The Redskins; or, Indian and Injin: Being the Conclusion of the Littlepage Manuscripts (1846)

Warren S. Walker (Texas Tech University)

Originally published in Warren S. Walker, Plots and Characters in the Fiction of James Fenimore Cooper (Hamden, CT: Archon Books, 1978), pp. 187-194.

Copyright © 1978 by Warren S. Walker.  Placed online with the kind permission of Warren S. Walker, and of Shoe String Press, Inc.

[May be reproduced for instructional use by individuals or institutions; commercial use prohibited.]

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.

— Hugh C. MacDougall

[This is the concluding volume of a trilogy of which the first volume is Satanstoe and the second is The Chainbearer.]

[1] Early in the 1840s, Hugh Roger Littlepage, a bachelor of fifty-nine commonly called Ro (the second son of Mordaunt and Ursula Malbone Littlepage), and his nephew Hugh Roger Littlepage, twenty-five (son of the deceased first son, Malbone, of Mordaunt and Ursula Littlepage), resettled in Paris after extended travels in the Mideast, discuss at length the changing customs of their home country, the United States, and admit to a twinge of homesickness. [2] Numerous letters and newspapers awaiting them following their eighteen-month absence from Paris acquaint the two men with the increased fervor of the anti-rent movement in New York State, a movement that threatens the security of their own property holdings. Every aspect of current life at home is reviewed during the ensuing discussion — political, social, economic, philosophical, and sentimental — and thus the background is provided for the action that later takes place in the novel. Most of the significant characters of the entire novel are introduced in the course of the two-day discussion, interrupted only by the hours spent in sleep, and prompted by the tidings found either in family or business letters or in the accumulated newspapers from home.

[3] In view of the serious developments associated with the anti-rent movement, the two decide to return home at once, incognito — there has been violence against various landholders — sending their servants home separately by way of England. [4] On their arrival in New York City, the two Littlepages, deliberately avoiding their own townhouses, go to the quarters of Jack Dunning, Uncle Ro’s agent, who acquaints them with even more distressing details concerning the unrest. Jack Dunning also informs them that Ursula Malbone Littlepage, Martha (Patt or Patty) Littlepage, Henrietta Coldbrooke, and Anne Marston (the last two are wards of Uncle Ro, as well as prospective wives for young Hugh) are all presently at Ravensnest and thereby exposed to the risk of abuse by the anti-renters. Hugh and his uncle assemble costumes, including wigs, and adopt heavy German accents, disguises that not even family members can penetrate; they retain the father/son name Davidson under which they had booked for the transatlantic voyage, and each chooses a trade: the uncle to be an immigrant trinket and watch peddler and the nephew to play the hurdy-gurdy, accompanied by a monkey; the monkey is discarded after a single day as being too much trouble. [5] On the boat en route to Albany, the two encounter Seneca Newcome (grandson of Jason Newcome], and Uncle Ro sells “Squire Seneky” a watch at a low price in exchange for his help in locating a good market for the rest of the articles he has for sale; Newcome is completely deceived by their disguises. In Troy, they encounter the Rev. Mr. Warren and his daughter Mary, both of whom have heard of the “Germans” from Newcome; there, young Hugh first tries out his music in public and finds a warm response from the Warrens. [6] Invited upstairs by the Warrens, Hugh is still with them when Opportunity Newcome (sister of Seneca Newcome) enters the public parlor. Fortunately, she fails to recognize young Hugh in his disguise — though she has known him for years — and carries on a mindless chatter and an affectation of French that cause Hugh and Mary to exchange amused glances.

