New York Magazine, or Literary Repository (1790-1797)
[1. September 1790]
For the New-York Magazine.
An original and interesting letter, by the late Mrs. Ann E. Bleecker, to her friend Miss S. T. E. describing the sufferings of Mr. Kittle’s fa- mily, at Schochticook, in the French and English war, prior to the last.–
Several short practical essays from the same elegant and descriptive pen, we have had the high satisfaction of presenting to the public eye in our former numbers.
HISTORY OF MARIA KITTLE
HOWEVER fond of novels and romances you may be, the un- fortunate adventures of one of my neighbours, who died yesterday, will make you despise that fiction, in which, knowing the subject to be fa- bulous, we can never be so truly in- terested. While this lady was expir- ing, Mrs. C– V–, her near kinswoman, related to me her unhap- py history, in which I shall now take the liberty of interesting your bene- volent and feeling heart.– Maria Kittle was the only issue of her parents, who cultivated a large farm on the banks of Hudson, eigh- teen miles above Albany. They were persons of good natural abilities, im- proved by some learning; yet, con- scious of a deficiency in their educa- tion, they studied nothing so much as to render their little daughter truly accomplished.
Maria was born in the year 1721. Her promising infancy presaged a ma- turity of excellencies; every amiable quality dawned through her lisping prattle; every personal grace attend- ed her attitudes and played over her features. As she advanced through the playful stage of childhood, she became more eminent than a Pene- lope for her industry; yet, soon as the sun declined, she always retired with her books until the time of repose, by which means she soon informed her opening mind with the princi- ples of every useful science. She was beloved by all her female companions, who, though they easily discovered her superior elegance of manners, instead of envying, were excited to imitate her. As she always made one in their little parties of pleasure on festival days, it is no wonder that she soon became the reigning goddess among the swains. She was impor- tuned to admit the addresses of num- bers, whom she politely discarded, and withdrew herself a while from public observation. However, the fame of her charms attracted several gentlemen of family from Albany, who intruded on her retirement, so- liciting her hand. But this happi- ness was reserved for a near relation of her’s, one Mr. Kittle, whose me- rits had made an impression on her heart. He, although not handsome, was possessed of a most engaging ad- dress, while his learning and moral virtues more particularly recommend- ed him to her esteem. Their parents soon discovered their reciprocal pas- sion, and highly approving of it, has- tened their marriage, which was ce- lebrated under the most happy au- spices.
Maria was fifteen when married. They removed to his farm, on which he had built a small neat house, sur- rounded by tall cedars, which gave it a contemplative air. It was situated on an eminence, with a green enclo- sure in the front; graced by a well- cultivated garden on one side, and on the other by a clear stream, which, rushing over a bed of white pebble, gave them a high polish, that cast a soft gleam through the water. Here they resided in the tranquil enjoyment of that happiness which so much merit and innocence deserved; the indigent, the sorrowful, the un- fortunate, were always sure of con- solation when they entered those peaceful doors. They were almost adored by their neighbours, and even the wild savages themselves, who of- ten resorted thither for refreshments, when hunting, expressed the greatest regard for them, and admiration of their virtues.
In little more than a year they were blessed with a daughter, the lovelier resemblance of her lovely mother; as she grew up her graces in creasing, promised a bloom and un- derstanding equal to her’s; the Indi- ans, in particular, were extremely fond of the smiling Anna; whenever they found a young fawn, or caught a brood of wood-ducks, or surprised the young beaver in their daily ex- cursions through the forests, they pre- sented them with pleasure to her; they brought her the earliest straw- berries, the scarlet plumb, and other delicate wild fruits, in painted bas- kets.
How did the fond parents’ hearts delight to see their beloved one so universally caressed? When they sauntered over the vernal fields with the little prattler wantoning before them collecting flowers, and pursu- ing the velvet elusive butterfly, Ma- ria’s cheek suffusing with rapture, “oh, my dear!” she would say, “we are happier than human beings can expect to be; how trivial are the evils annexed to our situation? may God avert that our Heaven be limited to this life!”
Eleven years now elapsed before Mrs. Kittle discovered any signs of pregnancy; her spouse silently wish- ed for a son, and his desires were at length gratified; she was delivered of a charming boy, who was named, after him, William.
A French and Indian war had commenced sometime before, but about eight months after her delivery, the savages began to commit the most horrid depredations on the English frontiers. Mr. Kittle, alarmed at the danger of his brother, who dwelt near Fort-Edward, (the eldest being just married to a very agreeable young woman) invited them to reside with him during the war.
They were scarce arrived when the enemy made farther incursions in the country, burning the villages, and scalping the inhabitants, neither re- specting age or sex. This terribly alarmed Mrs. Kittle; she began to prepare for flight, and the next even- ing after receiving this intelligence, as she and Mr. Kittle were busily em- ployed in packing up china and other things, they were accosted by several Indians, whose wigwams were con- tiguous to the village of Schochti- cook, and who always seemed well affected to the English. An elderly savage undertook to be prolocutor, and desired the family to compose them- selves, assuring them they should be cautioned against any approaching danger. To inforce his argument, he presented Maria with a belt inter- woven with silk and beads, saying, “there, receive my token of friend- ship.–we go to dig up the hatchet, to sink it in the heads of your ene- mies: we shall guard this wood with a wall of fire–you shall be safe.” A warm glow of hope deepened in Ma- ria’s cheek at this. Then ordering wine to be brought to the friendly savages, with a smile of diffidence, “I am afraid,” said she, “necessity may oblige you to abandon us, or neglect of your promise may deprive us of your protection.”–“Neglect of my promise,” retorted he with some acrimony, “no, Maria, I am a true man; I shoot the arrow up to the Great Captain every new moon: depend upon it I will trample down the briers round your dwelling, that you do not hurt your feet.” Maria now retired, bowing a grateful ac- knowledgment, and leaving the sa- vages to indulge their festivity, who passed the night in the most vocife- rous mirth.
Mrs. Kittle with a sort of exulta- tion, related the subject of their con- ference to her husband, who had ab- sented himself on their first appear- ance, having formed some suspicion of the sincerity of their friendship, and not being willing to be duped by their dissimulation. “And now,” added Maria, smiling, “our fears may again subside: oh! my dear, my happiness is trebled into rapture, by seeing you and my sweet babes out of danger.” He only sighed, and reaching his arm round her po- lished neck, pressed her to his bosom. After a short pause, “my love,” said he, “be not too confident of their fidelity, you surely know what a small dependence is to be placed in their promises; however, to appear suspi- cious, might be suddenly fatal to us, we will therefore suspend our jour- ney to Albany for a few days.”– Though Maria’s soul saddened at the conviction of this truth; though her fears again urged her to propose im- mediate flight, yet she acquiesced; and having supped with the family, this tender pair sunk asleep on the bosom of rest.
