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The Crossing by Winston Churchill

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This eBook was corrected and updated by David Widger


By Winston Churchill














I was born under the Blue Ridge, and under that side which is blue in the
evening light, in a wild land of game and forest and rushing waters.
There, on the borders of a creek that runs into the Yadkin River, in a
cabin that was chinked with red mud, I came into the world a subject of
King George the Third, in that part of his realm known as the province of
North Carolina.

The cabin reeked of corn-pone and bacon, and the odor of pelts. It had
two shakedowns, on one of which I slept under a bearskin. A rough stone
chimney was reared outside, and the fireplace was as long as my father
was tall. There was a crane in it, and a bake kettle; and over it great
buckhorns held my father's rifle when it was not in use. On other horns
hung jerked bear's meat and venison hams, and gourds for drinking cups,
and bags of seed, and my father's best hunting shirt; also, in a
neglected corner, several articles of woman's attire from pegs. These
once belonged to my mother. Among them was a gown of silk, of a fine,
faded pattern, over which I was wont to speculate. The women at the
Cross-Roads, twelve miles away, were dressed in coarse butternut wool and
huge sunbonnets. But when I questioned my father on these matters he
would give me no answers.

My father was--how shall I say what he was? To this day I can only
surmise many things of him. He was a Scotchman born, and I know now that
he had a slight Scotch accent. At the time of which I write, my early
childhood, he was a frontiersman and hunter. I can see him now, with his
hunting shirt and leggings and moccasins; his powder horn, engraved with
wondrous scenes; his bullet pouch and tomahawk and hunting knife. He was
a tall, lean man with a strange, sad face. And he talked little save
when he drank too many "horns," as they were called in that country.
These lapses of my father's were a perpetual source of wonder to
me,--and, I must say, of delight. They occurred only when a passing
traveller who hit his fancy chanced that way, or, what was almost as
rare, a neighbor. Many a winter night I have lain awake under the skins,
listening to a flow of language that held me spellbound, though I
understood scarce a word of it.

"Virtuous and vicious every man must be,
Few in the extreme, but all in a degree."

The chance neighbor or traveller was no less struck with wonder. And
many the time have I heard the query, at the Cross-Roads and elsewhere,
"Whar Alec Trimble got his larnin'?"

The truth is, my father was an object of suspicion to the frontiersmen.
Even as a child I knew this, and resented it. He had brought me up in
solitude, and I was old for my age, learned in some things far beyond my
years, and ignorant of others I should have known. I loved the man
passionately. In the long winter evenings, when the howl of wolves and
"painters" rose as the wind lulled, he taught me to read from the Bible
and the "Pilgrim's Progress." I can see his long, slim fingers on the
page. They seemed but ill fitted for the life he led.

The love of rhythmic language was somehow born into me, and many's the
time I have held watch in the cabin day and night while my father was
away on his hunts, spelling out the verses that have since become part of
my life.

As I grew older I went with him into the mountains, often on his back;
and spent the nights in open camp with my little moccasins drying at the
blaze. So I learned to skin a bear, and fleece off the fat for oil with
my hunting knife; and cure a deerskin and follow a trail. At seven I
even shot the long rifle, with a rest. I learned to endure cold and
hunger and fatigue and to walk in silence over the mountains, my father
never saying a word for days at a spell. And often, when he opened his
mouth, it would be to recite a verse of Pope's in a way that moved me
strangely. For a poem is not a poem unless it be well spoken.

In the hot days of summer, over against the dark forest the bright green
of our little patch of Indian corn rippled in the wind. And towards
night I would often sit watching the deep blue of the mountain wall and
dream of the mysteries of the land that lay beyond. And by chance, one
evening as I sat thus, my father reading in the twilight, a man stood
before us. So silently had he come up the path leading from the brook
that we had not heard him. Presently my father looked up from his book,
but did not rise. As for me, I had been staring for some time in
astonishment, for he was a better-looking man than I had ever seen. He
wore a deerskin hunting shirt dyed black, but, in place of a coonskin cap
with the tail hanging down, a hat. His long rifle rested on the ground,
and he held a roan horse by the bridle.

"Howdy, neighbor?" said he.

I recall a fear that my father would not fancy him. In such cases he
would give a stranger food, and leave him to himself. My father's whims
were past understanding. But he got up.

"Good evening," said he.

The visitor looked a little surprised, as I had seen many do, at my
father's accent.

"Neighbor," said he, "kin you keep me over night?"

"Come in," said my father.

We sat down to our supper of corn and beans and venison, of all of which
our guest ate sparingly. He, too, was a silent man, and scarcely a word
was spoken during the meal. Several times he looked at me with such a
kindly expression in his blue eyes, a trace of a smile around his broad
mouth, that I wished he might stay with us always. But once, when my
father said something about Indians, the eyes grew hard as flint. It was
then I remarked, with a boy's wonder, that despite his dark hair he had
yellow eyebrows.

After supper the two men sat on the log step, while I set about the task
of skinning the deer my father had shot that day. Presently I felt a
heavy hand on my shoulder.

"What's your name, lad?" he said.

I told him Davy.

"Davy, I'll larn ye a trick worth a little time," said he, whipping out a
knife. In a trice the red carcass hung between the forked stakes, while
I stood with my mouth open. He turned to me and laughed gently.

"Some day you'll cross the mountains and skin twenty of an evening," he
said. "Ye'll make a woodsman sure. You've got the eye, and the hand."

This little piece of praise from him made me hot all over.

"Game rare?" said he to my father.

"None sae good, now," said my father.

"I reckon not. My cabin's on Beaver Creek some forty mile above, and
game's going there, too."

"Settlements," said my father. But presently, after a few whiffs of his
pipe, he added, "I hear fine things of this land across the mountains,
that the Indians call the Dark and Bluidy Ground."

"And well named," said the stranger.

"But a brave country," said my father, "and all tramped down with game.
I hear that Daniel Boone and others have gone into it and come back with
marvellous tales. They tell me Boone was there alone three months. He's
saething of a man. D'ye ken him?"

The ruddy face of the stranger grew ruddier still.

"My name's Boone," he said.

"What!" cried my father, "it wouldn't be Daniel?"

"You've guessed it, I reckon."

My father rose without a word, went into the cabin, and immediately
reappeared with a flask and a couple of gourds, one of which he handed to
our visitor.

"Tell me aboot it," said he.

That was the fairy tale of my childhood. Far into the night I lay on the
dewy grass listening to Mr. Boone's talk. It did not at first flow in a
steady stream, for he was not a garrulous man, but my father's questions
presently fired his enthusiasm. I recall but little of it, being so
small a lad, but I crept closer and closer until I could touch this
superior being who had been beyond the Wall. Marco Polo was no greater
wonder to the Venetians than Boone to me.

He spoke of leaving wife and children, and setting out for the Unknown
with other woodsmen. He told how, crossing over our blue western wall
into a valley beyond, they found a "Warrior's Path" through a gap across
another range, and so down into the fairest of promised lands. And as he
talked he lost himself in the tale of it, and the very quality of his
voice changed. He told of a land of wooded hill and pleasant vale, of
clear water running over limestone down to the great river beyond, the
Ohio--a land of glades, the fields of which were pied with flowers of
wondrous beauty, where roamed the buffalo in countless thousands, where
elk and deer abounded, and turkeys and feathered game, and bear in the
tall brakes of cane. And, simply, he told how, when the others had left
him, he stayed for three months roaming the hills alone with Nature

"But did you no' meet the Indians?" asked my father.

"I seed one fishing on a log once," said our visitor, laughing, "but he
fell into the water. I reckon he was drowned."

My father nodded comprehendingly,--even admiringly.

"And again!" said he.

"Wal," said Mr. Boone, "we fell in with a war party of Shawnees going
back to their lands north of the great river. The critters took away all
we had. It was hard," he added reflectively; "I had staked my fortune on
the venter, and we'd got enough skins to make us rich. But, neighbor,
there is land enough for you and me, as black and rich as Canaan."

"'The Lord is my shepherd,'" said my father, lapsing into verse. "'The
Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want. He leadeth me into green
pastures, and beside still waters.'"

For a time they were silent, each wrapped in his own thought, while the
crickets chirped and the frogs sang. From the distant forest came the
mournful hoot of an owl.

"And you are going back?" asked my father, presently.

"Aye, that I am. There are many families on the Yadkin below going, too.
And you, neighbor, you might come with us. Davy is the boy that would
thrive in that country."

My father did not answer. It was late indeed when we lay down to rest,
and the night I spent between waking and dreaming of the wonderland
beyond the mountains, hoping against hope that my father would go. The
sun was just flooding the slopes when our guest arose to leave, and my
father bade him God-speed with a heartiness that was rare to him. But,
to my bitter regret, neither spoke of my father's going. Being a man of
understanding, Mr. Boone knew it were little use to press. He patted me
on the head.

"You're a wise lad, Davy," said he. "I hope we shall meet again."

He mounted his roan and rode away down the slope, waving his hand to us.
And it was with a heavy heart that I went to feed our white mare,
whinnying for food in the lean-to.



