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© 1978 by Warren S. Walker
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Originally published in Warren S. Walker, Plots and Characters in the Fiction of James Fenimore Cooper (Hamden, CT: Archon Books, 1978), pp. 194-204.
NOTE: For this on-line presentation, chapter numbers [in square brackets] have been inserted by the webmaster at approximately the point where each chapter begins, to facilitate locating particular plot incidents in the text.
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[This is the first volume of a trilogy, succeeded by The Chainbearer and concluded by The Redskins.]
 Cornelius (Corny) Littlepage, narrator and hereof the novel, born in 1737 at Satanstoe (a peninsula rumored formed by the print of Satan's toe) in New York, is of the minor landed gentry and is early made aware of the pronounced differences between New Yorkers and New Englanders in religion, philosophy, and social practices.  A marked aversion for "Yankee" ways determines his family's choice of the college he attends after preparatory study under the Rev. Mr. Thomas Worden, the Episcopal rector, one more concerned with the form than with the spirit of his profession: at the age of fourteen, Corny sets off with his father for Nassau Hall (later Princeton), which has no Yankee "peculiarities." En route, they spend a night and a day at Aunt Jane Legge's home in New York, Corny's first visit to that city of 12,000. On an outing to view the arrival of the Patroon of Albany, Corny encounters a pretty little girl in whose defense he gives a bullying butcher's boy a sound thrashing approved by his guide, Pompey, one of his aunt's Negro slaves.
 Corny's four years in college are pleasant and beneficial, and he returns home after graduation to the solid friendship he has always maintained with sturdy, honest Dirck Follock (Van Valkenburgh) and to the awkward but provocative presence of a Yankee schoolmaster, Jason Newcome, hired to replace the Rev. Mr. Worden. Corny and Jason differ on almost all points, chiefly in openness of manner and in value systems; Jason's Puritanical notions and actions are highly entertaining but rather disgusting to Corny.
 Corny's first visit to New York as a young man, accompanied by Dirck, occurs when he is twenty, and produces two interesting pieces of information en route: that of the joint acquisition of 40,000 acres of Mohawk land by Corny's and Dirck's fathers, a tract to be located and surveyed by the sons the following spring, and that of the tender interest of Dirck in his seventeen-year-old second cousin Anneke Mordaunt, whose country home, Lilacsbush, they see in the distance. Further affirmation of Anneke's charms is furnished by the talkative Mrs. Light, innkeeper at whose place the two young men eat dinner, increasing Corny's interest and curiosity. Arriving in New York toward nightfall, the two stable their horses and go to stay with their respective relatives.
Early next morning, Corny hurries to meet Dirck for sightseeing before the Pinkster festivities begin. There he encounters Jason Newcome and relishes introducing him to "white wine" (buttermilk); Jason had expected rum.  Jason joins Corny and Dirck in looking the town over and then in viewing Pinkster (Pentecost) merrymaking ("the great Saturnalia of the New York blacks" [p.69]) -- noises, dances, music, games -- all genuinely African preservations. White children as well as young ladies of the upper classes accompany their black nurses or maids to enjoy the scene. Corny recognizes among them the seventeen-year-old whom he had once rescued; when Dirck addresses her as "cousin Anneke," Corny knows she must be Anneke Mordaunt. On introduction to Corny, Anneke is reminded by her old nurse that this is her young champion, and she greets him warmly. Jason, once introduced, joins Corny and Dirck in accompanying Anneke and her friend Mary Wallace to various Pinkster activities, including a visit to a caged lion. Anneke's scarlet shawl attracting the lion's attention, he snatches it and pulls her with it to the cage; Corny, seeing Anneke's danger, lifts her away bodily and sets her down at a safe distance from the lion. Anneke soon recovers her poise and thanks him for his prompt action.  Dirck escorts Anneke home; Corny slips away from Jason and wanders by himself, admiring especially the bearing and uniform of the British soldiers. On returning to his aunt's house, Corny finds Herman Mordaunt, Anneke's father, awaiting him to thank him for the service to Anneke and to invite him to dinner immediately after Pinkster.  Dinner guests include Bulstrode and Harris -- two British military officers -- several of Anneke's female friends, and Corny and Dirck; Corny is chosen by Anneke's father to lead her in to dinner, a feast and a good-humored event followed by amateur singing.  A theater party follows, with a play presented by Bulstrode's brigade; the play, hugely successful, is followed by "The Beaux Stratagem," entertainment fashionable in England but too coarse for Anneke's and Mary Wallace's tastes. Supper, toasts, and more singing conclude the evening.
