Part 6 out of 7
rage, the desperate giant shook them off into our midst, and cut the
throat of one as he lay sprawling--a sickening spectacle, for the poor
wretch floundered and thrashed about among the leaves and sticks,
squirting thick blood all over us.
The remaining savage, a chief, by his lock and eagle-quill, had fastened
to Elerson's legs with the fury of a tree-cat, clawing and squalling,
while Murphy dealt him blow on blow with clubbed stock, and finally was
forced to shoot him so close that the rifle-flame set his greased
"Take to the timber, you Tryon County men! Remember Braddock!" shouted
Colonel Paris, plunging about on his wounded horse; while from every
tree and bush rang out the reports of the rifles; and the steady stream
of bullets poured into the Caughnawaga regiment, knocking the men down
the hill-side into the struggling mass below. Some dropped dead where
they had been shot; some rolled to the log-road; some fell into the
marsh, splashing and limping about like crippled wild fowl.
"Advance der Palatine regiment!" thundered Herkimer. "Clear avay dot
A drummer-boy of the Palatines beat the charge. I can see him yet, a
curly-haired youngster, knee-deep in the mud, his white, frightened face
fixed on his commander. They shot his drum to pieces; he beat steadily
on the flapping parchment.
Across the swamp the Palatines were doggedly climbing the slope in the
face of a terrible discharge. Herkimer led them. As they reached the
crest of the plateau, and struggled up and over, a rush of men in green
uniforms seemed to swallow the entire Palatine regiment. I saw them
bayonet Major Eisenlord and finish him with their rifle-stocks; they
stabbed Major Van Slyck, and hurled themselves at the mounted Oneida.
Hatchet flashing, the interpreter swung his horse straight into the
yelling onset and went down, smothered under a mass of enemies.
"Vorwaerts!" thundered Herkimer, standing straight up in his stirrups;
but they shot him out of his saddle and closed with the Palatines,
hilt to hilt.
Major Frey and Colonel Bellenger fell under their horses, Colonel Seeber
dropped dead into the ravine, Captain Graves was dragged from the ranks
and butchered by bayonets; but those stubborn Palatines calmly divided
into squads, and their steady fusillade stopped the rush of the Royal
Greens and sent the flanking savages howling to cover.
Mount, Murphy, Elerson, and I lay behind a fallen hemlock, awaiting the
flank attack which we now understood must surely come. For our regiments
were at last completely surrounded, facing outward in an irregular
circle, the front held by the Palatines, the rear by the Caughnawagas,
the west by part of the Canajoharie regiment, and the east by a fraction
of unbrigaded militia, teamsters, batt-men, bateaux-men, and half a
dozen volunteer rangers reinforced by my three riflemen.
The scene was real enough to me now. Jack Mount, kneeling beside me, was
attempting to clean the blood from himself and Elerson with handfuls of
dried leaves. Murphy lay on his belly, watching the forest in front of
us, and his blue eyes seemed suffused with a light of their own in the
deepening gloom of the gathering thunder-storm. My nerves were all
a-quiver; the awful screaming from the ravine had never ceased for an
instant, and in that darkening, slimy pit I could still see a swaying
mass of men on the causeway, locked in a death-struggle. To and fro they
reeled; hatchet and knife and gun-stock glittered, rising and falling in
the twilight of the storm-cloud; the flames from the rifles
"Kape ye're eyes to the front, sorr; they do be comin'!" cried Murphy,
springing briskly to his feet.
I looked ahead into the darkening woods; the Caughnawaga men were
falling back, taking station behind trees; Mount stepped to the shelter
of a big oak; Elerson leaped to cover under a pine; a Caughnawaga
bateaux-man darted past me, stationing himself on my right behind the
trunk of a dapple beech. Suddenly an Indian showed himself close in
front; the Caughnawaga man fired and missed; and, quicker than I can
write it, the savage was on him before he could reload and had brained
him with a single castete-stroke. I fired, but the Mohawk was too quick
for me, and a moment later he bounded back into the brush while the
forest rang with his triumphant scalp-yell.
"That's what they're doing in front!" shouted Elerson. "When a soldier
fires they're on him before he can reload!"
"Two men to a tree!" roared Jack Mount. "Double up there, you
Elerson glided cautiously to the oak which sheltered Mount; Murphy crept
forward to my tree.
"Bedad!" he muttered, "let the ondacent divils dhraw ye're fire an'
welcome. I've a pill to purge 'em now. Luk at that, sorr! Shteady!
Shteady an' cool does it!"
A savage, with his face painted half white and half red, stepped out
from the thicket and dropped just as I fired. The next instant he came
leaping straight for our tree, castete poised.
Murphy fired. The effect of the shot was amazing; the savage stopped
short in mid-career as though he had come into collision with a stone
wall; then Elerson fired, knocking him flat, head doubled under his
naked shoulders, feet trailing across a rotting log.
"Save ye're powther, Dave!" sang out Murphy. "Sure he was clean kilt as
he shtood there. Lave a dead man take his own time to fall!"
I had reloaded, and Murphy was coolly priming, when on our right the
rifles began speaking faster and faster, and I heard the sound of men
running hard over the dry leaves, and the thudding gallop of horses.
"A charge!" said Murphy. "There do be horses comin', too. Have they
dhragoons?--I dunnoa. Ha! There they go! 'Tis McCraw's outlaws or I'm a
A shrill cock-crow rang out in the forest.
"'Tis the chanticleer scalp-yell of that damned loon, Francy McCraw!" he
cried, fiercely. "Give it to 'em, b'ys! Shoot hell into the
The Caughnawaga rifles rang out from every tree; a white man came
running through the wood, and I instinctively held my fire.
"Shoot the dhirrty son of a shlut!" yelled Murphy; and Elerson shot him
and knocked him down, but the man staggered to his feet again, clutching
at his wounded throat, and reeled towards us. He fell again, got on his
knees, crawled across the dead leaves until he was scarce fifteen yards
away, then fell over and lay there, coughing.
"A dead wan,"' said Murphy, calmly; "lave him."
McCraw's onset passed along our extreme left; the volleys grew furious;
the ghastly cock-crow rang out shrill and piercing, and we fired at long
range where the horses were passing through the rifle-smoke.
Then, in the roar of the fusillade, a bright flash lighted up the
forest; a thundering crash followed, and the storm burst, deluging the
woods with rain. Trees rocked and groaned, dashing their tops together;
the wind rose to a hurricane; the rain poured down, beating the leaves
from the trees, driving friend and foe to shelter. The reports of the
rifles ceased; the war-yelp died away. Peal on peal of thunder shook the
earth; the roar of the tempest rose to a steady shriek through which the
terrific smashing of falling trees echoed above the clash of branches.
Soaked, stunned, blinded by the awful glare of the lightning, I crouched
under the great oak, which rocked and groaned, convulsed to its bedded
roots, so that the ground heaved under me as I lay.
I could not see ten feet ahead of me, so thick was the gloom with rain
and flying leaves and twigs. The thunder culminated in a series of
fearful crashes; bolt after bolt fell, illuminating the flying chaos of
the tempest; then came a stunning silence, slowly filled with the steady
roar of the rain.
A gray pallor grew in the woods. I looked down into the ravine and saw a
muddy lake there full of dead men and horses.
The wounded Tory near us was still choking and coughing, dying hard out
there in the rain. Mount and Elerson crept over to where we lay, and,
after a moment's conference, Murphy led us in a long circle, swinging
gradually northward until we stumbled into the drenched Palatine
regiment, which was still holding its ground. There was no firing on
either side; the guns were too wet.
On a wooded knoll to the left a group of dripping men had gathered.
Somebody said that the old General lay there, smoking and directing the
defence, his left leg shattered by a ball. I saw the blue smoke of his
pipe curling up under the tree, but I did not see him.
The wind had died out; the thunder rolled off to the northward,
muttering among the hills; rain fell less heavily; and I saw wounded men
tearing strips from their soaking shirts to bind their hurts. Details
from the Canajoharie regiment passed us searching the underbrush for
I also noticed with a shudder that Elerson and Murphy carried two fresh
scalps apiece, tied to the belts of their hunting-shirts; but I said
nothing, having been warned by Jack Mount that they considered it their
prerogative to take the scalps of those who had failed to take theirs.
How they could do it I cannot understand, for I had once seen the body
of a scalped man, with the skin, released from the muscles of the
forehead, hanging all loose and wrinkled over the face.
With the ceasing of the rain came the renewed crack of the rifles and
the whiz of bullets. We took post on the extreme left, firing
deliberately at McCraw's renegades; and I do not know whether I hit any
or not, but five men did I see fall under the murderous aim of Murphy;
and I know that Elerson shot two savages, for he went down into the
ravine after them and returned with the wet, red trophies.
The sun was now shining again with a heat so fierce and intense that the
earth smoked vapor all around us. It was at this time that I,
personally, experienced the only close fighting of the day, which
brought a sudden end to this most amazing and bloody skirmish.
I had been lying full length behind a bush in the lines of the Palatine
regiment, eating a crust of bread; for that strange battle-hunger had
been gnawing at my vitals for an hour. Some of the men were eating, some
firing; the steaming heat almost suffocated me as I lay there, yet I
munched on, ravenous as a December wolf.
I heard somebody shout: "Here they come!" and, filling my mouth with
bread, I rose to my knees to see.
A body of troops in green uniforms came marching steadily towards us,
led by a red-coated officer on horseback; and all around me the
Palatines were springing to their feet, uttering cries of rage, cursing
the oncoming troops, and calling out to them by name.
For the detachment of Royal Greens which now advanced to the assault
was, it appeared, composed of old acquaintances and neighbors of the
Palatines, who had fled to join the Tories and Indians and now returned
to devastate their own county.
Lashed to ungovernable fury by the sight of these hated renegades, the
entire regiment leaped forward with a roar and rushed on the advancing
detachment, stabbing, shooting, clubbing, throttling. Mutual hatred
made the contest terrible beyond words; no quarter was given on either
side. I saw men strangle each other with naked hands; kick each other to
death, fighting like dogs, tooth and nail, rolling over the wet ground.
