WITH THE ARMY AND IN THE BUSH
In January, 1777, Colonel Irons writes to his father from Morristown, New Jersey, as follows:
"An army is a despotic machine. For that reason chiefly our men do not like military service. It is hard to induce them to enlist for long terms. They are released by expiration long before they have been trained and seasoned for good service. So Washington has found it difficult to fill his line with men of respectable fighting quality.
"Our great Commander lost his patience on the eve of our leaving New York. Our troops, posted at Kip's Bay on the East River to defend the landing, fled in a panic without firing a gun at the approach of Howe's army. I happened to be in a company of Light Horse with General Washington, who had gone up to survey the ground. Before his eyes two brigades of New England troops ran away, leaving us exposed to capture.
"The great Virginian was hot with indignation. He threw his hat to the ground and exclaimed:
"'Are these the kind of men with whom I am to defend America?'
"Next day our troops behaved better and succeeded in repulsing the enemy. This put new spirit in them. Putnam got his forces out of New York and well up the shore of the North River. For weeks we lay behind our trenches on Harlem Heights, building up the fighting spirit of our men and training them for hard service. The stables, cabins and sheds of Harlem were full of our sick. Smallpox had got among them. Cold weather was coming on and few were clothed to stand it. The proclamation of Admiral Lord Howe and his brother, the General, offering pardon and protection to all who remained loyal to the crown, caused some to desert us, and many timid settlers in the outlying country, with women and children to care for, were on the fence ready to jump either way. Hundreds were driven by fear toward the British.
"In danger of being shut in, we crossed King's Bridge and retreated to White Plains. How we toiled with our baggage on that journey, many of us being yoked like oxen to the wagons! Every day troops, whose terms of enlistment had expired, were leaving us. It seemed as if our whole flying camp would soon be gone. But there were many like Solomon and me who were willing to give up everything for the cause and follow our beloved Commander into hell, if necessary. There were some four thousand of us who streaked up the Hudson with him to King's Ferry, at the foot of the Highlands, to get out of the way of the British ships. There we crossed into Jersey and dodged about, capturing a thousand men at Trenton and three hundred at Princeton, defeating the British regiments who pursued us and killing many officers and men and cutting off their army from its supplies. We have seized a goodly number of cannon and valuable stores and reclaimed New Jersey and stiffened the necks of our people. It has been, I think, a turning point in the war. Our men have fought like Homeric heroes and endured great hardships in the bitter cold with worn-out shoes and inadequate clothing. A number have been frozen to death. I loaned my last extra pair of shoes to a poor fellow whose feet had been badly cut and frozen. When I tell you that coming into Morristown I saw many bloody footprints in the snow behind the army, you will understand. We are a ragamuffin band, but we have taught the British to respect us. Send all the shoes and clothing you can scare up.
"I have seen incidents which have increased my love of Washington. When we were marching through a village in good weather there was a great crowd in the street. In the midst of it was a little girl crying out because she could not see Washington. He stopped and called for her. They brought the child and he lifted her to the saddle in front of him and carried her a little way on his big white horse.
"At the first divine service here in Morristown he observed an elderly woman, a rough clad farmer's wife, standing back in the edge of the crowd. He arose and beckoned to her to come and take his seat. She did so, and he stood through the service, save when he was kneeling. Of course, many offered him their seats, but he refused to take one.
"We have been deeply impressed and inspirited by the address of a young man of the name of Alexander Hamilton. He is scarcely twenty years of age, they tell me, but he has wit and eloquence and a maturity of understanding which astonished me. He is slender, a bit under middle stature and has a handsome face and courtly manners. He will be one of the tallest candles of our faith, or I am no prophet.
"Solomon has been a tower of strength in this campaign. I wish you could have seen him lead the charge against Mercer's men and bring in the British general, whom he had wounded. He and I are scouting around the camp every day. Our men are billeted up and down the highways and living in small huts around headquarters."
Washington had begun to show his great and singular gifts. One of them, through which he secured rest and safety for his shattered forces, shone out there in Morristown. There were only about three thousand effective men in his army. To conceal their number, he had sent them to many houses on the roads leading into the village. The British in New York numbered at least nine thousand well seasoned troops, and with good reason he feared an attack. The force at Morristown was in great danger. One day a New York merchant was brought into camp by the famous scout Solomon Binkus. The merchant had been mistreated by the British. He had sold his business and crossed the river by night and come through the lines on the wagon of a farmer friend who was bringing supplies to the American army. He gave much information as to plans and positions of the British, which was known to be correct. He wished to enlist in the American army and do what he could to help it. He was put to work in the ranks. A few days later the farmer with whom he had arrived came again and, after selling his wagon load, found the ex-merchant and conferred with him in private. That evening, when the farmer had got a mile or so from camp, he was stopped and searched by Colonel Irons. A letter was found in the farmer's pocket which clearly indicated that the ex-merchant was a spy and the farmer a Tory. Irons went at once to General Washington with his report, urging that the spy be taken up and put in confinement.
The General sat thoughtfully looking into the fire, but made no answer.
"He is here to count our men and report our weakness," said the Colonel.
"The poor fellow has not found it an easy thing to do," the General answered. "I shall see that he gets help."
They went together to the house where the Adjutant General had his home and office. To this officer Washington said:
"General, you have seen a report from one Weatherly, a New York merchant, who came with information from that city. Will you kindly do him the honor of asking him to dine with you here alone to-morrow evening? Question him as to the situation in New York in a friendly manner and impart to him such items of misinformation as you may care to give, but mainly look to this. Begin immediately to get signed returns from the brigadiers showing that we have an effective force here of twelve thousand men. These reports must be lying on your desk while you are conferring with Weatherly. Treat the man with good food and marked politeness and appreciation of the service he is likely to render us. Soon after you have eaten, I shall send an orderly here. He will deliver a message. You will ask the man to make himself at home while you are gone for half an hour or so. You will see that the window shades are drawn and the door closed and that no one disturbs the man while he is copying those returns, which he will be sure to do. Colonel Irons, I depend upon you to see to it that he has an opportunity to escape safely with his budget. I warn you not to let him fail. It is most important."
The next morning, Weatherly was ordered to report to Major Binkus for training in scout duty, and the morning after that he was taken out through the lines, mounted, with Colonel Irons and carefully lost in the pine bush. He was seen no more in the American camp. The spy delivered his report to the British and the little remnant of an army at Morristown was safe for the winter. Cornwallis and Howe put such confidence in this report that when Luce, another spy, came into their camp with a count of Washington's forces, which was substantially correct, they doubted the good faith of the man and threw him into prison.
So the great Virginian had turned a British spy into one of his most effective helpers.
Meanwhile good news had encouraged enlistment for long terms. Four regiments of horse were put in training, ten frigates were built and sent to sea and more were under construction. The whole fighting force of America was being reorganized. Moreover, in this first year the Yankee privateers had so wounded a leg of the British lion that he was roaring with rage. Three hundred and fifty of his ships, well laden from the West Indies, had been seized. Their cargoes were valued at a million pounds. The fighting spirit of America was encouraged also by events in France, where Franklin and Silas Deane were now at work. France had become an ally. A loan of six hundred thousand dollars had been secured in the French capital and expert officers from that country had begun to arrive to join the army of Washington.
HOW SOLOMON SHIFTED THE SKEER
In the spring news came of a great force of British which was being organized in Canada for a descent upon New York through Lake Champlain. Frontier settlers in Tryon County were being massacred by Indians.
Generals Herkimer and Schuyler had written to Washington, asking for the services of the famous scout, Solomon Binkus, in that region.
"He knows the Indian as no other man knows him and can speak his language and he also knows the bush," Schuyler had written. "If there is any place on earth where his help is needed just now, it is here."
"Got to leave ye, my son," Solomon said to Jack one evening soon after that.
"How so?" the young man asked.
"Goin' hum to fight Injuns. The Great Father has ordered it. I'll like it better. Gittin' lazy here. Summer's comin' an' I'm a born bush man. I'm kind o' oneasy—like a deer in a dooryard. I ain't had to run fer my life since we got here. My hoofs are complainin'. I ain't shot a gun in a month."
A look of sorrow spread over the face of Solomon.
"I'm tired of this place," said Jack. "The British are scared of us and we're scared of the British. There's nothing going on. I'd love to go back to the big bush with you."
"I'll tell the Great Father that you're a born bush man. Mebbe he'll let ye go. They'll need us both. Rum, Injuns an' the devil have j'ined hands. The Long House will be the center o' hell an' its line fences 'll take in the hull big bush."
That day Jack's name was included in the order.
"I am sorry that it is not yet possible to pay you or any of the men who have served me so faithfully," said Washington. "If you need money I shall be glad to lend you a sum to help you through this journey."
"I ain't fightin' fer pay," Solomon answered. "I'll hoe an' dig, an' cook, an' guide fer money. But I won't fight no more fer money—partly 'cause I don't need it—partly 'cause I'm fightin' fer myself. I got a little left in my britches pocket, but if I hadn't, my ol' Marier wouldn't let me go hungry."
In April the two friends set out afoot for the lower end of the Highlands. On the river they hired a Dutch farmer to take them on to Albany in his sloop. After two delightful days at home, General Schuyler suggested that they could do a great service by traversing the wilderness to the valley of the great river of the north, as far as possible toward Swegachie, and reporting their observations to Crown Point or Fort Edward, if there seemed to be occasion for it, and if not, they were to proceed to General Herkimer's camp at Oriskany and give him what help they could in protecting the settlers in the west.
"You would need to take all your wit and courage with you," the General warned them. "The Indians are in bad temper. They have taken to roasting their prisoners at the stake and eating their flesh. This is a hazardous undertaking. Therefore, I give you a suggestion and not an order."
"I'll go 'lone," said Solomon. "If I get et up it needn't break nobody's heart. Let Jack go to one o' the forts."
"No, I'd rather go into the bush with you," said Jack. "We're both needed there. If necessary we could separate and carry our warning in two directions. We'll take a couple of the new double-barreled rifles and four pistols. If we had to, I think we could fight a hole through any trouble we are likely to have."
