Robert W. Chambers
Part 4 out of 7
Underfoot my shoes brushed through spikenard, and fell silently on
carpets of moss-pinks, and once I saw a matted bed of late Mayflower,
and the forest dusk grew sweeter and sweeter, saturating all the
woodland, until each breath I drew seemed to intoxicate.
Spring languor was in earth and sky, and in my bones, too; yet, through
this Northern forest ever and anon came faint reminders of receding
snows, melting beyond the Canadas--delicate zephyrs, tinctured with the
far scent of frost, flavoring the sun's balm at moments with a
Now traversing a ferny space edged in with sweetbrier, a breeze
accompanied me, caressing neck and hair, stirring a sudden warmth upon
my cheek like a breathless maid close beside me, whispering.
Then through the rustle of leafy depths I heard the stream's laughter,
very far away, and I turned to the left across the moss, walking more
swiftly till I came to the log-bridge where the road crosses. Below me
leaped the stream, deep in its ravine of slate, roaring over the dam
above the rocky gorge only to flow out again between the ledge and the
stone foundations of the grist-mill opposite. Down into the ravine and
under the dam I climbed, using the mossy steps that nature had cut in
the slate, and found a rock to sit on where the spray from the dam could
not drench me. And here I baited my hook and cast out, so that the
swirling water might carry my lure under the mill's foundations, where
Ruyven said big, dusky trout most often lurked.
But I am no fisherman, and it gives me no pleasure to drag a finny
creature from its element and see its poor mouth gasp and its eyes glaze
and the fiery dots on its quivering sides grow dimmer. So when a sly
trout snatched off my bait I was in no mood to cover my hook again, but
set the rod on the rocks and let the bright current waft my line as it
would, harmless now as the dusty alder leaves dimpling yonder ripple. So
I opened my book, idly attentive, reading The Poems of Pansard, while
dappled shadows of clustered maple leaves moved on the page, and droning
bees set old Pansard's lines to music.
"Like two sweet skylarks springing skyward, singing,
Piercing the empyrean of blinding light,
So shall our souls take flight, serenely winging,
Soaring on azure heights to God's delight;
While from below through sombre deeps come stealing
The floating notes of earthward church-bells pealing."
My thoughts wandered and the yellow page faded to a glimmer amid pale
spots of sunshine waning when some slow cloud drifted across the sun.
Again my eyes returned to the printed page, and again thought parted
from its moorings, a derelict upon the tide of memory. Far in the forest
I heard the white-throat's call with the endless, sad refrain,
"Weep-wee-p! Dorothy, Dorothy, Dorothy!" Though some vow that the little
bird sings plainly, "Sweet-sw-eet! Canada, Canada, Canada!"
Then for a while I closed my eyes until, slowly, that awakening sense
that somebody was looking at me came over me, and I raised my head.
Dorothy stood on the log-bridge above the dam, elbows on the rail,
gazing pensively at me.
"Well, of all idle men!" she said, steadying her voice perceptibly.
"Shall I come down?"
And without waiting for a reply she walked around to the south end of
the bridge and began to descend the ravine.
I offered assistance; she ignored it and picked her own way down the
cleft to the stream-side.
"It seems a thousand years since I have seen you," she said. "What have
you been doing all this while? What are you doing now? Reading? Oh!
fishing! And can you catch nothing, silly?... Give me that rod.... No,
I don't want it, after all; let the trout swim in peace.... How pale you
have grown, cousin!"
"You also, Dorothy," I said.
"Oh, I know that; there's a glass in my room, thank you.... I thought
I'd come down.... There is company at the house--some of Colonel
Gansevoort's officers, Third Regiment of the New York line, if you
please, and two impudent young ensigns of the Half-moon Regiment, all on
their way to Stanwix fort."
She seated herself on the deep moss and balanced her back against a
"They're at the house, all these men," she said; "and what do you think?
General Schuyler and his lady are to arrive this evening, and I'm to
receive them, dressed in my best tucker!... and there may be others
with them, though the General comes on a tour of inspection, being
anxious lest disorder break out in this district if he is compelled to
abandon Ticonderoga.... What do you think of that--George?"
My name fell so sweetly, so confidently, from her lips that I looked up
in warm pleasure and found her grave eyes searching mine.
"Make it easier for me," she said, in a low voice. "How can I talk to
you if you do not answer me?"
"I--I mean to answer, Dorothy," I stammered; "I am very thankful for
your kindness to me."
"Do you think it is hard to be kind to you?" she murmured. "What
happiness if I only might be kind!" She hid her face in her hands and
bowed her head. "Pay no heed to me," she said; "I--I thought I could
see you and control this rebel tongue of mine. And here am I with heart
insurgent beating the long roll and every nerve a-quiver with sedition!"
"What are you saying?" I protested, miserably.
She dropped her hands from her face and gazed at me quite calmly.
"Saying? I was saying that these rocks are wet, and that I was silly to
come down here in my Pompadour shoes and stockings, and I'm silly to
stay here, and I'm going!"
And go she did, up over the moss and rock like a fawn, and I after her
to the top of the bank, where she seemed vastly surprised to see me.
"Now I pray you choose which way you mean to stroll," she said,
impatiently. "Here lie two paths, and I will take this straight and
She turned sharply and I with her, and for a long time we walked
swiftly, side by side, exchanging neither word nor glance until at last
she stopped short, seated herself on a mossy log, and touched her hot
face with a crumpled bit of lace and cambric.
"I tell you what, Mr. Longshanks!" she said. "I shall go no farther with
you unless you talk to me. Mercy on the lad with his seven-league boots!
He has me breathless and both hat-strings flying and my shoe-points
dragging to trip my heels! Sit down, sir, till I knot my ribbons under
my ear; and I'll thank you to tie my shoe-points! Not doubled in a
sailor's-knot, silly!... And, oh, cousin, I would I had a sun-mask!...
Now you are laughing! Oh, I know you think me a country hoyden, careless
of sunburn and dust! But I'm not. I love a smooth, white skin as well as
any London beau who praises it in verses. And I shall have one for
myself, too. You may see, to-night, if the Misses Carmichael come with
Lady Schuyler, for we'll have a dance, perhaps, and I mean to paint and
patch and powder till you'd swear me a French marquise!... Cousin, this
narrow forest pathway leads across the water back to the house. Shall we
take it?... You will have to carry me over the stream, for I'll not wet
my shins for love of any man, mark that!"
She tied her pink hat-ribbons under her chin and stood up while I made
ready; then I lifted her from the ground. Very gravely she dropped her
arms around my neck as I stepped into the rushing current and waded out,
the water curling almost to my knee-buckles. So we crossed the
grist-mill stream in silence, eyes averted from each other's faces; and
in silence, too, we resumed the straight and narrow path, now deep with
last year's leaves, until we came to a hot, sandy bank covered with wild
strawberries, overlooking the stream.
In a moment she was on her knees, filling her handkerchief with
strawberries, and I sat down in the yellow sand, eyes following the
stream where it sparkled deep under its leafy screen below.
"Cousin," she said, timidly, "are you displeased?"
"At my tyranny to make you bear me across the stream--with all your
heavier burdens, and my own--"
"I ask no sweeter burdens," I replied.
She seated herself in the sand and placed a scarlet berry between lips
that matched it.
"I have tried very hard to talk to you," she said.
"I don't know what to say, Dorothy," I muttered. "Truly I do desire to
amuse you and make you laugh--as once I did. But the heart of everything
seems dead. There! I did not mean that! Don't hide your face, Dorothy!
Don't look like that! I--I cannot bear it. And listen, cousin; we are to
be quite happy. I have thought it all out, and I mean to be gay and
amuse you.... Won't you look at me, Dorothy?" "Wh--why?" she asked,
"Just to see how happy I am--just to see that I pull no long
faces--idiot that I was!... Dorothy, will you smile just once?"
"Yes," she whispered, lifting her head and raising her wet lashes.
Presently her lips parted in one of her adorable smiles. "Now that you
have made me weep till my nose is red you may pick me every strawberry
in sight," she said, winking away the bright tears. "You have heard of
the penance of the Algonquin witch?"
I knew nothing of Northern Indian lore, and I said so.
"What? You never heard of the Stonish Giants? You never heard of the
Flying Head? Mercy on the boy! Sit here and we'll eat strawberries and I
shall tell you tales of the Long House.... Sit nearer, for I shall speak
in a low voice lest old Atotarho awake from his long sleep and the dead
pines ring hollow, like witch-drums under the yellow-hammer's double
blows.... Are you afraid?"
"All a-shiver," I whispered, gayly.
"Then listen," she breathed, raising one pink-tipped finger. "This is
the tale of the Eight Thunders, told in the oldest tongue of the
confederacy and to all ensigns of the three clans ere the Erians sued
for peace. Therefore it is true.
"Long ago, the Holder of the Heavens made a very poisonous blue otter,
and the Mohawks killed it and threw its body into the lake. And the
Holder of Heaven came to the eastern door of the Long House and knocked,
saying: 'Where is the very poisonous blue otter that I made, O Keepers
of the Eastern Door?'
"'Who calls?' asked the Mohawks, peeping out to see.
"Then the Holder of the Heavens named himself, and the Mohawks were
afraid and hid in the Long House, listening.
"'Be afraid! O you wise men and sachems! The wisdom of a child alone can
save you!' said the Holder of the Heavens. Saying this he wrapped
himself in a bright cloud and went like a swift arrow to the sun."
My cousin's voice had fallen into a low, melodious sing-song; her rapt
eyes were fixed on me.
"A youth of the Mohawks loved a maid, and they sat by the lake at night,
counting the Dancers in the sky--which we call stars of the Pleiades.
"'One has fallen into the lake,' said the youth.
"'It is the eye of the very poisonous blue otter,' replied the maid,
beginning to cry.
"'I see the lost Dancer shining down under the water,' said the youth
again. Then he bade the maid go back and wait for him; and she went back
and built a fire and sat sadly beside it. Then she heard some one coming
and turned around. A young man stood there dressed in white, and with
white feathers on his head. 'You are sad,' he said to the maid, 'but we
will help you.' Then he gave her a belt of purple wampum to show that he
spoke the truth.