On Seneca Newcome’s arrival, all board the train for Saratoga, where the anti-rent conversation becomes heated. [7] From Saratoga, Uncle Ro and Hugh go on alone to the inn at Mooseridge, where discussion of the anti-rent controversy is even more marked; greater sensibility and balance on the matter are evidenced here, an encouraging sign to Hugh as he listens to the temperate judgments of attorney Hubbard and mechanic Hall. [8] From Mooseridge, the uncle and nephew approach Ravensnest, and after considerable debate decide to test their disguises first on black Jaap (Jacob Satanstoe) and Susquesus, the Onondago; Jaap has lost much of his recent memory, but Susquesus proves to be as observant as ever. During the “peddlers’” visit with Jaap and Susquesus, Ursula Malbone Littlepage (now eighty) and the young women staying with her — Hugh’s sister Martha, Henrietta Coldbrooke, Anne Marston, and Mary Warren — stop by in the course of an airing by carriage, and Mary recognizes them as the “Germans” met in Troy. At Mary’s request, Hugh plays a tune on the flute (an instrument on which he is highly accomplished), and the music is enjoyed by all; Ursula pays him a dollar and he kisses her hand, but his relatives do not recognize him. While Uncle Ro and Jaap see the ladies off, Susquesus asks why Hugh had not kissed his grandmother’s face; he was the only one to penetrate the disguises. Young Hugh, surprised, urges Susquesus not to reveal his identity, explaining the danger from the anti-renters, or “Injins.” (The irate tenants, intent upon gaining ownership of lands leased from the Littlepages, have adopted hoods and mock- Indian calico dresses and, styling themselves “Injins,” have been committing abuses and depredations against the landlords and their property in this crude disguise.)

[9] Uncle Ro and Hugh, deciding to maintain their disguises, next visit Tom Miller, manager of the Ravensnest farm and a steady sort. With Tom are two of his sons and two hired men; of the latter, one — Joshua Brigham — is especially outspoken for anti-renters and against aristocrats and is finally sent about his business by Tom Miller. Further discussion reveals that Tom recognizes a social “pecking order” in which he himself participates by not allowing his daughter Kitty to associate with the daughters of a man of poorer family. [A long author’s commentary is introduced here on the subtleties of “aristocracy.”] The conversation between young Hugh and Tom Miller is interrupted by the return of Madam Littlepage’s carriage. [10] The women want to look again at the peddler’s trinkets, to which he quickly adds some high-quality watches and other items bought in Europe as gifts for his wards. Mrs. Littlepage buys a gold pencil for $15.00 and presents it to Mary Warren, and shortly thereafter purchases a French-made watch and gives it to Mary, who protests the extravagance but will accept the gift if her father approves. Since Mary’s father is to dine at Ravensnest that evening, Mrs. Littlepage invites the two peddlers to have their dinner at the ‘Nest also, an invitation they eagerly accept. At the ‘Nest, while they are all examining Hugh’s flute, Mrs. Littlepage realizes who the two “peddlers” must be, and she draws young Hugh into a nearby parlor and asks him about her conjecture. He confirms what she suspects: that he is her grandson and that the peddler is her son. Some little furor is caused by Patt’s desire for a $100 gold chain — bought specifically for the girl young Hugh will marry — but the discussion subsides as Mrs. Littlepage realizes that no amount of money can buy that chain. The girls make other selections, totaling $200; and the peddler and Mrs. Littlepage are left alone in the room, ostensibly to conclude the business, but in truth to be together as mother and son.

[11] The two peddlers are served dinner immediately by John, the footman; during the dinner, Hugh openly declares his strong attraction to Mary Warren, a declaration displeasing to his uncle, who wants Hugh to marry one of his two wards. Following the dinner, the footman returns, and the three men talk at length about the anti-rent unrest. This conversation is interrupted by Mrs. Littlepage, who sends John on an errand and then arranges for Hugh and his sister, Patt (Martha), to talk undisturbed. Following a tearful yet joyous reunion and much conversation, the two are at last ready to join the rest of the company. [12] Since the family dinner hour is at hand, the peddlers leave, promising to come again. From Ravensnest they go to Tom Miller’s farm, to find Joshua Brigham more distrustful than ever. Much talk ensues about anti-rent matters and about aristocracy, talk in which Josh’s intention to defraud Hugh Littlepage is made evident. By agreeing at the right moments, Hugh is invited to become an Injin, an offer he accepts with alacrity. [A long authorial intrusion here deals with the term “aristocratic.”] Joshua leaves on an errand after this conversation; Hugh is certain, however, that he will see both Joshua and Tom Miller at the meeting the following day, a meeting featuring a paid lecturer.

