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An Unwilling Maid by Jeanie Gould Lincoln

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when she learned that the cakes made by that functionary were too few to
meet her ideas of hospitality; and although Kitty knew that it would
require speed on her part to go to the market and return in time to
dress and be ready to receive their visitors in the drawing-room by
twelve o'clock, she preferred to pour oil on the troubled waters and
procure domestic peace at the expense of a little personal fatigue.
Beside, it was not unpleasant to trip along with the merry crowd, bent
on enjoying themselves, and Kitty knew that she would meet many an
acquaintance, out, like herself, on some belated errand for New Year
day.

But there was one occurrence for which Kitty had not bargained, and that
befell her as she gained the market door. The fisherman, who had
followed her as swiftly as he dared without creating notice, passed
close at her elbow, then turned and met her face to face. Kitty grew a
little pale as he touched his cap respectfully, but she stopped in
obedience to the glance which met hers.

"A Happy New Year to you, my good man," she said. "I fear that you and
your brother craftsmen suffer this terribly cold winter. Stand aside out
of the chilly wind which meets us through the market door and I will
speak to you. Cato," to her servant, "go on to Fran Hansel's stall, and
let her weigh out five pounds of seedcakes for my mother; I will join
you there in a moment," and she turned back to the fisherman, knowing
that in the crowd she was comparatively safe, provided her voice was not
loud enough to attract attention.

"What is it?" she murmured, almost breathless from excitement, yet
striving to maintain a quiet, even careless exterior. "I hoped you had
fulfilled your dangerous errand and gone hence two days ago."

"I cannot leave until my mission is completed; we have almost certain
news of an incursion by the British across the Kill von Kull, which will
do much injury to the peaceful country folk of Elizabethtown and Newark.
The man they call 'Billy the fiddler' will have a message for me
to-night of the greatest importance, and he plays with others at the De
Lancey ball; are you to be there, and at what hour?"

"I, Oliver?" said Kitty, and turned rosy red as the incautious word
escaped her; "all New York is going at eight o'clock, but what has that
to do with"--

"This," whispered Oliver Wolcott, pulling his hat further down over his
eyes, and motioning Kitty to walk a few steps away from the door: "I
must be there."

"You are mad!" and Kitty turned pale at the idea.

"Oh, no, I am coming as one Diedrich Gansevoort, from Albany. Do not
fear for me; my disguise will be very perfect, and I go introduced by
Abram Lansing, from whom I bring a letter to Madam De Lancey. They are
old friends, though he is as stanch a Whig as she a Tory. I tell you,
Kitty, 't is of vital importance that I ascertain the facts of this
rumored raid upon the patriots, and I must risk all to gain it. Warn
Betty, lest she give way to alarm; be brave and fear nothing."

"A Happy New Year, Mistress Kitty," said a gentleman who approached her,
followed by his negro servant. "I shall do myself the honor to pay my
respects to your mother a little later;" and Mr. Van Brugh raised his
three-cornered hat in courtly salute, staring hard at Kitty and the
fisherman as he passed them.

"We are noticed," said Oliver calmly; "go on and do your errand."

"But I am so fearful for you," gasped poor Kitty, whose usual composure
seemed to be deserting her. "You try me too far, unless I may do
something to aid your escape, for a horrible sinking of my heart seems
to bode no good to you."

"Put no faith in omens," answered Oliver, with a smile. "I shall be off
at daybreak. Farewell, Kitty, and have no fear; I am well protected,"
and mingling in the crowd, he passed out of the market door and was
gone.

With what courage she could summon, Kitty sped on to Fran Hansel's
stand. The seedcakes had been weighed, decked with a handful of
Christmas greens, and placed in the basket, and Kitty, after a few kind
words to the old Dutch market-woman, made her way swiftly through the
crowd and gained the street.

"I must warn Betty," she thought an she proceeded up Maiden Lane, and as
she came to Queen Street she paused. "Go directly home," she said to her
servant; "tell my mother I have stopped to see Grandma Effingham and
wish her a Happy New Year. I will be back in time to dress," and off she
sped in the direction of Wall Street.

Betty, who like Kitty, had been spending her morning assisting in
preparations for the New Year callers who would present themselves later
in the day, was dusting the quaint Dresden Shepherdess who presided over
a corner of the drawing-room mantel, when a sharp knock at the front
door announced a visitor; and she fled out of the drawing-room only to
encounter Kitty in the hall.

"A Happy New Year to you," said Kitty, in a tone of gayety which she was
far from feeling. "I ran over to give greeting to grandma, and as I came
my petticoat gave way; let me mount to your chamber and fasten it before
I go to grandma's."

"Certainly," said Betty, and seizing hands both girls ran rapidly up the
staircase. Inside the small chamber, Kitty closed the door, and set her
back against it.

"The petticoat is fast enough, Betty, but I have something grave to say.
Oliver is still in the city--he goes to the De Lanceys' to-night--I was
to warn you."

"In what disguise?" asked Betty breathlessly.

"Indeed, I know not, except that he will represent Mynheer Diedrich
Gansevoort, from Albany; oh, Betty, I am sore afraid."

"Nay, wherefore?" and Betty's eyes sparkled as her color rose. "We
Wolcotts are not wont to fail, and I am now too accustomed to Oliver's
hairbreadth escapes for fright."

"You were well alarmed at the servants' dance; oh, how rash he is!"

"We spare nothing in our country's cause," said Betty, with a proud
little toss of her head; "but, Kitty, forgive me if I appear
intrusive--I am puzzled to know how and where you and Oliver"--

"You should have known long ago," interrupted Kitty, blushing deeply,
"but, somehow, I never could approach near enough to your heart to
confess that Oliver and I are trothplighted though my mother's consent
is lacking. We met in Albany--again at West Point, and oh, Betty, how I
have longed to tell you. I have seen you look at me with eyes so like
his; with such scornful glance when I laugh and jest with those hateful
redcoats, such kindly smile when I showed you that I am at heart a
patriot. Forgive me, dear, and let us do all we can to help Oliver
to-night, for he is determined to be at the De Lanceys' as by going
there he can obtain certain important information for the cause of
freedom."

Betty threw her arms around Kitty; why did she feel as if the innocent
words stabbed her? Had the "hateful redcoats" ceased to be hateful to
her?

"Trothplighted," she whispered, with wide-open eyes of delight; "I hoped
as much--how happy my father will be when Oliver"--

"Nay, nay," cried blushing Kitty, "you go too fast; think of madam, my
mother, and her antipathy to the 'rebels,' as she calls them, quite
forgetting that my aunt (where I made my home in Albany for three years)
is one, as well as her naughty daughter. Good lack! my fortunes were
told long ago had I but bowed to her wishes; and at the moment,
Betty,--to let you into a profound secret,--the most desirable husband
for me in her eyes is Captain Yorke."

"Indeed!" said Betty coldly, but Kitty was too engrossed in her own
discourse to notice.

"Not that he has such an idea, mind you; he loves to dance and jest
with me, as a score of others do. But, Betty, your confidence in Oliver
is well sustained so far, and it lightens my heart. Beside, there is no
one here who would be apt to recognize him except you and me; though for
the matter of that why Clarissa did not see and know his shadow at the
servants' dance I have not yet ceased to marvel."

"You forget that she had no knowledge of his presence in New York, and
Oliver has changed greatly since she saw him full three years ago."

"And now to grandma," said Kitty, releasing the latch of the door, which
she had held carefully in her hand since entering the room, as a
precaution against intruders; "and fare you well, Betty, till we meet at
the ball to-night."

All through that New Year day Betty's heart throbbed with excitement, as
a steady stream of visitors passed in and out of the mansion, where
Grandma Effingham and Clarissa bade welcome to old friends and young
ones, to stately gentlemen in small clothes and powdered queues, with a
fine selection of British officers, beginning with Sir Henry Clinton,
who arrived in great state and descended from his sleigh, with its
coal-black horses, accompanied by his aides, for the English commander
liked to conciliate the Tories of New York, and, as he was then making
secret preparations to accompany an expedition to South Carolina,
thought best to appear in public even more than usual.

"Mistress Betty," said Geoffrey Yorke, under cover of sipping a glass of
port wine which she had offered him, "I drink to your very good health;"
then softly, "I have not seen you for a week; have you been quite well
since the Christmas party?"

"Is it so long?"--willfully; "Clarissa said you called one day."

"Surely--to ask for you, and you never came inside the room."

"Because I was busy, sir," replied Betty. Then relenting as a swift
remembrance crossed her mind, "I was skating at the Collect, where I
went with Peter late in the day."

