James Fenimore Cooper
Part 6 out of 9
compose yourself, that proper honor may be done to the choice of
"Is he--can he be, worthy of her?"
"Can he be otherwise?" returned Miss Peyton. "Is he not a gentleman?--a
gallant soldier, though an unfortunate one? and certainly, my love, one
who appears every way qualified to make any woman happy."
Frances had given vent to her feelings, and, with an effort, she
collected sufficient resolution to venture to join the party below. But
to relieve the embarrassment of this delay, the clergyman had put sundry
questions to the bridegroom; one of which was by no means answered to
his satisfaction. Wellmere was compelled to acknowledge that he was
unprovided with a ring; and to perform the marriage ceremony without
one, the divine pronounced to be canonically impossible. His appeal to
Mr. Wharton, for the propriety of this decision, was answered
affirmatively, as it would have been negatively, had the question been
put in a manner to lead to such a result. The owner of the Locusts had
lost the little energy he possessed, by the blow recently received
through his son, and his assent to the objection of the clergyman was as
easily obtained as had been his consent to the premature proposals of
Wellmere. In this stage of the dilemma, Miss Peyton and Frances
appeared. The surgeon of dragoons approached the former, and as he
handed her to a chair, observed,--
"It appears, madam, that untoward circumstances have prevented Colonel
Wellmere from providing all of the decorations that custom, antiquity,
and the canons of the church have prescribed, as indispensable to enter
into the honorable state of wedlock."
Miss Peyton glanced her quiet eye at the uneasy bridegroom, and
perceiving him to be adorned with what she thought sufficient splendor,
allowing for the time and the suddenness of the occasion, she turned her
look on the speaker, as if to demand an explanation.
The surgeon understood her wishes, and proceeded at once to gratify
"There is," he observed, "an opinion prevalent, that the heart lies on
the left side of the body, and that the connection between the members
of that side and what may be called the seat of life is more intimate
than that which exists with their opposites. But this is an error which
grows out of an ignorance of the organic arrangement of the human frame.
In obedience to this opinion, the fourth finger of the left hand is
thought to contain a virtue that belongs to no other branch of that
digitated member; and it is ordinarily encircled, during the
solemnization of wedlock, with a cincture or ring, as if to chain that
affection to the marriage state, which is best secured by the graces of
the female character." While speaking, the operator laid his hand
expressively on his heart, and he bowed nearly to the floor when he had
"I know not, sir, that I rightly understand your meaning," said Miss
Peyton, whose want of comprehension was sufficiently excusable.
"A ring, madam--a ring is wanting for the ceremony."
The instant that the surgeon spoke explicitly, the awkwardness of the
situation was understood. She glanced her eyes at her nieces, and in the
younger she read a secret exultation that somewhat displeased her; but
the countenance of Sarah was suffused with a shame that the considerate
aunt well understood. Not for the world would she violate any of the
observances of female etiquette. It suggested itself to all the females,
at the same moment, that the wedding ring of the late mother and sister
was reposing peacefully amid the rest of her jewelry in a secret
receptacle, that had been provided at an early day, to secure the
valuables against the predatory inroads of the marauders who roamed
through the county. Into this hidden vault, the plate, and whatever was
most prized, made a nightly retreat, and there the ring in question had
long lain, forgotten until at this moment. But it was the business of
the bridegroom, from time immemorial, to furnish this indispensable to
wedlock, and on no account would Miss Peyton do anything that
transcended the usual reserve of the sex on this solemn occasion;
certainly not until sufficient expiation for the offense had been made,
by a due portion of trouble and disquiet. This material fact, therefore,
was not disclosed by either; the aunt consulting female propriety; the
bride yielding to shame; and Frances rejoicing that an embarrassment,
proceeding from almost any cause, should delay her sister's vow. It was
reserved for Doctor Sitgreaves to interrupt the awkward silence.
"If, madam, a plain ring, that once belonged to a sister of my own--" He
paused and hemmed--"If, madam, a ring of that description might be
admitted to this honor, I have one that could be easily produced from my
quarters at the Corners, and I doubt not it would fit the finger for
which it is desired. There is a strong resemblance between--hem--between
my late sister and Miss Wharton in stature and anatomical figure; and,
in all eligible subjects, the proportions are apt to be observed
throughout the whole animal economy."
A glance of Miss Peyton's eye recalled Colonel Wellmere to a sense of
his duty, and springing from his chair, he assured the surgeon that in
no way could he confer a greater obligation on himself than by sending
for that very ring. The operator bowed a little haughtily, and withdrew
to fulfill his promise, by dispatching a messenger on the errand. The
aunt suffered him to retire; but unwillingness to admit a stranger into
the privacy of their domestic arrangements induced her to follow and
tender the services of Caesar, instead of those of Sitgreaves' man, who
had volunteered for this duty. Katy Haynes was accordingly directed to
summon the black to the vacant parlor, and thither Miss Peyton and the
surgeon repaired, to give their several instructions.
The consent to this sudden union of Sarah and Wellmere, and especially
at a time when the life of a member of the family was in such imminent
jeopardy, was given from a conviction that the unsettled state of the
country would probably prevent another opportunity to the lovers of
meeting, and a secret dread on the part of Mr. Wharton, that the death
of his son might, by hastening his own, leave his remaining children
without a protector. But notwithstanding Miss Peyton had complied with
her brother's wish to profit by the accidental visit of a divine, she
had not thought it necessary to blazon the intended nuptials of her
niece to the neighborhood, had even time been allowed; she thought,
therefore, that she was now communicating a profound secret to the
negro, and her housekeeper.
"Caesar," she commenced, with a smile, "you are now to learn that your
young mistress, Miss Sarah, is to be united to Colonel Wellmere
"I t'ink I see him afore," said Caesar, chuckling. "Old black man can
tell when a young lady make up he mind."
"Really, Caesar, I find I have never given you credit for half the
observation that you deserve; but as you already know on what emergency
your services are required, listen to the directions of this gentleman,
and observe them."
The black turned in quiet submission to the surgeon, who commenced as
"Caesar, your mistress has already acquainted you with the important
event about to be solemnized within this habitation; but a cincture or
ring is wanting to encircle the finger of the bride; a custom derived
from the ancients, and which has been continued in the marriage forms of
several branches of the Christian church, and which is even, by a
species of typical wedlock, used in the installation of prelates, as you
"P'r'aps Massa Doctor will say him over ag'in," interrupted the old
negro, whose memory began to fail him, just as the other made so
confident an allusion to his powers of comprehension. "I t'ink I get him
by heart dis time."
"It is impossible to gather honey from a rock, Caesar, and therefore I
will abridge the little I have to say. Ride to the Four Corners, and
present this note to Sergeant Hollister, or to Mrs. Elizabeth Flanagan,
either of whom will furnish the necessary pledge of connubial affection;
and return forthwith."
The letter which the surgeon put into the hands of his messenger, as he
ceased, was conceived in the following terms:--
"If the fever has left Kinder, give him nourishment. Take three ounces
more of blood from Watson. Have a search made that the woman Flanagan
has left none of her jugs of alcohol in the hospital. Renew the
dressings of Johnson, and dismiss Smith to duty. Send the ring, which is
pendent from the chain of the watch, that I left with you to time the
doses, by the bearer.
"ARCHIBALD SITGREAVES, M. D.",
_"Surgeon of Dragoons."_
"Caesar," said Katy, when she was alone with the black, "put the ring,
when you get it, in your left pocket, for that is nearest your heart;
and by no means endeavor to try it on your finger, for it is unlucky."
"Try um on he finger?" interrupted the negro, stretching forth his bony
knuckles. "T'ink a Miss Sally's ring go on old Caesar finger?"
"'Tis not consequential whether it goes on or not," said the
housekeeper; "but it is an evil omen to place a marriage ring on the
finger of another after wedlock, and of course it may be
"I tell you, Katy, I neber t'ink to put um on a finger."
"Go, then, Caesar, and do not forget the left pocket; be careful to take
off your hat as you pass the graveyard, and be expeditious; for
nothing, I am certain, can be more trying to the patience, than thus to
be waiting for the ceremony, when a body has fully made up her mind
With this injunction Caesar quitted the house, and he was soon firmly
fixed in the saddle. From his youth, the black, like all of his race,
had been a hard rider; but, bending under the weight of sixty winters,
his African blood had lost some of its native heat. The night was dark,
and the wind whistled through the vale with the dreariness of November.
When Caesar reached the graveyard, he uncovered his grizzled head with
superstitious awe, and threw around him many a fearful glance, in
momentary expectation of seeing something superhuman. There was
sufficient light to discern a being of earthly mold stealing from among
the graves, apparently with a design to enter the highway. It is in vain
that philosophy and reason contend with early impressions, and poor
Caesar was even without the support of either of these frail allies. He
was, however, well mounted on a coach horse of Mr. Wharton's and,
clinging to the back of the animal with instinctive skill, he abandoned
the rein to the beast. Hillocks, woods, rocks, fences, and houses flew
by him with the rapidity of lightning, and the black had just begun to
think whither and on what business he was riding in this headlong
manner, when he reached the place where the roads met, and the "Hotel
Flanagan" stood before him in its dilapidated simplicity. The sight of a
cheerful fire first told the negro that he had reached the habitation of
man, and with it came all his dread of the bloody Virginians; his duty
must, however, be done, and, dismounting, he fastened the foaming animal
to a fence, and approached the window with cautious steps, to
Before a blazing fire sat Sergeant Hollister and Betty Flanagan,
enjoying themselves over a liberal potation.
"I tell ye, sargeant dear," said Betty, removing the mug from her mouth,
"'tis no r'asonable to think it was more than the piddler himself; sure
now, where was the smell of sulphur, and the wings, and the tail, and
the cloven foot? Besides, sargeant, it's no dacent to tell a lone famale
that she had Beelzeboob for a bedfellow."
"It matters but little, Mrs. Flanagan, provided you escape his talons
and fangs hereafter," returned the veteran, following the remark by a
Caesar heard enough to convince him that little danger from this pair
was to be apprehended. His teeth already began to chatter, and the cold
without and the comfort within stimulated him greatly to enter. He made
his approaches with proper caution, and knocked with extreme humility.
The appearance of Hollister with a drawn sword, roughly demanding who
was without, contributed in no degree to the restoration of his
faculties; but fear itself lent him power to explain his errand.
"Advance," said the sergeant, throwing a look of close scrutiny on the
black, as he brought him to the light; "advance, and deliver your
dispatches. Have you the countersign?"
"I don't t'ink he know what dat be," said the black, shaking in his
shoes, "dough massa dat sent me gib me many t'ings to carry, dat he
"Who ordered you on this duty, did you say?"
"Well, it war he doctor, heself, so he come up on a gallop, as he always
do on a doctor's errand."