And so our life went on the same, but yet not the same. For I had the
Land of Promise to dream of, and as I went about my tasks I conjured up
in my mind pictures of its beauty. You will forgive a backwoods
boy,--self-centred, for lack of wider interest, and with a little
imagination. Bear hunting with my father, and an occasional trip on the
white mare twelve miles to the Cross-Roads for salt and other
necessaries, were the only diversions to break the routine of my days.
But at the Cross-Roads, too, they were talking of Kaintuckee. For so the
Land was called, the Dark and Bloody Ground.

The next year came a war on the Frontier, waged by Lord Dunmore, Governor
of Virginia. Of this likewise I heard at the Cross-Roads, though few
from our part seemed to have gone to it. And I heard there, for rumors
spread over mountains, that men blazing in the new land were in danger,
and that my hero, Boone, was gone out to save them. But in the autumn
came tidings of a great battle far to the north, and of the Indians suing
for peace.

The next year came more tidings of a sort I did not understand. I
remember once bringing back from the Cross-Roads a crumpled newspaper,
which my father read again and again, and then folded up and put in his
pocket. He said nothing to me of these things. But the next time I went
to the Cross-Roads, the woman asked me:--

"Is your Pa for the Congress?"

"What's that?" said I.

"I reckon he ain't," said the woman, tartly. I recall her dimly, a
slattern creature in a loose gown and bare feet, wife of the storekeeper
and wagoner, with a swarm of urchins about her. They were all very
natural to me thus. And I remember a battle with one of these urchins in
the briers, an affair which did not add to the love of their family for
ours. There was no money in that country, and the store took our pelts
in exchange for what we needed from civilization. Once a month would I
load these pelts on the white mare, and make the journey by the path down
the creek. At times I met other settlers there, some of them not long
from Ireland, with the brogue still in their mouths. And again, I saw
the wagoner with his great canvas-covered wagon standing at the door,
ready to start for the town sixty miles away. 'Twas he brought the news
of this latest war.

One day I was surprised to see the wagoner riding up the path to our
cabin, crying out for my father, for he was a violent man. And a violent
scene followed. They remained for a long time within the house, and when
they came out the wagoner's face was red with rage. My father, too, was
angry, but no more talkative than usual.

"Ye say ye'll not help the Congress?" shouted the wagoner.

"I'll not," said my father.

"Ye'll live to rue this day, Alec Trimble," cried the man. "Ye may think
ye're too fine for the likes of us, but there's them in the settlement
that knows about ye."

With that he flung himself on his horse, and rode away. But the next
time I went to the Cross-Roads the woman drove me away with curses, and
called me an aristocrat. Wearily I tramped back the dozen miles up the
creek, beside the mare, carrying my pelts with me; stumbling on the
stones, and scratched by the dry briers. For it was autumn, the woods
all red and yellow against the green of the pines. I sat down beside the
old beaver dam to gather courage to tell my father. But he only smiled
bitterly when he heard it. Nor would he tell me what the word ARISTOCRAT

That winter we spent without bacon, and our salt gave out at Christmas.
It was at this season, if I remember rightly, that we had another
visitor. He arrived about nightfall one gray day, his horse jaded and
cut, and he was dressed all in wool, with a great coat wrapped about him,
and high boots. This made me stare at him. When my father drew back the
bolt of the door he, too, stared and fell back a step.

"Come in," said he.

"D'ye ken me, Alec?" said the man.

He was a tall, spare man like my father, a Scotchman, but his hair was in
a cue.

"Come in, Duncan," said my father, quietly. "Davy, run out for wood."

Loath as I was to go, I obeyed. As I came back dragging a log behind me
I heard them in argument, and in their talk there was much about the
Congress, and a woman named Flora Macdonald, and a British fleet sailing

"We'll have two thousand Highlanders and more to meet the fleet. And
ye'll sit at hame, in this hovel ye've made yeresel" (and he glanced
about disdainfully) "and no help the King?" He brought his fist down on
the pine boards.

"Ye did no help the King greatly at Culloden, Duncan," said my father,

Our visitor did not answer at once.

"The Yankee Rebels 'll no help the House of Stuart," said he, presently.
"And Hanover's coom to stay. Are ye, too, a Rebel, Alec Ritchie?"

I remember wondering why he said RITCHIE.

"I'll no take a hand in this fight," answered my father.

And that was the end of it. The man left with scant ceremony, I guiding
him down the creek to the main trail. He did not open his mouth until I
parted with him.

"Puir Davy," said he, and rode away in the night, for the moon shone
through the clouds.

I remember these things, I suppose, because I had nothing else to think
about. And the names stuck in my memory, intensified by later events,
until I began to write a diary.

And now I come to my travels. As the spring drew on I had had a feeling
that we could not live thus forever, with no market for our pelts. And
one day my father said to me abruptly:--

"Davy, we'll be travelling."

"Where?" I asked.

"Ye'll ken soon enough," said he. "We'll go at crack o' day."

We went away in the wild dawn, leaving the cabin desolate. We loaded the
white mare with the pelts, and my father wore a woollen suit like that of
our Scotch visitor, which I had never seen before. He had clubbed his
hair. But, strangest of all, he carried in a small parcel the silk gown
that had been my mother's. We had scant other baggage.

We crossed the Yadkin at a ford, and climbing the hills to the south of

it we went down over stony traces, down and down, through rain and sun;
stopping at rude cabins or taverns, until we came into the valley of
another river. This I know now was the Catawba. My memories of that
ride are as misty as the spring weather in the mountains. But presently
the country began to open up into broad fields, some of these abandoned
to pines. And at last, splashing through the stiff red clay that was up
to the mare's fetlocks, we came to a place called Charlotte Town. What a
day that was for me! And how I gaped at the houses there, finer than any
I had ever dreamed of! That was my first sight of a town. And how I
listened open-mouthed to the gentlemen at the tavern! One I recall had
a fighting head with a lock awry, and a negro servant to wait on him, and
was the principal spokesman. He, too, was talking of war. The Cherokees
had risen on the western border. He was telling of the massacre of a
settlement, in no mild language.

"Sirs," he cried, "the British have stirred the redskins to this. Will
you sit here while women and children are scalped, and those devils" (he
called them worse names) "Stuart and Cameron go unpunished?"

My father got up from the corner where he sat, and stood beside the man.

"I ken Alec Cameron," said he.

The man looked at him with amazement.

"Ay?" said he, "I shouldn't think you'd own it. Damn him," he cried, "if
we catch him we'll skin him alive."

"I ken Cameron," my father repeated, "and I'll gang with you to skin him

The man seized his hand and wrung it.

"But first I must be in Charlestown," said my father.

The next morning we sold our pelts. And though the mare was tired, we
pushed southward, I behind the saddle. I had much to think about,
wondering what was to become of me while my father went to skin Cameron.
I had not the least doubt that he would do it. The world is a storybook to a lad of nine, and the thought of
Charlestown filled me with a
delight unspeakable. Perchance he would leave me in Charlestown.

At nightfall we came into a settlement called the Waxhaws. And there
being no tavern there, and the mare being very jaded and the roads heavy,
we cast about for a place to sleep. The sunlight slanting over the pine
forest glistened on the pools in the wet fields. And it so chanced that
splashing across these, swinging a milk-pail over his head, shouting at
the top of his voice, was a red-headed lad of my own age. My father
hailed him, and he came running towards us, still shouting, and vaulted
the rails. He stood before us, eying me with a most mischievous look in
his blue eyes, and dabbling in the red mud with his toes. I remember I
thought him a queer-looking boy. He was lanky, and he had a very long
face under his tousled hair.

My father asked him where he could spend the night.

"Wal," said the boy, "I reckon Uncle Crawford might take you in. And
again he mightn't."

He ran ahead, still swinging the pail. And we, following, came at length
to a comfortable-looking farmhouse. As we stopped at the doorway a
stout, motherly woman filled it. She held her knitting in her hand.

"You Andy!" she cried, "have you fetched the milk?"

Andy tried to look repentant.

"I declare I'll tan you," said the lady. "Git out this instant. What
rascality have you been in?"

"I fetched home visitors, Ma," said Andy.

"Visitors!" cried the lady. "What 'll your Uncle Crawford say?" And she
looked at us smiling, but with no great hostility.

"Pardon me, Madam," said my father, "if we seem to intrude. But my mare
is tired, and we have nowhere to stay."

Uncle Crawford did take us in. He was a man of substance in that
country,--a north of Ireland man by birth, if I remember right.

I went to bed with the red-headed boy, whose name was Andy Jackson. I
remember that his mother came into our little room under the eaves and
made Andy say his prayers, and me after him. But when she was gone out,
Andy stumped his toe getting into bed in the dark and swore with a
brilliancy and vehemence that astonished me.

It was some hours before we went to sleep, he plying me with questions
about my life, which seemed to interest him greatly, and I returning in

"My Pa's dead," said Andy. "He came from a part of Ireland where they
are all weavers. We're kinder poor relations here. Aunt Crawford's
sick, and Ma keeps house. But Uncle Crawford's good, an' lets me go to
Charlotte Town with him sometimes."

I recall that he also boasted some about his big brothers, who were away
just then.

