The Pioneers

by James Fenimore Cooper

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Chapter IX.

Now all admire, in each high-flavored dish The capabilities of flesh--fowl--fish; In order due each guest assumes his station, Throbs high his breast with fond anticipation, And prelibates the joys of mastication. "--Heliogabaliad.

The apartment to which Monsieur Le Quoi handed Elizabeth communicated with the hall, through the door that led under the urn which was supposed to contain the ashes of Dido. The room was spacious, and of very just proportions; but in its ornaments and furniture the same diversity of taste and imperfection of execution were to be observed as existed in the hall. Of furniture, there were a dozen green, wooden arm-chairs, with cushions of moreen, taken from the same piece as the petticoat of Remarkable. The tables were spread, and their materials and workmanship could not be seen; but they were heavy and of great size, An enormous mirror, in a gilt frame, hung against the wall, and a cheerful fire, of the hard or sugar maple, was burning on the hearth. The latter was the first object that struck the attention of the Judge, who on beholding it exclaimed, rather angrily, to Richard:

"How often have I forbidden the use of the sugar maple in my dwelling! The sight of that sap, as it exudes with the heat, is painful to me, Richard, Really, it behooves the owner of woods so extensive as mine, to be cautious what example he sets his people, who are already felling the forests as if no end could be found to their treasures, nor any limits to their extent. If we go on in this way, twenty years hence we shall want fuel."

"Fuel in these hills, Cousin Duke!" exclaimed Richard, in derision--" fuel! why, you might as well predict that the fish will die for the want of water in the lake, because I intend, when the frost gets out of the ground, to lead one or two of the spring; through logs, into the village. But you are always a little wild on such subject; Marmaduke."

"Is it wildness," returned the Judge earnestly, "to condemn a practice which devotes these jewels of the forest, these precious gifts of nature, these mines of corn- I fort and wealth, to the common uses of a fireplace? But I must, and will, the instant the snow is off the earth, send out a party into the mountains to explore for coal."

"Coal!" echoed Richard. "Who the devil do you think will dig for coal when, in hunting for a bushel. he would have to rip up more of trees than would keep him in fuel for a twelvemonth? Poh! poh! Marmaduke: you should leave the management of these things to me, who have a natural turn that way. It was I that ordered this fire, and a noble one it is, to warm the blood of my pretty Cousin Bess."

The motive, then, must be your apology, Dick on," said the Judge.--" But, gentlemen, we are waiting.-- Elizabeth, my child, take the head of the table; Richard, I see, means to spare me the trouble of carving, by sitting opposite to you."

"To be sure I do," cried Richard. "Here is a turkey to carve; and I flatter myself that I understand carving a turkey, or, for that matter, a goose, as well as any man alive.--Mr. Grant! Wheres Mr. Grant? Will you please to say grace, sir? Everything in getting cold. Take a thing from the fire this cold weather, and it will freeze in five minutes. Mr. Grant, we want you to say grace. For what we are about to receive, the Lord make, us thankful Come, sit down, sit down. Do you eat wing or breast, Cousin Bess?"

But Elizabeth had not taken her seat, nor Was she in readiness to receive either the wing or breast. Her Laughing eyes were glancing at the arrangements of the table, and the quality and selection of the food. The eyes of the father soon met the wondering looks of his daughter, and he said, with a smile:

"You perceive, my child, how much we are indebted to Remarkable for her skill in housewifery. She has indeed provided a noble repast--such as well might stop the cravings of hunger."

"Law!" said Remarkable, "Im glad if the Judge is pleased; but Im notional that youll find the sace over done. I thought, as Elizabeth was coming home, that a body could do no less than make things agreeable."

"My daughter has now grown to womans estate, and is from this moment mistress of my house," said the Judge; "it is proper that all who live with me address her as Miss Temple.

"Do tell!" exclaimed Remarkable, a little aghast; "well, who ever heerd of a young womans being called Miss? If the Judge had a wife now, I shouldnt think of calling her anything but Miss Temple; but--"

"Having nothing but a daughter you will observe that style to her, if you please, in future," interrupted Marmaduke.

As the Judge looked seriously displeased, and, at such moments, carried a particularly commanding air with him, the wary housekeeper made no reply; and, Mr. Grant entering the room, the whole party were seated at the table. As the arrangements of this repast were much in the prevailing taste of that period and country, we shall endeavor to give a short description of the appearance of the banquet.