So it was decided that they should go together on this scouting trip into the north bush. Solomon had long before that invented what he called "a lightnin' thrower" for close fighting with Indians, to be used if one were hard pressed and outnumbered and likely to have his scalp taken. This odd contrivance he had never had occasion to use. It was a thin, round shell of cast iron with a tube, a flint and plunger. The shell was of about the size of a large apple. It was to be filled with missiles and gunpowder. The plunger, with its spring, was set vertically above the tube. In throwing this contrivance one released its spring by the pressure of his thumb. The hammer fell and the spark it made ignited a fuse leading down to the powder. Its owner had to throw it from behind a tree or have a share in the peril it was sure to create.
While Jack was at home with his people Solomon spent a week in the foundry and forge and, before they set out on their journey, had three of these unique weapons, all loaded and packed in water-proof wrappings.
About the middle of May they proceeded in a light bark canoe to Fort Edward and carried it across country to Lake George and made their way with paddles to Ticonderoga. There they learned that scouts were operating only on and near Lake Champlain. The interior of Tryon County was said to be dangerous ground. Mohawks, Cagnawagas, Senecas, Algonquins and Hurons were thick in the bush and all on the warpath. They were torturing and eating every white man that fell in their hands, save those with a Tory mark on them.
"We're skeered o' the bush," said an elderly bearded soldier, who was sitting on a log. "A man who goes into the wildwood needs to be a good friend o' God."
"But Schuyler thinks a force of British may land somewhere along the big river and come down through the bush, building a road as they advance," said Jack.
"A thousand men could make a tol'able waggin road to Fort Edward in a month," Solomon declared. "That's mebbe the reason the Injuns are out in the bush eatin' Yankees. They're tryin' fer to skeer us an' keep us erway. By the hide an' horns o' the devil! We got to know what's a-goin' on out thar. You fellers are a-settin' eround these 'ere forts as if ye had nothin' to do but chaw beef steak an' wipe yer rifles an' pick yer teeth. Why don't ye go out thar in the bush and do a little skeerin' yerselves? Ye're like a lot o' ol' women settin' by the fire an' tellin' ghos' stories."
"We got 'nuff to do considerin' the pay we git," said a sergeant.
"Hell an' Tophet! What do ye want o' pay?" Solomon answered. "Ain't ye willin' to fight fer yer own liberty without bein' paid fer it? Ye been kicked an' robbed an' spit on, an' dragged eround by the heels, an' ye don't want to fight 'less somebody pays ye. What a dam' corn fiddle o' a man ye mus' be!"
Solomon was putting fresh provisions in his pack as he talked.
"All the Injuns o' Kinady an' the great grass lands may be snookin' down through the bush. We're bound fer t' know what's a-goin' on out thar. We're liable to be skeered, but also an' likewise we'll do some skeerin' 'fore we give up—you hear to me."
Jack and Solomon set out in the bush that afternoon and before night fell were up on the mountain slants north of the Glassy Water, as Lake George was often called those days. But for Solomon's caution an evil fate had perhaps come to them before their first sleep on the journey. The new leaves were just out, but not quite full. The little maples and beeches flung their sprays of vivid green foliage above the darker shades of the witch hopple into the soft-lighted air of the great house of the wood and filled it with a pleasant odor. A mile or so back, Solomon had left the trail and cautioned Jack to keep close and step softly. Soon the old scout stopped, and listened and put his ear to the ground. He rose and beckoned to Jack and the two turned aside and made their way stealthily up the slant of a ledge. In the edge of a little thicket on a mossy rock shelf they sat down. Solomon looked serious. There were deep furrows in the skin above his brow.
When he was excited in the bush he had the habit of swallowing and the process made a small, creaky sound in his throat. This Jack observed then and at other times. Solomon was peering down through the bushes toward the west, now and then moving his head a little. Jack looked in the same direction and presently saw a move in the bushes below, but nothing more. After a few minutes Solomon turned and whispered:
"Four Injun braves jist went by. Mebbe they're scoutin' fer a big band—mebbe not. If so, the crowd is up the trail. If they're comin' by, it'll be 'fore dark. We'll stop in this 'ere tavern. They's a cave on t'other side o' the ledge as big as a small house."
They watched until the sun had set. Then Solomon led Jack to the cave, in which their packs were deposited.
From the cave's entrance they looked upon the undulating green roof of the forest dipping down into a deep valley, cut by the smooth surface of a broad river with mirrored shores, and lifting to the summit of a distant mountain range. Its blue peaks rose into the glow of the sunset.
"Yonder is the great stairway of Heaven!" Jack exclaimed.
"I've put up in this 'ere ol' tavern many a night," said Solomon. "Do ye see its sign?"
He pointed to a great dead pine that stood a little below it, towering with stark, outreaching limbs more than a hundred and fifty feet into the air.
"I call it The Dead Pine Tavern," Solomon remarked.
"On the road to Paradise," said Jack as he gazed down the valley, his hands shading his eyes.
"Wisht we could have a nice hot supper, but 'twon't do to build no fire. Nothin' but cold vittles! I'll go down with the pot to a spring an' git some water. You dig fer our supper in that pack o' mine an' spread it out here. I'm hungry."
They ate their bread and dried meat moistened with spring water, picked some balsam boughs and covered a corner of the mossy floor with them. When the rock chamber was filled with their fragrance, Jack said:
"If my dream comes true and Margaret and I are married, I shall bring her here. I want her to see The Dead Pine Tavern and its outlook."
"Ayes, sir, when ye're married safe," Solomon answered. "We'll come up here fust summer an' fish, an' hunt, an' I'll run the tavern an' do the cookin' an' sweep the floor an' make the beds!"
"I'm a little discouraged," said Jack. "This war may last for years."
"Keep up on high ground er ye'll git mired down," Solomon answered. "Ain't nuther on ye very old yit, an' fust ye know these troubles 'll be over an' done."
Jack awoke at daylight and found that he was alone. Solomon returned in half an hour or so.
"Been scoutin' up the trail," he said. "Didn't see a thing but an ol' gnaw bucket. We'll jest eat a bite an' p'int off to the nor'west an' keep watch o' this 'ere trail. They's Injuns over thar on the slants. We got to know how they look an' 'bout how many head they is."
They went on, keeping well away from the trail.
"We'll have to watch it with our ears," said Solomon in a whisper.
His ear was often on the ground that morning and twice he left Jack "to snook" out to the trail and look for tracks. Solomon could imitate the call of the swamp robin, and when they were separated in the bush, he gave it so that his friend could locate him. At midday they sat down in deep shade by the side of a brook and ate their luncheon.
"This 'ere is Peppermint Brook," said Solomon. "It's 'nother one o' my taverns."
"Our food isn't going to last long at the rate we are eating it," Jack remarked. "If we can't shoot a gun what are we going to do when it's all gone?"
"Don't worry," Solomon answered. "Ye're in my kentry now an' there's a better tavern up in the high trail."
They fared along, favored by good weather, and spent that night on the shore of a little pond not more than fifty paces off the old blazed thoroughfare. Next day, about "half-way from dawn to dark," as Solomon was wont, now and then, to speak of the noon hour, they came suddenly upon fresh "sign." It was where the big north trail from the upper waters of the Mohawk joined the one near which they had been traveling. When they were approaching the point Solomon had left Jack in a thicket and cautiously crept out to the "juncshin." There was half an hour of silence before the old scout came back in sight and beckoned to Jack. His face had never looked more serious. The young man approached him. Solomon swallowed—a part of the effort to restrain his emotions.
"Want to show ye suthin'," he whispered.
The two went cautiously toward the trail. When they reached it the old scout led the way to soft ground near a brook. Then he pointed down at the mud. There were many footprints, newly made, and among them the print of that wooden peg with an iron ring around its bottom, which they had seen twice before, and which was associated with the blackest memories they knew. For some time Solomon studied the surface of the trail in silence.
"More'n twenty Injuns, two captives, a pair o' hosses, a cow an' the devil," he whispered to Jack. "Been a raid down to the Mohawk Valley. The cow an' the hosses are loaded with plunder. I've noticed that when the Injuns go out to rob an' kill folks ye find, 'mong their tracks, the print o' that 'ere iron ring. I seen it twice in the Ohio kentry. Here is the heart o' the devil an' his fire-water. Red Snout has got to be started on a new trail. His ol' peg leg is goin' down to the gate o' hell to-night."
Solomon's face had darkened with anger. There were deep furrows across his brow.
Standing before Jack about three feet away, he drew out his ram rod and tossed it to the young man, who caught it a little above the middle. Jack knew the meaning of this. They were to put their hands upon the ram rod, one above the other. The last hand it would hold was to do the killing. It was Solomon's.
"Thank God!" he whispered, as his face brightened.
He seemed to be taking careful aim with his right eye.
"It's my job," said he. "I wouldn't 'a' let ye do it if ye'd drawed the chanst. It's my job—proper. They ain't an hour ahead. Mebbe—it's jest possible—he may go to sleep to-night 'fore I do, an' I wouldn't be supprised. They'll build their fire at the Caverns on Rock Crick an' roast a captive. We'll cross the bush an' come up on t' other side an' see what's goin' on."
They crossed a high ridge, with Solomon tossing his feet in that long, loose stride of his, and went down the slope into a broad valley. The sun sank low and the immeasurable green roofed house of the wild was dim and dusk when the old scout halted. Ahead in the distance they had heard voices and the neighing of a horse.
"My son," said Solomon as he pointed with his finger, "do you see the brow o' the hill yonder whar the black thickets be?"
"If ye hear to me yell stay this side. This 'ere business is kind o' neevarious. I'm a-goin' clus up. If I come back ye'll hear the call o' the bush owl. If I don't come 'fore mornin' you p'int fer hum an' the good God go with ye."
"I shall go as far as you go," Jack answered.
Solomon spoke sternly. The genial tone of good comradeship, had left him.
"Ye kin go, but ye ain't obleeged," said he. "Bear in mind, boy. To-night I'm the Cap'n. Do as I tell ye—exact."
