Part 3 out of 9
"The better fortune of these rebels has prevailed," said the youth,
endeavoring to force a cheerful smile, and taking a hand of each of his
distressed sisters. "I strove nobly for my liberty; but the perverse
spirit of rebellion has even lighted on their horses. The steed I
mounted carried me, greatly against my will, I acknowledge, into the
very center of Dunwoodie's men."
"And you were again captured," continued the father, casting a fearful
glance on the armed attendants who had entered the room.
"That, sir, you may safely say; this Mr. Lawton, who sees so far, had me
in custody again immediately."
"Why you no hold 'em in, Massa Henry?" cried Caesar, pettishly.
"That," said Wharton, smiling, "was a thing easier said than done, Mr.
Caesar, especially as these gentlemen" (glancing his eyes at the guides)
"had seen proper to deprive me of the use of my better arm."
"Wounded!" exclaimed both sisters in a breath.
"A mere scratch, but disabling me at a most critical moment," continued
the brother, kindly, and stretching out the injured limb to manifest the
truth of his declaration. Caesar threw a look of bitter animosity on the
irregular warriors who were thought to have had an agency in the deed,
and left the room. A few more words sufficed to explain all that Captain
Wharton knew relative to the fortune of the day. The result he thought
yet doubtful, for when he left the ground, the Virginians were retiring
from the field of battle.
"They had treed the squirrel," said one of the sentinels abruptly, "and
didn't quit the ground without leaving a good hound for the chase when
he comes down."
"Aye," added his comrade dryly, "I'm thinking Captain Lawton will count
the noses of what are left before they see their whaleboats."
Frances had stood supporting herself, by the back of a chair, during
this dialogue, catching, in breathless anxiety, every syllable as it was
uttered; her color changed rapidly; her limbs shook under her; until,
with desperate resolution, she inquired,--
"Is any officer hurt on--the--on either side?"
"Yes," answered the man, cavalierly, "these Southern youths are so full
of mettle, that it's seldom we fight but one or two gets knocked over;
one of the wounded, who came up before the troops, told me that Captain
Singleton was killed, and Major Dunwoodie--"
Frances heard no more, but fell lifeless in the chair behind her. The
attention of her friends soon revived her when the captain, turning to
the man, said fearfully,--
"Surely Major Dunwoodie is unhurt?"
"Never fear him," added the guide, disregarding the agitation of the
family. "They say a man who is born to be hanged will never be drowned;
if a bullet could kill the major, he would have been dead long ago. I
was going to say, that the major is in a sad taking because of the
captain's being killed; but had I known how much store the lady set by
him, I wouldn't have been so plain-spoken."
Frances now rose quickly from her seat, with cheeks glowing with
confusion, and, leaning on her aunt, was about to retire, when Dunwoodie
himself appeared. The first emotion of the agitated girl was unalloyed
happiness; in the next instant she shrank back appalled from the unusual
expression that reigned in his countenance. The sternness of battle yet
sat on his brow; his eye was fixed and severe. The smile of affection
that used to lighten his dark features on meeting his mistress, was
supplanted by the lowering look of care; his whole soul seemed to be
absorbed in one engrossing emotion, and he proceeded at once to
"Mr. Wharton," he earnestly began, "in times like these, we need not
stand on idle ceremony: one of my officers, I am afraid, is hurt
mortally; and, presuming on your hospitality, I have brought him to
"I am happy, sir, that you have done so," said Mr. Wharton, at once
perceiving the importance of conciliating the American troops. "The
necessitous are always welcome, and doubly so, in being the friend of
"Sir, I thank you for myself, and in behalf of him who is unable to
render you his thanks," returned the other, hastily. "If you please, we
will have him conducted where the surgeon may see and report upon his
case without delay." To this there could be no objection; and Frances
felt a chill at her heart, as her lover withdrew, without casting a
solitary look on herself.
There is a devotedness in female love that admits of no rivalry. All the
tenderness of the heart, all the powers of the imagination, are enlisted
in behalf of the tyrant passion; and where all is given, much is looked
for in return. Frances had spent hours of anguish, of torture, on
account of Dunwoodie, and he now met her without a smile, and left her
without a greeting. The ardor of her feelings was unabated, but the
elasticity of her hopes was weakened. As the supporters of the nearly
lifeless body of Dunwoodie's friend passed her, in their way to the
apartment prepared for his reception, she caught a view of this
His pale and ghastly countenance, sunken eye, and difficult breathing,
gave her a glimpse of death in its most fearful form. Dunwoodie was by
his side and held his hand, giving frequent and stern injunctions to the
men to proceed with care, and, in short, manifesting all the solicitude
that the most tender friendship could, on such an occasion, inspire.
Frances moved lightly before them, and, with an averted face, she held
open the door for their passage to the bed; it was only as the major
touched her garments, on entering the room, that she ventured to raise
her mild blue eyes to his face. But the glance was unreturned, and
Frances unconsciously sighed as she sought the solitude of her own
Captain Wharton voluntarily gave a pledge to his keepers not to attempt
again escaping, and then proceeded to execute those duties on behalf of
his father, which were thought necessary in a host. On entering the
passage for that purpose, he met the operator who had so dexterously
dressed his arm, advancing to the room of the wounded officer.
"Ah!" cried the disciple of Aesculapius, "I see you are doing well; but
stop; have you a pin? No! here, I have one; you must keep the cold air
from your hurt, or some of the youngsters will be at work at you yet."
"God forbid," muttered the captain, in an undertone, attentively
adjusting the bandages, when Dunwoodie appeared at the door, impatiently
"Hasten, Sitgreaves, hasten; or George Singleton will die from loss of
"What! Singleton! God forbid! Bless me--is it George--poor little
George?" exclaimed the surgeon, as he quickened his pace with evident
concern, and hastened to the side of the bed. "He is alive, though, and
while there is life there is hope. This is the first serious case I have
had to-day, where the patient was not already dead. Captain Lawton
teaches his men to strike with so little discretion--poor George--bless
me, it is a musket bullet."
The youthful sufferer turned his eyes on the man of science, and with a
faint smile endeavored to stretch forth his hand. There was an appeal in
the look and action that touched the heart of the operator. The surgeon
removed his spectacles to wipe an unusual moisture from his eyes, and
proceeded carefully to the discharge of his duty. While the previous
arrangements were, however, making, he gave vent in some measure to his
feelings, by saying,--
"When it is only a bullet, I have always some hopes; there is a chance
that it hits nothing vital. But, bless me, Captain Lawton's men cut so
at random--generally sever the jugular or the carotid artery, or let out
the brains, and all are so difficult to remedy--the patient mostly dying
before one can get at him. I never had success but once in replacing a
man's brains, although I have tried three this very day. It is easy to
tell where Lawton's troops charge in a battle, they cut so at random."
The group around the bed of Captain Singleton were too much accustomed
to the manner of their surgeon to regard or to reply to his soliloquy;
but they quietly awaited the moment when he was to commence his
examination. This now took place, and Dunwoodie stood looking the
operator in the face, with an expression that seemed to read his soul.
The patient shrank from the application of the probe, and a smile stole
over the features of the surgeon, as he muttered,--
"There has been nothing before it in that quarter." He now applied
himself in earnest to his work, took off his spectacles, and threw aside
his wig. All this time Dunwoodie stood in feverish silence, holding one
of the hands of the sufferer in both his own, watching the countenance
of Doctor Sitgreaves. At length Singleton gave a slight groan, and the
surgeon rose with alacrity, and said aloud,--
"Ah! there is some pleasure in following a bullet; it may be said to
meander through the human body, injuring nothing vital; but as for
Captain Lawton's men--"
"Speak," interrupted Dunwoodie; "is there hope?--can you find the ball?"
"It's no difficult matter to find that which one has in his hand, Major
Dunwoodie," replied the surgeon, coolly, preparing his dressings. "It
took what that literal fellow, Captain Lawton, calls a circumbendibus,
a route never taken by the swords of his men, notwithstanding the
multiplied pains I have been at to teach him how to cut scientifically.
Now, I saw a horse this day with his head half severed from his body."
"That," said Dunwoodie, as the blood rushed to his cheeks again, and his
dark eyes sparkled with the rays of hope, "was some of my handiwork; I
killed that horse myself."
"You!" exclaimed the surgeon, dropping his dressings in surprise, "you!
But you knew it was a horse!"
"I had such suspicions, I own," said the major, smiling, and holding a
beverage to the lips of his friend.
"Such blows alighting on the human frame are fatal," continued the
doctor, pursuing his business. "They set at naught the benefits which
flow from the lights of science; they are useless in a battle, for
disabling your foe is all that is required. I have sat, Major Dunwoodie,
many a cold hour, while Captain Lawton has been engaged, and after all
my expectation, not a single case worth recording has occurred--all
scratches or death wounds. Ah! the saber is a sad weapon in unskillful
hands! Yes, Major Dunwoodie, many are the hours I have thrown away in
endeavoring to impress this truth on Captain John Lawton."
The impatient major pointed silently to his friend, and the surgeon
quickened his movements.
"Ah! poor George, it is a narrow chance; but"--he was interrupted by a
messenger requiring the presence of the commanding officer in the field.
Dunwoodie pressed the hand of his friend, and beckoned the doctor to
follow him, as he withdrew.
"What think you?" he whispered, on reaching the passage. "Will he live?"
"Thank God!" cried the youth, hastening below.
Dunwoodie for a moment joined the family, who were now collecting in the
ordinary parlor. His face was no longer wanting in smiles, and his
salutations, though hasty, were cordial. He took no notice of the escape
and capture of Henry Wharton, but seemed to think the young man had
continued where he had left him before the encounter. On the ground they
had not met. The English officer withdrew in haughty silence to a
window, leaving the major uninterrupted to make his communications.
The excitement produced by the events of the day in the youthful
feelings of the sisters, had been succeeded by a languor that kept them
both silent, and Dunwoodie held his discourse with Miss Peyton.
"Is there any hope, my cousin, that your friend can survive his wound?"
said the lady, advancing towards her kinsman, with a smile of
"Everything, my dear madam, everything," answered the soldier
cheerfully. "Sitgreaves says he will live, and he has never
"Your pleasure is not much greater than my own at this intelligence. One
so dear to Major Dunwoodie cannot fail to excite an interest in the
bosom of his friends."
"Say one so deservedly dear, madam," returned the major, with warmth.
"He is the beneficent spirit of the corps, equally beloved by us all; so
mild, so equal, so just, so generous, with the meekness of a lamb and
the fondness of a dove--it is only in the hour of battle that Singleton
is a lion."