"'Twas Doctor Sitgreaves; he never knows the countersign himself. Now,
blackey, had it been Captain Lawton he would not have sent you here,
close to a sentinel, without the countersign; for you might get a pistol
bullet through your head, and that would be cruel to you; for although
you be black, I am none of them who thinks niggers have no souls."
"Sure a nagur has as much sowl as a white," said Betty. "Come hither,
ould man, and warm that shivering carcass of yeers by the blaze of this
fire. I'm sure a Guinea nagur loves hate as much as a soldier loves
Caesar obeyed in silence, and a mulatto boy who was sleeping on a bench
in the room, was bidden to convey the note of the surgeon to the
building where the wounded were quartered.
"Here," said the washerwoman, tendering to Caesar a taste of the article
that most delighted herself, "try a drop, smooty, 'twill warm the black
sowl within your crazy body, and be giving you spirits as you are going
"I tell you, Elizabeth," said the sergeant, "that the souls of niggers
are the same as our own; how often have I heard the good Mr. Whitefield
say that there was no distinction of color in heaven. Therefore it is
reasonable to believe that the soul of this here black is as white as my
own, or even Major Dunwoodie's."
"Be sure he be," cried Caesar, a little tartly, whose courage had
revived by tasting the drop of Mrs. Flanagan.
"It's a good sowl that the major is, anyway," returned the washerwoman;
"and a kind sowl--aye, and a brave sowl too; and ye'll say all that
yeerself, sargeant, I'm thinking."
"For the matter of that," returned the veteran, "there is One above even
Washington, to judge of souls; but this I will say, that Major Dunwoodie
is a gentleman who never says, Go, boys--but always says, Come, boys;
and if a poor fellow is in want of a spur or a martingale, and the
leather-whack is gone, there is never wanting the real silver to make up
the loss, and that from his own pocket too."
"Why, then, are you here idle when all that he holds most dear are in
danger?" cried a voice with startling abruptness. "Mount, mount, and
follow your captain; arm and mount, and that instantly, or you will be
This unexpected interruption produced an instantaneous confusion amongst
the tipplers. Caesar fled instinctively into the fireplace, where he
maintained his position in defiance of a heat that would have roasted a
white man. Sergeant Hollister turned promptly on his heel, and seizing
big saber, the steel was glittering by the firelight, in the twinkling
of an eye; but perceiving the intruder to be the peddler, who stood
near the open door that led to the lean-to in the rear, he began to fall
back towards the position of the black, with a military intuition that
taught him to concentrate his forces. Betty alone stood her ground, by
the side of the temporary table. Replenishing the mug with a large
addition of the article known to the soldiery by the name of
"choke-dog," she held it towards the peddler. The eyes of the
washerwoman had for some time been swimming with love and liquor, and
turning them good-naturedly on Birch, she cried,--
"Faith, but ye're wilcome, Mister Piddler, or Mister Birch, or Mister
Beelzeboob, or what's yeer name. Ye're an honest divil anyway, and I'm
hoping that you found the pitticoats convanient. Come forward, dear, and
fale the fire; Sergeant Hollister won't be hurting you, for the fear of
an ill turn you may be doing him hereafter--will ye, sargeant dear?"
"Depart, ungodly man!" cried the veteran, edging still nearer to Caesar,
but lifting his legs alternately as they scorched with the heat. "Depart
in peace! There is none here for thy service, and you seek the woman in
vain. There is a tender mercy that will save her from thy talons." The
sergeant ceased to utter aloud, but the motion of his lips continued,
and a few scattering words of prayer were alone audible.
The brain of the washerwoman was in such a state of confusion that she
did not clearly comprehend the meaning of her suitor, but a new idea
struck her imagination, and she broke forth,--
"If it's me the man saaks, where's the matter, pray? Am I not a widowed
body, and my own property? And you talk of tinderness, sargeant, but
it's little I see of it, anyway. Who knows but Mr. Beelzeboob here is
free to speak his mind? I'm sure it is willing to hear I am."
"Woman," said the peddler, "be silent; and you, foolish man, mount--arm
and mount, and fly to the rescue of your officer, if you are worthy of
the cause in which you serve, and would not disgrace the coat you
wear." The peddler vanished from the sight of the bewildered trio, with
a rapidity that left them uncertain whither he had fled.
On hearing the voice of an old friend, Caesar emerged from his corner,
and fearlessly advanced to the spot where Betty had resolutely
maintained her ground, though in a state of utter mental confusion.
"I wish Harvey stop," said the black. "If he ride down a road, I should
like he company; I don't t'ink Johnny Birch hurt he own son."
"Poor, ignorant wretch!" exclaimed the veteran, recovering his voice
with a long-drawn breath; "think you that figure was made of flesh
"Harvey ain't fleshy," replied the black, "but he berry clebber man."
"Pooh! sargeant dear," exclaimed the washerwoman, "talk r'ason for once,
and mind what the knowing one tells ye; call out the boys and ride a bit
after Captain Jack; remimber, darling, that he told ye, the day, to be
in readiness to mount at a moment's warning."
"Aye, but not at a summons from the foul fiend. Let Captain Lawton, or
Lieutenant Mason, or Cornet Skipwith, say the word, and who is quicker
in the saddle than I?"
"Well, sargeant, how often is it that ye've boasted to myself that the
corps wasn't a bit afeard to face the divil?"
"No more are we, in battle array, and by daylight; but it's foolhardy
and irreverent to tempt Satan, and on such a night as this. Listen how
the wind whistles through the trees; and hark! there is the howling of
evil spirits abroad."
"I see him," said Caesar, opening his eyes to a width that might have
embraced more than an ideal form.
"Where?" interrupted the sergeant, instinctively laying his hand on the
hilt of his saber.
"No, no," said the black, "I see a Johnny Birch come out of he
grave--Johnny walk afore he buried."
"Ah! then he must have led an evil life indeed," said Hollister. "The
blessed in spirit lie quiet until the general muster, but wickedness
disturbs the soul in this life as well as in that which is to come."
"And what is to come of Captain Jack?" cried Betty, angrily. "Is it yeer
orders that ye won't mind, nor a warning given? I'll jist git my cart,
and ride down and tell him that ye're afeard of a dead man and
Beelzeboob; and it isn't succor he may be expicting from ye. I wonder
who'll be the orderly of the troop the morrow, then?--his name won't be
"Nay, Betty, nay," said the sergeant, laying his hand familiarly on her
shoulder; "if there must be riding to-night, let it be by him whose duty
it is to call out the men and set an example. The Lord have mercy, and
send us enemies of flesh and blood!"
Another glass confirmed the veteran in a resolution that was only
excited by a dread of his captain's displeasure, and he proceeded to
summon the dozen men who had been left under his command. The boy
arriving with the ring, Caesar placed it carefully in the pocket of his
waistcoat next his heart, and, mounting, shut his eyes, seized his
charger by the mane, and continued in a state of comparative
insensibility, until the animal stopped at the door of the warm stable
whence he had started.
The movements of the dragoons, being timed to the order of a march, were
much slower, for they were made with a watchfulness that was intended to
guard against surprise from the evil one himself.
Be not your tongue thy own shame's orator,
Look sweet, speak fair, become disloyalty,
Apparel vice like virtue's harbinger.
--_Comedy of Errors._
The situation of the party in Mr. Wharton's dwelling was sufficiently
awkward, during the hour of Caesar's absence; for such was the
astonishing rapidity displayed by his courser, that the four miles of
road was gone over, and the events we have recorded had occurred,
somewhat within that period of time. Of course, the gentlemen strove to
make the irksome moments fly as swiftly as possible; but premeditated
happiness is certainly of the least joyous kind. The bride and
bridegroom are immemorially privileged to be dull, and but few of their
friends seemed disposed, on the present occasion, to dishonor their
example. The English colonel exhibited a proper portion of uneasiness at
this unexpected interruption of his felicity, and he sat with a varying
countenance by the side of Sarah, who seemed to be profiting by the
delay to gather fortitude for the solemn ceremony. In the midst of this
embarrassing silence, Doctor Sitgreaves addressed himself to Miss
Peyton, by whose side he had contrived to procure a chair. "Marriage,
madam, is pronounced to be honorable in the sight of God and man; and it
may be said to be reduced, in the present age, to the laws of nature and
reason. The ancients, in sanctioning polygamy, lost sight of the
provisions of nature, and condemned thousands to misery; but with the
increase of science have grown the wise ordinances of society, which
ordain that man should be the husband of but one woman."
Wellmere glanced a fierce expression of disgust at the surgeon, that
indicated his sense of the tediousness of the other's remarks; while
Miss Peyton, with a slight hesitation, as if fearful of touching on
forbidden subjects, replied,--
"I had thought, sir, that we were indebted to the Christian religion
for our morals on this subject."
"True, madam, it is somewhere provided in the prescriptions of the
apostles, that the sexes should henceforth be on an equality in this
particular. But in what degree could polygamy affect holiness of life?
It was probably a wise arrangement of Paul, who was much of a scholar,
and probably had frequent conferences, on this important subject, with
Luke, whom we all know to have been bred to the practice of medicine--"
There is no telling how far the discursive fancy of Sitgreaves might
have led him, on this subject, had he not been interrupted. But Lawton,
who had been a close though silent observer of all that passed, profited
by the hint to ask abruptly,--
"Pray, Colonel Wellmere, in what manner is bigamy punished in England?"
The bridegroom started, and his lip blanched. Recovering himself,
however, on the instant, he answered with a suavity that became so
happy a man,--
"Death!--as such an offense merits," he said.
"Death and dissection," continued the operator. "It is seldom that law
loses sight of eventual utility in a malefactor. Bigamy, in a man, is a
"More so than celibacy?" asked Lawton.
"More so," returned the surgeon, with undisturbed simplicity. "One who
remains in a single state may devote his life to science and the
extension of knowledge, if not of his species; but the wretch who
profits by the constitutional tendency of the female sex to credulity
and tenderness, incurs the wickedness of a positive sin, heightened by
the baseness of deception."
"Really, sir, the ladies are infinitely obliged to you, for attributing
folly to them as part of their nature."
"Captain Lawton, in man the animal is more nobly formed than in woman.
The nerves are endowed with less sensi bility; the whole frame is less
pliable and yielding; is it therefore surprising, that a tendency to
rely on the faith of her partner is more natural to woman than to the
Wellmere, as if unable to listen with any degree of patience to so
ill-timed a dialogue, sprang from his seat and paced the floor in
disorder. Pitying his situation, the reverend gentleman, who was
patiently awaiting the return of Caesar, changed the discourse, and a
few minutes brought the black himself. The billet was handed to Dr.
Sitgreaves; for Miss Peyton had expressly enjoined Caesar not to
implicate her, in any manner, in the errand on which he was dispatched.
