It may easily be that, during the many years which have come and gone since the eventful time of my childhood, Memory has played tricks upon me to the prejudice of Truth. I am indeed admonished of this by study of my son, for whose children in turn this tale is indited, and who is now able to remember many incidents of his youth--chiefly beatings and like parental cruelties--which I know very well never happened at all. He is good enough to forgive me these mythical stripes and bufferings, but he nurses their memory with ostentatious and increasingly succinct recollection, whereas for my own part, and for his mother's, our enduring fear was lest we had spoiled him through weak fondness. By good fortune the reverse has been true. He is grown into a man of whom any parents might be proud--tall, well-featured, strong, tolerably learned, honorable, and of influence among his fellows. His affection for us, too, is very great. Yet in the fashion of this new generation, which speaks without waiting to be addressed, and does not scruple to instruct on all subjects its elders, he will have it that he feared me when a lad--and with cause! If fancy can so distort impressions within such short span, it does not become me to be too set about events which come back slowly through the mist and darkness of nearly threescore years. Yet they return to me so full of color, and cut in such precision and keenness of outline, that at no point can I bring myself to say, "Perhaps I am in error concerning this," or to ask, "Has this perchance been confused with other matters?" Moreover, there are few now remaining who of their own memory could controvert or correct me. And if they essay to do so, why should not my word be at least as weighty as theirs? And so to the story: I was in my eighth year, and there was snow on the ground. The day is recorded in history as November 13, A.D. 1757, but I am afraid that I did not know much about years then, and certainly the month seems now to have been one of midwinter. The Mohawk, a larger stream then by far than in these days, was not yet frozen over, but its frothy flood ran very dark and chill between the white banks, and the muskrats and the beavers were all snug in their winter holes. Although no big fragments of ice floated on the current, there had already been a prodigious scattering of the bateaux and canoes which through all the open season made a thriving thoroughfare of the river. This meant that the trading was over, and that the trappers and hunters, white and red, were either getting ready to go or had gone northward into the wilderness, where might be had during the winter the skins of dangerous animals--bears, wolves, catamounts, and lynx--and where moose and deer could be chased and yarded over the crust, not to refer to smaller furred beasts to be taken in traps. I was not at all saddened by the departure of these rude, foul men, of whom those of Caucasian race were not always the least savage, for they did not fail to lay hands upon traps or nets left by the heedless within their reach, and even were not beyond making off with our boats, cursing and beating children who came unprotected in their path, and putting the women in terror of their very lives. The cold weather was welcome not only for clearing us of these pests, but for driving off the black flies, mosquitoes, and gnats which at that time, with the great forests so close behind us, often rendered existence a burden, particularly just after rains
About Harold Frederic
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Published March 24, 2011
by Charles Scribner's Sons.
Literature & Fiction, Education & Reference, History, Religion & Spirituality, Health, Fitness & Dieting, Biographies & Memoirs.