Early the next morning Mr. Kittle arose; first impressing a kiss on Maria’s soft cheek, as she slumbered with her infant in her arms. He then awak- ed his brother, reminding him that he had proposed a hunting match the preceding evening. “It is true,” replied Peter, “but since hostilities have commenced so near us as the Indians inform, I think it rather im- prudent to quit the family.”– “Come, come,” replied the other, “do not let us intimidate the neigh bours by cloistering ourselves up with women and children.”–“I reject the thought,” rejoined Peter, “of being afraid.” Then having dressed himself, while his brother charged their pieces, they left the house, and traversed the pathless grass for many hours without perceiving any thing but small birds, who filled the fra- grant air with melody. “Peter,” said Mr. Kittle, casting his eyes a- round the lovely landscape, “what a profusion of sweets does nature ex- hale to please her intelligent creatures. I feel my heart expand with love and gratitude to Heaven every moment, nor can I ever be grateful enough. I have health and competence, a lovely fond wife, whose smile would calm the rudest storm of passion, and two infants blossoming into perfection; all my social ties are yet unbroken– Peter, I anticipate my Heaven–! But why, my brother, do you turn pale? what dreadful idea stiffens your features with amazement? what in God’s name ails you, Peter, are you unwell? sit down under this tree awhile.”–To these interrogatories Peter replied, “excuse my weakness, I am not unwell, but an unusual horror chilled my blood; I felt as if the damps of death prest already round my soul; but the vapour is gone off again, I feel quite better.” Mr. Kittle cheered his brother, attri- buting his emotion to fear, who, by this time, having reassumed his com- posure, entered into discourse with cheerfulness, refusing to return home without having killed any thing. Then rising, they proceeded thro’ lofty groves of pine, and open fields, that seemed to bend under the heavy hand of Ceres. At last, disappoint- ment and fatigue prevailed on them to return home; they had gone far- ther than they apprehended; but passing along the bank of the river, within a few miles of Mr. Kittle’s, they espied a fat doe walking secure- ly on the beach, which Peter softly approaching, levelled his piece with so good an aim, that the animal drop- ped. Instantly at the explosion, this seeming success was, however, the origin of their calamities; for imme- diately after two savages appeared, directed in their course by the firing. Setting up a loud yell, they ran up to the brothers and discharged their fire arms. Mr. Kittle started back, but Peter received a brace of balls in his bosom. He recoiled a few steps back, and then sunk down income- passed by those deadly horrors of which in the morning he had a pre- sentiment. Mr. Kittle stood awhile aghast, like a person just waked from a frightful dream; but on seeing the Indian advancing to tear the scalp from his dying brother, he suddenly recollected himself, and shot a bullet through his head. Then grappling with the other, who was loading again, he wrestled his firelock from him, and felled him to the ground with the butt end of it. This was no time for reflection, or unavailing laments; the danger was eminent! So leaving the savages for dead, with a mournful silence Mr. Kittle hasten- ed to throw the deer from off his horse, and laid his bleeding brother across him.
When our souls are gloomy, they seem to cast a shade over the objects that surround us, and make nature correspondent to our feelings: so Mr. Kittle thought the night fell with a deeper gloom than usual. The soft notes of evening birds seemed to be the responses of savage yells. The echo of his tread, which he never before regarded, now rung dismally hollow in his ears. Even the rust- ling of the winds through the leaves seemed attended with a solemnity that chilled him with cold tremors. As he proceeded with his mournful charge, his feelings were alarmed for his dear Maria; he dreaded the agi- tation and distress this adventure would throw her in–but it was un- avoidable!
The sound of his horse’s feet no sooner invaded the ears of Maria, than seizing a light, she sprung with a joyful impatience to the door, and was met by her partner pale and bloody, who endeavoured to prevent too sudden a discovery of this cala- mity. But at the first glance she comprehended the whole affair, and retiring a few steps, with the most exquisite agony in her countenance, “oh! Mr. Kittle,” she cried, clasping her hands together, “it is all over– we are betrayed–your brother is kil- led!”–“Too true, oh! too fatally true,” replied he, falling on his knees beside her as she sunk down,” “my angel! the very savages that solemnly engaged to protect us have deprived him of life; but I am yet alive, my Maria, be comforted–I will instant- ly procure carriages, and before morn- ing you and your innocents shall be beyond the reach of their malevo- lence.”
By this time the family had croud- ed about them, and with grievous wailings were enquiring the particu- lars of this sad adventure. Mr. Kit- tle having related every circumstance with brevity, ordered the corpse to be laid in a remote chamber, desiring at the same time a horse to be saddled for him. Then, more oppressed by his wife’s griefs than his own, he led the disconsolate fair to her chamber, where, being seated, she sighing de- manded where he intended to go at that time of night. “Only,” said he, “to the village of Schochticook to hire a couple of waggons; I shall return in an hour I hope, with a pro- per guard to secure our retreat from this hostile place.” Maria was silent; at length she burst into a flood of tears, which his endearments only aug- mented. Then expostulating with him, “is it not enough,” cried she, “that you have escaped one danger, but must you be so very eager to en- counter others? besides, you are spent with sorrow and fatigue–let one of your brothers perform this silent ex- pedition.–“It is impossible,” re- plied the tender husband; “how can I dare to propose a danger to them from which I would shrink myself? their lives are equally precious with mine–but God may disappoint our fears, my love.” He would have continued, but his spouse, rising from her seat, interrupted him–“At least, my dear, before you leave us give your lovely babes a farewell embrace, that if fate should–should–separate us, that yet shall sweeten our hours of absence.” Here she found her- self clasped in her consort’s arms, who exclaimed, “my Maria! I love you passionately, and if the least shadow of danger did appear to attend this night’s travel, for your sake, for my blessed children’s sake I would decline it–but I have left the Indians life- less, who, no doubt, attacked us from some private pique–nor will they be discovered until morning.”– “Well then,” Maria answered, “I no longer oppose you; forgive my fears.” Mean while as she stept to the cradle for her suckling, the fair Anna, who was listening at the door, anxious to hear her parents’ senti- ments on this occasion, quitted her station, and flew to them swift as light, dropping on her knees before her father, and looked up in his face with the most attractive graces, and the persuasive eloquence of simplicity. Her neck and features were elegantly turned, her complexion fairer than the tuberose, and contrasted by the most shining ringlets of dark hair. Her eyes, whose brilliancy were sof- tened through the medium of tears, for a while dwelt tenderly on his countenance. At length, with a voice scarce audible, she sighed out, “oh, Papa! do not leave us; if any accident should happen to you, Mamma will die of grief, and what will become of poor Anna and Billy? who will care for me? Who will teach me when my Papa, my Mamma’s Papa is gone?”–“My sweet child,” replied he, embracing her and hold- ing her to his bosom, “there is no danger; I shall return in an hour, and before to-morrow you shall be safe on the plains of Albany, and my heart shall exult over the happiness of my family.”
Mrs. Kittle now approached with her playful infant in her arms; but its winning actions extorted nothing but groans from her pained bosom, which was more stormy than Ontario Lake, when agitated by fierce winds. Mr. Kittle perceiving this uncommon e- motion, gently took the child from her, and repeatedly kissed it, while new smiles dimpled its lovely aspect. “Oh!” said he to himself, “this gloom that darkens Maria’s soul is supernatural!–it seems dreadfully portentious!–Shall I yet stay?” But here a servant informing him that his horse was ready, he blushed at his want of fortitude; and having con- quered his irresolution, after the most affecting and solemn parting, he quit- ted his house, never to review it more!
(To be continued.)
[2. October 1790]
Maria then walked sadly back again, and having assembled the family in a little hall, they closed and barred the doors. Mrs. Cornelia Kittle, Maria’s sister-in-law, was far advanced in her pregnancy, which increased her husband’s uneasiness for her; and they were debating in what manner to accommodate her at Al- bany, when the trampling of feet about the house, and a yell of com- plicated voices, announced the Indi- ans’ arrival. Struck with horror and consternation, the little family croud- ed together in the center of the hall, while the servants, at this alarm, be- ing in a kitchen distant from the house, saved themselves by a precipi- tate flight. The little Billy, frighten- ed at such dreadful sounds, clung fast to his mother’s throbbing breast, while Anna, in a silent agony of amaze- ment, clasped her trembling knees. The echo of their yells yet rung in long vibrations through the forest, when, with a thundering peal of strokes at the door, they demanded entrance. Distraction and despair sat upon every face. Maria and her companions gazed wildly at each o- ther, till upon repeated menaces, and efforts to break open the door, Co- rnelia’s husband giving all for lost, lei- surely advanced to the door. Corne- lia seeing this, uttered a great shriek, and cried out, “oh God! what are you doing, my rash, rash, unfortu- nate husband? you will be sacrificed.” Then falling on her knees, she caught hold of his hand, and sobbed out, “oh! pity me, have mercy on your- self, on me, on my child!”–“Alas! my love,” said he, half turning, with a look of distraction, “what can we do? let us be resigned to the will of God!” So saying, he unbarred the door, and that instant received a fatal bullet in his bosom, and fell back- ward writhing in the agonies of death; the rest recoiled at this horrible spec- tacle, and huddled in a corner, send- ing forth the most piercing cries; in the interim the savages rushing in with great shouts, proceeded to man- gle the corpse, and having made an incision round his head with a crook- ed knife, they tugged off his bloody scalp with barbarous triumph. While this was perpetrating, an Indian, he- deously painted, strode ferociously up to Cornelia, (who sunk away at the sight, and fainted on a chair) and clift her white forehead deeply with his tomahack. Her fine azure eyes just opened, and then suddenly closing forever, she tumbled lifeless at his feet. His sanguinary soul was not yet satisfied with blood; he deform- ed her lovely body with deep gashes, and tearing her unborn babe away, dashed it to pieces against the stone wall, with many additional circum- stances of infernal cruelty.
