Part 7 out of 9
No vernal blooms their torpid rocks array,
But winter, lingering, chills the lap of May;
No zephyr fondly sues the mountain's breast,
But meteors glare, and stormy glooms invest.
The roads of Westchester are, at this hour, below the improvements of
the country. Their condition at the time of the tale has already been
alluded to in these pages; and the reader will, therefore, easily
imagine the task assumed by Caesar, when he undertook to guide the
translated chariot of the English prelate through their windings, into
one of the less frequented passes of the Highlands of the Hudson.
While Caesar and his steeds were contending with these difficulties, the
inmates of the carriage were too much engrossed with their own cares to
attend to those who served them. The mind of Sarah had ceased to wander
so wildly as at first; but at every advance that she made towards
reason, she seemed to retire a step from animation; from being excited
and flighty, she was gradually becoming moody and melancholy. There were
moments, indeed, when her anxious companions thought that they could
discern marks of recollection; but the expression of exquisite woe that
accompanied these transient gleams of reason, forced them to the
dreadful alternative of wishing that she might forever be spared the
agony of thought. The day's march was performed chiefly in silence, and
the party found shelter for the night in different farmhouses.
The following morning the cavalcade dispersed. The wounded diverged
towards the river, with the intention of taking water at Peekskill, in
order to be transported to the hospitals of the American army above. The
litter of Singleton was conveyed to a part of the Highlands where his
father held his quarters, and where it was intended that the youth
should complete his cure; the carriage of Mr. Wharton, accompanied by a
wagon conveying the housekeeper and what baggage had been saved, and
could be transported, resumed its route towards the place where Henry
Wharton was held in duress, and where he only waited their arrival to be
put on trial for his life.
The country which lies between the waters of the Hudson and Long Island
Sound, is, for the first forty miles from their junction, a succession
of hills and dales. The land bordering on the latter then becomes less
abrupt, and gradually assumes a milder appearance, until it finally
melts into the lovely plains and meadows of the Connecticut. But as you
approach the Hudson, the rugged aspect increases, until you at length
meet with the formidable barrier of the Highlands. Here the neutral
ground ceased. The royal army held the two points of land that commanded
the southern entrance of the river into the mountains; but all the
remaining passes were guarded by the Americans.
We have already stated that the pickets of the continental army were
sometimes pushed low into the country, and that the hamlet of the White
Plains was occasionally maintained by parties of its troops. At other
times, the advanced guards were withdrawn to the northern extremity of
the country, and, as has been shown, the intermediate country was
abandoned to the ravages of the miscreants who plundered between both
armies, serving neither.
The road taken by our party was not the one that communicates between
the two principal cities of the states, but was a retired and
unfrequented pass, that to this hour is but little known, and which,
entering the hills near the eastern boundary, emerges into the plain
above, many miles from the Hudson.
It would have been impossible for the tired steeds of Mr. Wharton to
drag the heavy chariot up the lengthened and steep ascents which now lay
before them; and a pair of country horses were procured, with but little
regard to their owner's wishes, by the two dragoons who still continued
to accompany the party. With their assistance, Caesar was enabled to
advance, by slow and toilsome steps, into the bosom of the hills.
Willing to relieve her own melancholy by breathing a fresher air, and
also to lessen the weight, Frances alighted as they reached the foot of
the mountain. She found that Katy had made similar preparations, with
the like intention of walking to the summit. It was near the setting of
the sun, and, from the top of the mountain, their guard had declared
that the end of their journey might be discerned. Frances moved forward
with the elastic step of youth; and, followed by the housekeeper at a
little distance, she soon lost sight of the sluggish carriage, that was
slowly toiling up the hill, occasionally halting to allow the cattle
"Oh, Miss Fanny, what dreadful times these be!" said Katy, when they
paused for breath themselves. "I know'd that calamity was about to
befall, ever sin' the streak of blood was seen in the clouds."
"There has been blood upon earth, Katy, though but little is ever seen
in the clouds."
"Not blood in the clouds!" echoed the housekeeper. "Yes, that there has,
often, and comets with fiery, smoking tails. Didn't people see armed men
in the heavens, the year the war began? And, the night before the battle
of the Plains, wasn't there thunder, like the cannon themselves? Ah!
Miss Fanny, I'm fearful that no good can follow rebellion against the
"These events are certainly dreadful," returned Frances, "and enough to
sicken the stoutest heart. But what can be done, Katy? Gallant and
independent men are unwilling to submit to oppression; and I am fearful
that such scenes are but too common in war."
"If I could but see anything to fight about," said Katy, renewing her
walk as the young lady proceeded, "I shouldn't mind it so much. 'Twas
said the king wanted all the tea for his own family, at one time; and
then again, that he meant the colonies should pay over to him all their
earnings. Now this is matter enough to fight about--for I'm sure that no
one, however he may be lord or king, has a right to the hard earnings of
another. Then it was all contradicted, and some said Washington wanted
to be king himself; so that, between the two, one doesn't know which
"Believe neither--for neither is true. I do not pretend to understand,
myself, all the merits of this war, Katy; but to me it seems unnatural,
that a country like this should be ruled by another so distant
"So I have heard Harvey say to his father, that is dead and in his
grave," returned Katy, approaching nearer to the young lady, and
lowering her voice. "Many is the good time that I've listened to them
talking, when all the neighborhood was asleep; and such conversations,
Miss Fanny, that you can have no idea on! Well, to say the truth, Harvey
was a mystified body, and he was like the winds in the good book; no
one could tell whence he came, or whither he went."
Frances glanced her eye at her companion with an apparent desire to hear
"There are rumors abroad relative to the character of Harvey," she said,
"that I should be sorry were true."
"'Tis a disparagement, every word on't," cried Katy, vehemently. "Harvey
had no more dealings with Beelzebub than you or I had. I'm sure if
Harvey had sold himself, he would take care to be better paid; though,
to speak the truth, he was always a wasteful and disregardful man."
"Nay, nay," returned the smiling Frances, "I have no such injurious
suspicion of him; but has he not sold himself to an earthly prince--one
too much attached to the interests of his native island to be always
just to this country?"
"To the king's majesty!" replied Katy. "Why, Miss Fanny, your own
brother that's in jail serves King George."
"True," said Frances, "but not in secret--openly, manfully, and
"'Tis said he is a spy, and why ain't one spy as bad as another?"
"'Tis untrue; no act of deception is worthy of my brother; nor of any
would he be guilty, for so base a purpose as gain or promotion."
"Well, I'm sure," said Katy, a little appalled at the manner of the
young lady, "if a body does the work, he should be paid for it. Harvey
is by no means partic'lar about getting his lawful dues; and I dar'st to
say, if the truth was forthcoming, King George owes him money this
"Then you acknowledge his connection with the British army," said
Frances. "I confess there have been moments when I have thought
"Lord, Miss Fanny, Harvey is a man that no calculation can be made on.
Though I lived in his house for a long concourse of years, I have never
known whether he belonged above or below [Footnote: The American party
was called the party belonging 'above,' and the British that of 'below.'
The terms had reference to the course of the Hudson.]. The time that
Burg'yne was taken he came home, and there was great doings between him
and the old gentleman, but for my life I couldn't tell if 'twas joy or
grief. Then, here, the other day, when the great British general--I'm
sure I have been so flurried with losses and troubles, that I forget
"Andre," said Frances.
"Yes, Ondree; when he was hanged, acrost the Tappan, the old gentleman
was near hand to going crazy about it, and didn't sleep for night nor
day, till Harvey got back; and then his money was mostly golden guineas;
but the Skinners took it all, and now he is a beggar, or, what's the
same thing, despisable for poverty and want."
To this speech Frances made no reply, but continued her walk up the
hill, deeply engaged in her own reflections. The allusion to Andre had
recalled her thoughts to the situation of her own brother.
They soon reached the highest point in their toilsome progress to the
summit, and Frances seated herself on a rock to rest and to admire.
Immediately at her feet lay a deep dell, but little altered by
cultivation, and dark with the gloom of a November sunset. Another hill
rose opposite to the place where she sat, at no great distance, along
whose rugged sides nothing was to be seen but shapeless rocks, and oaks
whose stunted growth showed a meager soil.
To be seen in their perfection, the Highlands must be passed immediately
after the fall of the leaf. The scene is then the finest, for neither
the scanty foliage which the summer lends the trees, nor the snows of
winter, are present to conceal the minutest objects from the eye.
Chilling solitude is the characteristic of the scenery; nor is the mind
at liberty, as in March, to look forward to a renewed vegetation that is
soon to check, without improving, the view.
The day had been cloudy and cool, and thin fleecy clouds hung around the
horizon, often promising to disperse, but as frequently disappointing
Frances in the hope of catching a parting beam from the setting sun. At
length a solitary gleam struck on the base of the mountain on which she
was gazing, and moved gracefully up its side, until reaching the summit,
it stood for a minute, forming a crown of glory to the somber pile. So
strong were the rays, that what was before indistinct now clearly opened
to the view. With a feeling of awe at being thus unexpectedly admitted,
as it were, into the secrets of that desert place, Frances gazed
intently, until, among the scattered trees and fantastic rocks,
something like a rude structure was seen. It was low, and so obscured by
the color of its materials, that but for its roof, and the glittering of
a window, it must have escaped her notice. While yet lost in the
astonishment created by discovering a habitation in such a spot, on
moving her eyes she perceived another object that increased her wonder.
It apparently was a human figure, but of singular mold and unusual
deformity. It stood on the edge of a rock, a little above the hut, and
it was no difficult task for our heroine to fancy it was gazing at the
vehicles that were ascending the side of the mountain beneath her. The
distance, however, was too great to distinguish with precision. After
looking at it a moment in breathless wonder, Frances had just come to
the conclusion that it was ideal, and that what she saw was a part of
the rock itself, when the object moved swiftly from its position, and
glided into the hut, at once removing every doubt as to the nature of
either. Whether it was owing to the recent conversation that she had
been holding with Katy, or to some fancied resemblance that she
discerned, Frances thought, as the figure vanished from her view, that
it bore a marked likeness to Birch, moving under the weight of his pack.
She continued to gaze towards the mysterious residence, when the gleam
of light passed away, and at the same instant the tones of a bugle rang
through the glens and hollows, and were reechoed in every direction.