"You speak of him as if he were your mistress, Major Dunwoodie,"
observed the smiling spinster, glancing her eye at her niece, who sat
pale and listening, in a corner of the room.
"I love him as one," cried the excited youth. "But he requires care and
nursing; all now depends on the attention he receives."
"Trust me, sir, he will want for nothing under this roof."
"Pardon me, dear madam; you are all that is benevolent, but Singleton
requires a care which many men would feel to be irksome. It is at
moments like these, and in sufferings like this, that the soldier most
finds the want of female tenderness." As he spoke, he turned his eyes on
Frances with an expression that again thrilled to the heart of his
mistress; she rose from her seat with burning cheeks, and said,--
"All the attention that can with propriety be given to a stranger, will
be cheerfully bestowed on your friend."
"Ah!" cried the major, shaking his head, "that cold word propriety will
kill him; he must be fostered, cherished, soothed."
"These are offices for a sister or a wife."
"A sister!" repeated the soldier, the blood rushing to his own face
tumultuously; "a sister! He has a sister; and one that might be here
with to-morrow's sun." He paused, mused in silence, glanced his eyes
uneasily at Frances, and muttered in an undertone, "Singleton requires
it, and it must be done."
The ladies had watched his varying countenance in some surprise, and
Miss Peyton now observed that,--
"If there were a sister of Captain Singleton near them, her presence
would be gladly requested both by herself and nieces."
"It must be, madam; it cannot well be otherwise," replied Dunwoodie,
with a hesitation that but ill agreed with his former declarations. "She
shall be sent for express this very night." And then, as if willing to
change the subject, he approached Captain Wharton, and continued,
"Henry Wharton, to me honor is dearer than life; but in your hands I
know it can safely be confided. Remain here unwatched until we leave the
county, which will not be for some days."
The distance in the manner of the English officer vanished, and taking
the offered hand of the other, he replied with warmth, "Your generous
confidence, Peyton, will not be abused, even though the gibbet on which
your Washington hung Andre be ready for my own execution."
"Henry, Henry Wharton," said Dunwoodie reproachfully, "you little know
the man who leads our armies, or you would have spared him that
reproach; but duty calls me without. I leave you where I could wish to
stay myself, and where you cannot be wholly unhappy."
In passing Frances, she received another of those smiling looks of
affection she so much prized, and for a season the impression made by
his appearance after the battle was forgotten.
Among the veterans that had been impelled by the times to abandon the
quiet of age for the service of their country, was Colonel Singleton. He
was a native of Georgia, and had been for the earlier years of his life
a soldier by profession. When the struggle for liberty commenced, he
offered his services to his country, and from respect to his character
they had been accepted. His years and health had, however, prevented his
discharging the active duties of the field, and he had been kept in
command of different posts of trust, where his country might receive the
benefits of his vigilance and fidelity without inconvenience to himself.
For the last year he had been intrusted with the passes into the
Highlands, and was now quartered, with his daughter, but a short day's
march above the valley where Dunwoodie had met the enemy. His only other
child was the wounded officer we have mentioned. Thither, then, the
major prepared to dispatch a messenger with the unhappy news of the
captain's situation, and charged with such an invitation from the ladies
as he did not doubt would speedily bring the sister to the couch of
This duty performed, though with an unwillingness that only could make
his former anxiety more perplexing, Dunwoodie proceeded to the field
where his troops had halted. The remnant of the English were already to
be seen, over the tops of the trees, marching along the heights towards
their boats, in compact order and with great watchfulness. The
detachment of the dragoons under Lawton were a short distance on their
flank, eagerly awaiting a favorable moment to strike a blow. In this
manner both parties were soon lost to view.
A short distance above the Locusts was a small hamlet where several
roads intersected each other, and from which, consequently, access to
the surrounding country was easy. It was a favorite halting place of the
horse, and frequently held by the light parties of the American army
during their excursions below. Dunwoodie had been the first to discover
its advantages, and as it was necessary for him to remain in the county
until further orders from above, it cannot be supposed he overlooked
them now. To this place the troops were directed to retire, carrying
with them their wounded; parties were already employed in the sad duty
of interring the dead. In making these arrangements, a new object of
embarrassment presented itself to our young soldier. In moving through
the field, he was struck with the appearance of Colonel Wellmere, seated
by himself, brooding over his misfortunes, uninterrupted by anything but
the passing civilities of the American officers. His anxiety on behalf
of Singleton had hitherto banished the recollection of his captive from
the mind of Dunwoodie, and he now approached him with apologies for his
neglect. The Englishman received his courtesies with coolness, and
complained of being injured by what he affected to think was the
accidental stumbling of his horse. Dunwoodie, who had seen one of his
own men ride him down, and that with very little ceremony, slightly
smiled, as he offered him surgical assistance. This could only be
procured at the cottage, and thither they both proceeded.
"Colonel Wellmere!" cried young Wharton in astonishment as they entered,
"has the fortune of war been thus cruel to you also? But you are welcome
to the house of my father, although I could wish the introduction to
have taken place under more happy circumstances."
Mr. Wharton received this new guest with the guarded caution that
distinguished his manner, and Dunwoodie left the room to seek the
bedside of his friend. Everything here looked propitious, and he
acquainted the surgeon that another patient waited his skill in the room
below. The sound of the word was enough to set the doctor in motion, and
seizing his implements of office, he went in quest of this new
applicant. At the door of the parlor he was met by the ladies, who were
retiring. Miss Peyton detained him for a moment, to inquire into the
welfare of Captain Singleton. Frances smiled with something of natural
archness of manner, as she contemplated the grotesque appearance of the
bald-headed practitioner; but Sarah was too much agitated, with the
surprise of the unexpected interview with the British colonel, to
observe him. It has already been intimated that Colonel Wellmere was an
old acquaintance of the family. Sarah had been so long absent from the
city, that she had in some measure been banished from the remembrance of
the gentleman; but the recollections of Sarah were more vivid. There is
a period in the life of every woman when she may be said to be
predisposed to love; it is at the happy age when infancy is lost in
opening maturity--when the guileless heart beats with those
anticipations of life which the truth can never realize--and when the
imagination forms images of perfection that are copied after its own
unsullied visions. At this happy age Sarah left the city, and she had
brought with her a picture of futurity, faintly impressed, it is true,
but which gained durability from her solitude, and in which Wellmere had
been placed in the foreground. The surprise of the meeting had in some
measure overpowered her, and after receiving the salutations of the
colonel, she had risen, in compliance with a signal from her observant
aunt, to withdraw.
"Then, sir," observed Miss Peyton, after listening to the surgeon's
account of his young patient, "we may be flattered with the expectation
that he will recover."
"'Tis certain, madam," returned the doctor, endeavoring, out of respect
to the ladies, to replace his wig; "'tis certain, with care and
"In those he shall not be wanting," said the spinster, mildly.
"Everything we have he can command, and Major Dunwoodie has dispatched
an express for his sister."
"His sister!" echoed the practitioner, with a meaning look. "If the
major has sent for her, she will come."
"Her brother's danger would induce her, one would imagine."
"No doubt, madam," continued the doctor, laconically, bowing low, and
giving room to the ladies to pass. The words and the manner were not
lost on the younger sister, in whose presence the name of Dunwoodie was
never mentioned unheeded.
"Sir," cried Dr. Sitgreaves, on entering the parlor, addressing himself
to the only coat of scarlet in the room, "I am advised you are in want
of my aid. God send 'tis not Captain Lawton with whom you came in
contact, in which case I may be too late."
"There must be some mistake, sir," said Wellmere, haughtily. "It was a
surgeon that Major Dunwoodie was to send me, and not an old woman."
"'Tis Dr. Sitgreaves," said Henry Wharton, quickly, though with
difficulty suppressing a laugh. "The multitude of his engagements,
to-day, has prevented his usual attention to his attire."
"Your pardon, sir," added Wellmere, very ungraciously proceeding to lay
aside his coat, and exhibit what he called a wounded arm.
"If, sir," said the surgeon dryly, "the degrees of Edinburgh--walking
your London hospitals--amputating some hundreds of limbs--operating on
the human frame in every shape that is warranted by the lights of
science, a clear conscience, and the commission of the Continental
Congress, can make a surgeon, I am one."
"Your pardon, sir," repeated the colonel stiffly. "Captain Wharton has
accounted for my error."
"For which I thank Captain Wharton," said the surgeon, proceeding coolly
to arrange his amputating instruments, with a formality that made the
colonel's blood run cold. "Where are you hurt, sir? What! is it then
this scratch in your shoulder? In what manner might you have received
this wound, sir?"
"From the sword of a rebel dragoon," said the colonel, with emphasis.
"Never. Even the gentle George Singleton would not have breathed on you
so harmlessly." He took a piece of sticking plaster from his pocket, and
applied it to the part. "There, sir; that will answer your purpose, and
I am certain it is all that is required of me."
"What do you take to be my purpose, then, sir?"
"To report yourself wounded in your dispatches," replied the doctor,
with great steadiness; "and you may say that an old woman dressed your
hurts--for if one did not, one easily might!"
"Very extraordinary language," muttered the Englishman.
Here Captain Wharton interfered; and, by explaining the mistake of
Colonel Wellmere to proceed from his irritated mind and pain of body, he
in part succeeded in mollifying the insulted practitioner, who consented
to look further into the hurts of the other. They were chiefly bruises
from his fall, to which Sitgreaves made some hasty applications,
The horse, having taken their required refreshment, prepared to fall
back to their intended position, and it became incumbent on Dunwoodie to
arrange the disposal of his prisoners. Sitgreaves he determined to leave
in the cottage of Mr. Wharton, in attendance on Captain Singleton.
Henry came to him with a request that Colonel Wellmere might also be
left behind, under his parole, until the troops marched higher into the
country. To this the major cheerfully assented; and as all the rest of
the prisoners were of the vulgar herd, they were speedily collected,
and, under the care of a strong guard, ordered to the interior. The
dragoons soon after marched; and the guides, separating in small
parties, accompanied by patrols from the horse, spread themselves across
the country, in such a manner as to make a chain of sentinels from the
waters of the Sound to those of the Hudson. [Footnote: The scene of this
tale is between these two waters, which are but a few miles from
Dunwoodie had lingered in front of the cottage, after he paid his
parting compliments, with an unwillingness to return, that he thought
proceeded from his solicitude for his wounded friends. The heart which
has not become callous, soon sickens with the glory that has been
purchased with a waste of human life. Peyton Dunwoodie, left to himself,
and no longer excited by the visions which youthful ardor had kept
before him throughout the day, began to feel there were other ties than
those which bound the soldier within the rigid rules of honor. He did
not waver in his duty, yet he felt how strong was the temptation. His
blood had ceased to flow with the impulse created by the battle. The
stern expression of his eye gradually gave place to a look of softness;
and his reflections on the victory brought with them no satisfaction
that compensated for the sacrifices by which it had been purchased.
