my capacity of teaching. RICHARD, my eldest, was passionately fond of books, which he studied with intense application. This naturally attached him to a sedentary life, and he became the constant instructive companion of my evening hours. My youngest son, CHARLES, was more volatile, yet not less agreeable; his person was charming, his wit sprightly, and his address elegant. They often importuned me, at the commencement of this war, to withdraw to Albany but, as I apprehended no danger, (the British troops being stationed above us, quite from Saratoga to the Lake) I ridiculed their fears.
One evening as my sons were come in from reaping, and I was busied in preparing them a dish of tea, we were surprised by a discharge of musketry near us. We all three ran to the door, and beheld a party of Indians not twenty paces from us. Struck with astonishment, we had no power to move; and the savages again firing that instant, my CHARLES dropped down dead beside me. Good God! what were my emotions! But language would fail, should I attempt to describe them. My surviving son then turning to me, with a countenance expressive of the deepest horror, urged me to fly. "Let us be gone this instant," said he; "a moment determines our fate. O my mother! you are already lost." But despair had swallowed up my fears; I fell shrieking on the body of my child, and rending away my hair, endeavoured to recall him to life with unavailing laments. RICHARD, in the meanwhile, had quitted me, and the moment after I beheld him mounted on horseback, and stretching away to the city. The Indians fired a volley at him, but missed, and, I flatter myself that he arrived safe. And now, not all my prayers and tears could prevent the wretches from scalping my precious child. But when they rent me away from him, and dragged me from the house, my grief and rage burst forth like a hurricane. I execrated their whole race, and called for eternal vengeance to crush them to atoms. After a while I grew ashamed of my impetuosity: the tears began again to flow silently on my cheek; and, as I walked through the forest between two Indians, my soul grew suddenly sick and groaned in me; a darkness, more substantial than Egyptian night, fell upon it, and my existence became an insupportable burthen to me. I looked up to Heaven with a hopeless kind of awe, but I murmured no more at the dispensations of my God; and in this frame of sullen resignation I passed the rest of my journey, which being nearly similar to Mrs. KITTLE'S, I shall avoid the repetition of. And now permit me (said she, turning to the French ladies) to acknowledge your extreme goodness to me. I was a stranger, sick and naked, and you took me in. You indeed have proved the good Samaritan to me, pouring oil and wine in my wounds." -- "Hush, hush! (cried Madame DE ROCHE,) you estimate our services at too high a rate. I see you are no connoisseur in minds; there is a great deal of honest hospitality in the world, though you have met with so little."
"I now reject, (interrupted Mrs. BRATT,) all prejudices of education. From my infancy have I been taught that the French were a cruel perfidious enemy, but I have found them quite the reverse."
Madame DE R. willing to change the subject, accosted the other stranger, ---"Dear Mrs. WILLIS, shall we not be interested likewise in your misfortunes?" "Ah! do, (added Mademoifelle V.) "my heart is now sweetly tuned to melancholy. I love to indulge these divine sensibilities, which your affecting histories are so capable of inspiring." MARIA then took hold of Mrs. WILLIS'S hand and pressed her to oblige them. -- Mrs. WILLIS bowed. She dropt a few tears; but assuming a composed look, she began: --
I am the daughter of a poor clergyman, who being confined to his chamber by sickness, for several years, amused himself by educating me. At his death, finding my- self friendless, and without money, I accepted the hand of a young man who had taken a leased farm in Pennsylvania. He was very agreeable, and extravagantly fond of me. We lived happily for many years in a kind of frugal affluence. When the savages began to commit outrages on the frontier settlements, our neighbours, intimidated at their rapid approaches, erected a small fort, surrounded by a high palisade. Into this the more timorous drove their cattle at night; and one evening, as we were at supper, my husband (being ordered on guard) insisted that I should accompany him with the children (for I had two lovely girls, one turned of thirteen years, another of six months.) My SOPHIA assented to the proposal with joy. 'Mamma, (said she,) what a merry woman the Captain's wife is; she will divert us the whole evening, and she is very fond of your company: come, I will take our little CHARLOTTE on my arm, and papa will carry the lantern.' I acceded with a nod; and already the dear charmer had handed me my hat and gloves, when somebody thundered at the door. We were silent as death, and instantly after plainly could distinguish the voices of savages conferring together. Chilled as I was with fear, I flew to the cradle, and catching my infant, ran up into a loft. SOPHIA followed me all trembling, and panting for breath cast herself in my bosom. Hearing the Indians enter, I looked through a crevice in the floor, and saw them, with menacing looks, seat themselves round the table, and now and then address themselves to Mr. WILLIS, who, all pale and astonished, neither understood nor had power to answer them. I observed they took a great pleasure in terrifying him, by flourishing their knives, and gashing the table with their hatchets. Alas! this sight shot icicles to my soul; and, to increase my dislres, my SOPHIA'S little heart beat against my breast, with redoubled strokes at every word they uttered.
