Part 4 out of 9
Ho! Princes of Jacob! the strength and the stay
Of the daughters of Zion;--now up, and away;
Lo, the hunters have struck her, and bleeding alone
Like a pard in the desert she maketh her moan:
Up with war-horse and banner, with spear and with sword,
On the spoiler go down in the might of the Lord!
The succeeding fortnight, or three weeks, brought no material changes,
beyond those connected with the progress of the season. Vegetation was
out in its richest luxuriance, the rows of corn and potatoes, freshly
hoed, were ornamenting the flats, the wheat and other grains were
throwing up their heads, and the meadows were beginning to exchange
their flowers for the seed. As for the forest, it had now veiled its
mysteries beneath broad curtains of a green so bright and lively, that
one can only meet it, beneath a generous sun, tempered by genial rains,
and a mountain air. The chain-bearers, and other companions of Beekman,
quitted the valley the day after the wedding, leaving no one of their
party behind but its principal.
The absence of the major was not noted by Joel and his set, in the
excitement of receiving so many guests, and in the movement of the
wedding. But, as soon as the fact was ascertained, the overseer and
miller made the pretence of a 'slack-time' in their work, and obtained
permission to go to the Mohawk, on private concerns of their own. Such
journeys were sufficiently common to obviate suspicion; and, the leave
had, the two conspirators started off, in company, the morning of the
second day, or forty-eight hours after the major and Nick had
disappeared. As the latter was known to have come in by the Fort
Stanwix route, it was naturally enough supposed that he had returned by
the same; and Joel determined to head him on the Mohawk, at some point
near Schenectady, where he might make a merit of his own patriotism, by
betraying the son of his master. The reader is not to suppose Joel
intended to do all this openly; so far from it, his plan was to keep
himself in the back-ground, while he attracted attention to the
supposed toryism of the captain, and illustrated his own attachment to
It is scarcely necessary to say that this plan failed, in consequence
of the new path taken by Nick. At the very moment when Joel and the
miller were lounging about a Dutch inn, some fifteen or twenty miles
above Schenectady, in waiting for the travellers to descend the valley
of the Mohawk, Robert Willoughby and his guide were actually crossing
the Hudson, in momentary security at least. After remaining at his post
until satisfied his intended prey had escaped him, Joel, with his
friend, returned to the settlement. Still, the opportunity had been
improved, to make himself better acquainted with the real state of the
country; to open communications with certain patriots of a moral
calibre about equal to his own, but of greater influence; to throw out
divers injurious hints, and secret insinuations concerning the captain;
and to speculate on the propriety of leaving so important a person to
work his will, at a time so critical. But the pear was not yet ripe,
and all that could now be done was to clear the way a little for
something important in future.
In the meantime, Evert Beekman having secured his gentle and true-
hearted wife, began, though with a heavy heart, to bethink him of his
great political duties. It was well understood that he was to have a
regiment of the new levies, and Beulah had schooled her affectionate
heart to a degree that permitted her to part with him, in such a cause,
with seeming resignation. It was, sooth to say, a curious spectacle, to
see how these two sisters bent all their thoughts and wishes, in
matters of a public nature, to favour the engrossing sentiments of
their sex and natures; Maud being strongly disposed to sustain the
royal cause, and the bride to support that in which her husband had
enlisted, heart and hand.
As for captain Willoughby, he said little on the subject of politics;
but the marriage of Beulah had a powerful influence in confirming his
mind in the direction it had taken after the memorable argument with
the chaplain. Colonel Beekman was a man of strong good sense, though
without the least brilliancy; and his arguments were all so clear and
practical, as to carry with them far more weight than was usual in the
violent partisan discussions of the period. Beulah fancied him a Solon
in sagacity, and a Bacon in wisdom. Her father, without proceeding
quite as far as this, was well pleased with his cool discriminating
judgment, and much disposed to defer to his opinions. The chaplain was
left out of the discussions as incorrigible.
The middle of June was passed, at the time colonel Beekman began to
think of tearing himself from his wife, in order to return into the
active scenes of preparation he had quitted, to make this visit. As
usual, the family frequented the lawn, at the close of the day, the
circumstance of most of the windows of the Hut looking on the court,
rendering this resort to the open air more agreeable than might
otherwise have been the case. Evert was undecided whether to go the
following morning, or to remain a day longer, when the lawn was thus
occupied, on the evening of the 25th of the month, Mrs. Willoughby
making the tea, as usual, her daughters sitting near her, sewing, and
the gentlemen at hand, discussing the virtues of different sorts of
"There is a stranger!" suddenly exclaimed the chaplain, looking towards
the rocks near the mill, the point at which all arrivals in the valley
were first seen from the Hut. "He comes, too, like a man in haste,
whatever may be his errand."
"God be praised," returned the captain rising; "it is Nick, on his
usual trot, and this is about the time he should be back, the bearer of
good news. A week earlier might have augured better; but this will do.
The fellow moves over the ground as if he really had something to
Mrs. Willoughby and her daughters suspended their avocations, and the
gentlemen stood, in silent expectation, watching the long, loping
strides of the Tuscarora, as he came rapidly across the plain. In a few
minutes the Indian came upon the lawn, perfectly in wind, moving with
deliberation and gravity, as he drew nearer to the party. Captain
Willoughby, knowing his man, waited quite another minute, after the
red-man was leaning against an apple-tree, before he questioned him.
"Welcome back, Nick," he then said. "Where did you leave my son?"
"He tell dere," answered the Indian, presenting a note, which the
"This is all right, Nick; and it shows you have been a true man. Your
wages shall be paid to-night. But, this letter has been written on the
eastern bank of the Hudson, and is quite three weeks old--why have we
not seen you, sooner?"
"Can't see, when he don't come."
"That is plain enough; but why have you not come back sooner? That is
"Want to look at country--went to shore of Great Salt Lake."
"Oh!--Curiosity, then, has been at the bottom of your absence?"
"Nick warrior--no squaw--got no cur'osity."
"No, no--I beg your pardon, Nick; I did not mean to accuse you of so
womanish a feeling. Far from it; I know you are a man. Tell us,
however, how far, and whither you went?"
"Bos'on," answered Nick, sententiously.
"Boston! That has been a journey, indeed. Surely my son did not allow
you to travel in his company through Massachusetts?"
"Nick go alone. Two path; one for major; one for Tuscarora. Nick got
"That I can believe, if you were in earnest. Were you not questioned by
"Yes. Tell 'em I'm Stockbridge--pale-face know no better. T'ink he fox;
more like wood-chuck."
"Thank you, Nick, for the compliment. Had my son reached Boston before
you came away?"
"Here he be"--answered the Indian, producing another missive, from the
folds of his calico shirt.
The captain received the note which he read with extreme gravity, and
"This is in Bob's handwriting," he said, "and is dated 'Boston, June
18th, 1775;' but it is without signature, and is not only Bob, but Bob
"Read, dear Willoughby," exclaimed the anxious mother. "News from
_him_, concerns us all."
"News, Wilhelmina!--They may call this news in Boston, but one is very
little the better for it at the Hutted Knoll. However, such as it is,
there is no reason for keeping it a secret, while there is _one_
reason, at least, why it should be known. This is all. 'My dearest
sir--Thank God I am unharmed; but we have had much to make us reflect;
you know what duty requires--my best and endless love to my mother, and
Beulah--and dear, laughing, capricious, _pretty_ Maud. Nick was
present, and can tell you all. I do not think he will extenuate, or
aught set down in malice."' And this without direction, or signature;
with nothing, in fact, but place and date. What say _you_ to all
"He very good--major dere; he know. Nick dere--hot time--a t'ousand
scalp--coat red as blood."
"There has been another battle!" exclaimed the captain; "that is too
plain to admit of dispute. Speak out at once, Nick--which gained the
day; the British or the Americans?"
"Hard to tell--one fight, t'other fight. Red-coat take de ground;
Yankee kill. If Yankee could take scalp of all he kill, he whip. But,
poor warriors at takin' scalp. No know how."
"Upon my word, Woods, there does seem to be something in all this! It
can hardly be possible that the Americans would dare to attack Boston,
defended as it is, by a strong army of British regulars."
"That would they not," cried the chaplain, with emphasis. "This has
been only another skirmish."
"What you call skirmge?" asked Nick, pointedly. "It skirmge to take
t'ousand scalp, ha?"
"Tell us what _has_ happened, Tuscarora?" said the captain,
motioning his friend to be silent.
"Soon tell--soon done. Yankee on hill; reg'lar in canoe. Hundred,
t'ousand, fifty canoe--full of red-coat. Great chief, dere!--ten--six--
two--all go togeder. Come ashore--parade, pale-face manner--march--
booh--booh--dem cannon; pop, pop--dem gun. Wah! how he run!"
"Run!--who ran, Nick?--Though I suppose it must have been the poor
Americans, of course."
"Red-coat run," answered the Indian, quietly.
This reply produced a general sensation, even the ladies starting, and
gazing at each other.
"Red-coat run"--repeated the captain, slowly. "Go on with your history,
Nick--where was this battle fought?"
"T'other Bos'on--over river--go in canoe to fight, like Injin from
"That must have been in Charlestown, Woods--you may remember Boston is
on one peninsula, and Charlestown on another. Still, I do not recollect
that the Americans were in the latter, Beekman--you told me nothing of
"They were not so near the royal forces, certainly, when I left Albany,
sir," returned the colonel. "A few direct questions to the Indian,
however, would bring out the whole truth."
"We must proceed more methodically. How many Yankees were in this
fight, Nick?--Calculate as we used to, in the French war."
"Reach from here to mill--t'ree, two deep, cap'in. All farmer; no
sodger. Carry gun, but no carry baggonet; no carry knapsack. No wear
red-coat. _Look_ like town-meetin'; _fight_ like devils."
"A line as long as from this to the mill, three deep, would contain
about two thousand men, Beekman. Is that what you wish to say, Nick?"
"That about him--pretty near--just so."
"Well, then, there were about two thousand Yankees on this hill--how
many king's troops crossed in the canoes, to go against them?"
"Two time--one time, so many; t'other time, half so many. Nick close
by; count _him_."
"That would make three thousand in all! By George, this does look like
work. Did they all go together, Nick?"
"No; one time go first; fight, run away. Den two time go, fight good
deal--run away, too. Den try harder--set fire to wigwam--go up hill;
Yankee run away."
"This is plain enough, and quite graphical. Wigwam on fire? Charlestown
is not burnt, Nick?"
"Dat he--Look like old Council Fire, gone out. Big canoe fire--booh--
booh--Nick nebber see such war before--wah! Dead man plenty as leaves
on tree; blood run like creek!"
"Were you in this battle, Nick? How came you to learn so much about
"Don't want to be in it--better out--no scalp taken. Red-man not'in' to
do, dere. How know about him?--_See_ him--dat all. Got eye; why no
see him, behind stone wall. Good see, behind stone wall."
"Were you across the water yourself, or did you remain in Boston, and
see from a distance?"
"Across in canoe--tell red-coat, general send letter by Nick--major
say, he _my_ friend--let Nick go."
