James Fenimore Cooper
Part 4 out of 9
"It is a pity, John, that you did not catch the rascal, after the danger
and trouble you incurred."
The captain of dragoons made no reply; and, while placing some bandages
on the wounded shoulder, the surgeon continued,--
"If I have any wish at all to destroy human life, it is to have the
pleasure of seeing that traitor hanged."
"I thought your business was to cure, and not to slay," said the
"Aye! but he has caused us such heavy losses by his information, that I
sometimes feel a very unsophistical temper towards that spy."
"You should not encourage such feelings of animosity to any of your
fellow creatures," returned Lawton, in a tone that caused the operator
to drop a pin he was arranging in the bandages from his hand. He looked
the patient in the face to remove all doubts of his identity; finding,
however, it was his old comrade, Captain John Lawton, who had spoken, he
rallied his astonished faculties, and proceeded by saying,--
"Your doctrine is just, and in general I subscribe to it. But, John, my
dear fellow, is the bandage easy?"
"I agree with you as a whole; but as matter is infinitely divisible, so
no case exists without an exception. Lawton, do you feel easy?"
"It is not only cruel to the sufferer, but sometimes unjust to others,
to take human life where a less punishment would answer the purpose.
Now, Jack, if you were only--move your arm a little--if you were only--I
hope you feel easier, my dear friend?"
"If, my dear John, you would teach your men to cut with more discretion,
it would answer you the same purpose--and give me great pleasure."
The doctor drew a heavy sigh, as he was enabled to get rid of what was
nearest to the heart; and the dragoon coolly replaced his coat, saying
with great deliberation as he retired,--
"I know no troop that cut more judiciously; they generally shave from
the crown to the jaw."
The disappointed operator collected his instruments, and with a heavy
heart proceeded to pay a visit to the room of Colonel Wellmere.
This fairy form contains a soul as mighty,
As that which lives within a giant's frame;
These slender limbs, that tremble like the aspen
At summer evening's sigh, uphold a spirit,
Which, roused, can tower to the height of heaven,
And light those shining windows of the face
With much of heaven's own radiance.
The number and character of her guests had greatly added to the cares of
Miss Jeanette Peyton. The morning found them all restored, in some
measure, to their former ease of body, with the exception of the
youthful captain of dragoons, who had been so deeply regretted by
Dunwoodie. The wound of this officer was severe, though the surgeon
persevered in saying that it was without danger. His comrade, we have
shown, had deserted his couch; and Henry Wharton awoke from a sleep that
had been undisturbed by anything but a dream of suffering amputation
under the hands of a surgical novice. As it proved, however, to be
nothing but a dream, the youth found himself much refreshed by his
slumbers; and Dr. Sitgreaves removed all further apprehensions by
confidently pronouncing that he would be a well man within a fortnight.
During all this time Colonel Wellmere did not make his appearance; he
breakfasted in his own room, and, notwithstanding certain significant
smiles of the man of science, declared himself too much injured to rise
from his bed. Leaving him, therefore, endeavoring to conceal his chagrin
in the solitude of his chamber, the surgeon proceeded to the more
grateful task of sitting an hour by the bedside of George Singleton. A
slight flush was on the face of the patient as the doctor entered the
room, and the latter advanced promptly and laid his fingers on the pulse
of the youth, beckoning to him to be silent, while he muttered,--
"Growing symptoms of a febrile pulse--no, no, my dear George, you must
remain quiet and dumb; though your eyes look better, and your skin has
even a moisture."
"Nay, my dear Sitgreaves," said the youth, taking his hand, "you see
there is no fever about me; look, is there any of Jack Lawton's
hoarfrost on my tongue?"
"No, indeed," said the surgeon, clapping a spoon in the mouth of the
other, forcing it open, and looking down his throat as if disposed to
visit the interior in person. "The tongue is well, and the pulse begins
to lower again. Ah! the bleeding did you good. Phlebotomy is a sovereign
specific for southern constitutions. But that madcap Lawton absolutely
refused to be blooded for a fall he had from his horse last night. Why,
George, your case is becoming singular," continued the doctor,
instinctively throwing aside his wig. "Your pulse even and soft, your
skin moist, but your eye fiery, and cheek flushed. Oh! I must examine
more closely into these symptoms."
"Softly, my good friend, softly," said the youth, falling back on his
pillow, and losing some of that color which alarmed his companion. "I
believe, in extracting the ball, you did for me all that is required. I
am free from pain and only weak, I do assure you."
"Captain Singleton," said the surgeon, with heat, "it is presumptuous in
you to pretend to tell your medical attendant when you are free from
pain. If it be not to enable us to decide in such matters, of what avail
the lights of science? For shame, George, for shame! Even that perverse
fellow, John Lawton, could not behave with more obstinacy."
His patient smiled, as he gently repulsed his physician in an attempt to
undo the bandages, and with a returning glow to his cheeks, inquired,--
"Do, Archibald,"--a term of endearment that seldom failed to soften the
operator's heart,--"tell me what spirit from heaven has been gliding
around my apartment, while I lay pretending to sleep?"
"If anyone interferes with my patients," cried the doctor, hastily, "I
will teach them, spirit or no spirit, what it is to meddle with another
"Tut--my dear fellow, there was no interference made, nor any intended.
See," exhibiting the bandages, "everything is as you left it,--but it
glided about the room with the grace of a fairy and the tenderness of
The surgeon, having satisfied himself that everything was as he had left
it, very deliberately resumed his seat and replaced his wig, as he
inquired, with a brevity that would have honored Lieutenant Mason,--
"Had it petticoats, George?"
"I saw nothing but its heavenly eyes--its bloom--its majestic step--its
grace," replied the young man, with rather more ardor than his surgeon
thought consistent with his debilitated condition; and he laid his hand
on his mouth to stop him, saying himself,--
"It must have been Miss Jeanette Peyton--a lady of fine accomplishments,
with--hem--with something of the kind of step you speak of--a very
complacent eye; and as to the bloom, I dare say offices of charity can
summon as fine a color to her cheeks, as glows in the faces of her more
"Nieces? Has she nieces, then? The angel I saw may be a daughter, a
sister, or a niece,--but never an aunt."
"Hush, George, hush; your talking has brought your pulse up again. You
must observe quiet, and prepare for a meeting with your own sister, who
will be here within an hour."
"What, Isabella! And who sent for her?"
"Considerate Dunwoodie!" murmured the exhausted youth, sinking again on
his pillow, where the commands of his attendant compelled him to
Even Captain Lawton had been received with many and courteous inquiries
after the state of his health, from all the members of the family, when
he made his morning entrance; but an invisible spirit presided over the
comforts of the English colonel. Sarah had shrunk with consciousness
from entering the room; yet she knew the position of every glass, and
had, with her own hands, supplied the contents of every bowl, that stood
on his table.
At the time of our tale, we were a divided people, and Sarah thought it
was no more than her duty to cherish the institutions of that country to
which she yet clung as the land of her forefathers; but there were other
and more cogent reasons for the silent preference she was giving to the
Englishman. His image had first filled the void in her youthful fancy,
and it was an image that was distinguished by many of those attractions
that can enchain a female heart. It is true, he wanted the personal
excellence of Peyton Dunwoodie, but his pretensions were far from
contemptible. Sarah had moved about the house during the morning,
casting frequent and longing glances at the door of Wellmere's
apartment, anxious to learn the condition of his wounds, and yet ashamed
to inquire; conscious interest kept her tongue tied, until her sister,
with the frankness of innocence, had put the desired question to Dr.
"Colonel Wellmere," said the operator, gravely, "is in what I call a
state of free will, madam. He is ill, or he is well, as he pleases. His
case, young lady, exceeds my art to heal; and I take it Sir Henry
Clinton is the best adviser he can apply to; though Major Dunwoodie has
made the communication with his leech rather difficult."
Frances smiled, but averted her face, while Sarah moved, with the grace
of an offended Juno, from the apartment. Her own room, however, afforded
her but little relief, and in passing through the long gallery that
communicated with each of the chambers of the building, she noticed the
door of Singleton's room to be open. The wounded youth seemed sleeping,
and was alone. She had ventured lightly into the apartment, and busied
herself for a few minutes in arranging the tables, and the nourishment
provided for the patient, hardly conscious of what she was doing, and
possibly dreaming that these little feminine offices were performed for
another. Her natural bloom was heightened by the insinuation of the
surgeon, nor was the luster of her eye in any degree diminished. The
sound of the approaching footsteps of Sitgreaves hastened her retreat
down a private stairway, to the side of her sister. The sisters then
sought the fresh air on the piazza; and as they pursued their walk, arm
in arm, the following dialogue took place:--
"There is something disagreeable about this surgeon of Dunwoodie," said
Sarah, "that causes me to wish him away most heartily."
Frances fixed her laughing eyes on her sister; but forbearing to speak,
the other readily construed their expression, and hastily added, "But I
forget he is one of your renowned corps of Virginians, and must be
spoken of reverently."
"As respectfully as you please, my dear sister; there is but little
danger of exceeding the truth."
"Not in your opinion," said the elder, with a little warmth. "But I
think Mr. Dunwoodie has taken a liberty that exceeds the rights of
consanguinity; he has made our father's house a hospital."
"We ought to be grateful that none of the patients it contains are
dearer to us."
"Your brother is one."
"True, true," interrupted Frances, blushing to the eyes; "but he leaves
his room, and thinks his wound lightly purchased by the pleasure of
being with his friends. If," she added, with a tremulous lip, "this
dreadful suspicion that is affixed to his visit were removed, I could
consider his wound of little moment."
"You now have the fruits of rebellion brought home to you; a brother
wounded and a prisoner, and perhaps a victim; your father distressed,
his privacy interrupted, and not improbably his estates torn from him,
on account of his loyalty to his king."
Frances continued her walk in silence. While facing the northern
entrance to the vale, her eyes were uniformly fastened on the point
where the road was suddenly lost by the intervention of a hill; and at
each turn, as she lost sight of the spot, she lingered until an
impatient movement of her sister quickened her pace to an even motion
with that of her own. At length, a single horse chaise was seen making
its way carefully among the stones which lay scattered over the country
road that wound through the valley, and approached the cottage. The
color of Frances changed as the vehicle gradually drew nearer; and when
she was enabled to see a female form in it by the side of a black in
livery, her limbs shook with an agitation that compelled her to lean on
Sarah for support. In a few minutes the travelers approached the gate.
