James Fenimore Cooper
Part 5 out of 9
"Major Dunwoodie will honor us with a sentimental song," said Lawton,
bowing to his leader, with the collected manner he so well knew how
The major hesitated a moment, and then sang, with fine execution, the
Some love the heats of southern suns,
Where's life's warm current maddening runs,
In one quick circling stream;
But dearer far's the mellow light
Which trembling shines, reflected bright
In Luna's milder beam.
Some love the tulip's gaudier dyes,
Where deepening blue with yellow vies,
And gorgeous beauty glows;
But happier he, whose bridal wreath,
By love entwined, is found to breathe
The sweetness of the rose.
The voice of Dunwoodie never lost its authority with his inferiors; and
the applause which followed his song, though by no means so riotous as
that which succeeded the effort of the captain, was much more
"If, sir," said the doctor, after joining in the plaudits of his
companions, "you would but learn to unite classical allusions with your
delicate imagination you would become a pretty amateur poet."
"He who criticizes ought to be able to perform," said Dunwoodie with a
smile. "I call on Dr. Sitgreaves for a specimen of the style
"Dr. Sitgreaves' song! Dr. Sitgreaves' song!" echoed all at the table
with delight; "a classical ode from Dr. Sitgreaves!"
The surgeon made a complacent bow, took the remnant of his glass, and
gave a few preliminary hems, that served hugely to delight three or four
young cornets at the foot of the table. He then commenced singing, in a
cracked voice, and to anything but a tune, the following ditty:--
Hast thou ever felt love's dart, dearest,
Or breathed his trembling sigh--
Thought him, afar, was ever nearest,
Before that sparkling eye?
Then hast thou known what 'tis to feel
The pain that Galen could not heal.
"Hurrah!" shouted Lawton. "Archibald eclipses the Muses themselves; his
words flow like the sylvan stream by moonlight, and his melody is a
crossbreed of the nightingale and the owl."
"Captain Lawton," cried the exasperated operator, "it is one thing to
despise the lights of classical learning, and another to be despised for
your own ignorance!"
A loud summons at the door of the building created a dead halt in the
uproar, and the dragoons instinctively caught up their arms, to be
prepared for the worst. The door was opened, and the Skinners entered,
dragging in the peddler, bending beneath the load of his pack.
"Which is Captain Lawton?" said the leader of the gang, gazing around
him in some little astonishment.
"He waits your pleasure," said the trooper dryly.
"Then here I deliver to your hands a condemned traitor. This is Harvey
Birch, the peddler spy."
Lawton started as he looked his old acquaintance in the face, and,
turning to the Skinner with a lowering look, he asked,--
"And who are you, sir, that speak so freely of your neighbors? But,"
bowing to Dunwoodie, "your pardon, sir; here is the commanding officer;
to him you will please address yourself."
"No," said the man, sullenly, "it is to you I deliver the peddler, and
from you I claim my reward."
"Are you Harvey Birch?" said Dunwoodie, advancing with an air of
authority that instantly drove the Skinner to a corner of the room.
"I am," said Birch, proudly.
"And a traitor to your country," continued the major, with sternness.
"Do you know that I should be justified in ordering your execution
"'Tis not the will of God to call a soul so hastily to His presence,"
said the peddler with solemnity.
"You speak truth," said Dunwoodie; "and a few brief hours shall be added
to your life. But as your offense is most odious to a soldier, so it
will be sure to meet with the soldier's vengeance. You die to-morrow."
"'Tis as God wills."
"I have spent many a good hour to entrap the villain," said the Skinner,
advancing a little from his corner, "and I hope you will give me a
certificate that will entitle us to the reward; 'twas promised to be
paid in gold."
"Major Dunwoodie," said the officer of the day, entering the room, "the
patrols report a house to be burned near yesterday's battle ground."
"'Twas the hut of the peddler," muttered the leader of the gang. "We
have not left him a shingle for shelter; I should have burned it months
ago, but I wanted his shed for a trap to catch the sly fox in."
"You seem a most ingenious patriot," said Lawton. "Major Dunwoodie, I
second the request of this worthy gentleman, and crave the office of
bestowing the reward on him and his fellows."
"Take it; and you, miserable man, prepare for that fate which will
surely befall you before the setting of to-morrow's sun."
"Life offers but little to tempt me with," said Harvey, slowly raising
his eyes, and gazing wildly at the strange faces in the apartment.
"Come, worthy children of America!" said Lawton, "follow, and receive
The gang eagerly accepted the invitation, and followed the captain
towards the quarters assigned to his troop. Dunwoodie paused a moment,
from reluctance to triumph over a fallen foe, before he proceeded.
"You have already been tried, Harvey Birch; and the truth has proved you
to be an enemy too dangerous to the liberties of America to be
suffered to live."
"The truth!" echoed the peddler, starting, and raising himself in a
manner that disregarded the weight of his pack.
"Aye! the truth; you are charged with loitering near the continental
army, to gain intelligence of its movements, and, by communicating them
to the enemy, to enable him to frustrate the intentions of Washington."
"Will Washington say so, think you?"
"Doubtless he would; even the justice of Washington condemns you."
"No, no, no," cried the peddler, in a voice and with a manner that
startled Dunwoodie. "Washington can see beyond the hollow views of
pretended patriots. Has he not risked his all on the cast of a die? If a
gallows is ready for me, was there not one for him also? No, no, no,
no--Washington would never say, 'Lead him to a gallows.'"
"Have you anything, wretched man, to urge to the commander in chief why
you should not die?" said the major, recovering from the surprise
created by the manner of the other.
Birch trembled, for violent emotions were contending in his bosom. His
face assumed the ghastly paleness of death, and his hand drew a box of
tin from the folds of his shirt; he opened it, showing by the act that
it contained a small piece of paper. On this document his eye was for an
instant fixed--he had already held it towards Dunwoodie, when suddenly
withdrawing his hand he exclaimed,--
"No--it dies with me. I know the conditions of my service, and will not
purchase life with their forfeiture--it dies with me."
"Deliver that paper, and you may possibly find favor," cried Dunwoodie,
expecting a discovery of importance to the cause.
"It dies with me," repeated Birch, a flush passing over his pallid
features, and lighting them with extraordinary brilliancy.
"Seize the traitor!" cried the major, "and wrest the secret from his
The order was immediately obeyed; but the movements of the peddler were
too quick; in an instant he swallowed the paper. The officers paused in
astonishment; but the surgeon cried eagerly,--
"Hold him, while I administer an emetic."
"Forbear!" said Dunwoodie, beckoning him back with his hand. "If his
crime is great, so will his punishment be heavy."
"Lead on," cried the peddler, dropping his pack from his shoulders, and
advancing towards the door with a manner of incomprehensible dignity.
"Whither?" asked Dunwoodie, in amazement.
"To the gallows."
"No," said the major, recoiling in horror at his own justice. "My duty
requires that I order you to be executed, but surely not so hastily;
take until nine to-morrow to prepare for the awful change."
Dunwoodie whispered his orders in the ear of a subaltern, and motioned
to the peddler to withdraw. The interruption caused by this scene
prevented further enjoyment around the table, and the officers dispersed
to their several places of rest. In a short time the only noise to be
heard was the heavy tread of the sentinel, as he paced the frozen ground
in front of the Hotel Flanagan.
There are, whose changing lineaments
Express each guileless passion of the breast;
Where Love, and Hope, and tender-hearted Pity
Are seen reflected, as from a mirror's face;
But cold experience can veil these hues
With looks, invented shrewdly to encompass
The cunning purposes of base deceit.
The officer to whose keeping Dunwoodie had committed the peddler
transferred his charge to the custody of the regular sergeant of the
guard. The gift of Captain Wharton had not been lost on the youthful
lieutenant; and a certain dancing motion that had taken possession of
objects before his eyes, gave him warning of the necessity of recruiting
nature by sleep. After admonishing the noncommissioned guardian of
Harvey to omit no watchfulness in securing the prisoner, the youth
wrapped himself in his cloak, and, stretched on a bench before a fire,
soon found the repose he needed. A rude shed extended the whole length
of the rear of the building, and from off one of its ends had been
partitioned a small apartment, that was intended as a repository for
many of the lesser implements of husbandry. The lawless times had,
however, occasioned its being stripped of everything of value; and the
searching eyes of Betty Flanagan selected this spot, on her arrival, as
the storehouse for her movables and a sanctuary for her person. The
spare arms and baggage of the corps had also been deposited here; and
the united treasures were placed under the eye of the sentinel who
paraded the shed as a guardian of the rear of the headquarters. A second
soldier, who was stationed near the house to protect the horses of the
officers, could command a view of the outside of the apartment; and, as
it was without window or outlet of any kind, excepting its door, the
considerate sergeant thought this the most befitting place in which to
deposit his prisoner until the moment of his execution. Several
inducements urged Sergeant Hollister to this determination, among which
was the absence of the washerwoman, who lay before the kitchen fire,
dreaming that the corps was attacking a party of the enemy, and
mistaking the noise that proceeded from her own nose for the bugles of
the Virginians sounding the charge. Another was the peculiar opinions
that the veteran entertained of life and death, and by which he was
distinguished in the corps as a man of most exemplary piety and holiness
of life. The sergeant was more than fifty years of age, and for half
that period he had borne arms. The constant recurrence of sudden deaths
before his eyes had produced an effect on him differing greatly from
that which was the usual moral consequence of such scenes; and he had
become not only the most steady, but the most trustworthy soldier in his
troop. Captain Lawton had rewarded his fidelity by making him
Followed by Birch, the sergeant proceeded in silence to the door of the
intended prison, and, throwing it open with one hand, he held a lantern
with the other to light the peddler to his prison. Seating himself on a
cask, that contained some of Betty's favorite beverage, the sergeant
motioned to Birch to occupy another, in the same manner. The lantern was
placed on the floor, when the dragoon, after looking his prisoner
steadily in the face, observed,--
"You look as if you would meet death like a man; and I have brought you
to a spot where you can tranquilly arrange your thoughts, and be quiet
"'Tis a fearful place to prepare for the last change in," said Harvey,
gazing around his little prison with a vacant eye.
"Why, for the matter of that," returned the veteran, "it can reckon but
little in the great account, where a man parades his thoughts for the
last review, so that he finds them fit to pass the muster of another
world. I have a small book here, which I make it a point to read a
little in, whenever we are about to engage, and I find it a great
strengthener in time of need." While speaking, he took a Bible from his
pocket, and offered it to the peddler. Birch received the volume with
habitual reverence; but there was an abstracted air about him, and a
wandering of the eye, that induced his companion to think that alarm was
getting the mastery of the peddler's feelings; accordingly, he proceeded
in what he conceived to be the offices of consolation.