The note contained a summary statement of the several subjects of the
surgeon's directions, and referred him to the black for the ring. The
latter was instantly demanded, and promptly delivered. A transient look
of melancholy clouded the brow of the surgeon, as he stood a moment, and
gazed silently on the bauble; nor did he remember the place, or the
occasion, while he mournfully soliloquized as follows:--
"Poor Anna! gay as innocence and youth could make thee was thy heart,
when this cincture was formed to grace thy nuptials; but ere the hour
had come, God had taken thee to Himself. Years have passed, my sister,
but never have I forgotten the companion of my infancy!" He advanced to
Sarah, and, unconscious of observation, placing the ring on her finger,
continued, "She for whom it was intended has long been in her grave, and
the youth who bestowed the gift soon followed her sainted spirit; take
it, madam, and God grant that it may be an instrument in making you as
happy as you deserve!"
Sarah felt a chill at her heart, as this burst of feeling escaped the
surgeon; but Wellmere offering his hand, she was led before the divine,
and the ceremony began. The first words of this imposing office produced
a dead stillness in the apartment; and the minister of God proceeded to
the solemn exhortation, and witnessed the plighted troth of the
parties, when the investiture was to follow. The ring had been left,
from inadvertency and the agitation of the moment, on the finger where
Sitgreaves had placed it; the slight interruption occasioned by the
circumstance was over, and the clergyman was about to proceed, when a
figure gliding into the midst of the party, at once put a stop to the
ceremony. It was the peddler. His look was bitter and ironical, while a
finger, raised towards the divine, seemed to forbid the ceremony to go
"Can Colonel Wellmere waste the precious moments here, when his wife has
crossed the ocean to meet him? The nights are long, and the moon bright;
a few hours will take him to the city."
Aghast at the suddenness of this extraordinary address, Wellmere for a
moment lost the command of his faculties. To Sarah, the countenance of
Birch, expressive as it was, produced no terror; but the instant she
recovered from the surprise of his interruption, she turned her anxious
gaze on the features of the man to whom she had just pledged her troth.
They afforded the most terrible confirmation of all that the peddler
affirmed; the room whirled round, and she fell lifeless into the arms of
her aunt. There is an instinctive delicacy in woman, that seems to
conquer all other emotions; and the insensible bride was immediately
conveyed from sight, leaving the room to the sole possession of the
The confusion enabled the peddler to retreat with a rapidity that would
have baffled pursuit, had any been attempted, and Wellmere stood with
every eye fixed on him, in ominous silence.
"'Tis false--'tis false as hell!" he cried, striking his forehead. "I
have ever denied her claim; nor will the laws of my country compel me to
"But what will conscience and the laws of God do?" asked Lawton.
"'Tis well, sir," said Wellmere, haughtily, and retreating towards the
door, "my situation protects you now; but a time may come--"
He had reached the entry, when a slight tap on his shoulder caused him
to turn his head; it was Captain Lawton, who, with a smile of peculiar
meaning, beckoned him to follow. The state of Wellmere's mind was such,
that he would gladly have gone anywhere to avoid the gaze of horror and
detestation that glared from every eye he met. They reached the stables
before the trooper spoke, when he cried aloud,--
"Bring out Roanoke!"
His man appeared with the steed caparisoned for its master. Lawton,
coolly throwing the bridle on the neck of the animal, took his pistols
from the holsters, and continued, "Here are weapons that have seen good
service before to-day--aye, and in honorable hands, sir. These were the
pistols of my father, Colonel Wellmere; he used them with credit in the
wars with France, and gave them to me to fight the battles of my country
with. In what better way can I serve her than in exterminating a wretch
who would have blasted one of her fairest daughters?"
"This injurious treatment shall meet with its reward," cried the other,
seizing the offered weapon. "The blood lie on the head of him who
"Amen! but hold a moment, sir. You are now free, and the passports of
Washington are in your pocket; I give you the fire; if I fall, there is
a steed that will outstrip pursuit; and I would advise you to reteat
without much delay, for even Archibald Sitgreaves would fight in such a
cause--nor will the guard above be very apt to give quarter."
"Are you ready?" asked Wellmere, gnashing his teeth with rage.
"Stand forward, Tom, with the lights; fire!"
Wellmere fired, and the bullion flew from the epaulet of the trooper.
"Now the turn is mine," said Lawton, deliberately leveling his pistol.
"And mine!" shouted a voice, as the weapon was struck from his hand.
"By all the devils in hell, 'tis the mad Virginian!--fall on, my boys,
and take him; this is a prize not hoped for!"
Unarmed, and surprised as he was, Lawton's presence of mind did not
desert him; he felt that he was in the hands of those from whom he was
to expect no mercy; and, as four of the Skinners fell upon him at once,
he used his gigantic strength to the utmost. Three of the band grasped
him by the neck and arms, with an intent to clog his efforts, and pinion
him with ropes. The first of these he threw from him, with a violence
that sent him against the building, where he lay stunned with the blow.
But the fourth seized his legs; and, unable to contend with such odds,
the trooper came to the earth, bringing with him all of his assailants.
The struggle on the ground was short but terrific; curses and the most
dreadful imprecations were uttered by the Skinners, who in vain called
on more of their band, who were gazing on the combat in nerveless
horror, to assist. A difficulty of breathing, from one of the
combatants, was heard, accompanied by the stifled moanings of a
strangled man; and directly one of the group arose on his feet, shaking
himself free from the wild grasp of the others. Both Wellmere and the
servant of Lawton had fled: the former to the stables, and the latter to
give the alarm, leaving all in darkness. The figure that stood erect
sprang into the saddle of the unheeded charger; sparks of fire, issuing
from the armed feet of the horse, gave a momentary light by which the
captain was seen dashing like the wind towards the highway.
"By hell, he's off!" cried the leader, hoarse with rage and exhaustion.
"Fire!--bring him down--fire, or you'll be too late."
The order was obeyed, and one moment of suspense followed, in the vain
hope of hearing the huge frame of Lawton tumbling from his steed.
"He would not fall if you had killed him," muttered one. "I've known
these Virginians sit their horses with two or three balls through them;
aye, even after they were dead."
A freshening of the wind wafted the tread of a horse down the valley,
which, by its speed, gave assurance of a rider governing its motion.
"These trained horses always stop when the rider falls," observed one of
"Then," cried the leader, striking his musket on the ground in a rage,
"the fellow is safe!--to your business at once. A short half hour will
bring down that canting sergeant and the guard upon us. 'Twill be lucky
if the guns don't turn them out. Quick, to your posts, and fire the
house in the chambers; smoking ruins are good to cover evil deeds."
"What is to be done with this lump of earth?" cried another, pushing the
body that yet lay insensible, where it had been hurled by the arm of
Lawton; "a little rubbing would bring him to."
"Let him lie," said the leader, fiercely. "Had he been half a man, that
dragooning rascal would have been in my power; enter the house, I say,
and fire the chambers. We can't go amiss here; there is plate and money
enough to make you all gentlemen--and revenge too."
The idea of silver in any way was not to be resisted; and, leaving their
companion, who began to show faint signs of life, they rushed
tumultuously towards the dwelling. Wellmere availed himself of the
opportunity, and, stealing from the stable with his own charger, he was
able to gain the highway unnoticed. For an instant he hesitated, whether
to ride towards the point where he knew the guard was stationed, and
endeavor to rescue the family, or, profiting by his liberty and the
exchange that had been effected by the divine, to seek the royal army.
Shame, and a consciousness of guilt, determined him to take the latter
course, and he rode towards New York, stung with the reflection of his
own baseness, and harassed with the apprehension of meeting with an
enraged woman, that he had married during his late visit to England,
but whose claims, as soon as his passion was sated, he had resolved
never willingly to admit. In the tumult and agitation of the moment, the
retreat of Lawton and Wellmere was but little noticed; the condition of
Mr. Wharton demanding the care and consolation of both the surgeon and
the divine. The report of the firearms at first roused the family to the
sense of a new danger, and but a moment elapsed before the leader, and
one more of the gang, entered the room.
"Surrender! you servants of King George," shouted the leader, presenting
his musket to the breast of Sitgreaves, "or I will let a little tory
blood from your veins."
"Gently--gently, my friend," said the surgeon. "You are doubtless more
expert in inflicting wounds than in healing them; the weapon that you
hold so indiscreetly is extremely dangerous to animal life."
"Yield, or take its contents."
"Why and wherefore should I yield?--I am a noncombatant. The articles of
capitulation must be arranged with Captain John Lawton; though yielding,
I believe, is not a subject on which you will find him particularly
The fellow had by this time taken such a survey of the group, as
convinced him that little danger was to be apprehended from resistance,
and, eager to seize his share of the plunder, he dropped his musket, and
was soon busy with the assistance of his men, in arranging divers
articles of plate in bags. The cottage now presented a singular
spectacle. The ladies were gathered around Sarah, who yet continued
insensible, in one of the rooms that had escaped the notice of the
marauders. Mr. Wharton sat in a state of perfect imbecility, listening
to, but not profiting by, the meaning words of comfort that fell from
the lips of the clergyman. Singleton was lying on a sofa, shaking with
debility, and inattentive to surrounding objects; while the surgeon was
administering restoratives, and looking at the dressings, with a
coolness that mocked the tumult. Caesar and the attendant of Captain
Singleton, had retreated to the wood in the rear of the cottage, and
Katy Haynes was flying about the building, busily employed in forming a
bundle of valuables, from which, with the most scrupulous honesty, she
rejected every article that was not really and truly her own.
But to return to the party at the Four Corners. When the veteran had got
his men mounted and under arms, a restless desire to participate in the
glory and dangers of the expedition came over the washerwoman. Whether
she was impelled to the undertaking by a dread of remaining alone, or a
wish to hasten in person to the relief of her favorite, we will not
venture to assert but, as Hollister was giving the orders to wheel and
march, the voice of Betty was heard, exclaiming,--
"Stop a bit, sargeant dear, till two of the boys get out the cart, and
I'll jist ride wid ye; 'tis like there'll be wounded, and it will be
mighty convanient to bring them home in."
Although inwardly much pleased with any cause of delay to a service that
he so little relished, Hollister affected some displeasure at the
"Nothing but a cannon ball can take one of my lads from his charger," he
said; "and it's not very likely that we shall have as fair fighting as
cannon and musketry, in a business of the evil one's inventing; so,
Elizabeth, you may go if you will, but the cart will not be wanting."
"Now, sargeant dear, you lie, anyway," said Betty, who was somewhat
unduly governed by her potations. "And wasn't Captain Singleton shot off
his horse but tin days gone by? Aye, and Captain Jack himself too; and
didn't he lie on the ground, face uppermost and back downwards, looking
grim? And didn't the boys t'ink him dead, and turn and l'ave the
rig'lars the day?"
