James Fenimore Cooper
Part 2 out of 9
"Colonel Wellmere," interrupted the younger sister, laughing, and
blushing crimson. "I must confess I am indebted to the major for my
reasoning--am I not, Aunt Jeanette?"
"I believe it is something like his logic, indeed, child."
"I plead guilty; and you. Sarah, have not forgotten the learned
discussions of Colonel Wellmere."
"I trust I never forget the right," said Sarah, emulating her sister in
color, and rising, under the pretense of avoiding the heat of the fire.
Nothing occurred of any moment during the rest of the day; but in the
evening Caesar reported that he had overheard voices in the room of
Harper, conversing in a low tone. The apartment occupied by the traveler
was the wing at the extremity of the building, opposite to the parlor in
which the family ordinarily assembled; and it seems that Caesar had
established a regular system of espionage, with a view to the safety of
his young master. This intelligence gave some uneasiness to all the
members of the family; but the entrance of Harper himself, with the air
of benevolence and sincerity which shone through his reserve, soon
removed the doubts from the breast of all but Mr. Wharton. His children
and sister believed Caesar to have been mistaken, and the evening passed
off without any additional alarm.
On the afternoon of the succeeding day, the party were assembled in the
parlor around the tea table of Miss Peyton, when a change in the weather
occurred. The thin _scud_, that apparently floated but a short distance
above the tops of the hills, began to drive from the west towards the
east in astonishing rapidity. The rain yet continued to beat against the
eastern windows of the house with fury; in that direction the heavens
were dark and gloomy. Frances was gazing at the scene with the desire of
youth to escape from the tedium of confinement, when, as if by magic,
all was still. The rushing winds had ceased, the pelting of the storm
was over, and, springing to the window, with delight pictured in her
face, she saw a glorious ray of sunshine lighting the opposite wood. The
foliage glittered with the checkered beauties of the October leaf,
reflecting back from the moistened boughs the richest luster of an
American autumn. In an instant, the piazza, which opened to the south,
was thronged with the inmates of the cottage. The air was mild, balmy,
and refreshing; in the east, clouds, which might be likened to the
retreating masses of a discomfited army, hung around the horizon in
awful and increasing darkness. At a little elevation above the cottage,
the thin vapor was still rushing towards the east with amazing velocity;
while in the west the sun had broken forth and shed his parting radiance
on the scene below, aided by the fullest richness of a clear atmosphere
and a freshened herbage. Such moments belong only to the climate of
America, and are enjoyed in a degree proportioned to the suddenness of
the contrast, and the pleasure we experience in escaping from the
turbulence of the elements to the quiet of a peaceful evening, and an
air still as the softest mornings in June.
"What a magnificent scene!" said Harper, in a low tone. "How grand! how
awfully sublime!--may such a quiet speedily await the struggle in which
my country is engaged, and such a glorious evening follow the day of her
Frances, who stood next to him, alone heard the voice. Turning in
amazement from the view to the speaker, she saw him standing bareheaded,
erect, and with his eyes lifted to heaven. There was no longer the quiet
which had seemed their characteristic, but they were lighted into
something like enthusiasm, and a slight flush passed over his features.
There can be no danger apprehended from such a man, thought Frances;
such feelings belong only to the virtuous.
The musings of the party were now interrupted by the sudden appearance
of the peddler. He had taken advantage of the first gleam of sunshine to
hasten to the cottage. Heedless of wet or dry as it lay in his path,
with arms swinging to and fro, and with his head bent forward of his
body several inches, Harvey Birch approached the piazza, with a gait
peculiarly his own. It was the quick, lengthened pace of an itinerant
vender of goods.
"Fine evening," said the peddler, saluting the party, without raising
his eyes; "quite warm and agreeable for the season."
Mr. Wharton assented to the remark, and inquired kindly after the health
of his father. Harvey heard him, and continued standing for some time in
moody silence; but the question being repeated, he answered with a
slight tremor in his voice,--
"He fails fast; old age and hardships will do their work." The peddler
turned his face from the view of most of the family; but Frances noticed
his glistening eyes and quivering lip, and, for the second time, Harvey
rose in her estimation.
The valley in which the residence of Mr. Wharton stood ran in a
direction from northwest to southeast, and the house was placed on the
side of a hill which terminated its length in the former direction. A
small opening, occasioned by the receding of the opposite hill, and the
fall of the land to the level of the tide water, afforded a view of the
Sound [Footnote: An island more than forty leagues in length lies
opposite the coasts of New York and Connecticut. The arm of the sea
which separates it from the main is technically called a sound, and in
that part of the country _par excellence, the_ Sound. This sheet of
water varies in its breadth from five to thirty miles.] over the tops of
the distant woods on its margin. The surface of the water which had so
lately been lashing the shores with boisterous fury, was already losing
its ruffled darkness in the long and regular undulations that succeeded
a tempest, while the light air from the southwest was gently touching
their summits, lending its feeble aid in stilling the waters. Some dark
spots were now to be distinguished, occasionally rising into view, and
again sinking behind the lengthened waves which interposed themselves to
the sight. They were unnoticed by all but the peddler. He had seated
himself on the piazza, at a distance from Harper, and appeared to have
forgotten the object of his visit. His roving eye, however, soon caught
a glimpse of these new objects in the view, and he sprang up with
alacrity, gazing intently towards the water. He changed his place,
glanced his eye with marked uneasiness on Harper, and then said with
"The rig'lars must be out from below."
"Why do you think so?" inquired Captain Wharton, eagerly. "God send it
may be true; I want their escort in again."
"Them ten whaleboats would not move so fast unless they were better
manned than common."
"Perhaps," cried Mr. Wharton in alarm, "they are--they are continentals
returning from the island."
"They look like rig'lars," said the peddler, with meaning.
"Look!" repeated the captain, "there is nothing but spots to be seen."
Harvey disregarded his observation, but seemed to be soliloquizing, as
he said in an undertone, "They came out before the gale--have laid on
the island these two days--horse are on the road--there will soon be
fighting near us." During this speech, Birch several times glanced his
eye towards Harper, with evident uneasiness, but no corresponding
emotion betrayed any interest of that gentleman in the scene. He stood
in silent contemplation of the view, and seemed enjoying the change in
the air. As Birch concluded, however, Harper turned to his host, and
mentioned that his business would not admit of unnecessary delay; he
would, therefore, avail himself of the fine evening to ride a few miles
on his journey. Mr. Wharton made many professions of regret at losing so
agreeable an inmate; but was too mindful of his duty not to speed the
parting guest, and orders were instantly given to that effect.
The uneasiness of the peddler increased in a manner for which nothing
apparent could account; his eye was constantly wandering towards the
lower end of the vale as if in expectation of some interruption from
that quarter. At length Caesar appeared, leading the noble beast which
was to bear the weight of the traveler. The peddler officiously
assisted to tighten the girths, and fasten the blue cloak and valise to
Every precaution being completed, Harper proceeded to take his leave. To
Sarah and her aunt he paid his compliments with ease and kindness; but
when he came to Frances, he paused a moment, while his face assumed an
expression of more than ordinary benignity. His eye repeated the
blessing which had before fallen from his lips, and the girl felt her
cheeks glow, and her heart beat with a quicker pulsation, as he spoke
his adieus. There was a mutual exchange of polite courtesy between the
host and his parting guest; but as Harper frankly offered his hand to
Captain Wharton, he remarked, in a manner of great solemnity,--
"The step you have undertaken is one of much danger, and disagreeable
consequences to yourself may result from it; in such a case, I may have
it in my power to prove the gratitude I owe your family for its
"Surely, sir," cried the father, losing sight of delicacy in
apprehension for his child, "you will keep secret the discovery which
your being in my house has enabled you to make?"
Harper turned quickly to the speaker, and then, losing the sternness
which had begun to gather on his countenance, he answered mildly, "I
have learned nothing in your family, sir, of which I was ignorant
before; but your son is safer from my knowledge of his visit than he
would be without it."
He bowed to the whole party, and without taking any notice of the
peddler, other than by simply thanking him for his attentions, mounted
his horse, and, riding steadily and gracefully through the little gate,
was soon lost behind the hill which sheltered the valley to the
The eyes of the peddler followed the retiring figure of the horseman so
long as it continued within view, and as it disappeared from his sight,
he drew a long and heavy sigh, as if relieved from a load of
apprehension. The Whartons had meditated in silence on the character and
visit of their unknown guest for the same period, when the father
approached Birch and observed,
"I am yet your debtor, Harvey, for the tobacco you were so kind as to
bring me from the city."
"If it should not prove so good as the first," replied the peddler,
fixing a last and lingering look in the direction of Harper's route, "it
is owing to the scarcity of the article."
"I like it much," continued the other; "but you have forgotten to name
The countenance of the trader changed, and, losing its expression of
deep care in a natural acuteness, he answered,--
"It is hard to say what ought to be the price; I believe I must leave it
to your own generosity."
Mr. Wharton had taken a hand well filled with the images of Carolus III
from his pocket, and now extended it towards Birch with three of the
pieces between his finger and thumb. Harvey's eyes twinkled as he
contemplated the reward; and rolling over in his mouth a large quantity
of the article in question, coolly stretched forth his hand, into which
the dollars fell with a most agreeable sound: but not satisfied with the
transient music of their fall, the peddler gave each piece in succession
a ring on the stepping-stone of the piazza, before he consigned it to
the safekeeping of a huge deerskin purse, which vanished from the sight
of the spectators so dexterously, that not one of them could have told
about what part of his person it was secreted.
This very material point in his business so satisfactorily completed,
the peddler rose from his seat on the floor of the piazza, and
approached to where Captain Wharton stood, supporting his sisters on
either arm, as they listened with the lively interest of affection to
The agitation of the preceding incidents had caused such an expenditure
of the juices which had become necessary to the mouth of the peddler,
that a new supply of the weed was required before he could turn his
attention to business of lesser moment. This done, he asked abruptly,--
"Captain Wharton, do you go in to-night?"
"No!" said the captain, laconically, and looking at his lovely burdens
with great affection. "Mr. Birch, would you have me leave such company
so soon, when I may never enjoy it again?"
"Brother!" said Frances, "jesting on such a subject is cruel."
"I rather guess," continued the peddler, coolly, "now the storm is over,
the Skinners may be moving; you had better shorten your visit,
"Oh!" cried the British officer, "a few guineas will buy off those
rascals at any time, should I meet them. No, no, Mr. Birch, here I stay
"Money could not liberate Major Andre," said the peddler, dryly.
Both the sisters now turned to the captain in alarm, and the elder
"You had better take the advice of Harvey; rest assured, his opinion in
such matters ought not to be disregarded."