"Will you dance with me to-night at the ball--promise me all the dances
you can possibly spare?" and Geoffrey's voice took its most tender tone
as he fixed his eyes on Betty's charming face.

"All my dances? Nay, two, possibly three, are as many as Clarissa would
deem consistent with good manners," returned the maid, unable to forego
the pleasure of teasing him; "indeed, I am bewildered even now
remembering sundry engagements already made."

"The first dance, Betty," said Yorke pleadingly, as he saw the general
taking leave, and prepared to accompany him. "Surely you will not deny
me that grace?"

But Betty only gave him the tips of her fingers in reply as she swept a
graceful courtesy. Was it the slight pressure of his hand which
accompanied the farewell that made Geoffrey spring gayly into the sleigh
and drive off with a half-boyish, half-triumphant smile?

CHAPTER XIV

THE DE LANCEY BALL

The De Lancey mansion, then one of the most famous houses in New York,
was on the Bloomingdale Road, and the drive out Bowery Lane ran through
meadow-land and green trees in summer, but over hard-packed snow and ice
in winter, for it was part of the highroad to Albany. So both Grandma
Effingham and Clarissa ordered the fur muffs and hot-water bottles for
the feet placed carefully in the sleigh, which Pompey brought to the
door just as the night watch went down the street, crying in his slow,
bell-like tones, "Eight o'clock, and all's w-e-ll!" Betty, standing
muffled in long cloak and fur hood, on the steps of the house, said to
herself, with a thrill of excitement, "All's well; please God I may say
as much when midnight sounds to-night."

The sleigh was a large, roomy one, with back and front seats, and its
big hood was drawn up and extended like a roof over the top, covering
the heads of its occupants, but open at the sides. Clarissa was seated
first, and well wrapped in the bearskin robes which adorned the sleigh,
and then Betty tripped lightly down to have her little feet bestowed in
a capacious foot-muff, as she carefully tucked her new gown around her
and sat beside Clarissa. Gulian, in full evening dress, with small
clothes, plum-colored satin coat and cocked hat, took possession of the
front seat. Pompey cracked his whip, and the spirited horses were off
with a plunge and bound, as Peter, the irrepressible, shouted from the
doorway, where with grandma he had been an interested spectator of
proceedings, "A Happy New Year to us all, and mind, Betty, you only take
the handsomest gallants for partners." De Lancey Place had been the
scene of many festivities, and was famed far and wide for its
hospitality, but (it was whispered) this New Year ball was to excel all
others. The mansion stood in the centre of beautiful meadow-land, with a
background of dark pines, and these showed forth finely against the snow
which covered the lawns and feathered the branches of the tall
oak-trees in front of the door. Lanterns gleamed here and there, up the
drive and across the wide piazza; at the door were the colored servants,
in livery imported direct from England, and from within came sounds of
music. As Pompey swept his horses up to the step with an extra flourish
of his whip, a group of British officers, who had just alighted from
another sleigh, hastened to meet Clarissa and assist her descent.

"On my word, Clarissa," said Gulian, a few minutes later, as he offered
her his hand to conduct her to the ballroom, "I never saw Betty look so
lovely. Your pink brocade becomes her mightily, and her slender shape
shows forth charmingly. Where did you procure those knots of
rose-colored ribbon which adorn the waist? I do not remember them."

"That is my secret--and Betty's; she vowed the gown would not be
complete without them, so I indulged the child, and I find her taste in
dress perfect. Captain Sir John Faulkner seems greatly taken with her,
does be not?"

"Aye, but let us hasten to find our hostess. They will be forming for
the minuet directly, and you must dance it with me, sweet wife,--unless
you prefer another partner."

Clarissa's response to this lover-like speech was evidently
satisfactory, for presently Betty beheld her sister and Gulian take
places at the head of the room, next Madam De Lancey, who opened her
ball with Sir Henry Clinton. Betty, since her arrival in New York, had
been trained and tutored for the minuet by both Clarissa and Kitty, and
here was Captain Sir John Faulkner, an elderly but gallant beau,
supplicating for the honor of her hand in the opening dance.

"I am loth to decline," began Betty, a little overpowered by the
compliment, "but I have already promised this dance."

"To me," said Geoffrey Yorke, at her side, and looking up, Betty, for
the first time, saw her lover in all the bravery of full uniform,
powdered hair, and costly laces. If he had been strikingly handsome in
the old homespun clothes in which he first appeared before her on the
shores of Great Pond, he was ten times more so now. Betty forgot that
his coat was scarlet, that he represented an odious king and all she
had been taught to despise; she only saw the gallant manly form and
loving eyes which met hers so frankly, and the hand she gave him
trembled as he led her out upon the floor. For Betty did not
know--though the realization came to her later, with bitter tears--
that all unconsciously she had entered that fabled kingdom, the
knowledge of which makes life a mystery, death a glory!

The music swelled on in slow and stately measure; jewels flashed in the
blaze of wax candles, silken brocades rustled a soft accompaniment to
the steps and courtesies of their fair wearers, as Betty dreamed her
dream of happiness, only half aware that she was dreaming. And when, at
the close of the minuet, Geoffrey led her to Clarissa, there was no lack
of gallants nor partners, and Peter would have chuckled with delight
could he have seen that no one was so eagerly sought for as the lovely,
roguish maid, who wore the knots of rose-colored ribbon.

It was time for supper, and instruments were being tuned into order for
a grand march, to be led by Madam De Lancey, when Betty, standing near a
large Indian screen, talking with Mr. Van Brugh, who was a dear friend
of her father's, became aware of subdued voices at her elbow, on the
other side of the screen.

[Illustration: THE MINUET]

"I tell you I am right," said one of these testily; "I would stake my
sword that he is not what he seems. I saw him exchange a bit of paper
with yonder manikin fiddler, who has been under suspicion for some
weeks, and cleverly they did it, too. It's not the first time, I'll
warrant, that Mynheer von Gam--"

"No, no, not Von at all; you are safe to be mistaken, Colonel Tarleton;
the gentleman is one Diedrich Gansevoort from the Albany beverwyck.
Madam De Lancey herself made us acquainted; he is no spy."

Betty's heart sank. She murmured something in reply as Mr. Van Brugh
paused. This was the famous and cruel Colonel Tarleton. If he had traced
Oliver, then all was lost. She strained her ears for further
information, smiling up at Mr. Van Brugh as she waved her fan gently to
and fro.

"If you are so sure of it, why did he, an apparent stranger, have aught
to communicate to that fiddler yonder? Go quietly through the crowd and
watch the gentleman as he appears at supper; I'll have a word with Yorke
on the subject," and they moved off in the direction of the ballroom.

"Will he, indeed?" thought Betty, as she saw Geoffrey coming toward her
from the hall; "not while I can hold him at my side," and with somewhat
paler face, but with calm demeanor she moved away, obedient to
Geoffrey's request that she should go to supper.

Kitty Cruger's evening, unlike Betty's, had been full of dangerous
excitement. Arriving at the ball with her mother, she had been dancing
with her usual spirit, keeping, however, anxious watch for Oliver. But
she perceived no one whom she could possibly imagine was he, even in
disguise, and therefore it was with almost a shock of dismay that she
found herself stopped, as she was passing the supper-room door, by her
hostess, who "craved the favor of presenting a gentleman just arrived
from Albany, who knew her family there." Kitty dropped her most formal
courtesy and raised her eyes to the face of the stranger. Verily, Oliver
possessed positive genius for disguises, and troubled as she was Kitty
could not restrain a smile as she recognized in the rubicund
countenance and somewhat portly form of the gentleman bowing before her
an admirable caricature of no less a person than her respected uncle,
Cornelius Lansing, an antiquated Albany beau.

Yorke, with Betty, was just inside the door as the pair entered, and as
Kitty perceived them she paused for a moment to say good-evening.

"Where have you been? I was looking for you. Permit me to present
Mynheer Gansevoort, of Albany. Mistress Betty Wolcott and Captain Yorke.
As for you, sir,"--to Yorke, with a playful tap of her fan to engage his
attention,--"you have not yet claimed my hand for a dance. Pray, what
excuse can you devise for such neglect?"

Betty seized her opportunity. She must warn Oliver at all hazards. "Have
you lately arrived?" she said, fixing her eyes on him; then, in so low a
whisper that it barely reached him by motion of her lips, "You are
watched; be careful!"

"I am somewhat deaf," returned Oliver, with great readiness, bending his
ear toward her. "By whom?"--with equal caution.

"Colonel Tarleton. Escape as speedily as you can."

