« PreviousContinue »
ure in the form of a fat grub or bug, loudly called to his harem of wives, to come and share the dainty feast before ascending to their perch.
Hans Van Brunt, aided by his largest boys, put up the sheep and secured all the stock for the night, for the late autumn evenings were growing cool, and retired to the joy and comforts of his home.
Indoors by the wide-mouthed fireplace, the old farmer sat in his elbow-chair, watching the flames and wreaths of smoke struggling together like foes in a burning city. He had had his supper and, with well-filled pipe, sat and watched the glowing flame, while he puffed volumes of pale blue smoke into the broad chimney. Behind him, nodding and mocking along the wall, with fantastic gestures, darted his own huge shadow, and vanished away in the darkness. Faces, rudely carved in oak on the back of his own chair, laughed in the flickering light, and the pewter plates on the dresser, polished until they shone like mirrors, caught and reflected the flame, as burnished shields of armies in the sunshine.
Strings of golden pumpkin adorned the blackened rafters of his dwelling, while strands of bird eggs, hanging on the chimney jamb, made ornaments to the rustic interior. On the opposite side, resting on a heap of glowing embers raked upon the hearth, sat the iron tea-kettle, singing gayly, while the steam and heat issued from its nozzle. The old Dutch farmer's eyes began to grow smaller, and his head to droop, when the door was suddenly opened, and one of his sons, whose broad face distinctly evinced his ancestry, entered, panting and quite out of breath with running and excitement. He announced that a pair of strangers were approaching the house. This was unusual, and the farmer started up, dropped his pipe, and had to refill it again, and then lost the yarn cap of red and yellow, which he picked up just as there came a rap at the door.
The door was thrown open, and Noah and Jean entered. The old Dutch families of New York were noted for their hospitality, and Hans Van Brunt was not one whit behind his great grandfather, who had emigrated to America away back in 1632. He greeted the strangers, ordered refreshments for them, and asked their names, that he might call them friends.
“Our name is Stevens,” Noah answered.
“Stevens; that is an ancient and respected name. There is a tradition in our family, that my great grandfather was an intimate friend of a certain Mathew Stevens, way back in Holland. Perchance, he might have been your ancestor.”
The travellers did not care to trace family history. They were on a different mission, and Noah began at once asking him if he had not sheltered an Acadian maid three years before.
“ Verily, I did, my friend, and the poor dear lass was in sad distress, I assure you."
In his eagerness, Jean was about to interpose, when Noah laid his hand on his arm to keep him quiet and asked:
“ How long was she here?”
“For well-nigh two months, wąs it not, wife?” asked the farmer, appealing to his good-wife, who had entered the room. Being confirmed by the opinion of his wife, he went on. “And she was a lovely maid, so sweet, so gentle and kind.”
“Did she tell you her name?”
The farmer hesitated for a moment and, turning to his wife, asked:
“ Was it not Adelaine?” "No."
“ Was it Adrianne Blanc?” cried Jean, unable longer to restrain his feelings.
“ It was.”
“Where is she?” he cried, wild with excitement.
The Dutchman, methodically.slow and seemingly dull, shook his head, as he answered:
“I don't know."
Noah, seeing that his relative was making a bad start to get correct information, again laid his hand on his arm to check his impulsiveness, and asked:
“Where did she go, when she left you?”
The Dutchman, dull as he seemed, had keen perceptions; knowing that the maid was very dear to the anxious Jean, he was averse to answering. He smoked a few moments in silence and then said:
“I don't like to tell you all at once, as you might hear bad news.”
“She left you?” asked Noah.
“Yes. A Huguenot family, whom she knew, came along, and she wanted to go with them, and went."
“Far up the river.” :“Where is that family now?"
“ All dead. The Mohawks came and killed them all.”
“ The maid too?”
Noah Stevens turned to his agonized relative and whispered:
“ Courage, Jean; there is yet a hope. Adrianne may live.”
The next move was to the exact spot where the assault had been made on the Huguenot family. There Noah found some settlers, who knew all about the fate of the French Huguenot Albert Le Coeur, with whom Adrianne had taken shelter. Le Coeur had been slain with his wife and three children. The body of the maiden Adrianne could not be found, and the prevailing opinion was that she was carried away captive. .
Jean was almost beside himself with joy, hope, grief and despair, each conflicting emotion in turn taking possession of his anxious soul. While they yet tarried in the ruined settlement, a young Mohawk came down the river on a trading expedition, and of him they learned that a beautiful French girl, the captive of an old chief, who treated her tenderly as a daughter, was then in the Scarron (Schroon) Valley. Noah and his cousin were immediately impressed with the belief that she was the lost Adrianne. They engaged the young Mohawk to take them to the borders of the Scarron lake, where the chief with the fair captive dwelt. *
“God surely sent me to you,” said Jean Baptiste to his cousin as they were on their way. “But for your systematic method of searching, I should never have found my dear Adrianne.”
Then Noah, with gentle remonstrance, reminded
* A story similar to the sad narrative of Jean Baptiste Stevens is narrated in Mr. Lossing's “Our Country,” vol. iii., page 538.