While turning his last lingering gaze on the Locusts, he remembered only
that it contained all that he most valued. The friend of his youth was a
prisoner, under circumstances that endangered both life and honor. The
gentle companion of his toils, who could throw around the rude
enjoyments of a soldier the graceful mildness of peace, lay a bleeding
victim to his success. The image of the maid who had held, during the
day, a disputed sovereignty in his bosom, again rose to his view with a
loveliness that banished her rival, glory, from his mind.
The last lagging trooper of the corps had already disappeared behind the
northern hill, and the major unwillingly turned his horse in the same
direction. Frances, impelled by a restless inquietude, now timidly
ventured on the piazza of the cottage. The day had been mild and clear,
and the sun was shining brightly in a cloudless sky. The tumult, which
so lately disturbed the valley, was succeeded by the stillness of death,
and the fair scene before her looked as if it had never been marred by
the passions of men. One solitary cloud, the collected smoke of the
contest, hung over the field; and this was gradually dispersing, leaving
no vestige of the conflict above the peaceful graves of its victims. All
the conflicting feelings, all the tumultuous circumstances of the
eventful day, appeared like the deceptions of a troubled vision. Frances
turned, and caught a glimpse of the retreating figure of him who had
been so conspicuous an actor in the scene, and the illusion vanished.
She recognized her lover, and, with the truth, came other recollections
that drove her to the room, with a heart as sad as that which Dunwoodie
himself bore from the valley.
A moment gazed adown the dale,
A moment snuffed the tainted gale,
A moment listened to the cry,
That thickened as the chase drew nigh;
Then, as the headmost foe appeared,
With one brave bound the copse he cleared,
And, stretching forward free and far,
Sought the wild heaths of Uam-Var.
--_Lady of the Lake._
The party under Captain Lawton had watched the retiring foe to his boats
with the most unremitting vigilance, without finding any fit opening for
a charge. The experienced successor of Colonel Wellmere knew too well
the power of his enemy to leave the uneven surface of the heights, until
compelled to descend to the level of the water. Before he attempted this
hazardous movement, he threw his men into a compact square, with its
outer edges bristling with bayonets. In this position, the impatient
trooper well understood that brave men could never be assailed by
cavalry with success, and he was reluctantly obliged to hover near them,
without seeing any opportunity of stopping their slow but steady march
to the beach. A small schooner, which had been their convoy from the
city, lay with her guns bearing on the place of embarkation. Against
this combination of force and discipline, Lawton had sufficient prudence
to see it would be folly to contend, and the English were suffered to
embark without molestation. The dragoons lingered on the shore till the
last moment, and then they reluctantly commenced their own retreat back
to the main body of the corps.
The gathering mists of the evening had begun to darken the valley, as
the detachment of Lawton made its reappearance, at its southern
extremity. The march of the troops was slow, and their line extended for
the benefit of ease. In the front rode the captain, side by side with
his senior subaltern, apparently engaged in close conference, while the
rear was brought up by a young cornet, humming an air, and thinking of
the sweets of a straw bed after the fatigues of a hard day's duty.
"Then it struck you too?" said the captain. "The instant I placed my
eyes on her I remembered the face; it is one not easily forgotten. By my
faith, Tom, the girl does no discredit to the major's taste."
"She would do honor to the corps," replied the lieutenant, with some
warmth. "Those blue eyes might easily win a man to gentler employments
than this trade of ours. In sober truth, I can easily imagine such a
girl might tempt even me to quit the broadsword and saddle, for a
darning-needle and pillion."
"Mutiny, sir, mutiny," cried the other, laughing. "What, you, Tom Mason,
dare to rival the gay, admired, and withal rich, Major Dunwoodie in his
love! You, a lieutenant of cavalry, with but one horse, and he none of
the best! whose captain is as tough as a pepperidge log, and has as many
lives as a cat!"
"Faith," said the subaltern, smiling in his turn, "the log may yet be
split, and grimalkin lose his lives, if you often charge as madly as you
did this morning. What think you of many raps from such a beetle as laid
you on your back to-day?"
"Ah! don't mention it, my good Tom; the thought makes my head ache,"
replied the other, shrugging up his shoulders. "It is what I call
"The night of death?"
"No, sir, the night that follows day. I saw myriads of stars, things
which should hide their faces in the presence of the lordly sun. I do
think nothing but this thick cap saved me for your comfort a little
longer, mauger the cat's lives."
"I have much reason to be obliged to the cap," said Mason dryly. "That
or the skull must have had a reasonable portion of thickness, I admit."
"Come, come, Tom, you are a licensed joker, so I'll not feign anger with
you," returned the captain, good-humoredly. "But Singleton's lieutenant,
I am fearful, will fare better than yourself for this day's service."
"I believe both of us will be spared the pain of receiving promotion
purchased by the death of a comrade and friend," observed Mason kindly.
"It was reported that Sitgreaves said he would live."
"From my soul I hope so," exclaimed Lawton. "For a beardless face, that
boy carries the stoutest heart I have ever met with. It surprises me,
however, that as we both fell at the same instant, the men behaved
"For the compliment, I might thank you," cried the lieutenant with a
laugh; "but modesty forbids. I did my best to stop them, but
"Stop them!" roared the captain. "Would you stop men in the middle of a
"I thought they were going the wrong way," answered the subaltern.
"Ah! our fall drove them to the right about?"
"It was either your fall, or apprehensions of their own; until the major
rallied us, we were in admirable disorder."
"Dunwoodie! the major was on the crupper of the Dutchman."
"Ah! but he managed to get off the crupper of the Dutchman. He came in,
at half speed, with the other two troops, and riding between us and the
enemy, with that imperative way he has when roused, brought us in line
in the twinkling of an eye. Then it was," added the lieutenant, with
animation, "that we sent John Bull to the bushes. Oh! it was a sweet
charge--heads and tails, until we were upon them."
"The devil! What a sight I missed!"
"You slept through it all."
"Yes," returned the other, with a sigh; "it was all lost to me and poor
George Singleton. But, Tom, what will George's sister say to this
fair-haired maiden, in yonder white building?"
"Hang herself in her garters," said the subaltern. "I owe a proper
respect to my superiors, but two such angels are more than justly falls
to the share of one man, unless he be a Turk or a Hindoo."
"Yes, yes," said the captain, quickly, "the major is ever preaching
morality to the youngsters, but he is a sly fellow in the main. Do you
observe how fond he is of the cross roads above this valley? Now, if I
were to halt the troops twice in the same place, you would all swear
there was a petticoat in the wind."
"You are well known to the corps."
"Well, Tom, a slanderous propensity is incurable--but," stretching
forward his body in the direction he was gazing, as if to aid him in
distinguishing objects through the darkness, "what animal is moving
through the field on our right?"
"'Tis a man," said Mason, looking intently at the suspicious object.
"By his hump 'tis a dromedary!" added the captain, eying it keenly.
Wheeling his horse suddenly from the highway he exclaimed, "Harvey
Birch!--take him, dead or alive!"
Mason and a few of the leading dragoons only understood the sudden cry,
but it was heard throughout the line. A dozen of the men, with the
lieutenant at their head, followed the impetuous Lawton, and their speed
threatened the pursued with a sudden termination of the race.
Birch prudently kept his position on the rock, where he had been seen by
the passing glance of Henry Wharton, until evening had begun to shroud
the surrounding objects in darkness. From this height he had seen all
the events of the day, as they occurred. He had watched with a beating
heart the departure of the troops under Dunwoodie, and with difficulty
had curbed his impatience until the obscurity of night should render his
moving free from danger. He had not, however, completed a fourth of his
way to his own residence, when his quick ear distinguished the tread of
the approaching horse. Trusting to the increasing darkness, he
determined to persevere. By crouching and moving quickly along the
surface of the ground, he hoped yet to escape unseen. Captain Lawton was
too much engrossed with the foregoing conversation to suffer his eyes to
indulge in their usual wandering; and the peddler, perceiving by the
voices that the enemy he most feared had passed, yielded to his
impatience, and stood erect, in order to make greater progress. The
moment his body arose above the shadow of the ground, it was seen, and
the chase commenced. For a single instant, Birch was helpless, his blood
curdling in his veins at the imminence of the danger, and his legs
refusing their natural and necessary office. But it was only for a
moment. Casting his pack where he stood, and instinctively tightening
the belt he wore, the peddler betook himself to flight. He knew that by
bringing himself in a line with his pursuers and the wood, his form
would be lost to sight. This he soon effected, and he was straining
every nerve to gain the wood itself, when several horsemen rode by him
but a short distance on his left, and cut him off from this place of
refuge. The peddler threw himself on the ground as they came near him,
and was passed unseen. But delay now became too dangerous for him to
remain in that position. He accordingly rose, and still keeping in the
shadow of the wood, along the skirts of which he heard voices crying to
each other to be watchful, he ran with incredible speed in a parallel
line, but in an opposite direction, to the march of the dragoons.
The confusion of the chase had been heard by the whole of the men,
though none distinctly understood the order of Lawton but those who
followed. The remainder were lost in doubt as to the duty that was
required of them; and the aforesaid cornet was making eager inquiries
of the trooper near him on the subject, when a man, at a short distance
in his rear, crossed the road at a single bound. At the same instant,
the stentorian voice of Lawton rang through the valley, shouting,--
"Harvey Birch--take him, dead or alive!"
Fifty pistols lighted the scene, and the bullets whistled in every
direction round the head of the devoted peddler. A feeling of despair
seized his heart, and in the bitterness of that moment he exclaimed,--
"Hunted like a beast of the forest!"
He felt life and its accompaniments to be a burden, and was about to
yield himself to his enemies. Nature, however, prevailed. If taken,
there was great reason to apprehend that he would not be honored with
the forms of a trial, but that most probably the morning sun would
witness his ignominious execution; for he had already been condemned to
death, and had only escaped that fate by stratagem. These
considerations, with the approaching footsteps of his pursuers, roused
him to new exertions. He again fled before them. A fragment of a wall,
that had withstood the ravages made by war in the adjoining fences of
wood, fortunately crossed his path. He hardly had time to throw his
exhausted limbs over this barrier, before twenty of his enemies reached
its opposite side. Their horses refused to take the leap in the dark,
and amid the confusion of the rearing chargers, and the execrations of
their riders, Birch was enabled to gain a sight of the base of the hill,
on whose summit was a place of perfect security. The heart of the
peddler now beat high with hope, when the voice of Captain Lawton again
rang in his ears, shouting to his men to make room. The order was
obeyed, and the fearless trooper rode at the wall at the top of his
horse's speed, plunged the rowels in his charger, and flew over the
obstacle in safety. The triumphant hurrahs of the men, and the
thundering tread of the horse, too plainly assured the peddler of the
emergency of his danger. He was nearly exhausted, and his fate no
longer seemed doubtful.