"Yes," added the younger, "if, as I suspect, Mr. Birch assisted you to
come here, your safety, our happiness, dear Henry, requires you to
listen to him now."
"I brought myself out, and can take myself in," said the captain
positively. "Our bargain went no further than to procure my disguise,
and to let me know when the coast was clear; and in the latter
particular, you were mistaken, Mr. Birch."
"I was," said the peddler, with some interest, "and the greater is the
reason why you should get back to-night; the pass I gave you will serve
"Cannot you forge another?"
The pale cheek of the trader showed an unusual color, but he continued
silent, with his eyes fixed on the ground, until the young man added,
with great positiveness, "Here I stay this night, come what will."
"Captain Wharton," said the peddler, with great deliberation and marked
emphasis, "beware a tall Virginian, with huge whiskers; he is below you,
to my knowledge; the devil can't deceive him; I never could but once."
"Let him beware of me," said Wharton, haughtily. "But, Mr. Birch, I
exonerate you from further responsibility."
"Will you give me that in writing?" asked the cautious Birch.
"Oh! cheerfully," cried the captain, with a laugh. "Caesar! pen, ink,
and paper, while I write a discharge for my trusty attendant, Harvey
Birch, peddler, etc., etc."
The implements for writing were produced, and the captain, with great
gayety, wrote the desired acknowledgment in language of his own; which
the peddler took, and carefully depositing it by the side of the image
of his Catholic Majesty, made a sweeping bow to the whole family, and
departed as he had approached. He was soon seen at a distance, stealing
into the door of his own humble dwelling.
The father and sisters of the captain were too much rejoiced in
retaining the young man to express, or even entertain, the apprehensions
his situation might reasonably excite; but on retiring to their evening
repast, a cooler reflection induced the captain to think of changing his
mind. Unwilling to trust himself out of the protection of his father's
domains, the young man dispatched Caesar to desire another interview
with Harvey. The black soon returned with the unwelcome intelligence
that it was now too late. Katy had told him that Harvey must be miles on
his road to the northward, "having left home at early candlelight with
his pack." Nothing now remained to the captain but patience, until the
morning should afford further opportunity of deciding on the best course
for him to pursue.
"This Harvey Birch, with his knowing looks and portentous warnings,
gives me more uneasiness than I am willing to own," said Captain
Wharton, rousing himself from a fit of musing in which the danger of his
situation made no small part of his meditations.
"How is it that he is able to travel to and fro in these difficult
times, without molestation?" inquired Miss Peyton.
"Why the rebels suffer him to escape so easily, is more than I can
answer," returned the other; "but Sir Henry would not permit a hair of
his head to be injured."
"Indeed!" cried Frances, with interest. "Is he then known to Sir Henry
"At least he ought to be."
"Do you think, my son," asked Mr. Wharton, "there is no danger of his
"Why--no; I reflected on that before I trusted myself to his power,"
said the captain, thoughtfully. "He seems to be faithful in matters of
business. The danger to himself, should he return to the city, would
prevent such an act of villainy."
"I think," said Frances, adopting the manner of her brother, "Harvey
Birch is not without good feelings; at least, he has the appearance of
them at times."
"Oh!" cried his sister, exulting, "he has loyalty, and that with me is a
"I am afraid," said her brother, laughing, "love of money is a stronger
passion than love of his king."
"Then," said the father, "you cannot be safe while in his power--for no
love will withstand the temptations of money, when offered to avarice."
"Surely, sir," cried the youth, recovering his gayety, "there must be
one love that can resist anything--is there not, Fanny?"
"Here is your candle; you keep your father up beyond his usual hour."
Through Solway sands, through Taross moss,
Blindfold, he knew the paths to cross:
By wily turns, by desperate bounds,
Had baffled Percy's best bloodhounds.
In Eske, or Liddel, fords were none,
But he would ride them, one by one;
Alike to him was time or tide,
December's snow or July's pride;
Alike to him was tide or time,
Moonless midnight or matin prime.
All the members of the Wharton family laid their heads on their pillows
that night, with a foreboding of some interruption to their ordinary
quiet. Uneasiness kept the sisters from enjoying their usual repose, and
they rose from their beds, on the following morning, unrefreshed, and
almost without having closed their eyes.
On taking an eager and hasty survey of the valley from the windows of
their room, nothing, however, but its usual serenity was to be seen. It
was glittering with the opening brilliancy of one of those lovely, mild
days, which occur about the time of the falling of the leaf; and which,
by their frequency, class the American autumn with the most delightful
seasons of other countries. We have no spring; vegetation seems to leap
into existence, instead of creeping, as in the same latitudes of the Old
World; but how gracefully it retires! September, October, even November
and December, compose the season for enjoyment in the open air; they
have their storms, but they are distinct, and not of long continuance,
leaving a clear atmosphere and a cloudless sky.
As nothing could be seen likely to interrupt the enjoyments and harmony
of such a day, the sisters descended to the parlor, with a returning
confidence in their brother's security, and their own happiness.
The family were early in assembling around the breakfast table; and
Miss Peyton, with a little of that minute precision which creeps into
the habits of single life, had pleasantly insisted that the absence of
her nephew should in no manner interfere with the regular hours she had
established; consequently, the party were already seated when the
captain made his appearance; though the untasted coffee sufficiently
proved that by none of his relatives was his absence disregarded.
"I think I did much better," he cried, taking a chair between his
sisters, and receiving their offered salutes, "to secure a good bed and
such a plentiful breakfast, instead of trusting to the hospitality of
that renowned corps, the Cowboys."
"If you could sleep," said Sarah, "you were more fortunate than Frances
and myself; every murmur of the night air sounded to me like the
approach of the rebel army."
"Why," said the captain, laughing, "I do acknowledge a little inquietude
myself--but how was it with you?" turning to his younger and evidently
favorite sister, and tapping her cheek. "Did you see banners in the
clouds, and mistake Miss Peyton's Aeolian harp for rebellious music?"
"Nay, Henry," rejoined the maid, looking at him affectionately, "much as
I love my own country, the approach of her troops just now would give me
The brother made no reply; but returning the fondness expressed in her
eye by a look of fraternal tenderness, he gently pressed her hand in
silence; when Caesar, who had participated largely in the anxiety of the
family, and who had risen with the dawn, and kept a vigilant watch on
the surrounding objects, as he stood gazing from one of the windows,
exclaimed with a face that approached to something like the hues of a
"Run--Massa Harry--run--if he love old Caesar, run--here come a rebel
"Run!" repeated the British officer, gathering himself up in military
pride. "No, Mr. Caesar, running is not my trade." While speaking, he
walked deliberately to the window, where the family were already
collected in the greatest consternation.
At the distance of more than a mile, about fifty dragoons were to be
seen, winding down one of the lateral entrances of the valley. In
advance, with an officer, was a man attired in the dress of a
countryman, who pointed in the direction of the cottage. A small party
now left the main body, and moved rapidly towards the object of their
On reaching the road which led through the bottom of the valley, they
turned their horses' heads to the north.
The Whartons continued chained in breathless silence to the spot,
watching their movements, when the party, having reached the dwelling of
Birch, made a rapid circle around his grounds, and in an instant his
house was surrounded by a dozen sentinels.
Two or three of the dragoons now dismounted and disappeared; in a few
minutes, however, they returned to the yard, followed by Katy, from
whose violent gesticulations, it was evident that matters of no trifling
concern were on the carpet. A short communication with the loquacious
housekeeper followed the arrival of the main body of the troop, and the
advance party remounting, the whole moved towards the Locusts with
As yet none of the family had sufficient presence of mind to devise any
means of security for Captain Wharton; but the danger now became too
pressing to admit of longer delay, and various means of secreting him
were hastily proposed; but they were all haughtily rejected by the young
man, as unworthy of his character. It was too late to retreat to the
woods in the rear of the cottage, for he would unavoidably be seen, and,
followed by a troop of horse, as inevitably taken.
At length his sisters, with trembling hands, replaced his original
disguise, the instruments of which had been carefully kept at hand by
Caesar, in expectation of some sudden emergency.
This arrangement was hastily and imperfectly completed, as the dragoons
entered the lawn and orchard of the Locusts, riding with the rapidity of
the wind; and in their turn the Whartons were surrounded.
Nothing remained now, but to meet the impending examination with as much
indifference as the family could assume. The leader of the horse
dismounted, and, followed by a couple of his men, he approached the
outer door of the building, which was slowly and reluctantly opened for
his admission by Caesar. The heavy tread of the trooper, as he followed
the black to the door of the parlor, rang in the ears of the females as
it approached nearer and nearer, and drove the blood from their faces to
their hearts, with a chill that nearly annihilated feeling.
A man, whose colossal stature manifested the possession of vast
strength, entered the room, and removing his cap, he saluted the family
with a mildness his appearance did not indicate as belonging to his
nature. His dark hair hung around his brow in profusion, though stained
with powder which was worn at that day, and his face was nearly hid in
the whiskers by which it was disfigured. Still, the expression of his
eye, though piercing, was not bad, and his voice, though deep and
powerful, was far from unpleasant. Frances ventured to throw a timid
glance at his figure as he entered, and saw at once the man from whose
scrutiny Harvey Birch had warned them there was so much to be
"You have no cause for alarm, ladies," said the officer, pausing a
moment, and contemplating the pale faces around him. "My business will
be confined to a few questions, which, if freely answered, will
instantly remove us from your dwelling."
"And what may they be, sir?" stammered Mr. Wharton, rising from his
chair and waiting anxiously for the reply.
"Has there been a strange gentleman staying with you during the storm?"
continued the dragoon, speaking with interest, and in some degree
sharing in the evident anxiety of the father.
"This gentleman--here--favored us with his company during the rain, and
has not yet departed."
"This gentleman!" repeated the other, turning to Captain Wharton, and
contemplating his figure for a moment until the anxiety of his
countenance gave place to a lurking smile. He approached the youth with
an air of comic gravity, and with a low bow, continued, "I am sorry for
the severe cold you have in your head, sir."
"I!" exclaimed the captain, in surprise; "I have no cold in my head."
"I fancied it then, from seeing you had covered such handsome black
locks with that ugly old wig. It was my mistake; you will please to
Mr. Wharton groaned aloud; but the ladies, ignorant of the extent of
their visitor's knowledge, remained in trembling yet rigid silence. The
captain himself moved his hand involuntarily to his head, and discovered
that the trepidation of his sisters had left some of his natural hair
exposed. The dragoon watched the movement with a continued smile, when,
seeming to recollect himself, turning to the father, he proceeded,--
"Then, sir, I am to understand there has not been a Mr. Harper here,
within the week?"
