Page images

at this grateful intelligence; for the infant settlements had been such frequent sufferers from the deadly irruptions of the Indians, that the howling of the wolf was not more startling to the timid sheep, than the fell whoop of the savages in the ears of the scattered inhabitants. Still there was a mystery in the shadow of the boat, which both the girl and her lover had seen, that she would gladly have had explained.

“I marvel at what it can be," again spoke the maiden ; “for surely my father has the only canoe upon the pond, and that now lies close under the bank, by the cluster of alders yonder. But tell me, David, do ghosts and witches ever appear upon the water ?

“ That is more than I can affirm, my fair one," replied the other, “as I have never asked the godly Mr. Whitman upon the subject. He gave us a refreshing discourse on the last Lord's day, to put us upon our guard against the wicked devices of Azazel,* who, it is even now believed, is beginning to afflict some of the precious elect. Not having

* When two goats were offered unto the Lord (and only unto the Lord) on the day of expiation, among the ancient Israelites, we read that one of them was to fall by lot to Azazel. Azazel cannot, without some hardship on the sense, be taken for the name of the goat itself. But it is no other than the name of the Devil himself, as might easily be proved from the monuments of the greatest, both of Jewish and Christian antiquities.-Cotton Mather.

According to Dr. Gill, Azazel, in the view of the ancient Jews, was the demon of the wilderness-of desolate places,

been to the Thursday exhortation, my heart panted after spiritual food, even as the hart panteth after the water-brooks, as the Psalmist saith. But as to this Azazel, mortal man cannot tell how far the . just vengeance of heaven may permit him to deal with poor sinners.”

“ The Lord preserve his unworthy handmaiden, who at best is but a poor cumberer of the ground," fervently ejaculated the damsel. “But there! I perceive the shadow of the canoe again as it shoots into the cove beyond the farthest cliff !It is gone. Now, do tell me, David, was that the mountain ledge where the salvages once held their pow-wows, and burnt their heathen sacrifices to Hobomok, their idol-devil ?

“No doubt the wicked salvages are great sorcerers, and have been many times guilty of familiarity with Satan. Nor can I deny unto thee but one of the altars of Baal was erected on that shelving cliff yonder; and it is reported that the salvages were wont to dance around the little pond on the top of the mountain, in magic circles, when working their hellish enchantments.”

“ I wonder that my father should have chosen such a spot whereon to erect his Ebenezer. But he has been tried in the furnace of affliction, until he is like pure gold, and need fear no evil ;-though he forgot that' his daughter is a weaker vessel. And do you believe, David,” continued the girl, modestly yet doubtfully raising her eyes; do you really believe that there are witches in these

latter days, and that the salvages were in rightdown earnest visited by evil spirits on the mountain there ?"

“ Believe it! We should be godless sinners if we did not. Do not the blessed Scriptures speak of witches, and sorcerers, and persons tormented with devils? Yea, how many of these latter were cast out of the Lord's anointed in the New Testament times? And are not the salvages the lost ten tribes of Israel ? And did not Azazel lead them off from round about Jerusalem, into this wilderness world, to get them away from gospel privileges ? And does it not stand to reason that he should hold converse with his own? I marvel, my beloved Mercy, that thou couldst have doubted an instant;-and if I did not know thee to be one of the wise virgins, and if my soul did not cleave unto thee, even as the soul of Jonathan unto David, I should fear thou wert yet in the gall of bitterness, and the bonds of iniquity.”

Although a close observer might have detected a slight look of incredulity, yet the pious girl received the rebuke, which was less harsh in its manner than it seems from the language, with as much gentleness and sweetness as though she hera self were the angel after whom she had been named, Indeed, it here flashed upon her recollection, that she had heard her father hint darkly at a mysterious appearance on the lake some months before, The old gentleman was returning home from Mr. Whitman's evening conventicle, when the exhorta

tions of that good man, rich with divine unction, had continued until a very late hour. As he approached the lower end of the lake, he thought he caught a glimpse of two strange men, in a canoé, under the distant shadow of the mountain, engaged as if drawing in a small fishing-net. Mercy herself had moreover seen, or thought she had seen, some glimmering ray of a torch-light shooting out from among the crags of the mountain, high up its almost perpendicular sides, nigh where it was reported there was a small grotto. And this latter circumstance, it is probable, in connexion with a somewhat incredulous disposition, had prompted the inquiry of her lover, concerning the familiar spirits spoken of in the mysterious legends of the place.

The two lovers, between whom the preceding conversation took place, were as sincere and ardent in their attachments as Romeo and Juliet, according to the impassioned rhapsodies of Shakspeare; although the difference in the climates in which they respectively lived, the circumstances under which they had been placed, and the widely different religious tenets in which they had been educated, prescribed a graver, and perhaps less practical mode of giving utterance to their passion. But as the deepest rivers flow on with the smoothest surface, so it is not always the most vehement protestations that indicate the truest affection. Mercy Disborough and David Salisbury were lovers from principle. Both had been reared after the manner of the most straitest

[ocr errors]

sect of the Puritans. They were of suitable agesshe being just turned of twenty, and he of twentyseven. There was the utmost congeniality in their dispositions, feelings, and sentiments—he believing it would be his duty to love, cherish, and protect her; while she believed, as was once the fashion with good wives, that where there is no respect, there can be no true love, and that obedience is one of the cardinal virtues in a dutiful helpmeet. He was of a strong and athletic, though not ungraceful form ; and his sinewy arms had already made a deep inroad upon the giant forest-trees with which much of his intended plantation was yet covered. She was ruddy and comely to look upon; but young ladies were not sylphs in those days, and she would have laughed to scorn the effeminate race of women who now sport like gilded butterflies in the places of their more efficient grandmothers. His character was frank and manlyfull of generosity and confidence-but he was probably not so quick in his perceptions as Mercy, while his religious faith partook more of the gloomy credulity of the age than hers.

Her figure was of the middle size, full, and well-rounded-nature having been left free to perfect her own work without impediment from those artificial restraints which modern refinement has imposed upon the works of the Creator. Her complexion had been somewhat shaded by the exposures incident to the situation of early settlers of a new country, but her features were regular, and a rich carnation glowed

« PreviousContinue »