It was thrown open by a dragoon who followed the carriage, and who had
been the messenger dispatched by Dunwoodie to the father of Captain
Singleton. Miss Peyton advanced to receive their guest, and the sisters
united in giving her the kindest welcome; still Frances could with
difficulty withdraw her truant eyes from the countenance of their
visitor. She was young, and of a light and fragile form, but of
exquisite proportions. Her eyes were large, full, black, piercing, and
at times a little wild. Her hair was luxuriant, and as it was without
the powder it was then the fashion to wear, it fell in raven blackness.
A few of its locks had fallen on her cheek, giving its chilling
whiteness by the contrast a more deadly character. Dr. Sitgreaves
supported her from the chaise; and when she gained the floor of the
piazza, she turned an expressive look on the face of the practitioner.
"Your brother is out of danger and wishes to see you, Miss Singleton,"
said the surgeon.
The lady burst into a flood of tears. Frances had stood contemplating
the action and face of Isabella with a kind of uneasy admiration, but
she now sprang to her side with the ardor of a sister, and kindly
drawing her arm within her own, led the way to a retired room. The
movement was so ingenuous, so considerate, and so delicate, that even
Miss Peyton withheld her interference, following the youthful pair with
only her eyes and a smile of complacency. The feeling was communicated
to all the spectators, and they dispersed in pursuit of their usual
avocations. Isabella yielded to the gentle influence of Frances without
resistance; and, having gained the room where the latter conducted her,
wept in silence on the shoulder of the observant and soothing girl,
until Frances thought her tears exceeded the emotion natural to the
occasion. The sobs of Miss Singleton for a time were violent and
uncontrollable, until, with an evident exertion, she yielded to a kind
observation of her companion, and succeeded in suppressing her tears.
Raising her face to the eyes of Frances, she rose, while a smile of
beautiful radiance passed over her features; and making a hasty apology
for the excess of her emotion, she desired to be conducted to the room
of the invalid.
The meeting between the brother and sister was warm, but, by an effort
on the part of the lady, more composed than her previous agitation had
given reason to expect. Isabella found her brother looking better, and
in less danger than her sensitive imagination had led her to suppose.
Her spirits rose in proportion; from despondency, she passed to
something like gayety; her beautiful eyes sparkled with renovated
brilliancy; and her face was lighted with smiles so fascinating, that
Frances, who, in compliance with her earnest entreaties, had accompanied
her to the sick chamber, sat gazing on a countenance that possessed so
wonderful variability, impelled by a charm that was beyond her control.
The youth had thrown an earnest look at Frances, as soon as his sister
raised herself from his arms, and perhaps it was the first glance at the
lovely lineaments of our heroine, when the gazer turned his eyes from
the view in disappointment. He seemed bewildered, rubbed his forehead
like a man awaking from a dream, and mused.
"Where is Dunwoodie, Isabella?" he said. "The excellent fellow is never
weary of kind actions. After a day of such service as that of yesterday,
he has spent the night in bringing me a nurse, whose presence alone is
able to raise me from my couch."
The expression of the lady's countenance changed; her eye roved around
the apartment with a character of wildness in it that repelled the
anxious Frances, who studied her movements with unabated interest.
"Dunwoodie! Is he then not here? I thought to have met him by the side
of my brother's bed."
"He has duties that require his presence elsewhere; the English are said
to be out by the way of the Hudson, and they give us light troops but
little rest. Surely nothing else could have kept him so long from a
wounded friend. But, Isabella, the meeting has been too much for you;
Isabella made no reply; she stretched her hand towards the table which
held the nourishment of the captain, and the attentive Frances
comprehended her wishes in a moment. A glass of water in some measure
revived the sister, who was enabled to say,--
"Doubtless it is his duty. 'Twas said above, a royal party was moving on
the river; though I passed the troops but two miles from this spot." The
latter part of the sentence was hardly audible, and it was spoken more
in the manner of a soliloquy, than as if for the ears of her companions.
"On the march, Isabella?" eagerly inquired her brother.
"No, dismounted, and seemingly at rest," was the reply.
The wondering dragoon turned his gaze on the countenance of his sister,
who sat with her eye bent on the carpet in unconscious absence, but
found no explanation. His look was changed to the face of Frances, who,
startled by the earnestness of his expression, arose, and hastily
inquired if he would have any assistance.
"If you can pardon the rudeness," said the wounded officer, making a
feeble effort to raise his body, "I would request to have Captain
Lawton's company for a moment."
Frances hastened instantly to communicate his wish to that gentleman,
and impelled by an interest she could not control, she returned again to
her seat by the side of Miss Singleton.
"Lawton," said the youth, impatiently, as the trooper entered, "hear you
from the major?"
The eye of the sister was now bent on the face of the trooper, who made
his salutations to the lady with ease, blended with the frankness of
"His man has been here twice," he said, "to inquire how we fared in the
"And why not himself?"
"That is a question the major can answer best; but you know the redcoats
are abroad, and Dunwoodie commands in the county; these English must be
"True," said Singleton, slowly, as if struck with the other's reasons.
"But how is it that you are idle, when there is work to do?"
"My sword arm is not in the best condition, and Roanoke has but a
shambling gait this morning; besides, there is another reason I could
mention, if it were not that Miss Wharton would never forgive me."
"Speak, I beg, without dread of my displeasure," said Frances, returning
the good-humored smile of the trooper, with the archness natural to her
own sweet face.
"The odors of your kitchen, then," cried Lawton bluntly, "forbid my
quitting the domains, until I qualify myself to speak with more
certainty concerning the fatness of the land."
"Oh! Aunt Jeanette is exerting herself to do credit to my father's
hospitality," said the laughing girl, "and I am a truant from her
labors, as I shall be a stranger to her favor, unless I proffer my
Frances withdrew to seek her aunt, musing deeply on the character and
extreme sensibility of the new acquaintance chance had brought to
The wounded officer followed her with his eyes, as she moved, with
infantile grace, through the door of his apartment, and as she vanished
from his view, he observed,--
"Such an aunt and niece are seldom to be met with, Jack; this seems a
fairy, but the aunt is angelic."
"You are doing well, I see; your enthusiasm for the sex holds its own."
"I should be ungrateful as well as insensible, did I not bear testimony
to the loveliness of Miss Peyton."
"A good motherly lady, but as to love, that is a matter of taste. A few
years younger, with deference to her prudence and experience, would
accord better with my fancy."
"She must be under twenty," said the other, quickly.
"It depends on the way you count. If you begin at the heel of life,
well; but if you reckon downward, as is most common, I think she is
"You have mistaken an elder sister for the aunt," said Isabella, laying
her fair hand on the mouth of the invalid. "You must be silent! Your
feelings are beginning to affect your frame."
The entrance of Dr. Sitgreaves, who, in some alarm, noticed the increase
of feverish symptoms in his patient, enforced this mandate; and the
trooper withdrew to pay a visit of condolence to Roanoke, who had been
an equal sufferer with himself in their last night's somersault. To his
great joy, his man pronounced the steed to be equally convalescent with
the master; and Lawton found that by dint of rubbing the animal's limbs
several hours without ceasing, he was enabled to place his feet in what
he called systematic motion. Orders were accordingly given to be in
readiness to rejoin the troop at the Four Corners, as soon as his master
had shared in the bounty of the approaching banquet.
In the meantime, Henry Wharton entered the apartment of Wellmere, and by
his sympathy succeeded in restoring the colonel to his own good graces.
The latter was consequently enabled to rise, and prepared to meet a
rival of whom he had spoken so lightly, and, as the result had proved,
with so little reason. Wharton knew that their misfortune, as they both
termed their defeat, was owing to the other's rashness; but he forbore
to speak of anything except the unfortunate accident which had deprived
the English of their leader, and to which he good-naturedly ascribed
their subsequent discomfiture.
"In short, Wharton," said the colonel, putting one leg out of bed, "it
may be called a combination of untoward events; your own ungovernable
horse prevented my orders from being carried to the major, in season to
flank the rebels."
"Very true," replied the captain, kicking a slipper towards the bed.
"Had we succeeded in getting a few good fires upon them in flank, we
should have sent these brave Virginians to the right about."
"Aye, and that in double-quick time," cried the colonel, making the
other leg follow its companion. "Then it was necessary to rout the
guides, you know, and the movement gave them the best possible
opportunity to charge."
"Yes," said the other, sending the second slipper after the first, "and
this Major Dunwoodie never overlooks an advantage."
"I think if we had the thing to do over again," continued the colonel,
raising himself on his feet, "we might alter the case very materially,
though the chief thing the rebels have now to boast of is my capture;
they were repulsed, you saw, in their attempt to drive us from
"At least they would have been, had they made an attack," said the
captain, throwing the rest of his clothes within reach of the colonel.
"Why, that is the same thing," returned Wellmere, beginning to dress
himself. "To assume such an attitude as to intimidate your enemy, is the
chief art of war."
"Doubtless, then, you may remember in one of their charges they were
"True--true," cried the colonel, with animation. "Had I been there to
have improved that advantage, we might have turned the table on the
Yankees"; saying which he displayed still greater animation in
completing his toilet; and he was soon prepared to make his appearance,
fully restored to his own good opinion, and fairly persuaded that his
capture was owing to casualties absolutely beyond the control of man.
The knowledge that Colonel Wellmere was to be a guest at the table in no
degree diminished the preparations which were already making for the
banquet; and Sarah, after receiving the compliments of the gentleman,
and making many kind inquiries after the state of his wounds, proceeded
in person to lend her counsel and taste to one of those labored
entertainments, which, at that day, were so frequent in country life,
and which are not entirely banished from our domestic economy at the
I will stand to and feed,
Although my last.
The savor of preparation which had been noticed by Captain Lawton began
to increase within the walls of the cottage; certain sweet-smelling
odors, that arose from the subterranean territories of Caesar, gave to
the trooper the most pleasing assurances that his olfactory nerves,
which on such occasions were as acute as his eyes on others, had
faithfully performed their duty; and for the benefit of enjoying the
passing sweets as they arose, the dragoon so placed himself at a window
of the building, that not a vapor charged with the spices of the East
could exhale on its passage to the clouds, without first giving its
incense to his nose. Lawton, however, by no means indulged himself in
this comfortable arrangement, without first making such preparations to
do meet honor to the feast, as his scanty wardrobe would allow. The
uniform of his corps was always a passport to the best tables, and this,
though somewhat tarnished by faithful service and unceremonious usage,
was properly brushed and decked out for the occasion. His head, which
nature had ornamented with the blackness of a crow, now shone with the
whiteness of snow; and his bony hand, that so well became the saber,
peered from beneath a ruffle with something like maiden coyness. The
improvements of the dragoon went no further, excepting that his boots
shone with more than holiday splendor, and his spurs glittered in the
rays of the sun, as became the pure ore of which they were composed.