During this horrid carnage, the dead were stripped, and dragged from the house, when one of the hellish band advanced to Maria, who cir- cling her babes with her white arms, was sending hopeless petitions to Hea- ven, and bemoaning their cruelly lost situation–as he approached, ex- pecting the fatal stroke, she endea- voured to guard her children, and with supplicating looks, implored for mercy. The savage attempted not to strike; but the astonishing Anna shel- tered herself behind her Mamma, while her blooming suckling quitting her breast, gazed with a pleasing wonder on the painted stranger.– Maria soon recognized her old friend that presented her with the belt, thro’ the loads of shells and feathers that disguised him. This was no time, however, to irritate him, by remind- ing him of his promise; yet, guess- ing her thoughts, he anticipated her remonstrance. “Maria,” said he, “be not afraid, I have promised to protect you–you shall live and dance with us around the fire at Canada; but you have one small incumbrance, which, if not removed, will much impede your progress thither;” so say- ing he seized her laughing babe by the wrists, and forcibly endeavoured to draw him from her arms. At this, terrified beyond conception, she ex- claimed, “oh God! leave me–leave me my child! he shall not go, though a legion of devils should try to se- parate us!” holding him still fast, while the Indian applied his strength to tear him away, gnashing his teeth at her opposition, “help! God of Heaven!” screamed she, “help! have pity–have mercy on this infant! Oh God! oh Christ! can you bear to see this? O mercy! mercy! mercy! let a little spark of compass- sion save this inoffending–this love- ly angel!” By this time the breath- less babe dropt its head on its bosom; the wrists were nigh pinched off, and seeing him just expiring, with a dreadful shriek she resigned him to the merciless hands of the savage, who instantly dashed his little fore- head against the stones, and casting his bleeding body at some distance from the house, left him to make his exit in feeble and unheard groans.– Then indeed, in the unutterable an- guish of her soul, she fell prostrate, and rending away her hair, she roar- ed out her sorrows with a voice louder than natural, and rendered awfully hollow by too great an exertion. “Oh, barbarians!” she exclaimed, “surpassing devils in wickedness, so may a tenfold night of misery enwrap your black souls, as you have depri- ved the babe of my bosom, the com- fort of my cares–my blessed cherub of light and life–Oh hell! are not thy flames impatient to cleave the center and engulph these wretches in thy ever burning waves? are there no thunders in Heaven–no avenging Angel–no God, to take notice of such Heaven-defying cruelties?”– Then rushing to her dead infant with redoubled cries, and clapping her hands, she laid herself over his man- gled body–again softened in tears and moans, she wiped the blood from his ghastly countenance, and prest him to her heaving bosom, alternately caressing him and her trembling An- na, who, clinging to her with bitter wailings, and kissing her hands and face, entreated her to implore the sa- vages for mercy. “Do, my angel Mamma,” she urged, “do beg them yet to pity-beg them yet to save you for my poor, poor Papa’s sake!– Alas! if we are all killed, his heart will break!–Oh! they can’t be rocks and stones!–Don’t cry Mamma, they will spare us!” Thus the little orator endeavoured to console her af- flicted mother; but their melancho- ly endearments were soon interrupted by the relentless savages, who having plundered the house of every valua- ble thing that was portable, returned to Maria, and rudely catching her arm, commanded her to follow them; but repulsing them with the boldness of despair, “leave me, leave me,” she said, “I cannot go–I never will quit my murdered child! too cruel in your mercies, you have given me life only to prolong my miseries!”– Mean while the lovely Anna, terri- fied at the hostile appearance of the enemy, left her Mamma (struggling to disengage herself from the Indians) and fled precipitately to the house. She had already concealed herself in a closet, when Mrs. Kittle pursuing her, was intercepted by flames, the savages having fired the house. The wretched child soon discovered her deplorable situation, and almost suf- focated by the smoke, with piercing cries called for help to her dear, dear mother.–Alas! what could the un- happy parent do? whole sheets of flames rolled between them, while in a phrenzy of grief, she screamed out, “oh! my last treasure! my beloved Anna! try to escape the devouring fire–come to me my sweet child– the Indians will not kill us–Oh! my perishing babe! have pity on your mother–do not leave me quite desti- tute!” Then turning to the calm villains who attended her, she cried, “why do you not attempt to rescue my sweet innocent? can your unfeel- ing hearts not bear to leave me one– a solitary single one?” Again calling to her Anna, she received no answer, which being a presumption of her death, the Indiana obliged Maria and her brother Henry to quit the house, which they effected with some diffi- culty, the glowing beams falling a- round them, and thick volumes of smoke obscuring their passage; the flames now struck a long splendor through the humid atmosphere, and blushed to open the tragical scene on the face of Heaven. They had scarce advanced two hundred yards with their reluctant captives, when the flaming structure tumbled to the earth, with a dreadful crash. Our travelers by instinct turned their eyes to the mournful blaze, and Maria bursting afresh into grievous lamentations, cried, “there, there my brother! my children are wrapt in arching sheets of flames, that used to be cir- cled in my arms–they are entomb- ed in ruins that breathed their slum- bers on my bosom–yet, oh! their spotless souls even now rise from this chaos of blood and fire, and are plead- ing our injured cause before our God, my brother!” He replied only in sighs and groans–he scarcely heard her, horror had froze up the avenues of his soul, and all amazed and trem- bling, he followed his leaders like a person in a troublesome dream. The distant flames now cast a fain- ter light, and the northern breeze bent the columnes of smoke over the south horizon. Sad and benighted they wandered through almost impe- netrable swamps, forded the broad stream of Tomhanick, and the rapid river of Hosack; they passed through deserted settlements, where the yel- ling of solitary dogs increased the solemnity of midnight, nor halted till the stars, emitting a feebler lustre, presaged the approach of day. Maria, overcome by sorrow and fatigue, im- mediately sunk helpless at the foot of a tree, while the savages (who were six in number) kindled a fire, and prepared their meal, (in a calabash) which consisted only of some parched maize pulverized and enriched with the fat of bears flesh. Observing Maria had fallen asleep, they offered not to disturb her, but invited Henry Kittle to partake of their repast. He durst not refuse them, and having swallowed a few mouthfuls of their unpalatable food, and accepted of a pipe of tobacco, he desired leave to repose himself, which being readily granted, they soon followed his ex- ample, and sunk asleep, leaving two centinels to guard against surprise, which precaution they always make use of.
I am sorry, dear Susan, to quit Maria in this interesting part of her history; but order requires that we should now return to her spouse, whom we left on his way through the wood.