"You lie back again," cried the sergeant, fiercely; "and so does anyone
who says that we didn't gain the day."
"For a bit or so--only I mane for a bit or so," said the washerwoman;
"but Major Dunwoodie turned you, and so you licked the rig'lars. But the
captain it was that fell, and I'm thinking that there's no better rider
going; so, sargeant, it's the cart will be convanient. Here, two of you,
jist hitch the mare to the tills, and it's no whisky that ye'll be
wanting the morrow; and put the piece of Jenny's hide under the pad; the
baste is never the better for the rough ways of the county Westchester."
The consent of the sergeant being obtained, the equipage of Mrs.
Flanagan was soon in readiness to receive its burden.
"As it is quite uncertain whether we shall be attacked in front, or in
rear," said Hollister, "five of you shall march in advance, and the
remainder shall cover our retreat towards the barrack, should we be
pressed. 'Tis an awful moment to a man of little learning, Elizabeth, to
command in such a service; for my part, I wish devoutly that one of the
officers were here; but my trust is in the Lord."
"Pooh! man, away wid ye," said the washerwoman, who had got herself
comfortably seated. "The divil a bit of an inimy is there near. March
on, hurry-skurry, and let the mare trot, or it's but little that Captain
Jack will thank ye for the help."
"Although unlearned in matters of communicating with spirits, or laying
the dead, Mrs. Flanagan," said the veteran, "I have not served through
the old war, and five years in this, not to know how to guard the
baggage. Doesn't Washington always cover the baggage? I am not to be
told my duty by a camp follower. Fall in as you are ordered, and
"Well, march, anyway," cried the impatient washerwoman. "The black is
there already, and it's tardy the captain will think ye."
"Are you sure that it was really a black man that brought the order?"
said the sergeant, dropping in between the platoons, where he could
converse with Betty, and be at hand, to lead on an emergency, either on
an advance or on a retreat.
"Nay--and I'm sure of nothing, dear. But why don't the boys prick their
horses and jog a trot? The mare is mighty un'asy, and it's no warm in
this cursed valley, riding as much like a funeral party as old rags is
to continental." [Footnote: The paper money issued by congress was
familiarly called continental money. This term "continental" was applied
to the army, the congress, the ships of war, and in short, to almost
everything of interest which belonged to the new government. It would
seem to have been invented as the opposite of the insular position of
the mother country.] "Fairly and softly, aye, and prudently, Mrs.
Flanagan; it's not rashness that makes the good officer. If we have to
encounter a spirit, it's more than likely he'll make his attack by
surprise; horses are not very powerful in the dark, and I have a
character to lose, good woman."
"Caractur! and isn't it caractur and life too that Captain Jack has to
"Halt!" cried the sergeant. "What is that lurking near the foot of the
rock, on the left?"
"Sure, it's nothing, unless it be a matter of Captain Jack's sowl that's
come to haunt ye, for not being brisker on the march."
"Betty, your levity makes you an unfit comrade for such an expedition.
Advance, one of you, and reconnoiter the spot; draw swords!--rear rank,
close to the front!"
"Pshaw!" shouted Betty, "is it a big fool or a big coward that ye are?
Jist wheel from the road, boys, and I'll shove the mare down upon it in
the twinkling of an eye--and it's no ghost that I fear."
By this time one of the men had returned, and declared there was nothing
to prevent their advancing, and the party continued their march, but
with great deliberation and caution.
"Courage and prudence are the jewels of a soldier, Mrs. Flanagan," said
the sergeant; "without the one, the other may be said to be good
"Prudence without courage: is it _that_ you mane?--and it's so that I'm
thinking myself, sargeant. This baste pulls tight on the reins,
"Be patient, good woman; hark! what is that?" said Hollister, pricking
up his ears at the report of Wellmere's pistol. "I'll swear that was a
human pistol, and one from our regiment. Rear rank, close to the
front!--Mrs. Flanagan, I must leave you." So saying, having recovered
all his faculties, by hearing a sound that he understood, he placed
himself at the head of his men with an air of military pride, that the
darkness prevented the washerwoman from beholding. A volley of musketry
now rattled in the night wind, and the sergeant exclaimed,--
The next instant the trampling of a horse was heard coming up the road,
at a rate that announced a matter of life or death; and Hollister again
halted his party, riding a short distance in front himself, to meet
"Stand!--who goes there?" shouted Hollister.
"Ha! Hollister, is it you?" cried Lawton, "ever ready and at your post;
but where is the guard?"
"At hand, sir, and ready to follow you through thick and thin," said the
veteran, relieved at once from responsibility, and as eager as a boy to
be led against his enemy.
"'Tis well!" said the trooper, riding up to his men; then, speaking a
few words of encouragement, he led them down the valley at a rate but
little less rapid than his approach. The miserable horse of the sutler
was soon distanced, and Betty, thus thrown out in the chase, turned to
the side of the road, and observed,--
"There--it's no difficult to tell that Captain Jack is wid 'em, anyway;
and away they go like so many nagur boys to a husking-frolic; well, I'll
jist hitch the mare to this bit of a fence, and walk down and see the
sport afoot--it's no r'asonable to expose the baste to be hurted."
Led on by Lawton, the men followed, destitute alike of fear and
reflection. Whether it was a party of the refugees, or a detachment from
the royal army, that they were to assail, they were profoundly ignorant;
but they knew that the officer in advance was distinguished for courage
and personal prowess; and these are virtues that are sure to captivate
the thoughtless soldiery. On arriving near the gates of the Locusts, the
trooper halted his party, and made his arrangements for the assault.
Dismounting, he ordered eight of his men to follow his example, and
turning to Hollister, said,--
"Stand you here, and guard the horses; if anything attempt to pass, stop
it, or cut it down, and--"
The flames at this moment burst through the dormer windows and cedar
roof of the cottage, and a bright light glared on the darkness of the
night. "On!" shouted the trooper "on!--give quarter when you have
There was a startling fierceness in the voice of the trooper that
reached to the heart, even amid the horrors of the cottage. The leader
of the Skinners dropped his plunder, and, for a moment, he stood in
nerveless dread; then rushing to a window, he threw up the sash; at this
instant Lawton entered, saber in hand, into the apartment.
"Die, miscreant!" cried the trooper, cleaving a marauder to the jaw; but
the leader sprang into the lawn, and escaped his vengeance. The shrieks
of the females restored Lawton to his presence of mind, and the earnest
entreaty of the divine induced him to attend to the safety of the
family. One more of the gang fell in with the dragoons, and met his
death; but the remainder had taken the alarm in season. Occupied with
Sarah, neither Miss Singleton, nor the ladies of the house, had
discovered the entrance of the Skinners, though the flames were raging
around them with a fury that threatened the building with rapid
destruction. The shrieks of Katy and the terrified consort of Caesar,
together with the noise and uproar in the adjacent apartment, first
roused Miss Peyton and Isabella to a sense of their danger.
"Merciful Providence!" exclaimed the alarmed aunt; "there is a dreadful
confusion in the house, and there will be blood shed in consequence of
"There are none to fight," returned Isabella, with a face paler than
that of the other. "Dr. Sitgreaves is very peaceable in his disposition,
and surely Captain Lawton would not forget himself so far."
"The Southern temper is quick and fiery," continued Miss Peyton; "and
your brother, feeble and weak as he is, has looked the whole afternoon
flushed and angry."
"Good heaven!" cried Isabella, with difficulty supporting herself on the
couch of Sarah; "he is gentle as the lamb by nature, though the lion is
not his equal when roused."
"We must interfere: our presence will quell the tumult, and possibly
save the life of a fellow creature."
Miss Peyton, excited to attempt what she conceived a duty worthy of her
sex and nature, advanced with the dignity of injured female feeling, to
the door, followed by Isabella. The apartment to which Sarah had been
conveyed was in one of the wings of the building, and it communicated
with the principal hall of the cottage by a long and dark passage. This
was now light, and across its termination several figures were seen
rushing with an impetuosity that prevented an examination of their
"Let us advance," said Miss Peyton, with a firmness her face belied;
"they must respect our sex."
"They shall," cried Isabella, taking the lead in the enterprise. Frances
was left alone with her sister. A few minutes were passed in silence,
when a loud crash, in the upper apartments, was succeeded by a bright
light that glared through the open door, and made objects as distinct to
the eye as if they were placed under a noonday sun. Sarah raised herself
on her bed, and staring wildly around, pressed both her hands on her
forehead, endeavoring to recollect herself.
"This, then, is heaven--and you are one of its bright spirits. Oh! how
glorious is its radiance! I had thought the happiness I have lately
experienced was too much for earth. But we shall meet again;
yes--yes--we shall meet again."
"Sarah! Sarah!" cried Frances, in terror; "my sister--my only
sister--Oh! do not smile so horridly; know me, or you will break
"Hush," said Sarah raising her hand for silence; "you may disturb his
rest--surely, he will follow me to the grave. Think you there can be two
wives in the grave? No--no--no; one--one--one--only one."
Frances dropped her head into the lap of her sister, and wept in agony.
"Do you shed tears, sweet angel?" continued Sarah, soothingly. "Then
heaven is not exempt from grief. But where is Henry? He was executed,
and he must be here too; perhaps they will come together. Oh! how joyful
will be the meeting!"
Frances sprang on her feet, and paced the apartment. The eye of Sarah
followed her in childish admiration of her beauty.
"You look like my sister; but all good and lovely spirits are alike.
Tell me, were you ever married? Did you ever let a stranger steal your
affections from father, and brother, and sister? If not, poor wretch, I
pity you, although you may be in heaven."
"Sarah--peace, peace--I implore you to be silent," shrieked Frances,
rushing to her bed, "or you will kill me at your feet."
Another dreadful crash shook the building to its center. It was the
falling of the roof, and the flames threw their light abroad, so as to
make objects visible around the cottage, through the windows of the
room. Frances flew to one of them, and saw the confused group that was
collected on the lawn. Among them were her aunt and Isabella, pointing
with distraction to the fiery edifice, and apparently urging the
dragoons to enter it. For the first time she comprehended their danger;
and uttering a wild shriek, she flew through the passage without
consideration, or object.
A dense and suffocating column of smoke opposed her progress. She paused
to breathe, when a man caught her in his arms, and bore her, in a state
of insensibility, through the falling embers and darkness, to the open
air. The instant that Frances recovered her recollection, she perceived
that she owed her life Lo Lawton, and throwing herself on her knees,
"Sarah! Sarah! Sarah! save my sister, and may the blessing of God await
Her strength failed, and she sank on the grass, in insensibility. The
trooper pointed to her figure, motioned to Katy for assistance, and
advanced once more to the building. The fire had already communicated to
the woodwork of the piazzas and windows, and the whole exterior of the
cottage was covered with smoke. The only entrance was through these
dangers, and even the hardy and impetuous Lawton paused to consider. It
was for a moment only, when he dashed into the heat and darkness, where,
missing the entrance, he wandered for a minute, and precipitated himself
back, again, upon the lawn. Drawing a single breath of pure air, he
renewed the effort, and was again unsuccessful. On a third trial, he met
a man staggering under the load of a human body. It was neither the
place, nor was there time, to question, or to make distinctions; seizing
both in his arms, with gigantic strength, he bore them through the
smoke. He soon perceived, to his astonishment, that it was the surgeon,
and the body of one of the Skinners, that he had saved.
