Summary (Masterplots, Definitive Revised Edition)
Mordaunt Littlepage, son of Cornelius Littlepage, of Satanstoe, was at Princeton for six years studying for his bachelor of arts degree during most of the Revolutionary War. Upon graduation, he served in his father’s battalion at the siege of Yorktown and there met sixty-seven-year-old Captain Andries Coejemans, a skilled woodsman and known as Chainbearer because he carried the forward chain in the surveying work he did as a civilian. Mordaunt attained the rank of captain by the time of Cornwallis’ surrender.
Mordaunt formed a strong attachment to the hale old man, and at the close of the war, Chainbearer suggested that Mordaunt meet Dus Malbone, his orphaned niece. The captain thought that she would make a fine wife for his young friend, but Mordaunt, determined to remain unattached, returned home. Chainbearer went back to his civilian occupation, which was considered an ordinary laboring job.
Traveling back to Lilacsbush, Mordaunt and his aged servant, Jaap, were low in funds because by that time the continental currency was practically worthless. On one occasion, they stopped at an inn where Jaap performed and collected plenty of money for their lodging. After stopping at Lilacsbush, Mordaunt and Kate, his youngest sister, rode on to Satanstoe to visit their grandmother. During the ride, Kate told Mordaunt that she hoped to marry Tom Bayard, whom they would meet at Satanstoe, where he was visiting with his sister Priscilla, Kate’s good friend. Kate had hoped that Mordaunt would fall in love with Priscilla. Mordaunt’s grandmother was also conniving to have him fall in love with Priscilla Bayard.
Mordaunt found that Priscilla, as beautiful and intelligent as his sister had promised, was outspoken in her independence and also free in her opinions, which always found Mordaunt in perfect agreement. Tom, her brother, was rather conservative in his beliefs, but Tom and Mordaunt respected each other. Mordaunt readily gave his consent to his sister’s marriage.
After a short time, Mordaunt announced that he was going to travel to Ravensnest, land that his grandfather, Herman Mordaunt, had left him, and that he was to be gone for the entire winter. Before they parted, however, Mordaunt learned that Priscilla was a schoolfriend of Dus, Chainbearer’s niece, and had the highest opinion of her. The two discussed the qualities of Dus and Chainbearer, who had been hired to contract for all the surveying work at Ravensnest.
Mordaunt went with Jaap to Ravensnest. It was to be Mordaunt’s first visit to the wilderness tract. Jaap had been there several times previously with Mordaunt’s father. Chainbearer was already on the ground and surveying the land into small plots for rental. At the Bridge Inn, it was learned that he was working with Dus and her half brother, Frank Malbone. Before reaching Ravensnest, Mordaunt heard a beautiful Indian song sung as he learned later, by Dus, and he met Susquesus, a faithful Indian hunter who had served Mordaunt’s father years before. Susquesus was a good friend of old Chainbearer.
Putting on clothes less fitting a gentleman, Mordaunt and the Indian went to Ravensnest village to learn something of the people there. He learned that a town meeting had been called, with Squire Jason Newcome presiding. Newcome, a powerful and highly respected man, prodded the crowd to vote for the erection of a Congregational rather than a Presbyterian church. Mordaunt watched the proceedings...
(The entire section is 1422 words.)
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