The village of Schochticook is situated on a circular plain, surround- ed by high hills, rising in form of an amphitheatre. Mr. Kittle had just gained the verge when, chancing to cast his eyes around, he perceived the whole southern hemisphere suddenly illuminated with a bright blaze; however, being accustomed to the forests being often fired to clear it from the under-wood, he was not much surprised, but proceeded to descend the hill. On his arriving with the account of his brother’s murder, the place was put in the highest commotion–the men fitting up their arms, and the women cla- mouring about them, highly impor- tunate to be removed to Albany; but the night being very dark, this man- oeuvre was deferred till morning;– nor could Mr. Kittle prevail on a single person to return with him dur- ing the darkness–he felt himself strangely agitated at this disappoint- ment, and refusing to repose himself, with great impatience he watched the first orient beam of Phosphor, which appearing, he sat off for home with two waggons and a guard of three Indians. As he approached his late happy dwelling, his bosom dilated with the pleasing hope of soon extra- cating his beloved family from dan- ger, he chid the slowness of the car- riages, and felt impatient to dissipate the apprehensions of Maria, to kiss the pendant tear from her eye, and press his sportive innocents to his bo- som. While these bright ideas play- ed round his soul, he lifted up his eyes, and through an opening in the woods beheld his farm–but what language can express his surprise and consternation at seeing his habitation so suddenly desolated! a loud ex- clamation of amaze burst from the whole company at so unexpected a view–the blood revolted from Mr. Kittle’s cheek–his heart throbbed under the big emotion, and all aghast, spurring on his horse, he entered the enclosure with full speed.–Stop here unhappy man! here let the fibres of thy heart crack with excruciating mi- sery–let the cruel view of mangled wretches, so nearly allied to thee, extort drops of blood from the cleav- ing bosom!–It did–it did. Utter- ing a deep groan he fell insensible from his horse, while his attendants, hastening towards him, were shocked beyond conception at the dismal spec- tacle, and starting back with averted eyes from the dead, were thunderstruck, not having power to move or speak. After a while two Indians (who be- ing used to sanguinary scenes, reco- vered themselves first) took a blanket, and walking backward to the man- gled Cornelia, threw it over her nak- ed body; the others then timidly ad- vanced, and Mr. Kittle opening his eyes, groaned again bitterly; then raising himself on his knees, with a look of unutterable anguish he called upon his dear Maria. Alas! No voice, but the solemn repetition of his own cries were articulated to him: then rising with an air of distraction, he stalked round the bloody scene, and examined the dead bodies, first uncovering the pale visage of Corne- lia, he surveyed in silence her dis- torted features; but perceiving it was not Maria, he gently laid the cloth over again, and turning furiously, caught up his ghastly infant, whose little body was black with contusions, and his skull horribly fractured. Al- most fainting under his mournful load, and staggering at the dreadful discovery, he deposited it again on the bloody earth, and clapping his hands together repeatedly with vio- lence, oh hell! hell! he cried, you cannot inflict torments so exquisite as those I now suffer! how am I crush- ed to the center! how deeply am I degraded below the worms of the sod! Oh! my children! my children! where are you now? Oh! my wife! my Maria! the beloved of my bo- som, are you too fallen a sacrifice? Why do I survive these miseries, my God? how can mortality support them? Burst–burst my shrinking heart, and punish a wretch for not having died in the defence of such lovely and innocent beings! Oh! why was I absent in this fatal hour? why did not their groans vibrate on my soul that I might have flown to their aid? Thus wildly lamenting and wandering among the smoaking ruins, he picked up some of the cal- cined bones of his once beautiful Anna. At this sight despair shook his soul afresh, new agonies convuls- ed his features, and dropping the sad evidence of his miseries, he extend- ed his arms to Heaven, and roared out–revenge, great God! revenge if thou art just and kind as represented! Oh! that I had the power of an archangel to thunder eternal horrors on the guilty wretches who have blast- ed the bud of my happiness, who have darkened the brightest eyes that ever opened on the light! The men here interfering, to con- sole him observed, the bones were probably those of his brother Peter; but on finding his skeleton entire, Mr. Kittle insisted that it must have been Maria and Anna, who having hid themselves, had doubtless perish- ed in the flames. Again, in the fu- rious extravagance of passion, he tore the hair from his head, and casting himself prostrate on the ashes, he ga- thered the crumbling bones to his bosom, while the big drops of an- guish issued at every pore, till life, unable longer to sustain the mental conflict, suspended her powers, and once more deprived him of sensation. His companions having laid him on a wagon, now conferred together in what manner to proceed, and ap- prehending an attack from the sava- ges, they unanimously concluded to lay the dead bodies on the remaining carriage, and make the best of their way to Schochticook, which they accordingly performed with great silence and expedition.
You may judge, my dear, what a panic the appearance of this mourn- ful cavalcade struck over the inhabit- ants of this defenseless village. Mr. Kittle was gently laid on a bed, and being let blood, his respiration be- came less obstructed, though he con- tinued senseless till his unfortunate family were interred.–Six weeks elapsed before he recovered any de- gree of strength; but even then he appeared pale and emaciated, like a second Lazarus; his disposition was entirely changed, his looks were fierce, his attitudes wild and extra- vagant, and his conversation, which formerly was sensible, commanding attention by a musical voice, now was incoherent, and his cadence deep and hollow, rather inspiring terror than any pleasing sensation. Thirst- ing for revenge, and perceiving that solitude only tended to corrode his moments with the blackest melancho- ly, he soon after entered the British service in the capacity of gentleman volunteer, and signalized himself by his prudence and intrepidity, attract- ing the particular notice of his officers, who being affection with his misfor- tones, proffered their services to him with so much friendship and candour, as obliged him to accept of them, and yet lightened the obligation.
(To be continued.)
[3. November 1790]
But doubtless, my dear, your generous sensibility is alarmed at my silence about Mrs. Kittle; I think we left her reposing under a tree–she was the first that awaked as the sun began to exhale the crystal globules of morning, when half ris- ing, and reclining on her elbow, she surveyed the lovely landscape around her with a deep sigh; they were on an eminence that commanded an un- limited prospect of the country every way. The birds were cheerful; the deer bounded fearless over the hills; the meadows blushed with the ena- mel of Flora; but grief had sadden- ed every object in her sight–the whole creation seemed a dark blank to the fair mourner. Again recol- lection unlocked the sluices of her eyes, and her soft complaints disturb- ed her savage companions, who, ris- ing and kindling up the dying em- bers, began to prepare their victuals, which they invited her to partake of. This she declined with visible de- testation; and turning to her bro- ther, with the dignity of conscious merit in distress, “No,” said she, “I never will receive a morsel from those bloody hands yet dropping with recent murder!–let me perish–let the iron hand of famine first pinch out my vitals and send me after my children!” Notwithstanding this, Henry added his solicitations that she should accept of some refresh- ment, reminding her of the conse- quence of her fatal resolution, which could be deemed no otherwise than suicide. Finding this had no effect, he tried to touch her feelings on a softer key–“Remember, Maria,” said he, “you have a tender husband yet living; would you wish to deprive him of every earthly consolation? Would you add affliction to affliction, and after he has performed the sor- rowful obsequies of his children, to crush all his remaining hope by the news of your voluntary death? No, live my sister! be assured he will soon get us exchanged, when soft sympa- thies shall wash away your sorrows, and after a few years, who knows but the smiles of a new lovely pro- geny may again dawn a paradise of happiness on you.” Maria was af- fected, and half raising her eyes from the earth, she replied, “Oh, my bro- ther! How consoling do your words sink on my heart! Though my reason tells me your arguments are impro- bable and fallacious, yet it soothes the tempest of my soul–I will try to live–perhaps I may again behold my dear–dear–dear–husband!” Here a flood of tears interrupted her. As this conversation was held in English, the savages were inquisitive to know the subject of it, at the same time enjoining them both never to utter a syllable in the presence except in their own uncouth dialect, which, as they perfectly understood, they could not excuse themselves from. Henry then informed them that his sister, objecting to their method of preparing food, had desired him to prevail with them to indulge her in dressing her meals herself. This they readily granted, and farther to ingra- tiate themselves in the prisoners’ fa- vour, they dispatched a young Indi- an to hunt for partridges or quails in the groves adjoining them: He instantly returned with a brood of wood-pigeons, scarcely fledged, which he presented to Henry, who cleaned and broiled them on sticks, with an officious solicitude to please his sister, which she observed with a look of gratitude, and taking a pi- geon from the stick, began to eat more from complaisance than incli- nation. Henry was delighted at her ready acquiescence, and their repast being ended, they proceeded on their tiresome journey with less repining than the preceding night. Maria was exempted from carrying a bur- den, yet she found the fatigue almost intolerable. They continually passed through a scene of conflagration, the savages firing every cottage in their way, whose mournful blaze catching the dry fields