"If anything lies heavy on your mind, now is the best time to get rid of
it--if you have done any wrong to anyone, I promise you, on the word of
an honest dragoon, to lend you a helping hand to see them righted."
"There are few who have not done so," said the peddler, turning his
vacant gaze once more on his companion.
"True--'tis natural to sin; but it sometimes happens that a man does
what at other times he may be sorry for. One would not wish to die with
any very heavy sin on his conscience, after all."
Harvey had by this time thoroughly examined the place in which he was to
pass the night, and saw no means of escape. But as hope is ever the last
feeling to desert the human breast, the peddler gave the dragoon more of
his attention, fixing on his sunburned features such searching looks,
that Sergeant Hollister lowered his eyes before the wild expression
which he met in the gaze of his prisoner.
"I have been taught to lay the burden of my sins at the feet of my
Savior," replied the peddler.
"Why, yes--all that is well enough," returned the other. "But justice
should be done while there is opportunity. There have been stirring
times in this country since the war began, and many have been deprived
of their rightful goods I oftentimes find it hard to reconcile even my
lawful plunder to a tender conscience."
"These hands," said the peddler, stretching forth his meager, bony
fingers, "have spent years in toil, but not a moment in pilfering."
"It is well that it is so," said the honest-hearted soldier, "and, no
doubt, you now feel it a great consolation. There are three great sins,
that, if a man can keep his conscience clear of, why, by the mercy of
God, he may hope to pass muster with the saints in heaven: they are
stealing, murdering, and desertion."
"Thank God!" said Birch, with fervor, "I have never yet taken the life
of a fellow creature."
"As to killing a man in lawful battle, that is no more than doing one's
duty. If the cause is wrong, the sin of such a deed, you know, falls on
the nation, and a man receives his punishment here with the rest of the
people; but murdering in cold blood stands next to desertion as a crime
in the eye of God."
"I never was a soldier, therefore never could desert," said the peddler,
resting his face on his hand in a melancholy attitude.
"Why, desertion consists of more than quitting your colors, though that
is certainly the worst kind; a man may desert his country in the hour
Birch buried his face in both his hands, and his whole frame shook; the
sergeant regarded him closely, but good feelings soon got the better of
his antipathies, and he continued more mildly,--
"But still that is a sin which I think may be forgiven, if sincerely
repented of; and it matters but little when or how a man dies, so that
he dies like a Christian and a man. I recommend you to say your prayers,
and then to get some rest, in order that you may do both. There is no
hope of your being pardoned; for Colonel Singleton has sent down the
most positive orders to take your life whenever we met you. No,
no--nothing can save you."
"You say the truth," cried Birch. "It is now too late--I have destroyed
my only safeguard. But _he_ will do my memory justice at least."
"What safeguard?" asked the sergeant, with awakened curiosity.
"'Tis nothing," replied the peddler, recovering his natural manner, and
lowering his face to avoid the earnest looks of his companion.
"And who is he?"
"No one," added Harvey, anxious to say no more.
"Nothing and no one can avail but little now," said the sergeant, rising
to go. "Lay yourself on the blanket of Mrs. Flanagan, and get a little
sleep; I will call you betimes in the morning; and from the bottom of my
soul I wish I could be of some service to you, for I dislike greatly to
see a man hung up like a dog."
"Then _you_ might save me from this ignominious death," said Birch,
springing to his feet, and catching the dragoon by the arm. "And, oh!
what will I not give you in reward!"
"In what manner?" asked the sergeant, looking at him in surprise.
"See," said the peddler, producing several guineas from his person;
"these are nothing to what I will give you, if you will assist me
"Were you the man whose picture is on the gold, I would not listen to
such a crime," said the trooper, throwing the money on the floor with
contempt. "Go--go, poor wretch, and make your peace with God; for it is
He only that can be of service to you now."
The sergeant took up the lantern, and, with some indignation in his
manner, he left the peddler to sorrowful meditations on his approaching
fate. Birch sank, in momentary despair, on the pallet of Betty, while
his guardian proceeded to give the necessary instructions to the
sentinels for his safe-keeping.
Hollister concluded his injunctions to the man in the shed, by saying,
"Your life will depend on his not escaping. Let none enter or quit the
room till morning."
"But," said the trooper, "my orders are, to let the washerwoman pass in
and out, as she pleases."
"Well, let her then; but be careful that this wily peddler does not get
out in the folds of her petticoats." He then continued his walk, giving
similar orders to each of the sentinels near the spot.
For some time after the departure of the sergeant, silence prevailed
within the solitary prison of the peddler, until the dragoon at his door
heard his loud breathings, which soon rose into the regular cadence of
one in a deep sleep. The man continued walking his post, musing on an
indifference to life which could allow nature its customary rest, even
on the threshold of the grave. Harvey Birch had, however, been a name
too long held in detestation by every man in the corps, to suffer any
feelings of commiseration to mingle with these reflections of the
sentinel; for, notwithstanding the consideration and kindness manifested
by the sergeant, there probably was not another man of his rank in the
whole party who would have discovered equal benevolence to the prisoner,
or who would not have imitated the veteran in rejecting the bribe,
although probably from a less worthy motive. There was something of
disappointed vengeance in the feelings of the man who watched the door
of the room on finding his prisoner enjoying a sleep of which he himself
was deprived, and at his exhibiting such obvious indifference to the
utmost penalty that military rigor could inflict on all his treason to
the cause of liberty and America. More than once he felt prompted to
disturb the repose of the peddler by taunts and revilings; but the
discipline he was under, and a secret sense of shame at the brutality of
the act, held him in subjection.
His meditations were, however, soon interrupted by the appearance of
the washerwoman, who came staggering through the door that communicated
with the kitchen, muttering execrations against the servants of the
officers, who, by their waggery, had disturbed her slumbers before the
fire. The sentinel understood enough of her maledictions to comprehend
the case; but all his efforts to enter into conversation with the
enraged woman were useless, and he suffered her to enter her room
without explaining that it contained another inmate. The noise of her
huge frame falling on the bed was succeeded by a silence that was soon
interrupted by the renewed respiration of the peddler, and within a few
minutes Harvey continued to breathe aloud, as if no interruption had
occurred. The relief arrived at this moment.
The sentinel, who felt nettled at the contempt of the peddler, after
communicating his orders, while he was retiring, exclaimed to his
"You may keep yourself warm by dancing, John; the peddler spy has tuned
his fiddle, you hear, and it will not be long before Betty will strike
up, in her turn."
The joke was followed by a general laugh from the party, who marched on
in performance of their duty. At this instant the door of the prison was
opened, and Betty reappeared, staggering back again toward her
"Stop," said the sentinel, catching her by her clothes; "are you sure
the spy is not in your pocket?"
"Can't you hear the rascal snoring in my room, you dirty blackguard?"
sputtered Betty, her whole frame shaking with rage. "And is it so ye
would sarve a dacent famale, that a man must be put to sleep in the room
wid her, ye rapscallion?"
"Pooh! Do you mind a fellow who's to be hanged in the morning? You see
he sleeps already; to-morrow he'll take a longer nap."
"Hands off, ye villain," cried the washerwoman, relinquishing a small
bottle that the trooper had succeeded in wresting from her. "But I'll
go to Captain Jack, and know if it's orders to put a hang-gallows spy in
my room; aye, even in my widowed bed, you tief!"
"Silence, old Jezebel!" said the fellow with a laugh, taking the bottle
from his mouth to breathe, "or you will wake the gentleman. Would you
disturb a man in his last sleep?"
"I'll awake Captain Jack, you reprobate villain, and bring him here to
see me righted; he will punish ye all, for imposing on a dacent widowed
body, you marauder!"
With these words, which only extorted a laugh from the sentinel, Betty
staggered round the end of the building, and made the best of her way
towards the quarters of her favorite, Captain John Lawton, in search of
redress. Neither the officer nor the woman, however, appeared during the
night, and nothing further occurred to disturb the repose of the
peddler, who, to the astonishment of the different sentinels, continued
by his breathing to manifest how little the gallows could affect
A Daniel come to judgment; yea, a Daniel!
O wise young judge, how I do honor thee!
--_Merchant of Venice._
The Skinners followed Captain Lawton with alacrity, towards the quarters
occupied by the troop of that gentleman. The captain of dragoons had on
all occasions manifested so much zeal for the cause in which he was
engaged, was so regardless of personal danger when opposed to the enemy,
and his stature and stern countenance contributed so much to render him
terrific, that these qualities had, in some measure, procured him a
reputation distinct from the corps in which he served. His intrepidity
was mistaken for ferocity; and his hasty zeal, for the natural love of
cruelty. On the other hand, a few acts of clemency, or, more properly
speaking, of discriminating justice, had, with one portion of the
community, acquired for Dunwoodie the character of undue forbearance. It
is seldom that either popular condemnation or popular applause falls,
exactly in the quantities earned, where it is merited.
While in the presence of the major the leader of the gang had felt
himself under that restraint which vice must ever experience in the
company of acknowledged virtue; but having left the house, he at once
conceived that he was under the protection of a congenial spirit. There
was a gravity in the manner of Lawton that deceived most of those who
did not know him intimately; and it was a common saying in his troop,
that "when the captain laughed, he was sure to punish." Drawing near his
conductor, therefore, the leader commenced a confidential dialogue.
"'Tis always well for a man to know his friends from his enemies," said
the half-licensed freebooter.
To this prefatory observation the captain made no other reply than a
sound which the other interpreted into assent.
"I suppose Major Dunwoodie has the good opinion of Washington?"
continued the Skinner, in a tone that rather expressed a doubt than
asked a question.
"There are some who think so."
"Many of the friends of Congress in this county," the man proceeded,
"wish the horse was led by some other officer. For my part, if I could
only be covered by a troop now and then, I could do many an important
piece of service to the cause, to which this capture of the peddler
would be a trifle."
"Indeed! such as what?"
"For the matter of that, it could be made as profitable to the officer
as it would be to us who did it," said the Skinner, with a look of the
most significant meaning.
"But how?" asked Lawton, a little impatiently, and quickening his step
to get out of the hearing of the rest of the party.
