Title: Glen's Creek
Author: Mary Jane Holmes
Release date: March 3, 2023 [eBook #70191]
Original publication: Canada: J. Ross Robertson, 1878
Credits: Richard Tonsing and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at https://www.pgdp.net (This file was produced from images generously made available by The Internet Archive)
The cover image was created by the transcriber and is placed in the public domain.
O’er Lake Erie’s dark, deep waters,—across Ohio’s broad, rich lands, and still onward, among the graceful forest trees, gushing springs, and fertile plains of Kentucky, rests in quiet beauty, the shady hillside, bright green valley, and dancing waterbrook, known as Glen’s Creek. No stately spire or glittering dome point out the spot to the passing traveller, but under the shadow of the lofty trees stands a large brick edifice, which has been consecrated to the worship of God. There, each Sabbath, together congregate the old and young, the lofty and the lowly, bond and free, and the incense which from that altar ascends to heaven is not the less pure because in that secluded spot the tones of the Sabbath bell never yet were heard. Not far from the old brick church are numerous time-stained grave-stones, speaking to the living of the pale dead ones, who side by side lie sleeping, unmindful of the wintry storm or summer’s fervid heat.
A little farther down the hill, and near the apple tree, whose apples never get ripe, stands a low white building,—the school house of Glen’s Creek. There, for several years, “Yankee schoolmasters,” one after another, have tried by turns the effect of moral suasion, hickory sticks and leathern straps on the girls and boys who there assemble, some intent upon mastering the mysteries of the Latin Reader, and others thinking wistfully of the miniature mill-dam and fish-pond in the brook at the foot of the hill, or of the play-house under the maple tree, where the earthens are each day washed in the little “tin bucket” which serves the treble purpose of dinner-pail, wash-bowl, and drinking-cup.
But not with Glen’s Creek as it now is has our story aught to do, although few have been the changes since, in the times long gone, the Indian warrior sought shelter from the sultry August sun ’neath the bows of the shady buckeye or towering honey locust, which so thickly stud the hillside of Glen’s Creek. Then, as now, the first spring violet blossomed there, and the earliest crocus grew near the stream whose waters sang as mournfully to the dusky maiden of the forest, as they since have to the fair daughter of the pale-face.
The incidents about to be narrated are believed to have taken place near the commencement of the nineteenth century, when the country of Kentucky, from Lexington to Louisville, was one entire forest, and when, instead of the planter’s handsome dwelling, now so common, there was only the rude log hut surrounded, perhaps, by a few acres of half-cleared land. Brave, indeed, must have been the heart of the hardy yeoman, who, forsaking the home of his fathers, went forth into the wilds of Kentucky, and there, amid dangers innumerable, laid the foundation of the many handsome towns which now dot the surface of that fair State. Woman, too, timid, shrinking woman, was there, and in moments of the most appalling danger the daring courage she displayed equalled that shown by her husband, father and brother. Often on the still midnight air rang out the fearful war-cry, speaking of torture and death to the inmates of the rude dwelling whose flames, rising high over the tree tops, warned some other lonely settler that the enemy was upon his track.
But spite of all dangers and difficulties, the tide of emigration poured steadily in upon Kentucky, until where once the Indian hunter and wild beast held undisputed sway, there may now be seen fertile gardens and cultivated fields, handsome towns and flourishing cities.
Brightly looked forth the stars on one February night, while the pale moon, yet in its first quarter, hung in the western sky, illuminating as far as was possible the little settlement of P——, Virginia. In a large square building, the house of Deacon Wilder, there was a prayer meeting, consisting mostly of members from “the first families in Virginia.”
In this meeting Deacon Wilder took a prominent part, although there was an unusually mournful cadence in the tones of his voice; and twice during the reading of the 4psalm was he obliged to stop for the purpose of wiping from his eyes two large tear-drops, which seemed sadly out of place on the broad, good-humoured face of the deacon. Other eyes there were, too, on whose long lashes the heavy moisture glistened, and whose faces told of some sad event which either had happened or was about to happen. The cause of all this sorrow was this: Ere the night for the weekly prayer meeting again came, Deacon Wilder and his family, who were universally liked, would be far on the road toward home in the dense forests of Kentucky. In that old-fashioned kitchen were many who had come long, weary miles for the sake of again shaking the deacon’s hand, and again telling his gentle wife how surely their hearts would go with her to her home in the far west.
The meeting proceeded decently and in order, as meetings should, until near its close, when Deacon Wilder, for the last time, lifted up his voice in prayer with the loved friends and neighbours he was leaving. At this point, the grief of the little company burst forth unrestrainedly. The white portion of the audience gave vent to their feelings in tears and half-smothered sobs, while the blacks, of whom there was a goodly number present, manifested their sorrow by groans and loud lamentations.
Among these was an old negro named Cato, who, together with his wife Dillah, had formerly belonged to Deacon Wilder’s father, but on his death they had passed into the possession of the oldest son, Capt. Wilder, who lived within a stone’s throw of his brother. Old Cato was decidedly a Methodist in practice, and when in the course of his prayer Deacon Wilder mentioned that in all human probability he should never on earth meet them again, old Cato, who was looked upon as a pillar by his coloured brethren, forgetting in the intensity of his feelings the exact form of words which he wanted, fervently ejaculated, “Thank the Lord!” after which Dillah, his wife, uttered a hearty “Amen!”
This mistake in the choice of words was a slight set back to the deacon, who was feeling, perhaps, a trifle gratified at seeing himself so generally regretted. But Cato and Dillah were a well-meaning couple, and their mistake passed unnoticed, save by the young people, who smiled a little mischievously. The meeting continued until a late hour, and the hands of the long Dutch clock pointed to the hour of midnight ere the windows of Deacon Wilder’s dwelling were darkened, and its inmates were dreaming, may be, of a home where good-byes and partings were unknown.
Next morning, long before the sun had dallied with the east until over its gray cheek the blushes of daylight were stealing, the deacon’s family were astir. Fires were lighted in the fire-place, candles were lighted in the candlesticks, and breakfast was swallowed in a space of time altogether too short for the credulity of modern dyspeptics. Then commenced the exciting process of “pulling down” and “packing up.” Bedsteads were knocked endwise, bed-clothes were thrown all ways, crockery was smashed, and things generally were put where there was no possible danger of their being found again for one twelvemonth. Deacon Wilder scolded, his wife Sally scolded; old Cato and Dillah, who had come over to superintend matters, scolded; the other negroes ran against each other and every way, literally doing nothing except “’clarin’ they’s fit to drap, they’s so tired;” while George, the deacon’s oldest son, looked on, quietly whistling “Yankee Doodle.”
In the midst of this hubbub, little Charlie, a bright, beautiful, but delicate boy of nine summers, crept away to the foot of the garden, and there, on a large stone under a tall sugar maple, his face buried in his hands, he wept bitterly. Poor Charlie! he was taking his first lesson in home-sickness, even before his childhood’s home had disappeared from view. He had always been opposed to emigrating to Kentucky, which, in his mind, was all “dark, dark woods,” where each member of the family would be tomahawked by the Indians every day at least, if not oftener.
But Charlie’s tears were unavailing—the old homestead was sold, the preparations were nearly completed, and in a few hours he would bid good-bye to the places he loved so well. “I shall never sit under this tree again,” said the weeping boy, “never again play in the dear old brook; and when I die there, I shall be afraid to lie alone in the dark woods, and there will be none but our folks to cry for me, either.”
A soft footstep sounded near, two little arms were thrown round Charlie’s neck, and a childish voice whispered, “Oh, Charlie, Charlie, I will cry when I hear you are dead, and if you will send for me before you die, I will surely come.”
It was Ella, his cousin. She was a year his junior, and since his earliest remembrance she had been the object of his deepest affection. Together they had played in the forest shade, together in the garden had they made their flower-beds, and together had they mourned over torn dresses, lost mittens, bumped heads, nettle stings, and so forth. It is not altogether improbable that Charlie’s grief arose partly from the fact that Ella must be left behind. He had always been 5delicate, and frequently talked to Ella of dying, so that she readily believed him when he told her he should die in Kentucky; she believed, too, that she should see him again ere he died. Did she believe aright? The story will tell you, but I shall not.
Everything was in readiness except the little waggon which was to convey the best looking-glass, the stuffed rocking-chair, Mrs. Wilder, and Charlie. On an old stump near the gate sat Aunt Dillah, industriously wiping the tears from her dusky cheeks, and ever and anon exclaiming, “’Pears like I could bar it better if I was gwine with them.”