of grain, would scorch off hundred of acres in a few mo- ments, and form a burning path for their destroyers. As the sun ad- vanced to his zenith, its rays beat fiercely on our travelers, augmented by the crackling flames around them; when meeting with a cool stream of water, Maria was commanded to sit down (being overheated) while the rest approached the rivulet; the In- dian that guarded Maria was stoop- ing down to drink, when a loud rust- ling among the leaves, and trampling of bushes attracted his attention; he listened awhile seemingly much a- larmed, then starting up suddenly, he flew to Maria, and caught hold of her hair, aiming his hatchet at her head: the consequence was obvious, and her fate seemed inevitable; yet, with a stoical composure, she folded her arms across, and waited the fatal stroke with perfect resignation; but while the weapon was yet suspended over her, chancing to look around, he perceived the noise to proceed from a large deer, whose antlers were in- tangled in the branches of a thicket. Though an uncivilized inhabitant of the forest, he blushed at his precipi- tancy, and returning the instrument of death to his girdle, after some he- sitation made this apology: “Maria, this sudden discovery is well for you; I thought we had been pursued, and we never suffer our prisoners to be re- taken; however, I was imprudent to attempt your life before there was a probability of your being rescued:” then desiring her to rise and drink, he quickly shot the deer, his associ- ates helping him to skin it. Instead of quenching her thirst she sat down pensive on the flowery margin, cast- ing her eyes carelessly on the stream; she knew not whether to esteem her late deliverance from death a happy providence or protraction of misery. Observing the spotted trout, and other fish, to dart sportively across the wa- ter, she could not help exclaiming, “Happy! happy animals! you have not the fatal gift of reason to embitter your pleasures; you cannot anticipate your difficulties by apprehension, or prolong them by recollection; inca- pable of offending your Creator, the blessings of your existence are secur- ed to you: Alas! I envy the mean- est among ye!” A gush of tears concluded her soliloquy; and being called to attend the company, she arose, and they began their journey for the afternoon. Henry desiring to have a piece of venison (having left it behind, seldom incommoding them- selves with more than the hide and tallow) they returned and obliged him with a haunch, which was very fat: at the next interval of travel he dressed it for himself and Maria. In the evening they crossed the river somewhat below Fort-Edward, in a canoe left hid under some bushes for that purpose. They observed the most profound silence until the en- tered the woods again; but it was very late before they halted, which they did in a deep hollow, surround- ed by pines whose tops seemed to be lost in the clouds. It was necessary here to light a fire, for the wolves howled most dreadfully, and the whole forest rung with the cries of wild beasts of various sorts. The con- fines of hell could not have given Maria more dismal ideas than her present situation; the horrid gloom of the place, the scowling looks of her murderous companions, the shrill shrieks of owls, the loud cries of the wolf, and mournful screams of pan- thers, which were redoubled by dis- tant echoes, as the terrible sounds seemed dying away, shook her frame with cold tremors: she sunk under the oppression of terror, and almost fainted in Henry’s arms: however, on perceiving the beasts durst not ap- proach the light, but began to retire, she became a little more assured, and helped Henry to erect a booth of pine branches, making a bed of the same materials in it while he prepared their supper; having eaten, and kindled a large fire in the front of her arbour, she laid down and soon fell in a deep sleep; she felt herself refreshed by this unexpected repose, and the next morning, with some alacrity, conti- nued her journey, hoping at last to arrive at some Christian settlement. Arriving at Lake-Champlain, they raised a wigwam on the bank, ex- pecting the coming of Indians from the opposite shore to carry them over. Here our unfortunate captives were stript of their habits, already rent to pieces by briers, and attired each with remnants of old blankets. In this new distress Mrs. Kittle ventur- ed to expostulate with the savages, but it was talking to the stormy oce- an; her complaints served only to di- vert them; so retiring among the bushes, she adjusted her coarse dress somewhat decently, and then seating herself silently under a spreading tree, indulged herself in the luxury of sor- row. Henry, sensible that they es- pected more fortitude from him, and that if he sunk under his adverse for- tune, he should be worse treaded, affected to be cheerful; he assisted them in catching salmon, with which the lake abounds; an incredible quantity of wild fowl frequenting the lake also, he laid snares for those of the lesser sort, (not being allowed fire-arms) and succeeded so well, that his dexterity was highly commended, and night coming on, they regaled themselves on the fruits of their in- dustry. The night was exceedingly dark, but calm; a thick mist hovered over the woods, and the small ridgy waves softly rolled to the shore, when suddenly a large meteor, or fiery ex- halation, passed by them with sur- prising velocity, casting on every side showers of brilliant sparkles. At sight of this phaenomenon, the Indians put their heads between their knees, crying out in a lamentable voice, “Do not–do not–do not!” con- tinuing in the same attitude until the vapour disappeared. Henry, with some surprise, demanded the reason of this exclamation; to which they replied, “What he had seen was a fiery dragon, on his passage to his den, who was of so malevolent a temper, that he never failed, on his arrival there, to inflict some peculiar calamity on mankind.” In about five minutes after the earth was vio- lently agitated, the waves of the lake tumbled about in a strange manner, seeming to emit flashes of fire, all the while attended with most tremen- dous roarings, intermixed with loud noises, not unlike the explosion of heavy cannon. Soon as the Indians perceived it was an earthquake, they cried out, “Now he comes home!” and casting themselves in their former posture, filled the air with dismal howlings. This was a terrible scene to Maria, who had never been wit- ness to so dreadful a convulsion of nature before; she started up and fled from her savage companions towards an eminence at some distance, where dropping on her knees, she empha- tically implored the protection of Heaven: however, she was followed by an Indian and Henry; the latter highly affected with her distresses, taking hold of her trembling hand, “But why, my sister!” said he “have you fled from us? is the gloom of a forest more chearing than the sympathizing looks of a friend?” “No, my brother!” replied Maria, “but the thought was suggested to me, that the supreme God perhaps was preparing to avenge himself of these murderers by some awful and uncommon judgment, and I fled from them as Lot did from Sodom, lest I might be involved in the punishment of their guilt.” They conversed in English, which displeasing the Indi- an, he ordered them to return to the wigwam, threatening to bind Maria fast if she offered to elope again. The shock being over, silence again spread through the realms of darkness, when a high wind arose from the north and chilled our half-naked travelers with excessive cold. The savages, (whose callous skins were proof against the inclement weather) not caring to continue their fires, lest they should be discovered and surprised by some English party, they passed here a very uncomfortable night; but the wind subsiding, and the sky growing clear, the sun rose peculiarly warm and pleasant, streaming ten thousand rays of gold across the lake. Maria had scarcely performed her oraisons, when the savages, forming a circle round her and Henry, began to dance in a most extravagant manner, and with antic gestures that at another time would have afforded mirth to our travelers. Having continued their exercise some time, they incon- tinently drew out boxes of paint, and began to ornament their captives with a variety of colours; one hav- ing crossed their faces with a stroke of vermillion, another would inter- sect it with a line of black, and so on until the whole company had given a specimen of their skill or fancy.
Soon after two canoes arrived, in which they passed over the lake, which was uncommonly serene and pleasant. They proceeded not far on their way before they were ob- liged to halt for two days, on account of Maria’s inability to travel, her feet being greatly swollen and lace- rated by the flinty path. At length, by easy stages, they came in view of an Indian settlement, when Maria’s long unbent features relaxed into a half smile, and turning to Henry, “Here, my brother!” said she, “I shall find some of my own sex, to whom simple nature, no doubt, has taught humanity; this is the first pre- cept she inculcates in the female mind, and this they generally retain through life, in spite of every evil propensity.” As she uttered this elogium in favour of the fair, the tawny villagers, perceiving their ap- proach, rushed promiscuously from their huts with a execrable din, and fell upon the weary captives with clubs and a shower of stones, accom- panying their strokes with the most virulent language; among the rest an old deformed squaw, with the rage of a Tisiphone, flew to Maria, aim- ing a pine-knot at her head, and would certainly have given the wretched mourner her quietus had she not been opposed by the savage that guarded Mrs. Kittle: he at first mildly expostulated with his passion- ate countrywoman; but finding the old hag frantic, and insatiable of blood, he twisted the pine-know from her hand, and whirled it away to some distance, then seizing her arm roughly, and tripping up her heels, he laid her prostrate, leaving her to howl and yell at leisure, which she performed without a prompter.– Maria was all in a tremor, and has- tily followed her deliverer, not car- ing to risk another encounter with the exasperated virago. By this time the rage and tumult of the savages subsiding, the new-comers were ad- mitted into a large wigwam, in the center of which blazed a fire. After they were seated, several young In- dians entered with baskets of green maize in the ear, which, having roast- ed before the fire, they distributed among the company.