"'Follow,' he said; and she followed to a place in the forest where
smoke rose. There she saw a fire, and, around it, eight chiefs sitting,
with white feathers on their heads.
"'These chiefs are the Eight Thunders,' she thought; 'now they will help
me.' And she said: 'A Dancer has fallen out of the sky and a Mohawk
youth has plunged for it.'
"'The blue otter has turned into a serpent, and the Mohawk youth beheld
her eye under the waters,' they said, one after the other. The maid wept
and laid the wampum at her feet. Then she rubbed ashes on her lips and
on her breasts and in the palms of her hands.
"'The Mohawk youth has wedded the Lake Serpent,' they said, one after
the other. The maid wept; and she rubbed ashes on her thighs and on
"'Listen,' they said, one after another; 'take strawberries and go to
the lake. You will know what to do. When that is done we will come in
the form of a cloud on the lake, not in the sky.'
"So she found strawberries in the starlight and went to the lake,
calling, 'Friend! Friend! I am going away and wish to see you!'
"Out on the lake the water began to boil, and coming out of it she saw
her friend. He had a spot on his forehead and looked like a serpent, and
yet like a man. Then she spread the berries on the shore and he came to
the land and ate. Then he went back to the shore and placed his lips to
the water, drinking. And the maid saw him going down through the water
like a snake. So she cried, 'Friends! Friends! I am going away and wish
to see you!'
"The lake boiled and her friend came out of it. The lake boiled once
more; not in one spot alone, but all over, like a high sea spouting on
"Out of the water came her friend's wife, beautiful to behold and
shining with silver scales. Her long hair fell all around her, and
seemed like silver and gold. When she came ashore she stretched out on
the sand and took a strawberry between her lips. The young maid watched
the lake until she saw something moving on the waters a great way off,
which seemed like a cloud.
"In a moment the stars went out and it grew dark, and it thundered till
the skies fell down, torn into rain by the terrible lightning. All was
still at last, and it grew lighter. The maid opened her eyes to find
herself in the arms of her friend. But at their feet lay the dying
sparks of a shattered star.
"Then as they went back through the woods the eight chiefs passed them
in Indian file, and they saw them rising higher and higher, till they
went up to the sky like mists at sunrise."
Dorothy's voice died away; she stretched out one arm.
[Illustration: "THIS IS THE END, O YOU WISE MEN AND SACHEMS!".]
"This is the end, O you wise men and sachems, told since the beginning
to us People of the Morning. Hiro [I have spoken]!"
Then a startling thing occurred; up from the underbrush behind us rose a
tall Indian warrior, naked to the waist, painted from belt to brow with
terrific, nameless emblems and signs. I sprang to my feet,
horror-struck; the savage folded his arms, quietly smiling; and I saw
knife and hatchet resting in his belt and a long rifle on the moss
at his feet.
"Koue! That was a true tale," he said, in good English. "It is a miracle
that one among you sings the truth concerning us poor Mohawks."
"Do you come in peace?" I asked, almost stunned.
He made a gesture. "Had I come otherwise, you had known it!" He looked
straight at Dorothy. "You are the patroon's daughter. Does he speak as
truthfully of the Mohawks as do you?"
"Who are you?" I asked, slowly.
He smiled again. "My name is Brant," he said.
"Joseph Brant! Thayendanegea!" murmured Dorothy, aloud.
"A cousin of his," said the savage, carelessly. Then he turned sternly
on me. "Tell that man who follows me that I could have slain him twice
within the hour; once at the ford, once on Stoner's hill. Does he take
me for a deer? Does he believe I wear war-paint? There is no war betwixt
the Mohawks and the Boston people--yet! Tell that fool to go home!"
"What fool?" I asked, troubled.
"You will meet him--journeying the wrong way," said the Indian, grimly.
With a quick, guarded motion he picked up his rifle, turned short, and
passed swiftly northward straight into the forest, leaving us listening
there together long after he had disappeared.
"That chief was Joseph Brant, ... but he wore no war-paint," whispered
my cousin. "He was painted for the secret rites of the False-Faces."
"He could have slain us as we sat," I said, bitterly humiliated.
She looked up at me thoughtfully; there was not in her face the
slightest trace of the deep emotions which had shocked me.
"A tribal fire is lighted somewhere," she mused. "Chiefs like Brant do
not travel alone--unless--unless he came to consult that witch Catrine
Montour, or to guide her to some national council-fire in the North."
She pondered awhile, and I stood by in silence, my heart still beating
heavily from my astonishment at the hideous apparition of a
"Do you know," she said, "that I believe Brant spoke the truth. There is
no war yet, as far as concerns the Mohawks. The smoke we saw was a
secret signal; that hag was scuttling around to collect the False-Faces
for a council. They may mean war; I'm sure they mean it, though Brant
wore no war-paint. But war has not yet been declared; it is no scant
ceremony when a nation of the Iroquois decides on war. And if the
confederacy declares war the ceremonies may last a fortnight. The
False-Faces must be heard from first. And, Heaven help us! I believe
their fires are lighted now."
"What ghastly manner of folk are these False-Faces?" I asked.
"A secret clan, common to all Northern and Western Indians, celebrating
secret rites among the six nations of the Iroquois. Some say the
spectacle is worse than the orgies of the Dream-feast--a frightful
sight, truly hellish; and yet others say the False-Faces do no harm, but
make merry in secret places. But this I know; if the False-Faces are to
decide for war or peace, they will sway the entire confederacy, and
perhaps every Indian in North America; for though nobody knows who
belongs to the secret sect, two-thirds of the Mohawks are said to be
numbered in its ranks; and as go the Mohawks, so goes the confederacy."
"How is it you know all this?" I asked, amazed.
"My playmate was Magdalen Brant," she said. "Her playmates were pure
"Do you mean to tell me that this painted savage is kin to that lovely
girl who came with Sir John and the Butlers?" I demanded.
"They are related. And, cousin, this 'painted savage' is no savage if
the arts of civilization which he learned at Dr. Wheelock's school count
for anything. He was secretary to old Sir William. He is an educated
man, spite of his naked body and paint, and the more to be dreaded, it
appears to me.... Hark! See those branches moving beside the trail!
There is a man yonder. Follow me."
On the sandy bank our shoes made little sound, yet the unseen man heard
us and threw up a glittering rifle, calling out: "Halt! or I fire."
Dorothy stopped short, and her hand fell on my arm, pressing it
significantly. Out into the middle of the trail stepped a tall fellow
clad from throat to ankle in deer-skin. On his curly head rested a
little, round cap of silvery mole-skin, light as a feather; his
leggings' fringe was dyed green; baldrick, knife-sheath, bullet-pouch,
powder-horn, and hatchet-holster were deeply beaded in scarlet, white,
and black, and bands of purple porcupine-quills edged shoulder-cape and
moccasins, around which were painted orange-colored flowers, each
centred with a golden bead.
"A forest-runner," she motioned with her lips, "and, if I'm not blind,
he should answer to the name of Mount--and many crimes, they say."
The forest-runner stood alert, rifle resting easily in the hollow of his
"Who passes?" he called out.
"White folk," replied Dorothy, laughing. Then we stepped out.
"Well, well," said the forest-runner, lifting his mole-skin cap with a
grin; "if this is not the pleasantest sight that has soothed my eyes
since we hung that Tory whelp last Friday--and no disrespect to Mistress
Varick, whose father is more patriot than many another I might name!"
"I bid you good-even, Jack Mount," said Dorothy, smiling.
"To you, Mistress Varick," he said, bowing the deeper; then glanced
keenly at me and recognized me at the same moment. "Has my prophecy come
true, sir?" he asked, instantly.
"God save our country," I said, significantly.
"Then I was right!" he said, and flushed with pleasure when I offered
him my hand.
"If I am not too free," he muttered, taking my hand in his great, hard
paw, almost affectionately.
"You may walk with us if you journey our way," said Dorothy; and the
great fellow shuffled up beside her, cap in hand, and it amused me to
see him strive to shorten his strides to hers, so that he presently fell
into a strange gait, half-skip, half-toddle.
"Pray cover yourself," said Dorothy, encouragingly, and Mount did so,
dumb as a Matanzas oyster and crimson as a boiled sea-crab. Then,
doubtless, deeming that gentility required some polite observation, he
spoke in a high-pitched voice of the balmy weather and the sweet
profusion of birds and flowers, when there was more like to be a "sweet
profusion" of Indians; and I nigh stifled with laughter to see this
lumbering, free-voiced forest-runner transformed to a mincing, anxious,
backwoods macaroni at the smile of a pretty woman.
"Do you bring no other news save of the birds and blossoms?" asked
Dorothy, mischievously. "Tell us what we all are fearful of. Have the
Senecas and Cayugas risen to join the British?"
Mount stole a glance at me.
"I wish I knew," he muttered.
"We will know soon, now," I said, soberly.
"Sooner, perhaps, than you expect, sir," he said. "I am summoned to the
manor to confer with General Schuyler on this very matter of the
"Is it true that the Mohawks are in their war-paint?" asked Dorothy,
"Stoner and Timothy Murphy say so," replied Mount. "Sir John and the
Butlers are busy with the Onondagas and Oneidas; Dominic Kirkland is
doing his best to keep them peaceable; and our General played his last
cards at their national council. We can only wait and see,
He hesitated, glancing at me askance.
"The fact is," he said, "I've been sniffing at moccasin tracks for the
last hour, up hill, down dale, over the ford, where I lost them, then
circled and picked them up again on the moss a mile below the bridge. If
I read them right, they were Mohawk tracks and made within the hour, and
how that skulking brute got away from me I cannot think."
He looked at us in an injured manner, for we were striving not to smile.
