Part 3 out of 7
"But he has not asked me," she said, smiling.
Harry turned to me and took my arm affectionately in his.
"You will ask her, won't you?" he murmured. "She's very nice when she
"She wouldn't have me," I said, laughing.
"Oh yes, she would; and then you need never leave us, which would be
pleasant for all, I think. Won't you ask her, cousin?"
"You ask her," I said.
"Dorothy," he broke out, eagerly. "You will wed him, won't you? Our
cousin Ormond says he will if you will. And I'll tell Sir George that
it's just a family matter, and, besides, he's too old--"
"Yes, tell Sir George that," sneered Ruyven, who had listened in an
embarrassment that certainly Dorothy had not betrayed. "You're a great
fool, Harry. Don't you know that when people want to wed they ask each
other's permission to ask each other's father, and then their fathers
ask each other, and then they ask each--"
"Other!" cried Dorothy, laughing deliciously. "Oh, Ruyven, Ruyven, you
certainly will be the death of me!"
"All the same," said Harry, sullenly, "our cousin wishes to wed you."
"Do you?" asked Dorothy, raising her amused eyes to me.
"I fear I come too late," I said, forcing a smile I was not inclined to.
"Ah, yes; too late," she sighed, pretending a doleful mien.
"Why?" demanded Harry, blankly.
Dorothy shook her head. "Sir George would never permit me such a
liberty. If he would, our cousin Ormond and I could wed at once; you see
I have my bride's stockings here; Cecile could do my hair, Sammy carry
my prayer-book, Benny my train, Ruyven read the service--"
Harry, flushing at the shout of laughter, gave Dorothy a dark look,
turned and eyed me, then scowled again at Dorothy.
"All the same," he said, slowly, "you're a great goose not to wed
him.... And you'll be sorry ... when he's dead!"
At this veiled prophecy of my approaching dissolution, all were silent
save Dorothy and Ruyven, whose fresh laughter rang out peal on peal.
"Laugh," said Harry, gloomily; "but you won't laugh when he's killed in
the war, ... and scalped, too."
Ruyven, suddenly sober, looked up at me. Dorothy bent over her
needle-work and examined it attentively.
"Are you going to the war?" asked Cecile, plaintively.
"Of course he's going; so am I," replied Ruyven, striking a careless
pose against a pillar.
"On which side, Ruyven?" inquired Dorothy, sorting her silks.
"On my cousin's side, of course," he said, uneasily.
"Which side is that?" asked Cecile.
Confused, flushing painfully, the boy looked at me; and I rescued him,
saying, "We'll talk that over when we ride bounds this afternoon. Ruyven
and I understand each other, don't we, Ruyven?"
He gave me a grateful glance. "Yes," he said, shyly.
Sir George Covert, a trifle pallid, but bland and urbane, strolled out
to the porch, saluting us gracefully. He paused beside Dorothy, who
slipped her needle through her work and held out her hand for him
"Are you also going to the wars?" she asked, with a friendly smile.
"Where are they?" he inquired, pretending a fierce eagerness. "Point out
some wars and I'll go to 'em post haste!"
"They're all around us," said Sammy, solemnly.
"Then we'd best get to horse and lose no time, Mr. Ormond," he observed,
passing his arm through mine. In a lower voice he added: "Headache?"
"Oh no," I said, hastily.
"Lucky dog. Sir Lupus lies as though struck by lightning. I'm all
a-quiver, too. A man of my years is a fool to do such things. But I do,
Ormond, I do; ass that I am. Do you ride bounds with Sir Lupus?"
"If he desires it," I said.
"Then I'll see you when you pass my villa on the Vlaie, where you'll
find a glass of wine waiting. Do you ride, Miss Dorothy?"
"Yes," she said.
A stable lad brought his horse to the porch. He took leave of Dorothy
with a grace that charmed even me; yet, in his bearing towards her I
could detect the tender pride he had in her, and that left me cold and
All liked him, though none appeared to regard him exactly as a kinsman,
nor accorded him that vague shade of intimacy which is felt in kinship,
not in comradeship alone, and which they already accorded me.
Dorothy walked with him to the stockade gate, the stable lad following
with his horse; and I saw them stand there in low-voiced conversation,
he lounging and switching at the weeds with his riding-crop; she, head
bent, turning the gold thimble over and over between her fingers. And I
wondered what they were saying.
Presently he mounted and rode away, a graceful, manly figure in the
saddle, and not turning like a fop to blow a kiss at his betrothed, nor
spurring his horse to show his skill--for which I coldly respected him.
Harry, Cecile, and the children gathered their paints and books and
went into the house, demanding that I should follow.
"Dorothy is beckoning us," observed Ruyven, gathering up his paints.
I looked towards her and she raised her hand, motioning us to come.
"About father's watch," she said. "I have just consulted Sir George, and
he says that neither I nor Ruyven have won, seeing that Ruyven used the
coin he did--"
"Very well," cried Ruyven, triumphantly. "Then let us match dates again.
Have you a shilling, Cousin Ormond?"
"I'll throw hunting-knives for it," suggested Dorothy.
"Oh no, you won't," retorted her brother, warily.
"Then I'll race you to the porch."
He shook his head.
She laughed tauntingly.
"I'm not afraid," said Ruyven, reddening and glancing at me.
"Then I'll wrestle you."
Stung by the malice in her smile, Ruyven seized her.
"No, no! Not in these clothes!" she said, twisting to free herself.
"Wait till I put on my buckskins. Don't use me so roughly, you tear my
laced apron. Oh! you great booby!" And with a quick cry of resentment
she bent, caught her brother, and swung him off his feet clean over her
left shoulder slap on the grass.
"Silly!" she said, cheeks aflame. "I have no patience to be mauled."
Then she laughed uncertainly to see him lying there, too astonished
to get up.
"Are you hurt?" she asked.
"Who taught you that hold?" he demanded, indignantly, scrambling to his
feet. "I thought I alone knew that."
"Why, Captain Campbell taught you last week and ... I was at the
window ... sewing," she said, demurely.
Ruyven looked at me, disgusted, muttering, "If I could learn things the
way she does, I'd not waste time at King's College, I can tell you."
"You're not going to King's College, anyhow," said his sister. "York is
full o' loyal rebels and Tory patriots, and father says he'll be damned
if you can learn logic where all lack it."
She held out her hand, smiling. "No malice, Ruyven, and we'll forgive
Her brother met the clasp; then, hands in his pockets, followed us back
through the stockade towards the porch. I was pleased to see that his
pride had suffered no more than his body from the fall he got, which
augured well for a fair-minded manhood.
As we approached the house I heard hollow noises within, like groans;
and I stopped, listening intently.
"It is Sir Lupus snoring," observed Ruyven. "He will wake soon; I think
I had best call Tulip," he added, exchanging a glance with his sister;
and entered the house calling, "Cato! Cato! Tulip! Tulip! I say!"
"Who is Tulip?" I asked of Dorothy, who lingered at the threshold
folding her embroidery into a bundle.
"Tulip? Oh, Tulip cooks for us--black as a June crow, cousin. She is
"Evil-eye and all?" I asked, smiling.
Dorothy looked up shyly. "Don't you believe in the evil-eye?"
I was not perfectly sure whether I did or not, but I said "No."
"To believe is not necessarily to be afraid," she added, quickly.
Now, had I believed in the voodoo craft, or in the power of an evil-eye,
I should also have feared. Those who have ever witnessed a sea-island
witch-dance can bear me out, and I think a man may dread a hag and be no
coward either. But distance and time allay the memories of such uncanny
works. I had forgotten whether I was afraid or not. So I said, "There
are no witches, Dorothy."
She looked at me, dreamily. "There are none ... that I fear."
"Not even Catrine Montour?" I asked, to plague her.
"No; it turns me cold to think of her running in the forest, but I am
She stood pensive in the doorway, rolling and unrolling her embroidery.
Harry and Cecile came out, flourishing alder poles from which lines and
hooks dangled. Samuel and Benny carried birchen baskets and
"If we're to have Mohawk chubbs," said Cecile, "you had best come with
us, Dorothy. Ruyven has a book and has locked himself in the play-room."
But Dorothy shook her head, saying that she meant to ride the boundary
with us; and the children, after vainly soliciting my company, trooped
off towards that same grist-mill in the ravine below the bridge which I
had observed on my first arrival at Varick Manor.
"I am wondering," said Dorothy, "how you mean to pass the morning. You
had best steer wide of Sir Lupus until he has breakfasted."
"I've a mind to sleep," I said, guiltily.
"I think it would be pleasant to ride together. Will you?" she asked;
then, laughing, she said, frankly, "Since you have come I do nothing but
follow you.... It is long since I have had a young companion, ... and,
when I think that you are to leave us, it spurs me to lose no moment
that I shall regret when you are gone."
No shyness marred the pretty declaration of her friendship, and it
touched me the more keenly perhaps. The confidence in her eyes, lifted
so sweetly, waked the best in me; and if my response was stumbling, it
was eager and warm, and seemed to please her.
"Tulip! Tulip!" she cried, "I want my dinner! Now!" And to me, "We will
eat what they give us; I shall dress in my buckskins and we will ride
the boundary and register the signs, and Sir Lupus and the others can
meet us at Sir George Covert's pleasure-house on the Vlaie. Does it
please you, Cousin George?"
I looked into her bright eyes and said that it pleased me more than I
dared say, and she laughed and ran up-stairs, calling back to me that I
should order our horses and tell Cato to tell Tulip to fetch meat and
claret to the gun-room.
