"He is one of the King's men on the Big chess board," said the old philosopher. "All that he said to you has the sound of strategy. I have reason to believe that they are trying to tow us into port and Margaret is only one of many ropes. Hare's attitude is not that of an honest man."
"Is it not true that every one who touches the King gets some of that tar on him?" Jack queried.
"It would seem so and yet we must be fair to him. We are not to think that the King is the only black pot on the fire. He is probably the best of kings but I can not think of one king who would be respectable in Boston or Philadelphia. Their expenses have been great, their taxes robbery, so they have had to study the magic arts of seeming to be just and righteous. They have been a lot of conjurers trained to create illusions."
"I suppose that Britain is no worse than other kingdoms," said the young man.
"On the whole she is the best of them. Under the surface here I find the love of liberty and all good things. Chatham, Burke and Fox are their voices. We are not to wonder that Lord North puts a price on every man. His is the soul of a past in which most men have had their price. It was the old way of removing difficulties in the management of a state. It succeeded. A new day is at hand. Its forerunners are here. He has not seen the signs in the sky or heard the cocks crowing. He is still asleep. I know many men in England whom he could not buy."
Only three days before the philosopher had had a talk with North at the urgent request of Howe, who, to his credit, was eager for reconciliation. The King's friend and minister was contemptuous.
"I am quite indifferent to war," he had cynically declared at last. "The confiscations it would produce will provide for many of our friends."
It was an astonishing bit of frankness.
"I take this opportunity of assuring Your Lordship that for all the property you seize or destroy in America, you will pay to the last farthing," said Franklin.
This treatment was like that he had received from other members of the government since the unfortunate publication of the Hutchinson, Rogers and Oliver letters. They seemed to entertain the notion that he had forfeited the respect due a gentleman.
A few days after Franklin had given air to his suspicion that the government party would try to tow him into port three stout British ships had broken their cables on him. An invitation not likely to be received by one who had really forfeited the respect of gentlemen was in his hands. The shrewd philosopher did not think twice about it. He knew that here was the first step in a change of tactics. He could not properly decline to accept it and so he went to dine and spend the night with a most distinguished company at the country seat of Lord Howe.
On his return he told his young friend of the portal and lodge in a great triumphal arch marking the entrance to the estate of His Lordship; of the mile long road to the big house straight as a gun barrel and smooth as a carpet; of the immense single oaks; of the artificial stream circling the front of the house and the beautiful bridge leading to its entrance; of the double flight of steps under the grand portico; of the great hall with its ceiling forty feet high, supported by fluted Corinthian columns of red-veined alabaster; of the rare old tapestries on a golden background in the saloon; of the immense corridors connecting the wings of the structure. The dinner and its guests and its setting were calculated to impress the son of the Boston soap boiler who represented the important colonies in America.
Some of the best people were there—Lord and Lady Cathcart, Lord and Lady Hyde, Lord and Lady Dartmouth. Sir William Erskine, Sir Henry Clinton, Sir James Baird, Sir Benjamin Hare and their ladies were also present. Doctor Franklin said that the punch was calculated to promote cheerfulness and high sentiment. As was the custom at like functions, the ladies sat together at one end of the table. Franklin being seated at the right of Lady Howe, who was most gracious and entertaining. The first toast was to the venerable philosopher.
"My Ladies, Lords and gentlemen," said the host, "we must look to our conduct in the presence of one who talked with Sir William Wyndham and was a visitor in the house of Sir Hans Sloane before we were born; whose tireless intellect has been a confidant of Nature, a playmate of the Lightning and an inventor of ingenious and useful things; whose wisdom has given to Philadelphia a public library, a work house, good paving, excellent schools, a protection against fire as efficient as any in the world and the best newspaper in the colonies. Good health and long life to him and may his love of the old sod increase with his years."
The toast was drunk with expressions of approval, and Franklin only arose and bowed and briefly spoke his acknowledgments in a single sentence, and then added:
"Lord Howe can assure you that public men receive more praise and more blame than they really merit. I have heard much said for and against Benjamin Franklin, but there could be no better testimony in his favor than the good opinion of Lord Howe, for which I can never cease to be grateful. For years I have been weighing the evidence, and my verdict is that Franklin has meant well."
He said to Jack that he felt the need of being "as discreet as a tombstone."
A member of that party has told in his memoirs how he kept the ladies laughing with his merry jests.
"I see by The Observer they are going to open cod and whale fisheries in the great lakes of the Northwest," Lady Howe said to him.
He answered very gently: "Your Ladyship, has it never occurred to you that it would be a sublime spectacle to stand at the foot of the great falls of Niagara and see the whales leaping over them?"
"What do you regard as your most important discovery?" one of the ladies inquired.
"Well, first, I naturally think of the hospitality of this house and the beauty and charm of the Lady Howe and her friends," Franklin answered with characteristic diplomacy. "Then there is this wine," he added, lifting his glass. "Its importance is as great as its age and this is old enough to command even my veneration. It reminds me of another discovery of mine: the value of the human elbow. I was telling the King's physician of that this morning and it seemed to amuse him. But for the human elbow every person would need a neck longer than that of a goose to do his eating and drinking."
"I had never thought of that," Lady Howe laughingly answered. "It surely does have some effect on one's manners."
"And his personal appearance and the cost of his neckwear," said Franklin. "Here is another discovery."
He took a leathern case from his pocket and removed from it a sealed glass tube half full of a colorless liquid.
"Kindly hold that in your hand and see what happens," he said to Lady Howe. "It contains plain water."
In half a moment the water began to boil.
"It shows how easily water boils in a vacuum," said Franklin as the ladies were amusing themselves with this odd toy. "It enables us to understand why a little heat produces great agitation in certain intellects," he added.
"Doctor, we are neglecting politics," said Lord Hyde. "You lay much stress upon thrift. Do you not agree with me that a man who has not the judgment to practise thrift and acquire property has not the judgment to vote?"
"Property is all right, but let's make it stay in its own stall," said Franklin. "It should never be a qualification of the voter, because it would lead us up to this dilemma: if I have a jackass I can vote. If the jackass dies I can not vote. Therefore, my vote would represent the jackass and not me."
The dinner over, Lady Howe conducted Doctor Franklin to the library, where she asked him to sit down. There were no other persons in the room. She sat near him and began to speak of the misfortunes of the colony of Massachusetts Bay.
"Your Ladyship, we are all alike," he answered. "I have never seen a man who could not bear the misfortunes of another like a Christian. The trouble is our ministers find it too easy to bear them."
"I wish you would speak with Lord Howe frankly of these troubles. He is just by. Will you give me leave to send for him?"
"By all means, madame, if you think best." Lord Howe joined them in a moment. He was most polite.
"I am sensible of the fact that you have been mistreated by the ministry," he said. "I have not approved of their conduct. I am unconnected with those men save through personal friendships. My zeal for the public welfare is my only excuse for asking you to open your mind."
Lady Howe arose and offered to withdraw.
"Your Ladyship, why not honor us with your presence?" Franklin asked. "For my part I can see no reason for making a secret of a business of this nature. As to His Lordship's mention of my mistreatment, that done my country is so much greater I dismiss all thought of the other. From the King's speech I judge that no accommodation can be expected."
"The plan is now to send a commission to the colonies, as you have urged," said His Lordship.
Then said Lady Howe: "I wish, my brother Franklin, that you were to be sent thither. I should like that much better than General Howe's going to command the army there."
A rather tense moment followed. Franklin broke its silence by saying in a gentle tone:
"I think, madame, they should provide the General with more honorable employment. I beg that your Ladyship will not misjudge me. I am not capable of taking an office from this government while it is acting with so much hostility toward my country."
"The ministers have the opinion that you can compose the situation if you will," Lord Howe declared. "Many of us have unbounded faith in your ability. I would not think of trying to influence your judgment by a selfish motive, but certainly you may, with reason, expect any reward which it is in the power of the government to bestow."
Then came an answer which should live in history, as one of the great credits of human nature, and all men, especially those of English blood, should feel a certain pride in it. The answer was:
"Your Lordship, I am not looking for rewards, but only for justice."
"Let us try to agree as to what is the justice of the matter," Howe answered. "Will you not draft a plan on which you would be willing to cooperate?"
"That I will be glad to do."
Persisting in his misjudgment, Howe suggested:
"As you have friends here and constituents in America to keep well with, perhaps it would better not be in your handwriting. Send it to Lady Howe and she will copy it and return the original."