Caesar moved through the apartments with a face charged with an
importance exceeding even that which had accompanied him in his
melancholy task of the morning. The black had early returned from the
errand on which he had been dispatched by the peddler, and, obedient to
the commands of his mistress, promptly appeared to give his services
where his allegiance was due; so serious, indeed, was his duty now
becoming, that it was only at odd moments he was enabled to impart to
his sable brother, who had been sent in attendance on Miss Singleton to
the Locusts, any portion of the wonderful incidents of the momentous
night he had so lately passed. By ingeniously using, however, such
occasions as accidentally offered, Caesar communicated so many of the
heads of his tale, as served to open the eyes of his visitor to their
fullest width. The gusto for the marvelous was innate in these sable
worthies; and Miss Peyton found it necessary to interpose her authority,
in order to postpone the residue of the history to a more befitting
"Ah! Miss Jinnett," said Caesar, shaking his head, and looking all that
he expressed, "'twas awful to see Johnny Birch walk on a feet when he
This concluded the conversation; though the black promised himself the
satisfaction, and did not fail to enjoy it, of having many a gossip on
the subject at a future period.
The ghost thus happily laid, the department of Miss Peyton flourished;
and by the time the afternoon's sun had traveled a two hours' journey
from the meridian, the formal procession from the kitchen to the parlor
commenced, under the auspices of Caesar, who led the van, supporting a
turkey on the palms of his withered hands, with the dexterity of a
Next followed the servant of Captain Lawton, bearing, as he marched
stiffly, and walking wide, as if allowing room for his steed, a ham of
true Virginian flavor; a present from the spinster's brother in Accomac.
The supporter of this savory dish kept his eye on his trust with
military precision; and by the time he reached his destination, it might
be difficult to say which contained the most juice, his own mouth or the
Third in the line was to be seen the valet of Colonel Wellmere, who
carried in either hand chickens fricasseed and oyster patties.
After him marched the attendant of Dr. Sitgreaves, who had instinctively
seized an enormous tureen, as most resembling matters he understood, and
followed on in place, until the steams of the soup so completely
bedimmed the spectacles he wore, as a badge of office, that, on arriving
at the scene of action, he was compelled to deposit his freight on the
floor, until, by removing the glasses, he could see his way through the
piles of reserved china and plate warmers.
Next followed another trooper, whose duty it was to attend on Captain
Singleton; and, as if apportioning his appetite to the feeble state of
his master, he had contented himself with conveying a pair of ducks,
roasted, until their tempting fragrance began to make him repent his
having so lately demolished a breakfast that had been provided for his
master's sister, with another prepared for himself.
The white boy, who belonged to the house, brought up the rear, groaning
under a load of sundry dishes of vegetables, that the cook, by way of
climax, had unwittingly heaped on him.
But this was far from all of the preparations for that day's feast;
Caesar had no sooner deposited his bird, which, but the week before, had
been flying amongst the highlands of Dutchess, little dreaming of so
soon heading such a goodly assemblage, than he turned mechanically on
his heel, and took up his line of march again for the kitchen. In this
evolution the black was imitated by his companions in succession, and
another procession to the parlor followed in the same order. By this
admirable arrangement, whole flocks of pigeons, certain bevies of
quails, shoals of flatfish, bass, and sundry woodcock, found their way
into the presence of the company.
A third attack brought suitable quantities of potatoes, onions, beets,
coldslaw, rice, and all the other minutiae of a goodly dinner.
The board now fairly groaned with American profusion, and Caesar,
glancing his eye over the show with a most approving conscience, after
readjusting every dish that had not been placed on the table with his
own hands, proceeded to acquaint the mistress of the revels that his
task was happily accomplished.
Some half hour before the culinary array just recorded took place, all
the ladies disappeared, much in the same unaccountable manner that
swallows flee the approach of winter. But the springtime of their return
had arrived, and the whole party were collected in an apartment that, in
consequence of its containing no side table, and being furnished with a
chintz coverlet settee, was termed a withdrawing-room.
The kind-hearted spinster had deemed the occasion worthy, not only of
extraordinary preparations in the culinary department, but had seen
proper to deck her own person in garments suited to the guests whom it
was now her happiness to entertain.
On her head Miss Peyton wore a cap of exquisite lawn, which was
ornamented in front with a broad border of lace, that spread from the
face in such a manner as to admit of a display of artificial flowers,
clustered in a group on the summit of her fine forehead.
The color of her hair was lost in the profusion of powder with which it
was covered; but a slight curling of the extremities in some degree
relieved the formality of its arrangement, and gave a look of feminine
softness to the features.
Her dress was a rich, heavy silk, of violet color, cut low around the
bust, with a stomacher of the same material, that fitted close to the
figure, and exhibited the form, from the shoulders to the waist in its
true proportions. Below, the dress was full, and sufficiently showed
that parsimony in attire was not a foible of the day. A small loop
displayed the beauty of the fabric to advantage, and aided in giving
majesty to the figure.
The tall stature of the lady was heightened by shoes of the same
material with the dress, whose heels added more than an inch to the
liberality of nature.
The sleeves were short, and close to the limb, until they fell off at
the elbows in large ruffles, that hung in rich profusion from the arm
when extended; and duplicates and triplicates of lawn, trimmed with
Dresden lace, lent their aid in giving delicacy to a hand and arm that
yet retained their whiteness and symmetry. A treble row of large pearls
closely encircled her throat; and a handkerchief of lace partially
concealed that part of the person that the silk had left exposed, but
which the experience of forty years had warned Miss Peyton should now
Thus attired, and standing erect with the lofty grace that distinguished
the manners of that day, the maiden would have looked into nothingness a
bevy of modern belles.
The taste of Sarah had kept even pace with the decorations of her aunt;
and a dress, differing in no respect from the one just described, but
in material and tints, exhibited her imposing form to equal advantage.
The satin of her robe was of a pale bluish color. Twenty years did not,
however, require the screen that was prudent in forty, and nothing but
an envious border of exquisite lace hid, in some measure, what the satin
left exposed to view. The upper part of the bust, and the fine fall of
the shoulders, were blazing in all their native beauty, and, like the
aunt, the throat was ornamented by a treble row of pearls, to correspond
with which were rings of the same quality in the ears. The head was
without a cap, and the hair drawn up from the countenance so as to give
to the eye all the loveliness of a forehead as polished as marble and as
white as snow. A few straggling curls fell gracefully on the neck, and a
bouquet of artificial flowers was also placed, like a coronet, over
Miss Singleton had resigned her brother to the advice of Dr. Sitgreaves,
who had succeeded in getting his patient into a deep sleep after
quieting certain feverish symptoms that followed the agitation of the
interview. The sister was persuaded, by the observant mistress of the
mansion, to make one of the party, and she sat by the side of Sarah,
differing but little in appearance from that lady, except in refusing
the use of powder on her raven locks, and that her unusually high
forehead and large, brilliant eyes gave an expression of thoughtfulness
to her features, that was possibly heightened by the paleness of
Last and least, but not the most unlovely, in this display of female
charms, was the youngest daughter of Mr. Wharton. Frances, we have
already mentioned, left the city before she had attained to the age of
fashionable womanhood. A few adventurous spirits were already beginning
to make inroads in those customs which had so long invaded the comforts
of the fair sex; and the youthful girl had ventured to trust her beauty
to the height which nature had bestowed. This was but little, but that
little was a masterpiece. Frances several times had determined, in the
course of the morning, to bestow more than usual pains in the decoration
of her person. Each time in succession, as she formed this resolution,
she spent a few minutes in looking earnestly towards the north, and then
she as invariably changed it.
At the appointed hour, our heroine appeared in the drawing-room, clothed
in a robe of pale blue silk, of a cut and fashion much like that worn by
her sister. Her hair was left to the wild curls of nature, its
exuberance being confined to the crown of her head by a long, low comb,
made of light tortoise shell; a color barely distinguishable in the
golden hue of her tresses. Her dress was without a plait or a wrinkle,
and fitted the form with an exactitude that might lead one to imagine
the arch girl more than suspected the beauties it displayed. A tucker of
rich Dresden lace softened the contour of the figure. Her head was
without ornament; but around her throat was a necklace of gold clasped
in front with a rich cornelian.
Once, and once only, as they moved towards the repast, did Lawton see a
foot thrust itself from beneath the folds of her robe, and exhibit its
little beauties encased in a slipper of blue silk, clasped close to the
shape by a buckle of brilliants. The trooper caught himself sighing as
he thought, though it was good for nothing in the stirrup, how
enchantingly it would grace a minuet.
As the black appeared on the threshold of the room, making a low
reverence, which has been interpreted for some centuries into "dinner
waits," Mr. Wharton, clad in a dress of drab, bedecked with enormous
buttons, advanced formally to Miss Singleton, and bending his powdered
head nearly to the level of the hand he extended, received hers
Dr. Sitgreaves offered the same homage to Miss Peyton, and met with
equal favor; the lady first pausing to draw on her gloves.
Colonel Wellmere was honored with a smile from Sarah, while performing a
similar duty; and Frances gave the ends of her taper fingers to Captain
Lawton with maiden bashfulness.
Much time, and some trouble were expended before the whole party were,
to the great joy of Caesar, comfortably arranged around the table, with
proper attention to all points of etiquette and precedence. The black
well knew the viands were not improving; and though abundantly able to
comprehend the disadvantage of eating a cold dinner, it greatly exceeded
his powers of philosophy to weigh all the latent consequences to society
which depend on social order.
For the first ten minutes all but the captain of dragoons found
themselves in a situation much to their liking. Even Lawton would have
been perfectly happy, had not excess of civility on the part of his host
and Miss Jeanette Peyton kept him from the more agreeable occupation of
tasting dishes he did want, in order to decline those he did not. At
length, however, the repast was fairly commenced, and a devoted
application to the viands was more eloquent than a thousand words in
favor of Dinah's skill.