I whistled a small, black stable lad and bade him bring our mounts to
the porch, then wandered at random down the hallway, following my nose,
which scented the kitchen, until I came to a closed door.
Behind that door meats were cooking--I could take my oath o' that--so I
opened the door and poked my nose in.
"Tulip," I said, "come here!"
An ample black woman, aproned and turbaned, looked at me through the
steam of many kettles, turned and cuffed the lad at the spit, dealt a
few buffets among the scullions, and waddled up to me, bobbing and
"Aunt Tulip," I said, gravely, "are you voodoo?"
"Folks says ah is, Mars' Ormon'," she said, in her soft Georgia accent.
"Oh, they do, do they? Look at me, Aunt Tulip. What do my eyes tell you
Her dark eyes, fixed on mine, seemed to change, and I thought little
glimmers of pure gold tinted the iris, like those marvellous restless
tints in a gorgeous bubble. Certainly her eyes were strange, almost
compelling, for I felt a faint rigidity in my cheeks and my eyes
returned directly to hers as at an unspoken command.
"Can you read me, aunty?" I asked, trying to speak easily, yet feeling
the stiffness growing in my cheeks.
"Ah sho' can," she said, stepping nearer.
"What is my fate, then?"
"Ah 'spec' yo' gwine fine yo'se'f in love," she said, softly; and I
strove to smile with ever-stiffening lips.
A little numbness that tingled spread over me; it was pleasant; I did
not care to withdraw my eyes. Presently the tightness in my face
relaxed, I moved my lips, smiling vaguely.
"In love," I repeated.
"Yaas, Mars' Ormon'."
"'Fore yo' know h'it, honey."
"Tell me more."
"'Spec' ah done tole yo' too much, honey." She looked at me steadily.
"Pore Mars' Gawge," she murmured, "'spec' ah done tole yo' too much. But
it sho' am a-comin', honey, an' h'it gwine come pow'ful sudden, an' h'it
gwine mek yo' pow'ful sick."
"Am I to win her?"
"Is there no hope, Aunt Tulip?"
She hesitated as though at fault; I felt the tenseness in my face once
more; then, for one instant, I lost track of time; for presently I found
myself standing in the hallway watching Sir Lupus through the open door
of the gun-room, and Sir Lupus was very angry.
"Dammy!" he roared, "am I to eat my plate? Cato! I want my porridge!"
Confused, I stood blinking at him, and he at table, bibbed like a babe,
mad as a hornet, hammering on the cloth with a great silver spoon and
bellowing that they meant to starve him.
"I don't remember how I came here," I began, then flushed furiously at
"Remember!" he shouted. "I don't remember anything! I don't want to
remember anything! I want my porridge! I want it now! Damnation!"
Cato, hastening past me with the steaming dish, was received with a
yelp. But at last Sir Lupus got his spoon into the mess and a portion of
the mess into his mouth, and fell to gobbling and growling, paying me no
further attention. So I closed the door of the gun-room on the great
patroon and walked to the foot of the stairway.
A figure in soft buckskins was descending--a blue-eyed, graceful youth
who hailed me with a gesture.
"Dorothy!" I said, fascinated.
Her fringed hunting-shirt fell to her knees, the short shoulder-cape
from throat to breast; gay fringe fluttered from shoulder to wrist, and
from thigh to ankle; and her little scarlet-quilled moccasins went
pat-patter-pat as she danced down the stairway and stood before me,
sweeping her cap from her golden head in exaggerated salute.
She seemed smaller in her boy's dress, fuller, too, and rounder of neck
and limb; and the witchery of her beauty left me silent--a tribute she
found delightful, for she blushed very prettily and bowed again in dumb
acknowledgment of the homage all too evident in my eyes.
Cato came with a dish of meat and a bottle of claret; and we sat down
on the stairs, punishing bottle and platter till neither drop nor
"Don't leave these dishes for Sir Lupus to fall over!" she cried to
Cato, then sprang to her feet and was out of the door before I could
move, whistling for our horses.
As I came out the horses arrived, and I hastened forward to put her into
her saddle, but she was up and astride ere I reached the ground, coolly
gathering bridle and feeling with her soft leather toes for
Astonished, for I had never seen a girl so mounted, I climbed to my
saddle and wheeled my mare, following her out across the lawn, through
the stockade and into the road, where I pushed my horse forward and
ranged up beside her at a gallop, just as she reached the bridge.
"See!" she cried, with a sweep of her arm, "there are the children down
there fishing under the mill." And she waved her small cap of silver
fox, calling in a clear, sweet voice the Indian cry of triumph, "Koue!"
RIDING THE BOUNDS
For the first half-mile our road lay over that same golden, hilly
country, and through the same splendid forests which I had traversed on
my way to the manor. Then we galloped past cultivated land, where
clustered spears of Indian corn sprouted above the reddish golden soil,
and sheep fed in stony pastures.
Around the cabins of the tenantry, fields of oats and barley glimmered,
thin blades pricking the loam, brilliant as splintered emeralds.
A few dropping blossoms still starred the apple-trees, pears showed in
tiny bunches, and once I saw a late peach-tree in full pink bloom and an
old man hoeing the earth around it. He looked up as we galloped past,
saluted sullenly, and leaned on his hoe, looking after us.
Dorothy said he was a Palatine refugee and a rebel, like the majority of
Sir Lupus's tenants; and I gazed curiously at these fields and cabins
where gaunt men and gaunter women, laboring among their sprouting
vegetables, turned sun-dazzled eyes to watch us as we clattered by;
where ragged children, climbing on the stockades, called out to us in
little, shrill voices; where feeding cattle lifted sober heads to stare;
where lank, yellow dogs rushed out barking and snapping till a cut of
the whip sent them scurrying back.
Once a woman came to her gate and hailed us, asking if it was true that
the troops had been withdrawn from Johnstown and Kingsborough.
"Which troops?" I asked.
"Ours," began the woman, then checked herself, and shot a suspicious
glance at me.
"The Provincials are still at Johnstown and Kingsborough," said Dorothy,
A gleam of relief softened the woman's haggard features. Then her face
darkened again and she pointed at two barefooted children shrinking
against the fence.
"If my man and I were alone we would not be afraid of the Mohawks; but
She made a desperate gesture, and stood staring at the blue Mayfield
hills where, perhaps at that moment, painted Mohawk scouts were watching
"If your men remain quiet, Mrs. Schell, you need fear neither rebel,
savage, nor Tory," said Dorothy. "The patroon will see that you have
Mrs. Schell gave her a helpless glance. "Did you not know that the
district scout-call has gone out?" she asked.
"Yes; but if the tenants of Sir Lupus obey it they do so at their
peril," replied Dorothy, gravely. "The militia scouts of this district
must not act hastily. Your husband would be mad to answer a call and
leave you here alone."
"What would you have him do?" muttered the woman.
"Do?" repeated Dorothy. "He can do one thing or the other--join his
regiment and take his family to the district fort, or stay at home and
care for you and the farm. These alarms are all wrong--your men are
either soldiers or farmers; they cannot be both unless they live close
enough to the forts. Tell Mr. Schell that Francy McCraw and his riders
are in the forest, and that the Brandt-Meester of Balston saw a Mohawk
smoke-signal on the mountain behind Mayfield."
The woman folded her bony arms in her apron, cast one tragic glance at
her children, then faced us again, hollow-eyed but undaunted.
"My man is with Stoner's scout," she said, with dull pride.
"Then you must go to the block-house," began Dorothy, but the woman
pointed to the fields, shaking her head.
"We shall build a block-house here," she said, stubbornly. "We cannot
leave our corn. We must eat, Mistress Varick. My man is too poor to be a
Provincial soldier, too brave to refuse a militia call--"
She choked, rubbed her eyes, and bent her stern gaze on the hills once
more. Presently we rode on, and, turning in my saddle, I saw her
standing as we had left her, gaunt, rigid, staring steadily at the
dreaded heights in the northwest.
As we galloped, cultivated fields and orchards became rarer; here and
there, it is true, some cabin stood on a half-cleared hill-side, and we
even passed one or two substantial houses on the flat ridge to the east,
but long, solid stretches of forest intervened, and presently we left
the highway and wheeled into a cool wood-road bordered on either side by
"Here we find our first landmark," said Dorothy, drawing bridle.
A white triangle glimmered, cut in the bark of an enormous pine; and my
cousin rode up to the tree and patted the bark with her little hand. On
the triangle somebody had cut a V and painted it black.
"This is a boundary mark," said Dorothy. "The Mohawks claim the forest
to the east; ride around and you will see their sign."
I guided my horse around the huge, straight trunk. An oval blaze scarred
it and on the wood was painted a red wolf.
"It's the wolf-clan, Brant's own clan of the Mohawk nation," she called
out to me. "Follow me, cousin." And she dashed off down the wood-road, I
galloping behind, leaping windfalls, gullies, and the shallow forest
brooks that crossed our way. The road narrowed to a trodden trail; the
trail faded, marked at first by cut undergrowth, then only by the white
scars on the tree-trunks.
These my cousin followed, her horse at a canter, and I followed her,
halting now and again to verify the white triangle on the solid flank of
some forest giant, passing a sugar-bush with the shack still standing
and the black embers of the fire scattered, until we came to a
logging-road and turned into it, side by side. A well-defined path
crossed this road at right angles, and Dorothy pointed it out. "The
Iroquois trail," she said. "See how deeply it is worn--nearly ten inches
deep--where the Five Nations have trodden it for centuries. Over it
their hunting-parties pass, their scouts, their war-parties. It runs
from the Kennyetto to the Sacandaga and north over the hills to
We halted and looked down the empty, trodden trail, stretching away
through the forest. Thousands and thousands of light, moccasined feet
had worn it deep and patted it hard as a sheep-path. On what mission
would the next Mohawk feet be speeding on that trail?