Then said the sturdy old Yankee: "I desire, my friends, that there shall be no secrecy about it."
Lord and Lady Howe showed signs of great disappointment as he bade them good night and begged to be sent to his room.
"I am growing old, and have to ask for like indulgence from every hostess," he pleaded.
Howe was not willing to leave a stone unturned. He could not dismiss the notion from his mind that the purchase could be effected if the bid were raised. He drew the Doctor aside and said:
"We do not expect your assistance without proper consideration. I shall insist upon generous and ample appointments for the men you take with you and especially for you as well as a firm promise of subsequent rewards."
What crown had he in mind for the white and venerable brow of the man who stood before him? Beneath that brow was a new type of statesman, born of the hardships and perils and high faith of a new world, and then and there as these two faced each other—the soul of the past and the soul of the future—a moment was come than which there had been no greater in human history. In America, France and England the cocks had been crowing and now the first light of the dawn of a new day fell upon the figure of the man who in honor and understanding towered above his fellows. Now, for a moment, on the character of this man the unfathomable plan of God for future ages would seem to have been resting.
In his sixty-eight years he had discovered, among other things, the vanity of wealth and splendor. It was no more to him than the idle wind. These are his exact words as he stood with a gentle smile on his face: "If you wish to use me, give me the propositions and dismiss all thought of rewards from your mind. They would destroy the influence you propose to use."
Howe, a good man as men went those days, had got beyond his depth. His philosophy comprehended no such mystery. What manner of man was this son of a soap boiler who had smiled and shaken his white head and spoken like a kindly father to the folly of a child when these offers of wealth and honor and power had been made to him? Did he not understand that it was really the King who had spoken?
The old gentleman climbed the great staircase and went to his chamber, while Lord Howe was, no doubt, communicating the result of his interview to his other guests. There were those among them who freely predicted that war was inevitable.
In the morning at eight o'clock Franklin rode into town with Lord Howe. They discussed the motion of the Prime Minister under the terms of which the colonies were to pay money into the British Treasury until parliament should decide they had paid enough.
"It is impossible," said Franklin. "No chance is offered us to judge the propriety of the measure or our ability to pay. These grants are demanded under a claimed right to tax us at pleasure and compel payments by armed force. Your Lordship, it is like the proposition of a highwayman who presents a pistol at the window of your coach and demands enough to satisfy his greed—no specific sum being named—or there is the pistol."
"You are a most remarkable man, but you do not understand the government," said His Lordship. "You will not let yourself see the other side of the proposition. You are highly esteemed in America and if you could but see the justice of our claim you would be as highly esteemed here and honored and rewarded far beyond any expectation you are likely to have."
"If any one supposes that I could prevail upon my countrymen to take black for white or wrong for right, he does not know them or me," said Franklin. "My people are incapable of being so imposed upon and I am incapable of attempting it."
Next evening came the good Doctor Barclay, a friend of Franklin, and a noted philanthropist. They played chess together, and after the game, while they were draining glasses of Madeira, the philanthropist said:
"Here's to peace and good will between England and her colonies. The prosperity of both depends upon it."
They drank the toast and then Barclay proposed:
"Let us use our efforts to that end. Power is a great thing to have and the noblest gift a government can bestow is within your reach."
"Barclay, this is what I would call spitting in the soup," said Franklin. "It's excellent soup, too. I am sure the ministry would rather give me a seat in a cart to Tyburn than any other place whatever. I would despise myself if I needed an inducement to serve a great cause."
The philanthropist entered upon a wearisome argument, which lasted for nearly an hour.
"Barclay, your opinions on this problem remind me of the iron money of Lycurgus," observed Franklin.
The philanthropist desired to know why.
"Because of their bulk. A cart load of them is not worth a shilling."
In all parts of Britain those days one heard much ridicule of the New England home and conscience. Now the ministry and its friends had begun to butt their heads against the immovable wall of character which had grown out of them and of which Lord Chatham had said:
"It has made certain of our able men look like school boys."
There was at that time a man of great power whose voice spoke for the soul of England. He had studied the spirit of the New World and probed to its foundations. He will help us to understand the new diplomacy which had filled the ministers with astonishment.
The same week Jack was invited to breakfast with Mr. Edmund Burke and Doctor Franklin. He was awed by the brilliancy of the massive, trumpet-tongued orator and statesman.
He writes: "Burke has a most ungainly figure. His gait is awkward, his gestures clumsy, his eyes are covered with large spectacles. He is careless of his dress. His pockets bulged with papers. He spoke rapidly and with a strong Irish brogue. Power is the thing his face and form express. His knowledge is astounding. It is easy to talk with Franklin, but I could not talk with him. He humbled and embarrassed me. His words shone as they fell from his lips. I can give you but a feeble notion of them. This was his idea, but I remember only a few of his glowing words:
"'I fancy that man, like most other inventions, was, at first, a disappointment. There seems to have been some doubt, for a time, as to whether the contrivance could be made to work. In fact, there is good ground for believing that it wouldn't work.
"'It was a failure. The tendency to indolence and folly had to be overcome. Sundry improvements were necessary. An imagination and the love of adventure were added to the great machine. They were the things needed. Not all the friction of hardship and peril could stop it then. From that time, as they say in business, man was a paying institution.
"'The lure of adventure led to the discovery of law and truth. The best child of adventure is revelation. Man is so fashioned that if he can see a glimmer of the truth he seeks, he will make for it no matter what may be in his way. The promise of an exciting time solves the problem of help. America was born of sublime faith and a great adventure—the greatest in history—that of the three caravels. High faith is the great need of the world. Columbus had it, and I think, sir, that the Pilgrims had it and that the same quality of faith is in you. In these dark years you are like the lanterns of Pharus to your people.
"'When prodigious things are to be done, how carefully men are prepared and chosen for their doing!'
"He said many things, but these words addressed to my venerable friend impressed me deeply. It occurs to me that Burke has been chosen to speak for the soul of Britain.
"When we think of the choosing of God, who but the sturdy yeomen of our mother land could have withstood the inhospitalities of the New World and established its spirit!
"Now their Son, Benjamin Franklin, full grown in the new school of liberty, has been chosen of God to define the inalienable rights of freemen. I think the stage is being set for the second great adventure in our history. Let us have no fear of it. Our land is sown with the new faith. It can not fail."
This conviction was the result of some rather full days in the British capital.
AN APPOINTMENT AND A CHALLENGE
Solomon Binkus had left the city with Preston to visit Sir Jeffrey Amherst in his country seat, near London. Sir Benjamin had taken Jack to dine with him at two of his clubs and after dining they had gone to see the great actor Robert Bensley as Malvolio and the Comedian Dodd as Sir Andrew Aguecheek. The Britisher had been most polite, but had seemed studiously to avoid mention of the subject nearest the heart of the young man. After that the latter was invited to a revel and a cock fight, but declined the honor and went to spend an evening with his friend, the philosopher. For days Franklin had been shut in with gout. Jack had found him in his room with one of his feet wrapped in bandages and resting on a chair.
"I am glad you came, my son," said the good Doctor. "I am in need of better company than this foot. Solitude is like water—good for a dip, but you can not live in it. Margaret has been here trying to give me comfort, although she needs it more for herself."
"Margaret!" the boy exclaimed. "Why does she need comfort?"
"Oh, largely on your account, my son! Her father is obdurate and the cause is dear to me. This courtship of yours is taking an international aspect."
He gave his young friend a full account of the night at Lord Howe's and the interviews which had followed it.
"All London knows how I stand now. They will not try again to bribe me. The displeasure of Sir Benjamin will react upon you."
"What shall I do if he continues to be obdurate?"
"Shove my table this way and I'll show you a problem in prudential algebra," said the philosopher. "It's a way I have of setting down all the factors and striking out those that are equal and arriving at the visible result."
With his pen and a sheet of paper he set down the factors in the problem and his estimate of their relative value as follows:
A father=1 Margaret, her mother and Jack= 3+ 1 A patrimony=10 Happiness for Jack and Margaret= 100+ 90 Margaret's old friends=1 Margaret's new friends= 1 A father's love=1 A husband's love= 10+ 9 A father's tyranny=-1 Your respect for human rights= 5+ 6 ———- 106
[Transcriber's note: In the original printed book, some of the words in this table have slashes (strike-outs) through them, and are not renderable in text format. At the end of the HTML version of this book is an image of the table, showing these strike-outs.]