The tide had not yet struck us; we fired at their mounted officer, whom
Elerson declared he recognized as Major Watts, brother-in-law to Sir
John Johnson; and presently, as usual, Murphy hit him, so that the young
fellow dropped forward on his saddle and his horse ran away, flinging
him against a tree with a crash, doubtless breaking every bone in
Then, above the tumult, out of the north came booming three
cannon-shots, the signal from the fort that Herkimer had desired to
A detachment from the Canajoharie regiment surged out of the woods with
a ringing cheer, pointing northward, where, across a clearing, a body of
troops were rapidly advancing from the direction of the fort.
"The sortie! The sortie!" shouted the soldiers, frantic with joy. Murphy
and I ran towards them; Elerson yelled: "Be careful! Look at their
uniforms! Don't go too close to them!"
"They're coming from the north!" bawled Mount. "They're our own people,
Dave! Come on!"
Captain Jacob Gardinier, with a dozen Caughnawaga men, had already
reached the advancing troops, when Murphy seized my arm and halted me,
crying out, "Those men are wearing their coats turned inside out!
They're Johnson's Greens!"
At the same instant I recognized Colonel John Butler as the officer
leading them; and he knew me and, without a word, fired his pistol at
me. We were so near them now that a Tory caught hold of Murphy and tried
to stab him, but the big Irishman kicked him headlong and rushed into
the mob, swinging his long hatchet, followed by Gardinier and his
Caughnawaga men, whom the treachery had transformed into demons.
In an instant all around me men were swaying, striking, shooting,
panting, locked in a deadly embrace. A sweating, red-faced soldier
closed with me; chin to chin, breast to breast we wrestled; and I shall
never forget the stifling struggle--every detail remains, his sunburned
face, wet with sweat and powder-smeared; his irregular teeth showing
when I got him by the throat, and the awful change that came over his
visage when Jack Mount shoved the muzzle of his rifle against the
struggling fellow and shot him through the stomach.
Freed from his death-grip, I stood breathing convulsively, hands
clinched, one foot on my fallen rifle. An Indian ran past me, chased by
Elerson and Murphy, but the savage dodged into the underbrush,
shrieking, "Oonah! Oonah! Oonah!" and Elerson came back, waving his
Everywhere Tories, Royal Greens, and Indians were running into the
woods; the wailing cry, "Oonah! Oonah!" rose on all sides now.
Gardinier's Caughnawaga men were shooting rapidly; the Palatines, master
of their reeking brush-field, poured a heavy fire into the detachment of
retreating Greens, who finally broke and ran, dropping sack and rifle in
their flight, and leaving thirty of their dead under the feet of the
The soldiers of the Canajoharie regiment came up, swarming over a wooded
knoll on the right, only to halt and stand, silently leaning on
For the battle of Oriskany was over.
There was no cheering from the men of Tryon County. Their victory had
been too dearly bought; their losses too terrible; their triumph
sterile, for they could not now advance the crippled fragments of their
regiments and raise the siege in the face of St. Leger's regulars and
Walter Butler's Rangers.
Their combat with Johnson's Greens and Brant's Mohawks had been fought;
and, though masters of the field, they could do no more than hold their
ground. Perhaps the bitter knowledge that they must leave Stanwix to its
fate, and that, too, through their own disobedience, made the better
soldiers of them in time. But it was a hard and dreadful lesson; and I
saw men crying, faces hidden in their powder-blackened hands, as the
dying General was borne through the ranks, lying gray and motionless on
his hemlock litter.
And this is all that I myself witnessed of that shameful ambuscade and
murderous combat, fought some two miles north of the dirty camp, and now
known as the Battle of Oriskany.
That night we buried our dead; one hundred on the field where they had
fallen, two hundred and fifty in the burial trenches at
Oriskany--thirty-five wagon-loads in all. Scarcely an officer of rank
remained to lead the funeral march when the muffled drums of the
Palatines rolled at midnight, and the smoky torches moved, and the
dead-wagons rumbled on through the suffocating darkness of a starless
night. We had few wounded; we took no prisoners; Oriskany meant death.
We counted only thirty men disabled and some score missing.
"God grant the missing be safely dead," prayed our camp chaplain at the
burial trench. We knew what that meant; worse than dead were the
wretched men who had fallen alive into the hands of old John Butler and
his son, Walter, and that vicious drunkard, Barry St. Leger, who had
offered, over his own signature, two hundred and forty dollars a dozen
for prime Tryon County scalps.
I slept little that night, partly from the excitement of my first
serious combat, partly because of the terrible heat. Our outposts, now
painfully overzealous and alert, fired off their muskets at every
fancied sound or movement, and these continual alarms kept me awake,
though Mount and Murphy slept peacefully, and Elerson yawned on guard.
Towards sunrise rain fell heavily, but brought no relief from the heat;
the sun, a cherry-red ball, hung a hand's-breadth over the forests when
the curtain of rain faded away. The riflemen, curled up in the hay on
the barn floor, snored on, unconscious; the batt-horses crunched and
munched in the manger; flies whirled and swarmed over a wheelbarrow
piled full of dead soldier's shoes, which must to-day be distributed
among the living.
All the loathsome and filthy side of war seemed concentrated around the
barn-yard, where sleepy, unshaven, half-dressed soldiers were burning
the under-clothes of a man who had died of the black measles; while a
great, brawny fellow, naked to the waist and smeared from hair to ankles
with blood, butchered sheep, so that the army might eat that day.
The thick stench of the burning clothing, the odor of blood, the piteous
bleating of the doomed creatures sickened me; and I made my way out of
the barn and down to the river, where I stripped and waded out to wash
me and my clothes.
A Caughnawaga soldier gave me a bit of soap; and I spent the morning
there. By noon the fierce heat of the sun had dried my clothes; by two
o'clock our small scout of four left the Stanwix and Johnstown road and
struck out through the unbroken wilderness for German Flatts.
THE HOME TRAIL
For eleven days we lay at German Flatts, Colonel Visscher begging us to
aid in the defence of that threatened village until the women and
children could be conveyed to Johnstown. But Sir John Johnson remained
before Stanwix, and McCraw's riders gave the village wide berth, and on
the 18th of August we set out for Varicks'.
Warned by our extreme outposts, we bore to the south, forced miles out
of our course to avoid the Oneida country, where a terrific little war
was raging. For the Senecas, Cayugas, a few Mohawks, and McCraw's
renegade Tories, furious at the neutral and pacific attitude of the
Oneidas towards our people, had suddenly fallen upon them, tooth and
nail, vowing that the Oneida nation should perish from the earth for
their treason to the Long House.
We skirted the doomed region cautiously, touching here and there the
fringe of massacre and fire, often scenting smoke, sometimes hearing a
distant shot. Once we encountered an Oneida runner, painted blue and
white, and naked save for the loin-cloth, who told us of the civil war
that was already rending the Long House; and I then understood more
fully what Magdalen Brant had done for our cause, and how far-reaching
had been the effects of her appearance at the False-Faces' council-fire.
The Oneida appeared to be disheartened. He sullenly admitted to us that
the Cayugas had scattered his people and laid their village in ashes; he
cursed McCraw fiercely and promised a dreadful retaliation on any
renegade captured. He also described the fate of the Oriskany prisoners
and some bateaux-men taken by Walter Butler's Rangers near Wood Creek;
and I could scarcely endure to listen, so horrid were the details of our
soldiers' common fate, where Mohawk and Tory, stripped and painted
alike, conspired to invent atrocities undreamed of for their
It was then that I heard for the second time the term "Blue-eyed
Indian," meaning white men stained, painted, and disguised as savages.
More terrifying than the savages themselves, it appeared, were the
blue-eyed Indians to the miserable settlers of Tryon. For hellish
ingenuity and devilish cruelty these mock savages, the Oneida assured
us, had nothing to learn from their red comrades; and I shall never be
able to efface from my mind the memory of what we saw, that very day, in
a lonely farm-house on the flats of the Mohawk; nor was it necessary
that McCraw should have left his mark on the shattered door--a cock
crowing, drawn in outline by a man's forefinger steeped in blood--to
enlighten those who might not recognize the ghastly work as his.
We stayed there for three hours to bury the dead, an old man and woman,
a young mother, and five children, the youngest an infant not a year
old. All had been scalped; even the watch-dog lay dead near the bloody
cradle. We dug the shallow graves with difficulty, having nothing to
work with save our hunting-knives and some broken dishes which we found
in the house; and it was close to noon before we left the lonely flat
and pushed forward through miles of stunted willow growth towards the
river road which led to Johnstown.
I shall never forget Mount's set face nor Murphy's terrible, vacant
stare as we plodded on in absolute silence. Elerson led us on a steady
trot hour after hour, till, late in the afternoon, we crossed the river
road and wheeled into it exhausted.
The west was all aglow; cleared land and fences lay along the roadside;
here and there houses loomed up in the red, evening light, but their
inhabitants were gone, and not a sign of life remained about them save
for the circling swallows whirling in and out of the blackened chimneys.
So still, so sad this solitude that the sudden chirping of a robin in
the evening shadows startled us.
The sun sank behind the forest, turning the river to a bloody red; a fox
yapped and yapped from a dark hill-side; the moon's yellow light flashed
out through the trees; and, with the coming of the moon, far in the
wilderness the owls began and the cries of the night-hawks died away
in the sky.
The first human being that we encountered was a miller riding an ancient
horse towards a lane which bordered a noisy brook.
When he discovered us he whipped out a pistol and bade us stand where we
were; and it took all my persuasion to convince him that we were not
renegades from McCraw's band.
We asked for news, but he had none, save that a heavy force of our
soldiers was lying by the roadside some two miles below on their way to
relieve Fort Stanwix. The General, he believed, was named Arnold, and
the troops were Massachusetts men; that was all he knew.