He took the lightning hurlers out of the packs and unwrapped them and tried the springs above the hammers. Earlier in the day he had looked to the priming. Solomon gave one to Jack and put the other two in his pockets. Each examined his pistols and adjusted them in his belt. They started for the low lying ridge above the little valley of Rock Creek. It was now quite dark and looking down through the thickets of hemlock they could see the firelight of the Indians and hear the wash of the creek water. Suddenly a wild whooping among the red men, savage as the howl of wolves on the trail of a wounded bison, ran beyond them, far out into the forest, and sent its echoes traveling from hilltop to mountain side. Then came a sound which no man may hear without getting, as Solomon was wont to say, "a scar on his soul which he will carry beyond the last cape." It was the death cry of a captive. Solomon had heard it before. He knew what it meant. The fire was taking hold and the smoke had begun to smother him. Those cries were like the stabbing of a knife and the recollection of them like blood-stains.
They hurried down the slant, brushing through the thicket, the sound of their approach being covered by the appalling cries of the victim and the demon-like tumult of the drunken braves. The two scouts were racked with soul pain as they went on so that they could scarcely hold their peace and keep their feet from running. A new sense of the capacity for evil in the heart of man entered the mind of Jack. They had come close to the frightful scene, when suddenly a deep silence fell upon it. Thank God, the victim had gone beyond the reach of pain. Something had happened in his passing—perhaps the savages had thought it a sign from Heaven. For a moment their clamor had ceased. The two scouts could plainly see the poor man behind a red veil of flame. Suddenly the white leader of the raiders approached the pyre, limping on his wooden stump, with a stick in his hand, and prodded the face of the victim. It was his last act. Solomon was taking aim. His rifle spoke. Red Snout tumbled forward into the fire. Then what a scurry among the Indians! They vanished and so suddenly that Jack wondered where they had gone. Solomon stood reloading the rifle barrel he had just emptied. Then he said:
"Come on an' do as I do."
Solomon ran until they had come near. Then he jumped from tree to tree, stopping at each long enough to survey the ground beyond it. This was what he called "swapping cover." From behind a tree near the fire he shouted in the Indian tongue:
"Red men, you have made the Great Spirit angry. He has sent the Son of the Thunder to slay you with his lightning."
No truer words had ever left the lips of man. His hand rose and swung back of his shoulder and shot forward. The round missile sailed through the firelight and beyond it and sank into black shadows in the great cavern at Rocky Creek—a famous camping-place in the old time. Then a flash of white light and a roar that shook the hills! A blast of gravel and dust and debris shot upward and pelted down upon the earth. Bits of rock and wood and an Indian's arm and foot fell in the firelight. A number of dusky figures scurried out of the mouth of the cavern and ran for their lives shouting prayers to Manitou as they disappeared in the darkness. Solomon pulled the embers from around the feet of the victim.
"Now, by the good God A'mighty, 'pears to me we got the skeer shifted so the red man'll be the rabbit fer a while an' I wouldn't wonder," said Solomon, as he stood looking down at the scene. "He ain't a-goin' to like the look o' a pale face—not overly much. Them Injuns that got erway 'll never stop runnin' till they've reached the middle o' next week."
He seized the foot of Red Snout and pulled his head out of the fire.
"You ol' hellion!" Solomon exclaimed. "You dog o' the devil! Tumbled into hell whar ye b'long at last, didn't ye? Jack, you take that luther bucket an' bring some water out o' the creek an' put out this fire. The ring on this 'ere ol' wooden leg is wuth a hundred pounds."
Solomon took the hatchet from his belt and hacked off the end of Red Snout's wooden leg and put it in his coat pocket, saying:
"'From now on a white man can walk in the bush without gittin' his bones picked. Injuns is goin' to be skeered o' us—a few an' I wouldn't be supprised."
When Jack came back with the water, Solomon poured it on the embers, and looked at the swollen form which still seemed to be straining at the green withes of moose wood.
"Nothin' kin be done fer him," said the old scout. "He's gone erway. I tell ye, Jack, it g'in my soul a sweat to hear him dyin'."
A moment of silence full of the sorrow of the two men followed. Solomon broke it by saying:
"That 'ere black pill o' mine went right down into the stummick o' the hill an' give it quite a puke—you hear to me."
They went to the cavern's mouth and looked in.
"They's an awful mess in thar. I don't keer to see it," said Solomon.
Near them they discovered a warrior who had crawled out of that death chamber in the rocks. He had been stunned and wounded about the shoulders. They helped him to his feet and led him away. He was trembling with fear. Solomon found a pine torch, still burning, near where the fire had been. By its light they dressed his wounds—the old scout having with him always a small surgeon's outfit.
"Whar is t' other captive?" he asked in the Indian tongue.
"About a mile down the trail. It's a woman and a boy," said the warrior.
"Take us whar they be," Solomon commanded.
The three started slowly down the trail, the warrior leading them.
"Son of the Thunder, throw no more lightning and I will kiss your mighty hand and do as you tell me," said the Indian, as they set out.
It was now dark. Jack saw, through the opening in the forest roof above the trail, Orion and the Pleiades looking down at them, as beautiful as ever, and now he could hear the brook singing merrily.
"I could have chided the stars and the brook while the Indian and I were waiting for Solomon to bring the packs," he wrote in his diary.
THE VOICE OF A WOMAN SOBBING
Over the ridge and more than a mile away was a wet, wild meadow. They found the cow and horses feeding on its edge near the trail. The moon, clouded since dark, had come out in the clear mid-heavens and thrown its light into the high windows of the forest above the ancient thoroughfare of the Indian. The red guide of the two scouts gave a call which was quickly answered. A few rods farther on, they saw a pair of old Indians sitting in blankets near a thicket of black timber. They could hear the voice of a woman sobbing near where they stood.
"Womern, don't be skeered o' us—we're friends—we're goin' to take ye hum," said Solomon.
The woman came out of the thicket with a little lad of four asleep in her arms.
"Where do ye live?" Solomon asked.
"Far south on the shore o' the Mohawk," she answered in a voice trembling with emotion.
"What's yer name?"
"I'm Bill Scott's wife," she answered.
"Cat's blood and gunpowder!" Solomon exclaimed. "I'm Sol Binkus."
She knelt before the old scout and kissed his knees and could not speak for the fulness of her heart. Solomon bent over and took the sleeping lad from her arms and held him against his breast.
"Don't feel bad. We're a-goin' to take keer o' you," said Solomon. "Ayes, sir, we be! They ain't nobody goin' to harm ye—nobody at all."
There was a note of tenderness in the voice of the man as he felt the chin of the little lad with his big thumb and finger.
"Do ye know what they done with Bill?" the woman asked soon in a pleading voice.
The scout swallowed as his brain began to work on the problem in hand.
"Bill broke loose an' got erway. He's gone," Solomon answered in a sad voice.
"Did they torture him?"
"What they done I couldn't jes' tell ye. But they kin't do no more to him. He's gone."
She seemed to sense his meaning and lay crouched upon the ground with her sorrow until Solomon lifted her to her feet and said:
"Look here, little womern, this don't do no good. I'm goin' to spread my blanket under the pines an' I want ye to lay down with yer boy an' git some sleep. We got a long trip to-morrer.
"'Tain't so bad as it might be—ye're kind o' lucky a'ter all is said an' done," he remarked as he covered the woman and the child.
The wounded warrior and the old men were not to be found. They had sneaked away into the bush. Jack and Solomon looked about and the latter called but got no answer.
"They're skeered cl'ar down to the toe nails," said Solomon. "They couldn't stan' it here. A lightnin' thrower is a few too many. They'd ruther be nigh a rattlesnake."
The scouts had no sleep that night. They sat down by the trail side leaning against a log and lighted their pipes.
"You 'member Bill Scott?" Solomon whispered.
"Yes. We spent a night in his house."
"He were a mean cuss. Sold rum to the Injuns. I allus tol' him it were wrong but—my God A'mighty!—I never 'spected that the fire in the water were a goin' to burn him up sometime. No, sir—I never dreamed he were a-goin' to be punished so—never."
They lay back against the log with their one blanket spread and spent the night in a kind of half sleep. Every little sound was "like a kick in the ribs," as Solomon put it, and drove them "into the look and listen business." The woman was often crying out or the cow and horses getting up to feed.
"My son, go to sleep," said Solomon. "I tell ye there ain't no danger now—not a bit. I don't know much but I know Injuns—-plenty."
In spite of his knowledge even Solomon himself could not sleep. A little before daylight they arose and began to stir about.
"I was badly burnt by that fire," Jack whispered.
"Inside!" Solomon answered. "So was I. My soul were a-sweatin' all night."
The morning was chilly. They gathered birch bark and dry pine and soon had a fire going. Solomon stole over to the thicket where the woman and child were lying and returned in a moment.
"They're sound asleep," he said in a low tone. "We'll let 'em alone."
He began to make tea and got out the last of their bread and dried meat and bacon. He was frying the latter when he said:
"That 'ere is a mighty likely womern."
He turned the bacon with his fork and added:
"Turrible purty when she were young. Allus hated the rum business."
Jack went out on the wild meadow and brought in the cow and milked her, filling a basin and a quart bottle.
Solomon went to the thicket and called:
The woman answered.
"Here's a tow'l an' a leetle jug o' soap, Mis' Scott. Ye kin take the boy to the crick an' git washed an' then come to the fire an' eat yer breakfust."
The boy was a handsome, blond lad with blue eyes and a serious manner. His confidence in the protection of his mother was sublime.
"What's yer name?" Solomon asked, looking up at the lad whom he had lifted high in the air.
"Whig Scott," the boy answered timidly with tears in his eyes.
"What! Be ye skeered o' me?"
These words came from the little lad as he began to cry. "No, sir. I ain't skeered. I'm a brave man."
"Courage is the first virtue in which the young are schooled on the frontier," Jack wrote in a letter to his friends at home in which he told of the history of that day. "The words and manner of the boy reminded me of my own childhood.
"Solomon held Whig in his lap and fed him and soon won his confidence. The backs of the horses and the cow were so badly galled they could not be ridden, but we were able to lash the packs over a blanket on one of the horses. We drove the beasts ahead of us. The Indians had timbered the swales here and there so that we were able to pass them with little trouble. Over the worst places I had the boy on my back while Solomon carried 'Mis' Scott' in his arms as if she were a baby. He was very gentle with her. To him, as you know, a woman has been a sacred creature since his wife died. He seemed to regard the boy as a wonderful kind of plaything. At the camping-places he spent every moment of his leisure tossing him in the air or rolling on the ground with him."
"One day when the woman sat by the fire crying, the little lad touched her brow with his hand and said:
"'Don't be skeered, mother. I'm brave. I'll take care o' you.'