 Corny and Dirck leave New York a day or so later for Satanstoe, encountering Jason Newcome en route; he stops with them at the Mordaunts' home, Lilacsbush, for a late breakfast. Corny learns from his mother shortly after his arrival home that he and Anneke are themselves distantly related through his mother's family. In May, Corny and Dirck visit Lilacsbush overnight; in September Herman Mordaunt and Anneke visit Satanstoe for a day. Bulstrode's regiment has been moved to Albany to strengthen the colony's defenses against the French.
 On March 1, 1758, Corny, Dirck, the Rev. Mr. Worden, and Jason Newcome set out for Albany, Worden to serve as army chaplain, Corny and Dirck to locate the 40,000-acre patent Mooseridge jointly owned by their fathers, and Jason for a reason known only to him. They go by sleigh, sending ahead with Jaap (Corny's slave) and other blacks three four-horse-drawn lumber sleighs loaded with supplies, chiefly flour and pork, to be sold, with the draft horses, to the army contractors. They keep away from the river, to ensure enough snow for their sleigh runners, and arrive in Albany after three days' travel. Herman Mordaunt and Anneke are to be in Albany for the summer -- perhaps to keep Anneke near Bulstrode for a good marriage (Bulstrode is heir to a British title) as well as to tend to some business of Mordaunt's. Albany is an impressive town, old and dignified, second in size to New York, so all four men are handsomely dressed for their arrival at the capital. As their sleigh crosses the river into the city, Bulstrode and a sleighful of young girls, including Anneke Mordaunt, drive past. The Rev. Mr. Worden, afraid to trust a loaded carriage on the ice-coated river, walks across the river, soon running desperately to avoid being transported by a sleighful of strangers wishing to respect his Anglican dress, an act gaining him the sobriquet The Loping Dominie.  The driver, Guert Ten Eyck, a daredevil of the upper class, apologizes when he learns the cause of the Rev. Mr. Worden's anxiety, and promises to visit them soon at the tavern where they are to stay.
As soon as they are housed, Corny and Dirck go sight-seeing, and encounter Guert Ten Eyck, who invites all four to join him and his friends at a supper parity that night, an invitation accepted with alacrity. The Rev. Mr. Worden meets the Episcopal chaplain and is invited to preach the following Sunday, an opportunity he eagerly accepts. After dinner, Corny meets Guert Ten Eyck again, and Guert -- learning Corny's wish to dispose of his produce and horses -- drives a good bargain for the sale of the loaded sleighs, contents, horses, and all; Guert is honest but a slick dealer in horses. Guert proves to have fallen in love with Mary Wallace, Anneke's best friend, and posts himself in the street daily to watch for her. Anneke and Mary see Guert and Corny on the corner, and Anneke is obviously pleased to greet Corny.  She is less pleased to see him a few moments later when, on Guert's suggestion, Corny sleds with him down the main street and, to avoid a collision, is upset into the snow; the carriage posing the obstacle is occupied by Anneke and Mary, who consider sledding sport for boys, not men.
Their supper has been stolen by pranksters, so Guert entices the Rev. Mr. Worden into distracting the kitchen maid by a sermon on honesty while they "recapture" their dinner from a nearby house. They succeed in snatching the dinner, which they eat with good appetite, and are toasting the ladies when a constable's entry on the scene proves the dinner to have been stolen from the house of Mayor Cuyler, that evening entertaining guests including Herman and Anneke Mordaunt and Mary Wallace.  The offenders are pardoned, since Guert's tricks are well known and good humored, and they all dine again, on an even finer meal; Guert explains the visitors' innocence in the matter, and Anneke becomes less cold toward Corny. The Rev. Mr. Worden is dubious about continued friendship with the rapscallion Guert, but Corny intends to continue his association with the mischievous Dutchman.