"Those people at Fonda's Bush had best move to Johnstown," said Dorothy.
"If the Mohawks strike, they will strike through here at Balston or
Saratoga, or at the half-dozen families left at Fonda's Bush, which some
of them call Broadalbin."
"Have these poor wretches no one to warn them?" I asked.
"Oh, they have been warned and warned, but they cling to their cabins as
cats cling to soft cushions. The Palatines seem paralyzed with fear, the
Dutch are too lazy to move in around the forts, the Scotch and English
too obstinate. Nobody can do anything for them--you heard what that
Schell woman said when I urged her to prudence."
I bent my eyes on the ominous trail; its very emptiness fascinated me,
and I dismounted and knelt to examine it where, near a dry, rotten log,
some fresh marks showed.
Behind me I heard Dorothy dismount, dropping to the ground lightly as a
tree-lynx; the next moment she laid her hand on my shoulder and bent
over where I was kneeling.
"Can you read me that sign?" she asked, mischievously.
"Something has rolled and squatted in the dry wood-dust--some bird, I
"A good guess," she said; "a cock-partridge has dusted here; see those
bits of down? I say a cock-bird because I know that log to be a
She raised herself and guided her horse along the trail, bright eyes
restlessly scanning ground and fringing underbrush.
"Deer passed here--one--two--three--the third a buck--a three-year old,"
she said, sinking her voice by instinct. "Yonder a tree-cat dug for a
wood-mouse; your lynx is ever hanging about a drumming-log."
I laid my hand on her arm and pointed to a fresh, green maple leaf lying
beside the trail.
"Ay," she murmured, "but it fell naturally, cousin. See; here it parted
from the stalk, clean as a poplar twig, leaving the shiny cup unbruised.
And nothing has passed here--this spider's web tells that, with a dead
moth dangling from it, dead these three days, from its brittle shell."
"I hear water," I said, and presently we came to it, where it hurried
darkling across the trail.
There were no human signs there; here a woodcock had peppered the mud
with little holes, probing for worms; there a raccoon had picked his
way; yonder a lynx had left the great padded mark of its foot, doubtless
watching for yonder mink nosing us from the bank of the still
Silently we mounted and rode out of the still Mohawk country; and I was
not sorry to leave, for it seemed to me that there was something
unfriendly in the intense stillness--something baleful in the silence;
and I was glad presently to see an open road and a great tree marked
with Sir Lupus's mark, the sun shining on the white triangle and the
Entering a slashing where the logging-road passed, we moved on, side by
side, talking in low tones. And my cousin taught me how to know these
Northern trees by bark and leaf; how to know the shrubs new to me, like
that strange plant whose root is like a human body and which the Chinese
value at its weight in gold; and the aromatic root used in beer, and the
bark of the sweet-birch whose twigs are golden-black.
Now, though the birds and many of the beasts and trees were familiar to
me in this Northern forest, yet I was constantly at fault, as I have
said. Plumage and leaf and fur puzzled me; our gray rice-bird here wore
a velvet livery of black and white and sang divinely, though with us he
is mute as a mullet; many squirrels were striped with black and white;
no rosy lichen glimmered on the tree-trunks; no pink-stemmed pines
softened sombre forest depths; no great tiger-striped butterflies told
me that the wild orange was growing near at hand; no whirring,
olive-tinted moth signalled the hidden presence of the oleander. But I
saw everywhere unfamiliar winged things, I heard unfamiliar bird-notes;
new colors perplexed me, new shapes, nay, the very soil smelled foreign,
and the water tasted savorless as the mist of pine barrens in February.
Still, my Maker had set eyes in my head and given me a nose to sniff
with; and I was learning every moment, tasting, smelling, touching,
listening, asking questions unashamed; and my cousin Dorothy seemed
never to tire in aiding me, nor did her eager delight and sympathy
abate one jot.
Dressed in full deer-skin as was I, she rode her horse astride with a
grace as perfect as it was unstudied and unconscious, neither affecting
the slothful carriage of our Southern saddle-masters nor the dragoons'
rigid seat, but sat at ease, hollow-backed, loose-thighed, free-reined
Her hair, gathered into a golden club at the nape of the neck, glittered
in the sun, her eyes deepened like the violet depths of mid-heaven.
Already the sun had lent her a delicate, creamy mask, golden on her
temples where the hair grew paler; and I thought I had never seen such
wholesome sweetness and beauty in any living being.
We now rode through a vast flat land of willows, headed due north once
more, and I saw a little river which twisted a hundred times upon itself
like a stricken snake, winding its shimmering coils out and in through
woodland, willow-flat, and reedy marsh.
"The Kennyetto," said Dorothy, "flowing out of the great Vlaie to empty
its waters close to its source after a circle of half a hundred miles.
Yonder lies the Vlaie--it is that immense flat country of lake and marsh
and forest which is wedged in just south of the mountain-gap where the
last of the Adirondacks split into the Mayfield hills and the long, low
spurs rolling away to the southeast. Sir William Johnson had a lodge
there at Summer-house Point. Since his death Sir George Covert has
leased it from Sir John. That is our trysting-place."
To hear Sir George's name now vaguely disturbed me, yet I could not
think why, for I admired and liked him. But at the bare mention of his
name a dull uneasiness came over me and I turned impatiently to my
cousin as though the irritation had come from her and she must
"What is it?" she inquired, faintly smiling.
"I asked no question," I muttered.
"I thought you meant to speak, cousin."
I had meant to say something. I did not know what.
"You seem to know when I am about to speak," I said; "that is twice you
have responded to my unasked questions."
"I know it," she said, surprised and a trifle perplexed. "I seem to hear
you when you are mute, and I turn to find you looking at me, as though
you had asked me something."
We rode on, thoughtful, silent, aware of a new and wordless intimacy.
"It is pleasant to be with you," she said at last. "I have never before
found untroubled contentment save when I am alone.... Everything that
you see and think of on this ride I seem to see and think of, too, and
know that you are observing with the same delight that I feel.... Nor
does anything in the world disturb my happiness. Nor do you vex me with
silence when I would have you speak; nor with speech when I ride
dreaming--as I do, cousin, for hours and hours--not sadly, but in the
Her voice died out like a June breeze; our horses, ear to ear moved on
slowly in the fragrant silence.
"To ride ... forever ... together," she mused, "looking with perfect
content on all the world.... I teaching you, or you me; ... it's all one
for the delight it gives to be alive and young.... And no trouble to
await us, ... nothing malicious to do a harm to any living thing.... I
could renounce Heaven for that.... Could you?"
"Yes.... For less."
"I know I ask too much; grief makes us purer, fitting us for the company
of blessed souls. They say that even war may be a holy thing--though we
are commanded otherwise.... Cousin, at moments a demon rises in me and I
desire some forbidden thing so ardently, so passionately, that it seems
as if I could fight a path through paradise itself to gain what I
desire.... Do you feel so?"
"Is it not consuming--terrible to be so shaken?... Yet I never gain my
desire, for there in my path my own self rises to confront me, blocking
my way. And I can never pass--never.... Once, in winter, our agent, Mr.
Fonda, came driving a trained caribou to a sledge. A sweet, gentle
thing, with dark, mild eyes, and I was mad to drive it--mad, cousin! But
Sir Lupus learned that it had trodden and gored a man, and put me on my
honor not to drive it. And all day Sir Lupus was away at Kingsborough
for his rents and I free to drive the sledge, ... and I was mad to do
it--and could not. And the pretty beast stabled with our horses, and
every day I might have driven it.... I never did.... It hurts yet,
cousin.... How strange is it that to us the single word, 'honor,' blocks
the road and makes the King's own highway no thorough-fare forever!"
She gathered bridle nervously, and we launched our horses through a
willow fringe and away over a soft, sandy intervale, riding knee to knee
till the wind whistled in our ears and the sand rose fountain high at
every stride of our bounding horses.
"Ah!" she sighed, drawing bridle. "That clears the heart of silly
troubles. Was it not glorious? Like a plunge to the throat in an
Her face, radiant, transfigured, was turned to the north, where,
glittering under the westward sun, the sunny waters of the Vlaie
sparkled between green reeds and rushes. Beyond, smoky blue mountains
tumbled into two uneven walls, spread southeast and southwest, flanking
the flat valley of the Vlaie.
Thousands of blackbirds chattered and croaked and trilled and whistled
in the reeds, flitting upward, with a flash of scarlet on their wings;
hovering, dropping again amid a ceaseless chorus from the half-hidden
flock. Over the marshes slow hawks sailed, rose, wheeled, and fell; the
gray ducks, whose wings bear purple diamond-squares, quacked in the
tussock ponds, guarded by their sentinels, the tall, blue herons.
Everywhere the earth was sheeted with marsh-marigolds and violets.
Across the distant grassy flat two deer moved, grazing. We rode to the
east, skirting the marshes, following a trail made by cattle, until
beyond the flats we saw the green roof of the pleasure-house which Sir
William Johnson had built for himself. Our ride together was
As at the same thought we tightened bridle and looked at each other
"All rides end," I said.
"Ay, like happiness."
"Both may be renewed."
"Until they end again."
"Until they end forever."