This remark was overheard by her master, Capt. Wilder. He had frequently heard Cato express the same wish, and thought it quite natural too, inasmuch as Jake, their only child, was to accompany the deacon. For a moment the captain stood irresolute. We will not say what thoughts passed through his mind, but after a time he went away and in quest of his brother. There was a short consultation, and then Capt. Wilder, returning to Dillah, laid his hand on her shoulder, and said, “Aunt Dillah, would it please you and Cato to go to Kentucky, and be killed with the Indians along with Jake?”
“Lor bless you, marster, that it would,” said Dillah, rolling up her eyes till only the whites were visible.
“Very well, you can go,” was Capt. Wilder’s reply.
By this time old Cato and Jake had gathered near, and the “Lord bless you’s” which they poured in upon the captain sent him into the house, out of sight and hearing. But Dillah had no time to lose. Her goods and chattels must be picked up, and old Cato’s Sunday shirt must be wrung out of the rinsing water, Dillah declaring “she could kind o’ shake it out and dry it on the road!” While putting up her things, the old creature frequently lamented the unfortunate fact that the new gown given her last Christmas by “old Miss,” was not made, “for,” said she, “I shall want to look toppin’ and smart-like amongst the folks in Kentuck.”
“Ain’t no folks thar,” said Jake; but as often as he repeated this assertion, Aunt Dillah answered, “Now and then one, I reckon, ’less why should marster tote the whole on us out thar?”
“For the Injuns to eat, I s’pose,” answered Jake, and then he went through with a short rehearsal of what his mother would say, and how she would yell, when one of the natives got her in his grip. Little Ella wept passionately when she learned that Dillah, too, was going, but when Charlie, stealing up to her, said “she will take care of me,” her tears were dried, and her last words to Dillah were, “Be kind to Charlie till he dies.”
Sweet Ella, it would seem that a foreshadowing of the future had fallen around her, for when at last Charlie’s farewell kiss was warm upon her cheek, her voice was cheerful as she said, “You will send for me and I shall surely come.” Could she have known how long and wearisome were the miles, how dark and lonely was the wood, and how full of danger was the road which lay between her and Charlie’s future home, she might not have been so sure that they would meet again.
One after another the waggons belonging to Deacon Wilder passed down the narrow road, and were lost to view in the deep forest which stretched away to the west as far as the eye could reach. Here for a short time we will leave them, while we introduce to our readers another family, whose fortunes are closely interwoven with our first party.
Five years prior to the emigration of Deacon Wilder, Mr. Gorton, a former neighbour, had, with his family, removed to Kentucky, and found a home near Lexington. Around his fireside in Virginia once had gathered three young children, Robert, Madeline and Marian. Robert, the eldest, was not Mr. Gorton’s son, but the child of a sister, Mrs. Hunting, who on her death bed had bequeathed her only boy to the care of her brother. Madeline, when three years of age, was one day missed from her father’s house. Long and protracted search was made, which resulted, at length, in the discovery of a part of the child’s dress near a spot where lay a pool of blood, and the mutilated remains of what was probably once the merry laughing Madeline. As only a few of the bones and a small part of the flesh was left, it was readily supposed that the wolves, of which there were many at that time in the woods, had done the bloody deed. Amid many tears the remains were gathered up, placed in a little coffin, and buried beneath the aged oak under which they were found. Years passed on, and the lost Madeline ceased to be spoken of save by her parents, who could never forget.
Marian, the youngest and now the only remaining daughter of Mr. Gorton, was, at 6the time of her father’s emigration, fourteen years of age. She was a fair, handsome girl, and already toward her George Wilder, who was four years her senior, had turned his eyes, as toward the star which was to illuminate his future horizon. But she went from him, and thenceforth his heart yearned for the woods and hills of Kentucky, and it was partly through his influence that his father had finally determined to remove thither. Thus, while Charlie, creeping to the far end of the waggon, wept as he thought of home and Ella, George was anticipating a joyous meeting with the beautiful Marian, and forming plans for the future, just as thousands have done since and will do again.
It is not our intention to follow our travellers through the various stages of their long, tiresome journey, but we will with them hasten on to the close of a mild spring afternoon, when the whole company, wearied and spiritless, drew up in front of a large, newly built log house, in the rear of which were three smaller ones. These last were for the accommodation of the negroes, who were soon scattering in every direction, in order to ascertain, as soon as possible, all the conveniences and inconveniences of their new home. It took Aunt Dillah but a short time to make up her mind that “Kentuck was an ugly-looking, out-of-the way place, the whole on’t; that she wished to gracious she’s back in old Virginny;” and lastly, that “she never should have come, no how, if marster hadn’t of ’sisted and ’sisted, till ’twasn’t in natur to ’fuse.”
This assertion Aunt Dillah repeated so frequently, that she at length came to believe it herself. The old creature had no idea that she was not the main prop of her master’s household, and we ourselves are inclined to think that Mrs. Wilder, unaided by Dillah’s strong arm, ready tact, and encouraging words, could not well have borne the hardships and privations attending that home in the wilderness. Weary and heart-sick, she stepped from the little waggon, while an expression of sadness passed over her face as her eye wandered over the surrounding country, where tract after tract of thick woodland stretched on and still onward, to the verge of the most distant horizon.
Dillah, better than any one else, understood how to cheer her mistress, and within an hour after their arrival a crackling fire was blazing in the fire-place, while the old round iron-teakettle, or rather its contents were hissing and moaning, and telling, as plainly as tea-kettle could tell, of coming good cheer. At length the venison steaks and Dillah’s short cake, smoking hot, were placed upon the old square table, and the group which shared that first supper at Glen’s Creek were, with the exception of Charlie, comparatively contented. He, poor child, missed the scenes of his early home, and more than all, he missed his playmate, Ella.
Long after the hour of midnight went by, he stood by his little low window near the head of his bed, gazing up at the hosts of shining stars, and wondering if they were looking upon his dear old home, even as they looked down upon him, home-sick and lonely, afar in the wilderness of Kentucky.
Weeks passed on, and within and without Deacon Wilder’s doors were signs of life and civilization. Trees were cut down, gardens were made, corn and vegetables were planted, and still no trace of an Indian had been seen, although Jake had frequently expressed a wish to get a shot at the “varmin,” as he called them. Still, he felt that it would be unwise to be caught out alone at any very great distance from his master’s dwelling.
This feeling was shared by all of Deacon Wilder’s household except Charlie, who frequently went forth alone into the forest shade, and rambled over the hills where grew the rich wild strawberry and the fair summer flowers, and where, too, roamed the red man; for the Indian was there, jealously watching each movement of his white brother, and waiting for some provocation to strike a deadly blow. But Charlie knew it not, and fearlessly each day he plunged deeper and deeper into the depths of the woods, taking some stately tree or blighted stump as a way-mark by which to trace his homeward road, when the shadows began to grow long and dark.
Although he knew it not, Charlie had a protector, who each day, in the shady woods and wild gullies of Glen’s Creek, awaited his coming. Stealthily would she follow his footsteps, and when on the velvety turf he laid him down to rest, she would watch near him, lest harm should befall the young sleeper. It was Orianna, the only and darling child of Owanno, the chieftain, whose wigwam was three miles west of Glen’s Creek, near a spot called Grassy Spring.
Orianna had first been attracted toward Charlie by seeing him weep one day, and from a few words which he involuntarily let fall, she learned that his heart was not with the scenes wherein he dwelt, but was far 7away toward the “rising sun.” Orianna’s heart was full of kindly sympathy, and from the time when she first saw Charlie weeping in the forest, she made a vow to the Great Spirit that she would love and protect the child of the “pale-face.” The vow thus made by the simple Indian maiden was never broken, but through weal and woe it was faithfully kept.
It was a long time ere Orianna ventured to introduce herself to her new friend; but when she did so, she was delighted to find that he neither expressed fear of her, nor surprise at her personal appearance. From that time they were inseparable, although Orianna exacted from Charlie a promise not to mention her at home, and also resisted his entreaties that she would accompany him thither. In reply to all his arguments, she would say, mournfully, “No, Charlie, no; the pale-face is the enemy of my people, although Orianna never can think they are enemies to her; and sometimes I have wished—it was wicked, I know, and the Great Spirit was angry—but I have wished that I, too, was of the fair-haired and white-browed ones.”