Andy was up betimes in the morning, to see us start. But we didn't
start, because Mr. Crawford insisted that the white mare should have a
half day's rest. Andy, being hustled off unwillingly to the "Old Field"
school, made me go with him. He was a very headstrong boy.

I was very anxious to see a school. This one was only a log house in a
poor, piny place, with a rabble of boys and girls romping at the door.
But when they saw us they stopped. Andy jumped into the air, let out a
war-whoop, and flung himself into the midst, scattering them right and
left, and knocking one boy over and over. "I'm Billy Buck!" he cried.
"I'm a hull regiment o' Rangers. Let th' Cherokees mind me!"

"Way for Sandy Andy!" cried the boys. "Where'd you get the new boy,

"His name's Davy," said Andy, "and his Pa's goin' to fight the Cherokees.
He kin lick tarnation out'n any o' you."

Meanwhile I held back, never having been thrown with so many of my own

"He's shot painters and b'ars," said Andy. "An' skinned 'em. Kin you
lick him, Smally? I reckon not."

Now I had not come to the school for fighting. So I held back.
Fortunately for me, Smally held back also. But he tried skilful tactics.

"He kin throw you, Sandy."

Andy faced me in an instant.

"Kin you?" said he.

There was nothing to do but try, and in a few seconds we were rolling on
the ground, to the huge delight of Smally and the others, Andy shouting
all the while and swearing. We rolled and rolled and rolled in the mud,
until we both lost our breath, and even Andy stopped swearing, for want
of it. After a while the boys were silent, and the thing became grim
earnest. At length, by some accident rather than my own strength, both
his shoulders touched the ground. I released him. But he was on his
feet in an instant and at me again like a wildcat.

"Andy won't stay throwed," shouted a boy. And before I knew it he had my
shoulders down in a puddle. Then I went for him, and affairs were
growing more serious than a wrestle, when Smally, fancying himself safe,
and no doubt having a grudge, shouted out:--

"Tell him he slobbers, Davy."

Andy DID slobber. But that was the end of me, and the beginning of
Smally. Andy left me instantly, not without an intimation that he would
come back, and proceeded to cover Smally with red clay and blood.
However, in the midst of this turmoil the schoolmaster arrived, haled
both into the schoolhouse, held court, and flogged Andrew with
considerable gusto. He pronounced these words afterwards, with great

"Andrew Jackson, if I catch ye fightin' once more, I'll be afther givin'
ye lave to lave the school."

I parted from Andy at noon with real regret. He was the first boy with
whom I had ever had any intimacy. And I admired him: chiefly, I fear,
for his fluent use of profanity and his fighting qualities. He was a
merry lad, with a wondrous quick temper but a good heart. And he seemed
sorry to say good-by. He filled my pockets with June apples--unripe, by
the way--and told me to remember him when I got TILL Charlestown.

I remembered him much longer than that, and usually with a shock of



Down and down we went, crossing great rivers by ford and ferry, until the
hills flattened themselves and the country became a long stretch of
level, broken by the forests only; and I saw many things I had not
thought were on the earth. Once in a while I caught glimpses of great
red houses, with stately pillars, among the trees. They put me in mind of
the palaces in Bunyan, their windows all golden in the morning sun; and
as we jogged ahead, I pondered on the delights within them. I saw gangs
of negroes plodding to work along the road, an overseer riding behind
them with his gun on his back; and there were whole cotton fields in
these domains blazing in primrose flower,--a new plant here, so my father
said. He was willing to talk on such subjects. But on others, and
especially our errand to Charlestown, he would say nothing. And I knew
better than to press him.

One day, as we were crossing a dike between rice swamps spread with
delicate green, I saw the white tops of wagons flashing in the sun at the
far end of it. We caught up with them, the wagoners cracking their whips
and swearing at the straining horses. And lo! in front of the wagons was
an army,--at least my boyish mind magnified it to such. Men clad in
homespun, perspiring and spattered with mud, were straggling along the
road by fours, laughing and joking together. The officers rode, and many
of these had blue coats and buff waistcoats,--some the worse for wear.
My father was pushing the white mare into the ditch to ride by, when one
hailed him.

"Hullo, my man," said he, "are you a friend to Congress?"

"I'm off to Charlestown to leave the lad," said my father, "and then to
fight the Cherokees."

"Good," said the other. And then, "Where are you from?"

"Upper Yadkin," answered my father. "And you?"

The officer, who was a young man, looked surprised. But then he laughed

"We're North Carolina troops, going to join Lee in Charlestown," said he.
"The British are sending a fleet and regiments against it."

"Oh, aye," said my father, and would have passed on. But he was made to
go before the Colonel, who plied him with many questions. Then he gave
us a paper and dismissed us.

We pursued our journey through the heat that shimmered up from the road,
pausing now and again in the shade of a wayside tree. At times I thought
I could bear the sun no longer. But towards four o'clock of that day a
great bank of yellow cloud rolled up, darkening the earth save for a
queer saffron light that stained everything, and made our very faces
yellow. And then a wind burst out of the east with a high mournful note,
as from a great flute afar, filling the air with leaves and branches of
trees. But it bore, too, a savor that was new to me,--a salt savor,
deep and fresh, that I drew down into my lungs. And I knew that we were
near the ocean. Then came the rain, in great billows, as though the
ocean itself were upon us.

The next day we crossed a ferry on the Ashley River, and rode down the
sand of Charlestown neck. And my most vivid remembrance is of the great
trunks towering half a hundred feet in the air, with a tassel of leaves
at the top, which my father said were palmettos. Something lay heavy on
his mind. For I had grown to know his moods by a sort of silent
understanding. And when the roofs and spires of the town shone over the
foliage in the afternoon sun, I felt him give a great sigh that was like
a sob.

And how shall I describe the splendor of that city? The sandy streets,
and the gardens of flower and shade, heavy with the plant odors; and the
great houses with their galleries and porticos set in the midst of the
gardens, that I remember staring at wistfully. But before long we came
to a barricade fixed across the street, and then to another. And
presently, in an open space near a large building, was a company of
soldiers at drill.

It did not strike me as strange then that my father asked his way of no
man, but went to a little ordinary in a humbler part of the town. After
a modest meal in a corner of the public room, we went out for a stroll.
Then, from the wharves, I saw the bay dotted with islands, their white
sand sparkling in the evening light, and fringed with strange trees, and
beyond, of a deepening blue, the ocean. And nearer,--greatest of all
delights to me,--riding on the swell was a fleet of ships. My father
gazed at them long and silently, his palm over his eyes.

"Men-o'-war from the old country, lad," he said after a while. "They're
a brave sight."

"And why are they here?" I asked.

"They've come to fight," said he, "and take the town again for the King."

It was twilight when we turned to go, and then I saw that many of the
warehouses along the wharves were heaps of ruins. My father said this
was that the town might be the better defended.

We bent our way towards one of the sandy streets where the great houses
were. And to my surprise we turned in at a gate, and up a path leading
to the high steps of one of these. Under the high portico the door was
open, but the house within was dark. My father paused, and the hand he
held to mine trembled. Then he stepped across the threshold, and raising
the big polished knocker that hung on the panel, let it drop. The sound
reverberated through the house, and then stillness. And then, from
within, a shuffling sound, and an old negro came to the door. For an
instant he stood staring through the dusk, and broke into a cry.

"Marse Alec!" he said.

"Is your master at home?" said my father.

Without another word he led us through a deep hall, and out into a
gallery above the trees of a back garden, where a gentleman sat smoking a
long pipe. The old negro stopped in front of him.

"Marse John," said he, his voice shaking, "heah's Marse Alec done come

The gentleman got to his feet with a start. His pipe fell to the floor,
and the ashes scattered on the boards and lay glowing there.

"Alec!" he cried, peering into my father's face, "Alec! You're not

"John," said my father, "can we talk here?"

"Good God!" said the gentleman, "you're just the same. To think of
it--to think of it! Breed, a light in the drawing-room."

There was no word spoken while the negro was gone, and the time seemed
very long. But at length he returned, a silver candlestick in each hand.

"Careful," cried the gentleman, petulantly, "you'll drop them."

He led the way into the house, and through the hall to a massive door of
mahogany with a silver door-knob. The grandeur of the place awed me, and
well it might. Boy-like, I was absorbed in this. Our little mountain
cabin would almost have gone into this one room. The candles threw their
flickering rays upward until they danced on the high ceiling. Marvel of
marvels, in the oval left clear by the heavy, rounded cornice was a

The negro set down the candles on the marble top of a table. But the air
of the room was heavy and close, and the gentleman went to a window and
flung it open. It came down instantly with a crash, so that the panes
rattled again.

"Curse these Rebels," he shouted, "they've taken our window weights to
make bullets."

Calling to the negro to pry open the window with a walking-stick, he
threw himself into a big, upholstered chair. 'Twas then I remarked the
splendor of his clothes, which were silk. And he wore a waistcoat all
sewed with flowers. With a boy's intuition, I began to dislike him

"Damn the Rebels!" he began. "They've driven his Lordship away. I hope
his Majesty will hang every mother's son of 'em. All pleasure of life is
gone, and they've folly enough to think they can resist the fleet. And
the worst of it is," cried he, "the worst of it is, I'm forced to smirk
to them, and give good gold to their government." Seeing that my father
did not answer, he asked: "Have you joined the Highlanders? You were
always for fighting."