"Did you speak?" said Geoffrey, turning suddenly, to Betty's dismay, and
casting a penetrating glance at Oliver, which he returned with the
utmost calmness.

"This gentleman is somewhat deaf, I find," answered Betty. "It is a sad
affliction, sir; has it troubled you long?"

"Some years. May I offer Captain Yorke a pinch of snuff?" and the
pretended Mynheer Gansevoort produced a gold snuff-box from his
waistcoat pocket, which he courteously extended to the English officer.

"You must excuse me; I have not yet acquired the habit," replied
Geoffrey. "A glass of wine with you, sir, instead, if you will do me the
honor."

"With great pleasure." And as they moved a step onward, Kitty passed
first with Yorke, thereby giving Betty time to whisper to Oliver what
she had overheard behind the screen.

"Your very good health, sir," said Geoffrey, as he took the glasses of
port wine from a servant standing near the lavishly filled table; "and
if you will not consider me intrusive, do you purpose stopping in New
York?"

"That is as may be," replied the other. "I am not, however, returning
to Albany immediately. Will you name a toast?"

"Aye," said Yorke quickly, raising his glass, with a searching look into
Oliver's eyes,--"To your _safe_ return to the Albany beverwyck; the
climate of New York is somewhat unhealthy at present."

"Yorke," said a young officer, coming hastily up behind the group,
"Colonel Tarleton desires speech with you for a moment; you will find
him and Sir Henry by the screen in the ballroom."

"You heard?" whispered Betty, as Geoffrey left them; "Captain Yorke has
recognized you--fly, fly, at once!"

"Is there another exit from this room, Kitty?" asked Oliver, finishing
his glass of wine as he spoke, and handing the empty glass to the
waiting servant.

"Only the window behind us," gasped Kitty; "quick! they are all too busy
eating and drinking to notice if you slip through the curtains, and the
balcony is but a few feet from the ground."

"Then I must run for it. Farewell," murmured Oliver, as the heavy damask
curtains dropped back over his vanishing figure. The two girls gazed
into each other's faces with dilated eyes and quivering lips. Would the
alarm be speedily given, and would they see him captured and carried to
certain death? For one breathless moment they listened, and then Kitty
turned sick and faint; her eyes closed as Betty flung an arm around her
waist.

"Some wine at once," she said aloud, and two gentlemen sprang forward to
assist her to place Kitty in a chair. "She is affected by the heat of
the room; it will pass in a moment," and she gave the reviving girl a
good hard pinch, which made her start in her chair. "Oh, Gulian, I am
glad you are here. Had you not better seek Madam Cruger?"

"No, no," cried Kitty, struggling to rise, and most heartily ashamed of
herself for her lack of self-control. "My mother is not strong and must
not be alarmed. I am better; will you come into the hall with me, Betty?
It is cooler there."

"Of course, and you can rest awhile; Gulian will bring us supper."

But supper and everything connected with it was far from Betty's
thoughts; all she wished was a few words with Kitty alone, which she
knew Gulian's absence would give her.

"Betty," said Kitty the instant he left them, "you do not know half the
danger. If he has not the means of escape close at hand--if the British
officers arrest the fiddler--Oliver is totally lost. Can you see through
yonder door if the man be there still with the others?" Betty rose from
her chair and stepped inside the ballroom, now nearly deserted, for the
guests were all at supper. She glanced eagerly toward the upper end of
the room; no, the manikin fiddler had disappeared. Then an idea darted
into her quick brain; inaction under the circumstances was maddening;
back she darted to Kitty's side.

"Kitty, come with me instantly. We will muffle ourselves in our cloaks
and hoods and steal forth for a moment. I'll find Pompey and our sleigh,
and if worst comes, let Oliver fly in that fashion; Gulian's horses are
fleet enough to distance pursuers."

Without another word both girls flew into the room near the front door
where they had left their wraps. Not a soul was there; the servants had
gone elsewhere, knowing that their services would not be required until
the early morning hours, when the ball broke up. It took but a moment
pounce on their cloaks, and Betty also seized a long dark wrap, which
lay conveniently at her hand, thinking it might be useful. Out into the
hall they dashed swiftly and silently, past the lanterns on the broad
piazza; and as luck had it, Pompey himself, who had come up to witness
the festivities from the outside, popped up at the steps.

"What you 'so doin' hyar, little missy?" he began wonderingly, but Betty
cut him short.

"Fetch the sleigh at once, Pompey. Mistress Kitty is ill, and I want to
take her home."

Pompey, somewhat alarmed at the tone and catching sight of Betty's white
face and burning eyes, vanished on the instant. The girls drew into the
shadow as far as they were able, and holding their breath peered into
the darkness.

"What is that?" whispered Kitty, as a swift footstep crossed the piazza.
"Oh, 'tis Yorke! Have a care, Betty, or we are discovered," and she
endeavored to drag her farther back against the wall. As she did so,
the crouching figure of a man rose up against the trunk of one of the
oak-trees on the lawn; it was Oliver. His padded coat cast off, they
could dimly distinguish his tall slender form. Some singular instinct
for which he could never account made Yorke pause as he set his foot on
the threshold of the front door; he wheeled just in time to see Betty's
face, as one pale ray from a distant lantern fell across it.

"Betty, what are you doing here?" he cried, darting to her side. At that
instant a sound of voices broke on the stillness of the night; it came
from behind the mansion in the direction of the pine woods.

"Kitty is ill," faltered Betty. "I am taking her home--do not, I pray
you, detain me--oh, there is Pompey"--as the welcome sound of
sleigh-bells rang out on the frosty air. "Geoffrey, Geoffrey, let me
go!"

Her tone of agonized supplication went to Geoffrey's heart. Kitty flew
down the steps into the sleigh, unassisted, and Betty followed, her hand
in Yorke's. There arose a hoarse shout "The spy, the spy--he has escaped
by the road!" and as Betty set her foot on the runner, a dark figure
vaulted over Kitty and buried itself in the robes at the bottom of the
sleigh.

"At last, sweetheart, I pay my debt," whispered Yorke in her ear, as he
thrust Betty safely into the seat. "Pompey, drive for your life!" The
startled negro needed no second bidding, down came the whip-lash on the
horses' backs, and with a furious plunge, a mad rear, they were off, a
quarter of a mile ahead before their pursuers turned the corner of the
mansion.

Oh, that wild race through the snow! Even in after years, when long days
of happiness had crowded out much of those stirring times from Betty's
mind, a shudder would creep over her, and closing her eyes she could see
again the tall gaunt trees, the frozen road, the snow that glittered so
still and cold in the cruel starlight, and hear the distant shouts that
she feared told of pursuit. On they flew, Oliver giving occasional
directions to the trembling and excited Pompey. Now that he knew the
danger, the faithful negro would have died sooner than fail to carry the
fugitive into comparative safety. On, through the Lispenard meadows,
on,--until they struck Broadway; no pursuers within sight, and at Crown
Street Oliver bade him turn in the direction of the river, and drive
down until he reached the slip which lay at the foot of the street. All
was still. Save an occasional belated pedestrian, nothing seemed
stirring, and as they neared the dingy old tavern at the Sign of the
Sturdy Beggar, Pompey pulled up his smoking, panting horses.

"Don't want to got too near dose lights," he said, pointing to the
swinging lantern which adorned the hostelry; "darsen't let nobody see my
young mistress; Massa Gulian would flog Pompey for shuah if dis tale
gets tole."

"You're right, Pompey," answered Oliver, springing up and flinging the
long dark cloak with which Betty had provided herself around his
shoulders; "take the ladies home slowly. Kitty, my beloved,
farewell--farewell, Betty, brave little soul that you are; I'll tell my
father how your quick wits came to my relief. Here I cross the river on
the ice, and, God willing, reach the commander-in-chief with the tidings
he desires by eight o'clock in the morning."

A sob from Kitty, a low "God guard you!" from Betty, and Oliver vanished
as Pompey turned his horses and proceeded leisurely back to Broadway.
The girls were literally too spent with emotion to do more than sink
down breathless among the fur robes, and not one word did they exchange
as they drove through Wall Street and finally drew up at the Verplancks'
door. On the steps stood Gulian, a tall and silent figure, awaiting the
truants.

"What does this mean?" he began sternly, as he lifted Kitty out. "Did
the hue and cry for that wretched, miserable Whig spy frighten the
horses? Clarissa is nearly distracted"--

"I will explain all to your satisfaction," interrupted Betty. "Meantime,
listen, and be thankful;" and as she held up a warning hand, they heard
through the stillness of the night the watchman's distant cry float down
the frosty air:--

"Half past three o'clock--and all's--well!"