Springing on her feet, the alarmed girl heard the trampling of horses,
and directly a party in the well-known uniform of the Virginians came
sweeping round the point of a rock near her, and drew up at a short
distance. Again the bugle sounded a lively strain, and before the
agitated Frances had time to rally her thoughts, Dunwoodie dashed by the
party of dragoons, threw himself from his charger, and advanced to
His manner was earnest and interested, but in a slight degree
constrained. In a few words he explained that he had been ordered up,
with a party of Lawton's men, in the absence of the captain himself, to
attend the trial of Henry, which was fixed for the morrow; and that,
anxious for their safety in the rude passes of the mountain, he had
ridden a mile or two in quest of the travelers. Frances explained, with
trembling voice, the reason of her being in advance, and taught him
momentarily to expect the arrival of her father. The constraint of his
manner had, however, unwillingly on her part, communicated itself to her
own deportment, and the approach of the chariot was a relief to both.
The major handed her in, spoke a few words of encouragement to Mr.
Wharton and Miss Peyton, and, again mounting, led the way towards the
plains of Fishkill, which broke on their sight, on turning the rock, with
the effect of enchantment. A short half hour brought them to the door of
the farmhouse which the care of Dunwoodie had already prepared for their
reception, and where Captain Wharton was anxiously expecting
These limbs are strengthened with a soldier's toil,
Nor has this cheek been ever blanched with fear--
But this sad tale of thine enervates all
Within me that I once could boast as man;
Chill trembling agues seize upon my frame,
And tears of childish sorrow pour, apace,
Through scarred channels that were marked by wounds.
The friends of Henry Wharton had placed so much reliance on his
innocence, that they were unable to see the full danger of his
situation. As the moment of trial, however, approached, the uneasiness
of the youth himself increased; and after spending most of the night
with his afflicted family, he awoke, on the following morning, from a
short and disturbed slumber, to a clearer sense of his condition, and a
survey of the means that were to extricate him from it with life. The
rank of Andre, and the importance of the measures he was plotting,
together with the powerful intercessions that had been made in his
behalf, occasioned his execution to be stamped with greater notoriety
than the ordinary events of the war. But spies were frequently arrested;
and the instances that occurred of summary punishment for this crime
were numerous. These were facts that were well known to both Dunwoodie
and the prisoner; and to their experienced judgments the preparations
for the trial were indeed alarming. Notwithstanding their apprehensions,
they succeeded so far in concealing them, that neither Miss Peyton nor
Frances was aware of their extent. A strong guard was stationed in the
outbuilding of the farmhouse where the prisoner was quartered, and
several sentinels watched the avenues that approached the dwelling.
Another was constantly near the room of the British officer. A court was
already detailed to examine into the circumstances; and upon their
decision the fate of Henry rested.
The moment at length arrived, and the different actors in the
approaching investigation assembled. Frances experienced a feeling like
suffocation, as, after taking her seat in the midst of her family, her
eyes wandered over the group who were thus collected. The judges, three
in number, sat by themselves, clad in the vestments of their profession,
and maintained a gravity worthy of the occasion, and becoming in their
rank. In the center was a man of advanced years, and whose whole
exterior bore the stamp of early and long-tried military habits. This
was the president of the court; and Frances, after taking a hasty and
unsatisfactory view of his associates, turned to his benevolent
countenance as to the harbinger of mercy to her brother. There was a
melting and subdued expression in the features of the veteran, that,
contrasted with the rigid decency and composure of the others, could
not fail to attract her notice. His attire was strictly in conformity to
the prescribed rules of the service to which he belonged; but while his
air was erect and military, his fingers trifled with a kind of
convulsive and unconscious motion, with a bit of crape that entwined the
hilt of the sword on which his body partly reclined, and which, like
himself, seemed a relic of older times. There were the workings of an
unquiet soul within; but his military front blended awe with the pity
that its exhibition excited. His associates were officers selected from
the eastern troops, who held the fortresses of West Point and the
adjacent passes; they were men who had attained the meridian of life,
and the eye sought in vain the expression of any passion or emotion on
which it might seize as an indication of human infirmity. In their
demeanor there was a mild, but a grave, intellectual reserve. If there
was no ferocity nor harshness to chill, neither was there compassion nor
interest to attract. They were men who had long acted under the dominion
of a prudent reason, and whose feelings seemed trained to a perfect
submission to their judgments.
Before these arbiters of his fate Henry Wharton was ushered under the
custody of armed men. A profound and awful silence succeeded his
entrance, and the blood of Frances chilled as she noted the grave
character of the whole proceedings. There was but little of pomp in the
preparations, to impress her imagination; but the reserved, businesslike
air of the whole scene made it seem, indeed, as if the destinies of life
awaited the result. Two of the judges sat in grave reserve, fixing their
inquiring eyes on the object of their investigation; but the president
continued gazing around with uneasy, convulsive motions of the muscles
of the face, that indicated a restlessness foreign to his years and
duty. It was Colonel Singleton, who, but the day before, had learned the
fate of Isabella, but who stood forth in the discharge of a duty that
his country required at his hands. The silence, and the expectation in
every eye, at length struck him, and making an effort to collect
himself, he spoke, in the tones of one used to authority.
"Bring forth the prisoner," he said, with a wave of the hand.
The sentinels dropped the points of their bayonets towards the judges,
and Henry Wharton advanced, with a firm step, into the center of the
apartment. All was now anxiety and eager curiosity. Frances turned for a
moment in grateful emotion, as the deep and perturbed breathing of
Dunwoodie reached her ears; but her brother again concentrated all her
interest in one feeling of intense care. In the background were arranged
the inmates of the family who owned the dwelling, and behind them,
again, was a row of shining faces of ebony, glistening with pleased
wonder. Amongst these was the faded luster of Caesar Thompson's
"You are said," continued the president, "to be Henry Wharton, a captain
in his Britannic Majesty's 60th regiment of foot."
"I like your candor, sir; it partakes of the honorable feelings of a
soldier, and cannot fail to impress your judges favorably."
"It would be prudent," said one of his companions, "to advise the
prisoner that he is bound to answer no more than he deems necessary;
although we are a court of martial law, yet, in this respect, we own the
principles of all free governments."
A nod of approbation from the silent member was bestowed on this remark,
and the president proceeded with caution, referring to the minutes he
held in his hand.
"It is an accusation against you, that, being an officer of the enemy,
you passed the pickets of the American army at the White Plains, in
disguise, on the 29th of October last, whereby you are suspected of
views hostile to the interests of America, and have subjected yourself
to the punishment of a spy."
The mild but steady tones of the speaker, as he slowly repeated the
substance of this charge, were full of authority. The accusation was so
plain, the facts so limited, the proof so obvious, and the penalty so
well established, that escape seemed impossible. But Henry replied, with
"That I passed your pickets in disguise, is true; but--"
"Peace!" interrupted the president. "The usages of war are stern enough
in themselves; you need not aid them to your own condemnation."
"The prisoner can retract that declaration, if he please," remarked
another judge. "His confession, if taken, goes fully to prove
"I retract nothing that is true," said Henry proudly.
The two nameless judges heard him in silent composure, yet there was no
exultation mingled with their gravity. The president now appeared,
however, to take new interest in the scene.
"Your sentiment is noble, sir," he said. "I only regret that a youthful
soldier should so far be misled by loyalty as to lend himself to the
purposes of deceit."
"Deceit!" echoed Wharton. "I thought it prudent to guard against capture
from my enemies."
"A soldier, Captain Wharton, should never meet his enemy but openly, and
with arms in his hands. I have served two kings of England, as I now
serve my native land; but never did I approach a foe, unless under the
light of the sun, and with honest notice that an enemy was nigh."
"You are at liberty to explain what your motives were in entering the
ground held by our army in disguise," said the other judge, with a
slight movement of the muscles of his mouth.
"I am the son of this aged man before you," continued Henry. "It was to
visit him that I encountered the danger. Besides, the country below is
seldom held by your troops, and its very name implies a right to either
party to move at pleasure over its territory."
"Its name, as a neutral ground, is unauthorized by law; it is an
appellation that originates with the condition of the country. But
wherever an army goes, it carries its rights along, and the first is the
ability to protect itself."
"I am no casuist, sir," returned the youth; "but I feel that my father
is entitled to my affection, and I would encounter greater risks to
prove it to him in his old age."
"A very commendable spirit," cried the veteran. "Come, gentlemen, this
business brightens. I confess, at first, it was very bad, but no man can
censure him for desiring to see his parents."
"And have you proof that such only was your intention?"
"Yes--here," said Henry, admitting a ray of hope. "Here is proof--my
father, my sister, Major Dunwoodie, all know it."
"Then, indeed," returned his immovable judge, "we may be able to save
you. It would be well, sir, to examine further into this business."
"Certainly," said the president, with alacrity. "Let the elder Mr.
Wharton approach and take the oath."
The father made an effort at composure, and, advancing with a feeble
step, he complied with the necessary forms of the court.
"You are the father of the prisoner?" said Colonel Singleton, in a
subdued voice, after pausing a moment in respect for the agitation of
"He is my only son."
"And what do you know of his visit to your house, on the 29th day of
"He came, as he told you, to see me and his sisters."
"Was he in disguise?" asked the other judge.
"He did not wear the uniform of the 60th."
"To see his sisters, too!" said the president with great emotion. "Have
you daughters, sir?"
"I have two--both are in this house."
"Had he a wig?" interrupted the officer.
"There was some such thing I do believe, upon his head."
"And how long had you been separated?" asked the president.
"One year and two months."
"Did he wear a loose greatcoat of coarse materials?" inquired the
officer, referring to the paper that contained the charges.
"There was an overcoat."
"And you think that it was to see you, only, that he came out?"
"Me, and my daughters."
"A boy of spirit," whispered the president to his silent comrade. "I see
but little harm in such a freak; 'twas imprudent, but then it was kind."
"Do you know that your son was intrusted with no commission from Sir
Henry Clinton, and that the visit to you was not merely a cloak to
"How can I know it?" said Mr. Wharton, in alarm. "Would Sir Henry
intrust me with such a business?"
"Know you anything of this pass?" exhibiting the paper that Dunwoodie
had retained when Wharton was taken.