"Stop, or die!" was uttered above his head, and in fearful proximity to
Harvey stole a glance over his shoulder, and saw, within a bound of him,
the man he most dreaded. By the light of the stars he beheld the
uplifted arm and the threatening saber. Fear, exhaustion, and despair
seized his heart, and the intended victim fell at the feet of the
dragoon. The horse of Lawton struck the prostrate peddler, and both
steed and rider came violently to the earth.
As quick as thought, Birch was on his feet again, with the sword of the
discomfited dragoon in his hand. Vengeance seems but too natural to
human passions. There are few who have not felt the seductive pleasure
of making our injuries recoil on their authors; and yet there are some
who know how much sweeter it is to return good for evil.
All the wrongs of the peddler shone on his brain with a dazzling
brightness. For a moment the demon within him prevailed, and Birch
brandished the powerful weapon in the air; in the next, it fell harmless
on the reviving but helpless trooper. The peddler vanished up the side
of the friendly rock.
"Help Captain Lawton, there!" cried Mason, as he rode up, followed by a
dozen of his men; "and some of you dismount with me, and search these
rocks; the villain lies here concealed."
"Hold!" roared the discomfited captain, raising himself with difficulty
on his feet. "If one of you dismount, he dies. Tom, my good fellow, you
will help me to straddle Roanoke again."
The astonished subaltern complied in silence, while the wondering
dragoons remained as fixed in their saddles, as if they composed part of
the animals they rode.
"You are much hurt, I fear," said Mason, with something of condolence in
his manner, as they reentered the highway, biting off the end of a
cigar for the want of a better quality of tobacco.
"Something so, I do believe," replied the captain, catching his breath,
and speaking with difficulty. "I wish our bonesetter was at hand, to
examine into the state of my ribs."
"Sitgreaves is left in attendance on Captain Singleton, at the house of
"Then there I halt for the night, Tom. These rude times must abridge
ceremony; besides, you may remember the old gentleman professed a
kinsman's regard for the corps. I can never think of passing so good a
friend without a halt."
"And I will lead the troop to the Four Corners; if we all halt there, we
shall breed a famine in the land."
"A condition I never desire to be placed in. The idea of that graceful
spinster's cakes is no bad solace for twenty-four hours in the
"Oh! you won't die if you can think of eating," said Mason, with a
"I should surely die if I could not," observed the captain, gravely.
"Captain Lawton," said the orderly of his troop, riding to the side of
his commanding officer, "we are now passing the house of the peddler
spy; is it your pleasure that we burn it?"
"No!" roared the captain, in a voice that startled the disappointed
sergeant. "Are you an incendiary? Would you burn a house in cold blood?
Let but a spark approach, and the hand that carries it will never
"Zounds!" muttered the sleepy cornet in the rear, as he was nodding on
his horse, "there is life in the captain, notwithstanding his tumble."
Lawton and Mason rode on in silence, the latter ruminating on the
wonderful change produced in his commander by his fall, when they
arrived opposite to the gate before the residence of Mr. Wharton. The
troop continued its march; but the captain and his lieutenant
dismounted, and, followed by the servant of the former, they proceeded
slowly to the door of the cottage.
Colonel Wellmere had already sought a retreat in his own room; Mr.
Wharton and his son were closeted by themselves; and the ladies were
administering the refreshments of the tea table to the surgeon of the
dragoons, who had seen one of his patients in his bed, and the other
happily enjoying the comforts of a sweet sleep. A few natural inquiries
from Miss Peyton had opened the soul of the doctor, who knew every
individual of her extensive family connection in Virginia, and who even
thought it possible that he had seen the lady herself. The amiable
spinster smiled as she felt it to be improbable that she should ever
have met her new acquaintance before, and not remember his
singularities. It however greatly relieved the embarrassment of their
situation, and something like a discourse was maintained between them;
the nieces were only listeners, nor could the aunt be said to be
"As I was observing, Miss Peyton, it was merely the noxious vapors of
the lowlands that rendered the plantation of your brother an unfit
residence for man; but quadrupeds were--"
"Bless me, what's that?" said Miss Peyton, turning pale at the report of
the pistols fired at Birch.
"It sounds prodigiously like the concussion on the atmosphere made by
the explosion of firearms," said the surgeon, sipping his tea with great
indifference. "I should imagine it to be the troop of Captain Lawton
returning, did I not know the captain never uses the pistol, and that he
dreadfully abuses the saber."
"Merciful providence!" exclaimed the agitated maiden, "he would not
injure one with it, certainly."
"Injure!" repeated the other quickly. "It is certain death, madam; the
most random blows imaginable; all that I can say to him will have no
"But Captain Lawton is the officer we saw this morning, and is surely
your friend," said Frances, hastily, observing her aunt to be seriously
"I find no fault with his want of friendship; the man is well enough if
he would learn to cut scientifically. All trades, madam, ought to be
allowed to live; but what is to become of a surgeon, if his patients are
dead before he sees them!"
The doctor continued haranguing on the probability and improbability of
its being the returning troop, until a loud knock at the door gave new
alarm to the ladies. Instinctively laying his hand on a small saw, that
had been his companion for the whole day, in the vain expectation of an
amputation, the surgeon, coolly assuring the ladies that he would stand
between them and danger, proceeded in person to answer the summons.
"Captain Lawton!" exclaimed the surgeon, as he beheld the trooper
leaning on the arm of his subaltern, and with difficulty crossing the
"Ah! my dear bonesetter, is it you? You are here very fortunately to
inspect my carcass; but do lay aside that rascally saw!"
A few words from Mason explained the nature and manner of his captain's
hurts, and Miss Peyton cheerfully accorded the required accommodations.
While the room intended for the trooper was getting ready, and the
doctor was giving certain portentous orders, the captain was invited to
rest himself in the parlor. On the table was a dish of more substantial
food than ordinarily adorned the afternoon's repast, and it soon caught
the attention of the dragoons. Miss Peyton, recollecting that they had
probably made their only meal that day at her own table, kindly invited
them to close it with another. The offer required no pressing, and in a
few minutes the two were comfortably seated, and engaged in an
employment that was only interrupted by an occasional wry face from the
captain, who moved his body in evident pain. These interruptions,
however, interfered but little with the principal business in hand; and
the captain had got happily through with this important duty, before the
surgeon returned to announce all things ready for his accommodation in
the room above stairs.
"Eating!" cried the astonished physician. "Captain Lawton, do you wish
"I have no particular ambition that way," said the trooper, rising, and
bowing good night to the ladies, "and, therefore, have been providing
materials necessary to preserve life."
The surgeon muttered his dissatisfaction, while he followed Mason and
the captain from the apartment.
Every house in America had, at that day, what was emphatically called
its best room, and this had been allotted, by the unseen influence of
Sarah, to Colonel Wellmere. The down counterpane, which a clear frosty
night would render extremely grateful over bruised limbs, decked the
English officer's bed. A massive silver tankard, richly embossed with
the Wharton arms, held the beverage he was to drink during the night;
while beautiful vessels of china performed the same office for the two
American captains. Sarah was certainly unconscious of the silent
preference she had been giving to the English officer; and it is equally
certain, that but for his hurts, bed, tankard, and everything but the
beverage would have been matters of indifference to Captain Lawton, half
of whose nights were spent in his clothes, and not a few of them in the
saddle. After taking possession, however, of a small but very
comfortable room, Doctor Sitgreaves proceeded to inquire into the state
of his injuries. He had begun to pass his hand over the body of his
patient, when the latter cried impatiently,--
"Sitgreaves, do me the favor to lay that rascally saw aside, or I shall
have recourse to my saber in self-defense; the sight of it makes my
"Captain Lawton, for a man who has so often exposed life and limb, you
are unaccountably afraid of a very useful instrument."
"Heaven keep me from its use," said the trooper, with a shrug.
"You would not despise the lights of science, nor refuse surgical aid,
because this saw might be necessary?"
"Yes; you shall never joint me like a quarter of beef, while I have life
to defend myself," cried the resolute dragoon. "But I grow sleepy; are
any of my ribs broken?"
"Any of my bones?"
"Tom, I'll thank you for that pitcher." As he ended his draft, he very
deliberately turned his back on his companions, and good-naturedly
cried, "Good night, Mason; good night, Galen."
Captain Lawton entertained a profound respect for the surgical abilities
of his comrade, but he was very skeptical on the subject of
administering internally for the ailings of the human frame. With a full
stomach, a stout heart, and a clear conscience, he often maintained that
a man might bid defiance to the world and its vicissitudes. Nature
provided him with the second, and, to say the truth, he strove manfully
himself to keep up the other two requisites in his creed. It was a
favorite maxim with him, that the last thing death assailed was the
eyes, and next to the last, the jaws. This he interpreted to be a clear
expression of the intention of nature, that every man might regulate, by
his own volition, whatever was to be admitted into the sanctuary of his
mouth; consequently, if the guest proved unpalatable, he had no one to
blame but himself. The surgeon, who was well acquainted with these views
of his patient, beheld him, as he cavalierly turned his back on Mason
and himself, with a commiserating contempt, replaced in their leathern
repository the phials he had exhibited, with a species of care that was
allied to veneration, gave the saw, as he concluded, a whirl of triumph,
and departed, without condescending to notice the compliment of the
trooper. Mason, finding, by the breathing of the captain, that his own
good night would be unheard, hastened to pay his respects to the
ladies--after which he mounted and followed the troop at the top of his
On some fond breast the parting soul relies,
Some pious drops the closing eye requires,
E'en from the tomb the voice of nature cries,
E'en in our ashes live their wonted fires.
The possessions of Mr. Wharton extended to some distance on each side of
the house in which he dwelt, and most of his land was unoccupied. A few
scattered dwellings were to be seen in different parts of his domains,
but they were fast falling to decay, and were untenanted. The proximity
of the country to the contending armies had nearly banished the pursuits
of agriculture from the land. It was useless for the husbandman to
devote his time and the labor of his hands, to obtain overflowing
garners, that the first foraging party would empty. None tilled the
earth with any other view than to provide the scanty means of
subsistence, except those who were placed so near to one of the adverse
parties as to be safe from the inroads of the light troops of the other.
