An Unwilling Maid
Jeanie Gould Lincoln
Part 2 out of 3
believe it possible, Sally. Oh, fancy my having to live in a city
occupied by the British!"
"Ah," sighed Miss Moppet, pressing her head against Betty's knee, and a
spark of interest lighting up her doleful little face, "if only some of
them be like my good"--
"Oh, some of the Tories may be passably amusing," said Betty hastily,
giving Moppet a warning glance, as she checked the words on the child's
lips by a soft touch of her hand. "I doubt not that Gulian, my
brother-in-law, has fine qualities, else Clarissa had not been so fond
of him as to leave us all and go so far from us. But I trust that even
Gulian may not see fit to talk loyalist to me; my naughty tongue would
get me into trouble straightway."
"You must learn to control your tongue, Betty," said Moppet primly, with
a roguish twinkle of her eyes upward. "Miss Bidwell says mine is an
unruly member, and told me a most dire tale of a little girl whose
mother for punishment pricked her tongue with a hot bodkin."
"Ugh!" cried Sally, with a shudder, "that was in Puritan days, truly."
"I do not crave the hot bodkin," said Betty, laughing. "Miss Bidwell's
tales are a trifle gruesome, Moppet."
"But I always do love a flimming tale, Betty" (this was Moppet's
invariable rendering of the word "thrilling," which her lips had never
yet conquered), "and some of them are most bloody ones, I assure you.
Oh, Betty, Betty, what _shall_ I do when you are gone!" and with a
sudden realization of her loss, Moppet gave a quick sob which went to
"Nay, sweetheart, be a brave little maid," she answered, fighting a
small lump in her own throat. "I would I could take you with me; but as
I cannot, you must hasten to learn how to make better pot-hooks and
write me letters, which Aunt Euphemia will forward with hers. And,
Moppet, I think I shall give you in special charge to Sally; how will
that please you?"
"I love Sally," said the child simply, as the tender-hearted Sally knelt
down beside her. "Will you help console me with my primer and that
altogether dreadful sampler when my Betty is away?"
"Indeed will I," replied Sally, much amused with Moppet's view of the
sampler; "and you shall come and see me every fine day, and the wet ones
I am sure to be here with Pamela, who has proclaimed her intention of
adopting me when Betty goes. And now I must be going, for it is nearly
the dinner hour, and my mother says as I have dined here three days she
bespeaks my presence for one out of four. So farewell until to-morrow,
Betty, when I shall be here to see you start upon your travels."
Betty was busy enough all that day; indeed, nothing more than a confused
recollection remained with her afterward of trunk and two small boxes to
be packed; of Pamela's urging her acceptance of a new lute-string slip,
rose-colored, which had recently come to her from Boston; of Miss
Bidwell's innumerable stockings all tucked carefully away in one corner
of the hair-covered brass-nailed box, and even Miss Moppet's tenderly
cherished blue bag embroidered in steel beads, which had belonged to
their mother, but which Moppet insisted could be used by Betty with
great effect for her handkerchief at a ball.
"Ball, indeed," sighed Betty, whose brave heart was beginning to quail
at thought of an untold length of separation from her beloved family. "I
should think the hearts of the patriots imprisoned in New York would
scarce be occupied with balls in such times as these."
"You mistake," said Pamela, who, truth to tell, half longed for Betty's
opportunities, for was not her sister going somewhere near Josiah's
post? "I am sure Clarissa's letter which you read me bade you bring all
your best gowns and finery, and we have all heard how gay the army of
occupation make the city."
"Aye, to those who are Tories," said Betty, with curling red lips, "but
for me--oh, Miss Bidwell, if you put in another pair of stockings I
shall require as many feet as a centipede, who I read has hundreds of
"Hundreds of feet?" echoed Miss Moppet. "Oh, Betty, do I live to hear
you tell a fairy tale as if it were real?"
"Read your primer, and you will learn many wonderful things," quoth
Betty, snatching up the child in her arms. "I shall take you straightway
to bed, for we must be up betimes in the morning, you know."
Very carefully and tenderly did Betty bathe Moppet's sweet little face,
comb and smooth the pretty curling hair, so like her own save in color,
and then run the brass warming-pan, heated by live coals, through the
sheets lest her tender body suffer even a slight chill. And when Moppet
was safely lodged in bed Betty sat down beside her to hold her hand
until she dropped asleep. But between excitement and grief the child's
eyes would not close, and she asked question after question, until Betty
finally announced she should answer no more.
Moppet lay still for some moments, and just as Betty was beginning to
fancy that the long, dark eyelashes worn curling downward in sleepy
comfort the dark blue eyes opened, and a dancing imp of mischief gleamed
from their depths in Betty's face.
"When you meet Captain Yorke, Betty," whispered Moppet, "be sure you
tell him how Oliver and Josiah hunted and hunted that morning, and how I
never, never told"--
"Moppet," said Betty, turning a vivid pink in the firelight, "how can
"Yes," pursued Moppet relentlessly, "and you give him my love--heaps of
it--and I just hope he may never get taken a prisoner during the whole
"Go to sleep, dear," answered Betty, biting her lip; but her cheeks did
not grow cool until long after the soft, regular breathing told that her
little sister had gone into the land of dreams.
The Wolcott household was up early that cold winter morning, when Mrs.
Seymour's coach, with its pair of sturdy, strong gray horses, drew up at
the front door. It took some twenty minutes to bestow Betty's trunk and
boxes on the rumble behind, during which time Mrs. Seymour alighted and
received all manner of charges and advice from Miss Euphemia, who, now
that Betty was fairly on the wing, felt much sinking of heart over her
departure. Mrs. Seymour, a pretty young matron, whose natural gayety of
spirit was only subdued by the anxiety she was suffering in regard to
her only brother, now a prisoner in New York (and for whose exchange she
was bringing great influence to bear in all directions), listened with
much outward deference and inward impatience to the stately dame, and
turned with an air of relief to General Wolcott when he announced that
all was ready for their departure, and with much courtliness offered his
hand to conduct her to her coach.
"That you will take the best care of my daughter I am assured, madam,"
said the gallant gentleman. "It is our great good fortune to have found
this opportunity and your kind escort, for owing to the shortness of
time I have not been able to notify my son-in-law of Betty's coming. But
as you are going into the city yourself, I depend upon you to keep her
with you until you can place her safely in Gulian Verplanck's hands. I
trust that you have General Washington's pass close by you? It is quite
possible that you may need it even before you reach White Plains; there
are many marauding parties who infest the country beyond us."
"It is here, general," replied Mrs. Seymour, touching the breast of her
gown. "I thought it well to carry it about my person, as I am told that
even the Hessians respect General Washington's safe-conduct to enter New
Betty, with crimson cheeks, but brave smiling eyes, threw her arms
fondly around Miss Euphemia, Pamela, Sally, and Miss Bidwell, all in
turn, but Moppet's soft cry as she buried her face in her hands made her
lip quiver, and as she bent her head for her father's farewell, a
reluctant tear forced itself down her cheek.
"The God of our fathers be with you, my daughter," he said, taking her
in his arms; "my love and blessing to Clarissa and her husband. Remain
with them until I find safe opportunity to have you return to us; advise
us often of your health and, I trust, continued well-being; keep a brave
heart as befits your name and lineage; fare you well, fare you well!"
Betty sank back trembling into her seat beside Mrs. Seymour, the door
was closed, and as the coach rolled off she caught a parting glimpse of
Miss Moppet lifted high in General Wolcott's arms, kissing her hand
fondly as she waved good-by.
INSIDE BRITISH LINES
"Drat that knocker!" said Peter Provoost.
The house stood on Wall Street, and to the fact that it like a few
others has been built of brick, it owed its escape from the fire which
ravaged, the city in 1776, the fire which also destroyed old Trinity
Church, leaving the unsightly ruin standing for some years in what was
aristocratic New York of the period. It was a square,
comfortable-looking mansion, with the Dutch _stoep_ in front, and the
half-arch of small-paned glass above the front door, which was painted
white and bore a massive brass knocker. That same knocker was a source
of much irritation to Peter Provoost; for although he was of fair size
for his thirteen years, he could barely reach it when mounted on the
very tips of his toes, and even then never dared touch its shining
surface unless his fingers were clean--a desirable state of neatness
which, alas! did not often adorn the luckless Peter. For though tidy and
careful enough when appearing before his guardians, Mr. and Mrs.
Verplanck, it must be confessed that going to and from school Peter was
prone to lay down both books and hat, oftentimes in the mud, and square
himself pugnaciously if he chanced to meet one of the boys of the "Vly
Market," who were wont to scoff and tease the Broadway boys
unmercifully; and fierce battles were the frequent outcome of the
feeling between the two sections, and in those Peter invariably took
The family was a small one, and consisted of Gulian Verplanck and his
wife, his grandmother, Mrs. Effingham, a lovely old Quakeress, and
Peter, who, having lost both parents at an early age, had remained in
Albany with his other guardian, Mr. Abram Lansing, until some six months
before, when it was decided that he should go to New York and be under
the Verplanck eye; and although Peter had rebelled much against the plan
in the first place, he found himself much happier under Clarissa's
gentle rule, and positively adored her in consequence. The only lion in
Peter's path at present was the strong Tory proclivity of the head of
the house; and although he had been warned by his Albany friends to be
prudent and respectful, the boy had inherited a sturdy patriotism which
burned all the more hotly for its repression.
On this cold December afternoon Peter stood, books in hand, and surveyed
that aggravating knocker from his stand on the sidewalk. He was
painfully conscious that his feet were muddy, and his chubby fingers
certainly needed soap and water; it was Friday, and Pompey, one of the
black servants, had evidently been scrubbing the front steps. Therefore
Peter debated whether it would be wiser to skirt around the mansion and
gain entrance by the area steps, where no doubt he would encounter
Dinah, the cook (who objected to invasions of unclean shoes), or boldly
ascend the front steps, struggle with that balefully glittering knocker,
and trust to Pompey's somewhat dim eyes to escape remonstrance before he
could gain his own room and make himself presentable. The chances of a
scolding seemed pretty equally balanced to Peter, and he heaved a deep
sigh and put his foot on the first immaculate step before him as a hand
fell on his shoulder and a merry voice said behind him:--
"What in the world are you pondering, Peter? I have watched you since I
turned the corner of Broadway, and truly for once have seen you stand
absolutely still. In some scrape with the Vly boys, I'll warrant; do you
wish me to come in and plead for you?" and Kitty Cruger tripped lightly
up the steps as she beckoned Peter to follow.
"Now you have done it--not I!" said Peter, with a mischievous chuckle,
as he tore up after her.
"Done what?" asked mystified Kitty. She and Peter were fast friends.
"Muddied the clean steps," quoth Peter with gleeful brevity.
"Have I?" glancing down carelessly until she saw each dainty footprint
plainly depicted on the white marble, side by side with Peter's heavier
tracks. "Oh, what a shame," reaching up successfully to the brass
knocker; "but I am sure Pompey will forgive me, and you can"--stopping
short as the door opened and Pompey himself stood bowing low in the
"Good-day, missy," said he, for Kitty Cruger was a frequent and welcome
visitor at the Verplancks'. "Miss Clarissa is pretty well to-day, thank
you, and ole madam is in the drawing-room--Law!" catching sight of
Peter, who was skillfully slipping down the hall in Kitty's wake. "Dat
you, Massa Peter? Reckon you better hurry, for it's mos' time for
But Peter, with great discretion, paused not for reply as he vanished up
a back stair-case and reached his own chamber, panting but triumphant.