The table-linen was of the most beautiful damask, and the plates and dishes of real china, an article of great luxury at this early period of American commerce. The knives and forks were of exquisitely polished steel, and were set in unclouded ivory. So much, being furnished by the wealth of Marmaduke, was not only comfortable but even elegant. The contents of the several dishes, and their positions, however, were the result of the sole judgment of Remarkable. Before Elizabeth was placed an enormous roasted turkey, and before Richard one boiled, in the centre of the table stood a pair of heavy silver casters, surrounded by four dishes: one a fricassee that consisted of gray squirrels; another of fish fried; a third of fish boiled; the last was a venison steak. Between these dishes and the turkeys stood, on the one side, a prodigious chine of roasted bears meat, and on the other a boiled leg of delicious mutton. Interspersed among this load of meats was every species of vegetables that the season and country afforded. The four corners were garnished with plates of cake. On one was piled certain curiously twisted and complicated figures, called "nut-cakes," On another were heaps of a black-looking sub stance, which, receiving its hue from molasses, was properly termed "sweet-cake ;" a wonderful favorite in the coterie of Remarkable, A third was filled, to use the language of the housekeeper, with "cards of gingerbread ;" and the last held a " plum- cake," so called from the number of large raisins that were showing their black heads in a substance of suspiciously similar color. At each corner of the table stood saucers, filled with a thick fluid of some what equivocal color and consistence, variegated with small dark lumps of a substance that resembled nothing but itself, which Remarkable termed her "sweetmeats." At the side of each plate, which was placed bottom upward, with its knife and fork most accurately crossed above it, stood another, of smaller size, containing a motley- looking pie, composed of triangular slices of apple, mince, pump kin, cranberry, and custard so arranged as to form an entire whole, Decanters of brandy, rum, gin, and wine, with sundry pitchers of cider, beer, and one hissing vessel of "flip," were put wherever an opening would admit of their introduction. Notwithstanding the size of the tables, there was scarcely a spot where the rich damask could be seen, so crowded were the dishes, with their associated bottles, plates, and saucers. The object seemed to be profusion, and it was obtained entirely at the expense of order and elegance.

All the guests, as well as the Judge himself, seemed perfectly familiar with this description of fare, for each one commenced eating, with an appetite that promised to do great honor to Remarkables taste and skill. What rendered this attention to the repast a little surprising, was the fact that both the German and Richard had been summoned from another table to meet the Judge; but Major Hartmann both ate and drank without any rule, when on his excursions; and Mr. Jones invariably made it a point to participate in the business in hand, let it be what it would. The host seemed to think some apology necessary for the warmth he had betrayed on the subject of the firewood, and when the party were comfortably seated, and engaged with their knives and forks, he observed:

"The wastefulness of the settlers with the noble trees of this country is shocking, Monsieur Le Quoi, as doubt less you have noticed. I have seen a man fell a pine, when he has been in want of fencing stuff, and roll his first cuts into the gap, where he left it to rot, though its top would have made rails enough to answer his purpose, and its butt would have sold in the Philadelphia market for twenty dollars."

"And how the devil--I beg your pardon, Mr. Grant," interrupted Richard: "but how is the poor devil to get his logs to the Philadelphia market, pray? put them in his pocket, ha! as you would a handful of chestnuts, or a bunch of chicker-berries? I should like to see you walking up High Street, with a pine log in each pocket!-- Poh! poh! Cousin Duke, there are trees enough for us all, and some to spare. Why, I can hardly tell which way the wind blows, when Im out in the clearings, they are so thick and so tall; I couldnt at all, if it wasnt for the clouds, and I happen to know all the points of the compass, as it were, by heart."

"Ay! ay! squire," cried Benjamin, who had now entered and taken his place behind the Judges chair, a little aside withal, in order to be ready for any observation like the present; "look aloft, sir, look aloft. The old seamen say, that the devil wouldnt make a sailor, unless he looked aloft As for the compass, why, there is no such thing as steering without one. Im sure I never lose sight of the main-top, as I call the squires lookout on the roof, but I set my compass, dye see, and take the bearings and distance of things, in order to work out my course, if so be that it should cloud up, or the tops of the trees should shut out the light of heaven. The steeple of St. Pauls, now that we nave got it on end, is a great help to the navigation of the woods, for, by the Lord Harry! as was--"

"It is well, Benjamin," interrupted Marmaduke, observing that his daughter manifested displeasure at the major-domos familiarity; "but you forget there is a lady in company, and the women love to do most of the talking themselves."

"The Judge says the true word," cried Benjamin, with one of his discordant laughs. "Now here is Mistress Remarkable Pettibones; just take the stopper off her tongue, and youll hear a gabbling worse like than if you should happen to fall to leeward in crossing a French privateer, or some such thing, mayhap, as a dozen monkeys stowed in one bag."

It were impossible to say how perfect an illustration of the truth of Benjamins assertion the housekeeper would have furnished, if she had dared; but the Judge looked sternly at her, and unwilling to incur his resentment, yet unable to contain her anger, she threw herself out of the room with a toss of the body that nearly separated her frail form in the centre.

"Richard," said Marmaduke, observing that his displeasure had produced the desired effect, "can you inform me of anything concerning the youth whom I so unfortunately wounded? I found him on the mountain hunting in company with the Leather-Stocking, as if they were of the same family; but there is a manifest difference in their manners. The youth delivers himself in chosen language, such as is seldom heard in these hills, and such as occasions great surprise to me, how one so meanly clad, and following so lowly a pursuit, could attain. Mohegan also knew him. Doubtless he is a tenant of Nattys hut. Did you remark the language of the lad. Monsieur Le Quoi?"

"Certainement, Monsieur Temple," returned the French man, "he deed convairse in de excellent Anglaise."