In Charlie’s home there was much wonder as to what took him so regularly to the woods but he withstood their questioning and kept his secret safely. In the wigwam, too, where Orianna dwelt, there was some grumbling at her frequent absences, but the old chieftain Owanno and his wife Narretta loved their child too well to prohibit her rambling when and where she pleased. This old couple were far on the journey of life, when Orianna came as a sunbeam of gladness to their lone cabin, and thenceforth they doted upon her as the miser doats upon his shining gold.
She was a tall, graceful creature of nineteen or twenty summers, and her life would have been one of unbounded happiness had it not been for one circumstance. Near her father’s wigwam lived the young chief Wahlaga, who to a most ferocious nature added a face horridly disfigured by the many fights in which he had been foremost. A part of his nose was gone, and one eye entirely so; yet to this man had Owanno determined to wed his beautiful daughter, who looked upon Wahlaga with perfect disgust, and resolved that, sooner than marry him, she would perish in the deep waters of the Kentucky, which lay not many miles away.
The deacon and his family had now been residents at Glen’s Creek nearly three months. Already was the leafy month of June verging into sultry July, when George Wilder at length found time to carry out a plan long before formed. It was to visit Marian, and if he found her all which as a child she had promised to be, he would win her for himself.
Soon after the early sun had touched the hill tops as with a blaze of fire, George mounted his favourite steed, and taking Jake with him for a companion, turned into the woods and took the lonely road to Lexington. Leaving them for a moment, we will press on and see Marian’s home.
It was a large, double log building, over which the flowering honeysuckle and dark green hop-vine had been trained until they formed an effectual screen. The yard in front was large, and much taste had been displayed in the arrangement of the flowers and shrubs which were scattered through it. Several large forests had been left standing, and at one end of the yard, under a clump of honey-locusts, a limpid stream of water, now nearly dry, went dancing over the large flat limestones which lay at the bottom. In the rear of the house was the garden, which was very large, and contained several bordered walks, grassy plats, and handsome flower-beds, besides vegetables of all descriptions. At the end of the garden, and under the shadows of the woods, was a little summer-house, over which a wild grape-vine had been taught to twine its tendrils.
In this summer-house, on the morning of which we are speaking, was a beautiful young girl, Marian Gorton. We have not described her, neither do we intend to, for she was not as beautiful as heroines of stories usually are; but, reader, we will venture that she was as handsome as any person you have ever seen, for people were handsomer in those days than they are now—at least our grand-parents tell us so. Neither have we told her age, although we are sure that we have somewhere said enough on that point to have you know, by a little calculation, that Marian was now eighteen.
This morning, as she sits in the summer-house, her brow is resting on her hand, and a shadow is resting on her brow. Had Marian cause for sorrow? None except that her cousin Robert, who had recently returned from England, had that morning offered her his hand and been partially refused. Yet why should Marian refuse him whom many a proud lady in the courtly halls of England would not refuse? Did she remember one who, years ago, in the green old woods of Virginia, awakened within her childish heart a feeling which, though it might have slumbered since, was still there in all its freshness? Yes, she did remember him, although 8she struggled hard to conquer each feeling that was interwoven with a thought of him. Nearly three months he had been within twenty miles of her, and yet no word or message had been received, and Marian’s heart swelled with resentment toward the young man, whose fleet steed even then could scarce keep pace with his master’s eager wishes to press onward.
From her earliest childhood she had looked upon Robert as a brother, and now that he was offered as a husband, her heart rebelled, although pride occasionally whispered, “Do it,—marry him,—then see what George Wilder will say;” but Marian had too much good sense long to listen to the promptings of pride, and the shadow on her face is occasioned by a fear that she had remembered so long and so faithfully only to find herself uncared for and forgotten.
Meantime, the sound of horses’ feet near her father’s house had brought to the fence half a dozen negroes and half as many dogs, all ready in their own way to welcome the new-comers. After giving his horse in charge of the negroes, George proceeded to the house, where he was cordially received by Mrs. Gorton, who could scarcely recognize the school-boy George in the tall, fine-looking young man before her. Almost his first inquiry was for Marian. Mrs. Gorton did not know where she was, but old Sukey, who had known George in Virginia, now hobbled in, and after a few tears and a great many “Lor’ bless you’s,” and inquiries about “old Virginny,” she managed to tell him that Marian was in the garden, and that she would call her; but George prevented her, saying he would go himself.
Most of my readers have doubtless either witnessed or experienced meetings similar to that which took place between George and Marian, so I shall not describe it, but shall leave it for the imagination, which will probably do it better justice than can my pen, which comes very near the point of being used up. We will only say, that when at twelve o’clock Mr. Gorton and Robert returned from a ride, George and Marian were still in the summer-house, unmindful of the sun which looked in upon them as if to tell them of his onward course. But then, the question that morning asked and answered was of great importance, so ’twas no wonder they were alike deaf and blind to the little darkies who on tip-toe crept behind the summer-house, eager to know “what the strange gentleman could be saying to Miss Marian, which made her look so speckled and roasted like.” These same hopefuls, when at dinner time they were sent for their young mistress, commenced a general hunt, which finally terminated in the popping of their woolly heads into the summer house door, exclaiming between breaths, “Oh, Miss Marian, here you is. We’ve looked for you everywhar! Come to your dinner.” On their way to the house they encountered old Sukey, who called out, “Ho, Mas’ George,—’specs mebby you found Miss Marry-em,” at the same time shaking her sides at her own wit.
Mr. Gorton received his young friend with great cordiality, but there was a cool haughtiness in the reception which Robert at first gave his old playmate. He suspected the nature of George’s visit, nor did Marian’s bright, joyous face tend in the least to allay his suspicions. But not long could he cherish feelings of resentment toward one whom he liked so well as he had George Wilder. In the course of an hour his reserve wore off, and unless George should chance to see this story,—which is doubtful,—he will probably never know how bitter were the feelings which his presence for a few moments stirred in the heart of Robert Hunting. Before George returned home, he asked Marian of her father, and also won from her a promise that, ere the frosts of winter came, her home should be with him, and by his own fireside.
There was much talk and excitement in Deacon Wilder’s family when it was known that in a little more than three months’ time a young maiden would come among them, who would be at once daughter, sister and mistress. From Jake, the negroes had received most of their information, and verily George himself would scarcely have recognized Marian in the description given of her by his servant. So many beauties and excellences were attributed to her, that the negroes were all on the qui vive to see this paragon.
Charlie, too, was delighted, and when the next day he as usual met Orianna in the woods, he led her to a mossy bank, and then communicated to her the glad tidings. When he repeated to her the name of his future sister-in-law, he was greatly surprised at seeing Orianna start quickly to her feet, while a wild light flashed from her large black eyes. Soon reseating herself, she said, calmly, “What is it, Charlie? What is the name of the white lady?”
“Marian—Marian Gorton,” repeated Charlie. “Do you not think it a pretty name?”
Orianna did not answer, but sat with her small, delicate hands pressed tightly over her forehead. For a moment Charlie looked at her in wonder; then taking both her 9hands in his, he said, gently, “Don’t feel so, Orianna. I shall love you just as well, even if I do have a sister Marian.”
Orianna’s only answer was, “Say her name again, Charlie.”
He did so, and then Orianna repeated, “Marian—Marian—what is it? Oh, what is it? Marian;—it sounds to Orianna like music heard years and years ago.”
“Perhaps it was a dream,” suggested Charlie.
“It must have been,” answered Orianna, “but a pleasant dream, fair as the young moon or the summer flowers. But tell me more, Charlie.”
“I will do so,” said he, “but I am afraid you will forget your lesson.”
He had been in the habit of taking to the woods some one of his reading books, and in this way he had unconsciously awakened in Orianna a desire for learning. For some time past a part of each day had been spent in teaching her the alphabet. It was an interesting sight, that dark, handsome girl, and the fair, pale boy—he in the capacity of a patient teacher, and she the ambitious scholar.
On the afternoon of the day of which we are speaking, they were, as usual, employed in their daily occupation. The excitement of the occasion heightened the rich glow on Orianna’s cheek, while the wreath of white wild flowers, which Charlie had woven and placed among her shining black hair, gave her the appearance of some dark queen of the forest. The lesson was nearly completed, and Charlie was overjoyed to find that his pupil knew every letter, both great and small, when they were startled by the sound of a footstep, and in a moment Robert Hunting, who had accompanied George Wilder home from Lexington, stood before them.
Swiftly as a deer Orianna bounded away, while Charlie, in evident confusion, attempted to secrete his book, and Robert burst into a loud laugh, saying, “Well done, Charlie! So you’ve turned schoolmaster, and chosen a novel pupil, upon my word. But who is she? If she be a native, she is handsomer far than half the white girls!”