"Good-day, dear grandma," said Kitty, crossing the hall as Pompey held
open the door of the drawing-room; "I was detained by reason of the
sewing-bee at the Morrises', and have barely time to see you and ask for
"How does thee do?" said Grandma Effingham, drawing her little drab
shawl more closely around her shapely shoulders as she laid down her
knitting. "I am pleased to see thee. Clarissa is somewhat stronger
to-day; thee knows she has been more like her old self since Gulian
dispatched the letters asking that one of her sisters be allowed to come
to her. The poor child pines for a home face; it is natural; thee sees
she has been long absent from her people."
"Surely it is almost time to get some reply," said Kitty, as she kissed
the dear old Quakeress, for Kitty was one of Mrs. Effingham's
grandchildren, although her mother had been read out of meeting for
having married one of the "world's people." "I doubt that Clarissa will
shortly begin to worry and grow ill again unless kind Providence sends
"Nay, nay," said grandma gently. "If thee had half Clarissa's patience
it would be thy gain, Kitty."
Grandma was such a quaint, pretty picture, as she sat in her
straight-backed chair, with her Quaker cap and steel-gray silk gown, her
sleeves elbow-cut, displaying still plump and rounded arms (although she
was nearly seventy), and her smooth white fingers flew rapidly in and
out of the blue yarn as she resumed her knitting of Peter's stocking.
Peter was rather a godsend to grandma in the matter of stockings; no
wool that was ever carded could resist his vigorous onslaughts, and it
kept grandma busy all her spare moments to supply his restless feet with
"Patience," echoed Kitty, with a comical sigh. "Nay, grandma, give me a
few more years without it."
"Fie," said grandma, gazing at the bright face with her indulgent eye;
"eighteen is full late to begin to learn to conform to thy elders. I was
married and the twins were born at thy age, Kitty."
"Good lack," quoth Kitty. "Where are the men nowadays, grandma? Save for
the redcoats, and I am not so daft over Sir Henry Clinton's gay officers
as some--no doubt't is my Quaker blood--except for the officers, where
are our gallants? Some of mine are up the Hudson beyond the neutral
ground, others with the rebels at Morristown."
"Hush," said grandma, with an uneasy glance toward the door; "do not
talk of rebels in this house; hadn't thee better run up and see
"If Miss Kitty pleases," spoke the voice of Pompey at the door, "will
she walk upstairs? Young madam wants to see her."
"Coming," said Kitty, kissing grandma fondly, and then following Pompey
as he marched gravely up to open the door of Mrs. Verplanck's
morning-room. It was a tiny apartment; for when Gulian Verplanck brought
his young bride home he had added a room to the wing below, and as it
greatly enlarged their bedroom, the happy idea had struck him to throw
up a partition, corner-ways, which formed an irregularly shaped room
opening on the passage, and gave Clarissa her own cherished den in that
great house of square rooms and high ceilings. In it she had placed all
her home belongings; her spinnet, which had been her mother's (brought
by sloop to New York from New Haven), found the largest space there, and
her grandmother's small spinning-wheel was in the corner near the
chimney-piece which Gulian had contrived to have put in lest his
delicate wife might suffer with cold.
Near the small log which blazed brightly on the hearth, in a low chair
made somewhat easy with cushions, sat a fair, fragile-looking, girlish
figure, in whose mournful dark eyes was something so pathetic that it
suggested the old-time prophecy that such "die young." Clarissa
Verplanck in that resembled none of her family, and the one reason for
her father's and aunt's anxiety about her was that she was thought the
image of a sister of her mother who fulfilled the prophecy. Be that as
it may, Clarissa was anything but a mournful person in general; her
spirits were somewhat prone to outrun her physical strength, and
therefore her sad little appeal for one of her sisters to cheer her had
come in the light of a demand to the Litchfield home, and alarmed them
more than anything else could have done.
"Kitty, Kitty," said Clarissa, holding out a welcoming hand to her
visitor, who seated herself on a cricket beside her, "why have you not
been in this four days? I am truly glad to see you, for ever since
Gulian and I dispatched our letters to my father I have been so cross
and impatient that I fear my good husband is beginning to tire of his
bargain, and lament a peevish wife."
"Heaven forgive you for the slander," retorted Kitty, laughing; "if ever
there was a husband who adored the ground you walk on, Gulian is"--
"Thank you," said a quiet voice, as a tall dark man entered from the
"Let me finish my sentence--Gulian is that benighted swain," burst in
"Again, my thanks," answered Gillian gravely. To none but Clarissa was
he ever seen to relax his serious manner; perhaps hers were the only
eyes who saw the tenderness behind the stern, reserved exterior. He
really liked his cousin; but although Kitty was not, like most people,
afraid of him, it must be confessed that he wearied her, and she much
preferred to have her gossip with Clarissa, when Gulian was safely out
of the house.
"And now tell me about the letters," pursued Kitty. "You sent for your
sister, grandma told me. Which one, Clarissa?"
"Indeed, I do not know; I left the choice to my father, but I think--I
hope it may be Betty. I only wish I might have Moppet as well," and the
quickly checked sigh told Gulian's keen ears what the unuttered thought
"Betty--let me see--is that the sister next yourself?"
"Oh, no; the sister next to me in age died in infancy. Then comes
Oliver, and then Pamela, who is seventeen now, and next my Betty. How I
wonder if the girls have changed; five years makes a long gap, you know,
and even my imagination can scarce fill it. Do you fancy we will hear
"I cannot tell," he said gently, thinking how often he had sought reply
to the same question in the past week, and longing tenderly to give her
the expected pleasure.
"It may be that General Wolcott may find some chance opportunity to
send his daughter at once, in which event you know there would scarce be
time to hear before she would reach us."
"Oh, Gulian," cried Clarissa, clasping her hands, as a faint pink glow
lit her pale face, "you did not say that before. If it were only
"Why not?" said Kitty encouragingly.
"But, Gulian, you said in the letter that you would await my sister at
King's Bridge Inn. Surely you cannot go there and stop, waiting at the
Inn for days?"
"I can ride out to-morrow, and, in fact, I hastened through some
business at the wharf to-day which enabled me to have the day free. I
can easily go to King's Bridge and inquire at the Inn for dispatches;
you will not mind my being absent all day? Perhaps Kitty will come and
bear you company while I am gone?"
"Right gladly," replied Kitty; "will you ride alone, Gulian?"
"I might, easily," said Gulian; "but when I procured a pass from Sir
Henry Clinton yesterday (it is an eight days' pass, Clarissa) I found
that Captain Yorke goes to-morrow to the neutral ground to inspect
troops, and I think I shall take advantage of his company."
"I am glad of that," said Clarissa, putting her slender hand in Gulian's
and looking with grateful eyes up at him, as he stood beside her chair.
"Is he the aide-de-camp you told me of, Gulian, for whom you had taken a
"The same; a fine, manly fellow, the second son of Lord Herbert Yorke,
one of my father's old friends in England. You were dancing with him at
the De Lanceys' 'small and early,' were you not, Kitty, last week?"
"Yes," said Kitty, with a quick nod and a half frown, "he has the usual
airs and graces of a newly arrived officer from the mother-country."
"Perhaps you find the colonists more to your mind," responded Gulian
somewhat severely; but Clarissa gave his sleeve a warning twitch, as
Kitty made answer with heightened color:--
"My own countrymen are ever first with me, as you know full well,
Gulian, but one must dance sometimes to keep up one's heart in those
times, and Captain Yorke has a passably good step which suits with
What Gulian would have replied to this was never known, for at that
moment an outcry arose in the hall, followed by the bump, bump of some
heavy body rolling down the staircase, and Peter's boyish voice shouting
out, between gasps of laughter,--
"Pompey, Pompey, I say!--it's nobody but me; oh, what a proper old goose
it is; do, somebody come and thrash him."
In a second Gulian and Kitty were outside the door, and beheld at the
foot of the winding stairs poor Pompey, picking himself up, with many
groans and much rubbing of his shins, while Peter, rolling himself
nearly double with laughter, stood midway of the flight, with a queer
object in his hand which Gulian seized hastily.
"It's only a gourd," gasped Peter between paroxysms. "I kept it in my
closet for a week, and half an hour ago I stole a bit of wick out of
Dinah's pantry and dipped it well in melted tallow, and than stuck it
inside, when, as you see, having carved out two eyes and a slit for the
nose, it looks somewhat ghastly when the light comes forth."
"It's a debbil, debbil," cried Pompey. "Massa Peter sent me to find his
skates, and dat awful face"--Pompey's teeth chattered, and Peter went
off in a fresh burst of laughter.
"It soured him properly, Uncle Gulian; and though I ran after him and
shook it (it only looks gruesome in the dark, you know) he never
stopped, and he stumbled on the first step, and then he rolled--My! how
he did bump"--and naughty Peter sat down on the stalls and held his
sides for very merriment.
"You ought to be ashamed of yourself," said Gulian sternly, to whom
practical jokes were an utter abomination, "and you deserve to be well
punished. Pompey, stop groaning, and inform me at once whether you have
sustained any injury by your fall."
"Law, Massa Gulian, you tink falling down dat stair gwine to hurt dis
chile?" began Pompey, who entertained a warm affection for the
mischievous Peter and dreaded nothing so much as a scolding from his
master. "Dose stairs don't 'mount to nuffin; ef it had been de area
steps dey moughten be dangerous. Massa knows boys mus' have dey fun:
please 'cuse me for makin' such a bobbery."
"Well, I did it," said Peter sturdily, instantly sobered by the
expression of his uncle's face, and his generous heart touched with
Pompey's defense of his prank, "and nobody helped me, so let's have the
whipping right off before dinner, please, Uncle Gulian, and then I can
eat in peace--even if I am a trifle sore," wound up the sinner ruefully.
Gulian Verplanck's sense of humor was not keen, but the situation was
too much for him, and a queer, grim smile lit up his eyes, as he said
"As Pompey seems more frightened than hurt, and has interceded for you,
I shall not punish you this time, Peter; but recollect that the very
first occasion after this that you see fit to practice a joke on any
member of my household, your skates will be confiscated for the
remainder of the winter," and with a warning glance he followed Kitty
back into his wife's room, leaving Pompey on the staircase, still
rubbing his bruised shins, while the irrepressible Peter indulged once
more in a convulsion of silent laughter which bent him double and
threatened to burst every button off his tightly fitting jacket.
Mrs. Seymour, having had the advantage of some weeks to form her plans,
had carefully arranged everything for her own comfort, so far as was
possible, and Betty Wolcott, after the first pang of parting was over,
began to enjoy the novelty of the journey most thoroughly. Except for a
few days spent at Lebanon, Betty had never been from home in her life,
and being, as we have seen, a bit of a philosopher in her own quaint
fashion, after the first day spent in Mrs. Seymour's cheerful society
she found herself much less homesick than she had expected. To begin
with, the coach was, for those times, very comfortable. It was
English-built, and had been provided with capacious pockets in
unexpected places; it amused Betty exceedingly to find that she was
seated over the turkey, ham, cake, and even a goodly pat of butter,
carefully packed in a small stone jar, while another compartment held
several changes of linen, powder, a small mirror, a rouge pot, and some
brushes. Mrs. Seymour had been born and bred in New York, and many of
her people were Tories; therefore she hoped to assist the brother who,
breaking apart from the others, had taken up arms for the colonists.