"The boy is no miracle," exclaimed Richard; "Ive known children that were sent to school early, talk much better before they were twelve years old. There was Zared Coe, old Nehemiahs son, who first settled on the beaver-dam meadow, he could write almost as good . hand as myself, when he was fourteen; though its true, I helped to teach him a little in the evenings. But this shooting gentleman ought to be put in the stocks, if he ever takes a rein in his hand again. He is the most awkward fellow about a horse I ever met with. I dare say he never drove anything but oxen in his life."

"There, I think, Dickon, you do the lad injustice," said the Judge; "he uses much discretion in critical moments. Dost thou not think so, Bess?"

There was nothing in this question particularly to excite blushes, but Elizabeth started from the revery into which she had fallen, and colored to her forehead as she answered:

"To me, dear sir, he appeared extremely skilful, and prompt, and courageous; but perhaps Cousin Richard will say I am as ignorant as the gentleman himself."

"Gentleman!" echoed Richard; "do you call such chaps gentlemen, at school, Elizabeth?"

"Every man is a gentleman that knows how to treat a woman with respect and consideration," returned the young lady promptly, and a little smartly.

"So much for hesitating to appear before the heiress in his shirt- sleeves," cried Richard, winking at Monsieur Le Quoi, who returned the wink with one eye, while he rolled the other, with an expression of sympathy, toward the young lady. "Well, well, to me he seemed anything but a gentleman. I must say, however, for the lad, that he draws a good trigger, and has a true aim. Hes good at shooting a buck, ha! Marmaduke?"

"Richart," said Major Hartmann, turning his grave countenance toward the gentleman he addressed, with much earnestness, "ter poy is goot. He savet your life, and my life, and ter life of iominie Grant, and ter life of ter Frenchman; and, Richard, he shall never vant a pet to sleep in vile olt Fritz Hartmann has a shingle to cover his het mit." "Well, well, as you please, old gentleman," returned Mr. Jones, endeavoring to look indifferent; "put him into your own stone house, if you will, Major. I dare say the lad never slept in anything better than a bark shanty in his life, unless it was some such hut as the cabin of Leather-Stocking. I prophesy you will soon spoil him; any one could see how proud he grew, in a short time, just because he stood by my horses heads. while I turned them into the highway."

"No, no. my old friend," cried Marmaduke, "it shall be my task to provide in some manner for the youth; I owe him a debt of my own, besides the service he has done me through my friends. And yet I anticipate some little trouble in inducing him to accept of my services. He showed a marked dislike, I thought, Bess, to my offer of a residence within these walls for life."

"Really, dear sir," said Elizabeth, projecting her beautiful under- lip, "I have not studied the gentleman so closely as to read his feelings in his countenance. I thought he might very naturally feel pain from his wound, and therefore pitied him; but"--and as she spoke she glanced her eye, with suppressed curiosity, toward the major-domo-- " I dare say, sir, that Benjamin can tell you something about him, He cannot have been in the village, and Benjamin not have seen him often."

"Ay! I have seen the boy before," said Benjamin, who wanted little encouragement to speak; "he has been backing and filling in the wake of Natty Bumppo, through the mountains, after deer, like a Dutch long- boat in tow of an Albany sloop. He carries a good rifle, too, the Leather-Stocking said, in my hearing, before Betty Hollisters bar- room fire, no later than the Tuesday night, that the younger was certain death to the wild beasts. If so be he can kill the wild-cat that has been heard moaning on the lake-side since the hard frosts and deep snows have driven the deer to herd, he will be doing the thing that is good. Your wild-cat is a bad shipmate, and should be made to cruise out of the track of Christian men,"

"Lives he in the hut of Bumppo?" asked Marmaduke, with some interest.

"Cheek by jowl; the Wednesday will be three weeks since he first hove in sight, in company with Leather-Stocking. They had captured a wolf between them, and had brought in his scalp for the bounty. That Mister Bump-ho has a handy turn with him in taking off a scalp; and theres them, in this here village, who say he larnt the trade by working on Christian men. If so be that there is truth in the saying, and I commanded along shore here, as your honor does, why, d'ye see, Id bring him to the gangway for it, yet. Theres a very pretty post rigged alongside of the stocks; and for the matter of a cat, I can fit one with my own hands; ay! and use it too, for the want of a better."

"You are not to credit the idle tales you hear of Natty; he has a kind of natural right to gain a livelihood in these mountains; and if the idlers in the village take it into their heads to annoy him, as they sometimes do reputed rogues, they shall find him protected by the strong arm of the law,"

"Ter rifle is petter as ter law," said the Major sententiously.

"That for his rifle!" exclaimed Richard, snapping his fingers; "Ben is right, and I--" He was stopped by the sound of a common ship-bell, that had been elevated to the belfry of the academy, which now announced, by its incessant ringing, that the hour for the appointed service had arrived. "For this and every other instance of his goodness-- I beg pardon, Mr. Grant, will you please to return thanks, sir? It is time we should be moving, as we are the only Episcopalians in the neighborhood; that is, I and Benjamin, and Elizabeth; for I count half-- breeds, like Marmaduke as bad as heretics."

The divine arose and performed the office meekly and fervently, and the whole party instantly prepared them selves for the church--or rather academy.

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