“She is Orianna,” said Charlie, “the daughter of a chieftain, and I love her too.”
“Nobility, hey?” said Robert laughing. “Better yet. But what made her run so? Did she think I was the Evil One? Can’t you call her back?”
“She won’t come,” answered Charlie; “she don’t like you, and I can’t make her.”
“So you have been saying a word in my favour, have you?” said Robert, a little sarcastically. “Greatly obliged to you, Master Charlie, but I prefer doing my own pleading.”
“I didn’t mean you,” said Charlie, a little indignantly. “She don’t know that there is such a thing as you. I meant all the white folks.”
“Oh, you did,” answered Robert, looking wistfully in the direction where Orianna had disappeared.
At that moment there was the report of a rifle, and a ball passed between him and Charlie and lodged in a tree a few feet distant.
“So he,” exclaimed Robert, “wasn’t content with sending an arrow at my heart, but must hurl a bullet at my head.”
Charlie was confounded. He never for a moment doubted that Orianna had sent the ball, and a fearful distrust of her filled his heart. A week went by, and still he neglected to take his accustomed walk, although he noticed that Robert went daily in his stead.
At length one morning Robert came to him and said, “Orianna bade me tell you that each day, ’neath the buckeye tree, she’s watched for you in vain.”
Charlie’s eyes opened wide with astonishment, as he exclaimed, “Orianna? Where have you seen Orianna?”
“Where should I see her, pray, but in the woods?” answered Robert. “We have spent the last five days together there, and I have taken your place as teacher.”
Here we may as well explain what the reader is doubtless anxious to know. The bullet which passed between Robert and Charlie was not sent by the hand of Orianna, but by the vicious Wahlaga, whose curiosity had been roused as to what led Orianna so frequently to the woods. On that day he had followed and discovered her, just at the moment when Robert appeared before her. The jealous savage, thinking that he looked upon his rival, made ready his gun, when Orianna, suddenly coming upon him, threw aside his arm, thus changing the course of the ball, while at the same time she led the excited Indian away, and at length succeeded in convincing him that never before had she seen Robert, nor did she even know who he was.
The next morning Orianna was overjoyed to learn that Wahlaga was about leaving home, to be absent an indefinite length of time. Her happiness, however was soon clouded by some expressions which he let fall, and from which she gathered that her father had promised to give her in marriage as soon as he should return. “It shall never be; no, never,” said the determined girl, as, immediately after his departure, she took the narrow footpath to the woods of Glen’s Creek.
Throughout all the morning she waited in 10vain for Charlie, although she several times saw Robert at a distance, and felt sure that he was looking for her. She knew that she had saved his life, and this created in her a desire to see him again. Accordingly, when that afternoon they once more came face to face, she did not run, but eagerly asked after her young companion. Robert knew well how to play his part and in a few moments Orianna’s shyness had vanished, and she was answering, with ready obedience, all the questions asked her by the handsome stranger. Ere they parted, Robert had learned that to her he owed his life, and as a token of his gratitude he placed upon her slender finger a plain gold ring. He did not ask her to meet him again next day, but he well knew she would, for she, who knew no evil, thought no evil.
As Robert had said, he took Charlie’s place as teacher; but, ah me! the lessons thus taught and received were of a far different nature from the alphabet in Charlie’s picture-book. Many a time, ere that week went by, the simple Indian girl, in the solitude of night, knelt by the streamlet which ran by her father’s door, and prayed the Great Spirit to forgive her for the love which she bore the white man, the enemy of her people;—and he?—why he scarce knew himself what his thoughts and intentions were. He looked upon Orianna as a simple-minded, innocent child; and while he took peculiar delight in studying her character, he resolved that neither in word nor deed would he harm the gentle girl who each day came so timidly to his side.
Day after day was his stay at Glen’s Creek protracted, and yet he would not acknowledge that even he was interested in her within whose heart a passion had been awakened, never more to slumber. The day on which he spoke to Charlie of Orianna, was the last which he would spend at Glen’s Creek, and as he did not wish to be alone when he bade her adieu, he asked Charlie to accompany him. Oh, how bright was the smile with which the maiden greeted them at first, and how full of despair was the expression of her face when told by Robert that he must leave her! Not a word did she speak, but closely to her heart she pressed the little Charlie, as if fearful lest he, too, should go.
“Farewell, Orianna,” said Robert. “When the nuts are brown upon the trees, look for me, for I shall come again.”
A moment more, and he was gone,—gone with poor Orianna’s heart, and left her nothing in return. Covering her face with her hands, she wept so long and bitterly, that Charlie at last wound his arms around her neck, and wept too, although he knew not for what. This token of sympathy aroused her, and after a moment she said, “Leave me now, Charlie; Orianna would be alone.” He arose to obey, when she added, “Don’t tell them,—don’t tell him what you have seen.”
He promised secrecy, and Orianna was left alone. The forest was dark with the shadows of coming night ere she arose, and then the heart which she bore back to the wigwam by Grassy Spring was sadder than any she had ever before carried across the threshold of her home. The next day Charlie noticed a certain listlessness about his pupil, which he had never observed before; and though her eye wandered over the printed page, her thoughts were evidently away. At last a happy thought struck him, and drawing close to her, he whispered, “I think Robert will be pleased if you learn to read.”
He had touched the right chord—no other incentive was needed—and from that day her improvement was as rapid as the most ambitious teacher could wish. Frequently she would ask Charlie concerning Marian, requesting him to repeat her name; then she would fall into a fit of musing, “When heard I that name? and where was it?—oh, where?”
Yes, Orianna, Where was it?
Swiftly and on noiseless wing sped on old Father Time, and they who thought the summer would never pass, were surprised when o’er the wooded hills the breath of autumn came, bearing the yellow leaf—the first white hair in nature’s sunny locks. The golden harvests were gathered in, and through the forest “the sound of dropping nuts was heard,” showing that
It was the last day of October, and over the fading earth the autumnal sun was shedding its rays as brightly as in the early summer. The long shadows, stretching far to the eastward, betokened approach of night, and when at last the sun sank to its western home, the full moon poured a flood of soft, pale light over the scene, and looking in at a half-opened window, shone upon a beautiful young girl, who, with the love-light in her dark-blue eye, and woman’s holy trust in her heart, was listening, or seeming to listen, while the words were said which made her the wife of George Wilder.
Scarce was the ceremony completed, when the light from the window was obscured, a shadow fell darkly upon Robert, and a voice, clear and musical, uttered words 11which curdled the blood of the fair bride, and made more than one heart stand still with fear. They were, “The Indians! the Indians!—they are coming in less than an hour!”
The next moment a tall and graceful figure appeared in the doorway, and laying its hand on Robert’s shoulder, exclaimed, “It is your life they seek, but Orianna will save you!”
Then away glided the maiden, so noiselessly that but for the tidings she brought, the party would almost have doubted that she had been there. For a time the company were mute with surprise, and involuntarily George clasped closely to his side his Marian, as if to shield her from the coming danger. At length, Mr. Gorton asked Robert for an explanation of what the stranger had said.
Robert replied, “Two days since, I was hunting in the woods not far from the house, when a rustling noise behind some bushes attracted my attention. Without stopping to think, I levelled my gun and fired, when behold! up sprang an Indian girl, and bounded away so swiftly that to overtake her and apologize was impossible. This I suppose to be the reason why my life is sought.”
His supposition was correct, and for the benefit of the reader we will explain how Orianna became possessed of the secret. The night before, when returning to her father’s wigwam, she was startled by the sound of many voices within. Curiosity prompted her to listen, and she thus learned that the Indians who lived east of Lexington had been insulted by a white man, who had fired at one of their squaws. From the description of the aggressor, she knew it to be Robert, and with fast beating heart she listened to the plan of attacking Mr. Gorton’s dwelling on the night of the wedding.
Owanno heard them to the end, and then, to Orianna’s great delight, he refused to join them, saying he was too old to contend with the pale-face unless himself or family were molested. The old chief would not acknowledge how much this decision was owing to the influence of his gentle daughter. He knew she liked the whites, and he knew, too, another thing—but ’tis not time for that yet.
Orianna had now something to do. A life dearer far than her own was to be saved, and Marian, too,—whose very name had a power to thrill each nerve of that noble Indian girl,—she was in danger.
The next day Charlie waited in vain for his pupil, for she was away on her mission of love, and the stern features of many an Indian relaxed as he welcomed to his cabin the chieftain’s daughter. Ere the sun set, she fully understood their plan of attack, and then, unmindful of the twenty-five miles traversed since the dawn of day, she hied her back to Lexington, to raise its inhabitants, and, as we have seen, to apprise the bridal party of their danger.