Caesar, Mrs. Seymour's coachman, was a colored man of middle age, a
slave of her father's, and, having been brought from New York to
Connecticut, knew the route fairly well. They broke the journey first at
a small roadside tavern, where the horses were baited, while Betty and
Mrs. Seymour gladly descended, and warmed themselves well by the kitchen
fire, taking a drink of warm milk, for which the good woman who had
invited them inside refused payment. She was deeply interested when Mrs.
Seymour told her of their errand, and followed them out to the door of
the coach, bringing with her own hands the soapstone which she had
carefully warmed for their feet, and she waved a kindly good-by as they
rode off, delighted at seeing, for the first time in her life, a
The first night was spent by the travelers in Danbury, where they
proceeded to the house of Mrs. Seymour's cousin, Mrs. Beebe, and were
most warmly welcomed. The Beebe household, which consisted of Mrs. Beebe
and seven children (Captain Beebe being with the Connecticut Rangers),
trooped out, one and all, to meet them, to inspect the coach, interview
Caesar, and admire the horses. Billy, the second boy, fraternized with
Betty at once; and after learning all the mysteries of the coach
pockets, helping Caesar to unharness, and superintending the fetching of
an extra large log for the fireplace, he roasted chestnuts in the ashes
as they sat around the chimney-piece, and told Betty thrilling stories
of the attack on Danbury by the British.
"We dragged the feather-beds up to the window," said Billy, "and mother
stuffed a pillow or two in the cracks. My, how the bullets did fly! The
children were all bid to stay in the attic; but as the roof shelves, you
know, it became pretty hot, especially when the fires began, and then
mother did get frightened, more especially when she saw the blaze of the
Woolford house, down the street. Didn't I just wish I was a man, to go
and help father that day! Luckily for us, the wind was in the other
direction; father said that was all that saved us."
"And Divine Providence, my son," said Mrs. Beebe's soft voice, as she
laid a hand on the boy's shoulder. "Billy's only experience of war was a
sharp one for a few hours. He has been longing ever since to join his
father, but I can only find it in my mother's heart to rejoice that he
is too young to do so. Now, Billy, light the candles; for if our friends
must resume their journey to-morrow, it is full time to retire."
Betty found the little room assigned to her, with Billy's assistance,
but before he left her he pointed out two small holes near the window
frame, where bullets had entered and remained buried in the woodwork;
and as Betty curled herself up in the centre of the great feather-bed,
she thought, with a throb of her girlish heart, that perhaps she, too,
might see some of the terrors of war before she returned to the shelter
of her dear Litchfield home.
The next morning dawned cold and chilly; a few flakes of snow floated
through the air, and Mrs. Beebe urged strongly the wisdom of lying over
for twenty-four hours, lest a storm should come and render the roads
impassable. But Mrs. Seymour, after a consultation with Caesar, decided
that it was best to push on; winter was approaching, and each day made
the journey less feasible. There was a fairly good road between them and
White Plains, and now that she had started she was impatient to reach
the city. Betty, too, was eager to be off, so with many warm thanks,
they again packed the coach and said farewell to the hospitable Beebes,
who had insisted on adding fresh stores of provisions to their hamper;
and Billy's last act of friendliness was to slip into Betty's hand a
package of taffy, of his own manufacture, which he assured her "was not
over-sticky, provided you use care in biting it."
This part of the journey was cold and cheerless enough. The road wound
somewhat, and the settlements were few, even the houses were far apart
from each other; and although the hills were fewer, they heard Caesar
admonish his horses more frequently than usual, and about four o'clock
in the day they came to a full stop. The snow of the morning had turned
into a sort of drizzling rain; and Caesar, dismounting from his seat,
announced to his mistress that one of the horses had cast a shoe.
"What shall we do?" cried Mrs. Seymour in dismay, preparing to jump
down into the mud and investigate matters.
"Dey's no use at all of madam's gettin' out," said Caesar, holding the
door of the coach,--"no use at all. I'se done got de shoe, 'cause I saw
it a-comin' off, an' here it is. De horse will do well enuf, 'caise I'll
drive wif care; but what I wants to say is that, 'cordin' to my
judgment, we had oughter take a turn to de right, just hyar, which am in
de direction ob Ridgefield, whar I ken fin' a blacksmith's shop, shuh.
Ef madam pleases, it's goin' somewhat out of de direct way to White
Plains, but what wid de weather, which madam can see is obstreperous an'
onsartain, I'm ob de opinion dat Ridgefield am de best stoppin' place
for dis night, anyhow;" and having delivered himself of this
exhortation, Caesar touched his hat respectfully, but with an air of
having settled the question.
"Very well," said Mrs. Seymour, for she knew Caesar and Caesar's ways,
and moreover had much confidence in his ability to take care of her, as
well as of his horses. "Then take the turn to the right, as you propose.
Are you quite sure you are familiar with the road here, Caesar? It will
be dark soon, and I confess I should not like to lose our way."
"Not gwine to lose de road wid dis chile on de box," said Caesar with
fine disdain, as he climbed to his seat and rolled himself up warmly
again, his teeth chattering as he did so. But he said to himself, as the
horses started slowly, "Pray de Lord I ain't mistooken; don't want to
fall into none ob dem old redcoats' han's, Caesar don't, dat's sartain."
Inside the coach, which lumbered on so slowly that it almost seemed to
crawl, Mrs. Seymour and Betty tried to keep up their spirits by an
occasional remark of cheerful character, and Betty suggested that
perhaps some bread and cheese from the Beebe larder would prove
satisfactory to Caesar; but on asking the question Caesar only shook his
head, and responded that he was too busy looking after the horses to
eat; and the long hours dragged on as it grew darker and darker. Betty
rested her head against the door and peered out at the dripping trees,
whose bare limbs stood like skeletons against the leaden sky. Mrs.
Seymour had sunk into a fitful doze by her side. Suddenly the off horse
gave a plunge, the coach tilted far to one side, and then righted
itself as Caesar's loud "Whoa, dar! Steady! steady!" was heard. Then
Betty saw half a dozen shadowy forms surround them, and a voice said
sharply, "Who goes there? Halt!" and a hand was laid roughly on the door
of the coach.
"Pray who are you who detain ladies on a journey?" said Mrs. Seymour,
addressing the man nearest her. "I am in my own coach with a maid on our
way to New York, and one of my horses has cast a shoe."
"Stand aside there," said another voice impatiently, as an officer
dismounted from his horse, and flung the rein to one of the men. "If you
are bound to a city occupied by the British, you must have safe-conduct,
madam, else we are compelled to search and detain you."
For answer, Mrs. Seymour drew out a folded paper, which the officer,
straining his eyes in the fast-fading daylight, read aloud, as
"After the expiration of eight days from the date hereof, Mrs. Seymour
and maid have permission to go into the city of New York and to return
"Given at Morristown this second day of December.
"From the commander-in-chief," said the officer, raising his hat, as he
motioned his men to stand back. "Madam, permit me to present myself as
Lieutenant Hillhouse of the Connecticut Rangers, and pray command my
"Oh," gasped Betty, from the other side, "our own troops, thank Heaven!"
"Truly you are a welcome arrival," said Mrs. Seymour, with a
light-hearted laugh. "Betty and I have passed a bad five minutes,
fancying you were Hessians. I am on my way to the city to intercede for
my brother, Captain Seymour's exchange, and, for the once, I do not mind
telling you that my companion is Mistress Betty Wolcott, consigned to my
care by her father, General Wolcott, as her sister, Mrs. Verplanck, lies
ill in New York, and she goes there to see her, but she travels as my
"I met Lieutenant Hillhouse last summer at my father's house," said
Betty, as the young officer came around to her side of the coach, "and
right glad I am to see you now, sir, instead of the redcoats whom
Caesar, our coachman, has been imagining would start from every bush as
we near White Plains."
"You are not above a mile from a little settlement called Ridgefield,"
answered the officer; "and while there is no tavern there, my men and I
found fairly comfortable quarters to-day. If I may suggest, you should
get there as soon as may be."
"We would be glad to," said Mrs. Seymour ruefully, "but one of my horses
has cast a shoe, hence our slow progress. I am more than glad my servant
has not mistaken the way."
"Madam oughter to know Caesar better," grumbled that worthy from the
"How long will it take you to drive the remaining mile?" said his
mistress soothingly. "We may perhaps have your escort, lieutenant?"
"I am on my return there, madam; permit me to send my men in advance to
arrange for your comfort, and I will with pleasure ride beside you until
we arrive. Ridgefield lies beyond that turn," raising his whip to direct
Caesar. "If it were not for the growing darkness, you would see the
smoke from the chimney of the house where I am quartered;" and closing
the door of the coach, the officer gave directions to his men, who
marched quickly down the road, as he mounted and pursued his way with
Just beyond the farmhouse which Lieutenant Hillhouse had pointed out as
his temporary quarters stood a low, wooden structure, with a lean-to in
the rear, and there Caesar drew up his tired horses. A rather
cross-looking spinster stood in the door of the house, and as Betty and
Mrs. Seymour alighted she said snappishly:--
"I don't own much room, as I told your men, Mister Lieutenant, but so
long as you're not Hessians I'm willing to open my door for you. It
won't be for long, will it?"
"Oh, no," replied Mrs. Seymour, with her pretty, gracious smile, "we are
simply in need of a night's lodging. I think we have food enough in our
hampers, and if you can give us hot milk I have coffee ready for
"I don't begrudge you nothing," said the woman in a softened tone, as
Betty bade her a pleasant good-day, "but it's a poor place, anyhow,"
gazing up at the bare rafters, "and as I live here all alone I have to
be precious careful of my few things."
"But it so neat and clean," said Betty, pulling a three-legged stool
toward the fire, and surveying the recently scrubbed floor; "we are cold
and weary, and you are very good to take us in."
Evidently the woman was amenable to politeness, for she bustled around
and insisted upon making the coffee, which Caesar produced in due time
from his hamper under the box-seat, and she laid a cloth on the
pine-wood table, and at last, after disappearing for a few minutes into
the darkness of a small inner room, reappeared with three silver spoons
and two forks in her hand, which she laid carefully down beside the
pewter plates on the table with an air of pride as she remarked,
addressing no one in particular:--
"The forks was my grandmother's, and my father fetched the spoons from a
voyage he made on the Spanish main, and he always said they was made of
real Spanish dollars."
Thereupon Mrs. Seymour and Betty fell to admiring the queer-looking
articles (which from their workmanship were really worthy of
admiration), and the spinster relaxed her severe air sufficiently to
accept a cup of the coffee they were drinking. And then Mrs. Seymour
induced her to give consent that Caesar should have a shake-down in a
corner of the kitchen, and although the bed which Betty and the pretty
matron had to share was hard, it was clean, and the pillows soft, and
they slept soundly and well amid their rough surroundings, and, to
confess the truth, enjoyed the novelty of the situation.
Lieutenant Hillhouse aroused them early in the morning by a message; and
as Mrs. Seymour was not ready to receive him, Betty ran out and met him
at the door.