"My son was in this bloody battle, then!" said Mrs. Willoughby. "He
writes, Hugh, that he is safe?"
"He does, dearest Wilhelmina; and Bob knows us too well, to attempt
deception, in such a matter."
"Did you see the major in the field, Nick--after you crossed the water,
"See him, all. Six--two--seven t'ousand. Close by; why not see major
stand up like pine--no dodge he head, _dere_. Kill all round him--
no hurt _him_! Fool to stay dere--tell him so; but he no come
away. Save he scalp, too."
"And how many slain do you suppose there might have been left on the
ground--or, did you riot remain to see?"
"Did see--stay to get gun--knapsack--oder good t'ing--plenty about;
pick him up, fast as want him." Here Nick coolly opened a small bundle,
and exhibited an epaulette, several rings, a watch, five or six pairs
of silver buckles, and divers other articles of plunder, of which he
had managed to strip the dead. "All good t'ing--plenty as stone--have
him widout askin'."
"So I see, Master Nick--and is this the plunder of Englishmen, or of
"Red-coat nearest--got most t'ing, too. Go farder, fare worse; as pale-
"Quite satisfactory. Were there more red-coats left on the ground, or
"Red-coat so," said Nick, holding up _four_ fingers--Yankee, so;
"holding up _one_. Take big grave to hold red-coat. Small grave
won't hold Yankee. Hear what he count; most red-coat. More than
t'ousand warrior! British groan, like squaw dat lose her hunter."
Such was Saucy Nick's description of the celebrated, and, in some
particulars, unrivalled combat of Bunker Hill, of which he had actually
been an eye-witness, on the ground, though using the precaution to keep
his body well covered. He did not think it necessary to state the fact
that he had given the _coup-de-grace_, himself, to the owner of
the epaulette, nor did he deem it essential to furnish all the
particulars of his mode of obtaining so many buckles. In other
respects, his account was fair enough, "nothing extenuating, or setting
down aught in malice." The auditors had listened with intense feeling;
and Maud, when the allusion was made to Robert Willoughby, buried her
pallid face in her hands, and wept. As for Beulah, time and again, she
glanced anxiously at her husband, and bethought her of the danger to
which he might so soon be exposed.
The receipt of this important intelligence confirmed Beekman in the
intention to depart. The very next morning he tore himself away from
Beulah, and proceeded to Albany. The appointment of Washington, and a
long list of other officers, soon succeeded, including his own as a
colonel; and the war may be said to have commenced systematically. Its
distant din occasionally reached the Hutted Knoll; but the summer
passed away, bringing with it no event to affect the tranquillity of
that settlement. Even Joel's schemes were thwarted for a time, and he
was fain to continue to wear the mask, and to gather that harvest for
another, which he had hoped to reap for his own benefit.
Beulah had all a young wife's fears for her husband; but, as month
succeeded month, and one affair followed another, without bringing him
harm, she began to submit to the anxieties inseparable from her
situation, with less of self-torment, and more of reason. Her mother
and Maud were invaluable friends to her, in this novel and trying
situation, though each had her own engrossing cares on account of
Robert Willoughby. As no other great battle, however, occurred in the
course of the year '75, Beekman remained in safety with the troops that
invested Boston, and the major with the army within it. Neither was
much exposed, and glad enough were these gentle affectionate hearts,
when they learned that the sea separated the combatants.
This did not occur, however, until another winter was passed. In
November, the family left the Hut, as had been its practice of late
years, and went out into the more inhabited districts to pass the
winter. This time it came only to Albany, where colonel Beekman joined
it, passing a few happy weeks with his well-beloved Beulah. The ancient
town mentioned was not gay at a moment like that; but it had many young
officers in it, on the American side of the question, who were willing
enough to make themselves acceptable to Maud. The captain was not sorry
to see several of these youths manifesting assiduity about her he had
so long been accustomed to consider as his youngest daughter; for, by
this time, his opinions had taken so strong a bias in favour of the
rights of the colonies, that Beekman himself scarce rejoiced more
whenever he heard of any little success alighting on the American arms.
"It will all come right in the end," the worthy captain used to assure
his friend the chaplain. "They will open their eyes at home, ere long,
and the injustice of taxing the colonies will be admitted. Then all
will come round again; the king will be as much beloved as ever, and
England and America will be all the better friends for having a mutual
respect. I know my countrymen well; they mean right, and will do right,
as soon as their stomachs are a little lowered, and they come to look
at the truth, coolly. I'll answer for it, the Battle of Bunker's Hill
made _us_"--the captain had spoken in this way, now, for some
months--"made _us_ a thousand advocates, where we had one before.
This is the nature of John Bull; give him reason to respect you, and he
will soon do you justice; but give him reason to feel otherwise, and he
becomes a careless, if not a hard master."
Such were the opinions captain Willoughby entertained of his native
land; a land he had not seen in thirty years, and one in which he had
so recently inherited unexpected honours, without awakening a desire to
return and enjoy them. His opinions were right in part, certainly; for
they depended on a law of nature, while it is not improbable they were
wrong in all that was connected with the notions of any peculiarly
manly quality, in any particular part of christendom. No maxim is truer
than that which teaches us "like causes produce like effects;" and as
human beings are governed by very similar laws all over the face of
this round world of ours, nothing is more certain than the similarity
of their propensities.
Maud had no smiles, beyond those extracted by her naturally sweet
disposition, and a very prevalent desire to oblige, for any of the
young soldiers, or young civilians, who crowded about her chair, during
the Albany winter mentioned. Two or three of colonel Beekman's military
friends, in particular, would very gladly have become connected with an
officer so much respected, through means so exceedingly agreeable; but
no encouragement emboldened either to go beyond the attention and
assiduities of a marked politeness.
"I know not how it is," observed Mrs. Willoughby, one day, in a
_tete-a-tete_ with her husband; "Maud seems to take less pleasure
than is usual with girls of her years, in the attentions of your sex.
That her heart is affectionate--warm--even tender, I am very certain;
and yet no sign of preference, partiality, or weakness, in favour of
any of these fine young men, of whom we see so many, can I discover in
the child. They all seem alike to her!"
"Her time will come, as it happened to her mother before her," answered
the captain. "Whooping-cough and measles are not more certain to befall
children, than love to befall a young woman. You were all made for it,
my dear Willy, and no fear but the girl will catch the disease, one of
these days; and that, too, without any inoculation."
"I am sure, I have no wish to separate from my child"--so Mrs.
Willoughby always spoke of, and so she always felt towards Maud--"I am
sure, I have no wish to separate from my child; but as we cannot always
remain, it is perhaps better this one should marry, like the other.
There is young Verplanck much devoted to her; he is everyway a suitable
match; and then he is in Evert's own regiment."
"Ay, he would do; though to my fancy Luke Herring is the far better
"That is because he is richer and more powerful, Hugh--you men cannot
think of a daughter's establishment, without immediately dragging in
houses and lands, as part of the ceremony."
"By George, wife of mine, houses and lands in moderation, are very good
sweeteners of matrimony!"
"And yet, Hugh, I have been very happy as a wife, nor have you been
very miserable as a husband, without any excess of riches to sweeten
the state!" answered Mrs. Willoughby, reproachfully. "Had you been a
full general, I could not have loved you more than I have done as a
"All very true, Wilhelmina, dearest," returned the husband, kissing the
faithful partner of his bosom with strong affection--"very true, my
dear girl; for girl you are and ever will be in my eyes; but _you_
are one in a million, and I humbly trust there are not ten hundred and
one, in every thousand, just like myself. For my part, I wish dear,
saucy, capricious little Maud, no worse luck in a husband, than Luke
"She will never be _his_ wife; I know her, and my own sex, too
well to think it. You are wrong, however, Willoughby, in applying such
terms to the child. Maud is not in the least capricious, especially in
her affections. See with what truth and faithfulness of sisterly
attachment she clings to Bob. I do declare I am often ashamed to feel
that even his own mother has less solicitude about him than this dear
"Pooh, Willy; don't be afflicted with the idea that you don't make
yourself sufficiently miserable about the boy. Bob will do well enough,
and will very likely come out of this affair a lieutenant-colonel. I
may live yet to see him a general officer; certainly, if I live to be
as old as my grandfather, Sir Thomas. As for Maud, she finds Beulah
uneasy about Beekman; and having no husband herself, or any over that
she cares a straw about, why she just falls upon Bob as a _pis
aller_. I'll warrant you she cares no more for him than any of the
rest of us--than myself, for instance; though as an old soldier, I
don't scream every time I fancy a gun fired over yonder at Boston."
"I wish it were well over. It is _so_ unnatural for Evert and
Robert to be on opposite sides."
"Yes, it is out of the common way, I admit; and yet 'twill all come
round, in the long run. This Mr. Washington is a clever fellow, and
seems to play his cards with spirit and judgment. He was with us, in
that awkward affair of Braddock's; and between you and me, Wilhelmina,
he covered the regulars, or we should all have laid our bones on that
accursed field. I wrote you at the time, what I thought of him, and now
you see it is all coming to pass."
It was one of the captain's foibles to believe himself a political
prophet; and, as he had really both written and spoken highly of
Washington, at the time mentioned, it had no small influence on his
opinions to find himself acting on the same side with this admired
favourite. Prophecies often produce their own fulfilment, in cases of
much greater gravity than this; and it is not surprising that our
captain found himself strengthened in his notions by the circumstance.
The winter passed away without any of Maud's suitors making a visible
impression on her heart. In March, the English evacuated Boston, Robert
Willoughby sailing with his regiment for Halifax, and thence with the
expedition against Charleston, under Sir Henry Clinton. The next month,
the family returned to the Knoll, where it was thought wiser, and even
safer to be, at a moment so critical, than even in a more frequented
place. The war proceeded, and, to the captain's great regret, without
any very visible approaches towards the reconciliation he had so
confidently anticipated. This rather checked his warmth in favour of
the colonial cause; for, an Englishman by birth, he was much opposed at
bottom to anything like a dissolution of the tie that connected America
with the mother country; a political event that now began seriously to
be talked of among the initiated.
Desirous of thinking as little as possible of disagreeable things, the
worthy owner of the valley busied himself with his crops, his mills,
and his improvements. He had intended to commence leasing his wild
lands about this time, and to begin a more extended settlement, with an
eye to futurity; but the state of the country forbade the execution of
the project, and he was fain to limit his efforts by their former
boundaries. The geographical position of the valley put it beyond any
of the ordinary exactions of military service; and, as there was a
little doubt thrown around its owner's opinions, partly in consequence
of his son's present and his own previous connection with the royal
army, and partly on account of Joel's secret machinations, the
authorities were well content to let the settlement alone, provided it
would take care of itself. Notwithstanding the prominent patriotism of
Joel Strides and the miller, they were well satisfied, themselves, with
this state of things; preferring peace and quietness to the more
stirring scenes of war. Their schemes, moreover, had met with somewhat
of a check, in the feeling of the population of the valley, which, on
an occasion calculated to put their attachment to its owner to the
proof, had rather shown that they remembered his justice, liberality,
and upright conduct, more than exactly comported with their longings.
