"Sola, sola, wo ha, ho, sola!"
While one of the lovely beings we have so cursorily presented to
the reader was thus lost in thought, the other quickly recovered
from the alarm which induced the exclamation, and, laughing at her
own weakness, she inquired of the youth who rode by her side:
"Are such specters frequent in the woods, Heyward, or is this
sight an especial entertainment ordered on our behalf? If the
latter, gratitude must close our mouths; but if the former, both
Cora and I shall have need to draw largely on that stock of
hereditary courage which we boast, even before we are made to
encounter the redoubtable Montcalm."
"Yon Indian is a 'runner' of the army; and, after the fashion of
his people, he may be accounted a hero," returned the officer. "He
has volunteered to guide us to the lake, by a path but little
known, sooner than if we followed the tardy movements of the
column; and, by consequence, more agreeably."
"I like him not," said the lady, shuddering, partly in assumed,
yet more in real terror. "You know him, Duncan, or you would not
trust yourself so freely to his keeping?"
"Say, rather, Alice, that I would not trust you. I do know him,
or he would not have my confidence, and least of all at this
moment. He is said to be a Canadian too; and yet he served with our
friends the Mohawks, who, as you know, are one of the six allied
nations. He was brought among us, as I have heard, by some strange
accident in which your father was interested, and in which the
savage was rigidly dealt by; but I forget the idle tale, it is
enough, that he is now our friend."
"If he has been my father's enemy, I like him still less!"
exclaimed the now really anxious girl. "Will you not speak to him,
Major Heyward, that I may hear his tones? Foolish though it may be,
you have often heard me avow my faith in the tones of the human
"It would be in vain; and answered, most probably, by an
ejaculation. Though he may understand it, he affects, like most of
his people, to be ignorant of the English; and least of all will he
condescend to speak it, now that the war demands the utmost
exercise of his dignity. But he stops; the private path by which we
are to journey is, doubtless, at hand."
The conjecture of Major Heyward was true. When they reached the
spot where the Indian stood, pointing into the thicket that fringed
the military road; a narrow and blind path, which might, with some
little inconvenience, receive one person at a time, became
"Here, then, lies our way," said the young man, in a low voice.
"Manifest no distrust, or you may invite the danger you appear to
"Cora, what think you?" asked the reluctant fair one. "If we
journey with the troops, though we may find their presence irksome,
shall we not feel better assurance of our safety?"
"Being little accustomed to the practices of the savages, Alice,
you mistake the place of real danger," said Heyward. "If enemies
have reached the portage at all, a thing by no means probable, as
our scouts are abroad, they will surely be found skirting the
column, where scalps abound the most. The route of the detachment
is known, while ours, having been determined within the hour, must
still be secret."
"Should we distrust the man because his manners are not our
manners, and that his skin is dark?" coldly asked Cora.
Alice hesitated no longer; but giving her Narrangansett a smart cut of the whip, she was the
first to dash aside the slight branches of the bushes, and to
follow the runner along the dark and tangled pathway. The young man
regarded the last speaker in open admiration, and even permitted
her fairer, though certainly not more beautiful companion, to
proceed unattended, while he sedulously opened the way himself for
the passage of her who has been called Cora. It would seem that the
domestics had been previously instructed; for, instead of
penetrating the thicket, they followed the route of the column; a
measure which Heyward stated had been dictated by the sagacity of
their guide, in order to diminish the marks of their trail, if,
haply, the Canadian savages should be lurking so far in advance of
their army. For many minutes the intricacy of the route admitted of
no further dialogue; after which they emerged from the broad border
of underbrush which grew along the line of the highway, and entered
under the high but dark arches of the forest. Here their progress
was less interrupted; and the instant the guide perceived that the
females could command their steeds, he moved on, at a pace between
a trot and a walk, and at a rate which kept the sure-footed and
peculiar animals they rode at a fast yet easy amble. The youth had
turned to speak to the dark-eyed Cora, when the distant sound of
horses hoofs, clattering over the roots of the broken way in his
rear, caused him to check his charger; and, as his companions drew
their reins at the same instant, the whole party came to a halt, in
order to obtain an explanation of the unlooked-for
In a few moments a colt was seen gliding, like a fallow deer,
among the straight trunks of the pines; and, in another instant,
the person of the ungainly man, described in the preceding chapter,
came into view, with as much rapidity as he could excite his meager
beast to endure without coming to an open rupture. Until now this
personage had escaped the observation of the travelers. If he
possessed the power to arrest any wandering eye when exhibiting the
glories of his altitude on foot, his equestrian graces were still
more likely to attract attention.
Notwithstanding a constant application of his one armed heel to
the flanks of the mare, the most confirmed gait that he could
establish was a Canterbury gallop with the hind legs, in which
those more forward assisted for doubtful moments, though generally
content to maintain a loping trot. Perhaps the rapidity of the
changes from one of these paces to the other created an optical
illusion, which might thus magnify the powers of the beast; for it
is certain that Heyward, who possessed a true eye for the merits of
a horse, was unable, with his utmost ingenuity, to decide by what
sort of movement his pursuer worked his sinuous way on his
footsteps with such persevering hardihood.