He seemed stupid or perhaps stunned, having lost three sons in a battle
somewhere near Bennington, and had that morning received word of his
loss. How the battle had gone he did not know; he was on his way up the
creek to lock his mill before joining the militia at Johnstown. He was
not too old to carry the musket he had carried at Braddock's battle.
Besides, his boys were dead, and there was no one in his family except
himself to help our Congress fight the red-coats.
We watched him ride off into the darkness, gray head erect, pistol
shining in his hand; then moved on, searching the distance for the
outpost we knew must presently hail us. And, sure enough, from the
shadow of a clump of trees came the smart challenge: "Halt! Who
"Officer from Herkimer and scout of three with news for General
Schuyler!" I answered.
"Halt, officer with scout! Sergeant of the guard! Post number three!"
Dark figures swarmed in the road ahead; a squad of men came up on the
"Advance officer!" rang out the summons; a torch blazed, throwing a red
glare around us; a red-faced old officer in brown and scarlet walked up
and took the packet of papers which I extended.
"Are you Captain Ormond?" he asked, curiously, glancing at the
endorsement on my papers.
I replied that I was, and named Murphy, Elerson, and Mount as my scout.
When the soldiers standing about heard the notorious names of men
already famed in ballad and story, they craned their necks to see, as my
tired riflemen filed into the lines; and the staff-officer made himself
exceedingly agreeable and civil, conducting us to a shelter made of
balsam branches, before which a smudge was burning.
"General Arnold has despatches for you, Captain Ormond," he said; "I am
Drummond, Brigade Major; we expected you at Varick Manor on the
ninth--you wrote to your cousin, Miss Varick, from Oriskany, you know."
A soldier came up with two headquarters lanterns which he hung on the
cross-bar of the open-faced hut; another soldier brought bread and
cheese, a great apple-pie, a jug of spring water, and a bottle of
brandy, with the compliments of Brigadier-General Arnold, and apologies
that neither cloth, glasses, nor cutlery were included in the
"We're light infantry with a vengeance, Captain Ormond," said Major
Drummond, laughing; "we left at twenty-four hours' notice! Gad, sir! the
day before we started the General hadn't a squad under his orders; but
when Schuyler called for volunteers, and his brigadiers began to raise
hell at the idea of weakening the army to help Stanwix, Arnold came out
of his fit of sulks on the jump! 'Who'll follow me to Stanwix?' he
bawls; and, by gad, sir, the Massachusetts men fell over each other
trying to sign the rolls."
He laughed again, waving my papers in the air and slapping them down on
"You will doubtless wish to hand these to the General yourself," he
said, pleasantly. "Pray, sir, do not think of standing on ceremony; I
have dined, Captain."
Mount, who had been furtively licking his lips and casting oblique
glances at the bread and cheese, fell to at a nod from me. Murphy and
Elerson joined him, bolting huge mouthfuls. I ate sparingly, having
little appetite left after the sights I had seen in that lonely house on
the Mohawk flats.
The gnats swarmed, but the smoke of the green-moss smudge kept them from
us in a measure. I asked Major Drummond how soon it might be convenient
for General Arnold to receive me, and he sent a young ensign to
headquarters, who presently returned saying that General Arnold was
making the rounds and would waive ceremony and stop at our post on
"There's a soldier, sir!" said Major Drummond, emphasizing his words
with a smart blow of his riding-cane on his polished quarter-boots.
"He's had us on a dog-trot since we started; up hill, down dale, across
the cursed Sacandaga swamps, through fords chin-high! By gad, sir! allow
me to tell you that nothing stopped us! We went through windfalls like
partridges; we crossed the hills like a herd o' deer in flight! We ran
as though the devil were snapping at our shanks! I'm half dead, thank
you--and my shins!--you should see where that razor-boned nag of mine
shaved bark enough off the trees with me to start every tannery between
the Fish-House and Half-moon!"
The ruddy-faced Major roared at the recital of his own misfortunes.
Mount and Murphy looked up with sympathetic grins; Elerson had fallen
asleep against the side of the shack, a bit of pie, half gnawed,
clutched in his brier-torn fist.
I had a pipe, but no tobacco; the Major filled my pipe, purring
contentedly; a soldier, at a sign from him, took Mount and Murphy to the
nearest fire, where there was a gill of grog and plenty of tobacco. I
roused Elerson, who gaped, bolted his pie with a single mighty effort,
and stumbled off after his comrades. Major Drummond squatted down
cross-legged before the smudge, lighting his corn-cob pipe from a bit of
glowing moss, and leaned back contentedly, crossing his arms behind
"I'm tired, too," he said; "we march again at midnight. If it's no
secret, I should like to know what's going on ahead there."
"It's no secret," I said, soberly; "the Senecas and Cayugas are
harrying the Oneidas; the renegades are riding the forest, murdering
women and infants. St. Leger is firing bombs at Stanwix, and Visscher is
holding German Flatts with some Caughnawaga militia."
"And Herkimer?" asked Drummond, gravely.
"Dead," I replied, in a low voice.
"Good gad, sir! I had not heard that!" he exclaimed.
"It is true, Major. The old man died while I was at German Flatts. They
say the amputation of his leg was a wretched piece of work.... He died
bolt upright in his bed, smoking his pipe, and reading aloud the
thirty-eighth Psalm.... His men are wild with grief, they say.... They
called him a coward the morning of Oriskany."
After a silence the Major's emotion dimmed his twinkling eyes; he
dragged a red bandanna handkerchief from his coat-tails and blew his
"All flesh is grass--eh, Captain? And some of it devilish poor grass at
that, eh? Well, well; we can't make an army in a day. But, by gad, sir,
we've done uncommonly well. You've heard of--but no, you haven't,
either. Here's news for you, friend, since you've been in the woods. On
the sixth, while you fellows were shooting down some three hundred and
fifty of the Mohawks, Royal Greens, and renegades, that sly old
wolverine, Marinus Willett, slipped out of the fort, fell on Sir John's
camp, and took twenty-one wagon-loads of provisions, blankets,
ammunition, and tools; also five British standards and every bit of
personal baggage belonging to Sir John Johnson, including his private
papers, maps, memoranda, and all orders and instructions for the
completed plans of campaign.... Wait, if you please, sir. That is
"On the sixteenth, old John Stark fell upon Baum's and Breyman's
Hessians at Bennington, killed and wounded over two hundred, captured
seven hundred; took a thousand stand of arms, a thousand fine dragoon
sabres, and four excellent field-cannon with limbers, harness, and
caissons.... And lost fourteen killed!"
Speechless at the good news, I could only lean across the smudge and
shake hands with him while he chuckled and slapped his knee, growing
ruddier in the face every moment.
"Where are the red-coats now?" he cried. "Look at 'em! Burgoyne, scared
witless, badgered, dogged from pillar to post, his army on the defensive
from Still water down to Half-moon; St. Leger, destitute of his camp
baggage, caught in his own wolf-pit, flinging a dozen harmless bombs at
Stanwix, and frightened half to death at every rumor from Albany;
McDonald chased out of the county; Mann captured, and Sir Henry Clinton
dawdling in New York and bothering his head over Washington while
Burgoyne, in a devil of a plight, sits yonder yelling for help!
"Where's the great invasion, Ormond? Where's the grand advance on the
centre? Where's the gigantic triple blow at the heart of this scurvy
rebellion? I don't know; do you?"
I shook my head, smilingly; he beamed upon me; we had a swallow of
brandy together, and I lay back, deathly tired, to wait for Arnold and
"That's right," commented the genial Major, "go to sleep while you can;
the General won't take it amiss--eh? What? Oh, don't mind me, my son.
Old codgers like me can get along without such luxuries as sleep. It's
the young lads who require sleep. Eh? Yes, sir; I'm serious. Wait till
you see sixty year! Then you'll understand.... So I'll just sit
here, ... and smoke, ... and talk away in a buzz-song, ... and that
* * * * *
I looked up with a start; the Major had disappeared. In my eyes a
lantern was shining steadily. Then a shadow moved, and I turned and
stumbled to my feet, as a cloaked figure stepped into the shelter and
stood before me, peering into my eyes.
"I'm Arnold; how d'ye do," came a quick, nervous voice from the depths
of the military cloak. "I've a moment to stay here; we march in ten
minutes. Is Herkimer dead?"
I described his death in a few words.
"Bad, bad as hell!" he muttered, fingering his sword-hilt and staring
off into the darkness. "What's the situation above us? Gansevoort's
holding out, isn't he? I sent him a note to-night. Of course he's
holding out; isn't he?"
I made a short report of the situation as I knew it; the General looked
straight into my eyes as though he were not listening.
"Yes, yes," he said, impatiently. "I know how to deal with St. Leger and
Sir John--I wrote Gansevoort that I understood how to deal with them. He
has only to sit tight; I'll manage the rest."
His dark, lean, eager visage caught the lantern light as he turned to
scan the moonlit sky. "Ten minutes," he muttered; "we should strike
German Flatts by sundown to-morrow if our supplies come up." And, aloud,
with an abrupt and vigorous gesture, "McCraw's band are scalping the
settlers, they say?"
I told him what I had seen. He nodded, then his virile face changed and
he gave me a sulky look.
"Captain Ormond," he said, "folk say that I brood over the wrongs done
me by Congress. It's a lie; I don't care a damn about Congress--but let
it pass. What I wish to say is this: On the second of August the best
general in these United States except George Washington was deprived of
his command and superseded by a--a--thing named Gates.... I speak of
General Philip Schuyler, my friend, and now my fellow-victim."
Shocked and angry at the news of such injustice to the man whose
splendid energy had already paralyzed the British invasion of New York,
I stiffened up, rigid and speechless.
"Ho!" cried Arnold, with a disagreeable laugh. "It mads you, does it?
Well, sir, think of me who have lived to see five men promoted over my
head--and I left in the anterooms of Congress to eat my heart out! But
let that pass, too. By the eternal God, I'll show them what stuff is in
me! Let it pass, Ormond, let it pass."