"Nothing--upon my honor, nothing," cried the father, shrinking from the
paper as from contagion.
"On your oath?"
"Have you other testimony? This does not avail you, Captain Wharton. You
have been taken in a situation where your life is forfeited; the labor
of proving your innocence rests with yourself. Take time to reflect,
and be cool."
There was a frightful calmness in the manner of this judge that appalled
the prisoner. In the sympathy of Colonel Singleton, he could easily lose
sight of his danger; but the obdurate and collected air of the others
was ominous of his fate. He continued silent, casting imploring glances
towards his friend. Dunwoodie understood the appeal, and offered himself
as a witness. He was sworn, and desired to relate what he knew. His
statement did not materially alter the case, and Dunwoodie felt that it
could not. To him personally but little was known, and that little
rather militated against the safety of Henry than otherwise. His account
was listened to in silence, and the significant shake of the head that
was made by the silent member spoke too plainly what effect it
"Still you think that the prisoner had no other object than what he has
avowed?" said the president, when he had ended.
"None other, I will pledge my life," cried the major, with fervor.
"Will you swear it?" asked the immovable judge.
"How can I? God alone can tell the heart; but I have known this
gentleman from a boy; deceit never formed part of his character. He is
"You say that he escaped, and was retaken in open arms?" said the
"He was; nay, he received a wound in the combat. You see he yet moves
his arm with difficulty. Would he, think you, sir, have trusted himself
where he could fall again into our hands, unless conscious of
"Would Andre have deserted a field of battle, Major Dunwoodie, had he
encountered such an event, near Tarrytown?" asked his deliberate
examiner. "Is it not natural to youth to seek glory?"
"Do you call this glory?" exclaimed the major: "an ignominious death and
a tarnished name."
"Major Dunwoodie," returned the other, still with inveterate gravity,
"you have acted nobly; your duty has been arduous and severe, but it has
been faithfully and honorably discharged; ours must not be less so."
During the examination, the most intense interest prevailed among the
hearers. With that kind of feeling which could not separate the
principle from the cause, most of the auditors thought that if Dunwoodie
failed to move the hearts of Henry's judges, no other possessed the
power. Caesar thrust his misshapen form forward and his features, so
expressive of the concern he felt, and so different from the vacant
curiosity pictured in the countenance of the other blacks, caught the
attention of the silent judge. For the first time he spoke:--
"Let that black be brought forward."
It was too late to retreat, and Caesar found himself confronted with a
row of rebel officers, before he knew what was uppermost in his
thoughts. The others yielded the examination to the one who suggested
it, and using all due deliberation, he proceeded accordingly.
"You know the prisoner?"
"I t'ink he ought," returned the black, in a manner as sententious as
that of his examiner.
"Did he give you the wig when he threw it aside?"
"I don't want 'em," grumbled Caesar; "got a berry good hair heself."
"Were you employed in carrying any letters or messages of any kind while
Captain Wharton was in your master's house?"
"I do what a tell me," returned the black.
"But what did they tell you to do?"
"Sometime a one ting--sometime anoder."
"Enough," said Colonel Singleton, with dignity. "You have the noble
acknowledgment of a gentleman, what more can you obtain from this
slave?--Captain Wharton, you perceive the unfortunate impression against
you. Have you other testimony to adduce?"
To Henry there now remained but little hope; his confidence in his
security was fast ebbing, but with an indefinite expectation of
assistance from the loveliness of his sister, he fixed an earnest gaze
on the pallid features of Frances. She arose, and with a tottering step
moved towards the judges; the paleness of her cheek continued but for a
moment, and gave place to a flush of fire, and with a light but firm
tread, she stood before them. Raising her hand to her polished
forehead, Frances threw aside her exuberant locks, and displayed a
picture of beauty and innocence to their view that might have moved even
sterner natures. The president shrouded his eyes for a moment, as if the
wild eye and speaking countenance recalled the image of another. The
movement was transient, and recovering himself, with an earnestness that
betrayed his secret wishes,--
"To you, then, your brother previously communicated his intention of
paying your family a secret visit?"
"No!--no!" said Frances, pressing her hand on her brain, as if to
collect her thoughts; "he told me nothing--we knew not of the visit
until he arrived; but can it be necessary to explain to gallant men,
that a child would incur hazard to meet his only parent, and that in
times like these, and in a situation like ours?"
"But was this the first time? Did he never even talk of doing so
before?" inquired the colonel, leaning towards her with
"Certainly--certainly," cried Frances, catching the expression of his
own benevolent countenance. "This is but the fourth of his visits."
"I knew it!" exclaimed the veteran, rubbing his hands with delight. "An
adventurous, warm-hearted son--I warrant me, gentlemen, a fiery soldier
in the field! In what disguises did he come?"
"In none, for none were then necessary; the royal troops covered the
country, and gave him safe passage."
"And was this the first of his visits out of the uniform of his
regiment?" asked the colonel, in a suppressed voice, avoiding the
penetrating looks of his companions.
"Oh! the very first," exclaimed the eager girl. "His first offense, I do
assure you, if offense it be."
"But you wrote him--you urged the visit; surely, young lady, you wished
to see your brother?" added the impatient colonel.
"That we wished it, and prayed for it,--oh, how fervently we prayed for
it!--is true; but to have held communion with the royal army would have
endangered our father, and we dared not."
"Did he leave the house until taken, or had he intercourse with any out
of your own dwelling?"
"With none--no one, excepting our neighbor, the peddler Birch."
"With whom!" exclaimed the colonel, turning pale, and shrinking as from
the sting of an adder.
Dunwoodie groaned aloud, and striking his head with his hand, cried in
piercing tones, "He is lost!" and rushed from the apartment.
"But Harvey Birch," repeated Frances, gazing wildly at the door through
which her lover had disappeared.
"Harvey Birch!" echoed all the judges. The two immovable members of the
court exchanged looks, and threw an inquisitive glance at the prisoner.
"To you, gentlemen, it can be no new intelligence to hear that Harvey
Birch is suspected of favoring the royal cause," said Henry, again
advancing before the judges; "for he has already been condemned by your
tribunals to the fate that I now see awaits myself. I will therefore
explain, that it was by his assistance I procured the disguise, and
passed your pickets; but to my dying moments, and with my dying breath,
I will avow, that my intentions were as pure as the innocent being
"Captain Wharton," said the president, solemnly, "the enemies of
American liberty have made mighty and subtle efforts to overthrow our
power. A more dangerous man, for his means and education, is not ranked
among our foes than this peddler of Westchester. He is a spy--artful,
delusive, and penetrating, beyond the abilities of any of his class. Sir
Henry could not do better than to associate him with the officer in his
next attempt. He would have saved Andre. Indeed, young man, this is a
connection that may prove fatal to you!"
The honest indignation that beamed on the countenance of the aged
warrior was met by a look of perfect conviction on the part of
"I have ruined him!" cried Frances, clasping her hands in terror. "Do
you desert us? then he is lost, indeed!"
"Forbear! lovely innocent, forbear!" said the colonel, with strong
emotion; "you injure none, but distress us all."
"Is it then such a crime to possess natural affection?" said Frances
wildly. "Would Washington--the noble, upright, impartial Washington,
judge so harshly? Delay, till Washington can hear his tale."
"It is impossible," said the president, covering his eyes, as if to hide
her beauty from his view.
"Impossible! oh! but for a week suspend your judgment. On my knees I
entreat you, as you will expect mercy yourself, when no human power can
avail you, give him but a day."
"It is impossible," repeated the colonel, in a voice that was nearly
choked. "Our orders are peremptory, and too long delay has been
He turned from the kneeling suppliant, but could not, or would not,
extricate that hand that she grasped with frenzied fervor.
"Remand your prisoner," said one of the judges to the officer who had
the charge of Henry. "Colonel Singleton, shall we withdraw?"
"Singleton! Singleton!" echoed Frances. "Then you are a father, and know
how to pity a father's woes; you cannot, will not, wound a heart that is
now nearly crushed. Hear me, Colonel Singleton; as God will listen to
your dying prayers, hear me, and spare my brother!"
"Remove her," said the colonel, gently endeavoring to extricate his
hand; but none appeared disposed to obey. Frances eagerly strove to read
the expression of his averted face, and resisted all his efforts
"Colonel Singleton! how lately was your own son in suffering and in
danger! Under the roof of my father he was cherished-under my father's
roof he found shelter and protection. Oh! suppose that son the pride of
your age, the solace and protection of your infant children, and then
pronounce my brother guilty, if you dare!"
"What right has Heath to make an executioner of me!" exclaimed the
veteran fiercely, rising with a face flushed like fire, and every vein
and artery swollen with suppressed emotion. "But I forget myself; come,
gentlemen, let us mount, our painful duty must be done."
"Mount not! go not!" shrieked Frances. "Can you tear a son from his
parent--a brother from his sister, so coldly? Is this the cause I have
so ardently loved? Are these the men that I have been taught to
reverence? But you relent, you do hear me, you will pity and forgive."
"Lead on, gentlemen," said the colonel, motioning towards the door, and
erecting himself into an air of military grandeur, in the vain hope of
quieting his feelings.
"Lead not on, but hear me," cried Frances, grasping his hand
convulsively. "Colonel Singleton, you are a father!--pity--mercy--mercy
for the son! mercy for the daughter! Yes--you had a daughter. On this
bosom she poured out her last breath; these hands closed her eyes; these
very hands, that are now clasped in prayer, did those offices for her
that you condemn my poor, poor brother, to require."
One mighty emotion the veteran struggled with, and quelled; but with a
groan that shook his whole frame. He even looked around in conscious
pride at his victory; but a second burst of feeling conquered. His head,
white with the frost of seventy winters, sank upon the shoulder of the
frantic suppliant. The sword that had been his companion in so many
fields of blood dropped from his nerveless hand, and as he cried, "May
God bless you for the deed!" he wept aloud.
Long and violent was the indulgence that Colonel Singleton yielded to
his feelings. On recovering, he gave the senseless Frances into the
arms of her aunt, and, turning with an air of fortitude to his comrades,
"Still, gentlemen, we have our duty as officers to discharge; our
feelings as men may be indulged hereafter. What is your pleasure with
One of the judges placed in his hand a written sentence, that he had
prepared while the colonel was engaged with Frances, and declared it to
be the opinion of himself and his companion.