 During breakfast, at which Bulstrode is also a guest, Major Bulstrode reports Harris's account of feasting on a snatched dinner whose owners in turn had eaten on the mayor's dinner. Herman Mordaunt tells the whole story, quite amused by it, and Bulstrode's comment on the scapegrace Guert prompts Anneke to criticize Guert also. Corny and Bulstrode leave Anneke's house after the meal and walk to Bulstrode's quarters; en route, Corny learns that Bulstrode, with his father's reluctant permission, has asked Anneke's hand of her father but that Anneke has not yet consented to the marriage.
That afternoon, after Jaap's arrival with the entourage of supply-laden sleighs, Corny finds Guert and they go with the sleighs to the army contractor; again, Guert does the bargaining, making a fine profit for Corny and Dirck. Afterwards, Corny visits Guert's spotless bachelor quarters and then goes for a ride with him in his smooth-riding sleigh drawn by two spirited black horses. They stop to introduce Corny to Madam Schuyler and find Anneke and Mary just leaving, after having dined there. Madam Schuyler greets Corny warmly both because she knows his mother and because Anneke has told her about his rescuing her from the lion. Madam Schuyler, fond of Guert, inquires about his team and thus furnishes an opportunity for Guert to invite Mary and Anneke to ride home in his sleigh. Anneke refuses, but Mary agrees to ask Anneke's father and, on his approval, to try the sleigh the following week.
 A thaw having set in over the weekend, Corny learns that Guert will still take the party sleighing -- on the river. Assured that the ice is thick enough, Herman Mordaunt consents, and they take his sleigh and Guert's on an excursion to Kinderhook, where they are welcomed-though not expected -- for dinner with relatives of Mordaunt's after a safe and joyous ride. They stay, on the hostess's insistence, until 8 P.M. The evening is especially relished by Corny since Anneke en route has indicated no preference for Bulstrode, who feels himself superior to those in the colony. On the way home, they meet several sleigh drivers who call warnings about "Albany" and "the river," warnings disturbing to Mordaunt but discounted by Guert until suddenly the ice cracks behind them. On consultation, they continue toward Albany; Mordaunt places Anneke in Corny's care, since Herman is driving his own sleigh with his lady guest, Mrs. Bogart.  Mordaunt's and Guert's parties are abruptly separated by a heaping up of ice floes; by dint of courage and persistence, Corny, Guert, and the girls reach an island with the sleigh.  Accidentally, the two couples are separated; eventually, Guert and Mary reach Albany that night, while Corny and Anneke encounter Dirck (of Mordaunt's party), who leads them to Herman Mordaunt and the rest of the party, overnight guests of a kind farm couple who provide a wagon for their return to Albany. Guert has cut his horses free of their harness to swim ashore; Mordaunt's horses, still fastened to his sleigh, drown, though eventually both sleighs are recovered, as are Guert's horses. When Bulstrode thanks Corny for saving Anneke's life, Corny acknowledges that he too is courting Anneke; Bulstrode declares that Herman Mordaunt has accepted his suit, and Corny realizes that Mordaunt feels the matter is thus quite satisfactorily arranged.
 A month later, half in sport, Corny, Guert, and the Rev. Mr. Worden disguise themselves and consult a fortune-teller, Madam Doortje. Ahead of them are Jason Newcome and Dirck Follock, and Madam Doortje appears knowledgeable about all five. She advises Jason to buy the mill seat at the cheap price he proposes; she tells Dirck he will never marry; she predicts that Beelzebub will overtake the Loping Dominie; she recommends that Guert accompany Corny into the bush, to allow Mary to discover her real feeling for him; she warns Corny to beware of "knights barrownights."  Later, Guert reports the visit to Bulstrode, Anneke, Mary, and Herman Mordaunt, saying he will accompany Corny and Dirck into the bush. It develops that Mordaunt owns a large estate, Ravensnest, near the land owned by Littlepage and Van Valkenburgh, and that he and Anneke and Mary are going to spend the summer there to reassure their tenant farmers, uneasy because of the advances of the French into the colony. The only one displeased by this news is Bulstrode, who has been assigned a post near Ravensnest and had hoped to complete his suit of Anneke without Corny's competition.