CHAPTER XV

LOVE OR LOYALTY

"Do you mean to tell me that you, Clarissa's sister, had anything to do
with the escape of a Whig spy?"

"Even so," said Betty calmly, though her face was pale and her brilliant
eyes burning with excitement.

"Damnation!" retorted Gulian angrily. "Even your mistaken ideas of
patriotism could hardly carry a well-behaved maiden so far."

"Gulian! how _dare_ you!"

"What am I to conclude?" with a scornful wave of his hand; "your story
is somewhat disjointed. Kitty is taken ill; you suddenly decide to carry
her off in my sleigh without farewell of any kind to your hostess,
without paying your sister or me the respect to ask permission. Then you
state that a man--confound the beggar's impudence!--sprang into the
sleigh, and you were foolish enough to fetch him out of the danger of
pursuit, all because of loyalty to the cause of so-called freedom. I
cannot understand--Stay! Captain Yorke was on the steps as I came out,
hearing the shouts; did he witness this extraordinary occurrence?"

"I told you the fugitive had concealed himself in the bottom of the
sleigh before I entered it," said Betty, terror seizing her lest a
chance word should implicate Geoffrey in the matter. "Would you have me
turn a helpless man loose among your Hessians? I have too vivid
recollection of Nathan Hale's fate to contribute another victim to
English mercy."

The taunt stung Verplanck, for, like many of the more liberal Tories, he
had deeply deplored the tragic ending of the gallant Hale, although
forced to regard it as one of the stern necessities of war. He bit his
lip as he answered:--

"Thank you, Betty; I am glad Clarissa does not regard me as quite so
bloodthirsty as you evidently deem me." Then, eying her keenly, as if
struck by a sudden thought, "Did you know the man, or was it all pure
patriotism?"

"Yes," returned Betty, filled with indignation at the sneer, and facing
him with all her native courage; "yes, I know him well."

"Know him?" echoed the bewildered Gulian, "are you mad or am I
dreaming?"

"Neither, I trust. The Whig spy, as you are pleased to call him, was my
brother, Oliver Wolcott. Thank God that he has made good his escape, and
congratulate yourself, Gulian, that you aided, even remotely, in it."

"Betty, Betty, if this be true, I trust Clarissa does not know."

"Never fear," with a choking sob; "I shall not tell her. She suffers
enough, poor soul, with her husband upon one side and her people upon
the other of this most cruel war."

"Betty, go to your chamber," said Gulian sternly. "I will myself escort
Kitty to her own door, and impress upon her the necessity of keeping the
matter a close secret. My mortification would be great were it known.
Why, it might even endanger my friendship with Sir Henry Clinton."

Betty left the room, but her lip curled as she said to herself, "A Tory
to the tips of his fingers; God forbid that I should ever feel what
Clarissa must."

Very little sleep visited Betty that night (or what remained of it) as
she lay with open eyes that strained into the growing dawn, picturing to
herself Oliver's flight across the North River, and hoping fervently
that she had thrown the pursuit skillfully off his track. When at last
she fell into a doze it was nearly seven o'clock in the morning, and
Miranda, who softly entered the room, bringing fresh water, halted at
the pillow, loth to waken her.

"Mistress Betty," she whispered. No reply, but the sleeper turned
uneasily, and then opened her eyes. "I certainly do hate to call you,
but jes' look here; what you say for dat, little missy?" and Miranda
held up a letter. "Dat was left wif me at daybreak by de young boy who
came wif Sambo--missy knows who I mean,"--rolling her eyes fearfully
around the room,--"and he said tell you that Jim Bates, of Breucklen
Heights, had tole him to fetch it to you."

Betty seized the package; it consisted of a half-sheet of paper which
inclosed a letter, doubled over and sealed with wax in the fashion of
the day.

"I am safely across the river," wrote Oliver on the outer sheet, "and
send this to ease your mind and Kitty's. Moppet's letter came to me
inside one from my father by private hand a few days since, on chance of
my being able to give it you. My service in the city is over, my object
attained; hereafter I shall be on duty with our troops. God be with you
till we meet again."

Betty broke the seal of her letter and between sobs and laughter
deciphered the queer pot-hooks and printed letters with which Miss
Moppet had covered the pages. Dear little Moppet; Betty could almost see
the frowns and puckered brow with which the child had penned the words.

"My Betty dear," the letter ran, "we miss you sorely, especially the
Mare and me. She whinnies when I seek the Stable, and I was going to say
I cry too, but never mind." (This was partly erased, but Betty made it
out.) "It is so cold the Chickens are kept in the kitchen at night lest
they freeze. We hope it may thaw soon, as we Desire to get the maple
syrup from the trees. Aunt Euphemia is well. Miss Bidwell is still
knitting Socks for our poor soldiers, and I made Half of one, but the
Devil tempted me with Bad temper and I threw it on the Fire, for which
I was well Punished. Pamela cries much; I do not see why she is so
Silly. Sally Tracy is the only merry one, now you are away; she spends
too much, time, to my thinking, reading and walking with a young
Gentleman who comes from Branford. I have not yet learned how to spell
his Name, but you may Guess who I mean. When are you coming home, Betty?
I want so to see your dear face. My Respects to Gulian and Clarissa, and
Obedience to Grandma--I do not Recollect her whole Name. My Sampler is
more perfectly Evil than ever, but I have completed the Alphabet and I
danced on it, which Miss Bidwell said was Outrageous naughty, but my
temper Felt calmed afterward. It has taken four Days to write this,
farewell, from your lonesome little sister,

"FAITH WOLCOTT.

"Nota Bene. I send my Love to You know Who."

There were others of the Verplanck household who slept late that
morning. Gulian's usually calm and somewhat phlegmatic temper had been
moved to its depths by the startling and most unexpected revelation of
Oliver Wolcott's identity with the spy, whose escape Betty had aided
and in which he was also indirectly implicated by the use of his horses
and servant. Gulian's strict sense of justice told him that Betty was
right in seizing the means at hand to rescue her brother, but that did
not lessen his irritation at being used for anything which appertained
to the Whig cause, for Gulian Verplanck was a Tory to the backbone.
Educated in England, brought up to consider that the divine right of
kings was a sacred principle, he carried his devotion to the Tories to
such an extent that had he foreseen the conflict between King and
Colonies it is safe to say he would never have wedded Clarissa Wolcott.
His love for his wife was too great to permit him to regret his
marriage, and he was too thorough a gentleman to annoy her by alluding
to their political difference of opinion, except occasionally, when his
temper got the better of him, which, to do him justice, was seldom. But
Clarissa's very love for him rendered her too clear-sighted not to
perceive the state of his mind, and the unspoken agitation which she
suffered on this score had been partly the cause of her homesickness and
longing for her sister's companionship. He had been both kind and
considerate in sending for Betty; his conscience approved the action;
and now to have this escapade as the outcome was, to a man of his
somewhat stilted and over-ceremonious ideas, a blow of the most annoying
description.

When he sallied forth from his house some two hours later than his wont,
on his way to the wharf, where his business was located, he
congratulated himself that he had so far escaped questioning from his
wife on the occurrences of the night before. When Betty left him, he had
taken Kitty home in the sleigh, and refrained from lecturing her except
so far as insisting upon her not mentioning the matter of Oliver's
escape to her mother. Exhausted as she was, mirth-loving Kitty was moved
to a smile as she listened to Gulian's labored sentences, in which he
endeavored to convince his listener and himself that what he considered
almost a crime against the King's majesty--permitting the escape of a
rebel spy--was, so far as Betty was concerned, a meritorious act. So
Kitty promised, with the utmost sincerity, that not one syllable would
she breathe of the matter to her mother, or, in fact, to any human
being, and hugged herself mentally as she thought of Gulian's horror if
he only knew what a personal interest she had in that night's mad race
for freedom. Clarissa, sweet soul, had lain down quietly, when told that
their horses had nearly run away, being badly frightened by the hue and
cry of an escaping rebel; and uttering heartfelt thanksgivings that
Pompey had brought the girls home in safety, she went fast asleep and
remained so long after Gulian had risen, breakfasted, and gone down
Maiden Lane.

Business was somewhat dull that morning, and Gulian was conscious that
each time his office door opened he feared some one would enter who had
learned, he hardly knew how, of his having been connected with the
hateful affair occupying his thoughts. It was therefore with a genuine
feeling of relief that just as he was preparing to lock up his books he
heard the outer door open, and a familiar voice inquire if he was
within.

"Pray come in at once, Yorke," he said, throwing open the door of his
private room with alacrity, as he held out a hand of welcome to his
visitor. "Did you rise early this morning? I am ashamed to own how late
I was, but the balls at De Lancey Place are promoters of sleep next day,
I find."