She clasped her bare hands on her horse's neck, sitting with bent head
as though lost in sombre memories.
"What ends forever might endure forever," I said.
"Not our rides together," she murmured. "You must return to the South
one day. I must wed.... Where shall we be this day a year hence?"
"Very far apart, cousin."
"Will you remember this ride?"
"Yes," I said, troubled.
"I will, too.... And I shall wonder what you are doing."
"And I shall think of you," I said, soberly.
"Will you write?"
"Yes. Will you?"
Silence fell between us like a shadow; then:
"Yonder rides Sir George Covert," she said, listlessly.
I saw him dismounting before his door, but said nothing.
"Shall we move forward?" she asked, but did not stir a finger towards
the bridle lying on her horse's neck.
Another silence; and, impatiently:
"I cannot bear to have you go," she said; "we are perfectly contented
together--and I wish you to know all the thoughts I have touching on the
world and on people. I cannot tell them to my father, nor to Ruyven--and
Cecile is too young--"
"There is Sir George," I said.
"He! Why, I should never think of telling him of these thoughts that
please or trouble or torment me!" she said, in frank surprise. "He
neither cares for the things you care for nor thinks about them
"Perhaps he does. Ask him."
"I have. He smiles and says nothing. I am afraid to tax his courtesy
with babble of beast and bird and leaf and flower; and why one man is
rich and another poor; and whether it is right that men should hold
slaves; and why our Lord permits evil, having the power to end it for
all time. I should like to know all these things," she said, earnestly.
"But I do not know them, Dorothy."
"Still, you think about them, and so do I. Sir Lupus says you have
liberated your Greeks and sent them back. I want to know why. Then, too,
though neither you nor I can know our Lord's purpose in enduring the
evil that Satan plans, it is pleasant, I think, to ask each other."
"To think together," I said, sadly.
"Yes; that is it. Is it not a pleasure?"
"It does not matter that we fail to learn; it is the happiness in
knowing that the other also cares to know, the delight in seaching for
reason together. Cousin, I have so longed to say this to somebody; and
until you came I never believed it possible.... I wish we were brother
and sister! I wish you were Cecile, and I could be with you all day and
all night.... At night, half asleep, I think of wonderful things to talk
about, but I forget them by morning. Do you?"
"It is strange we are so alike!" she said, staring at me thoughtfully.
After a few moments' silence we moved forward towards the
pleasure-house, and we had scarcely started when down the road, from the
north, came the patroon riding a powerful black horse, attended by old
Cato mounted on a raw-boned hunter, and by one Peter Van Horn, the
district Brandt-Meester, or fire-warden. As they halted at Sir George
Covert's door, we rode up to join them at a gallop, and the patroon,
seeing us far off, waved his hat at us in evident good humor.
"Not a landmark missing!" he shouted, "and my signs all witnessed for
record by Peter and Cato! How do the southwest landmarks stand?"
"The tenth pine is blasted by lightning," said Dorothy, walking her
beautiful gray to Sir Lupus's side.
"Pooh! We've a dozen years to change trees," said Sir Lupus, in great
content. "All's well everywhere, save at the Fish-House near the
Sacandaga ford, where some impudent rascal says he saw smoke on the
hills. He's doubtless a liar. Where's Sir George?"
Sir George sauntered forth from the doorway where he had been standing,
and begged us to dismount, but the patroon declined, saying that we had
far to ride ere sundown, and that one of us should go around by
Broadalbin. However, Dorothy and I slipped from our saddles to stretch
our legs while a servant brought stirrup-cups and Sir George gathered a
spray of late lilac which my cousin fastened to her leather belt.
"Tory lilacs," said Sir George, slyly; "these bushes came from cuttings
of those Sir William planted at Johnson Hall."
"If Sir William planted them, a rebel may wear them," replied Dorothy,
"Ay, it's that whelp, Sir John, who has marred what the great baronet
left as his monument," growled old Peter Van Horn.
"That's treason!" snapped the patroon. "Stop it. I won't have politics
talked in my presence, no! Dammy, Peter, hold your tongue, sir!"
Dorothy, wearing the lilac spray, vaulted lightly into her saddle, and I
mounted my mare. Stirrup-cups were filled and passed up to us, and we
drained a cooled measure of spiced claret to the master of the
pleasure-house, who pledged us gracefully in return, and then stood by
Dorothy's horse, chatting and laughing until, at a sign from Sir Lupus,
Cato sounded "Afoot!" on his curly hunting-horn, and the patroon wheeled
his big horse out into the road, with a whip-salute to our host.
"Dine with us to-night!" he bawled, without turning his fat head or
waiting for a reply, and hammered away in a torrent of dust. Sir George
glanced wistfully at Dorothy.
"There's a district officer-call gone out," he said. "Some of the
Palatine officers desire my presence. I cannot refuse. So ... it is
good-bye for a week."
"Are you a militia officer?" I asked, curiously.
"Yes," he said, with a humorous grimace. "May I say that you also are a
Dorothy turned squarely in her saddle and looked me in the eyes.
"At the district's service, Sir George," I said, lightly.
"Ha! That is well done, Ormond!" he exclaimed. "Nothing yet to
inconvenience you, but our Governor Clinton may send you a billet doux
from Albany before May ends and June begins--if this periwigged beau,
St. Leger, strolls out to ogle Stanwix--"
Dorothy turned her horse sharply, saluted Sir George, and galloped away
towards her father, who had halted at the cross-roads to wait for us.
"Good-bye, Sir George," I said, offering my hand. He took it in a firm,
"A safe journey, Ormond. I trust fortune may see fit to throw us
together in this coming campaign."
I bowed, turned bridle, and cantered off, leaving him standing in the
road before his gayly painted pleasure-house, an empty wine-cup in
"Damnation, George!" bawled Sir Lupus, as I rode up, "have we all day to
stand nosing one another and trading gossip! Some of us must ride by
Fonda's Bush, or Broadalbin, whatever the Scotch loons call it; and I'll
say plainly that I have no stomach for it; I want my dinner!"
"It will give me pleasure to go," said I, "but I require a guide."
"Peter shall ride with you," began Sir Lupus; but Dorothy broke in,
"He need not. I shall guide Mr. Ormond to Broadalbin."
"Oh no, you won't!" snapped the patroon; "you've done enough of
forest-running for one day. Peter, pilot Mr. Ormond to the Bush."
And he galloped on ahead, followed by Cato and Peter; so that, by reason
of their dust, which we did not choose to choke in, Dorothy and I
slackened our pace and fell behind.
"Do you know why you are to pass by Broadalbin?" she asked, presently.
I said I did not.
"Folk at the Fish-House saw smoke on the Mayfield hills an hour since.
That is twice in three days!"
"Well," said I, "what of that?"
"It is best that the Broadalbin settlement should hear of it."
"Do you mean that it may have been an Indian signal?"
"It may have been. I did not see it--the forest cut our view."
The westering sun, shining over the Mayfield hills, turned the dust to
golden fog. Through it Cato's red coat glimmered, and the hunting-horn,
curving up over his bent back, struck out streams of blinding sparks.
Brass buttons on the patroon's broad coat-skirts twinkled like yellow
stars, and the spurs flashed on his quarter-gaiters as he pounded along
at a solid hand-gallop, hat crammed over his fat ears, pig-tail
a-bristle, and the blue coat on his enormous body white with dust.
In the renewed melody of the song-birds there was a hint of approaching
evening; shadows lengthened; the sunlight grew redder on the dusty road.
"The Broadalbin trail swings into the forest just ahead," said Dorothy,
pointing with her whip-stock. "See, there where they are drawing bridle.
But I mean to ride with you, nevertheless.... And I'll do it!"
The patroon was waiting for us when we came to the weather-beaten
And Peter Van Horn had already ridden into the broad, soft wood-road,
when Dorothy, swinging her horse past him at a gallop, cried out, "I
want to go with them! Please let me!" And was gone like a deer, tearing
away down the leafy trail.
"Come back!" roared Sir Lupus, standing straight up in his ponderous
stirrups. "Come back, you little vixen! Am I to be obeyed, or am I not?
Baggage! Undutiful tree-cat! Dammy, she's off!"
He looked at me and smote his fat thigh with open hand.
"Did you ever see the like of her!" he chuckled, in his pride. "She's a
Dutch Varick for obstinacy, but the rest is Ormond--all Ormond. Ride on,
George, and tell those rebel fools at Fonda's Bush that they should be
hunting cover in the forts if folk at the Fish-House read that smoke
aright. Follow the Brandt-Meester if Dorothy slips you, and tell her
I'll birch her, big as she is, if she's not home by the new moon rise."
Then he dragged his hat over his mottled ears, grasped the bridle and
galloped on, followed by old Cato and his red coat and curly horn.
I had ridden a cautious mile on the dim, leafy trail ere I picked up Van
Horn, only to quit him. I had ridden full three before I caught sight of
Dorothy, sitting her gray horse, head at gaze in my direction.
"What in the world set you tearing off through the forest like that?" I
She turned her horse and we walked on, side by side.
"I wished to come," she said, simply. "The pleasures of this day must
end only with the night. Besides, I was burning to ask you if it is true
that you mean to stay here and serve with our militia?"
"I mean to stay," I said, slowly.
"If they desire it."
"Why?" she asked, raising her bright eyes.
I thought a moment, then said:
"I have decided to resist our King's soldiers."
"But why here?" she repeated, clear eyes still on mine. "Tell me the
"I think it is because you are here," I said, soberly.