Bulstrode's company is ordered north, and he comes for a last breakfast with the Mordaunts, Corny, Dirck, and Guert. Bulstrode shows deep regret at leaving the group and moves the ladies to tears with fond farewells. He and Corny part as friends, though competitors, and Corny decides not to urge his suit with Anneke at a time when the answer would be likely to be "No."
 Ten days later, the Mordaunt party (including four black and three white servants as well as the principals) and Corny, Dirck, and Guert (with Jaap, Traverse the surveyor, two chainbearers, and two axe-men and Guert's black Pete) set off for their estates dressed for wilderness travel. The Rev. Mr. Worden and Jason Newcome, wearing their usual clothes, manage to secure a ride in a government carriage; Mordaunt's wagon carries Anneke and Mary, while the rest travel on foot. They halt during the first day at Madam Schuyler's for dinner, where they meet her nephew, Philip Schuyler, about Corny's age; with Philip, Corny discusses the traditional and understandable dislike between New Yorkers and Yankees. Corny talks briefly also with Lord Howe, favorably disposed toward Corny because of his heroism in the Hudson River sleighing episode.
For thirty miles, the combined parties travel by road due north; then they bear northeast toward Ravensnest and Mooseridge, with Anneke and Mary on horseback along the narrow trail, and the wagons, reloaded, following slowly behind. Corny and Guert, leading the party, find the Rev. Mr. Worden and Jason Newcome in a clearing playing cards, a matter highly embarrassing to the Puritanical Yankee. The entire group (including Worden and Newcome) moves onward to the scheduled overnight shelter, a log house, safely reached, and the scene of a fine pigeon supper.
The following morning, the group reaches the first clearing on Mordaunt's estate, and Mordaunt explains to Corny the tremendous expenditure in capital and patience needed to establish tenants on such wilderness property, the hard terms driven by the tenants, and the unlikelihood of the owner's turning any profit on his investment until the third generation. The main structure at Ravensnest, reached soon afterwards, is a well-fortified log building a hundred feet by fifty feet, plain but warm and secure.
 After several days' stay at Ravensnest, Corny, Dirck, and Guert engage two Indians, Susquesus and Jumper, as hunters and messengers, and then go in search of Mooseridge. Aided by the surveyor's map and by Susquesus's forest skills, they locate the corner tree of Mooseridge; the party thereafter erect near a good spring a smaller log house with a riven-log door, as protection against intruders, and a [puncheon] floor. Traverse and his men divide the patent into thousand-acre squares, recording also a description of the soil, surface, and trees of each lot; Corny and Dirck record the details of the lot at Traverse's dictation, while Guert and the hunters keep the party supplied with meat, fowl, and fish, all members observing Sunday as a day without work. A letter brought from Mordaunt by runner expresses concern about increased military activities and questions the reliability of Susquesus, who has left his own tribe to live with the Mohawks. Corny learns from Susquesus only that the Onondaga (his tribe) are not after scalps this season.  Susquesus's disappearance a few days later stirs Corny's doubts about the Indian's loyalty.
Corny, Dirck, and Guert visit Ravensnest for two or three days, finding Anneke and Mary safe and in good spirits; Mordaunt returns with the men to Mooseridge and spends two or three days examining that estate. The Rev. Mr. Worden has left to join the army as chaplain, and Jason Newcome has driven a hard bargain with Mordaunt for the mill seat. Susquesus returns, having ascertained that the French and the English will soon be fighting, and urges Corny, Dirck, and Guert to follow their intention of joining the English forces as colonials. After a dispute -- won by Susquesus -- about the merit of going by way of Ravensnest to battle (such a route would cause too much delay), the three and Jaap set off for Lake George, led by Susquesus. Guert's brash attempt to lead the group by compass and sight turns them in exactly the opposite direction, so Susquesus resumes his post as competent guide. Abercrombie's 16,000 troops have embarked when the group arrives at the lake, but Susquesus locates a canoe and takes them directly to Lord Howe's ship; Howe invites them to join his advance brigade rather than Bulstrode's, situated In the middle, and they accept, whereupon Susquesus leaves the group.  Corny and Howe talk briefly of the dangers ahead, the last personal word Corny has with Howe.