Not a moment was to be lost, and while they were consulting as to their best means of safety, the Indian girl again stood among them, saying, “Let me advise you. It is not the town they wish to attack,—they will hardly do that—it is this house—it is you,” laying her hand convulsively on Robert’s arm. “But there is yet time to escape; flee to the town, and leave me here—”
“To be killed?” said Robert.
“To be killed!” she repeated, scornfully. “In all Kentucky there lives not the red man who dares touch a hair of Orianna’s head.”
Her proposition seemed feasible enough, and after a little hesitation it was resolved to adopt it. The negroes had already done so, for at the first alarm they had taken to their heels, and were by this time half way to Lexington. Thither the whites, with the exception of Robert, soon followed. He resolutely refused to go, saying, in answer to his friends entreaties, “No, never will I desert a helpless female. You remove the ladies to a place of safety, and then with others return to my aid.”
So they were left alone, the white man and the Indian. Together, side by side, they watched the coming of the foe. At Orianna’s direction the doors had been barricaded, while the lights were left burning in order to deceive the Indians into a belief that the inmates still were there. A half hour went by, and then, in tones which sent the blood in icy streams through Robert’s veins, Orianna whispered, “They come! Do you see them? Look!”
He did look, and by the light of the moon he discerned the outlines of many dusky forms, moving stealthily through the woods in the direction of the house. The garden fence was passed, and then onward, slowly but surely, they came. So intent was Robert in watching their movements, that he noted not the band of armed men who, in an opposite direction, were advancing to the rescue; neither did he observe in time to prevent it the lightning spring with which Orianna bounded through the window, and went forth to meet the enemy, who, mistaking her for some one else, uttered a yell of savage exultation and pressed on more fiercely. Loud and deafening was the war-cry which echoed through the woods, and louder still was the shout of defiance which rent 12the air, as the whites came suddenly face to face with the astonished Indians.
It was Orianna’s intention, when she leaped from the window, to reach the leader of the savages, and by telling him the truth of the matter as she had heard it from Robert, she hoped to dissuade him from his murderous design. But her interference was not needed, for the savages were surprised and intimidated by the unexpected resistance, and in the fear and confusion of the moment they greatly magnified the number of their assailants. Accordingly, after a few random shots, they precipitately fled, leaving Orianna alone with those whose lives she had saved.
Almost caressingly Robert wound his arm about her slight form, as he said, “Twice have you saved my life. Now, name your reward, and if money—”
There was bitterness in the tone with which Orianna interrupted him, saying, “Money! Orianna never works for money. All she asks is that you let her go, for the path is long which she must tread ere the sun’s rising.”
“To-night! You will not leave us to-night!” said Robert.
“Urge me not,” answered Orianna, “for by the wigwam door at Grassy Spring Narretta waits, and wonders why I linger.”
Remonstrance was useless; for even while Robert was speaking she moved away, and the echo of her footfall was scarcely heard, so rapid and cat-like was the tread with which she disappeared in the darkness of the woods. Robert looked thoughtfully after her for a time, and then, with something very like a half-smothered sigh, he turned away. Could that sigh, faint as it was, have fallen on the ear of the lone Indian girl, she would have felt fully repaid for her toil, but now a weight of sorrow lay upon her young heart, crushing each flower of gladness, even as she, with impatient tread, crushed beneath her feet the yellow leaves of autumn.
Long had the old square table, with its cloth of snowy whiteness and its load of eatables, waited the coming of the bridal party. Many times had Mrs. Wilder stood in the doorway, and strained her eyes to catch a sight of the expected company, and more than many times had old Dillah declared “that the corn cake which riz so nice would be fell as flat as a pewter platter, if they did not come along.”
At length, from the top of a large old maple, in whose boughs several young Africans were safely ensconced, there came the joyful cry of “There, they’s comin’. That’s the new miss with the tail of her dress floppin’ round the horses’ heels. Jimminy! ain’t she a tall one!” and the youngsters dropped to the ground, and perched themselves, some on the fence and others on the gate, with eyes and mouth open to whatever might happen.
In the doorway Mrs. Wilder received the bride, and the ready tears gushed forth as for the first time in her life she folded to her heart a daughter. From his stool in the corner, Charlie came, and throwing his arms around Marian’s neck, he said, “I know I shall love you, for you look so much like Orianna!”
Old Dillah, who was pressing forward to offer her congratulations, was so much surprised that she forgot the bow and fine speech which, for more than a week, she had been practising. Her command of language, however, did not wholly desert her, for she said, somewhat warmly, “Clar for ’t, Master Charles, young miss won’t feel much sot up to be told she favours a black Injun.”
George, too, was evidently piqued at having his bride likened to an Indian, but Robert came to Charlie’s relief, saying that “he had often noticed how wholly unlike an Indian were the features of Orianna, and that were her skin a few shades lighter, she would be far more beautiful than many pale-cheeked belles, with their golden curls and snowy brows.”
The conversation now turned upon Orianna, and the strong affection which existed between her and Charlie, whom Robert teased unmercifully about his “dark-eyed ladye love.”
Charlie bore it manfully, and ere the evening was spent, he had promised to take Marian with him next time he visited his Indian friend. This promise he fulfilled, and the meeting between the two girls was perfectly simple and natural. Both were prepared to like each other, and both looked curiously, one at the other, although Marian at last became uneasy at the deep, earnest gaze which those full, black eyes bent upon her, while their owner occasionally whispered, “Marian, Marian.”
Visions of sorcery and witchcraft passed before her mind, and still, turn which way she would, she felt that the dark girl’s eyes were fixed upon her with a strangely fascinating look. But fear not, young Marian, for though she strokes your silken curls, and caressingly touches your soft cheek, the forest maiden will do you no harm. At length Marian’s timidity gave way, and when she arose to go, she did not refuse her hand to Orianna, who for a time 13kept it between her own, as if admiring its whiteness; then suddenly throwing it from her, she said, “Oh, why can’t Orianna be white and handsome, too?”
“You are handsome,” answered Marian. “Only two evenings since I heard Robert Hunting say that you were far more beautiful than half the white girls.”
“Who takes my name in vain?” said a musical voice, as Robert himself appeared before them, and laid his hand gently upon Orianna’s glossy hair.
If Marian had any doubts of her beauty before, they were now dispelled by the rich colour which mounted to her olive cheek, and the joy which danced in her large eye. Yet ’twas not Robert’s presence alone which so delighted Orianna. A ray of hope had entered her heart. “He thought her beautiful, and perhaps—perhaps—”
Ah, Orianna, think not that Robert Hunting will ever wed an Indian, for Robert is no Rolfe, and you no Pocahontas!
As if divining and giving words to her thoughts, Robert, while seating himself between the two girls, and placing an arm around each, said, playfully, “Hang it all, Orianna, why were you not white!”
“Don’t, Bob,” whispered Marian, who with woman’s quick perception half suspected the nature of Orianna’s feelings for one whose life she twice had saved.
“Don’t what, my little Puritan?” asked Robert.
“Don’t raise hopes which you know can never be realized,” answered Marian.
Robert was silent for a while, and then said, “I reckon my orthodox cousin is right;” then turning to Orianna, he asked how her reading progressed.
Charlie answered for her, saying that she could read in words of one syllable as well as any one, and that she knew a great deal besides! Robert was about testing her powers of scholarship, when they were joined by George Wilder, before whom Orianna absolutely refused to open her mouth, and in a few moments she arose and left them, saying, “I shall come again to-morrow.”
That night, by the wigwam fire, Narretta was listening to her daughter’s account of the “white dove,” as she called Marian. Suddenly a light seemed to dawn on Orianna’s mind, and clasping her hands together she said, “Mother, do you remember when I was sick, many, many moons ago?”
“Yes, child,” answered Narretta, and Orianna continued: “I slept a long time, I knew, but when I woke, I remember that you, or some one else, said, “She is getting white; it will never do.” Then I looked at my hands, and they were almost as fair as Marian’s, but you washed me with something, and I was dark again. Tell me, mother, was I turning white?”
“Turning white! No child,” said Narretta; “now shut up and get to bed.”