"I'm counted a good tracker," he muttered. "I'm as good as Walter
Butler or Tim Murphy, and my friend, the Weasel, now with Morgan's
riflemen, is no keener forest-runner than am I. Oh, I do not mean to
brag, or say I can match my cunning against such a human bloodhound as
He paused, in hurt surprise, for we were laughing. And then I told him
of the Indian and what message he had sent by us, and Mount listened,
red as a pippin, gnawing his lip.
"I am glad to know it," he said. "This will be evil news to General
Schuyler, I have no doubt. Lord! but it makes me mad to think how close
to Brant I stood and could not drill his painted hide!"
"He spared you," I said.
"That is his affair," muttered Mount, striding on angrily.
"There speaks the obstinate white man, who can see no good in any
savage," whispered Dorothy. "Nothing an Indian does is right or
generous; these forest-runners hate them, distrust them, fear
them--though they may deny it--and kill all they can. And you may argue
all day with an Indian-hater and have your trouble to pay you. Yet I
have heard that this man Mount is brave and generous to enemies of his
We had now come to the road in front of the house, and Mount set his cap
rakishly on his head, straightened cape and baldrick, and ran his
fingers through the gorgeous thrums rippling from sleeve and thigh.
"I'd barter a month's pay for a pot o' beer," he said to me. "I learned
to drink serving with Cresap's riflemen at the siege of Boston; a
godless company, sir, for an innocent man to fall among. But Morgan's
rifles are worse, Mr. Ormond; they drink no water save when it rains in
their gin toddy."
"Sir Lupus says you tried to join them," said Dorothy, to plague him.
"So I did, Mistress Varick, so I did," he stammered; "to break 'em o'
their habits, ma'am. Trust me, if I had that corps I'd teach 'em to let
spirits alone if I had to drink every drop in camp to keep 'em sober!"
"There's beer in the buttery," she said, laughing; "and if you smile at
Tulip she'll see you starve not."
"Nobody," said I, "goes thirsty or hungry at Varick Manor."
"Indeed, no," said Dorothy, much amused, as old Cato came down the path,
hat in hand. "Here, Cato! do you take Captain Mount and see that he is
comfortable and that he lacks nothing."
So, standing together in the stockade gateway, we watched Cato
conducting Mount towards the quarters behind the guard-house, then
walked on to meet the children, who came dancing down the driveway
to greet us.
"Dorothy! Dorothy!" cried Cecile, "we've shaved candles and waxed the
library floors. Lady Schuyler is here and the General and the Carmichael
girls we knew at school, and their cousin, Maddaleen Dirck, and Christie
McDonald and Marguerite Haldimand--cousin to the Tory general in
"I'm to walk a minuet with Madge Haldimand!" broke in Ruyven; "will you
lend me your gold stock-buckle, Cousin Ormond?"
"I mean to dance, too," cried Harry, crowding up to pluck my sleeve.
"Please, Cousin Ormond, lend me a lace handkerchief."
"Paltz Clavarack, of the Half-moon Regiment, asked me to walk a minuet,"
observed Cecile, tossing her head. "I'm sure I don't know what to say.
He's so persistent."
Benny's clamor broke out: "Thammy thtole papath betht thnuff-boxth!
Thammy thtole papath betht thnuff-boxth!"
"Sammy!" cried Dorothy, "what did you steal your father's best snuff-box
"I only desired to offer snuff to General Schuyler," said Sammy,
sullenly, amid a roar of laughter.
"We're to dine at eight! Everybody is dressing; come on, Dorothy!" cried
Cecile. "Mr. Clavarack vowed he'd perish if I kept him waiting--"
"You should see the escort!" said Ruyven to me. "Dragoons, cousin, in
leather helmets and jack-boots, and all wearing new sabres taken from
the Hessian cavalry. They're in the quarters with Tim Murphy, of
Morgan's, and, Lord! how thirsty they appear to be!"
"There's the handsomest man I ever saw," murmured Cecile to Dorothy,
"Captain O'Neil, of the New York line. He's dying to see you; he said so
to Mr. Clavarack, and I heard him."
Dorothy looked up with heightened color.
"Will you walk the minuet with me, Dorothy?" I whispered.
She looked down, faintly smiling:
"Perhaps," she said.
"That is no answer," I retorted, surprised and hurt.
"I know it," she said, demurely.
"Then answer me, Dorothy!"
She looked at me so gravely that I could not be certain whether it was
pretence or earnest.
"I am hostess," she said; "I belong to my guests. If my duties prevent
my walking the minuet with you, I shall find a suitable partner for
"And no doubt for yourself," I retorted, irritated to rudeness.
Surprise and disdain were in her eyes. Her raised brows and cool smile
boded me no good.
"I thought I was free to choose," she said, serenely.
"You are, and so am I," I said. "Will you have me for the minuet?"
We paused in the hallway, facing each other.
She gave me a dangerous glance, biting her lip in silence.
And, the devil possessing me, I said, "For the last time, will you take
"No!" she said, under her breath. "You have your answer now."
"I have my answer," I repeated, setting my teeth.
I had bathed and dressed me in my best suit of pale-lilac silk, with
flapped waistcoat of primrose stiff with gold, and Cato was powdering my
hair; when Sir Lupus waddled in, magnificent in scarlet and white, and
smelling to heaven of French perfume and pomatum.
"George!" he cried, in his brusque, explosive fashion, "I like Schuyler,
and I care not who knows it! Dammy! I was cool enough with him and his
lady when they arrived, but he played Valentine to my Orson till I gave
up; yes, I did, George, I capitulated. Says he, 'Sir Lupus, if a painful
misunderstanding has kept us old neighbors from an exchange of
civilities, I trust differences may be forgotten in this graver crisis.
In our social stratum there is but one great line of cleavage now,
opened by the convulsions of war, sir."
"'Damn the convulsions of war, sir!' says I.
"'Quite right,' says he, mildly; 'war is always damnable, Sir Lupus.'
"'General Schuyler,' says I, 'there is no nonsense about me. You and
Lady Schuyler are under my roof, and you are welcome, whatever opinion
you entertain of me and my fashion of living. I understand perfectly
that this visit is not a visit of ceremony from a neighbor, but a
"'Sir Lupus,' says Lady Schuyler, 'had it been only a military
necessity I should scarcely have accompanied the General and
"'Madam,' says I, 'it is commonly reported that I offended the entire
aristocracy of Albany when I had Sir John Johnson's sweetheart to dine
with them. And for that I have been ostracized. For which ostracism,
madam, I care not a brass farthing. And, madam, were I to dine all
Albany to-night, I should not ignore my old neighbors and friends, the
Putnams of Tribes Hill, to suit the hypocrisy of a few strangers from
Albany. Right is right, madam, and decency is decency! And I say now
that to honest men Claire Putnam is Sir John's wife by every law of
honor, decency, and chivalry; and I shall so treat her in the face of a
rotten world and to the undying shame of that beast, Sir John!'
"Whereupon--would you believe it, George?--Schuyler took both my hands
in his and said my conduct honored me, and more of the same sort o'
thing, and Lady Schuyler gave me her hand in that sweet, stately
fashion; and, dammy! I saluted her finger-tips. Heaven knows how I found
it possible to bend my waist, but I did, George. And there's an end to
the whole matter!"
He took snuff, blew his nose violently, snapped his gold snuff-box, and
waddled to the window, where, below, in the early dusk, torches and
rush-lights burned, illuminating the cavalry horses tethered along their
picket-rope, and the trooper on guard, pacing his beat, musket shining
in the wavering light.
"That escort will be my undoing," he muttered. "Folk will dub me a
partisan now. Dammy! a man under my roof is a guest, be he Tory or
rebel. I do but desire to cultivate my land and pay my debts of honor;
and I'll stick to it till they leave me in peace or hang me to my
And he toddled out, muttering and fumbling with his snuff-box, bidding
me hasten and not keep them waiting dinner.
I stood before the mirror with its lighted sconces, gazing grimly at my
sober face while Cato tied my queue-ribbon and dusted my silken
coat-skirts. Then I fastened the brilliant buckle under my chin, shook
out the deep, soft lace at throat and wristband, and took my small-sword
"Mars' George," murmured the old man, "yo' look lak yo' is gwine wed wif
mah li'l Miss Dorry."
I stared at him angrily. "What put that into your head?" I demanded.
"I dunno, suh; hit dess look dat-a-way to me, suh."
"You're a fool," I said, sharply.
"No, suh, I ain' no fool, Mars' George. I done see de sign! Yaas, suh, I
done see de sign."
The old man chuckled, looked slyly at my left hand, then chuckled again.
"Mars' George, yo' is wearin' yo' weddin'-ring now!"
"A ring! There is no ring on my hand, you rascal!" I said.
"Yaas, suh; dey sho' is, Mars' George," he insisted, still chuckling.
"I tell you I never wear a ring," I said, impatiently.
"'Scuse me, Mars' George, suh," he said, humbly. And, lifting my left
hand, laid it in his wrinkled, black palm, peering closely. I also
looked, and saw at the base of my third finger a circle like the mark
left by a wedding-ring.
"That is strange," I said; "I never wore a ring in all my life!"
"Das de sign, suh," muttered the old man; "das de Ormond sign, suh. Yo'
pap wore de ghos'-ring, an' his pap wore it too, suh. All de Ormonds
done wore de ghos'-ring fore dey wus wedded. Hit am dess dat-a-way.
He hesitated, looking up at me with gentle, dim eyes.
"Miss Dorry, suh--"
He stopped short, then dropped his voice to a whisper.
"'Fore Miss Dorry git up outen de baid, suh, I done tote de bre'kfus in
de mawnin'. An' de fustest word dat li'l Miss Dorry say, 'Cato,' she
say, 'whar Mars' George?' she say. 'He 'roun' de yahd, Miss Dorry,' I
say. ''Pears lak he gettin' mo' res'less an' mis'ble, Miss Dorry.'
"'Cato,' she 'low, 'I spec' ma' haid gwine ache if I lie hyah in
dishyere baid mo'n two free day. Whar ma' milk an' co'n pone, Cato?'
"So I des sot de salver down side de baid, suh, an' li'l Miss Dorry she
done set up in de baid, suh, an' hole out one li'l bare arm--"
He laid a wrinkled finger on his lips; his dark face quivered with
mystery and emotion.