This manifestation of respect was shown at an election for a
representative in a local convention, in which every individual at the
Hutted Knoll, who had a voice at all, the two conspirators excepted,
had given it in favour of the captain. So decided was this expression
of feeling, indeed, that it compelled Joel and the miller to chime in
with the cry of the hour, and to vote contrary to their own wishes.
One, dwelling at the Hutted Knoll, in the summer of 1776, could never
have imagined that he was a resident of a country convulsed by a
revolution, and disfigured by war. There, everything seemed peaceful
and calm, the woods sighing with the airs of their sublime solitude,
the genial sun shedding its heats on a grateful and generous soil,
vegetation ripening and yielding with all the abundance of a bountiful
nature, as in the more tranquil days of peace and hope.
"There is something frightful in the calm of this valley, Beulah!"
exclaimed Maud one Sunday, as she and her sister looked out of the
library window amid the breathing stillness of the forest, listening to
the melancholy sound of the bell that summoned them to prayers. "There
is a frightful calm over this place, at an hour when we know that
strife and bloodshed are so active in the country. Oh! that the hateful
congress had never thought of making this war!"
"Evert writes me all is well, Maud; that the times will lead to good;
the people are right; and America will now be a nation--in time, he
thinks, a great, and a very great nation."
"Ah! It is this ambition of greatness that hurries them all on! Why can
they not be satisfied with being respectable subjects of so great a
country as England, that they must destroy each other for this phantom
of liberty? Will it make them wiser, or happier, or better than they
Thus reasoned Maud, under the influence of one engrossing sentiment. As
our tale proceeds, we shall have occasion to show, perhaps, how far was
that submission to events which she inculcated, from the impulses of
her true character. Beulah answered mildly, but it was more as a young
"I know Evert thinks it all right, Maud; and you will own he is neither
fiery nor impetuous. If _his_ cool judgment approve of what has
been done, we may well suppose that it has not been done in too much
haste, or needlessly."
"Think, Beulah," rejoined Maud, with an ashen cheek, and in trembling
tones, "that Evert and Robert may, at this very moment, be engaged in
strife against each other. The last messenger who came in, brought us
the miserable tidings that Sir William Howe was landing a large army
near New York, and that the Americans were preparing to meet it. We are
certain that Bob is with his regiment; and his regiment we know is in
the army. How can we think of this liberty, at a moment so critical?"
Beulah did not reply; for in spite of her quiet nature, and implicit
confidence in her husband, she could not escape a woman's solicitude.
The colonel had promised to write at every good occasion, and that
which he promised was usually performed. She thought, and thought
rightly, that a very few days would bring them intelligence of
importance; though it came in a shape she had little anticipated, and
by a messenger she had then no desire to see.
In the meantime, the season and its labours advanced. August was over,
and September with its fruits had succeeded, promising to bring the
year round without any new or extraordinary incidents to change the
fortunes of the inmates of the Hutted Knoll. Beulah had now been
married more than a twelvemonth, and was already a mother; and of
course all that time had elapsed since the son quitted his father's
house. Nick, too, had disappeared shortly after his return from Boston;
and throughout this eventful summer, his dark, red countenance had not
been seen in the valley.
And now 'tis still! no sound to wake
The primal forest's awful shade;
And breathless lies the covert brake,
Where many an ambushed form is laid:
I see the red-man's gleaming eye,
Yet all so hushed the gloom profound,
That summer birds flit heedlessly,
And mocking nature smiles around.
The eventful summer of 1776 had been genial and generous in the valley
of the Hutted Knoll. With a desire to drive away obtrusive thoughts,
the captain had been much in his fields, and he was bethinking himself
of making a large contribution to the good cause, in the way of fatted
porkers, of which he had an unusual number, that he thought might yet
be driven through the forest to Fort Stanwix, before the season closed.
In the way of intelligence from the seat of war, nothing had reached
the family but a letter from the major, which he had managed to get
sent, and in which he wrote with necessary caution. He merely mentioned
the arrival of Sir William Howe's forces, and the state of his own
health. There was a short postscript, in the following words, the
letter having been directed to his father:--"Tell dearest Maud," he
said, "that charming women have ceased to charm me; glory occupying so
much of my day-dreams, like an _ignis fatuus_, I fear; and that as
for love, _all_ my affections are centred in the dear objects at
the Hutted Knoll. If I had met with a single woman I admired half as
much as I do her pretty self, I should have been married long since."
This was written in answer to some thoughtless rattle that the captain
had volunteered to put in his last letter, as coming from Maud, who had
sensitively shrunk from sending a message when asked; and it was read
by father, mother, and Beulah, as the badinage of a brother to a
sister, without awaking a second thought in either. Not so with Maud,
herself, however. When her seniors had done with this letter, she
carried it to her own room, reading and re-reading it a dozen times;
nor could she muster resolution to return it; but, finding at length
that the epistle was forgotten, she succeeded in retaining it without
awakening attention to what she had done. This letter now became her
constant companion, and a hundred times did the sweet gill trace its
characters, in the privacy of her chamber, or in that of her now
solitary walks in the woods.
As yet, the war had produced none of those scenes of ruthless frontier
violence, that had distinguished all the previous conflicts of America.
The enemy was on the coast, and thither the efforts of the combatants
had been principally directed. It is true, an attempt on Canada had
been made, but it failed for want of means; neither party being in a
condition to effect much, as yet, in that quarter. The captain had
commented on this peculiarity of the present struggle; all those which
had preceded it having, as a matter of course, taken the direction of
the frontiers between the hostile provinces.
"There is no use, Woods, in bothering ourselves about these things,
after all," observed captain Willoughby, one day, when the subject of
hanging the long-neglected gates came up between them. "It's a heavy
job, and the crops will suffer if we take off the hands this week. We
are as safe, here, as we should be in Hyde Park; and safer too; for
there house-breakers and foot-pads abound; whereas, _your_
preaching has left nothing but very vulgar and everyday sinners at the
The chaplain had little to say against this reasoning; for, to own the
truth, he saw no particular cause for apprehension. Impunity had
produced the feeling of security, until these gates had got to be
rather a subject of amusement, than of any serious discussion. The
preceding year, when the stockade was erected, Joel had managed to
throw so many obstacles in the way of hanging the gates, that the duty
was not performed throughout the whole of the present summer, the
subject having been mentioned but once or twice, and then only to be
postponed to a more fitting occasion.
As yet no one in the valley knew of the great event which had taken
place in July. A rumour of a design to declare the provinces
independent had reached the Hut, in May; but the major's letter was
silent on this important event, and positive information had arrived by
no other channel; otherwise, the captain would have regarded the
struggle as much more serious than he had ever done before; and he
might have set about raising these all-important gates in earnest. As
it was, however, there they stood; each pair leaning against its proper
wall or stockade, though those of the latter were so light as to have
required but eight or ten men to set them on their hinges, in a couple
of hours at most.
Captain Willoughby still confined his agricultural schemes to the site
of the old Beaver Pond. The area of that was perfectly beautiful, every
unsightly object having been removed, while the fences and the tillage
were faultlessly neat and regular. Care had been taken, too, to render
the few small fields around the cabins which skirted this lovely rural
scene, worthy of their vicinage. The stumps had all been dug, the
surfaces levelled, and the orchards and gardens were in keeping with
the charms that nature had so bountifully scattered about the place.
While, however, all in the shape of tillage was confined to this one
spot, the cattle ranged the forest for miles. Not only was the valley,
but the adjacent mountain-sides were covered with intersecting paths,
beaten by the herds, in the course of years. These paths led to many a
glen, or look-out, where Beulah and Maud had long been in the habit of
pursuing their rambles, during the sultry heats of summer, Though so
beautiful to the eye, the flats were not agreeable for walks; and it
was but natural for the lovers of the picturesque to seek the
eminences, where they could overlook the vast surfaces of leaves that
were spread before them; or to bury themselves in ravines and glens,
within which the rays of the sun scarce penetrated. The paths mentioned
led near, or to, a hundred of these places, all within a mile or two of
the Hut. As a matter of course, then, they were not neglected.
Beulah had now been a mother several months. Her little Evert was born
at the Knoll, and he occupied most of those gentle and affectionate
thoughts which were not engrossed by his absent father. Her marriage,
of itself, had made some changes in her intercourse with Maud; but the
birth of the child had brought about still more. The care of this
little being formed Beulah's great delight; and Mrs. Willoughby had all
that peculiar interest in her descendant, which marks a grandmother's
irresponsible love. These two passed half their time in the nursery, a
room fitted between their respective chambers; leaving Maud more alone
than it was her wont to be, and of course to brood over her thoughts
and feelings. These periods of solitude our heroine was much accustomed
to pass in the forest. Use had so far emboldened her, that apprehension
never shortened her walks, or lessened their pleasure. Of danger, from
any ordinary source, there was literally next to none, man never having
been known to approach the valley, unless by the regular path; while
the beasts of prey had been so actively hunted, as rarely to be seen in
that quarter of the country. The panther excepted, no wild quadruped
was to be in the least feared in summer; and, of the first, none had
ever been met with by Nick, or any of the numerous woodsmen who had now
frequented the adjacent hills for two lustrums.
About three hours before the setting of the sun, on the evening of the
23d of September, 1776, Maud Willoughby was pursuing her way, quite
alone, along one of the paths beaten by the cattle, at some little
distance from a rocky eminence, where there was a look-out, on which
Mike, by her father's orders, had made a rude seat. It was on the side
of the clearing most remote from all the cabins; though once on the
elevation, she could command a view of the whole of the little panorama
around the site of the ancient pond. In that day, ladies wore the well-
known gipsey hat, a style that was peculiarly suited to the face of our
heroine. Exercise had given her cheeks a rich glow; and though a shade
of sadness, or at least of reflection, was now habitually thrown
athwart her sweet countenance, this bloom added an unusual lustre to
her eyes, and a brilliancy to her beauty, that the proudest belle of
any drawing-room might have been glad to possess. Although living so
retired, her dress always became her rank; being simple, but of the
character that denotes refinement, and the habits and tastes of a
gentlewoman. In this particular, Maud had ever been observant of what
was due to herself; and, more than all, had she attended to her present
appearance since a chance expression of Robert Willoughby's had
betrayed how much he prized the quality in her.
Looking thus, and in a melancholy frame of mind, Maud reached the rock,
and took her place on its simple seat, throwing aside her hat, to catch
a little of the cooling air on her burning cheeks. She turned to look
at the lovely view again, with a pleasure that never tired. The rays of
the sun were streaming athwart the verdant meadows and rich corn,
lengthening the shadows, and mellowing everything, as if expressly to
please the eye of one like her who now gazed upon the scene. Most of
the people of the settlement were in the open air, the men closing
their day's works in the fields, and the women and children busied
beneath shades, with their wheels and needles; the whole presenting
such a picture of peaceful, rural life, as a poet might delight to
describe, or an artist to delineate with his pencil.
"The landscape smiles
Calm in the sun; and silent are the hills
And valleys, and the blue serene of air."
_The Vanished Lark_.