Having finished their repast in a gluttinous manner, they laid a fire-brand in each corner of the chamber, and then departed, driving poor Mr. WILLIS before them. The smoke soon incommoded us; but we dreaded out barbarous enemy more than the fire. At length, however, the flames beginning to invade our retreat, trembling and apprehensive, we ventured down stairs; the whole house now glowed like a furnace; the flames rolled towards the stairs, which we hastily descended; but just as I sat my foot on the threshold of the door, a piece of timber, nearly consumed through, gave way, and fell on my left arm, which supported my infant, miserably fracturing the bone. I instantly caught up my fallen lamb, and hastened to overtake my SOPHIA. There was a large hollow tree contiguous to our house with an aperture just large enough to admit so small a woman as I am. Here we had often laughingly proposed to hide our children, in case of a visit from the olive coloured natives. In this we now took shelter; and being seated some time, my soul seemed to awake as it were from a vision of horror: I lifted up my eyes, and beheld the cottage that lately circumscribed all my worldly wealth and delight, melting away before the devouring fire. I dropt a tear as our apostate first parents did when thrust out from Eden.
The world lay all before them, where to chuse their place of rest, and Providence their guide. Ah, Eve! thought I, hadst thou been like me, solitary, maimed, and unprotected, thy situation had been deplorable indeed. Then pressing my babe to my heart, 'How quiet art thou, my angel,' (said I) 'sure - sure, Heaven has stilled thy little plaints in mercy to us.' - 'Ah'! (sobbed SOPHIA,) 'now I am comforted again that I hear my dear mamma's voice. I was afraid grief would have forever deprived me of that happiness.' And here she kissed my babe and me with vehemence. When her transports were moderated, ' How cold my sister is,' (said she,) 'do wrap her up warmer, mamma; poor thing, she is not used to such uncomfortable lodging.'
The pain of my arm now called for all my fortitude and attention; but I forbore to mention this afflicting circumstance to my daughter.
The cheerful swallow now began to usher in the dawn with melody; we timidly prepared to quit our hiding place; and turning round to the light, I cast an anxious eye of love on my innocent, wondering that she slept so long. But oh! horror and misery! I beheld her a pale, stiff corpse in my arms; (suffer me to weep, ladies, at the cruel recollection.) It seems the piece of wood that disabled me, had also crushed my CHARLOTTE's tender skull, and no wonder my hapless babe was quiet. I could no longer sustain my sorrowful burden, but falling proftrate, almost insensible at the dreadful discovery, uttered nothing but groans. SOHIA's little heart was too susceptible for so moving a scene. Distracted between her concern for me, and her grief for the loss of her dear sister, she cast herself beside me, and with the softest voice of sorrow, bewailed the fate of her beloved CHARLOTTE - her sweet companion - her innocent, laughing play-fellow. At length we rose, and SOPHIA, clasping all that remained of my cherub in her arms, 'Ah!' (said she,) 'I did engage to carry you, my sister, but little did I expect in this distressing manner,' When we came in sight of the fort, though I endeavoured to spirit up my grieved child, yet I found my springs of action begin to move heavily, my heart fluttered, and I suddenly fainted away. SOPHIA, concluding I was dead, uttered so piercing a cry, that the centinel looking up, immediately called to those in the fort to assist us. When I recovered, I found myself in a bed encircled by my kind neighbours, who divided their expressions of love and condolement between me and my child. I remained in the fort after this; but, ladies, you may think, that bereft as I was of so kind a husband and endearing child, I soon found myself solitary and destitute. I wept incessantly; and hearing nothing from my dear WILLIS, I at length resolved to traverse the wilds of Canada in pursuit of him. When I communicated this to my friends, they all strongly opposed it; but finding me inflexible, they furnished me with some money and necessaries, and obtained a permission from the Governor to let me go under protection of a flag that was on the way. Hearing likewise that a cartel was drawn for an exchange of prisoners, I sat out, flushed with hope, and with indefatigable industry and painful solicitude, arrived at Montreal, worn to a skeleton (as you see ladies) with fatigue.
