The Tryst Of The Sachem’s Daughter

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In the far green depths of the forest glade,
Where the hunter’s footsteps but rarely strayed,
Was a darksome dell, possessed, ’twas said,
By an evil spirit, dark and dread,
Whose weird voice spoke in the whisperings low
Of that haunted wood, and the torrent’s flow.

There an Indian girl sat silent, lone,
From her lips came no plaint or stifled moan,
But the seal of anguish, hopeless and wild,
Was stamped on the brow of the forest child,
And her breast was laden with anxious fears,
And her dark eyes heavy with unshed tears.

Ah! a few months since, when the soft spring gales
With fragrance were filling the forest dales;
When sunshine had chased stern winter’s gloom,
And woods had awoke in their new-born bloom,
No step had been lighter on upland or hill
Than her’s who sat there so weary and still.

Now, the silken ears of the tasseled maize
Had ripened beneath the sun’s fierce blaze,
And the summer’s sunshine, warm and bright,
Had been followed by autumn’s amber light,
While the trees robed in glowing gold and red,
Their fast falling leaves thickly round her shed.

A Sachem’s daughter, beloved and revered,
To the honest hearts of her tribe endeared
By her goodness rare and her lovely face,
Her innocent mirth and her artless grace;
Wooed oft by young Indian braves as their bride,
Sought by stern-browed chiefs for their wigwam’s pride.

Heart-free, unwon, she had turned from each prayer,
And thought but of smoothing her raven hair;
Of embroidering moccasins, dainty, neat,
With quills and gay beads for her tiny feet;
Or skilfully guiding her bark canoe
O’er St. Lawrence’s waves of sparkling blue.

Alas for the hour, when in woodlands wild
The white man met with the Sachem’s child,
And she wondering gazed on his golden hair,
His deep blue eyes, and his forehead fair,
And his rich soft voice fell low on her ear,
And became to her heart, alas! too dear.

Well trained was he in each courtly art
That can please and win a woman’s heart;
And many a girl of lineage high
Had looked on his wooing with fav’ring eye:
Inconstant to all, in hall or in bower,
What chance of escape had this forest flower?

Soon, ah! very soon, he tired of her smile,
Her dusky charms and each sweet, shy wile;
And yet it was long ere, poor trusting dove,
Her faith was shaken in the white man’s love;
And now one last tryst she had asked of him
In this haunted glade in the forest dim.

He had lightly vowed, as such men will do,
To the place and hour that he would be true;
She had waited since the dawn broke chill,
Till the sun was setting behind the hill;
But for him, amid scenes of fashion gay,
All thought of his promise had passed away.

“I will wait for him here,” she softly said,
“Yes, wait till he comes,” and her weary head
Drooped low on her breast, and when the night,
On noiseless pinions had taken its flight,
She looked at the sunrise, with eyes grown dim,
And murmured: “I’ll wait here for death or him.”

It was death that came, and with kindly touch
He stilled the heart that had borne so much;
To the Manitou praying, she passed away
With the sunset clouds of another day,—
No anger quickened her failing breath,
Patient, unmurmuring, even in death.

For days they sought her, the sons of her race,
In deep far-off woods, in each secret place,
Till at length to the haunted glade they crept,
And found her there as in death she slept.
They whispered low of the spirit of ill,
And buried her quickly beside the hill.

That year her false lover back with him bore
A radiant bride to his native shore.
And, with smiling triumph and joy elate,
Ne’er gave one thought to his dark love’s fate;
But an All-seeing Judge, in wrath arrayed,
Shall avenge the wrongs of that Indian maid.

© Rosanna Eleanor Leprohon