"Now there is the problem, and while we may differ on the estimates, I think that most sane Americans would agree that the balance is overwhelmingly in favor of throwing off the yoke of tyranny, and asserting your rights, established by agreement as well as by nature. In a like manner I work out all my important problems, so that every factor is visible and subject to change.
"I only fear that I may not be able to provide for her in a suitable manner," said Jack.
"Oh, you are well off," said the philosopher. "You have some capital and recognized talent and occupation for it. When I reached Philadelphia I had an empty stomach and also a Dutch dollar, a few pennies, two soiled shirts and a pair of dirty stockings in my pockets. Many years passed and I had a family before I was as well off as you are."
Dinner was brought in and Jack ate with the Doctor and when the table was cleared they played with magic squares—an invention of the philosopher with which he was wont to divert himself and friends of an evening. When Jack was about to go, the Doctor asked:
"Will you hand me that little red book? I wish to put down a credit mark for my conscience. This old foot of mine has been rather impudent to-day. There have been moments when I could have expressed my opinion of it with joyous violence. But I did not. I let it carry on like a tinker in a public house, and never said a word."
He showed the boy an interesting table containing the days of the week, at the head of seven columns, and opposite cross-columns below were the virtues he aimed to acquire—patience, temperance, frugality and the like. The book contained a table for every week in the year. It had been his practise, at the end of each day, to enter a black mark opposite the virtues in which he had failed.
It was a curious and impressive document—a frank, candid record in black and white of the history of a human soul. To Jack it had a sacred aspect like the story of the trials of Job.
"I begin to understand how you have built up this wonderful structure we call Franklin," he said.
"Oh, it is but a poor and shaky thing at best, likely to tumble in a high wind—but some work has gone into it," said the old gentleman. "You see these white pages are rather spotted, but when I look over the history of my spirit, as I do now and then, I observe that the pages are slowly getting cleaner. There is not so much ink on them as there used to be. You see I was once a free thinker. I had no gods to bother me, and my friends were of the same stripe. In time I discovered that they were a lot of scamps and that I was little better. I found myself in the wrong road and immediately faced about. Then I began keeping these tables. They have been a help to me."
This reminded Jack of the evil words of the melancholy Mr. Pinhorn which had been so promptly rebuked by his friend John Adams on the ride to Philadelphia. The young man made a copy of one of the tables and was saying good night to his venerable friend when the latter remarked:
"I shall go to Sir John Pringle's in the morning for advice. He is a noted physician. My man will be having a day off. Could you go with me at ten?"
"Gladly," said Jack.
"Then I shall pick you up at your lodgings. You will see your rival at Pringle's. He is at home on leave and has been going to Sir John's office every Tuesday morning at ten-thirty with his father. General Clarke, a gruff, gouty old hero of the French and Indian wars and an aggressive Tory. He is forever tossing and goring the Whigs. It may be the only chance you will have to see that rival of yours. He is a handsome lad."
Doctor Franklin, with his crutch beside him in the cab, called for his young friend at the hour appointed.
"I go to his office when I have need of his advice," said the Doctor. "If ever he came to me, the wretch would charge me two guineas. We have much argument over the processes of life in the human body, of which I have gained some little knowledge. Often he flatters me by seeking my counsel in difficult cases."
The office of the Doctor Baronet was on the first floor of a large building in Gough Square, Fleet Street. A number of gentlemen sat in comfortable chairs in a large waiting room.
"Sir John will see you in a moment, sir," an attendant said to Doctor Franklin as they entered. The moment was a very long one.
"In London there are many people who disagree with the clock," Franklin laughed. "In this office, even the moments have the gout. They limp along with slow feet."
It was a gloomy room. The chairs, lounges and tables had a venerable look like that of the men who came there with warped legs and old mahogany faces. The red rugs and hangings suggested "the effect of old port on the human countenance, being of a hue like unto that of many cheeks and noses in the waiting company," as the young man wrote. The door to the private room of the great physician creaked on its hinges with a kind of groan when he came out accompanied by a limping patient.
"Wait here for a minute—a gout minute," said Franklin to his young friend. "When Pringle dismisses me, I will present you."
Jack sat and waited while the room filled with ruddy, crotchety gentlemen supported by canes or crutches—elderly, old and of middle age. Among those of the latter class was a giant of a man, erect and dignified, accompanied by a big blond youngster in a lieutenant's uniform. He sat down and began to talk with another patient of the troubles in America.
"I see the damned Yankees have thrown another cargo of tea overboard," said he in a tone of anger.
"This time it was in Cape Cod. We must give those Yahoos a lesson."
Jack surmised now that here was the aggressive Tory General of whom the Doctor had spoken and that the young man was his son.
"I fear that it would be a costly business sending men to fight across three thousand miles of sea," said the other.
"Bosh! There is not one Yankee in a hundred that has the courage of a rabbit. With a thousand British grenadiers, I would undertake to go from one end of America to another and amputate the heads of the males, partly by force and partly by coaxing."
A laugh followed these insulting words. Jack Irons rose quickly and approached the man who had uttered them. The young American was angry, but he managed to say with good composure:
"I am an American, sir, and I demand a retraction of those words or a chance to match my courage against yours."
A murmur of surprise greeted his challenge.
The Britisher turned quickly with color mounting to his brow and surveyed the sturdy form of the young man.
"I take back nothing that I say," he declared.
"Then, in behalf of my slandered countrymen, I demand the right to fight you or any Britisher who has the courage to take up your quarrel."
Jack Irons had spoken calmly like one who had weighed his words.
The young Lieutenant who had entered the room with the fiery, middle-aged Britisher, rose and faced the American and said:
"I will take up his quarrel, sir. Here is my card."
"And here is mine," said Jack. "When will you be at home?"
"At noon to-morrow."
"Some friend of mine will call upon you," Jack assured the other.
A look of surprise came to the face of the Lieutenant as he surveyed the card in his hand. Jack was prepared for the name he read which was that of Lionel Clarke.
Franklin wrote some weeks later in a letter to John Irons of Albany: "When I came out of the physician's office I saw nothing in Jack's face and manner to suggest the serious proceeding he had entered upon. If I had, or if some one had dropped a hint to me, I should have done what I could to prevent this unfortunate affair. He chatted with Sir John a moment and we went out as if nothing unusual had happened. On the way to my house we talked of the good weather we were having, of the late news from America and of my summons to appear before the Privy Council. He betrayed no sign of the folly which was on foot. I saw him only once after he helped me into the house and left me to go to his lodgings. But often I find myself thinking of his handsome face and heroic figure and gentle voice and hand. He was like a loving son to me."
That evening Solomon arrived with Preston. Solomon gave a whistle of relief as he entered their lodgings on Bloomsbury Square and dropped into a chair.
"Wal, sir! We been flyin' eround as brisk as a bee," he remarked. "I feel as if I had spraint one leg and spavined t'other. The sun was over the fore yard when we got back, and since then, we went to see the wild animals, a hip'pottermas, an' lions, an' tigers, an' snakes, an' a bird with a neck as long as a hoe handle, an' a head like a tommyhawk. I wouldn't wonder if he could peck some, an' they say he can fetch a kick that would knock a hoss down. Gosh! I kind o' felt fer my gun! Gol darn his pictur'! Think o' bein' kicked by a bird an' havin' to be picked up an' carried off to be mended. We took a long, crooked trail hum an' walked all the way. It's kind o' hard footin'."
Solomon spoke with the animation of a boy. At last he had found something in London which had pleased and excited him.
"Did you have a good time at Sir Jeffrey's?" the young man asked.
"Better'n a barn raisin'! Say, hones', I never seen nothin' like it—'twere so blandiferous! At fust I were a leetle bit like a man tied to a tree—felt so helpless an' unsart'in. Didn't know what were goin' to happen. Then ol' Jeff come an' ontied me, as ye might say, an' I 'gun to feel right. 'Course Preston tol' me not to be skeered—that the doin's would be friendly, an' they was. Gol darn my pictur'! I'll bet a pint o' powder an' a fish hook thar ain't no nicer womern in this world than ol' Jeff's wife—not one. I give her my jack-knife. She ast me fer it. 'Twere a good knife, but I were glad to give it to her. Gosh! I dunno what she wants to do with it. Mebbe she likes to whittle. They's some does. I kind o' like it myself. I warned her to be keerful not to cut herself 'cause 'twere sharper'n the tooth o' a weasel. The vittles was tasty—no common ven'son er moose meat, but the best roast beef, an' mutton, an' ham an' jest 'nough Santa Cruz rum to keep the timber floatin'! They snickered when I tol' 'em I'd take my tea bar' foot. I set 'mongst a lot o' young folks, mostly gals, full o' laugh an' ginger, an' as purty to look at as a flock o' red birds, an' I sot thar tellin' stories 'bout the Injun wars, an' bear, an' moose, an' painters till the moon were down an' a clock hollered one. Then I let each o' them gals snip off a grab o' my hair. I dunno what they wanted to do with it, but they 'pear to be as fond o' takin' hair as Injuns. Mebbe 'twas fer good luck. I wouldn't wonder if my head looks like it was shingled. Ayes! I had an almighty good time.