Orianna obeyed, but she could not sleep, and about midnight she stole out at the door, and going to the spring, for more than half an hour she bathed her face and hands, hoping to wash off the offensive colour. But all her efforts were vain, and then on the withered leaves she knelt, and prayed to the white man’s God,—the God who, Charlie had said, could do everything. “Make Orianna white, make her white,” were the only words she uttered, but around her heart there gathered confidence that her prayer would be answered, and impatiently she waited for the morrow’s light.
“Mother, am I white?” aroused Narretta from her slumbers, just as the first sunlight fell across the floor.
“White! No; blacker than ever,” was the gruff answer, and Orianna’s faith in “Charlie’s God” was shaken.
Charlie’s health, which had always been delicate, seemed much impaired by the Kentucky air but with the return of winter, there came the hacking cough and darting pain, and Orianna already foresaw the time when, with a flood of bitter tears, she would lay her darling in the grave. The meetings in the woods were given up, and if Orianna saw her pet at all, it was in his home, where she at length became a regular visitor, and where Marian daily taught her as Charlie had before done. Many were the lessons learned in the sick-room where Charlie lay, fading day by day, and many were the talks which he had with his Indian friend concerning the God whose power she questioned. But from the time when she was able herself to read in Charlie’s Bible, the light of truth slowly broke over her darkened mind.
From the commencement of Charlie’s illness, he looked upon death as sure, and his young heart went back to his playmate, Ella, with earnest longings, which vented themselves in pleadings that some one would go for her,—would bring her to him and let him look upon her once more ere he died. ’Twas in vain that his mother tried to convince him of the impossibility of such a thing. He would only answer, “I shall not know her in heaven, unless I see her 14again, for I have almost forgotten how she looked.”
Winter was gone, and Charlie, no longer able to sit up, lay each day in his bed, talking of heaven and Ella, whom he now scarcely hoped to see again. One afternoon Orianna lingered longer than usual, in low, earnest conversation with the sufferer. Charlie listened eagerly to what she was saying, while his eye sparkled and his fading cheek glowed as with the infusion of new life. As she was about leaving she whispered, softly, “Never fear, though the time be long, I will surely bring her.”
Yes, Orianna had resolved to go alone through the wilderness to Virginia, and bring to the dying boy the little Ella. Filled with this idea she hastened home; but list,—whose voice is it that on the threshold of her father’s door makes her quake with fear? Ah, Orianna knows full well that ’tis Wahlaga! He has returned to claim his bride, and instantly visions of the pale, dying Charlie, the far off Ella, and of one, too, whose name she scarcely dared breathe, rose before her, as in mute agony she leaned against the door.
But her thoughts soon resolved themselves into one fixed determination—“I will never marry him;” and then with a firm step she entered the cabin. Wahlaga must have guessed her feelings, for he greeted her moodily, and immediately left her with her parents. To her father, she instantly confided her plan of going for Ella, and as she had expected, he sternly forbade it, saying she should stay and marry Wahlaga.
Owanno was surprised at the decided manner with which Orianna replied, “Never, father, never. I will die in the deep river first.”
At this juncture Wahlaga entered, and the discussion grew warmer and more earnest. Words more angry the chieftain spoke to his daughter than ever before he had done. Suddenly his manner softened, and concerning her going for Ella, he said, “If you marry Wahlaga, you can go; otherwise you cannot, unless you run away.”
“And if she does that,” fiercely continued Wahlaga, “I swear by the Great Spirit, I’ll never rest until I’ve shed the blood of every pale face in that nest—sick whining boy and all.”
Like one benumbed by some great and sudden calamity, Orianna stood speechless, until her father asked, “Will you go?”
Then, rousing herself, she said, “I cannot answer now; wait till to-morrow.” Then forth from the cabin she went, and onward through the fast deepening twilight she fled, until through an opening in the trees she espied the light which gleamed from Charlie’s sick-room. Softly approaching the window, she looked in and saw a sight which stopped for a moment the tumultuous beatings of her heart, and wrung from her a shriek of anguish. Supported by pillows lay Charlie, panting for breath, while from his white lips issued drops of blood, which Marian gently wiped away, while the rest of the family were doing what they could to restore him. When Orianna’s loud cry of agony echoed through the room, Charlie slowly unclosed his eyes, and in an instant the Indian girl was beside him, exclaiming wildly, “Charlie, Charlie, do not die. I’ll marry him, I’ll go for her, I’ll do anything.”
The astonished family at length succeeded in pacifying her, by telling her that Charlie had, in a fit of coughing, ruptured a blood-vessel, but there was no immediate danger if she would keep quiet. Quickly the great agony of her heart was hushed, and silently she stood by the bedside; nor did they who looked on her calm face once dream of the tornado within, or how like daggers were the words of Charlie, who, in his disturbed sleep, occasionally murmured, “Ella,—oh, Ella,—has Orianna gone?—she said she would.”
Suddenly turning to Marian, Orianna, with a pressure of the hand almost crushing, said, “Tell me what to do;” and from the little cot, Charlie all unconsciously answered, “Go for Ella.”
“I will,” said Orianna, and ere Marian had recovered from her astonishment, she was gone. When alone in the forest, she at first resolved to start directly for Virginia, but the remembrance of Wahlaga’s threat prevented her, and then again in the stilly night the heroic girl knelt and asked of Charlie’s God what she would do.
Owanno was surprised when, at a late hour that night, Orianna returned, and expressed her willingness to marry Wahlaga on condition that she should first go for Ella, and that he should not follow her.
“What proof have we that you will return?” asked Wahlaga, who was present.
Orianna’s lip curled haughtily as she answered, “Orianna has never yet broke her word.”
“The tomahawk and death to those you love, if you fail in coming,” continued the savage, and “Be it so,” was the reply.
Old Narretta with streaming eyes would fain have interposed a word for her beloved child, but aught from her would have been unavailing. So on the poor girl’s head, which drooped heavily upon her lap, she laid her hard, withered hands, and her tears fell soothingly on the troubled heart of one who stood in so much need of sympathy.
With the coming of daylight Orianna departed. 15Narretta accompanied her a short distance, and learned from her how much more than her life she loved the white man, and that were it not for this, not half so terrible would be her marriage with Wahlaga.
“I would help you if I could,” said Narretta, “but I cannot, though each night I will ask the Great Spirit to take care of you.”
So they parted, Narretta to return to her lone cabin, and Orianna to pursue her way, she scarce knew whither. For many days they missed her in the sick-room, where all but Charlie wondered why she tarried, and he finally succeeded in convincing them that she had really gone for Ella, though at what a fearful sacrifice he knew not.
The town of P—— is almost exactly east of Glen’s Creek, and by keeping constantly in that direction, Orianna had but little difficulty in finding her way. In twelve days’ time she accomplished her journey, stopping for food and lodging at the numerous wigwams which lay on her road.
It was near the middle of the afternoon when, at last, she entered the woods on the borders of which lay the settlement of P——. Wearied with her day’s toil, she sought a resting-place beneath the same old oak where, seventeen years before, Mr. Gorton had laid his little Madeline; and the same large, rough stone which he had placed there to mark the spot, and which had since fallen down, now served her for a seat. But Orianna knew it not, nor ever dreamed that often had Robert and Marian stood there, the one listening tearfully, while the other told her all he could remember of the sister who, in childish playfulness, he had often called his little wife.
It was now near the 1st of April, and already had the forest trees put forth many a dark green leaflet, while the song birds gaily carolled of the coming summer; but Orianna did not hear them. Sadly her heart went back to her home, and what there awaited her. Weary and worn, is it not strange that for a time she yielded to the despair which had gathered about her heart? Covering her face with her hands, she wept bitterly, nor until twice repeated did she hear the words, “What makes you cry so?” uttered in the soft tones of childhood.
Looking up, she saw before her a little girl, her deep blue eyes filled with wonder and her tiny hands filled with the wild flowers of spring.
Something whispered to Orianna that it was Ella, and brushing away her tears, she answered, “Orianna is tired, for she has come a long way.”
“What have you come for?” asked the child.
“Charlie sent me. Do you know Charlie?” and Orianna looked earnestly at the little girl, whose blue eyes opened wider, and whose tiny hands dropped the flowers, as she answered, “Charlie, my cousin Charlie? Have you come from him? What word did he send me?”
“Walk with me and I will tell you,” said Orianna, rising and taking by the hand the unresisting child, who with the ready instinct of childhood, could discriminate between a friend and foe.
For more than an hour, they walked rapidly on, Ella, in her eagerness to hear from Charlie, never once thinking how fast the distance between herself and her home was increasing; nor had she a thought of her companion’s intention, until Orianna, suddenly lifting her in her arms, said, “I promised Charlie I would bring you, and for that have I come.”