"I'm to be at Cherokee Ford on the twentieth," said my father. "We're to
scalp the redskins and Cameron, though 'tis not known."

"Cameron!" shrieked the gentleman. "But that's the other side, man!
Against his Majesty?"

"One side or t'other," said my father, "'tis all one against Alec

The gentleman looked at my father with something like terror in his eyes.

"You'll never forgive Cameron," he said.

"I'll no forgive anybody who does me a wrong," said my father.

"And where have you been all these years, Alec?" he asked presently.
"Since you went off with--"

"I've been in the mountains, leading a pure life," said my father. "And
we'll speak of nothing, if you please, that's gone by."

"And what will you have me do?" said the gentleman, helplessly.

"Little enough," said my father. "Keep the lad till I come again. He's
quiet. He'll no trouble you greatly. Davy, this is Mr. Temple. You're
to stay with him till I come again."

"Come here, lad," said the gentleman, and he peered into my face.
"You'll not resemble your mother."

"He'll resemble no one," said my father, shortly.

"Good-by, Davy. Keep this till I come again." And he gave me the parcel
made of my mother's gown. Then he lifted me in his strong arms and
kissed me, and strode out of the house. We listened in silence as he
went down the steps, and until his footsteps died away on the path. Then
the gentleman rose and pulled a cord hastily. The negro came in.

"Put the lad to bed, Breed," said he.

"Whah, suh?"

"Oh, anywhere," said the master. He turned to me.

"I'll be better able to talk to you in the morning, David," said he.

I followed the old servant up the great stairs, gulping down a sob that
would rise, and clutching my mother's gown tight under my arm. Had my
father left me alone in our cabin for a fortnight, I should not have
minded. But here, in this strange house, amid such strange surroundings,
I was heartbroken. The old negro was very kind. He led me into a little
bedroom, and placing the candle on a polished dresser, he regarded me
with sympathy.

"So you're Miss Lizbeth's boy," said he. "An' she dade. An' Marse Alec
rough an' hard es though he been bo'n in de woods. Honey, ol' Breed'll
tek care ob you. I'll git you one o' dem night rails Marse Nick has, and
some ob his'n close in de mawnin'."

These things I remember, and likewise sobbing myself to sleep in the
four-poster. Often since I have wished that I had questioned Breed of
many things on which I had no curiosity then, for he was my chief
companion in the weeks that followed. He awoke me bright and early the
next day.

"Heah's some close o' Marse Nick's you kin wear, honey," he said.

"Who is Master Nick?" I asked.

Breed slapped his thigh.

"Marse Nick Temple, Marsa's son. He's 'bout you size, but he ain' no mo'
laik you den a Jack rabbit's laik an' owl. Dey ain' none laik Marse Nick
fo' gittin' into trouble-and gittin' out agin."

"Where is he now?" I asked.

"He at Temple Bow, on de Ashley Ribber. Dat's de Marsa's barony."

"His what?"

"De place whah he lib at, in de country."

"And why isn't the master there?"

I remember that Breed gave a wink, and led me out of the window onto a
gallery above the one where we had found the master the night before. He
pointed across the dense foliage of the garden to a strip of water
gleaming in the morning sun beyond.

"See dat boat?" said the negro. "Sometime de Marse he tek ar ride in dat
boat at night. Sometime gentlemen comes heah in a pow'ful hurry to git
away, out'n de harbor whah de English is at."

By that time I was dressed, and marvellously uncomfortable in Master
Nick's clothes. But as I was going out of the door, Breed hailed me.

"Marse Dave,"--it was the first time I had been called that,--"Marse
Dave, you ain't gwineter tell?"

"Tell what?" I asked.

"Bout'n de boat, and Marsa agwine away nights."

"No," said I, indignantly.

"I knowed you wahn't," said Breed. "You don' look as if you'd tell

We found the master pacing the lower gallery. At first he barely glanced
at me, and nodded. After a while he stopped, and began to put to me many
questions about my life: when and how I had lived. And to some of my
answers he exclaimed, "Good God!" That was all. He was a handsome man,
with hands like a woman's, well set off by the lace at his sleeves. He
had fine-cut features, and the white linen he wore was most becoming.

"David," said he, at length, and I noted that he lowered his voice,
"David, you seem a discreet lad. Pay attention to what I tell you. And
mark! if you disobey me, you will be well whipped. You have this house
and garden to play in, but you are by no means to go out at the front of
the house. And whatever you may see or hear, you are to tell no one. Do
you understand?"

"Yes, sir," I said.

"For the rest," said he, "Breed will give you food, and look out for your

And so he dismissed me. They were lonely days after that for a boy used
to activity, and only the damp garden paths and lawns to run on. The
creek at the back of the garden was stagnant and marshy when the water
fell, and overhung by leafy boughs. On each side of the garden was a
high brick wall. And though I was often tempted to climb it, I felt that
disobedience was disloyalty to my father. Then there was the great
house, dark and lonely in its magnificence, over which I roamed until I
knew every corner of it.

I was most interested of all in the pictures of men and women in quaint,
old-time costumes, and I used during the great heat of the day to sit in
the drawing-room and study these, and wonder who they were and when they
lived. Another amusement I had was to climb into the deep windows and
peer through the blinds across the front garden into the street.
Sometimes men stopped and talked loudly there, and again a rattle of
drums would send me running to see the soldiers. I recall that I had a
poor enough notion of what the fighting was all about. And no wonder.
But I remember chiefly my insatiable longing to escape from this prison,
as the great house soon became for me. And I yearned with a yearning I
cannot express for our cabin in the hills and the old life there.

I caught glimpses of the master on occasions only, and then I avoided
him; for I knew he had no wish to see me. Sometimes he would be seated
in the gallery, tapping his foot on the floor, and sometimes pacing the
garden walks with his hands opening and shutting. And one night I awoke
with a start, and lay for a while listening until I heard something like
a splash, and the scraping of the bottom-boards of a boat. Irresistibly
I jumped out of bed, and running to the gallery rail I saw two dark
figures moving among the leaves below. The next morning I came suddenly
on a strange gentleman in the gallery. He wore a flowered dressing-gown
like the one I had seen on the master, and he had a jolly, round face. I
stopped and stared.

"Who the devil are you?" said he, but not unkindly.

"My name is David Trimble," said I, "and I come from the mountains."

He laughed.

"Mr. David Trimble-from-the-mountains, who the devil am I?"

"I don't know, sir," and I started to go away, not wishing to disturb

"Avast!" he cried. "Stand fast. See that you remember that."

"I'm not here of my free will, sir, but because my father wishes it. And
I'll betray nothing."

Then he stared at me.

"How old did you say you were?" he demanded.

"I didn't say," said I.

"And you are of Scotch descent?" said he.

"I didn't say so, sir."

"You're a rum one," said he, laughing again, and he disappeared into the

That day, when Breed brought me my dinner on my gallery, he did not speak
of a visitor. You may be sure I did not mention the circumstance. But
Breed always told me the outside news.

"Dey's gittin' ready fo' a big fight, Marse Dave," said he. "Mister
Moultrie in the fo't in de bay, an' Marse Gen'l Lee tryin' for to boss
him. Dey's Rebels. An' Marse Admiral Parker an' de King's reg'ments
fixin' fo' to tek de fo't, an' den Charlesto'n. Dey say Mister Moultrie
ain't got no mo' chance dan a treed 'possum."

"Why, Breed?" I asked. I had heard my father talk of England's power and
might, and Mister Moultrie seemed to me a very brave man in his little

"Why!" exclaimed the old negro. "You ain't neber read no hist'ry books.
I knows some of de gentlemen wid Mister Moultrie. Dey ain't no soldiers.
Some is fine gentlemen, to be suah, but it's jist foolishness to fight
dat fleet an' army. Marse Gen'l Lee hisself, he done sesso. I heerd

"And he's on Mister Moultrie's side?" I asked.

"Sholy," said Breed. "He's de Rebel gen'l."

"Then he's a knave and a coward!" I cried with a boy's indignation.
"Where did you hear him say that?" I demanded, incredulous of some of
Breed's talk.

"Right heah in dis house," he answered, and quickly clapped his hand to
his mouth, and showed the whites of his eyes. "You ain't agwineter tell
dat, Marse Dave?"

"Of course not," said I. And then: "I wish I could see Mister Moultrie
in his fort, and the fleet."

"Why, honey, so you kin," said Breed.

The good-natured negro dropped his work and led the way upstairs, I
following expectant, to the attic. A rickety ladder rose to a kind of
tower (cupola, I suppose it would be called), whence the bay spread out
before me like a picture, the white islands edged with the whiter lacing
of the waves. There, indeed, was the fleet, but far away, like toy ships
on the water, and the bit of a fort perched on the sandy edge of an
island. I spent most of that day there, watching anxiously for some
movement. But none came.