"Why, near the royal lines, even under the very guns of the heights,
might be good picking if we had a force to guard us from De Lancey's
[Footnote: The partisan corps called Cowboys in the parlance of the
country, was commanded by Colonel De Lancey. This gentleman, for such he
was by birth and education, rendered himself very odious to the
Americans by his fancied cruelty, though there is no evidence of his
being guilty of any acts unusual in this species of warfare. Colonel De
Lancey belonged to a family of the highest consequence in the American
colonies, his uncle having died in the administration of the government
of that of New York. He should not be confounded with other gentlemen of
his name and family, many of whom served in the royal army. His cousin,
Colonel Oliver De Lancey, was, at the time of our tale, adjutant general
of the British forces in America, having succeeded to the unfortunate
Andre. The Cowboys were sometimes called Refugees, in consequence of
their having taken refuge under the protection of the crown.] men, and
to cover our retreat from being cut off by the way of King's Bridge."
"I thought the Refugees took all that game to themselves."
"They do a little at it; but they are obliged to be sparing among their
own people. I have been down twice, under an agreement with them: the
first time they acted with honor; but the second they came upon us and
drove us off, and took the plunder to themselves."
"That was a very dishonorable act, indeed; I wonder that an honorable
man will associate with such rascals."
"It is necessary to have an understanding with some of them, or we might
be taken; but a man without honor is worse than a brute. Do you think
Major Dunwoodie is to be trusted?"
"You mean on honorable principles?"
"Certainly; you know Arnold was thought well of until the royal major
"Why, I do not believe Dunwoodie would sell his command as Arnold wished
to do; neither do I think him exactly trustworthy in a delicate business
like this of yours."
"That's just my notion," rejoined the Skinner, with a self-approving
manner that showed how much he was satisfied with his own estimate of
By this time they had arrived at a better sort of farmhouse, the very
extensive outbuildings of which were in tolerable repair, for the times.
The barns were occupied by the men of the troop, while the horses were
arranged under the long sheds which protected the yard from the cold
north wind. The latter were quietly eating, with saddles on their backs
and bridles thrown on their necks, ready to be bitted and mounted at the
shortest warning. Lawton excused himself for a moment, and entered his
quarters. He soon returned, holding in his hand one of the common,
stable lanterns, and led the way towards a large orchard that surrounded
the buildings on three sides. The gang followed the trooper in silence,
believing his object to be facility of communicating further on this
interesting topic, without the danger of being overheard.
Approaching the captain, the Skinner renewed the discourse, with a view
of establishing further confidence, and of giving his companion a more
favorable opinion of his own intellects.
"Do you think the colonies will finally get the better of the king?" he
inquired, with a little of the importance of a politician.
"Get the better!" echoed the captain with impetuosity. Then checking
himself, he continued, "No doubt they will. If the French will give us
arms and money, we will drive out the royal troops in six months."
"Well, so I hope we shall soon; and then we shall have a free
government, and we, who fight for it, will get our reward."
"Oh!" cried Lawton, "your claims will be indisputable; while all these
vile Tories who live at home peaceably, to take care of their farms,
will be held in the contempt they merit. You have no farm, I suppose?"
"Not yet--but it will go hard if I do not find one before the peace is
"Right; study your own interests, and you study the interests of your
country; press the point of your own services, and rail at the Tories,
and I'll bet my spurs against a rusty nail that you get to be a county
clerk at least."
"Don't you think Paulding's [Footnote: The author must have intended
some allusion to an individual, which is too local to be understood by
the general reader. Andre, as is well known, was arrested by three
countrymen, who were on the lookout for predatory parties of the enemy;
the principal man of this party was named Paulding. The disinterested
manner in which they refused the offers of their captive is matter of
history.] party were fools in not letting the royal adjutant general
escape?" said the man, thrown off his guard by the freedom of the
"Fools!" cried Lawton, with a bitter laugh. "Aye, fools indeed; King
George would have paid them better, for he is richer. He would have made
them gentlemen for their losses. But, thank God! there is a pervading
spirit in the people that seems miraculous. Men who have nothing, act as
if the wealth of the Indies depended on their fidelity; all are not
villains like yourself, or we should have been slaves to England
"How!" exclaimed the Skinner, starting back, and dropping his musket to
the level of the other's breast; "am I betrayed, and are you my enemy?"
"Miscreant!" shouted Lawton, his saber ringing in its steel scabbard, as
he struck the musket of the fellow from his hands, "offer but again to
point your gun at me, and I'll cleave you to the middle."
"And you will not pay us, then, Captain Lawton?" said the Skinner,
trembling in every joint, for just then he saw a party of mounted
dragoons silently encircling the whole party.
"Oh! pay you--yes, you shall have the full measure of your reward. There
is the money that Colonel Singleton sent down for the captors of the
spy," throwing a bag of guineas with disdain at the other's feet. "But
ground your arms, you rascals, and see that the money is truly told."
The intimidated band did as they were ordered; and while they were
eagerly employed in this pleasing avocation, a few of Lawton's men
privately knocked the flints out of their muskets.
"Well," cried the impatient captain, "is it right? Have you the promised
"There is just the money," said the leader; "and we will now go to our
homes, with your permission."
"Hold! so much to redeem our promise--now for justice; we pay you for
taking a spy, but we punish you for burning, robbing, and murdering.
Seize them, my lads, and give each of them the law of Moses--forty
This command was given to no unwilling listeners; and in the twinkling
of an eye the Skinners were stripped and fastened, by the halters of the
party, to as many of the apple trees as were necessary to furnish one to
each of the gang. Swords were quickly drawn, and fifty branches were cut
from the trees, like magic; from these were selected a few of the most
supple of the twigs, and a willing dragoon was soon found to wield each
of the weapons. Captain Lawton gave the word, humanely cautioning his
men not to exceed the discipline prescribed by the Mosaic law, and the
uproar of Babel _"_ commenced in the orchard. The cries of the leader
were easily to be distinguished above those of his men; a circumstance
which might be accounted for, by Captain Lawton's reminding his
corrector that he had to deal with an officer, and he should remember
and pay him unusual honor. The flagellation was executed with great
neatness and dispatch, and it was distinguished by no irregularity,
excepting that none of the disciplinarians began to count until they had
tried their whips by a dozen or more blows, by the way, as they said
themselves, of finding out the proper places to strike. As soon as this
summary operation was satisfactorily completed, Lawton directed his men
to leave the Skinners to replace their own clothes, and to mount their
horses; for they were a party who had been detached for the purpose of
patrolling lower down in the county.
"You see, my friend," said the captain to the leader of the Skinners,
after he had prepared himself to depart, "I can cover you to some
purpose, when necessary. If we meet often, you will be covered with
scars, which, if not very honorable, will at least be merited."
The fellow made no reply. He was busy with his musket, and hastening his
comrades to march; when, everything being ready, they proceeded sullenly
towards some rocks at no great distance, which were overhung by a deep
wood. The moon was just rising, and the group of dragoons could easily
be distinguished where they had been left. Suddenly turning, the whole
gang leveled their pieces and drew the triggers. The action was noticed,
and the snapping of the locks was heard by the soldiers, who returned
their futile attempt with a laugh of derision, the captain
"Ah! rascals, I knew you, and have taken away your flints."
"You should have taken away that in my pouch, too," shouted the leader,
firing his gun in the next instant. The bullet grazed the ear of Lawton,
who laughed as he shook his head, saying, "A miss was as good as a
mile." One of the dragoons had seen the preparations of the Skinner--who
had been left alone by the rest of his gang, as soon as they had made
their abortive attempt at revenge--and was in the act of plunging his
spurs into his horse as the fellow fired. The distance to the rocks was
but small, yet the speed of the horse compelled the leader to abandon
both money and musket, to effect his escape. The soldier returned with
his prizes, and offered them to the acceptance of his captain; but
Lawton rejected them, telling the man to retain them himself, until the
rascal appeared in person to claim his property. It would have been a
business of no small difficulty for any tribunal then existing in the
new states to have enforced a restitution of the money; for it was
shortly after most equitably distributed, by the hands of Sergeant
Hollister, among a troop of horse. The patrol departed, and the captain
slowly returned to his quarters, with an intention of retiring to rest.
A figure moving rapidly among the trees, in the direction of the wood
whither the Skinners had retired, caught his eye, and, wheeling on his
heel, the cautious partisan approached it, and, to his astonishment, saw
the washerwoman at that hour of the night, and in such a place.
"What, Betty! Walking in your sleep, or dreaming while awake?" cried the
trooper. "Are you not afraid of meeting with the ghost of ancient Jenny
in this her favorite pasture?"
"Ah, sure, Captain Jack," returned the sutler in her native accent, and
reeling in a manner that made it difficult for her to raise her head,
"it's not Jenny, or her ghost, that I'm saaking, but some yarbs for the
wounded. And it's the vartue of the rising moon, as it jist touches
them, that I want. They grow under yon rocks, and I must hasten, or the
charm will lose its power."
"Fool, you are fitter for your pallet than for wandering among those
rocks; a fall from one of them would break your bones; besides, the
Skinners have fled to those heights, and should you fall in with them,
they would revenge on you a sound flogging they have just received from
me. Better return, old woman, and finish your nap; we march in
Betty disregarded his advice, and continued her devious route to the
hillside. For an instant, as Lawton mentioned the Skinners, she had
paused, but immediately resuming her course, she was soon out of sight,
among the trees.
As the captain entered his quarters, the sentinel at the door inquired
if he had met Mrs. Flanagan, and added that she had passed there,
filling the air with threats against her tormentors at the "Hotel," and
inquiring for the captain in search of redress. Lawton heard the man in
astonishment--appeared struck with a new idea--walked several yards
towards the orchard, and returned again; for several minutes he paced
rapidly to and fro before the door of the house, and then hastily
entering it, he threw himself on a bed in his clothes, and was soon in a
In the meantime, the gang of marauders had successfully gained the
summit of the rocks, and, scattering in every direction, they buried
themselves in the depths of the wood. Finding, however, there was no
pursuit, which indeed would have been impracticable for horse, the
leader ventured to call his band together with a whistle, and in a short
time he succeeded in collecting his discomfited party, at a point where
they had but little to apprehend from any enemy.
"Well," said one of the fellows, while a fire was lighting to protect
them against the air, which was becoming severely cold, "there is an end
to our business in Westchester. The Virginia horse will make the county
too hot to hold us."
"I'll have his blood," muttered the leader, "if I die for it the next
"Oh, you are very valiant here, in the wood," cried the other, with a
savage laugh. "Why did you, who boast so much of your aim, miss your
man, at thirty yards?"
"'Twas the horseman that disturbed me, or I would have ended this
Captain Lawton on the spot; besides, the cold had set me a-shivering,
and I had no longer a steady hand."
"Say it was fear, and you will tell no lie," said his comrade with a
sneer. "For my part, I think I shall never be cold again; my back burns
as if a thousand gridirons were laid on it."