Then a cry of fear burst from Ella, who struggled vainly to escape from the arms which gently, but tightly, held her. “Let me go, oh, please let me go,” she cried, us Orianna’s walk quickened into a run; but Orianna only replied, “I told Charlie I would bring you, and I promise you shall not be hurt.”
“Mother, oh, mother, who will tell my mother?” asked Ella.
“I will send some one to her in the morning,” answered Orianna; and then in order to soothe the excited child, she commenced narrating anecdotes of Charlie and the place to which they were going.
Finding it impossible to escape, Ella by degrees grew calm, and as the night closed in, she fell asleep in the arms of Orianna, who with almost superhuman efforts, sped on until a wigwam was reached. There for a short time she rested, and won from a young Indian a promise that he would next morning acquaint Capt. Wilder of the whereabouts of his child. Fearing pursuit, she could not be prevailed upon to stay all night, but started forward, still keeping in her arms the little Ella, who at last slept as soundly as ever she had done in her soft bed at home.
The night was far spent when Orianna finally stopped beneath the shelter of a large, overhanging rock. The movement aroused Ella, who, instantly comprehending where she was, again pleaded earnestly that she might go home. Orianna soon convinced her that to return alone was impossible, and then painted the meeting between herself 16and Charlie so glowingly that though her eyes were full of tears, her voice was more cheerful as she asked, “And will you surely bring me back?”
“As yonder stars fade in the rising sun, so surely shall you go home,” said Orianna. Then spreading in her lap the blanket which, with ready forethought, she had brought from home, she bade Ella lie down and sleep.
“And will you keep the bad Indians off?” asked Ella, looking shudderingly around at the dark woods.
“No one will harm you while I am here,” was Orianna’s reply, and with the trusting faith of childhood Ella, was soon fast asleep, while Orianna carefully watched her slumbers.
Once during her night vigils she was startled by the distant cry of some wild beast, but it came not near, and the morning found them both unharmed. Dividing with her little charge the corn bread and cold venison which had been procured at the wigwam, Orianna again set forward, leading Ella by the hand, and beguiling the hours in every possible way. The next night they passed in a wigwam, where dusky faces bent curiously above the “pale flower” as she slept, and where, next morning, in addition to the bountiful supply of corn cake and venison, a bunch of spring violets was presented to Ella by an Indian boy, who had gathered them expressly for the “white pappoose,” as he called her.
Blest season of childhood, which gathers around it so many who are ready to smooth the rough places and pluck the sharp thorns which he so thickly scattered on life’s pathway! It was Ella’s talisman; for more than one tall Indian, on learning her history from Orianna, cheerfully lent a hand, and on his brawny shoulders carried her from the sun’s rising to its going down.
With Ella for a companion, Orianna proceeded but slowly, and nearly three weeks were spent ere familiar way-marks told her that they were nearing Lexington. “In less than two days we shall be there,” she said to Ella, as at the close of one day they drew near that town.
Lighter grew Ella’s footsteps, and brighter was her eye, while darker and deeper grew the shadows around poor Orianna. She was right in her calculations, for on the afternoon of the second day they struck into the narrow footpath which led to Deacon Wilder’s house, and which she and Charlie oft had trodden.
Here for a time we will leave them, while in another chapter we will read what has taken place since we in the wilderness have been roaming.
Anxiously, as the sun was going down, did Mrs. Wilder watch from her window for the return of her daughter, and as the gray twilight deepened into night, and still she came not, the whole household was alarmed, and every house in the settlement was visited, to learn, if possible, some tidings of the wanderer. Some remembered having seen her enter the woods soon after dinner, but farther than that none could tell; and the loud, shrill cry of “Lost! Lost! A child lost in the woods!” echoed on the evening air, and brought from a distance many who joined in the unsuccessful search, which lasted all night. Morning came, and Mrs. Wilder, pale and distracted with grief, ran hither and thither, calling loudly for her lost darling.
Three hours of the sun’s daily journey was accomplished, when a young Indian was seen to emerge from the woods, and rapidly approach the house of Capt. Wilder, where he communicated all he knew concerning Orianna, and ended his narrative by saying, “It will be useless to follow her.”
But Capt. Wilder did not think so, and instantly mounting his horse, he started in pursuit; but the path he took was entirely different from the one chosen by Orianna, and at nightfall he returned home, weary and discouraged. For some time he had been contemplating a visit to his brother, and he now resolved to do so, hoping by this means to fall in with the fugitives. Mrs. Wilder warmly approved the plan, but made him promise that if no good news were heard of Ella, he would instantly return.
Taking with him two negroes, he started on his journey, but no trace of Orianna did he discover, and he reached Glen’s Creek before she had accomplished half the distance. Assured by his brother’s family of Ella’s perfect safety with the Indian girl, he grew calm, although he impatiently waited their coming.
Meantime little Charlie had grown worse, until at last he ceased to speak of Ella, although he confidently expected to see her, and requested that his bed might be moved to a position from which he could discern the path which led up from the woods. There for many days he watched, and then turning sadly away, he said, “Mother, now take me back. Ella will come, but I shall be dead.”
From that time he grew worse, and the afternoon on which we left Orianna and Ella in the woods was the last he ever saw on earth. Gathered around the dying boy were weeping friends, who knew that the mild spring sun which so gently kissed his 17cold, pale brow, would never rise again for him. Kind words he had spoken to all, and then in a faint whisper, he said, “Tell Ella ——;” but the sentence was unfinished, for Ella stood before him, while the look of joy that lighted up his face told how dear to him was the little girl around whose neck his arms twined so lovingly.
And now a darker face, but no less loving heart approached, and whispered softly, “Charlie, do you know me?”
“Orianna,” was the answer, as on her lips a kiss was pressed.
Then the arms unclasped from Ella’s neck, over the blue eyes the heavy eyelids closed, and Charlie had gone home. With a bitter wail of sorrow Orianna bent for a moment over the marble form, for which she had sacrificed so much, and then, from among those who fain would have detained her, she went, nor paused a moment until the wigwam of her father was reached.
In the doorway she found Narretta, whose first exclamation was, “Have you heard! Have they told you? The Great Spirit has answered my prayer!” and then to her daughter she unfolded a tale which we, too, will narrate to our readers.
It will be remembered that on the day when Orianna left home for Virginia, Narretta accompanied her a short distance, and learned from her the story of her love for Robert. To that story there was another—an unobserved listener—Wahlaga, who from that hour resolved to take the life of his pale rival, but his designs were foiled by a summons from the invisible world, which he could not disobey.
A week after Orianna’s departure, he was taken ill of a disease contracted at the Indian camp, where he had spent the winter. All the skill of the “medicine man” could not save him, and on the fifth day he died, cursing, with his last breath, his hated rival.
When it was known at Deacon Wilder’s that death had been at Grassy Spring, words of kindly sympathy were sent there for the sake of the noble Orianna; and for her sake, perhaps, Owanno’s feelings softened toward the inhabitants of Glen’s Creek. It is impossible to describe Orianna’s feelings on learning that the dreadful Wahlaga was dead, really dead, and would trouble her no more. Her whole being seemed changed, and the slumber which that night stole over her was sweeter far and more refreshing than for many weary days had visited her.
At Glen’s Creek that same night Capt. Wilder, with his darling Ella pressed to his bosom, was listening, while between her tears for little Charlie, she told him of the many virtues of her Indian companion, urging him to send for her mother, that she, too, might know and love Orianna. But Ella’s strength was exhausted long before her theme, and when, as her voice ceased, her father looked down upon her, she was far in the depths of dreamland.
As if to mock the anguish of those who were about to lay their last-born in the earth, the day of Charlie’s funeral was bright and beautiful, as the spring days often are ’neath the warm Kentucky sun. Sweetly the wild flowers were blooming, and merrily sang the summer birds, as underneath a maple tree, a tree which stands there yet, they dug that little grave—the first grave at Glen’s Creek. Mr. and Mrs. Gorton, Robert, and several others from Lexington had come to shed the sympathizing tear with the bereaved ones, but besides the nearest relatives, there was not so sincere a mourner as she who, apart from the rest, looked silently on, while into the earth they lowered the cold, dead Charlie.
Long after the mourners had returned to their desolate home, she lingered, and on the little mound deplored in piteous tones her loss, saying, “Oh, woe is me, now Charlie has crossed the great river, and left Orianna all alone. Who will love me now as he did?”