Next came drinking with the ladies; but as the wine was excellent, and
the glasses ample, the trooper bore this interruption with consummate
good nature. Nay, so fearful was he of giving offense, and of omitting
any of the nicer points of punctilio, that having commenced this
courtesy with the lady who sat next him, he persevered until not one of
his fair companions could, with justice, reproach him with partiality in
Long abstemiousness from anything like generous wine might plead the
excuse of Captain Lawton, especially when exposed to so strong a
temptation as that now before him. Mr. Wharton had been one of a set of
politicians in New York, whose principal exploits before the war had
been to assemble, and pass sage opinions on the signs of the times,
under the inspiration of certain liquor made from a grape that grew on
the south side of the island of Madeira, and which found its way into
the colonies of North America through the medium of the West Indies,
sojourning awhile in the Western Archipelago, by way of proving the
virtues of the climate. A large supply of this cordial had been drawn
from his storehouse in the city, and some of it now sparkled in a bottle
before the captain, blushing in the rays of the sun, which were passing
obliquely through it, like amber.
Though the meat and vegetables had made their entrance with perfect
order and propriety, their exeunt was effected much in the manner of a
retreat of militia. The point was to clear the board something after the
fabled practice of the harpies, and by dint of scrambling, tossing,
breaking, and spilling, the remnants of the overflowing repast
disappeared. And now another series of processions commenced, by virtue
of which a goodly display of pastry, with its usual accompaniments,
garnished the table.
Mr. Wharton poured out a glass of wine for the lady who sat on his right
hand, and, pushing the bottle to a guest, said with a low bow,--
"We are to be honored with a toast from Miss Singleton."
Although there was nothing more in this movement than occurred every day
on such occasions, yet the lady trembled, colored, and grew pale again,
seemingly endeavoring to rally her thoughts, until, by her agitation,
she had excited the interest of the whole party; when by an effort, and
in a manner as if she had striven in vain to think of another, Isabella
The health was drunk cheerfully by all but Colonel Wellmere, who wet his
lips, and drew figures on the table with some of the liquor he
At length Colonel Wellmere broke silence by saying aloud to Captain
"I suppose, sir, this Mr. Dunwoodie will receive promotion in the rebel
army, for the advantage my misfortune gave him over my command."
The trooper had supplied the wants of nature to his perfect
satisfaction; and, perhaps, with the exception of Washington and his
immediate commander, there was no mortal whose displeasure he regarded a
tittle. First helping himself, therefore, to a little of his favorite
bottle, he replied with admirable coolness,--
"Colonel Wellmere, your pardon; Major Dunwoodie owes his allegiance to
the confederated states of North America, and where he owes it he pays
it. Such a man is no rebel. Promoted I hope he may be, both because he
deserves it, and because I am next in rank in the corps; and I know not
what you call a misfortune, unless you deem meeting the Virginia
horse as such."
"We will not differ about terms, sir," said the colonel, haughtily. "I
spoke as duty to my sovereign prompted; but do you not call the loss of
a commander a misfortune to a party?"
"It certainly may be so," said the trooper, with emphasis.
"Miss Peyton, will you favor us with a toast?" cried the master of the
house, anxious to stop this dialogue.
The lady bowed her head with dignity, as she named "General Montrose";
and the long-absent bloom stole lightly over her features.
"There is no term more doubtful than that word misfortune," said the
surgeon, regardless of the nice maneuvers of the host. "Some deem one
thing a misfortune, others its opposite; misfortune begets misfortune.
Life is a misfortune, for it may be the means of enduring misfortune;
and death is a misfortune, as it abridges the enjoyments of life."
"It is a misfortune that our mess has no such wine as this," interrupted
"We will pledge you a sentiment in it, sir, as it seems to suit your
taste," said Mr. Wharton.
Lawton filled to the brim, and drank, "A speedy peace, or a stirring
"I drink your toast, Captain Lawton, though I greatly distrust your
construction of activity," said the surgeon. "In my poor judgment,
cavalry should be kept in the rear to improve a victory, and not sent in
front to gain it. Such may be said to be their natural occupation, if
the term can be used in reference to so artificial a body; for all
history shows that the horse have done most when held in reserve."
This dissertation, uttered in a sufficiently didactic manner, was a hint
that Miss Peyton did not neglect. She arose and retired, followed by
Nearly at the same moment, Mr. Wharton and his son made an apology for
their absence, which was required on account of the death of a near
neighbor, and withdrew.
The retreat of the ladies was the signal for the appearance of the
surgeon's cigar, which, being established in a corner of his mouth, in a
certain knowing way, caused not the slightest interruption to his
"If anything can sweeten captivity and wounds, it must be the happiness
of suffering in the society of the ladies who have left us," gallantly
observed the colonel, as he resumed his seat after closing the door.
"Sympathy and kindness have their influence on the human system,"
returned the surgeon, knocking the ashes from his cigar, with the tip of
a little finger, in the manner of an adept. "The connection is intimate
between the moral and physical feelings; but still, to accomplish a
cure, and restore nature to the healthy tone it has lost from disease or
accident, requires more than can flow from unguided sympathies. In such
cases, the lights--" the surgeon accidentally caught the eye of the
trooper and he paused. Taking two or three hasty puffs, he essayed to
finish the sentence, "In such cases, the knowledge that flows from
"You were saying, sir," said Colonel Wellmere, sipping his wine,--
"The purport of my remark went to say," continued Sitgreaves, turning
his back on Lawton, "that a bread poultice would not set a broken arm."
"More is the pity," cried the trooper, "for next to eating, the
nourishment could not be more innocently applied."
"To you, Colonel Wellmere," said the surgeon, "as a man of education, I
can with safety appeal." The colonel bowed. "You must have observed the
dreadful havoc made in your ranks by the men who were led by this
gentleman"; the colonel looked grave, again; "how, when blows lighted on
their frames, life was invariably extinguished, beyond all hope of
scientific reparation; how certain yawning wounds were inflicted, that
must set at defiance the art of the most experienced practitioner; now,
sir, to you I triumphantly appeal, therefore, to know whether your
detachment would not have been as effectually defeated, if the men had
all lost a right arm, for instance, as if they had all lost
"The triumph of your appeal is somewhat hasty, sir," said Wellmere.
"Is the cause of liberty advanced a step by such injudicious harshness
in the field?" continued the surgeon, bent on the favorite principle
of his life.
"I am yet to learn that the cause of liberty is in any manner advanced
by the services of any gentleman in the rebel army," rejoined
"Not liberty! Good God, for what then are we contending?"
"Slavery, sir; yes, even slavery; you are putting the tyranny of a mob
on the throne of a kind and lenient prince. Where is the consistency of
your boasted liberty?"
"Consistency!" repeated the surgeon, looking about him a little wildly,
at hearing such sweeping charges against a cause he had so long
"Aye, sir, your consistency. Your congress of sages have published a
manifesto, wherein they set forth the equality of political rights."
"'Tis true, and it is done most ably."
"I say nothing of its ability; but if true, why not set your slaves at
liberty?" This argument, which is thought by most of the colonel's
countrymen a triumphant answer to a thousand eloquent facts, lost none
of its weight by the manner in which it was uttered.
Every American feels humbled at the necessity of vindicating his country
from the apparent inconsistency and injustice of the laws alluded to.
His feelings are much like those of an honorable man who is compelled to
exonerate himself from a disgraceful charge, although he may know the
accusation to be false. At the bottom, Sitgreaves had much good sense,
and thus called on, he took up the cudgels of argument in
"We deem it a liberty to have the deciding voice in the councils by
which we are governed. We think it a hardship to be ruled by the king of
a people who live at a distance of three thousand miles, and who cannot,
and who do not, feel a single political interest in common with
ourselves. I say nothing of oppression; the child was of age, and was
entitled to the privileges of majority. In such cases, there is but one
tribunal to which to appeal for a nation's rights--it is power, and we
now make the appeal."
"Such doctrines may suit your present purposes," said Wellmere, with a
sneer; "but I apprehend it is opposed to all the opinions and practices
of civilized nations."
"It is in conformity with the practices of all nations," said the
surgeon, returning the nod and smile of Lawton, who enjoyed the good
sense of his comrade as much as he disliked what he called "his medical
talk." "Who would be ruled when he can rule? The only rational ground to
take is, that every community has a right to govern itself, so that in
no manner it violates the laws of God."
"And is holding your fellow creatures in bondage in conformity to those
laws?" asked the colonel, impressively.
The surgeon took another glass, and hemming once, returned to the
"Sir," said he, "slavery is of very ancient origin, and it seems to have
been confined to no particular religion or form of government; every
nation of civilized Europe does, or has held their fellow creatures in
this kind of _duresse_."
"You will except Great Britain," cried the colonel, proudly.
"No, sir," continued the surgeon, confidently, feeling that he was now
carrying the war out of his own country, "I cannot except Great Britain.
It was her children, her ships, and her laws, that first introduced the
practice into these states; and on her institutions the judgment must
fall. There is not a foot of ground belonging to England, in which a
negro would be useful, that has not its slave. England herself has none,
but England is overflowing with physical force, a part of which she is
obliged to maintain in the shape of paupers. The same is true of France,
and most other European countries. So long as we were content to remain
colonies, nothing was said of our system of domestic slavery; but now,
when we are resolute to obtain as much freedom as the vicious system of
metropolitan rule has left us, that which is England's gift has become
our reproach. Will your master liberate the slaves of his subjects
should he succeed in subduing the new states, or will he condemn the
whites to the same servitude as that in which he has been so long
content to see the blacks? It is true, we continue the practice; but we
must come gradually to the remedy, or create an evil greater than that
which we endure at present. Doubtless, as we advance, the manumission of
our slaves will accompany us, until happily these fair regions shall
exist, without a single image of the Creator that is held in a state
which disqualifies him to judge of that Creator's goodness."
It will be remembered that Doctor Sitgreaves spoke forty years ago, and
Wellmere was unable to contradict his prophetic assertion.
Finding the subject getting to be knotty, the Englishman retired to the
apartment in which the ladies had assembled; and, seated by the side of
Sarah, he found a more pleasing employment in relating the events of
fashionable life in the metropolis, and in recalling the thousand little
anecdotes of their former associates. Miss Peyton was a pleased
listener, as she dispensed the bounties of the tea table, and Sarah
frequently bowed her blushing countenance to her needlework, as her face
glowed at the flattering remarks of her companion.
The dialogue we have related established a perfect truce between the
surgeon and his comrade; and the former having paid a visit to
Singleton, they took their leave of the ladies, and mounted; the former
to visit the wounded at the encampment, and the latter to rejoin his
troop. But their movements were arrested at the gate by an occurrence
that we shall relate in the next chapter.
