Puslapio vaizdai

blessed interval, before we entered this redder, but more Spanish stream.”

Silas Perry had been Philip Nolan's counselor, employer, and friend. Philip Nolan had been Silas Perry's pupil, agent, messen- The young American of 1876 must rememger, and friend. Eunice Perry had been ber that in 1800 both the east and west Philip Nolan's frequent companion, his more sides of the Mississippi were Spanish terrifrequent confidant, and most frequently history up to the southern line of our present friend. And as such friendship had been tested, there were a thousand good offices which she had asked of him, and never asked in vain. An intimacy so sincere as this, the growth of years of confidence, made it natural to all parties that Eunice and Inez should undertake their journey under the escort of this soldier, who was not quite a merchant, and this merchant, who was not quite a soldier-Philip Nolan.

"But you are all alone, Captain Phil," said Inez, expressing in the very frankest way the pleasure which the meeting, hardly expected, with her old friend afforded her. "Where is our army?"

"Our army has gone in advance to free the prairies of any marauding throngs who might press too close on the princess who deigns to visit them."

"Which means, being interpreted, I suppose, that the army is buying corn at Natchitoches," said Eunice.


"Yes, and no," said he, a little gravely, as she fancied. "We shall find them near Natchitoches if we do not find them this side. I must talk with my friend the patron and see if I can persuade him to give up your luxurious boat for one that I have chartered above the rapids. I have not much faith that the Donna Maria,' or the 'Dolores,' or the Sea Gull'-which name has she to-day, Miss Inez ?-that this sumptuous frigate of ours can be got through the rapids so easily as we thought at your father's. But I have what is really a very tidy boat above, and, before you ladies are awake in the morning, we will see if you are to change your quarters."

"And must I leave thee, my Martha ?" cried Inez in a voice of mock tragedy. "Captain Nolan, she is the 'Martha' named after the wife of the father of his country. In leaving the proud banner of Spain, under which I was born, to pass, though only for a few happy hours, under the stars and stripes, accompanied by this noble friend, whom I see I need not present to you,Miss Perry, General Nolan,-a lady of the very highest rank of the New England nobility-accompanied, I say, by an American lady of such distinction,-I ordered the steersman of my bark to keep always in the eastern side of the river-in that short, but

State of that name. Above that point, the eastern half of the river was "American," the western half was Spanish. For a few miles before the boat had come into the Red River, she had in fact been reported, as Inez thought, in American waters, and the girl had made more than one chance to land on American soil, though it was the mud of a canebrake, for the first time of her life. All parties had joined in her enthusiasm, and they had fixed a bivouac on this little stretch of her father's land. So soon as they entered the Red River, they were under Spanish jurisdiction once more.

Nolan entered into the spirit of the girl's banter, and they knew very well that it was not all fun.

"What a pity that your ladyship could not have come to Fort Adams, or to Natchez,* to begin with us," he said.

Natchez, then a village of six hundred inhabitants, was the southernmost town in the United States. It was Nolan's own headquarters, and from there his expedition had started.

"Your grace should have seen the stars and stripes flying from the ugliest flagstaff in the West. I should have been honored by the presence of your highnesses at my humble quarters. Indeed, my friend, the Major-General commanding at Fort Adams, would have saluted your royal highnesses' arrival by a salvo of thirteen guns; and the moment your majesty entered the works of that fortress, every heart would have been yours, as every recruit presented arms. A great pity, Miss Inez, you had not come up to Natchez. But, what does my friend Ransom think of all this voyaging?" Inez called him.

[blocks in formation]

"Miss Inez says you spent Monday night | and that is your dear Kentucky, Captain, in the United States." and that is Tennessee."

"Patron says so, too," replied the sententious Ransom. "Don't know nothin'. Much as ever can make them niggers pull the boat along. Wanted to walk myself, could walk faster than all on 'ein can row, put together. Told the patron so. We slept in a canebrake; wust canebrake we see since we left home. Patron said it was Ameriky.* Patron don't know nothin'. Ain't no canebrakes in Ameriky."

"There's something amazingly like them for the first thousand or two miles of Miss Inez's journey there," said Nolan, laughing. "Any way, I'm glad the alligators did not eat her up, and you too, Ransom."

"They'd like to. Didn't give 'em no chance," replied the old man, with a beaming expression on his countenance. "Loaded the old double-barrel with two charges of buck-shot, sot up myself outside her tent, darned critters knew it 'zwell as I did, didn't dare come nigh her all night long."

"You should have given them pepper, Ransom. Throw a little red pepper on the water and it makes the bull alligators sneeze. That frightens all the others, and they go twenty miles off before morning."