"And you would tamely submit to such usage, and kiss the rod that beat
"As for kissing the rod, it would be no easy matter. Mine was broken
into so small pieces, on my own shoulders, that it would be difficult to
find one big enough to kiss; but I would rather submit to lose half my
skin, than to lose the whole of it, with my ears in the bargain. And
such will be our fates, if we tempt this mad Virginian again. God
willing, I would at any time give him enough of my hide to make a pair
of jack boots, to get out of his hands with the remainder. If you had
known when you were well off, you would have stuck to Major Dunwoodie,
who don't know half so much of our evil doings."
"Silence, you talking fool!" shouted the enraged leader; "your prating
is sufficient to drive a man mad. Is it not enough to be robbed and
beaten, but we must be tormented with your folly? Help to get out the
provisions, if any is left in the wallet, and try and stop your mouth
This injunction was obeyed, and the whole party, amidst sundry groans
and contortions, excited by the disordered state of their backs, made
their arrangements for a scanty meal. A large fire of dry wood was
burning in the cleft of a rock, and at length they began to recover from
the confusion of their flight, and to collect their scattered senses.
Their hunger being appeased, and many of their garments thrown aside for
the better opportunity of dressing their wounds, the gang began to plot
measures of revenge. An hour was spent in this manner, and various
expedients were proposed; but as they all depended on personal prowess
for their success, and were attended by great danger, they were of
course rejected. There was no possibility of approaching the troops by
surprise, their vigilance being ever on the watch; and the hope of
meeting Captain Lawton away from his men, was equally forlorn, for the
trooper was constantly engaged in his duty, and his movements were so
rapid, that any opportunity of meeting with him, at all, must depend
greatly on accident. Besides, it was by no means certain that such an
interview would result happily for themselves. The cunning of the
trooper was notorious; and rough and broken as was Westchester, the
fearless partisan was known to take desperate leaps, and stone walls
were but slight impediments to the charges of the Southern horse.
Gradually, the conversation took another direction, until the gang
determined on a plan which should both revenge themselves, and at the
same time offer some additional stimulus to their exertions. The whole
business was accurately discussed, the time fixed, and the manner
adopted; in short, nothing was wanting to the previous arrangement for
this deed of villainy, when they were aroused by a voice
"This way, Captain Jack--here are the rascals 'ating by a fire--this
way, and murder the t'ieves where they sit--quick, l'ave your horses
and shoot your pistols!"
This terrific summons was enough to disturb all the philosophy of the
gang. Springing on their feet, they rushed deeper into the wood, and
having already agreed upon a place of rendezvous previously to their
intended expedition, they dispersed towards the four quarters of the
heavens. Certain sounds and different voices were heard calling on each
other, but as the marauders were well trained to speed of foot, they
were soon lost in the distance.
It was not long before Betty Flanagan emerged from the darkness, and
very coolly took possession of what the Skinners had left behind them;
namely, food and divers articles of dress. The washerwoman deliberately
seated herself, and made a meal with great apparent satisfaction. For an
hour, she sat with her head upon her hand, in deep musing; then she
gathered together such articles of the clothes, as seemed to suit her
fancy, and retired into the wood, leaving the fire to throw its
glimmering light on the adjacent rocks, until its last brand died away,
and the place was abandoned to solitude and darkness.
No longer then perplex the breast--
When thoughts torment, the first are best;
'Tis mad to go, 'tis death to stay!
Away, to Orra, haste away.
--Lapland Love Song.
While his comrades were sleeping, in perfect forgetfulness of their
hardships and dangers, the slumbers of Dunwoodie were broken and
unquiet. After spending a night of restlessness, he arose, unrefreshed,
from the rude bed where he had thrown himself in his clothes, and,
without awaking any of the group around him, he wandered into the open
air in search of relief. The soft rays of the moon were just passing
away in the more distinct light of the morning; the wind had fallen, and
the rising mists gave the promise of another of those autumnal days,
which, in this unstable climate, succeed a tempest with the rapid
transitions of magic. The hour had not yet arrived when he intended
moving from his present position; and, willing to allow his warriors all
the refreshment that circumstances would permit, he strolled towards the
scene of the Skinners' punishment, musing upon the embarrassments of his
situation, and uncertain how he should reconcile his sense of duty with
his love. Although Dunwoodie himself placed the most implicit reliance
on the captain's purity of intention, he was by no means assured that a
board of officers would be equally credulous; and, independently of all
feelings of private regard, he felt certain that with the execution of
Henry would be destroyed all hopes of a union with his sister. He had
dispatched an officer, the preceding evening, to Colonel Singleton, who
was in command of the advance posts, reporting the capture of the
British captain, and, after giving his own opinion of his innocence,
requesting orders as to the manner in which he was to dispose of his
prisoner. These orders might be expected every hour, and his uneasiness
increased, in proportion as the moment approached when his friend might
be removed from his protection. In this disturbed state of mind, the
major wandered through the orchard, and was stopped in his walk by
arriving at the base of those rocks which had protected the Skinners in
their flight, before he was conscious whither his steps had carried him.
He was about to turn, and retrace his path to his quarters, when he was
startled by a voice, bidding him,--
"Stand or die!"
Dunwoodie turned in amazement, and beheld the figure of a man placed at
a little distance above him on a shelving rock, with a musket leveled at
himself. The light was not yet sufficiently powerful to reach the
recesses of that gloomy spot, and a second look was necessary before he
discovered, to his astonishment, that the peddler stood before him.
Comprehending, in an instant, the danger of his situation, and
disdaining to implore mercy or to retreat, had the latter been possible,
the youth cried firmly,--
"If I am to be murdered, fire! I will never become your prisoner."
"No, Major Dunwoodie," said Birch, lowering his musket, "it is neither
my intention to capture nor to slay."
"What then would you have, mysterious being?" said Dunwoodie, hardly
able to persuade himself that the form he saw was not a creature of the
"Your good opinion," answered the peddler, with emotion. "I would wish
all good men to judge me with lenity."
"To you it must be indifferent what may be the judgment of men; for you
seem to be beyond the reach of their sentence."
"God spares the lives of His servants to His own time," said the
peddler, solemnly. "A few hours ago I was your prisoner, and threatened
with the gallows; now you are mine; but, Major Dunwoodie, you are free.
There are men abroad who would treat you less kindly. Of what service
would that sword be to you against my weapon and a steady hand? Take
the advice of one who has never harmed you, and who never will. Do not
trust yourself in the skirts of any wood, unless in company
"And have you comrades, who have assisted you to escape, and who are
less generous than yourself?"
"No--no, I am alone truly--none know me but my God and _him._"
"And who?" asked the major, with an interest he could not control.
"None," continued the peddler, recovering his composure. "But such is
not your case, Major Dunwoodie; you are young and happy; there are those
that are dear to you, and such are not far away--danger is near them you
love most--danger within and without--double your watchfulness--
strengthen your patrols--and be silent. With your opinion of me, should
I tell you more, you would suspect an ambush. But remember and guard
them you love best."
The peddler discharged the musket in the air, and threw it at the feet
of his astonished auditor. When surprise and the smoke allowed Dunwoodie
to look again on the rock where he had stood, the spot was vacant.
The youth was aroused from the stupor, which had been created by this
strange scene, by the trampling of horses, and the sound of the bugles.
A patrol was drawn to the spot by the report of the musket, and the
alarm had been given to the corps. Without entering into any explanation
with his men, the major returned quickly to his quarters, where he found
the whole squadron under arms, in battle array, impatiently awaiting the
appearance of their leader. The officer whose duty it was to superintend
such matters, had directed a party to lower the sign of the Hotel
Flanagan, and the post was already arranged for the execution of the
spy. On hearing from the major that the musket was discharged by
himself, and was probably one of those dropped by the Skinners (for by
this time Dunwoodie had learned the punishment inflicted by Lawton, but
chose to conceal his own interview with Birch), his officers suggested
the propriety of executing their prisoner before they marched. Unable to
believe that all he had seen was not a dream, Dunwoodie, followed by
many of his officers, and preceded by Sergeant Hollister, went to the
place which was supposed to contain the peddler.
"Well, sir," said the major to the sentinel who guarded the door, "I
trust you have your prisoner in safety."
"He is yet asleep," replied the man, "and he makes such a noise, I could
hardly hear the bugles sound the alarm."
"Open the door and bring him forth."
The order was obeyed; but to the utter amazement of the honest veteran
who entered the prison, he found the room in no little disorder--the
coat of the peddler where his body ought to have been, and part of the
wardrobe of Betty scattered in disorder on the floor. The washerwoman
herself occupied the pallet, in profound mental oblivion, clad as when
last seen, excepting a little black bonnet, which she so constantly
wore, that it was commonly thought she made it perform the double duty
of both day and night cap. The noise of their entrance, and the
exclamations of their party, awoke the woman.
"Is it the breakfast that's wanting?" said Betty, rubbing her eyes.
"Faith, ye look as if ye would ate myself--but patience, a little,
darlings, and ye'll see sich a fry as never was."
"Fry!" echoed the sergeant, forgetful of his religious philosophy, and
the presence of his officers. "We'll have you roasted, Jezebel!--you've
helped that damned peddler to escape."
"Jezebel back ag'in in your own teeth, and damned piddler too, Mr.
Sargeant!" cried Betty, who was easily roused. "What have I to do with
piddlers, or escapes? I might have been a piddler's lady, and wore my
silks, if I'd had Sawny M'Twill, instead of tagging at the heels of a
parcel of dragooning rapscallions, who don't know how to trate a lone
body with dacency."
"The fellow has left my Bible," said the veteran, taking he book from
the floor. "Instead of spending his time in reading it to prepare for
his end like a good Christian, he has been busy in laboring to escape."
"And who would stay and be hanged like a dog?" cried Betty, beginning to
comprehend the case. "'Tisn't everyone that's born to meet with sich an
ind--like yourself, Mr. Hollister."
"Silence!" said Dunwoodie. "This must be inquired into closely,
gentlemen; there is no outlet but the door, and there he could not pass,
unless the sentinel connived at his escape, or was asleep at his post.
Call up the guard."
As these men were not paraded, curiosity had already drawn them to the
place, and they one and all, with the exception of him before mentioned,
denied that any person had passed out. The individual in question
acknowledged that Betty had gone by him, but pleaded his orders in
"You lie, you t'ief--you lie!" shouted Betty, who had impatiently
listened to his exculpation. "Would ye slanderize a lone woman, by
saying she walks a camp at midnight? Here have I been slaping the long
night, swaatly as the sucking babe."