"Mr. Harper," echoed the other, feeling a load removed from his heart,
"yes, I had forgotten; but he is gone; and if there be anything wrong in
his character, we are in entire ignorance of it; to me he was a total
"You have but little to apprehend from his character," answered the
dragoon dryly. "But he is gone--how--when--and whither?"
"He departed as he arrived," said Mr. Wharton, gathering renewed
confidence from the manner of the trooper; "on horseback, last evening,
and he took the northern road."
The officer listened to him with intense interest, his countenance
gradually lighting into a smile of pleasure, and the instant Mr. Wharton
concluded his laconic reply he turned on his heel and left the
apartment. The Whartons, judging from his manner, thought he was about
to proceed in quest of the object of his inquiries. They observed the
dragoon, on gaining the lawn, in earnest and apparently pleased
conversation with his two subalterns. In a few moments orders were given
to some of the troops, and horsemen left the valley, at full speed, by
its various roads.
The suspense of the party within, who were all highly interested
witnesses of this scene, was shortly terminated: for the heavy tread of
the dragoon soon announced his second approach. He bowed again politely
as he reentered the room, and walking up to Captain Wharton, said, with
"Now, sir, my principal business being done, may I beg to examine the
quality of that wig?"
The British officer imitated the manner of the other, as he deliberately
uncovered his head, and handing him the wig, observed, "I hope, sir, it
is to your liking."
"I cannot, without violating the truth, say it is," returned the
dragoon. "I prefer your ebony hair, from which you seem to have combed
the powder with great industry. But that must have been a sad hurt you
have received under this enormous black patch."
"You appear so close an observer of things, I should like your opinion
of it, sir," said Henry, removing the silk, and exhibiting the cheek
free from blemish.
"Upon my word, you improve most rapidly in externals," added the
trooper, preserving his muscles in inflexible gravity. "If I could but
persuade you to exchange this old surtout for that handsome blue coat by
your side, I think I never could witness a more agreeable metamorphosis,
since I was changed myself from a lieutenant to a captain."
Young Wharton very composedly did as was required and stood an
extremely handsome, well-dressed young man. The dragoon looked at him
for a minute with the drollery that characterized his manner, and then
"This is a newcomer in the scene; it is usual, you know, for strangers
to be introduced; I am Captain Lawton, of the Virginia horse."
"And I, sir, am Captain Wharton, of his Majesty's 60th regiment of
foot," returned Henry, bowing stiffly, and recovering his
The countenance of Lawton changed instantly, and his assumed quaintness
vanished. He viewed the figure of Captain Wharton, as he stood proudly
swelling with a pride that disdained further concealment, and exclaimed
with great earnestness,--
"Captain Wharton, from my soul I pity you!"
"Oh! then," cried the father in agony, "if you pity him, dear sir, why
molest him? He is not a spy; nothing but a desire to see his friends
prompted him to venture so far from the regular army in disguise. Leave
him with us; there is no reward, no sum, which I will not
"Sir, your anxiety for your friend excuses your language," said Lawton,
haughtily; "but you forget I am a Virginian, and a gentleman." Turning
to the young man, he continued, "Were you ignorant, Captain Wharton,
that our pickets have been below you for several days?"
"I did not know it until I reached them, and it was then too late to
retreat," said Wharton sullenly. "I came out, as my father has
mentioned, to see my friends, understanding your parties to be at
Peekskill, and near the Highlands, or surely I would not have ventured."
"All this may be very true; but the affair of Andre has made us on the
alert. When treason reaches the grade of general officers, Captain
Wharton, it behooves the friends of liberty to be vigilant."
Henry bowed to this remark in distant silence, but Sarah ventured to
urge something in behalf of her brother. The dragoon heard her politely,
and apparently with commiseration; but willing to avoid useless and
embarrassing petitions, he answered mildly,--
"I am not the commander of the party, madam; Major Dunwoodie will decide
what must be done with your brother; at all events he will receive
nothing but kind and gentle treatment."
"Dunwoodie!" exclaimed Frances, with a face in which the roses contended
for the mastery with the paleness of apprehension. "Thank God! then
Henry is safe!"
Lawton regarded her with a mingled expression of pity and admiration;
then shaking his head doubtingly, he continued,--
"I hope so; and with your permission, we will leave the matter for his
The color of Frances changed from the paleness of fear to the glow of
hope. Her dread on behalf of her brother was certainly greatly
diminished; yet her form shook, her breathing became short and
irregular, and her whole frame gave tokens of extraordinary agitation.
Her eyes rose from the floor to the dragoon, and were again fixed
immovably on the carpet--she evidently wished to utter something but was
unequal to the effort. Miss Peyton was a close observer of these
movements of her niece, and advancing with an air of feminine dignity,
"Then, sir, we may expect the pleasure of Major Dunwoodie's company
"Immediately, madam," answered the dragoon, withdrawing his admiring
gaze from the person of Frances. "Expresses are already on the road to
announce to him our situation, and the intelligence will speedily bring
him to this valley; unless, indeed, some private reasons may exist to
make a visit particularly unpleasant."
"We shall always be happy to see Major Dunwoodie."
"Oh! doubtless; he is a general favorite, May I presume on it so far as
to ask leave to dismount and refresh my men, who compose a part of his
There was a manner about the trooper that would have made the omission
of such a request easily forgiven by Mr. Wharton, but he was fairly
entrapped by his own eagerness to conciliate, and it was useless to
withhold a consent which he thought would probably be extorted; he
therefore made the most of necessity, and gave such orders as would
facilitate the wishes of Captain Lawton.
The officers were invited to take their morning's repast at the family
breakfast table, and having made their arrangements without, the
invitation was frankly accepted. None of the watchfulness, which was so
necessary to their situation, was neglected by the wary partisan.
Patrols were seen on the distant hills, taking their protecting circuit
around their comrades, who were enjoying, in the midst of danger, a
security that can only spring from the watchfulness of discipline and
the indifference of habit.
The addition to the party at Mr. Wharton's table was only three, and
they were all of them men who, under the rough exterior induced by
actual and arduous service, concealed the manners of gentlemen.
Consequently, the interruption to the domestic privacy of the family was
marked by the observance of strict decorum. The ladies left the table to
their guests, who proceeded, without much superfluous diffidence, to do
proper honors to the hospitality of Mr. Wharton.
At length Captain Lawton suspended for a moment his violent attacks on
the buckwheat cakes, to inquire of the master of the house, if there was
not a peddler of the name of Birch who lived in the valley at times.
"At times only, I believe, sir," replied Mr. Wharton, cautiously. "He is
seldom here; I may say I never see him."
"That is strange, too," said the trooper, looking at the disconcerted
host intently, "considering he is your next neighbor; he must be quite
domestic, sir; and to the ladies it must be somewhat inconvenient. I
doubt not that that muslin in the window seat cost twice as much as he
would have asked them for it."
Mr. Wharton turned in consternation, and saw some of the recent
purchases scattered about the room.
The two subalterns struggled to conceal their smiles; but the captain
resumed his breakfast with an eagerness that created a doubt, whether he
ever expected to enjoy another. The necessity of a supply from the
dominion of Dinah soon, however, afforded another respite, of which
Lawton availed himself.
"I had a wish to break this Mr. Birch of his unsocial habits, and gave
him a call this morning," he said. "Had I found him within, I should
have placed him where he would enjoy life in the midst of society, for a
short time at least."
"And where might that be, sir?" asked Mr. Wharton, conceiving it
necessary to say something.
"The guardroom," said the trooper, dryly.
"What is the offense of poor Birch?" asked Miss Peyton, handing the
dragoon a fourth dish of coffee.
"Poor!" cried the captain. "If he is poor, King George is a bad
"Yes, indeed," said one of the subalterns, "his Majesty owes him a
"And congress a halter," continued the commanding officer commencing
anew on a fresh supply of the cakes.
"I am sorry," said Mr. Wharton, "that any neighbor of mine should incur
the displeasure of our rulers."
"If I catch him," cried the dragoon, while buttering another cake, "he
will dangle from the limbs of one of his namesakes."
"He would make no bad ornament, suspended from one of those locusts
before his own door," added the lieutenant.
"Never mind," continued the captain; "I will have him yet before I'm a
As the language of the officers appeared to be sincere, and such as
disappointed men in their rough occupations are but too apt to use, the
Whartons thought it prudent to discontinue the subject. It was no new
intelligence to any of the family, that Harvey Birch was distrusted and
greatly harassed by the American army. His escapes from their hands, no
less than his imprisonments, had been the conversation of the country in
too many instances, and under circumstances of too great mystery, to be
easily forgotten. In fact, no small part of the bitterness expressed by
Captain Lawton against the peddler, arose from the unaccountable
disappearance of the latter, when intrusted to the custody of two of his
most faithful dragoons.
A twelvemonth had not yet elapsed, since Birch had been seen lingering
near the headquarters of the commander in chief, and at a time when
important movements were expected hourly to occur. So soon as the
information of this fact was communicated to the officer whose duty it
was to guard the avenues of the American camp, he dispatched Captain
Lawton in pursuit of the peddler.
Acquainted with all the passes of the hills, and indefatigable in the
discharge of his duty, the trooper had, with much trouble and toil,
succeeded in effecting his object. The party had halted at a farmhouse
for the purposes of refreshment, and the prisoner was placed in a room
by himself, but under the keeping of the two men before mentioned; all
that was known subsequently is, that a woman was seen busily engaged in
the employments of the household near the sentinels, and was
particularly attentive to the wants of the captain, until he was deeply
engaged in the employments of the supper table.
Afterwards, neither woman nor peddler was to be found. The pack, indeed,
was discovered open, and nearly empty, and a small door, communicating
with a room adjoining to the one in which the peddler had been
secured, was ajar.
Captain Lawton never could forgive the deception; his antipathies to his
enemies were not very moderate, but this was adding an insult to his
penetration that rankled deeply. He sat in portentous silence, brooding
over the exploit of his prisoner, yet mechanically pursuing the business
before him, until, after sufficient time had passed to make a very
comfortable meal, a trumpet suddenly broke on the ears of the party,
sending its martial tones up the valley, in startling melody. The
trooper rose instantly from the table, exclaiming,--
"Quick, gentlemen, to your horses; there comes Dunwoodie," and, followed
by his officers, he precipitately left the room.
With the exception of the sentinels left to guard Captain Wharton, the
dragoons mounted, and marched out to meet their comrades.
None of the watchfulness necessary in a war, in which similarity of
language, appearance, and customs rendered prudence doubly necessary,
was omitted by the cautious leader. On getting sufficiently near,
however, to a body of horse of more than double his own number, to
distinguish countenances, Lawton plunged his rowels into his charger,
and in a moment he was by the side of his commander.