It briefly stated that Henry Wharton had been detected in passing the
lines of the American army as a spy, and in disguise. That thereby,
according to the laws of war, he was liable to suffer death, and that
this court adjudged him to the penalty; recommending him to be executed
by hanging, before nine o'clock on the following morning.
It was not usual to inflict capital punishments, even on the enemy,
without referring the case to the commander in chief, for his
approbation; or, in his absence, to the officer commanding for the time
being. But, as Washington held his headquarters at New Windsor, on the
western bank of the Hudson, there was sufficient time to receive
"This is short notice," said the veteran, holding the pen in his hand,
in a suspense that had no object; "not a day to fit one so young
"The royal officers gave Hale [Footnote: An American officer of this
name was detected within the British lines, in disguise, in search of
military information. He was tried and executed, as stated in the text,
as soon as the preparations could be made. It is said that he was
reproached under the gallows with dishonoring the rank he held by his
fate. 'What a death for an officer to die!' said one of his captors.
'Gentlemen, any death is honorable when a man dies in a cause like that
of America,' was his answer. Andre was executed amid the tears of his
enemies; Hale died unpitied and with reproaches in his ears; and yet one
was the victim of ambition, and the other of devotion to his country.
Posterity will do justice between them.] but an hour," returned his
comrade; "we have granted the usual time. But Washington has the power
to extend it, or to pardon."
"Then to Washington will I go," cried the colonel, returning the paper
with his signature; "and if the services of an old man like me, or that
brave boy of mine, entitle me to his ear, I will yet save the youth."
So saying, he departed, full of his generous intentions in favor of
The sentence of the court was communicated, with proper tenderness, to
the prisoner; and after giving a few necessary instructions to the
officer in command, and dispatching a courier to headquarters with their
report, the remaining judges mounted, and rode to their own quarters,
with the same unmoved exterior, but with the consciousness of the same
dispassionate integrity, that they had maintained throughout the trial.
Have you no countermand for Claudio yet,
But he must die to-morrow?
_--Measure for Measure._
A few hours were passed by the prisoner, after his sentence was
received, in the bosom of his family. Mr. Wharton wept in hopeless
despondency over the untimely fate of his son; and Frances, after
recovering from her insensibility, experienced an anguish of feeling to
which the bitterness of death itself would have been comparatively
light. Miss Peyton alone retained a vestige of hope, or presence of mind
to suggest what might be proper to be done under their circumstances.
The comparative composure of the good aunt arose in no degree from any
want of interest in the welfare of her nephew, but it was founded in a
kind of instinctive dependence on the character of Washington. He was a
native of the same colony with herself; and although his early military
services, and her frequent visits to the family of her sister, and
subsequent establishment at its head, had prevented their ever meeting,
still she was familiar with his domestic virtues, and well knew that the
rigid inflexibility for which his public acts were distinguished formed
no part of his reputation in private life. He was known in Virginia as a
consistent but just and lenient master; and she felt a kind of pride in
associating in her mind her countryman with the man who led the armies,
and in a great measure controlled the destinies, of America. She knew
that Henry was innocent of the crime for which he was condemned to
suffer, and, with that kind of simple faith that is ever to be found in
the most ingenuous characters, could not conceive of those constructions
and interpretations of law that inflicted punishment without the actual
existence of crime. But even her confiding hopes were doomed to meet
with a speedy termination. Towards noon, a regiment of militia, that
were quartered on the banks of the river, moved to the ground in front
of the house that held our heroine and her family, and deliberately
pitched their tents, with the avowed intention of remaining until the
following morning, to give solemnity and effect to the execution of a
Dunwoodie had performed all that was required of him by his orders, and
was at liberty to retrace his steps to his expectant squadron, which was
impatiently waiting his return to be led against a detachment of the
enemy that was known to be slowly moving up the banks of the river, in
order to cover a party of foragers in its rear. He was accompanied by a
small party of Lawton's troop, under the expectation that their
testimony might be required to convict the prisoner; and Mason, the
lieutenant, was in command. But the confession of Captain Wharton had
removed the necessity of examining any witnesses on behalf of the
people. [Footnote: In America justice is administered in the name of
"the good people," etc., etc., the sovereignty residing with them.] The
major, from an unwillingness to encounter the distress of Henry's
friends, and a dread of trusting himself within its influence, had
spent the time we have mentioned in walking by himself, in keen anxiety,
at a short distance from the dwelling. Like Miss Peyton, he had some
reliance on the mercy of Washington, although moments of terrific doubt
and despondency were continually crossing his mind. To him the rules of
service were familiar, and he was more accustomed to consider his
general in the capacity of a ruler, than as exhibiting the
characteristics of the individual. A dreadful instance had too recently
occurred, which fully proved that Washington was above the weakness of
sparing another in mercy to himself. While pacing, with hurried steps,
through the orchard, laboring under these constantly recurring doubts,
enlivened by transient rays of hope, Mason approached, accoutered
completely for the saddle.
"Thinking you might have forgotten the news brought this morning from
below, sir, I have taken the liberty to order the detachment under
arms," said the lieutenant, very coolly, cutting down with his sheathed
saber the mullein tops that grew within his reach.
"What news?" cried the major, starting.
"Only that John Bull is out in Westchester, with a train of wagons,
which, if he fills, will compel us to retire through these cursed hills,
in search of provender. These greedy Englishmen are so shut up on York
Island, that when they do venture out, they seldom leave straw enough to
furnish the bed of a Yankee heiress."
"Where did the express leave them, did you say? The intelligence has
entirely escaped my memory."
"On the heights above Sing Sing," returned the lieutenant, with no
little amazement. "The road below looks like a hay market, and all the
swine are sighing forth their lamentations, as the corn passes them
towards King's Bridge. George Singleton's orderly, who brought up the
tidings, says that our horses were holding consultation if they should
not go down without their riders, and eat another meal, for it is
questionable with them whether they can get a full stomach again. If
they are suffered to get back with their plunder, we shall not be able
to find a piece of pork at Christmas fat enough to fry itself."
"Peace, with all this nonsense of Singleton's orderly, Mr. Mason," cried
Dunwoodie, impatiently; "let him learn to wait the orders of his
"I beg pardon in his name, Major Dunwoodie," said the subaltern; "but,
like myself, he was in error. We both thought it was the order of
General Heath, to attack and molest the enemy whenever he ventured out
of his nest."
"Recollect yourself, Lieutenant Mason," said the major, "or I may have
to teach you that your orders pass through me."
"I know it, Major Dunwoodie--I know it; and I am sorry that your memory
is so bad as to forget that I never have yet hesitated to obey them."
"Forgive me, Mason," cried Dunwoodie, taking both his hands. "I do know
you for a brave and obedient soldier; forget my humor. But this
business--had you ever a friend?"
"Nay, nay," interrupted the lieutenant, "forgive me and my honest zeal.
I knew of the orders, and was fearful that censure might fall on my
officer. But remain, and let a man breathe a syllable against the corps,
and every sword will start from the scabbard of itself; besides, they
are still moving up, and it is a long road from Croton to King's Bridge.
Happen what may, I see plainly that we shall be on their heels before
they are housed again."
"Oh! that the courier was returned from headquarters!" exclaimed
Dunwoodie. "This suspense is insupportable."
"You have your wish," cried Mason. "Here he is at the moment, and riding
like the bearer of good news. God send it may be so; for I can't say
that I particularly like myself to see a brave young fellow dancing
Dunwoodie heard but very little of this feeling declaration; for, ere
half of it was uttered, he had leaped the fence and stood before the
"What news?" cried the major, the moment that the soldier stopped his
"Good!" exclaimed the man; and feeling no hesitation to intrust an
officer so well known as Major Dunwoodie, he placed the paper in his
hands, as he added, "but you can read it, sir, for yourself."
Dunwoodie paused not to read; but flew, with the elastic spring of joy,
to the chamber of the prisoner. The sentinel knew him, and he was
suffered to pass without question.
"Oh! Peyton," cried Frances, as he entered the apartment, "you look like
a messenger from heaven! Bring you tidings of mercy?"
"Here, Frances--here, Henry--here, dear cousin Jeanette," cried the
youth, as with trembling hands he broke the seal; "here is the letter
itself, directed to the captain of the guard. But listen--"
All did listen with intense anxiety; and the pang of blasted hope was
added to their misery, as they saw the glow of delight which had beamed
on the countenance of the major give place to a look of horror. The
paper contained the sentence of the court, and underneath was written
these simple words,--
"He's lost, he's lost!" cried Frances, sinking into the arms of her
"My son! my son!" sobbed the father, "there is mercy in heaven, if there
is none on earth. May Washington never want that mercy he thus denies to
my innocent child!"
"Washington!" echoed Dunwoodie, gazing around him in vacant horror.
"Yes, 'tis the act of Washington himself; these are his characters; his
very name is here, to sanction the dreadful deed."
"Cruel, cruel Washington!" cried Miss Peyton. "How has familiarity with
blood changed his nature!"
"Blame him not," said Dunwoodie; "it is the general, and not the man;
my life on it, he feels the blow he is compelled to inflict."
"I have been deceived in him," cried Frances. "He is not the savior of
his country; but a cold and merciless tyrant. Oh! Peyton, Peyton! how
have you misled me in his character!"
"Peace, dear Frances; peace, for God's sake; use not such language. He
is but the guardian of the law."
"You speak the truth, Major Dunwoodie," said Henry, recovering from the
shock of having his last ray of hope extinguished, and advancing from
his seat by the side of his father. "I, who am to suffer, blame him not.
Every indulgence has been granted me that I can ask. On the verge of the
grave I cannot continue unjust. At such a moment, with so recent an
instance of danger to your cause from treason, I wonder not at
Washington's unbending justice. Nothing now remains but to prepare for
that fate which so speedily awaits me. To you, Major Dunwoodie, I make
my first request."
"Name it," said the major, giving utterance with difficulty.
Henry turned, and pointing to the group of weeping mourners near him, he
"Be a son to this aged man; help his weakness, and defend him from any
usage to which the stigma thrown upon me may subject him. He has not
many friends amongst the rulers of this country; let your powerful name
be found among them."