"Here, sir," said the sergeant, turning respectfully to Dunwoodie, "is
something written in my Bible that was not in it before; for having no
family to record, I would not suffer any scribbling in the sacred book."
One of the officers read aloud: "_These certify, that if suffered to get
free, it is by God's help alone, to whose divine aid I humbly riccommind
myself. I'm forced to take the woman's clothes, but in her pocket is a
ricompinse. Witness my hand--Harvey Birch._"
"What!" roared Betty, "has the t'ief robbed a lone woman of her all!
Hang him--catch him and hang him, major; if there's law or justice in
"Examine your pocket," said one of the youngsters, who was enjoying the
scene, careless of the consequences.
"Ah! faith," cried the washerwoman, producing a guinea, "but he is a
jewel of a piddler! Long life and a brisk trade to him, say I; he is
wilcome to the duds--and if he is ever hanged, many a bigger rogue
will go free."
Dunwoodie turned to leave the apartment, and he saw Captain Lawton
standing with folded arms, contemplating the scene with profound
silence. His manner, so different from his usual impetuosity and zeal,
struck his commander as singular. Their eyes met, and they walked
together for a few minutes in close conversation, when Dunwoodie
returned, and dismissed the guard to their place of rendezvous. Sergeant
Hollister, however, continued along with Betty, who, having found none
of her vestments disturbed but such as the guinea more than paid for,
was in high good humor. The washerwoman had for a long time looked on
the veteran with the eyes of affection; and she had determined within
herself to remove certain delicate objections which had long embarrassed
her peculiar situation, as respected the corps, by making the sergeant
the successor of her late husband. For some time past the trooper had
seemed to flatter this preference; and Betty, conceiving that her
violence might have mortified her suitor, was determined to make him all
the amends in her power. Besides, rough and uncouth as she was, the
washerwoman had still enough of her sex to know that the moments of
reconciliation were the moments of power. She therefore poured out a
glass of her morning beverage, and handed it to her companion as a
"A few warm words between fri'nds are a trifle, ye must be knowing,
sargeant," said the washerwoman. "It was Michael Flanagan that I ever
calumn'ated the most when I was loving him the best."
"Michael was a good soldier and a brave man," said the trooper,
finishing the glass. "Our troop was covering the flank of his regiment
when he fell, and I rode over his body myself during the day. Poor
fellow! he lay on his back, and looked as composed as if he had died a
natural death after a year's consumption."
"Oh! Michael was a great consumer, and be sartin; two such as us make
dreadful inroads in the stock, sargeant. But ye're a sober, discrate
man, Mister Hollister, and would be a helpmate indeed."
"Why, Mrs. Flanagan, I've tarried to speak on a subject that lies heavy
at my heart, and I will now open my mind, if you've leisure to listen."
"Is it listen?" cried the impatient woman; "and I'd listen to you,
sargeant, if the officers never ate another mouthful. But take a second
drop, dear; 'twill encourage you to spake freely."
"I am already bold enough in so good a cause," returned the veteran,
rejecting her bounty. "Betty, do you think it was really the peddler spy
that I placed in this room the last night?"
"And who should it be else, darling?"
"The evil one."
"What, the divil?"
"Aye, even Beelzebub, disguised as the peddler; and them fellows we
thought to be Skinners were his imps."
"Well sure, sargeant dear, ye're but little out this time, anyway; for
if the divil's imps go at large in the county Westchester, sure it is
the Skinners, themselves."
"Mrs. Flanagan, I mean in their incarnate spirits; the evil one knew
there was no one we would arrest sooner than the peddler Birch, and he
took on his appearance to gain admission to your room."
"And what should the divil be wanting of me?" cried Betty, tartly. "And
isn't there divils enough in the corps already, without one's coming
from the bottomless pit to frighten a lone body?"
"'Twas in mercy to you, Betty, that he was permitted to come. You see he
vanished through the door in your form, which is a symbol of your fate,
unless you mend your life. Oh! I noticed how he trembled when I gave him
the good book. Would any Christian, think you, my dear Betty, write in a
Bible in this way; unless it might be the matter of births and deaths,
and such lawful chronicles?"
The washerwoman was pleased with the softness of her lover's manner, but
dreadfully scandalized at his insinuation. She, however, preserved her
temper, and with the quickness of her own country's people, rejoined,
"And would the divil have paid for the clothes, think ye?--aye, and
"Doubtless the money is base," said the sergeant, a little staggered at
such an evidence of honesty in one of whom, as to generals, he thought
so meanly. "He tempted me with his glittering coin, but the Lord gave me
strength to resist."
"The goold looks well; but I'll change it, anyway, with Captain Jack,
the day. He is niver a bit afeard of any divil of them all!"
"Betty, Betty," said her companion, "do not speak so disreverently of
the evil spirit; he is ever at hand, and will owe you a grudge, for your
"Pooh! if he has any bowels at all, he won't mind a fillip or two from a
poor lone woman; I'm sure no other Christian would."
"But the dark one has no bowels, except to devour the children of men,"
said the sergeant, looking around him in horror; "and it's best to make
friends everywhere, for there is no telling what may happen till it
comes. But, Betty, no man could have got out of this place, and passed
all the sentinels, without being known. Take awful warning from the
Here the dialogue was interrupted by a peremptory summons to the sutler
to prepare the morning's repast, and they were obliged to separate; the
woman secretly hoping that the interest the sergeant manifested was more
earthly than he imagined; and the man, bent on saving a soul from the
fangs of the dark spirit that was prowling through their camp in quest
During the breakfast several expresses arrived, one of which brought
intelligence of the actual force and destination of the enemy's
expedition that was out on the Hudson; and another, orders to send
Captain Wharton to the first post above, under the escort of a body of
dragoons. These last instructions, or rather commands, for they admitted
of no departure from their letter, completed the sum of Dunwoodie's
uneasiness. The despair and misery of Frances were constantly before his
eyes, and fifty times he was tempted to throw himself on his horse and
gallop to the Locusts; but an uncontrollable feeling prevented. In
obedience to the commands of his superior, an officer, with a small
party, was sent to the cottage to conduct Henry Wharton to the place
directed; and the gentleman who was intrusted with the execution of the
order was charged with a letter from Dunwoodie to his friend, containing
the most cheering assurances of his safety, as well as the strongest
pledges of his own unceasing exertions in his favor. Lawton was left
with part of his own troop, in charge of the few wounded; and as soon as
the men were refreshed, the encampment broke up, the main body marching
towards the Hudson. Dunwoodie repeated his injunctions to Captain Lawton
again and again--dwelt on every word that had fallen from the peddler,
and canvassed, in every possible manner that his ingenuity could devise,
the probable meaning of his mysterious warnings, until no excuse
remained for delaying his own departure. Suddenly recollecting, however,
that no directions had been given for the disposal of Colonel Wellmere,
instead of following the rear of the column, the major yielded to his
desires, and turned down the road which led to the Locusts. The horse of
Dunwoodie was fleet as the wind, and scarcely a minute seemed to have
passed before he gained sight, from an eminence, of the lonely vale, and
as he was plunging into the bottom lands that formed its surface, he
caught a glimpse of Henry Wharton and his escort, at a distance,
defiling through a pass which led to the posts above. This sight added
to the speed of the anxious youth, who now turned the angle of the hill
that opened to the valley, and came suddenly on the object of his
search. Frances had followed the party which guarded her brother, at a
distance; and as they vanished from her sight, she felt deserted by all
that she most prized in this world. The unaccountable absence of
Dunwoodie, with the shock of parting from Henry under such
circumstances, had entirely subdued her fortitude, and she had sunk on a
stone by the roadside, sobbing as if her heart would break. Dunwoodie
sprang from his charger, threw the reins over the neck of the animal,
and in a moment he was by the side of the weeping girl.
"Frances--my own Frances!" he exclaimed, "why this distress? Let not the
situation of your brother create any alarm. As soon as the duty I am now
on is completed, I will hasten to the feet of Washington, and beg his
release. The Father of his Country will never deny such a boon to one of
his favorite pupils."
"Major Dunwoodie, for your interest in behalf of my poor brother, I
thank you," said the trembling girl, drying her eyes, and rising with
dignity; "but such language addressed to me, surely, is improper."
"Improper! are you not mine--by the consent of your father--your
aunt--your brother--nay, by your own consent, my sweet Frances?"
"I wish not, Major Dunwoodie, to interfere with the prior claims that
any other lady may have to your affections," said Frances, struggling to
speak with firmness.
"None other, I swear by Heaven, none other has any claim on me!" cried
Dunwoodie, with fervor. "You alone are mistress of my inmost soul."
"You have practiced so much, and so successfully, Major Dunwoodie, that
it is no wonder you excel in deceiving the credulity of my sex,"
returned Frances, attempting a smile, which the tremulousness of her
muscles smothered at birth.
"Am I a villain, Miss Wharton, that you receive me with such language?
When have I ever deceived you, Frances? Who has practiced in this manner
on your purity of heart?"
"Why has not Major Dunwoodie honored the dwelling of his intended father
with his presence lately? Did he forget it contained one friend on a bed
of sickness, and another in deep distress? Has it escaped his memory
that it held his intended wife? Or is he fearful of meeting more than
one that can lay a claim to that title? Oh, Peyton--Peyton, how have I
been deceived in you! With the foolish credulity of my youth, I thought
you all that was brave, noble, generous, and loyal."
"Frances, I see how you have deceived yourself," cried Dunwoodie, his
face in a glow of fire. "You do me injustice; I swear by all that is
most dear to me, that you do me injustice."
"Swear not, Major Dunwoodie," interrupted Frances, her fine countenance
lighting with the luster of womanly pride. "The time is gone by for me
to credit oaths."
"Miss Wharton, would you have me a coxcomb--make me contemptible in my
own eyes, by boasting with the hope of raising myself in your
"Flatter not yourself that the task is so easy, sir," returned Frances,
moving towards the cottage. "We converse together in private for the
last time; but--possibly--my father would welcome my mother's kinsman."
"No, Miss Wharton, I cannot enter his dwelling now; I should act in a
manner unworthy of myself. You drive me from you, Frances, in despair. I
am going on desperate service, and may not live to return. Should
fortune prove severe, at least do my memory justice; remember that the
last breathings of my soul will be for your happiness." So saying, he
had already placed his foot in the stirrup, but his youthful mistress,
turning on him an eye that pierced his soul, arrested the action.