"One li'l bare arm," he repeated, "an' I see de sign!"
"What sign?" I stammered.
"De bride-sign on de ring-finger! Yaas, suh. An' I say, 'Whar yo' ring,
Miss Dorry?' An' she 'low ain' nebber wore no ring. An' I say, 'Whar dat
ring, Miss Dorry?'
"Den Miss Dorry look kinder queer, and rub de ghos'-ring on de
"'What dat?' she 'low.
"'Dasser ghos'-ring, honey.'
"Den she rub an' rub, but, bless yo' heart, Mars' George! she dess
natch'ly gwine wear dat pink ghos'-ring twill yo' slip de bride-ring
on.... Mars' George! Honey! What de matter, chile?... Is you a-weepin',
"Oh, Cato, Cato!" I choked, dropping my head on his shoulder.
"What dey do to mah l'il Mars' George?" he said, soothingly. "'Spec'
some one done git saucy! Huh! Who care? Dar de sign! Dar de ghos'-ring!
Mars' George, yo' is dess boun' to wed, suh! Miss Dorry, she dess boun'
to wed, too--"
"But not with me, Cato, not with me. There's another man coming for Miss
Dorry, Cato. She has promised him."
"Who dat?" he cried. "How come dishyere ghost-ring roun' yo'
"I don't know," I said; "the chance pressure of a riding-glove, perhaps.
It will fade away, Cato, this ghost-ring, as you call it.... Give me
that rag o' lace; ... dust the powder away, Cato.... There, I'm smiling;
can't you see, you rascal?... And tell Tulip she is right."
"What dat foolish wench done tole you?" he exclaimed, wrathfully.
But I only shook my head impatiently and walked out. Down the hallway I
halted in the light of the sconces and looked at the strange mark on my
finger. It was plainly visible. "A tight glove," I muttered, and walked
on towards the stairs.
From the floor below came a breezy buzz of voices, laughter, the snap of
ivory fans spreading, the whisk and rustle of petticoats. I leaned a
moment over the rail which circled the stair-gallery and looked down.
Unaccustomed cleanliness and wax and candle-light made a pretty
background for all this powdered and silken company swarming below. The
servants and children had gathered ground-pine to festoon the walls;
stair-rail, bronze cannon, pictures, trophies, and windows were all
bright with the aromatic green foliage; enormous bunches of peonies
perfumed the house, and everywhere masses of yellow and white
elder-bloom and swamp-marigold brightened the corners.
Sir Lupus, standing in the hallway with a tall gentleman who wore the
epaulets and the buff-and-blue uniform of a major-general, beckoned me,
and I descended the stairs to make the acquaintance of that noblest and
most generous of soldiers, Philip Schuyler. He held my hand a moment,
scrutinizing me with kindly eyes, and, turning to Sir Lupus, said,
"There are few men to whom my heart surrenders at sight, but your young
kinsman is one of the few, Sir Lupus."
"He's a good boy, General, a brave lad," mumbled Sir Lupus, frowning to
hide his pride. "A bit quick at conclusions, perhaps--eh, George?"
"Too quick, sir," I said, coloring.
"A fault you have already repaired by confession," said the General,
with his kindly smile. "Mr. Ormond, I had the pleasure of receiving Sir
George Covert the day he left for Stanwix, and Sir George mentioned your
desire for a commission."
"I do desire it, sir," I said, quickly.
"Have you served, Mr. Ormond?" he asked, gravely.
"I have seen some trifling service against the Florida savages, sir."
"As officer, of course."
"As officer of our rangers, General."
"You were never wounded?"
"No, sir; ... not severely."
"Oh!... not severely."
"There are some gentlemen of my acquaintance," said Schuyler, turning to
Sir Lupus, "who might take a lesson in modesty from Mr. Ormond."
"Yes," broke out Sir Lupus--"that pompous ass, Gates."
"General Gates is a loyal soldier," said Schuyler, gravely.
"Who the devil cares?" fumed Sir Lupus. "I call a spade a spade! And I
say he is at the head of that infamous cabal which seeks to disgrace
you. Don't tell me, sir! I'm an older man than you, sir! I've a right to
say it, and I do. Gates is an envious ass, and unfit to hold
"This is a painful matter," said Schuyler, in a low voice. "Indiscreet
friendship may make it worse. I regard General Gates as a patriot and a
brother soldier.... Pray let us choose a gayer topic ... friends."
His manner was so noble, his courtesy so charming, that there was no
sting in his snub to Sir Lupus. Even I had heard of the amazing
jealousies and intrigues which had made Schuyler's life
miserable--charges of incompetency, of indifference, of corruption--nay,
some wretched creatures who sought to push Gates into Schuyler's command
even hinted at cowardice and treason. And none could doubt that Gates
knew it and encouraged it, for he had publicly spoken of Schuyler in
slighting and contemptuous terms.
Yet the gentleman whose honor had been the target for these slanderers
never uttered one word against his traducers: and, when a friend asked
him whether he was too proud to defend himself, replied, serenely, "Not
too proud, but too sensible to spread discord in my country's army."
"Lady Schuyler desires to know you," said the General, "for I see her
fan-signal, which I always obey." And he laid his arm on mine as a
father might, and led me across the room to where Dorothy stood with
Lady Schuyler on her right, surrounded by a bevy of bright-eyed girls
and gay young officers.
Dorothy presented me in a quiet voice, and I bowed very low to Lady
Schuyler, who made me an old-time reverence, gave me her fingers to
kiss, and spoke most kindly to me, inquiring about my journey, and how I
liked this Northern climate.
Then Dorothy made me known to those near her, to the pretty Carmichael
twins, whose black eyes brimmed purest mischief; to Miss Haldimand,
whose cold beauty had set the Canadas aflame; and to others of whom I
have little recollection save their names. Christie McDonald and Lysbet
Dirck, two fashionable New York belles, kin to the Schuylers.
As for the men, there was young Paltz Clavarack, ensign in the Half-moon
Regiment, very fine in his orange-faced uniform; and there was Major
Harrow, of the New York line; and a jolly, handsome dare-devil, Captain
Tully O'Neil, of the escort of horse, who hung to Dorothy's skirts and
whispered things that made her laugh. There were others, too, aides in
new uniforms, a medical officer, who bustled about in the role of
everybody's friend; and a parcel of young subalterns, very serious, very
red, and very grave, as though the destiny of empires reposed in their
blue-and-gold despatch pouches.
"I wonder," murmured Dorothy, leaning towards me and speaking behind her
rose-plumed fan--"I wonder why I answered you so."
"Because I deserved it," I muttered,
"Cousin I Cousin!" she said, softly, "you deserve all I can give--all
that I dare not give. You break my heart with kindness."
I stepped to her side; all around us rose the hum of voices, laughter,
the click of spurs, the soft sounds of silken gowns on a polished floor.
"It is you who are kind to me, Dorothy," I whispered, "I know I can
never have you, but you must never doubt my constancy. Say you
"Hush!" she whispered; "come to the dining-hall; I must look at the
table to see that all is well done, and there is nobody there.... We can
She slipped off through the throng, and I sauntered into the gun-room,
from whence I crossed the hallway and entered the dining-hall. Dorothy
stood inspecting the silver and linen, and giving orders to Cato in a
low voice. Then she dismissed the row of servants and sat down in a
leather chair, resting her forehead in her hands.
"Deary me! Deary me!" she murmured, "how my brain whirls!... I would I
were abed!... I would I were dead!... What was it you said concerning
constancy? Oh, I remember; I am never to doubt your constancy." She
raised her fair head from between her hands.
"Promise you will never doubt it," I whispered.
"I--I never will," she said. "Ask me again for the minuet, dear. I--I
refused everybody--for you."
"Will you walk it with me, Dorothy?"
"Yes--yes, indeed! I told them all I must wait till you asked me."
"Good heavens!" I said, laughing nervously, "you didn't tell them that,
She bent her lovely face, and I saw the smile in her eyes glimmering
through unshed tears.
"Yes; I told them that. Captain O'Neil protests he means to call you out
and run you through. And I said you would probably cut off his queue and
tie him up by his spurs if he presumed to any levity. Then he said he'd
tell Sir George Covert, and I said I'd tell him myself and everybody
else that I loved my cousin Ormond better than anybody in the world and
meant to wed him--"
"Dorothy!" I gasped.
"Wed him to the most, beautiful and lovely and desirable maid in
"And who is that, if it be not yourself?" I asked, amazed.
"It's Maddaleen Dirck, the New York heiress, Lysbet's sister; and you
are to take her to table."
"Dorothy," I said, angrily, "you told me that you desired me to be
faithful to my love for you!"
"I do! Oh, I do!" she said, passionately. "But it is wrong; it is
dreadfully wrong. To be safe we must both wed, and then--God knows!--we
cannot in honor think of one another."
"It will make no difference," I said, savagely.
"Why, of course, it will!" she insisted, in astonishment. "We shall be
"Do you suppose love can be crushed by marriage?" I asked.
"The hope of it can."
"It cannot, Dorothy."
"It must be crushed!" she exclaimed, flushing scarlet. "If we both are
tied by honor, how can we hope? Cousin, I think I must be mad to say it,
but I never see you that I do not hope. We are not safe, I tell you,
spite of all our vows and promises.... You do not need to woo me, you do
not need to persuade me! Ere you could speak I should be yours, now,
this very moment, for a look, a smile--were it not for that pale spectre
of my own self which rises ever before me, stern, inexorable, blocking
every path which leads to you, and leaving only that one path free where
the sign reads 'honor.' ... And I--I am sometimes frightened lest, in an
overwhelming flood of love, that sign be torn away and no spectre of
myself rise to confront me, barring those paths that lead to you....