"Archibald!" he exclaimed, "why, in the name of justice, did you bring
this miscreant to light again? His deeds are rank to heaven!"
The surgeon, who had been in imminent peril, was too much bewildered to
reply instantly, but wiping the moisture from his forehead, and clearing
his lungs from the vapor he had inhaled, he said piteously,--
"Ah! it is all over! Had I been in time to have stopped the effusion
from the jugular, he might have been saved; but the heat was conducive
to hemorrhage; life is extinct indeed. Well, are there any
His question was put to the air, for Frances had been removed to the
opposite side of the building, where her friends were collected, and
Lawton had once more disappeared in the smoke.
By this time the flames had dispersed much of the suffocating vapor, so
that the trooper was able to find the door, and in its very entrance he
was met by a man supporting the insensible Sarah. There was but barely
time to reach the lawn again, before the fire broke through the windows,
and wrapped the whole building in a sheet of flame.
"God be praised!" ejaculated the preserver of Sarah. "It would have been
a dreadful death to die."
The trooper turned from gazing at the edifice, to the speaker, and to
his astonishment, instead of one of his own men, he beheld the peddler.
"Ha! the spy," he exclaimed; "by heavens, you cross me like a specter."
"Captain Lawton," said Birch, leaning in momentary exhaustion against
the fence, to which they had retired from the heat, "I am again in your
power, for I can neither flee, nor resist."
"The cause of America is dear to me as life," said the trooper, "but she
cannot require her children to forget gratitude and honor. Fly, unhappy
man, while yet you are unseen, or it will exceed my power to save you."
"May God prosper you, and make you victorious over your enemies," said
Birch, grasping the hand of the dragoon with an iron strength that his
meager figure did not indicate.
"Hold!" said Lawton. "But a word--are you what you seem?--can you--are
"A royal spy," interrupted Birch, averting his face, and endeavoring to
release his hand.
"Then go, miserable wretch," said the trooper, relinquishing his grasp.
"Either avarice or delusion has led a noble heart astray!"
The bright light from the flames reached a great distance around the
ruins, but the words were hardly past the lips of Lawton, before the
gaunt form of the peddler had glided over the visible space, and plunged
into the darkness beyond.
The eye of Lawton rested for a moment on the spot where he had last seen
this inexplicable man, and then turning to the yet insensible Sarah, he
lifted her in his arms, and bore her, like a sleeping infant, to the
care of her friends.
And now her charms are fading fast,
Her spirits now no more are gay:
Alas! that beauty cannot last!
That flowers so sweet so soon decay!
How sad appears
The vale of years,
How changed from youth's too flattering scene!
Where are her fond admirers gone?
Alas! and shall there then be none
On whom her soul may lean?
The walls of the cottage were all that was left of the building; and
these, blackened by smoke, and stripped of their piazzas and ornaments,
were but dreary memorials of the content and security that had so lately
reigned within. The roof, together with the rest of the woodwork, had
tumbled into the cellars, and a pale and flitting light, ascending from
their embers, shone faintly through the windows. The early flight of the
Skinners left the dragoons at liberty to exert themselves in saving much
of the furniture, which lay scattered in heaps on the lawn, giving the
finishing touch of desolation to the scene. Whenever a stronger ray of
light than common shot upwards, the composed figures of Sergeant
Hollister and his associates, sitting on their horses in rigid
discipline, were to be seen in the background of the picture, together
with the beast of Mrs. Flanagan, which, having slipped its bridle, was
quietly grazing by the highway. Betty herself had advanced to the spot
where the sergeant was posted, and, with an incredible degree of
composure, witnessed the whole of the events as they occurred. More than
once she suggested to her companion, that, as the fighting seemed to be
over, the proper time for plunder had arrived, but the veteran
acquainted her with his orders, and remained inflexible and immovable;
until the washerwoman, observing Lawton come round the wing of the
building with Sarah, ventured amongst the warriors. The captain, after
placing Sarah on a sofa that had been hurled from the building by two of
his men, retired, that the ladies might succeed him in his care. Miss
Peyton and her niece flew, with a rapture that was blessed with a
momentary forgetfulness of all but her preservation, to receive Sarah
from the trooper; but the vacant eye and flushed cheek restored them
instantly to their recollection.
"Sarah, my child, my beloved niece," said the former, folding the
unconscious bride in her arms, "you are saved, and may the blessing of
God await him who has been the instrument."
"See," said Sarah, gently pushing her aunt aside, and pointing to the
glimmering ruins, "the windows are illuminated in honor of my arrival.
They always receive a bride thus--he told me they would do no less.
Listen, and you will hear the bells."
"Here is no bride, no rejoicing, nothing but woe!" cried Frances, in a
manner but little less frantic than that of her sister. "Oh! may heaven
restore you to us--to yourself!"
"Peace, foolish young woman," said Sarah, with a smile of affected pity;
"all cannot be happy at the same moment; perhaps you have no brother, or
husband, to console you. You look beautiful, and you will yet find one;
but," she continued, dropping her voice to a whisper, "see that he has
no other wife--'tis dreadful to think what might happen, should he be
"The shock has destroyed her mind," cried Miss Peyton; "my child, my
beauteous Sarah is a maniac!"
"No, no, no," cried Frances, "it is fever; she is lightheaded--she must
recover--she shall recover."
The aunt caught joyfully at the hope conveyed in this suggestion, and
dispatched Katy to request the immediate aid and advice of Dr.
Sitgreaves. The surgeon was found inquiring among the men for
professional employment, and inquisitively examining every bruise and
scratch that he could induce the sturdy warriors to acknowledge they had
received. A summons, of the sort conveyed by Katy, was instantly obeyed,
and not a minute elapsed before he was by the side of Miss Peyton.
"This is a melancholy termination to so joyful a commencement of the
night, madam," he observed, in a soothing manner. "But war must bring
its attendant miseries; though doubtless it often supports the cause of
liberty, and improves the knowledge of surgical science."
Miss Peyton could make no reply, but pointed to her niece.
"'Tis fever," answered Frances; "see how glassy is her eye, and look at
her cheek, how flushed."
The surgeon stood for a moment, deeply studying the outward symptoms of
his patient, and then he silently took her hand in his own. It was
seldom that the hard and abstracted features of Sitgreaves discovered
any violent emotion; all his passions seemed schooled, and his
countenance did not often betray what, indeed, his heart frequently
felt. In the present instance, however, the eager gaze of the aunt and
sister quickly detected his emotions. After laying his fingers for a
minute on the beautiful arm, which, bared to the elbow and glittering
with jewels, Sarah suffered him to retain, he dropped it, and dashing a
hand over his eyes, turned sorrowfully away.
"Here is no fever to excite--'tis a case, my dear madam, for time and
care only; these, with the blessing of God, may effect a cure."
"And where is the wretch who has caused this ruin?" exclaimed
Singleton, rejecting the support of his man, and making an effort to
rise from the chair to which he had been driven by debility. "It is in
vain that we overcome our enemies, if, conquered, they can inflict such
wounds as this."
"Dost think, foolish boy," said Lawton, with a bitter smile, "that
hearts can feel in a colony? What is America but a satellite of
England--to move as she moves, follow where she wists, and shine, that
the mother country may become more splendid by her radiance? Surely you
forget that it is honor enough for a colonist to receive ruin from the
hand of a child of Britain."
"I forget not that I wear a sword," said Singleton, falling back
exhausted; "but was there no willing arm ready to avenge that lovely
sufferer--to appease the wrongs of this hoary father?"
"Neither arms nor hearts are wanting, sir, in such a cause," said the
trooper, fiercely; "but chance oftentimes helps the wicked. By heavens,
I'd give Roanoke himself, for a clear field with the miscreant!"
"Nay! captain dear, no be parting with the horse, anyway," said Betty.
"It is no trifle that can be had by jist asking of the right person, if
ye're in need of silver; and the baste is sure of foot, and jumps like a
"Woman, fifty horses, aye, the best that were ever reared on the banks
of the Potomac, would be but a paltry price, for one blow at a villain."
"Come," said the surgeon, "the night air can do no service to George, or
these ladies, and it is incumbent on us to remove them where they can
find surgical attendance and refreshment. Here is nothing but smoking
ruins and the miasma of the swamps."
To this rational proposition no objection could be raised, and the
necessary orders were issued by Lawton to remove the whole party to the
America furnished but few and very indifferent carriage-makers at the
period of which we write, and every vehicle, that in the least aspired
to that dignity, was the manufacture of a London mechanic. When Mr.
Wharton left the city, he was one of the very few who maintained the
state of a carriage; and, at the time Miss Peyton and his daughters
joined him in his retirement, they had been conveyed to the cottage in
the heavy chariot that had once so imposingly rolled through the
windings of Queen Street, or emerged, with somber dignity, into the more
spacious drive of Broadway. This vehicle stood, undisturbed, where it
had been placed on its arrival, and the age of the horses alone had
protected the favorites of Caesar from sequestration by the contending
forces in their neighborhood. With a heavy heart, the black, assisted by
a few of the dragoons, proceeded to prepare it for the reception of the
ladies. It was a cumbrous vehicle, whose faded linings and tarnished
hammer-cloth, together with its panels of changing color, denoted the
want of that art which had once given it luster and beauty. The "lion
couchant" of the Wharton arms was reposing on the reviving splendor of a
blazonry that told the armorial bearings of a prince of the church; and
the miter, that began to shine through its American mask, was a symbol
of the rank of its original owner. The chaise which conveyed Miss
Singleton was also safe, for the stable and outbuildings had entirely
escaped the flames; it certainly had been no part of the plan of the
marauders to leave so well-appointed a stud behind them, but the
suddenness of the attack by Lawton, not only disconcerted their
arrangements on this point, but on many others also. A guard was left on
the ground, under the command of Hollister, who, having discovered that
his enemy was of mortal mold, took his position with admirable coolness
and no little skill, to guard against surprise. He drew off his small
party to such a distance from the ruins, that it was effectually
concealed in the darkness, while at the same time the light continued
sufficiently power ful to discover anyone who might approach the lawn
with an intent to plunder.