"These 'ere British is good folks as fur as I've been able to look 'em over. It's the gov'ment that's down on us an' the gov'ment ain't the people—you hear to me. They's lots o' good, friendly folks here, but I'm ready to go hum. They's a ship leaves Dover Thursday 'fore sunrise an' my name is put down."
Jack told them in detail of the unfortunate event of the morning.
Solomon whistled while his face began to get ready for a shot.
"Neevarious!" he exclaimed. "Here's suthin' that'll have to be 'tended to 'fore I take the water."
"Clarke is full of hartshorn and vinegar," said Preston. "He was like that in America. He could make more trouble in ten minutes than a regiment could mend in a year. He is what you would call 'a mean cuss.' But for him and Lord Cornwallis, I should be back in the service. They blame me for the present posture of affairs in America."
"Jack, I'm glad that young pup ain't me," said Solomon. "Thar never was a man better cocalated to please a friend er hurt an enemy. If he was to say pistols I guess that ol' sling o' yours would bu'st out laughin' an' I ain't no idee he could stan' a minnit in front o' your hanger."
"It's bad business, and especially for you," said Preston. "Dueling is not so much in favor here as in France. Of course there are duels, but the best people in England are set against the practise. You would be sure to get the worst of it. The old General is a favorite of the King. He is booked for knighthood. If you were to kill his son in the present state of feeling here, your neck would be in danger. If you were to injure him you would have to make a lucky escape, or go to prison. It is not a pleasant outlook for one who is engaged to an English girl. He has a great advantage over you."
"True, but it gives me a better chance to vindicate the courage of an American. I shall fight. I would rather die than lie down to such an insult. There has been too much of that kind of talk here. It can not go on in my hearing without being trumped. If I were capable of taking such an insult, I could never again face the girl I love. There must be an apology as public as the insult or a fight. I don't want to kill any man, but I must show them that their cap doesn't fit me."
Jack and Solomon sat up late. The young man had tried to see Margaret that evening, but the door boy at Sir Benjamin's had informed him that the family was not at home. He rightly suspected that the boy had done this under orders from the Baronet. He wrote a long letter to the girl apprising her of late developments in the relations of the ministry and Doctor Franklin, regarding which the latter desired no secrecy, and of his own unhappy situation.
"If I could bear such an insult in silence," he added, "I should be unworthy of the fairest and dearest girl on earth. With such an estimate of you, I must keep myself in good countenance. Whatever happens, be sure that I am loving you with all my heart, and longing for the time when I can make you my wife."
This letter he put into his pocket with the purpose of asking Preston to deliver it if circumstances should drive him out of England or into prison.
Captain Preston went with Solomon Binkus next day to the address on the card of Lieutenant Clarke. It was the house of the General, who was waiting with his son in the reception room. They walked together to the Almack Club. The General was self-contained. It would seem that his bad opinion of Yankees was not quite so comprehensive as it had been. The whole proceeding went forward with the utmost politeness.
"General, Mr. Binkus and John Irons, Jr., are my friends," said Captain Preston.
"Indeed!" the General answered.
"Yes, and they are friends of England. They saved my neck in America. I have assured young Irons that your words, if they were correctly reported to me, were spoken in haste, and that they do not express your real opinion."
"And what, sir, were the words reported to you?" the General asked.
Preston repeated them.
"That is my opinion."
"It is mine also," young Clarke declared.
Solomon's face changed quickly. He took deliberate aim at the enemy and drawled:
"Can't be yer opinion is wuth more than the lives o' these young fellers that's goin' to fight."
"Gentlemen, you will save time by dropping all thought of apologies," said the General.
"Then it only remains for you to choose your weapons and agree with us as to time and place," said Preston.
"I choose pistols," said the young Britisher. "The time and place may suit your convenience, so it be soon and not too far away,"
"Let us say the cow wallow on Shooter's Hill, near the oaks, at sunrise to-morrow," Preston proposed.
"I agree," the Lieutenant answered.
"Whatever comes of it, let us have secrecy and all possible protection from each side to the other when the affair is ended," said Preston.
"I agree to that also," was the answer of young Clarke.
When they were leaving, Solomon said to Preston:
"That 'ere Gin'ral is as big as Goliar."
Solomon, Jack and their friend left London that afternoon in the saddle and took lodgings at The Rose and Garter, less than a mile from the scene appointed for the encounter. That morning the Americans had sent a friend of Preston by post chaise to Deal, with Solomon's luggage. Preston had also engaged the celebrated surgeon, Doctor Brooks, to spend the night with them so that he would be sure to be on hand in the morning. The doctor had officiated at no less than a dozen duels and enjoyed these affairs so keenly that he was glad to give his help without a fee. The party had gone out in the saddle because Preston had said that the horses might be useful.
So, having discussed the perils of the immediate future, they had done all it was in their power to do to prepare for them. Late that evening the General and his son and four other gentlemen arrived at The Rose and Garter. Certain of them had spent the afternoon in the neighborhood shooting birds and rabbits.
Solomon got Jack to bed early and sat for a time in their room tinkering with the pistols. When the locks were working "right," as he put it, he polished their grips and barrels.
"Now I reckon they'll speak out when ye pull the trigger," he said to Jack. "An' yer eyesight 'll skate erlong easy on the top o' them bar'ls."
"It's a miserable kind of business," said the young man, who was lying in bed and looking at his friend. "We Americans have a rather hard time of it, I say. Life is a fight from beginning to end. We have had to fight with the wilderness for our land and with the Indians and the French for our lives, and now the British come along and tell us what we must and mustn't do and burn up our houses."
"An' spit on us an' talk as if we was a lot o' boar pigs," said Solomon. "But ol' Jeff tol' me 'twere the King an' his crowd that was makin' all the trouble."
"Well, the King and his army can make us trouble enough," Jack answered. "It's as necessary for an American to know how to fight as to know how to walk."
"Now ye stop worryin' an' go to sleep 'er I'll take ye crost my knee," said Solomon. "They ain't goin' to be no great damage done, not if ye do as I tell ye. I've been an' looked the ground over an' if we have to leg it, I know which way to go."
Solomon had heard from Preston that evening that the Lieutenant was the best pistol shot in his regiment, but he kept the gossip to himself, knowing it would not improve the aim of his young friend. But Solomon was made uneasy by this report.
"My boy kin throw a bullet straight as a plumb line an' quick as lightnin'," he had said to Preston. "It's as nat'ral fer him as drawin' his breath. That ere chap may git bored 'fore he has time to pull. I ain't much skeered."
Jack was nervous, although not from fear. His estimate of the value of human life had been increased by his affection for Margaret. When Solomon had gone to bed and the lights were blown, the young man felt every side of his predicament to see if there were any peaceable way out of it. For hours he labored with this hopeless task, until he fell into a troubled sleep, in which he saw great battalions marching toward each other. On one side, the figures of himself and Solomon were repeated thousands of times, and on the other was a host of Lionel Clarkes.
The words came to his ear: "My son, we're goin' to fight the first battle o' the war."
Jack awoke suddenly and opened his eyes. The candle was lighted. Solomon was leaning over him. He was drawing on his trousers.
"Come, my son," said the scout in a gentle voice. "They ain't a cloud an' the moon has got a smile on her face. Come, my young David. Here's the breeches an' the purty stockin's an' shoes, an' the lily white shirt. Slip 'em on an' we'll kneel down an' have a word o' prayer. This 'ere ain't no common fight. It's a battle with tyranny. It's like the fight o' David an' Goliar. Here's yer ol' sling waitin' fer ye!"
Solomon felt the pistols and stroked their grips with a loving hand.
Side by side they knelt by the bed together for a moment of silent prayer.
Others were stirring in the inn. They could hear footsteps and low voices in a room near them. Jack put on his suit of brown velvet and his white silk stockings and best linen, which he had brought in a small bag. Jack was looking at the pistols, when there came a rap at the door. Preston entered with Doctor Brooks.