"You look so fresh and bright that I am sure your night spent upon the
roadside has not harmed you," said the officer, bidding her
good-morning. "I am off at once, as I carry an order to General Wolcott
for quartermaster's stores in Litchfield. What shall I say to your
father for you?"
"Oh," cried Betty, rejoiced at this chance to send word of mouth to her
beloved ones, "how truly fortunate! Tell my father we are well and in
good spirits, and hope to reach the neutral ground to-night at
"You may easily do that; the storm has passed, as you see, and if my
friend Caesar can urge his horses somewhat, you are not likely to meet
with detentions. One of my men has assisted in shoeing the horse, and if
you can, you should start at once."
The coach and Mrs. Seymour appeared at this moment simultaneously, and
the lieutenant insisted upon seeing the ladies safely started. Betty
seized the opportunity to ask for news of Josiah Huntington, and was
told of his having rendered good service, and that he gained in
"And Oliver--my brother," said Betty, leaning from the coach as they
were about to move off: "what tidings of him?"
"He has not been with me," replied Hillhouse with some constraint;
"indeed, I think he was to be sent on some special service."
"Give him my best affection," said Betty. "And oh, sir, to my little
sister at home pray deliver my fondest love," and tears were brimming in
Betty's eyes as Caesar flicked his whip at the horses' heads and the
The road being somewhat better than that already traveled, the miles
which intervened between Ridgefield and White Plains were more briskly
done, and Caesar had the satisfaction of pulling up his horses in good
condition before the well-known tavern at the latter place in time for
dinner. The somewhat pretentious sign hanging out over the door had been
changed to suit the times and the tempers of the guests, for what had
previously read "The King's Arms, Accommodations for Man and Beast," was
now "The Washington Inn," and beneath it a picture in Continental
uniform of a man whose rubicund countenance required considerable
imagination to transform into a likeness of the commander-in-chief. As
their happened to be a lack of hostlers, it took some time to get the
horses baited, and it was later than Mrs. Seymour could have wished when
Caesar finally made his appearance and informed his mistress that all
was ready for their departure. The weather had been growing colder
steadily, and greatly to their surprise the travelers learned that in
all probability Harlem River was frozen, and grave doubts were expressed
by mine host of the inn whether the ladies could gain their journey's
end without much discomfort and exposure. But Mrs. Seymour and Betty
were both of the opinion that it was inexpedient to linger longer on the
road, so for the fourth time they climbed into the coach, and, muffling
themselves as closely as possible to keep out the cold, pursued their
Five miles, eight miles, were covered with fair speed, and Betty's
spirits were rising rapidly at the thought that New York and Clarissa
were not far away, when Caesar turned around on his box, and, bringing
his horses to a walk, said in an awestruck whisper,--
"'Fore de Lord, madam, I done suspect de redcoats is comin'; d'ye heah
'em from de woods ober dar?" pointing with trembling hand in the
direction of a sound which rang out on the frosty air at first
indistinctly, and then resolved itself into a song.
"Under the trees in sunny weather,
Just try a cup of ale together.
And if in tempest or in storm,
A couple then, to make you warm,"--
sang a rollicking voice, in fairly good time and tune, as a group of men
came in sight. As they neared the coach, the man in advance trolled out
in an accent which betrayed his Teutonic origin,--
"But if the day be very cold,
Then take a mug of twelve months old!"
[Footnote 1: A topical song then in vogue in New York. (See _Story of
the City of New York_.)]
"Hello, halt there!" came the command, as the singer seized the horse
by the bridle, and another soldier dragged Caesar roughly from his seat;
"who are you, and whence bound?"
"Ask my mistress," gasped Caesar, almost convinced that his last hour
had come, but still having firm faith in Mrs. Seymour. "Dun you know how
to speak to a lady?"
"I have safe-conduct from General Washington to enter New York," said
Mrs. Seymour calmly, extending her hand with the precious paper toward
the first speaker. The man took it, and gazed stupidly at it. Evidently
being German, he could not read it; but having turned it upside down and
gazed at it for some seconds, he gave a drunken leer as he peered inside
"What you got in your hamper? blenty cognac, eh? Give us a pottle;
that's better than mugs of ale, eh, poys?" and he laughed uproariously.
"I shall give you nothing," said Mrs. Seymour firmly; "if you cannot
read my safe-conduct yourself, is there not one of your men who can?"
The Hessian was about to make angry reply, when a young fellow,
evidently an Englishman, shoved his way through the men to the coach
"Stop that, Joris," he said, prodding the corporal with his elbow; "give
me the paper; I can read it." But Joris, who evidently had reached the
stage of ugly intoxication, did not choose to give it up, and stood his
"Ve wants cognac," he shouted, "an' you comes out, lady, an' ve'll find
for ourselves vhat you is," and seizing Mrs. Seymour by the arm he
attempted to drag her from her seat with some violence.
"The pistol, Betty!" cried the plucky little woman as her feet touched
the ground; but as Betty, with equally reckless courage, drew their only
weapon from its hiding-place, the young Englishman rushed at Joris with
an oath, exclaiming,--
"Look out, you fool--here comes the officer's patrol," and there was a
clatter of horses' feet, a swift rush, and a voice demanding in stern
fashion, "Stand back, there! Whose coach is this? What do you mean,
fellow, by handling a lady in that manner?" and Geoffrey Yorke struck
Joris a blow with his sheathed sword which nearly sobered him on the
Back into the corner of the coach sank Betty, and as she pulled her hood
still farther over her face, she felt as if every drop of blood she
possessed was tingling in her cheeks, as she saw Geoffrey, hat in hand,
dismount and read General Washington's safe-conduct.
"I deeply regret, madam," he said, with stately courtesy to Mrs.
Seymour, "that a corporal's guard should have caused you such annoyance,
and I shall see that the fellow who treated you so roughly be properly
punished. Meantime, if you intend to enter New York you will be obliged
to leave your coach a mile farther on, and cross the river on horseback.
King's Bridge, as you may know, was fired some months ago by the rebels,
and the flatboat used for ferrying has been abandoned on account of the
ice. It will afford me pleasure to do what I can for your comfort and
that of your companion. But it is my duty, unfortunately, to make
passing search of your coach; will you pardon me if I do so?"
As he spoke, Captain Yorke advanced to the door and extended his hand to
assist the occupant of the vehicle to alight, but Betty, ignoring
assistance, attempted to spring past him to the ground. As the willful
maiden did so the topknot of her hood caught in a provoking nail of the
open door and was violently pulled from her head: and as her lovely,
rosy face almost brushed his sleeve, Geoffrey started back with a low
A MAID'S CAPRICE
"Mistress Betty, sir," came the swift whisper in retort, and with so
haughty a gesture that Geoffrey stepped back as if he had been struck,
while Betty, with a slight inclination of her head, passed on to where
Mrs. Seymour stood with Caesar on the other side of the coach. But if
she expected him to follow she was swiftly made aware of her mistake,
for Geoffrey merely pursued his intention of searching the pockets of
the coach, and when he emerged from it he came, hat in hand, toward the
ladies with face more calm and unruffled than Betty's own.
"If you will resume your seats," he said, addressing Mrs. Seymour,
without a glance at Betty, who (now that her anger born partly of terror
had passed) stole a quick look at him, and as quickly looked away, "I
will ride on before you and be waiting at the river; if it be safe, you
will cross on horseback; if not, on foot, and I shall take great
pleasure in seeing that you reach King's Bridge Inn in safety."
Whereupon he escorted Mrs. Seymour to the coach, and when he turned to
assist Betty found that she was in the act of climbing inside by the
other door, where Caesar stood in attendance.
"What a provoking child it is!" said Geoffrey to himself as he flung
into his saddle, smiling at the recollection of Betty's rebuke and proud
little toss of her head. "'Mistress Betty'! Very well, so be it; and
thanks to the star of good fortune which guided my steps up the road
to-day. I wonder how she comes here, and why," and Captain Yorke gave
his horse the spur as he galloped on.
Some distance behind him the coach lumbered forward, and Mrs. Seymour's
tongue rattled on gayly. So engrossed was she with being nearly at her
journey's end, and their good luck at having fallen in with Yorke, that
Betty's silence passed unnoticed.
"To think that we should meet again," ran Betty's thoughts. "'Betty,'
forsooth! How dare he use my name so freely! What would Mrs. Seymour
have thought had she heard him, and how could I possibly have explained
with any air of truth unless I told her the whole story--which I would
rather die at once than do. He has not changed at all; I should have
known him anywhere, even in that hateful scarlet coat, which becomes him
so mightily. I wonder if my rebuke was too severe"--and here she became
conscious of Mrs. Seymour again.
"Yorke--did not that handsome young officer say his name was Yorke? Why,
then he must have some kinship with the Earl of Hardwicke; very probably
this young man may be a grandson of the earl. I must ask my sister; she
will have some information about it."
"Worse and worse," thought Betty. "A British officer--kinsman of an
earl--oh, me, in what a coil am I enveloped! But at least my father
knows all, and he would not hold me disloyal."
The coach bumped and jolted along, and finally came to a standstill,
while Caesar's voice was heard addressing some one. Betty looked out of
the window and behold a dismal prospect enough. The bank shelved
gradually down to the river, which at this point was narrow, and between
them and the other shore stretched a mixture of snow and ice; she could
distinguish the flat-bottomed boat used for ferrying purposes stuck fast
almost in the middle of the stream.
"How are we to cross?" said Mrs. Seymour dolefully, looking down at her
feet. "I wish I had an extra pair of woolen stockings to pull over my
shoes; the snow and ice will be cold walking. What are they doing to the
"Will it please you to alight, madam?" said Geoffrey, springing from his
saddle at the door of the coach. "My men are of the opinion that the ice
will not bear so much weight as your coach with you ladies and Caesar in
it, but if you can mount your horses we can lead them and you can cross
in safety. Meanwhile Caesar can remain here to guard your property, and
when my men fetch the horses back they can assist him to transport the
coach to the other side. I hope the plan meets your approbation. It
seems the only feasible one, provided you ladies can ride without a
"Bless me," cried Mrs. Seymour, "I shall surely slip off on the ice!
Betty here is a horsewoman, but, alas! I am not."
"Then we must contrive a way," replied Geoffrey. "If a blanket be
strapped over my saddle I think you can sit on it.--Caesar, put one of
those blankets on my horse instead of yours."
"Oh, that will do nicely; how kind you are, Captain Yorke."
"Will the young lady be able to ride one of your horses?" asked
Geoffrey, addressing Mrs. Seymour.
"I can ride anything," said Betty hastily, "for my mare is"--and then
she bit her lip and colored brightly as Geoffrey turned toward her.
"You will be quite safe, for I shall lead your horse myself. Let me
first attend Mrs. Seymour."
Between terror and small gasps of laughter Mrs. Seymour's mounting was
accomplished, and then Geoffrey (artful fellow!) summoned a tall,
good-looking trooper from the patrol, and, placing the reins in Mrs.
Seymour's hand, gave directions to the man.
"You will hold the horse by the bridle and guide every step with care,
letting the lady put her hand on your shoulder to steady herself. Be
watchful of the air-holes; I think you know the path well."
"Yes, captain," said the trooper, saluting respectfully. "Am I to
dismount the lady at the Inn?"