"Peyton--Major Dunwoodie," she said, "can you ever forget the sacred
cause in which you are enlisted? Duty both to your God and to your
country forbids your doing anything rashly. The latter has need of your
services; besides"--but her voice became choked, and she was unable
"Besides what?" echoed the youth, springing to her side, and offering to
take her hand in his own. Frances having, however, recovered herself,
coldly repulsed him, and continued her walk homeward.
"Is this our parting!" cried Dunwoodie, in agony. "Am I a wretch, that
you treat me so cruelly? You have never loved me, and wish to conceal
your own fickleness by accusations that you will not explain."
Frances stopped short in her walk, and turned on him a look of so much
purity and feeling, that, heart-stricken, Dunwoodie would have knelt at
her feet for pardon; but motioning him for silence, she once
"Hear me, Major Dunwoodie, for the last time: it is a bitter knowledge
when we first discover our own inferiority; but it is a truth that I
have lately learned. Against you I bring no charges--make no
accusations; no, not willingly in my thoughts. Were my claims to your
heart just, I am not worthy of you. It is not a feeble, timid girl, like
me, that could make you happy. No, Peyton, you are formed for great and
glorious actions, deeds of daring and renown, and should be united to a
soul like your own; one that can rise above the weakness of her sex. I
should be a weight to drag you to the dust; but with a different spirit
in your companion, you might soar to the very pinnacle of earthly glory.
To such a one, therefore, I resign you freely, if not cheerfully; and
pray, oh, how fervently do I pray! that with such a one you may
"Lovely enthusiast!" cried Dunwoodie, "you know not yourself, nor me. It
is a woman, mild, gentle, and dependent as yourself, that my very
nature loves; deceive not yourself with visionary ideas of generosity,
which will only make me miserable."
"Farewell, Major Dunwoodie," said the agitated girl, pausing for a
moment to gasp for breath; "forget that you ever knew me--remember the
claims of your bleeding country; and be happy."
"Happy!" repeated the youthful soldier, bitterly, as he saw her light
form gliding through the gate of the lawn, and disappearing behind its
shrubbery, "Yes, I am happy, indeed!"
Throwing himself into the saddle, he plunged his spurs into his horse,
and soon overtook his squadron, which was marching slowly over the hilly
roads of the county, to gain the banks of the Hudson.
But painful as were the feelings of Dunwoodie at this unexpected
termination of the interview with his mistress, they were but light
compared with those which were experienced by the fond girl herself.
Frances had, with the keen eye of jealous love, easily detected the
attachment of Isabella Singleton to Dunwoodie. Delicate and retiring
herself, it never could present itself to her mind that this love had
been unsought. Ardent in her own affections, and artless in their
exhibition, she had early caught the eye of the young soldier; but it
required all the manly frankness of Dunwoodie to court her favor, and
the most pointed devotion to obtain his conquest. This done, his power
was durable, entire, and engrossing. But the unusual occurrences of the
few preceding days, the altered mien of her lover during those events,
his unwonted indifference to herself, and chiefly the romantic idolatry
of Isabella, had aroused new sensations in her bosom. With a dread of
her lover's integrity had been awakened the never-failing concomitant of
the purest affection, a distrust of her own merits. In the moment of
enthusiasm, the task of resigning her lover to another, who might be
more worthy of him, seemed easy; but it is in vain that the imagination
attempts to deceive the heart. Dunwoodie had no sooner disappeared, than
our heroine felt all the misery of her situation; and if the youth found
some relief in the cares of his command, Frances was less fortunate in
the performance of a duty imposed on her by filial piety. The removal of
his son had nearly destroyed the little energy of Mr. Wharton, who
required all the tenderness of his remaining children to convince him
that he was able to perform the ordinary functions of life.
Flatter and praise, commend, extol their graces,
Though ne'er so black, say they have angels' faces,
That man who hath a tongue I say is no man,
If with that tongue he cannot win a woman.
--_Two Gentlemen of Verona_.
In making the arrangements by which Captain Lawton had been left, with
Sergeant Hollister and twelve men, as a guard over the wounded, and
heavy baggage of the corps, Dunwoodie had consulted not only the
information which had been conveyed in the letter of Colonel Singleton,
but the bruises of his comrade's body. In vain Lawton declared himself
fit for any duty that man could perform, or plainly intimated that his
men would never follow Tom Mason to a charge with the alacrity and
confidence with which they followed himself; his commander was firm, and
the reluctant captain was compelled to comply with as good a grace as he
could assume. Before parting, Dunwoodie repeated his caution to keep a
watchful eye on the inmates of the cottage; and especially enjoined him,
if any movements of a particularly suspicious nature were seen in the
neighborhood, to break up from his present quarters, and to move down
with his party, and take possession of the domains of Mr. Wharton. A
vague suspicion of danger to the family had been awakened in the breast
of the major, by the language of the peddler, although he was unable to
refer it to any particular source, or to understand why it was to be
For some time after the departure of the troops, the captain was walking
before the door of the "Hotel," inwardly cursing his fate, that
condemned him to an inglorious idleness, at a moment when a meeting with
the enemy might be expected, and replying to the occasional queries of
Betty, who, from the interior of the building, ever and anon demanded,
in a high tone of voice, an explanation of various passages in the
peddler's escape, which as yet she could not comprehend. At this instant
he was joined by the surgeon, who had hitherto been engaged among his
patients in a distant building, and was profoundly ignorant of
everything that had occurred, even to the departure of the troops.
"Where are all the sentinels, John?" he inquired, as he gazed around
with a look of curiosity, "and why are you here alone?"
"Off--all off, with Dunwoodie, to the river. You and I are left here to
take care of a few sick men and some women."
"I am glad, however," said the surgeon, "that Major Dunwoodie had
consideration enough not to move the wounded. Here, you Mrs. Elizabeth
Flanagan, hasten with some food, that I may appease my appetite. I have
a dead body to dissect and am in haste."
"And here, you Mister Doctor Archibald Sitgreaves," echoed Betty,
showing her blooming countenance from a broken window of the kitchen,
"you are ever a-coming too late; here is nothing to ate but the skin of
Jenny, and the body ye're mentioning."
"Woman!" said the surgeon, in anger, "do you take me for a cannibal,
that you address your filthy discourse to me, in this manner? I bid you
hasten with such food as may be proper to be received into the
"And I'm sure it's for a popgun that I should be taking you sooner than
for a cannon ball," said Betty, winking at the captain; "and I tell ye
that it's fasting you must be, unless ye'll let me cook ye a steak from
the skin of Jenny. The boys have ate me up intirely."
Lawton now interfered to preserve the peace, and assured the surgeon
that he had already dispatched the proper persons in quest of food for
the party. A little mollified with this explanation, the operator soon
forgot his hunger, and declared his intention of proceeding to
business at once.
"And where is your subject?" asked Lawton.
"The peddler," said the other, glancing a look at the signpost. "I made
Hollister put a stage so high that the neck would not be dislocated by
the fall, and I intend making as handsome a skeleton of him as there is
in the states of North America; the fellow has good points, and his
bones are well knit. I will make a perfect beauty of him. I have long
been wanting something of this sort to send as a present to my old aunt
in Virginia, who was so kind to me when a boy."
"The devil!" cried Lawton. "Would you send the old woman a dead man's
"Why not?" said the surgeon. "What nobler object is there in nature than
the figure of a man--and the skeleton may be called his elementary
parts. But what has been done with the body?"
"Off! And who has dared to interfere with my perquisites?"
"Sure, jist the divil," said Betty; "and who'll be taking yeerself away
some of these times too, without asking yeer lave."
"Silence, you witch!" said Lawton, with difficulty suppressing a laugh.
"Is this the manner in which to address an officer?"
"Who called me the filthy Elizabeth Flanagan?" cried the washerwoman,
snapping her fingers contemptuously. "I can remimber a frind for a year
and don't forgit an inimy for a month."
But the friendship or enmity of Mrs. Flanagan was alike indifferent to
the surgeon, who could think of nothing but his loss; and Lawton was
obliged to explain to his friend the apparent manner in which it
"And a lucky escape it was for ye, my jewel of a doctor," cried Betty,
as the captain concluded. "Sargeant Hollister, who saw him face to face,
as it might be, says it's Beelzeboob, and no piddler, unless it may be
in a small matter of lies and thefts, and sich wickedness. Now a pretty
figure ye would have been in cutting up Beelzeboob, if the major had
hanged him. I don't think it's very 'asy he would have been under
Thus doubly disappointed in his meal and his business, Sitgreaves
suddenly declared his intention of visiting the Locusts, and inquiring
into the state of Captain Singleton. Lawton was ready for the excursion;
and mounting, they were soon on the road, though the surgeon was obliged
to submit to a few more jokes from the washerwoman, before he could get
out of hearing. For some time the two rode in silence, when Lawton,
perceiving that his companion's temper was somewhat ruffled by his
disappointments and Betty's attack, made an effort to restore the
tranquillity of his feelings.
"That was a charming song, Archibald, that you commenced last evening,
when we were interrupted by the party that brought in the peddler," he
said. "The allusion to Galen was much to the purpose."
"I knew you would like it, Jack, when you had got the fumes of the wine
out of your head. Poetry is a respectable art, though it wants the
precision of the exact sciences, and the natural beneficence of the
physical. Considered in reference to the wants of life, I should define
poetry as an emollient, rather than as a succulent."
"And yet your ode was full of the meat of wit."
"Ode is by no means a proper term for the composition; I should term it
a classical ballad."
"Very probably," said the trooper. "Hearing only one verse, it was
difficult to class the composition."
The surgeon involuntarily hemmed, and began to clear his throat,
although scarcely conscious himself to what the preparation tended. But
the captain, rolling his dark eyes towards his companion, and observing
him to be sitting with great uneasiness on his horse, continued,--
"The air is still, and the road solitary--why not give the remainder? It
is never too late to repair a loss."
"My dear John, if I thought it would correct the errors you have
imbibed, from habit and indulgence, nothing could give me more
"We are fast approaching some rocks on our left; the echo will double my
Thus encouraged, and somewhat impelled by the opinion that he both sang
and wrote with taste, the surgeon set about complying with the request
in sober earnest. Some little time was lost in clearing his throat, and
getting the proper pitch of his voice; but no sooner were these two
points achieved, than Lawton had the secret delight of hearing his
"'Hast thou ever'"--
"Hush!" interrupted the trooper. "What rustling noise is that among the
"It must have been the rushing of the melody. A powerful voice is like
the breathing of the winds.
"'Hast thou ever'"--
"Listen!" said Lawton, stopping his horse. He had not done speaking,
when a stone fell at his feet, and rolled harmlessly across the path.
"A friendly shot, that," cried the trooper. "Neither the weapon, nor its
force, implies much ill will."