Inez was laughing herself to death by this time, but checked herself in time to ask whether she might not fly the stars and stripes on the "Lady Martha ?”

"What's the use of calling her the 'Lady Martha' only for these four or five miles? And my dear silk flag, is it not a beauty, Captain Nolan? I made it with my own fair hands. And if you knew how to sew, Captain Nolin, you would know how hard it is to sew stars into blue silk-silk stars, too. I never should have done it but for Sister Félicie, she helped me out of hours, and I wish I did not think she was doing penance now! But is it not a beauty? Look at it!" and she flung her pretty flag open over her knees and Eunice's. "All your stripes, you see, with the white on the outside, as you taught me. And I did not faint nor shirk for one star, though mortal strength did tire and Sister Félicie did have to help; but there are all the sixteen there-that one with the little blood spot on it is Vermont. I pricked my finger horridly for Vermont,

* The use of the words "America" for the United States, and "Americans" for their people was universal among the Spaniards, even at this early day.

Nolan bowed; and, this time with no mock feeling, kissed the star which the girl pointed out for his own State.

"May I not fly it to-morrow morning? Was it only made for that little sail through the canebrakes ?"

Nolan's face clouded a little-a little more than he meant it should.

"Just here, and just now," he said, "I think we had better not show it. Not that I suppose we should meet anybody who would care. But they are as stupid as owls, and as much frightened as rabbits. It was only that very same Monday that we met a whole company of greasers, that is what my men called them, and we had to show our passports."

Inez asked him what he showed; and with quite unnecessary precision-precision which did not escape Eunice's quiet observation,— he told her that he had for his whole party, Governor Pedro de Nava's pass to Texas and to return; that he even had private letters from Governor Casa Calvo to Cordero, the General in command at the Alamo. Eunice said that the Marquis had been only too courteous in providing her also with a passport, for their whole party; he would have sent an escort had his friend, Mr. Perry, suggested. "Indeed, the whole army was at the service of the Donna Eunice, as, he tried to say, and would have said, had my poor name been possible to Spanish lips. Why, Captain Nolan, I have sealing-wax enough and parchment enough for a King's ransom, if your papers were not enough for us.'


My good right arm shall write my pass. in answer to my prayers," said Nolan, a little grimly. "Is not there some such line as that in your father's Chapman, Miss Inez ?" And he bade them goodnight, as he went to seek his quarters in the wretched cabin by the very roar of the rapids, and intimated to the ladies that they had best spread their mattresses, and be ready for an early start in the morning.

In truth, Nolan was geographer enough to know that the ladies had perhaps shown their flag a little too early. But he would not abate a whit of the girl's enthusiasm for what, as he said, and as she said, should have been her native land. Even the novelreader of to-day reads with an atlas of maps. at his side, and expects geographical accuracy even from the Princess Scheherezade herself. The reader will understand the

[blocks in formation]

knew, where that line crossed the river at different points. Was the little projection opposite the Red River a part of the United States, or of Florida? Inez and Eunice had thought they were out of Spanish dominion there. Perhaps they were. The reader can judge as well as the best diplomatist. Wars have been made out of less material. The surveyors who ran the boundary decided, not with the ladies, but with Nolan and Ransom. Maps of that time vary, and the river has since abated all controversy, by cutting across the neck of swampy land, and making the little peninsula into an island.

And it was only for the wretched five miles of canebrake, between the line of 31° and the mouth of the Red River, that the eager Inez, by keeping her boat on the eastern shore, had even fancied that she saw her own land, and was for once breathing what should have been her native air. As the boat hauled into the Red River she had hidden her head in Eunice's lap, and had sobbed out:

"This poor child is a girl without a country!"



"The pine-tree dreameth of the palm, The palm-tree of the pine."-LORD HOUGHTON.

PHILIP NOLAN had his reasons for avoiding long tarry at the Rapids, and when the new boat came with the party to the little port of Natchitoches, he had the same reasons for urging haste in the transfer of their


equipment there. These reasons he had unfolded to Eunice, and they were serious.