Don't touch me; Cato is looking at us.... He's gone.... Wait, do not
leave me.... I have been so wretched and unhappy.... I could scarce find
strength and heart to let them dress me, thinking on your face when I
answered you so cruelly.... Oh, cousin! where are our vows now? Where
are the solemn promises we made never to speak of love?... Lovers make
promises like that in story-books--and keep them, too, and die
sanctified, blessing one another and mounting on radiant wings to
heaven.... Where I should find no heaven save in you! Ah, God! that is
the most terrible. That takes my heart away--to die and wake to find
myself still his wife--to live through all eternity without you--and no
hope of you--no hope!... For I could be patient through this earthly
life, losing my youth and yours forever, ... but not after death! No,
no! I cannot.... Better hell with you than endless heaven with him!...
Don't speak to me.... Take your hand from my hand.... Can you not see
that I mean nothing of what I say--that I do not know what I am
saying?... I must go back; I am hostess--a happy one, as you perceive....
Will I never learn to curb my tongue? You must forget every word I
uttered--do you hear me?"
She sprang up in her rustling silks and took a dozen steps towards the
door, then turned.
"Do you hear me?" she said. "I bid you remember every word I
She was gone, leaving me staring at the flowers and silver and the
clustered lights. But I saw them not; for before my eyes floated the
vision of a slender hand, and on the wedding-finger I saw a faint, rosy
circle, as I had seen it there a moment since, when Dorothy dropped her
bare arms on the cloth and laid her head between them.
So it was true; whether for good or ill my cousin wore the ghost-ring
which for ages, Cato says, we Ormonds have worn before the
marriage-ring. There was Ormond blood in Dorothy. Did she wear the sign
as prophecy for that ring Sir George should wed her with? I dared not
doubt it--and yet, why did I also wear the sign?
Then in a flash the forgotten legend of the Maid-at-Arms came back to
me, ringing through my ears in clamorous words:
"Serene, 'mid love's alarms,
For all time shall the Maids-at-Arms,
Wearing the ghost-ring, triumph with their constancy!"
I sprang to the door in my excitement and stared at the picture of the
Sweetly the violet eyes of the maid looked back at me, her armor
glittered, her soft throat seemed to swell with the breath of life.
Then I crept nearer, eyes fixed on her wedding-finger. And I saw there a
faint rosy circle as though a golden ring had pressed the snowy flesh.
I remember little of that dinner save that it differed vastly from the
quarrelsome carousal at which the Johnsons and Butlers figured in so
sinister a role, and at which the Glencoe captains disgraced themselves.
But now, if the patroon's wine lent new color to the fair faces round
me, there was no feverish laughter, nothing of brutal license. Healths
were given and drunk with all the kindly ceremony to which I had been
accustomed. At times pattering gusts of hand-clapping followed some
popular toast, such as "Our New Flag," to which General Schuyler
responded in perfect taste, veiling the deep emotions that the toast
stirred in many with graceful allegory tempered by modesty and
At the former dinner I had had for my neighbors Dorothy and Magdalen
Brant. Now I sat between Miss Haldimand and Maddaleen Dirck, whom I had
for partner, a pretty little thing, who peppered her conversation with
fashionable New York phrases and spiced the intervals with French. And I
remember she assured me that New York was the only city fit to live in
and that she should never survive a prolonged transportation from that
earthly paradise of elegance and fashion. Which made me itch to
I think, without meaning any unkindness, that Miss Haldimand, the
Canadian beauty, was somewhat surprised that I had not already fallen a
victim to her lovely presence; but, upon reflection, set it down to my
stupidity; for presently she devoted her conversation exclusively to
Ruyven, whose delight and gratitude could not but draw a smile from
those who observed him. I saw Cecile playing the maiden's game with
young Paltz Clavarack, and Lady Schuyler on Sir Lupus's right,
charmingly demure, faintly amused, and evidently determined not to be
shocked by the free bluntness of her host.
The mischievous Carmichael twins had turned the batteries of their eyes
on two solemn, faultlessly dressed subalterns, and had already reduced
them to the verge of capitulation; and busy, bustling Dr. Sleeper
cracked witticisms with all who offered him the fee of their attention,
and the dinner went very well.
Radiant, beautiful beyond word or thought, Dorothy sat, leaning back in
her chair, and the candle-light on the frosty-gold of her hair and on
her bare arms and neck made of her a miracle of celestial loveliness.
And it was pleasant to see the stately General on her right bend beside
her with that grave gallantry which young girls find more grateful than
the privileged badinage of old beaus. At moments her sweet eyes stole
towards me, and always found mine raised to greet her with that silent
understanding which brought the faintest smile to her quiet lips. Once,
above the melodious hum of voices, the word "war" sounded distinctly,
and General Schuyler said:
"In these days of modern weapons of precision and long range, conflicts
are doubly deplorable. In the times of the old match-locks and
blunderbusses and unwieldly weapons weighing more than three times what
our modern light rifles weigh, there was little chance for slaughter.
But now that we have our deadly flint-locks, a battle-field will be a
sad spectacle. Bunker Hill has taught the whole world a lesson that
might not be in vain if it incites us to rid the earth of this wicked
frenzy men call war."
"General," said Sir Lupus, "if weapons were twenty times as quick and
deadly--which is, of course, impossible, thank God!--there would always
be enough men in the world to get up a war, and enjoy it, too!"
"I do not like to believe that," said Schuyler, smiling.
"Wait and see," muttered the patroon. "I'd like to live a hundred years
hence, just to prove I'm right."
"I should rather not live to see it," said the General, with a twinkle
in his small, grave eyes.
Then quietly the last healths were given and pledged; Dorothy rose, and
we all stood while she and Lady Schuyler passed out, followed by the
other ladies; and I had to restrain Ruyven, who had made plans to follow
Marguerite Haldimand. Then we men gathered once more over our port and
walnuts, conversing freely, while the fiddles and bassoons tuned up from
the hallway, and General Schuyler told us pleasantly as much of the
military situation as he desired us to know. And it did amuse me to
observe the solemn subalterns nodding all like wise young owlets, as
though they could, if they only dared, reveal secrets that would
astonish the General himself.
Snuff was passed, offered, and accepted with ceremony befitting; spirits
replaced the port, but General Schuyler drank sparingly, and his
well-trained suite perforce followed his example. So that when it came
time to rejoin our ladies there was no evidence of wandering legs, no
amiably vacant laughter, no loud voices to strike the postprandial
discord at the dance or at the card-tables.
"How did I conduct, cousin?" whispered Ruyven, arm in arm with me as we
entered the long drawing-room. And my response pleasing him, he made off
straight towards Marguerite Haldimand, who viewed his joyous arrival
none too cordially, I thought. Poor Ruyven! Must he so soon close the
gate of Eden behind him?--leaving forever his immortal boyhood sleeping
amid the never-fading flowers.
It was a fascinating and alarming spectacle to see Sir Lupus walking a
minuet with Lady Schuyler, and I marvelled that the gold buttons on his
waistcoat did not fly off in volleys when he strove to bend what once,
perhaps, had been his waist.
Ceremony dictated what we had both forgotten, and General Schuyler led
out Dorothy, who, scarlet in her distress, looked appealingly at me to
see that I understood. And I smiled back to see her sweet face brighten
with gratitude and confidence and a promise to make up to me what the
stern rule of hospitality had deprived us of.
So it was that I had her for the Sir Roger de Coverley, and after that
for a Delaware reel, which all danced with a delightful abandon, even
Miss Haldimand unbending like a goddess surprised to find a pleasure in
our mortal capers. And it was a pretty sight to see the ladies pass,
gliding daintily under the arch of glittering swords, led by Lady
Schuyler and Dorothy in laughing files, while the fiddle-bows whirred,
and the music of bassoon and hautboys blended and ended in a final
mellow crash. Then breathless voices rose, and skirts swished and French
heels tapped the polished floor and solemn subalterns stalked about
seeking ices and lost buckles and mislaid fans; and a faint voice said,
"Oh!" when a jewelled garter was found, and a very red subaltern said,
"Honi soit!" and everybody laughed.
Presently I missed the General, and, a moment later, Dorothy. As I stood
in the hallway, seeking for her, came Cecile, crying out that they were
to have pictures and charades, and that General Schuyler, who was to be
a judge, awaited me in the gun-room.
The door of the gun-room was closed. I tapped and entered.
The General sat at the mahogany table, leaning back in his arm-chair;
opposite sat Dorothy, bare elbows on the table, fingers clasped.
Standing by the General, arms folded, Jack Mount loomed a colossal
figure in his beaded buckskins.
[Illustration: "JACK MOUNT LOOMED A COLOSSAL FIGURE IN HIS BEADED
"Ah, Mr. Ormond!" said the General, as I closed the door quietly behind
me; "pray be seated. They are to have pictures and charades, you know; I
shall not keep Miss Dorothy and yourself very long."
I seated myself beside Dorothy, exchanging a smile with Mount.
"Now," said the General, dropping his voice to a lower tone, "what was
it you saw in the forest to-day?"
So Mount had already reported the apparition of the painted savage!
I told what I had seen, describing the Indian in detail, and repeating
word for word his warning message to Mount.
The General looked inquiringly at Dorothy. "I understand," he said,
"that you know as much about the Iroquois as the Iroquois do
"I think I do," she said, simply.
"May I ask how you acquired your knowledge, Miss Dorothy?"
"There have always been Iroquois villages along our boundary until last
spring, when the Mohawks left with Guy Johnson," she said. "I have
always played with Iroquois children; I went to school with Magdalen
Brant. I taught among our Mohawks and Oneidas when I was thirteen. Then
I was instructed by sachems and I learned what the witch-drums say, and
I need use no signs in the six languages or the clan dialects, save
only when I speak with the Lenni-Lenape. Maybe, too, the Hurons and
Algonquins have words that I know not, for many Tuscaroras do not
understand them save by sign."
"I wish that some of my interpreters had your knowledge, or a fifth of
it," said the General, smiling. "Tell me, Miss Dorothy, who was that
Indian and what did that paint mean?"
"The Indian was Joseph Brant, called Thayendanegea, which means, 'He who
holds many peoples together,' or, in plainer words, 'A bundle
"You are certain it was Brant?"