To these the war offered a golden harvest, more especially to such as
enjoyed the benefits of an access to the royal army. Mr. Wharton did not
require the use of his lands for the purposes of subsistence; and he
willingly adopted the guarded practice of the day, limiting his
attention to such articles as were soon to be consumed within his own
walls, or could be easily secreted from the prying eyes of the
foragers. In consequence, the ground on which the action was fought had
not a single inhabited building, besides the one belonging to the father
of Harvey Birch. This house stood between the place where the cavalry
had met, and that where the charge had been made on the party
To Katy Haynes it had been a day fruitful of incidents. The prudent
housekeeper had kept her political feelings in a state of rigid
neutrality; her own friends had espoused the cause of the country, but
the maiden herself never lost sight of that important moment, when, like
females of more illustrious hopes, she might be required to sacrifice
her love of country on the altar of domestic harmony. And yet,
notwithstanding all her sagacity, there were moments when the good woman
had grievous doubts into which scale she ought to throw the weight of
her eloquence, in order to be certain of supporting the cause favored by
the peddler. There was so much that was equivocal in his movements and
manner, that often, when, in the privacy of their household, she was
about to offer a philippic on Washington and his followers, discretion
sealed her mouth, and distrust beset her mind. In short, the whole
conduct of the mysterious being she studied was of a character to
distract the opinions of one who took a more enlarged view of men and
life than came within the competency of his housekeeper.
The battle of the Plains had taught the cautious Washington the
advantages his enemy possessed in organization, arms, and discipline.
These were difficulties to be mastered by his own vigilance and care.
Drawing off his troops to the heights, in the northern part of the
county, he had bidden defiance to the attacks of the royal army, and Sir
William Howe fell back to the enjoyment of his barren conquest--a
deserted city. Never afterwards did the opposing armies make the trial
of strength within the limits of Westchester; yet hardly a day passed,
that the partisans did not make their inroads; or a sun rise, that the
inhabitants were spared the relation of excesses which the preceding
darkness had served to conceal. Most of the movements of the peddler
were made at the hours which others allotted to repose. The evening sun
would frequently leave him at one extremity of the county, and the
morning find him at the other. His pack was his never-failing companion;
and there were those who closely studied him, in his moments of traffic,
and thought his only purpose was the accumulation of gold. He would be
often seen near the Highlands, with a body bending under its load; and
again near the Harlem River, traveling with lighter steps, with his face
towards the setting sun. But these glances at him were uncertain and
fleeting. The intermediate time no eye could penetrate. For months he
disappeared, and no traces of his course were ever known.
Strong parties held the heights of Harlem, and the northern end of
Manhattan Island was bristling with the bayonets of the English
sentinels, yet the peddler glided among them unnoticed and uninjured.
His approaches to the American lines were also frequent; but generally
so conducted as to baffle pursuit. Many a sentinel, placed in the gorges
of the mountains, spoke of a strange figure that had been seen gliding
by them in the mists of the evening. These stories reached the ears of
the officers, and, as we have related, in two instances the trader had
fallen into the hands of the Americans. The first time he had escaped
from Lawton, shortly after his arrest; but the second he was condemned
to die. On the morning of his intended execution, the cage was opened,
but the bird had flown. This extraordinary escape had been made from the
custody of a favorite officer of Washington, and sentinels who had been
thought worthy to guard the person of the commander in chief. Bribery
and treason could not be imputed to men so well esteemed, and the
opinion gained ground among the common soldiery, that the peddler had
dealings with the dark one. Katy, however, always repelled this opinion
with indignation; for within the recesses of her own bosom, the
housekeeper, in ruminating on the events, concluded that the evil
spirit did not pay in gold. Nor, continued the wary spinster in her
cogitations, does Washington; paper and promises were all that the
leader of the American troops could dispense to his servants. After the
alliance with France, when silver became more abundant in the country,
although the scrutinizing eyes of Katy never let any opportunity of
examining into the deerskin purse pass unimproved, she was never able to
detect the image of Louis intruding into the presence of the well-known
countenance of George III. In short, the secret hoard of Harvey
sufficiently showed in its contents that all its contributions had been
received from the British.
The house of Birch had been watched at different times by the Americans,
with a view to his arrest, but never with success; the reputed spy
possessing a secret means of intelligence, that invariably defeated
their schemes. Once, when a strong body of the continental army held the
Four Corners for a whole summer, orders had been received from
Washington himself, never to leave the door of Harvey Birch unwatched.
The command was rigidly obeyed, and during this long period the peddler
was unseen; the detachment was withdrawn, and the following night Birch
reentered his dwelling. The father of Harvey had been greatly molested,
in consequence of the suspicious character of the son. But,
notwithstanding the most minute scrutiny into the conduct of the old
man, no fact could be substantiated against him to his injury, and his
property was too small to keep alive the zeal of patriots by profession.
Its confiscation and purchase would not have rewarded their trouble. Age
and sorrow were now about to spare him further molestation, for the lamp
of life had been drained of its oil. The recent separation of the father
and son had been painful, but they had submitted in obedience to what
both thought a duty. The old man had kept his dying situation a secret
from the neighborhood, in the hope that he might still have the company
of his child in his last moments. The confusion of the day, and his
increasing dread that Harvey might be too late, helped to hasten the
event he would fain arrest for a little while. As night set in, his
illness increased to such a degree, that the dismayed housekeeper sent a
truant boy, who had shut up himself with them during the combat, to the
Locusts, in quest of a companion to cheer her solitude. Caesar, alone,
could be spared, and, loaded with eatables and cordials by the
kind-hearted Miss Peyton, the black had been dispatched on his duty. The
dying man was past the use of medicines, and his chief anxiety seemed to
center in a meeting with his child. The noise of the chase had been
heard by the group in the house, but its cause was not understood; and
as both the black and Katy were apprised of the detachment of American
horse being below them, they supposed it to proceed from the return of
that party. They heard the dragoons, as they moved slowly by the
building; but in compliance with the prudent injunction of the black,
the housekeeper forbore to indulge her curiosity. The old man had closed
his eyes, and his attendants believed him to be asleep. The house
contained two large rooms and as many small ones. One of the former
served for kitchen and sitting room; in the other lay the father of
Birch; of the latter, one was the sanctuary of the vestal, and the other
contained the stock of provisions. A huge chimney of stone rose in the
center, serving, of itself, for a partition between the larger rooms;
and fireplaces of corresponding dimensions were in each apartment. A
bright flame was burning in that of the common room, and within the very
jambs of its monstrous jaws sat Caesar and Katy, at the time of which we
write. The African was impressing his caution on the housekeeper, and
commenting on the general danger of indulging an idle curiosity.
"Best nebber tempt a Satan," said Caesar, rolling up his eyes till the
whites glistened by the glare of the fire. "I berry like heself to lose
an ear for carrying a little bit of a letter; dere much mischief come of
curiosity. If dere had nebber been a man curious to see Africa, dere
would be no color people out of dere own country; but I wish Harvey
"It is very disregardful in him to be away at such a time," said Katy,
imposingly. "Suppose now his father wanted to make his last will in the
testament, who is there to do so solemn and awful an act for him? Harvey
is a very wasteful and very disregardful man!"
"Perhap he make him afore?"
"It would not be a wonderment if he had," returned the housekeeper; "he
is whole days looking into the Bible."
"Then he read a berry good book," said the black solemnly. "Miss Fanny
read in him to Dinah now and den."
"You are right, Caesar. The Bible is the best of books, and one that
reads it as often as Harvey's father should have the best of reasons for
so doing. This is no more than common sense."
She rose from her seat, and stealing softly to a chest of drawers in the
room of the sick man, she took from it a large Bible, heavily bound, and
secured with strong clasps of brass, with which she returned to the
negro. The volume was eagerly opened, and they proceeded instantly to
examine its pages. Katy was far from an expert scholar, and to Caesar
the characters were absolutely strangers. For some time the housekeeper
was occupied in finding out the word Matthew, in which she had no sooner
succeeded than she pointed out the word, with great complacency, to the
"Berry well, now look him t'rough," said the black, peeping over the
housekeeper's shoulder, as he held a long lank candle of yellow tallow,
in such a manner as to throw its feeble light on the volume.
"Yes, but I must begin with the very beginning of the book," replied the
other, turning the leaves carefully back, until, moving two at once,
she lighted upon a page covered with writing. "Here," said the
housekeeper, shaking with the eagerness of expectation, "here are the
very words themselves; now I would give the world itself to know whom he
has left the big silver shoe buckles to."
"Read 'em," said Caesar, laconically.
"And the black walnut drawers; for Harvey could never want furniture of
that quality, as long as he is a bachelor!"
"Why he no want 'em as well as he fader?"
"And the six silver tablespoons; Harvey always uses the iron!"
"P'r'ap he say, without so much talk," returned the sententious black,
pointing one of his crooked and dingy fingers at the open volume.
Thus repeatedly advised, and impelled by her own curiosity, Katy began
to read. Anxious to come to the part which most interested herself, she
dipped at once into the center of the subject.
"_Chester Birch, born September 1st, 1755,_"--read the spinster, with a
deliberation that did no great honor to her scholarship.
"Well, what he gib him?"
"_Abigail Birch, born July 12th, 1757,_" continued the housekeeper, in
the same tone.
"I t'ink he ought to gib her 'e spoon."
"_June 1st, 1760. On this awful day, the judgment of an offended God
lighted on my house._" A heavy groan from the adjoining room made the
spinster instinctively close the volume, and Caesar, for a moment, shook
with fear. Neither possessed sufficient resolution to go and examine the
condition of the sufferer, but his heavy breathing continued as usual.
Katy dared not, however, reopen the Bible, and carefully securing its
clasps, it was laid on the table in silence. Caesar took his chair
again, and after looking timidly round the room, remarked,--
"I t'ought he time war' come!"
"No," said Katy, solemnly, "he will live till the tide is out, or the
first cock crows in the morning."
"Poor man!" continued the black, nestling still farther into the chimney
corner, "I hope he lay quiet after he die."
"'Twould be no astonishment to me if he didn't; for they say an unquiet
life makes an uneasy grave."
"Johnny Birch a berry good man in he way. All mankind can't be a
minister; for if he do, who would be a congregation?"
"Ah! Caesar, he is good only who does good. Can you tell me why honestly
gotten gold should be hidden in the bowels of the earth?"