"It is very beautiful!" thought Maud. "Why cannot men be content with
such scenes of loveliness and nature as this, and love each other, and
be at peace, as God's laws command? Then we might all be living happily
together, Mere, without trembling lest news of some sad misfortune
should reach us, from hour to hour. Beulah and Evert would not be
separated; but both could remain with their child--and my dear, dear
father and mother would be so happy to have us all around them, in
security--and, then, Bob, too--perhaps Bob might bring a wife from the
town, with him, that I could love as I do Beulah"--It was one of Maud's
day-dreams to love the wife of Bob, and make him happy by contributing
to the happiness of those he most prized--"No; I could never love her
as I do _Beulah_; but I should make her very dear to me, as I
ought to, since she would be Bob's wife."
The expression of Maud's face, towards the close of this mental
soliloquy, was of singular sadness; and yet it was the very picture of
sincerity and truth. It was some such look as the windows of the mind
assume, when the feelings struggle against nature and hope, for
resignation and submission to duty.
At this instant, a cry arose from the valley! It was one of those
spontaneous, involuntary outbreakings of alarm, that no art can
imitate, no pen describe; but which conveys to the listener's ear,
terror in the very sound. At the next instant, the men from the mill
were seen rushing up to the summit of the cliff that impended over
their dwellings, followed by their wives dragging children after them,
making frantic gestures, indicative of alarm. The first impulse of Maud
was to fly; but a moment's reflection told her it was much too late for
that. To remain and witness what followed would be safer, and more
wise. Her dress was dark, and she would not be likely to be observed at
the distance at which she was placed; having behind her, too, a back-
ground of gloomy rock. Then the scene was too exciting to admit of much
hesitation or delay in coming to a decision; a fearful species of
maddened curiosity mingling with her alarm. Under such circumstances,
it is not surprising that Maud continued gazing on what she saw, with
eyes that seemed to devour the objects before them.
The first cry from the valley was followed by the appearance of the
fugitives from the mill. These took the way towards the Hut, calling on
the nearest labourers by name, to seek safety in flight. The words
could not be distinguished at the rock, though indistinct sounds might;
but the gestures could not be mistaken. In half a minute, the plain was
alive with fugitives; some rushing to their cabins for their children,
and all taking the direction of the stockade, as soon as the last were
found. In five minutes the roads and lanes near the Knoll were crowded
with men, women and children, hastening forward to its protection,
while a few of the former had already rushed through the gateways, as
Maud correctly fancied, in quest of their arms.
Captain Willoughby was riding among his labourers when this fearful
interruption to a tranquillity so placid first broke upon his ear.
Accustomed to alarms, he galloped forward to meet the fugitives from
the mill, issuing orders as he passed to several of the men nearest the
house. With the miller, who thought little of anything but safety at
that instant, he conversed a moment, and then pushed boldly on towards
the verge of the cliffs. Maud trembled as she saw her father in a
situation which she thought must be so exposed; but his cool manner of
riding about proved that he saw no enemy very near. At length he waved
his hat to some object, or person in the glen beneath; and she even
thought she heard his shout. At the next moment, he turned his horse,
and was seen scouring along the road towards the Hut. The lawn was
covered with the fugitives as the captain reached it, while a few armed
men were already coming out of the court-yard. Gesticulating as if
giving orders, the captain dashed through them all, without drawing the
rein, and disappeared in the court. A minute later, he re-issued,
bearing his arms, followed by his wife and Beulah, the latter pressing
little Evert to her bosom.
Something like order now began to appear among the men. Counting all
ages and both colours, the valley, at this particular moment, could
muster thirty-three males capable of bearing arms. To these might be
added some ten or fifteen women who had occasionally brought down a
deer, and who might be thought more or less dangerous, stationed at a
loop, with a rifle or a musket. Captain Willoughby had taken some pains
to drill the former, who could go through some of the simpler light-
infantry evolutions. Among them he had appointed sundry corporals,
while Joel Strides had been named a serjeant. Joyce, now an aged and
war-worn veteran, did the duty of adjutant. Twenty men were soon drawn
up in array, in front of the open gateway on the lawn, under the
immediate orders of Joyce; and the last woman and child, that had been
seen approaching the place of refuge, had passed within the stockade.
At this instant captain Willoughby called a party of the stragglers
around him, and set about hanging the gates of the outer passage, or
that which led through the palisades.
Maud would now have left the rock, but, at that moment, a dark body of
Indians poured up over the cliffs, crowning it with a menacing cloud of
at least fifty armed warriors. The rivulet lay between her and the Hut,
and the nearest bridge that crossed it would have brought her within
reach of danger. Then it would require at least half an hour to reach
that bridge by the circuitous path she would be compelled to take, and
there was little hope of getting over it before the strangers should
have advanced. It was better to remain where she could behold what was
passing, and to be governed by events, than to rush blindly into unseen
The party that crowned the cliffs near the mills, showed no impatience
to advance. It was evidently busy in reconnoitring, and in receiving
accessions to its numbers. The latter soon increased to some seventy or
eighty warriors. After waiting several minutes in inaction, a musket,
or rifle, was fired towards the Hut, as if to try the effect of a
summons and the range of a bullet. At this hint the men on the lawn
retired within the stockade, stacked their arms, and joined the party
that was endeavouring to get the gates in their places. From the
circumstance that her father directed all the women and children to
retire within the court, Maud supposed that the bullet might have
fallen somewhere near them. It was quite evident, however, that no one
The gates intended for the stockade, being open like the rest of that
work, were materially lighter than those constructed for the house
itself. The difficulty was in handling them with the accuracy required
to enter the hinges, of which there were three pairs. This difficulty
existed on account of their great height. Of physical force, enough
could be applied to toss them over the stockade itself, if necessary;
but finesse was needed, rather than force, to effect the principal
object, and that under difficult circumstances. It is scarcely possible
that the proximity of so fierce an enemy as a body of savages in their
war-paint, for such the men at the mill had discovered was the guise of
their assailants, would in any measure favour the coolness and tact of
the labourers. Poor Maud lost the sense of her own danger, in the
nervous desire to see the long-forgotten gates hung; and she rose once
or twice, in feverish excitement, as she saw that the leaf which was
raised fell in or out, missing its fastenings. Still the men
persevered, one or two sentinels being placed to watch the Indians, and
give timely notice of their approach, should they advance.
Maud now kneeled, with her face bowed to the seat, and uttered a short
but most fervent prayer, in behalf of the dear beings that the Hut
contained. This calmed her spirits a little, and she rose once more to
watch the course of events. The body of men had left the gate at which
they had just been toiling, and were crowding around its fellow. One
leaf was hung! As an assurance of this, she soon after saw her father
swing it backward and forward on its hinges, to cause it to settle into
its place. This was an immense relief, though she had heard too many
tales of Indian warfare, to think there was any imminent danger of an
attack by open day, in the very face of the garrison. The cool manner
in which her father proceeded, satisfied her that he felt the same
security, for the moment; his great object being, in truth, to make
suitable provision against the hours of darkness.
Although Maud had been educated as a lady, and possessed the delicacy
and refinement of her class, she had unavoidably caught some of the
fire and resolution of a frontier life. To her, the forest, for
instance, possessed no fancied dangers; but when there was real ground
for alarm, she estimated its causes intelligently, and with calmness.
So it was, also, in the present crisis. She remembered all she had been
taught, or had heard, and quick of apprehension, her information was
justly applied to the estimate of present circumstances.
The men at the Hut soon had the second leaf of the gate ready to be
raised. At this instant, an Indian advanced across the flat alone,
bearing a branch of a tree in his hand, and moving swiftly. This was a
flag of truce, desiring to communicate with the pale-faces. Captain
Willoughby met the messenger alone, at the foot of the lawn, and there
a conference took place that lasted several minutes. Maud could only
conjecture its objects, though she thought her father's attitude
commanding, and his gestures stern. The red-man, as usual, was quiet
and dignified. This much our heroine saw, or fancied she saw; but
beyond this, of course, all was vague conjecture. Just as the two were
about to part, and had even made courteous signs of their intention, a
shout arose from the workmen, which ascended, though faintly, as high
as the rock. Captain Willoughby turned, and then Maud saw his arm
extended towards the stockade. The second leaf of the gate was in its
place, swinging to and fro, in a sort of exulting demonstration of its
uses! The savage moved away, more slowly than he had advanced,
occasionally stopping to reconnoitre the Knoll and its defences.
Captain Willoughby now returned to his people, and he was some time
busied in examining the gates, and giving directions about its
fastenings. Utterly forgetful of her own situation, Maud shed tears of
joy, as she saw that this great object was successfully effected. The
stockade was an immense security to the people of the Hut. Although it
certainly might be scaled, such an enterprise would require great
caution, courage, and address; and it could hardly be effected, at all,
by daylight. At night, even, it would allow the sentinels time to give
the alarm, and with a vigilant look-out, might be the means of
repelling an enemy. There was also another consideration connected with
this stockade. An enemy would not be fond of trusting himself
_inside_ of it, unless reasonably certain of carrying the citadel
altogether; inasmuch as it might serve as a prison to place him in the
hands of the garrison. To recross it under a fire from the loops, would
be an exploit so hazardous that few Indians would think of undertaking
it. All this Maud knew from her father's conversations, and she saw how
much had been obtained in raising the gates. Then the stockade, once
properly closed, afforded great security to those moving about within
it; the timbers would be apt to stop a bullet, and were a perfect
defence against a rush; leaving time to the women and children to get
into the court, even allowing that the assailants succeeded in scaling
Maud thought rapidly and well, in the strait in which she was placed.
She understood most of the movements, on both sides, and she also saw
the importance of her remaining where she could note all that passed,
if she intended to make an attempt at reaching the Hut, after dark.
This necessity determined her to continue at the rock, so long as light
remained. She wondered she was not missed, but rightly attributed the
circumstance to the suddenness of the alarm, and the crowd of other
thoughts which would naturally press upon the minds of her friends, at
such a fearful moment. "I will stay where I am," thought Maud, a little
proudly, "and prove, if I am not really the daughter of Hugh
Willoughby, that I am not altogether unworthy of his love and care! I
can even pass the night in the forest, at this warm season, without
Just as these thoughts crossed her mind, in a sort of mental soliloquy,
a stone rolled from a path above her, and fell over the rock on which
the seat was placed. A footstep was then heard, and the girl's heart
beat quick with apprehension. Still she conceived it safest to remain
perfectly quiet. She scarce breathed in her anxiety to be motionless.
Then it occurred to her, that some one beside herself might be out from
the Hut, and that a friend was near. Mike had been in the woods that
very afternoon, she knew; for she had seen him; and the true-hearted
fellow would indeed be a treasure to her, at that awful moment. This
idea, which rose almost to certainty as soon as it occurred, induced
her to spring forward, when the appearance of a man, whom she did not
recognise, dressed in a hunting-shirt, and otherwise attired for the
woods, carrying a short rifle in the hollow of his arm, caused her to
stop, in motionless terror. At first, her presence was not observed;
but, no sooner did the stranger catch a glimpse of her person, than he
stopped, raised his hands in surprise, laid his rifle against a tree,
and sprang forward; the girl closing her eyes, and sinking on the seat,
with bowed head, expecting the blow of the deadly tomahawk.