I see no more those white locks thinly spread
Round the bald polish of that honored head:
No more that meek, that suppliant look in prayer,
Nor that pure faith that gave it force, are there:
But he is blest, and I lament no more,
A wise good man, contented to be poor.
We have already said that the customs of America leave the dead but a
short time in sight of the mourners; and the necessity of providing for
his own safety had compelled the peddler to abridge even this brief
space. In the confusion and agitation produced by the events we have
recorded, the death of the elder Birch had occurred unnoticed; but a
sufficient number of the immediate neighbors were hastily collected, and
the ordinary rites of sepulture were now about to be paid to the
deceased. It was the approach of this humble procession that arrested
the movements of the trooper and his comrade. Four men supported the
body on a rude bier; and four others walked in advance, ready to
relieve their friends from their burden. The peddler walked next the
coffin, and by his side moved Katy Haynes, with a most determined aspect
of woe, and next to the mourners came Mr. Wharton and the English
captain. Two or three old men and women, with a few straggling boys,
brought up the rear. Captain Lawton sat in his saddle, in rigid silence,
until the bearers came opposite to his position, and then, for the first
time, Harvey raised his eyes from the ground, and saw the enemy that he
dreaded so near him. The first impulse of the peddler was certainly
flight; but recovering his recollection, he fixed his eye on the coffin
of his parent, and passed the dragoon with a firm step but swelling
heart. The trooper slowly lifted his cap, and continued uncovered until
Mr. Wharton and his son had moved by, when, accompanied by the surgeon,
he rode leisurely in the rear, maintaining an inflexible silence.
Caesar emerged from the cellar kitchen of the cottage, and with a face
of settled solemnity, added himself to the number of the followers of
the funeral, though with a humble mien and at a most respectful distance
from the horsemen. The old negro had placed around his arm, a little
above the elbow, a napkin of unsullied whiteness, it being the only time
since his departure from the city that he had enjoyed an opportunity of
exhibiting himself in the garniture of servile mourning. He was a great
lover of propriety, and had been a little stimulated to this display by
a desire to show his sable friend from Georgia all the decencies of a
New York funeral; and the ebullition of his zeal went off very well,
producing no other result than a mild lecture from Miss Peyton at his
return, on the fitness of things. The attendance of the black was
thought well enough in itself; but the napkin was deemed a superfluous
exhibition of ceremony, at the funeral of a man who had performed all
the menial offices in his own person.
The graveyard was an inclosure on the grounds of Mr. Wharton, which had
been fenced with stone and set apart for the purpose, by that
gentleman, some years before. It was not, however, intended as a burial
place for any of his own family. Until the fire, which raged as the
British troops took possession of New York, had laid Trinity in ashes, a
goodly gilded tablet on its walls proclaimed the virtues of his deceased
parents, and beneath a flag of marble, in one of the aisles of the
church, their bones were left to molder in aristocratical repose.
Captain Lawton made a movement as if he was disposed to follow the
procession, when it left the highway, to enter the field which contained
the graves of the humble dead, but he was recalled to recollection by a
hint from his companion that he was taking the wrong road.
"Of all the various methods which have been adopted by man for the
disposal of his earthly remains, which do you prefer, Captain Lawton?"
said the surgeon, as they separated from the little procession. "In some
countries the body is exposed to be devoured by wild beasts; in others
it is suspended in the air to exhale its substance in the manner of
decomposition; in other regions it is consumed on the funeral pile, and,
again, it is inhumed in the bowels of the earth; every people have their
own particular fashion, and to which do you give the preference?"
"All are agreeable," said the trooper, following the group they had left
with his eyes; "though the speediest interments give the cleanest
fields. Of which are you an admirer?"
"The last, as practiced by ourselves, for the other three are
destructive of all the opportunities for dissection; whereas, in the
last, the coffin can lie in peaceful decency, while the remains are made
to subserve the useful purposes of science. Ah! Captain Lawton, I enjoy
comparatively but few opportunities of such a nature, to what I expected
on entering the army."
"To what may these pleasures numerically amount in a year?" said the
captain, withdrawing his gaze from the graveyard.
"Within a dozen, upon my honor; my best picking is when the corps is
detached; for when we are with the main army, there are so many boys to
be satisfied, that I seldom get a good subject. Those youngsters are as
wasteful as prodigals, and as greedy as vultures."
"A dozen!" echoed the trooper, in surprise. "Why, I furnish you that
number with my own hands."
"Ah! Jack," returned the doctor, approaching the subject with great
tenderness of manner, "it is seldom I can do anything with your
patients; you disfigure them woefully. Believe me, John, when I tell you
as a friend that your system is all wrong; you unnecessarily destroy
life, and then you injure the body so that it is unfit for the only use
that can be made of a dead man."
The trooper maintained a silence, which he thought would be the most
probable means of preserving peace between them; and the surgeon,
turning his head from taking a last look at the burial, as they rode
around the foot of the hill that shut the valley from their sight,
continued with a suppressed sigh,--
"One might get a natural death from that graveyard to-night, if there
was but time and opportunity! The patient must be the father of the lady
we saw this morning."
"The petticoat doctor!--she with the aurora borealis complexion," said
the trooper, with a smile, that began to cause uneasiness to his
companion. "But the lady was not the gentleman's daughter, only his
medico-petticoat attendant; and the Harvey, whose name was made to rime
with every word in her song, is the renowned peddler spy."
"What? He who unhorsed you?"
"No man ever unhorsed me, Dr. Sitgreaves," said the dragoon, gravely. "I
fell by mischance of Roanoke; rider and beast kissed the earth
"A warm embrace, from the love spots it left on your cuticle; 'tis a
thousand pities that you cannot find where the tattling rascal
"He followed his father's body."
"And you let him pass!" cried the surgeon, checking his horse. "Let us
return immediately, and take him; to-morrow you shall have him hanged,
Jack,--and, damn him, I'll dissect him!"
"Softly, softly, my dear Archibald. Would you arrest a man while paying
the last offices to a dead father? Leave him to me, and I pledge myself
he shall have justice."
The doctor muttered his dissatisfaction at any postponement of
vengeance, but he was compelled to acquiesce, from a regard to his
reputation for propriety; and they continued their ride to the quarters
of the corps, engaged in various discussions concerning the welfare of
the human body.
Birch supported the grave and collected manner that was thought becoming
in a male mourner, on such occasions, and to Katy was left the part of
exhibiting the tenderness of the softer sex. There are some people,
whose feelings are of such nature that they cannot weep unless it be in
proper company, and the spinster was a good deal addicted to this
congregational virtue. After casting her eyes around the small
assemblage, the housekeeper found the countenances of the few females,
who were present, fixed on her in solemn expectation, and the effect was
instantaneous; the maiden really wept, and she gained no inconsiderable
sympathy, and some reputation for a tender heart, from the spectators.
The muscles of the peddler's face were seen to move, and as the first
clod of earth fell on the tenement of his father, sending up that dull,
hollow sound that speaks so eloquently the mortality of man, his whole
frame was for an instant convulsed. He bent his body down, as if in
pain, his fingers worked while the hands hung lifeless by his side, and
there was an expression in his countenance that seemed to announce a
writhing of the soul; but it was not unresisted, and it was transient.
He stood erect, drew a long breath, and looked around him with an
elevated face, that even seemed to smile with a consciousness of having
obtained the mastery. The grave was soon filled; a rough stone, placed
at either extremity, marked its position, and the turf, whose faded
vegetation was adapted to the fortunes of the deceased, covered the
little hillock with the last office of seemliness. This office ended,
the neighbors, who had officiously pressed forward to offer their
services in performing their solemn duty, paused, and lifting their
hats, stood looking towards the mourner, who now felt himself to be
really alone in the world. Uncovering his head also, the peddler
hesitated a moment, to gather energy, and spoke.
"My friends and neighbors," he said, "I thank you for assisting me to
bury my dead out of my sight."
A solemn pause succeeded the customary address, and the group dispersed
in silence, some few walking with the mourners back to their own
habitation, but respectfully leaving them at its entrance. The peddler
and Katy were followed into the building by one man, however, who was
well known to the surrounding country by the significant term of "a
speculator." Katy saw him enter, with a heart that palpitated with
dreadful forebodings, but Harvey civilly handed him a chair, and
evidently was prepared for the visit.
The peddler went to the door, and, taking a cautious glance about the
valley, quickly returned, and commenced the following dialogue:--
"The sun has just left the top of the eastern hill; my time presses me:
here is the deed for the house and lot; everything is done according
The other took the paper, and conned its contents with a deliberation
that proceeded partly from his caution, and partly from the unlucky
circumstance of his education having been much neglected when a youth.
The time occupied in this tedious examination was employed by Harvey in
gathering together certain articles which he intended to include in the
stores that were to leave the habitation with himself. Katy had already
inquired of the peddler whether the deceased had left a will; and she
saw the Bible placed in the bottom of a new pack, which she had made
for his accommodation, with a most stoical indifference; but as the six
silver spoons were laid carefully by its side, a sudden twinge of her
conscience objected to such a palpable waste of property, and she
"When you marry, Harvey, you may miss those spoons."
"I never shall marry."
"Well, if you don't there's no occasion to make rash promises, even to
yourself. One never knows what one may do, in such a case. I should like
to know, of what use so many spoons can be to a single man; for my part,
I think it is a duty for every man who is well provided, to have a wife
and family to maintain."
At the time when Katy expressed this sentiment, the fortune of women in
her class of life consisted of a cow, a bed, the labors of their own
hands in the shape of divers pillowcases, blankets, and sheets, with,
where fortune was unusually kind, a half dozen silver spoons. The
spinster herself had obtained all the other necessaries by her own
industry and prudence, and it can easily be imagined that she saw the
articles she had long counted her own vanish in the enormous pack, with
a dissatisfaction that was in no degree diminished by the declaration
that had preceded the act. Harvey, however, disregarded her opinions and
feelings, and continued his employment of filling the pack, which soon
grew to something like the ordinary size of the peddler's burden.
"I'm rather timersome about this conveyance," said the purchaser, having
at length waded through the covenants of the deed.
"I'm afraid it won't stand good in law. I know that two of the neighbors
leave home to-morrow morning, to have the place entered for
confiscation; and if I should give forty pounds, and lose it all,
'twould be a dead pull back to me."
"They can only take my right," said the peddler. "Pay me two hundred
dollars, and the house is yours; you are a well-known Whig, and you at
least they won't trouble." As Harvey spoke, there was a strange
bitterness of manner, mingled with the shrewd care he expressed
concerning the sale of his property.