"Grach!--I t'ink it must be to keep t'e Skinner from findin' him; if he
know where he be, why don't he dig him up?"
"There may be reasons not comprehensible to you," said Katy, moving her
chair so that her clothes covered the charmed stone, underneath which
lay the secret treasures of the peddler, unable to refrain from speaking
of what she would have been very unwilling to reveal; "but a rough
outside often holds a smooth inside." Caesar stared around the building,
unable to fathom the hidden meaning of his companion, when his roving
eyes suddenly became fixed, and his teeth chattered with affright. The
change in the countenance of the black was instantly perceived by Katy,
and turning her face, she saw the peddler himself, standing within the
door of the room.
"Is he alive?" asked Birch, tremulously, and seemingly afraid to receive
"Surely," said Katy, rising hastily, and officiously offering her chair.
"He must live till day, or till the tide is down."
Disregarding all but the fact that his father still lived, the peddler
stole gently into the room of his dying parent. The tie which bound the
father and son was of no ordinary kind. In the wide world they were all
to each other. Had Katy but read a few lines further in the record, she
would have seen the sad tale of their misfortunes. At one blow
competence and kindred had been swept from them, and from that day to
the present hour, persecution and distress had followed their wandering
steps. Approaching the bedside, Harvey leaned his body forward, and, in
a voice nearly choked by his feelings, he whispered near the ear of
"Father, do you know me?"
The parent slowly opened his eyes, and a smile of satisfaction passed
over his pallid features, leaving behind it the impression of death,
more awful by the contrast. The peddler gave a restorative he had
brought with him to the parched lips of the sick man, and for a few
minutes new vigor seemed imparted to his frame. He spoke, but slowly,
and with difficulty. Curiosity kept Katy silent; awe had the same effect
on Caesar; and Harvey seemed hardly to breathe, as he listened to the
language of the departing spirit.
"My son," said the father in a hollow voice, "God is as merciful as He
is just; if I threw the cup of salvation from my lips when a youth, He
graciously offers it to me in mine age. He has chastised to purify, and
I go to join the spirits of our lost family. In a little while, my
child, you will be alone. I know you too well not to foresee you will be
a pilgrim through life. The bruised reed may endure, but it will never
rise. You have that within you, Harvey, that will guide you aright;
persevere as you have begun, for the duties of life are never to be
neglected and"--a noise in the adjoining room interrupted the dying
man, and the impatient peddler hastened to learn the cause, followed by
Katy and the black. The first glance of his eye on the figure in the
doorway told the trader but too well his errand, and the fate that
probably awaited himself. The intruder was a man still young in years,
but his lineaments bespoke a mind long agitated by evil passions. His
dress was of the meanest materials, and so ragged and unseemly, as to
give him the appearance of studied poverty. His hair was prematurely
whitened, and his sunken, lowering eye avoided the bold, forward look of
innocence. There was a restlessness in his movements, and an agitation
in his manner, that proceeded from the workings of the foul spirit
within him, and which was not less offensive to others than distressing
to himself. This man was a well-known leader of one of those gangs of
marauders who infested the county with a semblance of patriotism, and
who were guilty of every grade of offense, from simple theft up to
murder. Behind him stood several other figures clad in a similar manner,
but whose countenances expressed nothing more than the indifference of
brutal insensibility. They were well armed with muskets and bayonets,
and provided with the usual implements of foot soldiers. Harvey knew
resistance to be vain, and quietly submitted to their directions. In the
twinkling of an eye both he and Caesar were stripped of their decent
garments, and made to exchange clothes with two of the filthiest of the
band. They were then placed in separate corners of the room, and, under
the muzzles of the muskets, required faithfully to answer such
interrogatories as were put to them.
"Where is your pack?" was the first question to the peddler.
"Hear me," said Birch, trembling with agitation; "in the next room is my
father, now in the agonies of death. Let me go to him, receive his
blessing, and close his eyes, and you shall have all--aye, all."
"Answer me as I put the questions, or this musket shall send you to keep
the old driveler company: where is your pack?"
"I will tell you nothing, unless you let me go to my father," said the
His persecutor raised his arm with a malicious sneer, and was about to
execute his threat, when one of his companions checked him.
"What would you do?" he said. "You surely forget the reward. Tell us
where are your goods, and you shall go to your father."
Birch complied instantly, and a man was dispatched in quest of the
booty; he soon returned, throwing the bundle on the floor, swearing it
was as light as feathers.
"Aye," cried the leader, "there must be gold somewhere for what it did
contain. Give us your gold, Mr. Birch; we know you have it; you will not
take continental, not you."
"You break your faith," said Harvey.
"Give us your gold," exclaimed the other, furiously, pricking the
peddler with his bayonet until the blood followed his pushes in streams.
At this instant a slight movement was heard in the adjoining room, and
"Let me--let me go to my father, and you shall have all."
"I swear you shall go then," said the Skinner.
"Here, take the trash," cried Birch, as he threw aside the purse, which
he had contrived to conceal, notwithstanding the change in his garments.
The robber raised it from the floor with a hellish laugh.
"Aye, but it shall be to your father in heaven."
"Monster! have you no feeling, no faith, no honesty?"
"To hear him, one would think there was not a rope around his neck
already," said the other, laughing. "There is no necessity for your
being uneasy, Mr. Birch; if the old man gets a few hours the start of
you in the journey, you will be sure to follow him before noon
This unfeeling communication had no effect on the peddler, who listened
with gasping breath to every sound from the room of his parent until he
heard his own name spoken in the hollow, sepulchral tones of death.
Birch could endure no more, but shrieking out,--
"Father! hush--father! I come--I come!" he darted by his keeper and was
the next moment pinned to the wall by the bayonet of another of the
band. Fortunately, his quick motion had caused him to escape a thrust
aimed at his life, and it was by his clothes only that he was confined.
"No, Mr. Birch," said the Skinner, "we know you too well to trust you
out of sight--your gold, your gold!"
"You have it," said the peddler, writhing with agony.
"Aye, we have the purse, but you have more purses. King George is a
prompt paymaster, and you have done him many a piece of good service.
Where is your hoard? Without it you will never see your father."
"Remove the stone underneath the woman," cried the peddler,
eagerly--"remove the stone."
"He raves! he raves!" said Katy, instinctively moving her position to a
different stone from the one on which she had been standing. In a moment
it was torn from its bed, and nothing but earth was seen beneath.
"He raves! You have driven him from his right mind," continued the
trembling spinster. "Would any man in his senses keep gold under
"Peace, babbling fool!" cried Harvey. "Lift the corner stone, and you
will find that which will make you rich, and me a beggar."
"And then you will be despisable," said the housekeeper bitterly. "A
peddler without goods and without money is sure to be despisable."
"There will be enough left to pay for his halter," cried the Skinner,
who was not slow to follow the instructions of Harvey, soon lighting
upon a store of English guineas. The money was quickly transferred to a
bag, notwithstanding the declarations of the spinster, that her dues
were unsatisfied, and that, of right, ten of the guineas were
Delighted with a prize that greatly exceeded their expectations, the
band prepared to depart, intending to take the peddler with them, in
order to give him up to the American troops above, and to claim the
reward offered for his apprehension. Everything was ready, and they were
about to lift Birch in their arms, for he resolutely refused to move an
inch, when a form appeared in their midst, which appalled the stoutest
heart among them. The father had arisen from his bed, and he tottered
forth at the cries of his son. Around his body was thrown the sheet of
the bed, and his fixed eye and haggard face gave him the appearance of a
being from another world. Even Katy and Caesar thought it was the spirit
of the elder Birch, and they fled the house, followed by the alarmed
Skinners in a body.
The excitement which had given the sick man strength, soon vanished, and
the peddler, lifting him in his arms, reconveyed him to his bed. The
reaction of the system which followed hastened to close the scene.
The glazed eye of the father was fixed upon the son; his lips moved, but
his voice was unheard. Harvey bent down, and, with the parting breath of
his parent, received his dying benediction. A life of privation, and of
wrongs, embittered most of the future hours of the peddler. But under no
sufferings, in no misfortunes, the subject of poverty and obloquy, the
remembrance of that blessing never left him; it constantly gleamed over
the images of the past, shedding a holy radiance around his saddest
hours of despondency; it cheered the prospect of the future with the
prayers of a pious spirit; and it brought the sweet assurance of having
faithfully discharged the sacred offices of filial love.
The retreat of Caesar and the spinster had been too precipitate to admit
of much calculation; yet they themselves instinctively separated from
the Skinners. After fleeing a short distance they paused, and the maiden
commenced in a solemn voice,--
"Oh! Caesar, was it not dreadful to walk before he had been laid in his
grave! It must have been the money that disturbed him; they say Captain
Kidd walks near the spot where he buried gold in the old war."
"I never t'ink Johnny Birch hab such a big eye!" said the African, his
teeth yet chattering with the fright.
"I'm sure 'twould be a botherment to a living soul to lose so much
money. Harvey will be nothing but an utterly despisable,
poverty-stricken wretch. I wonder who he thinks would even be his
"Maybe a spook take away Harvey, too," observed Caesar, moving still
nearer to the side of the maiden. But a new idea had seized the
imagination of the spinster. She thought it not improbable that the
prize had been forsaken in the confusion of the retreat; and after
deliberating and reasoning for some time with Caesar, they determined to
venture back, and ascertain this important fact, and, if possible, learn
what had been the fate of the peddler. Much time was spent in cautiously
approaching the dreaded spot; and as the spinster had sagaciously placed
herself in the line of the retreat of the Skinners, every stone was
examined in the progress in search of abandoned gold. But although the
suddenness of the alarm and the cry of Caesar had impelled the
freebooters to so hasty a retreat, they grasped the hoard with a hold
that death itself would not have loosened. Perceiving everything to be
quiet within, Katy at length mustered resolution to enter the dwelling,
where she found the peddler, with a heavy heart, performing the last sad
offices for the dead. A few words sufficed to explain to Katy the nature
of her mistake; but Caesar continued to his dying day to astonish the
sable inmates of the kitchen with learned dissertations on spooks, and
to relate how direful was the appearance of that of Johnny Birch.
The danger compelled the peddler to abridge even the short period that
American custom leaves the deceased with us; and, aided by the black and
Katy, his painful task was soon ended. Caesar volunteered to walk a
couple of miles with orders to a carpenter; and, the body being habited
in its ordinary attire, was left, with a sheet thrown decently over it,
to await the return of the messenger.
The Skinners had fled precipitately to the wood, which was but a short
distance from the house of Birch, and once safely sheltered within its
shades, they halted, and mustered their panic-stricken forces.