The loveliest smile parted her lips.
"I hoped you would say that.... Do I please you? Listen, cousin: I have
a mad impulse to follow you--to be hindered rages me beyond
endurance--as when Sir Lupus called me back. For, within the past hour
the strangest fancy has possessed me that we have little time left to be
together; that I should not let one moment slip to enjoy you."
"Foolish prophetess," I said, striving to laugh.
"A prophetess?" she repeated under her breath. And, as we rode on
through the forest dusk, her head drooped thoughtfully, shaded by her
loosened hair. At last she looked up dreamily, musing aloud:
"No prophetess, cousin; only a child, nerveless and over-fretted with
too much pleasure, tired out with excitement, having played too hard. I
do not know quite how I should conduct. I am unaccustomed to comrades
like you, cousin; and, in the untasted delights of such companionship,
have run wild till my head swims wi' the humming thoughts you stir in
me, and I long for a dark, still room and a bed to lie on, and think of
this day's pleasures."
After a silence, broken only by our horses treading the moist earth: "I
have been starving for this companionship.... I was parched!... Cousin,
have you let me drink too deeply? Have you been too kind? Why am I in
this new terror lest you--lest you tire of me and my silly speech? Oh, I
know my thoughts have been too long pent! I could talk to you forever! I
could ride with you till I died! I am like a caged thing loosed, I tell
you--for I may tell you, may I not, cousin?"
"Tell me all you think, Dorothy."
"I could tell you all--everything! I never had a thought that I do not
desire you to know, ... save one.... And that I do desire to tell
you ... but cannot.... Cousin, why did you name your mare Isene?"
"An Indian girl in Florida bore that name; the Seminoles called her
"And so you named your mare from her?"
"Was she your friend--that you named your mare from her?"
"She lived a century ago--a princess. She wedded with a Huguenot."
"Oh," said Dorothy, "I thought she was perhaps your sweetheart."
"I have none."
"You never had one?"
I turned in my saddle.
"Why have you never had a gallant?"
"Oh, that is not the same. Men fall in love--or protest as much. And at
wine they boast of their good fortunes, swearing each that his mistress
is the fairest, and bragging till I yawn to listen.... And yet you say
you never had a sweetheart?"
"Neither titled nor untitled, cousin. And, if I had, at home we never
speak of it, deeming it a breach of honor."
"For shame, I suppose."
"Is it shameless to speak as I do?" she asked.
"Not to me, Dorothy. I wish you might be spared all that unlicensed
gossip that you hear at table--not that it could harm such innocence as
yours! For, on my honor, I never knew a woman such as you, nor a maid
so nobly fashioned!"
I stopped, meeting her wide eyes.
"Say it," she murmured. "It is happiness to hear you."
"Then hear me," I said, slowly. "Loyalty, devotion, tenderness, all are
your due; not alone for the fair body that holds your soul imprisoned,
but for the pure tenant that dwells in it so sweetly behind the blue
windows of your eyes! Dorothy! Dorothy! Have I said too much? Yet I beg
that you remember it, lest you forget me when I have gone from you....
And say to Sir George that I said it.... Tell him after you are wedded,
and say that all men envy him, yet wish him well. For the day he weds he
weds the noblest woman in all the confines of this earth!"
Dazed, she stared at me through the fading light; and I saw her eyes all
wet in the shadow of her tangled hair and the pulse beating in
"You are so good--so pitiful," she said; "and I cannot even find the
words to tell you of those deep thoughts you stir in me--to tell you how
sweetly you use me--"
"Tell me no more," I stammered, all a-quiver at her voice. She shrank
back as at a blow, and I, head swimming, frighted, penitent, caught her
small hand in mine and drew her nearer; nor could I speak for the loud
beating of my heart.
"What is it?" she murmured. "Have I pained you that you tremble so? Look
at me, cousin. I can scarce see you in the dusk. Have I hurt you? I love
Her horse moved nearer, our knees touched. In the forest darkness I
found I held her waist imprisoned, and her arms were heavy on my
shoulders. Then her lips yielded and her arms tightened around my neck,
and that swift embrace in the swimming darkness kindled in me a flame
that has never died--that shall live when this poor body crumbles into
dust, lighting my soul through its last dark pilgrimage.
As for her, she sat up in her saddle with a strange little laugh, still
holding to my hand. "Oh, you are divine in all you lead me to," she
whispered. "Never, never have I known delight in a kiss; and I have been
kissed, too, willing and against my will. But you leave me breathing my
heart out and all a-tremble with a tenderness for you--no, not again,
cousin, not yet."
Then slowly the full wretchedness of guilt burned me, bone and soul, and
what I had done seemed a black evil to a maid betrothed, and to the man
whose wine had quenched my thirst an hour since.
Something of my thoughts she may have read in my bent head and face
averted, for she leaned forward in her saddle, and drawing me by the
arm, turned me partly towards her.
"What troubles you?" she said, anxiously.
"My treason to Sir George."
"What treason?" she said, amazed.
"That I--caressed you."
She laughed outright.
"Am I not free-until I wed? Do you imagine I should have signed my
liberty away to please Sir George? Why, cousin, if I may not caress whom
I choose and find a pleasure in the way you use me, I am no better than
the winter log he buys to toast his shins at!"
Then she grew angry in her impatience, slapping her bridle down to range
her horse up closer to mine.
"Am I not to wed him?" she said. "Is not that enough? And I told him so,
flatly, I warrant you, when Captain Campbell kissed me on the
porch--which maddened me, for he was not to my fancy--but Sir George
saw him and there was like to be a silly scene until I made it plain
that I would endure no bonds before I wore a wedding-ring!" She laughed
deliciously. "I think he understands now that I am not yoked until I
bend my neck. And until I bend it I am free. So if I please you, kiss
me, ... but leave me a little breath to draw, cousin, ... and a saddle
to cling to.... Now loose me--for the forest ends!"
[Illustration: "NOW LOOSE ME--FOR THE FOREST ENDS!".]
A faint red light grew in the woodland gloom; a rushing noise like
swiftly flowing water filled my ears--or was it the blood that surged
singing through my heart?
"Broadalbin Bush," she murmured, clearing her eyes of the clouded hair
and feeling for her stirrups with small, moccasined toes. "Hark! Now we
hear the Kennyetto roaring below the hill. See, cousin, it is sunset,
the west blazes, all heaven is afire! Ah! what sorcery has turned the
world to paradise--riding this day with you?"
She turned in her saddle with an exquisite gesture, pressed her
outstretched hand against my lips, then, gathering bridle, launched her
horse straight through the underbrush, out into a pasture where, across
a naked hill, a few log-houses reddened in the sunset.
There hung in the air a smell of sweetbrier as we drew bridle before a
cabin under the hill. I leaned over and plucked a handful of the leaves,
bruising them in my palm to savor the spicy perfume.
A man came to the door of the cabin and stared at us; a tap-room
sluggard, a-sunning on the west fence-rail, chewed his cud solemnly and
watched us with watery eyes.
"Andrew Bowman, have you seen aught to fright folk on the mountain?"
asked Dorothy, gravely.
The man in the doorway shook his head. From the cabins near by a few
men and women trooped out into the road and hastened towards us. One of
the houses bore a bush, and I saw two men peering at us through the open
window, pewters in hand.
"Good people," said Dorothy, quietly, "the patroon sends you word of a
strange smoke seen this day in the hills."
"There's smoke there now," I said, pointing into the sunset.
At that moment Peter Van Horn galloped up, halted, and turned his head,
following the direction of my outstretched arm. Others came, blinking
into the ruddy evening glow, craning their necks to see, and from the
wretched tavern a lank lout stumbled forth, rifle shouldered, pewter
a-slop, to learn the news that had brought us hither at that hour.
"It is mist," said a woman; but her voice trembled as she said it.
"It is smoke," growled Van Horn. "Read it, you who can."
Whereat the fellow in the tavern window fell a-laughing and called down
to his companion: "Francy McCraw! Francy McCraw! The Brandt-Meester says
a Mohawk fire burns in the north!"
"I hear him," cried McCraw, draining his pewter.
Dorothy turned sharply. "Oh, is that you, McCraw? What brings you to the
The lank fellow turned his wild, blue eyes on her, then gazed at the
smoke. Some of the men scowled at him.
"Is that smoke?" I asked, sharply. "Answer me, McCraw!"
"A canna' deny it," he said, with a mad chuckle.
"Is it Indian smoke?" demanded Van Horn.
"Aweel," he replied, craning his skinny neck and cocking his head
impudently--"aweel, a'll admit that, too. It's Indian smoke; a canna
deny it, no."
"Is it a Mohawk signal?" I asked, bluntly.
At which he burst out into a crowing laugh.
"What does he say?" called out the man from the tavern. "What does he
say, Francy McCraw?"
"He says it maun be Mohawk smoke, Danny Redstock."
"And what if it is?" blustered Redstock, shouldering his way to McCraw,
rifle in hand. "Keep your black looks for your neighbors, Andrew Bowman.
What have we to do with your Mohawk fires?"
"Herman Salisbury!" cried Bowman to a neighbor, "do you hear what this
Tory renegade says?"
"Quiet! Quiet, there," said Redstock, swaggering out into the road.
"Francy McCraw, our good neighbors are woful perplexed by that thread o'
birch smoke yonder."
"Then tell the feckless fools tae watch it!" screamed McCraw, seizing
his rifle and menacing the little throng of men and women who had closed
swiftly in on him. "Hands off me, Johnny Putnam--back, for your life,
Charley Cady! Ay, stare at the smoke till ye're eyes drop frae th'
sockets! But no; there's some foulk 'ill tak' nae warnin'!"