"Maud--dearest, _dearest_ Maud--do you not know me!" exclaimed
one, leaning over the pallid girl, while he passed an arm round her
slender waist, with an affection so delicate and reserved, that, at
another time, it might have attracted attention. "Look up, dear girl,
and show that at least you fear not _me!_"
"Bob," said the half-senseless Maud. "Whence come you?--_Why_ do
you come at this fearful instant!--Would to God your visit had been
"Terror makes you say this, my poor Maud! Of all the family, I had
hoped for the warmest welcome from _you_. We think alike about
this war--then you are not so much terrified at the idea of my being
found here, but can hear reason. Why do you say this, then, my dearest
By this time Maud had so far recovered as to be able to look up into
the major's face, with an expression in which alarm was blended with
unutterable tenderness. Still she did not throw her arms around him, as
a sister would clasp a beloved brother; but, rather, as he pressed her
gently to his bosom, repelled the embrace by a slight resistance.
Extricating herself, however, she turned and pointed towards the
"Why do I say this? See for yourself--the savages have at length come,
and the whole dreadful picture is before you."
Young Willoughby's military eye took in the scene at a glance. The
Indians were still at the cliff, and the people of the settlement were
straining at the heavier gates of the Hut, having already got one of
them into a position where it wanted only the proper application of a
steady force to be hung. He saw his father actively employed in giving
directions; and a few pertinent questions drew all the other
circumstances from Maud. The enemy had now been in the valley more than
an hour, and the movements of the two parties were soon related.
"Are you alone, dearest Maud? are you shut out by this sudden inroad?"
demanded the major, with concern and surprise.
"So it would seem. I can see no other--though I did think Michael might
be somewhere near me, in the woods, here; I at first mistook your
footsteps for his."
"That is a mistake"--returned Willoughby, levelling a small pocket spy-
glass at the Hut--"Mike is tugging at that gate, upholding a part of
it, like a corner-stone. I see most of the faces I know there, and my
dear father is as active, and yet as cool, as if at the head of a
"Then I am alone--it is perhaps better that as many as possible should
be in the house to defend it."
"Not alone, my sweet Maud, so long as I am with you. Do you still think
my visit so ill-timed?"
"Perhaps not, after all. Heaven knows what I should have done, by
myself, when it became dark!"
"But are we safe on this seat?--May we not be seen by the Indians,
since we so plainly see them?"
"I think not. I have often remarked that when Evert and Beulah have
been here, their figures could not be perceived from the lawn; owing, I
fancy, to the dark back-ground of rock. My dress is not light, and you
are in green; which is the colour of the leaves, and not easily to be
distinguished. No other spot gives so good a view of what takes place
in the valley. We must risk a little exposure, or act in the dark."
"You are a soldier's daughter, Maud"--This was as true of major
Meredith as of captain Willoughby, and might therefore be freely said
by even Bob--"You are a soldier's daughter, and nature has clearly
intended you to be a soldier's wife. This is a _coup-d'-oeil_ not
to be despised."
"I shall never be a wife at all"--murmured Maud, scarce knowing what
she said; "I may not live to be a soldier's daughter, even, much
longer. But, why are _you_ here?--surely, surely _you_ can
have no connection with those savages!--I have heard of such horrors;
but _you_ would not accompany _them_, even though it were to
_protect_ the Hut."
"I'll not answer for that, Maud. One would do a great deal to preserve
his paternal dwelling from pillage, and his father's grey hairs from
violence. But I came alone; that party and its objects being utterly
strangers to me."
"And _why_ do you come at all, Bob?" inquired the anxious girl,
looking up into his face with open affection--"The situation of the
country is now such, as to make your visits very hazardous."
"Who could know the regular major in this hunting-shirt, and forest
garb? I have not an article about my person to betray me, even were I
before a court. No fear for me then, Maud; unless it be from these
demons in human shape, the savages. Even they do not seem to be very
fiercely inclined, as they appear at this moment more disposed to eat,
than to attack the Hut. Look for yourself; those fellows are certainly
preparing to take their food; the group that is just now coming over
the cliffs, is dragging a deer after it."
Maud took the glass, though with an unsteady hand, and she looked a
moment at the savages. The manner in which the instrument brought these
wild beings nearer to her eye, caused her to shudder, and she was soon
"That deer was killed this morning by the miller," she said; "they have
doubtless found it in or near his cabin. We will be thankful, however,
for this breathing-time--it may enable my dear father to get up the
other gate. Look, Robert, and see what progress they make?"
"One side is just hung, and much joy does it produce among them!
Persevere, my noble old father, and you will soon be safe against your
enemies. What a calm and steady air he has, amid it all! Ah! Maud, Hugh
Willoughby ought, at this moment, to be at the head of a brigade,
helping to suppress this accursed and unnatural rebellion. Nay, more;
he _may_ be there, if he will only listen to reason and duty."
"And _this_ is then your errand here, Bob?" asked his fair
companion, gazing earnestly at the major.
"It is, Maud--and I hope you, whose feelings I know to be right, can
encourage me to hope."
"I fear not. It is now too late. Beulah's marriage with Evert has
strengthened his opinions--and then"
"What, dearest Maud? You pause as if that '_then_' had a meaning
you hesitated to express."
Maud coloured; after which she smiled faintly, and proceeded: "We
should speak reverently of a father--and such a father, too. But does
it not seem probable to you, Bob, that the many discussions he has with
Mr. Woods may have a tendency to confirm each in his notions?"
Robert Willoughby would have answered in the affirmative, had not a
sudden movement at the Hut prevented.
From Flodden ridge
The Scots beheld the English host
Leave Barmore wood, their evening post,
And heedful watched them as they crossed
The Till by Twisal Bridge.
It was just at this instant that most of the women of the settlement
rushed from the court, and spread themselves within the stockade, Mrs.
Willoughby and Beulah being foremost in the movement. The captain left
the gate, too, and even the men, who were just about to raise the last
leaf, suspended their toil. It was quite apparent some new cause for
uneasiness or alarm had suddenly awoke among them. Still the stack of
arms remained untouched, nor was there any new demonstration among the
Indians. The major watched everything, with intense attention, through
"What is it, dear Bob?" demanded the anxious Maud. "I see my dearest
mother--she seems alarmed."
"Was it known to her that you were about to quit the house, when you
came out on this walk?"
"I rather think not. She and Beulah were in the nursery with little
Evert, and my father was in the fields. I came out without speaking to
any person, nor did I meet any before entering the forest."
"Then you are now first missed. Yes, that is it--and no wonder, Maud,
it creates alarm. Merciful God! How must they all feel, at a moment
"Fire your rifle, Bob--that will draw their eyes in this direction, and
I will wave my handkerchief--perhaps _that_ might be seen. Beulah
has received such signals from me, before."
"It would never do. No, we must remain concealed, watching their
movements, in order to be able to aid them at the proper time. It is
painful to endure this suspense, beyond a doubt; but the pain must be
borne in order to ensure the safety of one who is so very, very
precious to us all."
Notwithstanding the fearful situation in which she was placed, Maud
felt soothed by these words. The language of affection, as coming from
Robert Willoughby, was very dear to her at all times, and never more
than at a moment when it appeared that even her life was suspended, as
it might be, by a hair.
"It is as you say," she answered gently, giving him her hand with much
of her ancient frankness of manner; "we should be betrayed, and of
course lost--but what means the movement at the Hut?"
There was indeed a movement within the stockade. Maud's absence was now
clearly ascertained, and it is needless to describe the commotion the
circumstance produced. No one thought any longer of the half of the
gate that still remained to be hung, but every supposable part of the
house and enclosure had been examined in quest of her who was missing.
Our heroine's last remark, however, was produced by certain indications
of an intention to make a descent from one of the external windows of
the common parlour, a room it will be remembered that stood on the
little cliff, above the rivulet that wound beneath its base. This cliff
was about forty feet high, and though it offered a formidable obstacle
to any attempt to scale it, there was no great difficulty in an active
man's descending, aided by a rope. The spot, too, was completely
concealed from the view of the party which still remained on the rock,
near the mill, at a distance of quite half a mile from the gates of the
stockade. This fact greatly facilitated the little sortie, since, once
in the bed of the rivulet, which was fringed with bushes, it would be
very practicable, by following its windings, to gain the forest unseen.
The major levelled his glass at the windows, and immediately saw the
truth of all that has here been mentioned.
"They are preparing to send a party out," he said, "and doubtless in
quest of you, Maud. The thing is very feasible, provided the savages
remain much longer in their present position. It is matter of surprise
to me, that the last have not sent a force in the rear of the Hut,
where the windows are at least exposed to fire, and the forest is so
close as to afford a cover to the assailants. In front there is
literally none, but a few low fences, which is the reason I presume
that they keep so much aloof."
"It is not probable they know the valley. With the exception of Nick,
but few Indians have ever visited us, and that rarely. Those we have
seen have all been of the most peaceable and friendly tribes; not a
true warrior, as my father says, ever having been found among them.
Nick is the only one of them all that can thus be termed."
"Is it possible that fellow has led this party? I have never more than
half confided in him, and yet he is too old a friend of the family, I
should think, to be guilty of such an act of baseness."
"My father thinks him a knave, but I question if he has an opinion of
him as bad as that. Besides, _he_ knows the valley, and would have
led the Indians round into the rear of the house, if it be a place so
much more favourable for the attack, as you suppose. These wretches
have come by the common paths, all of which first strike the river, as
you know, below the mills."
"That is true. I lost my way, a few miles from this, the path being
very blind on the eastern route, which I travelled as having gone it
last with Nick, and thinking it the safest. Fortunately I recognised
the crest of this mountain above us, by its shape, or I might never
have found my way; although the streams, when struck, are certain
guides to the woodsman. As soon as I hit the cow-paths, I knew they
would lead me to the barns and sheds. See! a man is actually descending
from a window!"
"Oh! Bob, I hope it is not my father! He is too old--it is risking too
much to let him quit the house."
"I will tell you better when he reaches the ground. Unless mistaken--
ay--it is the Irishman, O'Hearn."
"Honest Mike! He is always _foremost_ in everything, though he so
little knows how anything but digging ought to be done. Is there not
another following him--or am I deceived?"
"There is--he has just reached the ground, too. This might be spared,
did they know how well you are guarded, Maud. By one who would die
cheerfully to prevent harm from reaching you!"
"They little dream of that, Bob," answered Maud, in a low tone. "Not a
human being in that valley fancies you nearer to him than the royal
armies are, at this moment. But they do not send a third--I am glad
they weaken their own force no further."
"It is certainly best they should not. The men had their rifles slung
when they descended, and they are now getting them ready for service.
It is Joel Strides who is with Mike."
"I am sorry for it. _That_ is a man I little like, Bob, and I
should be sorry he knew of your being here."
This was said quickly, and with a degree of feeling that surprised the
major, who questioned Maud earnestly as to her meaning and its reasons.