"We are to go out quietly ahead of the others," said the Captain. "They will follow in five minutes."
Solomon had put on the old hanger which had come to England with him in his box. He put the pistols in his pocket and they left the inn by a rear door. A groom was waiting there with the horses saddled and bridled. They mounted them and rode to the field of honor. When they dismounted on the ground chosen, the day was dawning, but the great oaks were still waist deep in gloom. It was cold.
Preston called his friends to his side and said:
"You will fight at twenty paces. I shall count three and when I drop my handkerchief you are both to fire."
Solomon turned to Jack and said:
"If ye fire quick mebbe ye'll take the crook out o' his finger 'fore it has time to pull."
The other party was coming. There were six men in it. The General and his son and one other were in military dress. The General was chatting with a friend. The pistols were loaded by Solomon and General Clarke, while each watched the other. The Lieutenant's friends and seconds stood close together laughing at some jest.
"That's funny, I'll say, what—what!" said one of the gentlemen.
Jack turned to look at him, for there had been a curious inflection in his "what, what!" He was a stout, highly colored man with large, staring gray eyes. The young American wondered where he had seen him before.
Preston paced the ground and laid down strips of white ribband marking the distance which was to separate the principals. He summoned the young men and said: "Gentlemen, is there no way in which your honor can be satisfied without fighting?"
They shook their heads.
"Your stations have been chosen by lot. Irons, yours is there. Take your ground, gentlemen."
The young men walked to their places and at this point the graphic Major Solomon Binkus, whose keen eyes observed every detail of the scene, is able to assume the position of narrator, the words which follow being from a letter he wrote to John Irons of Albany.
"Our young David stood up thar as straight an' han'some as a young spruce on a still day—not a quiver in ary twig. The Clarke boy was a leetle pale an' when he raised his pistol I could see a twitch in his lips. He looked kind o' stiff. I see they was one thing' 'bout shootin' he hadn't learnt. It don't do to tighten up. I were skeered—I don't deny it—'cause a gun don't allus have to be p'inted careful to kill a man.
"We all stood watchin' every move. I could hear a bird singin' twenty rod,—'twere that still. Preston stood a leetle out o' line 'bout half-way betwixt 'em. Up come his hand with the han'kerchief in it. Then Jack raised his pistol and took a peek down the line he wanted. The han'kerchief was in the air. Don't seem so it had fell an inch when the pistols went pop! pop! Jack's hollered fust. Clarke's pistol fell. His arm dropped an' swung limp as a rope's end. His hand turned red an' blood began to spurt above it. I see Jack's bullet had jumped into his right wrist an' tore it wide open. The Lieutenant staggered, bleedin' like a stuck whale. He'd 'a' gone to the ground but his friends grabbed him. I run to Jack.
"'Be ye hit?' I says.
"'I think his bullet teched me a little on the top o' the left shoulder,' says he.
"I see his coat were tore an' we took it off an' the jacket, an' I ripped the shirt some an' see that the bullet had kind o' scuffed its foot on him goin' by, an' left a track in the skin. It didn't mount to nothin'. The Doctor washed it off an' put a plaster on.
"'Looks as if he'd drawed a line on yer heart an' yer bullet had lifted his aim,' I says. 'Ye shoot quick, Jack, an' mebbe that's what saved ye.'
"It looked kind o' neevarious like that 'ere Englishman had intended they was goin' to be one Yankee less. Jack put on his jacket an' his coat an' we stepped over to see how they was gettin' erlong with the other feller. The two doctors was tryin' fer to fix his arm and he were groanin' severe. Jack leaned over and looked down at him.
"'I'm sorry,' he says. 'Is there anything I can do?'
"'No, sir. You've done enuff,' growled the old General.
"One o' his party stepped up to Jack. He were dressed like a high-up officer in the army. They was a cur'ous look in his eyes—kind o' skeered like. Seemed so I'd seen him afore somewheres.
"'I fancy ye're a good shot, sir—a good shot, sir—what—what?' he says to Jack, an' the words come as fast as a bird's twitter.
"I've had a lot o' practise,' says our boy.
"'Kin ye kill that bird—what—what?" says he, p'intin' at a hawk that were a-cuttin' circles in the air.
"'If he comes clus' 'nough,' says Jack.
"I passed him the loaded pistol. In 'bout two seconds he lifted it and bang she went, an' down come the hawk.
"Them fellers all looked at one 'nother.
"'Gin'ral, shake hands with this 'ere boy,' says the man with the skeered eyes. 'If he is a Yankey he's a decent lad—what—what?'
"The Gin'ral shook hands with Jack an', says he: 'Young man, I have no doubt o' 'yer curidge or yer decency.'
"A grand pair o' hosses an' a closed coach druv up an' the ol' what-whatter an' two other men got into it an' hustled off 'cross the field towards the pike which it looked as if they was in a hurry. 'Fore he were out o' sight a military amb'lance druv up. Preston come over to us an' says he:
"'We better be goin'.'
"'Do ye know who he were?' asks Jack.
"'If ye know ye better fergit it,' says Preston.
"'How could I? He were the King o' England,' says Jack. 'I knowed him by the look o' his eyes.'
"'Sart'in sure,' says I. 'He's the man that wus bein' toted in a chair.'
"'Hush! I tell ye to fergit it,' says Preston.
"'I can fergit all but the fact that he behaved like a gentleman,' says Jack.
"'I 'spose he were usin' his private brain,' says I."
This, with some slight changes in spelling, paragraphing and punctuation, is the account which Solomon Binkus gave of the most exciting adventure these two friends had met with.
Preston came to Jack and whispered: "The outcome is a great surprise to the other side. Young Clarke is a dead shot. An injured officer of the English army may cause unexpected embarrassment. But you have time enough and no haste. You can take the post chaise and reach the ship well ahead of her sailing."
"I am of a mind not to go with you," Jack said to Solomon. "When I go, I shall take Margaret with me."
So it happened that Jack returned to London while Solomon waited for the post chaise to Deal.
THE LADY OF THE HIDDEN FACE
Next morning at ten, the door boy at his lodgings informed Jack that a lady was waiting to see him in the parlor. The lady was deeply veiled. She did not speak, but arose as he entered the room and handed him a note. She was tall and erect with a fine carriage. Her silence was impressive, her costume admirable.
The note in a script unfamiliar to the young man was as follows:
"You will find Margaret waiting in a coach at eleven to-day at the corner of Harley Street and Twickenham Road."
The veiled lady walked to the door and turned and stood looking at him.
Her attitude said clearly: "Well, what is your answer ?"
"I will be there at eleven," said the young man. The veiled lady nodded, as if to indicate that her mission was ended, and withdrew.
Jack was thrilled by the information but wondered why it was so wrapped in mystery. Not ten minutes had passed after the departure of the veiled lady when a messenger came with a note from Sir Benjamin Hare. In a cordial tone, it invited Jack to breakfast at the Almack Club at twelve-thirty. The young man returned his acceptance by the same messenger, and in his best morning suit went to meet Margaret. A cab conveyed him to the corner named. There was the coach with shades drawn low, waiting. A footman stood near it. The door was opened and he saw Margaret looking out at him and shaking her hand.
"You see what a sly thing I am!" she said when, the greetings over, he sat by her side and the coach was moving. "A London girl knows how to get her way. She is terribly wise, Jack."
"But, tell me, who was the veiled lady?"
"A go-between. She makes her living that way. She is wise, discreet and reliable. There is employment for many such in this wicked city. I feel disgraced, Jack. I hope you will not think that I am accustomed to dark and secret ways. This has worried and distressed me, but I had to see you."
"And I was longing for a look at you," he said.
"I was sure you would not know how to pull these ropes of intrigue. I have heard all about them. I couldn't help that, you know, and be a young lady who is quite alive."
"Our time is short and I have much to say," said Jack. "I am to breakfast with your father at the Almack Club at twelve-thirty."
She clapped her hands and said, with a laughing face, "I knew he would ask you!"
"Margaret, I want to take you to America with the approval of your father, if possible, and without it, if necessary."
"I think you will get his approval," said the girl with enthusiasm. "He has heard all about the duel. He says every one he met, of the court party, last evening, was speaking of it. They agree that the old General needed that lesson. Jack, how proud I am of you!"
She pressed his hand in both of hers.
"I couldn't help knowing how to shoot," he answered. "And I would not be worthy to touch this fair hand of yours if I had failed to resent an insult."