"Solomon came to where I was breaking some dry sticks for the fire and said laughingly, as he wiped a tear from his cheek with the back of his great right hand:
"'Did ye ever see sech a gol' durn cunnin' leetle cricket in yer born days—ever?'
"Always thereafter he referred to the boy as the Little Cricket.
"That would have been a sad journey but for my interest in these reactions on this great son of Pan, with whom I traveled. I think that he has found a thing he has long needed, and I wonder what will come of it.
"When he had discovered, by tracks in the trail, that the Indians who had run away from us were gone South, he had no further fear of being molested.
"'They've gone on to tell what happened on the first o' the high slants an' to warn their folks that the Son o' the Thunder is comin' with lightnin' in his hands. Injuns is like rabbits when the Great Spirit begins to rip 'em up. They kin't stan' it."
That afternoon Solomon, with a hook and line and grubs, gathered from rotted stumps, caught many trout in a brook crossing the trail and fried them with slices of salt pork. In the evening they had the best supper of their journey in what he called "The Catamount Tavern." It was an old bark lean-to facing an immense boulder on the shore of a pond. There, one night some years before, he had killed a catamount. It was in the foot-hills remote from the trail. In a side of the rock was a small bear den or cavern with an overhanging roof which protected it from the weather. On a shelf in the cavern was a round block of pine about two feet in diameter and a foot and a half long. This block was his preserve jar. A number of two-inch augur holes had been bored in its top and filled with jerked venison and dried berries. They had been packed with a cotton wick fastened to a small bar of wood at the bottom of each hole. Then hot deer's fat had been poured in with the meat and berries until the holes were filled within an inch or so of the top. When the fat had hardened a thin layer of melted beeswax sealed up the contents of each hole. Over all wooden plugs had been driven fast.
"They's good vittles in that 'ere block," said Solomon. "'Nough, I guess, to keep a man a week. All he has to do is knock out the plug an' pull the wick an' be happy."
"Going to do any pulling for supper?" Jack queried.
"Nary bit," said Solomon. "Too much food in the woods now. We got to be savin'. Mebbe you er I er both on us 'll be comin' through here in the winter time skeered o' Injuns an' short o' fodder. Then we'll open the pine jar."
They had fish and tea and milk and that evening as he sat on his blanket before the fire with the little lad in his lap he sang an old rig-a-dig tune and told stories and answered many a query.
Jack wrote in one of his letters that as they fared along, down toward the sown lands of the upper Mohawk, Solomon began to develop talents of which none of his friends had entertained the least suspicion.
"He has had a hard life full of fight and peril like most of us who were born in this New World," the young man wrote. "He reminds me of some of the Old Testament heroes, and is not this land we have traversed like the plains of Mamre? What a gentle creature he might have been if he had had a chance! How long, I wonder, must we be slayers of men? As long, I take it, as there are savages against whom we must defend ourselves."
The next morning they met a company of one of the regiments of General Herkimer who had gone in pursuit of Red Snout and his followers. Learning what had happened to that evil band and its leader the soldiers faced about and escorted Solomon and his party to Oriskany.
THE FIRST FOURTH OF JULY
Mrs. Scott and her child lived in the family of General Herkimer for a month or so. Settlers remote from towns and villages had abandoned their farms. The Indians had gone into the great north bush perhaps to meet the British army which was said to be coming down from Canada in appalling numbers. Hostilities in the neighborhood of The Long House had ceased. The great Indian highway and its villages were deserted save by young children and a few ancient red men and squaws, too old for travel. Late in June, Jack and Solomon were ordered to report to General Schuyler at Albany.
"We're gettin' shoveled eroun' plenty," Solomon declared. "We'll take the womern an' the boy with us an' paddle down the Mohawk to Albany. They kind o' fell from Heaven into our hands an' we got to look a'ter 'em faithful. Fust ye know ol' Herk 'll be movin' er swallered hull by the British an' the Injuns, like Jonah was by the whale, then what 'ud become o' her an' the Leetle Cricket? We got to look a'ter 'em."
"I think my mother will be glad to give them a home," said Jack. "She really needs some help in the house these days."
The Scotts' buildings had been burned by the Indians and their boats destroyed save one large canoe which had happened to be on the south shore of the river out of their reach. In this Jack and Solomon and "Mis' Scott" and the Little Cricket set out with loaded packs in the moon of the new leaf, to use a phrase of the Mohawks, for the city of the Great River. They had a carry at the Wolf Riff and some shorter ones but in the main it was a smooth and delightful journey, between wooded shores, down the long winding lane of the Mohawk. Without fear of the Indians they were able to shoot deer and wild fowl and build a fire on almost any part of the shore. Mrs. Scott insisted on her right to do the cooking. Jack kept a diary of the trip, some pages of which the historian has read. From them we learn:
"Mrs. Scott has bravely run the gauntlet of her sorrows. Now there is a new look in her face. She is a black eyed, dark haired, energetic, comely woman of forty with cheeks as red as a ripe strawberry. Solomon calls her 'middle sized' but she seems to be large enough to fill his eye. He shows her great deference and chooses his words with particular care when he speaks to her. Of late he has taken to singing. She and the boy seem to have stirred the depths in him and curious things are coming up to the surface—songs and stories and droll remarks and playful tricks and an unusual amount of laughter. I suppose that it is the spirit of youth in him, stunned by his great sorrow. Now touched by miraculous hands he is coming back to his old self. There can be no doubt of this: the man is ten years younger than when I first knew him even. The Little Cricket has laid hold of his heart. Whig sits between the feet of Solomon in the stern during the day and insists upon sleeping with him at night.
"One morning my old friend was laughing as we stood on the river bank washing ourselves.
"'What are you laughing at?' I asked.
"'That got dum leetle skeezucks!' he answered. 'He were kickin' all night like a mule fightin' a bumble bee. 'Twere a cold night an' I held him ag'in' me to keep the leetle cuss warm.'
"'Hadn't you better let him sleep with his mother?' I asked.
"'Wall, if it takes two to do his sleepin' mebbe I better be the one that suffers. Ain't she a likely womern?'
"Of course I agreed, for it was evident that she was likely, sometime, to make him an excellent wife and the thought of that made me happy."
They had fared along down by the rude forts and villages traveling stealthily at night in tree shadows through "the Tory zone," as the vicinity of Fort Johnson was then called, camping, now and then, in deserted farm-houses or putting up at village inns. They arrived at Albany in the morning of July fourth. Setting out from their last camp an hour before daylight they had heard the booming of cannon at sunrise, Solomon stopped his paddle and listened.
"By the hide an' horns o' the devil!" he exclaimed. "I wonder if the British have got down to Albany."
They were alarmed until they hailed a man on the river road and learned that Albany was having a celebration.
"What be they celebratin'?" Solomon asked.
"The Declaration o' Independence," the citizen answered.
"It's a good idee," said Solomon. "When we git thar this 'ere ol' rifle o' mine 'll do some talkin' if it has a chanst."
Church bells were ringing as they neared the city. Its inhabitants were assembled on the river-front. The Declaration was read and then General Schuyler made a brief address about the peril coming down from the north. He said that a large force under General Burgoyne was on Lake Champlain and that the British were then holding a council with the Six Nations on the shore of the lake above Crown Point.
"At present we are unprepared to meet this great force but I suppose that help will come and that we shall not be dismayed. The modest man who leads the British army from the north declares in his proclamation that he is 'John Burgoyne, Esq., Lieutenant General of His Majesty's forces in America, Colonel of the Queen's Regiment of Light Dragoons, Governor of Fort William in North Britain, one of the Commons in Parliament and Commander of an Army and Fleet Employed on an Expedition from Canada!' My friends, such is the pride that goeth before a fall. We are an humble, hard-working people. No man among us can boast of a name so lavishly adorned. Our names need only the simple but glorious adornments of firmness, courage and devotion. With those, I verily believe, we shall have an Ally greater than any this world can offer. Let us all kneel where we stand while the Reverend Mr. Munro leads us in prayer to Almighty God for His help and guidance."
It was an impressive hour and that day the same kind of talk was heard in many places. The church led the people. Pulpiteers of inspired vision of which, those days, there were many, spoke with the tongues of men and of angels. A sublime faith in "The Great Ally" began to travel up and down the land.
Mrs. Scott and her little son were made welcome in the home of John Irons. Jack and Solomon were immediately sent up the river and through the bush to help the force at Ti. In the middle and late days of July, they reported to runners the southward progress of the British. They were ahead of Herkimer's regiment of New York militia on August third when they discovered the ambush—a misfortune for which they were in no way responsible. Herkimer and his force had gone on without them to relieve Fort Schuyler. The two scouts had ridden post to join him. They were afoot half a mile or so ahead of the commander when Jack heard the call of the swamp robin. He hurried toward his friend. Solomon was in a thicket of tamaracks.
"We got to git back quick," said the latter. "I see sign o' an ambush."
They hurried to their command and warned the General. He halted and faced his men about and began a retreat. Jack and Solomon hurried out ahead of them some twenty rods apart. In five minutes Jack heard Solomon's call again. Thoroughly alarmed, he ran in the direction of the sound. In a moment he met Solomon. The face of the latter had that stern look which came only in a crisis. Deep furrows ran across his brow. His hands were shut tight. There was an expression of anger in his eyes. He swallowed as Jack came near.
"It's an ambush sure as hell's ahead," he whispered.
As they were hurrying toward the regiment, he added:
"We got to fight an' ag'in' big odds—British an' Injuns. Don't never let yerself be took alive, my son, lessen ye want to die as Scott did. But, mebbe, we kin bu'st the circle."
In half a moment they met Herkimer.
"Git ready to fight," said Solomon. "We're surrounded."
The men were spread out in a half-circle and some hurried orders given, but before they could take a step forward the trap was sprung. "The Red Devils of Brant" were rushing at them through the timber with yells that seemed to shake the tree-tops. The regiment fired and began to advance. Some forty Indians had fallen as they fired. General Herkimer and others were wounded by a volley from the savages.
"Come on, men. Foller me an' use yer bayonets," Solomon shouted. "We'll cut our way out."