He backed off down the road, followed by Redstock, rifles cocked.
"An' ye'll bear me out," he shouted, "that there's them wha' hear these
words now shall meet their weirds ere a hunter's moon is wasted!"
He laughed his insane laugh and, throwing his rifle over his shoulder,
halted, facing us.
"Hae ye no heard o' Catrine Montour?" he jeered. "She'll come in the
night, Andrew Bowman! Losh, mon, but she's a grewsome carlin', wi' the
witch-locks hangin' to her neck an' her twa een blazin'!"
"You drive us out to-night!" shouted Redstock. "We'll remember it when
Brant is in the hills!"
"The wolf-yelp! Clan o' the wolf!" screamed McCraw. "Woe! Woe to
Broadalbane! 'Tis the pibroch o' Glencoe shall wake ye to the woods
afire! Be warned! Be warned, for ye stand knee-deep in ye're shrouds!"
In the ruddy dusk their dark forms turned to shadows and were gone.
Van Horn stirred in his saddle, then shook his shoulders as though
freeing them from a weight.
"Now you have it, you Broadalbin men," he said, grimly. "Go to the forts
while there's time."
In the darkness around us children began to whimper; a woman broke down,
"Silence!" cried Bowman, sternly. And to Dorothy, who sat quietly on her
horse beside him, "Say to the patroon that we know our enemies. And you,
Peter Van Horn, on whichever side you stand, we men of the Bush thank
you and this young lady for your coming."
And that was all. In silence we wheeled our horses northward, Van Horn
riding ahead, and passed out of that dim hamlet which lay already in the
shadows of an unknown terror.
Behind us, as we looked back, one or two candles flickered in cabin
windows, pitiful, dim lights in the vast, dark ocean of the forest.
Above us the stars grew clearer. A vesper-sparrow sang its pensive song.
Tranquil, sweet, the serene notes floated into silver echoes
never-ending, till it seemed as if the starlight all around us quivered
I touched Dorothy, riding beside me, white as a spirit in the pale
radiance, and she turned her sweet, fearless face to mine.
"There is a sound," I whispered, "very far away."
She laid her hand in mine and drew bridle, listening. Van Horn, too, had
Far in the forest the sound stirred the silence; soft, stealthy, nearer,
nearer, till it grew into a patter. Suddenly Van Horn's horse reared.
"It's there! it's there!" he cried, hoarsely, as our horses swung round
"Look!" muttered Dorothy.
Then a thing occurred that stopped my heart's blood. For straight
through the forest came running a dark shape, a squattering thing that
passed us ere we could draw breath to shriek; animal, human, or spirit,
I knew not, but it ran on, thuddy-thud, thuddy-thud! and we struggling
with our frantic horses to master them ere they dashed us lifeless among
"Jesu!" gasped Van Horn, dragging his powerful horse back into the road.
"Can you make aught o' yonder fearsome thing, like a wart-toad
scrabbling on two legs?"
Dorothy, teeth set, drove her heels into her gray's ribs and forced him
to where my mare stood all a-quiver.
"It's a thing from hell," panted Van Horn, fighting knee and wrist with
his roan. "My nag shies at neither bear nor wolf! Look at him now!"
"Nor mine at anything save a savage," said I, fearfully peering behind
me while my mare trembled under me.
"I think we have seen a savage, that is all," fell Dorothy's calm voice.
"I think we have seen Catrine Montour."
At the name, Van Horn swore steadily.
"If that be the witch Montour, she runs like a clansman with the fiery
cross," I said, shuddering.
"And that is like to be her business," muttered Van Horn. "The painted
forest-men are in the hills, and if Senecas, Cayugas, and Onondagas do
not know it this night, it will be no fault of Catrine Montour."
"Ride on, Peter," said Dorothy, and checked her horse till my mare came
"Are you afraid?" I whispered.
"Afraid? No!" she said, astonished. "What should arouse fear in me?"
"Your common-sense!" I said, impatiently, irritated to rudeness by the
shocking and unearthly spectacle which had nigh unnerved me. But she
answered very sweetly:
"If I fear nothing, it is because there is nothing that I know of in the
world to fright me. I remember," she added, gravely, "'A thousand shall
fall at my side and ten thousand at my right hand. And it shall not come
nigh me.' How can I fear, believing that?"
She leaned from her saddle and I saw her eyes searching my face in the
"Silly," she said, tenderly, "I have no fear save that you should prove
"Then give yourself to me, Dorothy," I said, holding her imprisoned.
"How can I? You have me."
"I mean forever."
"But I have."
"I mean in wedlock!" I whispered, fiercely.
"How can I, silly--I am promised!"
"Can I not stir you to love me?" I said.
"To love you?... Better than I do?... You may try."
"Then wed me!"
"If I were wed to you would I love you better than I do?" she asked.
"Dorothy, Dorothy," I begged, holding her fast, "wed me; I love you."
She swayed back into her saddle, breaking my clasp.
"You know I cannot," she said.... Then, almost tenderly: "Do you truly
desire it? It is so dear to hear you say it--and I have heard the words
often enough, too, but never as you say them.... Had you asked me in
December, ere I was in honor bound.... But I am promised; ... only a
word, but it holds me like a chain.... Dear lad, forget it.... Use me
kindly.... Teach me to love, ... an unresisting pupil, ... for all life
is too short for me to learn in, ... alas!... God guard us both from
love's unhappiness and grant us only its sweetness--which you have
taught me; to which I am--I am awaking, ... after all these years, ...
after all these years without you.
* * * * *
Perhaps it were kinder to let me sleep.... I am but half awake to love.
* * * * *
Is it best to wake me, after all? Is it too late?... Draw bridle in the
starlight. Look at me.... It is too late, for I shall never
For two whole days I did not see my cousin Dorothy, she lying abed with
hot and aching head, and the blinds drawn to keep out all light. So I
had time to consider what we had said and done, and to what we stood
Yet, with time heavy on my hands and full leisure to think, I could make
nothing of those swift, fevered hours together, nor what had happened to
us that the last moments should have found us in each other's arms, her
tear-stained eyes closed, her lips crushed to mine. For, within that
same hour, at table, she told Sir Lupus to my very face that she desired
to wed Sir George as soon as might be, and would be content with nothing
save that Sir Lupus despatch a messenger to the pleasure house, bidding
Sir George dispose of his affairs so that the marriage fall within the
first three days of June.
I could not doubt my own ears, yet could scarce credit my shocked senses
to hear her; and I had sat there, now hot with anger, now in cold
amazement; not touching food save with an effort that cost me all my
As for Sir Lupus, his astonishment and delight disgusted me, for he fell
a-blubbering in his joy, loading his daughter with caresses, breaking
out into praises of her, lauding above all her filial gratitude and her
constancy to Sir George, whom he also larded and smeared with
compliments till his eulogium, buttered all too thick for my weakened
stomach, drove me from the table to pace the dark porch and strive to
reconcile all these warring memories a-battle in my swimming brain.
What demon possessed her to throw away time, when time was our most
precious ally, our only hope! With time--if she truly loved me--what
might not be done? And here, too, was another ally swiftly coming to our
aid on Time's own wings--the war!--whose far breath already fanned the
Mohawk smoke on the northern hills! And still another friendly ally
stood to aid us--absence! For, with Sir George away, plunged into new
scenes, new hopes, new ambitions, he might well change in his
affections. An officer, and a successful one, rising higher every day in
the esteem of his countrymen, should find all paths open, all doors
unlocked, and a gracious welcome among those great folk of New York
city, whose princely mode of living might not only be justified, but
even titled under a new regime and a new monarchy.
These were the half-formed, maddened thoughts that went a-racing through
my mind as I paced the porch that night; and I think they were, perhaps,
the most unworthy thoughts that ever tempted me. For I hated Sir George
and wished him a quick flight to immortality unless he changed in his
desire for wedlock with my cousin.
Gnawing my lips in growing rage I saw the messenger for the pleasure
house mount and gallop out of the stockade, and I wished him evil chance
and a fall to dash his senses out ere he rode up with his cursed message
to Sir George's door.
Passion blinded and deafened me to all whispers of decency; conscience
lay stunned within me, and I think I know now what black obsession
drives men's bodies into murder and their souls to punishments eternal.
Quivering from head to heel, now hot, now cold, and strangling with the
fierce desire for her whom I was losing more hopelessly every moment, I
started aimlessly through the starlight, pacing the stockade like a
caged beast, and I thought my swelling heart would choke me if it broke
not to ease my breath.
So this was love! A ghastly thing, God wot, to transform an honest man,
changing and twisting right and wrong until the threads of decency and
duty hung too hopelessly entangled for him to follow or untwine. Only
one thing could I see or understand: I desired her whom I loved and was
now fast losing forever.
Chance and circumstance had enmeshed me; in vain I struggled in the net
of fate, bruised, stunned, confused with grief and this new fire of
passion which had flashed up around me until I had inhaled the flames
and must forever bear their scars within as long as my seared heart
As I stood there under the dim trees, dumb, miserable, straining my ears
for the messenger's return, came my cousin Dorothy in the pale, flowered
gown she wore at supper, and ere she perceived me I saw her searching
for me, treading the new grass without a sound, one hand pressed to her
When she saw me she stood still, and her hands fell loosely to her side.
"Cousin," she said, in a faint voice.