Satisfied with this judicious arrangement, Captain Lawton made his
dispositions for the march. Miss Peyton, her two nieces, and Isabella
were placed in the chariot, while the cart of Mrs. Flanagan, amply
supplied with blankets and a bed, was honored with the person of Captain
Singleton. Dr. Sitgreaves took charge of the chaise and Mr. Wharton.
What became of the rest of the family during that eventful night is
unknown, for Caesar alone, of the domestics, was to be found, if we
except the housekeeper. Having disposed of the whole party in this
manner, Lawton gave the word to march. He remained himself, for a few
minutes, alone on the lawn, secreting various pieces of plate and other
valuables, that he was fearful might tempt the cupidity of his own men;
when, perceiving nothing more that he conceived likely to overcome their
honesty, he threw himself into the saddle with the soldierly intention
of bringing up the rear.
"Stop, stop," cried a female voice. "Will you leave me alone to be
murdered? The spoon is melted, I believe, and I'll have compensation, if
there's law or justice in this unhappy land."
Lawton turned an eye in the direction of the sound, and perceived a
female emerging from the ruins, loaded with a bundle that vied in size
with the renowned pack of the peddler.
"Whom have we here," said the trooper, "rising like a phoenix from the
flames? Oh! by the soul of Hippocrates, but it is the identical
she-doctor, of famous needle reputation. Well, good woman, what means
"Outcry!" echoed Katy, panting for breath. "Is it not disparagement
enough to lose a silver spoon, but I must be left alone in this lonesome
place, to be robbed, and perhaps murdered? Harvey would not serve me so;
when I lived with Harvey, I was always treated with respect at least, if
he was a little close with his secrets, and wasteful of his money."
"Then, madam, you once formed part of the household of Mr. Harvey
"You may say I was the whole of his household," returned the other;
"there was nobody but I, and he, and the old gentleman. You didn't know
the old gentleman, perhaps?"
"That happiness was denied me. How long did you live in the family of
"I disremember the precise time, but it must have been hard on upon nine
years; and what better am I for it all?"
"Sure enough; I can see but little benefit that you have derived from
the association, truly. But is there not something unusual in the
movements and character of this Mr. Birch?"
"Unusual is an easy word for such unaccountables!" replied Katy,
lowering her voice and looking around her. "He was a wonderful
disregardful man, and minded a guinea no more than I do a kernel of
corn. But help me to some way of joining Miss Jinitt, and I will tell
you prodigies of what Harvey has done, first and last."
"You will!" exclaimed the trooper, musing. "Here, give me leave to feel
your arm above the elbow. There--you are not deficient in bone, let the
blood be as it may." So saying, he gave the spinster a sudden whirl,
that effectually confused all her faculties, until she found herself
safely, if not comfortably, seated on the crupper of Lawton's steed.
"Now, madam, you have the consolation of knowing that you are as well
mounted as Washington. The nag is sure of foot, and will leap like
"Let me get down," cried Katy, struggling to release herself from his
iron grasp, and yet afraid of falling. "This is no way to put a woman on
a horse; besides, I can't ride without a pillion."
"Softly, good madam," said Lawton; "for although Roanoke never falls
before, he sometimes rises behind. He is far from being accustomed to a
pair of heels beating upon his flanks like a drum major on a field day;
a single touch of the spur will serve him for a fortnight, and it is by
no means wise to be kicking in this manner, for he is a horse that but
little likes to be outdone."
"Let me down, I say," screamed Katy; "I shall fall and be killed.
Besides, I have nothing to hold on with; my arms are full of valuables."
"True," returned the trooper, observing that he had brought bundle and
all from the ground. "I perceive that you belong to the baggage guard;
but my sword belt will encircle your little waist, as well as my own."
Katy was too much pleased with this compliment to make any resistance,
while he buckled her close to his own herculean frame, and, driving a
spur into his charger, they flew from the lawn with a rapidity that
defied further denial. After proceeding for some time, at a rate that a
good deal discomposed the spinster, they overtook the cart of the
washerwoman driving slowly over the stones, with a proper consideration
for the wounds of Captain Singleton. The occurrences of that eventful
night had produced an excitement in the young soldier, that was followed
by the ordinary lassitude of reaction and he lay carefully enveloped in
blankets, and supported by his man, but little able to converse, though
deeply brooding over the past. The dialogue between Lawton and his
companion ceased with the commencement of their motions, but a footpace
being more favorable to speech, the trooper began anew:
"Then, you have been an inmate in the same house with Harvey Birch?"
"For more than nine years," said Katy, drawing her breath, and rejoicing
greatly that their speed was abated.
The deep tones of the trooper's voice were no sooner conveyed to the
ears of the washerwoman, than, turning her head, where she sat directing
the movements of the mare, she put into the discourse at the
"Belike, then, good woman, ye're knowing whether or no he's akin to
Beelzeboob," said Betty. "It's Sargeant Hollister who's saying the
same, and no fool is the sargeant, anyway."
"It's a scandalous disparagement" cried Katy, vehemently, "no kinder
soul than Harvey carries a pack; and for a gownd or a tidy apron, he
will never take a king's farthing from a friend. Beelzebub, indeed! For
what would he read the Bible, if he had dealings with the evil spirit?"
"He's an honest divil, anyway; as I was saying before, the guinea was
pure. But then the sargeant thinks him amiss, and it's no want of
l'arning that Mister Hollister has."
"He's a fool!" said Katy tartly. "Harvey might be a man of substance,
were he not so disregardful. How often have I told him, that if he did
nothing but peddle, and would put his gains to use, and get married, so
that things at home could be kept within doors, and leave off his
dealings with the rig'lars, and all incumberments, that he would soon
become an excellent liver. Sergeant Hollister would be glad to hold a
candle to him, indeed!"
"Pooh!" said Betty, in her philosophical way; "ye're no thinking that
Mister Hollister is an officer, and stands next the cornet, in the
troop. But this piddler gave warning of the brush the night, and it's no
sure that Captain Jack would have got the day, but for the
"How say you, Betty," cried the trooper, bending forward on his saddle,
"had you notice of our danger from Birch?"
"The very same, darling; and it's hurry I was till the boys was in
motion; not but I knew ye're enough for the Cowboys any time. But wid
the divil on your side, I was sure of the day. I'm only wondering
there's so little plunder, in a business of Beelzeboob's contriving."
"I'm obliged to you for the rescue, and equally indebted to the motive."
"Is it the plunder? But little did I t'ink of it till I saw the movables
on the ground, some burnt, and some broke, and other some as good as
new. It would be convanient to have one feather bed in the
"By heavens, 'twas timely succor! Had not Roanoke been swifter than
their bullets, I must have fallen. The animal is worth his weight
"It's continental, you mane, darling. Goold weighs heavy, and is no
plenty in the states. If the nagur hadn't been staying and frighting the
sargeant with his copper-colored looks, and a matter of blarney 'bout
ghosts, we should have been in time to have killed all the dogs, and
taken the rest prisoners."
"It is very well as it is, Betty," said Lawton. "A day will yet come, I
trust, when these miscreants shall be rewarded, if not in judgments upon
their persons, at least in the opinions of their fellow citizens. The
time must arrive when America will distinguish between a patriot and
"Speak low," said Katy; "there's some who think much of themselves, that
have doings with the Skinners."
"It's more they are thinking of themselves, then, than other people
thinks of them," cried Betty. "A t'ief's a t'ief, anyway; whether he
stales for King George or for Congress."
"I know'd that evil would soon happen," said Katy. "The sun set to-night
behind a black cloud, and the house dog whined, although I gave him his
supper with my own hands; besides, it's not a week sin' I dreamed the
dream about the thousand lighted candles, and the cakes burnt in
"Well," said Betty, "it's but little I drame, anyway. Jist keep an 'asy
conscience and a plenty of the stuff in ye, and ye'll sleep like an
infant. The last drame I had was when the boys put the thistle tops in
the blankets, and then I was thinking that Captain Jack's man was
currying me down, for the matter of Roanoke, but it's no trifle I mind
either in skin or stomach."
"I'm sure," said Katy, with a stiff erectness that drew Lawton back in
his saddle, "no man shall ever dare to lay hands on bed of mine; it's
undecent and despisable conduct."
"Pooh! pooh!" cried Betty; "if you tag after a troop of horse, a small
bit of a joke must be borne. What would become of the states and
liberty, if the boys had never a clane shirt, or a drop to comfort them?
Ask Captain Jack, there, if they'd fight, Mrs. Beelzeboob, and they no
clane linen to keep the victory in."
"I'm a single woman, and my name is Haynes," said Katy, "and I'd thank
you to use no disparaging terms when speaking to me."
"You must tolerate a little license in the tongue of Mrs. Flanagan,
madam," said the trooper. "The drop she speaks of is often of an
extraordinary size, and then she has acquired the freedom of a
"Pooh! captain, darling," cried Betty, "why do you bother the woman?
Talk like yeerself, dear, and it's no fool of a tongue that ye've got in
yeer own head. But jist here-away that sargeant made a halt, thinking
there might be more divils than one stirring, the night. The clouds are
as black as Arnold's heart, and deuce the star is there twinkling among
them. Well, the mare is used to a march after nightfall, and is smelling
out the road like a pointer slut."
"It wants but little to the rising moon," observed the trooper. He
called a dragoon, who was riding in advance, issued a few orders and
cautions relative to the comfort and safety of Singleton, and speaking a
consoling word to his friend himself, gave Roanoke the spur, and dashed
by the car, at a rate that again put to flight all the philosophy of
"Good luck to ye, for a free rider and a bold!" shouted the washerwoman,
as he passed. "If ye're meeting Mister Beelzeboob, jist back the baste
up to him, and show him his consort that ye've got on the crupper. I'm
thinking it's no long he'd tarry to chat. Well, well, it's his life that
we saved, he was saying so himself--though the plunder is nothing
The cries of Betty Flanagan were too familiar to the ears of Captain
Lawton to elicit a reply. Notwithstanding the unusual burden that
Roanoke sustained, he got over the ground with great rapidity, and the
distance between the cart of Mrs. Flanagan and the chariot of Miss
Peyton was passed in a manner that, however it answered the intentions
of the trooper, in no degree contributed to the comfort of his
companion. The meeting occurred but a short distance from the quarters
of Lawton, and at the same instant the moon broke from a mass of clouds,
and threw its light on objects.
Compared with the simple elegance and substantial comfort of the
Locusts, the "Hotel Flanagan" presented but a dreary spectacle. In the
place of carpeted floors and curtained windows, were the yawning cracks
of a rudely-constructed dwelling, and boards and paper were ingeniously
applied to supply the place of the green glass in more than half the
lights. The care of Lawton had anticipated every improvement that their
situation would allow, and blazing fires were made before the party
arrived. The dragoons, who had been charged with this duty, had conveyed
a few necessary articles of furniture, and Miss Peyton and her
companions, on alighting, found something like habitable apartments
prepared for their reception. The mind of Sarah had continued to wander
during the ride, and, with the ingenuity of the insane, she accommodated
every circumstance to the feelings that were uppermost in her own bosom.