That night I was again awakened. And running into the gallery, I heard
quick footsteps in the garden. Then there was a lantern's flash, a
smothered oath, and all was dark again. But in the flash I had seen
distinctly three figures. One was Breed, and he held the lantern;
another was the master; and the third, a stout one muffled in a cloak, I
made no doubt was my jolly friend. I lay long awake, with a boy's
curiosity, until presently the dawn broke, and I arose and dressed, and
began to wander about the house. No Breed was sweeping the gallery, nor
was there any sign of the master. The house was as still as a tomb, and
the echoes of my footsteps rolled through the halls and chambers. At
last, prompted by curiosity and fear, I sought the kitchen, where I had
often sat with Breed as he cooked the master's dinner. This was at the
bottom and end of the house. The great fire there was cold, and the pots
and pans hung neatly on their hooks, untouched that day. I was running
through the wet garden, glad to be out in the light, when a sound stopped

It was a dull roar from the direction of the bay. Almost instantly came
another, and another, and then several broke together. And I knew that
the battle had begun. Forgetting for the moment my loneliness, I ran
into the house and up the stairs two at a time, and up the ladder into
the cupola, where I flung open the casement and leaned out.

There was the battle indeed,--a sight so vivid to me after all these
years that I can call it again before me when I will. The toy
men-o'-war, with sails set, ranging in front of the fort. They looked at
my distance to be pressed against it. White puffs, like cotton balls,
would dart one after another from a ship's side, melt into a cloud, float
over her spars, and hide her from my view. And then presently the roar
would reach me, and answering puffs along the line of the fort. And I
could see the mortar shells go up and up, leaving a scorched trail
behind, curve in a great circle, and fall upon the little garrison.
Mister Moultrie became a real person to me then, a vivid picture in my
boyish mind--a hero beyond all other heroes.

As the sun got up in the heavens and the wind fell, the cupola became a
bake-oven. But I scarcely felt the heat. My whole soul was out in the
bay, pent up with the men in the fort. How long could they hold out?
Why were they not all killed by the shot that fell like hail among them?
Yet puff after puff sprang from their guns, and the sound of it was like
a storm coming nearer in the heat. But at noon it seemed to me as though
some of the ships were sailing. It was true. Slowly they drew away from
the others, and presently I thought they had stopped again. Surely two of
them were stuck together, then three were fast on a shoal. Boats, like
black bugs in the water, came and went between them and the others.
After a long time the two that were together got apart and away. But the
third stayed there, immovable, helpless.

Throughout the afternoon the fight, kept on, the little black boats
coming and going. I saw a mast totter and fall on one of the ships. I
saw the flag shot away from the fort, and reappear again. But now the
puffs came from her walls slowly and more slowly, so that my heart sank
with the setting sun. And presently it grew too dark to see aught save
the red flashes. Slowly, reluctantly, the noise died down until at last
a great silence reigned, broken only now and again by voices in the
streets below me. It was not until then that I realized that I had been
all day without food--that I was alone in the dark of a great house.

I had never known fear in the woods at night. But now I trembled as I
felt my way down the ladder, and groped and stumbled through the black
attic for the stairs. Every noise I made seemed louder an hundred fold
than the battle had been, and when I barked my shins, the pain was
sharper than a knife. Below, on the big stairway, the echo of my
footsteps sounded again from the empty rooms, so that I was taken with a
panic and fled downward, sliding and falling, until I reached the hall.
Frantically as I tried, I could not unfasten the bolts on the front door.
And so, running into the drawing-room, I pried open the window, and sat
me down in the embrasure to think, and to try to quiet the thumpings of
my heart.

By degrees I succeeded. The still air of the night and the heavy, damp
odors of the foliage helped me. And I tried to think what was right for
me to do. I had promised the master not to leave the place, and that
promise seemed in pledge to my father. Surely the master would come
back--or Breed. They would not leave me here alone without food much
longer. Although I was young, I was brought up to responsibility. And I
inherited a conscience that has since given me much trouble.

From these thoughts, trying enough for a starved lad, I fell to thinking
of my father on the frontier fighting the Cherokees. And so I dozed away
to dream of him. I remember that he was skinning Cameron,--I had often
pictured it,--and Cameron yelling, when I was awakened with a shock by a
great noise.

I listened with my heart in my throat. The noise seemed to come from the
hall,--a prodigious pounding. Presently it stopped, and a man's voice
cried out:--

"Ho there, within!"

My first impulse was to answer. But fear kept me still.

"Batter down the door," some one shouted.

There was a sound of shuffling in the portico, and the same voice:--

"Now then, all together, lads!"

Then came a straining and splitting of wood, and with a crash the door
gave way. A lantern's rays shot through the hall.

"The house is as dark as a tomb," said a voice.

"And as empty, I reckon," said another. "John Temple and his spy have
got away."

"We'll have a search," answered the first voice.

They stood for a moment in the drawing-room door, peering, and then they
entered. There were five of them. Two looked to be gentlemen, and three
were of rougher appearance. They carried lanterns.

"That window's open," said one of the gentlemen. "They must have been
here to-day. Hello, what's this?" He started back in surprise.

I slid down from the window-seat, and stood facing them, not knowing what
else to do. They, too, seemed equally confounded.

"It must be Temple's son," said one, at last. "I had thought the family
at Temple Bow. What's your name, my lad?"

"David Trimble, sir," said I.

"And what are you doing here?" he asked more sternly.

"I was left in Mr. Temple's care by my father."

"Oho!" he cried. "And where is your father?"

"He's gone to fight the Cherokees," I answered soberly. "To skin a man
named Cameron."

At that they were silent for an instant, and then the two broke into a

"Egad, Lowndes," said the gentleman, "here is a fine mystery. Do you
think the boy is lying?"

The other gentleman scratched his forehead.

"I'll have you know I don't lie, sir," I said, ready to cry.

"No," said the other gentleman. "A backwoodsman named Trimble went to
Rutledge with credentials from North Carolina, and has gone off to
Cherokee Ford to join McCall."

"Bless my soul!" exclaimed the first gentleman. He came up and laid his
hand on my shoulder, and said:--

"Where is Mr. Temple?"

"That I don't know, sir."

"When did he go away?"

I did not answer at once.

"That I can't tell you, sir."

"Was there any one with him?"

"That I can't tell you, sir."

"The devil you can't!" he cried, taking his hand away. "And why not?"

I shook my head, sorely beset.

"Come, Mathews," cried the gentleman called Lowndes.

"We'll search first, and attend to the lad after."

And so they began going through the house, prying into every cupboard and
sweeping under every bed. They even climbed to the attic; and noting the
open casement in the cupola, Mr. Lowndes said:--

"Some one has been here to-day."

"It was I, sir," I said. "I have been here all day."

"And what doing, pray?" he demanded.

"Watching the battle. And oh, sir," I cried, "can you tell me whether
Mister Moultrie beat the British?"

"He did so," cried Mr. Lowndes. "He did, and soundly."

He stared at me. I must have looked my pleasure.

"Why, David," says he, "you are a patriot, too."

"I am a Rebel, sir," I cried hotly.

Both gentlemen laughed again, and the men with them.

"The lad is a character," said Mr. Lowndes.

We made our way down into the garden, which they searched last. At the
creek's side the boat was gone, and there were footsteps in the mud.

"The bird has flown, Lowndes," said Mr. Mathews.

"And good riddance for the Committee," answered that gentleman, heartily.
"He got to the fleet in fine season to get a round shot in the middle.
David," said he, solemnly, "remember it never pays to try to be two
things at once."

"I'll warrant he stayed below water," said Mr. Mathews.

"But what shall we do with the lad?"

"I'll take him to my house for the night," said Mr. Lowndes, "and in the
morning we'll talk to him. I reckon he should be sent to Temple Bow. He
is connected in some way with the Temples."

"God help him if he goes there," said Mr. Mathews, under his breath. But
I heard him.

They locked up the house, and left one of the men to guard it, while I
went with Mr. Lowndes to his residence. I remember that people were
gathered in the streets as we passed, making merry, and that they greeted
Mr. Lowndes with respect and good cheer. His house, too, was set in a
garden and quite as fine as Mr. Temple's. It was ablaze with candles,
and I caught glimpses of fine gentlemen and ladies in the rooms. But he
hurried me through the hall, and into a little chamber at the rear where
a writing-desk was set. He turned and faced me.

"You must be tired, David," he said.

I nodded.

"And hungry? Boys are always hungry."

"Yes, sir."

"You had no dinner?"

"No, sir," I answered, off my guard.

"Mercy!" he said. "It is a long time since breakfast."

"I had no breakfast, sir."

"Good God!" he said, and pulled the velvet handle of a cord. A negro

"Is the supper for the guests ready?"

"Yes, Marsa."

"Then bring as much as you can carry here," said the gentleman. "And ask
Mrs. Lowndes if I may speak with her."

Mrs. Lowndes came first. And such a fine lady she was that she
frightened me, this being my first experience with ladies. But when Mr.
Lowndes told her my story, she ran to me impulsively and put her arms
about me.

"Poor lad!" she said. "What a shame!"

I think that the tears came then, but it was small wonder. There were
tears in her eyes, too.

Such a supper as I had I shall never forget. And she sat beside me for
long, neglecting her guests, and talking of my life. Suddenly she turned
to her husband, calling him by name.