Mrs. Kittle and her brother com- plaining of the bruises they met with at their reception, an old Indian seemed to attend with great concern, then leaving the place, in a little time returned with a bundle of aromatic herbs under his arm, the juice of which, he expressed by rubbing them between two stones with flat surfaces; this he gave them to drink, applying the leaves externally. They instant- ly found relief from the medical qua- lity of this extraordinary plant, and composing themselves to sleep, ex- pected a good night’s repose; but they were mistaken, for their enter- tainers growing intoxicated with spi- rituous liquors, which operating dif- ferently, it produced a most compli- cated noise of yelling, talking, sing- ing, and quarrelling: this was a charm more powerful than the wand of Hermes to drive away sleep; but grown familiar with sorrow and dis- appointment, Maria regarded this as a trifle, and when Henry expressed his concern for her, smiling, replied, “We must arm ourselves with pati- ence, my brother! we can combat with fate in no other manner.”
It were endless to recapitulate mi- nutely every distress that attended the prisoners in their tedious journey; let it suffice, that having passed through uncommon misery, and imminent danger, they arrived at Montreal. Here the savages were joined by seve- ral scalping parties of their tribe, and having previously fresh painted them- selves, appeared in hideous pomp, and performed a kind of triumphal entry. The throng of people that came out to meet them threw Maria in the most painful sensations of embarrassment; but as the clamours and insults of the populace encreased, a freezing tor- por succeeded, and bedewed her limbs with a cold sweat–strange chi- meras danced before her sight–the actings of her soul were suspended –she seemed to move mechanically, nor recollected herself till she found she was seated in the Governor’s hall, surrounded by an impertinent, inqui- sitive circle of people, who were en- quiring into the cause of her disor- der, without attempting any thing towards her relief. Discovering her situation, she blushingly withdrew to a dark corner from the public gaze, and could not help sighing to herself, “Alas! but a very few days ago I was hailed as the happiest of women –my fond husband anticipated all my desires–my children smiled round me with filial delight–my very servants paid me the homage due to an angel–oh! my God! what a sudden, what a deplorable transition! I am fallen below con- tempt.” As she thus moralized on her situation, an English woman (whom humanity more than curiosi- ty had drawn to the place) approach- ed Maria, and observing her tears and deep dejection, took hold of her hand, and endeavoured to smile, but the soft impulses of nature were too strong for the efforts of dissimulation–her features instantly saddened again, and she burst into tears, exclaiming, (with a hesitating voice,) “Poor, forlorn creature! where are thy friends! perhaps the dying moments of thy fond parent, or husband, have been cruelly embittered with the sight of thy captivity! perhaps now thy help- less orphan is mourning for the breast which gave him nourishment! or thy plaintive little ones are wondering at the long absence of their miserable mother!”–“Oh! no more! no more!” interrupted Maria, “your pity is severer than savage cruelty–I could stand the shock of fortune with some degree of firmness, but your soft sympathy opens afresh the wounds of my soul! my losses are beyond your conjecture–I have no parent! no sportive children! and, I believe, no husband! to mourn and wish for me.” These words were succeeded by an affecting silence on both sides: mean while the Indians testified their impatience to be admitted to the Governor by frequent shouts; at Length his Excellency appeared, and Having held a long conference with The savages, they retired with his Se- cretary, and our prisoners saw them no more.
(To be continued.)
[4. December 1790]
After their exit the Governor Turning round to Maria and Henry, demanded who they were? Mrs. Kittle’s perplexity prevented her reply; but Henry, in a most re- spectful manner, gave him a succinct account of their misfortunes. The Governor perceiving him sensible and communicative, interrogated him far- ther, but he modestly declined giv- ing any political intelligence. Ob- serving that Maria suffered greatly in this interview, he soon concluded it, after having presented several pieces of callicoes and stuffs to them, desir- ing they would accept what they had occasion for. Mrs. Kittle immedi- ately singled out a piece of black cal- limanco with tears of gratitude to her benefactor; who, smiling, ob- served she might chuse a gayer co- lour, as he hoped her distresses were now over. Maria shook her head in token of dissent, but could make no reply. He then dismissed them, with a small guard, who was directed to provide them with decent lodging. Henry was accommodated at a bakers, while his sister, to her no small satisfaction, found herself plac- ed at the English woman’s who, on her arrival, had expressed so much good nature.–She had scarcely en- tered, when Mrs. D.–, presenting her with a cordial, led her to a couch, insisting on her reposing there a little, “for,” says she, “your waste of spirits requires it.”
This tenderness, which Maria had long been a stranger to, relaxed every fibre of her heart: She again melted into tears; but it was a gush of grate- ful acknowledgment, that called a modest blush of pleasure and per- plexity on Mrs. D–‘s check. Be- ing left alone, she soon fell in a pro- found sleep; and her friend having prepared a comfortable repast, in less than an hour awaked her, with an invitation to dinner–“and how do you find yourself, my sister?” said she instinctively, seizing Maria’s hand and compressing it between hers; “may we hope that you will assist us in conquering your dejection?”– Maria smiled benignly through a chrystal atmosphere of tears, and kis- sing the hand of her friend, arose. Having dined, and being now equip- ped in decent apparel, Maria became the admiration and esteem of the whole family. The tempest of her soul subsided in a solemn calm; and though she did not regain her viva- city, she became agreeably convers- able.
In a few days, however, she felt the symptoms of an approaching fe- ver. She was alarmed at this, and intimated to Mrs. D–her fears of becoming troublesome. “Do not be concerned,” returned that kind creature; “my God did not plant humanity in my breast to remain there an inactive principle.” Maria felt her oppression relieved by this gene- rous sentiment; and indeed found her friendship did not consist in profess- sion, as she incessantly tended her during her illness with inexpressible delicacy and solicitude. When she was again on the recovery, Mrs. D–one day ordered a small truck covered with Morocco leather to be brought before her, and opening it, produced several sets of fine linen, with some elegant stuffs and other necessaries–“See,” said she, “what the benevolence of Montreal has done for you. The ladies that beg your acceptance of these things, intend likewise to inhance the favour, by waiting on you this afternoon.”– “Ah!” interrupted Maria, “I want Them not; this one plain habit is enough to answer the purpose of dress for me. Shut the chest my dear Mrs. D–, and keep them as a small compensation for the immense trouble I have been to you.”–“If this is your real sentiment,” replied her friend, (shutting the chest, and presenting her the key,) “return your gifts to the donors; and since you will reward me for my little of- fices of friendship, only love me, and believe me disinterested, and I shall be overpaid.”–“I see I have wrong- ed your generosity,” answered Maria. “Pardon me, my sister, I will offend no more. I did not think you mer- cinary–but–but–I meant only to disengage my heart of a little of its burden.”–As this tender contest was painful to both parties, Mrs. D– rising abruptly, pretended some bu- siness, promising to return again di- rectly.
In the afternoon Maria received her visitants in a neat little parlour. She was dressed in a plain suit of mourning, and wore a small muslin cap, from which her hair fell in art- less curls on her fine neck: her face was pale, though not emaciated, and her eyes streamed a soft languor over her countenance, more bewitching than the sprightliest glances of viva- city. As they entered she arose, and advancing, modestly received their civilities, while Mrs. D–handed them to chairs: But hearing a well- known voice, she hastily lifted up her eyes, and screamed out in an accent of surprise, “Good Heaven! May I credit my senses? My dear Mrs. Bratt, my kind neighbor, is it re- ally you that I see?” Here she found herself clasped in her friend’s arms, who, after a long subsiding sigh, broke into tears. The tumult of pas- sion at length abating–“Could I have guessed, my Maria,” said she, “that you was here, my visit should not have been deferred a moment af- ter your arrival; but I have mourn- ed with a sister in affliction, (permit me to present her to you,) and while our hearts were wrung with each other’s distress, alas! we enquired after no foreign calamity.” Being all seated, “I dare not,” resumed Maria, “ask after your family; I am afraid you only have escaped to tell me of them.” Not so, my sister,” cried Mrs. Bratt; “but if you can bear the recollection of your misfor- tunes, do oblige me with the recital.” The ladies joined their entreaty, and Mrs. Kittle complied in a graceful manner.