"Although he is a friend of the General, my father was pleased," she went on. "He calls you a good sport. 'A young man of high spirit who is not to be played with,' that is what he said. Now, Jack, if you do not stick too hard on principles—if you can yield, only a little, I am sure he will let us be married."
"I am eager to hear what he may say now," said Jack. "Whatever it may be, let us stick together and go to America and be happy. It would be a dark world without you. May I see you to-morrow?"
"At the same hour and place," she answered.
They talked of the home they would have in Philadelphia and planned its garden, Jack having told of the site he had bought with great trees and a river view. They spent an hour which lent its abundant happiness to many a long year and when they parted, soon after twelve o'clock, Jack hurried away to keep his appointment.
Sir Benjamin received the young man with a warm greeting and friendly words. Their breakfast was served in a small room where they were alone together, and when they were seated the Baronet observed:
"I have heard of the duel. It has set some of the best tongues in England wagging in praise of 'the Yankee boy.' One would scarcely have expected that."
"No, I was prepared to run for my life—not that I planned to do any great damage," said Jack.
"You can shoot straight—that is evident. They call your delivery of that bullet swift, accurate and merciful. Your behavior has pleased some very eminent people. The blustering talk of the General excites no sympathy here. In London, strangers are not likely to be treated as you were."
"If I did not believe that I should be leaving it," said Jack. "I should not like to take up dueling for an amusement, as some men have done in France."
"You are a well built man inside and out," Sir Benjamin answered. "You might have a great future in England. I speak advisedly."
Their talk had taken a turn quite unexpected. It flattered the young man. He blushed and answered:
"Sir Benjamin, I have no great faith in my talents."
"On terms which I would call easy, you could have fame, honor and riches, I would say."
"At present I want only your daughter. As to the rest, I shall make myself content with what may naturally come to me."
"And let me name the terms on which I should be glad to welcome you to my family."
"What are the terms?"
"Loyalty to your King and a will to understand and assist his plans."
"I could not follow him unless he will change his plans."
The Baronet put down his fork and looked up at the young man. "Do you really mean what you say?" he demanded. "Is it so difficult for you to do your duty as a British subject?"
"Sir Benjamin, always I have been taught that it is the duty of a British subject to resist oppression. The plans of the King are oppressive. I can not fall in with them. I love Margaret as I love my life, but I must keep myself worthy of her. If I could think so well of my conduct, it is because I have principles that are inviolable."
"At least I hope you would promise me not to take up arms against the King."
"Please don't ask me to do that. It would grieve me to fight against England. I hope it may never be, but I would rather fight than submit to tyranny."
The Baronet made no reply to this declaration so firmly made. A new look came into his face. Indignation and resentment were there, but he did not forget the duty of a host. He began to speak of other things. The breakfast went on to its end in an atmosphere of cool politeness.
When they were out upon the street together, Sir Benjamin turned to him and said:
"Now that we are on neutral ground, I want to say that you Americans are a stiff-necked lot of people. You are not like any other breed of men. I am done with you. My way can not be yours. Let us part as friends and gentlemen ought to part. I say good-by with a sense of regret. I shall never forget your service to my wife and daughter."
"Think not of that," said the young man. "What I did for them I would do for any one who needed my help."
"I have to ask you to give up all hope of marrying my daughter."
"That I can not do," said Jack. "Over that hope I have no control. I might as well promise not to breathe."
"But I must ask you to give me your word as a gentleman that you will hold no further communication with her."
"Sir Benjamin, I shall be frank with you. It is an unfair request. I can not agree to it."
"What do you say?" the Englishman asked in a tone of astonishment, and his query was emphasized with a firm tap of his cane on the pavement.
"I hate to displease you, sir, but if I made such a promise, I would be sure to break it."
"Then, sir, I shall see to it that you have no opportunity to oppose my will."
In spite of his fine restraint, the eyes of the Baronet glowed with anger, as he quickly turned from the young man and hurried away.
"Here is more tyranny," the American thought as he went in the opposite direction. "But I do not believe he can keep us apart."
"I walked on and on," he wrote to a friend. "Never had I felt such a sense of loss and loneliness and dejection. I almost resented the inflexible tyranny of my own spirit which had turned him against me. I accused myself of a kind of selfishness in the matter. Had it been right in me to take a course which endangered the happiness of another, to say nothing of my own? But I couldn't have done otherwise, not if I had known that a mountain were to fall upon me. I am like all of those who follow the star in the west. We do as we must. I had not seen Franklin since my duel, and largely because I had been ashamed to face him. Now I felt the need of his wisdom and so I turned my steps toward his door."
"I am like the land of Goshen amid the plagues of Egypt," said Franklin, when the young man was admitted to his office. "My gout is gone and I am in good spirits in spite of your adventure."
"And I suppose you will scold me for the adventure."
"You will scold yourself when the consequences have arrived. They will be sure to give you a spanking. The deed is done, and well done. On the whole I think it has been good for the cause, but bad for you."
"You may have to run out of England to save your neck and the face of the King. He was there, I believe?"
"The injured lad is in a bad way. The wound caught an infection. Intense fever and swelling have set in. I helped Sir John Pringle to amputate the arm this afternoon, but even that may not save the patient. Here is a storm to warn the wandering linnet to his shade. A ship goes to-morrow evening. Get ready to take it. In that case your marriage will have to be delayed. Rash men are often compelled to live on hope and die fasting."
"With Sir Benjamin, the duel has been a help instead of a hindrance," said the young man. "My stubborn soul has been the great obstacle."
Then he told of his interview with Sir Benjamin Hare.
Franklin put his hand on Jack's shoulder and said with a smile:
"My son, I love you. I could wish you to be no different. Cheer up. Time will lay the dust, and perhaps sooner than you think."
"I hope to see Margaret to-morrow morning."
"Ah, then, 'what Grecian arts of soft persuasion!'" Franklin quoted. "I hope that she, too, will follow the great star in the west!"
"I hope so, but I greatly fear that our meeting will be prevented."
"Did you get my note of to-day at your lodgings?" Franklin asked.
"No," said Jack. "I left there soon after ten."
"Lord Chatham has kindly offered to secure admission for you and me to the House of Lords. He is making an important motion. Come, let us go and see the hereditary legislators."
Lord Stanhope met them at the door of the House of Lords. There was a great bustle among the officers when His Lordship announced their names and his desire to have them admitted. The officers hurried in after members and there was some delay, in the course of which the Americans were turned from the division reserved for eldest sons and brothers of peers. Not less than ten minutes were consumed in the process of seating Franklin and his friend.
Soon Lord Chatham arose and moved that His Majesty's forces be withdrawn from Boston. With a singular charm of personality and address, the great dissenter made his speech. Jack wrote in his diary that evening: "The most captivating figure that ever I saw is a well-bred Englishman trained in the art of public speaking." The words were no doubt inspired by the impressive speech of Chatham, which is now an imperishable part of the history of England. These words from it the young man remembered:
"If the ministers thus persevere in misleading and misadvising the King, I will not say that they can alienate the affection of his subjects from his crown, but I will affirm that they will make his crown not worth his wearing; I will not say that the King is betrayed, but I will say that the kingdom is undone."
Lord Sandwich in a petulant speech declared that the motion ought not to be received. He could never believe it the production of a British peer. Turning toward Franklin, he flung out:
"I fancy that I have in my eye the person who drew it up—one of the bitterest and most mischievous enemies this country has ever known."
"Franklin sat immovable and without the slightest change in his countenance," Jack wrote in a letter to The Pennsylvania Gazette.
Chatham declared that the motion was his own, and added:
"If I were the first minister of this country, charged with the settling of its momentous business, I should not be ashamed to call to my assistance a man so perfectly acquainted with all American affairs, as the gentleman so injuriously referred to—one whom all Europe holds in high estimation for his knowledge and wisdom, which are an honor, not only to England, but to human nature."
"Franklin told me that this was harder for him to bear than the abuse, but he kept his countenance as blank as a sheet of white paper," Jack wrote. "There was much vehement declamation against the measure and it was rejected.
"When we had left the chamber, Franklin said to me:
"'That motion was made by the first statesman of the age, who took the helm of state when the latter was in the depths of despondency and led it to glorious victory through a war with two of the mightiest kingdoms in Europe. Only a few of those men had the slightest understanding of its merits. Yet they would not even consider it in a second reading. They are satisfied with their ignorance. They have nothing to learn. Hereditary legislators! There would be more propriety in hereditary professors of mathematics! Heredity is a great success with only one kind of creature.'
"'What creature?' I asked.
"'The ass,' he answered, with as serious a countenance as I have seen him wear.