[13] Tom Miller provides the two peddlers with a dearborn [a one-horse wagon] and uses a two-horse wagon to transport his wife, his daughter, one of the hired men, and himself to the meeting. Hugh notes a dearborn standing before the rectory; obviously, the Rev. Mr. Warren plans also to attend the anti-rent meeting. As Hugh and his uncle drive through the woods, they are set upon by fifty Injins, hooded and in calico dress, who demand to know their business. “Selling watches” seems innocent enough, and many examine the watches while their leader, Streak o’ Lightning, continues to question the peddlers. At the sound of a low whistle, all the Injins disappear into the woods just as the Rev. Mr. Warren’s dearborn comes into sight. The rector and his daughter Mary stop because the peddlers’ dearborn is blocking the road; a frank conversation concerning the meeting ensues, overheard by the hidden Injins, a conversation in which the peddlers, to protect both themselves and the rector, assume an anti-rent position quite disconcerting to the rector. While they are still talking, the Injins come whooping out of the woods. [15] When the rector begins to warn them of the illegality of their attack, they put the rector and Uncle Ro into Tom Miller’s dearborn and take the two with them to the meeting. The Rev. Mr. Warren asks Hugh to see Mary safely home and then to come along to the meeting. After the rest go down the road, Hugh reveals his identity to Mary, who is greatly reassured by this information but fearful for his safety. Nevertheless, the two proceed toward the meeting house, where they find the Rev. Mr. Warren talking with Seneca and Opportunity Newcome, and Uncle Ro engaged in peddling watches. All except the Injins go inside the meeting house. [15] As soon as the Rev. Mr. Warren discerns that two ministers plan to dignify the meeting by prayer, he arises and takes Mary with him, followed quickly by Hugh, who assumes that Warren is ill. Mary having told him of Hugh’s identity, he explains his reason for leaving the meeting so hastily: the participation of ministers in a flagrantly lawless undertaking. As soon as the opening prayers are concluded, the Rev. Mr. Warren, Mary, and Hugh re-enter the meeting house and listen to the two-hour impassioned, ill-informed, rabble-rousing speech. When a call is given for questions or comments, the mechanic Hall stands up and speaks calmly, literately, and sensibly about the falsehoods presented in the lecture. Popular disapproval of Hall’s concluding remarks brings the Injins rushing in, and the audience scatters far and wide. [16] Injins surround Hall threateningly, but none dares to harm him. Hugh, detecting Seneca Newcome beneath one of the Injin costumes, approaches him and addresses him by name. Seneca, an attorney embarrassed to be thus detected, takes Hugh to the store which he and his brother own and treats him to a glass of strong whiskey that Hugh secretly spills; Hugh also sees an Injin enter the store and commandeer twenty yards of calico, to be charged to “Down Rent.” Clearly, the Injins have begun to victimize their employers. A discussion between Uncle Ro and two of the Ravensnest tenants, Holmes and Tubbs, concerning the function of landholders in the “old countries” follows, with an obvious failure of reason to prevail over wrath.

[17] As Uncle Ro and Hugh are driving the dearborn back through the woods, they see two Injins commandeer the wagon behind them and drive it off; soon afterwards, they find Holmes and Tubbs walking, having lost their wagon to Injins in the same fashion. After listening for a few minutes to Holmes’s woeful tale, Uncle Ro and Hugh drive on, expecting at any moment to be stopped by the Injins they see in ambush, but they are not halted.