The latter told him she scarce knew herself; that she disliked the
man's manner, had long thought his principles bad, and that Mike in his
extraordinary way had said certain things to her, to awaken distrust.
"Mike speaks in hieroglyphics," said the major, laughing, in spite of
the serious situation in which he and his companion were placed, "and
one must never be too sure of _his_ meaning. Joel has now been
many years with my father, and he seems to enjoy his confidence."
"He makes himself useful, and is very guarded in what he says at the
Hut. Still--I wish him not to know of your being here."
"It will not be easy to prevent it, Maud. I should have come boldly
into the valley, but for this accidental meeting with you, trusting
that my father has no one about him so base as to betray his son."
"Trust not Joel Strides. I'll answer for Mike with my life; but sorry
indeed should I be that Joel Strides knew of your being among us. It
were better, perhaps, that most of the workmen should not be in the
secret. See--the two men are quitting the foot of the rocks."
This was true, and Robert Willoughby watched their movements with the
glass. As had been expected, they first descended into the bed of the
rivulet, wading along its shore, under the cover of the bushes, until
they soon became concealed even from the view of one placed on a height
as elevated as that occupied by Robert and Maud. It was sufficiently
apparent, however, that their intention was to reach the forest in this
manner, when they would probably commence their search for the missing
young lady. Nor was it long before Robert and Maud plainly saw the two
adventurers quit the bed of the stream and bury themselves in the
forest. The question now seriously arose as to the best course for the
major and his companion to pursue. Under ordinary circumstances, it
would have been wisest, perhaps, to descend at once and meet the
messengers, who might soon be found at some of the usual haunts of the
girl; but against this the latter so earnestly protested, and that in a
manner so soothing to the young man's feelings, that he scarce knew how
to oppose her wishes. She implored him not to confide in Joel Strides
too hastily, at least. It might be time enough, when there was no
alternative; until the true character of the party then in the valley
was known, it would be premature. Nothing was easier than to conceal
himself until it was dark, when he might approach the Hut, and be
admitted without his presence being known to any but those on whom the
family could certainly rely. The major urged the impossibility of his
quitting Maud, until she was joined by the two men sent in quest of
her, and then it would be too late, as he must be seen. Although he
might escape immediate recognition in his present dress, the presence
of a stranger would excite suspicions, and compel an explanation. To
this Maud replied in the following manner: Her customary places of
resort, when in the woods, were well known; more especially to Michael,
who was frequently employed in their vicinity. These were a little
water-fall, that was situated a hundred rods up the rivulet, to which a
path had been made expressly, and where an arbour, seat, and little
table had been arranged, for the purposes of working, reading, or
taking refreshments. To this spot the men would unquestionably proceed
first. Then, there was a deep ravine, some distance farther, that was
often visited for its savage beauty, and whither she more frequently
went, perhaps, than to any other place. Thither Michael would be
certain to lead his companion. These two places visited, they might
infallibly expect to see the men at the rock, where the two were then
seated, as the last spot in which Maud might naturally be expected to
be found. It would require an hour to visit the two places first named,
and to examine the surrounding woods; and by that time, not only would
the sun be set, but the twilight would be disappearing. Until that
moment, then, the major might remain at her side, and on the sound of
the approaching footsteps of the messengers, he had only to retire
behind a projection of the rocks, and afterwards follow towards the
Knoll, at a safe distance.
This plan was too plausible to be rejected; and giving Robert an hour
of uninterrupted discourse with his companion, it struck him as having
more advantages than any other mentioned. The party near the mills,
too, remaining perfectly quiet, there was less occasion for any change
of their own, than might otherwise have been the case. So far, indeed,
from appearing to entertain any hostile intention, not a cabin had been
injured, if approached, and the smoke of the conflagration which had
been expected to rise from the mills and the habitations in the glen,
did not make its appearance. If any such ruthless acts as applying the
brand and assaulting the people were in contemplation, they were at
least delayed until night should veil them in a fitting darkness.
It is always a great relief to the mind, in moments of trial, to have
decided on a course of future action. So the major and Maud now found;
for, taking his seat by her side, he began to converse with his
companion more connectedly, and with greater calmness than either had
yet been able to achieve. Many questions were asked, and answers given,
concerning the state of the family, that of his father and mother, and
dear Beulah and her infant, the latter being as yet quite a stranger to
the young soldier.
"Is he like his rebel of a father?" asked the royal officer, smiling,
but as his companion fancied, painfully; "or has he more of the look of
the Willoughbys. Beekman is a good-looking Dutchman; yet, I would
rather have the boy resemble the good old English stock, after all."
"The sweet little fellow resembles both father and mother; though the
first the most, to Beulah's great delight. Papa says he is true
'Holland's come of', as they call it, though neither mamma nor I will
allow of any such thing. Colonel Beekman is a very worthy man, Bob, and
a most affectionate and attentive husband. Beulah, but for this war,
could not be happier."
"Then I forgive him one-half of his treason--for the remainder let him
take his luck. Now I am an uncle, my heart begins to melt a little
towards the rebel. And you, Maud, how do the honours of an aunt sit
upon your feelings? But women are all heart, and would love a rat."
Maud smiled, but she answered not. Though Beulah's child were almost as
dear to her as one of her own could have been, she remembered that she
was _not_ its aunt, in fact; and, though she knew not why, in that
company, and even at that grave moment, the obtrusive thought summoned
a bright flush to her cheeks. The major probably did not notice this
change of countenance, since, after a short pause, he continued the
"The child is called Evert, is it not, _aunt_ Maud?" he asked,
laying an emphasis on 'aunt.'
Maud wished this word had not been used; and yet Robert Willoughby,
could the truth have been known, had adverted to it with an association
in his own mind, that would have distressed her, just then, still more.
_Aunt_ Maud was the name that others, however, were most fond of
adopting, since the birth of the child; and remembering this, our
"That is what Beulah has called me, these six months," she said--"or
ever since Evert was born. I became an aunt the day he became a nephew;
and dear, good Beulah has not once called me _sister_ since, I
"These little creatures introduce new ties into families," answered the
major, thoughtfully. "They take the places of the generations before
them, and edge us out of our hold on the affections, as in the end they
supplant us in our stations in life. If Beulah love me only as an
_uncle_, however, she may look to it. I'll be supplanted by no
Dutchman's child that was ever born!"
"_You_, Bob!" cried Maud, starting. "You are its _real_
uncle; Beulah must ever remember _you_, and _love_ you, as
her _own_ brother!"
Maud's voice became suddenly hushed, like one who feared she had said
too much. The major gazed at her intently, but he spoke not; nor did
his companion see his look, her own eyes being cast meekly and
tremblingly on the earth at her feet. A considerable pause succeeded,
and then the conversation reverted to what was going on in the valley.
The sun was now set, and the shadows of evening began to render objects
a little indistinct beneath them. Still it was apparent that much
anxiety prevailed in and about the Hut, doubtless on account of our
heroine's absence. So great was it, indeed, as entirely to supersede
the hanging of the remaining leaf of the gate, which stood in the gap
where it belonged, stayed by pieces of timber, but unhung. The major
thought some disposition had been made, however, by which the inmates
might pass and repass by the half that was suspended, making a
tolerable defence, when all was closed.
"Hist!" whispered Maud, whose faculties were quickened by the danger of
her companion; "I hear the voice of Michael, and they approach. No
sense of danger can repress poor O'Hearn's eloquence; his ideas seeming
to flow from his tongue very much as they rise to his thoughts, chance
directing which shall appear first."
"It is true, dear girl; and as you seem so strongly to wish it, I will
withdraw. Depend on my keeping near you, and on my presence, should it
"You will not forget to come beneath the windows, Bob," said Maud,
anxiously, but in great haste; for the footsteps of the men drew
rapidly near; "at the very spot where the others descended."
The major bent forward and kissed a cheek that was chilled with
apprehension, but which the act caused to burn like fire; then he
disappeared behind the projection of rock he had himself pointed out.
As for Maud, she sat in seeming composure, awaiting the approach of
those who drew near.
"The divil bur-r-n me, and all the Injins in Ameriky along wid me,"
said Mike, scrambling up the ascent by a short cut, "but I think we'll
find the young Missus, here, or I don't think we'll be finding her the
night. It's a cursed counthry to live in, Misther Strides, where a
young lady of the loveliness and pithiful beauty of Miss Maud can be
lost in the woods, as it might be a sheep or a stray baste that was for
tasting the neighbour's pastures."
"You speak too loud, Mike, and you speak foolishness into the bargain,"
returned the wary Joel.
"Is it I, you mane! Och! don't think ye 're goin' to set me a rowin' a
boat once more, ag'in my inclinations and edication, as ye did in ould
times. I've rung ye into yer ma'tin', and out of yer m'atin', too,
twenty times too often to be catched in that same trap twice. It's Miss
Maud I wants, and Miss Maud I'll find, or ---- Lord bless her swate
face and morals, and her cha_rack_ter, and all belonging to her!--
isn't that, now, a prathy composure for the likes of her, and the
savages at the mill, and the Missus in tears, and the masther mighty
un'asy, and all of us bothered! See how she sits on that bit of a sate
that I puts there for her wid my own hands, as a laddy should, looking
jist what she is, the quane of the woods, and the delight of our eyes!"
Maud was too much accustomed to the rhapsodies of the county Leitrim-
man to think much of this commencement; but resolute to act her part
with discretion, she rose to meet him, speaking with great apparent
"Is it possible you are in quest of me?" she said--"why has this
happened?--I usually return about this hour."
"Hoors is it! Don't talk of hoors, beauthiful young laddy, when a
single quarther may be too late," answered Mike, dogmatically. "It's
your own mother that's not happy at yer being in the woods the night,
and yer ould father that has moore un'asiness than he'll confess; long
life to the church in which confession is held to be right, and dacent,
and accorthing to the gospel of St. Luke, and the whole calender in the
bargain. Ye'll not be frightened, Miss Maud, but take what I've to tell
ye jist as if ye didn't bel'ave a wo-r-r-d of it; but, divil bur-r-n
me, if there arn't Injins enough on the rocks, forenent the mill, to
scalp a whole province, and a county along wid it, if ye'll give 'em
time and knives enough."
"I understand you, Michael, but am not in the least alarmed," answered
Maud, with an air of great steadiness; such, indeed, as would have
delighted the captain. "Something of what has been passing below have I
seen; but, by being calm and reasonable, we shall escape the danger.
Tell me only, that all is safe in the Hut--that my dear mother and
sister are well."
"Is it the Missus? Och, she's as valiant as a peacock, only strick down
and overcome about your own self! As for Miss Beuly, where's the likes
of her to be found, unless it's on this same bit of a rock? And it's
agraable to see the captain, looking for all the wor-r-ld like a
commander-in-chaif of six or eight rijiments, ordering one this-a-way,
and another that-a-way--By St. Patrick, young laddy, I only hopes them
vagabonds will come on as soon as yourself is inside the sticks, jist
to give the ould jontleman a better occasion to play souldier on 'em.
Should they happen to climb over the sticks, I've got the prattiest bit
of a shillaleh ready that mortal eyes iver adorned! 'Twould break a
head and niver a hat harmed--a thousand's the pities them chaps wears
no hats. Howsever, we'll see."