The ground in front of the cottage was again occupied by the horse; and
observing the same precautions as before, the newly arrived troops
hastened to participate in the cheer prepared for their comrades.
And let conquerors boast
Their fields of fame--he who in virtue arms
A young warm spirit against beauty's charms,
Who feels her brightness, yet defies her thrall,
Is the best, bravest conqueror of them all.
The ladies of the Wharton family had collected about a window, deeply
interested in the scene we have related.
Sarah viewed the approach of her countrymen with a smile of contemptuous
indifference; for she even undervalued the personal appearance of men
whom she thought arrayed in the unholy cause of rebellion. Miss Peyton
looked on the gallant show with an exulting pride, which arose in the
reflection that the warriors before her were the chosen troops of her
native colony; while Frances gazed with a singleness of interest that
absorbed all other considerations.
The two parties had not yet joined, before her quick eye distinguished
one horseman in particular from those around him. To her it appeared
that even the steed of this youthful soldier seemed to be conscious that
he sustained the weight of no common man: his hoofs but lightly touched
the earth, and his airy tread was the curbed motion of a
The dragoon sat in the saddle, with a firmness and ease that showed him
master of himself and horse,--his figure uniting the just proportions of
strength and activity, being tall, round, and muscular. To this officer
Lawton made his report, and, side by side, they rode into the field
opposite to the cottage.
The heart of Frances beat with a pulsation nearly stifling, as he paused
for a moment, and took a survey of the building, with an eye whose dark
and sparkling glance could be seen, notwithstanding the distance. Her
color changed, and for an instant, as she saw the youth throw himself
from the saddle, she was compelled to seek relief for her trembling
limbs in a chair.
The officer gave a few hasty orders to his second in command, walked
rapidly into the lawn, and approached the cottage. Frances rose from her
seat, and vanished from the apartment. The dragoon ascended the steps of
the piazza, and had barely time to touch the outer door, when it opened
to his admission.
The youth of Frances, when she left the city, had prevented her
sacrificing, in conformity to the customs of that day, all her native
beauties on the altar of fashion. Her hair, which was of a golden
richness of color, was left, untortured, to fall in the natural ringlets
of infancy, and it shaded a face which was glowing with the united
charms of health, youth, and artlessness; her eyes spoke volumes, but
her tongue was silent; her hands were interlocked before her, and, aided
by her taper form, bending forward in an attitude of expectation, gave a
loveliness and an interest to her appearance, that for a moment chained
her lover in silence to the spot.
Frances silently led the way into a vacant parlor, opposite to the one
in which the family were assembled, and turning to the soldier frankly,
placing both her hands in his own, exclaimed,--
"Ah, Dunwoodie! how happy, on many accounts, I am to see you! I have
brought you in here, to prepare you to meet an unexpected friend in the
"To whatever cause it may be owing," cried the youth, pressing her hands
to his lips, "I, too, am happy in being able to see you alone. Frances,
the probation you have decreed is cruel; war and distance may separate
"We must submit to the necessity which governs us. But it is not love
speeches I would hear now; I have other and more important matter for
"What can be of more importance than to make you mine by a tie that will
be indissoluble! Frances, you are cold to me--me--from whose mind, days
of service and nights of alarm have never been able to banish your image
for a single moment."
"Dear Dunwoodie," said Frances, softening nearly to tears, and again
extending her hand to him, as the richness of her color gradually
returned, "you know my sentiments--this war once ended, and you may
take that hand forever--but I can never consent to tie myself to you by
any closer union than already exists, so long as you are arrayed in arms
against my only brother. Even now, that brother is awaiting your
decision to restore him to liberty, or to conduct him to a
"Your brother!" cried Dunwoodie, starting and turning pale; "your
brother! explain yourself--what dreadful meaning is concealed in
"Has not Captain Lawton told you of the arrest of Henry by himself this
very morning?" continued Frances, in a voice barely audible, and fixing
on her lover a look of the deepest concern.
"He told me of arresting a captain of the 60th in disguise, but without
mentioning where or whom," replied the major in a similar tone; and
dropping his head between his hands, he endeavored to conceal his
feelings from his companion.
"Dunwoodie! Dunwoodie!" exclaimed Frances, losing all her former
confidence in the most fearful apprehensions, "what means this
agitation?" As the major slowly raised his face, in which was pictured
the most expressive concern, she continued, "Surely, surely, you will
not betray your friend--my brother--your brother--to an
"Frances!" exclaimed the young man in agony, "what can I do?"
"Do!" she repeated, gazing at him wildly. "Would Major Dunwoodie yield
his friend to his enemies--the brother of his betrothed wife?"
"Oh, speak not so unkindly to me, dearest Miss Wharton--my own
Frances. I would this moment die for you--for Henry--but I cannot forget
my duty--cannot forfeit my honor; you yourself would be the first to
despise me if I did."
"Peyton Dunwoodie!" said Frances, solemnly, and with a face of ashy
paleness, "you have told me--you have sworn, that you love me----"
"I do," interrupted the soldier, with fervor; but motioning for silence
she continued, in a voice that trembled with her fears,--
"Do you think I can throw myself into the arms of a man whose hands are
stained with the blood of my only brother!"
"Frances, you wring my very heart!" Then pausing, to struggle with his
feelings, he endeavored to force a smile, as he added, "But, after all,
we may be torturing ourselves with unnecessary fears, and Henry, when I
know the circumstances, may be nothing more than a prisoner of war; in
which case, I can liberate him on parole."
There is no more delusive passion than hope; and it seems to be the
happy privilege of youth to cull all the pleasures that can be gathered
from its indulgence. It is when we are most worthy of confidence
ourselves, that we are least apt to distrust others; and what we think
ought to be, we are prone to think will be.
The half-formed expectations of the young soldier were communicated to
the desponding sister, more by the eye than the voice, and the blood
rushed again to her cheek, as she cried,--
"Oh, there can be no just grounds to doubt it. I know--I
knew--Dunwoodie, you would never desert us in the hour of our greatest
need!" The violence of her feelings prevailed, and the agitated girl
found relief in a flood of tears.
The office of consoling those we love is one of the dearest prerogatives
of affection; and Major Dunwoodie, although but little encouraged by his
own momentary suggestion of relief, could not undeceive the lovely girl,
who leaned on his shoulder, as he wiped the traces of her feeling from
her face, with a trembling, but reviving confidence in the safety of her
brother, and the protection of her lover.
Frances, having sufficiently recovered her recollection to command
herself, now eagerly led the way to the opposite room, to communicate to
her family the pleasing intelligence which she already conceived
Dunwoodie followed her reluctantly, and with forebodings of the result;
but a few moments brought him into the presence of his relatives, and he
summoned all his resolution to meet the trial with firmness.
The salutations of the young men were cordial and frank, and, on the
part of Henry Wharton, as collected as if nothing had occurred to
disturb his self-possession.
The abhorrence of being, in any manner, auxiliary to the arrest of his
friend; the danger to the life of Captain Wharton; and the
heart-breaking declarations of Frances, had, however, created an
uneasiness in the bosom of Major Dunwoodie, which all his efforts could
not conceal. His reception by the rest of the family was kind and
sincere, both from old regard, and a remembrance of former obligations,
heightened by the anticipations they could not fail to read in the
expressive eyes of the blushing girl by his side. After exchanging
greetings with every member of the family, Major Dunwoodie beckoned to
the sentinel, whom the wary prudence of Captain Lawton had left in
charge of the prisoner, to leave the room. Turning to Captain Wharton,
he inquired mildly,--
"Tell me, Henry, the circumstances of this disguise, in which Captain
Lawton reports you to have been found, and remember--remember--Captain
Wharton--your answers are entirely voluntary."
"The disguise was used by me, Major Dunwoodie," replied the English
officer, gravely, "to enable me to visit my friends, without incurring
the danger of becoming a prisoner of war."
"But you did not wear it, until you saw the troop of Lawton
"Oh! no," interrupted Frances, eagerly, forgetting all the circumstances
in her anxiety for her brother. "Sarah and myself placed them on him
when the dragoons appeared; and it was our awkwardness that has led to
The countenance of Dunwoodie brightened, as turning his eyes in fondness
on the speaker, he listened to her explanation.
"Probably some articles of your own," he continued, "which were at hand,
and were used on the spur of the moment."
"No," said Wharton, with dignity, "the clothes were worn by me from the
city; they were procured for the purpose to which they were applied, and
I intended to use them in my return this very day."
The appalled Frances shrank back from between her brother and lover,
where her ardent feelings had carried her, as the whole truth glanced
over her mind, and she sank into a seat, gazing wildly on the young men.
"But the pickets--the party at the Plains?" added Dunwoodie, turning
"I passed them, too, in disguise. I made use of this pass, for which I
paid; and, as it bears the name of Washington, I presume it is forged."
Dunwoodie caught the paper from his hand, eagerly, and stood gazing on
the signature for some time in silence, during which the soldier
gradually prevailed over the man; when he turned to the prisoner, with a
searching look, as he asked,--
"Captain Wharton, whence did you procure this paper?"
"This is a question, I conceive, Major Dunwoodie has no right to ask."
"Your pardon, sir; my feelings may have led me into an impropriety."
Mr. Wharton, who had been a deeply interested auditor, now so far
conquered his feelings as to say, "Surely, Major Dunwoodie, the paper
cannot be material; such artifices are used daily in war."
"This name is no counterfeit," said the dragoon, studying the
characters, and speaking in a low voice; "is treason yet among us
undiscovered? The confidence of Washington has been abused, for the
fictitious name is in a different hand from the pass. Captain Wharton,
my duty will not suffer me to grant you a parole; you must accompany me
to the Highlands."
"I did not expect otherwise, Major Dunwoodie."
Dunwoodie turned slowly towards the sisters, when the figure of Frances
once more arrested his gaze. She had risen from her seat, and stood
again with her hands clasped before him in an attitude of petition;
feeling himself unable to contend longer with his feelings, he made a
hurried excuse for a temporary absence, and left the room. Frances
followed him, and, obedient to the direction of her eye, the soldier
reentered the apartment in which had been their first interview.
"Major Dunwoodie," said Frances, in a voice barely audible, as she
beckoned to him to be seated; her cheek, which had been of a chilling
whiteness, was flushed with a suffusion that crimsoned her whole
countenance. She struggled with herself for a moment, and continued, "I
have already acknowledged to you my esteem; even now, when you most
painfully distress me, I wish not to conceal it. Believe me, Henry is
innocent of everything but imprudence. Our country can sustain no
wrong." Again she paused, and almost gasped for breath; her color
changed rapidly from red to white, until the blood rushed into her face,
covering her features with the brightest vermilion; and she added
hastily, in an undertone, "I have promised, Dunwoodie, when peace shall
be restored to our country, to become your wife. Give to my brother his
liberty on parole, and I will this day go with you to the altar, follow
you to the camp, and, in becoming a soldier's bride, learn to endure a
Dunwoodie seized the hand which the blushing girl, in her ardor, had
extended towards him, and pressed it for a moment to his bosom; then
rising from his seat, he paced the room in excessive agitation.