“Many, many,” answered Robert Hunting, who purposely had returned, and been an eye and ear witness of Orianna’s grief. “Yes, many will love you,” he continued, seating himself by her, and drawing her closely to him. Then in the bewildered girl’s ear he softly whispered, “I am not worthy of you, Orianna, but I love you, and I know, too, on what condition you went to Virginia, and that had Wahlaga lived, he had sworn to murder me and marry you.”
For this information he was indebted to Narretta, who, three days before Wahlaga’s illness, overhearing him unfold his plan of revenge to Owanno, went to the door of Deacon Wilder’s house, and asking for Robert, led him to the woods, and there communicated to him what he had just told Orianna. Robert did not ask Orianna to be his wife; and perhaps ’twas well that he did not, for the confession which he did make, added to the excitement of Wahlaga’s and Charlie’s death, was too much for a frame already weakened by the hardships attending that journey to and from Virginia. The next morning found her burning with fever and raving with delirium. Owanno, too, was smitten by the same disease which had consigned Wahlaga to an early grave.
18With anxious heart Narretta hurried from one sufferer to the other, and the first Indian that looked at the door, was urged to go immediately to Deacon Wilder’s and ask some one to come to her. Robert and Marian instantly obeyed the summons, but human skill could not save Owanno. In three days after the commencement of his illness, it was said of him that he had gone to the fair hunting grounds, while the despairing howl of the assembled Indians mingled with the mournful wail of the widowed Narretta and the feeble moans of Orianna, who incessantly cried, “Bury me under the maple tree with Charlie, where we sat when he told me—where he told me——” but what he told her she never said.
At Marian’s request, Mrs. Gorton had remained for some time at Glen’s Creek, and one day, not long after Owanno’s burial, she accompanied her daughter to see Orianna, who, though very weak, was still much better. They found her asleep, but Narretta arose to receive them. As Mrs. Gorton’s eye fell upon her, an undefined remembrance of something past and gone rose before her, and at last, taking the old Indian woman’s hand, she said, “Narretta, have I never met you before?”
“Plenty times,” was the laconic answer; and after a moment’s pause, Mrs. Gorton continued: “I remember now, eighteen or twenty years ago your wigwam was near my home in Virginia, and you one morning came to me, saying you were going away toward the setting sun.”
“White woman remembers wonderful,” said old Narretta.
“I might not remember so well,” answered Mrs. Gorton, “but you loved my little Madeline, and about the time you went away she died.”
Something out of doors attracted Narretta’s attention, and she abruptly turned away. For more than an hour she was gone, and when she returned she was muttering to herself, “Yes, I’ll do it. I shall do it.”
“Do what?” asked Marian, a little alarmed at Narretta’s excited manner.
But Narretta made her no answer, and going up to Mrs. Gorton, said rapidly, “Madeline did not die! Narretta loved her, loved all children, but the Great Spirit gave her no pappooses of her own, and when she went away she stole her. She took her, and under the tree she left part of her clothing and the smashed carcass of a young fawn, to make the white woman think the wolves had eaten her up.”
Here she stopped, and Mrs. Gorton, grasping the wasted hand of Orianna, turned to Narretta and said, “Tell me, tell me truly, if this be Madeline, my long-lost daughter!”
“It is!” answered Narretta. “You know she was never so fair as the other one,” pointing to Marian, “and with a wash of roots which I made, she grew still blacker.”
She might have added, also, that constant exposure to the weather had rendered still darker Orianna’s complexion, which was naturally a rich brunette. But whatever else she might have said was prevented by Mrs. Gorton, who fell in a death-like swoon at her feet. The shock was too great, to know that in the gentle Orianna, whose noble conduct had won the love of so many hearts, she beheld her long-wept-for daughter Madeline.
Upon Marian and Orianna the knowledge that they were sisters operated differently, according to their different temperaments. With a cry of joy Marian threw her arms around Orianna’s neck, who, when made to comprehend the reality, burst into tears, saying, “I thought I should be white sometime—I almost knew I should.”
By this time Mrs. Gorton had recovered from her fainting fit, and clasping her newly found daughter to her bosom, thanked the God who so unexpectedly had restored her. The next day the news reached Lexington, bringing thence Robert, who, in the intensity of his joy, seemed hardly sane. At a glance he foresaw the future. Orianna, for so he would always call her, should go to school for five years, and at the end of that time, images of a noble, beautiful bride rose before him, as he hurriedly traversed the road to Grassy Spring. Their interview we shall not describe, for no one witnessed it, though Marian impatiently remarked that “it took Bob much longer to tell what he had to say than it did George when he first came to Lexington.” But then Marian had forgotten, as who will not forget, or pretend to.
Old Narretta was the only one who seemed not to share the general joy. She looked upon Orianna as lost to her for ever, and heard the plan of sending her to school with unfeigned sorrow. Still, she made no objections to whatever Mr. and Mrs. Gorton chose to do with their child: and when Orianna was well enough, she gave her consent that she should be removed to her father’s house, where every possible indulgence was lavished upon her by her parents, in order to attach her to them and their mode of life.
There was now no tie to bind Narretta to Grassy Spring, and yielding to Orianna’s entreaties, she accompanied her to Lexington, occupying a cabin which Mr. Gorton 19built for her on the edge of the wood at the foot of the garden. Here, many times a day, she saw her child, who was now Robert’s daily pupil. But Robert found it more difficult to tame his Indian girl than he had at first anticipated. On one subject—that of dress—she for a time seemed incorrigible. Occasionally she would assume the style worn by Marian, but soon casting it off, she would don her old costume, in which she felt and looked most at home. But one day the Indian dress mysteriously disappeared. More than a week Orianna sought for it in vain; then, with a flood of tears, she yielded the point, and wore whatever her friends thought proper. Her complexion, too, with which great pains was taken, gradually grew fair, until all trace of the walnut stain disappeared.
In October she was placed in the best school of which Philadelphia could then boast. She was always shy and timid, but her gentle manners and sweet disposition, to say nothing of the romance connected with her history, made her a general favourite with her companions, while the eagerness with which she sought for knowledge rendered her equally a favourite with her teachers. In speaking of this once to her mother, who was visiting her, she said, “When dear Charlie died, I thought there was no one left to love me, but now it seems that every body loves me.”
Here we will say a word concerning little Ella, who, two days after Charlie’s funeral, had gone home with her father to Virginia. Almost constantly she talked of Orianna, and on learning that she was Marian’s sister, her delight was unbounded. When intelligence was received that she had been placed at school in Philadelphia, Capt. Wilder, yielding to Ella’s importunities, consented to send her there also. Ella had not taken into consideration how greatly changed her Indian friend must necessarily be, and when, on reaching Philadelphia, a beautiful young lady entered the room, neatly and fashionably attired, she could scarcely believe that it was her companion of the forest.
At Orianna’s request they became roommates, and it was difficult to tell which was more child-like, the tall maiden of twenty-one, or the curly-haired girl of nine.
Five years seems a long, long time, but to Orianna it soon glided away, and then she left school, a much better scholar than now is often graduated at our most fashionable seminaries. During her stay in Philadelphia, she had become greatly attached to the city, and Robert, whose wealth would admit of his living where he pleased, purchased a handsome dwelling, fitting it up according to his own taste, which was rather luxurious.
Six years from the night of Marian’s bridal, there was another wedding at the house of Mr. Gorton, and Orianna, now a beautiful woman of twenty-six, was the bride. George and Marian both were present, together with a lisping Charlie, and a dark-eyed baby “Orianna,” who made most wondrous efforts to grasp the long diamond earrings which hung from its auntie’s ears, for, Indian-like, Orianna’s passion for jewellery was strong and well developed.
Old Narretta, too, was there, but the lovely young creature whose head so fondly lay upon her lap, asking her blessing, was unseen, for Narretta was now stone blind. Already in her superstitious imagination warnings had come from the spirit world, bidding her prepare to meet Owanno. Gladly would Orianna have taken her to her Philadelphia home, but she answered, “No, I will die and be buried in the woods;” and the first letter which went from Mrs. Gorton to her daughter told that Narretta was at rest.
On the first anniversary of Orianna’s wedding day, Robert, still madly in love with his handsome wife, wished to give her a pleasant surprise. Accordingly, besides the numerous other costly presents which he brought her, he presented her with a large square box, saying that its contents were for her.
Opening it, Orianna saw disclosed to view the old Indian dress whose loss she years before had wept. Bright as the sunlight of her happy home were the tears which glittered in her large black eyes, as, glancing at the rich heavy silk which now composed her dress, she said, “Oh, Bob, how could you?” and Bob answered, “How could I what?”