"I omitted not to inquire of every officer, the names of prisoners who had been brought in. At length I understood that Mr. WILLIS had perished in jail, on his first arrival, of a dysentery. - Here my expectations terminated in despair. I had no money to return with, and indeed but for my SOPHIA no inclination - the whole world seemed dark and cheerless to me as the fabled region of Cimmeria, and I was nigh perishing for very want, when Mrs. BRATT, hearing of my distress, sought my acquaintance: she kindly participated my sorrows, and too - too generously shared her purse and bed with me. This, ladies, is the story of a broken hearted woman; nor should I have intruded it in any other but the house of mourning."
Here she concluded, while the ladies severally embracing her, expressed their acknowledgments for the painful task she had complied with to oblige their curiosity. - "Would to Heaven!" said Madame DE R. "that the brutal nations were extinct, for never - never can the united humanity of France and Britain compensate for the horrid cruelties of their savage allies."
They were soon after summoned to an elegant collation; and having spent the best part of the night together, the guests retired to their respective homes.
During two years, in which the French ladies continued their bounty and friendship to Mrs. KITTLE, she never could gain the least intelligence of her husband. Her letters, after wandering through several provinces, would often return to her hands unopened. Despairing at length of ever seeing him, "Ah!" she would say to Mrs. D--, "my poor husband has undoubtedly perished, perhaps in his fruitless search after me, and I am left to be a long - long burden on your goodness, a very unprofitable dependant."
In her friend's absence she would descend into the kitchen, and submit to the most menial offices; nor could the servants prevent her; however, they apprised Mrs. D-- of it, who seized an opportunity of detecting her at her labour. Being baffled in her humble attempt by the gentle reproaches of her indulgent patroness, she sat down on the step of the door, and began to weep. "I believe, good Mrs D--," said she, "were you a hard taskmaster that exacted from these useless hands the most slavish business, I could acquit myself with cheerfulness: my heart is like ice, that brightens and grows firmer by tempests, but cannot stand the warm rays of a kind sun." Mrs. D-- was beginning to answer, when hearing a tumult in the street, they both hasted to the door, and MARIA, casting her eyes carelessly over the crowd, in an instant recognized the features of her long-lamented husband, who sprang towards her with an undescribable and involuntary rapture: but the tide of joy and surprise was too strong for the delicacy of her frame: she gave a faint exclamation, and stretching out her arms to receive him, dropped senseless at his feet. The succession of his ideas was too rapid to admit describing. He caught her up, and bearing her in the hall, laid his precious burden on a settee, kneeling beside her in a speechless agony of delight and concern. Meanwhile the spectators found themselves wonderfully affected - the tender contagion ran from bosom to bosom - they wept aloud; and the house of joy seemed to be the house of lamentation. At length MARIA opened her eyes and burst into a violent fit of tears -Mr. KITTLE, with answering emotions, silently accompanying her; then clasping his arms endearingly round her, "It is enough, my love," said he, "we have had our night of affliction, and surely this blessed meeting is a presage of a long day of future happiness; let me kiss off those tears, and shew by your smiles that I am indeed welcome." MARIA then bending fondly forward to his bosom, replied, sighing, "Alas! how can your beggared wife give you a proper reception? she cannot restore your prattling babes to your arms - she comes alone! Alas! her presence will only serve to remind you of the treasures - the filial delights you have lost!" "God forbid," answered he, "that I should repine at the loss of my smaller comforts, when so capital a blessing as my beloved MARIA is so wonderfully restored to me." Here he was incivility obliged to rise and receive the compliments of Mrs. BRATT, Mrs. WILLIS, and Madame DE R., who, hearing of his arrival, entered just then, half breathless with impatience and joy. The company increased; an elegant dinner was prepared: in short, the day was devoted to pleasure; and never was satisfaction more general - festivity glowed on every face, and complacency dimpled every cheek.