"He is Alec Ritchie's son," she said, "and Alec has gone against

Mr. Lowndes did not answer, but nodded.

"And must he go to Temple Bow?"

"My dear," said Mr. Lowndes, "I fear it is our duty to send him there."



In the morning I started for Temple Bow on horseback behind one of Mr.
Lowndes' negroes. Good Mrs. Lowndes had kissed me at parting, and tucked
into my pocket a parcel of sweetmeats. There had been a few grave
gentlemen to see me, and to their questions I had replied what I could.
But tell them of Mr. Temple I would not, save that he himself had told me
nothing. And Mr. Lowndes had presently put an end to their talk.

"The lad knows nothing, gentlemen," he had said, which was true.

"David," said he, when he bade me farewell, "I see that your father has
brought you up to fear God. Remember that all you see in this life is
not to be imitated."

And so I went off behind his negro. He was a merry lad, and despite the
great heat of the journey and my misgivings about Temple Bow, he made me
laugh. I was sad at crossing the ferry over the Ashley, through thinking
of my father, but I reflected that it could not be long now ere I saw him
again. In the middle of the day we stopped at a tavern. And at length,
in the abundant shade of evening, we came to a pair of great ornamental
gates set between brick pillars capped with white balls, and turned into
a drive. And presently, winding through the trees, we were in sight of a
long, brick mansion trimmed with white, and a velvet lawn before it all
flecked with shadows. In front of the portico was a saddled horse,
craning his long neck at two panting hounds stretched on the ground. A
negro boy in blue clutched the bridle. On the horse-block a gentleman in
white reclined. He wore shiny boots, and he held his hat in his hand,
and he was gazing up at a lady who stood on the steps above him.

The lady I remember as well--Lord forbid that I should forget her. And
her laugh as I heard it that evening is ringing now in my ears. And yet
it was not a laugh. Musical it was, yet there seemed no pleasure in it:
rather irony, and a great weariness of the amusements of this world: and
a note, too, from a vanity never ruffled. It stopped abruptly as the
negro pulled up his horse before her, and she stared at us haughtily.

"What's this?" she said.

"Pardon, Mistis," said the negro, "I'se got a letter from Marse Lowndes."

"Mr. Lowndes should instruct his niggers," she said.
"There is a servants' drive." The man was turning his horse when she
cried: "Hold! Let's have it."

He dismounted and gave her the letter, and I jumped to the ground,
watching her as she broke the seal, taking her in, as a boy will, from
the flowing skirt and tight-laced stays of her salmon silk to her high
and powdered hair. She must have been about thirty. Her face was
beautiful, but had no particle of expression in it, and was dotted here
and there with little black patches of plaster. While she was reading, a
sober gentleman in black silk-breeches and severe coat came out of the
house and stood beside her.

"Heigho, parson," said the gentleman on the horse-block, without moving,
"are you to preach against loo or lansquenet to-morrow?"

"Would it make any difference to you, Mr. Riddle?"

Before he could answer there came a great clatter behind them, and a boy
of my own age appeared. With a leap he landed sprawling on the indolent
gentleman's shoulders, nearly upsetting him.

"You young rascal!" exclaimed the gentleman, pitching him on the drive
almost at my feet; then he fell back again to a position where he could
look up at the lady.

"Harry Riddle," cried the boy, "I'll ride steeplechases and beat you some

"Hush, Nick," cried the lady, petulantly, "I'll have no nerves left me."
She turned to the letter again, holding it very near to her eyes, and
made a wry face of impatience. Then she held the sheet out to Mr.

"A pretty piece of news," she said languidly. "Read it, Harry."

The gentleman seized her hand instead. The lady glanced at the
clergyman, whose back was turned, and shook her head.

"How tiresome you are!" she said.

"What's happened?" asked Mr. Riddle, letting go as the parson looked

"Oh, they've had a battle," said the lady, "and Moultrie and his Rebels
have beat off the King's fleet."

"The devil they have!" exclaimed Mr. Riddle, while the parson started
forwards. "Anything more?"

"Yes, a little." She hesitated. "That husband of mine has fled
Charlestown. They think he went to the fleet." And she shot a meaning
look at Mr. Riddle, who in turn flushed red. I was watching them.

"What!" cried the clergyman, "John Temple has run away?"

"Why not," said Mr. Riddle. "One can't live between wind and water long.
And Charlestown's -- uncomfortable in summer."

At that the clergyman cast one look at them--such a look as I shall never
forget--and went into the house.

"Mamma," said the boy, "where has father gone? Has he run away?"

"Yes. Don't bother me, Nick."

"I don't believe it," cried Nick, his high voice shaking. "I'd--I'd
disown him."

At that Mr. Riddle burst into a hearty laugh.

"Come, Nick," said he, "it isn't so bad as that. Your father's for his
Majesty, like the rest of us. He's merely gone over to fight for him."
And he looked at the lady and laughed again. But I liked the boy.

As for the lady, she curled her lip. "Mr. Riddle, don't be foolish," she
said. "If we are to play, send your horse to the stables." Suddenly her
eye lighted on me. "One more brat," she sighed. "Nick, take him to the
nursery, or the stable. And both of you keep out of my sight."

Nick strode up to me.

"Don't mind her. She's always saying, 'Keep out of my sight.'" His
voice trembled. He took me by the sleeve and began pulling me around the
house and into a little summer bower that stood there; for he had a
masterful manner.

"What's your name?" he demanded.

"David Trimble," I said.

"Have you seen my father in town?"

The intense earnestness of the question surprised an answer out of me.


"Where?" he demanded.

"In his house. My father left me with your father."

"Tell me about it."

I related as much as I dared, leaving out Mr. Temple's double dealing;
which, in truth, I did not understand. But the boy was relentless.

"Why," said he, "my father was a friend of Mr. Lowndes and Mr. Mathews.
I have seen them here drinking with him. And in town. And he ran away?"

"I do not know where he went," said I, which was the truth.

He said nothing, but hid his face in his arms over the rail of the bower.
At length he looked up at me fiercely.

"If you ever tell this, I will kill you," he cried. "Do you hear?"

That made me angry.

"Yes, I hear," I said. "But I am not afraid of you."

He was at me in an instant, knocking me to the floor, so that the breath
went out of me, and was pounding me vigorously ere I recovered from the
shock and astonishment of it and began to defend myself. He was taller
than I, and wiry, but not so rugged. Yet there was a look about him that
was far beyond his strength. A look that meant, NEVER SAY DIE.
Curiously, even as I fought desperately I compared him with that other
lad I had known, Andy Jackson. And this one, though not so powerful,
frightened me the more in his relentlessness.

Perhaps we should have been fighting still had not some one pulled us
apart, and when my vision cleared I saw Nick, struggling and kicking,
held tightly in the hands of the clergyman. And it was all that
gentleman could do to hold him. I am sure it was quite five minutes
before he forced the lad, exhausted, on to the seat. And then there was
a defiance about his nostrils that showed he was undefeated. The
clergyman, still holding him with one hand, took out his handkerchief
with the other and wiped his brow.

I expected a scolding and a sermon. To my amazement the clergyman said

"Now what was the trouble, David?"

"I'll not be the one to tell it, sir," I said, and trembled at my

The parson looked at me queerly.

"Then you are in the right of it," he said. "It is as I thought; I'll
not expect Nicholas to tell me."

"I will tell you, sir," said Nicholas. "He was in the house with my
father when--when he ran away. And I said that if he ever spoke of it to
any one, I would kill him."

For a while the clergyman was silent, gazing with a strange tenderness at
the lad, whose face was averted.

"And you, David?" he said presently.

"I--I never mean to tell, sir. But I was not to be frightened."

"Quite right, my lad," said the clergyman, so kindly that it sent a
strange thrill through me. Nicholas looked up quickly.

"You won't tell?" he said.

"No," I said.

"You can let me go now, Mr. Mason," said he. Mr. Mason did. And he came
over and sat beside me, but said nothing more.

After a while Mr. Mason cleared his throat.

"Nicholas," said he, "when you grow older you will understand these
matters better. Your father went away to join the side he believes in,
the side we all believe in--the King's side."

"Did he ever pretend to like the other side?" asked Nick, quickly.

"When you grow older you will know his motives," answered the clergyman,
gently. "Until then; you must trust him."

"You never pretended," cried Nick.

"Thank God I never was forced to do so," said the clergyman, fervently.

It is wonderful that the conditions of our existence may wholly change
without a seeming strangeness. After many years only vivid snatches of
what I saw and heard and did at Temple Bow come back to me. I understood
but little the meaning of the seigniorial life there. My chief wonder
now is that its golden surface was not more troubled by the winds then
brewing. It was a new life to me, one that I had not dreamed of.

After that first falling out, Nick and I became inseparable. Far slower
than he in my likes and dislikes, he soon became a passion with me. Even
as a boy, he did everything with a grace unsurpassed; the dash and daring
of his pranks took one's breath; his generosity to those he loved was
prodigal. Nor did he ever miss a chance to score those under his
displeasure. At times he was reckless beyond words to describe, and
again he would fall sober for a day. He could be cruel and tender in the
same hour; abandoned and freezing in his dignity. He had an old negro
mammy whose worship for him and his possessions was idolatry. I can hear
her now calling and calling, "Marse Nick, honey, yo' supper's done got
cole," as she searched patiently among the magnolias. And suddenly there
would be a shout, and Mammy's turban go flying from her woolly head, or
Mammy herself would be dragged down from behind and sat upon.