The Indians ahead had no time to load. Scores of them were run through. Others fled for their lives. But a red host was swarming up from behind and firing into the regiment. Many fell. Many made the mistake of turning to fight back and were overwhelmed and killed or captured. A goodly number had cut their way through with Jack and Solomon and kept going, swapping cover as they went. Most of them were wounded in some degree. Jack's right shoulder had been torn by a bullet. Solomon's left hand was broken and bleeding. The savages were almost on their heels, not two hundred yards behind. The old scout rallied his followers in a thicket at the top of a knoll with an open grass meadow between them and their enemies. There they reloaded their rifles and stood waiting.
"Don't fire—not none o' ye—till I give the word. Jack, you take my rifle. I'm goin' to throw this 'ere bunch o' lightnin'."
Solomon stepped out of the thicket and showed himself when the savages entered the meadow. Then he limped up the trail as if he were badly hurt, in the fashion of a hen partridge when one has come near her brood. In a moment he had dodged behind cover and crept back into the thicket.
There were about two hundred warriors who came running across the flat toward that point where Solomon had disappeared. They yelled like demons and overran the little meadow with astonishing speed.
"Now hold yer fire—hold yer fire till I give ye the word, er we'll all be et up. Keep yer fingers off the triggers now."
He sprang into the open. Astonished, the foremost runners halted while others crowded upon them. The "bunch of lightning" began its curved flight as Solomon leaped behind a tree and shouted, "Fire!"
"'Tain't too much to say that the cover flew off o' hell right thar at the edge o' the Bloody Medder that minnit—you hear to me," he used to tell his friends. "The air were full o' bu'sted Injun an' a barrel o' blood an' grease went down into the ground. A dozen er so that wasn't hurt run back ercrost the medder like the devil were chasin' 'em all with a red-hot iron. I reckon it'll allus be called the Bloody Medder."
In this retreat Jack had lost so much blood that he had to be carried on a litter. Before night fell they met General Benedict Arnold and a considerable force. After a little rest the tireless Solomon went back into the bush with Arnold and two regiments to find the wounded Herkimer, if possible, and others who might be in need of relief. They met a band of refugees coming in with the body of the General. They reported that the far bush was echoing with the shrieks of tortured captives.
"Beats all what an amount o' sufferin' it takes to start a new nation," Solomon used to say.
Next day Arnold fought his way to the fort, and many of St. Leger's Rangers and their savage allies were slain or captured or broken into little bands and sent flying for their lives into the northern bush. So the siege of Fort Schuyler was raised.
"I never see no better fightin' man than Arnold," Solomon used to say. "I seen him fight in the middle bush an' on the Stillwater. Under fire he was a regular wolverine. Allus up ag'in' the hottest side o' hell an' sayin':
"'Come on, boys. We kin't expec' to live forever.'
"But Arnold were a sore head. Allus kickin' over the traces an' complainin' that he never got proper credit."
THE BINKUSSING OF COLONEL BURLEY
Solomon had been hit in the thigh by a rifle bullet on his way to the fort. He and Jack and other wounded men were conveyed in boats and litters to the hospital at Albany where Jack remained until the leaves were gone. Solomon recovered more quickly and was with Lincoln's militia under Colonel Brown when they joined Johnson's Rangers at Ticonderoga and cut off the supplies of the British army. Later having got around the lines of the enemy with this intelligence he had a part in the fighting on Bemus Heights and the Stillwater and saw the defeated British army under Burgoyne marching eastward in disgrace to be conveyed back to England.
Jack had recovered and was at home when Solomon arrived in Albany with the news.
"Wal, my son, I cocalate they's goin' to be a weddin' in our fam'ly afore long," said the latter.
"What makes you think so?" Jack inquired.
"'Cause John Burgoyne, High Cockylorum and Cockydoodledo, an' all his army has been licked an' kicked an' started fer hum an' made to promise that they won't be sassy no more. I tell ye the war is goin' to end. They'll see that it won't pay to keep it up."
"But you do not know that Howe has taken Philadelphia," said Jack. "His army entered it on the twenty-sixth of September. Washington is in a bad fix. You and I have been ordered to report to him at White Marsh as soon as possible."
"That ol' King 'ud keep us fightin' fer years if he had his way," said Solomon. "He don't have to bleed an' groan an' die in the swamps like them English boys have been doin'. It's too bad but we got to keep killin' 'em, an' when the bad news reaches the good folks over thar mebbe the King'll git spoke to proper. We got to keep a-goin'. Fer the fust time in my life I'm glad to git erway from the big bush. The Injuns have found us a purty tough bit o' fodder but they's no tellin', out thar in the wilderness, when a man is goin' to be roasted and chawed up."
Solomon spent a part of the evening at play with the Little Cricket and the other children and when the young ones had gone to bed, went out for a walk with "Mis' Scott" on the river-front.
Mrs. Irons had said of the latter that she was a most amiable and useful person.
"The Little Cricket has won our hearts," she added. "We love him as we love our own."
When Jack and Solomon were setting out in a hired sloop for the Highlands next morning there were tears in the dark eyes of "Mis' Scott."
"Ain't she a likely womern?" Solomon asked again when with sails spread they had begun to cut the water.
Near King's Ferry in the Highlands on the Hudson they spent a night in the camp of the army under Putnam. There they heard the first note of discontent with the work of their beloved Washington. It came from the lips of one Colonel Burley of a Connecticut regiment. The Commander-in-Chief had lost Newport, New York and Philadelphia and been defeated on Long Island and in two pitched battles on ground of his own choosing at Brandywine and Germantown.
The two scouts were angry.
It had been a cold, wet afternoon and they, with others, were drying themselves around a big, open fire of logs in front of the camp post-office.
Solomon was quick to answer the complaint of Burley.
"He's allus been fightin' a bigger force o' well trained, well paid men that had plenty to eat an' drink an' wear. An' he's fit 'em with jest a shoe string o' an army. When it come to him, it didn't know nothin' but how to shoot an' dig a hole in the ground. The men wouldn't enlist fer more'n six months an' as soon as they'd learnt suthin', they put fer hum. An' with that kind o' an army, he druv the British out o' Boston. With a leetle bunch o' five thousand unpaid, barefoot, ragged backed devils, he druv the British out o' Jersey an' they had twelve thousan' men in that neighborhood. He's had to dodge eround an' has kep' his army from bein' et up, hide, horns an' taller, by the power o' his brain. He's managed to take keer o' himself down thar in Jersey an' Pennsylvaney with the British on all sides o' him, while the best fighters he had come up here to help Gates. I don't see how he could 'a' done it—damned if I do—without the help o' God."
"Gates is a real general," Burley answered. "Washington don't amount to a hill o' beans."
Solomon turned quickly and advanced upon Burley. "I didn't 'spect to find an enemy o' my kentry in this 'ere camp," he said in a quiet tone. "Ye got to take that back, mister, an' do it prompt, er ye're goin' to be all mussed up."
"Ye could see the ha'r begin to brustle under his coat," Solomon was wont to say of Burley, in speaking of that moment. "He stepped up clus an' growled an' showed his teeth an' then he begun to git rooined."
Burley had kept a public house for sailors at New Haven and had had the reputation of being a bad man in a quarrel. Of just what happened there is a full account in a little army journal of that time called The Camp Gazette. Burley aimed a blow at Solomon with his fist. Then as Solomon used to put it, "the water bu'st through the dam." It was his way of describing the swift and decisive action which was crowded into the next minute. He seized Burley and hurled him to the ground. With one hand on the nape of his neck and the other on the seat of his trousers, Solomon lifted his enemy above his head and quoited him over the tent top.
Burley picked himself up and having lost his head drew his hanger, and, like a mad bull, rushed at Solomon. Suddenly he found his way barred by Jack.
"Would you try to run a man through before he can draw?" the latter asked.
Solomon's old sword flashed out of its scabbard.
"Let him come on," he shouted. "I'm more to hum with a hanger than I be with good vittles."
Of all the words on record from the lips of this man, these are the most immodest, but it should be remembered that when he spoke them his blood was hot.
Jack gave way and the two came together with a clash of steel. A crowd had gathered about them and was increasing rapidly. They had been fighting for half a moment around the fire when Solomon broke the blade of his adversary. The latter drew his pistol! Before he could raise it Solomon had fired his own weapon. Burley's pistol dropped on the ground. Instantly its owner reeled and fell beside it. The battle which had lasted no more than a minute had come to its end. There had been three kinds of fighting in that lively duel.
Solomon's voice trembled when he cried out:
"Ary man who says a word ag'in' the Great Father is goin' to git mussed up."
He pushed his way through the crowd which had gathered around the wounded man.
"Let me bind his arm," he said.
But a surgeon had stood in the crowd. He was then doing what he could for the shattered member of the hot-headed Colonel Burley. Jack was helping him. Some men arrived with a litter and the unfortunate officer was quickly on his way to the hospital.
Jack and Solomon set out for headquarters. They met Putnam and two officers hurrying toward the scene of the encounter. Solomon had fought in the bush with him. Twenty years before they had been friends and comrades. Solomon saluted and stopped the grizzled hero of many a great adventure.
"Binkus, what's the trouble here?" the latter asked, as the crowd who had followed the two scouts gathered about them.
Solomon gave his account of what had happened. It was quickly verified by many eye-witnesses.
"Ye done right," said the General. "Burley has got to take it back an' apologize. He ain't fit to be an officer. He behaved himself like a bully. Any man who talks as he done orto be cussed an' Binkussed an' sent to the guard house."
Within three days Burley had made an ample apology for his conduct and this bulletin was posted at headquarters:
"Liberty of speech has its limits. It must be controlled by the law of decency and the general purposes of our army and government. The man who respects no authority above his own intellect is a conceited ass and would be a tyrant if he had the chance. No word of disrespect for a superior officer will be tolerated in this army."
"The Binkussing of Burley"—a phrase which traveled far beyond the limits of Putnam's camp—and the notice of warning which followed was not without its effect on the propaganda of Gates and his friends.
Next day Jack and Solomon set out with a force of twelve hundred men for Washington's camp at White Marsh near Philadelphia. There Jack found a letter from Margaret. It had been sent first to Benjamin Franklin in Paris through the latter's friend Mr. David Hartley, a distinguished Englishman who was now and then sounding the Doctor on the subject of peace.
