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“ Come here, Ernie, and take a seat, and spin us a yarn-give us an account of your new adventures-darn it, man, you have more - hair-breadth 'scapes' than any person of your age and opportunities in America."
I told them how I had got lost from Mrs. Overton, and how I had found my father, and that we had gone on board a steamboat to go back to the wilderness, but that I had been suddenly whirled into the air, and out of my senses, by some mysterious enchantment that I could not comprehend at all.
“ And served you right for taking French leave of us that way, you young savage," said the Colonel.
“ And so you were going away to leave us without letting us know what had become of you, or a single regret at parting from us?" asked Mrs. Overton, reproachfully.
“I had much sorrow to leave you, beautiful Madame,” said I,“ but what could I do otherwise—it was my father's commands. But tell me-explain to me the strange enchantment by which I was deprived of my father and almost of my life? My father, where is he? does he yet live ?"
“The long and the short of the whole matter is, that you were blown up in the explosion of the Phænix steamboat-you were thrown into a ferry-boat, and taken up for dead. By rare luck, a porter on the wharf who belongs to the Planter's Hotel, where we were staying, saw you and recognized you, and had you brought up to the hotel to us. imagine our joy at finding you, even half dead, after having given you up for lost."
“ But, my father! Tell me if anything was heard of him ?"
"Alas! I fear the worst, my poor boy. I learned that there were but two persons saved besides yourself-one of these was the pilot, the other a negro cook."
He is dead, then," said I, turning away with a stoical attempt to conceal my emotion.
It was sometime before Colonel Overton and Doctor Montmery could make me understand what they meant by a steamboat blowing up. I at length, however, gained some little insight into it, when Dr. Montmery fastened the top of a teakettle down with a piece of wire, and showed me how the steam would shoot out a cork, which he stuck in the spout.
The air was so mild and genial, that it seemed more like spring than late in October, as it actually was. Everything looked fresh and green on the low luxuriant shores of the broad muddy river down which we were going. The air was warm and balmy, and I almost imagined that the winter had passed away during the time I was stunned and senseless from my“ blow-up” catastrophe.
“ Madame Lenora,” said I, the next evening as we stood on the guards, looking at a boat which was passing us, “Where go we?"
“To the South," said she, pointing down the river with her finger. u To Kentuckee ?"
“Not Kentucky now: we are going to Louisiana—away south; to the land of cypress, and magnolias, and sugar-cane. When spring comes, and warm weather, we will go back to Kentucky.
“It seems to me it is almost spring now.”
“No, it is always spring weather in Louisiana, except in summer, when it gets so hot that we can't stay, and then we will go to Kentucky, where the weather is milder.”,
“ You live in Kentuckee?"
“Yes, the Colonel and I, and Dr. Montmery also, all live there; we go south sometimes to spend the winter."
And then she told me about a beautiful home she had in Kentucky, and a pretty little girl who was a relation of hers, who lived with her brother and sister, who also had a beautiful home.
A few days after, we landed at a large plantation, the principal features of which were the vast sugar houses, the white cottages of the slaves, which formed a little village, and the swarms of negroes themselves. I spent a delightful winter here in the mild oriental winter of the south, and found so much enjoyment in various ways on the plantation, that although Mrs. Overton had been constantly telling me about Kentucky, and the agreeable friends she had there; and though the Colonel swore that leaving out the spring races on the Metairie course, which he designed visiting, he would'nt wait a moment longer before returning to that land which seemed to be an El Dorado to them both-Col. Overton declaring that but for the deer and bear hunts, and the aforesaid races, he would spend his winters in Kentucky. Yet notwithstanding all this, when spring put forth, and preparations were making for our journey up the river, I felt very loth to bid adieu to the land of magnolias, as Mrs. 0. had taught me to call it. We had now been about six months in Louisiana, and the spring was far advanced ere Col. O. returned from the Metairie races, when one sunny morning we boarded a big steamer that came along, and set out for the Dark and Bloody Ground.
END OF PART FIRST.
PART II.-BESSIE RAYMOND.
Hold it a fashion, and a toy in blood;
I. The gray moonlight was casting grim, wavy shadows across the road; the hoary leafless old tree stood out in bold relief in the mysterious half light reflected from their mossy trunks: like weird sprites invoking an incantation, they stretched out their bare scraggy arms into the dim moonlit sky, where their tiny twigs were twinkling indistinctly, blending into the air, and seeming to waver with a mysterious unnatural motion; the whole forest melting away into an indefinable uncertainty of outline in the distant gloom of night.
