Our excellent matron was delighted with her domestic arrangements. They much surpassed any of the various barracks in which she had dwelt, and a smile of happiness beamed on her handsome face, as she followed her husband from room to room, listening to his explanations. When they entered their private apartments, and these were furnished and ready to receive them, respect caused the rest to leave them by themselves, and once more they found that they were alone.
"Well, Wilhelmina," asked the gratified husband—gratified, because he saw pleasure beaming in the mild countenance and serene blue eyes of one of the best wives living—"Well, Wilhelmina," he asked, "can you give up Albany, and all the comforts of your friends' dwellings, to be satisfied in a home like this? It is not probable I shall ever build again, whatever Bob may do, when he comes after me. This structure, then, part house, part barrack, part fort, as it is, must be our residence for the remainder of our days. We are hutted for life."
"It is all-sufficient, Willoughby. It has space, comfort, warmth, coolness and security. What more can a wife and a mother ask, when she is surrounded by those she most loves? Only attend to the security, Hugh. Remember how far we are removed from any succour, and how sudden and fierce the Indians are in their attacks. Twice have we, ourselves, been near being destroyed by surprises, from which accident, or God's providence, protected us, rather than our own vigilance. If this could happen in garrisons, and with king's troops around us, how much more easily might it happen here, with only common labourers to watch what is going on!"
"You exaggerate the danger, wife. There are no Indians, in this part of the country, who would dare to molest a settlement like ours. We count thirteen able-bodied men in all, besides seven women, and could use seventeen or eighteen muskets and rifles on an emergency. No tribe would dare commence hostilities, in a time of general peace, and so near the settlements too; and, as to stragglers, who might indeed murder to rob, we are so strong, ourselves, that we may sleep in peace, so far as they are concerned."
"One never knows that, dearest Hugh. A marauding party of half-a-dozen might prove too much for many times their own number, when unprepared. I do hope you will have the gates hung, at least; should the girls come here, in the autumn, I could not sleep without hanging the gates."
"Fear nothing, love," said the captain, kissing his wife with manly tenderness. "As for Beulah and Maud, let them come when they please; we shall always have a welcome for them, and no place can be safer than under their father's eyes."
"I care not so much for myself, Hugh, but do not let the gates be forgotten until the girls come."
"Everything shall be done as you desire, wife of mine, though it will be a hard job to get two such confounded heavy loads of wood on their hinges. We must take some day when everybody is at home, and everybody willing to work. Saturday next, I intend to have a review; and, once a month, the year round, there will be a muster, when all the arms are to be cleaned and loaded, and orders given how to act in case of an alarm. An old soldier would be disgraced to allow himself to be run down by mere vagabonds. My pride is concerned, and you may sleep in peace."
"Yes, do, dearest Hugh."—Then the matron proceeded through the rooms, expressing her satisfaction at the care which had been had for her comfort, in her own rooms in particular.
Sooth to say, the interior of the hut presented that odd contrast between civilization and rude expedients, which so frequently occurs on an American frontier, where persons educated in refinement often find themselves brought in close collision with savage life. Carpets, in America, and in the year of our Lord 1765, were not quite as much a matter of course in domestic economy, as they are to-day. Still they were to be found, though it was rare, indeed, that they covered more than the centre of the room. One of these great essentials, without which no place can appear comfortable in a cold climate, was spread on the floor of Mrs. Willoughby's parlour—a room that served for both eating and as a sala, the Knight's Hall of the Hut, measuring twenty by twenty-four feet—though in fact this carpet concealed exactly two- thirds of the white clean plank. Then the chairs were massive and even rich, while one might see his face in the dark mahogany of the tables. There were cellarets—the captain being a connoisseur in wines— bureaus, secretaries, beaufets, and other similar articles, that had been collected in the course of twenty years' housekeeping, and scattered at different posts, were collected, and brought hither by means of sledges, and the facilities of the water-courses. Fashion had little to do with furniture, in that simple age, when the son did not hesitate to wear even the clothes of the father, years and years after the tailor had taken leave of them. Massive old furniture, in particular, lasted for generations, and our matron now saw many articles that had belonged to her grandfather assembled beneath the first roof that she could ever strictly call her own.
Mrs. Willoughby took a survey of the offices last. Here she found, already established, the two Plinies, with Mari', the sister of the elder Pliny, Bess, the wife of the younger, and Mony—alias Desdemona— a collateral of the race, by ties and affinities that garter-king-at- arms could not have traced genealogically; since he would have been puzzled to say whether the woman was the cousin, or aunt, or step- daughter of Mari', or all three. All the women were hard at work, Bess singing in a voice that reached the adjoining forest. Mari'—this name was pronounced with a strong emphasis on the last syllable, or like Maria, without the final vowel—Mari' was the head of the kitchen, even Pliny the elder standing in salutary dread of her authority; and her orders to her brother and nephew were pouring forth, in an English that was divided into three categories; the Anglo-Saxon, the Low Dutch, and the Guinea dialect; a medley that rendered her discourse a droll assemblage of the vulgar and the classical.
"Here, niggers," she cried, "why you don't jump about like Paus dance? Ebbery t'ing want a hand, and some want a foot. Plate to wash, crockery to open, water to b'ile, dem knife to clean, and not'ing missed. Lord, here's a madam, and 'e whole kitchen in a diffusion."
"Well, Mari'," exclaimed the captain, good-naturedly, "here you are, scolding away as if you had been in the place these six months, and knew all its faults and weaknesses."