"Yes. He has dined at this table with us. He is an educated man." She
hesitated, looking down thoughtfully at her own reflection in the
polished table. "The paint he wore was not war-paint. The signs on his
body were emblems of the secret clan called the 'False-Faces.'"
The General looked up at Jack Mount.
"What did Stoner say?" he asked.
"Stoner reports that all the Iroquois are making ready for some unknown
rite, sir. He saw pyramids of flat river-stones set up on hills and he
saw smoke answering smoke from the Adirondack peaks to the
"What did Timothy Murphy observe?" asked Schuyler, watching Mount
"Murphy brings news of their witch, Catrine Montour, sir. He. chased her
till he dropped--like all the rest of us--but she went on and on a
running, hop! tap! hop! tap! and patter, patter, patter! It stirs my
hair to think on her, and I'm no coward, sir. We call her 'The
"I'll make you chief of scouts if you catch her," said the General,
"Very good, sir," replied Mount, pulling a wry face, which made us all
"It has been reported to me," said the General, quietly, "that the
Butlers, father and son, are in this county to attend a secret council;
and that, with the help of Catrine Montour, they expect to carry the
Mohawk nation with them as well as the Cayugas and the Senecas.
"It has further been reported to me by the Palatine scout that the
Onondagas are wavering, that the Oneidas are disposed to stand our
friends, that the Tuscaroras are anxious to remain neutral.
"Now, within a few days, news has reached me that these three doubtful
nations are to be persuaded by an unknown woman who is, they say, the
prophetess of the False-Faces."
He paused, looking straight at Dorothy.
"From your knowledge," he said, slowly, "tell me who is this unknown
"Do you not know, sir?" she asked, simply.
"Yes, I think I do, child. It is Magdalen Brant."
"Yes," she said, quietly; "from childhood she stood as prophetess of the
False-Faces. She is an educated girl, sweet, lovable, honorable, and
sincere. She has been petted by the fine ladies of New York, of
Philadelphia, of Albany. Yet she is partly Mohawk."
"Not that charming girl whom I had to dinner?" I cried, astonished.
"Yes, cousin," she said, tranquilly. "You are surprised? Why? You should
see, as I have seen, pupils from Dr. Wheelock's school return to their
tribes and, in a summer, sink to the level of the painted sachem, every
vestige of civilization vanished with the knowledge of the tongue that
"I have seen that," said Schuyler, frowning.
"And I--by your leave, sir--I have seen it, too!" said Mount, savagely.
"There may be some virtue in the rattlesnake; some folk eat 'em! But
there is none in an Indian, not even stewed--"
"That will do," said the General, ignoring the grim jest. "Do you speak
the Iroquois tongues, or any of them?" he asked, wheeling around to
"I speak Tuscarora, sir," I replied. "The Tuscaroras understand the
other five nations, but not the Hurons or Algonquins."
"What tongue is used when the Iroquois meet?" he asked Dorothy.
"Out of compliment to the youngest nation they use the Tuscarora
language," she said.
The General rose, bowing to Dorothy with a charming smile.
"I must not keep you from your charades any longer," he said, conducting
her to the door and thanking her for the great help and profit he had
derived from her knowledge of the Iroquois.
He had not dismissed us, so we awaited his return; and presently he
appeared, calm, courteous, and walked up to me, laying a kindly hand on
"I want an officer who understands Tuscarora and who has felt the bite
of an Indian bullet," he said, earnestly.
I stood silent and attentive.
"I want that officer to find the False-Faces' council-fire and listen to
every word said, and report to me. I want him to use every endeavor to
find this woman, Magdalen Brant, and use every art to persuade her to
throw all her influence with the Onondagas, Oneidas, and Tuscaroras for
their strict neutrality in this coming war. The service I require may be
dangerous and may not. I do not know. Are you ready, Captain Ormond?"
"Ready, sir!" I said, steadily.
He drew a parchment from his breast-pocket and laid it in my hands. It
was my commission in the armies of the United States of America as
captain in the militia battalion of Morgan's regiment of riflemen, and
signed by our Governor, George Clinton.
"Do you accept this commission, Mr. Ormond?" he asked, regarding me
"I do, sir."
Sir Lupus's family Bible lay on the window-sill; the General bade Mount
fetch it, and he did so. The General placed it before me, and I laid my
hand upon it, looking him in the face. Then, in a low voice, he
administered the oath, and I replied slowly but clearly, ending, "So
help me God," and kissed the Book.
"Sit down, sir," said the General; and when I was seated he told me how
the Continental Congress in July of 1775 had established three Indian
departments; how that he, as chief commissioner of this Northern
department, which included the Six Nations of the Iroquois confederacy,
had summoned the national council, first at German Flatts, then at
Albany; how he and the Reverend Mr. Kirkland and Mr. Dean had done all
that could be done to keep the Iroquois neutral, but that they had not
fully prevailed against the counsels of Guy Johnson and Brant, though
the venerable chief of the Mohawk upper castle had seemed inclined to
neutrality. He told me of General Herkimer's useless conference with
Brant at Unadilla, where that chief had declared that "The King of
England's belts were still lodged with the Mohawks, and that the Mohawks
could not violate their pledges."
"I think we have lost the Mohawks," said the General, thoughtfully.
"Perhaps also the Senecas and Cayugas; for this she-devil, Catrine
Montour, is a Huron-Seneca, and her nation will follow her. But, if we
can hold the three other nations back, it will be a vast gain to our
cause--not that I desire or would permit them to do battle for me,
though our Congress has decided to enlist such Indians as wish to serve;
but because there might be some thousand warriors the less to hang on
our flanks and do the dreadful work among the people of this country
which these people so justly fear."
He rose, nodding to me, and I followed him to the door.
"Now," he said, "you know what you are to do."
"When shall I set out, sir?" I asked.
He smiled, saying, "I shall give you no instructions, Captain Ormond; I
shall only concern myself with results."
"May I take with me whom I please?"
I looked at Mount, who had been standing motionless by the door, an
"I will take the rifleman Mount," I said, "unless he is detailed for
"Take him, Mr. Ormond. When do you wish to start? I ask it because there
is a gentleman at Broadalbin who has news for you, and you must pass
"May I ask who that is?" I inquired, respectfully.
"The gentleman is Sir George Covert, captain on my personal staff, and
now under your orders."
"I shall set out to-night, sir," I said, abruptly; then stepped back to
let him pass me into the hallway beyond.
"Saddle my mare and make every preparation," I said to Mount. "When you
are ready lead the horses to the stockade gate.... How long will
"An hour, sir, for rubbing down, saddling, and packing fodder,
ammunition, and provisions."
"Very well," I said, soberly, and walked out to the long drawing-room,
where the company had taken chairs and were all whispering and watching
a green baize curtain which somebody had hung across the farther end
of the room.
"Charades and pictures," whispered Cecile, at my elbow. "I guessed two,
and Mr. Clavarack says it was wonderful."
"It certainly was," I said, gravely. "Where is Ruyven? Oh, sitting with
Miss Haldimand? Cecile, would you ask Miss Haldimand's indulgence for a
few moments? I must speak to Sir Lupus and to you and Ruyven."
I stepped back of the rows of chairs to where Sir Lupus sat in his great
arm-chair by the doorway; and in another moment Cecile and Ruyven came
up, the latter polite but scarcely pleased to be torn away from his
"Sir Lupus, and you, Cecile and Ruyven," I said, in a low voice, "I am
going on a little journey, and shall be absent for a few days, perhaps
longer. I wish to take this opportunity to say good-bye, and to thank
you all for your great kindness to me."
"Where the devil are you going?" snapped Sir Lupus.
"I am not at liberty to say, sir; perhaps General Schuyler may tell
The patroon looked up at me sorrowfully. "George! George!" he said, "has
it touched us already?"
"Yes, sir," I muttered.
"What?" whispered Cecile.
"Father means the war. Our cousin Ormond is going to the war," exclaimed
There was a pause; then Cecile flung both arms around my neck and kissed
me in choking silence. The patroon's great, fat hand sought mine and
held it; Ruyven placed his arm about my shoulder. Never had I imagined
that I could love these kinsmen of mine so dearly.
"There's always a bed for you here; remember that, my lad," growled the
"Take me, too," sniffed Ruyven.
"Eh! What?" cried the patroon. "I'll take you; oh yes--over my knee, you
impudent puppy! Let me catch you sneaking off to this war and I'll--"
Ruyven relapsed into silence, staring at me in troubled fascination.
"The house is yours, George," grunted the patroon. "Help yourself to
what you need for your journey."
"Thank you, sir; say good-bye to the children, kiss them all for me,
Cecile. And don't run away and get married until I come back."
A stifled snivel was my answer.
Then into the room shuffled old Cato, and began to extinguish the
candles; and I saw the green curtain twitch, and everybody
General Schuyler arose in the dim light when the last candle was blown
out. "You are to guess the title of this picture!" he said, in his even,
pleasant voice. "It is a famous picture, familiar to all present, I
think, and celebrated in the Old World as well as in the New.... Draw
the curtain, Cato!"
Suddenly the curtain parted, and there stood the living, breathing
figure of the "Maid-at-Arms." Her thick, gold hair clouded her cheeks,
her eyes, blue as wood-violets, looked out sweetly from the shadowy
background, her armor glittered.
A stillness fell over the dark room; slowly the green curtains closed;
the figure vanished.
There was a roar of excited applause in my ears as I stumbled forward
through the darkness, groping my way towards the dim gun-room through
which she must pass to regain her chamber by the narrow stairway which
led to the attic.
She was not there; I waited a moment, listening in the darkness, and
presently I heard, somewhere overhead, a faint ringing sound and the
deadened clash of armed steps on the garret floor.
"Dorothy!" I called.
The steps ceased, and I mounted the steep stairway and came out into the
garret, and saw her standing there, her armor outlined against the
window and the pale starlight streaming over her steel shoulder-pieces.