"What in the name of fury seized your coward hearts?" cried their
dissatisfied leader, drawing his breath heavily.
"The same question might be asked of yourself," returned one of the
"From your fright, I thought a party of De Lancey's men were upon us.
Oh! you are brave gentlemen at a race!"
"We follow our captain."
"Then follow me back, and let us secure the scoundrel, and receive the
"Yes; and by the time we reach the house, that black rascal will have
the mad Virginian upon us. By my soul I would rather meet fifty Cowboys
than that single man."
"Fool," cried the enraged leader, "don't you know Dunwoodie's horse are
at the Corners, full two miles from here?"
"I care not where the dragoons are, but I will swear that I saw Captain
Lawton enter the house of old Wharton, while I lay watching an
opportunity of getting the British colonel's horse from the stable."
"And if he should come, won't a bullet silence a dragoon from the South
as well as from old England?"
"Aye, but I don't choose a hornet's nest about my ears; rase the skin of
one of that corps, and you will never see another peaceable night's
"Well," muttered the leader, as they retired deeper into the wood, "this
sottish peddler will stay to see the old devil buried; and though we
cannot touch him at the funeral (for that would raise every old woman
and priest in America against us), he'll wait to look after the
movables, and to-morrow night shall wind up his concerns."
With this threat they withdrew to one of their usual places of resort,
until darkness should again give them an opportunity of marauding on the
community without danger of detection.
O wo! O woful, woful, woful day!
Most lamentable day; most woful day,
That ever, ever, I did yet behold!
O day! O day! O day! O hateful day!
Never was seen so black a day as this;
O woful day! O woful day!
The family at the Locusts had slept, or watched, through all the
disturbances at the cottage of Birch, in perfect ignorance of their
occurrence. The attacks of the Skinners were always made with so much
privacy as to exclude the sufferers, not only from succor, but
frequently, through a dread of future depredations, from the
commiseration of their neighbors also. Additional duties had drawn the
ladies from their pillows at an hour somewhat earlier than usual; and
Captain Lawton, notwithstanding the sufferings of his body, had risen in
compliance with a rule from which he never departed, of sleeping but six
hours at a time. This was one of the few points, in which the care of
the human frame was involved, on which the trooper and the surgeon of
horse were ever known to agree. The doctor had watched, during the
night, by the side of the bed of Captain Singleton, without once closing
his eyes. Occasionally he would pay a visit to the wounded Englishman,
who, being more hurt in the spirit than in the flesh, tolerated the
interruptions with a very ill grace; and once, for an instant, he
ventured to steal softly to the bed of his obstinate comrade, and was
near succeeding in obtaining a touch of his pulse, when a terrible oath,
sworn by the trooper in a dream, startled the prudent surgeon, and
warned him of a trite saying in the corps, "that Captain Lawton always
slept with one eye open." This group had assembled in one of the parlors
as the sun made its appearance over the eastern hill, dispersing the
columns of fog which had enveloped the lowland.
Miss Peyton was looking from a window in the direction of the tenement
of the peddler, and was expressing a kind anxiety after the welfare of
the sick man, when the person of Katy suddenly emerged from the dense
covering of an earthly cloud, whose mists were scattering before the
cheering rays of the sun, and was seen making hasty steps towards the
Locusts. There was that in the air of the housekeeper which bespoke
distress of an unusual nature, and the kind-hearted mistress of the
Locusts opened the door of the room, with the benevolent intention of
soothing a grief that seemed so overwhelming. A nearer view of the
disturbed features of the visitor confirmed Miss Peyton in her belief;
and, with the shock that gentle feelings ever experience at a sudden and
endless separation from even the meanest of their associates, she said
"Katy, is he gone?"
"No, ma'am," replied the disturbed damsel, with great bitterness, "he is
not yet gone, but he may go as soon as he pleases now, for the worst is
done. I do verily believe, Miss Peyton, they haven't so much as left him
money enough to buy him another suit of clothes to cover his nakedness,
and those he has on are none of the best, I can tell you."
"How!" exclaimed the other, astonished, "could anyone have the heart to
plunder a man in such distress?"
"Hearts," repeated Katy, catching her breath. "Men like them have no
bowels" at all. Plunder and distress, indeed! Why, ma'am, there were in
the iron pot, in plain sight, fifty-four guineas of gold, besides what
lay underneath, which I couldn't count without handling; and I didn't
like to touch it, for they say that another's gold is apt to stick--so,
judging from that in sight, there wasn't less than two hundred guineas,
besides what might have been in the deerskin purse. But Harvey is little
better now than a beggar; and a beggar, Miss Jeanette, is the most
awfully despisable of all earthly creatures."
"Poverty is to be pitied, and not despised," said the lady, still unable
to comprehend the extent of the misfortune that had befallen her
neighbor during the night. "But how is the old man? And does this loss
affect him much?"
The countenance of Katy changed, from the natural expression of concern,
to the set form of melancholy, as she answered,--
"He is happily removed from the cares of the world; the chinking of the
money made him get out of his bed, and the poor soul found the shock too
great for him. He died about two hours and ten minutes before the cock
crowed, as near as we can say." She was interrupted by the physician,
who, approaching, inquired, with much interest, the nature of the
disorder. Glancing her eye over the figure of this new acquaintance,
Katy instinctively adjusting her dress, replied,--
"'Twas the troubles of the times, and the loss of property, that brought
him down; he wasted from day to day, and all my care and anxiety were
lost; for now Harvey is no better than a beggar, and who is there to pay
me for what I have done?"
"God will reward you for all the good you have done," said Miss Peyton,
"Yes," interrupted the spinster hastily, and with an air of reverence
that was instantly succeeded by an expression that denoted more of
worldly care; "but then I have left my wages for three years past in the
hands of Harvey, and how am I to get them? My brothers told me, again
and again, to ask for my money; but I always thought accounts between
relations were easily settled."
"Were you related, then, to Birch?" asked Miss Peyton, observing her to
"Why," returned the housekeeper, hesitating a little, "I thought we were
as good as so. I wonder if I have no claim on the house and garden;
though they say, now it is Harvey's, it will surely be confiscated."
Turning to Lawton, who had been sitting in one posture, with his
piercing eyes lowering at her through his thick brows, in silence,
"Perhaps this gentleman knows--he seems to take an interest in
"Madam," said the trooper, bowing very low, "both you and the tale are
extremely interesting"--Katy smiled involuntarily--"but my humble
knowledge is limited to the setting of a squadron in the field, and
using it when there. I beg leave to refer you to Dr. Archibald
Sitgreaves, a gentleman of universal attainments and unbounded
philanthropy; the very milk of human sympathies, and a mortal foe to all
The surgeon drew up, and employed himself in whistling a low air, as he
looked over some phials on a table; but the housekeeper, turning to him
with an inclination of the head, continued,--
"I suppose, sir, a woman has no dower in her husband's property, unless
they be actually married."
It was a maxim with Dr. Sitgreaves, that no species of knowledge was to
be despised; and, consequently, he was an empiric in everything but his
profession. At first, indignation at the irony of his comrade kept him
silent; but, suddenly changing his purpose, he answered the applicant
with a good-natured smile,--
"I judge not. If death has anticipated your nuptials, I am fearful you
have no remedy against his stern decrees."
To Katy this sounded well, although she understood nothing of its
meaning, but "death" and "nuptials." To this part of his speech, then,
she directed her reply.
"I did think he only waited the death of the old gentleman before he
married," said the housekeeper, looking on the carpet. "But now he is
nothing more than despisable, or, what's the same thing, a peddler
without house, pack, or money. It might be hard for a man to get a wife
at all in such a predicary--don't you think it would, Miss Peyton?"
"I seldom trouble myself with such things," said the lady gravely.
During this dialogue Captain Lawton had been studying the countenance
and manner of the housekeeper, with a most ludicrous gravity; and,
fearful the conversation would cease, he inquired, with an appearance of
"You think it was age and debility that removed the old gentleman at
"And the troublesome times. Trouble is a heavy pull down to a sick bed;
but I suppose his time had come, and when that happens, it matters but
little what doctor's stuff we take."
"Let me set you right in that particular," interrupted the surgeon. "We
must all die, it is true, but it is permitted us to use the lights of
science, in arresting dangers as they occur, until--"
"We can die _secundem artem_," cried the trooper.
To this observation the physician did not deign to reply; but, deeming
it necessary to his professional dignity that the conversation should
continue, he added,--
"Perhaps, in this instance, judicious treatment might have prolonged the
life of the patient. Who administered to the case?"
"No one yet," said the housekeeper, with quickness. "I expect he has
made his last will and testament."
The surgeon disregarded the smile of the ladies, and pursued his
"It is doubtless wise to be prepared for death. But under whose care was
the sick man during his indisposition?"
"Under mine," answered Katy, with an air of a little importance. "And
care thrown away I may well call it; for Harvey is quite too despisable
to be any sort of compensation at present."
The mutual ignorance of each other's meaning made very little
interruption to the dialogue, for both took a good deal for granted, and
Sitgreaves pursued the subject.
"And how did you treat him?"
"Kindly, you may be certain," said Katy, rather tartly.
"The doctor means medically, madam," observed Captain Lawton, with a
face that would have honored the funeral of the deceased.
"I doctored him mostly with yarbs," said the housekeeper, smiling, as if
conscious of error.
"With simples," returned the surgeon. "They are safer in the hands of
the unlettered than more powerful remedies; but why had you no regular
"I'm sure Harvey has suffered enough already from having so much
concerns with the rig'lars," replied the housekeeper. "He has lost his
all, and made himself a vagabond through the land; and I have reason to
rue the day I ever crossed the threshold of his house."
"Dr. Sitgreaves does not mean a rig'lar soldier, but a regular
physician, madam," said the trooper.
"Oh!" cried the maiden, again correcting herself, "for the best of all
reasons; there was none to be had, so I took care of him myself. If
there had been a doctor at hand, I am sure we would gladly have had him;
for my part, I am clear for doctoring, though Harvey says I am killing
myself with medicines; but I am sure it will make but little difference
to him, whether I live or die."
"Therein you show your sense," said the surgeon, approaching the
spinster, who sat holding the palms of her hands and the soles of her
feet to the genial heat of a fine fire, making the most of comfort amid
all her troubles. "You appear to be a sensible, discreet woman, and some
who have had opportunities of acquiring more correct views might envy
you your respect for knowledge and the lights of science."