"Frances, say no more, I conjure you, unless you wish to break my
"You then reject my offered hand?" she said, rising with dignity, though
her pale cheek and quivering lip plainly showed the conflicting
"Reject it! Have I not sought it with entreaties--with tears? Has it not
been the goal of all my earthly wishes? But to take it under such
conditions would be to dishonor both. We will hope for better things.
Henry must be acquitted; perhaps not tried. No intercession of mine
shall be wanting, you must well know; and believe me, Frances, I am not
without favor with Washington."
"That very paper, that abuse of his confidence, to which you alluded,
will steel him to my brother's case. If threats or entreaties could move
his stern sense of justice, would Andre have suffered?" As Frances
uttered these words she fled from the room in despair.
Dunwoodie remained for a minute nearly stupefied; and then he followed
with a view to vindicate himself, and to relieve her apprehensions. On
entering the hall that divided the two parlors, he was met by a small
ragged boy, who looked one moment at his dress, and placing a piece of
paper in his hands, immediately vanished through the outer door of the
building. The bewildered state of his mind, and the suddenness of the
occurrence, gave the major barely time to observe the messenger to be a
country lad, meanly attired, and that he held in his hand one of those
toys which are to be bought in cities, and which he now apparently
contemplated with the conscious pleasure of having fairly purchased, by
the performance of the service required. The soldier turned his eyes to
the subject of the note. It was written on a piece of torn and soiled
paper, and in a hand barely legible, but after some little labor, he was
able to make out as follows--
"The rig'lars are at hand, horse and foot." [Footnote: There died a few
years since, in Bedford, Westchester, a yeoman named Elisha H--- This
person was employed by Washington as one of his most confidential spies.
By the conditions of their bargain, H--- was never to be required to
deal with third parties, since his risks were too imminent. He was
allowed to enter also into the service of Sir Henry Clinton, and so much
confidence had Washington in his love of country and discretion, that he
was often intrusted with the minor military movements, in order that he
might enhance his value with the English general, by communicating them.
In this manner H--- had continued to serve for a long period, when
chance brought him into the city (then held by the British) at a moment
when an expedition was about to quit it, to go against a small post
established at Bedford, his native village, where the Americans had a
depot of provisions. H--- easily ascertained the force and destination
of the detachment ordered on this service, but he was at a loss in what
manner to communicate his information to the officer in command at
Bedford, without betraying his own true character to a third person.
There was not time to reach Washington, and under the circumstances, he
finally resolved to hazard a short note to the American commandant,
stating the danger, and naming the time when the attack might be
expected. To this note he even ventured to affix his own initials, E H,
though he had disguised the hand, under a belief that, as he knew
himself to be suspected by his countrymen, it might serve to give more
weight to his warning. His family being at Bedford, the note was
transmitted with facility and arrived in good season, H--- himself
remaining in New York. The American commandant did what every sensible
officer, in a similar case, would have done. He sent a courier with the
note to Washington, demanding orders, while he prepared his little party
to make the best defense in his power. The headquarters of the American
army were, at that time, in the Highlands. Fortunately, the express met
Washington, on a tour of observation, near their entrance. The note was
given to him, and he read it in the saddle, adding, in pencil, "Believe
all that E H tells you. George Washington" He returned it to the
courier, with an injunction to ride for life or death. The courier
reached Bedford after the British had made their attack. The commandant
read the reply, and put it in his pocket. The Americans were defeated,
and their leader killed. The note of H---, with the line written on it
by Washington, was found on his person. The following day H--- was
summoned to the presence of Sir Henry Clinton. After the latter had put
several general questions, he suddenly gave the note to the spy, and
asked if he knew the handwriting, and demanded who the E H was "It is
Elijah Hadden, the spy you hanged yesterday at Powles Hook." The
readiness of this answer, connected with the fact that a spy having the
same initials had been executed the day before, and the coolness of
H----, saved him. Sir Henry Clinton allowed him to quit his presence,
and he never saw him afterwards.]
Dunwoodie started; and, forgetting everything but the duties of a
soldier, he precipitately left the house. While walking rapidly towards
the troops, he noticed on a distant hill a vidette riding with speed.
Several pistols were fired in quick succession; and the next instant the
trumpets of the corps rang in his ears with the enlivening strain of "To
arms!" By the time he had reached the ground occupied by his squadron,
the major saw that every man was in active motion. Lawton was already in
the saddle, eying the opposite extremity of the valley with the
eagerness of expectation, and crying to the musicians, in tones but
little lower than their own,--
"Sound away, my lads, and let these Englishmen know that the Virginia
horse are between them and the end of their journey."
The videttes and patrols now came pouring in, each making in succession
his hasty report to the commanding officer, who gave his orders coolly,
and with a promptitude that made obedience certain. Once only, as he
wheeled his horse to ride over the ground in front, did Dunwoodie trust
himself with a look at the cottage, and his heart beat with unusual
rapidity as he saw a female figure standing, with clasped hands, at a
window of the room in which he had met Frances. The distance was too
great to distinguish her features, but the soldier could not doubt that
it was his mistress. The paleness of his cheek and the languor of his
eye endured but for a moment longer. As he rode towards the intended
battle ground, a flush of ardor began to show itself on his sunburnt
features; and his dragoons, who studied the face of their leader, as the
best index to their own fate, saw again the wonted flashing of the eyes,
and the cheerful animation, which they had so often witnessed on the eve
of battle. By the additions of the videttes and parties that had been
out, and which now had all joined, the whole number of the horse was
increased to nearly two hundred. There was also a small body of men,
whose ordinary duties were those of guides, but who, in cases of
emergency, were embodied and did duty as foot soldiers; these were
dismounted, and proceeded, by the order of Dunwoodie, to level the few
fences which might interfere with the intended movements of the cavalry.
The neglect of husbandry, which had been occasioned by the war, left
this task comparatively easy. Those long lines of heavy and durable
walls, which now sweep through every part of the country, forty years
ago were unknown. The slight and tottering fences of stone were then
used more to clear the land for the purposes of cultivation than as
permanent barriers, and required the constant attention of the
husbandman, to preserve them against the fury of the tempests and the
frosts of winter. Some few of them had been built with more care
immediately around the dwelling of Mr. Wharton; but those which had
intersected the vale below were now generally a pile of ruins, over
which the horses of the Virginians would bound with the fleetness of the
wind. Occasionally a short line yet preserved its erect appearance; but
as none of those crossed the ground on which Dunwoodie intended to act,
there remained only the slighter fences of rails to be thrown down.
Their duty was hastily but effectually performed; and the guides
withdrew to the post assigned to them for the approaching fight.
Major Dunwoodie had received from his scouts all the intelligence
concerning his foe, which was necessary to enable him to make his
arrangements. The bottom of the valley was an even plain, that fell with
a slight inclination from the foot of the hills on either side, to the
level of a natural meadow that wound through the country on the banks of
a small stream, by whose waters it was often inundated and fertilized.
This brook was easily forded in any part of its course; and the only
impediment it offered to the movements of the horse, was in a place
where it changed its bed from the western to the eastern side of the
valley, and where its banks were more steep and difficult of access than
common. Here the highway crossed it by a rough wooden bridge, as it did
again at the distance of half a mile above the Locusts.
The hills on the eastern side of the valley were abrupt, and frequently
obtruded themselves in rocky prominences into its bosom, lessening the
width to half the usual dimensions. One of these projections was but a
short distance in the rear of the squadron of dragoons, and Dunwoodie
directed Captain Lawton to withdraw, with two troops, behind its cover.
The officer obeyed with a kind of surly reluctance, that was, however,
somewhat lessened by the anticipations of the effect his sudden
appearance would make on the enemy. Dunwoodie knew his man, and had
selected the captain for this service, both because he feared his
precipitation in the field, and knew, when needed, his support would
never fail to appear. It was only in front of the enemy that Captain
Lawton was hasty; at all other times his discernment and self-possession
were consummately preserved; but he sometimes forgot them in his
eagerness to engage. On the left of the ground on which Dunwoodie
intended to meet his foe, was a close wood, which skirted that side of
the valley for the distance of a mile. Into this, then, the guides
retired, and took their station near its edge, in such a manner as would
enable them to maintain a scattering, but effectual fire, on the
advancing column of the enemy.
It cannot be supposed that all these preparations were made unheeded by
the inmates of the cottage; on the contrary, every feeling which can
agitate the human breast, in witnessing such a scene, was actively
alive. Mr. Wharton alone saw no hopes to himself in the termination of
the conflict. If the British should prevail, his son would be liberated;
but what would then be his own fate! He had hitherto preserved his
neutral character in the midst of trying circumstances. The fact of his
having a son in the royal, or, as it was called, the regular army, had
very nearly brought his estates to the hammer. Nothing had obviated this
result, but the powerful interest of the relation who held a high
political rank in the state, and his own vigilant prudence. In his
heart, he was a devoted loyalist; and when the blushing Frances had
communicated to him the wishes of her lover, on their return from the
American camp the preceding spring, the consent he had given, to her
future union with a rebel, was as much extracted by the increasing
necessity which existed for his obtaining republican support, as by any
considerations for the happiness of his child. Should his son now be
rescued, he would, in the public mind, be united with him as a plotter
against the freedom of the States; and should he remain a captive and
undergo the impending trial, the consequences might be still more
dreadful. Much as he loved his wealth, Mr. Wharton loved his children
better; and he sat gazing on the movements without, with a listless
vacancy in his countenance, that fully denoted his imbecility of
character. Far different were the feelings of the son. Captain Wharton
had been left in the keeping of two dragoons, one of whom marched to and
fro on the piazza with a measured tread, and the other had been directed
to continue in the same apartment with his prisoner. The young man had
witnessed all the movements of Dunwoodie with admiration mingled with
fearful anticipations of the consequences to friends. He particularly
disliked the ambush of the detachment under Lawton, who could be
distinctly seen from the windows of the cottage, cooling his impatience,
by pacing on foot the ground in front of his men. Henry Wharton threw
several hasty and inquiring glances around, to see if no means of
liberation would offer, but invariably found the eyes of his sentinel
fixed on him with the watchfulness of an Argus. He longed, with the
ardor of youth, to join in the glorious fray, but was compelled to
remain a dissatisfied spectator of a scene in which he would so
cheerfully have been an actor. Miss Peyton and Sarah continued gazing
on the preparations with varied emotions, in which concern for the fate
of the captain formed the most prominent feeling, until the moment of
shedding of blood seemed approaching, when, with the timidity of their
sex, they sought the retirement of an inner room. Not so Frances; she
returned to the apartment where she had left Dunwoodie, and, from one of
its windows, had been a deeply interested spectator of all his
movements. The wheelings of the troops, the deadly preparations, had all
been unnoticed; she saw her lover only, and with mingled emotions of
admiration and dread that nearly chilled her. At one moment the blood
rushed to her heart, as she saw the young warrior riding through his
ranks, giving life and courage to all whom he addressed; and the next,
it curdled with the thought that the very gallantry she so much valued
might prove the means of placing the grave between her and the object of
her regard. Frances gazed until she could look no longer.