"And this helpless innocent," continued Henry, pointing to where Sarah
sat, unconscious of what was passing, "I had hoped for an opportunity to
revenge her wrongs;" a flush of excitement passed over his features;
"but such thoughts are evil--I feel them to be wrong. Under your care,
Peyton, she will find sympathy and refuge."
"She shall," whispered Dunwoodie.
"This good aunt has claims upon you already; of her I will not speak;
but here," taking the hand of Frances, and dwelling upon her countenance
with an expression of fraternal affection, "here is the choicest gift of
all. Take her to your bosom, and cherish her as you would cultivate
innocence and virtue."
The major could not repress the eagerness with which he extended his
hand to receive the precious boon; but Frances, shrinking from his
touch, hid her face in the bosom of her aunt.
"No, no, no!" she murmured. "None can ever be anything to me who aid in
my brother's destruction."
Henry continued gazing at her in tender pity for several moments, before
he again resumed a discourse that all felt was most peculiarly his own.
"I have been mistaken, then. I did think, Peyton, that your worth, your
noble devotion to a cause that you have been taught to revere, that your
kindness to our father when in imprisonment, your friendship for me,--in
short, that your character was understood and valued by my sister."
"It is--it is," whispered Frances, burying her face still deeper in the
bosom of her aunt.
"I believe, dear Henry," said Dunwoodie, "this is a subject that had
better not be dwelt upon now."
"You forget," returned the prisoner, with a faint smile, "how much I
have to do, and how little time is left to do it in."
"I apprehend," continued the major, with a face of fire, "that Miss
Wharton has imbibed some opinions of me that would make a compliance
with your request irksome to her--opinions that it is now too late
"No, no, no," cried Frances, quickly, "you are exonerated, Peyton--with
her dying breath she removed my doubts."
"Generous Isabella!" murmured Dunwoodie; "but, still, Henry, spare your
sister now; nay, spare even me."
"I speak in pity to myself," returned the brother, gently removing
Frances from the arms of her aunt. "What a time is this to leave two
such lovely females without a protector! Their abode is destroyed, and
misery will speedily deprive them of their last male friend," looking at
his father; "can I die in peace with the knowledge of the danger to
which they will be exposed?"
"You forget me," said Miss Peyton, shrinking at the idea of celebrating
nuptials at such a moment.
"No, my dear aunt, I forget you not, nor shall I, until I cease to
remember; but you forget the times and the danger. The good woman who
lives in this house has already dispatched a messenger for a man of God,
to smooth my passage to another world. Frances, if you would wish me to
die in peace, to feel a security that will allow me to turn my whole
thoughts to heaven, you will let this clergyman unite you to Dunwoodie."
Frances shook her head, but remained silent.
"I ask for no joy--no demonstration of a felicity that you will not,
cannot feel, for months to come; but obtain a right to his powerful
name--give him an undisputed title to protect you--"
Again the maid made an impressive gesture of denial.
"For the sake of that unconscious sufferer"--pointing to Sarah, "for
your sake--for my sake--my sister--"
"Peace, Henry, or you will break my heart," cried the agitated girl.
"Not for worlds would I at such a moment engage in the solemn vows that
you wish. It would render me miserable for life."
"You love him not," said Henry, reproachfully. "I cease to importune you
to do what is against your inclinations."
Frances raised one hand to conceal her countenance, as she extended the
other towards Dunwoodie, and said earnestly,--
"Now you are unjust to me--before, you were unjust to yourself."
"Promise me, then," said Wharton, musing awhile in silence, "that as
soon as the recollection of my fate is softened, you will give my friend
that hand for life, and I am satisfied."
"I do promise," said Frances, withdrawing the hand that Dunwoodie
delicately relinquished, without even presuming to press it to his lips.
"Well, then, my good aunt," continued Henry, "will you leave me for a
short time alone with my friend? I have a few melancholy commissions
with which to intrust him, and would spare you and my sister the pain of
"There is yet time to see Washington again," said Miss Peyton, moving
towards the door; and then, speaking with extreme dignity, she
continued, "I will go myself; surely he must listen to a woman from his
own colony!--and we are in some degree connected with his family."
"Why not apply to Mr. Harper?" said Frances, recollecting the parting
words of their guest for the first time.
"Harper!" echoed Dunwoodie, turning towards her with the swiftness of
lightning; "what of him? Do you know him?"
"It is in vain," said Henry, drawing him aside; "Frances clings to hope
with the fondness of a sister. Retire, my love, and leave me with
But Frances read an expression in the eye of Dunwoodie that chained her
to the spot. After struggling to command her feelings, she continued,--
"He stayed with us for two days--he was with us when Henry was
"And--and--did you know him?"
"Nay," continued Frances, catching her breath as she witnessed the
intense interest of her lover, "we knew him not; he came to us in the
night, a stranger, and remained with us during the severe storm; but he
seemed to take an interest in Henry, and promised him his friendship,"
"What!" exclaimed the youth in astonishment. "Did he know your brother?"
"Certainly; it was at his request that Henry threw aside his disguise."
"But," said Dunwoodie, turning pale with suspense, "he knew him not as
an officer of the royal army?"
"Indeed he did," cried Miss Peyton; "and he cautioned us against this
Dunwoodie caught up the fatal paper, that still lay where it had fallen
from his own hands, and studied its characters intently. Something
seemed to bewilder his brain. He passed his hand over his forehead,
while each eye was fixed on him in dreadful suspense--all feeling afraid
to admit those hopes anew that had been so sadly destroyed.
"What said he? What promised he?" at length Dunwoodie asked, with
"He bid Henry apply to him when in danger, and promised to requite the
son for the hospitality of the father."
"Said he this, knowing him to be a British officer?"
"Most certainly; and with a view to this very danger."
"Then," cried the youth aloud, and yielding to his rapture, "then you
are safe--then will I save him; yes, Harper will never forget his word."
"But has he the power to?" said Frances. "Can he move the stubborn
purpose of Washington?"
"Can he? If he cannot," shouted the youth, "if he cannot, who can?
Greene, and Heath, and young Hamilton are nothing compared to this
Harper. But," rushing to his mistress, and pressing her hands
convulsively, "repeat to me--you say you have his promise?"
"Surely, surely, Peyton; his solemn, deliberate promise, knowing all the
"Rest easy," cried Dunwoodie, holding her to his bosom for a moment,
"rest easy, for Henry is safe."
He waited not to explain, but darting from the room, he left the family
in amazement. They continued in silent wonder until they heard the feet
of his charger, as he dashed from the door with the speed of an arrow.
A long time was spent after this abrupt departure of the youth, by the
anxious friends he had left, in discussing the probability of his
success. The confidence of his manner had, however, communicated to his
auditors something of his own spirit. Each felt that the prospects of
Henry were again brightening, and with their reviving hopes they
experienced a renewal of spirits, which in all but Henry himself
amounted to pleasure; with him, indeed, his state was too awful to admit
of trifling, and for a few hours he was condemned to feel how much more
intolerable was suspense than even the certainty of calamity. Not so
with Frances. She, with all the reliance of affection, reposed in
security on the assurance of Dunwoodie, without harassing herself with
doubts that she possessed not the means of satisfying; but believing her
lover able to accomplish everything that man could do, and retaining a
vivid recollection of the manner and benevolent appearance of Harper,
she abandoned herself to all the felicity of renovated hope.
The joy of Miss Peyton was more sobered, and she took frequent occasions
to reprove her niece for the exuberance of her spirits, before there was
a certainty that their expectations were to be realized. But the slight
smile that hovered around the lips of the virgin contradicted the very
sobriety of feeling that she inculcated.
"Why, dearest aunt," said Frances, playfully, in reply to one of her
frequent reprimands, "would you have me repress the pleasure that I feel
at Henry's deliverance, when you yourself have so often declared it to
be impossible that such men as ruled in our country could sacrifice an
"Nay, I did believe it impossible, my child, and yet think so; but still
there is a discretion to be shown in joy as well as in sorrow."
Frances recollected the declaration of Isabella, and turned an eye
filled with tears of gratitude on her excellent aunt, as she replied,--
"True; but there are feelings that will not yield to reason. Ah! here
are those monsters, who have come to witness the death of a fellow
creature, moving around yon field, as if life was, to them, nothing but
a military show."
"It is but little more to the hireling soldier," said Henry, endeavoring
to forget his uneasiness.
"You gaze, my love, as if you thought a military show of some
importance," said Miss Peyton, observing her niece to be looking from
the window with a fixed and abstracted attention. But Frances
From the window where she stood, the pass that they had traveled through
the Highlands was easily to be seen; and the mountain which held on its
summit the mysterious hut was directly before her. Its side was rugged
and barren; huge and apparently impassable barriers of rocks presenting
themselves through the stunted oaks, which, stripped of their foliage,
were scattered over its surface. The base of the hill was not half a
mile from the house, and the object which attracted the notice of
Frances was the figure of a man emerging from behind a rock of
remarkable formation, and as suddenly disappearing. The maneuver was
several times repeated, as if it were the intention of the fugitive (for
such by his air he seemed to be) to reconnoiter the proceedings of the
soldiery, and assure himself of the position of things on the plain.
Notwithstanding the distance, Frances instantly imbibed the opinion that
it was Birch. Perhaps this impression was partly owing to the air and
figure of the man, but in a great measure to the idea that presented
itself on formerly beholding the object at the summit of the mountain.
That they were the same figure she was confident, although this wanted
the appearance which, in the other, she had taken for the pack of the
peddler. Harvey had so connected himself with the mysterious deportment
of Harper, within her imagination, that under circumstances of less
agitation than those in which she had labored since her arrival, she
would have kept her suspicions to herself. Frances, therefore, sat
ruminating on this second appearance in silence, and endeavoring to
trace what possible connection this extraordinary man could have with
the fortunes of her own family. He had certainly saved Sarah in some
degree, from the blow that had partially alighted on her, and in no
instance had he proved himself to be hostile to their interests.
After gazing for a long time at the point where she had last seen the
figure, in the vain expectation of its reappearance, she turned to her
friends in the apartment. Miss Peyton was sitting by Sarah, who gave
some slight additional signs of observing what passed, but who still
continued insensible either to joy or grief.
"I suppose, by this time, my love, that you are well acquainted with the
maneuvers of a regiment," said Miss Peyton. "It is no bad quality in a
soldier's wife, at all events."