"No further word was spoken as we rode back to his home," the young man wrote. "We knew the die had been cast. We had seen it fall carelessly out of the hand of Ignorance, obeying intellects swelled with hereditary passion and conceit. I now had something to say to my countrymen."
That evening Jack received a brief note from Preston. It said:
"I learn that young Clarke is very ill. I think you would better get out of England for fear of what may come. A trial would be apt to cause embarrassment in high places. Can I give you assistance?"
Jack returned this note by the same messenger:
"Thanks, good friend, I shall go as soon as my business is finished, which I hope may be to-morrow."
Just before the young man went to bed a brief note arrived from Margaret. It read;
"DEAREST JACK. My father has learned of our meeting yesterday and of how it came about. He is angry. He forbids another meeting. I shall not submit to his tyranny. We must assert our rights like good Americans. I have a plan. You will learn of it when we meet to-morrow at eleven. Do not send an answer. Lovingly, MARGARET."
He slept little, and in the morning awaited with keen impatience the hour of his appointment.
On his way to the place he heard a newsboy shouting the words "duel" and "Yankee," followed by the suggestive statement: "Bloody murder in high life."
Evidently Lionel Clarke had died of his wound. He saw people standing in groups and reading the paper. He began to share the nervousness of Preston and the wise, far-seeing Franklin. He jumped into a cab and was at the corner some minutes ahead of time. Precisely at eleven he saw the coach draw near. He hurried to its side. The footman dismounted and opened the door. Inside he saw, not Margaret, but the lady of the hidden face.
"You are to get in, sir, and make a little journey with the madame," said the footman.
Jack got into the coach. Its door closed, the horses started with a jump and he was on his way whither he knew not. Nor did he know the reason for the rapid pace at which the horses had begun to travel.
"If you do not mind, sir, we will not lift the shades," said the veiled lady, as the coach started. "We shall see Margaret soon, I hope."
She had a colorless, cold voice and what was then known in London as the "patrician manner." Her tone and silence seemed to say: "Please remember this is all a matter of business and not a highly agreeable business to me."
"Where is Margaret?" he asked.
"A long way from here. We shall meet her at The Ship and Anchor in Gravesend. She will be making the journey by another road."
She had answered in a voice as cold as the day and in the manner of one who had said quite enough.
"Where is Gravesend?"
"On the Thames near the sea," she answered briskly, as if in pity of his ignorance.
He saw the plan now—an admirable plan. They were to meet near the port of sailing and be married and go aboard the ship and away. It was the plan of Margaret and much better than any he could have made, for he knew little of London and its ports.
"Should I not take my baggage with me?"
"There is not time for that," the veiled lady answered. "We must make haste. I have some clothes for you in a bag."
She pointed to a leathern case under the front seat.
He sat thinking of the cleverness of Margaret as they left the edge of the city and hurried away on the east turnpike. A mist was coming up from the sea. The air ahead had the color of a wool stack. They stopped at an inn to feed and water the horses and went on in a dense fog, which covered the hedge rows on either side and lay thick on the earth so that the horses seemed to be wading in it. Their pace slowed to a walk. From that time on, the road was like a long ford over which they proceeded with caution, the driver now and then winding a horn.
Each sat quietly in a corner of the seat with a wall of cold fog between them. The young man liked it better than the wall of mystery through which he had been able to see the silent, veiled form beside him.
"Do you have much weather like this?" he ventured to inquire by and by.
This answer came out of the bank of fog: "Yes," as if she would have him understand that she was not being paid for conversation.
From that time forward they rode in a silence broken only by the creaking of the coach and the sound of the horses' hoofs. Darkness had fallen when they reached the little city of Gravesend. The Ship and Anchor stood by the water's edge.
"You will please wait here," said the stern lady in a milder voice than she had used before, as the coach drew up at the inn door, "I shall see if she has come."
His strange companion entered the inn and returned presently, saying: "She has not yet arrived. Delayed by the fog. We will have our dinner, if you please."
Jack had not broken his fast since nine and felt keenly the need of refreshment, but he answered:
"I think that I would better wait for Margaret."
"No, she will have dined at Tillbury," said the masterful lady. "It will save time. Please come and have dinner, sir."
He followed her into the inn. The landlady, a stout, obsequious woman, led them to a small dining-room above stairs lighted by many candles where an open fire was burning cheerfully.
A handsomely dressed man waited by them for orders and retired with the landlady when they were given.
From this point the scene at the inn is described in the diary of the American.
"She drew off her hat and veil and a young woman about twenty-eight years of age and of astonishing beauty stood before me."
"'There, now, I am out of business,' she remarked in a pleasant voice as she sat down at the table which, had been spread before the fireplace. 'I will do my best to be a companion to you until Margaret arrives.'
"She looked into my eyes and smiled. Her sheath of ice had fallen from her.
"'You will please forgive my impertinence,' said she. 'I earn my living by it. In a world of sentiment and passion I must be as cold and bloodless as a stone, but in fact, I am very—very human.'
"The waiter came with a tray containing soup, glasses and a bottle of sherry. We sat down at the table and our waiter filled two glasses with the sherry.
"'Thank you, but self-denial is another duty of mine,' she remarked when I offered her a glass of the wine. 'I live in a tipsy world and drink—water. I live in a merry world and keep a stern face. It is a vile world and yet I am unpolluted.'
"I drank my glass of wine and had begun to eat my soup when a strange feeling came over me. My plate seemed to be sinking through the table. The wall and fireplace were receding into dim distance. I knew then that I had tasted the cup of Circe. My hands fell through my lap and suddenly the day ended. It was like sawing off a board. The end had fallen. There is nothing more to be said of it because my brain had ceased to receive and record impressions. I was as totally out of business as a man in his grave. When I came to, I was in a berth on the ship King William bound for New York. As soon as I knew anything, I knew that I had been tricked. My clothes had been removed and were lying on a chair near me. My watch and money were undisturbed. I had a severe pain in my head. I dressed and went up on deck. The Captain was there.
"'You must have had a night of it in Gravesend,' he said. 'You were like a dead man when they brought you aboard.'
"'Where am I going?' I asked.
"'To New York,' he answered with a laugh. 'You must have had a time!'
"How much is the fare?"
"'Young man, that need not concern you,' said the Captain. 'Your fare has been paid in full. I saw them put a letter in your pocket. Have you read it?'"
Jack found the letter and read:
"DEAR SIR—When you see this you will be well out of danger and, it is hoped, none the worse for your dissipation. This from one who admires your skill and courage and who advises you to keep out of England for at least a year.
"A WELL WISHER."
He looked back over the stern of the ship. The shore had fallen out of sight. The sky was clear. The sun shining. The wind was blowing from the east.
He stood for a long time looking toward the land he had left.
"Oh, ye wings of the wind! take my love to her and give her news of me and bid her to be steadfast in her faith and hope," he whispered.
He leaned against the bulwark and tried to think.
"Sir Benjamin has seen to it," he said to himself. "I shall have no opportunity to meet her again."
He reviewed the events of the day and their under-current of intrigue. The King himself might have been concerned in that and Preston also. It had been on the whole a rather decent performance, he mused, and perhaps it had kept him out of worse trouble than he was now in. But what had happened to Margaret?
He reread her note.
"My father has learned of our meeting and of how it came about," he quoted.
"More bribery," he thought. "The intrigante naturally sold her services to the highest bidder."
He recalled the violent haste with which the coach had rolled away from the place of meeting. Had that been due to a fear that Margaret would defeat their plans?
All these speculations and regrets were soon put away. But for a long time one cause of worry was barking at his heels. It slept beside him and often touched and awoke him at night. He had been responsible for the death of a human being. What an unlucky hour he had had at Sir John Pringle's! Yet he found a degree of comfort in the hope that those proud men might now have a better thought of the Yankees.
THE FRIEND AND THE GIRL HE LEFT BEHIND HIM
After Jack had been whirled out of London, Franklin called at his lodgings and learned that he had not been seen for a day. The wise philosopher entertained no doubt that the young man had taken ship agreeably with the advice given him. A report had been running through the clubs of London that Lionel Clarke had succumbed. In fact he had had a bad turn but had rallied. Jack must have heard the false report and taken ship suddenly.