After all the plans had been made for this autumn journey-plans which involved fatigue, perhaps, for the ladies, but certainly no danger-the Spanish officials of Louisiana on the one side, and of Texas on the other, had been seized by one of their periodical quaking fits-fits of easy depression, which were more and more frequent with every year. Nolan had come and gone once and again, with Spanish passports in full form, from the Governor of Louisiana. The present of a handsome mustang on his return would not be declined by that officer; and, as the horse grew older, he would not, perhaps, be averse to the chances of another expedition. With just such free-conduct was Nolan equipped now, and with his party of thirteen men he had started from Natchez, on the Mississippi, to take up Miss Eunice and Miss Inez with their party at Natchitoches, the frontier station on the Red River. Just before starting, however, the Spanish consul at Natchez had called the party before Judge Bruin, the United States Judge there, as if they were filibusters. But Nolan's passport from Don Pedro de Nava, the commandant of the north-eastern provinces, was produced, and the Judge dismissed the complaint. This had been, however, only the beginning of trouble. Before Nolan joined the ladies, he had hardly passed the Mississippi swamp-had, in fact, traveled only forty miles, when he met a company of fifty Spanish soldiers, who had been sent out to stop him. Nolan's party numbered but twenty-one. The Spaniards pretended that they were hunting lost horses; but so soon as Nolan's party passed, they had turned westward also, and were evidently dogging them.

It was this unfriendly feeling on the part of those whom he was approaching as a friend, which had led Nolan to hasten his meeting with Eunice Perry and her niece, that he might, before it was too late, ask them whether they would abandon their enterprise and return.

But Eunice boldly said "No." Her niece was, alas, a Spanish woman born; she was going to visit a Spanish officer on his invitation. If she had to show her passports every day, she could show them. If Captain Nolan did not think they embarrassed the party, she was sure that she would go on. If he did, why, she must return, though unwillingly.

"Not I, indeed, Miss Eunice. You pro

tect us where we meant to protect you. Only I do not care to cross these Dogberrys more often than I can help."

So it was determined that they should go on, but go on without the little halt at Natchitoches, which had been intended.

Inez shared in all the excitement of a prompt departure the moment the necessity was communicated to her. Before sunrise she was awake, and was dressed in the prairie dress which had been devised for her. The four packs to which she had been bidden to confine herself-for two mules, selected and ready at L'Ecore,—had been packed ever since they left Orleans, let it be confessed, by old Ransom's agency, quite as much as by any tire-woman of her train. She was only too impatient while old Cæsar, the cook, elaborated the last river breakfast. She could not bear to have Eunice spend so much time in directions to the patron, and farewells to the boatmen and messages to their wives. When it actually came to the spreading a plaster which Tony was to take back to his wife for a sprain she had in her shoulder, Inez fairly walked off the boat, in her certainty that she should be cross even to Eunice if she staid one minute longer.

Old Cæsar, at the last moment, blubbered and broke down. "Leave Miss Inez ?"— not he. What a pity that his voluble GuineaFrench is not translatable into any dialect of the Anglo-American-Norman-Creole tongue! Leave her?-not he. He had her in his arms when she was an hour old. He made her first doll out of a bulrush and some raw cotton. He taught her to suck sugar-cane; and he picked pecan meats for her before her mother knew that she could eat them. Should he leave her to be devoured alive by Caddo Indians? "Jamais. Impossible!" "Come along with us, then," said Nolan; and he indicated the mule which Cæsar was to ride.

And Cæsar came, and his history is written in with that of Texas for the next ten years.

As the sun rose, the party gathered in front of the little shanty at which the most of the business of the landing was done. Ransom himself lifted Inez upon her saddle; adjusted the stirrups forty times, as if he had not himself cut the holes in the leathers, just as Inez bade him, a month before. Nolan watched for Eunice's comfort with the same care. Cæsar blubbered and bragged, and sent messages to the old woman-messages which, if she ever re

ceived them, were the food on which she fed for the next decade of married life. Nolan was not displeased with the make-up of the little party. They were but eight in all; but there was not a bad horse, a bad mule, a bad man, or a bad woman in the train, he said. What pleased him most was the prompt obedience of the women, and the "shifty" readiness of the men. Old Ransom scolded a good deal, but was in the right place at the right time. And so, avoiding the village of Natchitoches by an easy detour, the party were in the wilderness an hour before the military commander of that fort knew that a boat had arrived from below late the night before.

When the Spanish sentinel who had hailed her found that her passengers had all gone westward, he thought best not to report their existence to the Governor. And so Philip Nolan's first maneuver to escape frontier Dogberry No. I was perfectly successful.

In less than five minutes the whole party were in the pines, through which, over a sandy barren, they were to ride for two days. It was as if they had changed a world. To Eunice, why, the sniff of that pine fragrance was the renewal of the old life of her childhood. To Inez-not unused to forests, but all unused to pine-trees-the calm quiet of all around, the aromatic fragrance, the softness of the pine leaves on which her horse's feet fell,-all wrought a charm which overpowered the girl.

"Don't speak to me!" And they left her alone.

"Does this seem more like home, Ransom?" said Nolan, letting his horse stand till the old man, who brought up the rear, might join him.