At length they meet a band of genuine red Indians, in search of Susquesus — to pay homage to the noble Onondago on their way back home from Washington — and Uncle Hugh takes off his wig and introduces himself and Hugh, also unwigged, as the Littlepages known among the Indian band. [18] When Uncle Ro says there are Injins in the woods, the real Indians hail them and, not being answered, pursue them, capturing only two: Joshua Brigham and Seneca Newcome, each of whom blames the other for this degrading capture, prompting a tooth-and-nail struggle between the two. Uncle Ro indicates to the red Indians the direction of Susquesus’s wigwam; then he and Hugh hurry home, stopping only long enough to discover that the rector and his daughter have already left for Ravensnest for dinner.

Uncle Ro and Hugh are warmly welcomed at the ‘Nest, and each dresses himself in his own proper clothes for dinner. [19] Dinner and the following conversation are thoroughly enjoyed; meanwhile, watch is being kept for the arrival of the red Indians. On their arrival, they are courteously greeted and then allowed to examine the details of the fortress and environs that have been preserved in their oral history. They are to be sheltered in Herman Mordaunt’s original farmhouse, with ail necessities supplied. Susquesus is notified of the presence of the visitors so that he can greet them as becomes the noble man he is. [20] Susquesus, appropriately garbed and painted, receives the compliments of his visitors, delivers a moving response, and accepts the tributes of the group’s orator. Then the Indian band retires for the night, and the Littlepages and their household return to the ‘Nest, having had the speeches interpreted by Manytongues.

[21] That night when all others have apparently retired, Hugh sees a horseman riding toward Ravensnest on a little-used trail. Mary Warren also sees the rider, and hurries to the gate, where she and Hugh admit Opportunity Newcome. Opportunity warns Hugh privately that injury is planned against him; as she prepares to ride home, she indicates that fire is to be the method used. Hugh alerts the red Indians, who are eager for action. [22] Meanwhile, Injins have climbed the cliff and set fire to the kitchen, an action detected by Mary and reported to Hugh. While Mary hurries to alert Uncle Ro and also Manytongues, Hugh discharges his rifle once, and then uses it to club one of the incendiaries, knocking him senseless; he then grapples with the second incendiary. The advantage of surprise yields to the enemy’s superior strength and wrestling skill, and Mary returns just in time to save Hugh from being choked to death. [23] Manytongues, accompanying Mary, secures the incendiaries while Hugh extinguishes the fire. Removal of the blackface disguises reveals the intruders as Joshua Brigham and Seneca Newcome. Grandmother Littlepage, hearing the noise, summons the family to her and elicits a full report. While they are still discussing the kitchen fire, they discover that a barn filled with hay has been set afire half a mile from the house. The redskins are stealthily creeping up on the Injins dancing around the flames; the Injins flee as soon as they discover the approach of the real Indians. The rest of the night passes quietly.

[24] The family and their white guests attend Sunday morning services the next day, finding the Episcopal church crowded with non-Episcopalians, all resentful of Hugh’s sitting in the family’s canopied pew. [25] Following the service, these outsiders hold a public meeting and approve a set of resolutions, previously drawn up, which is presented to Hugh as he and the younger members of his party walk home from church. At first refusing to accept the resolutions because of the peremptory manner in which they are presented by the three men delegated to deliver them, Hugh accepts them when politely requested to do so. The resolutions are read aloud by Hugh in a copse en route to the house; in the resolutions, strong objection is made to canopied pews and to a landlord’s setting a barn afire so that he can accuse others of arson. Hugh is determined not to remove the canopy under pressure and to scotch the rumor he had set his own barn afire. On arrival at the ‘Nest, Hugh is told that Opportunity Newcome awaits him; he hurries to the ravine where she is concealed and, hearing her plea for the release of Seneca, invites her to come openly to the ‘Nest to appeal for her brother’s release.