After some time spent in tears, and pleasing melancholy, tea was brought in; and towards sun-set Mrs. D–invited the company to walk in the garden, which being very small, consisted only of a parterre, at the farther end of which stood an arbour covered with a grape-vine. Here being seated, after some chat on indifferent subjects, Maria desired Mrs. Bratt (if agreeable to the com- pany) to acquaint her with the cir- cumstances of her capture. They all bowed approbation; and after some hesitation Mrs. Bratt began:– “My heart, ladies, shall ever re- tain a sense of the happiness I enjoy- ed in the society of Mrs. Kittle and several other amiable persons in the vicinage of Schochticook, where I resided. She in particular cheered my lonely hours of widowhood, and omitted nothing that she thought might conduce to my serenity. I had two sons; she recommended the edu- cation of them to my leisure hours. I accepted of her advice, and found a suspension of my sorrows in the execution of my duty. They soon improved beyond my capacity of teaching. Richard, my eldest, was passionately fond of books, which he studied with intense application. This naturally attached him to a se- dentary life, and he became the con- stant instructive companion of me evening hours. My youngest son, Charles, was more volatile, yet not less agreeable; his person was charm- ing, his wit sprightly, and his ad- dress elegant. They often impor- tuned me, at the commencement of this war, to withdraw to Albany; but as I apprehended no danger, (the British troops being stationed above us, quite from Saratoga to the Lake) I ridiculed their fears.
“One evening as my sons were come in from reaping, and I was busied in preparing them a dish of tea, we were surprised by a discharge of musketry near us. We all three ran to the door, and beheld a party of Indians not twenty paces from us. Struck with astonishment, we had no power to move, and the savages again firing that instant, my Charles drop- ped down dead beside me. Good God! what were my emotions?
But language would fail, should I attempt to describe them. My sur- viving son then turning to me, with a countenance expressive of the deep- est horror urged me to fly. “Let us begone this instant,” said he; “a moment determines our fate. O! my mother! you are already lost.” But despair had swallowed up my fears; I fell shrieking on the body of my child, and rending away my hair, endeavoured to recall him to life with unavailing laments. Richard in the mean while had quitted me, and the moment after I beheld him mounted on horseback, and stretching away to the city. The Indians fired a volley at him, but missed, and I flatter my- self that he arrived safe–And now, not all my prayers and tears could prevent the wretches from scalping my precious child. But when they rent me away from him, and dragged me from the house, my grief and rage burst forth like a hurricane. I execrated their whole race, and called for eternal vengeance to crush them to atoms. After a while I grew a- shamed of my impetuosity; the tears began again to flow silently on my brow, and as I walked through the forest between two Indians, my soul grew suddenly sick and groaned in me; a darkness more substantial than Egyptian night fell upon it, and my existence became an insupportable burthen to me. I looked up to Hea- ven with a hopeless kind of awe, but I murmured no more at the dispensa- tions of my God, and in this frame of sullen resignation I passed the rest of my journey, which being nearly similar to Mrs. Kittle’s, I shall aboid the repetition of. And now permit me (said she, turning to the French ladies) to acknowledge your extreme goodness to me. I was a stranger, sick and naked, and you took me in. You indeed have proved the good Sa- maritan to me, pouring oil and wine in my wounds.” “Hush! hush!” cried Madame de Roche, “you esti- mate our services at too high a rate. I see you are no connoisseur in minds; there is a great deal of honest hospi- tality in the world, though you have met with so little.”
“I now reject,” interrupted Mrs. Bratt, “all prejudices of education. From my infancy have I been taught that the French were a cruel perfidi- ous enemy, but I have found them quite the reverse.”
Madame de R. willing to change the subject, accosted the other stran- ger–“Dear Mrs. Willis, shall we not be interested likewise in your misfortunes?”–“Ah! do,” added Mademoiselle V. “my heart is now sweetly tuned to melancholly. I love to indulge these divine sensibilities, which your affecting histories are so capable of inspiring.” –Maria then took hold of Mrs. Willis’s hand, and pressed her to oblige them.–Mrs. Willis bowed. She dropt a few tears; but assuming a composed look, she began–
(To be continued.)
[5. January 1791]
“I am the daughter of a poor clergyman, who being con- fined to his chamber, by sickness, for several years, amused himself by edu- cating me. At his death, finding myself friendless, and without mo- ney, I accepted the hand of a young man who had taken a leased farm in Pennsylvania. He was very agree- able, and extravagantly fond of me. We lived happily for many years in a kind of frugal affluence. When the savages began to commit out- rages on the frontier settlements, our neighbours, intimidated at their ra- pid approaches, erected a small fort, surrounded by a high palisade. Into this the more timorous drove their cattle at night; and one evening, as we were at supper, my husband (be- ing ordered on guard) insisted that I should accompany him with the chil- dren (for I had two lovely girls, one turned of thirteen years, and another of six months.) My Sophia assented to the proposal with joy. “Mamma,” said she, “what a merry woman the Captain’s wife is; she will divert us the whole evening, and she is very fond of your company: come, I will take our little Charlotte on my arm, and papa will carry the lan- thorn.” I acceded with a nod; and already the dear charmer had hand- ed me my hat and gloves, when some- body thundered at the door. We were silent as death, and instantly after plainly could distinguish the voices of savages conferring together. Chilled as I was with fear, I flew to the cradle, and catching my infant, ran up into a loft. Sophia followed me all trembling, and panting for breath cast herself in my bosom. Hearing the Indians enter, I looked through a crevice in the floor, and saw them, with menacing looks, seat themselves round the table, and now and then addressed themselves to Mr. Willis, who, all pale and astonished, neither understood nor had power to answer them. I observed they took a great pleasure in terrifying him, by flourishing their knives, and gash- ing the table with their hatchets. Alas! this sight shot icicles to my soul; and, to increase my distress, my Sophia’s little heart beat against my breath, with redoubled strokes, at every word they uttered.
“Having finished their repast in a gluttinous manner, they laid a fire- brand in each corner of the chamber, and then departed, driving poor Mr. Willis before them. The smoke soon incommoded us; but we dreaded our barbarous enemy more than the fire. At length, however, the flames be- ginning to invade our retreat, trem- bling and apprehensive we ventured down stairs; the whole house now glowed like a furnace; the flames rolled towards the stairs, which we hastily descended; but just as I sat my foot on the threshold of the door, a piece of timber, nearly consumed through, gave way, and fell on my left arm, which supported my infant, miserably fracturing the bone. I in- stantly caught up my fallen lamb, and hasted to overtake my Sophia. There was a large hollow tree conti- guous to our house, with an aperture just large enough to admit so small a woman as I am. Here we had often laughingly proposed to hide our chil- dren, in case of a visit from the olive coloured natives. In this we now took shelter; and being seated some time, my soul seemed to awake as it were from a vision of horror: I lifted up my eyes, and beheld the cottage that lately circumscribed all my worldly wealth and delight, melting away before the devouring fire. I dropt a tear as our apostate first parents did when thrust out from Eden.
“The world lay all before them, where to chuse their place of rest, and Providence their guide. Ah! Eve thought I, hadst thou been like me, solitary, maimed, and unpro- tected, thy situation had been deplo- rable indeed. Then pressing my babe to my heart, “how quiet art thou, my angel,” said I; “sure– sure, Heaven has stilled thy little plaints in mercy to us.”–“Ah!” sobbed Sophia, “now I am com- forted again that I hear my dear mamma’s voice. I was afraid grief would have for ever deprived me of that happiness.” And here she kissed my babe and me with vehemence. When her transports were moderated, “how cold my sister is,” said she, “do wrap her up warmer, mamma; poor thing, she is not used to such uncomfortable lodging.”