"Yes, sir! Pines is pines, though these be poor things. Pine-trees down East isn't crooked as these be; good for masts, good for yards; sawed one on 'em into three pieces when they wanted three masts for the Constitution.' But these has the right smell. These's good for kindlin's."

"You followed the sea once, Ransom?" "Sarved under old Mugford first year of the war; was Manly's bo's'n when he went out in '77."

"Mugford ?" asked Nolan. "I don't remember him."

"Pity you don't. Real old sea-dog; wasn't afraid of saltpeter. These fellers now, with their anchors and gold braid on they coat collars, don't know nothin'. Old Mugford never wore gold lace; didn't have none to wear. Wore a tarpaulin and a pea

jacket, when he could git it. Ef he couldn't git it, wore nothin'."

"Where did you cruise?"

"All along shore. Went out arter Howe when the Gineral druv him out of Boston. Kind o' hung round and picked up this vessel and that that was runnin' into the bay, cos they didn't know the British was gone. Took one vessel with six guns and no end of powder and shot. The old Gineral he was glad enough of that, he was. No end of powder and shot; six guns she had. Took her runnin' into the bay. We was in the Franklin' then."

"Tell us all about it, Ransom." "That's all they is to tell. I sighted our nine-pounder myself-hulled her three times, and she struck. Old Mugford sent her into Boston, and stood off for more."

And the old man looked into the sky with that wistful look again, as if the very clouds would change into armed vessels and renew the fight; and for a moment Nolan thought he would say no more. But he humored him.

"Next mornin'," said Ransom, after a minute. "Next mornin', when we was to anchor off the Gut, be hanged if they warn't thirteen boats from some of their frigates crawlin' up to us as soon as the light broke. We giv 'em blazes, Cap'n. We sunk five on 'em without askin' leave. Then they thought they'd board us. Better luck 'nother time. Gosh! Poor devils caught hold of her gunnel, and we cut off their hands with broadaxes, we did."

"And Mugford ?"

"Oh, you know, Mugford reached arter one on 'em to cut at his head, and he got stuck just here with a boardin' pike, 'n he called Abel Turner. I stood with him in ma own arms. He called Abel Turner, and says he, 'I'm a dead man, Turner; don't give up the yessel. Beat 'em off, beat 'em off. You can cut the cable,' says he, and run her ashore.' Didn't say 'nother wordfell down dead."

Another pause. Nolan humored him still and said nothing. And after another wistful glance at the heavens, the old man went on: "Turner see the frigate was comin' down on him, and he run her ashore on Puddin' Point; and he sot fire to her, so that cruise was done. But none o' them fellers was ever piped to grog again, they wasn't; no, nor old Mugford, neyther."

A long pause, in which Nolan let the old fellow's reminiscences work as they might; he would not interrupt him.

[blocks in formation]

"Did you see the General? Did you see General Washington when he drove Howe out?"

Nolan spoke with that kind of veneration for Washington's name, which was then, perhaps, at its very acme-at the period when the whole country was under the impress of his recent death.

"Guess I did. Seen him great many times. I was standin' right by him when he cum into the old tavern at the head of King street, jest where the pump is, by the Town House. Gage boarded there, and Howe and Clinton had they quarters there, and so the Gineral come there when our army marched in.

"They was a little gal stood there starin' at him and all the rest, and he took her up, and he kissed her, he did.

"Ne said to her: 'Sis,' says he, 'which do you like best, the Red-Coats or the Yankees ?' 'N the child says, says she, she liked the Red-Coats the best,-gal-like, you know,-cos they looked so nice. 'N he laughed right out, 'ne says to her: Woll,' says he, they du have the best clothes, but it takes the ragged boys to du the fightin.' O, I seen him lots o' times."

By this time Nolan thought he might venture to join Inez again. She was now talking eagerly with her aunt, and seemed to have passed the depressed moment, which the young soldier had respected, and had left to her own resolution.

The truth was, that a ride through a pine forest in beginning a journey so adventurous, with no immediate possibility of a return to her father's care, had started the girl on the train of memories and other thoughts which stirred her most completely. For her mother she had a veneration, but it was simply for an ideal being. For her aunt she had an idolatrous enthusiasm, which her aunt wholly deserved. For the French and Spanish ladies and gentlemen around her, in their constant wars and jealousies with each other, she had even an undue contempt. Her father's central and profound interest in his own country and its prosperity came down to her in the form of a chivalrous passion for people she had never seen, and institutions and customs which she knew only in the theory or the idea. It would be hard, indeed, to tell whether her Aunt Eunice's

« AnkstesnisTęsti »