"Say one hundred, and it is a bargain," returned the man, with a grin
that he meant for a good-natured smile.
"A bargain!" echoed the peddler, in surprise. "I thought the bargain
"Nothing is a bargain," said the purchaser, with a chuckle, "until
papers are delivered, and the money paid in hand."
"You have the paper."
"Aye, and will keep it, if you will excuse the money. Come, say one
hundred and fifty, and I won't be hard; here--here is just the money."
The peddler looked from the window, and saw with dismay that the evening
was fast advancing, and knew well that he endangered his life by
remaining in the dwelling after dark; yet he could not tolerate the idea
of being defrauded in this manner, in a bargain that had already been
fairly made; he hesitated.
"Well," said the purchaser, rising, "mayhap you can find another man to
trade with between this and morning, but if you don't, your title won't
be worth much afterwards."
"Take it, Harvey," said Katy, who felt it impossible to resist a tender
like the one before her; for the purchase money was in English guineas.
Her voice roused the peddler, and a new idea seemed to strike him.
"I agree to the price," he said; and, turning to the spinster, he placed
part of the money in her hand, as he continued, "Had I other means to
pay you, I would have lost all, rather than suffer myself to be
defrauded of part."
"You may lose all yet," muttered the stranger, with a sneer, as he rose
and left the building.
"Yes," said Katy, following him with her eyes, "he knows your failing,
Harvey; he thinks with me, now the old gentleman is gone, you will want
a careful body to take care of your concerns."
The peddler was busied in making arrangements for his departure, and he
took no notice of this insinuation, while the spinster returned again to
the attack. She had lived so many years in expectation of a termination
to her hopes, so different from that which now seemed likely to occur,
that the idea of separation began to give her more uneasiness than she
had thought herself capable of feeling, about a man so destitute and
"Have you another house to go to?" inquired Katy.
"Providence will provide me with a home."
"Yes," said the housekeeper, "but maybe 'twill not be to your liking."
"The poor must not be difficult."
"I'm sure I'm anything but a difficult body," cried the spinster, very
hastily; "but I love to see things becoming, and in their places; yet I
wouldn't be hard to persuade to leave this place myself. I can't say I
altogether like the ways of the people hereabouts."
"The valley is lovely," said the peddler, with fervor, "and the people
like all the race of man. But to me it matters nothing; all places are
now alike, and all faces equally strange." As he spoke he dropped the
article he was packing from his hand, and seated himself on a chest,
with a look of vacant misery.
"Not so, not so," said Katy, shoving her chair nearer to the place where
the peddler sat. "Not so, Harvey, you must know me at least; my face
cannot be strange to you."
Birch turned his eyes slowly on her countenance, which exhibited more of
feeling, and less of self, than he had ever seen there before; he took
her hand kindly, and his own features lost some of their painful
expression, as he said,--
"Yes, good woman, you, at least, are not a stranger to me; you may do me
partial justice; when others revile me possibly your feelings may lead
you to say something in my defense."
"That I will; that I would!" said Katy, eagerly. "I will defend you,
Harvey, to the last drop; let me hear them that dare to revile you! You
say true, Harvey, I am partial and just to you; what if you do like the
king? I have often heard it said he was at the bottom a good man; but
there's no religion in the old country, for everybody allows the
ministers are desperate bad!"
The peddler paced the floor in evident distress of mind; his eyes had a
look of wildness that Katy had never witnessed before, and his step was
measured, with a dignity that appalled the housekeeper.
"While my father lived," murmured Harvey, unable to smother his
feelings, "there was one who read my heart, and oh! what a consolation
to return from my secret marches of danger, and the insults and wrongs
that I suffered, to receive his blessing and his praise; but he is
gone," he continued, stopping and gazing wildly towards the corner that
used to hold the figure of his parent, "and who is there to do
"Why, Harvey! Harvey!"
"Yes, there is one who will, who must know me before I die! Oh! it is
dreadful to die, and leave such a name behind me."
"Don't talk of dying, Harvey," said the spinster, glancing her eye
around the room, and pushing the wood in the fire to obtain a light from
The ebullition of feeling in the peddler was over. It had been excited
by the events of the past day, and a vivid perception of his sufferings.
It was not long, however, that passion maintained an ascendency ever the
reason of this singular man; and perceiving that the night had already
thrown an obscurity around objects without doors, he hastily threw his
pack over his shoulders, and taking Katy kindly by the hand, in
"It is painful to part with even you, good woman," he said, "but the
hour has come, and I must go. What is left in the house is yours; to me
it could be of no use, and it may serve to make you more comfortable.
Farewell--we shall meet hereafter."
"In the regions of darkness!" cried a voice that caused the peddler to
sink on the chest from which he had risen, in despair.
"What! another pack, Mr. Birch, and so well stuffed so soon!"
"Have you not done evil enough?" cried the peddler, regaining his
firmness, and springing on his feet with energy. "Is it not enough to
harass the last moments of a dying man--to impoverish me; what more
would you have?"
"Your blood!" said the Skinner, with cool malignity.
"And for money," cried Harvey, bitterly. "Like the ancient Judas, you
would grow rich with the price of blood!"
"Aye, and a fair price it is, my gentleman; fifty guineas; nearly the
weight of that carcass of yours in gold."
"Here," said Katy, promptly, "here are fifteen guineas, and these
drawers and this bed are all mine; if you will give Harvey but one
hour's start from the door, they shall be yours."
"One hour?" said the Skinner, showing his teeth, and looking with a
longing eye at the money.
"But a single hour; here, take the money."
"Hold!" cried Harvey. "Put no faith in the miscreant."
"She may do what she pleases with her faith," said the Skinner, with
malignant pleasure, "but I have the money in good keeping; as for you,
Mr. Birch, we will bear your insolence, for the fifty guineas that are
to pay for your gallows."
"Go on," said the peddler, proudly; "take me to Major Dunwoodie; he, at
least, may be kind, although just."
"I can do better than by marching so far in such disgraceful company;
this Mr. Dunwoodie has let one or two Tories go at large; but the troop
of Captain Lawton is quartered some half mile nearer, and his receipt
will get me the reward as soon as his major's. How relish you the idea
of supping with Captain Lawton, this evening, Mr. Birch?"
"Give me my money, or set Harvey free," cried the spinster in alarm.
"Your bribe was not enough, good woman, unless there is money in this
bed." Thrusting his bayonet through the ticking and ripping it for some
distance, he took a malicious satisfaction in scattering its contents
about the room.
"If," cried the housekeeper, losing sight of her personal danger in care
for her newly-acquired property, "there is law in the land, I will
"The law of the neutral ground is the law of the strongest; but your
tongue is not as long as my bayonet; you had, therefore, best not set
them at loggerheads, or you might be the loser."
A figure stood in the shadow of the door, as if afraid to be seen in the
group of Skinners; but a blaze of light, raised by some articles thrown
in the fire by his persecutors, showed the peddler the face of the
purchaser of his little domain. Occasionally there was some whispering
between this man and the Skinner nearest him, that induced Harvey to
suspect he had been the dupe of a contrivance in which that wretch had
participated. It was, however, too late to repine; and he followed the
party from the house with a firm and collected tread, as if marching to
a triumph, and not to a gallows. In passing through the yard, the leader
of the band fell over a billet of wood, and received a momentary hurt
from the fall; exasperated at the incident, the fellow sprang on his
feet, filling the air with execrations.
"The curse of heaven light on the log!" he exclaimed. "The night is too
dark for us to move in; throw that brand of fire in yon pile of tow, to
light up the scene."
"Hold!" roared the speculator; "you'll fire the house."
"And see the farther," said the other, hurling the brand in the midst
of the combustibles. In an instant the building was in flames. "Come on;
let us move towards the heights while we have light to pick our road."
"Villain!" cried the exasperated purchaser, "is this your
friendship--this my reward for kidnapping the peddler?"
"'Twould be wise to move more from the light, if you mean to entertain
us with abuse, or we may see too well to miss our mark," cried the
leader of the gang. The next instant he was as good as his threat, but
happily missed the terrified speculator and equally appalled spinster,
who saw herself again reduced from comparative wealth to poverty, by the
blow. Prudence dictated to the pair a speedy retreat; and the next
morning, the only remains of the dwelling of the peddler was the huge
chimney we have already mentioned.
Trifles, light as air,
Are to the jealous confirmations strong
As proofs of holy writ.
The weather, which had been mild and clear since the storm, now changed
with the suddenness of the American climate. Towards evening the cold
blasts poured down from the mountains, and flurries of snow plainly
indicated that the month of November had arrived; a season whose
temperature varies from the heats of summer to the cold of winter.
Frances had stood at the window of her own apartment, watching the slow
progress of the funeral procession, with a melancholy that was too deep
to be excited by the spectacle. There was something in the sad office
that was in unison with her feelings. As she gazed around, she saw the
trees bending to the force of the wind, that swept through the valley
with an impetuosity that shook even the buildings; and the forest, that
had so lately glittered in the sun with its variegated hues, was fast
losing its loveliness, as the leaves were torn from the branches, and
were driving irregularly before the eddies of the blast. A few of the
Southern dragoons, who were patrolling the passes which led to the
encampment of the corps, could be distinguished at a distance on the
heights, bending to their pommels as they faced the keen air which had
so lately traversed the great fresh-water lakes, and drawing their watch
coats about them in tighter folds.
Frances witnessed the disappearance of the wooden tenement of the
deceased, as it was slowly lowered from the light of day; and the sight
added to the chilling dreariness of the view. Captain Singleton was
sleeping under the care of his own man, while his sister had been
persuaded to take possession of her room, for the purpose of obtaining
the repose of which her last night's journeying had robbed her. The
apartment of Miss Singleton communicated with the room occupied by the
sisters, through a private door, as well as through the ordinary passage
of the house; this door was partly open, and Frances moved towards it,
with the benevolent intention of ascertaining the situation of her
guest, when the surprised girl saw her whom she had thought to be
sleeping, not only awake, but employed in a manner that banished all
probability of present repose. The black tresses, that during the dinner
had been drawn in close folds over the crown of the head, were now
loosened, and fell in profusion over her shoulders and bosom, imparting
a slight degree of wildness to her countenance; the chilling white of
her complexion was strongly contrasted with eyes of the deepest black,
that were fixed in rooted attention on a picture she held in her hand.
Frances hardly breathed, as she was enabled, by a movement of Isabella,
to see that it was the figure of a man in the well-known dress of the
Southern horse; but she gasped for breath, and instinctively laid her
hand on her heart to quell its throbbings, as she thought she recognized
the lineaments that were so deeply seated in her own imagination.