"I can usually plead guilty to sleep," replied Yorke, throwing off his
military cloak, and taking the chair which Gulian offered him, "but I
had to be stirring early to-day, for Sir Henry had pressing affairs, and
I was at headquarters before seven o'clock."

"Did you take horse in pursuit of the spy last night?" asked Gulian,
with somewhat heightened color.

"Not I," answered Yorke carelessly; "the poor devil had luck on his
wide, or doubled marvelously well on his pursuers, for I am told that
not a trace of him nor of his confederate, the little fiddler, did our
men find. It's well for them, as Sir Henry was much enraged and their
shrift would have been short, I fear, had they been captured."

"These rebels grow bolder than ever," said Gulian, uttering a secret
thanksgiving which spoke better for his kindness of heart than his
loyalty to King and Crown; "I marvel at their adroitness."

"So do we all;--but, Verplanck, I came on a different errand to-day than
politics. I came"--and Geoffrey hesitated, as a questioning look came
on Gulian's face--"I came--I--In short, am I right in esteeming you for
the present as brother and guardian to Mistress Betty Wolcott?"

"Aye; in her father's absence, of course, I stand in that relation
toward her. Well, what of Betty?"

"Only this," and rising, Yorke bowed in courtly fashion: "I have the
honor to ask your permission to pay my addresses to your sister,
Mistress Betty."

"To Betty?" was Gulian's astonished and delighted response. "You
surprise me. Your acquaintance is but recent, and, I think, somewhat
formal?"

"Love is hardly a matter of time or formality," returned Yorke, with a
smile, as a remembrance of his first meeting with Betty occurred to him,
"and that I do truly and honestly love her you have my honorable
assurance. Do you give me your permission to proceed in the matter?"

"With all my heart," said Gulian, this new aspect of things driving all
unpleasantness connected with Betty from his head; "but her father's
consent is, I fear me, quite a different matter."

"That is not for to-day," cried the lover, as he shook Gulian's hand
with almost boyish delight, "and to-morrow may take care of itself if I
can but gain Betty's ear."

"But my consent and Clarissa's can be but conditional," proceeded
Gulian, his habitual caution returning to him. "I am not sure that I
should be altogether justified--Nay," seeing Yorke's face cloud with
keen disappointment, "I will myself lay the matter before Betty, and
endeavor to ascertain if she may be well disposed toward you."

"Heaven forbid!" thought the impetuous lover. But he only said aloud,
"Thank you, Verplanck, I am delighted to receive your sanction. How are
you spending the afternoon?"

"I have business at Breucklen Heights, but I shall be at home this
evening, when I will approach Betty in the matter, and tell my wife of
the honor you do us. For I have not forgotten my many visits to your
father, Lord Herbert, at Yorke Towers, and the kindness extended me
while in England. Indeed, Yorke, for my personal share in the matter, I
know of no alliance which could gratify me more."

This was unwonted warmth on Gulian's part, and Yorke, feeling it to be
such, grasped his hand warmly at parting, as he flung himself in his
saddle, and rode gayly up Maiden Lane.

But the "best laid plans o' mice and men" often meet with unsuspected
hindrances, as both Gulian and Yorke were destined to discover. What
special imp prompted Betty to sally forth for a walk after dinner,
thereby missing a call from Yorke (who came thus early to prevent
Gulian's intended interview), it would be vain to speculate; but when
the maid returned, feeling more like her old happy self than she had
done in weeks, the irony of fate prompted an encounter with her
brother-in-law at the library door.

"I have somewhat to say to you, Betty," began Gulian, with an air of
importance, which set Betty's nerves on edge at once. If there was one
thing more than another that annoyed her it was Gulian's pompous manner.
"Will you come inside before going upstairs? I will not detain you
long."

Wondering what could have occurred to wipe out the displeasure with
which he had dismissed her to bed the last time they met, Betty
followed him, and throwing off her hood and cloak seated herself calmly
as Gillian entered and closed the door with the solemnity he considered
befitting the occasion.

"I had the unhappiness--the very great unhappiness," he began, "to feel
much displeased with you last night; but upon thinking the whole matter
over carefully, I am convinced that in assisting your unfortunate
brother to escape you did your best under the circumstances, and were
justified in yielding to a very natural and proper sisterly impulse."

"Thank you," said Betty demurely, but with a sparkle of fun in her
liquid eyes as she turned them upon Gulian, secretly amused at this
curiously characteristic apology.

"We will dismiss that event and endeavor to forget it; I only wish, to
repeat my injunction that I desire Clarissa should know nothing of the
matter." He paused, and Betty made a movement of assent.

"How old are you, Betty?" came the next remark.

"I am turned sixteen," replied Betty, somewhat surprised at the
question.

"So I thought." Gulian paused again to give weight and dignity to the
disclosure. "You are now of a marriageable age. I have this morning
received a proposal for your hand."

"Indeed," said Betty calmly, "And who, pray, has done me that honor, in
this city, where I am but a recent comer?"

"Precisely what I remarked; the acquaintance has been, perhaps, unduly
short. But nevertheless a most honorable and distinguished gentleman
intends to offer you, through me, his hand"--

"He had been wiser to present _me_ with his heart," interrupted Betty,
with a mischievous laugh. But mirth died on her lips as Gulian, frowning
slightly, proceeded with his story in his own way.

"His hand, and I presume his heart; do not be flippant, Betty; it ill
becomes you. This young gentleman will be called upon to fill a high
position; he is the son of a man of title and"--

"Stay," said Betty coldly. "It is not necessary to rehearse his
advantages. May I ask the name of this somewhat audacious gentleman?"

"Audacious?" ejaculated Gulian, falling back a step to gaze full at the
haughty face uplifted toward him. "Surely you misunderstand me. Pending
your father, General Wolcott's consent, I trust you are able to perceive
the advantages of this match, for Captain Geoffrey Yorke is a son of
Lord Herbert Yorke, and grandson of the Earl of Hardwicke. It is an
exceptionally good offer, in my opinion, for any colonist, as in this
country, alas, we have no rank. Moreover, Betty, when the war ends it
will be wise to have some affiliation with the mother country, and by so
doing be in a position to ask protection for your unhappy and misguided
relatives who now bear arms against the King."

Up rose Mistress Betty, her slender form trembling with indignation, her
eyes flashing, and her cheeks scarlet.--

"I would to God," she cried passionately, "that my father could hear you
insult his child, his country, and his cause. There is no need for you
to ask his consent to my marriage with Captain Yorke, for here, this
moment, I promptly decline any alliance which possesses the advantages
you so feelingly describe."

"Betty, Betty "--Gulian saw his mistake, but it was too late; on rushed
the torrent of her indignation.

"I wish you--and him--to understand that Betty Wolcott is heart and soul
with her 'misguided relatives' in rebellion against British rule; that
nothing--no, nothing, would induce her to wed an enemy to her country."

"Nothing, Betty?" said a manly voice behind her, as Yorke himself
crossed the threshold, where for the last few seconds he had been an
angry listener to Gulian's blunders. "Surely you will grant me a moment
to plead on my own behalf?"

"And wherefore?" cried Betty. "You sent your message by him," with a
scornful wave of her hand toward Gulian's retreating figure; "through
him, then, receive my reply."

"I will not," said Geoffrey firmly, as the door closed behind Verplanck.
"Sweetheart, will you listen to me?"

"It is useless," murmured Betty, with a choking sob. "I was mad to even
dream it might be possible. Gulian has made it all too plain to me."

"Nay, you must and shall hear me. I will not leave you until I tell you
that I love you devotedly; ah, why should politics and war come between
our hearts? Consider, Betty, I will do all a gentleman and a man of
honor can to please you"--

"But you cannot desert your own people," she said despairingly. "I could
not love you if you did, for, Geoffrey, it is but due you to confess in
this hour of parting that you are very, very dear to me," and the last
words just reached his eager ears as Betty sank, trembling, into a
chair.

"Dearest," he cried, kissing the little hand which lay in his, "will you
not bid me hope? Think, the tide may turn; we are both young, and who
can predict the fortunes of war? I will not bind you, but to you I must
myself be bound by the passionate love I bear you."

"Oh, Geoffrey, my beloved, it cannot be! I know what my dear and honored
father would say. God guard you--farewell!"

He caught the dainty form in his arms, he held her next his heart and
vowed that come what would he defied fate itself to separate her from
him. "See," he cried, snatching the knot of rose-colored ribbon from his
breast, "I will wear this token always as I have done since the day it
dropped from your gown on the grass. If it be twenty years, I will yet
come, with your father's consent, to win you, and then, _then_,
sweetheart, may I claim my reward?"

