Oak Openings

by James Fenimore Cooper

Previous Chapter Next Chapter

Chapter XXI.

     She was an only child--her name Ginevra,
     The joy, the pride of an indulgent father;
     And in her fifteenth year became a bride,
     Marrying an only son, Francesco Dona,
     Her playmate from her birth, and her first love.

During the hunt there was little leisure for reflection on the seemingly extraordinary manner in which the bee-hunter had pointed out the spot where the bears were to be found. No one of the Indians had seen him apply the glass to his eye, for, leading the party, he had been able to do this unobserved; but, had they witnessed such a procedure, it would have been as inexplicable as all the rest. It is true, Crowsfeather and one or two of his companions had taken a look through that medicine-glass, but it rather contributed to increase the conjuror's renown, than served to explain any of the marvels he performed.

Peter was most struck with all that had just occurred. He had often heard of the skill of those who hunted bees, and had several times met with individuals who practised the art, but this was the first occasion on which he had ever been a witness, in his own person, of the exercise of a craft so wonderful! Had the process been simply that of catching a bee, filling it with honey, letting it go, and then following it to its hive, it would have been so simple as to require no explanation. But Peter was too intelligent, as well as too observant, not to have seen that a great deal more than this was necessary. On the supposition that the bee flew toward the forest, as had been the fact with two of the bees taken that morning, in what part of that forest was the hunter to look for the bee-tree? It was the angle that perplexed Peter, as it did all the Indians; for that angle, to be understood, required a degree of knowledge and calculation that entirely exceeded all he had ever acquired. Thus is it with us ever. The powers, and faculties, and principles that are necessary fully to comprehend all that we see and all that surrounds us, exist and have been bestowed on man by his beneficent Creator. Still, it is only by slow degrees that he is to become their master, acquiring knowledge, step by step, as he has need of its services, and learns how to use it. Such seems to be the design of Providence, which is gradually opening to our inquiries the arcana of nature, in order that we may convert their possession into such uses as will advance its own wise intentions. Happy are they who feel this truth in their character of individuals! Thrice happy the nations which can be made to understand, that the surest progress is that which is made on the clearest principles, and with the greatest caution! The notion of setting up anything new in morals, is as fallacious in theory as it will be found to be dangerous in practice.

It has been said that a sudden change had come over the fierce purposes of Peter. For some time, the nature, artlessness, truth, feminine playfulness and kindness, not to say personal beauty of Margery, had been gradually softening the heart of this stern savage, as it respected the girl herself. Nothing of a weak nature was blended with this feeling, which was purely the growth of that divine principle that is implanted in us all. The quiet, earnest manner in which the girl had, that day, protested her desire to see the rights of the red man respected, completed her conquest; and, so far as the great chief was concerned, secured her safety. It may seem singular, however, that Peter, with all his influence, was unable to say that even one that he was so much disposed to favor, should be spared. By means of his own eloquence, and perseverance, and deep desire for vengeance, however, he had aroused a spirit among his followers that was not so easily quelled. On several occasions, he had found it difficult to prevent the younger and more impetuous of the chiefs from proceeding at once to secure the scalps of those who were in their power; and this he had done, only by promising to increase the number of the victims. How was he then to lessen that number? and that, too, when circumstances did not seem likely to throw any more immediately into his power, as he had once hoped. This council must soon be over, and it would not be in his power to send the chiefs away without enumerating the scalps of the pale-faces present among those which were to make up the sum of their race.

Taking the perplexity produced by the bee-hunter's necromancy, and adding it to his concern for Margery, Peter found ample subject for all his reflections. While the young men were dressing their bears, and making the preparations for a feast, he walked apart, like a man whose thoughts had little in common with the surrounding scene. Even the further proceedings of le Bourdon, who had discovered his bee- tree, had felled it, and was then distributing the honey among the Indians, could not draw him from his meditations. The great council of all was to be held that very day--there, on Prairie Round--and it was imperative on Peter to settle the policy he intended to pursue, previously to the hour when the fire was to be lighted, and the chiefs met in final consultation.