"It is impossible to minister to a mind that has sustained such a blow,"
said Lawton to Isabella Singleton. "Time and God's mercy can alone cure
it, but something more may be done towards the bodily comfort of all.
You are a soldier's daughter, and used to scenes like this; help me to
exclude some of the cold air from these windows."
Miss Singleton acceded to his request, and while Lawton was endeavoring,
from without, to remedy the defect of broken panes, Isabella was
arranging a substitute for a curtain within.
"I hear the cart," said the trooper, in reply to one of her
interrogatories. "Betty is tender-hearted in the main; believe me, poor
George will not only be safe, but comfortable."
"God bless her, for her care, and bless you all," said Isabella,
fervently. "Dr. Sitgreaves has gone down the road to meet him, I know.
What is that glittering in the moon?"
Directly opposite the window where they stood, were the outbuildings of
the farm, and the quick eye of Lawton caught at a glance the object to
which she alluded.
"'Tis the glare of firearms," said the trooper, springing from the
window towards his charger, which yet remained caparisoned at the door.
His movement was quick as thought, but a flash of fire was followed by
the whistling of a bullet, before he had proceeded a step. A loud shriek
burst from the dwelling, and the captain sprang into his saddle; the
whole was the business of but a moment.
"Mount--mount, and follow!" shouted the trooper; and before his
astonished men could understand the cause of alarm, Roanoke had carried
him in safety over the fence which lay between him and his foe. The
chase was for life or death, but the distance to the rocks was again too
short, and the disappointed trooper saw his intended victim vanish in
their clefts, where he could not follow.
"By the life of Washington," muttered Lawton, as he sheathed his saber,
"I would have made two halves of him, had he not been so nimble on the
foot--but a time will come!" So saying, he returned to his quarters,
with the indifference of a man who knew his life was at any moment to be
offered a sacrifice to his country. An extraordinary tumult in the house
induced him to quicken his speed, and on arriving at the door, the
panic-stricken Katy informed him that the bullet aimed at his own life
had taken effect in the bosom of Miss Singleton.
Hushed were his Gertrude's lips; but still their bland
And beautiful expression seemed to melt
With love that could not die! and still his hand
She presses to the heart no more that felt.
--_Gertrude of Wyoming_.
The brief arrangements of the dragoons had prepared two apartments for
the reception of the ladies, the one being intended as a sleeping room,
and situated within the other. Into the latter Isabella was immediately
conveyed, at her own request, and placed on a rude bed by the side of
the unconscious Sarah. When Miss Peyton and Frances flew to her
assistance, they found her with a smile on her pallid lip, and a
composure in her countenance, that induced them to think her uninjured.
"God be praised!" exclaimed the trembling aunt. "The report of firearms,
and your fall, had led me into error. Surely, surely, there was enough
horror before; but this has been spared us."
Isabella pressed her hand upon her bosom, still smiling, but with a
ghastliness that curdled the blood of Frances.
"Is George far distant?" she asked. "Let him know--hasten him, that I
may see my brother once again."
"It is as I apprehended!" shrieked Miss Peyton. "But you smile--surely
you are not hurt!"
"Quite well--quite happy," murmured Isabella; "here is a remedy for
Sarah arose from the reclining posture she had taken, and gazed wildly
at her companion. She stretched forth her own hand, and raised that of
Isabella from her bosom. It was dyed in blood.
"See," said Sarah, "but will it not wash away love? Marry, young woman,
and then no one can expel him from your heart, unless,"--she added,
whispering, and bending over the other,--"you find another there before
you; then die, and go to heaven--there are no wives in heaven."
The lovely maniac hid her face under the clothes, and continued silent
during the remainder of the night. At this moment Lawton entered. Inured
as he was to danger in all its forms, and accustomed to the horrors of a
partisan war, the trooper could not behold the ruin before him unmoved.
He bent over the fragile form of Isabella, and his gloomy eye betrayed
the workings of his soul.
"Isabella," he at length uttered, "I know you to possess a courage
beyond the strength of women."
"Speak," she said, earnestly; "if you have anything to say, speak
The trooper averted his face as he replied, "None ever receive a ball
there, and survive."
"I have no dread of death, Lawton," returned Isabella. "I thank you for
not doubting me; I felt it from the first."
"These are not scenes for a form like yours," added the trooper. "'Tis
enough that Britain calls our youth to the field; but when such
loveliness becomes the victim of war, I sicken of my trade."
"Hear me, Captain Lawton," said Isabella, raising herself with
difficulty, but rejecting aid. "From early womanhood to the present hour
have I been an inmate of camps and garrisons. I have lived to cheer the
leisure of an aged father, and think you I would change those days of
danger and privation for any ease? No! I have the consolation of
knowing, in my dying moments, that what woman could do in such a cause,
I have done."
"Who could prove a recreant, and witness such a spirit! Hundreds of
warriors have I witnessed in their blood, but never a firmer soul among
"'Tis the soul only," said Isabella. "My sex and strength have denied me
the dearest of privileges. But to you, Captain Lawton, nature has been
more bountiful; you have an arm and a heart to devote to the cause; and
I know they are in arm and a heart that will prove true to the last.
And George--and--" she paused, her lip quivered, and her eye sank to
"And Dunwoodie!" added the trooper. "Would you speak of Dunwoodie?"
"Name him not," said Isabella, sinking back, and concealing her face in
her garments. "Leave me, Lawton--prepare poor George for this
The trooper continued for a little while gazing, in melancholy interest,
at the convulsive shudderings of her frame, which the scanty covering
could not conceal, and withdrew to meet his comrade. The interview
between Singleton and his sister was painful, and, for a moment,
Isabella yielded to a burst of tenderness; but, as if aware that her
hours were numbered, she was the first to rouse herself to exertion. At
her earnest request, the room was left to herself, the captain, and
Frances. The repeated applications of the surgeon, to be permitted to
use professional aid, were steadily rejected, and, at length, he was
obliged unwillingly to retire.
"Raise me," said the dying young woman, "and let me look on a face that
I love, once more." Frances silently complied, and Isabella turned her
eyes in sisterly affection upon George. "It matters but little, my
brother--a few hours must close the scene."
"Live, Isabella, my sister, my only sister!" cried the youth, with a
burst of sorrow that he could not control. "My father! my poor father--"
"There is the sting of death; but he is a soldier and a Christian. Miss
Wharton, I would speak of what interests you, while yet I have strength
for the task."
"Nay," said Frances, tenderly, "compose yourself; let no desire to
oblige me endanger a life that is precious to--to--so many." The words
were nearly stifled by her emotions, for the other had touched a chord
that thrilled to her heart.
"Poor, sensitive girl!" said Isabella, regarding her with tender
interest; "but the world is still before you, and why should I disturb
the little happiness it may afford! Dream on, lovely innocent! and may
God keep the evil day of knowledge far distant!"
"Oh, there is even now little left for me to enjoy," said Frances,
burying her face in the clothes. "I am heartstricken in all that I
"No!" interrupted Isabella; "you have one inducement to wish for life,
that pleads strongly in a woman's breast. It is a delusion that nothing
but death can destroy--" Exhaustion compelled her to pause, and her
auditors continued in breathless suspense, until, recovering her
strength, she laid her hand on that of Frances, and continued more
mildly, "Miss Wharton, if there breathes a spirit congenial to
Dunwoodie's, and worthy of his love, it is your own."
A flush of fire passed over the face of the listener, and she raised her
eyes, flashing with an ungovernable look of delight, to the countenance
of Isabella; but the ruin she beheld recalled better feelings, and again
her head dropped upon the covering of the bed. Isabella watched her
emotion with a look that partook both of pity and admiration.
"Such have been the feelings that I have escaped," she continued. "Yes,
Miss Wharton, Dunwoodie is wholly yours."
"Be just to yourself, my sister," exclaimed the youth; "let no romantic
generosity cause you to forget your own character."
She heard him, and fixed a gaze of tender interest on his face, but
slowly shook her head as she replied,--
"It is not romance, but truth, that bids me speak. Oh! how much have I
lived within an hour! Miss Wharton, I was born under a burning sun, and
my feelings seem to have imbibed its warmth; I have existed for
"Say not so--say not so, I implore you," cried the agitated brother.
"Think how devoted has been your love to our aged father; how
disinterested, how tender, your affection to me!"
"Yes," said Isabella, a smile of mild pleasure beaming on her
countenance, "that, at least, is a reflection which may be taken to
Neither Frances nor her brother interrupted her meditations, which
continued for several minutes; when, suddenly recollecting herself, she
"I remain selfish even to the last; with me, Miss Wharton, America and
her liberties were my earliest passion, and--" Again she paused, and
Frances thought it was the struggle of death that followed; but
reviving, she proceeded, "Why should I hesitate, on the brink of the
grave! Dunwoodie was my next and my last. But," burying her face in her
hands, "it was a love that was unsought."
"Isabella!" exclaimed her brother, springing from the bed, and pacing
the floor in disorder.
"See how dependent we become under the dominion of worldly pride; it is
painful to George to learn that one he loves had not feelings superior
to her nature and education."
"Say no more," whispered Frances; "you distress us both--say no more, I
"In justice to Dunwoodie I must speak; and for the same reason, my
brother, you must listen. By no act or word has Dunwoodie ever induced
me to believe he wished me more than a friend; nay, latterly, I have had
the burning shame of thinking that he avoided my presence."
"Would he dare?" said Singleton, fiercely.
"Peace, my brother, and listen," continued Isabella, rousing herself
with an effort that was final. "Here is the innocent, the justifiable
cause. We are both motherless; but that aunt--that mild, plain-hearted,
observing aunt, has given you the victory. Oh! how much she loses, who
loses a female guardian to her youth. I have exhibited those feelings
which you have been taught to repress. After this, can I wish to live?"
"Isabella! my poor Isabella! you wander in your mind."
"But one word more--for I feel that blood, which ever flowed too
swiftly, rushing where nature never intended it to go. Woman must be
sought to be prized; her life is one of concealed emotions; blessed are
they whose early impressions make the task free from hypocrisy, for such
only can be happy with men like--like Dunwoodie." Her voice failed, and
she sank back on her pillow in silence. The cry of Singleton brought the
rest of the party to her bedside; but death was already upon her
countenance; her remaining strength just sufficed to reach the hand of
George, and pressing it to her bosom for a moment, she relinquished her
grasp, and, with a slight convulsion, expired.