After tea MARIA withdrew in the garden, to give her beloved an account of what had befallen her during their separation. The eloquence of sorrow is irresistible. Mr. KITTLE wept, he groaned, while all impassioned (with long interruptions of grief in her voice) she stammered through her doleful history; and yet she felt a great satisfaction in pouring her complaints into a bosom whose feelings were in unison with her's - they wept - they smiled, - they mourned, and rejoiced alternately, with an abrupt transition from one passion to another.
Mr. KITTLE, in return, informed her, that having thrown himself into the army, in hopes of ending a being that grew insupportable under the reflection of past happiness, he tempted death in every action wherein he was engaged, and being disappointed, gave himself up to the blacked melancholy. "This gloomy scene," he observed, "would soon have been closed by some act of desperation: but one evening, sitting pensive in his tent, and attentively running over the circumstances of his misfortunes, a thought darted on his mind that possibly his brother HENRY might be alive." This was the first time the idea of any one of his family's surviving the general murder had presented itself to him, and he caught at the flattering suggestion as a drowning wretch would at a plank. "Surely, surely," said he, "my brother lives - it is some divine emanation lights up the thought in my soul - it carries conviction with it: I will go after him - it shall be the comfort and employment of my life to find out this dear brother - this last and only treasure." Persuaded of the reality of his fancy, he communicated his design to a few of his military friends; but they only laughed at his extravagance, and strongly dissuaded him from so wild an undertaking. Being discouraged, he desisfted; but shortly after, hearing that a company of prisoners (who were enfranchised) were returning to Quebec, he got permission to accompany them. After a very fatiguing journey he arrived at Montreal, and was immediately introduced to the General Officer, who patiently heard his story, and treated him with great clemency. Having obtained leave to remain a few days in town, he respectfully withdrew, and turning down a street he inquired of a man who was walking before him, where lodgings were to he let? The stranger turned about, civilly taking off his hat, when Mr. KITTLE, staring back, grew as pale as ashes "Oh, my God!" cried he, panting, "oh! HENRY, is it you! is it indeed you! No, it cannot be." Here he was ready to fall; but HENRY, with little less agitation, supported him; and a tavern being at hand, he led him in. The master of the hotel brought in wine, and they drank off many glasses to congratulate so happy a meeting. When their transports were abated, HENRY ventured to tell him that his MARIA was living and well. This was a weight of joy too strong for his enfeebled powers - he flared wildly about. At length, recovering himself, "Take care, HENRY," said he, "this is too tender a point to trifle upon." "My brother," replied HENRY, "becalm, let not your joy have a worse effect than your grief - they both came sudden, and it behoves a man and a christian to shew as much fortitude under the one as the other." "Alas! I am prepared for some woeful deception," cried Mr. KITTLE; "but, HENRY, this suspence is cruel." "By the eternal God!" rejoined his brother, "your MARIA, your wife, is in this town, and if you are composed enough, you shall immediately see her." Mr. KITTLE could not speak - he gave his hand to HENRY, and while (like the Apostles friends) he believed not for joy, he was conducted to her arms, and found his bliss wonderfully real
This work was published before January 1, 1923, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.