In the mean time, le Bourdon, by his distribution of the honey, no less than by the manner in which he had found it, was winning golden opinions of those who shared in his bounty. One would think that the idea of property is implanted in us by nature, since men in all conditions appear to entertain strong and distinct notions of this right. Natural it may not be, in the true signification of the term; but it is a right so interwoven with those that are derived from nature, and more particularly with our wants, as almost to identify it with the individual being. It is certain that all we have of civilization is dependent on a just protection of this right; for, without the assurance of enjoying his earnings, who would produce beyond the supply necessary for his own immediate wants? Among the American savages the rights of property are distinctly recognized, so far as their habits and resources extend. The hunting-ground belongs to the tribe, and occasionally the field; but the wigwam, and the arms, and the skins, both for use and for market, and often the horses, and all other movables, belong to the individual. So sacred is this right held to be, that not one of those who stood by, and saw le Bourdon fell his tree, and who witnessed the operation of bringing to light its stores of honey, appeared to dream of meddling with the delicious store, until invited so to do by its lawful owner. It was this reserve, and this respect for a recognized principle, that enabled the bee-hunter to purchase a great deal of popularity, by giving away liberally an article so much prized. None, indeed, was reserved; Boden seeing the impossibility of carrying it away. Happy would he have been, most happy, could he have felt the assurance of being able to get Margery off, without giving a second thought to any of his effects, whether present or absent.

As has been intimated, the bee-hunter was fast rising in the favor of the warriors; particularly of those who had a weakness on the score of the stomach. This is the first great avenue to the favor of man--the belly ruling all the other members, the brains included. All this Peter noted, and was now glad to perceive; for, in addition to the favor that Margery had found in his eyes, that wary chief had certain very serious misgivings on the subject of the prudence of attempting to deal harshly with a medicine man of Boden's calibre. Touching the whiskey-spring he had been doubtful, from the first; even Crowsfeather's account of the wonderful glass through which that chief had looked, and seen men reduced to children and then converted into giants, had failed to conquer his scepticism; but he was not altogether proof against what he had that day beheld with his own eyes. These marvels shook his previous opinion touching the other matters; and, altogether, the effect was to elevate the bee- hunter to a height, that it really appeared dangerous to assail.

While Peter was thus shaken with doubts--and that, too, on a point on which he had hitherto stood as firm as a rock--there was another in the crowd, who noted the growing favor of le Bourdon with deep disgust. This man could hardly be termed a chief, though he possessed a malignant power that was often wielded to the discomfiture of those who were. He went by the significant appellation of "The Weasel," a sobriquet that had been bestowed on him for some supposed resemblance to the little pilfering, prowling quadruped after which he was thus named. In person, and in physical qualities generally, this individual was mean and ill-favored; and squalid habits contributed to render him even less attractive than he might otherwise have been. He was, moreover, particularly addicted to intemperance; lying, wallowing like a hog, for days at a time, whenever his tribe received any of the ample contribution of fire-water, which it was then more the custom than it is to-day, to send among the aborigines. A warrior of no renown, a hunter so indifferent as to compel his squaw and pappooses often to beg for food in strange lodges, of mean presence, and a drunkard, it may seem extraordinary that the Weasel should possess any influence amid so many chiefs renowned for courage, wisdom, deeds in arms, on the hunt, and for services around the council-fire. It was all due to his tongue. Ungque, or the Weasel, was eloquent in a high degree-- possessing that variety of his art which most addresses itself to the passions; and, strange as it may seem, men are oftener and more easily led by those who do little else than promise, than by those who actually perform. A lying and fluent tongue becomes a power of itself, with the masses; subverting reason, looking down justice, brow-beating truth, and otherwise placing the wrong before the right. This quality the Weasel possessed in a high degree, and was ever willing to use, on occasions that seemed most likely to defeat the wishes of those he hated. Among the last was Peter, whose known ascendancy in his own particular tribe had been a source of great envy and uneasiness to this Indian. He had struggled hard to resist it, and had even dared to speak in favor of the pale-faces, and in opposition to the plan of cutting them all off, purely with a disposition to oppose this mysterious stranger. It had been in vain, however; the current running the other way, and the fiery eloquence of Peter proving too strong even for him. Now, to his surprise, from a few words dropped casually, this man ascertained that their greatest leader was disposed so far to relent, as not to destroy all the pale-faces in his power. Whom, and how many he meant to spare, Ungque could not tell; but his quick, practised discernment detected the general disposition, and his ruthless tendency to oppose, caused him to cast about for the means of resisting this sudden inclination to show mercy. With the Weasel, the moving principle was ever that of the demagogue; it was to flatter the mass that he might lead it; and he had an innate hostility to whatever was frank, manly, and noble.