Although the housekeeper did not altogether comprehend the other's
meaning, she knew he used a compliment, and as such was highly pleased
with what he said. With increased animation, therefore, she cried, "It
was always said of me, that I wanted nothing but opportunity to make
quite a physician myself; so long as before I came to live with Harvey's
father, they called me the petticoat doctor."
"More true than civil, I dare say," returned the surgeon, losing sight
of the woman's character in his admiration of her respect for the
healing art. "In the absence of more enlightened counselors, the
experience of a discreet matron is frequently of great efficacy in
checking the progress of disease; under such circumstances, madam, it is
dreadful to have to contend with ignorance and obstinacy."
"Bad enough, as I well know from experience," cried Katy, in triumph.
"Harvey is as obstinate about such things as a dumb beast; one would
think the care I took of his bedridden father might learn him better
than to despise good nursing. But some day he may know what it is to
want a careful woman in his house, though now I am sure he is too
despisable himself to have a house."
"Indeed, I can easily comprehend the mortification you must have felt in
having one so self-willed to deal with," returned the surgeon, glancing
his eyes reproachfully at his comrade. "But you should rise superior to
such opinions, and pity the ignorance by which they are engendered."
The housekeeper hesitated a moment, at a loss to comprehend all that the
surgeon expressed, yet she felt it was both complimentary and kind;
therefore, suppressing her natural flow of language a little, she
"I tell Harvey his conduct is often condemnable, and last night he made
my words good; but the opinions of such unbelievers is not very
consequential; yet it is dreadful to think how he behaves at times: now,
when he threw away the needle--"
"What!" said the surgeon, interrupting her, "does he affect to despise
the needle? But it is my lot to meet with men, daily, who are equally
perverse, and who show a still more culpable disrespect for the
information that flows from the lights of science."
The doctor turned his face towards Captain Lawton while speaking, but
the elevation of the head prevented his eyes from resting on the grave
countenance maintained by the trooper. Katy listened with admiring
attention, and when the other had done, she added,--
"Then Harvey is a disbeliever in the tides."
"Not believe in the tides!" repeated the healer of bodies in
astonishment. "Does the man distrust his senses? But perhaps it is the
influence of the moon that he doubts."
"That he does!" exclaimed Katy, shaking with delight at meeting with a
man of learning, who could support her opinions. "If you was to hear him
talk, you would think he didn't believe there was such a thing as a
moon at all."
"It is the misfortune of ignorance and incredulity, madam, that they
feed themselves. The mind, once rejecting useful information, insensibly
leans to superstition and conclusions on the order of nature, that are
not less prejudicial to the cause of truth, than they are at variance
with the first principles of human knowledge."
The spinster was too much awe-struck to venture an undigested reply to
this speech; and the surgeon, after pausing a moment in a kind of
philosophical disdain, continued,--
"That any man in his senses can doubt of the flux of the tides is more
than I could have thought possible; yet obstinacy is a dangerous inmate
to harbor, and may lead us into any error, however gross."
"You think, then, they have an effect on the flux?" said the
Miss Peyton rose and beckoned her nieces to give her their assistance in
the adjoining pantry, while for a moment the dark visage of the
attentive Lawton was lighted by an animation that vanished by an effort,
as powerful and as sudden, as the one that drew it into being.
After reflecting whether he rightly understood the meaning of the other,
the surgeon, making due allowance for the love of learning, acting upon
a want of education, replied,--
"The moon, you mean; many philosophers have doubted how far it affects
the tides; but I think it is willfully rejecting the lights of science
not to believe it causes both the flux and reflux."
As reflux was a disorder with which Katy was not acquainted, she thought
it prudent to be silent; yet burning with curiosity to know the meaning
of certain portentous lights to which the other so often alluded, she
ventured to ask,--
"If them lights he spoke of were what was called northern lights in
In charity to her ignorance, the surgeon would have entered into an
elaborate explanation of his meaning, had he not been interrupted by the
mirth of Lawton. The trooper had listened so far with great composure;
but now he laughed until his aching bones reminded him of his fall, and
the tears rolled over his cheeks in larger drops than had ever been seen
there before. At length the offended physician seized an opportunity of
a pause to say,--
"To you, Captain Lawton, it may be a source of triumph, that an
uneducated woman should make a mistake in a subject on which men of
science have long been at variance; but yet you find this respectable
matron does not reject the lights--does not reject the use of proper
instruments in repairing injuries sustained by the human frame. You may
possibly remember, sir, her allusion to the use of the needle."
"Aye," cried the delighted trooper, "to mend the peddler's breeches."
Katy drew up in evident displeasure, and prompt to vindicate her
character for more lofty acquirements, she said,--
"'Twas not a common use that I put that needle to--but one of much
"Explain yourself, madam," said the surgeon impatiently, "that this
gentleman may see how little reason he has for exultation."
Thus solicited, Katy paused to collect sufficient eloquence to garnish
her narrative. The substance of her tale was, that a child who had been
placed by the guardians of the poor in the keeping of Harvey, had, in
the absence of its master, injured itself badly in the foot by a large
needle. The offending instrument had been carefully greased, wrapped in
woolen, and placed in a certain charmed nook of the chimney; while the
foot, from a fear of weakening the incantation, was left in a state of
nature. The arrival of the peddler had altered the whole of this
admirable treatment; and the consequences were expressed by Katy, as she
concluded her narrative, by saying,--
"'Twas no wonder the boy died of a lockjaw!"
Doctor Sitgreaves looked out of the window in admiration of the
brilliant morning, striving all he could to avoid the basilisk's eyes of
his comrade. He was impelled, by a feeling that he could not conquer,
however, to look Captain Lawton in the face. The trooper had arranged
every muscle of his countenance to express sympathy for the fate of the
poor child; but the exultation of his eyes cut the astounded man of
science to the quick; he muttered something concerning the condition of
his patients, and retreated with precipitation.
Miss Peyton entered into the situation of things at the house of the
peddler, with all the interest of her excellent feelings; she listened
patiently while Katy recounted, more particularly, the circumstances of
the past night as they had occurred. The spinster did not forget to
dwell on the magnitude of the pecuniary loss sustained by Harvey, and in
no manner spared her invectives, at his betraying a secret which might
so easily have been kept.
"For, Miss Peyton," continued the housekeeper, after a pause to take
breath, "I would have given up life before I would have given up that
secret. At the most, they could only have killed him, and now a body may
say that they have slain both soul and body; or, what's the same thing,
they have made him a despisable vagabond. I wonder who he thinks would
be his wife, or who would keep his house, For my part, my good name is
too precious to be living with a lone man; though, for the matter of
that, he is never there. I am resolved to tell him this day, that stay
there a single woman, I will not an hour after the funeral; and marry
him I don't think I will, unless he becomes steadier and more of a
The mild mistress of the Locusts suffered the exuberance of the
housekeeper's feelings to expend itself, and then, by one or two
judicious questions, that denoted a more intimate knowledge of the
windings of the human heart in matters of Cupid than might fairly be
supposed to belong to a spinster, she extracted enough from Katy to
discover the improbability of Harvey's ever presuming to offer himself,
with his broken fortunes, to the acceptance of Katharine Haynes. She
therefore mentioned her own want of assistance in the present state of
her household, and expressed a wish that Katy would change her residence
to the Locusts, in case the peddler had no further use for her services.
After a few preliminary conditions on the part of the wary housekeeper,
the arrangement was concluded; and making a few more piteous
lamentations on the weight of her own losses and the stupidity of
Harvey, united with some curiosity to know the future fate of the
peddler, Katy withdrew to make the necessary preparations for the
approaching funeral, which was to take place that day.
During the interview between the two females, Lawton, through delicacy,
had withdrawn. Anxiety took him to the room of Captain Singleton. The
character of this youth, it has already been shown, endeared him in a
peculiar manner to every officer in the corps. The singularly mild
deportment of the young dragoon had on so many occasions been proved not
to proceed from want of resolution that his almost feminine softness of
manner and appearance had failed to bring him into disrepute, even in
that band of partisan warriors.
To the major he was as dear as a brother, and his easy submission to
the directions of his surgeon had made him a marked favorite with Dr.
Sitgreaves. The rough usage the corps often received in its daring
attacks had brought each of its officers, in succession, under the
temporary keeping of the surgeon. To Captain Singleton the man of
science had decreed the palm of docility, on such occasions, and Captain
Lawton he had fairly blackballed. He frequently declared, with
unconquerable simplicity and earnestness of manner, that it gave him
more pleasure to see the former brought in wounded than any officer in
the squadron, and that the latter afforded him the least; a compliment
and condemnation that were usually received by the first of the parties
with a quiet smile of good nature, and by the last with a grave bow of
thanks. On the present occasion, the mortified surgeon and exulting
trooper met in the room of Captain Singleton, as a place where they
could act on common ground. Some time was occupied in joint attentions
to the comfort of the wounded officer, and the doctor retired to an
apartment prepared for his own accommodation; here, within a few
minutes, he was surprised by the entrance of Lawton. The triumph of the
trooper had been so complete, that he felt he could afford to be
generous, and commencing by voluntarily throwing aside his coat, he
"Sitgreaves, administer a little of the aid of the lights of science to
my body, if you please."
The surgeon was beginning to feel this was a subject that was
intolerable, but venturing a glance towards his comrade, he saw with
surprise the preparations he had made, and an air of sincerity about
him, that was unusual to his manner when making such a request. Changing
his intended burst of resentment to a tone of civil inquiry, he said,--
"Does Captain Lawton want anything at my hands?"
"Look for yourself, my dear sir," said the trooper mildly. "Here seem to
be most of the colors of the rainbow, on this shoulder."
"You have reason for saying so," said the other, handling the part with
great tenderness and consummate skill. "But happily nothing is broken.
It is wonderful how well you escaped!"
"I have been a tumbler from my youth, and I am past minding a few falls
from a horse; but, Sitgreaves," he added with affection, and pointing to
a scar on his body, "do you remember this bit of work?"
"Perfectly well, Jack; it was bravely obtained, and neatly extracted;
but don't you think I had better apply an oil to these bruises?"
"Certainly," said Lawton, with unexpected condescension.
"Now, my dear boy," cried the doctor, exultantly, as he busied himself
in applying the remedy to the hurts, "do you not think it would have
been better to have done all this last night?"
"Yes, Jack, but if you had let me perform the operation of phlebotomy n
when I first saw you, it would have been of infinite service."
"No phlebotomy," said the other, positively.
"It is now too late; but a dose of oil would carry off the humors
To this the captain made no reply, but grated his teeth, in a way that
showed the fortress of his mouth was not to be assailed without a
resolute resistance; and the experienced physician changed the subject