"I cannot wed my country's foe," she faltered. "Oh, Geoffrey, be
merciful--let me go." At that moment there came a violent knock upon the
street door, a sound of voices, and Pompey's slow step approaching the
library door.

"An express for Massa Captain brought by Sir Henry's orderly," said the
faithful old negro, handing a sealed envelope to Yorke, as he closed the
door behind him. Yorke tore it open; it fell from his hand. For a moment
he stood, tall, gallant, and brave, before Betty; his eyes met hers in
long, lingering farewell.

"Sir Henry leads the expedition to South Carolina to-night, Betty, and I
go with him. Nay, sweetheart, sweetheart, we shall meet again in happier
days."

She gave a little cry and flung herself into his arms; she kissed him
with all her warm frank heart on her lips, and then she slipped from his
embrace and was gone as Yorke dashed from the house, mounted his horse,
and galloped swiftly away.

CHAPTER XVI

MOPPET MAKES A DISCOVERY

It was early autumn in Connecticut, and the maples had put on their most
gorgeous robes of red and yellow. The weather had been mild for that
region up to the middle of October, when a sudden light frost had flung
its triumphant banner over hill and dale with a glow and glory seen to
its greatest perfection in New England. The morning air was somewhat
fresh, and Miss Bidwell, hearing Moppet's feet flying along the hall,
opened the door of the sitting-room and called the child.

"You will need your tippet if you are going beyond the orchard, and I
think perhaps your hood."

"Hood!" echoed Miss Moppet disdainfully, shaking her yellow curls over
her shoulders until they danced almost of themselves; "I do not need to
be muffled up as if I were a little girl, Miss Bidwell. You forget I was
twelve years old yesterday," and she waltzed around the room, spreading
her short skirt in a courtesy, to Miss Bidwell's admiring gaze.

"Indeed, I am likely to recollect when I myself arranged the twelve
candles in your birthday cake."

"To be sure!" cried Moppet, with swift repentance, "and such an
excellent, rich cake as it was, too. Do you think"--insinuatingly--"that
I might have a slice, a very tiny slice, before I go forth with Betty to
gather nuts in the Tracys' woods?"

"No," replied Miss Bidwell, laughing, "you will assuredly be ill if you
touch one morsel before dinner. Run along, Miss Moppet, I see your
sister waiting for you at the gate," and Moppet, with a jump and a skip,
flew off through the side door and down the path, at the end of which
stood Betty.

It was a very lovely Betty over whom the October sunshine played that
morning, but to a keenly observant eye a different Betty from her who
had danced at the De Lancey ball, now nearly three years past. This
Betty had grown slightly taller, and there was an air of quiet dignity
about her which suggested Pamela. But the beautiful merry eyes had
deepened in expression, and it was, if anything, a still more attractive
face than of old, although the fair unconsciousness of childhood had
departed; and if mischief still lurked in the dimpled cheeks, that was
because Betty's heart could never grow old; no matter what life might
hold for her of joy or sorrow, she would always be to a certain extent a
child. And well for her that it was so; do we not all know a few rare
natures whose fascination dwells in this very quality?

The years had gone swiftly for Betty. Shortly after her parting with
Yorke an opportunity had occurred for her return to Litchfield, and
although Clarissa lamented her departure Betty was eager to fly home.
Gulian had done his best to smooth over his ill-judged and ill-tempered
effort to arrange her matrimonial affairs, and one of Betty's minor
annoyances was her sister's evident disappointment at Yorke's rejection.
Only once had she forgotten herself and flashed out upon Clarissa,
peremptorily forbidding further discussion, and Clarissa had been
positively aghast at the impetuous little creature who confronted her
with flashing eyes and quivering lips, and had speedily warned Gulian
never to broach the subject to Betty again. Peter was Betty's closest
friend in those stormy days. The urchin had a shrewd perception of how
matters stood, and many a time had Betty hugged him for very gratitude
when he made a diversion and carried her off to some boyish haunt in the
city or to the Collect, thereby giving her opportunity to regain the
self-control and spirit necessary to appear as usual. For Betty was
formed of gallant stuff. No matter if her heart ached to bursting for
sight of Geoffrey, if her ears longed, oh, so madly, for the sound of
his voice; she could suffer, aye, deeply and long, but she could also be
brave and hide even the appearance of a wound. That Gulian, and even
Clarissa, considered her a heartless coquette troubled her not at all,
and so Betty danced and laughed on to the end of her sojourn in New
York.

It had always been a source of thankfulness to her that she had been
able to go home before Geoffrey's return from the expedition to South
Carolina, for she sometimes doubted her own ability to withstand his
personal appeal if again exerted. That he had returned and then, shortly
after, gone upon another detail, she had heard incidentally from Oliver
during one of her brother's flying visits to Litchfield on his way to
New London with dispatches. Oliver had been greatly touched by Yorke's
conduct in the matter of his escape, but if he suspected that Betty's
lovely face had anything to do with the British officer's kindly
blindness, he was too clever to hint as much, for which forbearance
Betty thanked him in the depths of her heart. The only way in which he
showed his suspicion was in the occasional bits of news concerning Yorke
with which he favored her. At the battle of Cowpens Yorke had been
wounded and taken prisoner, and it fell to Oliver Wolcott to arrange for
his exchange. Then, for the first time, were Oliver's surmises changed
to certainties, for one night when he had been attending the prisoner,
whose wound was nearly healed, Yorke broke silence and in the frankest,
most manly fashion demanded news of his little sweetheart, and told
Oliver of his hopes and fears. Nothing could have appealed so directly
to the brother as Yorke's avowal that Betty had refused him because of
the coat he wore, and his eyes filled as he said, boyishly enough,
"Egad, Yorke, she has all the Wolcott pluck and patriotism; though were
this vexed question of independence settled, I wish with all my heart
that you may yet conquer this unwilling maid whom I call sister."

Yorke smiled, but he did not consider it necessary to add that Betty had
once let compassion and gratitude get the better of her loyalty in the
matter of a prisoner, to Oliver's own discomfiture.

There had been some changes in the Wolcott home: Pamela had gone forth
from the mansion a bride, after Cornwallis had surrendered at Yorktown,
and Josiah Huntington had worn a major's uniform on his wedding-day.
Betty had scarcely recovered from that break in the home circle when
Sally Tracy, with many blushes and much laughter, confessed that she,
too, was about to follow Pamela's example, and that a certain Mr. James
Gould, the gentleman from Branford, of whom Moppet had been so
suspicious, was the lucky individual upon whom she intended to bestow
her hand. Verily, with all these wedding-bells sounding, Betty began to
feel that she was likely to be left alone, but who only laughed gayly
when twitted with her fancy for maidenhood, and danced as merrily at
Sally's wedding as if her heart had lain light in her bosom instead of
aching bitterly for one whom she began to fear she should never see
more.

Little did Betty guess that bright October morning, when she and Moppet
went forth bent on a nutting excursion, that a courier was even now
speeding on his way whose coming would change the tide of her whole
existence. And when, as noon struck, Oliver Wolcott dismounted at the
door of his home and, walking straight to his father's study, delivered
a packet from General Wolcott to Miss Euphemia, his next move was a
descent upon Miss Bidwell's parlor and a hasty demand for Betty. So when
Moppet and Betty appeared, rosy with success and a fair-sized bag of
nuts as the result of their joint labors, they found the household in a
state of suppressed excitement, and lo! the cause was Oliver's
approaching marriage.

"You see," explained Oliver, when he finally got Betty to himself for a
walk in the orchard after dinner, "now that the treaty has been signed
in Paris, the British will soon evacuate New York, and when our army
enters, there will be grand doings to celebrate the event, and my
father must ride at the head of the Connecticut troops on that day. I,
too, Betty, God willing, shall be with the Rangers, and thinking the
date will be about a month hence, Kitty and Madam Cruger have set our
wedding-day as the 25th of November. I gave you Kitty's letter"--

"Yes, and a dear, kind letter it is. She bids me for her bridesmaid,
Oliver, and says that Moppet and Peter will hold her train, after the
new English fashion (which no doubt is her mother's suggestion, for I
think Kitty does not much affect fancies which come across the water),
and, oh, Oliver, I do indeed wish you joy," and Betty's eyes brimmed
full of tears as she gave him her hand.

"I know you love Kitty," said Oliver, kissing her cheek, "and we can
afford to forgive a wedding after the English mode, as, if I gain my
Kitty, I care but little how she comes."