We had our supper, Nick and I, at twilight, in the children's dining
room. A little white room, unevenly panelled, the silver candlesticks
and yellow flames fantastically reflected in the mirrors between the deep
windows, and the moths and June-bugs tilting at the lights. We sat at a
little mahogany table eating porridge and cream from round blue bowls,
with Mammy to wait on us. Sometimes there floated in upon us the hum of
revelry from the great drawing-room where Madame had her company. Often
the good Mr. Mason would come in to us (he cared little for the parties),
and talk to us of our day's doings. Nick had his lessons from the
clergyman in the winter time.

Mr. Mason took occasion once to question me on what I knew. Some of my
answers, in especial those relating to my knowledge of the Bible,
surprised him. Others made him sad.

"David," said he, "you are an earnest lad, with a head to learn, and you
will. When your father comes, I shall talk with him." He paused--"I
knew him," said he, "I knew him ere you were born. A just man, and
upright, but with a great sorrow. We must never be hasty in our
judgments. But you will never be hasty, David," he added, smiling at me.
"You are a good companion for Nicholas."

Nicholas and I slept in the same bedroom, at a corner of the long house,
and far removed from his mother. She would not be disturbed by the noise
he made in the mornings. I remember that he had cut in the solid
shutters of that room, folded into the embrasures, "Nicholas Temple, His
Mark," and a long, flat sword. The first night in that room we slept but
little, near the whole of it being occupied with tales of my adventures
and of my life in the mountains. Over and over again I must tell him of
the "painters" and wildcats, of deer and bear and wolf. Nor was he ever
satisfied. And at length I came to speak of that land where I had often
lived in fancy--the land beyond the mountains of which Daniel Boone had
told. Of its forest and glade, its countless herds of elk and buffalo,
its salt-licks and Indians, until we fell asleep from sheer exhaustion.

"I will go there," he cried in the morning, as he hurried into his
clothes; "I will go to that land as sure as my name is Nick Temple. And
you shall go with me, David."

"Perchance I shall go before you," I answered, though I had small hopes
of persuading my father.

He would often make his exit by the window, climbing down into the garden
by the protruding bricks at the corner of the house; or sometimes go
shouting down the long halls and through the gallery to the great
stairway, a smothered oath from behind the closed bedroom doors
proclaiming that he had waked a guest. And many days we spent in the
wood, playing at hunting game--a poor enough amusement for me, and one
that Nick soon tired of. They were thick, wet woods, unlike our woods of
the mountains; and more than once we had excitement enough with the
snakes that lay there.

I believe that in a week's time Nick was as conversant with my life as I
myself. For he made me tell of it again and again, and of Kentucky. And
always as he listened his eyes would glow and his breast heave with

"Do you think your father will take you there, David, when he comes for

I hoped so, but was doubtful.

"I'll run away with you," he declared. "There is no one here who cares
for me save Mr. Mason and Mammy."

And I believe he meant it. He saw but little of his mother, and nearly
always something unpleasant was coupled with his views. Sometimes we ran
across her in the garden paths walking with a gallant,--oftenest Mr.
Riddle. It was a beautiful garden, with hedge-bordered walks and flowers
wondrously massed in color, a high brick wall surrounding it. Frequently
Mrs. Temple and Mr. Riddle would play at cards there of an afternoon, and
when that musical, unbelieving laugh of hers came floating over the wall,
Nick would say:--

"Mamma is winning."

Once we heard high words between the two, and running into the garden
found the cards scattered on the grass, and the couple gone.

Of all Nick's escapades,--and he was continually in and out of them,--I
recall only a few of the more serious. As I have said, he was a wild
lad, sobered by none of the things which had gone to make my life, and
what he took into his head to do he generally did,--or, if balked, flew
into such a rage as to make one believe he could not live. Life was
always war with him, or some semblance of a struggle. Of his many wild
doings I recall well the time when--fired by my tales of hunting--he went
out to attack the young bull in the paddock with a bow and arrow. It
made small difference to the bull that the arrow was too blunt to enter
his hide. With a bellow that frightened the idle negroes at the slave
quarters, he started for Master Nick. I, who had been taught by my
father never to run any unnecessary risk, had taken the precaution to
provide as large a stone as I could comfortably throw, and took station
on the fence. As the furious animal came charging, with his head
lowered, I struck him by a good fortune between the eyes, and Nicholas
got over. We were standing on the far side, watching him pawing the
broken bow, when, in the crowd of frightened negroes, we discovered the
parson beside us.

"David," said he, patting me with a shaking hand, "I perceive that you
have a cool head. Our young friend here has a hot one. Dr. Johnson may
not care for Scotch blood, and yet I think a wee bit of it is not to be

I wondered whether Dr. Johnson was staying in the house, too.

How many slaves there were at Temple Bow I know not, but we used to see
them coming home at night in droves, the overseers riding beside them
with whips and guns. One day a huge Congo chief, not long from Africa,
nearly killed an overseer, and escaped to the swamp. As the day fell, we
heard the baying of the bloodhounds hot upon his trail. More ominous
still, a sound like a rising wind came from the direction of the
quarters. Into our little dining-room burst Mrs. Temple herself, slamming
the door behind her. Mr. Mason, who was sitting with us, rose to calm

"The Rebels!" she cried. "The Rebels have taught them this, with their
accursed notions of liberty and equality. We shall all be murdered by
the blacks because of the Rebels. Oh, hell-fire is too good for them.
Have the house barred and a watch set to-night. What shall we do?"

"I pray you compose yourself, Madame," said the clergyman. "We can send
for the militia."

"The militia!" she shrieked; "the Rebel militia! They would murder us as
soon as the niggers."

"They are respectable men," answered Mr. Mason, "and were at Fanning Hall
to-day patrolling."

"I would rather be killed by whites than blacks," said the lady. "But
who is to go for the militia?"

"I will ride for them," said Mr. Mason. It was a dark, lowering night,
and spitting rain.

"And leave me defenceless!" she cried. "You do not stir, sir."

"It is a pity," said Mr. Mason--he was goaded to it, I suppose--"'tis a
pity Mr. Riddle did not come to-night."

She shot at him a withering look, for even in her fear she would brook no
liberties. Nick spoke up:--

"I will go," said he; "I can get through the woods to Fanning Hall--"

"And I will go with him," I said.

"Let the brats go," she said, and cut short Mr. Mason's expostulations.
She drew Nick to her and kissed him. He wriggled away, and without more
ado we climbed out of the dining-room windows into the night. Running
across the lawn, we left the lights of the great house twinkling behind
us in the rain. We had to pass the long line of cabins at the quarters.
Three overseers with lanterns stood guard there; the cabins were dark,
the wretches within silent and cowed. Thence we felt with our feet for
the path across the fields, stumbled over a sty, and took our way through
the black woods. I was at home here, and Nick was not to be frightened.
At intervals the mournful bay of a bloodhound came to us from a distance.

"Suppose we should meet the Congo chief," said Nick, suddenly.

The idea had occurred to me.

"She needn't have been so frightened," said he, in scornful remembrance
of his mother's actions.

We pressed on. Nick knew the path as only a boy can. Half an hour
passed. It grew brighter. The rain ceased, and a new moon shot out
between the leaves. I seized his arm.

"What's that?" I whispered.

"A deer."

But I, cradled in woodcraft, had heard plainly a man creeping through the
underbrush beside us. Fear of the Congo chief and pity for the wretch
tore at my heart. Suddenly there loomed in front of us, on the path, a
great, naked man. We stood with useless limbs, staring at him.

Then, from the trees over our heads, came a chittering and a chattering
such as I had never heard. The big man before us dropped to the earth,
his head bowed, muttering. As for me, my fright increased. The
chattering stopped, and Nick stepped forward and laid his hand on the
negro's bare shoulder.

"We needn't be afraid of him now, Davy," he said. "I learned that trick
from a Portuguese overseer we had last year."

"You did it!" I exclaimed, my astonishment overcoming my fear.

"It's the way the monkeys chatter in the Canaries," he said. "Manuel had
a tame one, and I heard it talk. Once before I tried it on the chief,
and he fell down. He thinks I'm a god."

It must have been a weird scene to see the great negro following two boys
in the moonlight. Indeed, he came after us like a dog. At length we
were in sight of the lights of Fanning Hall. The militia was there. We
were challenged by the guard, and caused sufficient amazement when we
appeared in the hall before the master, who was a bachelor of fifty.

"'Sblood, Nick Temple!" he cried, "what are you doing here with that big
Congo for a dog? The sight of him frightens me."

The negro, indeed, was a sight to frighten one. The black mud of the
swamps was caked on him, and his flesh was torn by brambles.

"He ran away," said Nick; "and I am taking him home."

"You--you are taking him home!" sputtered Mr. Fanning.