"Aye; go down the path before me;" and Geoffrey turned toward Betty, but
again the mischievous maid had been too quick for him, and he beheld her
already mounted on one of the coach horses, where she sat demurely and
at ease awaiting him. Geoffrey seized the bridle and walked slowly down
the bank, taking great care of his own steps lest he should by slipping
cause the horse to stumble, and in a few seconds they were slowly
picking their way over the rough ice. The horse's hoofs crunched into
the snow, and Betty held her breath, and a little thrill went over her
as she fancied she heard the ice crack under them.
"Oh!"--a half-involuntary cry escaped her, and Geoffrey looked up
reassuringly as he stroked the horse's neck and checked him for a brief
second. Mrs. Seymour and the trooper were somewhat in advance and had
almost reached the opposite shore.
"I--you--that is"--faltered Betty, meekly dropping her eyelids--"Oh,
sir, do you really think we shall gain the Inn safely?"
"There is no cause for fear," said Geoffrey coldly. "I know the path;"
and he plodded on in silence. Another few rods, a slip, a half halt; but
this time it was Yorke who stumbled and fell on one knee.
"Confound my sword," he cried, recovering his feet. "But we are nearly
there. See, Mrs. Seymour has gained the road and is riding on to the
No reply from Betty; in truth, if he had but known it, she dared not
trust her voice lest its first sound should be a sob. And Yorke, divided
between amusement and wrath at her perversity, vowed he would say no
more until she grew less capricious.
The road was well trodden and the snow light as the pair pursued it in
silence. The famous hostelry known as King's Bridge Inn was upon the
highway going up the Hudson, where Spuyten Duyvil Creek ran down to
Harlem River, and many a rendezvous and intrigue had been carried on
within its low, wide rooms since the Colonies had declared their
independence of British rule. As Yorke approached the door, inside which
Mrs. Seymour had already disappeared, a tall, dark man in riding-boots
and long coat came hastily forth, and as Betty dropped the reins of her
horse he was at her side. "Oh, Gulian," cried she, stretching out both
hands, "don't you know me? 'Tis I, Betty Wolcott; have I outgrown your
"Betty, indeed," replied Gulian Verplanck, lifting her off the horse,
"and right glad am I to welcome you. What good fortune brought you in
contact with Captain Yorke's patrol? Had I known of your near approach,
I should myself have ridden forth with him, but the air was chilly and I
deemed it more prudent to stop at the Inn until to-morrow."
"Since I see you safe"--began Geoffrey, as Betty half turned toward him.
"You do not know whom you have so kindly assisted," broke in Verplanck;
"this is Mistress Betty Wolcott, sister to my wife. Betty, I present to
you Captain Geoffrey Yorke, aide to Sir Henry Clinton, and my friend."
Betty executed her most stately and deepest courtesy, and Yorke swept
his hat gracefully to the very ground; but as she raised her eyes she
said, with a mischievous glance, "I am pleased to learn the name of this
gentleman. Sir, I thank you," and giving him a little gracious nod,
Betty vanished inside the open door of the Inn.
"Verplanck," called Geoffrey, as his friend was about to follow her, "I
shall go directly back to the city, for Sir Henry has to make ready
dispatches for England and will need me. Mrs. Seymour's coach will be
brought over at once; my men are assisting the negro servant in the
transit. Do you follow me shortly?"
"Unless the ladies are too weary we will go at once, for I can obtain
fresh horses here and the Inn seems somewhat over-crowded to stop the
night. But if you are in haste, Yorke, do not wait."
"Very well, then, I will depart at once. But you must have at least two
of my men as escort for the coach and yourself. You know there are
plenty of footpads outlying the city."
"I accept the escort gladly," said Verplanck. "Farewell, then, and my
Betty and Mrs. Seymour had been ushered into a small bedchamber, where
they were making some slight changes of dress when Gulian Verplanck
knocked at the door and informed them that the coach would shortly be
ready for the continuation of their journey. Betty followed him back
into the waiting-room, where a good fire was burning, and Verplanck
sought to find a seat for her near the hearth. The room was occupied by
perhaps a dozen persons, all men: some troopers, and a group of traders
whose bundles of furs, lying on the floor beside the table where they
were partaking of glasses of home-brewed beer, told their occupation. On
one settle, close by the chimney, sat an old man, somewhat ragged, who
had fallen asleep with his head resting against his bundle and stick,
which shared the bench with him; on the other sat a slight youth dressed
in homespun clothing, who instantly rose as Betty approached, and
offered her his seat.
"I am warmed enough," he said, as Verplanck gave brief thanks; "besides
there is room here. Wake up, grandfather," and he gave the sleeping man
a gentle push as he squeezed himself down beside him.
"Stay here till the coach is ready, Betty," said Verplanck. "Mrs.
Seymour will join you presently," and he departed to hasten the
hostlers, who could be heard outside, evidently engaged in harnessing
the horses they were to use.
Betty looked around her curiously. The room, with its low ceilings,
dark rafters, and sanded floor, was fairly tidy, and, in the light and
shade of the shifting fire, picturesque and strange. A short, thick-set
man, evidently the host, a comfortable-looking Dutchman, bustled in and
out, giving directions in a perfectly audible aside to a maid, who wore
a queer straight cap and brought in trays of beer to the thirsty party
of traders. A little boy in one corner was playing with some nails and a
pewter plate; each time he dropped the nails, making a jingling noise,
the landlord said, "Hush, there, Hans," in a loud whisper, to which the
child paid no attention. Betty wondered if it was his son, and felt as
if she would like to go over and play with him; and then thought, with a
half-homesick longing, of Moppet and the dear New England home. Far, far
away ran Betty's thoughts, as minute after minute sped along and no one
came to disturb her reverie. So engrossed was she that not even a low,
but distinctly spoken "_hist_," which came from the settle near her,
aroused her until it had been given the third time. Then she started;
there was something familiar in the sound--was any one speaking to her?
"Hist! do not look this way," whispered a voice which came from the
pair opposite her on the other side of the chimney. "Contrive to pass
near me as you go out--be cautious!"
"All ready, Betty?" said Mrs. Seymour's gay voice, as she came across
the room toward her. "Where is Mr. Verplanck?"
"Here," answered Gulian, from the other door. "Hasten, Betty; the horses
are eager to be off."
"I am coming," replied Betty, as she rose hurriedly and dropped her silk
reticule directly in front of the mysterious pair on the settle. The boy
darted up, giving the bag a furtive kick which sent it under the bench.
"I'll reach it for you, madam," he said aloud, diving down for it as
Betty paused a brief second. The old man stirred sleepily, raised his
head from his bundle, and keen bright eyes that Betty knew well flashed
into hers as he whispered rapidly:--
"Show no alarm, Betty, but no matter how or where you see me, make no
sign of recognition."
"Here's your bag," said the boy, springing to his feet. But Betty,
never stopping to thank him, ran rapidly across the room, out of the
door, and darted into the waiting coach, afraid to even glance behind
her, her heart sinking with dismay, for the voice and eyes of that
ragged old man were those of her brother Oliver!
ON THE COLLECT
"Peter, Peter," said Grandma Effingham in a tone of gentle remonstrance,
"if thee would only let the ball alone Tabitha would keep quiet."
"Stop it, Peter," said Betty, from the doorway, as the irrepressible
youngster rolled over and over on the rug, himself, the gray cat, and
the ball of gray yarn hopelessly entangled. "Much you deserve all the
stockings that grandma knits for you so perseveringly; just look at the
condition of that ball"--and by a skillful flank movement she rescued
the yarn as Tabitha's pranks and Peter's tumble came to a hasty
conclusion, and the chief culprit gained his feet and began to apologize
for his frolic, as the cat fled through the door.
"I was just waiting for you, Betty; you girls take such a long time to
put on your capes and furbelows. I'll warrant Kitty will detain us when
we stop for her, and we must hasten, for the sun will not stay up much
longer. Just let me find my muffler and my skates," and off tore Peter,
while Betty tucked up her gown preparatory to an afternoon on the
Collect Pond, whose frozen surface was the resort of all fashionable New
York, both those who joined the skaters, and others who watched them
from the surrounding banks, making a gay, bright winter scene for the
spectators as well as the participants.
It was some three weeks since Betty's eventful journey, and as the
strangeness of her new home and surroundings wore off she was beginning
to enjoy herself. First of all, the dear happiness of being once more
with Clarissa, who had brightened and strengthened each day since her
arrival; then Grandma Effingham's storehouse of anecdotes and pleasant
stories, to which Betty listened with delight and the respectful
deference that youth of those days paid to age; and last (though Betty
would have denied it stoutly) the frequent visits to the Verplancks of a
certain tall soldier, whose red coat made her eyes sparkle with disdain,
even while her heart beat quicker at sound of his voice. Truly, Betty's
soul was torn within her, and for every smile that Yorke succeeded in
winning he was sure to receive such dainty snubs, such mischievous
flouting following swiftly after, that he almost despaired of ever
carrying the outworks, much less the citadel of the willful maid's
Kitty Cruger had received Betty most cordially, but the acquaintance had
not yet progressed toward intimacy. On several occasions when Betty had
been especially teasing, Yorke had seen fit to retaliate by seeking
Kitty's side, and, although he was far from suspecting it, he had thus
piqued his little lady-love extremely. For Kitty was a reigning belle,
and the toast of the British officers as she had been of the
Continentals, and she liked Yorke and Yorke's attentions. If Betty had
only known whose face came oftenest in Kitty's dreams, and that a blue
sword-knot was her most cherished possession, perhaps the dawning
jealousy which she felt toward her would never have existed. Who can
The winter had set in with great rigor, and the troops had even crossed
on the ice from Staten Island to the city; sad tales reached Betty's
watchful ears of privations endured in the army of General Washington,
and it made her cheeks burn and tingle to hear the jests and laughter of
the Tory guests who visited the house, at the expense of the so-called
"rebels" against King George. Of Oliver, Betty had no sign; whether he
had been in the city and accomplished whatever mission he had in view,
she knew not. She did not dare to confide in Clarissa, for even had her
sister's health permitted, Betty deemed it scarcely safe to put her to
the test of loyalty as between husband and brother.
All these thoughts and many more were crowding Betty's brain as she ran
down the steps of the Verplanck mansion and followed Peter toward Queen
Street, where Kitty lived. The sun shone brightly and the air was crisp
and clear; Betty looked charming in her dainty hood, tied with a
rose-colored ribbon which nestled softly under her chin and played at
confining the dancing curls. Contrary to Peter's expectations, Kitty was
watching for them, and they proceeded with some speed along the snowy
streets until they reached the Minetta Water, as the small stream was
called which wound its way across the Lispenard Meadows, and connected
the "Collect" (or Fresh Water Pond) with the Hudson River. At the end of
Great Queen Street was a wooden bridge, and crossing it, the little
party continued up Magazine Street until they reached the Collect Pond,
on two sides of which were low buildings of various kinds, being
rope-walks, furnaces, tanneries, and breweries, all run by water from
the pond. Betty thought she should some day like to come out and
investigate them with Peter; they were not very sightly, but they might
prove interesting. These buildings shut out the view, and until Betty
stood on the very bank she had no idea how brilliant a scene the Collect
presented. The ground on the north side between them and Broadway rose
to the height of a hundred feet, and this hillside was covered with
spectators who were watching the skaters with which the ice was alive.