"I am not a wife yet," said Frances, coloring to the eyes; "and we have
little reason to wish for another wedding in our family."
"Frances!" exclaimed her brother, starting from his seat, and pacing the
floor in violent agitation. "Touch not the chord again, I entreat you.
While my fate is uncertain, I would wish to be at peace with all men."
"Then let the uncertainty cease," cried Frances, springing to the door,
"for here comes Peyton with the joyful intelligence of your release."
The words were hardly uttered, before the door opened, and the major
entered. In his air there was the appearance of neither success nor
defeat, but there was a marked display of vexation. He took the hand
that Frances, in the fullness of her heart, extended towards him, but
instantly relinquishing it, threw himself into a chair, in
"You have failed," said Wharton, with a bound of his heart, but an
appearance of composure.
"Have you seen Harper?" cried Frances, turning pale.
"I have not. I crossed the river in one boat as he must have been coming
to this side, in another. I returned without delay, and traced him for
several miles into the Highlands, by the western pass, but there I
unaccountably lost him. I have returned here to relieve your uneasiness,
but see him I will this night, and bring a respite for Henry."
"But saw you Washington?" asked Miss Peyton.
Dunwoodie gazed at her a moment in abstracted musing, and the question
was repeated. He answered gravely, and with some reserve,--
"The commander in chief had left his quarters."
"But, Peyton," cried Frances, in returning terror, "if they should not
see each other, it will be too late. Harper alone will not be
Her lover turned his eyes slowly on her anxious countenance, and
dwelling a moment on her features, said, still musing,--
"You say that he promised to assist Henry."
"Certainly, of his own accord and in requital for the hospitality he had
Dunwoodie shook his head, and began to look grave.
"I like not that word hospitality--it has an empty sound; there must be
something more reasonable to tie Harper. I dread some mistake; repeat to
me all that passed."
Frances, in a hurried and earnest voice, complied with his request. She
related particularly the manner of his arrival at the Locusts, the
reception that he received, and the events that passed as minutely as
her memory could supply her with the means. As she alluded to the
conversation that occurred between her father and his guest, the major
smiled but remained silent. She then gave a detail of Henry's arrival,
and the events of the following day. She dwelt upon the part where
Harper had desired her brother to throw aside his disguise, and
recounted, with wonderful accuracy, his remarks upon the hazard of the
step that the youth had taken. She even remembered a remarkable
expression of his to her brother, "that he was safer from Harper's
knowledge of his person, than he would be without it." Frances
mentioned, with the warmth of youthful admiration, the benevolent
character of his deportment to herself, and gave a minute relation of
his adieus to the whole family.
Dunwoodie at first listened with grave attention; evident satisfaction
followed as she proceeded. When she spoke of herself in connection with
their guest, he smiled with pleasure, and as she concluded, he
exclaimed, with delight,--
"We are safe!--we are safe!"
But he was interrupted, as will be seen in the following chapter.
The owlet loves the gloom of night,
The lark salutes the day,
The timid dove will coo at hand--
But falcons soar away.
--_Song in Duo_.
In a country settled, like these states, by a people who fled their
native land and much-loved firesides, victims of consciences and
religious zeal, none of the decencies and solemnities of a Christian
death are dispensed with, when circumstances will admit of their
exercise. The good woman of the house was a strict adherent to the forms
of the church to which she belonged; and having herself been awakened to
a sense of her depravity, by the ministry of the divine who harangued
the people of the adjoining parish, she thought it was from his
exhortations only that salvation could be meted out to the short-lived
hopes of Henry Wharton. Not that the kind-hearted matron was so ignorant
of the doctrines of the religion which she professed, as to depend,
theoretically, on mortal aid for protection; but she had, to use her own
phrase, "sat so long under the preaching of good Mr.----," that she had
unconsciously imbibed a practical reliance on his assistance, for that
which her faith should have taught her could come from the Deity alone.
With her, the consideration of death was at all times awful, and the
instant that the sentence of the prisoner was promulgated, she
dispatched Caesar, mounted on one of her husband's best horses, in quest
of her clerical monitor. This step had been taken without consulting
either Henry or his friends; and it was only when the services of Caesar
were required on some domestic emergency, that she explained the nature
of his absence. The youth heard her, at first, with an unconquerable
reluctance to admit of such a spiritual guide; but as our view of the
things of this life becomes less vivid, our prejudices and habits cease
to retain their influence; and a civil bow of thanks was finally given,
in requital for the considerate care of the well-meaning woman.
The black returned early from his expedition, and, as well as could be
gathered from his somewhat incoherent narrative, a minister of God might
be expected to arrive in the course of the day. The interruption that we
mentioned in our preceding chapter was occasioned by the entrance of the
landlady. At the intercession of Dunwoodie, orders had been given to the
sentinel who guarded the door of Henry's room, that the members of the
prisoner's family should, at all times, have free access to his
apartment. Caesar was included in this arrangement, as a matter of
convenience, by the officer in command; but strict inquiry and
examination was made into the errand of every other applicant for
admission. The major had, however, included himself among the relatives
of the British officer; and one pledge, that no rescue should be
attempted, was given in his name, for them all. A short conversation was
passing between the woman of the house and the corporal of the guard,
before the door that the sentinel had already opened in anticipation of
the decision of his noncommissioned commandant.
"Would you refuse the consolations of religion to a fellow creature
about to suffer death?" said the matron, with earnest zeal. "Would you
plunge a soul into the fiery furnace, and a minister at hand to point
out the straight and narrow path?"
"I'll tell you what, good woman," returned the corporal, gently pushing
her away; "I've no notion of my back being a highway for any man to walk
to heaven upon. A pretty figure I should make at the pickets, for
disobeying orders. Just step down and ask Lieutenant Mason, and you may
bring in a whole congregation. We have not taken the guard from the foot
soldiers, but an hour, and I shouldn't like to have it said that we know
less than the militia."
"Admit the woman," said Dunwoodie, sternly, observing, for the first
time, that one of his own corps was on post.
The corporal raised his hand to his cap, and fell back in silence; the
soldier stood to his arms, and the matron entered.
"Here is a reverend gentleman below, come to soothe the parting soul, in
the place of our own divine, who is engaged with an appointment that
could not be put aside; 'tis to bury old Mr.---"
"Show him in at once," said Henry, with feverish impatience.
"But will the sentinel let him pass? I would not wish a friend of
Mr.--to be rudely stopped on the threshold, and he a stranger."
All eyes were now turned on Dunwoodie, who, looking at his watch, spoke
a few words with Henry, in an undertone, and hastened from the
apartment, followed by Frances. The subject of their conversation was a
wish expressed by the prisoner for a clergyman of his own persuasion,
and a promise from the major, that one should be sent from Fishkill
town, through which he was about to pass, on his way to the ferry to
intercept the expected return of Harper. Mason soon made his bow at the
door, and willingly complied with the wishes of the landlady; and the
divine was invited to make his appearance accordingly.
The person who was ushered into the apartment, preceded by Caesar, and
followed by the matron, was a man beyond the middle age, or who might
rather be said to approach the downhill of life. In stature he was above
the size of ordinary men, though his excessive leanness might
contribute in deceiving as to his height; his countenance was sharp and
unbending, and every muscle seemed set in rigid compression. No joy or
relaxation appeared ever to have dwelt on features that frowned
habitually, as if in detestation of the vices of mankind. The brows were
beetling, dark, and forbidding, giving the promise of eyes of no less
repelling expression; but the organs were concealed beneath a pair of
enormous green goggles, through which they glared around with a
fierceness that denounced the coming day of wrath. All was fanaticism,
uncharitableness, and denunciation. Long, lank hair, a mixture of gray
and black, fell down his neck, and in some degree obscured the sides of
his face, and, parting on his forehead, fell in either direction in
straight and formal screens. On the top of this ungraceful exhibition
was laid impending forward, so as to overhang in some measure the whole
fabric, a large hat of three equal cocks. His coat was of a rusty black,
and his breeches and stockings were of the same color; his shoes without
luster, and half-concealed beneath huge plated buckles. He stalked into
the room, and giving a stiff nod with his head, took the chair offered
him by the black, in dignified silence. For several minutes no one broke
this ominous pause in the conversation; Henry feeling a repugnance to
his guest, that he was vainly endeavoring to conquer, and the stranger
himself drawing forth occasional sighs and groans, that threatened a
dissolution of the unequal connection between his sublimated soul and
its ungainly tenement. During this, deathlike preparation, Mr. Wharton,
with a feeling nearly allied to that of his son, led Sarah from the
apartment. His retreat was noticed by the divine, in a kind of scornful
disdain, who began to hum the air of a popular psalm tune, giving it the
full richness of the twang that distinguishes the Eastern [Footnote: By
"Eastern" is meant the states of New England, which, being originally
settled by Puritans, still retain many distinct shades of
"Caesar," said Miss Peyton, "hand the gentleman some refreshment; he
must need it after his ride."
"My strength is not in the things of this life," said the divine,
speaking in a hollow, sepulchral voice. "Thrice have I this day held
forth in my Master's service, and fainted not; still it is prudent to
help this frail tenement of clay, for, surely, 'the laborer is worthy of
Opening a pair of enormous jaws, he took a good measure of the proffered
brandy, and suffered it to glide downwards, with that sort of facility
with which man is prone to sin.
"I apprehend, then, sir, that fatigue will disable you from performing
the duties which kindness has induced you to attempt."
"Woman!" exclaimed the stranger, with energy, "when was I ever known to
shrink from a duty? But 'judge not lest ye be judged,' and fancy not
that it is given to mortal eyes to fathom the intentions of the Deity."
"Nay," returned the maiden, meekly, and slightly disgusted with his
jargon, "I pretend not to judge of either events, or the intentions of
my fellow creatures, much less of those of Omnipotence."
"'Tis well, woman,--'tis well," cried the minister, moving his head with
supercilious disdain; "humility becometh thy sex and lost condition; thy
weakness driveth thee on headlong like 'unto the bosom of destruction.'"
Surprised at this extraordinary deportment, but yielding to that habit
which urges us to speak reverently on sacred subjects, even when perhaps
we had better continue silent, Miss Peyton replied,--
"There is a Power above, that can and will sustain us all in well-doing,
if we seek its support in humility and truth."