The industry and movements of the rider were not less remarkable
than those of the ridden. At each change in the evolutions of the
latter, the former raised his tall person in the stirrups;
producing, in this manner, by the undue elongation of his legs,
such sudden growths and diminishings of the stature, as baffled
every conjecture that might be made as to his dimensions. If to
this be added the fact that, in consequence of the ex parte
application of the spur, one side of the mare appeared to journey
faster than the other; and that the aggrieved flank was resolutely
indicated by unremitted flourishes of a bushy tail, we finish the
picture of both horse and man.
The frown which had gathered around the handsome, open, and
manly brow of Heyward, gradually relaxed, and his lips curled into
a slight smile, as he regarded the stranger. Alice made no very
powerful effort to control her merriment; and even the dark,
thoughtful eye of Cora lighted with a humor that it would seem, the
habit, rather than the nature, of its mistress repressed.
"Seek you any here?" demanded Heyward, when the other had
arrived sufficiently nigh to abate his speed; "I trust you are no
messenger of evil tidings?"
"Even so," replied the stranger, making diligent use of his
triangular castor, to produce a circulation in the close air of the
woods, and leaving his hearers in doubt to which of the young man's
questions he responded; when, however, he had cooled his face, and
recovered his breath, he continued, "I hear you are riding to
William Henry; as I am journeying thitherward myself, I concluded
good company would seem consistent to the wishes of both
"You appear to possess the privilege of a casting vote,"
returned Heyward; "we are three, while you have consulted no one
"Even so. The first point to be obtained is to know one's own
mind. Once sure of that, and where women are concerned it is not
easy, the next is, to act up to the decision. I have endeavored to
do both, and here I am."
"If you journey to the lake, you have mistaken your route," said
Heyward, haughtily; "the highway thither is at least half a mile
"Even so," returned the stranger, nothing daunted by this cold
reception; "I have tarried at 'Edward' a week, and I should be dumb
not to have inquired the road I was to journey; and if dumb there
would be an end to my calling." After simpering in a small way,
like one whose modesty prohibited a more open expression of his
admiration of a witticism that was perfectly unintelligible to his
hearers, he continued, "It is not prudent for any one of my
profession to be too familiar with those he has to instruct; for
which reason I follow not the line of the army; besides which, I
conclude that a gentleman of your character has the best judgment
in matters of wayfaring; I have, therefore, decided to join
company, in order that the ride may be made agreeable, and partake
of social communion."
"A most arbitrary, if not a hasty decision!" exclaimed Heyward,
undecided whether to give vent to his growing anger, or to laugh in
the other's face. "But you speak of instruction, and of a
profession; are you an adjunct to the provincial corps, as a master
of the noble science of defense and offense; or, perhaps, you are
one who draws lines and angles, under the pretense of expounding
The stranger regarded his interrogator a moment in wonder; and
then, losing every mark of self-satisfaction in an expression of
solemn humility, he answered:
"Of offense, I hope there is none, to either party: of defense,
I make none—by God's good mercy, having committed no palpable sin
since last entreating his pardoning grace. I understand not your
allusions about lines and angles; and I leave expounding to those
who have been called and set apart for that holy office. I lay
claim to no higher gift than a small insight into the glorious art
of petitioning and thanksgiving, as practiced in psalmody."
"The man is, most manifestly, a disciple of Apollo," cried the
amused Alice, "and I take him under my own especial protection.
Nay, throw aside that frown, Heyward, and in pity to my longing
ears, suffer him to journey in our train. Besides," she added, in a
low and hurried voice, casting a glance at the distant Cora, who
slowly followed the footsteps of their silent, but sullen guide,
"it may be a friend added to our strength, in time of need."
"Think you, Alice, that I would trust those I love by this
secret path, did I imagine such need could happen?"
"Nay, nay, I think not of it now; but this strange man amuses
me; and if he 'hath music in his soul', let us not churlishly
reject his company." She pointed persuasively along the path with
her riding whip, while their eyes met in a look which the young man
lingered a moment to prolong; then, yielding to her gentle
influence, he clapped his spurs into his charger, and in a few
bounds was again at the side of Cora.
"I am glad to encounter thee, friend," continued the maiden,
waving her hand to the stranger to proceed, as she urged her
Narragansett to renew its amble. "Partial relatives have almost
persuaded me that I am not entirely worthless in a duet myself; and
we may enliven our wayfaring by indulging in our favorite pursuit.
It might be of signal advantage to one, ignorant as I, to hear the
opinions and experience of a master in the art."
"It is refreshing both to the spirits and to the body to indulge
in psalmody, in befitting seasons," returned the master of song,
unhesitatingly complying with her intimation to follow; "and
nothing would relieve the mind more than such a consoling
communion. But four parts are altogether necessary to the
perfection of melody. You have all the manifestations of a soft and
rich treble; I can, by especial aid, carry a full tenor to the
highest letter; but we lack counter and bass! Yon officer of the
king, who hesitated to admit me to his company, might fill the
latter, if one may judge from the intonations of his voice in
"Judge not too rashly from hasty and deceptive appearances,"
said the lady, smiling; "though Major Heyward can assume such deep
notes on occasion, believe me, his natural tones are better fitted
for a mellow tenor than the bass you heard."