Among the crowd were many women of fashion, muffled in their furs,
carrying huge muffs to keep their fingers warm, and scarlet uniforms,
dotted here and there, served to heighten the effect of brilliancy and
animation. As they turned the corner of a furnace whose big chimney had
sheltered them for a moment, a young man darted up the bank and greeted
"How late you are," he said reproachfully. "Philip Livingston and I
have been watching for you this hour. The ice is in fine condition; may
I put on your skates?"
While young De Lancey was thus engaged Peter and Betty were making ready
also. Up in the Litchfield hills, where the winter set in early and
lasted late, Betty had learned to use her skates well, and she and her
brother Oliver had been the best skaters in the township when she was
hardly more than a child. Even the timid Pamela had gained boldness and
dexterity on the clear, frozen pond; and therefore when Betty, with the
ease of a practiced skater, glided off without assistance, Peter flew
after her in round-eyed amazement.
"I say, Betty," he exclaimed, breathless with his effort to catch her,
"how you do fly! My eye! there isn't one of these New York dames or
maids who can equal you," and he chuckled with triumph as Betty began to
execute some very difficult motions which she and Oliver had often
"Give me your hand, Peter; there, now, glide this way, and take the
outside roll--oh! have a care; if you turn like that you will surely
catch your skate in mine. That's better; now cross hands, and go
gently; see, I am cutting a face on the ice."
Surely enough, as Peter glanced behind he saw a gigantic profile grow on
the smooth surface beneath Betty's little foot, and the skaters around
them paused to wonder and admire.
"There," said Betty, making a final flourish, "come back to the bank and
let us find Kitty." But as they flew along Betty saw a familiar red coat
appear beside Kitty's advancing figure, so dropping Peter's hand she
dashed off in an opposite direction. She headed for the north bank,
which was less crowded, but slacked her speed a little, fearing an
air-hole, as she debated which way to turn.
"Mistress Betty," said a voice just behind her, and with a little start
she realized that the obnoxious scarlet coat had reached her side, "will
you skate a turn with me down the pond?"
"Surely," and Betty's most roguish smile beamed into Yorke's eyes as she
wheeled toward him. "Perhaps you will try a race with me, Captain
"With pleasure, and for what stakes?" returned Yorke, bending down to
secure a strap which he felt loosen.
"I meant but a trial of speed to the bridge there, where we cross the
Minetta Water. A stake? Well, name it."
"A knot of rose-colored ribbon," said Yorke softly.
"Another!" cried Betty unguardedly, and could have promptly bitten her
tongue for the betrayal of her thought.
"Ah, then you do remember?" asked Yorke. "In what have I so deeply
offended that I can scarce gain speech of you! Why do you flout one who
longs to show you his devotion?"
"You forget, sir," said Betty coldly, "the coat you wear. Do you fancy
that scarlet commends itself to a rebel maid like me, or that the cause
you represent can be aught but hateful to a loyal Wolcott?"
"Betty, Betty! I do beseech you"--
"Nay, we will put entreaty outside the question. A race, I think I said,
Captain Yorke. I will make the stake that self-same bow of
rose-color--if you have kept it so long."
An indignant flush dyed Yorke's face. "So be it," he said briefly, and
in a flash they were off; she, graceful, and almost like a winged bird,
as she sped along; and he, tall, straight, and muscular, with a long,
staying stroke, which impelled Betty's admiration. The distance to the
bridge was a good half mile, and the spectators on the hill presently
perceived the racing pair, and from the cries and shouts which arose she
learned, to her added chagrin, that they were seen, and their trial of
speed would be eagerly followed. On flew Betty, so intent upon reaching
her goal that she never noticed how Yorke crept closer and closer; they
were almost to the bridge, when his voice sounded at her shoulder:--
"You should have the race, sweetheart, but I cannot part with the
ribbon," and with a sudden rush Yorke darted past her and gained the
bridge barely three seconds in advance.
"Forgive me," he had time to whisper, as Betty stood still, with
flashing eyes and half-quivering lip, while they waited for Peter,
Kitty, and Philip Livingston, who had followed them down the course;
"'twas too dear a stake for me to lose." But as the words left his lips,
to his astonishment and delight, with all a child's frankness, Betty
gave him her hand.
"Nay, you won the race fairly, and Betty Wolcott craves your pardon."
"Oh, my eye!" shouted Peter, as he flung himself between them; "'t was
the prettiest race of the season, was it not, Kitty? Do, do try a game
with the rest of us, and I'll be your hurlie myself."
A hurlie, be it known, was a small boy or man who, in the fashion of a
ball-game of the day, propelled the balls along the icy surface of the
pond with a long, sharp-pointed stick, and the race was accorded to
whoever first caught the ball,--often a trial of both speed and
endurance when the course was a long one.
"Are you deserting me, Peter?" put in Kitty playfully; "the other
hurlies are busy with the De Lancey party; we must have two or three at
Yorke moved a step forward; his first impulse was to offer his services
to Kitty, as he had done before, but some fine instinct warned him not
to jeopardize his half-reconciliation with Betty, and before he could
speak, Philip Livingston whistled to a tall, slight lad who was standing
looking at them from the bank close at hand. In response the lad ran
down, leaped on the ice, and said pleasantly,--
"Your pleasure, sir. Did you call me?"
"Can you drive a ball for me?" asked Philip; "if so, I'll promise you a
shilling for an hour of your time."
"Indeed I will," said the boy; "but let me first go tell Jim Bates,
there, who maybe will be returning to Paulus Hook, and I'll just bid him
wait for me over yonder in the tan-yard until you gentlefolks have had
Off darted the new recruit, and was seen to join a man wearing the wide
hat and somewhat greasy garb of a fisherman, who, after a few words,
nodded assent, and with somewhat slouching gait proceeded leisurely
across the bridge in the direction of the tan-yard referred to. Amid
much laughter the game began; some other acquaintances came down the
bank and joined them, and presently Betty found herself darting over the
ice hither and thither, following Peter's purposely erratic course, and
pursuing the ball, determined this time to outdo Yorke, who followed her
every motion, and whom she again began to tease and laugh at. But to
Yorke anything was better than her scorn or displeasure, and when, by a
lucky stroke and a quick turn of her skates, Betty bent down and
captured the elusive ball, he was the first to raise a shout of
triumph, in which the merry party joined with the heartiness of
good-fellowship and breeding.
It was growing dark and cold as Betty climbed up the bank and seated
herself on a pile of boards, while Peter unstrapped her skates. As she
looked up, she saw Yorke and Philip Livingston talking with the boy who
had been hurlie for Kitty, and it crossed her mind to wonder where Kitty
had vanished. So she rose to her feet and walked leisurely along with
Peter toward the tan-yard and turned the corner of the furnace chimney.
As she did so, she almost stumbled against a man, who drew back
suddenly; on the other side stood Kitty, and Betty distinctly saw a
piece of white paper pass from Kitty's muff into the hand of the
stranger, whom she instantly recognized as the greasy fisherman who had
crossed the bridge half an hour before.
A FACE ON THE WALL
Betty sat in her favorite seat, a low, three-legged cricket, on the side
farthest from the fire in Clarissa's little morning-room; it was the day
before Christmas, and Betty's fingers were busy tying evergreens into
small bunches and wreaths. Of these a large hamperful stood at her
elbow, and Peter was cutting away the smaller branches, with a face of
"So you have never kept Christmas before," said he, pausing in his
cheerful whistle, which he kept up under his breath like a violin
obligato to his whittling of boughs; "and you don't believe in Kris
Kringle and his prancing reindeers? My, what fun we boys had up in the
old Beverwyck at Albany last year," and Peter chuckled at the
recollection of past pranks. "Down here in the city it is chiefly New
Year day which is observed, but thank fortune Gulian is sufficiently
Dutch to believe in St. Nicholas."
"Yes?" murmured Betty, her thoughts far away as she wondered what
Moppet was doing up in the Litchfield hills, and whether Oliver had got
back safely to the army again. Surely, he had cautioned her not to
recognize him, but luckily her fortitude had not been put to proof. And
then she wondered what secret mission Kitty had been engaged upon that
day at Collect Pond. Somehow Kitty and she had been more confidential
since then; and one night, sitting by the fire in Betty's room, Kitty
had confessed that she too was a rebel--yes, a sturdy, unswerving rebel,
true to the Colonies and General Washington, and Betty's warm heart had
gone forth toward her from that very moment.
"Clarissa has a huge crock full of _olykeoks_ in the pantry," pursued
Peter, to whom the Dutch dainty was sufficiently toothsome; "and Pompey
has orders to brew a fine punch made of cider and lemons for the
servants, and oh! Betty, do you know that Miranda has a new follower?
His name is Sambo, and he comes from Breucklen Heights; he has been
practicing a dance with her, and old Jan Steen, the Dutch fiddler, has
promised to come and play for them and their friends in the kitchen,
and for my part I think there will be more fun there than at Clarissa's
card-party--don't you? Wake up, Betty; I don't believe you've heard one
word I've been saying."
"Indeed I have," replied Betty, returning to her present surroundings
with a start. "A dance, Peter? Why, it seems to me the servants have
great liberty here."
"Don't you give yours a holiday up in New England? I thought you had
negro servants as well as we?"
"So we do; you know that Miranda is the daughter of our old cook, Chloe.
She came here with Clarissa when she was a bride; oh, we have a few
negro servants in dear New England, Peter, but not so many as here.
Gulian told me that there are some three thousand slaves owned in the
city and its environs. But our negroes go to church and pray; they do
not dance, and I know Chloe would be shocked with Miranda's flippant
ways. She was ever opposed to dancing."
"Don't be prim, Betty."
"I--prim?"--and Betty went off into a shout of girlish laughter, as she
flung a pine needle at Peter, who dodged it successfully; "that I live
to hear myself called what I have so often dubbed Pamela. Fie, Peter,
let Miranda dance if she will; I should love to see her. It would be far
more amusing than cards."
"Betty," said Peter, edging nearer her and lowering his voice to a
whisper, "I heard that the Sons of Liberty had another placard up near
the Vly Market last night, and that Sir Henry Clinton is in great wrath
because they are growing daring again. My! wouldn't I just like to see
one of them; but they say (so Pompey told me) that they are all around
us in different disguises. That's why they're so difficult to catch; it
would go hard with them if the Hessians lay hands on the author of the
"But they will not; I heard Gulian say only last night that the
cleverness with which the placards are prepared and placed was
wonderful. Who tells you these things, Peter? Do have a care, for we are
under Gulian's roof, and he would be very angry if he knew that your and
my sympathies are all on the side of the Whigs."
"Oh, I hear things," murmured Peter evasively. Then whispering in
Betty's ear, "Did you ever hear Kitty speak of Billy the fiddler?"
"There's no one within hearing," said Betty, as she finished her twelfth
wreath and laid it carefully on the floor beside her cricket. "Get the
other big branch outside the door, and sit down here close by me while
you pull the twigs off; then you can tell me safely, for Clarissa is
sleeping, and she will call me when she wakes. Of course I never heard
of the man you mention."
Peter threw back his howl in a prolonged chuckle, as he followed Betty's
instructions and edged his cricket close to her elbow.
"Man!--well, he's more like a monkey than anything. He only comes to my
shoulder, and yet he's old enough to be my father."
"A dwarf, do you mean?"
"No, not precisely; the boys call him a manikin, for he's not deformed;
only very, very small; not above four feet high. He is Dutch and has
been a drummer, it's whispered, in General Washington's army. They say
he was in the battle of Harlem Lane, and beat the rally for our troops
when Knowlton fell. The Vly boys are great friends with him."