The time had now come when the Indians wished to be alone. At this council it was their intention to come to an important decision; and even the "young men," unless chiefs, were to be merely distant spectators. Peter sent for le Bourdon, accordingly, and communicated his wish that all the whites would return to the castle, whither he promised to join them about the setting of the sun, or early the succeeding day.

"One of you, you know--dat my wigwam," said the grim chief, smiling on Margery with a friendly eye, and shaking hands with the bee- hunter, who thought his manner less constrained than on former similar occasions. "Get good supper for ole Injin, young squaw; dat juss what squaw good for."

Margery laughingly promised to remember his injunction, and went her way, closely attended by her lover. The corporal followed, armed to the teeth, and keeping at just such a distance from the young people, as might enable them to converse without being overheard. As for the missionary, he was detained a moment by Peter, the others moving slowly, in order to permit him to come up, ere they had gone their first mile. Of course, the mysterious chief had not detained Parson Amen without a motive.

"My brother has told me many curious things," said Peter, when alone with the missionary, and speaking now in the language of the Ojebways--"many very curious things. I like to listen to them. Once he told me how the pale-face young men take their squaws."

"I remember to have told you this. We ask the Great Spirit to bless our marriages, and the ceremony is commonly performed by a priest. This is our practice, Peter; though not necessary, I think it good."

"Yes; good alway for pale-face to do pale-face fashion, and for Injin to do Injin fashion. Don't want medicine-man to get red-skin squaw. Open wigwam door, and she come in. Dat 'nough. If she don't wish to come in, can't make her. Squaw go to warrior she likes; warrior ask squaw he likes. But it is best for pale-face to take his wife in pale-face fashion. Does not my brother see a young man of his people, and a young maiden, that he had better bring together and bless?"

"You must mean Bourdon and Margery," answered the missionary, in English, after a moment's reflection. "The idea is a new one to me; for my mind has been much occuoccupied of late, with other and more important matters; though I now plainly see what you mean!"

"That flower of the Openings would soon fade, if the young bee- hunter should leave it alone on the prairies. This is the will of the Great Spirit. He puts it into the minds of the young squaws to see all things well that the hunters of their fancy do. Why he has made the young with this kindness for each other, perhaps my brother knows. He is wise, and has books. The poor Injins have none. They can see only with the eyes they got from Injins, like themselves. But one thing they know. What the Great Spirit has commanded, is good. Injins can't make it any better. They can do it harm, but they can do it no good. Let my brother bless the couple that the Manitou has brought together."

"I believe I understand you. Peter, and will think of this. And now that I must leave you for a little while, let me beg you to think of this matter of the origin of your tribes, candidly, and with care. Everything depends on your people's not mistaking the truth, in this great matter. It is as necessary for a nation to know its duties, as for a single man. Promise me to think of this, Peter."

"My brother's words have come into my ears--they are good," returned the Indian, courteously. "We will think of them at the council, if my brother will bless his young man and young maiden, according to the law of his people."

"I will promise to do this, Peter; or to urge Bourdon and Margery to do it, if you will promise to speak to-day, in council, of the history of your forefathers, and to take into consideration, once more, the great question of your being Hebrews."

"I will speak as my brother wishes--let him do as I wish. Let him tell me that I can say to the chiefs before the sun has fallen the length of my arm, that the young pale-face bee-hunter has taken the young pale-face squaw into his wigwam."

"I do not understand your motive, Peter; but that which you ask is wise, and according to God's laws, and it shall be done. Fare you well, then, for a season. When we again meet, Bourdon and Margery shall be one, if my persuasions can prevail, and you will have pressed this matter of the lost tribes, again, home to your people. Fare you well, Peter; fare you well."

They separated; the Indian with a cold smile of courtesy, but with his ruthless intentions as respected the missionary in no degree changed. Boden and Margery alone were exempt from vengeance, according to his present designs. An unaccountable gentleness of feeling governed him, as connected with the girl; while superstition, and the dread of an unknown power, had its full influence on his determination to spare her lover. There might be some faint ray of human feeling glimmering among the fierce fires that so steadily burned in the breast of this savage; but they were so much eclipsed by the brighter light that gleamed around them, as to be barely perceptible, even to himself. The result of all these passions was, a determination in Peter to spare those whom he had advised the missionary to unite--making that union a mysterious argument in favor of Margery--and to sacrifice all the rest. The red American is so much accustomed to this species of ruthless proceeding, that the anguish he might occasion the very beings to whom he now wished to be merciful, gave the stern chief very little concern. Leaving the Indians in the exclusive possession of Prairie Round, we will return to the rest of the party.