"Betty, Betty," called Moppet's voice from the upper path, "do come in
if you and Oliver have finished your chat, for Miss Bidwell desires your
opinion on some weighty matter connected with our journey to New York."

"I will come," answered Betty; then turning bank with, as careless an
air as she could summon, "Do you happen to have heard aught of your
quondam prisoner, Captain Yorke?"

"Yorke!" replied Oliver, avoiding her eye as be stooped to throw a stick
from the path,--"Yorke! oh, aye, I did hear that he was invalided and
went home several months ago. I fancy it was not so much his health (for
he looked strong enough to my thinking the last time I met him) but more
his disgust with the turn things were taking; for you know, Betty, since
the surrender at Yorktown the British have been more insolent and
overbearing than ever, and Yorke is too much a gentleman, no matter what
his political color, to be dragged into quarrels which I hear are
incessant in the city, and the cause of many duels."

"Duels!" cried Betty, as the color left her checks; "oh, I hope he--that
is--I hope nobody whom I know has been engaged in one."

"Not I," returned Oliver, with a mischievous glance. "So you might even
be sorry for a foe, eh, Betty?" But Betty went flying up the path and
did not deign to reply.

Miss Moppet, childlike, was perfectly overjoyed at the prospect of a
wedding in which she was to play a part, and flew from her aunt to Miss
Bidwell and Betty, then back to her aunt again in a twitter of
excitement at the combination of a journey and festivity as well.
General Wolcott's letter to his sister was full of important news. As
the seat of Congress was Annapolis, General Wolcott, who was a member of
that body, had decided to close the manor house for the winter and take
a house in New York for his family, and he sent minute and particular
directions for leaving all home affairs in the hands of Miss Bidwell and
Reuben until their return to Litchfield in the spring. Oliver's intended
marriage had hastened this decision, and there would be barely time to
settle matters and reach New York in season for the wedding. They were
to stop with Clarissa, who had written most pleading letters, and after
that visit would take possession of their new quarters.

Most of the afternoon was spent in plans for their journey, with Oliver
as escort, and many a sigh rose almost to Betty's lips as these recalled
that other journey when her heart had been as light as Moppet's was now.
But she put all thought aside with a resolute heart, and finally
receiving directions from Miss Euphemia in regard to a chest of winter
clothing packed safely away in the garret, she concluded to give
Moppet's restless hands some occupation, and bade the child accompany
her upstairs.

The old garret looked familiar enough. Even the wooden stools which had
served as seats for her and Sally Tracy in the old childish days stood
in the same corner under the dormer window, through which the sun was
even now pouring its setting rays. The chest was unlocked, and presently
a goodly pile of clothing lay upon the floor ready to be carried below.

"Let me have my worsted jacket, and my flannel wrapper (indeed, I do
believe they are too small for me; can I find others in New York,
Betty?), and this pretty hood of Pamela's. Betty, Betty, do you think
Miss Bidwell could cut this one smaller for me? May I just run down and
ask? I will return at once."

"Yes," said Betty, intent upon counting a heap of stockings; "please
fetch me a pair of scissors when you come up again."

Off flew Moppet, marking her progress down the garret stairs by various
exclamations as she dropped the jacket and tripped on the wrapper, but,
finally reached the bottom in safety, Betty went on overlooking the
chest; there were many articles to select from, and a red skirt of
Moppet's which did not appear to be forthcoming. She ran her hand down
to the very bottom of the chest, and feeling some garment made of smooth
cloth with a gleam of red in it, dragged it forth and held it up to the
light. As she did so, her hand struck something hard and round.

"What have I found?" thought Betty, but the next moment she saw that
what she held was an officer's dark blue riding-cape fastened with brass
buttons, on each of which was engraved a crown, and the cape was lined
with British scarlet.

"What have you got there?" said Moppet's voice, as she appeared at her
side. "Why, 'tis Captain Yorke's cape that he muffled me in the day I
fell into Great Pond--Oh, Betty, Betty, what is amiss?"

Down on her knees fell Betty. She buried her face in the cape's folds,
and tears rolled down her cheeks as she tried to say, "It is nothing,
nothing, I am tired--I am--Oh, Geoffrey, Geoffrey, I think my heart is
breaking."

Miss Moppet opened her eyes to their widest; then slowly and
deliberately she grasped the situation in "high Roman fashion."

"Betty Wolcott, do I live to see you weep over a scarlet coat!"

No answer; indeed, Betty scarcely heard the words. The flood-gates were
let loose and the agony of days and months must have its way.

"Betty!" this time the voice of reproving patriotism quavered somewhat.
"I do believe you are worse than Pamela." But Betty sobbed on,--sobs
that fairly racked her slender body.

"Well, I don't care what anybody says,"--and Moppet flung the Whig cause
to the wind as she cast herself down beside Betty,--"he's dear and
handsome and brave; whether he be British or Yankee, I love him, and _so
do you_, naughty, naughty Betty!"

And with her head on Miss Moppet's sympathizing shoulder, and Miss
Moppet's loving arms clasped around her neck, Betty Wolcott whispered
her confession and was comforted.

CHAPTER XVII

A KNOT OF ROSE-COLORED RIBBON

The sun rose bright and clear over the Bay of New York. It had been a
somewhat gray dawn, but the fog and mist had gradually rolled away, and
the day bid fair to be one of those which Indian summer occasionally
gives in our northern climate. All around Fort George and the Battery
the British troops were making ready for departure; the ships for their
transportation to England lay out in the bay, for this was the 25th of
November in the year of our Lord 1783.

The streets in the upper part of the city were filled with a different
kind of crowd, but one equally eager to be off and away. Many of the
Tories and sympathizers with the Crown had found New York a most
unpleasant dwelling-place since the signing of the treaty in which "The
United States of America" were proclaimed to the world an independent
Power, and Sir Guy Carleton, the British commander, had more trouble in
providing transportation for this army of discontented refugees than for
his own soldiers. However, the day was fixed, the ships ready to weigh
anchor, and the Army of Occupation about to bid adieu to American shores
forever.

"Peter," said Miss Moppet, as she danced merrily out of the
breakfast-room, "you are sure, quite sure that the grand procession,
with General Washington at its head, will come past this door? Because
we are all cordially bidden to Mistress Kitty's and perhaps Betty may
prefer to go there."

"But it will be a far better sight here," returned Peter; "it is sure to
pass our door, for I heard Oliver tell Aunt Clarissa so last night just
as he was going out."

"Oliver has overmuch on his mind to-day," remarked Moppet shrewdly; "to
ride with his troop in the morning and be married at evening is quite
enough to make him forget the route of a procession. Do you think we
might go out on the doorstep and see if there be any sign of its
approach?"

"Why not? It will be royal fun to see the British soldiers come down
from the Government House, and hear the hoots and howls the Broadway
and Vly boys are bound to give them. For once all the boys of the city
are of one mind--except the Tory boys, and they don't count for much
hereafter."

"I wouldn't jeer at a fallen foe if I were you, Peter," said Moppet,
severely, as she took up a position on the stoop, and leaned her elbows
on the iron railing; "my father says that is not manly, and besides I do
suppose there may be some decent Britishers."

"I never knew but one," retorted Peter stoutly. "What knowledge have you
of them, I'd like to know?"

"Not much," evasively. "Who was the one you mention?"

"My! but he was a prime skater; how he and Betty used to fly over
Collect Pond that winter. Do you skate up in Litchfield, Moppet?"

"Yes, of course; that's where Betty learned with Oliver."

"Oh, aye, I remember; when she cut a face on the ice the day she raced
with Captain Yorke she told me her brother had taught her."

At this moment there was sound of a distant bugle; both children ran
down to the foot of the steps and gazed eagerly up the street. But it
was a false alarm, and after a few moments spent in fruitless watching
they returned to their post of observation on the stoop.

"Peter," began Moppet presently, with true feminine persistency, "what
were you saying about a British officer who knew Betty?"

"Captain Yorke? He was aide to Sir Henry Clinton."

"Was he? Will he go off to-day with all the other redcoats?"

"He sailed away to England some months ago,--I recollect he came to bid
good-by to Clarissa,--but do you know, Moppet," lowering his voice, with
a glance over his shoulder to be certain that he was not overheard, "I
think I saw him two days ago."

"In New York?" said Moppet, with a start. "Why you said he'd gone to
England."

"But he could come back, surely. Moppet, _I_ think he was proper fond of
Betty."

"Peter Provoost, do you fancy that my sister would smile on a scarlet
coat? You ought to be ashamed of yourself," and Moppet looked the
picture of virtuous indignation.