"Blows from stones seldom produce more than contusions," said the
operator, bending his gaze in every direction in vain, in quest of the
hand from which the missile had been hurled. "It must be meteoric; there
is no living being in sight, except ourselves."
"It would be easy to hide a regiment behind those rocks," returned the
trooper, dismounting, and taking the stone in his hand. "Oh! here is the
explanation along with the mystery." So saying, he tore a piece of paper
that had been ingeniously fastened to the small fragment of rock which
had thus singularly fallen before him; and opening it, the captain read
the following words, written in no very legible hand: "_A musket bullet
will go farther than a stone, and things more dangerous than yarbs for
wounded men lie hid in the rocks of Westchester. The horse may be good,
but can he mount a precipice?_"
"Thou sayest the truth, strange man," said Lawton. "Courage and activity
would avail but little against assassination and these rugged passes."
Remounting his horse, he cried aloud, "Thanks, unknown friend; your
caution will be remembered."
A meager hand was extended for an instant over a rock, in the air, and
afterwards nothing further was seen, or heard, in that quarter, by
"Quite an extraordinary interruption," said the astonished Sitgreaves,
"and a letter of very mysterious meaning."
"Oh! 'tis nothing but the wit of some bumpkin, who thinks to frighten
two of the Virginians by an artifice of this kind," said the trooper,
placing the billet in his pocket. "But let me tell you, Mr. Archibald
Sitgreaves, you were wanting to dissect, just now, a damned
"It was the peddler--one of the most notorious spies in the enemy's
service; and I must say that I think it would be an honor to such a man
to be devoted to the uses of science."
"He may be a spy--he must be one," said Lawton, musing; "but he has a
heart above enmity, and a soul that would honor a soldier."
The surgeon turned a vacant eye on his companion as he uttered this
soliloquy, while the penetrating looks of the trooper had already
discovered another pile of rocks, which, jutting forward, nearly
obstructed the highway that wound directly around its base.
"What the steed cannot mount, the foot of man can overcome," exclaimed
the wary partisan. Throwing himself again from his saddle, and leaping a
wall of stone, he began to ascend the hill at a pace which would soon
have given him a bird's-eye view of the rocks in question, together with
all their crevices. This movement was no sooner made, than Lawton caught
a glimpse of the figure of a man stealing rapidly from his approach, and
disappearing on the opposite side of the precipice.
"Spur, Sitgreaves--spur," shouted the trooper, dashing over every
impediment in pursuit, "and murder the villain as he flies."
The former part of the request was promptly complied with, and a few
moments brought the surgeon in full view of a man armed with a musket,
who was crossing the road, and evidently seeking the protection of the
thick wood on its opposite side.
"Stop, my friend--stop until Captain Lawton comes up, if you please,"
cried the surgeon, observing him to flee with a rapidity that baffled
his horsemanship. But as if the invitation contained new terrors, the
footman redoubled his efforts, nor paused even to breathe, until he had
reached his goal, when, turning on his heel, he discharged his musket
towards the surgeon, and was out of sight in an instant. To gain the
highway, and throw himself into his saddle, detained Lawton but a
moment, and he rode to the side of his comrade just as the figure
"Which way has he fled?" cried the trooper.
"John," said the surgeon, "am I not a noncombatant?"
"Whither has the rascal fled?" cried Lawton, impatiently.
"Where you cannot follow--into that wood. But I repeat, John, am I not
The disappointed trooper, perceiving that his enemy had escaped him, now
turned his eyes, which were flashing with anger, upon his comrade, and
gradually his muscles lost their rigid compression, his brow relaxed,
and his look changed from its fierce expression, to the covert laughter
which so often distinguished his countenance. The surgeon sat in
dignified composure on his horse; his thin body erect, and his head
elevated with the indignation of one conscious of having been
"Why did you suffer the villain to escape?" demanded the captain. "Once
within reach of my saber, and I would have given you a subject for the
"'Twas impossible to prevent it," said the surgeon, pointing to the
bars, before which he had stopped his horse. "The rogue threw himself on
the other side of this fence, and left me where you see; nor would the
man in the least attend to my remonstrances, or to an intimation that
you wished to hold discourse with him."
"He was truly a discourteous rascal; but why did you not leap the fence,
and compel him to a halt? You see but three of the bars are up, and
Betty Flanagan could clear them on her cow."
The surgeon, for the first time, withdrew his eyes from the place where
the fugitive had disappeared, and turned his look on his comrade. His
head, however, was not permitted to lower itself in the least, as he
"I humbly conceive, Captain Lawton, that neither Mrs. Elizabeth
Flanagan, nor her cow, is an example to be emulated by Doctor Archibald
Sitgreaves. It would be but a sorry compliment to science, to say that a
doctor of medicine had fractured both his legs by injudiciously striking
them against a pair of barposts." While speaking, the surgeon raised the
limbs in question to a nearly horizontal position, an attitude which
really appeared to bid defiance to anything like a passage for himself
through the defile; but the trooper, disregarding this ocular proof of
the impossibility of the movement, cried hastily,--
"Here was nothing to stop you, man; I could leap a platoon through, boot
and thigh, without pricking with a single spur. Pshaw! I have often
charged upon the bayonets of infantry, over greater difficulties
"You will please to remember, Captain John Lawton, that I am not the
riding master of the regiment--nor a drill sergeant--nor a crazy cornet;
no, sir--and I speak it with a due respect for the commission of the
Continental Congress--nor an inconsiderate captain, who regards his own
life as little as that of his enemies. I am only, sir, a poor humble man
of letters, a mere doctor of medicine, an unworthy graduate of
Edinburgh, and a surgeon of dragoons; nothing more, I do assure you,
Captain John Lawton." So saying, he turned his horse's head towards the
cottage, and recommenced his ride.
"Aye, you speak the truth," muttered the dragoon. "Had I but the meanest
rider of my troop with me, I should have taken the scoundrel, and given
at least one victim to the laws. But, Archibald, no man can ride well
who straddles in this manner like the Colossus of Rhodes. You should
depend less on your stirrup, and keep your seat by the power of
"With proper deference to your experience, Captain Lawton," returned the
surgeon, "I conceive myself to be no incompetent judge of muscular
action, whether in the knee, or in any other part of the human frame.
And although but humbly educated, I am not now to learn that the wider
the base, the more firm is the superstructure."
"Would you fill a highway, in this manner, with one pair of legs, when
half a dozen might pass together in comfort, stretching them abroad like
the scythes of the ancient chariot wheels?"
The allusion to the practice of the ancients somewhat softened the
indignation of the surgeon, and he replied, with rather less hauteur,--
"You should speak with reverence of the usages of those who have gone
before us, and who, however ignorant they were in matters of science,
and particularly that of surgery, yet furnished many brilliant hints to
our own improvements. Now, sir, I have no doubt that Galen has operated
on wounds occasioned by these very scythes that you mention, although we
can find no evidence of the fact in contemporary writers. Ah! they must
have given dreadful injuries, and, I doubt not, caused great uneasiness
to the medical gentlemen of that day."
"Occasionally a body must have been left in two pieces, to puzzle the
ingenuity of those gentry to unite. Yet, venerable and learned as they
were, I doubt not they did it."
"What! unite two parts of the human body, that have been severed by an
edged instrument, to any of the purposes of animal life?"
"That have been rent asunder by a scythe, and are united to do military
duty," said Lawton.
"'Tis impossible--quite impossible," cried the surgeon. "It is in vain,
Captain Lawton, that human ingenuity endeavors to baffle the efforts of
nature. Think, my dear sir; in this case you separate all the
arteries--injure all of the intestines--sever all of the nerves and
sinews, and, what is of more consequence, you--"
"You have said enough, Dr. Sitgreaves, to convince a member of a rival
school. Nothing shall ever tempt me willingly to submit to be divided in
this irretrievable manner."
"Certes, there is little pleasure in a wound which, from its nature, is
"I should think so," said Lawton, dryly.
"What do you think is the greatest pleasure in life?" asked the operator
"That must greatly depend on taste."
"Not at all," cried the surgeon; "it is in witnessing, or rather
feeling, the ravages of disease repaired by the lights of science
cooperating with nature. I once broke my little finger intentionally, in
order that I might reduce the fracture and watch the cure: it was only
on a small scale, you know, dear John; still the thrilling sensation
excited by the knitting of the bone, aided by the contemplation of the
art of man thus acting in unison with nature, exceeded any other
enjoyment that I have ever experienced. Now, had it been one of the more
important members, such as the leg, or arm, how much greater must the
pleasure have been!"
"Or the neck," said the trooper; but their desultory discourse was
interrupted by their arrival at the cottage of Mr. Wharton. No one
appearing to usher them into an apartment, the captain proceeded to the
door of the parlor, where he knew visitors were commonly received. On
opening it, he paused for a moment, in admiration at the scene within.
The person of Colonel Wellmere first met his eye, bending towards the
figure of the blushing Sarah, with an earnestness of manner that
prevented the noise of Lawton's entrance from being heard by either of
the parties. Certain significant signs which were embraced at a glance
by the prying gaze of the trooper, at once made him a master of their
secret; and he was about to retire as silently as he had advanced, when
his companion, pushing himself through the passage, abruptly entered the
room. Advancing instantly to the chair of Wellmere, the surgeon
instinctively laid hold of his arm, and exclaimed,--
"Bless me!--a quick and irregular pulse--flushed cheek and fiery
eye--strong febrile symptoms, and such as must be attended to." While
speaking, the doctor, who was much addicted to practicing in a summary
way,--a weakness of most medical men in military practice,--had already
produced his lancet, and was making certain other indications of his
intentions to proceed at once to business. But Colonel Wellmere,
recovering from the confusion of the surprise, arose from his seat
haughtily, and said,--
"Sir, it is the warmth of the room that lends me the color, and I am
already too much indebted to your skill to give you any further trouble.
Miss Wharton knows that I am quite well, and I do assure you that I
never felt better or happier in my life."
There was a peculiar emphasis on the latter part of this speech, that,
however it might gratify the feelings of Sarah, brought the color to her
cheeks again; and Sitgreaves, as his eye followed the direction of those
of his patient, did not fail to observe it.
"Your arm, if you please, madam," said the surgeon, advancing with a
bow. "Anxiety and watching have done their work on your delicate frame,
and there are symptoms about you that must not be neglected."