Doctor Franklin went that day to the meeting of the Privy Council, whither he had been sternly summoned for examination in the matter of the letters of Hutchinson et al. For an hour he had stood unmoved while Alexander Wedderburn, the wittiest barrister in the kingdom, poured upon him a torrent of abuse. Even the Judges, against all traditions of decorum in the high courts of Britain, laughed at the cleverness of the assault. That was the speech of which Charles James Fox declared that it was the most expensive bit of oratory which had been heard in England since it had cost the kingdom its colonies.
It was alleged that in some manner Franklin had stolen the letters and violated their sacred privacy. It is known now that an English nobleman had put them in his hands to read and that he was in no way responsible for their publication. The truth, if it could have been told, would have bent the proud heads of Wedderburn and the judges to whom he appealed, in confusion. But Franklin held his peace, as a man of honor was bound to do. He stood erect and dignified with a face like one carved in wood.
The counsel for the colonies made a weak defense. The triumph was complete. The venerable man was convicted of conduct inconsistent with the character of a gentleman and deprived of his office as Postmaster General of the Colonies.
But he had two friends in court. They were the Lady Hare and her daughter. They followed him out of the chamber. In the great hallway, Margaret, her eyes wet with tears, embraced and kissed the philosopher.
"I want you to know that I am your friend, and that I love America," she said.
"My daughter, it has been a hard hour, but I am sixty-eight years old and have learned many things," he answered. "Time is the only avenger I need. It will lay the dust."
The girl embraced and kissed him again and said in a voice shaking with emotion:
"I wish my father and all Englishmen to know that I am your friend and that I have a love that can not be turned aside or destroyed and that I will have my right as a human being."
"Come let us go and talk together—we three," he proposed.
They took a cab and drove away.
"You will think all this a singular proceeding," Lady Hare remarked. "I must tell you that rebellion has started in our home. Its peace is quite destroyed. Margaret has declared her right to the use of her own mind."
"Well, if she is to use any mind it will have to be that one," Franklin answered. "I do not see why women should not be entitled to use their minds as well as their hands and feet."
"I was kept at home yesterday by force," said Margaret. "Every door locked and guarded! It was brutal tyranny."
"The poor child has my sympathy but what can I do?" Lady Hare inquired.
"Being an American, you can expect but one answer from me," said the philosopher. "To us tyranny in home or state is intolerable. They tried it on me when I was a boy and I ran away."
"That is what I shall do if necessary," said Margaret.
"Oh, my child! How would you live?" her mother asked.
"I will answer that question for her, if you will let me," said Franklin. "If she needs it, she shall have an allowance out of my purse."
"Thank you, but that would raise a scandal," said the woman.
"Oh, Your Ladyship, I am old enough to be her grandfather."
"I wish to go with Jack, if you know where he is," Margaret declared, looking up into the face of the philosopher.
"I think he is pushing toward America," Franklin answered. "Being alarmed at the condition of his adversary, I advised him to slip away. A ship went yesterday. Probably he's on it. He had no chance to see me or to pick up his baggage."
"I shall follow him soon," the girl declared.
"If you will only contain yourself, you will get along with your father very well," said Lady Hare. "I know him better than you. He has promised to take you to America in December. You must wait and be patient. After all, your father has a large claim upon you."
"I think you will do well to wait, my child," said the philosopher. "Jack will keep and you are both young. Fathers are like other children. They make mistakes—they even do wrong now and then. They have to be forgiven and allowed a chance to repent and improve their conduct. Your father is a good man. Try to win him to your cause."
"And die a maiden," said the girl with a sigh.
"Impossible!" Franklin exclaimed.
"I shall marry Jack or never marry. I would rather be his wife than the Queen of England."
"This is surely the age of romance," said the smiling philosopher as the ladies alighted at their door. "I wish I were young again."
On his voyage to New York, Jack wrote long letters to Margaret and to Doctor Franklin, which were deposited in the Post-Office on his arrival, the tenth of March. He observed a great change in the spirit of the people. They were no longer content with words. The ferment was showing itself in acts of open and violent disorder. The statue of George III, near the Battery, was treated to a volley of decayed eggs, in the evening of his arrival. This hot blood was due to the effort to prevent free speech in the colonies and the proposal to send political prisoners to England for trial.
Jack took the first boat to Albany and found Solomon working on the Irons farm. In his diary he tells of the delightful days of rest he enjoyed with his family. Solomon had told them of the great adventure but Jack would have little to say of it, having no pride in that achievement.
Soon the scout left on a mission for the Committee of Safety to distant settlements in the great north bush.
"I'll be spendin' the hull moon in the wilderness," he said to Jack. "Goin' to Virginny when I get back, an' I'll look fer ye on the way down."
Jack set out for Philadelphia the day after Solomon left. He stopped at Kinderhook on his way down the river and addressed its people on conditions in England. A young Tory interrupted his remarks. At the barbecue, which followed, this young man was seized and punished by a number of stalwart girls who removed his collar and jacket by force and covered his head and neck with molasses and the fuzz of cat tails. Jack interceded for the Tory and stopped the proceeding.
"My friends, we must control our anger," he said. "Let us not try to subdue tyranny by using it ourselves."
Everywhere he found the people in such a temper that Tories had to hold their peace or suffer punishment. At the office he learned that his most important letters had failed to pass the hidden censorship of mail in England. He began, at once, to write a series of articles which hastened the crisis. The first of them was a talk with Franklin, which told how his mail had been tampered with; that no letter had come to his hand through the Post-Office which had not been opened with apparent indifference as to the evidence of its violation. The Doctor's words regarding free speech in America and the proposal to try the bolder critics for treason were read and discussed in every household from the sea to the mountains and from Maine to Florida.
"Grievances can not be redressed unless they are known and they can not be known save through complaints and petitions," the philosopher had said. "If these are taken as affronts and the messengers punished, the vent of grief is stopped up—a dangerous thing in any state. It is sure to produce an explosion.
"An evil magistrate with the power to punish for words would be armed with a terrible weapon.
"Augustus Caesar, with the avowed purpose of preserving Romans from defamation, made libel subject to the penalties of treason. Thenceforward every man's life hung by a thread easily severed by some lying informer.
"Soon it was resolved by all good judges of law that whoever should insinuate the least doubt of Nero's preeminence in the noble art of fiddling should be deemed a traitor. Grief became treason and one lady was put to death for bewailing the fate of her murdered son. In time, silence became treason, and even a look was considered an overt act."
These words of the wise philosopher strengthened the spirit of the land for its great ordeal.
Jack described the prejudice of the Lords who, content with their ignorance, spurned every effort to inform them of the conditions in America.
"And this little tail is wagging the great dog of England, most of whose people believe in the justice of our complaints," he wrote.
The young man's work had set the bells ringing and they were the bells of revolt. The arrival of General Gage at Boston in May, to be civil governor and commander-in-chief for the continent, and the blockade of the port twenty days later, compelling its population who had been fed by the sea to starve or subsist on the bounty of others, drove the most conservative citizens into the open. Parties went out Tory hunting. Every suspected man was compelled to declare himself and if incorrigible, was sent away. Town meetings were held even under the eyes of the King's soldiers and no tribunal was allowed to sit in any court-house. At Salem, a meeting was held behind locked doors with the Governor and his Secretary shouting a proclamation through its keyhole, declaring it to be dissolved. The meeting proceeded to its end, and when the citizens filed out, they had invited the thirteen colonies to a General Congress in Philadelphia.
It was Solomon Binkus who conveyed the invitation to Pennsylvania and Virginia. He had gone on a second mission to Springfield and Boston and had been in the meeting at Salem with General Ward. Another man carried that historic call to the colonies farther south. In five weeks, delegates were chosen, and early in August, they were traveling on many different roads toward the Quaker City. Crowds gathered in every town and village they passed. Solomon, who rode with the Virginia delegation, told Jack that he hadn't heard so much noise since the Injun war.
"They was poundin' the bells, an shootin' cannons everywhere," he declared. "Men, women and childern crowded 'round us an' split their lungs yellin'. They's a streak o' sore throats all the way from Alexandry to here."
Solomon and his young friend met John Adams on the street. The distinguished Massachusetts lawyer said to Jack when the greetings were over:
"Young man, your pen has been not writing, but making history."
"Does it mean war?" Jack queried.
Mr. Adams wiped his brow with his handkerchief and said; "People in our circumstances have seldom grown old or died in their beds."
"We ought to be getting ready," said Jack.
"And we are doing little but eat and drink and shout and bluster," Mr. Adams answered. "We are being entertained here with meats and curds and custards and jellies and tarts and floating islands and Madeira wine. It is for you to induce the people of Philadelphia to begin to save. We need to learn Franklin's philosophy of thrift."