"Thank you, Mike, for the courage you show, and the interest you take
in all our welfares--Is it not too soon to venture down upon the flats,
Joel? I must trust to _you_ as a guide."
"I think Miss Maud would do full as well if she did. Mike must be told,
too, not to talk so much, and above all, not to speak so loud. He may
be heard, sometimes, a dozen rods."
"Tould!" exclaimed the county Leitrim-man, in heat--"And isn't tould
I've been twenty times already, by your own smooth conversation?
Where's the occasion to tell a thing over and over ag'in, when a man is
not wanting in ears. It's the likes of you that loves to convarse."
"Well, Mike, for my sake, you will be silent, I hope," said Maud.
"Remember, I am not fitted for a battle, and the first thing is to get
safely into the house. The sooner we are down the hill, perhaps, the
better it may be. Lead the way, then, Joel, and I will follow. Michael
will go next to you, in readiness for any enemy, and I will bring up
the rear. It will be better for all to keep a dead silence, until it be
necessary to speak."
This arrangement was made, and the party proceeded, Maud remaining a
little behind, in order that the major might catch glimpses of her
person, in the sombre light of the hour and the forest, and not miss
the road. A few minutes brought them all upon the level land, where,
Joel, instead of entering the open fields, inclined more into the
woods, always keeping one of the many paths. His object was to cross
the rivulet under cover, a suitable place offering a short distance
from the point where the stream glided out of the forest. Towards this
spot Joel quietly held his way, occasionally stopping to listen if any
movement of importance had occurred on the flats. As for Maud, her eyes
were frequently cast behind her, for she was fearful Robert Willoughby
might miss the path, having so little acquaintance with the thousand
sinuosities he encountered. She caught glimpses of his person, however,
in the distance, and saw that he was on the right track. Her chief
concern, therefore, soon became an anxiety that he should not be seen
by her companions. As they kept a little in advance, and the underbrush
was somewhat thick, she had strong hopes that this evil would be
The path being very circuitous, it took some time to reach the spot
Joel sought. Here he, Mike, and Maud, crossed the rivulet on a tree
that had been felled expressly to answer the purposes of a rustic foot-
bridge; a common expedient of the American forest. As our heroine had
often performed this exploit when alone, she required no assistance,
and she felt as if half the danger of her critical situation had
vanished, when she found herself on the same side of the stream as the
Hut. Joel, nothing suspecting, and keeping all his faculties on the
sounds and sights that might occur in front, led the way diligently,
and soon reached the verge of the woods. Here he paused for his
companions to join him.
Twilight had, by this time, nearly disappeared. Still, enough remained
to enable Maud to perceive that many were watching for her, either at
the windows above the cliff, or through different parts of the
stockades. The distance was so small, that it might have been possible,
by raising the voice, even to converse; but this would be an experiment
too hazardous, as some hostile scouts, at that hour might very well be
"I see nothing, Miss Maud," observed Joel, after taking a good look
around him. "By keeping the path that follows the edge of the brook,
though it is so crooked, we shall be certain of good walking, and shall
be half hid by the bushes. It's best to walk quick, and to be silent."
Maud bade him go on, waiting herself behind a tree, to let the two men
precede her a short distance. This was done, and the major stole up to
her side unseen. A few words of explanation passed, when the young lady
ran after her guides, leaving Robert Willoughby seated on a log. It was
a breathless moment to Maud, that in which she was passing this bit of
open land. But the distance was so short, that it was soon gotten over;
and the three found themselves beneath the cliff. Here they passed the
spring, and following a path which led from it, turned the edge of the
rocks, and ascended to the foot of the stockades. It remained to turn
these also, in order to reach the so recently suspended gates. As Maud
passed swiftly along, almost brushing the timbers with her dress, she
saw, in the dim light, fifty faces looking at her, and thrust between
the timbers; but she paused not, spoke not--scarcely breathed. A
profound stillness reigned on the Knoll; but when Joel arrived at the
gate, it was instantly opened, and he glided in. Not so with Mike, who
stopped and waited until she he had been in quest of entered before
him, and was in safety.
Maud found herself in her mother's arms, the instant the gate was
passed. Mrs. Willoughby had been at the angle of the cliff, had
followed her child, in her swift progress round the stockade, and was
ready to receive her, the moment she entered. Beulah came next, and
then the captain embraced, kissed, wept over, and scolded his little
"No reproaches now, Hugh"--said the more considerate wife, and gentle
woman--"Maud has done no more than has long been her custom, and no one
could have foreseen what has happened."
"Mother--father"--said Maud, almost gasping for breath--"let us bless
God for my safety, and for the safety of all that are dear to us--thank
you, dear Mr. Woods--there is a kiss, to thank you--now let us go into
the house; I have much to tell you--come dear sir--come dearest mother,
do not lose a moment; let us all go to the library."
As this was the room in which the family devotions were usually held,
the auditors fancied the excited girl wished to return her thanks in
that mode, one not unfrequent in that regulated family, and all
followed her, who dared, with tender sympathy in her feelings, and
profoundly grateful for her safety. As soon as in the room, Maud
carefully shut the door, and went from one to another, in order to
ascertain who were present. Finding none but her father, mother,
sister, and the chaplain, she instantly related all that had passed,
and pointed out the spot where the major was, at that moment, waiting
for the signal to approach. It is unnecessary to dwell on the
astonishment and delight, mingled with concern, that this intelligence
Maud then rapidly recounted her plan, and implored her father to see it
executed. The captain had none of her apprehensions on the subject of
his people's fidelity, but he yielded to the girl's earnest entreaties.
Mrs. Willoughby was so agitated with all the unlooked-for events of the
day, that she joined her daughter in the request, and Maud was told to
proceed with the affair, in her own way.
A lamp was brought, and placed by Maud in a pantry that was lighted by
a single, long, narrow, external window, at the angle of the building
next the offices, and the door was closed on it. This lamp was the
signal for the major to approach, and with beating hearts the females
bent forward from the windows, secure of not being seen in the night,
which had now fairly closed on the valley, to listen to his approaching
footsteps beneath. They did not wait long ere he was not only heard,
but dimly seen, though totally out of the line of sight from all in the
Hut, with the exception of those above his head. Captain Willoughby had
prepared a rope, one end of which was dropped, and fastened by the
major, himself, around his body. A jerk let those above know when he
"What shall we do next?" asked the captain, in a sort of despair.
"Woods and I can never drag that tall, heavy fellow up such a distance.
He is six feet, and weighs a hundred and eighty, if he weighs a pound."
"Peace," half-whispered Maud, from a window. "All will be right in a
moment." Then drawing in her body, the pale but earnest girl begged her
father to have patience. "I have thought of all. Mike and the blacks
may be trusted with our lives--I will call them."
This was done, and the county Leitrim-man and the two Plinys were soon
in the room.
"O'Hearn," said Maud, inquiringly--"I think you are my friend?"
"Am I my own!--Is it yees, is the question? Well, jist wish for a
tooth, and ye may take all in my head for the asking. Och, I 'd be a
baste, else! I'd ate the remain of my days wid not'ing but a spoon to
"As for you, Pliny, and your son here, you have known us from children.
Not a word must pass the lips of either, as to what you see--now pull,
but with great care, lest the rope break."
The men did as ordered, raising their load from the ground, a foot or
two at a time. In this manner the burthen approached, yard after yard,
until it was evidently drawing near the window.
"It's the captain hoisting up the big baste of a hog, for provisioning
the hoose, ag'in a saige," whispered Mike to the negroes, who grinned
as they tugged; "and when the cr'atur squails, see to it, that ye do
not squail yerselves."
At that moment the head and shoulders of a man appeared at the window,
Mike let go the rope, seized a chair, and was about to knock the
intruder on the head; but the captain arrested the blow.
"It's one of the vagabond Injins that has undermined the hog, and coome
up in its stead," roared Mike."
"It's my son"--answered the captain, mildly--"see that you are silent,
And glory long has made the sages smile,
Tis something, nothing, words, illusion, wind--
Depending more upon the historian's style
Than on the name a person leaves behind.
Troy owes to Homer what whist owes to Hoyle
The present century was growing blind
To the great Marlborough's skill in giving knocks,
Until his late Life by Archdeacon Coxe.
Major Willoughby's feet were scarcely on the library floor, when he was
clasped in his mother's arms. From these he soon passed into Beulah's;
nor did his father hesitate about giving him an embrace nearly as warm.
As for Maud, she stood by, weeping in sympathy and in silence.
"And you, too, old man," said Robert Willoughby, dashing the tears from
his eyes, and turning to the elder black, holding out a hand--"this is
not the first time, by many, old Pliny, that you have had me between
heaven and earth. Your son was my old play-fellow, and we must shake
hands also. As for O'Hearn, steel is not truer, and we are friends for
The negroes were delighted to see their young master, for, in that day,
the slaves exulted in the honour, appearance, importance and dignity of
their owners, far more than their liberated descendants do now in their
own. The major had been their friend when a boy; and he was, at
present, their pride and glory. In their view of the matter, the
English army did not contain his equal in looks, courage, military
skill, or experience; and it was treason _per se_ to fight against
a cause that he upheld. The captain had laughingly related to his wife
a conversation to this effect he had not long before overheard between
the two Plinys.
"Well, Miss Beuly do a pretty well"--observed the elder, "but, den he
all'e better, if he no get 'Merican 'mission. What you call raal
colonel, eh? Have 'e paper from 'e king like Masser Bob, and wear a
rigimental like a head of a turkey cock, so! Dat bein' an up and down
"P'rhaps Miss Beuly bring a colonel round, and take off a blue coat,
and put on a scarlet," answered the younger.
"Nebber!--nebber see dat, Plin, in a rebbleushun. Dis got to be a
rebbleushun; and when _dat_ begin in 'arnest, gib up all idee of
'mendment. Rebbleushuns look all one way--nebber see two side, any more
dan coloured man see two side in a red-skin."
As we have not been able to trace the thought to antiquity, this
expression may have been the original of the celebrated axiom of
Napoleon, which tells us that "revolutions never go backwards." At all
events, such was the notion of Pliny Willoughby, Sen., as the namesake
of the great Roman styled himself; and it was greatly admired by Pliny
Willoughby, Jun., to say nothing of the opinions of Big Smash and
Little Smash, both of whom were listeners to the discourse.
"Well, I wish a colonel Beekman"--To this name the fellow gave the true
Doric sound of _Bakeman_--"I wish a colonel Beekman only corprul
in king's troops, for Miss Beuly's sake. Better be sarjun dere, dan
briggerdeer-ginral in 'Merikan company; dat _I_ know."
"What a briggerdeer mean, Plin?" inquired Little Smash, with interest.
"Who he keep company wid, and what he do? Tell a body, do--so many
officer in 'e army, one nebber know all he name."
