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our ancestors; allied to our posterity; closely compacted on all sides with others; ourselves being but links in the great chain of being, which begins with the origin of our race, runa onward through its successive generations, binding together the past, the present, and the future, and terminating at last with the consummation of all things earthly, at the throne of God.
There may be, and there often is, indeed, a regard for ancestry, 'which nourishes only a weak pride; as there is also a care for posterity, which only disguises an habitual avarice, or hides the workings of a low and grovelling vanity. But there is also a moral and philosophical respect for our ancestors, which elevates the character and improves the heart. Next to the sense of religious duty and moral feeling, I hardly know what should bear with stronger obligation on a liberal and enlightened mind, than a consciousness of alliance with excellence which is departed; and a consciousness, too, that in its acts and conduct, and even in its sentiments and thoughts, it may be actively operating on the happiness of those who come after it.
Poetry is found to have few stronger conceptions, by which it would affect or overwhelm the mind, than those in which it presents the moving and speaking image of the departed dead to the senses of the living. This belongs to poetry only because it is congenial to our nature. Poetry is, in this respect, but the handmaid of true philosophy and morality; it deals with us as human beings, naturally reverencing those whose visible connection with this state of existence is severed, and who may yet exercise we know not what sympathy with ourselves; and when it carries us forward, also, and shows us the long-continued result of all the good we do in the prosperity of those who follow us, till it bears us from ourselves, and absorbs us in an intense interest for what shall happen to the generations after us, it speaks only in the language of our nature, and affects us with sentiments which belong to us as human beings.
XCVI. - AN INDIAN FIGHT.
SIR WALTER SCOTT.
[This account of the attack upon a New England village by a band of Indians, and of their repulse, is taken from Sir WALTER SCOTT's novel of Peveril of the Peak, and is there given by Major Bridgenorth, a Puritan soldier and gentleman, to Julian Peveril, the hero of the story and the lover of Bridgenorth's daughter. The incident is substantially true, and took place at the town of Hadley, in Massach usetts, in 1675. William Goffe was the person whose opportune and unexpected appearance turned the tide of battle. He was one of the ragicides, as they were popularly called; that is, one of the judges by whcm Charles I., King of England, was condemned to death. Upon the restoration of the Stuarts in 1660, Goffe, together with Edward Whalley, his father-in-law, (also one of King Charles's judges) filed to New England; and here they lived for many years, in strict seclusion, though more than one effort was made by the English government to arrest them. Whalley died in 1678, and Goffe about two years afterwards; both at Hadley. Here they had lived, since 1664, under the roof of Mr. Russell, the minister, who had two concealed rooms built in his house for their accommodation. They were both bra ve men and tried soldiers.
John Dixwell, another of the regicides, came also to New England, some time after Whalley and Goffe, and remained here till his death.]
AMONG my wanderings, the transatlantic settlements have not escaped me; more especially the country of New England, into which our native land has shaken from her lap, as a drunkard flings from him his treasures, so much that is precious in the eyes of God and of his children. There thousands of our best and most godly men—such whose righteousness might come between the Almighty and his wrath, and prevent the ruin of cities-are content to be the inhabitants of the desert, rather encountering the unenlightened savages than stooping to extinguish, under the oppression practised in Britain, the light that is within their own minds. There I remained for a time, during the wars which the colony maintained with Philip, a great Indian chief, or sachem, as they were called, who seemed a messenger sent from Satan to buffet them. His cruelty was great, his dissimulation profound, and the skill and promptitude with which he maintained a destructive and desultory warfare inflicted many dreadful calamities on the settlement, I was, by chance, at a small village in the woods, more than thirty * miles from Boston, and in its situation exceedingly
* Hadley is about ninety miles from Boston.
lonely, and surrounded with thickets. Nevertheless, there was no idea of any danger from the Indians at that time, for men trusted to the protection of a considerable body of troops, who had taken the field for protection of the frontiers, and who lay, or were supposed to lie, betwixt the hamlet and the enemy's country. But they had to do with a foe whom the evil one himself had inspired at once with cunning and cruelty.