"I am sure that you will be glad to know that my love for you is not growing feeble on account of its age," she wrote. "The thought has come to me that I am England and that you are America. It will be a wonderful and beautiful thing if through all this bitterness and bloodshed we can keep our love for each other. My dear, I would have you know that in spite of this alien King and his followers, I hold to my love for you and am waiting with that patience which God has put in the soul of your race and mine, for the end of our troubles. If you could come to France I would try to meet you in Doctor Franklin's home at Passy. So I have the hope in me that you may be sent to France."
This is as much of the letter as can claim admission to our history. It gave the young man a supply of happiness sufficient to fill the many days of hardship and peril in the winter at Valley Forge. It was read to Solomon.
"Say, this 'ere letter kind o' teches my feelin's—does sart'in," said Solomon. "I'm goin' to see what kin be done."
Unknown to Jack, within three days Solomon had a private talk with the Commander-in-Chief at his headquarters. The latter had a high regard for the old scout. He maintained a dignified silence while Solomon made his little speech and then arose and offered his hand saying in a kindly tone:
"Colonel Binkus, I must bid you good night."
THE GREATEST TRAIT OF A GREAT COMMANDER
Jack Irons used to say that no man he had known had such an uncommon amount of common sense as George Washington. He wrote to his father:
"It would seem that he must be in communication with the all-seeing mind. If he were to make a serious blunder here our cause would fail. The enemy tries in vain to fool him. Their devices are as an open book to Washington. They have fooled me and Solomon and other officers but not him. I had got quite a conceit of myself in judging strategy but now it is all gone.
"One day I was scouting along the lines, a few miles from Philadelphia, when I came upon a little, ragged, old woman. She wished to go through the lines into the country to buy flour. The moment she spoke I recognized her. It was old Lydia Darrah who had done my washing for me the last year of my stay in Philadelphia.
"'Why, Lydia, how do you do?' I asked.
"'The way I have allus done, laddie buck," she answered in her good Irish brogue. 'Workin' at the tub an' fightin' the divil—bad 'cess to him—but I kape me hilth an' lucky I am to do that—thanks to the good God! How is me fine lad that I'd niver 'a' knowed but for the voice o' him?'
"'Not as fine as when I wore the white ruffles but stout as a moose,' I answered. 'The war is a sad business.'
"'It is that—may the good God defind us! We cross the sea to be rid o' the divil an' he follys an' grabs us be the neck.'
"We were on a lonely road. She looked about and seeing no one, put a dirty old needle case in my hands. "'Take that, me smart lad. It's fer good luck,' she answered.
"As I left her I was in doubt of the meaning of her generosity. Soon I opened the needle book and found in one of its pockets a piece of thin paper rolled tight. On it I found the information that Howe would be leaving the city next morning with five thousand men, and baggage wagons and thirteen cannon and eleven boats. The paper contained other details of the proposed British raid. I rode post to headquarters and luckily found the General in his tent. On the way I arrived at a definite conviction regarding the plans of Howe. I was eager to give it air, having no doubt of its soundness. The General gave me respectful attention while I laid the facts before him. Then I took my courage in my hands and asked:
"'General, may I venture to express an opinion?'
"'Certainly,' he answered.
"'It is the plan of Howe to cross the Delaware in his boats so as to make us believe that he is going to New York. He will recross the river above Bristol and suddenly descend upon our rear.'
"Washington sat, with his arms folded, looking very grave but made no answer.
"In other words, again I presented my conviction.
"Still he was silent and I a little embarrassed. In half a moment I ventured to ask:
"'General, what is your opinion?'
"He answered in a kindly tone: 'Colonel Irons, the enemy has no business in our rear. The boats are only for our scouts and spies to look at. The British hope to fool us with them. To-morrow morning about daylight they will be coming down the Edgely Bye Road on our left.'
"He called an aid and ordered that our front be made ready for an attack in the early morning.
"I left headquarters with my conceit upon me and half convinced that our Chief was out in his judgment of that matter. No like notion will enter my mind again. Solomon and I have quarters on the Edgely Bye Road. A little after three next morning the British were reported coming down the road. A large number of them were killed and captured and the rest roughly handled.
"A smart Yankee soldier in his trial for playing cards yesterday, set up a defense which is the talk of the camp. For a little time it changed the tilt of the wrinkles on the grim visage of war. His claim was that he had no Bible and that the cards aided him in his devotions.
"The ace reminded him of the one God; the deuce of the Father and Son; the tray of the Trinity; the four spot of the four evangelists—Matthew, Luke, Mark and John; the five spot of the five wise and the five foolish virgins; the six spot of the six days of creation; the seven of the Sabbath; the eight of Noah and his family; the nine of the nine ungrateful lepers; the ten of the Ten Commandments; the knave of Judas; the queen was to him the Queen of Sheba and the king was the one great King of Heaven and the Universe.
"'You will go to the guard house for three days so that, hereafter, a pack of cards will remind you only of a foolish soldier,' said Colonel Provost."
Snow and bitter winds descended upon the camp early in December. It was a worn, ragged, weary but devoted army of about eleven thousand men that followed Washington into Valley Forge to make a camp for the winter. Of these, two thousand and ninety-eight were unfit for duty. Most of the latter had neither boots nor shoes. They marched over roads frozen hard, with old rags and pieces of hide wrapped around their feet. There were many red tracks in the snow in the Valley of the Schuylkill that day. Hardly a man was dressed for cold weather. Hundreds were shivering and coughing with influenza.
"When I look at these men I can not help thinking how small are my troubles," Jack wrote to his mother. "I will complain of them no more. Solomon and I have given away all the clothes we have except those on our backs. A fiercer enemy than the British is besieging us here. He is Winter. It is the duty of the people we are fighting for to defend us against this enemy. We should not have to exhaust ourselves in such a battle. Do they think that because God has shown His favor at Brooklyn, Saratoga, and sundry other places, He is in a way committed? Are they not disposed to take it easy and over-work the Creator? I can not resist the impression that they are praying too much and paying too little. I fear they are lying back and expecting God to send ravens to feed us and angels to make our boots and weave our blankets and clothing. He will not go into that kind of business. The Lord is not a shoemaker or a weaver or a baker. He can have no respect for a people who would leave its army to starve and freeze to death in the back country. If they are to do that their faith is rotten with indolence and avarice.
"There are many here who have nothing to wear but blankets with armholes, belted by a length of rope. There are hundreds who have no blankets to cover them at night. They have to take turns sitting by the fire while others are asleep. For them a night's rest is impossible. Let this letter be read to the people of Albany and may they not lie down to sleep until they have stirred themselves in our behalf, and if any man dares to pray to God to help us until he has given of his abundance to that end and besought his neighbors to do the same, I could wish that his praying would choke him. Are we worthy to be saved—that is the question. If we expect God to furnish the flannel and the shoe leather, we are not. That is our part of the great task. Are we going to shirk it and fail?
"We are making a real army. The men who are able to work are being carefully trained by the crusty old Baron Steuben and a number of French officers."
That they did not fail was probably due to the fact that there were men in the army like this one who seemed to have some little understanding of the will of God and the duty of man. This letter and others like it, traveled far and wide and more than a million hands began to work for the army.
The Schuylkill was on one side of the camp and wooded ridges, protected by entrenchments, on the other. Trees were felled and log huts constructed, sixteen by fourteen feet in size. Twelve privates were quartered in each hut.
The Gates propaganda was again being pushed. Anonymous letters complaining that Washington was not protecting the people of Pennsylvania and New Jersey from depredations were appearing in sundry newspapers. By and by a committee of investigation arrived from Congress. They left satisfied that Washington had done well to keep his army alive, and that he must have help or a large part of it would die of cold and hunger.
It was on a severe day in March that Washington sent for Jack Irons. The scout found the General sitting alone by the fireside in his office which was part of a small farm-house. He was eating a cold luncheon of baked beans and bread without butter. Jack had just returned from Philadelphia where he had risked his life as a spy, of which adventure no details are recorded save the one given in the brief talk which follows. The scout smiled as he took the chair offered.
"The British are eating no such frugal fare," he remarked.
"I suppose not," the General answered.
"The night before I left Philadelphia Howe and his staff had a banquet at The Three Mariners. There were roasted hams and geese and turkeys and patties and pies and jellies and many kinds of wine and high merriment. The British army is well fed and clothed."
"We are not so provided but we must be patient," said Washington. "Our people mean well, they are as yet unorganized. This matter of being citizens of an independent nation at war is new to them. The men who are trying to establish a government while they are defending it against a powerful enemy have a most complicated problem. Naturally, there are disagreements and factions. Congress may, for a time, be divided but the army must stand as one man. This thing we call human liberty has become for me a sublime personality. In times when I could see no light, she has kept my heart from failing."
"She is like the goddess of old who fought in the battles of Agamemnon," said Jack. "Perhaps she is the angel of God who hath been given charge concerning us. Perhaps she is traveling up and down the land and overseas in our behalf."
Washington sat looking thoughtfully into the fire. In a moment he said:
"She is like a wise and beautiful mother assuring us that our sorrows will end, by and by, and that we must keep on."
The General arose and went to his desk and returned with sealed letters in his hand and said:
"Colonel, I have a task for you. I could give it to no man in whom I had not the utmost confidence. You have earned a respite from the hardships and perils of this army. Here is a purse and two letters. With them I wish you to make your way to France as soon as possible and turn over the letters to Franklin. The Doctor is much in need of help. Put your services at his disposal. A ship will be leaving Boston on the fourteenth. A good horse has been provided; your route is mapped. You will need to start after the noon mess. For the first time in ten days there will be fresh beef on the tables. Two hundred blankets have arrived and more are coming. After they have eaten, give the men a farewell talk and put them in good heart, if you can. We are going to celebrate the winter's end which can not be long delayed. When you have left the table, Hamilton will talk to the boys in his witty and inspiring fashion."
Soon after one o'clock on the seventh of March, 1778, Colonel Irons bade Solomon good-by and set out on his long journey. That night he slept in a farmhouse some fifty miles from Valley Forge.