And, as I did not answer, she stepped nearer till I could see her blue
eyes searching mine.
"What have you done!" I cried, harshly.
"I do not know," she said.
"I know," I retorted, fiercely. "Time was all we had--a few poor
hours--a day or two together. And with time there was chance, and with
chance, hope. You have killed all three!"
"No; ... there was no chance; there is no longer any time; there never
was any hope."
"There was hope!" I said, bitterly.
"No, there was none," she murmured.
"Then why did you tell me that you were free till the yoke locked you to
him? Why did you desire to love? Why did you bid me teach you? Why did
you consent to my lips, my arms? Why did you awake me?"
"God knows," she said, faintly.
"Is that your defence?" I asked. "Have you no defence?"
"None.... I had never loved.... I found you kind and I had known no man
like you.... Every moment with you entranced me till, ... I don't know
why, ... that sweet madness came upon ... us ... which can never come
again--which must never come.... Forgive me. I did not understand. Love
was a word to me."
"Dorothy, Dorothy, what have I done!" I stammered.
"Not you, but I, ... and now it is plain to me why, unwedded, I stand
yoked together with my honor, and you stand apart, fettered to yours....
We have shaken our chains in play, the links still hold firm and bright;
but if we break them, then, as they snap, our honor dies forever. For
what I have done in idle ignorance forgive me, and leave me to my
penance, ... which must last for all my life, cousin.... And you will
forget.... Hush! dearest lad, and let me speak. Well, then I will say
that I pray you may forget! Well, then I will not say that to grieve
you.... I wish you to remember--yet not know the pain that I--"
"Dorothy, Dorothy, do you still love me?"
"Oh, I do love you!... No, no! I ask you to spare me even the touch of
your hand! I ask it, I beg you to spare me! I implore--Be a shield to
me! Aid me, cousin. I ask it for the Ormond honor and for the honor of
the roof that shelters us both!... Now do you understand?... Oh, I
knew you to be all that I adore and worship!
* * * * *
Our fault was in our ignorance. How could we know of that hidden fire
within us, stirring its chilled embers in all innocence until the flames
flashed out and clothed us both in glory, cousin? Heed me, lest it turn
to flames of hell!
* * * * *
And now, dear lad, lest you should deem me mad to cut short the happy
time we had to hope for, I must tell you what I have never told before.
All that we have in all the world is by charity of Sir George. He stood
in the breach when the Cosby heirs made ready to foreclose on father; he
held off the Van Rensselaers; he threw the sop to Billy Livingston and
to that great villain, Klock. To-day, unsecured, his loans to my father,
still unpaid, have nigh beggared him. And the little he has he is about
to risk in this war whose tides are creeping on us through this
* * * * *
And when he honored me by asking me in marriage, I, knowing all this,
knowing all his goodness and his generosity--though he was not aware I
knew it--I was thankful to say yes--deeming it little enough to please
him--and I not knowing what love meant--"
Her soft voice broke; she laid her hands on her eyes, and stood so,
speaking blindly. "What can I do, cousin? What can I do? Tell me! I love
you. Tell me, use me kindly; teach me to do right and keep my honor
bright as you could desire it were I to be your wife!"
It was that appeal, I think, that brought me back through the distorted
shadows of my passion; through the dark pit of envy, past snares of
jealousy and malice, and the traps and pitfalls dug by Satan, safe to
the trembling rock of honor once again.
Like a blind man healed by miracle, yet still groping in the precious
light that mazed him, so I peering with aching eyes for those threads to
guide me in my stunned perplexity. But when at last I felt their touch,
I found I held one already--the thread of hope--and whether for good or
evil I did not drop it, but gathered all together and wove them to a
rope to hold by.
"What is it I must swear," I asked, cold to the knees.
"Never again to kiss me."
"Nor to caress me."
"Nor to caress you."
"Nor speak of love."
"Nor speak of love."
"And ... that is all," she faltered.
"No, not all. I swear to love you always, never to forget you, never to
prove unworthy in your eyes, never to wed; living, to honor you; dying,
with your name upon my lips."
She had stretched out her arms towards me as though warning me to stop;
but, as I spoke slowly, weighing each word and its cost, her hands
trembled and sought each other so that she stood looking at me, fingers
interlocked and her sweet face as white as death.
And after a long time she came to me, and, raising my hands, kissed
them; and I touched her hair with dumb lips; and she stole away through
the starlight like a white ghost returning to its tomb.
And long after, long, long after, as I stood there, broke on my wrapt
ears the far stroke of horse's hoofs, nearer, nearer, until the black
bulk of the rider rose up in the night and Sir Lupus came to the porch.
"Eh! What?" he cried. "Sir George away with the Palatine rebels? Where?
Gone to Stanwix? Now Heaven have mercy on him for a madman who mixes in
this devil's brew! And he'll drown me with him, too! Dammy, they'll say
that I'm in with him. But I'm not! Curse me if I am. I'm
neutral--neither rebel nor Tory--and I'll let 'em know it, too; only
desiring quiet and peace and a fair word for all. Damnation!"
* * * * *
And so had ended that memorable day and night; and now for two whole
wretched days I had not seen Dorothy, nor heard of her save through
Ruyven, who brought us news that she lay on her bed in the dark with no
desire for company.
"There is a doctor at Johnstown," he said; "but Dorothy refuses, saying
that she is only tired and requires peace and rest. I don't like it,
Cousin George. Never have I seen her ill, nor has any one. Suppose you
look at her, will you?"
"If she will permit me," I said, slowly. "Ask her, Ruyven."
But he returned, shaking his head, and I sat down once more upon the
porch to think of her and of all I loved in her; and how I must strive
to fashion my life so that I do naught that might shame me should
Now that it was believed that factional bickering between the
inhabitants of Tryon County might lead, in the immediate future, to
something more serious than town brawls and tavern squabbles; and,
more-over, as the Iroquois agitation had already resulted in the
withdrawal to Fort Niagara of the main body of the Mohawk nation--for
what ominous purpose it might be easy to guess--Sir Lupus forbade the
children to go a-roaming outside his own boundaries.
Further, he had cautioned his servants and tenants not to rove out of
bounds, to avoid public houses like the "Turtle-dove and Olive," and to
refrain from busying themselves about matters in which they had
Yet that very day, spite of the patroon's orders, when General
Schuyler's militia-call went out, one-half of his tenantry disappeared
overnight, abandoning everything save their live-stock and a rough cart
heaped with household furniture; journeying with women and children,
goods and chattels, towards the nearest block-house or fort, there to
deposit all except powder-horn, flint, and rifle, and join the district
regiment now laboring with pick and shovel on the works at Fort Stanwix.
As I sat there on the porch, wretched, restless, debating what course I
should take in the presence of this growing disorder which, as I have
said, had already invaded our own tenantry, came Sir Lupus a-waddling,
pipe in hand, and Cato bearing his huge chair so he might sit in the
sun, which was warm on the porch.
"You've heard what my tenant rascals have done?" he grunted, settling in
his chair and stretching his fat legs.
"Yes, sir," I said.
"What d' ye think of it? Eh? What d' ye think?"
"I think it is very pitiful and sad to see these poor creatures leaving
their little farms to face the British regulars--and starvation."
"Face the devil!" he snorted. "Nobody forces 'em!"
"The greater honor due them," I retorted.
"Honor! Fol-de-rol! Had it been any other patroon but me, he'd turn his
manor-house into a court-house, arrest 'em, try 'em, and hang a few for
luck! In the old days, I'll warrant you, the Cosbys would have stood no
such nonsense--no, nor the Livingstons, nor the Van Cortlandts. A
hundred lashes here and there, a debtor's jail, a hanging or two, would
have made things more cheerful. But I, curse me if I could ever bring
myself to use my simplest prerogatives; I can't whip a man, no! I can't
hang a man for anything--even a sheep-thief has his chance with me--like
that great villain, Billy Bones, who turned renegade and joined Danny
Redstock and the McCraw."
He snorted in self-contempt and puffed savagely at his clay pipe.
"La patroon? Dammy, I'm an old woman! Get me my knitting! I want my
knitting and a sunny spot to mumble my gums and wait for noon and a dish
o' porridge!... George, my rents are cut in half, and half my farms
left to the briers and wolves in one day, because his Majesty, General
Schuyler, orders his Highness, Colonel Dayton, to call out half the
militia to make a fort for his Eminence, Colonel Gansevoort!"
"They call it Fort Schuyler now--after his Highness in Albany.
"Sir Lupus," I said, "if it is true that the British mean to invade us
here with Brant's Mohawks, there is but one bulwark between Tryon County
and the enemy, and that is Fort Stanwix. Why, in Heaven's name, should
it not be defended? If this British officer and his renegades, regulars,
and Indians take Stanwix and fortify Johnstown, the whole country will
swarm with savages, outlaws, and a brutal soldiery already hardened and
made callous by a year of frontier warfare!
"Can you not understand this, sir? Do you think it possible for these
blood-drunk ruffians to roam the Mohawk and Sacandaga valleys and
respect you and yours just because you say you are neutral? Turn loose a
pack of famished panthers in a common pasture and mark your sheep with
your device and see how many are alive at daybreak!"
"Dammy, sir!" cried Sir Lupus, "the enemy are led by British gentlemen."
"Who doubtless will keep their own cuffs clean; it were shame to doubt
it! But if the Mohawks march with them there'll be a bloody page in
Tryon County annals."
"The Mohawks will not join!" he said, violently. "Has not Schuyler held
a council-fire and talked with belts to the entire confederacy?"