With no knowledge of locality, and ignorant where we were, or by what surrounded-only knowing that we were going to a place, but having no idea of that place-a vague abstract notion only of somewhere, there was a solemn and intangible mystery about these dim, grim old woods. I imagined, and it was not merely the fancied association of similitude, but a fancy almost amounting to actual belief, that these woods were those of the beautiful spirit-land. There was none of the stern incorrigible logic of naked reason to drive me from my refuge in the temple of magic; and I saw these trees—these vista'd shades—these quaint forms and strange sombre colorings, not as actual carbon-assimilating vegetables-not as combinations of penumbras and reflected light, but as unconnected isolations of self-existent phainomai, looming out in a curious and infinite world, untrammelled by that all-embracing law of serial uniformity—that law which says must be so, and can't be otherwise.
How gloomy and grand those dark forestal shades! How solemn the stillness of the winter night! Stands out brightly yonder a grassy slope fading down into the darkness of the tall wood at its base; a quiet sheepflock sleeping on its soft carpet, bright and silver-tinged amid the surrounding shadows. Leaning out of the coach-window to gaze on the beauty of this night-scene, I fancied that I could see airy spirits fitting to and fro in the hazy background; that I could see a ring of fairies dancing on some mossy bank, where the moon's rays, struggling through the overbending boughs, would form a halo-circle of light, or hieing with gossamer wings adown the sloping meadow; and every nook and arched avenue seemed to be tenanted by some shadowy semblance of life, hovering about through gray air. Noiseless all around, save the tramp of our horses' feet and the creaking of our carriage-wheels, which was so monotonous that it scarcely seemed to break upon the silence of the night.
The stilly night! Not a wind-sigh, not a hum, not a bug-chirp—all soundless as the spirit-land I dreamed I was in. Occasionally the baying of some distant watch-dog fell lightly on the ear, but whether it was an echo or a mere imaginary sound in the tympanum, you could not tell. Here was nothing but the moon-lumined sky, the outstanding tree-trunks, and the endless tangled tracery of boughs and twigs, the silver-glazed slope,
-a peep across yonder of a skirt of low underwood, like some natural shrubbery or horticultural nursery; and at the meadow foot the glancing ribbon-like stream, with those same eternal moonbeams which pervaded everything, sheening its shadowy water, and the tall slender reeds casting their long dark pencils of shade on its limpid surface.
My two companions had for some time been wrapped in a profound silence-a low, hard breathing, seemed to indicate that the Colonel was asleep, while Lenora, if I could judge of the moonlit dreaminess of her deep brown eyes, was ruminating in fancies allied to my own.
Descending the slope, for the road ran down along-side the meadow fence, the carriage crossed the brook, and a few paces further stopped at a great gate, flanked with low massy stone turrets; this opened, we entered a long dark avenue of trees, and driving along a smooth pebbly road towards a glimmering light as of a torch or candle in the distance, we presently issued out from the shade of the park trees into an open glade, where the moon was shining brightly, showing at the other end, or side rather, for we entered it at the end, and made a turn, a white railing and wicket enclosing a profusion of shrubbery, with a gray, steep-roofed house of curious structure, with any quantity of gables and corners and chimney stacks, and various pyramidal roofed appendages and out-houses, all nestled amid the shrubbery. All was perfectly still as we entered the open glade, though by the light which I now saw emanated from one of the windows, we could see the forms of the inmates passing backward and forward.
“Ernie,” said Madame Lenora, arousing herself from her half-drowsy reverie, “ this is Reedyrill. Wake up, Colonel ! here we are, at home.”
“Eh? what you say?" asked he, in a sleepy voice, looking out, and rubbing his eyes; “Reedyrill ? why, to be sure, so 'tis !” and the carriage drew up at the small gate. By this time the noise of the wheels and the barking of dogs had advised them of our approach. As the Colonel descended from the carriage to assist Madame Lenora and myself to alight, there was a bustle within, and presently a light was brought to the door, showing, in the strong contrast of light and the darkness of the portico, a group of forms and faces. A little curly-headed girl came running and shouting gleefully down the pathway, from the yard-gate to the house, crying, in wild joy :
“It's uncle come ! dear uncle, and Aunt Nora !"
“ Ho! ho! dear Floralie ! here's uncle come back again, sure enough, with many nice things for his little darling,” said he, as she jumped into his arms, and covered him with kisses; “ and here is Aunt Nora; and, ah! see here, Florie, here's a nice little play-fellow for you;" and he presented me. I was so muffled up in my cloak and comforter, that Mademoiselle looked as though she could not decide whether it was a inonkey or a parrot; but seeing my long hair escape from my cap, as I removed it, she concluded me to be human, and placed a little soft hand in mine, timidly, for an instant, and quickly withdrawing it away, she darted to the house, repeating her exclamation of—“Uncle's come ! uncle's come, and Aunt Nora !"