He began to pace the ground, gnawing his thick lower lip, and if ever
the infernal fire darted from human eyes, I saw its baleful
With a heave of his chest and a scowl, he controlled his voice, stopping
in his nervous walk to face me again.
"Ormond, you've gone up higher--the commission is here." He pulled a
packet of papers from his breast-pocket and thrust them at me. "Schuyler
did it. He thinks well of you, sir. On the first of August he learned
that he was to be superseded. He told Clinton that you deserved a
commission for what you did at that Iroquois council-fire. Here it is;
you're to raise a regiment of rangers for local defence of the Mohawk
district.... I congratulate you, Colonel Ormond."
He offered his bony, nervous hand; I clasped it, dazed and speechless.
"Remember me," he said, eagerly. "Let me count on your voice at the next
council of war. You will not regret it, Colonel. Even if you go
higher--even if you rise over my luckless head, you will not regret the
friendship of Benedict Arnold. For, by Heaven, sir, I have it in me to
lead men; and they shall not keep me down, and they shall not fetter
me--no, not even this beribboned lap-dog Gates!... Stand my friend,
Ormond. I need every friend I have. And I promise you the world shall
hear of me one day!"
I shall never forget his worn and shadowy face, the long nose, the
strong, selfish chin, the devouring flame burning his soul out
through his eyes.
"Luck be with you!" he said, abruptly, extending his hand. Once more
that bony, fervid clasp, and he was gone.
A moment later the ground vibrated; a dark, massed column of troops
appeared in the moonlight, marching swiftly without drum-tap or spoken
command; the dim forms of mounted officers rode past like shadows
against the stars; vague shapes of wagons creaked after, rolling on
muffled wheels; more troops followed quickly; then the shadowy pageant
ended; and there was nothing before me but the moon in the sky above a
world of ghostly wilderness.
One camp lantern had been left for my use; by its nickering light I
untied the documents left me by Arnold; and, sorting the papers, chose
first my orders, reading the formal notice of my transfer from Morgan's
Rifles to the militia; then the order detailing me to the Mohawk
district, with headquarters at Varick Manor; and, finally, my commission
on parchment, signed by Governor Clinton and by Philip Schuyler,
Major-General Commanding the Department of the North.
It was, perhaps, the last official act as chief of department of this
The next letter was in his own handwriting. I broke the heavy seal and
"August 10, 1777.
"Colonel George Ormond"
"MY DEAR YOUNG FRIEND,--As you have perhaps heard rumors that
General Gates has superseded me in command of the army now
operating against General Burgoyne, I desire to confirm these
rumors for your benefit.
"My orders I now take from General Gates, without the
slightest rancor, I assure you, or the least unworthy
sentiment of envy or chagrin. Congress, in its wisdom, has
ordered it; and I count him unspeakably base who shall serve
his country the less ardently because of a petty and personal
disappointment in ambitions unfulfilled.
"I remain loyal in heart and deed to my country and to
General Gates, who may command my poor talents in any manner
he sees fitting.
"I say this to you because I am an older man, and I know
something of younger men, and I have liked you from the
first. I say it particularly because, now that you also owe
duty and instant obedience to General Gates, I do not wish
your obedience retarded, or your sense of duty confused by
any mistaken ideas of friendship to me or loyalty to
"In these times the individual is nothing, the cause
everything. Cliques, cabals, political conspiracies are
foolish, dangerous--nay, wickedly criminal. For, sir, as long
as the world endures, a house divided against itself
"Which leads me with greatest pleasure to mention your wise
and successful diplomacy in the matter of the Long House.
That house you have most cleverly divided against itself; and
it must fall--it is tottering now, shaken to its foundations
of centuries. Also, I have the pleasure to refer to your
capture of the man Beacraft and his papers, disclosing a
diabolical plan of murder. The man has been condemned by a
court on the evidence as it stood, and he is now awaiting
"I have before me Colonel Visscher's partial report of the
battle of Oriskany. Your name is not mentioned in this
report, but, knowing you as I believe I do, I am satisfied
that you did your full duty in that terrible affair;
although, in your report to me by Oneida runner, you record
the action as though you yourself were a mere spectator.
"I note with pleasure your mention of the gallantry of your
riflemen, Mount, Murphy, and Elerson, and have reported it to
their company captain, Mr. Long, who will, in turn, bring it
to the attention of Colonel Morgan.
"I also note that you have not availed yourself of the
war-services of the Oneidas, for which I beg to thank you
"I recall with genuine pleasure my visit to your uncle, Sir
Lupus Varick, where I had the fortune to make your
acquaintance and, I trust, your friendship.
"Mrs. Schuyler joins me in kindest remembrance to you, and to
Sir Lupus, whose courtesy and hospitality I have to-day had
the honor to acknowledge by letter. Through your good office
we take advantage of this opportunity to send our love to
Miss Dorothy, who has won our hearts.
"I am, sir, your most obedient,
"P.S.--I had almost forgotten to congratulate you on your
merited advancement in military rank, for which you may thank
our wise and good Governor Clinton.
"I shall not pretend to offer you unasked advice upon this
happy occasion, though it is an old man's temptation to do
so, perhaps even his prerogative. However, there are younger
colonels than you, sir, in our service--ay, and brigadiers,
too. So be humble, and lay not this honor with too much
unction to your heart. Your friend,
I sat for a while staring at this good man's letter, then opened the
"HEADQUARTERS, DEPARTMENT OF THE NORTH, STILLWATER, August
"Colonel George Ormond, on Scout:
"SIR,--By order of Major-General Gates, commanding this
department, you will, upon reception of this order, instantly
repair to Varick Manor and report your arrival by express or
a native runner to be trusted, preferably an Oneida. At nine
o'clock, the day following your arrival at Varicks', you will
leave on your journey to Stillwater, where you will report to
General Gates for further orders.
"Your small experience in military matters of organization
renders it most necessary that you should be aided in the
formation of your regiment of rangers by a detail from
Colonel Morgan's Rifles, as well as by the advice of
"You will, therefore, retain the riflemen composing your
scout, but attempt nothing towards enlisting your companies
until you receive your instructions personally and in full
"I am, sir,
"Your very obedient servant,
"For Major-General Gates, commanding."
"Why, in Heaven's name, should I lose time by journeying to
headquarters?" I said, aloud, looking up from my letter. Ah! There was
the difference between Schuyler, who picked his man, told him what he
desired, and left him to fulfil it, and Gates, who chose a man, flung
his inexperience into his face, and bade him twirl his thumbs and sit
idle until headquarters could teach him how to do what he had been
chosen to do, presumably upon his ability to do it!
A helpless sensation of paralysis came over me--a restless, confused
impression of my possible untrustworthiness, and of unfriendliness to me
in high quarters, even of a thinly veiled hostility to me.
What a letter! That was not the way to get work out of a
subordinate--this patronizing of possible energy and enthusiasm, this
cold dampening of ardor, as though ardor in itself were a reproach and
zeal required reproof.
Wondering why they had chosen me if they thought me a blundering and,
perhaps, mischievous zealot, I picked up a parcel, undirected, and broke
Out of it fell two letters. The writing was my cousin Dorothy's; and,
trembling all over in spite of myself, I broke the seal of the first. It
"DEAREST,--Your letter from Oriskany is before me. I am here
in your room, the door locked, alone with your letter,
overwhelmed with love and tenderness and fear for you.
"They tell me that you have been made colonel of a regiment,
and the honor thrills yet saddens me--all those colonels
killed at Oriskany! Is it a post of special danger, dear?
"Oh, my brave, splendid lover! with your quiet, steady eyes
and your bright hair--you angel on earth who found me a child
and left me an adoring woman--can it be that in this world
there is such a thing as death for you? And could the world
last without you?
* * * * *
"Ah me! dreary me! the love that is in me! Who could believe
it? Who could doubt that it is divine and not inspired by
hell as I once feared; it is so beautiful, so hopelessly
beautiful, like that faint thrill of splendor that passes
shadowing a dream where, for an instant, we think to see a
tiny corner of heaven sparkling out through a million fathoms
of terrific night.... Did you ever dream that?
* * * * *
"We have been gay here. Young Mr. Van Rensselaer came from
Albany to heal the breach with father. We danced and had
games. He is a good young man, this patroon and patriot.
Listen, dear: he permitted all his tenants to join the army
of Gates, cancelled their rent-rolls during their service,
and promised to provide for their families. It will take a
fortune, but his deeds are better than his words.
"Only one thing, dear, that troubled me. I tell it to you, as
I tell you everything, knowing you to be kind and pitiful. It
is this: he asked father's permission to address me, not
knowing I was affianced. How sad is hopeless love!
"There was a battle at Bennington, where General Stark's men
whipped the Brunswick troops and took equipments for a
thousand cavalry, so that now you should see our Legion of
Horse, so gay in their buff-and-blue and their new helmets
and great, spurred jack-boots and bright sabres!
"Ruyven was stark mad to join them; and what do you think?
Sir Lupus consented, and General Schuyler lent his kind
offices, and to-day, if you please, my brother is strutting
about the yard in the uniform of a Cornet of Legion cavalry!
"To-night the squadron leaves to chase some of McDonald's
renegades out of Broadalbin. You remember Captain McDonald,
the Glencoe brawler?--it's the same one, and he's done
murder, they say, on the folk of Tribes Hill. I am thankful
that Ruyven is in Sir George Covert's squadron.
"And, dear, what do you think? Walter Butler was taken, three
days since, by some of Sir George Covert's riders, while
visiting his mother and sister at a farm-house near
Johnstown. He was taken within our lines, it seems, and in
civilian's clothes; and the next day he was tried by a
drum-court at Albany and condemned to death as a spy. Is it
not awful? He has not yet been sentenced. It touches us, too,
that an Ormond-Butler should die on the gallows. What horrors
men commit! What horrors! God pity his mother!