"But, I thought you were at daggers drawn with the boys of the Vly
Market, Peter? Surely, you told me blood-curdling tales of the fights
between them and you Broadway boys?"
"Oh, aye, but that's for right of way" and don't mean much except when
we are actually punching each other's heads. Billy can tell great yarns;
how his eyes flash when he speaks of the prison ships, though I only
heard him once, when Jan Steen was talking foolish Tory stuff."
"Do you think 'Billy the fiddler,' as you call him, is one of the Sons
"H-u-s-h!" and Peter looked fearfully around. "I don't dare say, but I'm
sure he's true and steady. Betty, I wish I was a little taller; if I
were I'd run away some fine morning and go for a drummer boy with
Betty looked up with affectionate eyes at the sturdy urchin. "I know how
you feel, Peter; but wait a bit. It's sad and disheartening enough now,
God knows, but perhaps better days may dawn for the patriots. My father
says we must keep up our hearts as best we can, and trust in God and the
Continental Congress. Did I tell you how we moulded the bullets last
summer? We kept the tally, and over forty-two thousand cartridges were
made from the statue of King George, so the women of Litchfield have
contributed their aid to the cause in good practical fashion."'
"Aye, that was fine! It must have been jolly fun, too."
"It was very hot," said Betty, laughing; "we tried it in our big
kitchen, but finally had to melt the lead in larger kettles hung over a
crane in the shed down in orchard. Aunt Euphemia thought we would fire
the house, and for many nights Miss Bidwell and she, protected by Reuben
with a lantern, paraded the place before closing up, hunting for stray
sparks which she fancied might fly in the wrong direction."
"What a lot this hamper holds," said Peter, diving down into it. "You've
made enough wreaths to decorate the rooms, I'm sure, and your hands are
"Never mind my hands; soap and water will cleanse them. Clarissa wants a
'real English Christmas,' she said, and poor dear! she shall have it. It
does my heart good to see her brighten and glow like her old pretty
"You can thank Captain Yorke for putting the 'real English Christmas'
into her head; there's a fine Tory for you, Betty. Sometimes I forget
he's one of our foes--he's almost nice enough to be a patriot."
"He thinks he is one, Peter; he owes his loyalty to his king, and were
less than a man not to give his services where ordered."
"Ha, ha!" quoth Peter teasingly; "you'll be as bad as Kitty presently."
"How so?" returned Betty, biting her lip as she turned her face away
from Peter's roguish eyes.
"Why, Kitty had a walk-over course with the scarlet coats until you
came, and Captain Yorke was one of her gallants. But now I find him at
your elbow whenever you give him half a chance. But I've seen you snub
him well, too; you girls are such changeable creatures. I'd not have a
scarlet coat dancing around after me if I were you, Betty;" and Peter
endeavored to look sage and wise as he cocked his head on one side like
a conceited sparrow. What reply Betty might have made to his pertness
was uncertain, but at that moment both doors of the room opened and
Clarissa entered by one as Kitty flew in the other.
"How industrious you are," cried Kitty, as she bade them all good-day;
"the rooms will be a bower of green, such as Captain Yorke tells about.
I came, Clarissa, to beg a note of invitation for Peggy Van Dam. She has
but just returned from Albany, and will be mightily pleased to be bidden
to your card-party."
"I wondered if she would be in time," said Clarissa, seating herself at
her claw-legged, brass-mounted writing-table. "Has she changed much,
Kitty--not that I mean"--and Clarissa's sentence ended in a laugh.
"There was room for it," finished Kitty. "No, she is just the same:
aping youth, with the desire to conceal age."
"Oh, Kitty, that's the severest speech I ever knew you guilty of!"
"Ill-natured, aye," quoth Kitty, with a comical sigh; "the world's awry
this morning and I must vent my crossness on somebody, so let it be
Peggy. But if I can carry her your note it will atone for my peevish
speech a dozen times, for is not Captain Sir John Faulkner coming, and
you know as well as all of us that Peggy's airs and graces are most
apparent in his company."
Betty looked quickly up into Kitty's face as she rattled on gayly, and
detected an air of trouble and anxiety that was most unusual. And as
they presently followed Clarissa downstairs, she paused at the landing
and slid her little fingers into Kitty's as she whispered:--
"What's amiss? You are worried, I perceive; can I help you?" Kitty
started, and turning her head over her shoulder said softly:--
"Not now, but I know that you are true-hearted and quick-witted; I dare
not say one word more," and with an affectionate pressure, she dropped
Betty's hand and ran swiftly down the staircase.
The drawing-room in the Verplanck mansion was high of ceiling, a
spacious, stately room, and its quaint, straight-backed chairs, stuffed
ottomans, and carved mahogany sofas were the acme of elegance of those
days. The highly polished floor had received extra attention from Pompey
and his assistants, while the mirrors shone brightly and reflected the
candles of the brass sconces on either side of their glittering
surfaces. Betty, at Clarissa's request, superintended the placing of the
card-tables, and also that of a huge silver salver, on which the tiny
cups for chocolate and the tall glasses for mulled wine would be served
from a table in the dining-room early in the evening before supper; also
a famous bowl of Indian china, where hot caudle would appear, caudle
being an English compound with which Betty was not familiar. Peter
explained it to her with due regard to detail; and smacked his lips over
the bottle as it smoked away on Dinah's kitchen table, where he had
invited Betty to come out and see it.
"Dinah makes a sort of posset first, of oaten-meal, and then she puts in
coriander seeds, and raisins, all carefully stoned (I ought to know
that, for I helped her one mortal hour last night and got my fingers
sticky with the plagued stones), and some cloves in a muslin bag, which
are let lie till the caudle boils, and then removed, and last of all,
just as it's ready to serve, she pops in a good half bottle of
cognac--my! but it's prime!" and Peter cut a pigeon-wing and gave a
regular Mohawk war-whoop, as he danced around the kitchen and
disappeared through the door just in time to avoid Dinah's wet
dishcloth, which she sent spinning at his close-cropped pate.
Betty stood in her small chamber at six o'clock that evening,
contemplating her gown with critical eye. Parties in those days were
early affairs, and in New York were known to assemble as early as half
past seven. The lanterns which hung outside every seventh house for the
purpose of lighting the streets were lit by the watchmen at half past
six, for the winter days were short, and the denizens of Wall Street
were wont to pick their way most carefully since the great fire, the
debris of which in many instances was still left to disfigure the sites
where had stood stately mansions. Betty deliberated for some minutes;
here were two gowns: one must be worn to-night for her dear Clarissa;
the other kept for the De Lancey ball, an event over which all
fashionable New York was agog, and which would take place on New Year's
night, just one week ahead.
On the high, four-posted bed lay the gowns; one, which had been her
mother's, was a white satin petticoat, over which was worn a slip of
India muslin covered with fine embroidery, so daintily worked that it
was almost like lace itself. The dames of Connecticut, and, indeed, of
all New England, were much more sober in their dress than those of New
York, where the Dutch love of color still lingered, and the Tories clung
to the powdered heads and gay fashions of the English court circles. The
other gown (which in her secret soul Betty longed to wear) had been
given her by Gulian, who was the most generous of men, and who admired
his pretty sister-in-law far more than he would have told her. A ship
had recently arrived from England bringing him a box of gowns and
gewgaws ordered long since for his wife, and of these Gulian had made
Clarissa happy by bidding her bestow on Betty a gown such as he
considered fitting for a grand festivity like the De Lanceys' New Year
"Alack!" sighed the pretty maid to herself, as she contemplated the
white satin, "I will not even raise the paper which contains Clarissa's
present, for both she and Gulian have set their hearts upon my wearing
it on New Year's day, so 't is useless to fill my breast with discontent
when I have so good a gown as this to wear to-night. The skirt is a
little frayed--oh! how vexing!" and Betty flew to her reticule for
needle and thread to set a timely stitch; "now that will not show when
the muslin slip goes over." Another anxious moment, and with a sigh of
relief Betty slipped on the short waist with its puffed sleeves and
essayed to pin the fichu daintily around her neck. Then she dived down
to the very depths of a chest of drawers, whence she produced a small
box, and out of this came a single string of pearls,--the pearls which
her mother had worn upon her wedding-day, and Pamela had pressed into
her hand at parting. Next, Betty with cautious steps, candle in hand,
approached the mirror, which graced the farther end of her tiny chamber,
and holding it at arm's length surveyed herself as far as she could see,
which was not below her dainty waist, as suited the dimensions of the
"I am too white," thought Betty, with a little frown, all unconscious of
her lovely coloring and exquisite red-gold hair, which, guiltless of
powder, was massed as usual on top of her head and clustered in wayward
little curls on the nape of her snowy neck and over her white forehead;
"but never mind,"--with childlike philosophy,--"my gown for the New Year
ball has both breast and shoulder knots of rose-color; I wish I dare
steal one for to-night! But perhaps Clarissa would not be pleased, so I
will descend as I am. I hear Peter clattering on the staircase; he is no
doubt superintending the servants' dance," and Betty extinguished her
candle and tripped lightly down past Clarissa's door.
From the sounds and lights she became aware that she was late, and had
lingered too long over her toilet, so she hesitated for a brief moment
as she reached the door of the drawing-room, where she could see
Clarissa and Grandma Effingham standing with a number of guests, both
dames and gentlemen. As she paused on the threshold a graceful, girlish
picture, a tall form emerged from the dim shades of the hall, and a hand
"Mistress Betty, I salute you," said Geoffrey Yorke, bowing low, "and
may I also beg your acceptance of a bunch of clove pinks? They were
grown by my Dutch landlady in a box kept carefully in her kitchen
window, and I know not whether she or I have watched them the more
carefully, as I wished to be so fortunate as to have them bloom for you
"For me?" said Betty, in a delighted whisper, turning such glowing eyes
upon him that the young man fell more madly in love with her than ever.
"How kind!--and at this season? Oh, they are sweet, and recall the
garden walk at home. Indeed, sir, I thank you," and scarcely thinking
what she did, in her pleasure at his pretty attention, she thrust the
bunch of pinks in her fichu, where they lay close to her white throat
and gave her toilet the one touch of color for which she had longed.
Small wonder that Geoffrey's handsome face lit up with triumph, or that
Clarissa said to herself as the pair approached her, Betty dimpling with
smiles, "What a charming couple they make! I wonder if my father would
This was Clarissa's first appearance in society for many months, and the
warmth with which she was greeted showed how large a place the New
England girl had made in the regard of her husband's friends. The party
was given chiefly for Betty, that she might have plenty of partners at
the New Year ball; and although these were mostly young people, there
was also a goodly sprinkling of dames and dowagers, who smiled
approvingly when Betty was presented to them, before seating themselves
at the all-absorbing card-tables. Cards were much the mode of the day,
and an hour or more was given to them; then as the metheglin (a
delicious beverage made of honey) and the mulled wine was passed, the
younger portion of the company began moving through the suite of three
rooms, breaking up into small groups as they did so.
Peter, who had constituted himself master of ceremonies for the fun in
low life which was going on in the kitchen, darted up to Betty as she
stood talking with Philip Livingston.