"Well, I've seen her do it," retorted Peter, not in the least abashed,
"and what's more I heard him call her 'sweetheart' once."

"Oh, Peter!" Moppet's curiosity very nearly got the better of her
discretion; but she halted in time, and bit her tongue to keep it
silent.

"And if you won't tell--promise?"--Moppet nodded--"not a word, mind,
even to Betty--where do you think I saw Captain Yorke the other day?
You'll never guess;--it was at Fraunces's Tavern on Broad Street, and he
was in earnest conversation with General Wolcott."

"With my father?" This time Moppet's astonishment was real, and Peter
chuckled at his success in news-telling.

"Children," called a voice from the hall, "where are you? Do you want to
come with me on an errand for Clarissa near Bowling Green, which must be
done before the streets are full of the troops?"

"Surely," cried both voices, as Peter dashed in one direction after his
cocked hat, and Miss Moppet flew in another for the blue hood. Betty
waited until the pair returned, laughing and panting, and then taking a
hand of each she proceeded up Wall Street to Broadway, and down that
thoroughfare toward Bowling Green. Before they had quite reached their
destination the sound of bugle and trumpet made them turn about, and
Peter suggested that they should mount a convenient pair of steps in
front of a large white house, which had apparently been closed by its
owners, for a number of bystanders were already posted there. They were
just in time, for around the corner of William Street came a group of
officers on horseback, their scarlet uniforms glittering in the sun. It
was Sir Guy Carleton and his staff, on their way to the Battery, where
they would take boats and be rowed over to a man-of-war which awaited
them in the bay. A murmur, then louder sounds of disapprobation, started
up from the street.

"There they go!" cried a voice, "and good riddance to Hessians and
Tories."

Betty's cheeks flushed. Oh, those hateful scarlet coats, symbols of what
had caused her so much misery. And yet--with another and deeper wave
of color--it was Geoffrey's uniform and these were his brother officers,
going where they would see him; oh, why, why, was fate so unkind, and
life so hard! Another moment and they were out of sight, but keen-eyed
Moppet caught a glimpse of Betty's downcast face and said to herself,
"Oh, I dare not tell her; I wish I did."

Out on Bowery Lane and away up in Harlem, over King's Bridge, with
measured step and triumphant hearts the Continentals were entering the
city. What a procession was that, with General Washington and Governor
Clinton at its head, and how all loyal New York spread its banners to
the wind and shouted loud and long to welcome it! There were the picked
men of the army, the heroes of an hundred fights, the men of
Massachusetts who had been at Lexington and Bunker Hill; General Knox in
command, and General Wolcott with his Connecticut Rangers, while Oliver
rode proudly at the head of his company. It was a slow march, down the
Bowery and through Chatham and Queen streets to Wall, thence up to
Broadway, where the column halted.

It would be vain to describe Betty's emotion as from the windows of the
Verplanck mansion she watched the troops and the civil concourse, and
realized that at last, after long years of heroic endurance, of gallant
fighting, of many privations, the freedom of the Colonies was an
accomplished fact. Miss Moppet and Peter flew from one window to another
and cheered and shouted to their hearts' content. Even Grandma Effingham
and Clarissa waved their handkerchiefs, while Gulian, on the doorstep,
raised his cocked hat in courtly salute to General Washington. Gulian
was beginning to learn that perhaps one might find something to be proud
of in America, even if we were lacking in the rank and titles he so
admired.

Oliver's wedding, which was set for six o'clock, to allow the
commander-in-chief to be present before the banquet at Fraunces's
Tavern, was to be on as grand a scale as Madam Cruger's ideas could make
it; for having consented to her daughter's marriage, that stately dame
proposed to yield in her most gracious fashion. It took some time to
dress Miss Moppet in the silken petticoat and puffed skirt, the tiny
mobcap and white ribbons, which Kitty had considered proper for the
occasion, and Betty found she must hasten her own toilet, or be late
herself. Moppet followed her up to the old room where Betty had spent
so many hours of varied experience, and assisted to spread out once
again the flowered brocade, which had not seen the light of day since
the De Lancey ball.

"Here are your slippers, Betty; how nicely they fit your foot."

"Yes," said Betty, her thoughts far across the sea, as she slipped on
one of them.

"I hope those are wedlock shoes," quoth Moppet, with a queer,
mischievous glance, as she tied the slipper strings around the slender
ankle. But Betty did not heed her; she was busy undoing the knots of
rose-colored ribbon on the waist, which she had once placed there with
such coquettish pride.

"What are you about?" cried Moppet, seizing her sister's hand as she was
in the act of snipping off one with the scissors. "Oh, Betty, the gown
will not be half so pretty without them."

"Nay, child, rose-colored ribbons are not for me to-day; I am grown too
old and sad," said Betty softly, looking with tender eyes into Moppet's
face.

"Did ever I hear such fal-lal nonsense," and Moppet's foot came down in
a genuine hot-tempered stamp which made Betty start, "Betty, Betty, I
will not have it--pray put them back this moment;" then in the coaxing
voice which she knew always carried her point, "What would Oliver and
Kitty say if you were not as gay as possible to grace their wedding? Oh,
fie, Betty dear!"

As usual Moppet had her way, and when the pair alighted at the Cruder
door Betty's knots of rose-color were in their accustomed place.

Within the mansion all was light and gay. Weddings in those times were
conducted with even more pomp and ceremony than in our day, and the
entertainments, though not upon the present scale, were fully as lavish.
Wax candles shone at every possible point, and lit up the broad
reception-hall, the polished floors and high ceilings, while mirrors on
mantels and walls reflected back many times the stately figures which
passed and repassed before them. And then there came a pause, when
voices were hushed, and down the oak staircase came Kitty, led by Gulian
Verplanck (her nearest male relative), wearing a white satin petticoat
(though somewhat scanty to our ideas in width and length), and over it
a, train of silver brocade, stiff and rustling, while a long scarf of
Mechlin lace covered her pretty dark head and hung in soft folds down
her back. The high-heeled slippers, the long lace mitts, with their
white bows at the elbow, completed her toilet. She stood before the
assembled company a fair young bride of the olden days, and behind her
came Miss Moppet and Peter Provoost, holding her silver train with the
tips of their fingers. Oliver, in full Continental uniform, his cocked
hat under his arm, awaited her at the end of the great drawing-room, and
with somewhat shortened service, the rector of old St. Paul's said the
words which made the pair man and wife.

[Illustration: "I HOPE THESE ARE WEDLOCK SHOES"]

Betty was standing near the mantel, laughing and chatting gayly with
several of her former New York gallants, when she beheld her father
advancing toward her on the arm of a gentleman. Surely she knew that
tall, elegant figure, that erect, graceful carriage? But the scarlet
uniform which was so familiar was absent; this was the satin coat,
small-clothes, and powdered hair of a civilian. Betty's head swam, her
brilliant color came and went, as her father said quietly!--

"My daughter, an old acquaintance desires that I should recall him to
your recollection; I trust it is not necessary for me to present to your
favor my friend, Mr. Geoffrey Yorke."

Betty's knees shook as she executed her most elaborate courtesy, and as
if in a dream she heard General Wolcott say to Yorke, with a somewhat
quizzical smile, "Perhaps you will kindly take Betty to the library,
where I will myself join you later after escorting General Washington to
the banquet."

Betty never knew how she crossed that room; every effort of her mind was
concentrated in the thought that she must not betray herself. What did
all this mean? Such a blaze of sunshine had fallen upon her that she did
not dare look at it; she only realized that her hand was in Geoffrey's
until they reached the quiet and deserted library, and then he was at
her feet.

"Sweetheart, sweetheart," he said, "you will not refuse to bear me now?
I have resigned the army, I have left England forever (unless you
yourself will some day accompany me there to meet my people), I have
thrown in my fortunes with the United States, and doubt not I will prove
as faithful a servant to your Commonwealth as I ever was to King
George," and kissing her hand, he, laid in it the faded knot of
rose-colored ribbon.

"But, Geoffrey" she faltered, "my father"--

"Did not General Wolcott himself bid me fetch you here? Ah. Betty, the
conditions are all fulfilled, and you are still unwilling."

She looked at him for a moment in silence, and then her most mischievous
smile dawned in Betty's eyes as she hid Geoffery's little knot of ribbon
in her gown.

"My heart but not my will, consents," she said, "Dare you take such a
naughty, perverse rebel in hand for life?"

"I dare all for love of Betty Wolcott," cried the triumphant lover,
while from the door a small person In mobcap surveyed the pair with very
round and most enraptured eyes.

"It's just like a fairy tale," quoth Miss Moppet, "and I'm in it!"

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