* * * * *
"I am writing at a breathless pace, quill flying, sand
scattered by the handful--for my feverish gossip seems to
help me to endure.
"Time, space, distance vanish while I write; and I am with
you ... until my letter ends.
"Then, quick! my budget of gossip! I said that we had been
gay, and that is true, for what with the Legion camping in
our quarters and General Arnold's men here for two days, and
Schuyler's and Gates's officers coming and going and always
remaining to dine, at least, we have danced and picnicked and
played music and been frightened when McDonald's men came too
near. And oh, the terrible pall that fell on our company when
news came of poor Janet McCrea's murder by Indians--you did
not know her, but I did, and loved her dearly in school--the
dear little thing! But Burgoyne's Indians murdered her, and a
fiend called The Wyandot Panther scalped her, they say--all
that beautiful, silky, long hair! But Burgoyne did not hang
him, Heaven only knows why, for they said Burgoyne was a
gentleman and an honorable soldier!
"Then our company forgot the tragedy, and we danced--think of
it, dear! How quickly things are forgotten! Then came the
terrible news from Oriskany! I was nearly dead with fright
until your letter arrived.... So, God help us I we danced and
laughed and chattered once more when Arnold's troops came.
"I did not quite share the admiration of the women for
General Arnold. He is not finely fibred; not a man who
appeals to me; though I am very sorry for the slight that the
Congress has put upon him; and it is easy to see that he is a
brave and dashing officer, even if a trifle coarse in the
grain and inclined to be a little showy. What I liked best
about him was his deep admiration and friendship for our dear
General Schuyler, which does him honor, and doubly so because
General Schuyler has few friends in politics, and Arnold was
perfectly fearless in showing his respect and friendship for
a man who could do him no favors.
* * * * *
"Dear, a strange and amusing thing has happened. A few score
of friendly Oneidas and lukewarm Onondagas came here to pay
their respects to Magdalen Brant, who, they heard, was living
at our house.
"Magdalen received them; she is a sweet girl and very good to
her wild kin; and so father permitted them to camp in the
empty house in the sugar-bush, and sent them food and tobacco
and enough rum to please them without starting them
"Now listen. You have heard me tell of the Stonish
Giants--those legendary men of stone whom the Iroquois,
Hurons, Algonquins, and Lenape stood in such dread of two
hundred years ago, and whom our historians believe to have
been some lost company of Spaniards in armor, strayed
northward from Cortez's army.
"Well, then, this is what occurred:
"They were all at me to put on that armor which hangs in the
hall--the same suit which belonged to the first Maid-at-Arms,
and which she is painted in, and which I wore that last
memorable night--you remember.
"So, to please them, I dressed in it--helmet and all--and
came down. Sir George Covert's horse stood at the stockade
gate, and somebody--I think it was General Arnold--dared me
to ride it in my armor.
"Well, ... I did. Then a mad desire for a gallop seized
me--had not mounted a horse since that last ride with
you--and I set spurs to the poor beast, who was already
dancing under the unaccustomed burden, and away we tore.
"My conscience! what a ride that was! and the clang of my
armor set the poor horse frantic till I could scarce
"Then the absurd happened. I wheeled the horse into the
pasture, meaning to let him tire himself, for he was really
running away with me; when, all at once, I saw a hundred
terror-stricken savages rush out of the sugar-house, stand
staring a second, then take to their legs with most doleful
cries and hoots and piteous howls.
"'Oonah! The Stonish Giants have returned! Oonah! Oonah! The
Giants of Stone!'
"My vizor was down and locked. I called out to them in
Delaware, but at the sound of my voice they ran the
faster--five score frantic barbarians! And, dear, if they
have stopped running yet I do not know it, for they never
"But the most absurd part of it all is that the Onondagas,
who are none too friendly with us, though they pretend to be,
have told the Cayugas that the Stonish Giants have returned
to earth from Biskoona, which is hell. And I doubt not that
the dreadful news will spread all through the Six Nations,
with, perhaps, some astonishing results to us. For scouts
have already come in, reporting trouble between General
Burgoyne and his Wyandots, who declare they have had enough
of the war and did not enlist to fight the Stonish
Giants--which excuse is doubtless meaningless to him.
"And other scouts from the northwest say that St. Leger can
scarce hold the Senecas to the siege of Stanwix because of
their great loss at Oriskany, which they are inclined to
attribute to spells cast by their enemies, who enjoy the
protection of the Stonish Giants.
"Is it not all mad enough for a child's dream?
"Ay, life and love are dreams, dear, and a mad world spins
them out of nothing.... Forgive me ... I have been sewing on
my wedding-gown again. And it is nigh finished.
"Good-night. I love you. D."
Blindly I groped for the remaining letter and tore the seal.
"Sir George has just had news of you from an Oneida who says
you may be here at any moment! And I, O God I terrified at my
own mad happiness, fearing myself in that meeting, begged him
to wed me on the morrow. I was insane, I think, crazed with
fear, knowing that, were I not forever beyond you, I must
give myself to you and abide in hell for all eternity!
"And he was astonished, I think, but kind, as he always is;
and now the dreadful knowledge has come to me that for me
there is no refuge, no safety in marriage which I, poor fool,
fled to for sanctuary lest I do murder on my own soul!
"What shall I do? What can I do? I have given my word to wed
him on the morrow. If it be mortal sin to show ingratitude to
a father and deceive a lover, what would it be to deceive a
husband and disgrace a father?
"And I, silly innocent, never dreamed but that temptation
ceased within the holy bonds of wedlock--though sadness might
"And now I know! In the imminent and instant presence of my
marriage I know that I shall love you none the less, shall
tempt and be tempted none the less. And, in this resistless,
eternal love, I may fall, dragging you down with me to our
"It was not the fear of punishment that kept me true to my
vows before; it was something within me, I don't know what.
"But, if I were wedded with him, it would be fear of
punishment alone that could save me--not terror of flames; I
could endure them with you, but the new knowledge that has
come to me that my punishment would be the one thing I could
not endure--eternity without you!
"Neither in heaven nor in hell may I have you. Is there no
way, my beloved? Is there no place for us?
* * * * *
"I have been to the porch to tell Sir George that I must
postpone the wedding. I did not tell him. He was standing
with Magdalen Brant, and she was crying. I did not know she
had received bad news. She said the news was bad. Perhaps Sir
George can help her.
"I will tell him later that the wedding must be postponed....
I don't know why, either. I cannot think. I can scarcely see
to write. Oh, help me once more, my darling! Do not come to
Varicks'! That is all I desire on earth! For we must never,
never, see each other again!"
* * * * *
Stunned, I reeled to my feet and stumbled out into the moonlight,
staring across the misty wilderness into the east, where, beyond the
forests, somewhere, she lay, perhaps a bride.
A deathly chill struck through and through me. To a free man, with one
shred of pity, honor, unselfish love, that appeal must be answered. And
he were the basest man in all the world who should ignore it and show
his face at Varick Manor--were he free to choose.
But I was not free; I was a military servant, pledged under solemn oath
and before God to obedience--instant, unquestioning, unfaltering
And in my trembling hand I held my written orders to report at Varick
At dawn we left the road and struck the Oneida trail north of the river,
following it swiftly, bearing a little north of east until, towards
noon, we came into the wagon-road which runs over the Mayfield hills and
down through the outlying bush farms of Mayfield and Kingsborough.
Many of the houses were deserted, but not all; here and there smoke
curled from the chimney of some lonely farm; and across the stump
pasture we could see a woman laboring in the sun-scorched fields and a
man, rifle in hand, standing guard on a vantage-point which
overlooked his land.
Fences and gates became more frequent, crossing the rough road every
mile or two, so that we were constantly letting down and replacing
cattle-bars, unpinning rude gates, or climbing over snake fences of
Once we came to a cross-roads where the fence had been demolished and a
warning painted on a rough pine board above a wayside watering-trough.
All farmers and townsfolk are hereby requested and ordered to
remove gates, stiles, cow-bars, and fences, which includes
all obstructions to the public highway, in order that the
cavalry may pass without difficulty. Any person found felling
trees across this road, or otherwise impeding the operations
of cavalry by building brush, stump, rail, or stone fences
across this road, will be arrested and tried before a court
on charge of aiding and giving comfort to the enemy.
"Captain Commanding Legion."
Either this order did not apply to the cross-road which we now filed
into, or the owners of adjacent lands paid no heed to it; for presently,
a few rods ahead of us, we saw a snake fence barring the road and a man
with a pack on his back in the act of climbing over it.
He was going in the same direction that we were, and seemed to be a
fur-trader laden with packets of peltry.
I said this to Murphy, who laughed and looked at Mount.
"Who carries pelts to Quebec in August?" asked Elerson, grinning.
"There's the skin of a wolverine dangling from his pack," I said, in a
Murphy touched Mount's arm, and they halted until the man ahead had
rounded a turn in the road; then they sprang forward, creeping swiftly
to the shelter of the undergrowth at the bend of the road, while Elerson
and I followed at an easy pace.
"What is it?" I asked, as we rejoined them where they were kneeling,
looking after the figure ahead.
"Nothing, sir; we only want to see them pelts, Tim and me."
"Do you know the man?" I demanded.
Murphy gazed musingly at Mount through narrowed eyes. Mount, in a brown
study, stared back.
"Phwere th' divil have I seen him, I dunnoa!" muttered Murphy. "Jack,
'tis wan mush-rat looks like th' next, an' all thrappers has the same
cut to them! Yonder's no thrapper!"
"Nor peddler," added Mount; "the strap of the Delaware baskets never
bowed his legs."
"Thrue, avick! Wisha, lad, 'tis horses he knows better than snow-shoes,
bed-plates, an' thrip-sticks! An' I've seen him, I think!"
"Where?" I asked.
He shook his head, vacantly staring. Moved by the same impulse, we all
started forward; the man was not far ahead, but our moccasins made no
noise in the dust and we closed up swiftly on him and were at his elbow
before he heard us.