"They're just going to begin to dance," he said. "Miranda is perked out
in a wonderful pink gown, and Aunt Dinah has her best turban on her
head. Do, Betty, persuade some of the company to come out and see the
negroes dance. Don't you hear the music beginning?"
Surely enough the distant scraping of the violin could be heard, and
Betty, seizing Kitty by the hand, tripped up to Clarissa and repeated
Peter's request. Clarissa hesitated an instant.
"Oh, Gulian," cried Betty, catching hold of her brother-in-law as he
came forward, "may we not visit the kitchen and see the servants dance?
Captain Yorke tells me that is what is done in England on Christmas Eve,
and I am sure it would afford us all a new amusement."
Artful Betty! She knew full well that any suggestion of England and
English ways would appeal to Gulian, and Yorke, who followed closely at
her side, threw the potent weight of his opinion in the scale by saying
"I am told your slaves have the very poetry of motion, Verplanck; permit
me to escort Mistress Betty to the servants' hall."
"Servants' hall!" whispered Betty mischievously to Yorke as Gulian led
the way with Clarissa; "we have nothing so fine in our humble colonies,
sir; our kitchens must serve for our dusky retainers."
"You know I did not mean"--he began reproachfully. But seeing Betty's
laughing eyes, he added, with a smile:--
"Nay, you shall not tease me into vexing you to-night if I can avoid it;
I will strive to train my tongue to please you."
The kitchen presented a quaint and most picturesque appearance. It was
a low, wide room, and around the wall ran shelves and dressers, on which
the pewter plates and copper covers shone with such fine polish that one
could almost see in their surfaces as in a mirror. Between those hung
bunches of herbs and strings of bright-hued peppers, and in and out on
the walls, and above, from the rafters, were Christmas greens, all
arranged by the servants themselves, with that unerring eye for grace
and color which is an attribute of the colored race. Aunt Dinah, the
presiding genius of the kitchen, stood at one end of the room. Her large
and portly person was clothed in a gay cotton print of many colors; and
upon her head was twisted a bright silk handkerchief, with a most
rakish-looking bow which reposed over her left ear. The Verplanck
slaves, some twelve of them, were augmented in numbers by those of the
Ludlow, De Lancey, and De Peyster families, and half filled the spacious
kitchen us they stood back in rows, courtesying and bowing, showing
their white teeth in smiles and low laughter, as they recognized some
"young massa," or "ole madam" among the gentlemen and dames who smiled
back upon their faithful, kindly faces.
The dance began with a special contra-dance, in which the performers
copied with great exactness the profound bows and deep courtesies of the
period, mimicking their masters and mistresses with curious grotesque
grace. At the extreme end of the room, near Aunt Dinah, sat the fiddler,
wielding his bow with an extra flourish befitting the occasion. Jan
Steen was a well-known character, and his coming was looked upon as a
special favor, only accorded to the servants because they belonged to
the Verplancks, a family greatly honored and beloved among the Dutch
settlers of Manhattan Island.
After the contra-dance was concluded, amid the applause and laughter of
the spectators, four young slaves were singled out from the others, and
took their places on the floor. Two of these were girls, pretty
mulattoes, and two young, bright-colored negro men as their partners. To
rather slow music they went through with a rhythmic dance, in which
their figures swayed to and fro, chiefly from the waist, a gliding
serpentine dance, evidently copied from the slaves of Martinique, and
brought to New York by the French families. And then, to Peter's great
delight, came the event of the evening, in his eyes,--the dance of
Miranda with her new admirer from Broucklen Heights.
"Miranda is my maid," explained Clarissa to Madam De Lancey and Mrs.
Morris, as they waited for the performers to take their places. "I
fetched her from Connecticut when I was married, and she is, as you see,
very pretty and most graceful. The dance is a species of Spanish dance,
I fancy, for it is done with two scarfs of red and yellow; I purchased
the stuff a year ago from a Dutch peddler, and Miranda begged it of me
"Cousin Clarissa," said Peter, rushing up, "we will want more light to
enable you to see this; the candles are getting low. With your
permission, may Pompey light the big lantern on the wall?"
About the middle of the kitchen hung a lantern which had once been used
for illuminating purposes outside the mansion. It contained a piece of
tin which acted as a reflector; and Peter, who had never yet had the
pleasure of seeing it lit, had amused himself that very morning by
putting in the candles for which it was prepared, and informed Aunt
Dinah that he meant to light it by way of a climax to the festivities of
"The big lantern?" replied Clarissa; "it has not been lit this three
"I made it ready this morning; oh, do say yes."
"Certainly," said Clarissa, smiling; "but tell Pompey to be careful,
Off flew Peter, and up on a bench mounted Pompey, nothing loth to add
dignity to the scene by illuminating it. Jan Steen drew his bow across
his violin with a long, sweet note, and out on the floor glided Miranda,
holding the hand of a tall, athletic-looking young negro, whose motions
were grace itself. They began at the top of the room, holding the scarfs
aloft, and slowly made their way down until they were in the centre,
when the full light gleamed strongly upon their raised arms, their heads
well up. Soft murmurs of applause began to steal around the room. Betty
stood with Captain Yorke and Kitty directly under the lantern, beating
time with her fan.
"How graceful they are," said Yorke softly. "See, even their shadows on
the wall opposite are picturesque and wild. How distinct the faces
"Silhouettes!" burst in Kitty; "have you seen the pictures made by the
new artist who came from Albany? Some folks like to be done thus, but
for me I do not care for a black profile of my own face. They are cut
skillfully enough in paper, however."
Betty, wondering what had possessed Kitty to set off on an animated
description of silhouettes, looked up at the wall, and then her heart
almost stood still. That fine, high forehead, the curving lips, the
nose, with its clear-cut nostrils,--not even the disfiguring woolly wig,
stiff collar, and blackened face and hands could disguise them to her.
She gazed with sickening apprehension at the dancers; how often she had
seen Oliver dancing with Miranda when they were children together at
home, the performance usually taking place in the garret, for fear of
scoldings upon the sinfulness of dancing from Chloe, Miranda's mother;
oh, how did he dare do this here, where any moment might bring discovery
and death? Why, why, had she failed to see and recognize him! his
disguise was very perfect, and yet--
The applause rang out heartily as the dancers tripped faster and
faster; Betty wondered if her torture would ever end. Perhaps it had
only begun, for Oliver had said--
"Mistress Betty," spoke Yorke, and his voice was low and very tender,
"may I offer you my arm? A glass of mulled wine would, I think, be of
service to you." Stumbling a little in her agitation, Betty slipped
through the door with him, on into the dining-room, where he placed her
in a corner of the wide sofa and fetched the wine.
"Drink it, every drop," he said, smiling down at her with a masterful
look in his dark eyes that Betty had never seen before. "Sweetheart,
trust me, and sit here till I return."
Betty sipped her wine and the truant color came back to her cheeks, as
she saw him vanish through the door.
"Have I grown a coward?" she thought indignantly. "I was brave up in the
Litchfield hills--how dare I fail now! Captain Yorke must have seen--and
yet, how could he know Oliver's face sufficiently well? Ah,"--and Betty
almost cried out,--"it is I, miserable I, who have betrayed my brother.
We are so strongly alike that"--
"Mistress Betty,"--Yorke was at her side again,--"I left you to bestow
a few shillings on yonder fellow who danced so well, but I could not
find him, and Mistress Kitty Cruger tells me he left at once for
Breucklen Heights, whence he came, as there is a party crossing before
daybreak. I trust you are better; the air was close in your kitchen."
Betty's two small hands clasped each other mutely; her large eloquent
eyes were raised to his in the sweetest glance that ever maiden gave.
"God bless you!" she cried impulsively, and, turning, fled through the
AT THE VLY MARKET
It was a bright sunny morning, but very cold, and snow lay packed hard
and firm in the streets of New York, which, narrow as they were,
afforded little opportunity for the sun's rays to penetrate with
sufficient strength to warm the shivering pedestrians who were hurrying
down Maiden Lane in the direction of the Vly Market. At the farthest end
of the street were the shops, and one of these, "The Sign of the Cross
Swords," stood within a stone's throw of the market itself. It was a
small affair, with little grimy window-panes, where were displayed
knives, scissors, and razors, with locks and keys of many odd sorts. At
the door stood a half-grown boy, stamping his feet to keep warm, as he
droned out in sing-song fashion: "Walk in, gentlefolk, and have your
razors ground; we have all manner of kitchen furniture in cutlery
within, also catgut and fiddle strings at most reasonable rates."
But these attractions did not appear to bring many customers inside the
little shop, as the passersby seemed chiefly eager to gain the Vly
Market, where the stalls were crowded with purchasers who were getting
the good things there displayed to indulge in keeping New Year's day
with the proper spirit of festivity; and the shop-boy was about to slip
inside for the comfort of warming his fingers and toes, when a tall,
slender fellow in fisherman's dress accosted him.
"Hey, you there! Have you fish-hooks and nets within?"
"Aye, sir, in plenty. Will it please you to enter?" And the boy made
room for the stranger to pass through the narrow doorway. The shop was
apparently empty, except for a middle-aged man who rose from his seat on
a high stool near the window, where he was busily engaged in polishing a
pair of razors. As he came forward, the fisherman addressed him:--
"Good day, friend. A frosty morning."
"But the wind will turn to east at sunset," said the other, with a quick
glance from under his heavy eyebrows.
"A good wind, then, for the Sturdy Beggar," was the reply, as the
fisherman clasped his hands behind his neck with a peculiar gesture.
"Then all's well," returned the shopkeeper, laying down his razors, and
motioning his customer to come farther inside. "Whom do you seek here,
"Mynheer Wilhelm Hoffmeister, known commonly as 'Billy the fiddler.'"
"He is off on duty since last Tuesday, but must be here to-night to play
at a grand ball given at one of the Tory houses; there must be news, for
you are the third one who has asked for him since yesterday."
"News?" said the fisherman eagerly; "perhaps you have a billet for me?"
"And what may you be called?" asked the other cautiously.
"Jim Bates, from Breucklen Heights."
"Then you're all right, sir; why didn't you say so before?" and the man,
casting a swift glance to make sure that the boy at the door was not
looking, pulled a scrap of dirty paper from his pocket, which was
instantly seized and opened by the fisherman. As he read the few words
it contained, the anxious lines on his face grew deeper.
"It is the only way," he muttered to himself, as he tore the scrap into
tiniest fragments, "but I must know from Kitty the hour." Then aloud,
"Have you a bit of paper, friend, on which I can write a message?"
"Surely," said the shopkeeper; "wait here a moment until I fetch it,"
and he went hurriedly through a small door at the back of the shop,
leaving the fisherman standing near the window, from which he could see
the crowd outside. Suddenly the man uttered an exclamation, and made a
dash for the door, nearly upsetting the boy on the threshold.
"Tell your master I will return shortly," he said hurriedly, and
disappeared in the direction of the Vly Market.
It happened that Madam Cruger, thrifty housewife though she was, had
forgotten to order an extra number of the large, flat seedcakes, known
as New Year Cakes (and without which no gathering could be considered
complete for New Year day, when they were handed to all callers with the
accompanying glasses of mulled wine and metheglin), and had therefore
dispatched her daughter, with a colored servant carrying a capacious
basket on his arm, to purchase the dainty from the one stall in the Vly
Market where the aristocratic folk were wont to deal. Truth to tell,
Madam Cruger had made matters somewhat uncomfortable for her portly cook
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