The stranger turned a lowering look at the speaker, and then composing
himself into an air of self-abasement, he continued in the same
"It is not everyone that crieth out for mercy, that will be heard. The
ways of Providence are not to be judged by men--'Many are called, but
few chosen.' It is easier to talk of humility than to feel it. Are you
so humble, vile worm, as to wish to glorify God by your own damnation?
If not, away with you for a publican and a Pharisee!"
Such gross fanaticism was uncommon in America, and Miss Peyton began to
imbibe the impression that her guest was deranged; but remembering that
he had been sent by a well-known divine, and one of reputation, she
discarded the idea, and, with some forbearance, observed,--
"I may deceive myself, in believing that mercy is proffered to all, but
it is so soothing a doctrine, that I would not willingly be undeceived."
"Mercy is only for the elect," cried the stranger, with an unaccountable
energy; "and you are in the 'valley of the shadow of death.' Are you not
a follower of idle ceremonies, which belong to the vain church that our
tyrants would gladly establish here, along with their stamp acts and tea
laws? Answer me that, woman; and remember, that Heaven hears your
answer; are you not of that idolatrous communion?"
"I worship at the altars of my fathers," said Miss Peyton, motioning to
Henry for silence; "but bow to no other idol than my own infirmities."
"Yes, yes, I know ye, self-righteous and papal as ye are--followers of
forms, and listeners to bookish preaching; think you, woman, that holy
Paul had notes in his hand to propound the Word to the believers?"
"My presence disturbs you," said Miss Peyton, rising. "I will leave you
with my nephew, and offer those prayers in private that I did wish to
mingle with his."
So saying, she withdrew, followed by the landlady, who was not a little
shocked, and somewhat surprised, by the intemperate zeal of her new
acquaintance; for, although the good woman believed that Miss Peyton and
her whole church were on the highroad to destruction, she was by no
means accustomed to hear such offensive and open avowals of their fate.
Henry had with difficulty repressed the indignation excited by this
unprovoked attack on his meek and unresisting aunt; but as the door
closed on her retiring figure, he gave way to his feelings.
"I must confess, sir," he exclaimed with heat, "that in receiving a
minister of God, I thought I was admitting a Christian; and one who, by
feeling his own weaknesses, knew how to pity the frailties of others.
You have wounded the meek spirit of an excellent woman, and I
acknowledge but little inclination to mingle in prayer with so
intolerant a spirit."
The minister stood erect, with grave composure, following with his eyes,
in a kind of scornful pity, the retiring females, and suffered the
expostulation of the youth to be given, as if unworthy of his notice. A
third voice, however, spoke,--
"Such a denunciation would have driven many women into fits; but it has
answered the purpose well enough, as it is."
"Who's that?" cried the prisoner, in amazement, gazing around the room
in quest of the speaker.
"It is I, Captain Wharton," said Harvey Birch, removing the spectacles,
and exhibiting his piercing eyes, shining under a pair of
"Silence!" said the peddler, solemnly. "'Tis a name not to be mentioned,
and least of all here, within the heart of the American army." Birch
paused and gazed around him for a moment, with an emotion exceeding the
base passion of fear, and then continued in a gloomy tone, "There are a
thousand halters in that very name, and little hope would there be left
me of another escape, should I be again taken. This is a fearful venture
that I am making; but I could not sleep in quiet, and know that an
innocent man was about to die the death of a dog, when I might
"No," said Henry, with a glow of generous feeling on his cheek, "if the
risk to yourself be so heavy, retire as you came, and leave me to my
fate. Dunwoodie is making, even now, powerful exertions in my behalf;
and if he meets with Mr. Harper in the course of the night, my
liberation is certain."
"Harper!" echoed the peddler, remaining with his hands raised, in the
act of replacing the spectacles. "What do you know of Harper? And why do
you think he will do you service?"
"I have his promise; you remember our recent meeting in my father's
dwelling, and he then gave an unasked promise to assist me."
"Yes--but do you know him? That is--why do you think he has the power?
Or what reason have you for believing he will remember his word?"
"If there ever was the stamp of truth, or simple, honest benevolence, in
the countenance of man, it shone in his," said Henry. "Besides,
Dunwoodie has powerful friends in the rebel army, and it would be better
that I take the chance where I am, than thus to expose you to certain
death, if detected."
"Captain Wharton," said Birch, looking guardedly around and speaking
with impressive seriousness of manner, "if I fail you, all fail you. No
Harper nor Dunwoodie can save your life; unless you get out with me, and
that within the hour, you die to-morrow on the gallows of a murderer.
Yes, such are their laws; the man who fights, and kills, and plunders,
is honored; but he who serves his country as a spy, no matter how
faithfully, no matter how honestly, lives to be reviled, or dies like
the vilest criminal!"
"You forget, Mr. Birch," said the youth, a little indignantly, "that I
am not a treacherous, lurking spy, who deceives to betray; but innocent
of the charge imputed to me."
The blood rushed over the pale, meager features of the peddler, until
his face was one glow of fire; but it passed quickly away, as he
"I have told you truth. Caesar met me, as he was going on his errand
this morning, and with him I have laid the plan which, if executed as I
wish, will save you--otherwise you are lost; and I again tell you, that
no other power on earth, not even Washington, can save you."
"I submit," said the prisoner, yielding to his earnest manner, and
goaded by the fears that were thus awakened anew.
The peddler beckoned him to be silent, and walking to the door, opened
it, with the stiff, formal air with which he had entered the apartment.
"Friend, let no one enter," he said to the sentinel. "We are about to go
to prayer, and would wish to be alone."
"I don't know that any will wish to interrupt you," returned the
soldier, with a waggish leer of his eye; "but, should they be so
disposed, I have no power to stop them, if they be of the prisoner's
friends. I have my orders, and must mind them, whether the Englishman
goes to heaven, or not."
"Audacious sinner!" said the pretended priest, "have you not the fear of
God before your eyes? I tell you, as you will dread punishment at the
last day, to let none of the idolatrous communion enter, to mingle in
the prayers of the righteous."
"Whew-ew-ew--what a noble commander you'd make for Sergeant Hollister!
You'd preach him dumb in a roll call. Harkee, I'll thank you not to make
such a noise when you hold forth, as to drown our bugles, or you may get
a poor fellow a short horn at his grog, for not turning out to the
evening parade. If you want to be alone, have you no knife to stick over
the door latch, that you must have a troop of horse to guard your
The peddler took the hint, and closed the door immediately, using the
precaution suggested by the dragoon.
"You overact your part," said young Wharton, in constant apprehension of
discovery; "your zeal is too intemperate."
"For a foot soldier and them Eastern militia, it might be," said
Harvey, turning a bag upside down, that Caesar now handed him; "but
these dragoons are fellows that you must brag down. A faint heart,
Captain Wharton, would do but little here; but come, here is a black
shroud for your good-looking countenance," taking, at the same time, a
parchment mask, and fitting it to the face of Henry. "The master and the
man must change places for a season."
"I don't t'ink he look a bit like me," said Caesar, with disgust, as he
surveyed his young master with his new complexion.
"Stop a minute, Caesar," said the peddler, with the lurking drollery
that at times formed part of his manner, "till we get on the wool."
"He worse than ebber now," cried the discontented African. "A t'ink
colored man like a sheep! I nebber see sich a lip, Harvey; he most as
big as a sausage!"
Great pains had been taken in forming the different articles used in the
disguise of Captain Wharton, and when arranged, under the skillful
superintendence of the peddler, they formed together a transformation
that would easily escape detection, from any but an extraordinary
The mask was stuffed and shaped in such a manner as to preserve the
peculiarities, as well as the color, of the African visage; and the wig
was so artfully formed of black and white wool, as to imitate the
pepper-and-salt color of Caesar's own head, and to exact plaudits from
the black himself, who thought it an excellent counterfeit in everything
"There is but one man in the American army who could detect you, Captain
Wharton," said the peddler, surveying his work with satisfaction, "and
he is just now out of our way."
"And who is he?"
"The man who made you prisoner. He would see your white skin through a
plank. But strip, both of you; your clothes must be exchanged from
head to foot."
Caesar, who had received minute instructions from the peddler in their
morning interview, immediately commenced throwing aside his coarse
garments, which the youth took up and prepared to invest himself with;
unable, however, to repress a few signs of loathing.
In the manner of the peddler there was an odd mixture of care and humor;
the former was the result of a perfect knowledge of their danger, and
the means necessary to be used in avoiding it; and the latter proceeded
from the unavoidably ludicrous circumstances before him, acting on an
indifference which sprang from habit, and long familiarity with such
scenes as the present.
"Here, captain," he said, taking up some loose wool, and beginning to
stuff the stockings of Caesar, which were already on the leg of the
prisoner; "some judgment is necessary in shaping this limb. You will
have to display it on horseback; and the Southern dragoons are so used
to the brittle-shins, that should they notice your well-turned calf,
they'd know at once it never belonged to a black."
"Golly!" said Caesar, with a chuckle, that exhibited a mouth open from
ear to ear, "Massa Harry breeches fit."
"Anything but your leg," said the peddler, coolly pursuing the toilet of
Henry. "Slip on the coat, captain, over all. Upon my word, you'd pass
well at a pinkster frolic; and here, Caesar, place this powdered wig
over your curls, and be careful and look out of the window, whenever the
door is open, and on no account speak, or you will betray all."
"I s'pose Harvey t'ink a colored man ain't got a tongue like oder folk,"
grumbled the black, as he took the station assigned to him.
Everything now was arranged for action, and the peddler very
deliberately went over the whole of his injunctions to the two actors in
the scene. The captain he conjured to dispense with his erect military
carriage, and for a season to adopt the humble paces of his father's
negro; and Caesar he enjoined to silence and disguise, so long as he
could possibly maintain them. Thus prepared, he opened the door, and
called aloud to the sentinel, who had retired to the farthest end of the
passage, in order to avoid receiving any of that spiritual comfort,
which he felt was the sole property of another.
"Let the woman of the house be called," said Harvey, in the solemn key
of his assumed character; "and let her come alone. The prisoner is in a
happy train of meditation, and must not be led from his devotions."