“The pain of my arm now called for all my fortitude and attention; but I forbore to mention this afflict- ing circumstance to my daughter. “The cheerful swallow now be- gan to usher in the dawn with melo- dy; we timidly prepared to quit our hiding place; and turning round to the light, I cast an anxious eye of love on my innocent, wondering that she slept so long. But oh! hor- ror and misery! I beheld her a pale, stiff corpse in my arms (suffer me to weep, ladies, at the cruel recollect- tion;) it seems the piece of wood that disabled me, had also crushed my Charlotte’s tender skull, and no won- der my hapless babe was quiet. I could no longer sustain my sorrowful burden, but falling prostrate, almost insensible, at the dreadful discovery, uttered nothing but groans. Sophia’s little heart was too susceptible for so moving a scene. Distracted between her concern for me, and her grief for the loss of her dear sister, she cast herself beside me, and with the soft- est voice of sorrow, bewailed the fate of her beloved Charlotte–her sweet companion–her innocent, laughing play-fellow. At length we rose, and Sophia, clasping all that remain- ed of my cherub in her arms, “Ah!” said she, “I did engage to carry you, my sister, but little did I expect in this distressing manner.” When we came in sight of the fort, though I endeavoured to spirit up my grieved child, yet I found my springs of ac- tion began to move heavily, my heart fluttered, and I suddenly faint- ed away. Sophia, concluding I was dead, uttered so piercing a cry, that the centinel looking up, immediate- ly called to those in the fort to assist us. When I recovered, I found m- self in a bed encircled by my kind neighbours, who divided their ex- pressions of love and condolement be- tween me and my child. I remain- ed in the fort after this; but, ladies, you may think, that bereft as I was of so kind a husband and endearing child, I soon found myself solitary and destitute. I wept incessantly; and hearing nothing from my dear Willis, I at length resolved to traverse the wilds of Canada in pursuit of him. When I communicated this to my friends, they all strongly oppos- ed it; but finding me inflexible, they furnished me with some money and necessaries, and obtained a permission from the Governor to let me go un- der protection of a flag that was on the way. Hearing likewise that a cartel was drawn for an exchange of prisoners, I sat out, flushed with hope, and with indefatigable industry and painful solicitude, arrived at Mon- treal, worn to a skeleton (as you see ladies) with fatigue.
“I omitted not to enquire of every officer, the names of prisoners who had been brought in. At length I understood that Mr. Willis had pe- rished in jail, on his first arrival, of a dysentery.–Here my expectations terminated in despair. I had no mo- ney to return with, and indeed but for my Sophia no inclination–the whole world seemed dark and chear- less to me as the fabled region of Cim- meria, and I was nigh perishing for very want, when Mrs. Bratt, hearing of my distress, sought my acquaint- ance: she kindly participated my sorrows, and too–too generously shared her purse and bed with me.– This, ladies, is the story of a broken- hearted woman; nor should I have intruded it in any other but the house of mourning.”
Here she concluded, while the ladies severally embracing her, ex- pressed their acknowledgements for the painful task she had complied with to oblige their curiosity– “Would to Heaven!” said Madame de R–, “that the brutal nations were extinct, for never–never can the united humanity of France and Bri- tain compensate for the horrid cruel- ties of their savage allies.” They were soon after summoned to an elegant collation; and having spent best part of the night together, the guests retired to their respective homes.
During two years, in which the French ladies continued their boun- ty and friendship to Mrs. Kittle, she never could gain the least intelligence of her husband. Her letters, after wandering through several provinces, would often return to her hands un- opened. Despairing at length of ever seeing him, “ah!” she would say to Mrs. D–, “my poof husband has undoubtedly perished, perhaps in his fruitless search after me, and I am left to be a long–long burden on your goodness, a very unprofitable dependant.”
In her friend’s absence she would descend into the kitchen, and submit to the most menial offices; nor could the servants prevent her; however, the apprised Mrs. D–of it, who seized an opportunity of detecting her at her labour. Being baffled in her humble attempt by the gentle re- proaches of her indulgent patroness, she sat down on the step of the door, and began to weep. “I believe, good Mrs. D–,” said she, “were you a hard task-master, that exacted from these useless hands the most sla- vish business, I could acquit myself with cheerfulness: my heart is like ice, that brightens and grows firmer by tempests, but cannot stand the warm rays of a kind sun.” Mrs. D–was beginning to answer, when hearing a tumult in the street, they both hasted to the door, and Maria, casting her eyes carelessly over the crowd, in an instant recognized the features of her long-lamented husband, who sprang towards her with an undescribable and involunta- ry rapture; but the tide of joy and surprise was too strong for the de- licacy of her frame. She gave a faint exclamation, and stretching out her arms to receive him, dropped senseless at his feet. The succession of his ideas were too rapid to admit describing. He caught her up, and bearing her in the hall, laid his pre- cious burden on a settee, kneeling be- side her in a speechless agony of de- light and concern. Mean while the spectators found themselves wonder- fully affected–the tender contagion ran from bosom to bosom–they wept aloud; and the house of joy seemed to be the house of lamentation. At length Maria opened her eyes and burst into a violent fit of tears–Mr. Kittle, with answering emotions, si- lently accompanying her; then clasp- ing his arms endearingly round her, “it is enough, my love,” said he; “we have had our night of affliction, and surely this blessed meeting is a presage of a long day of future hap- pines; let me kiss off those tears, and shew by your smiles that I am indeed welcome.” Maria then bend- ing fondly forward to his bosom, re- plied, sighing, “alas! how can your beggared wife give you a proper re- ception!–she cannot restore your prattling babes to your arms!–she comes alone–alas! her presence will only serve to remind you of the trea- sures–the filial delights you have lost.”–“God forbid,” answered he, “that I should repine at the loss of my smaller comforts, when so capital a blessing as my beloved Maria is so wonderfully restored to me.” Here he was in civility obliged to rise and receive the compliments of Mrs. Bratt, Mrs. Willis, and Madame de R–, who, hearing of his arrival, entered just then half breathless, with impatience and joy. The company encreased. An elegant dinner was prepared. In short, the day was de- voted to pleasure; and never was satisfaction more general–festivity glowed on every face, and compla- cency dimpled every cheek. After tea Maria withdrew in the garden, to give her beloved an ac- count of what had befallen her dur- ing their separation. The eloquence of sorrow is irresistible. Mr. Kittle wept, he groaned, while all impassi- oned (with long interruptions of grief in her voice) she stammered through her doleful history, and yet she felt a great satisfaction in pouring her complaints into a bosom whose feel- ings were in unison with her’s–they wept–the smiled–they mourned, and rejoiced alternately, with an abrupt transition from one passion to another.
Mr. Kittle, in return, informed her, that having thrown himself into the army, in hopes of ending a being that grew insupportable under the reflection of past happiness–he tempted death in every action where- in he was engaged, and being dis- appointed, gave himself up to the blackest melancholy. “This gloomy scene,” he observed, “would soon have been closed by some act of des- peration, but one evening, sitting pensive in his tent, and attentively running over the circumstances of his misfortunes, a thought darted on his mind that possibly his brother Henry might be alive.” This was the first time the idea of any one of his fa- mily’s surviving the general murder had presented itself to him, and he caught at the flattering suggestion as a drowning wretch would to a plank. “Surely–surely,” said he, “my bro- ther lives–it is some divine emana- tion lights up the thought in my soul –it carries conviction with it–I will go after him–it shall be the comfort and employment of my life to find out this dear brother–this last and only treasure.” Persuaded of the reality of his fancy, he commu- nicated his design to a few of his mi- litary friends; but they only laughed at his extravagance, and strongly dissuaded him from so wild an un- dertaking. Being discouraged, he desisted; but shortly after, hearing that a company of prisoners (who were enfranchised) were returning to Quebec, he got permission to accom- pany them. After a very fatiguing journey he arrived at Montreal, and was immediately introduced to the General Officer, who patiently heard his story, and treated him with great clemency. Having obtained leave to remain a few days in town, he re- spectfully withdrew, and turning down a street, he enquired of a man who was walking before him, where lodgings were to be let? The stran- ger turned about, civily taking off his hat, when Mr. Kittle, starting back, grew as pale as ashes–“Oh, my God!” cried he, panting, “oh! Henry, is it you! is it indeed you! No, it cannot be!” Here he was ready to fall; but Henry, with little less agitation, supported him; and a tavern being at hand, he led him in. The master of the hotel brought in wine, and they drank off many glasses to congratulate so happy a meeting. When their transports were abated, Henry ventured to tell him that his Maria was living and well. This was a weight of joy too strong for his enfeebled powers–he stared wild- ly about. At length, recovering him- self, “take care, Henry,” said he, “this is too tender a point to trifle upon.”–“My brother,” replied Henry, “be calm, let not your joy have a worse effect than your grief– they both came sudden, and it be- hoves a man and a christian to shew as much fortitude under the one as the other.”–“Alas! I am prepared for some woeful deception,” cried Mr. Kittle; “but, Henry, this sus- pence is cruel.”–“By the eternal God!” rejoined his brother, “your Maria–your wife–is in this town, and if you are composed enough, shall immediately see her. Mr. Kit- tle could not speak–he gave his hand to Henry, and while (like the Apos- tles friends) he believed not for joy, he was conducted to her arms, and found his bliss wonderfully real.