Frances Wharton had thought that fate had done its worst, in endangering
the life of her brother, and destroying the reason of her sister; but
the relief conveyed by the dying declaration of Isabella taught her that
another sorrow had aided in loading her heart with grief. She saw the
whole truth at a glance; nor was the manly delicacy of Dunwoodie lost
upon her--everything tended to raise him in her estimation; and, for
mourning that duty and pride had induced her to strive to think less of
him, she was compelled to substitute regret that her own act had driven
him from her in sorrow, if not in desperation. It is not in the nature
of youth, however, to despair; and Frances now knew a secret joy that
gave a new spring to her existence.
The sun broke forth, on the morning that succeeded this night of
desolation, in unclouded luster, and seemed to mock the petty sorrows of
those who received his rays. Lawton had early ordered his steed, and was
ready to mount as the first burst of light broke over the hills. His
orders were already given, and the trooper threw his leg across the
saddle, in silence; and, casting a glance of fierce chagrin at the
narrow space that had favored the flight of the Skinner, he gave Roanoke
the rein, and moved slowly towards the valley.
The stillness of death pervaded the road, nor was there a single vestige
of the scenes of the night, to tarnish the loveliness of a glorious
morn. Struck with the contrast between man and nature, the fearless
trooper rode by each pass of danger, regardless of what might happen;
nor did he rouse himself from his musing, until the noble charger,
snuffing the morning air, greeted the steeds of the guard under Sergeant
Here, indeed, was to be seen sad evidence of the midnight fray, but the
trooper glanced his eye over it with the coolness of one accustomed to
such sights. Without wasting the moments in useless regrets, he
proceeded, at once, to business.
"Have you seen anything?" he demanded of the orderly.
"Nothing, sir, that we dared to charge upon," returned Hollister; "but
we mounted once, at the report of distant firearms."
"'Tis well," said Lawton, gloomily. "Ah! Hollister, I would give the
animal I ride, to have had your single arm between the wretch who drew
that trigger and these useless rocks, which overhang every bit of
ground, as if they grudged pasture to a single hoof."
"Under the light of day, and charging man to man, I am as good as
another; but I can't say that I'm overfond of fighting with those that
neither steel nor lead can bring down."
"What silly crotchet is uppermost, now, in that mystified brain of
thine, Deacon Hollister?"
"I like not the dark object that has been maneuvering in the skirt of
the wood since the first dawn of day; and twice, during the night, it
was seen marching across the firelight, no doubt with evil intent."
"Is it yon ball of black, at the foot of the rock maple, that you mean?
In truth it moves."
"But without mortal motion," said the sergeant, regarding it with awful
reverence. "It glides along, but no feet have been seen by any who
"Had it wings," cried Lawton, "it is mine; stand fast, until I join."
The words were hardly uttered before Roanoke was flying across the
plain, and apparently verifying the boast of his master.
"Those cursed rocks!" ejaculated the trooper, as he saw the object of
his pursuit approaching the hillside; but, either from want of practice
or from terror, it passed the obvious shelter they offered, and fled
into the open plain.
"I have you, man or devil!" shouted Lawton, whirling his saber from its
scabbard. "Halt, and take quarter!"
His proposition was apparently acceded to; for, at the sound of his
powerful voice, the figure sank upon the ground, exhibiting a shapeless
ball of black, without life or motion.
"What have we here?" cried Lawton, drawing up by its side. "A gala suit
of the good maiden, Jeanette Peyton, wandering around its birthplace, or
searching in vain for its discomfited mistress?" He leaned forward in
his stirrups, and placing the point of his sword under the silken
garment, by throwing aside the covering, discovered part of the form of
the reverend gentleman who had fled from the Locusts, the evening
before, in his robes of office.
"In truth, Hollister had some ground for his alarm; an army chaplain is,
at any time, a terror to a troop of horse."
The clergyman had collected enough of his disturbed faculties, to
discover that it was a face he knew, and somewhat disconcerted at the
terror he had manifested, and the indecent attitude in which he had been
found, he endeavored to rise and offer some explanation. Lawton received
his apologies good-humoredly, if not with much faith in their truth;
and, after a short communication upon the state of the valley, the
trooper courteously alighted, and they proceeded towards the guard.
"I am so little acquainted, sir, with the rebel uniform, that I really
was unable to distinguish, whether those men, whom you say are your own,
did or did not belong to the gang of marauders."
"Apology, sir, is unnecessary," replied the trooper, curling his lip.
"It is not your task, as a minister of God, to take note of the facings
of a coat. The standard under which you serve is acknowledged by
"I serve under the standard of his gracious Majesty, George III,"
returned the priest, wiping the cold sweat from his brow. "But really
the idea of being scalped has a strong tendency to unman a new-beginner,
"Scalped!" echoed Lawton, stopping short in his walk. Then recollecting
himself, he added, with composure, "If it is to Dunwoodie's squadron of
Virginia light dragoons that you allude, it may be well to inform you
that they generally take a bit of the skull with the skin."
"Oh! I can have no apprehensions of gentlemen of your appearance," said
the divine, with a smirk. "It is the natives that I apprehend."
"Natives! I have the honor to be one, I assure you, sir."
"Nay, I beg that I may be understood--I mean the Indians; they who do
nothing but rob, and murder, and destroy."
"Yes, sir, and scalp too," continued the clergyman, eying his companion
a little suspiciously; "the copper-colored, savage Indians."
"And did you expect to meet those nose-jeweled gentry in the neutral
"Certainly; we understand in England that the interior swarms with
"And call you this the interior of America?" cried Lawton, again
halting, and staring the other in the face, with a surprise too
naturally expressed to be counterfeited.
"Surely, sir, I conceive myself to be in the interior."
"Attend," said Lawton, pointing towards the east. "See you not that
broad sheet of water which the eye cannot compass? Thither lies the
England you deem worthy to hold dominion over half the world. See you
the land of your nativity?"
"'Tis impossible to behold objects at a distance of three thousand
miles!" exclaimed the wondering priest, a little suspicious of his
"No! what a pity it is that the powers of man are not equal to his
ambition. Now turn your eyes westward; observe that vast expanse of
water which rolls between the shores of America and China."
"I see nothing but land," said the trembling priest; "there is no water
to be seen."
"'Tis impossible to behold objects at a distance of three thousand
miles!" repeated Lawton, pursuing his walk. "If you apprehend the
savages, seek them in the ranks of your prince. Rum and gold have
preserved their loyalty."
"Nothing is more probable than my being deceived," said the man of
peace, casting furtive glances at the colossal stature and whiskered
front of his companion; "but the rumors we have at home, and the
uncertainty of meeting with such an enemy as yourself, induced me to fly
at your approach."
"'Twas not judiciously determined," said the trooper, "as Roanoke has
the heels of you greatly; and flying from Scylla, you were liable to
encounter Charybdis. Those woods and rocks cover the very enemies
"The savages!" exclaimed the divine, instinctively placing the trooper
in the rear.
"More than savages; men who, under the guise of patriotism, prowl
through the community, with a thirst for plunder that is unsatiable, and
a love of cruelty that mocks the ingenuity of the Indian--fellows whose
mouths are filled with liberty and equality, and whose hearts are
overflowing with cupidity and gall--gentlemen that are ycleped the
"I have heard them mentioned in our army," said the frightened divine,
"and had thought them to be the aborigines."
"You did the savages injustice."
They now approached the spot occupied by Hollister, who witnessed with
surprise the character of the prisoner made by his captain. Lawton gave
his orders, and the men immediately commenced securing and removing such
articles of furniture as were thought worthy of the trouble; and the
captain, with his reverend associate, who was mounted on a mettled
horse, returned to the quarters of the troop.
It was the wish of Singleton that the remains of his sister should be
conveyed to the post commanded by his father, and preparations were
early made to this effect. The wounded British were placed under the
control of the chaplain; and towards the middle of the day Lawton saw
all the arrangements so far completed, as to render it probable that in
a few hours he would be left with his small party, in undisturbed
possession of the Corners.
While leaning in the doorway, gazing in moody silence at the ground
which had been the scene of the last night's chase, his ear caught the
sound of a horse, and the next moment a dragoon of his own troop
appeared dashing up the road, as if on business of the last importance.
The steed was foaming, and the rider had the appearance of having done a
day's service. Without speaking, he placed a letter in the hand of
Lawton, and led his charger to the stable. The trooper knew the hand of
the major, and ran his eye over the following:--
"I rejoice it is the order of Washington, that the family of the Locusts
are to be removed above the Highlands. They are to be admitted to the
society of Captain Wharton, who waits only for their testimony to be
tried. You will communicate this order, and with proper delicacy I do
not doubt. The English are moving up the river; and the moment you see
the Whartons in safety, break up and join your troop. There will be good
service to be done when we meet, as Sir Henry is reported to have sent
out a real soldier in command. Reports must be made to the commandant at
Peekskill, for Colonel Singleton is withdrawn to headquarters, to
preside over the inquiry upon poor Wharton. Fresh orders have been sent
to hang the peddler if we can take him, but they are not from the
commander in chief. Detail a small guard with the ladies, and get into
the saddle as soon as possible."
This communication entirely changed the whole arrangement. There was no
longer any motive for removing the body of Isabella, since her father
was no longer with his command, and Singleton reluctantly acquiesced in
an immediate interment. A retired and lovely spot was selected, near the
foot of the adjacent rocks, and such rude preparations were made as the
time and the situation of the country permitted. A few of the
neighboring inhabitants collected from curiosity and interest, and Miss
Peyton and Frances wept in sincerity over her grave. The solemn offices
of the church were performed by the minister, who had so lately stood
forth to officiate in another and very different duty; and Lawton bent
his head, and passed his hand across his brow, while the words that
accompanied the first clod were uttered.
A new stimulus was given to the Whartons by the intelligence conveyed in
the letter of Dunwoodie; and Caesar, with his horses, was once more put
in requisition. The relics of the property were intrusted to a neighbor,
in whom they had confidence; and, accompanied by the unconscious Sarah,
and attended by four dragoons and all of the American wounded, Mr.
Wharton's party took their departure. They were speedily followed by the
English chaplain, with his countrymen, who were conveyed to the
waterside, where a vessel was in waiting to receive them. Lawton
joyfully witnessed these movements; and as soon as the latter were out
of sight, he ordered his own bugle to sound. Everything was instantly in
motion. The mare of Mrs. Flanagan was again fastened to the cart; Dr.
Sitgreaves exhibited his shapeless form once more on horseback; and the
trooper appeared in the saddle, rejoicing in his emancipation.
The word to march was given; and Lawton, throwing a look of sullen
ferocity at the place of the Skinner's concealment, and another of
melancholy regret towards the grave of Isabella, led the way,
accompanied by the surgeon in a brown study; while Sergeant Hollister
and Betty brought up the rear, leaving a fresh southerly wind to whistle
through the open doors and broken windows of the "Hotel Flanagan," where
the laugh of hilarity, the joke of the hardy partisan, and the
lamentations of the sorrowing, had so lately echoed.
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