A landing is effected; a brief and successful skirmishing follows, and the English-led troops pursue the fleeing French and their Indian allies, with the British troops in the two center columns and the provincials either in the two flanking columns or left behind to guard the flotilla of 1,025 boats. Howe is killed in the first serious encounter, and Guert -- fiercely loyal to Howe -- assumes temporary leadership, pursuing the French to their intrenchments. Retreat becomes necessary, made difficult by attack by a party of Indians; but Jaap by quick thinking preserves his white comrades by knocking down three Indians while Guert, Dirck, and Corny are reloading. Dirck's shooting the fourth Huron through the heart drives the rest of the marauders away while Guert covers the party's retreat. After Abercrombie encamps, Corny and his party locate and join Bulstrode's brigade, welcomed warmly for their fine service with the advance forces; all mourn the loss of Howe, the genius and soul of the British forces, and all doubt the success of the army against the French in his absence. The attack on Fort Ticonderoga ordered by Abercrombie fails because it is undertaken with insufficiently heavy armament; and a general retreat begins, with the entire flotilla returning to the embarkation point on Lake George after a loss of 548 dead and 1,356 injured. Bulstrode is wounded in the leg, and Billings is killed. While debating his own party's best move, Corny is soundlessly approached by Susquesus, who leads them to his well-concealed canoe. Jaap's Huron prisoner, Muss, is released by Corny, who finds Jaap rope-beating him before he sets him free.  After the party has returned safely to its starting point, Susquesus warns them that Muss will take revenge for his beating by scalping as many settlers as he can find; he urges Corny to go first to Mooseridge to warn the surveyors before he goes to Ravensnest, and the party follows Susquesus's counsel.
They arrive without incident at Mooseridge. Apparently the surveyor and his helpers are camping out at some distance, for everything is in order in the log house.  Susquesus, suspicious, sets out to reconnoiter, followed by Corny; Susquesus detects signs of Huron visitors and finally convinces Corny of their presence. On conference, all -- whites, blacks, and the two Indians -- decide to barricade themselves that night in the log house. At two o'clock in the morning, Susquesus awakens Corny and leads him outside. Following a human cry, they find Pete, suspended from a spring trap made of two saplings, dead and scalped. Susquesus and Corny, after determining that the Huron party was a small one -- three or four -- report the melancholy news of Pete's death to the rest, who vow vengeance. Jaap buries Pete's body, and Guert prays over it.  After breakfast, they set out to warn the surveying party, en route finding and burying Sam, one of their hunters, knifed and scalped; Guert prays and pronounces a brief, heartfelt sermon at his grave. At last Susquesus finds Traverse, his two chainbearers, and the hunter Tom, shot and scalped, but propped up as if alive; the four are buried carefully but without ceremony, since Susquesus's diligent examination of footprints has revealed that at least a dozen Hurons had taken part in the killings. They return cautiously to the log house and are eating when Jumper comes from Ravensnest with letters from Anneke, Mary, and Herman Mordaunt urging them to take shelter in that fortified place, for many Indians' trails have been seen.  They leave at once for Ravensnest, led by Susquesus and Jumper apart from the frequented path, to avoid detection by the enemy. Seeing forty Hurons eating around a campfire in the ravine Mordaunt has told Dirck to use as an approach to the fortress, they decide to surprise the enemy, take revenge for the scalpings, and then rush for the gate, each man responsible for his own safety. They succeed in their purpose and all are afterwards secure inside the fortress. Mordaunt, inquiring about Traverse and his helpers, learns the news of their grisly murder. Since Bulstrode has now arrived and wishes to see Corny, Corny goes to the injured major's room. The two men talk of their respective prospects for winning Anneke's hand, and Bulstrode advises Corny to use to its fullest his present advantage as Anneke's defender, since Bulstrode plans to capitalize on his battle wound. On leaving Bulstrode's room, Corny finds Anneke alone, restates his love for her, and is told that she loves him and has no feeling for Bulstrode. On Guert's suit of Mary, Anneke has no word; Guert himself tells Corny afterwards that Mary has refused him again.