In a field on the left of the cottage, and at a short distance in the
rear of the troops, was a small group, whose occupation seemed to differ
from that of all around them. They were in number only three, being two
men and a mulatto boy. The principal personage of this party was a man,
whose leanness made his really tall stature appear excessive. He wore
spectacles--was unarmed, had dismounted, and seemed to be dividing his
attention between a cigar, a book, and the incidents of the field before
him. To this party Frances determined to send a note, directed to
Dunwoodie. She wrote hastily, with a pencil, "Come to me, Peyton, if it
be but for a moment"; and Caesar emerged from the cellar kitchen, taking
the precaution to go by the rear of the building, to avoid the sentinel
on the piazza, who had very cavalierly ordered all the family to remain
housed. The black delivered the note to the gentleman, with a request
that it might be forwarded to Major Dunwoodie. It was the surgeon of the
horse to whom Caesar addressed himself; and the teeth of the African
chattered, as he saw displayed upon the ground the several instruments
which were in preparation for the anticipated operations. The doctor
himself seemed to view the arrangement with great satisfaction, as he
deliberately raised his eyes from his book to order the boy to convey
the note to his commanding officer, and then dropping them quietly on
the page he continued his occupation. Caesar was slowly retiring, as the
third personage, who by his dress might be an inferior assistant of the
surgical department, coolly inquired "if he would have a leg taken off?"
This question seemed to remind the black of the existence of those
limbs, for he made such use of them as to reach the piazza at the same
instant that Major Dunwoodie rode up, at half speed. The brawny sentinel
squared himself, and poised his sword with military precision as he
stood on his post, while his officer passed; but no sooner had the door
closed, than, turning to the negro, he said, sharply,--
"Harkee, blackee, if you quit the house again without my knowledge, I
shall turn barber, and shave off one of those ebony ears with
Thus assailed in another member, Caesar hastily retreated into his
kitchen, muttering something, in which the words "Skinner," and "rebel
rascal," formed a principal part of speech.
"Major Dunwoodie," said Frances to her lover as he entered, "I may have
done you injustice; if I have appeared harsh--"
The emotions of the agitated girl prevailed, and she burst into tears.
"Frances," cried the soldier with warmth, "you are never harsh, never
unjust, but when you doubt my love."
"Ah! Dunwoodie," added the sobbing girl, "you are about to risk your
life in battle; remember that there is one heart whose happiness is
built on your safety; brave I know you are: be prudent--"
"For your sake?" inquired the delighted youth.
"For my sake," replied Frances, in a voice barely audible, and dropping
on his bosom.
Dunwoodie folded her to his heart, and was about to speak, as a trumpet
sounded in the southern end of the vale. Imprinting one long kiss of
affection on her unresisting lips, the soldier tore himself from his
mistress, and hastened to the scene of strife.
Frances threw herself on a sofa, buried her head under its cushion, and
with her shawl drawn over her face, to exclude as much of sound as
possible, continued there until the shouts of the combatants, the
rattling of the firearms, and the thundering tread of the horses
The game's afoot;
Follow your spirit.
The rough and unimproved face of the country, the frequency of covers,
together with the great distance from their own country, and the
facilities afforded them for rapid movements to the different points of
the war, by the undisputed command of the ocean, had united to deter the
English from employing a heavy force in cavalry, in their early efforts
to subdue the revolted colonies.
Only one regiment of regular horse was sent from the mother country,
during the struggle. But legions and independent corps were formed in
different places, as it best accorded with the views of the royal
commanders, or suited the exigency of the times. These were not
unfrequently composed of men raised in the colonies, and at other times
drafts were had from the regiments of the line, and the soldiers were
made to lay aside the musket and bayonet, and taught to wield the saber
and carbine. One particular body of the subsidiary troops was included
in this arrange ment, and the Hessian yagers were transformed into a
corps of heavy and inactive horse.
Opposed to them were the hardiest spirits of America. Most of the
cavalry regiments of the continental army were led and officered by
gentlemen from the South. The high and haughty courage of the commanders
had communicated itself to the privates, who were men selected with care
and great attention to the service they were intended to perform.
While the British were confined to their empty conquests in the
possession of a few of the larger towns, or marched through counties
that were swept of everything like military supplies, the light troops
of their enemies had the range of the whole interior.
The sufferings of the line of the American army were great beyond
example; but possessing the power, and feeling themselves engaged in a
cause which justified severity, the cavalry officers were vigilant in
providing for their wants, and the horse were well mounted, well fed,
and consequently eminently effective. Perhaps the world could not
furnish more brave, enterprising, and resistless corps of light cavalry,
than a few that were in the continental service at the time of which
Dunwoodie's men had often tried their prowess against the enemy, and
they now sat panting to be led once more against foes whom they seldom
charged in vain. Their wishes were soon to be gratified; for their
commander had scarcely time to regain his seat in the saddle, before a
body of the enemy came sweeping round the base of the hill, which
intersected the view to the south. A few minutes enabled the major to
distinguish their character. In one troop he saw the green coats of the
Cowboys, and in the other the leathern helmets and wooden saddles of the
yagers. Their numbers were about equal to the body under his
On reaching the open space near the cottage of Harvey Birch, the enemy
halted and drew up his men in line, evi dently making preparations for
a charge. At this moment a column of foot appeared in the vale, and
pressed forward to the bank of the brook we have already mentioned.
Major Dunwoodie was not less distinguished by coolness and judgment,
than, where occasion offered, by his dauntless intrepidity. He at once
saw his advantage, and determined to profit by it. The column he led
began slowly to retire from the field, when the youthful German, who
commanded the enemy's horse, fearful of missing an easy conquest, gave
the word to charge. Few troops were more hardy than the Cowboys; they
sprang eagerly forward in the pursuit, with a confidence created by the
retiring foe and the column in their rear; the Hessians followed more
slowly, but in better order. The trumpets of the Virginians now sounded
long and lively; they were answered by a strain from the party in ambush
that went to the hearts of their enemies. The column of Dunwoodie
wheeled in perfect order, opened, and, as the word to charge was given,
the troops of Lawton emerged from their cover, with their leader in
advance, waving his saber over his head, and shouting, in a voice that
was heard above the clangor of the martial music.
The charge threatened too much for the refugee troop. They scattered in
every direction, flying from the field as fast as their horses, the
chosen beasts of Westchester, could carry them. Only a few were hurt;
but such as did meet the arms of their avenging countrymen never
survived the blow, to tell who struck it. It was upon the poor vassals
of the German tyrant that the shock fell. Disciplined to the most exact
obedience, these ill-fated men met the charge bravely, but they were
swept before the mettled horses and nervous arms of their antagonists
like chaff before the wind. Many of them were literally ridden down, and
Dunwoodie soon saw the field without an opposing foe. The proximity of
the infantry prevented pursuit, and behind its column the few Hessians
who escaped unhurt sought protection.
The more cunning refugees dispersed in small bands, taking various and
devious routes back to their old station in front of Harlem. Many was
the sufferer, in cattle, furniture, and person, that was created by this
rout; for the dispersion of a troop of Cowboys was only the extension
of an evil.
Such a scene could not be expected to be acted so near them, and the
inmates of the cottage take no interest in the result. In truth, the
feelings it excited pervaded every bosom, from the kitchen to the
parlor. Terror and horror had prevented the ladies from being
spectators, but they did not feel the less. Frances continued lying in
the posture we have mentioned, offering up fervent and incoherent
petitions for the safety of her countrymen, although in her inmost heart
she had personified her nation by the graceful image of Peyton
Dunwoodie. Her aunt and sister were less exclusive in their devotions;
but Sarah began to feel, as the horrors of war were thus brought home to
her senses, less pleasure in her anticipated triumphs.
The inmates of Mr. Wharton's kitchen were four, namely, Caesar and his
spouse, their granddaughter, a jet-black damsel of twenty, and the boy
before alluded to. The blacks were the remnants of a race of negroes
which had been entailed on his estate from Mr. Wharton's maternal
ancestors, who were descended from the early Dutch colonists. Time,
depravity, and death had reduced them to this small number; and the boy,
who was white, had been added by Miss Peyton to the establishment, as an
assistant, to perform the ordinary services of a footman. Caesar, after
first using the precaution to place himself under the cover of an angle
in the wall, for a screen against any roving bullet which might be
traversing the air, became an amused spectator of the skirmish. The
sentinel on the piazza was at the distance of but a few feet from him,
and he entered into the spirit of the chase with all the ardor of a
tried bloodhound. He noticed the approach of the black, and his
judicious position, with a smile of contempt, as he squared himself
towards the enemy, offering his unprotected breast to any dangers which
After considering the arrangement of Caesar, for a moment, with
ineffable disdain, the dragoon said, with great coolness,--
"You seem very careful of that beautiful person of yours, Mr. Blueskin."
"A bullet hurt a colored man as much as a white," muttered the black,
surlily, casting a glance of much satisfaction at his rampart.
"Suppose I make the experiment," returned the sentinel. As he spoke, he
deliberately drew a pistol from his belt, and leveled it at the black.
Caesar's teeth chattered at the appearance of the dragoon, although he
believed nothing serious was intended. At this moment the column of
Dunwoodie began to retire, and the royal cavalry commenced their charge.
"There, Mister Light-Horseman," said Caesar eagerly, who believed the
Americans were retiring in earnest; "why you rebels don't
fight--see--see how King George's men make Major Dunwoodie run! Good
gentleman, too, but he don't like to fight a rig'lar."
"Damn your regulars," cried the other, fiercely. "Wait a minute,
blackey, and you'll see Captain Jack Lawton come out from behind yonder
hill, and scatter these Cowboys like wild geese who've lost
Caesar supposed the party under Lawton to have sought the shelter of the
hill from motives similar to that which had induced him to place the
wall between himself and the battle ground; but the fact soon verified
the trooper's prophecy, and the black witnessed with consternation the
total rout of the royal horse.