Under the heavy sunburn the color faded in his cheeks when he saw us. I
noted it, but that was nothing strange considering the perilous
conditions of the country and the sudden shock of our appearance.
"Good-day, friend," cried Mount, cheerily.
"Good-day, friends," he replied, stammering as though for lack of
"God save our country, friend," added Elerson, gravely.
"God save our country, friends," repeated the man.
So far, so good. The man, a thick, stocky, heavy-eyed fellow, moistened
his broad lips with his tongue, peered furtively at me, and instantly
dropped his eyes. At the same instant memory stirred within me; a vague
recollection of those heavy, black eyes, of that broad, bow-legged
figure set me pondering.
"Me fri'nd," purred Murphy, persuasively, "is th' Frinch thrappers
balin' August peltry f'r to sell in Canady?"
"I've a few late pelts from the lakes," muttered the man, without
"Domned late," cried Murphy, gayly. "Sure they do say, if ye dhraw a
summer mink an' turrn th' pelt inside out like a glove, the winther fur
will sprout inside--wid fashtin' an' prayer."
The man bent his eyes obstinately on the ground; instead of smiling he
"Have you the skin of a wampum bird in that bale?" asked Mount,
Elerson struck the pack with the flat of his hand; the mangy wolverine
"Green hides! Green hides!" laughed Mount, sarcastically. "Come, my
friend, we're your customers. Down with your bales and I'll buy."
Murphy had laid a heavy hand on the man's shoulder, halting him short in
his tracks; Elerson, rifle cradled in the hollow of his left arm, poked
his forefinger into the bales, then sniffed at the aperture.
"There are green hides there!" he exclaimed, stepping back. "Jack, slip
that pack off!"
The man started forward, crying out that he had no time to waste, but
Murphy jerked him back by the collar and Elerson seized his right arm.
"Wait!" I said, sharply. "You cannot stop a man like this on the
"You don't know us, sir," replied Mount, impudently.
"Come, Colonel Ormond," added Elerson, almost savagely. "You're our
captain no longer. Give way, sir. Answer for your own men, and we'll
answer to Danny Morgan!"
Mount, struggling to unfasten the pack, looked over his huge shoulders
"Not that we're not fond of you, sir; but we know this old fox now--"
"You lie!" shrieked the man, hurling his full weight at Murphy and
tearing his right arm free from Elerson's grip.
There came a flash, an explosion; through a cloud of smoke I saw the
fellow's right arm stretched straight up in the air, his hand clutching
a smoking pistol, and Elerson holding the arm rigid in a grip of steel.
[Illustration: "INSTANTLY MOUNT TRIPPED THE MAN".]
Instantly Mount tripped the man flat on his face in the dust, and Murphy
jerked his arms behind his back, tying them fast at the wrists with a
cord which Elerson cut from the pack and flung to him.
"Rip up thim bales, Jack!" said Murphy. "Yell find them full o' powther
an' ball an' cutlery, sorr, or I'm a liar!" he added to me. "This limb
o' Lucifer is wan o' Francy McCraw's renegados!--Danny Redstock, sorr,
th' tirror av the Sacandaga!"
Redstock! I had seen him at Broadalbin that evening in May, threatening
the angry settlers with his rifle, when Dorothy and the Brandt-Meester
and I had ridden over with news of smoke in the hills.
Murphy tied the prostrate man's legs, pulled him across the dusty road
to the bushes, and laid him on his back under a great maple-tree.
Mount, knife in hand, ripped up the bales of crackling peltry, and
Elerson delved in among the skins, flinging them right and left in his
"There's no powder here," he exclaimed, rising to his knees on the road
and staring at Mount; "nothing but badly cured beaver and mangy
"Well, he baled 'em to conceal something!" insisted Mount. "No man packs
in this moth-eaten stuff for love of labor. What's that parcel in
"Not powder," replied Elerson, tossing it out, where it rebounded,
"Squirrel pelts," nodded Mount, as I picked up the packet and looked at
the sealed cords. The parcel was addressed: "General Barry St. Leger, in
camp before Stanwix." I sat down on the grass and began to open it, when
a groan from the prostrate prisoner startled me. He had struggled to a
sitting posture, and was facing me, eyes bulging from their sockets.
Every vestige of color had left his visage.
"For God's sake don't open that!" he gasped--"there is naught there,
"Silence!" roared Mount, glaring at him, while Murphy and Elerson,
dropping their armfuls of pelts, came across the road to the bank
where I sat.
"I will not be silent!" screamed the man, rocking to and fro on the
ground. "I did not do that!--I know nothing of what that packet holds! A
Mohawk runner gave it to me--I mean that I found it on the trail--"
The riflemen stared at him in contempt while I cut the strings of the
parcel and unrolled the bolt of heavy miller's cloth.
At first I did not comprehend what all that mass of fluffy hair could
be. A deep gasp from Mount enlightened me, and I dropped the packet in a
revulsion of horror indescribable. For the parcel was fairly bursting
with tightly packed scalps.
In the deathly silence I heard Redstock's hoarse breathing. Mount knelt
down and gently lifted a heavy mass of dark, silky hair.
At last Elerson broke the silence, speaking in a strangely gentle and
"I think this hair was Janet McCrea's. I saw her many times at
Half-moon. No maid in Tryon County had hair like hers."
Shuddering, Mount lifted a long braid of dark-brown hair fastened to a
hoop painted blue. And Elerson, in that strange monotone,
"The hair on this scalp is braided to show that the woman was a mother;
the skin stretched on a blue hoop confirms it.
"The murderer has painted the skin yellow with red dots to represent
tears shed for the dead by her family. There is a death-maul painted
below in black; it shows how she was killed."
He laid the scalp back very carefully. Under the mass of hair a bit of
paper stuck out, and I drew it from the dreadful packet. It was a sealed
letter directed to General St. Leger, and I opened and read the contents
aloud in the midst of a terrible silence.
August 17, 1777
"General Barry St. Leger
"SIR,--I send you under care of Daniel Redstock the first
packet of scalps, cured, dried, hooped, and painted; four
dozen in all, at twenty dollars a dozen, which will be eighty
dollars. This you will please pay to Daniel Redstock, as I
need money for tobacco and rum for the men and the Senecas
who are with me.
"Return invoice with payment acquitted by the bearer, who
will know where to find me. Below I have prepared a true
invoice. Your very humble servant,
(6) Six scalps of farmers, green hoops to show they were killed
in their fields; a large white circle for the sun, showing
it was day; black bullet mark on three; hatchet on two.
(2) Two of settlers, surprised and killed in their houses or barns;
hoops red; white circle for the sun; a little red foot to show
they died fighting. Both marked with bullet symbol.
(4) Four of settlers. Two marked by little yellow flames to show
how they died. (My Senecas have had no prisoners for
burning since August third.) One a rebel clergyman, his
band tied to the scalp-hoop, and a little red foot under a red
cross painted on the skin. (He killed two of my men before
we got him.) One, a poor scalp, the hair gray and
thin; the hoop painted brown. (An old man whom we
found in bed in a rebel house.)
(12) Twelve of militia soldiers; stretched on black hoops four inches
in diameter, inside skin painted red; a black circle showing
they were outposts surprised at night; hatchet as usual.
(12) Twelve of women; one unbraided--a very fine scalp (bought
of a Wyandot from Burgoyne's army), which I paid full
price for; nine braided, hoops blue, red tear-marks; two
very gray; black hoops, plain brown color inside; death-maul
marked in red.
(6) Six of boys' scalps; small green hoops; red tears; symbols
in black of castete, knife, and bullet.
(5) Five of girls' scalps; small yellow hoops. Marked with the
Seneca symbol to whom they were delivered before scalping.
(l) One box of birch-bark containing an infant's scalp; very little
hair, but well dried and cured. (I must ask full price
48 scalps assorted, @ 20 dollars a dozen..............80 dollars.
"Received payment, F. McCRAW."
The ghastly face of the prisoner turned livid, and he shrieked as Mount
caught him by the collar and dragged him to his feet.
"Jack," I said, hoarsely, "the law sends that man before a court."
"Court be damned!" growled Mount, as Elerson uncoiled the pack-rope,
flung one end over a maple limb above, and tied a running noose on the
Murphy crowded past me to seize the prisoner, but I caught him by the
arm and pushed him aside.
"Men!" I said, angrily; "I don't care whose command you are under. I'm
an officer, and you'll listen to me and obey me with respect. Murphy!"
The Irishman gave me a savage stare.
"By God!" I cried, cocking my rifle, "if one of you dares disobey, I'll
shoot him where he stands! Murphy! Stand aside! Mount, bring that
There was a pause; then Murphy touched his cap and stepped back quietly,
nodding to Mount, who shuffled forward, pushing the prisoner and darting
a venomous glance at me.
"Redstock," I said, "where is McCraw?"
A torrent of filthy abuse poured out of the prisoner's writhing mouth.
He cursed us, threatening us with a terrible revenge from McCraw if we
harmed a hair of his head.
Astonished, I saw that he had mistaken my attitude for one of fear. I
strove to question him, but he insolently refused all information. My
men ground their teeth with impatience, and I saw that I could control
them no longer.
So I gave what color I could to the lawless act of justice, partly to
save my waning authority, partly to save them the consequences of
executing a prisoner who might give valuable information to the
authorities in Albany.
I ordered Elerson to hold the prisoner and adjust the noose; Murphy and
Mount to the rope's end. Then I said: "Prisoner, this field-court finds
you guilty of murder and orders your execution. Have you anything to say
before sentence is carried out?"
The wretch did not believe we were in earnest. I nodded to Elerson, who
drew the noose tight; the prisoner's knees gave way, and he screamed;
but Mount and Murphy jerked him up, and the rope strangled the screech
in his throat.
Sickened, I bent my head, striving to count the seconds as he hung
twisting and quivering under the maple limb.
Would he never die? Would those spasms never end?