The missionary hastened after his friends as fast as he could go. Boden and Margery had much to say to each other in that walk, which had a great deal about it to bring their thoughts within the circle of their own existence. As has been said, the fire had run through that region late, and the grasses were still young, offering but little impediment to their movements. As the day was now near its heat, le Bourdon led his spirited, but gentle companion, through the groves, where they had the benefit of a most delicious shade, a relief that was now getting to be very grateful. Twice had they stopped to drink at cool, clear springs, in which the water seemed to vie with the air in transparency. As this is not the general character of the water of that region, though marked exceptions exist, Margery insisted that the water was eastern and not western water.

"Why do we always think the things we had in childhood better than those we enjoy afterward?" asked Margery, after making one of these comparisons, somewhat to the disadvantage of the part of the country in which she then was. "I can scarce ever think of home--what I call home, and which was so long a home to me--without shedding tears. Nothing here seems as good of its kind as what I have left behind me. Do you have the same longings for Pennsylvania that I feel for the sea-coast and for the rocks about Quincy?"

"Sometimes. When I have been quite alone for two or three months, I have fancied that an apple, or a potato, or even a glass of cider that came from the spot where I was born, would be sweeter than all the honey bees ever gathered in Michigan."

"To me it has always seemed strange, Bourdon, that one of your kind feelings should ever wish to live alone, at all; yet I have heard you say that a love of solitude first drew you to your trade."

"It is these strong cases which get a man under, as it might be, and almost alter his nature. One man will pass his days in hunting deer; another in catching fish; my taste has been for the bees, and for such chances with other creatures as may offer. What between hunting, and hiving, and getting the honey to market, I have very little time to long for company. But my taste is altering, Margery; has altered."

The girl blushed, but she also smiled, and, moreover, she looked pleased.

"I am afraid that you are not as much altered as you think," she answered, laughingly, however. "It may seem so now; but when you come to live in the settlements again, you will get tired of crowds."

"Then I will come with you, Margery, into these Openings, and we can live together here, surely, as well, or far better than I can live here alone. You and Gershom's wife have spoiled my housekeeping. I really did not know, until you came up here, how much a woman can do in a chiente.

"Why, Bourdon, you have lived long enough in the settlements to know that!"

"That is true; but I look upon the settlements as one thing, and on the Openings as another. What will do there isn't needed here; and what will do here won't answer there. But these last few days have so changed Castle Meal, that I hardly know it myself."

"Perhaps the change is for the worse, and you wish it undone, Bourdon," observed the girl, in the longing she had to hear an assurance to the contrary, at the very moment she felt certain that assurance would be given.

"No, no, Margery. Woman has taken possession of my cabin, and woman shall now always command there, unless you alter your mind, and refuse to have me. I shall speak to the missionary to marry us, as soon as I can get him alone. His mind is running so much on the Jews, that he has hardly a moment left for us Christians."

The color on Margery's cheek was not lessened by this declaration; though, to admit the truth, she looked none the less pleased. She was a warm-hearted and generous girl, and sometimes hesitated about separating herself and her fortunes from those of Gershom and Dorothy; but the bee-hunter had persuaded her this would be unnecessary, though she did accept him for a husband. The point had been settled between them on previous occasions, and much conversation had already passed, in that very walk, which was confined to that interesting subject. But Margery was not now disposed to say more, and she adroitly improved the hint thrown out by Boden, to change the discourse.

"It is the strangest notion I ever heard of," she cried, laughing, "to believe Injins to be Jews!"

"He tells me he is by no means the first who has fancied it. Many writers have said as much before him, and all he claims is, to have been among them, and to have seen these Hebrews with his own eyes. But here he comes, and can answer for himself."

Just as this was said, Parson Amen joined the party, Corporal Flint closing to the front, as delicacy no longer required him to act as a rear-guard. The good missionary came up a little heated; and, in order that he might have time to cool himself, the rate of movement was slightly reduced. In the mean time the conversation did not the less proceed.

"We were talking of the lost tribes," said Margery, half smiling as she spoke, "and of your idea, Mr. Amen, that these Injins are Jews. It seems strange to me that they should have lost so much of their ancient ways, and notions, and appearances, if they are really the people you think."