Frances felt she was improperly prying into the sacred privacy of
another; but her emotions were too powerful to permit her to speak, and
she drew back to a chair, where she still retained a view of the
stranger, from whose countenance she felt it to be impossible to
withdraw her eyes. Isabella was too much engrossed by her own feelings
to discover the trembling figure of the witness to her actions, and she
pressed the inanimate image to her lips, with an enthusiasm that denoted
the most intense passion. The expression of the countenance of the fair
stranger was so changeable, and the transitions were so rapid, that
Frances had scarcely time to distinguish the character of the emotion,
before it was succeeded by another, equally powerful and equally
attractive. Admiration and sorrow were however the preponderating
passions; the latter was indicated by large drops that fell from her
eyes on the picture, and which followed each other over her cheek at
such intervals, as seemed to pronounce the grief too heavy to admit of
the ordinary demonstrations of sorrow. Every movement of Isabella was
marked by an enthusiasm that was peculiar to her nature, and every
passion in its turn triumphed in her breast. The fury of the wind, as it
whistled round the angles of the building, was in consonance with those
feelings, and she rose and moved to a window of her apartment. Her
figure was now hid from the view of Frances, who was about to rise and
approach her guest, when tones of a thrilling melody chained her in
breathless silence to the spot. The notes were wild, and the voice not
powerful, but the execution exceeded anything that Frances had ever
heard; and she stood, endeavoring to stifle the sounds of her own gentle
breathing, until the following song was concluded:--
Cold blow the blasts o'er the tops of the mountain,
And bare is the oak on the hill;
Slowly the vapors exhale from the fountain,
And bright gleams the ice-bordered rill;
All nature is seeking its annual rest,
But the slumbers of peace have deserted my breast.
Long has the storm poured its weight on my nation,
And long have her braves stood the shock;
Long has her chieftain ennobled his station,
A bulwark on liberty's rock;
Unlicensed ambition relaxes its toil,
Yet blighted affection represses my smile.
Abroad the wild fury of winter is lowering,
And leafless and drear is the tree;
But the vertical sun of the south appears pouring
Its fierce, killing heats upon me:
Without, all the season's chill symptoms begin--
But the fire of passion is raging within.
Frances abandoned her whole soul to the suppressed melody of the music,
though the language of the song expressed a meaning, which, united with
certain events of that and the preceding day, left a sensation of
uneasiness in the bosom of the warm-hearted girl, to which she had
hitherto been a stranger. Isabella moved from the window as her last
tones melted on the ear of her admiring listener, and, for the first
time, her eye rested on the pallid face of the intruder. A glow of fire
lighted the countenance of both at the same instant, and the blue eye of
Frances met the brilliant black one of her guest for a single moment,
and both fell in abashed confusion on the carpet; they advanced,
however, until they met, and had taken each other's hand, before either
ventured again to look her companion in the face.
"This sudden change in the weather, and perhaps the situation of my
brother, have united to make me melancholy, Miss Wharton," said
Isabella, in a low tone, and in a voice that trembled as she spoke.
"'Tis thought you have little to apprehend for your brother," said
Frances, in the same embarrassed manner. "Had you seen him when he was
brought in by Major Dunwoodie--"
Frances paused, with a feeling of conscious shame, for which she could
not account; and, in raising her eyes, she saw Isabella studying her
countenance with an earnestness that again drove the blood tumultuously
to her temples.
"You were speaking of Major Dunwoodie," said Isabella, faintly.
"He was with Captain Singleton."
"Do you know Dunwoodie? Have you seen him often?"
Once more Frances ventured to look her guest in the face, and again she
met the piercing eyes bent on her, as if to search her inmost heart.
"Speak, Miss Wharton; is Major Dunwoodie known to you?"
"He is my relative," said Frances, appalled at the manner of the other.
"A relative!" echoed Miss Singleton; "in what degree?--speak, Miss
Wharton, I conjure you to speak."
"Our parents were cousins," faintly replied Frances.
"And he is to be your husband?" said the stranger, impetuously.
Frances felt shocked, and all her pride awakened, by this direct attack
upon her feelings, and she raised her eyes from the floor to her
interrogator a little proudly, when the pale cheek and quivering lip of
Isabella removed her resentment in a moment.
"It is true! My conjecture is true! Speak to me, Miss Wharton; I conjure
you, in mercy to my feelings, to tell me--do you love Dunwoodie?" There
was a plaintive earnestness in the voice of Miss Singleton that disarmed
Frances of all resentment, and the only answer she could make was to
hide her burning face between her hands, as she sank back in a chair to
conceal her confusion.
Isabella paced the floor in silence for several minutes, until she had
succeeded in conquering the violence of her feelings, when she
approached the place where Frances yet sat, endeavoring to exclude the
eyes of her companion from reading the shame expressed in her
countenance, and, taking the hand of the other, she spoke with an
evident effort at composure.
"Pardon me, Miss Wharton, if my ungovernable feelings have led me into
impropriety; the powerful motive--the cruel reason"--she hesitated.
Frances now raised her face, and their eyes once more met; they fell in
each other's arms, and laid their burning cheeks together. The embrace
was long--was ardent and sincere--but neither spoke; and on separating,
Frances retired to her own room without further explanation.
While this extraordinary scene was acting in the room of Miss Singleton,
matters of great importance were agitated in the drawing-room. The
disposition of the fragments of such a dinner as the one we have
recorded was a task that required no little exertion and calculation.
Notwithstanding several of the small game had nestled in the pocket of
Captain Lawton's man, and even the assistant of Dr. Sitgreaves had
calculated the uncertainty of his remaining long in such good quarters,
still there was more left unconsumed than the prudent Miss Peyton knew
how to dispose of to advantage. Caesar and his mistress had, therefore,
a long and confidential communication on this important business; and
the consequence was, that Colonel Wellmere was left to the hospitality
of Sarah Wharton. All the ordinary topics of conversation were
exhausted, when the colonel, with a little of the uneasiness that is in
some degree inseparable from conscious error, touched lightly on the
transactions of the preceding day.
"We little thought, Miss Wharton, when I first saw this Mr. Dunwoodie in
your house in Queen Street, that he was to be the renowned warrior he
has proved himself," said Wellmere, endeavoring to smile away
"Renowned, when we consider the enemy he overcame," said Sarah, with
consideration for her companion's feelings. "'Twas unfortunate, indeed,
in every respect, that you met with the accident, or doubtless the royal
arms would have triumphed in their usual manner."
"And yet the pleasure of such society as this accident has introduced me
to, would more than repay the pain of a mortified spirit and wounded
body," added the colonel, in a manner of peculiar softness.
"I hope the latter is but trifling," said Sarah, stooping to hide her
blushes under the pretext of biting a thread from the work on her knee.
"Trifling, indeed, compared to the former," returned the colonel, in the
same manner. "Ah! Miss Wharton, it is in such moments that we feel the
full value of friendship and sympathy."
Those who have never tried it cannot easily imagine what a rapid
progress a warm-hearted female can make in love, in the short space of
half an hour, particularly where there is a predisposition to the
distemper. Sarah found the conversation, when it began to touch on
friendship and sympathy, too interesting to venture her voice with a
reply. She, however, turned her eyes on the colonel, and saw him gazing
at her fine face with an admiration that was quite as manifest, and much
more soothing, than any words could make it.
Their tête-à-tête was uninterrupted for an hour; and although nothing
that would be called decided, by an experienced matron, was said by the
gentleman, he uttered a thousand things that delighted his companion,
who retired to her rest with a lighter heart than she had felt since the
arrest of her brother by the Americans.
And let me the canakin clink, clink,
And let me the canakin clink.
A soldier's a man;
A life's but a span;
Why, then, let a soldier drink.
The position held by the corps of dragoons, we have already said, was a
favorite place of halting with their commander. A cluster of some half
dozen small and dilapidated buildings formed what, from the circumstance
of two roads intersecting each other at right angles, was called the
village of the Four Corners. As usual, one of the most imposing of these
edifices had been termed, in the language of the day, "a house of
entertainment for man and beast." On a rough board suspended from the
gallows-looking post that had supported the ancient sign, was, however,
written in red chalk, "Elizabeth Flanagan, her hotel," an ebullition of
the wit of some of the idle wags of the corps. The matron, whose name
had thus been exalted to an office of such unexpected dignity,
ordinarily discharged the duties of a female sutler, washerwoman, and,
to use the language of Katy Haynes, petticoat doctor to the troops. She
was the widow of a soldier who had been killed in the service, and who,
like herself, was a native of a distant island, and had early tried his
fortune in the colonies of North America. She constantly migrated with
the troops; and it was seldom that they became stationary for two days
at a time but the little cart of the bustling woman was seen driving
into the encampment loaded with such articles as she conceived would
make her presence most welcome. With a celerity that seemed almost
supernatural, Betty took up her ground and commenced her occupation.
Sometimes the cart itself was her shop; at others the soldiers made her
a rude shelter of such materials as offered; but on the present
occasion she had seized on a vacant building, and, by dint of stuffing
the dirty breeches and half-dried linen of the troopers into the broken
windows, to exclude the cold, which had now become severe, she formed
what she herself had pronounced to be "most illigant lodgings." The men
were quartered in the adjacent barns, and the officers collected in the
"Hotel Flanagan," as they facetiously called headquarters. Betty was
well known to every trooper in the corps, could call each by his
Christian or nickname, as best suited her fancy; and, although
absolutely intolerable to all whom habit had not made familiar with her
virtues, was a general favorite with these partisan warriors. Her faults
were, a trifling love of liquor, excessive filthiness, and a total
disregard of all the decencies of language; her virtues, an unbounded
love for her adopted country, perfect honesty when dealing on certain
known principles with the soldiery, and great good nature. Added to
these, Betty had the merit of being the inventor of that beverage which
is so well known, at the present hour, to all the patriots who make a
winter's march between the commercial and political capitals of this
great state, and which is distinguished by the name of "cocktail."
Elizabeth Flanagan was peculiarly well qualified, by education and
circumstances, to perfect this improvement in liquors, having been
literally brought up on its principal ingredient, and having acquired
from her Virginian customers the use of mint, from its flavor in a julep
to its height of renown in the article in question. Such, then, was the
mistress of the mansion, who, reckless of the cold northern blasts,
showed her blooming face from the door of the building to welcome the
arrival of her favorite, Captain Lawton, and his companion, her master
in matters of surgery.