"Shtep back, sorr, if ye plaze, sorr," said Murphy, gently. "Sure, sorr,
ye're as white as a sheet. Walk away quiet-like; ye're not used to such
I was not, indeed; I had never seen a man done to death in cold blood.
Yet I fought off the sickening faintness that clutched at my heart; and
at last the dangling thing hung limp and relaxed, turning slowly round
and round in mid-air.
Mount nodded to Murphy and fell to digging with a sharpened stick.
Elerson quietly lighted his pipe and aided him, while Murphy shaved off
a white square of bark on the maple-tree under the slow-turning body,
and I wrote with the juice of an elderberry:
"Daniel Redstock, a child murderer, executed by American Riflemen for
his crimes, under order of George Ormond, Colonel of Rangers, August 19,
1777. Renegades and Outlaws take warning!"
When Mount and Elerson had finished the shallow grave, they laid the
scalps of the murdered in the hole, stamped down the earth, and covered
it with sticks and branches lest a prowling outlaw or Seneca disinter
the remains and reap a ghastly reward for their redemption from General
the Hon. Barry St. Leger, Commander of the British, Hessians, Loyal
Colonials, and Indians, in camp before Fort Stanwix.
As we left that dreadful spot, and before I could interfere to prevent
them, the three riflemen emptied their pieces into the swinging
corpse--a useless, foolish, and savage performance, and I said
They were very docile and contrite and obedient now, explaining that it
was a customary safeguard, as hanged men had been revived more than
once--a flimsy excuse, indeed!
"Very well," I said; "your shots may draw McCraw's whole force down on
us. But doubtless you know much more than your officers--like the
militia at Oriskany."
The reproof struck home; Mount muttered his apology; Murphy offered to
carry my rifle if I was fatigued.
"It was thoughtless, I admit that," said Elerson, looking backward,
uneasily. "But we're close to the patroon's boundary."
"We're within bounds now," said Mount. "Fonda's Bush lies over there to
the southeast, and the Vlaie is yonder below the mountain-notch. This
wagon-track runs into the Fish-House road."
"How far are we from the manor?" I asked.
"About two miles and a half, sir," replied Mount. "Doubtless some of Sir
George Covert's horsemen heard our shots, and we'll meet 'em cantering
out to investigate."
I had not imagined we were as near as that. A painful thrill passed
through me; my heart leaped, beating feverishly in my breast.
Minute after minute dragged as we filed swiftly onward, mechanically
treading in each other's tracks. I strove to consider, to think, to
picture the sad, strange home-coming--to see her as she would stand,
stunned, astounded that I had ignored her appeal to help her by
I could not think; my thoughts were chaos; my brain throbbed heavily; I
fixed my hot eyes on the road and strode onward, numbed, seeing,
And, of a sudden, a shout rang out ahead; horsemen in line across the
road, rifles on thigh, moved forward towards us; an officer reversed his
sword, drove it whizzing into the scabbard, and spurred forward,
followed by a trooper, helmet flashing in the sun.
"Ormond!" cried the officer, flinging himself from his horse and holding
out both white-gloved hands.
"Sir George, ... I am glad to see you.... I am very--happy," I
stammered, taking his hands.
"Cousin Ormond!" came a timid voice behind me.
I turned; Ruyven, in full uniform of a cornet, flung himself into my
I could scarce see him for the mist in my eyes; I pressed the boy close
to my breast and kissed him on both cheeks.
Utterly unable to speak, I sat down on a log, holding Sir George's
gloved hand, my arm on Ruyven's laced shoulder. An immense fatigue came
over me; I had not before realized the pace we had kept up for these two
months nor the strain I had been under.
"Singleton!" called out Sir George, "take the men to the barracks; take
my horse, too--I'll walk back. And, Singleton, just have your men take
these fine fellows up behind"--with a gesture towards the riflemen. "And
see that they lack for nothing in quarters!"
Grinning sheepishly, the riflemen climbed up behind the troopers
assigned them; the troop cantered off, and Sir George pointed to
Ruyven's horse, indicating that it was for me when I was rested.
"We heard shots," he said; "I mistrusted it might be a salute from you,
but came ready for anything, you see--Lord! How thin you've
"I'm cornet, cousin!" burst out Ruyven, hugging me again in his
excitement. "I charged with the squadron when we scattered McDonald's
outlaws! A man let drive at me--"
"Oh, come, come," laughed Sir George, "Colonel Ormond has had more
bullets driven at him than our Legion pouches in their bullet-bags!"
"A man let drive at me!" breathed Ruyven, in rapture. "I was not hit,
cousin! A man let drive at me, and I heard the bullet!"
"Nonsense!" said Sir George, mischievously; "you heard a bumble-bee!"
"He always says that," retorted Ruyven, looking at me. "I know it was a
bullet, for it went zo-o-zip-tsing-g! right past my ear; and Sergeant
West shouted, 'Cut him down, sir!' ... But another trooper did that.
However, I rode like the devil!"
"Which way?" inquired Sir George, in pretended anxiety. And we all
"It's good to see you back all safe and sound," said Sir George, warmly.
"Sir Lupus will be delighted and the children half crazed. You should
hear them talk of their hero!"
"Dorothy will be glad, too," said Ruyven. "You'll be in time for the
I strove to smile, facing Sir George with an effort. His face, in the
full sunlight, seemed haggard and careworn, and the light had died out
in his eyes.
"For the wedding," he repeated. "We are to be wedded to-morrow. You did
not know that, did you?"
"Yes; I did know it. Dorothy wrote me," I said. A numbed feeling crept
over me; I scarce heard the words I uttered when I wished him happiness.
He held my proffered hand a second, then dropped it listlessly,
thanking me for my good wishes in a low voice.
There was a vague, troubled expression in his eyes, a strange lack of
feeling. The thought came to me like a stab that perhaps he had learned
that the woman he was to wed did not love him.
"Did Dorothy expect me?" I asked, miserably.
"I think not," said Sir George.
"She believed you meant to follow Arnold to Stanwix," broke in Ruyven.
"I should have done it! I regard General Arnold as the most magnificent
soldier of the age!" he added.
"I was ordered to Varick Manor," I said, looking at Sir George.
"Otherwise I might have followed Arnold. As it is I cannot stay for the
wedding; I must report at Stillwater, leaving by nine o'clock in
"Lord, Ormond, what a fire-eater you have become!" he said, smiling from
his abstraction. "Are you ready to mount Ruyven's nag and come home to a
good bed and a glass of something neat?"
"Let Ruyven ride," I said; "I need the walk, Sir George."
"Need the walk!" he exclaimed. "Have you not had walks enough?--and your
moccasins and buckskins in rags!"
But I could not endure to ride; a nerve-racking restlessness was on me,
a desire for movement, for utter exhaustion, so that I could no longer
have even strength to think.
Ruyven, protesting, climbed into his dragoon-saddle; Sir George walked
beside him and I with Sir George.
Long, soft August lights lay across the leafy road; the blackberries
were in heavy fruit; scarlet thimble-berries, over-ripe, dropped from
their pithy cones as we brushed the sprays with our sleeves.
Sir George was saying: "No, we have nothing more to fear from
McDonald's gang, but a scout came in, three days since, bringing word of
McCraw's outlaws who have appeared in the west--"
He stopped abruptly, listening to a sound that I also heard; the sudden
drumming of unshod hoofs on the road behind us.
"What the devil--" he began, then cocked his rifle; I threw up mine; a
shrill cock-crow rang out above the noise of tramping horses; a
galloping mass of horsemen burst into view behind us, coming like an
"McCraw!" shouted Sir George. Ruyven fired from his saddle; Sir George's
rifle and mine exploded together; a horse and rider went down with a
crash, but the others came straight on, and the cock-crow rang out
triumphantly above the roar of the rushing horses.
"Ruyven!" I shouted, "ride for your life!"
"I won't!" he cried, furiously; but I seized his bridle, swung his
frightened horse, and struck the animal across the buttocks with clubbed
rifle. Away tore the maddened beast, almost unseating his rider, who
lost both stirrups at the first frantic bound and clung helplessly to
his saddle-pommel while the horse carried him away like the wind.
Then I sprang into the ozier thicket, Sir George at my side, and ran a
little way; but they caught us, even before we reached the timber, and
threw us to the ground, tying us up like basted capons with straps from
their saddles. Maltreated, struck, kicked, mauled, and dragged out to
the road, I looked for instant death; but a lank creature flung me
across his saddle, face downward, and, in a second, the whole band had
mounted, wheeled about, and were galloping westward, ventre a terre.
Almost dead from the saddle-pommel which knocked the breath from my
body, suffocated and strangled with dust, I hung dangling there in a
storm of flying sticks and pebbles. Twice consciousness fled, only to
return with the blood pounding in my ears. A third time my senses left
me, and when they returned I lay in a cleared space in the woods beside
Sir George, the sun shining full in my face, flung on the ground near a
fire, over which a kettle was boiling. And on every side of us moved
McCraw's riders, feeding their horses, smoking, laughing, playing at
cards, or coming up to sniff the camp-kettle and poke the boiling meat
with pointed sticks.
Behind them, squatted in rows, sat two dozen Indians, watching us in
For a while I lay there stupefied, limp-limbed, lifeless, closing my
aching eyes under the glittering red rays of the westering sun.
My parched throat throbbed and throbbed; I could scarcely stir, even to
close my swollen hands where they had tied my wrists, although somebody
had cut the cords that bound me.
"Sir George," I said, in a low voice.
"Yes, I am here," he replied, instantly.
"Are you hurt?"
"No, Ormond. Are you?"
"No; very tired; that is all."
I rolled over; my head reeled and I held it in my benumbed hands,
looking at Sir George, who lay on his side, cheek pillowed on his arms.
"This is a miserable end of it all," he said, with calm bitterness. "But
that it involves you, I should not dare blame fortune for the fool I
acted. I have my deserts; but it's cruel for you."
The sickening whirling in my head became unendurable. I lay down, facing
him, eyes closed.
"It was not your fault," I said, dully.