"The confederacy returned no belts," I said, "and the Mohawks were not
"Kirkland saw Brant," he persisted, obstinately.
"Yes, and sent a secret report to Albany. If there had been good news in
that report, you Tryon County men had heard it long since, Sir Lupus."
"With whom have you been talking, sir?" he sneered, removing his pipe
from his yellow teeth.
"With one of your tenants yesterday, a certain Christian Schell, lately
returned with Stoner's scout."
"And what did Stoner's men see in the northwest?" he demanded,
"They saw half a thousand Mohawks with eyes painted in black circles and
white, Sir Lupus."
"For the planting-dance!" he muttered.
"No, Sir Lupus. The castles are empty, the villages deserted. There is
not one Mohawk left on their ancient lands, there is not one seed
planted, not one foot of soil cultivated, not one apple-bough grafted,
not one fish-line set!
"And you tell me the Mohawks are painted for the planting-dance, in
black and white? With every hatchet shining like silver, and every
knife ground to a razor-edge, and every rifle polished, and every
"Who saw such things?" he asked, hoarsely.
"Christian Schell, of Stoner's scout."
"Now God curse them if they lift an arm to harm a Tryon County man!" he
burst out. "I'll not believe it of the British gentlemen who differ with
us over taxing tea! No, dammy if I'll credit such a monstrous thing as
"Yet, a few nights since, sir, you heard Walter Butler and Sir John
threaten to use the Mohawks."
"And did not heed them!" he said, angrily. "It is all talk, all threats,
and empty warning. I tell you they dare not for their names' sakes
employ the savages against their own kind--against friends who think not
as they think--against old neighbors, ay, their own kin!
"Nor dare we. Look at Schuyler--a gentleman, if ever there was one on
this rotten earth--standing, belts in hand, before the sachems of the
confederacy, not soliciting Cayuga support, not begging Seneca aid, not
proposing a foul alliance with the Onondagas; but demanding right
manfully that the confederacy remain neutral; nay, more, he repulsed
offers of warriors from the Oneidas to scout for him, knowing what that
sweet word 'scout' implied--God bless him I ... I have no love for
Schuyler.... He lately called me 'malt-worm,' and, if I'm not at fault,
he added, 'skin-flint Dutchman,' or some such tribute to my thrift. But
he has conducted like a man of honor in this Iroquois matter, and I care
not who hears me say it!"
He settled himself in his chair, mumbling in a rumbling voice, and all I
could make out was here and there a curse or two distributed impartially
'twixt Tory and rebel and other asses now untethered in the world.
"Well, sir," I said, "from all I can gather, Burgoyne is marching
southward through the lakes, and Clinton is gathering an army in New
York to march north and meet Burgoyne, and now comes this Barry St.
Leger on the flank, aiming to join the others at Albany after taking
Stanwix and Johnstown on the march--three spears to pierce a common
centre, three torches to fire three valleys, and you neutral Tryon men
in the centre, calm, undismayed, smoking your pipes and singing songs of
peace and good-will for all on earth."
"And why not, sir!" he snapped.
"Did you ever hear of Juggernaut?"
"I've heard the name--a Frenchman, was he not? I think he burned
"No, sir; he is a heathen god."
"And what the devil, sir, has Tryon County to do with heathen gods!" he
"You shall see--when the wheels pass," I said, gloomily.
He folded his fat hands over his stomach and smoked in obstinate
silence. I, too, was silent; again a faint disgust for this man seized
me. How noble and unselfish now appeared the conduct of those poor
tenants of his who had abandoned their little farms to answer Schuyler's
call!--trudging northward with wives and babes, trusting to God for
bread to fall like manna in this wilderness to save the frail lives of
their loved ones, while they faced the trained troops of Great Britain,
and perhaps the Iroquois.
And here he sat, the patroon, sucking his pipe, nursing his stomach; too
cautious, too thrifty to stand like a man, even for the honor of his own
roof-tree! Lord! how mean, how sordid did he look to me, sulking there,
his mottled double-chin crowded out upon his stock, his bow-legs wide to
cradle the huge belly, his small eyes obstinately a-squint and partly
shut, which lent a gross shrewdness to the expanse of fat, almost
baleful, like the eye of a squid in its shapeless, jellied body!
"What are your plans?" he said, abruptly.
I told him that, through Sir George, I had placed my poor services at
the State's disposal.
"You mean the rebel State's disposal?"
"Then you are ready to enlist?"
"Quite ready, Sir Lupus."
"Only awaiting summons from Clinton and Schuyler?" he sneered.
"That is all, sir."
"And what about your properties in Florida?"
"I can do nothing there. If they confiscate them in my absence, they
might do worse were I to go back and defy them. I believe my life is
worth something to our cause, and it would be only to waste it foolishly
if I returned to fight for a few indigo-vats and canefields."
"While you can remain here and fight for other people's hen-coops, eh?"
"No, sir; only to take up the common quarrel and stand for that liberty
which we inherited from those who now seek to dispossess us."
"Quite an orator!" he observed, grimly. "The Ormonds were formerly more
ready with their swords than with their tongues."
"I trust I shall not fail to sustain their traditions," I said,
controlling my anger with a desperate effort.
He burst out into a hollow laugh.
"There you go, red as a turkey-cock and madder than a singed tree-cat!
George, can't you let me plague you in comfort! Dammy, it's undutiful!
For pity's sake! let me sneer--let me gibe and jeer if it eases me."
I glared at him, half inclined to laugh.
"Curse it!" he said, wrathfully, "I'm serious. You don't know how
serious I am. It's no laughing matter, George. I must do something to
ease me!" He burst out into a roar, swearing in volleys.
"D' ye think I wish to appear contemptible?" he shouted. "D' ye think I
like to sit here like an old wife, scolding in one breath and preaching
thrift in the next? A weak-kneed, chicken-livered, white-bellied old
bullfrog that squeaks and jumps, plunk! into the puddle when a footstep
falls in the grass! Am I not a patroon? Am I not Dutch? Granted I'm fat
and slow and a glutton, and lazy as a wolverine. I can fight like one,
too! Don't make any mistake there, George!"
His broad face flushed crimson, his little, green eyes snapped fire.
"D' ye think I don't love a fight as well as my neighbor? D' ye think
I've a stomach for insults and flouts and winks and nudges? Have I a
liver to sit doing sums on my thumbs when these impudent British are
kicking my people out of their own doors? Am I of a kidney to smile and
bow, and swallow and digest the orders of Tory swashbucklers, who lay
down a rule of conduct for men who should be framing rules of common
decency for them? D' ye think I'm a snail or a potato or an empty pair
o' breeches? Damnation!"
Rage convulsed him. He recovered his self-command slowly, smashing his
pipe in the interval; and I, astonished beyond measure, waited for the
explanation which he appeared to be disposed to give.
"If I'm what I am," he said, hoarsely, "an old jack-ass he-hawing
'Peace! peace! thrift! thrift!' it is because I must and not because the
music pleases me.... And I had not meant to tell you why--for none other
suspects it--but my personal honor is at stake. I am in debt to a
friend, George, and unless I am left in peace here to collect my tithes
and till my fields and run my mills and ship my pearl-ashes, I can never
hope to pay a debt of honor incurred--and which I mean to pay, if I
live, so help me God!
"Lad, if this house, these farms, these acres were my own, do you think
I'd hesitate to polish up that old sword yonder that my father carried
when Schenectady went up in flames?... Know me better, George!... Know
that this condemnation to inaction is the bitterest trial I have ever
known. How easy it would be for me to throw my own property into one
balance, my sword into the other, and say, 'Defend the one with the
other or be robbed!' But I can't throw another man's lands into the
balance. I can't raise the war-yelp and go careering about after glory
when I owe every shilling I possess and thousands more to an honorable
and generous gentleman who refused all security for the loan save my own
word of honor.
"And now, simple, brave, high-minded as he is, he offers to return me my
word of honor, free me from his debt, and leave me unshackled to conduct
in this coming war as I see fit.
"But that is more than he can do, George. My word once pledged can only
be redeemed by what it stood for, and he is powerless to give it back.
"That is all, sir.... Pray think more kindly of an old fool in future,
when you plume yourself upon your liberty to draw sword in the most just
cause this world has ever known."
"It is I who am the fool, Sir Lupus," I said, in a low voice.
LIGHTS AND SHADOWS
I remember it was the last day of May before I saw my cousin Dorothy
Late that afternoon I had taken a fishing-rod and a book, The Poems of
Pansard, and had set out for the grist-mill on the stream below the
log-bridge; but did not go by road, as the dust was deep, so instead
crossed the meadow and entered the cool thicket, making a shorter route
to the stream.
Through the woodland, as I passed, I saw violets in hollows and blue
innocence starring moist glades with its heavenly color, and in the
drier woods those slender-stemmed blue bell-flowers which some call the
In my saddened and rebellious heart a more innocent passion stirred and
awoke--the tender pleasure I have always found in seeking out those shy
people of the forest, the wild blossoms--a harmless pleasure, for it is
ever my habit to leave them undisturbed upon their stalks.
Deeper in the forest pink moccasin-flowers bloomed among rocks, and the
air was tinctured with a honeyed smell from the spiked orchis cradled in
its sheltering leaf under the hemlock shade.
Once, as I crossed a marshy place, about me floated a violet perfume,
and I was at a loss to find its source until I espied a single purple
blossom of the Arethusa bedded in sturdy thickets of rose-azalea,
faintly spicy, and all humming with the wings of plundering bees.