I shall never forget her as she stood looking at me, her steel-clad
figure half buried in the darkness, yet dimly apparent in its youthful
symmetry where the starlight fell on the curve of cuisse and greave,
glimmering on the inlaid gorget with an unearthly light, and stirring
pale sparks like fire-flies tangled in her hair.
"Did I please you?" she whispered. "Did I not surprise you? Cato scoured
the armor for me; it is the same armor she wore, they say--the
Maid-at-Arms. And it fits me like my leather clothes, limb and body.
Hark!... They are applauding yet! But I do not mean to spoil the magic
picture by a senseless repetition.... And some are sure to say a ghost
appeared.... Why are you so silent?... Did I not please you?"
She flung casque and sword on the floor, cleared her white forehead from
its tumbled veil of hair; then bent nearer, scanning my eyes closely.
"Is aught amiss?" she asked, under her breath.
I turned and slowly traversed the upper hallway to her chamber door, she
walking beside me in silence, striving to read my face.
"Let your maids disarm you," I whispered; "then dress and tap at my
door. I shall be waiting."
"Tell me now, cousin."
"No; dress first."
"It will take too long to do my hair. Oh, tell me! You have frightened
"It is nothing to frighten you," I said. "Put off your armor and come to
my door. Will you promise?"
"Ye-es," she faltered; and I turned and hastened to my own chamber, to
prepare for the business which lay before me.
I dressed rapidly, my thoughts in a whirl; but I had scarcely slung
powder-horn and pouch, and belted in my hunting-shirt, when there came a
rapping at the door, and I opened it and stepped out into the
At sight of me she understood, and turned quite white, standing there in
her boudoir-robe of China silk, her heavy, burnished hair in two loose
braids to her waist.
In silence I lifted her listless hands and kissed the fingers, then the
cold wrists and palms. And I saw the faint circlet of the ghost-ring on
her bridal finger, and touched it with my lips.
Then, as I stepped past her, she gave a low cry, hiding her face in her
hands, and leaned back against the wall, quivering from head to foot.
"Don't go!" she sobbed. "Don't go--don't go!"
And because I durst not, for her own sake, turn or listen, I reeled on,
seeing nothing, her faint cry ringing in my ears, until darkness and a
cold wind struck me in the face, and I saw horses waiting, black in the
starlight, and the gigantic form of a man at their heads, fringed cape
blowing in the wind.
"All ready?" I gasped.
"All is ready and the night fine! We ride by Broadalbin, I think....
Whoa! back up! you long-eared ass! D'ye think to smell a Mohawk?... Or
is it your comrades on the picket-rope that bedevil you?... Look at
the troop-horses, sir, all a-rolling on their backs in the sand, four
hoofs waving in the air. It's easier on yon sentry than when they're all
a-squealin' and a-bitin'--This way, sir. We swing by the bush and pick
up the Iroquois trail 'twixt the Hollow and Mayfield."
As we galloped into Broadalbin Bush a house on our right loomed up black
and silent, and I saw shutters and doors swinging wide open, and the
stars shining through. There was something sinister in this stark and
tenantless homestead, whose void casements stared, like empty
"They have gone to the Middle Fort--all of them except the Stoners,"
said Mount, pushing his horse up beside mine. "Look, sir! See what this
red terror has already done to make a wilderness of County Try on--and
not a blow struck yet!"
We passed another house, doorless, deserted; and as I rode abreast of
it, to my horror I saw two shining eyes staring out at me from the
"A wolf--already!" muttered Mount, tugging at his bridle as his horse
sheered off, snorting; and I saw something run across the front steps
and drop into the shadows.
The roar of the Kennyetto sounded nearer. Woods gave place to
stump-fields in which the young corn sprouted, silvered by the stars.
Across a stony pasture we saw a rushlight burning in a doorway; and,
swinging our horses out across a strip of burned stubble, we came
presently to Stoner's house and heard the noise of the stream rushing
through the woods below.
I saw Sir George Covert immediately; he was sitting on a log under the
window, dressed in his uniform, a dark military cloak mantling his
shoulders and knees. When he recognized me he rose and came to my side.
"Well, Ormond," he said, quietly, "it's a comfort to see you. Leave your
horses with Elerson. Who is that with you--oh, Jack Mount? These are the
riflemen, Elerson and Murphy--Morgan's men, you know."
The two riflemen saluted me with easy ceremony and sauntered over to
where Mount was standing at our horses' heads.
"Hello, Catamount Jack," said Elerson, humorously. "Where 'd ye steal
the squaw-buckskins? Look at the macaroni, Tim--all yellow and
Mount surveyed the riflemen in their suits of brown holland and belted
"Dave Elerson, you look like a Quakeress in a Dutch jerkin," he
"'Tis the nate turrn to yere leg he grudges ye," said Murphy to Elerson.
"Wisha, Dave, ye've the legs av a beau!"
"Bow-legs, Dave," commented Mount. "It's not your fault, lad. I've seen
'em run from the Iroquois as fast as Tim's--"
The bantering reply of the big Irishman was lost to me as Sir George led
me out of earshot, one arm linked in mine.
I told him briefly of my mission, of my new rank in the army. He
congratulated me warmly, and asked, in his pleasant way, for news of the
manor, yet did not name Dorothy, which surprised me to the verge of
resentment. Twice I spoke of her, and he replied courteously, yet seemed
nothing eager to learn of her beyond what I volunteered.
And at last I said: "Sir George, may I not claim a kinsman's privilege
to wish you joy in your great happiness?"
"What happiness?" he asked, blankly; then, in slight confusion, added:
"You speak of my betrothal to your cousin Dorothy. I am stupid beyond
pardon, Ormond; I thank you for your kind wishes.... I suppose Sir Lupus
told you," he added, vaguely.
"My cousin Dorothy told me," I said.
"Ah! Yes--yes, indeed. But it is all in the future yet, Ormond." He
moved on, switching the long weeds with a stick he had found. "All in
the future," he murmured, absently--"in fact, quite remote, Ormond....
By-the-way, you know why you were to meet me?"
"No, I don't," I replied, coldly.
"Then I'll tell you. The General is trying to head off Walter Butler and
arrest him. Murphy and Elerson have just heard that Walter Butler's
mother and sister, and a young lady, Magdalen Brant--you met her at
Varicks'--are staying quietly at the house of a Tory named Beacraft. We
must strive to catch him there; and, failing that, we must watch
Magdalen Brant, that she has no communication with the Iroquois." He
hesitated, head bent. "You see, the General believes that this young
girl can sway the False-Faces to peace or war. She was once their
pet--as a child.... It seems hard to believe that this lovely and
cultivated young girl could revert to such savage customs.... And yet
Murphy and Elerson credit it, and say that she will surely appear at the
False-Faces' rites.... It is horrible, Ormond; she is a sweet child--by
Heaven, she would turn a European court with her wit and beauty!"
"I concede her beauty," I said, uneasy at his warm praise, "but as to
her wit, I confess I scarcely exchanged a dozen words with her that
night, and so am no judge."
"Ah!" he said, with an absent-minded stare.
"I naturally devoted myself to my cousin Dorothy," I added, irritated,
without knowing why.
"Quite so--quite so," he mused. "As I was saying, it seems cruel to
suspect Magdalen Brant, but the General believes she can sway the
Oneidas and Tuscaroras.... It is a ghastly idea. And if she does attempt
this thing, it will be through the infernal machinations and devilish
persuasions of the Butlers--mark that, Ormond!"
He turned short in his tracks and made a fierce gesture with his stick.
It broke short, and he flung the splintered ends into the darkness.
"Why," he said, warmly, "there is not a gentler, sweeter disposition in
the world than Magdalen Brant's, if no one comes a-tampering to wake the
Iroquois blood in her. These accursed Butlers seem inspired by hell
itself--and Guy Johnson!--What kind of a man is that, to take this young
girl from Albany, where she had forgotten what a council-fire meant, and
bring her here to these savages--sacrifice her!--undo all those years of
culture and education!--rouse in her the dormant traditions and passions
which she had imbibed with her first milk, and which she forgot when she
was weaned! That is the truth, I tell you! I know, sir! It was my uncle
who took her from Guy Park and sent her to my aunt Livingston. She had
the best of schooling; she was reared in luxury; she had every advantage
that could be gained in Albany; my aunt took her to London that she
might acquire those graces of deportment which we but roughly
imitate.... Is it not sickening to see Guy Johnson and Sir John exercise
their power of relationship and persuade her from a good home back to
this?... Think of it, Ormond!"
"I do think of it," said I. "It is wrong--it is cruel and shameful!"
"It is worse," said Sir George, bitterly. "Scarce a year has she been
at Guy Park, yet to-day she is in full sympathy with Guy and Sir John
and her dusky kinsman, Brant. Outwardly she is a charming, modest maid,
and I do not for an instant mean you to think she is not chaste! The
Irish nation is no more famed for its chastity than the Mohawk, but I
know that she listens when the forest calls--listens with savant ears,
Ormond, and her dozen drops of dusky blood set her pulses flying to the
free call of the Wolf clan!"
"Do you know her well?" I asked.
"I? No. I saw her at my aunt Livingston's. It was the other night that I
talked long with her--for the first time in my life."
He stood silent, knee-deep in the dewy weeds, hand worrying his
sword-hilt, long cloak flung back.
"You have no idea how much of a woman she is," he said, vaguely.
"In that case," I replied, "you might influence her."
He raised his thoughtful face to the stars, studying the Twin Pointers.
"May I try?" he asked.
"Try? Yes, try, in Heaven's name, Sir George! If she must speak to the
Oneidas, persuade her to throw her influence for peace, if you can. At
all events, I shall know whether or not she goes to the fire, for I am
charged by the General to find the False-Faces and report to him every
word said.... Do you speak Tuscarora, Sir George?"
"No; only Mohawk," he said. "How are you going to find the False-Faces'
"If Magdalen Brant goes, I go," said I. "And while I'm watching her,
Jack Mount is to range, and track any savage who passes the Iroquois
trail.... What do you mean to do with Murphy and Elerson?"
"Elerson rides back to the manor with our horses; we've no further use
for them here. Murphy follows me.... And I think we should be on our
way," he added, impatiently.