"Lost! It is rather wonderful that, after the lapse of two thousand years and more, so much should remain. Whichever way I look, signs of these people's origin beset me. You have read your Bible, Margery--which I am sorry to say all on this frontier have not--but you have read your Bible, and one can make an allusion to you with some satisfaction. Now, let me ask you if you remember such a thing as the scape-goat of the ancient Jews. It is to be found in Leviticus, and is one of those mysterious customs with which that extraordinary book is full."

"Leviticus is a book I never read but once, for we do not read it in our New England schools. But I do remember that the Jews were commanded to let one of two goats go, from which practice it has, I believe, been called a scape-goat."

"Well," said le Bourdon, simply, "what a thing is 'l'arnin'!' Now, this is all news to me, though I have heard of 'scape-goats,' and talked of 'scape-goats' a thousand times! There's a meanin' to everything, I find; and I do not look upon this idea of the lost tribes as half as strange as I did before I l'arnt this!"

Margery had not fallen in love with the bee-hunter for his biblical knowledge, else might her greater information have received a rude shock by this mark of simplicity; but instead of dwelling on this proof of le Bourdon's want of "schooling," her active mind was more disposed to push the allusion to scape-goats to some useful conclusion.

"And what of the goat, Mr. Amen?" she asked; "and how can it belong to anything here?"

"Why were all those goats turned into the woods and deserts, in the olden time, Margery? Doubtless to provide food for the ten tribes, when these should be driven forth by conquerors and hard task- masters. Time, and climate, and a difference of food, has altered them, as they have changed the Jews themselves, though they still retain the cleft hoof, the horns, the habits, and the general characteristics of the goats of Arabia. Yes; naturalists will find in the end, that the varieties of the deer of this continent, particularly the antelope, are nothing but the scape-goats of the ancient world, altered and perhaps improved by circumstances."

As this was much the highest flight the good missionary had ever yet taken, not trifling was the astonishment of his young friends thereat. Touching the Jews, le Bourdon did not pretend to, or in fact did not possess much knowledge; but when the question was reduced down to one of venison, or bears' meat, or bisons' humps, with the exception of the professed hunters and trappers, few knew more about them all than he did himself. That the deer, or even the antelopes of America ever had been goats, he did not believe; nor was he at all backward in letting his dissent to such a theory be known.

"I'm sorry, Parson Amen, you've brought in the deer," he cried. "Had you stuck to the Jews, I might have believed all that you fancy, in this business; but the deer have spoiled all. As for scape-goats, since Margery seems to agree with you, I suppose you are right about them though my notion of such creatures has been to keep clear of them, instead of following them up, as you seem to think these Hebrews have done. But if you are no nearer right in your doctrine about the Injins than you are about their game, you'll have to change your religion."

"Do not think that my religion depends on any thread so slight, Bourdon. A man may be mistaken in interpreting prophecy, and still be a devout Christian. There are more reasons than you may at first suppose, for believing in this theory of the gradual change of the goat into the deer, and especially into the antelope. We do not any of us believe that Noah had with him, in the ark, all the animals that are now to be found, but merely the parent-stems, in each particular case, which would be reducing the number many fold. If all men came from Adam, Bourdon, why could not all deer come from goats?"

"Why this matter about men has a good deal puzzled me, Parson, and I hardly know what answer to give. Still, men are men, wherever you find them. They may be lighter or darker, taller or shorter, with hair or wool, and yet you can see they are men. Perhaps food, and climate, and manner of living, may have made all the changes we see in them; but Lord, Parson, a goat has a beard!"

"What has become of the thousands of scape-goats that the ancient Hebrews must have turned loose in the wilderness? Answer me that, Bourdon?"

"You might as well ask me, sir, what has become of the thousands of Hebrews who turned them loose. I suppose all must be dead a thousand years ago. Scape-goats are creatures that even Injins would not like."

"All this is a great mystery, Bourdon--a much greater mystery than our friend Peter, whom you have so often said was a man so unaccountable. By the way, he has given me a charge to perform an office between you and Margery, that I had almost forgotten. From what he said to me, I rather think it may have some connection with our safety. We have enemies among these savages, I feel very certain; though I believe we have also warm friends."

"But what have you in charge that has anything to do with Bourdon and me?" asked the wondering Margery, who was quick to observe the connection, though utterly at a loss to comprehend it.