The sentinel manifested his exultation at the success of his comrades
with loud shouts, which soon brought his companion, who had been left in
the more immediate charge of Henry Wharton, to the open window of
"See, Tom, see," cried the delighted trooper, "how Captain Lawton makes
that Hessian's leather cap fly; and now the major has killed the
officer's horse--zounds, why didn't he kill the Dutchman and save
A few pistols were discharged at the flying Cowboys, and a spent bullet
broke a pane of glass within a few feet of Caesar. Imitating the posture
of the great tempter of our race, the black sought the protection of the
inside of the building, and immediately ascended to the parlor.
The lawn in front of the Locusts was hidden from the view of the road by
a close line of shrubbery, and the horses of the two dragoons had been
left, linked together, under its shelter, to await the movements of
At this moment two Cowboys, who had been cut off from a retreat to their
own party, rode furiously through the gate, with an intention of
escaping to the open wood in the rear of the cottage.
The victorious Americans pressed the retreating Germans until they had
driven them under the protection of the fire of the infantry; and
feeling themselves, in the privacy of the lawn, relieved from any
immediate danger, the predatory warriors yielded to a temptation that
few of the corps were ever known to resist--opportunity and horseflesh.
With a hardihood and presence of mind that could only exist from long
practice in similar scenes, they made towards their intended prizes, by
an almost spontaneous movement. They were busily engaged in separating
the fastenings of the horses, when the trooper on the piazza discharged
his pistols, and rushed, sword in hand, to the rescue.
The entrance of Caesar into the parlor had induced the wary dragoon
within to turn his attention more closely on his prisoner; but this new
interruption drew him again to the window. He threw his body out of the
building, and with dreadful imprecations endeavored, by his threats and
appearance, to frighten the marauders from their prey. The moment was
enticing. Three hundred of his comrades were within a mile of the
cottage; unridden horses were running at large in every direction, and
Henry Wharton seized the unconscious sentinel by his legs, and threw him
headlong into the lawn. Caesar vanished from the room, and drew a bolt
of the outer door.
The fall of the soldier was not great, and recovering his feet, he
turned his fury for a moment on his prisoner. To scale the window in the
face of such an enemy, was, however, impossible, and on trial he found
the main entrance barred.
His comrade now called loudly upon him for aid, and forgetful of
everything else, the discomfited trooper rushed to his assistance. One
horse was instantly liberated, but the other was already fastened to the
saddle of a Cowboy, and the four retired behind the building, cutting
furiously at each other with their sabers, and making the air resound
with their imprecations. Caesar threw the outer door open, and pointing
to the remaining horse, that was quietly biting the faded herbage of the
lawn, he exclaimed,--
"Run--now--run--Massa Harry, run."
"Yes," cried the youth as he vaulted into the saddle, "now, indeed, my
honest fellow, is the time to run." He beckoned hastily to his father,
who stood at the window in speechless anxiety, with his hands extended
towards his child in the attitude of benediction, and adding, "God bless
you, Caesar, salute the girls," he dashed through the gate with the
rapidity of lightning.
The African watched him with anxiety as he gained the highway, saw him
incline to the right, and riding furiously under the brow of some rocks,
which on that side rose perpendicularly, disappear behind a projection,
which soon hid him from view.
The delighted Caesar closed the door, pushing bolt after bolt, and
turning the key until it would turn no more, soliloquizing the whole
time on the happy escape of his young master.
"How well he ride--teach him good deal myself--salute a young
lady--Miss Fanny wouldn't let old colored man kiss a red cheek."
When the fortune of the day was decided, and the time arrived for the
burial of the dead, two Cowboys and a Virginian were found in the rear
of the Locusts, to be included in the number.
Happily for Henry Wharton, the searching eyes of his captors were
examining, through a pocket glass, the column of infantry that still
held its position on the bank of the stream, while the remnants of the
Hessian yagers were seeking its friendly protection. His horse was of
the best blood of Virginia, and carried him with the swiftness of the
wind along the Valley; and the heart of the youth was already beating
tumultuously with pleasure at his deliverance, when a well-known voice
reached his startled ear, crying aloud,--
"Bravely done, captain! Don't spare the whip, and turn to your left
before you cross the brook."
Wharton turned his head in surprise, and saw, sitting on the point of a
jutting rock that commanded a bird's-eye view of the valley, his former
guide, Harvey Birch. His pack, much diminished in size, lay at the feet
of the peddler, who waved his hat to the youth, exultingly, as the
latter flew by him. The English captain took the advice of this
mysterious being, and finding a good road, which led to the highway,
that intersected the valley, turned down its direction, and was soon
opposite to his friends. The next minute he crossed the bridge, and
stopped his charger before his old acquaintance, Colonel Wellmere.
"Captain Wharton!" exclaimed the astonished commander of the English
troops, "dressed in mohair, and mounted on a rebel dragoon horse! Are
you from the clouds in this attire, and in such a style?"
"Thank God!" cried the youth, recovering his breath, "I am safe, and
have escaped from the hands of my enemies; but five minutes since and I
was a prisoner, and threatened with the gallows."
"The gallows, Captain Wharton! surely those traitors to the king would
never dare to commit another murder in cold blood; is it not enough that
they took the life of Andre? Wherefore did they threaten you with a
"Under the pretense of a similar offense," said the captain, briefly
explaining to the group of listeners the manner of his capture, the
grounds of his personal apprehensions, and the method of his escape. By
the time he had concluded his narration, the fugitive Germans were
collected in the rear of the column of infantry, and Colonel Wellmere
"From my soul I congratulate you, my brave friend; mercy is a quality
with which these traitors are unacquainted, and you are doubly fortunate
in escaping from their hands uninjured. Prepare yourself to grant me
your assistance and I will soon afford you a noble revenge."
"I do not think there was danger of personal outrage to any man, Colonel
Wellmere, from a party that Major Dunwoodie commands," returned young
Wharton, with a slight glow on his face. "His character is above the
imputation of such an offense; neither do I think it altogether prudent
to cross this brook into the open plain, in the face of those Virginian
horse, flushed as they must be with the success they have just
"Do you call the rout of those irregulars and these sluggish Hessians a
deed to boast of?" said the other with a contemptuous smile. "You speak
of the affair, Captain Wharton, as if your boasted Mr. Dunwoodie, for
major he is none, had discomfited the bodyguards of your king."
"And I must be allowed to say, Colonel Wellmere, that if the bodyguards
of my king were in yon field, they would meet a foe that it would be
dangerous to despise. Sir, my boasted Mr. Dunwoodie is the pride of
Washington's army as a cavalry officer," cried Henry with warmth.
"Dunwoodie, Dunwoodie!" repeated the colonel slowly, "surely I have met
the gentleman before."
"I have been told you once saw him for a moment, at the town residence
of my sisters," replied Wharton, with a lurking smile.
"Ah! I do remember me of such a youth; and does the most potent congress
of these rebellious colonies intrust their soldiers to the leading of
such a warrior!"
"Ask the commander of yon Hessian horse, whether he thinks Major
Dunwoodie worthy of the confidence."
Colonel Wellmere was far from wanting that kind of pride which makes a
man bear himself bravely in the presence of his enemies. He had served
in America a long time, without ever meeting with any but new raised
levies, or the militia of the country. These would sometimes fight, and
that fearlessly, but they as often chose to run away without pulling a
trigger. He was too apt to judge from externals, and thought it
impossible for men whose gaiters were so clean, whose tread so regular,
and who wheeled with so much accuracy, to be beaten. In addition to all
these, they were Englishmen, and their success was certain. Colonel
Wellmere had never been kept much in the field, or these notions, which
he had brought with him from home, and which had been greatly increased
by the vaporing of a garrisoned town, would have long since vanished. He
listened to the warm reply of Captain Wharton with a supercilious smile,
and then inquired,--
"You would not have us retire, sir, before these boasted horsemen,
without doing something that may deprive them of part of the glory which
you appear to think they have gained!"
"I would have you advised, Colonel Wellmere, of the danger you are about
"Danger is but an unseemly word for a soldier," continued the British
commander with a sneer.
"And one as little dreaded by the 60th, as any corps who wear the royal
livery," cried Henry Wharton, fiercely. "Give but the word to charge,
and let our actions speak."
"Now again I know my young friend," cried Wellmere, soothingly; "but if
you have anything to say before we fight, that can in any manner help us
in our attack, we'll listen. You know the force of the rebels; are there
more of them in ambush?"
"Yes," replied the youth, chafing still under the other's sneers, "in
the skirt of this wood on our right are a small party of foot; their
horse are all before you."
"Where they will not continue long," cried Wellmere, turning to the few
officers around him. "Gentlemen, we will cross the stream in column, and
deploy on the plain beyond, or else we shall not be able to entice these
valiant Yankees within the reach of our muskets. Captain Wharton, I
claim your assistance as an aid-de-camp."
The youth shook his head in disapprobation of a movement which his good
sense taught him was rash, but prepared with alacrity to perform his
duty in the impending trial.
During this conversation, which was held at a small distance in advance
of the British column, and in full view of the Americans, Dunwoodie had
been collecting his scattered troops, securing his few prisoners, and
retiring to the ground where he had been posted at the first appearance
of his enemy. Satisfied with the success he had already obtained, and
believing the English too wary to give him an opportunity of harassing
them further, he was about to withdraw the guides; and, leaving a strong
party on the ground to watch the movements of the regulars, to fall back
a few miles, to a favorable place for taking up his quarters for the
night. Captain Lawton was reluctantly listening to the reasoning of his
commander, and had brought out his favorite glass, to see if no opening
could be found for an advantageous attack, when he suddenly exclaimed,--
"How's this! a bluecoat among those scarlet gentry? As I hope to live to
see old Virginia, it is my masquerading friend of the 6oth, the
handsome Captain Wharton, escaped from two of my best men!"
He had not done speaking when the survivor of these heroes joined his
troop, bringing with him his own horse and those of the Cowboys; he
reported the death of his comrade, and the escape of his prisoner. As
the deceased was the immediate sentinel over the person of young
Wharton, and the other was not to be blamed for defending the horses,
which were more particularly under his care, his captain heard him with
uneasiness but without anger.
This intelligence made an entire change in the views of Major Dunwoodie.
He saw at once that his own reputation was involved in the escape of his
prisoner. The order to recall the guides was countermanded, and he now
joined his second in command, watching as eagerly as the impetuous
Lawton himself, for some opening to assail his foe to advantage.