[26] The following morning, Hugh is awakened by the news that his pew canopy has been removed and now covers the pigpen on Tom Miller’s farm, news that amuses rather than angers him. Much discussion of the matter follows among the family and guests. The conversation reveals that in the last three weeks Seneca Newcome has proposed marriage to the three young ladies at the ‘Nest, and has been refused by all three (all by means of letters); this discovery deeply angers Uncle Ro, who regards the proposals as sheer effrontery. [27] The conversation is interrupted by word that the red Indians are to hold a closing ceremonial for Susquesus on the lawn below the piazza; benches are set up for the occasion, and plenty of tobacco is provided. All the family and guests have chairs on the lawn, and the servants are also allowed to watch the ceremonial. Both Susquesus and Jaap are elaborately dressed, and Susquesus is elegantly painted. On the arrival of the Indian guests, the pipe-smoking begins, with Jaap the only one refusing to relinquish the pipe until the tobacco has been all used. Eloquent speeches are given by Prairiefire and by Deersfoot, the latter addressing Jaap; Jaap’s response is interrupted by the approach of two hundred Injins, first noted by old Jaap himself. [28] All of the party at the ‘Nest, as well as Susquesus, Jaap, and the visiting Indians, are moved to the piazza, and the fort is barricaded. Opportunity Newcome comes to warn Hugh of his danger, and she too is brought into the fort. As the Injins advance across the lawn, Mr. Warren is seen; when the Injins attempt to stop him, Mary, heedless of her own safety, runs out to meet him, and the Injins fall back, allowing Mary and her father to enter the fort. The ceremony continues, in full hearing of the Injins, with the last portion of Jaap’s speech addressed to them and their shameful behavior. [29] Prairiefire, in a dignified but moving speech, asks Susquesus to accompany them westward, to die among his own people; Susquesus, in response, honors but refuses the request, and then condemns the attitudes and practices of the Injins. Eaglesflight then tells the story of Susquesus’s leaving his own tribe because the Delaware squaw he desired belonged to another warri virtue of capture and he would not break the Indian law governing this matter. The Injins, offended by this just comparison between Susquesus’s honorable way and their own dishonorable one, rattle their muskets preparatory to attack, but restrain themselves on seeing the sheriff of the county appear on the piazza. [30] For their own safety, Hugh puts Seneca Newcome and Joshua Brigham in the library; Opportunity finds them there, unbinds them, and leads them by a secret route to freedom. At the sheriff’s order, the Injins disband and flee, an action scornfully observed by the visiting Indians. Susquesus speaks for the last time, counseling his visitors to do right and to keep the Indian law. Then the visitors bid him farewell, thank their Ravensnest hosts, and leave with as little ceremony as they had come.

In a subsequent family discussion, Uncle Ro reveals that he is settling a sum of $50,000 on Mary Warren and that she will marry young Hugh Roger Littlepage; his hope that Hugh would marry Henrietta is satisfied in Henrietta’s being courted and won by a colleague of Hugh, even as Anne was courted and won by another. Rejoicing at the news is evident except among the anti-renters, who consider Mary and Hugh’s match unequal and therefore unsuitable. Injin activity no longer intrudes on Ravensnest, and the family members remain there in safety, with Hugh and Mary happily married.

Barney, Big Thunder, Joshua Brigham, Peter Bunce, Henrietta Coldbrooke, Deersfoot, Jack Dunning, Eaglesflight, Flintyheart, Tim Hall, Onesiphorus Hayden, Hester, Demosthenes Hewlett, Holmes, Hubbard, Jacob, John, Hugh Roger Littlepage [uncle], Hugh Roger Littlepage [nephew], Martha Littlepage, Ursula Malbone Littlepage, Manytongues, Anne Marston, Harry Miller, Kitty Miller, Tom Miller, Mrs. Tom Miller, John Mowatt, Opportunity Newcome, Orson Newcome, Seneca Newcome, Peter, Prairiefire, Jacob Satanstoe, Betty Smith, John Smith, Streak o’ Lightning, Susquesus, Pulaski Todd, Hezekiah Trott, Shabbakuk Tubbs, Rev. Mr. Warren, Mary Warren.