We walked back to the house, where old man Stoner and his two big boys
stood with our riflemen, drinking flip.
"Elerson," I said, "ride my mare and lead the other horses back to
Varicks'. Murphy, you will pilot us to Beacraft's. Jack, go forward
Old Stoner wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, bit into a twist
of tobacco, spat derisively, and said: "This pup Beacraft swares he'll
lift my haar 'fore he gits through with me! Threatened men live long.
Kindly tell him me an' my sons is to hum. Sir George."
The big, lank boys laughed, and winked at me as I passed.
"Good trail an' many skelps to ye!" said old Stoner. "If ye see Francy
McCraw, jest tell him thar's a rope an' a apple-tree waitin' fur him
down to Fundy's Bush!"
"Tell Danny Redstock an' Billy Bones that the Stoner boys is smellin'
almighty close on their trail!" called out the elder youth.
Elerson, in his saddle, gathered the bridles that Mount handed him and
rode off into the darkness, leading Mount's horse and Sir George's at a
trot. We filed off due west, Murphy and Mount striding in the lead, the
noise of the river below us on our left. A few rods and we swung south,
then west into a wretched stump-road, which Sir George said was the
Mayfield road and part of the Sacandaga trail.
The roar of the Kennyetto accompanied us, then for a while was lost in
the swaying murmur of the pines. Twice we passed trodden carrying-places
before the rushing of the river sounded once more far below us in a
gorge; and we descended into a hollow to a ford from which an Indian
trail ran back to the north. This was the Balston trail, which joined
the Fish-House road; and Sir George said it was the trail I should have
followed had it not been necessary for me to meet him at Fonda's Bush to
relieve him of his horse.
Now, journeying rapidly west, our faces set towards the Mayfield hills,
we passed two or three small, cold brooks, on stepping-stones, where the
dark sky, set with stars, danced in the ripples. Once, on a cleared
hill, we saw against the sky the dim bulk of a lonely barn; then nothing
more fashioned by human hands until, hours later, we found Murphy and
Mount standing beside some rough pasture bars in the forest. How they
had found them in the darkness of the woods--for we had long since left
the stump-road--I do not know; but the bars were there, and a brush
fence; and Murphy whispered that, beyond, a cow-path led to
Now, wary of ambuscade, we moved on, rifles primed and cocked,
traversing a wet path bowered by willow and alder, until we reached a
cornfield, fenced with split rails. The path skirted this, continuing
under a line of huge trees, then ascended a stony little hill, on which
a shadowy house stood.
"Beacraft's," whispered Murphy.
Sir George suggested that we surround the house and watch it till dawn;
so Mount circled the little hill and took station in the north, Sir
George moved eastward, Murphy crept to the west, and I sat down under
the last tree in the lane, cocked rifle on my knees, pan sheltered under
my round cap of doeskin.
Sunrise was to be our signal to move forward. The hours dragged; the
stars grew no paler; no sign of life appeared in the ghostly house save
when the west wind brought to me a faint scent of smoke, invisible as
yet above the single chimney.
But after a long while I knew that dawn was on the way towards the
western hills, for a bird twittered restlessly in the tree above me, and
I began to feel, rather than hear, a multitude of feathered stirrings
all about me in the darkness.
Would dawn never come? The stars seemed brighter than ever--no, one on
the eastern horizon twinkled paler; the blue-black sky had faded;
another star paled; others lost their diamond lustre; a silvery pallor
spread throughout the east, while the increasing chorus of the birds
grew in my ears.
Then a cock-crow rang out, close by, and the bird o' dawn's clear
fanfare roused the feathered world to a rushing outpour of song.
All the east was yellow now; a rose-light quivered behind the forest
like the shimmer of a hidden fire; then a blinding shaft of light fell
across the world.
Springing to my feet, I shouldered my rifle and started across the
pasture, ankle deep in glittering dew; and as I advanced Sir George
appeared, breasting the hill from the east; Murphy's big bulk loomed in
the west; and, as we met before the door of the house, Jack Mount
sauntered around the corner, chewing a grass-stem, his long, brown rifle
cradled in his arm.
"Rap on the door, Mount," I said. Mount gave a round double rap, chewed
his grass-stem, considered, then rapped again, humming to himself in an
"Is the old fox in?
Is the old fox out?
Is the old fox gone to Glo-ry?
Oh, he's just come in,
But he's just gone out,
And I hope you like my sto-ry!
"Rap louder," I said.
Mount obeyed, chewed reflectively, and scratched his ear.
"Is the Tory in?
Is the Tory out?
Is the Tory gone to Glo-ry?
Oh, he's just come in.
But he's just gone out--"
"Knock louder," I repeated.
Murphy said he could drive the door in with his gun-butt; I shook my
"Somebody's coming," observed Mount--
The door opened and a lean, dark-faced man appeared, dressed in his
smalls and shirt. He favored us with a sour look, which deepened to a
scowl when he recognized Mount, who saluted him cheerfully.
"Hello, Beacraft, old cock! How's the mad world usin' you these palmy,
"Pretty well," said Beacraft, sullenly.
"That's right, that's right," cried Mount. "My friends and I thought
we'd just drop around. Ain't you glad, Beacraft, old buck?"
"Not very," said Beacraft.
"Not very!" echoed Mount, in apparent dismay and sorrow. "Ain't you
enj'yin' good health, Beacraft?"
"I'm well, but I'm busy," said the man, slowly.
"So are we, so are we," cried Mount, with a brisk laugh. "Come in,
friends; you must know my old acquaintance Beacraft better; a King's
man, gentlemen, so we can all feel at home now!"
For a moment Beacraft looked as though he meant to shut the door in our
faces, but Mount's huge bulk was in the way, and we all followed his
lead, entering a large, unplastered room, part kitchen, part bedroom.
"A King's man," repeated Mount, cordially, rubbing his hands at the
smouldering fire and looking around in apparent satisfaction. "A King's
man; what the nasty rebels call a 'Tory,' gentlemen. My! Ain't this nice
to be all together so friendly and cosey with my old friend Beacraft?
Who's visitin' ye, Beacraft? Anybody sleepin' up-stairs, old friend?"
Beacraft looked around at us, and his eyes rested on Sir George.
"Who be you?" he asked.
"This is my friend, Mr. Covert," said Mount, fairly sweating cordiality
from every pore--"my dear old friend, Mr. Covert--"
"Oh," said Beacraft, "I thought he was Sir George Covert.... And yonder
stands your dear old friend Timothy Murphy, I suppose?"
"Exactly," smiled Mount, rubbing his palms in appreciation.
The man gave me an evil look.
"I don't know you," he said, "but I could guess your business." And to
Mount: "What do you want?"
"We want to know," said I, "whether Captain Walter Butler is lodging
"He was," said Beacraft, grimly; "he left yesterday."
"And I hope you like my sto-ry!"
hummed Mount, strolling about the room, peeping into closets and
cupboards, poking under the bed with his rifle, and finally coming to a
halt at the foot of the stairs with his head on one side, like a
jay-bird immersed in thought.
Murphy, who had quietly entered the cellar, returned empty-handed, and,
at a signal from me, stepped outside and seated himself on a
chopping-block in the yard, from whence he commanded a view of the house
"Now, Mr. Beacraft," I said, "whoever lodges above must come down; and
it would be pleasanter for everybody if you carried the invitation."
"Do you propose to violate the privacy of my house?" he asked.
"I certainly do."
"Where is your warrant of authority?" he inquired, fixing his
penetrating eyes on mine.
"I have my authority from the General commanding this department. My
instructions are verbal--my warrant is military necessity. I fear that
this explanation must satisfy you."
"It does not," he said, doggedly.
"That is unfortunate," I observed. "I will give you one more chance to
answer my question. What person or persons are on the floor above?"
"Captain Butler was there; he departed yesterday with his mother and
sister," replied Beacraft, maliciously.
"Is that all?"
"Miss Brant is there," he muttered.
I glanced at Sir George, who had risen to pace the floor, throwing back
his military cloak. At sight of his uniform Beacraft's small eyes seemed
to dart fire.
"What were you doing when we knocked?" I inquired.
"Cooking," he replied, tersely.
"Then cook breakfast for us all--and Miss Brant," I said. "Mount, help
Mr. Beacraft with the corn-bread and boil those eggs. Sir George, I want
Murphy to stay outside, so if you would spread the cloth--"
"Of course," he said, nervously; and I started up the flimsy wooden
stairway, which shook as I mounted. Beacraft's malignant eyes followed
me for a moment, then he thrust his hands into his pockets and glowered
at Mount, who, whistling cheerfully, squatted before the fireplace,
blowing the embers with a pair of home-made bellows.
On the floor above, four doors faced the narrow passage-way. I knocked
at one. A gentle, sleepy voice answered:
Then, in turn, I entered each of the remaining rooms and searched. In
the first room there was nothing but a bed and a bit of mirror framed in
pine; in the second, another bed and a clothes-press which contained an
empty cider-jug and a tattered almanac; in the third room a mattress lay
on the floor, and beside it two ink-horns, several quills, and a sheet
of blue paper, such as comes wrapped around a sugar-loaf. The sheet of
paper was pinned to the floor with pine splinters, as though a
draughtsman had prepared it for drawing some plan, but there were no
lines on it, and I was about to leave it when a peculiar odor in the
close air of the room brought me back to re-examine it on both sides.
There was no mark on the blue surface. I picked up an ink-horn, sniffed
it, and spilled a drop of the fluid on my finger. The fluid left no
stain, but the odor I had noticed certainly came from it. I folded the
paper and placed it in my beaded pouch, then descended the stairs, to
find Mount stirring the corn-bread and Sir George laying a cloth over
the kitchen table, while Beacraft sat moodily by the window, watching
everybody askance. The fire needed mending and I used the bellows. And,
as I knelt there on the hearth, I saw a milky white stain slowly spread
over the finger which I had dipped into the ink-horn. I walked to the
door and stood in the cool morning air. Slowly the white stain
Back to Full Books