"There is no profit in discussing that," he muttered. "They took us
alive instead of scalping us; while there's life there's hope, ... a
little hope.... But I'd sooner they'd finish me here than rot in their
stinking prison-ships.... Ormond, are you awake?"
"Yes, Sir George."
"If they--if the Indians get us, and--and begin their--you know--"
"Yes; I know."
"If they begin ... that ... insult them, taunt them, sneer at them,
laugh at them!--yes, laugh at them! Do anything to enrage them, so
they'll--they'll finish quickly.... Do you understand?"
"Yes," I muttered; and my voice sounded miles away.
He lay brooding for a while; when I opened my eyes he broke out
fretfully: "How was I to dream that McCraw could be so near!--that he
dared raid us within a mile of the house! Oh, I could die of shame,
Ormond! die of shame!... But I won't die that way; oh no," he added,
with a frightful smile that left his face distorted and white.
He raised himself on one elbow.
"Ormond," he said, staring at vacancy, "what trivial matters a man
thinks of in the shadow of death. I can't consider it; I can't be
reconciled to it; I can't even pray. One absurd idea possesses me--that
Singleton will have the Legion now; and he's a slack drill-master--he
is, indeed!... I've a million things to think of--an idle life to
consider, a misspent career to repent, but the time is too short,
Ormond.... Perhaps all that will come at the instant of--of--"
"Death," I said, wearily.
"Yes, yes; that's it, death. I'm no coward; I'm calm enough--but I'm
stunned. I can't think for the suddenness of it!... And you just home;
and Ruyven there, snuggled close to you as a house-cat--and then that
sound of galloping, like a fly-stung herd of cattle in a pasture!"
"I think Ruyven is safe," I said, closing my eyes.
"Yes, he's safe. Nobody chased him; they'll know at the manor by this
time; they knew long ago.... My men will be out.... Where are
"I don't know," I murmured, drowsily. The months of fatigue, the
unbroken strain, the feverish weeks spent in endless trails, the
constant craving for movement to occupy my thoughts, the sleepless
nights which were the more unendurable because physical exhaustion could
not give me peace or rest, now told on me. I drowsed in the very
presence of death; and the stupor settled heavily, bringing, for the
first time since I left Varick Manor, rest and immunity from despair or
I cared for nothing: hope of her was dead; hope of life might die and I
was acquiescent, contented, glad of the end. I had endured too much.
My sleep--or unconsciousness--could not have lasted long; the sun was
not yet level with my eyes when I roused to find Sir George tugging at
my sleeve and a man in a soiled and tarnished scarlet uniform
standing over me.
But that brief respite from the strain had revived me; a bucket of cold
water stood near the fire, and I thrust my burning face into it,
drinking my fill, while the renegade in scarlet bawled at me and fumed
and cursed, demanding my attention to what he was saying.
"You damned impudent rebel!" he yelled; "am I to stand around here
awaiting your pleasure while you swill your skin full?"
I wiped my lips with my torn hands, and got to my feet painfully, a
trifle dizzy for a moment, but perfectly able to stand and to
"I'm asking you," he snarled, "why we can't send a flag to your people
without their firing on it?"
"I don't know what you mean," I said.
"I do," said Sir George, blandly.
"Oh, you do, eh?" growled the renegade, turning on him with a scowl.
"Then tell me why our flag of truce is not respected, if you can."
"Nobody respects a flag from outlaws," said Sir George, coolly.
The fellow's face hardened and his eyes blazed. He started to speak,
then shut his mouth with a snap, turned on his heel, and strode across
the treeless glade to where his noisy riders were saddling up,
tightening girths, buckling straps, and examining the unshod feet of
their horses or smoothing out the burrs from mane and tail. The red sun
glittered on their spurs, rifles, and the flat buckles of their
cross-belts. Their uniform was scarlet and green, but some wore beaded
shirts of scarlet holland, belted in with Mohawk wampum, and some were
partly clothed like Cayuga Indians and painted with Seneca
war-symbols--a grewsome sight.
There were savages moving about the fire--or I took them for savages,
until one half-naked lout, lounging near, taunted me with a Scotch burr
in his throat, and I saw, in his horribly painted face, a pair of
flashing eyes fixed on me. And the eyes were blue.
There was something in that ghastly masquerade so horrible, so
unspeakably revolting, that a shiver of pure fear touched me in every
nerve. Except for the voice and the eyes, he looked the counterpart of
the Senecas moving about near us; his skin, bare to the waist, was
stained a reddish copper hue; his black hair was shaved except for the
knot; war-paint smeared visage and chest, and two crimson quills rose
from behind his left ear, tied to the scalp-lock.
"Let him alone; don't answer him; he's worse than the Indians,"
whispered Sir George.
Among the savages I saw two others with light eyes, and a third I never
should have suspected had not Sir George pointed out his feet, which
were planted on the ground like the feet of a white man when he walked,
and not parallel or toed-in.
But now the loud-voiced riders were climbing into their saddles; the
officer in scarlet, who had cursed and questioned us, came towards us
leading a horse.
"You treacherous whelps!" he said, fiercely; "if a flag can't go to you
safely, we must send one of you with it. By Heaven! you're both fit for
roasting, and it sickens me to send you! But one of you goes and the
other stays. Now fight it out--and be quick!"
An amazed silence followed; then Sir George asked why one of us was to
be liberated and the other kept prisoner.
"Because your sneaking rebel friends fire on the white flag, I tell
you!" cried the fellow, furiously; "and we've got to get a message to
them. You are Captain Sir George Covert, are you not? Very good. Your
rebel friends have taken Captain Walter Butler and mean to hang him. Now
you tell your people that we've got Colonel Ormond and we'll exchange
you both, a colonel and a captain, for Walter Butler. Do you understand?
That's what we value you at; a rebel colonel and a rebel captain for a
single loyal captain."
Sir George turned to me. "There is not the faintest chance of an
exchange," he said, in French.
"Stop that!" threatened the man in scarlet, laying his hand on his
hanger. "Speak English or Delaware, do you hear?"
"Sir George," I said, "you will go, of course. I shall remain and take
the chance of exchange."
"Pardon," he said, coolly; "I remain here and pay the piper for the tune
I danced to. You will relieve me of my obligations by going," he
"No," I said; "I tell you I don't care. Can't you understand that a man
may not care?"
"I understand," he replied, staring at me; "and I am that man, Ormond.
Come, get into your saddle. Good-bye. It is all right; it is perfectly
just, and--it doesn't matter."
A shrill voice broke out across the cleared circle. "Billy Bones! Billy
Bones! Hae ye no flints f'r the lads that ride? Losh, mon, we'll no be
ganging north the day, an' ye bide droolin' there wi' the blitherin'
"The flints are in McBarron's wagon! Wait, wait, Francy McCraw!" And he
hurried away, bawling for the teamster McBarron.
"Sir George," I said, "take the chance, in Heaven's name, for I shall
not go. Don't dispute; don't stand there! Man, man, don't delay, I tell
you, or they'll change their plan!"
"I won't go," he said, sharply. "Ormond, am I a contemptible poltroon
that I should leave you here to endure the consequences of my own
negligence? Do you think I could accept life at that price?"
"I tell you to go!" I said, harshly. A horrid hope, a terrible and
unworthy temptation, had seized me like a thing from hell. I trembled;
sweat broke out on me, and I set my teeth, striving to think as the
woman I had lost would have had me think. "Quick!" I muttered, "don't
wait, don't delay; don't talk to me, I tell you! Go! Go! Get out of
And all the time, pounding in my brain, the pulse beat out a shameful
thought; and mad temptations swarmed, whispering close to my ringing
ears that his death was my only chance, my only possible
"Go!" I stammered, pushing him towards the horse; "get into your saddle!
Quick, I tell you--I--I can't endure this! I am not made to endure
everything, I tell you! Can't you have a little mercy on me and
"I refuse," he said, sullenly.
"You refuse!" I stammered, beside myself with the torture I could no
longer bear. "Then stand aside! I'll go--I'll go if it costs me--No! No!
I can't; I can't, I tell you; it costs too much!... Damn you, you may
have the woman I love, but you shall leave me her respect!"
"Ormond! Ormond!" he cried, in sorrowful amazement; but I was clean out
of my head now, and I closed with him, dragging him towards the horse.
He shook himself free, glaring at me.
"I am ... your superior ... officer!" I panted, advancing on him; "I
order you to go!"
He looked me narrowly in the eyes. "And I refuse obedience," he said,
hoarsely. "You are out of your mind!"
"Then, by God!" I shrieked, "I'll force you!"
Billy Bones, Francy McCraw, and a Seneca came hastening up. I leaped on
McCraw and dealt him a blow full in his bony face, splitting the lean
They overpowered me before I could repeat the blow; they flung me down,
kicking and pounding me as I lay there, but the death-stroke I awaited
was withheld; the castete of the Seneca was jerked from his fist.
Then they seized Sir George and forced him into his saddle, calling on
four troopers to pilot him within sight of the manor and shoot him if he
attempted to return.
"You tell them that if they refuse to exchange Walter Butler for Ormond,
we've torments for Colonel Ormond that won't kill him under a week!"
roared Billy Bones.
McCraw, stupefied with amazement and rage, stood mopping the blood from
his blotched face, staring at me out of his crazy blue eyes. For a
moment his hand fiddled with his hatchet, then Bones shoved him away,
and he strode off towards his horsemen, who were forming in column
"You tell 'em," shouted Bones, "that before we finish him they'll hear
his screams in Albany! If they want Colonel Ormond," he added, his voice
rising to a yell, "tell 'em to send a single man into the sugar-bush.
But if they hang Walter Butler, or if you try to catch us with your
cavalry, we'll take Ormond where we'll have leisure to see what our
Senecas can do with him! Now ride! you damned--"
He struck Sir George's horse with the flat of his hanger; the horse
bounded off, followed by four of McCraw's riders, pistols cocked and
Bruised, dazed, exhausted, I lay there, listening to the receding