"Is he, then, much practiced in the art of psalmody?" demanded
her simple companion.
Alice felt disposed to laugh, though she succeeded in
suppressing her merriment, ere she answered:
"I apprehend that he is rather addicted to profane song. The
chances of a soldier's life are but little fitted for the
encouragement of more sober inclinations."
"Man's voice is given to him, like his other talents, to be
used, and not to be abused. None can say they have ever known me to
neglect my gifts! I am thankful that, though my boyhood may be said
to have been set apart, like the youth of the royal David, for the
purposes of music, no syllable of rude verse has ever profaned my
"You have, then, limited your efforts to sacred song?"
"Even so. As the psalms of David exceed all other language, so
does the psalmody that has been fitted to them by the divines and
sages of the land, surpass all vain poetry. Happily, I may say that
I utter nothing but the thoughts and the wishes of the King of
Israel himself; for though the times may call for some slight
changes, yet does this version which we use in the colonies of New
England so much exceed all other versions, that, by its richness,
its exactness, and its spiritual simplicity, it approacheth, as
near as may be, to the great work of the inspired writer. I never
abide in any place, sleeping or waking, without an example of this
gifted work. 'Tis the six-and-twentieth edition, promulgated at
Boston, Anno Domini 1744; and is entitled, 'The Psalms, Hymns, and
Spiritual Songs of the Old and New Testaments; faithfully
translated into English Metre, for the Use, Edification, and
Comfort of the Saints, in Public and Private, especially in New
During this eulogium on the rare production of his native poets,
the stranger had drawn the book from his pocket, and fitting a pair
of iron-rimmed spectacles to his nose, opened the volume with a
care and veneration suited to its sacred purposes. Then, without
circumlocution or apology, first pronounced the word "Standish,"
and placing the unknown engine, already described, to his mouth,
from which he drew a high, shrill sound, that was followed by an
octave below, from his own voice, he commenced singing the
following words, in full, sweet, and melodious tones, that set the
music, the poetry, and even the uneasy motion of his ill-trained
beast at defiance; "How good it is, O see, And how it pleaseth
well, Together e'en in unity, For brethren so to dwell. It's like
the choice ointment, From the head to the beard did go; Down
Aaron's head, that downward went His garment's skirts unto."
The delivery of these skillful rhymes was accompanied, on the
part of the stranger, by a regular rise and fall of his right hand,
which terminated at the descent, by suffering the fingers to dwell
a moment on the leaves of the little volume; and on the ascent, by
such a flourish of the member as none but the initiated may ever
hope to imitate. It would seem long practice had rendered this
manual accompaniment necessary; for it did not cease until the
preposition which the poet had selected for the close of his verse
had been duly delivered like a word of two syllables.
Such an innovation on the silence and retirement of the forest
could not fail to enlist the ears of those who journeyed at so
short a distance in advance. The Indian muttered a few words in
broken English to Heyward, who, in his turn, spoke to the stranger;
at once interrupting, and, for the time, closing his musical
"Though we are not in danger, common prudence would teach us to
journey through this wilderness in as quiet a manner as possible.
You will then, pardon me, Alice, should I diminish your enjoyments,
by requesting this gentleman to postpone his chant until a safer
"You will diminish them, indeed," returned the arch girl; "for
never did I hear a more unworthy conjunction of execution and
language than that to which I have been listening; and I was far
gone in a learned inquiry into the causes of such an unfitness
between sound and sense, when you broke the charm of my musings by
that bass of yours, Duncan!"
"I know not what you call my bass," said Heyward, piqued at her
remark, "but I know that your safety, and that of Cora, is far
dearer to me than could be any orchestra of Handel's music." He
paused and turned his head quickly toward a thicket, and then bent
his eyes suspiciously on their guide, who continued his steady
pace, in undisturbed gravity. The young man smiled to himself, for
he believed he had mistaken some shining berry of the woods for the
glistening eyeballs of a prowling savage, and he rode forward,
continuing the conversation which had been interrupted by the
Major Heyward was mistaken only in suffering his youthful and
generous pride to suppress his active watchfulness. The cavalcade
had not long passed, before the branches of the bushes that formed
the thicket were cautiously moved asunder, and a human visage, as
fiercely wild as savage art and unbridled passions could make it,
peered out on the retiring footsteps of the travelers. A gleam of
exultation shot across the darkly-painted lineaments of the
inhabitant of the forest, as he traced the route of his intended
victims, who rode unconsciously onward, the light and graceful
forms of the females waving among the trees, in the curvatures of
their path, followed at each bend by the manly figure of Heyward,
until, finally, the shapeless person of the singing master was
concealed behind the numberless trunks of trees, that rose, in dark
lines, in the intermediate space.