High adventure on the colonial frontier in time of war
Readers who are unfamiliar with ‘Greyslaer’ but know the iconic ‘Last of the Mohicans’ will find that this book shares many of the qualities of James Fenimore Cooper’s novel both in terms of style and storyline. However, instead of taking place in the wilderness at the time of the French and Indian War, ‘Greyslaer’ is set in the Mohawk Valley some twenty years later. The area is now settled and, as the narrative begins, in turmoil and on the brink of the being embroiled in the American Revolution. Those who enjoy tales of adventure will find much to please them in these pages. The young hero, Greyslaer, is a patriot supported by friends in the militia and comrades among the backwoodsmen, rangers and trappers led by the faithful hunter, Balt. There is also, of course, a cast of unpleasant Tories, dastardly renegades given to abduction and cold blooded murder, distressed damsels, Oneida Iroquois Indian allies, noble Indian foes and numerous howling savages. British officers who appear acquit themselves well and bravely, despite being on the wrong side as events move inexorably towards the pivotal conflict at Oriskany. This is American romantic adventure from the early 19th century and will delight all who love such books. Observant readers might notice similarity with the action of ‘Drums Along the Mohawk,’ although the literary pedigree of Hoffman’s writing is from an earlier time to that of Edmonds. This special Leonaur edition of ‘Greyslaer’ includes all sections of the original two volume work in a single volume edition, making this a fine alternative for the collections of those who know the book.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.
“Why, the bizness is a bad one, anyhow you can fix it, capting; but I think I understand the caper on’t. Don’t you see—sarve you right, Bill; I told you they’d spile that hat afore the night was over, if you would pop up your head above the rider instead of firing atween the rails—don’t you see that we’ve only had one shot from the house, while the old fence is already pretty well riddled from the hillside? Well—elevate a little lower, Adam, if it’s that skulking fellow by the big elm you’re trying for—well, then, as I was saying, it’s pretty easy to guess where the strength of the redskins must lie; and I don’t see that we can do better than streak it right ahead for the house, and trust to legs and luck for getting safe into it.”<br>
The suggestion was too much in accordance with Greyslaer’s feelings not to be eagerly caught at by him. Indeed, so overpowering was his anxiety for the beloved inmates of the mansion, that nothing but considerations of duty toward the party who had trusted themselves to his guidance, had hitherto prevented him from dashing forward to his destination at all hazards. But if he had still hesitated as to the course to adopt in the present exigency, all doubt as to his movements was at once dispelled in the moment that Balt finished speaking.<br>
A sound of terror, the shriek of woman in distress, with the hoarse cry of age imploring mercy and assistance, rose suddenly from the dwelling, chilling the blood of some, and making the pulses of others leap with mad and vengeful impatience. And it was then that, bursting simultaneously from their cover, the red man and the white could be seen urging their way with rival fleetness towards the same goal, for the moment apparently regardless of each other’s neighbourhood; pausing not to strike down a competitor in the race, but striving only who first could reach the bourne. The one thirsting to share in the massacre that seemed in the act of perpetration; the other burning with fierce impatience to arrest or avenge the butchery of his friends.<br>
A light and agile youth, a fair-haired boy of sixteen, was the first that gained the door of the mansion; but even as he planted his foot upon the threshold, his head was cloven asunder by an Indian tomahawk, and, with limbs quivering in death, his body rolled down the steps, while the exulting savage who dealt the blow leaped over it brandishing his fatal weapon. But his triumph was short. Greyslaer was close upon him, and, as he strained every nerve in rushing forward, he came with his drawn rapier so impetuously upon the Indian, that the point was driven through his back deep into the panel of the door, which burst open from the shock.<br>
Leaving his friends for the moment to make good their entrance as best they could, by opposing their hunting-knives and clubbed rifles to the tomahawks and maces of the Indians, who instantly mingled with them in wild melee around the porch, Greyslaer rushed forward to the sitting-room of the family. He shrunk aghast at the sight of horror which told him that he had come too late. The master of the house lay stunned and senseless upon the floor. Alida, the beautiful Alida, had disappeared; but her fair-haired sister lay weltering in her blood, while a gash across her forehead, with the tangled locks drawn backward from her brow and the print of gory fingers fresh upon the golden tissue, called Greyslaer’s eye to a savage, who shook his scalping-knife at him with a hideous grin of disappointed malice as he sprang through the open window. But there was no time now for grief to have its way. The din of the conflict still rose fresh behind him, and Greyslaer turned to the succour of his friends whom it might avail.<br>
“Powder, powder, capting!” shouted Balt, who this moment presented himself. “There’s a big redskin keeping three of our men at bay with his tomahawk; I must use him up at once, to give the rest an opportunity of making a rush from the outhouse; our best men are still outside. Bedlow and Boonhoven are both down; but big Hans, the miller, yet holds the door stoutly, and Bill Stacey has gone up with his axe to drop the gutter from the eaves upon the redskins that are hammering at the windows. Ah! there’s the tool for my purpose,” he added, seizing the ducking gun from the chimney, and throwing down his half-loaded rifle; while Greyslaer had, in the meantime, secured the window through which the ferocious Au-neh-yesh had a moment before made his entrance and escape.<br>
Greyslaer now rushed to support the man who was holding the door against odds so stoutly; while Balt ascended the staircase, freshly priming the ducking gun, and adding a handful of buckshot to the already heavily charged piece as he went. He gained a window in the same moment that Greyslaer, sallying out from the house sword in hand, cut down the sturdy warrior for whom Balt had prepared his charge. A dozen Mohawks instantly rushed forward to avenge the fall of their comrade. But the heavy piece of Balt did good service in the moment, or Greyslaer’s career would have been cut short for ever. A shower of buckshot drove them quickly to regain their cover.<br>
“Now, boys,” shouted the woodsman, “make a rush for the house, while the red devils digest that peppering.”<br>
The handful of outlying whites did not wait for the invitation to be repeated, but rushed pell-mell within the porch so furiously as to bear down each other in the hall, while the sturdy miller made a liberal use of his foot in pushing aside their bodies while shutting the heavy oaken door.<br>
Furious at being thus foiled, the brave Mohawks made a simultaneous rush towards the entrance, when, at that instant, the rude and ponderous gutter, loosened from the eaves, descended with a crash upon their heads; and, with a wild howl of grief and dismay, the survivors of their party drew off their wounded and disabled comrades, and left the stout yeomen masters of the field.