Next morning this brief note was written to his mother:
"I am on my way to France, leaving mother and father and sister and brother and friend, as the Lord has commanded, to follow Him, I verily believe. Yesterday the thought came to me that this thing we call the love of Liberty which is in the heart of every man and woman of us, urging that we stop at no sacrifice of blood and treasure, is as truly the angel of God as he that stood with Peter in the prison house. Last night I saw Liberty in my dreams—a beautiful woman she was, of heroic stature with streaming hair and the glowing eyes of youth and she was dressed in a long white robe held at the waist by a golden girdle. And I thought that she touched my brow and said:
"'My son, I am sent for all the children of men and not for America alone. You will find me in France for my task is in many lands.'
"I left the brave old fighter, Solomon, with tears in his eyes. What a man is Solomon! Yet, God knows, he is the rank and file of Washington's army as it stands to-day—ragged, honest, religious, heroic, half fed, unappreciated, but true as steel and willing, if required, to give up his comfort or his life! How may we account for such a man without the help of God and His angels?"
IN FRANCE WITH FRANKLIN
Jack shipped in the packet Mercury, of seventy tons, under Captain Simeon Sampson, one of America's ablest naval commanders. She had been built for rapid sailing and when, the second day out, they saw a British frigate bearing down upon her they wore ship and easily ran away from their enemy. Their first landing was at St. Martin on the Isle de Rhe. They crossed the island on mules, being greeted with the cry:
"Voila les braves Bostones!"
In France the word Bostone meant American revolutionist. At the ferry they embarked on a long gabbone for La Rochelle. There the young man enjoyed his first repose on a French lit built up of sundry layers of feather beds. He declares in his diary that he felt the need of a ladder to reach its snowy summit of white linen. He writes a whole page on the sense of comfort and the dreamless and refreshing sleep which he had found in that bed. The like of it he had not known since he had been a fighting man.
In the morning he set out in a heavy vehicle of two wheels, drawn by three horses. Its postillion in frizzed and powdered hair, under a cocked hat, with a long queue on his back and in great boots, hooped with iron, rode a lively little bidet. Such was the French stagecoach of those days, its running gear having been planned with an eye to economy, since vehicles were taxed according to the number of their wheels. The diary informs one that when the traveler stopped for food at an inn, he was expected to furnish his own knife. The highways were patrolled, night and day, by armed horsemen and robberies were unknown. The vineyards were not walled or fenced. All travelers had a license to help themselves to as much fruit as they might wish to eat when it was on the vines.
They arrived at Chantenay on a cold rainy evening. They were settled in their rooms, happy that they had protection from the weather, when their landlord went from room to room informing them that they would have to move on.
"Why?" Jack ventured to inquire.
"Because a seigneur has arrived."
"A seigneur!" Jack exclaimed.
"Oui, Monsieur. He is a very great man."
"But suppose we refuse to go," said Jack.
"Then, Monsieur, I shall detain your horses. It is a law of le grand monarque."
There was no dodging it. The coach and horses came back to the inn door. The passengers went out into the dark, rainy night to plod along in the mud, another six miles or so, that the seigneur and his suite could enjoy that comfort the weary travelers had been forced to leave. Such was the power of privilege with which the great Louis had saddled his kingdom.
They proceeded to Ancenis, Angers and Breux. From the latter city the road to Versailles was paved with flat blocks of stone. There were swarms of beggars in every village and city crying out, with hands extended, as the coach passed them:
"La charite, au nom de Dieu!"
"France is in no healthy condition when this is possible," the young man wrote.
If he met a priest carrying a Bon Dieu in a silver vase every one called out, "Aux genoux!" and then the beholder had to kneel, even if the mud were ankle deep. So on a wet day one's knees were apt to be as muddy as his feet.
The last stage from Versailles to Paris was called the post royale. There the postillion had to be dressed like a gentleman. It was a magnificent avenue, crowded every afternoon by the wealth and beauty of the kingdom, in gorgeously painted coaches, and lighted at night by great lamps, with double reflectors, over its center. They came upon it in the morning on their way to the capital. There were few people traveling at that hour. Suddenly ahead they saw a cloud of dust. The stage stopped. On came a band of horsemen riding at a wild gallop. They were the King's couriers.
"Clear the way," they shouted. "The King's hunt is coming."
All travelers, hearing this command, made quickly for the sidings, there to draw rein and dismount. The deer came in sight, running for its life, the King close behind with all his train, the hounds in full cry. Near Jack the deer bounded over a hedge and took a new direction. His Majesty—a short, stout man with blue eyes and aquiline nose, wearing a lace cocked hat and brown velvet coatee and high boots with spurs—dismounted not twenty feet from the stage-coach, saying with great animation:
"Vite! Donnez moi un cheval frais."
Instantly remounting, he bounded over the hedge, followed by his train.
A letter from Jack presents all this color of the journey and avers that he reached the house of Franklin in Passy about two o'clock in the afternoon of a pleasant May day. The savant greeted his young friend with an affectionate embrace.
"Sturdy son of my beloved country, you bring me joy and a new problem," he said.
"What is the problem?" Jack inquired.
"That of moving Margaret across the channel. I have a double task now. I must secure the happiness of America and of Jack Irons."
He read the despatches and then the Doctor and the young man set out in a coach for the palace of Vergennes, the Prime Minister. Colonel Irons was filled with astonishment at the tokens of veneration for the white-haired man which he witnessed in the streets of Paris.
"The person of the King could not have attracted more respectful attention," he writes. "A crowd gathered about the coach when we were leaving it and every man stood with uncovered head as we passed on our way to the palace door. In the crowd there was much whispered praise of 'Le grand savant.' I did not understand this until I met, in the office of the Compte de Vergennes, the eloquent Senator Gabriel Honore Riquetti de Mirabeau. What an impressive name! Yet I think he deserves it. He has the eye of Mars and the hair of Samson and the tongue of an angel, I am told. In our talk, I assured him that in Philadelphia Franklin came and went and was less observed than the town crier.
"'But your people seem to adore him,' I said.
"'As if he were a god,' Mirabeau answered. 'Yes, it is true and it is right. Has he not, like Jove, hurled the lightning of heaven in his right hand? Is he not an unpunished Prometheus? Is he not breaking the scepter of a tyrant?'
"Going back to his home where in the kindness of his heart he had asked me to live, he endeavored, modestly, to explain the evidences of high regard which were being showered upon him.
"'It happens that my understanding and small control of a mysterious and violent force of nature has appealed to the imagination of these people,' he said, 'I am the only man who has used thunderbolts for his playthings. Then, too, I am speaking for a new world to an old one. Just at present I am the voice of Human Liberty. I represent the hunger of the spirit of man. It is very strong here. You have not traveled so far in France without seeing thousands of beggars. They are everywhere. But you do not know that when a child comes in a poor family, the father and mother go to prison pour mois de nourrice. It is a pity that the poor can not keep their children at home. This old kingdom is a muttering Vesuvius, growing hotter, year by year, with discontent. You will presently hear its voices.'"
There was a dinner that evening at Franklin's house, at which the Marquis de Mirabeau, M. Turgot, the Madame de Brillon, the Abbe Raynal and the Compte and Comptesse d' Haudetot, Colonel Irons and three other American gentlemen were present. The Madame de Brillon was first to arrive. She entered with a careless, jaunty air and ran to meet Franklin and caught his hand and gave him a double kiss on each cheek and one on his forehead and called him "papa."
"At table she sat between me and Doctor Franklin," Jack writes. "She frequently locked her hand in the Doctor's and smiled sweetly as she looked into his eyes. I wonder what the poor, simple, hard-working Deborah Franklin would have thought of these familiarities. Yet here, I am told, no one thinks ill of that kind of thing. The best women of France seem to treat their favorites with like tokens of regard. Now and then she spread her arms across the backs of our chairs, as if she would have us feel that her affection was wide enough for both.
"She assured me that all the women of France were in love with le grand savant.
"Franklin, hearing the compliment, remarked: 'It is because they pity my age and infirmities. First we pity, then embrace, as the great Mr. Pope has written.'
"'We think it a compliment that the greatest intellect in the world is willing to allow itself to be, in a way, captured by the charms of women,' Madame Brillon declared.
"'My beautiful friend! You are too generous,' the Doctor continued with a laugh. 'If the greatest man were really to come to Paris and lose his heart, I should know where to find it.'
"The Doctor speaks an imperfect and rather broken French, but these people seem to find it all the more interesting on that account. Probably to them it is like the English which we have heard in America from the lips of certain Frenchmen. How fortunate it is that I learned to speak the language of France in my boyhood!
"From the silver-tongued Mirabeau I got further knowledge of Franklin, with which I, his friend and fellow countryman, should have been acquainted, save that the sacrifices of the patriot are as common as mother's milk and cause little comment among us. The great orator was expected to display his talents, if there were any excuse for it, wherever he might be, so the ladies set up a demand for a toast. He spoke of Franklin, 'The Thrifty Prodigal,' saying;
"'He saves only to give. There never was such a squanderer of his own immeasurable riches. For his great inventions and discoveries he has never received a penny. Twice he has put his personal fortune at the disposal of his country. Once when he paid the farmers for their horses and wagons to transport supplies for the army of Braddock, and again when he offered to pay for the tea which was thrown into Boston Harbor.'
"The great man turned to me and added:
"'I have learned of these things, not from him, but from others who know the truth, and we love him in France because we are aware that he is working for Human Liberty and not for himself or for any greedy despot in the 'west.'
"It is all so true, yet in America nothing has been said of this.
"As the dinner proceeded the Abbe Raynal asked the Doctor if it was true that there were signs of degeneracy in the average male American.
"'Let the facts before us be my answer," said Franklin. "There are at this table four Frenchmen and four Americans. Let these gentlemen stand up."
"The Frenchmen were undersized, the Abbe himself being a mere shrimp of a man. The Americans, Carmichael, Harmer, Humphries and myself, were big men, the shortest being six feet tall. The contrast raised a laugh among the ladies. Then said Franklin in his kindest tones:
"'My dear Abbe, I am aware that manhood is not a matter of feet and inches. I only assure you that these are average Americans and that they are pretty well filled with brain and spirit.'
"The Abbe spoke of a certain printed story on which he had based his judgment.
"Franklin laughed and answered: 'I know that is a fable, because I wrote it myself one day, long ago, when we were short of news.'"
