Nathaniel Colchester Iron, a New York writer, was listed as a clerk in the Brooklyn Directory for 1860-61, but from 1861-62 to 1864-65 he was given as an author. After that, for one year only, 1866-67, he appeared in the New York City Directory as a publisher. Nothing is known as to his previous or subsequent residence or activities. The dates and places of his birth and death are also unknown.
Besides his novels for Beadle, which appeared between 1861 and 1866, he was co-author with John Bevan of "Historical, Descriptive and Illustrated Atlas of the Cities, Towns and Villages of the Lines of the Hudson River & New York Central Railroads," published in New York in 1862.
Dime Novels. Nos. 22, 27, 31, 37, 44, 51, 62, 69, 102,
342, 463, 477, 497, 503, 526, 529, 542, 573
Fifteen Cent Novels. No. 22
American Library (London). Nos. 27, 64
American Library Tales. Vol. IV (three novels, Dime Novels, no. 27, Dime Novels, no. 37, Dime Novels, no. 44)
Pocket Novels. Nos. 25, 261
Boy's Library (octavo). 295
SPECIMEN OF N. C. IRON'S STYLE
"The Two Guards." Dime Novel No. 51, pp. 29-32.
The escape, we may say, was not unpremeditated, although the occasion was sudden. The slave was not wholly unprovided for the event. He had concealed food, clothing and shoes; for, however weighty a burden these might prove to the poor fugitive, he knew that without them he should be compelled to return or perish. He had concealed them in a hole formed upon the high ground beneath the root of a great cotton-tree, and was standing at this miniature cavern's mouth when the sound reached his ear that he was being hunted. He started at the sound, but soon became composed. His attitude of defiance was sublime. "Dere's two or t'ree dogs. I would not hurt dem, but I must be free."
Caesar drew a knife, the only weapon of defense he had, and without attempting to retreat from such enemies as bloodhounds, he placed himself in a position near the cave, where to receive the onslaught of the dogs. The hounds came swiftly on; they were occasionally at fault, when their deep baying resounded like the knell of death. Caesar stood steadfast as a matadore. He had resolved upon the combat, like one ready for death. His unsheathed knife was grasped by nerves of steel. His hope was to slay the dogs as they came one by one at his throat. Alert as a panther, powerful in limb and steady of nerve, he hoped to end with the dogs, then to escape to his retreat before the riders could reach the spot.
The hounds soon were near; although unseen, their panting could be distinctly heard through the deep silences of the swamp, followed at some distance by the galloping of horses. Presently one hound came in view; a few rods only separated the antagonists. Caesar had raised his arm and poised the fatal dirk; but his arm became powerless, and the weapon fell from his hand as he beheld the milk-white coat, and the long, smooth, pendulous ears of Leo. He could not pronounce the dog's name. The noble animal recognized his friend, and his insane rage all turned to joy. He almost threw his weighty carcass into the poor slave's arms. The danger, however, was not past. Another hound was on the trail, close at hand. By his notes Caesar knew it to be no inmate of the Tourville kennel. The weapon which had fallen from his grasp had mysteriously disappeared; probably Leo's demonstration had thrust it away in the grass. Only a moment remained, and then the strong beast came leaping through the very air. A rush, a clash, one wild, long howl of baffled thirst and of agony, and all was over. Leo had done the work with the celerity of lightning, and the silences came back to the swamp once more, as the negro and hound stood there alone—free. Caesar loved Leo with a love which found expression in tears. He drew the dog's bead to his breast and covered it with caresses. The dog was more loving and lovable than man.
The horses soon were heard coming forward with rapidity. Caesar recovered his fallen weapon, and, rushing toward the cavern's recess, he and Leo leaped into the hiding-place. Wild rose and blackberry vines securely concealed the opening; the spot really was impenetrable to vision. The hunters coming forward, grouped around the prostrate dog. The fugitive heard and saw all. None supposed him hidden near the spot; and, as they, fortunately, had no other dog at hand, they were unlikely to discover the place of retreat. The absence of Leo, however, was to them mysterious; and when they separated to beat and examine more closely the locality, the frequent cry of "Leo" penetrated to their dark sepulcher to arrest the attention of the dog. Caesar, however, soothed him by caresses, and by giving him food and water. There was but one summons which the brave hound would not have refused to answer—that of Beaumont; but, as that young gentleman "never interfered in plantation matters" without a special requisition, he declined to utter a word which, in all probability, would have brought the dog to his side, and have disclosed the cave where Caesar believed himself so safe.
The day, however, closed—Caesar had eluded detection. The exasperated horsemen reluctantly turned the heads of their jaded animals toward home, inflamed with the misfortunes as well as the disappointments of the chase. The mortification of Flesher was boundless. Like a beast of prey who knew that his game was near, he hung around the vicinity of the dead dog, peering into every nook that could conceal a bird; and though passing and repassing, and actually riding over the cave where Caesar lay concealed, he was so blinded by anger that he did not perceive a rustling of the brambles at the entrance, occasioned by an attempt of Leo to get again into the light. The slave, however, hastily checked this unconscious movement of the faithful dog, and the danger of discovery was gone.
Caesar heard the receding footsteps of the horses as their riders went moodily away. When they had ceased, and quietude again reigned in this desolate solitude, he cautiously emerged from the cavern. The sun was setting, and the faint light of retiring day increased the wretchedness of this dark wilderness. The slave, however, was happy—he was free; this was the first day of liberty since he had worn his chains. This made his heart glad, his spirits buoyant, and fortified him against the perils of the morrow. He knew that redoubled efforts would then be made for his recapture—that after the slaughter of one hound and the defection of another, the cruel chase would not be renewed with dogs from the Tourville kennel, but other hounds would be put upon the trail, and horsemen in greater numbers would assemble. Indeed, he felt that on the morrow he must not depend upon the incaution of the hunters, but upon his own nerve, adroitness and power of endurance. Leo and he must in future be companions. He could not return him. The attempt would be fatal to his escape, and he rejected it.
At a considerable distance from the place where the dog was killed stood a mound of earth, raised far above the swamp. It was covered with trees and underwood, and, being surrounded by marshy land, could only be approached by a single path. That path was so broken and marshy as to render it impracticable to horses; only pedestrians, by the greatest care, could use it. Viewed at a distance it seemed a tempting place of refuge; but, once reached, there were no means of quitting it except by the same path. Many poor fugitives had been retaken in this decoy. To this false haven Caesar now directed his steps, crossing by the pathway, the imperfect state of which, concealed by the darkness of the night, often caused him to plunge into pools, which Leo, by superior dexterity, avoided. When he surmounted these difficulties, and reached the hill, both hastily took the circuit of it, then scrambled among the underwood, getting into every nook and hollow where it was possible to enter, until there were but few feet of this island upon which he had not trodden. This done he retraced the watery path by which he had reached the mound, and returned to the place whence he had started.
Fatigued with the journey, but well satisfied with the stratagem, he again entered the cave. After taking both rest and refreshment, he packed the remainder of the provender, slung it upon his back, and commenced a further movement toward liberty. In doing so, he had either to make a considerable detour, leaving a trail that would be detected by the dogs, or cross the swamp where the water was deep, and the earth so spongy and treacherous as to render it unsafe. The moment was not one in which to weigh danger too minutely. Therp was peril both in the advance and in delay. He unhesitatingly plunged into the swamp.