It was on a Sabbath morning, when we had assembled t take sweet counsel together in the Lord's house. Our temple was but constructed of wooden logs ; but when shall the chant of trained hirelings, or the sounding of tin and brass tubes amid the aisles of a minster, arise so sweetly to heaven as did the psalm in which we united at once our voices and our hearts! An excellent worthy, who now sleeps in the Lord, Nehemiah Solsgrace, long the companion of my pilgrimage, had just begun to wrestle in prayer, when a woman, with disordered looks and dishevelled hair, entered our chapel in a distracted manner, screaming incessantly, “The Indians! The Indians!” In that land no man dares separate himself from his means of defence; and whether in the city or in the field, in the ploughed land or the forest, men keep beside them their weapons, as did the Jews at the rebuilding of the Temple. So we sallied forth with our guns and pikes, and heard the whoop of these incarnate demons, already in possession of a part of the town, and exercising their cruelty on the few whom weighty causes or indisposition had withheld from public worship; and it was remarked as a judgment, that, upon that bloody Sabbath, Adrian Hanson, a Dutchman, a man well enough disposed towards man, but whose mind was altogether given to worldly gain, was shot and scalped as he was summing his weekly gains in his warehouse. In fine, there was much damage done; and although our arrival and entrance into combat did in some sort put them back, yet being surprised and confused, and having no appointed leader of our band, the cruel enemy shot bard at us, and had some advantage.
It was pitiful to hear the screams of women and children amid the report of guns and the whistling of bullets, mixed with the ferocious yells of these savages, which they term their war whoop. Several houses in the upper part of the village were soon on fire; and the roaring of the flames, and crackling of the great beams as they blazed, added to the horrible confusion; while the smoke which the wind drove against us gave further advantage to the enemy, who fought, as it were, invisible, and under cover, whilst we fell fast by their unerring fire. In this state of confusion, and while we were about to adopt the desperate project of evacuating the village, and, piacing the women and children in the centre, of attempting a retreat to the nearest settlement, it pleased Heaven to send us unexpected assistance.
A ta'l man, of a reverend appearance, whom no one of us had ever seen before, suddenly was in the midst of us, as we hastily agitated the resolution of retreating. His garments were of the skin of the elk, and he wore sword and carried gun.
I never saw any thing more august than his features, overshadowed by locks of gray hair, which mingled with a long beard of the same color. “Men and brethren,” he said, in a voice like that which turns back the flight, “why sink your hearts ? and why are you thus disquieted ? Fear ye that the God we serve will give you up to yonder heathen dogs? Follow me, and you shall see this day that there is a captain in Israel.” He uttered a few brief but distinct orders, in the tone of one who was accustomed to command; and such was the influence of his appearance, his mien, his language, and his presence of mind, that he was implicitly obeyed by men who had never seen him until that moment. We were hastily divided, by his orders, into two bodies; one of which maintained the defence of the village with more courage than ever, convinced that the unknown was sent by God to our rescue. At his command they assumed the best and most sheltered positions for exchanging their deadly fire with the Indians; while, under cover of the smoke, the stranger sallied from the town at the head of the other division of the New England men and, fetching a circuit, attacked the red warriors in the rear The surprise, as is usual amongst savages, had complete effect; for they doubted not that they were assailed in their turn, and placed betwixt two hostile parties by the return of a detachment from the provincial army. The heathens fled in confusion, abandoning the half-won village, and leaving behind them such a number of their warriors, that the tribe bath never re covered its loss.
Never shall I forget the figure of our venerable leader, when our men, and not they only, but the women and children of the village, rescued from the tomahawk and scalping knife, stood crowded around him, yet scarce venturing to approach his person, and more minded, perhaps, to worship him as a descended angel than to thank him as a fellow-mortal.
“ Not unto me be the glory,” he said; “I am but an implement, frail as yourselves, in the hand of Him who is strong to deliver. Bring me a cup of water, that I may allay my parched throat ere I assay the task of offering thanks where they are most due.” I was nearest to him as he spoke, and I gave into his hand the water he requested. At that moment we exchanged glances, and it seemed to me that I recognized a noble friend whom I had long since deemed in glory; but he gave me no time to speak, had speech been prudent. Sinking on his knees, and signing us to obey him, he poured forth a strong and energetic thanksgiving for the turning back of the battle, which, pronounced with a voice loud and clear as a war trumpet, thrilled through the joints and marrow of the hearers. I have heard many an act of devotion in my life, had Heaven vouchsafed me grace to profit by them; but such a prayer as this, uttered amid the dead and the dying, with a rich tone of mingled triumph and adoration, was beyond them all; it was like the song of the inspired prophetess who dwelt beneath the palm tree between Ramah and Bethel. He was ent; and for a brief space we remained with our faces bent to the earth, no man daring to lift his head. At length we looked up,
but our deliverer was no longer among us; nor was he ever again seen in the land which he had rescued.