We followed after, and were received at the door by the whole posse with a perfect storm of greeting and salutation, and, after entering, for ten minutes the confusion and noise was so great, that my wee brainlings were turned completely upside down : kissing, laughing, crying, hugging and shaking hands, taking off cloaks and bonnets, bringing in trunks, bundles and bandboxes, and everybody bustling about, and running hither and thither, so that there was no comprehending things clearly, to my little senses, at all; so I skulked, unobserved, into a corner, to deposit my traveling paraphernalia, and reconnoitre the scene. As my ideas began to grow somewhat more clear and consecutive, I observed that we were in an elegant drawing-room, with very high ceiling and green papered walls, a rich centre-table, covered with drawings, joujoux, and richly-bound volumes; a silver-gilt chandelier, a grand piano, and sofas, chairs, and fauteuils covered with pea-green velvet, and a rich soft carpet, in which the same color predominated—all very grand and imposing to my unaccus
A tall, dark gentleman, in a black dress and white cravat, with black hair and whiskers, was shaking hands with Col. Overton; there was a dapper little old lady, with small twinkling eyes, the color of which I could not tell, as they half-closed with a hundred wrinkles in their corners, when she laughed, which she was now doing with all heartiness, as she kissed Lenora. Before the fire stood a little white-headed urchin, about ten years of age, in a checked apron and trowsers, sucking away at an orange, and eyeing me wistfully, as though he wanted to make demonstrations towards an acquaintance, but somewhat afraid to make advances. Mademoiselle Floralie was ransacking a cassette, which “ Uncle Lebe” had given her—uttering loud cries of delight, as she drew forth a doll, a coral necklace, a needle-book, a miniature teapot, and other toys, with which it was filled. In the corner stood a thick-lipped negress, with a child of five or six on one arm and a baby on the other, both of which were squalling at the top of their voices, while she was cramming a piece of candy down the throat of one, and violently shaking a rattle at the other, to pacify them-herself making more noise than both.
" And who have we here ?" asked the gentleman with the black whiskers, espying me in the corner, when the hubbub of greeting had somewhat subsided.
That, sir, is Prince Redcap, of the Pawnees. Permit me to introduce him to your acquaintance.”
“A Pawnee, did you say? Louisa, for goodness' sake, carry those children into the nursery. A Pawnee? Oh! your little Indian protegé, that you wrote us about ;” and he came up to me, and bent his searching, dark gray eyes upon me. Why, he's a white boy! No Indian in him, blue eyes and curly-brown hair. He's as genuine Saxon as you or 1.".
"No, he's a quintaroon-Creole; his father was a half-breed, and his mother white--so, as you see, there's not much trace of the Indian about him-except in his temper--a little scamp."
“ Bless me! what a pretty little protege—where did you pick him up? In the woods--well, I declare, I remember with what interest we read your accounts of his romantic history. Let me see," said the little pugnosed lady, whose eyes shut when she laughed, putting on her gold specs, to take a good look at me—“does he speak English ?"
“Somewhat-he speaks French, however, quite fluently." " Why, he's quite a scholar.”
“Ernie,” said the Colonel, “ this is Aunt Eliza, that you have heard me speak of so often. That gentleman is Mr. Kerne, and this young man with his finger in his mouth, is Master Thealan Kerne, known more familiarly as Chunk. I have already made you acquainted with Miss Floralie. Come forward now, and make a bow, and tell our friends “how d'ye.”
“ How-de-do, Mr. Churn," said I, coming into the middle of the floor, and ducking my head to the tall gentleman, “How-de-do, Master Ilunk, how d'ye, Aunt Elisha, and Miss Flo-flo”-“ Floralie—that will do very well, only one bow would have sufficed instead of making a salaam to each. “ 'Pon my word, he speaks English very well,” said Aunt Eliza, as soon as she could open her eyes from laughing at my blunders and ludicrous mode of salutation. " What's his name-Redskin ?"
" His name is Ernie—signifying Redcap; he is a chieftain-son of a chieftain. A little savage nobleman—and, savage he was, by thunder, but l've tamed and civilized him considerably since he has been with me. Ernie, go and get acquainted with Toppy and Florie.”
“What a funny belt," said Master Thealan, taking his finger from his mouth and pointing with it at my wampum, as I drew towards him. I said nothing in reply, and he, evidently afraid of my outre appearance, seemed indisposed to continue the conversation, and restoring his finger to its quandam position, in the corner of his mouth, relapsed into silence. - Ask him to talk Indian,” said little Floralie, who had from the first taken a prodigious fancy to me, sidling up to Madame Overton.
I addressed a few words to her in my own language—the first time I had spoken it since the day I encountered my father in the streets of St. Louis, the day of our sad disaster. It brought back the recollection of my bereavement, and the memory of away-gone days in my forest-home, so vividly to my mind, that I could not refrain from bursting into tears.