"Ah! by my hopes of promotion, my gentle Elizabeth, but you are
welcome!" cried the trooper, as he threw himself from his saddle. "This
villainous fresh-water gas from the Canadas has been whistling among my
bones till they ache with the cold, but the sight of your fiery
countenance is as cheery as a Christmas fire."
"Now sure, Captain Jack, ye's always full of your complimentaries,"
replied the sutler, taking the bridle of her customer. "But hurry in for
the life of you, darling; the fences hereabouts are not so strong as in
the Highlands, and there's that within will warm both sowl and body."
"So you have been laying the rails under contribution, I see. Well, that
may do for the body," said the captain coolly; "but I have had a pull at
a bottle of cut glass with a silver stand, and I doubt my relish for
your whisky for a month to come."
"If it's silver or goold that ye're thinking of, it's but little I have,
though I've a trifling bit of the continental," said Betty, with a look
of humor; "but there's that within that's fit to be put in vissils of
"What can she mean, Archibald?" asked Lawton. "The animal looks as if it
meant more than it says!"
"'Tis probably a wandering of the reasoning powers, created by the
frequency of intoxicating drafts," observed the surgeon, as he
deliberately threw his left leg over the pommel of the saddle, and slid
down on the right side of his horse.
"Faith, my dear jewel of a doctor, but it was this side I was expicting
you; the whole corps come down on this side but yeerself," said Betty,
winking at the trooper; "but I've been feeding the wounded, in yeer
absence, with the fat of the land."
"Barbarous stupidity!" cried the panic-stricken physician, "to feed men
laboring under the excitement of fever with powerful nutriment. Woman,
woman, you are enough to defeat the skill of Hippocrates!"
"Pooh!" said Betty, with infinite composure, "what a botheration ye make
about a little whisky; there was but a gallon betwixt a good dozen of
them, and I gave it to the boys to make them sleep asy; sure, jist as
Lawton and his companion now entered the building, and the first
objects which met their eyes explained the hidden meaning of Betty's
comfortable declaration. A long table, made of boards torn from the side
of an outbuilding, was stretched through the middle of the largest
apartment, or the barroom, and on it was a very scanty display of
crockery ware. The steams of cookery arose from an adjoining kitchen,
but the principal attraction was in a demijohn of fair proportions,
which had been ostentatiously placed on high by Betty as the object most
worthy of notice. Lawton soon learned that it was teeming with the real
amber-colored juice of the grape, and had been sent from the Locusts, as
an offering to Major Dunwoodie, from his friend Captain Wharton of the
"And a royal gift it is," said the grinning subaltern, who made the
explanation. "The major gives us an entertainment in honor of our
victory, and you see the principal expense is borne as it should be, by
the enemy. Zounds! I am thinking that after we have primed with such
stuff, we could charge through Sir Henry's headquarters, and carry off
the knight himself."
The captain of dragoons was in no manner displeased at the prospect of
terminating so pleasantly a day that had been so agreeably commenced. He
was soon surrounded by his comrades, who made many eager inquiries
concerning his adventures, while the surgeon proceeded, with certain
quakings of the heart, to examine into the state of his wounded.
Enormous fires were snapping in the chimneys of the house, superseding
the necessity of candles, by the bright light which was thrown from the
blazing piles. The group within were all young men and tried soldiers;
in number they were rather more than a dozen, and their manners and
conversation were a strange mixture of the bluntness of the partisan
with the manners of gentlemen. Their dresses were neat, though plain;
and a never-failing topic amongst them was the performance and quality
of their horses. Some were endeavoring to sleep on the benches which
lined the walls, some were walking the apartments, and others were
seated in earnest discussion on subjects connected with the business of
their lives. Occasionally, as the door of the kitchen opened, the
hissing sounds of the frying pans and the inviting savor of the food
created a stagnation in all other employments; even the sleepers, at
such moments, would open their eyes, and raise their heads, to
reconnoiter the state of the preparations. All this time Dunwoodie sat
by himself, gazing at the fire, and lost in reflections which none of
his officers presumed to disturb. He had made earnest inquiries of
Sitgreaves after the condition of Singleton, during which a profound and
respectful silence was maintained in the room; but as soon as he had
ended, and resumed his seat, the usual ease and freedom prevailed.
The arrangement of the table was a matter of but little concern to Mrs.
Flanagan; and Caesar would have been sadly scandalized at witnessing the
informality with which various dishes, each bearing a wonderful
resemblance to the others, were placed before so many gentlemen of
consideration. In taking their places at the board, the strictest
attention was paid to precedency; for, notwithstanding the freedom of
manners which prevailed in the corps, the points of military etiquette
were at all times observed, with something approaching to religious
veneration. Most of the guests had been fasting too long to be in any
degree fastidious in their appetites; but the case was different with
Captain Lawton; he felt an unaccountable loathing at the exhibition of
Betty's food, and could not refrain from making a few passing comments
on the condition of the knives, and the clouded aspect of the plates.
The good nature and the personal affection of Betty for the offender,
restrained her, for some time, from answering his innuendoes, until
Lawton, having ventured to admit a piece of the black meat into his
mouth, inquired, with the affectation of a spoiled child,--
"What kind of animal might this have been when living, Mrs. Flanagan?"
"Sure, captain, and wasn't it the ould cow?" replied the sutler, with a
warmth that proceeded partly from dissatisfaction at the complaints of
her favorite, and partly from grief at the loss of the deceased.
"What!" roared the trooper, stopping short as he was about to swallow
his morsel, "ancient Jenny!"
"The devil!" cried another, dropping his knife and fork, "she who made
the campaign of the Jerseys with us?"
"The very same," replied the mistress of the hotel, with a piteous
aspect of woe; "a gentle baste, and one that could and did live on less
than air, at need. Sure, gentlemen, 'tis awful to have to eat sitch an
"And has she sunk to this?" said Lawton, pointing with his knife, to the
remnants on the table.
"Nay, captain," said Betty, with spirit, "I sould two of her quarters to
some of your troop; but divil the word did I tell the boys what an ould
frind it was they had bought, for fear it might damage their appetites."
"Fury!" cried the trooper, with affected anger, "I shall have my fellows
as limber as supple-jacks on such fare; afraid of an Englishman as a
Virginian negro is of his driver."
"Well," said Lieutenant Mason, dropping his knife and fork in a kind of
despair, "my jaws have more sympathy than many men's hearts. They
absolutely decline making any impression on the relics of their old
"Try a drop of the gift," said Betty, soothingly, pouring a large
allowance of the wine into a bowl, and drinking it off as taster to the
corps. "Faith, 'tis but a wishy-washy sort of stuff after all!"
The ice once broken, however, a clear glass of wine was handed to
Dunwoodie, who, bowing to his companions, drank the liquor in the midst
of a profound silence. For a few glasses there was much formality
observed, and sundry patriotic toasts and sentiments were duly noticed
by the company. The liquor, however, performed its wonted office; and
before the second sentinel at the door had been relieved, all
recollection of the dinner and their cares was lost in the present
festivity. Dr. Sitgreaves did not return in season to partake of Jenny,
but he was in time to receive his fair proportion of Captain
"A song, a song from Captain Lawton!" cried two or three of the party in
a breath, on observing the failure of some of the points of
good-fellowship in the trooper. "Silence, for the song of
"Gentlemen," returned Lawton, his dark eyes swimming with the bumpers he
had finished, though his head was as impenetrable as a post; "I am not
much of a nightingale, but, under the favor of your good wishes, I
consent to comply with the demand."
"Now, Jack," said Sitgreaves, nodding on his seat, "remember the air I
taught you, and--stop, I have a copy of the words in my pocket."
"Forbear, forbear, good doctor," said the trooper, filling his glass
with great deliberation; "I never could wheel round those hard names.
Gentlemen, I will give you a humble attempt of my own."
"Silence, for Captain Lawton's song!" roared five or six at once; when
the trooper proceeded, in a fine, full tone, to sing the following words
to a well-known bacchanalian air, several of his comrades helping him
through the chorus with a fervor that shook the crazy edifice they
Now push the mug, my jolly boys,
And live, while live we can;
To-morrow's sun may end your joys,
For brief's the hour of man.
And he who bravely meets the foe
His lease of life can never know.
Old mother Flanagan
Come and fill the can again!
For you can fill, and we can swill,
Good Betty Flanagan.
If love of life pervades your breast,
Or love of ease your frame,
Quit honor's path for peaceful rest,
And bear a coward's name;
For soon and late, we danger know,
And fearless on the saddle go.
Old mother, etc.
When foreign foes invade the land,
And wives and sweethearts call,
In freedom's cause we'll bravely stand
Or will as bravely fall;
In this fair home the fates have given
We'll live as lords, or live in heaven.
Old mother, etc.
At each appeal made to herself, by the united voices of the choir, Betty
invariably advanced and complied literally with the request contained in
the chorus, to the infinite delight of the singers, and with no small
participation in the satisfaction on her account. The hostess was
provided with a beverage more suited to the high seasoning to which she
had accustomed her palate, than the tasteless present of Captain
Wharton; by which means Betty had managed, with tolerable facility, to
keep even pace with the exhilaraton of her guests. The applause received
by Captain Lawton was general, with the exception of the surgeon, who
rose from the bench during the first chorus, and paced the floor, in a
flow of classical indignation. The bravos and bravissimos drowned all
other noises for a short time; but as they gradually ceased, the doctor
turned to the musician, and exclaimed with heat,--
"Captain Lawton, I marvel that a gentleman, and a gallant officer, can
find no other subject for his muse, in these times of trial, than in
such beastly invocations to that notorious follower of the camp, the
filthy Elizabeth Flanagan. Methinks the goddess of Liberty could furnish
a more noble inspiration, and the sufferings of your country a more
"Heyday!" shouted the hostess, advancing towards him in a threatening
attitude; "and who is it that calls me filthy? Master Squirt!
"Peace!" said Dunwoodie, in a voice that was exerted but a little more
than common, but which was succeeded by the stillness of death. "Woman,
leave the room. Dr. Sitgreaves, I call you to your seat, to wait the
order of the revels."
"Proceed, proceed," said the surgeon, drawing himself up in an attitude
of dignified composure. "I trust, Major Dunwoodie, I am not unacquainted
with the rules of decorum, nor ignorant of the by-laws of
good-fellowship." Betty made a hasty but somewhat devious retreat to her
own dominions, being unaccustomed to dispute the orders of the
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