But two hours before, and Dunwoodie had felt the chance which made Henry
Wharton his captive, as the severest blow he had ever sustained. Now he
panted for an opportunity in which, by risking his own life, he might
recapture his friend. All other considerations were lost in the goadings
of a wounded spirit, and he might have soon emulated Lawton in
hardihood, had not Wellmere and his troops at this moment crossed the
brook into the open plain.
"There," cried the delighted captain, as he pointed out the movement
with his finger, "there comes John Bull into the mousetrap, and with
eyes wide open."
"Surely," said Dunwoodie eagerly, "he will not deploy his column on that
flat. Wharton must tell him of the ambush. But if he does--"
"We will not leave him a dozen sound skins in his battalion,"
interrupted the other, springing into his saddle.
The truth was soon apparent; for the English column, after advancing for
a short distance on the level land, deployed with an accuracy that
would have done them honor on a field day in their own Hyde Park.
"Prepare to mount-mount!" cried Dunwoodie; the last word being repeated
by Lawton in a tone that rang in the ears of Caesar, who stood at the
open window of the cottage. The black recoiled in dismay, having lost
all his confidence in Captain Lawton's timidity; for he thought he yet
saw him emerging from his cover and waving his sword on high.
As the British line advanced slowly and in exact order, the guides
opened a galling fire. It began to annoy that part of the royal troops
which was nearest to them. Wellmere listened to the advice of the
veteran, who was next to him in rank, and ordered two companies to
dislodge the American foot from their hiding place. The movement created
a slight confusion; and Dunwoodie seized the opportunity to charge. No
ground could be more favorable for the maneuvers of horse, and the
attack of the Virginians was irresistible. It was aimed chiefly at the
bank opposite to the wood, in order to clear the Americans from the fire
of their friends who were concealed; and it was completely successful.
Wellmere, who was on the left of his line, was overthrown by the
impetuous fury of his assailants. Dunwoodie was in time to save him from
the impending blow of one of his men, and raised him from the ground,
had him placed on a horse, and delivered to the custody of his orderly.
The officer who had suggested the attack upon the guides had been
intrusted with its execution, but the menace was sufficient for these
irregulars. In fact, their duty was performed, and they retired along
the skirt of the wood, with intent to regain their horses, which had
been left under a guard at the upper end of the valley.
The left of the British line was outflanked by the Americans, who
doubled in their rear, and thus made the rout in that quarter total. But
the second in command, perceiving how the battle went, promptly wheeled
his party, and threw in a heavy fire on the dragoons, as they passed
him to the charge; with this party was Henry Wharton, who had
volunteered to assist in dispersing the guides. A ball struck his bridle
arm, and compelled him to change hands. As the dragoons dashed by them,
rending the air with their shouts, and with trumpets sounding a lively
strain, the charger ridden by the youth became ungovernable--he plunged,
reared, and his rider being unable with his wounded arm, to manage the
impatient animal, Henry Wharton found himself, in less than a minute,
unwillingly riding by the side of Captain Lawton. The dragoon
comprehended at a glance the ludicrous situation of his new comrade, but
had only time to cry aloud, before they plunged into the English line,--
"The horse knows the righteous cause better than his rider. Captain
Wharton, you are welcome to the ranks of freedom."
No time was lost, however, by Lawton, after the charge was completed, in
securing his prisoner again; and perceiving him to be hurt, he directed
him to be conveyed to the rear.
The Virginian troopers dealt out their favors, with no gentle hands, on
that part of the royal foot who were thus left in a great measure at
their mercy. Dunwoodie, observing that the remnant of the Hessians had
again ventured on the plain, led on in pursuit, and easily overtaking
their light and half-fed horses, soon destroyed the remainder of the
In the meanwhile, great numbers of the English, taking advantage of the
smoke and confusion in the field, were enabled to get in the rear of the
body of their countrymen, which still preserved its order in a line
parallel to the wood, but which had been obliged to hold its fire, from
the fear of injuring friends as well as foes. The fugitives were
directed to form a second line within the wood itself, and under cover
of the trees. This arrangement was not yet completed, when Captain
Lawton called to a youth, who commanded the other troop left with that
part of the force which remained on the ground, and proposed charging
the unbroken line of the British. The proposal was as promptly accepted
as it had been made, and the troops were arrayed for the purpose. The
eagerness of their leader prevented the preparations necessary to insure
success, and the horse, receiving a destructive fire as they advanced,
were thrown into additional confusion. Both Lawton and his more juvenile
comrade fell at this discharge. Fortunately for the credit of the
Virginians, Major Dunwoodie reentered the field at this critical
instant; he saw his troops in disorder; at his feet lay weltering in
blood George Singleton, a youth endeared to him by numberless virtues,
and Lawton was unhorsed and stretched on the plain. The eye of the
youthful warrior flashed fire. Riding between this squadron and the
enemy, in a voice that reached the hearts of his dragoons, he recalled
them to their duty. His presence and word acted like magic. The clamor
of voices ceased; the line was formed promptly and with exactitude; the
charge sounded; and, led on by their commander, the Virginians swept
across the plain with an impetuosity that nothing could withstand, and
the field was instantly cleared of the enemy; those who were not
destroyed sought a shelter in the woods. Dunwoodie slowly withdrew from
the fire of the English who were covered by the trees, and commenced the
painful duty of collecting his dead and wounded.
The sergeant charged with conducting Henry Wharton to a place where he
might procure surgical aid, set about performing his duty with alacrity,
in order to return as soon as possible to the scene of strife. They had
not reached the middle of the plain, before the captain noticed a man
whose appearance and occupation forcibly arrested his attention. His
head was bald and bare, but a well-powdered wig was to be seen,
half-concealed, in the pocket of his breeches. His coat was off, and his
arms were naked to the elbow; blood had disfigured much of his dress,
and his hands, and even face, bore this mark of his profession; in his
mouth was a cigar; in his right hand some instruments of strange
formation, and in his left the remnants of an apple, with which he
occasionally relieved the duty of the before-mentioned cigar. He was
standing, lost in the contemplation of a Hessian, who lay breathless
before him. At a little distance were three or four of the guides,
leaning on their muskets, and straining their eyes in the direction of
the combatants, and at his elbow stood a man who, from the implements in
his hand, seemed an assistant.
"There, sir, is the doctor," said the attendant of Henry very coolly.
"He will patch up your arm in the twinkling of an eye"; and beckoning to
the guides to approach, he whispered and pointed to his prisoner, and
then galloped furiously towards his comrades.
Wharton advanced to the side of this strange figure, and observing
himself to be unnoticed, was about to request his assistance, when the
other broke silence in a soliloquy:--
"Now, I know this man to have been killed by Captain Lawton, as well as
if I had seen him strike the blow. How often have I strove to teach him
the manner in which he can disable his adversary, without destroying
life! It is cruel thus unnecessarily to cut off the human race, and
furthermore, such blows as these render professional assistance
unnecessary; it is in a measure treating the lights of science with
"If, sir, your leisure will admit," said Henry Wharton, "I must beg your
attention to a slight hurt."
"Ah!" cried the other, starting, and examining him from head to foot,
"you are from the field below. Is there much business there, sir?"
"Indeed," answered Henry, accepting the offer of the surgeon to assist
in removing his coat, "'tis a stirring time."
"Stirring!" repeated the surgeon, busily employed with his dressings;
"you give me great pleasure, sir; for so long as they can stir there
must be life; and while there is life, you know, there is hope; but here
my art is of no use. I did put in the brains of one patient, but I
rather think the man must have been dead before I saw him. It is a
curious case, sir; I will take you to see it--only across the fence
there, where you may perceive so many bodies together. Ah! the ball has
glanced around the bone without shattering it; you are fortunate in
falling into the hands of an old practitioner, or you might have lost
"Indeed!" said Henry, with a slight uneasiness. "I did not apprehend the
injury to be so serious."
"Oh, the hurt is not bad, but you have such a pretty arm for an
operation; the pleasure of the thing might have tempted a novice."
"The devil!" cried the captain. "Can there be any pleasure in mutilating
a fellow creature?"
"Sir," said the surgeon, with gravity, "a scientific amputation is a
very pretty operation, and doubtless might tempt a younger man, in the
hurry of business, to overlook all the particulars of the case."
Further conversation was interrupted by the appearance of the dragoons,
slowly marching towards their former halting place, and new applications
from the slightly wounded soldiers, who now came riding in, making hasty
demands on the skill of the doctor.
The guides took charge of Wharton, and, with a heavy heart, the young
man retraced his steps to his father's cottage.
The English had lost in the several charges about one third of their
foot, but the remainder were rallied in the wood; and Dunwoodie,
perceiving them to be too strongly posted to assail, had left a strong
party with Captain Lawton, with orders to watch their motions, and to
seize every opportunity to harass them before they reŽmbarked.
Intelligence had reached the major of another party being out, by the
way of the Hudson, and his duty required that he should hold himself in
readiness to defeat the intentions of these also. Captain Lawton
received his orders with strong injunctions to make no assault on the
foe, unless a favorable chance should offer.
The injury received by this officer was in the head, being stunned by a
glancing bullet; and parting with a laughing declaration from the major,
that if he again forgot himself, they should all think him more
materially hurt, each took his own course.
The British were a light party without baggage, that had been sent out
to destroy certain stores, understood to be collecting for the use of
the American army. They now retired through the woods to the heights,
and, keeping the route along their summits, in places unassailable by
cavalry, commenced a retreat to their boats.
With fire and sword the country round
Was wasted far and wide;
And many a childing mother then,
And new-born infant, died;
But things like these, you know, must be
At every famous victory.
The last sounds of the combat died on the ears of the anxious listeners
in the cottage, and were succeeded by the stillness of suspense. Frances
had continued by herself, striving to exclude the uproar, and vainly
endeavoring to summon resolution to meet the dreaded result. The ground
where the charge on the foot had taken place was but a short mile from
the Locusts, and, in the intervals of the musketry, the cries of the
soldiers had even reached the ears of its inhabitants. After witnessing
the escape of his son, Mr. Wharton had joined his sister and eldest
daughter in their retreat, and the three continued fearfully waiting for
news from the field. Unable longer to remain under the painful
uncertainty of her situation, Frances soon added herself to the uneasy
group, and Caesar was directed to examine into the state of things
without, and report on whose banners victory had alighted. The father
now briefly related to his astonished children the circumstance and
manner of their brother's escape. They were yet in the freshness of
their surprise, when the door opened, and Captain Wharton, attended by a
couple of the guides, and followed by the black, stood before them.
"Henry--my son, my son," cried the agitated parent, stretching out his
arms, yet unable to rise from his seat; "what is it I see; are you again
a captive, and in danger of your life?"
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