 Mordaunt and his men guard the fortress throughout the night; all men are awakened well before dawn, to expect attack. The Hurons have painstakingly prepared to set the fort on fire, a project Susquesus detects. All agree to wait until the fire has actually been started before action is taken against the enemy; when Guert sees that the incendiary is Muss himself, he shoots at him, an act precipitating the Huron's war whoop and much shouting among the enemy. Anneke summons Corny and tells him her father agrees to her marrying Corny rather than Bulstrode. Thus heartened, Corny joins the others in defending the fortress against attack by the Hurons: first, he goes outside to examine the fire and returns to warn Mordaunt to apply water from the lookout point above it; next, he goes out with Susquesus to rescue the party led by Guert intended to drive off the Hurons gathered below the fort. His efforts are supported by a charge led by Mordaunt, and most of them safely reenter the gate; Guert and Jaap are missing, and Jumper and two settlers -- Gilbert Davis and Moses Mudge -- are dead and scalped.  Suspecting that Jaap and Guert are captives of the Hurons, Mordaunt sends Susquesus as a: messenger, to offer to ransom the two captives. In the subsequent parleying, Muss declares that Jaap must be killed and scalped for his beating of Muss; Guert will be killed and scalped unless two "chiefs" and two "common men" or four common men or two common men and all of Ravensnest are exchanged for him, terms unacceptable to Mordaunt. Jaap, determined not to die, manages to steal an Indian's knife and cut both his bonds and Guert's while Corny is being permitted to give Guert a message: that Mary Wallace loves him. Jaap and Guert seize rifles from their guards and attack the Indians fiercely; the Indians flee before the combined forces from Ravensnest, but a last stray shot mortally wounds Guert. Mary tends Guert lovingly through his last hours, and joins the Rev. Mr. Worden in the prayers Guert asks in his behalf; Guert dies in Mary's arms.  The young Dutchman's body is taken by Corny and Dirck to Albany for burial. After the funeral, Corny and Dirck go by boat toward New York; Dirck rejoins his family, and Corny, after a brief visit with his aunt and uncle Legge, goes home to Satanstoe. After his full recounting of the Ticonderoga campaign and of the Ravensnest events, Corny is questioned by his mother about the Mordaunts; after teasing her a bit, he announces to her joy that he has won Anneke.
The Mordaunts return to Lilacsbush in September; Corny, invited to come for late breakfast, goes the preceding evening with the romantic notion of watching Anneke from a distance. He encounters Bulstrode, who acknowledges himself bested in the courting of Anneke and attributes his own loss to his having offended Anneke by playing Scrub in the bawdy entertainment presented by his brigade at the theater party in New York. Corny overhears Mary telling Anneke that she will remain forever the widow of Guert, whose proposal she should have accepted. Corny and Anneke are married early in October; Bulstrode remains a bachelor all his life but maintains correspondence with the Littlepages, a matter left to Anneke's and Corny's son Mordaunt to include in the ongoing family narrative.
General [James] Abercrombie, Captain Billings, Mrs. Bogart, Major Henry Bulstrode, Caesar, Cato, Mayor Cuyler, David, Gilbert Davis, Doortje, Mother Doortje, Hugh Caine, Ensign Tom Harris, Major Joe Hight, Lord Viscount Howe, Katrinke, Captain Charles Lee, Legge, Jane Legge, Mrs. Light, Madam Littlepage, Cornelius Littlepage, Major Evans Littlepage, Captain Hugh Roger Littlepage, Mari, Anna Cornelia Mordaunt, Herman Mordaunt, Moses Mudge, Musquerusque [Muss], Jason Newcome, Major Nicholas Oothout, Petrus, Pompey, Quissquiss, Major Rogers, Sam, Jacob Satanstoe, Madam Schuyler, Philip Schuyler, Silvy, Susquesus, Guert Ten Eyck, Tom, Traverse, Mrs. Van der Heyden, Jeremiah Van Rensselaer, Colonel Abraham Van Valkenburgh, Dirck Van Valkenburgh, Mary Wallace, Rev. Mr. Thomas Worden.
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