The missionary now called a halt, and finding convenient seats, he gradually opened the subject with which he had been charged by Peter to his companions. The reader is probably prepared to learn that there was no longer any reserve between le Bourdon and Margery on the subject of their future marriage. The young man had already pressed an immediate union, as the wisest and safest course to be pursued. Although the savage American is little addicted to abusing his power over female captives, and seldom takes into his lodge an unwilling squaw, the bee-hunter had experienced a good deal of uneasiness on the score of what might befall his betrothed. Margery was sufficiently beautiful to attract attention, even in a town; and more than one fierce-looking warrior had betrayed his admiration that very day, though it was in a very Indian-like fashion. Rhapsody, and gallant speeches, and sonnets, form no part of Indian courtship; but the language of admiration is so very universal, through the eyes, that it is sufficiently easy of comprehension. It was possible that some chief, whose band was too formidable to be opposed, might take it into his head to wish to see a pale-face squaw in his wigwam; and, while it was not usual to do much violence to a female's inclinations on such occasions, it was not common to offer much opposition to those of a powerful warrior. The married tie, if it could be said to exist at all, however, was much respected; and it was far less likely that Margery, a wife, would thus be appropriated, than Margery, unmarried. It is true, cases of unscrupulous exercise of power are to be found among Indians, as well as among civilized men, but they are rare, and usually are much condemned.

The bee-hunter, consequently, was well disposed to second Peter's project. As for Margery herself, she had half yielded all her objections to her lover's unaided arguments, and was partly conquered before this reinforcement was brought into the field against her. Peter's motive was much canvassed, no one of them all being able to penetrate it. Boden, however, had his private opinion on the subject, nor was it so very much out of the way. He fancied that the mysterious chief was well disposed to Margery, and wished to put her as far as possible beyond the chances of an Indian wigwam; marriage being the step of all others most likely to afford her this protection. Now this was not exactly true, but it was right enough in the main. Peter's aim was to save the life of the girl; her gentle attractions, and kind attentions to himself having wrought this much in her favor; and he believed no means of doing so as certain as forming a close connection for her with the great medicine-bee-hunter. Judging of them by himself, he did not think the Indians would dare to include so great a conjurer in their schemes of vengeance, and was willing himself that le Bourdon should escape, provided Margery could go free and unharmed with him. As for the bee-hunter's powers, he had many misgivings; they might be dangerous to the red men, and they might not. On this subject, he was in the painful doubts of ignorance, and had the wide area of conjecture open before his mind. He saw; but it was "as in a glass, darkly."

Margery was disposed to delay the ceremony, at least until her brother and sister might be present. But to this le Bourdon himself was not much inclined. It had struck him that Gershom was opposed to an early marriage, most probably because he fancied himself more secure of the bee-hunter's ingenious and important aid in getting back to the settlements, so long as this strong inducement existed to cling to himself, than if he should release his own hold of Margery, by giving her at once to her lover. Right or wrong, such was the impression taken up by le Bourdon, and he was glad when the missionary urged his request to be permitted to pronounce the nuptial benediction on the spot.

Little ceremony is generally used in an American marriage. In a vast many cases no clergyman is employed at all; and where there is, most of the sects have no ring, no giving away, nor any of those observances which were practised in the churches of old. There existed no impediment, therefore; and after a decent interval spent in persuasions, Margery consented to plight her vows to the man of her heart before they left the spot. She would fain have had Dorothy present, for woman loves to lean on her own sex on such occasions, but submitted to the necessity of proceeding at once, as the bee- hunter and the missionary chose to term it.

A better altar could not have been selected in all that vast region. It was one of nature's own erecting; and le Bourdon and his pretty bride placed themselves before it, with feelings suited to the solemnity of the occasion. The good missionary stood within the shade of a burr oak in the centre of those park-like Openings, every object looking fresh, and smiling, and beautiful. The sward was gieen, and short as that of a well-tended lawn; the flowers were, like the bride herself, soft, modest, and sweet; while charming rural vistas stretched through the trees, much as if art had been summoned in aid of the great mistress who had designed the landscape. When the parties knelt in prayer--which all present did, not excepting the worthy corporal--it was on the verdant ground, with first the branches of the trees, and then the deep, fathomless vault of heaven for a canopy. In this manner was the marriage benediction pronounced on the bee-hunter and Margery Waring, in the venerable Oak Openings. No gothic structure, with its fretted aisles and clustered columns, could have been onehalf as appropriate for the union of such a couple.

Return to the Oak Openings Summary Return to the James Fenimore Cooper Library

It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so.