"Excuse me, sir," said Sarah, recovering herself with womanly pride;
"the heat is oppressive, and I will retire and acquaint Miss Peyton with
There was but little difficulty in practicing on the abstracted
simplicity of the surgeon; but it was necessary for Sarah to raise her
eyes to return the salutation of Lawton, as he bowed his head nearly to
a level with the hand that held open the door for her passage. One look
was sufficient; she was able to control her steps sufficiently to retire
with dignity; but no sooner was she relieved from the presence of all
observers, than she fell into a chair and abandoned herself to a feeling
of mingled shame and pleasure.
A little nettled at the contumacious deportment of the British colonel,
Sitgreaves, after once more tendering services that were again rejected,
withdrew to the chamber of young Singleton, whither Lawton had already
Oh! Henry, when thou deign'st to sue,
Can I thy suit withstand?
When thou, loved youth, hast won my heart,
Can I refuse my hand?
--_Hermit of Warkevorth._
The graduate of Edinburgh found his patient rapidly improving in health,
and entirely free from fever. His sister, with a cheek that was, if
possible, paler than on her arrival, watched around his couch with
tender care; and the ladies of the cottage had not, in the midst of
their sorrows and varied emotions, forgotten to discharge the duties of
hospitality. Frances felt herself impelled towards their disconsolate
guest, with an interest for which she could not account, and with a
force that she could not control. She had unconsciously connected the
fates of Dunwoodie and Isabella in her imagination, and she felt, with
the romantic ardor of a generous mind, that she was serving her former
lover most by exhibiting kindness to her he loved best. Isabella
received her attentions with gratitude, but neither of them indulged in
any allusions to the latent source of their uneasiness. The observation
of Miss Peyton seldom penetrated beyond things that were visible, and to
her the situation of Henry Wharton seemed to furnish an awful excuse for
the fading cheeks and tearful eyes of her niece. If Sarah manifested
less of care than her sister, still the unpracticed aunt was not at a
loss to comprehend the reason. Love is a holy feeling with the virtuous
of the female sex, and it hallows all that come within its influence.
Although Miss Peyton mourned with sincerity over the danger which
threatened her nephew, she well knew that an active campaign was not
favorable to love, and the moments that were thus accidentally granted
were not to be thrown away.
Several days now passed without any interruption of the usual avocations
of the inhabitants of the cottage, or the party at the Four Corners.
The former were supporting their fortitude with the certainty of Henry's
innocence, and a strong reliance on Dunwoodie's exertions in his behalf,
and the latter waiting with impatience the intelligence, that was hourly
expected, of a conflict, and their orders to depart. Captain Lawton,
however, waited for both these events in vain. Letters from the major
announced that the enemy, finding that the party which was to co÷perate
with them had been defeated, and was withdrawn, had retired also behind
the works of Fort Washington, where they continued inactive, threatening
constantly to strike a blow in revenge for their disgrace. The trooper
was enjoined to vigilance, and the letter concluded with a compliment to
his honor, zeal, and undoubted bravery.
"Extremely flattering, Major Dunwoodie," muttered the dragoon, as he
threw down this epistle, and stalked across the floor to quiet his
impatience. "A proper guard have you selected for this service: let me
see--I have to watch over the interests of a crazy, irresolute old man,
who does not know whether he belongs to us or to the enemy; four women,
three of whom are well enough in themselves, but who are not immensely
flattered by my society; and the fourth, who, good as she is, is on the
wrong side of forty; some two or three blacks; a talkative housekeeper,
that does nothing but chatter about gold and despisables, and signs and
omens; and poor George Singleton. Well, a comrade in suffering has a
claim on a man,--so I'll make the best of it."
As he concluded this soliloquy, the trooper took a seat and began to
whistle, to convince himself how little he cared about the matter, when,
by throwing his booted leg carelessly round, he upset the canteen that
held his whole stock of brandy. The accident was soon repaired, but in
replacing the wooden vessel, he observed a billet lying on the bench, on
which the liquor had been placed. It was soon opened, and he read: _"The
moon will not rise till after midnight--a fit time for deeds of
darkness."_ There was no mistaking the hand; it was clearly the same
that had given him the timely warning against assassination, and the
trooper continued, for a long time, musing on the nature of these two
notices, and the motives that could induce the peddler to favor an
implacable enemy in the manner that he had latterly done. That he was a
spy of the enemy, Lawton knew; for the fact of his conveying
intelligence to the English commander in chief, of a party of Americans
that were exposed to the enemy was proved most clearly against him on
the trial for his life. The consequences of his treason had been
avoided, it is true, by a lucky order from Washington, which withdrew
the regiment a short time before the British appeared to cut it off, but
still the crime was the same. "Perhaps," thought the partisan, "he
wishes to make a friend of me against the event of another capture; but,
at all events, he spared my life on one occasion, and saved it on
another. I will endeavor to be as generous as himself, and pray that my
duty may never interfere with my feelings."
Whether the danger, intimated in the present note, threatened the
cottage or his own party, the captain was uncertain; but he inclined to
the latter opinion, and determined to beware how he rode abroad in the
dark. To a man in a peaceable country, and in times of quiet and order,
the indifference with which the partisan regarded the impending danger
would be inconceivable. His reflections on the subject were more
directed towards devising means to entrap his enemies, than to escape
their machinations. But the arrival of the surgeon, who had been to pay
his daily visit to the Locusts, interrupted his meditations. Sitgreaves
brought an invitation from the mistress of the mansion to Captain
Lawton, desiring that the cottage might be honored with his presence at
an early hour on that evening.
"Ha!" cried the trooper; "then they have received a letter also."
"I think nothing more probable," said the surgeon. "There is a chaplain
at the cottage from the royal army, who has come out to exchange the
British wounded, and who has an order from Colonel Singleton for their
delivery. But a more mad project than to remove them now was
"A priest, say you!--is he a hard drinker--a real camp-idler--a fellow
to breed a famine in a regiment? Or does he seem a man who is earnest in
"A very respectable and orderly gentleman, and not unreasonably given to
intemperance, judging from the outward symptoms," returned the surgeon;
"and a man who really says grace in a very regular and appropriate
"And does he stay the night?"
"Certainly, he waits for his cartel; but hasten, John, we have but
little time to waste. I will just step up and bleed two or three of the
Englishmen who are to move in the morning, in order to anticipate
inflammation, and be with you immediately."
The gala suit of Captain Lawton was easily adjusted to his huge frame,
and his companion being ready, they once more took their route towards
the cottage. Roanoke had been as much benefited by a few days' rest as
his master; and Lawton ardently wished, as he curbed his gallant steed,
on passing the well-remembered rocks, that his treacherous enemy stood
before him, mounted and armed as himself. But no enemy, nor any
disturbance whatever, interfered with their progress, and they reached
the Locusts just as the sun was throwing his setting rays on the valley,
and tingeing the tops of the leafless trees with gold. It never required
more than a single look to acquaint the trooper with the particulars of
every scene that was not uncommonly veiled, and the first survey that he
took on entering the house told him more than the observations of a day
had put into the possession of Doctor Sitgreaves. Miss Peyton accosted
him with a smiling welcome, that exceeded the bounds of ordinary
courtesy and which evidently flowed more from feelings that were
connected with the heart, than from manner. Frances glided about,
tearful and agitated, while Mr. Wharton stood ready to receive them,
decked in a suit of velvet that would have been conspicuous in the
gayest drawing-room. Colonel Wellmere was in the uniform of an officer
of the household troops of his prince, and Isabella Singleton sat in the
parlor, clad in the habiliments of joy, but with a countenance that
belied her appearance; while her brother by her side looked, with a
cheek of flitting color, and an eye of intense interest, like anything
but an invalid. As it was the third day that he had left his room, Dr.
Sitgreaves, who began to stare about him in stupid wonder, forgot to
reprove his patient for imprudence. Into this scene Captain Lawton moved
with all the composure and gravity of a man whose nerves were not easily
discomposed by novelties. His compliments were received as graciously as
they were offered, and after exchanging a few words with the different
individuals present, he approached the surgeon, who had withdrawn, in a
kind of confused astonishment, to rally his senses.
"John," whispered the surgeon, with awakened curiosity, "what means this
"That your wig and my black head would look the better for a little of
Betty Flanagan's flour; but it is too late now, and we must fight the
battle armed as you see."
"Observe, here comes the army chaplain in his full robes, as a Doctor
Divinitatis; what can it mean?"
"An exchange," said the trooper. "The wounded of Cupid are to meet and
settle their accounts with the god, in the way of plighting faith to
suffer from his archery no more."
The surgeon laid a finger on the side of his nose, and he began to
comprehend the case.
"Is it not a crying shame, that a sunshine hero, and an enemy, should
thus be suffered to steal away one of the fairest plants that grow in
our soil," muttered Lawton; "a flower fit to be placed in the bosom
of any man!"
"If he be not more accommodating as a husband than as a patient, John, I
fear me that the lady will lead a troubled life."
"Let her," said the trooper, indignantly; "she has chosen from her
country's enemies, and may she meet with a foreigner's virtues in
Further conversation was interrupted by Miss Peyton, who, advancing,
acquainted them that they had been invited to grace the nuptials of her
eldest niece and Colonel Wellmere. The gentlemen bowed; and the good
aunt, with an inherent love of propriety, went on to add, that the
acquaintance was of an old date, and the attachment by no means a sudden
thing. To this Lawton merely bowed still more ceremoniously; but the
surgeon, who loved to hold converse with the virgin, replied,--
"That the human mind was differently constituted in different
individuals. In some, impressions are vivid and transitory; in others,
more deep and lasting: indeed, there are some philosophers who pretend
to trace a connection between the physical and mental powers of the
animal; but, for my part, madam, I believe that the one is much
influenced by habit and association, and the other subject altogether to
the peculiar laws of matter."
Miss Peyton, in her turn, bowed her silent assent to this remark, and
retired with dignity, to usher the intended bride into the presence of
the company. The hour had arrived when American custom has decreed that
the vows of wedlock must be exchanged; and Sarah, blushing with a
variety of emotions, followed her aunt to the drawing-room. Wellmere
sprang to receive the hand that, with an averted face, she extended
towards him, and, for the first time, the English colonel appeared fully
conscious of the important part that he was to act in the approaching
ceremony. Hitherto his air had been abstracted, and his manner uneasy;
but everything, excepting the certainty of his bliss, seemed to vanish
at the blaze of loveliness that now burst on his sight. All arose from
their seats, and the reverend gentleman had already opened the sacred
volume, when the absence of Frances was noticed! Miss Peyton withdrew in
search of her youngest niece, whom she found in her own apartment,
and in tears.
"Come, my love, the ceremony waits but for us," said the aunt,
affectionately entwining her arm in that of her niece. "Endeavor to
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