The guests having departed, Franklin asked the young man to sit down for a talk by the fireside. The Doctor spoke of the women of France, saying:
"'You will not understand them or me unless you remind yourself that we are in Europe and that it is the eighteenth century. Here the clocks are lagging. Time moves slowly. With the poor it stands still. They know not the thing we call progress.'
"'Those who have money seem to be very busy having fun,' I said.
"'There is no morning to their day,' he went on. 'Their dawn is noontime. Our kind of people have had longer days and have used them wisely. So we have pushed on ahead of this European caravan. Our fathers in New England made a great discovery.'
"'What was it?' I asked.
"'That righteousness was not a joke; that Christianity was not a solemn plaything for one day in the week, but a real, practical, working proposition for every day in the year; that the main support of the structure is industry; that its most vital commandment is this, 'six days shalt thou labor'; that no amount of wealth can excuse a man from this duty. Every one worked. There was no idleness and therefore little poverty. The days were all for labor and the nights for rest. The wheels of progress were greased and moving.'
"'And our love of learning helped to push them along,' I suggested.
"'True. Our people have been mostly like you and me,' he went on. 'We long for knowledge of the truth. We build schools and libraries and colleges. We have pushed on out of the eighteenth century into a new time. There you were born. Now you have stepped a hundred years backward into Europe. You are astonished, and this brings me to my point. Here I am with a great task on my hands. It is to enlist the sympathy and help of France. I must take things, not as I could wish them to be, but as I find them. At this court women are all powerful. It has long been a maxim here that a diplomatist must stand well with the ladies. Even though he is venerable, he must be gallant, and I do not use the word in a shady sense. The ladies are not so bad as you would think them. They are playthings. To them, life is not as we know it, filled with realities. It is a beautiful drama of rich costumes and painted scenes and ingenious words, all set in the atmosphere of romance. The players only pretend to believe each other. In the salon I am one of these players. I have to be.'
"'Mirabeau seemed to mean what he said,' was my answer.
"'Yes. He is one of those who often speak from the heart. All these players love the note of sincerity when they hear it. In the salon it is out of key, but away from the ladies the men are often living and not playing. Mirabeau, Condorcet, Turgot and others have heard the call of Human Liberty. Often they come to this house and speak out with a strong candor.'
"'I suppose that this great drama of despotism in France will end in a tragedy whose climax will consume the stage and half the players,' I ventured to say.
"'That is a theme, Jack, on which you and I must be silent,' Franklin answered. 'We must hold our mouths as with a bridle.'
"For a moment he sat looking sadly into the glowing coals on the grate. Franklin loved to talk, but no one could better keep his own counsel.
"'At heart I am no revolutionist,' he said presently. 'I believe in purifying—not in breaking down. I would to God that I could have convinced the British of their error. Mainly I am with the prophet who says:
"'"Stand in the old ways. View the ancient paths. Consider them well and be not among those who are given to change."'
"I sat for a moment thinking of the cruelties I had witnessed, and asking myself if it had been really worth while. Franklin interrupted my thoughts.
"'I wish we could discover a plan which would induce and compel nations to settle their differences without cutting each other's throats. When will human wisdom be sufficient to see the advantage of this?'
"He told me the thrilling details of his success in France; how he had won the kingdom for an ally and secured loans and the help of a fleet and army then on the sea.
"'And you will not be surprised to learn that the British have been sounding me to see if we would be base enough to abandon our ally,' he laughed.
"In a moment he added:
"'Come, it is late and you must write a letter to the heart of England before you lie down to rest.'
"Often thereafter he spoke of Margaret as 'the heart of England.'"
Jack began to assist Franklin in his correspondence and in the many business details connected with his mission.
"I have never seen a man with a like capacity for work," the young officer writes. "Every day he is conferring with Vergennes or other representatives of the King, or with the ministers of Spain, Holland and Great Britain. The greatest intellect in the kingdom is naturally in great request. To-day, after many hours of negotiation with the Spanish minister, in came M. Dubourg, the most distinguished physician in Europe.
"'Mon chere maitre,' he said. 'I have a most difficult case and as you know more about the human body than any man of my acquaintance I wish to confer with you.'
"Yesterday, Doctor Ingenhauz, physician to the Emperor of Austria, came to consult him regarding the vaccination of the royal family of France.
"In the evening, M. Robespierre, a slim, dark-skinned, studious young attorney from Arras, wearing gold-rimmed spectacles, came for information regarding lightning rods, he having doubts of their legality. While they were talking, M. Joseph Ignace Guillotin, another physician, arrived. He was looking for advice regarding a proposed new method of capital punishment, and wished to know if, in the Doctor's opinion, a painless death could be produced by quickly severing the head from the body. Next morning, M. Jourdan, with hair and beard as red as the flank of my bay mare and a loud voice, came soon after breakfast, to sell us mules by the ship load.
"So you see that even I, living in his home and seeing him almost every hour of the day, have little chance to talk with him. Last night we met M. Voltaire—dramatist and historian—now in the evening of his days. We were at the Academy, where we had gone to hear an essay by D'Alembert. Franklin and Voltaire—a very thin old gentleman of eighty-four, with piercing black eyes—sat side by side on the platform. The audience demanded that the two great men should come forward and salute each other. They arose and advanced and shook hands.
"'A la Francaise,' the crowd demanded.
"So the two white-haired men embraced and kissed each other amidst loud applause.
"We are up at sunrise and at breakfast, for half an hour or so, I have him to myself. Then we take a little walk in the palace grounds of M. le Ray de Chaumont, Chief Forester of the kingdom, which adjoins us. To the Count's generosity Franklin is indebted for the house we live in. The Doctor loves to have me with him in the early morning. He says breakfasting alone is the most triste of all occupations.
"'I think that the words of Demosthenes could not have been more sought than yours,' I said to him at breakfast this morning.
"He laughed as he answered: 'Demosthenes said that the first point in speaking was action. Probably he meant the action which preceded the address—a course of it which had impressed people with the integrity and understanding of the speaker. For years I have had what Doctor Johnson would call 'a wise and noble curiosity' about nature and have had some success in gratifying it. Then, too, I have tried to order my life so that no man could say that Ben Franklin had intentionally done him a wrong. So I suppose that my words are entitled to a degree of respect—a far more limited degree than the French are good enough to accord them.'
"As we were leaving the table he said: 'Jack, I have an idea worthy of Demosthenes. My friend, David Hartley of London, who still has hope of peace by negotiation, wishes to come over and confer with me. I shall tell him that he may come if he will bring with him the Lady Hare and her daughter.'
"'More thrilling words were never spoken by Demosthenes,' I answered. 'But how about Jones and his Bonne Homme Richard? He is now a terror to the British coasts. They would fear destruction.'
"'I shall ask Jones to let them alone,' he said. 'They can come under a special flag.'
"Commodore Jones did not appear again in Paris until October, when he came to Passy to report upon a famous battle.
"I was eager to meet this terror of the coasts. His impudent courage and sheer audacity had astonished the world. The wonder was that men were willing to join him in such dare devil enterprises.
"I had imagined that Jones would be a tall, gaunt, swarthy, raw-boned, swearing man of the sea. He was a sleek, silent, modest little man, with delicate hands and features. He wished to be alone with the Doctor, and so I did not hear their talk. I know that he needed money and that Franklin, having no funds, provided the sea fighter from his own purse.
"Commodore Jones had brought with him a cartload of mail from captured British ships. In it were letters to me from Margaret.
"'Now you are near me and yet there is an impassable gulf between us,' she wrote. 'We hear that the seas are overrun with pirates and that no ship is safe. Our vessels are being fired upon and sunk. I would not mind being captured by a good Yankee captain, if it were carefully done. But cannons are so noisy and impolite! I have a lot of British pluck in me, but I fear that you would not like to marry a girl who limped because she had been shot in the war. And, just think of the possible effect on my disposition. So before we start Doctor Franklin will have to promise not to fire his cannons at us.'
"I showed the letter to Franklin and he laughed and said:
"'They will be treated tenderly. The Commodore will convoy them across the channel. I shall assure Hartley of that in a letter which will go forward today.'
"Anxious days are upon us. Our money in America has become almost worthless and we are in extreme need of funds to pay and equip the army. We are daily expecting a loan from the King of three million livres. But Vergennes has made it clear to us that the government of France is itself in rather desperate straits. The loan has been approved, but the treasury is waiting upon certain taxes not yet collected. The moment the money is available the Prime Minister will inform us of the fact.
"On a fine autumn day we drove with the Prince of Conde in his great coach, ornamented with costly paintings, to spend a day at his country seat in Chantilly. The palace was surrounded by an artificial canal; the gardens beautified with ponds and streams and islands and cascades and grottos and labyrinths, the latter adorned with graceful sculptures. His stables were lined with polished woods; their windows covered with soft silk curtains. Of such a refinement of luxury I had never dreamed. Having seen at least a thousand beggars on the way, I was saddened by these rich, lavish details of a prince's self-indulgence.
"On the wish of our host, Franklin had taken with him a part of his electrical apparatus, with which he amused a large company of the friends of the great Seigneur in his palace grounds. Spirits were fired by a spark sent from one pond to another with no conductor but the water of a stream. The fowls for dinner were slain by electrical shocks and cooked over a fire kindled by a current from an electrical bottle. At the table the success of America was toasted in electrified bumpers with an accompaniment of guns fired by an electrical battery.
"A poet had written a Chanson a Boire to Franklin, which was read and merrily applauded at the dinner—one stanza of which ran as follows:
"'Tout, en fondant un empire, Vous le voyez boire et rire Le verre en main Chantons notre Benjamin.'
"To illustrate the honest candor with which often he speaks, even in the presence of Frenchmen who are near the throne, I quote a few words from his brief address to the Prince and his friends;
"'A good part of my life I have worked with my hands. If Your Grace will allow me to say so, I wish to see in France a deeper regard for the man who works with his hands—the man who supplies food. He really furnishes the standard of all value. The value of everything depends on the labor given to the making of it. If the labor in producing a bushel of wheat is the same as that consumed in the production of an ounce of silver, their value is the same.
"'The food maker also supplies a country with its population. By 1900 he will have given to America a hundred million people and a power and prosperity beyond our reckoning. Frugality and Industry are the most fruitful of parents, especially where they are respected. When luxury and the cost of living have increased, people have become more cautious about marriage and populations have begun to dwindle.'