Page images
PDF
EPUB

in his tribe. The rifle might bring the value of such a thing—but then I know it will give the boy pleasure to hang the piece in his hall, for many is the deer and the bird that he has seen it destroy. No, no, the gun must be sent to him whose name is graven on the lock !

“. But there is one who would gladly prove his affection in the way you wish ; he, who owes you not only his deliverance from so many dangers, but who inherits a heavy debt of gratitude from his ancestors. The stone shall be put at the head of your grave.'

“ The old man extended his emaciated hand, and gave the other a squeeze of thanks.

«• I thought you might be willing to do it, but I was backward in asking the favor,' he said, “ seeing that you are not of my kin. Put no boastful words on the same, but just the name, the age, and the time of the death, with something from the holy book; no more, no more. My name will then not be altogether lost on ’arth; I need no more.'

“ Middleton intimated his assent, and then followed a pause, that was only broken by distant and broken sentences from the dying

He appeared now to have closed his account with the world, and to await merely for the final summons to quit it. Middleton and Hard-Heart placed themselves on the opposite sides of his seat, and watched with melancholy solicitude the variations of his countenance. For two hours there was no very sensible alteration. The expression of his faded and time-worn features was that of a calm and dignified repose. From time to time he spoke, uttering some brief sentence in the way of advice, or asking some simple questions concerning those in whose fortunes he still took a friendly interest. During the whole of that solemn and anxious period each individual of the tribe kept his place in the most self-restrained patience. When the old man spoke, all bent their heads to listen;

man.

and when his words were uttered, they seemed to ponder on their wisdom and usefulness.

“ As the flame drew nigher to the socket, his voice was hushed, and there were moments when his attendants doubted whether he still belonged to the living. Middleton, who watched each wavering expression of his weather-beaten visage with the interest of a keen observer of human nature, softened by the tenderness of personal regard, fancied he could read the workings of the old man's soul in the strong lineaments of his countenance. Perhaps what the enlightened soldier took for the delusion of mistaken opinion did actually occur, for who has returned from that unknown world to explain by what forms and in what manner he was introduced into its awful precincts! Without pretending to explain what must ever be a mystery to the quick, we shall simply relate facts as they occurred.

« The trapper had remained nearly motionless for an hour. His eyes, alone, had occasionally opened and shut. When opened, his gaze seemed fastened on the clouds which hung around the western horizon, reflecting the bright colors, and giving form and loveliness to the glorious tints of an American sunset. The hourthe calm beauty of the season—the occasion, all conspired to fill the spectators with solemn awe. Suddenly, while musing on the remarkable position in which he was placed, Middleton felt the hand which he held grasp his own with incredible power, and the old man, supported on either side by his friends, rose upright to his feet. For a single moment he looked about him, as if to invite all in his presence to listen (the lingering remnant of human frailty), and then, with a fine military elevation of his head, and with a voice that might be heard in every part of that numerous assembly, he pronounced the emphatic word — Here !

“ A movement so entirely unexpected, and the air of grandeur

and humility which were so remarkably united in the mien of the trapper, together with the clear and uncommon force of his utterrance, produced a short period of confusion in the faculties of all present. When Middleton and Hard-Heart, who had each involuntarily extended a hand to support the form of the old man, turned to him again, they found that the subject of their interest was removed for ever beyond the necessity of their care. They mournfully placed the body in its seat, and Le Balafré arose to announce the termination of the scene to the tribe. The voice of the old Indian seemed a sort of echo from that invisible world to which the meek spirit of the trapper had just departed.

A valiant, a just, and a wise warrior has gone on the path which will lead him to the blessed grounds of his people! he said. • When the voice of the Wahcondah called him, he was ready to answer. Go, my children; remember the just chief of the Palefaces, and clear your own tracks from briers !

“ The grave was made beneath the shade of some noble oaks. It has been carefully watched to the present hour by the Pawnees of the Loup, and is often shown to the traveller and the trader as a spot where a just White man sleeps. In due time the stone was placed at its head, with the simple inscription which the trapper had himself requested. The only liberty taken by Middleton was to add, May no wanton hand ever disturb his remains !

[ocr errors]

The result of a long and attentive consideration of Mr. Cooper's works is, that he is without doubt a man of a shrewd and vigorous intellect, self-willed and opinionated, quick and vindictive in his feelings, but with a kind and generous heart; somewhat too fond, perhaps, of brooding over wrongs which, after all, may be only imaginary, and requiring more deference from the world than it is apt to pay to a Living Author.

But, with regard to the character of his productions, he is deficient in imagination and fancy, and humor.

Invention he certainly possesses, but it is not of the highest kind; his powers of observation are strong, but not universal, and this gives an air of monotony to many of his works.

He also takes an undue advantage of certain opportunities to give lectures, and hence the didactic tone of many dialogues interspersed in the novels. This is a serious defect, in an artistic view; a novelist should instruct by implication, and argue by insinuation. When he becomes didactic he ceases to be romantic, and the effect is neutralized.

RALPH WALDO

WALDO EMERSON.

EMERSON is certainly one of the most original writers the New World has produced. He writes least like an American of any author we have read. We do not mean this disparagingly to his character as a good and true republican, but to show our opinion of his greater breadth and depth of appreciation than is generally met with in American authors.

Mr. Emerson's fame is a curious compound of poet, metaphysician, lecturer, economist, and critic; and in each we think him first-rate.

We shall give his poetry the preference in considering him critically, and at once commence by complaining of his peculiar metre and occasional obscurity. Mr. Browning has often maintained that the poet has a perfect and unchallengeable right to place the thought in any shape he pleases; and that it is at the option of the public to read or not, just as it pleases; but that it has no right to criticise, seeing that it involves the apparent absurdity of the disciple teaching the master.

With all respect for the dictum of the author of "Sordello,"

« PreviousContinue »