Caesar sank his face between his hands; and when the soldier looked into
the apartment, he thought he saw his charge in deep abstraction. Casting
a glance of huge contempt at the divine, he called aloud for the good
woman of the house. She hastened at the summons, with earnest zeal,
entertaining a secret hope that she was to be admitted to the gossip of
a death-bed repentance.
"Sister," said the minister, in the authoritative tones of a master,
"have you in the house `The Christian Criminal's last Moments, or
Thoughts on Eternity, for them who die a violent Death'?"
"I never heard of the book!" said the matron in astonishment.
"'Tis not unlikely; there are many books you have never heard of: it is
impossible for this poor penitent to pass in peace, without the
consolations of that volume. One hour's reading in it is worth an age of
"Bless me, what a treasure to possess! When was it put out?"
"It was first put out at Geneva in the Greek language, and then
translated at Boston. It is a book, woman, that should be in the hands
of every Christian, especially such as die upon the gallows. Have a
horse prepared instantly for this black, who shall accompany me to my
brother--, and I will send down the volume yet in season. Brother,
compose thy mind; you are now in the narrow path to glory."
Caesar wriggled a little in his chair, but he had sufficient
recollection to conceal his face with hands that were, in their turn,
concealed by gloves. The landlady departed, to comply with this very
reasonable request, and the group of conspirators were again left to
"This is well," said the peddler; "but the difficult task is to deceive
the officer who commands the guard--he is lieutenant to Lawton, and has
learned some of the captain's own cunning in these things. Remember,
Captain Wharton," continued he with an air of pride, "that now is the
moment when everything depends on our coolness."
"My fate can be made but little worse than it is at present, my worthy
fellow," said Henry; "but for your sake I will do all that in me lies."
"And wherein can I be more forlorn and persecuted than I now am?" asked
the peddler, with that wild incoherence which often crossed his manner.
"But I have promised _one_ to save you, and to him I have never yet
broken my word."
"And who is he?" said Henry, with awakened interest.
The man soon returned, and announced that the horses were at the door.
Harvey gave the captain a glance, and led the way down the stairs, first
desiring the woman to leave the prisoner to himself, in order that he
might digest the wholesome mental food that he had so lately received.
A rumor of the odd character of the priest had spread from the sentinel
at the door to his comrades; so that when Harvey and Wharton reached the
open space before the building, they found a dozen idle dragoons
loitering about with the waggish intention of quizzing the fanatic, and
employed in affected admiration of the steeds.
"A fine horse!" said the leader in this plan of mischief; "but a little
low in flesh. I suppose from hard labor in your calling."
"My calling may be laborsome to both myself and this faithful beast, but
then a day of settling is at hand, that will reward me for all my
outgoings and incomings," said Birch, putting his foot in the stirrup,
and preparing to mount.
"You work for pay, then, as we fight for't?" cried another of the party.
"Even so--is not the laborer worthy of his hire?"
"Come, suppose you give us a little preaching; we have a leisure moment
just now, and there's no telling how much good you might do a set of
reprobates like us, in a few words. Here, mount this horseblock, and
take your text where you please."
The men now gathered in eager delight around the peddler, who, glancing
his eye expressively towards the captain, who had been suffered to
"Doubtless, for such is my duty. But, Caesar, you can ride up the road
and deliver the note--the unhappy prisoner will be wanting the book, for
his hours are numbered."
"Aye, aye, go along, Caesar, and get the book," shouted half a dozen
voices, all crowding eagerly around the ideal priest, in anticipation
of a frolic.
The peddler inwardly dreaded, that, in their unceremonious handling of
himself and garments, his hat and wig might be displaced, when detection
would be certain; he was therefore fain to comply with their request.
Ascending the horseblock, after hemming once or twice, and casting
several glances at the captain, who continued immovable, he commenced as
"I shall call your attention, my brethren, to that portion of Scripture
which you will find in the second book of Samuel, and which is written
in the following words:--'_And the king lamented over Abner, and said.
Died Abner as a fool dieth? Thy hands were not bound, nor thy feet put
into fetters: as a man falleth before wicked men, so fellest thou. And
all the people wept again over him_.' Caesar, ride forward, I say, and
obtain the book as directed; thy master is groaning in spirit even now
for the want of it."
"An excellent text!" cried the dragoons. "Go on--go on--let the
snowball stay; he wants to be edified as well as another."
"What are you at there, scoundrels?" cried Lieutenant Mason, as he came
in sight from a walk he had taken to sneer at the evening parade of the
regiment of militia. "Away with every man of you to your quarters, and
let me find that each horse is cleaned and littered, when I come round."
The sound of the officer's voice operated like a charm, and no priest
could desire a more silent congregation, although he might possibly have
wished for one that was more numerous. Mason had not done speaking, when
it was reduced to the image of Caesar only. The peddler took that
opportunity to mount, but he had to preserve the gravity of his
movements, for the remark of the troopers upon the condition of their
beasts was but too just, and a dozen dragoon horses stood saddled and
bridled at hand, ready to receive their riders at a moment's warning.
"Well, have you bitted the poor fellow within," said Mason, "that he can
take his last ride under the curb of divinity, old gentleman?"
"There is evil in thy conversation, profane man," cried the priest,
raising his hands and casting his eyes upwards in holy horror; "so I
will depart from thee unhurt, as Daniel was liberated from the
"Off with you, for a hypocritical, psalm-singing, canting rogue in
disguise," said Mason scornfully. "By the life of Washington! it worries
an honest fellow to see such voracious beasts of prey ravaging a country
for which he sheds his blood. If I had you on a Virginia plantation for
a quarter of an hour, I'd teach you to worm the tobacco with
"I leave you, and shake the dust off my shoes, that no remnant of this
wicked hole may tarnish the vestments of the godly."
"Start, or I will shake the dust from your jacket, designing knave! A
fellow to be preaching to my men! There's Hollister put the devil in
them by his exhorting; the rascals were getting too conscientious to
strike a blow that would raze the skin. But hold! Whither do you travel,
Master Blackey, in such godly company?"
"He goes," said the minister, hastily speaking for his companion, "to
return with a book of much condolence and virtue to the sinful youth
above, whose soul will speedily become white, even as his outwards are
black and unseemly. Would you deprive a dying man of the consolation of
"No, no, poor fellow, his fate is bad enough; a famous good breakfast
his prim body of an aunt gave us. But harkee, Mr. Revelation, if the
youth must die _secundum arlem_, let it be under a gentleman's
directions, and my advice is, that you never trust that skeleton of
yours among us again, or I will take the skin off and leave you naked."
"Out upon thee for a reviler and scoffer of goodness!" said Birch,
moving slowly, and with a due observance of clerical dignity, down the
road, followed by the imaginary Caesar. "But I leave thee, and that
behind me that will prove thy condemnation, and take from thee a hearty
and joyful deliverance."
"Damn him," muttered the trooper. "The fellow rides like a stake, and
his legs stick out like the cocks of his hat. I wish I had him below
these hills, where the law is not over-particular, I'd---"
"Corporal of the guard!--corporal of the guard!" shouted the sentinel in
the passage to the chambers, "corporal of the guard!--corporal of
The subaltern flew up the narrow stairway that led to the room of the
prisoner, and demanded the meaning of the outcry.
The soldier was standing at the open door of the apartment, looking in
with a suspicious eye on the supposed British officer. On observing his
lieutenant, he fell back with habitual respect, and replied, with an air
of puzzled thought,--
"I don't know, sir; but just now the prisoner looked queer. Ever since
the preacher has left him, he don't look as he used to do--but," gazing
intently over the shoulder of his officer, "it must be him, too! There
is the same powdered head, and the darn in the coat, where he was hit
the day we had the last brush with the enemy."
"And then all this noise is occasioned by your doubting whether that
poor gentleman is your prisoner, or not, is it, sirrah? Who the devil do
you think it can be, else?"
"I don't know who else it can be," returned the fellow, sullenly; "but
he has grown thicker and shorter, if it is he; and see for yourself,
sir, he shakes all over, like a man in an ague."
This was but too true. Caesar was an alarmed auditor of this short
conversation, and, from congratulating himself upon the dexterous escape
of his young master, his thoughts were very naturally beginning to dwell
upon the probable consequences to his own person. The pause that
succeeded the last remark of the sentinel, in no degree contributed to
the restoration of his faculties. Lieutenant Mason was busied in
examining with his own eyes the suspected person of the black, and
Caesar was aware of the fact, by stealing a look through a passage under
one of his arms, that he had left expressly for the purpose of
reconnoitering. Captain Lawton would have discovered the fraud
immediately, but Mason was by no means so quick-sighted as his
commander. He therefore turned rather contemptuously to the soldier,
and, speaking in an undertone, observed,
"That anabaptist, methodistical, quaker, psalm-singing rascal has
frightened the boy, with his farrago about flames and brimstone. I'll
step in and cheer him with a little rational conversation."
"I have heard of fear making a man white," said the soldier, drawing
back, and staring as if his eyes would start from their sockets, "but it
has changed the royal captain to a black!"
The truth was, that Caesar, unable to hear what Mason uttered in a low
voice, and having every fear aroused in him by what had already passed,
incautiously removed the wig a little from one of his ears, in order to
hear the better, without in the least remembering that its color might
prove fatal to his disguise. The sentinel had kept his eyes fastened on
his prisoner, and noticed the action. The attention of Mason was
instantly drawn to the same object; and, forgetting all delicacy for a
brother officer in distress, or, in short, forgetting everything but the
censure that might alight on his corps, the lieutenant sprang forward
and seized the terrified African by the throat; for no sooner had Caesar
heard his color named, than he knew his discovery was certain; and at
the first sound of Mason's heavy boot on the floor, he arose from his
seat, and retreated precipitately to a corner of the room.
"Who are you?" cried Mason, dashing the head of the old man against the
angle of the wall at each interrogatory. "Who the devil are you, and
where is the Englishman? Speak, thou thundercloud! Answer me, you
jackdaw, or I'll hang you on the gallows of the spy!"
Caesar continued firm. Neither the threats nor the blows could extract
any reply, until the lieutenant, by a very natural transition in the
attack, sent his heavy boot forward in a direction that brought it in
direct contact with the most sensitive part of the negro--his shin. The
most obdurate heart could not have exacted further patience, and Caesar