"'Mericans can't hab 'em. Too poor for _dat_. Briggerdeer great
gentleum, and wear a red coat. Ole time, see 'em in hundreds, come to
visit Masser, and Missus, and play wid Masser Bob. Oh! no rebbleushun
in dem days; but ebbery body know he own business, and _do_ it,
This will serve to show the political sentiments of the Plinys, and may
also indicate the bias that the Smashes were likely to imbibe in such
company. As a matter of course, the major was gladly welcomed by these
devoted admirers; and when Maud again whispered to them the necessity
of secresy, each shut his mouth, no trifling operation in itself, as if
it were to be henceforth hermetically sealed.
The assistants were now dismissed, and the major was left alone with
his family. Again and again Mrs. Willoughby embraced her son; nor had
her new ties at all lessened Beulah's interest in her brother. Even the
captain kissed his boy anew, while Mr. Woods shook hands once more with
his old pupil, and blessed him. Maud alone was passive in this scene of
feeling and joy.
"Now, Bob, let us to business," said the captain, as soon as
tranquillity was a little restored. "You have not made this difficult
and perilous journey without an object; and, as we are somewhat
critically situated ourselves, the sooner we know what it is, the less
will be the danger of its not producing its proper effect."
"Heaven send, dear sir, that it fail not in its effect, indeed,"
answered the son. "But is not this movement in the valley pressing, and
have I not come opportunely to take a part in the defence of the
"That will be seen a few hours later, perhaps. Everything is quiet now,
and will probably so remain until near morning; or Indian tactics have
undergone a change. The fellows have lighted camp-fires on their rocks,
and seem disposed to rest for the present, at least. Nor do I know that
they are bent on war at all. We have no Indians near us, who would be
likely to dig up the hatchet; and these fellows profess peace, by a
messenger they have sent me."
"Are they not in their war-paint, sir? I remember to have seen
warriors, when a boy, and my glass has given these men the appearance
of being on what they call 'a war-path.'"
"Some of them are certainly in that guise, though he who came to the
Knoll was not. _He_ pretended that they were a party travelling
towards the Hudson in order to learn the true causes of the
difficulties between their Great English and their Great American
Fathers. He asked for meal and meat to feed his young men with. This
was the whole purport of his errand."
"And your answer, sir; is it peace, or war, between you?"
"Peace in professions, but I much fear war in reality. Still one cannot
know. An old frontier garrison-man, like myself, is not apt to put much
reliance on Indian faith. We are now, God be praised! all within the
stockade; and having plenty of arms and ammunition, are not likely to
be easily stormed. A siege is out of the question; we are too well
provisioned to dread that."
"But you leave the mills, the growing grain, the barns, even the cabins
of your workmen, altogether at the mercy of these wretches."
"That cannot well be avoided, unless we go out and drive them off, in
open battle. For the last, they are too strong, to say nothing of the
odds of risking fathers of families against mere vagabonds, as I
suspect these savages to be. I have told them to help themselves to
meal, or grain, of which they will find plenty in the mill. Pork can be
got in the houses, and they have made way with a deer already, that I
had expected the pleasure of dissecting myself. The cattle roam the
woods at this season, and are tolerably safe; but they can burn the
barns and other buildings, should they see fit. In this respect, we are
at their mercy. If they ask for rum, or cider, that may bring matters
to a head; for, refusing may exasperate them, and granting either, in
any quantity, will certainly cause them all to get intoxicated."
"Why would not that be good policy, Willoughby?" exclaimed the
chaplain. "If fairly disguised once, our people might steal out upon
them, and take away all their arms. Drunken men sleep very profoundly."
"It would be a canonical mode of warfare, perhaps, Woods," returned the
chaplain, smiling, "but not exactly a military. I think it safer that
they should continue sober; for, as yet, they manifest no great
intentions of hostility. But of this we can speak hereafter. Why are
you here, my son, and in this guise?"
"The motive may as well be told now, as at another time," answered the
major, giving his mother and sisters chairs, while the others imitated
their example in being seated. "Sir William Howe has permitted me to
come out to see you--I might almost say _ordered_ me out; for
matters have now reached a pass when we think every loyal gentleman in
America must feel disposed to take sides with the crown."
A general movement among his auditors told the major the extent of the
interest they felt in what was expected to follow. He paused an instant
to survey the dark-looking group that was clustering around him; for no
lights were in the room on account of the open windows, and he spoke in
a low voice from motives of prudence; then he proceeded:
"I should infer from the little that passed between Maud and myself,"
he said, "that you are ignorant of the two most important events that
have yet occurred in this unhappy conflict?"
"We learn little here," answered the father. "I have heard that my Lord
Howe and his brother Sir William have been named commissioners by His
Majesty to heal all the differences. I knew them both, when young men,
and their elder brother before them. Black Dick, as we used to call the
admiral, is a discreet, well-meaning man; though I fear both of them
owe their appointments more to their affinity to the sovereign than to
the qualities that might best fit them to deal with the Americans."
"Little is known of the affinity of which you speak[*], and less said
in the army," returned the major, "but I fear there is no hope of the
object of the commission's being effected. The American congress has
declared the colonies altogether independent of England; and so far as
this country is concerned, the war is carried on as between nation and
nation. All allegiance, even in name, is openly cast aside."
[* The mother of the three Lords Howe, so well known in American
history, viz: _George_, killed before Ticonderoga, in the war of
'56; _Richard_, the celebrated admiral, and the hero of the 1st
June; and Sir _William_, for several years commander-in-chief in
this country, and the 5th and last viscount; was a Mademoiselle
Kilmansegge, who was supposed to be a natural daughter of George I.
This would make these three officers and George II. first-cousins;
and George III their great-nephew _a la mode de Bretagne_.
Walpole, and various other English writers, speak openly, not only of
the connection, but of the family resemblance. Indeed, most of the
gossiping writers of that age seem to allow that Lord Howe was a
grandson of the first English sovereign of the House of Brunswick.]
"You astonish me, Bob! I did not think it could ever come to this!"
"I thought your native attachments would hardly endure as strong a
measure as this has got to be," answered the major, not a little
satisfied with the strength of feeling manifested by his father. "Yet
has this been done, sir, and done in a way that it will not be easy to
recall. Those who now resist us, resist for the sake of throwing off
all connection with England."
"Has France any agency in this, Bob?--I own it startles me, and has a
"It has driven many of the most respectable of our enemies into our
arms, sir. We have never considered you a direct enemy, though
unhappily inclining too much against us; 'but this will determine Sir
Hugh,' said the commander-in-chief in our closing interview--I suppose
you know, my dear father, that all your old friends, knowing what has
happened, insist on calling you Sir Hugh. I assure you, I never open my
lips on the subject; and yet Lord Howe drank to the health of Sir Hugh
Willoughby, openly at his own table, the last time I had the honour to
dine with him."
"Then the next time he favours you with an invitation, Bob, be kind
enough to thank him. I want no empty baronetcy, nor do I ever think of
returning to England to live. Were all I had on earth drummed together,
it would barely make out a respectable competency for a private
gentleman in that extravagant state of society; and what is a mere name
to one in such circumstances? I wish it were transferable, my dear boy,
in the old Scotch mode, and you should be Sir Bob before you slept."
"But, Willoughby, it may be useful to Robert, and why should he not
have the title, since neither you nor I care for it?" asked the
"So he may, my dear; though he must wait for an event that I fancy you
are not very impatient to witness--my death. When I am gone, let him be
Sir Robert, in welcome. But, Bob--for plain, honest Bob must you remain
till then, unless indeed you earn your spurs in this unhappy war--have
you any military tidings for us? We have heard nothing since the
arrival of the fleet on the coast."
"We are in New York, after routing Washington on Long Island. The
rebels"--the major spoke a little more confidently than had been his
wont--"The rebels have retreated into the high country, near the
borders of Connecticut, where they have inveterate nests of the
disaffected in their rear."
"And has all this been done without bloodshed? Washington had staff in
him, in the old French business."
"_His_ stuff is not doubted, sir; but his men make miserable work
of it. Really I am sometimes ashamed of having been born in the
country. These Yankees fight like wrangling women, rather than
"How's this!--You spoke honestly of the affair at Lexington, and wrote
us a frank account of the murderous work at Bunker Hill. Have their
natures changed with the change of season?"
"To own the truth, sir, they did wonders on the Hill, and not badly in
the other affair; but all their spirit seems gone. I am quite ashamed
of them. Perhaps this declaration of independence, as it is called, has
damped their ardour."
"No, my son--the change, if change there is, depends on a general and
natural law. Nothing but discipline and long training can carry men
with credit through a campaign, in the open field. Fathers, and
husbands, and brothers and lovers, make formidable enemies, in sight of
their own chimney-tops; but the most flogging regiments, we used to
say, were the best fighting regiments for a long pull. But, have a
care, Bob; you are now of a rank that may well get you a separate
command, and do not despise your enemy. I know these Yankees well--you
are one, yourself, though only half-blooded; but I know them well, and
have often seen them tried. They are very apt to be badly commanded,
heaven cursing them for their sins, in this form more than any other--
but get them fairly at work, and the guards will have as much as they
can wish, to get along with. Woods will swear to _that_."
"Objecting to the _mode_ of corroboration, my dear sir, I can
support its substance. Inclined as I am to uphold Caesar, and to do
honour to the Lord's anointed, I will not deny my countrymen's courage;
though I think, Willoughby, now I recall old times, it was rather the
fashion of our officers to treat it somewhat disrespectfully."
"It was, indeed," answered the captain, thoughtfully--"and a silly
thing it was. They mistook the nature of a mild and pacific people,
totally without the glitter and habits of military life, for a timid
people; and I have often heard the new hands in the colonies speak of
their inhabitants with contempt on this very head. Braddock had that
failing to a great degree; and yet this very major Washington saved his
army from annihilation, when it came to truly desperate work. Mark the
words of a much older soldier than yourself, Bob; you may have more of
the bravery of apparel, and present a more military aspect; may even
gain advantages over them by means of higher discipline, better arms,
and more accurate combinations; but, when you meet them fairly, depend
on it you will meet dangerous foes, and men capable of being sooner
drilled into good soldiers than any nation I have met with. Their great
curse is, and probably will be, in selecting too many of their officers
from classes not embued with proper military pride, and altogether
without the collaterals of a good military education."
To all this the major had nothing very material to object, and
remembering that the silent but thoughtful Beulah had a husband in what
he called the rebel ranks, he changed the subject. Arrangements were
now made for the comfort and privacy of the unlooked-for guest.
Adjoining the library, a room with no direct communication with the
court by means of either door, or window, was a small and retired
apartment containing a cot-bed, to which the captain was accustomed to
retire in the cases of indisposition, when Mrs. Willoughby wished to
have either of her daughters with herself, on their account, or on her
own. This room was now given to the major, and in it he would be
perfectly free from every sort of intrusion. He might eat in the
library, if necessary; though, all the windows of that wing of the
house opening outward, there was little danger of being seen by any but
the regular domestics of the family, all of whom were to be let into
the secret of his presence, and all of whom were rightly judged to be
As the evening promised to be dark, it was determined among the
gentlemen that the major should disguise himself still more than he was
already, and venture outside of the building, in company with his
father, and the chaplain, as soon as the people, who were now crowded