"Do you want to see him act?" said Nick. And without waiting for a reply
he filled the hall with a dozen monkeys. Mr. Fanning leaped back into a
doorway, but the chief prostrated himself on the floor. "Now do you
believe I can take him home?" said Nick.

"'Swounds!" said Mr. Fanning, when he had his breath. "You beat the
devil, Nicholas Temple. The next time you come to call I pray you leave
your travelling show at home."

"Mamma sent me for the militia," said Nick.

"She did!" said Mr. Fanning, looking grim. "An insurrection is a bad
thing, but there was no danger for two lads in the woods, I suppose."

"There's no danger anyway," said Nick. "The niggers are all scared to

Mr. Fanning burst out into a loud laugh, stopped suddenly, sat down, and
took Nick on his knee. It was an incongruous scene. Mr. Fanning almost

"Bless your soul," he said, "but you are a lad. Would to God I had you
instead of--"

He paused abruptly.

"I must go home," said Nick; "she will be worried."

"SHE will be worried!" cried Mr. Fanning, in a burst of anger. Then he
said: "You shall have the militia. You shall have the militia." He
rang a bell and sent his steward for the captain, a gawky country farmer,
who gave a gasp when he came upon the scene in the hall.

"And mind," said Nick to the captain, "you are to keep your men away from
him, or he will kill one of them."

The captain grinned at him curiously.

"I reckon I won't have to tell them to keep away," said he.

Mr. Fanning started us off for the walk with pockets filled with
sweetmeats, which we nibbled on the way back. We made a queer
procession, Nick and I striding ahead to show the path, followed by the
now servile chief, and after him the captain and his twenty men in single
file. It was midnight when we saw the lights of Temple Bow through the
trees. One of the tired overseers met us near the kitchen. When he
perceived the Congo his face lighted up with rage, and he instinctively
reached for his whip. But the chief stood before him, immovable, with
arms folded, and a look on his face that meant danger.

"He will kill you, Emory," said Nick; "he will kill you if you touch him."

Emory dropped his hand, limply.

"He will go to work in the morning," said Nick; "but mind you, not a

"Very good, Master Nick," said the man; "but who's to get him in his

"I will," said Nick. He beckoned to the Congo, who followed him over to
quarters and went in at his door without a protest.

The next morning Mrs. Temple looked out of her window and saw the
militiamen on the lawn.

"Pooh!" she said, "are those butternuts the soldiers that Nick went to



After that my admiration for Nick Temple increased greatly, whether
excited by his courage and presence of mind, or his ability to imitate
men and women and creatures, I know not. One of our amusements, I
recall, was to go to the Congo's cabin to see him fall on his face, until
Mr. Mason put a stop to it. The clergyman let us know that we were
encouraging idolatry, and he himself took the chief in hand.

Another incident comes to me from those bygone days. The fear of negro
insurrections at the neighboring plantations being temporarily lulled,
the gentry began to pluck up courage for their usual amusements. There
were to be races at some place a distance away, and Nick was determined
to go. Had he not determined that I should go, all would have been well.
The evening before he came upon his mother in the garden. Strange to
say, she was in a gracious mood and alone.

"Come and kiss me, Nick," she said. "Now, what do you want?"

"I want to go to the races," he said.

"You have your pony. You can follow the coach."

"David is to ride the pony," said Nick, generously. "May I go in the

"No," she said, "there is no room for you."

Nicholas flared up. "Harry Riddle is going in the coach. I don't see
why you can't take me sometimes. You like him better than me."

The lady flushed very red.

"How dare you, Nick!" she cried angrily. "What has Mr. Mason been
putting into your head?"

"Nothing," said Nick, quite as angrily. "Any one can see that you like
Harry. And I WILL ride in the coach."

"You'll not," said his mother.

I had heard nothing of this. The next morning he led out his pony from
the stables for me to ride, and insisted. And, supposing he was to go in
the coach, I put foot in the stirrup. The little beast would scarce
stand still for me to mount.

"You'll not need the whip with her," said Nick, and led her around by the
side of the house, in view of the portico, and stood there at her bridle.
Presently, with a great noise and clatter of hoofs, the coach rounded the
drive, the powdered negro coachman pulling up the four horses with much
ceremony at the door. It was a wondrous great vehicle, the bright colors
of its body flashing in the morning light. I had examined it more than
once, and with awe, in the coach-house. It had glass windows and a lion
on a blue shield on the door, and within it was all salmon silk, save the
painted design on the ceiling. Great leather straps held up this house
on wheels, to take the jolts of the road. And behind it was a platform.
That morning two young negroes with flowing blue coats stood on it. They
leaped to the ground when the coach stopped, and stood each side of the
door, waiting for my lady to enter.

She came down the steps, laughing, with Mr. Riddle, who was in his riding
clothes, for he was to race that day. He handed her in, and got in after
her. The coachman cracked his whip, the coach creaked off down the
drive, I in the trees one side waiting for them to pass, and wondering
what Nick was to do. He had let go my bridle, folded his whip in his
hand, and with a shout of "Come on, Davy," he ran for the coach, which
was going slowly, caught hold of the footman's platform, and pulled
himself up.

What possessed the footman I know not. Perchance fear of his mistress
was greater than fear of his young master; but he took the lad by the
shoulders--gently, to be sure--and pushed him into the road, where he
fell and rolled over. I guessed what would happen. Picking himself up,
Nick was at the man like a hurricane, seizing him swiftly by the leg.
The negro fell upon the platform, clutching wildly, where he lay in a
sheer fright, shrieking for mercy, his cries rivalled by those of the
lady within. The coachman frantically pulled his horses to a stand, the
other footman jumped off, and Mr. Harry Riddle came flying out of the
coach door, to behold Nicholas beating the negro with his riding-whip.

"You young devil," cried Mr. Riddle, angrily, striding forward, "what are
you doing?"

"Keep off, Harry," said Nicholas. "I am teaching this nigger that he is
not to lay hands on his betters." With that he gave the boy one more
cut, and turned from him contemptuously.

"What is it, Harry?" came in a shrill voice from within the coach.

"It's Nick's pranks," said Mr. Riddle, grinning in spite of his anger;
"he's ruined one of your footmen. You little scoundrel," cried Mr.
Riddle, advancing again, "you've frightened your mother nearly to a

"Serves her right," said Nick.

"What!" cried Mr. Riddle. "Come down from there instantly."

Nick raised his whip. It was not that that stopped Mr. Riddle, but a
sign about the lad's nostrils.

"Harry Riddle," said the boy, "if it weren't for you, I'd be riding in
this coach to-day with my mother. I don't want to ride with her, but I
will go to the races. If you try to take me down, I'll do my best to kill
you," and he lifted the loaded end of the whip.

Mrs. Temple's beautiful face had by this time been thrust out of the

"For the love of heaven, Harry, let him come in with us. We're late
enough as it is."

Mr. Riddle turned on his heel. He tried to glare at Nick, but he broke
into a laugh instead.

"Come down, Satan," says he. "God help the woman you love and the man
you fight."

And so Nicholas jumped down, and into the coach. The footman picked
himself up, more scared than injured, and the vehicle took its lumbering
way for the race-course, I following.

I have seen many courses since, but none to equal that in the gorgeous
dress of those who watched. There had been many, many more in former
years, so I heard people say. This was the only sign that a war was in
progress,--the scanty number of gentry present,--for all save the
indifferent were gone to Charlestown or elsewhere. I recall it dimly, as
a blaze of color passing: merrymaking, jesting, feasting,--a rare
contrast, I thought, to the sight I had beheld in Charlestown Bay but a
while before. Yet so runs the world,--strife at one man's home, and
peace and contentment at his neighbor's; sorrow here, and rejoicing not a
league away.

Master Nicholas played one prank that evening that was near to costing
dear. My lady Temple made up a party for Temple Bow at the course, two
other coaches to come and some gentlemen riding. As Nick and I were
running through the paddock we came suddenly upon Mr. Harry Riddle and a
stout, swarthy gentleman standing together. The stout gentleman was
counting out big gold pieces in his hand and giving them to Mr. Riddle.

"Lucky dog!" said the stout gentleman; "you'll ride back with her, and
you've won all I've got." And he dug Mr. Riddle in the ribs.

"You'll have it again when we play to-night, Darnley," answered Mr.
Riddle, crossly. "And as for the seat in the coach, you are welcome to
it. That firebrand of a lad is on the front seat."

"D--n the lad," said the stout gentleman. "I'll take it, and you can
ride my horse. He'll--he'll carry you, I reckon." His voice had a way
of cracking into a mellow laugh.

At that Mr. Riddle went off in a towering bad humor, and afterwards I
heard him cursing the stout gentleman's black groom as he mounted his
great horse. And then he cursed the horse as it reared and plunged,
while the stout gentleman stood at the coach door, cackling at his
discomfiture. The gentleman did ride home with Mrs. Temple, Nick going
into another coach. I afterwards discovered that the gentleman had
bribed him with a guinea. And Mr. Riddle more than once came near
running down my pony on his big charger, and he swore at me roundly, too.

That night there was a gay supper party in the big dining room at Temple
Bow. Nick and I looked on from the gallery window. It was a pretty
sight. The long mahogany board reflecting the yellow flames of the

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