"Can't help a scold, master, in sich a time as dis—come away from dem plates, you Great Smash, and let a proper hand take hold on 'em."
Here we ought to say, that captain Willoughby had christened Bess by the sobriquet of Great Smash, on account of her size, which fell little short of two hundred, estimated in pounds, and a certain facility she possessed in destroying crockery, while 'Mony went by the milder appellation of "Little Smash;" not that bowls or plates fared any better in her hands, but because she weighed only one hundred and eighty.
"Dis is what I tell 'em, master," continued Mari', in a remonstrating, argumentative sort of a tone, with dogmatism and respect singularly mingled in her manner—"Dis, massa, just what I tell 'em all. I tell 'em, says I, this is Hunter Knoll, and not Allbonny—here no store—no place to buy t'ing if you break 'em; no good woman who know ebbery t'ing, to tell you where to find t'ing, if you lose him. If dere was only good woman, dat somet'ing; but no fortun'- teller out here in de bushes—no, no—when a silber spoon go, here, he go for good and all—Goody, massy"—staring at something in the court—"what he call dat, sa?"
"That—oh! that is only an Indian hunter I keep about me, to bring us game—you'll never have an empty spit, Mari', as long as he is with us. Fear nothing; he will not harm you. His name is Nick."
"De Ole Nick, massa?"
"No, only Saucy Nick. The fellow is a little slovenly to-day in his appearance, and you see he has brought already several partridges, besides a rabbit. We shall have venison, in the season."
Here all the negroes, after staring at Nick, quite a minute, set up a loud shout, laughing as if the Tuscarora had been created for their special amusement. Although the captain was somewhat of a martinet in his domestic discipline, it had ever altogether exceeded his authority, or his art, to prevent these bursts of merriment; and he led his wife away from the din, leaving Mari', Great Smash, and Little Smash, with the two Plinies, in ecstasies at their own uproar. Burst succeeded burst, until the Indian walked away, in offended dignity.
Such was the commencement of the domestication of the Willoughbys at the Hutted Knoll. The plan of our tale does not require us to follow them minutely for, the few succeeding years, though some further explanation may be necessary to show why this settlement varied a little from the ordinary course.
That very season, or, in the summer of 1765, Mrs. Willoughby inherited some real estate in Albany, by the death of an uncle, as well as a few thousand pounds currency, in ready money. This addition to his fortune made the captain exceedingly comfortable; or, for that day, rich; and it left him to act his pleasure as related to his lands. Situated as these last were, so remote from other settlements as to render highways, for some time, hopeless, he saw no use in endeavouring to anticipate the natural order of things. It would only create embarrassment to raise produce that could not be sent to market; and he well knew that a population of any amount could not exist, in quiet, without the usual attendants of buying and selling. Then it suited his own taste to be the commander-in-chief of an isolated establishment like this; and he was content to live in abundance, on his flats, feeding his people, his cattle, and even his hogs to satiety, and having wherewithal to send away the occasional adventurer, who entered his clearing, contented and happy.
Thus it was that he neither sold nor leased. No person dwelt on his land who was not a direct dependant, or hireling, and all that the earth yielded he could call his own. Nothing was sent abroad for sale but cattle. Every year, a small drove of fat beeves and milch cows found their way through the forest to Albany, and the proceeds returned in the shape of foreign supplies. The rents, and the interests on bonds, were left to accumulate, or were applied to aid Robert in obtaining a new step in the army. Lands began to be granted nearer and nearer to his own, and here and there some old officer like himself, or a solitary farmer, began to cut away the wilderness; but none in his immediate vicinity.
Still the captain did not live altogether as a hermit. He visited Edmeston of Mount Edmeston, a neighbour less than fifty miles distant; was occasionally seen at Johnson Hall, with Sir William; or at the bachelor establishment of Sir John, on the Mohawk; and once or twice he so far overcame his indolence, as to consent to serve as a member for a new county, that was called Tryon, after a ruling governor.
Hail! sober evening! Thee the harass'd brain And aching heart with fond orisons greet; The respite thou of toil; the balm of pain; To thoughtful mind the hour for musing meet, 'Tis then the sage from forth his lone retreat, The rolling universe around espies; 'Tis then the bard may hold communion sweet With lovely shapes unkenned by grosser eyes, And quick perception comes of finer mysteries.
In the preceding chapter we closed the minuter narrative with a scene at the Hut, in the spring of 1765. We must now advance the time just ten years, opening, anew, in the month of May, 1775. This, it is scarcely necessary to tell the reader, is bringing him at once up to the earliest days of the revolution. The contest which preceded that great event had in fact occurred in the intervening time, and we are now about to plunge into the current of some of the minor incidents of the struggle itself.
Ten years are a century in the history of a perfectly new settlement. The changes they produce are even surprising, though in ordinary cases they do not suffice to erase the signs of a recent origin. The forest is opened, and the light of day admitted, it is true; but its remains are still to be seen in multitudes of unsightly stumps, dead standing trees, and ill-looking stubs. These vestiges of the savage state usually remain a quarter of a century; in certain region they are to be found for even more than twice that period. All this, however, had captain Willoughby escaped, in consequence of limiting his clearing, in a great measure, to that which had been made by the beavers, and from which time and natural decay had, long before his arrival, removed every ungainly object. It is true, here and there a few acres had been cleared on the firmer ground, at the margin of the flats, where barns and farm buildings had been built, and orchards planted; but, in order to preserve the harmony of his view, the captain had caused all the stumps to be pulled and burnt, giving to these places the same air of agricultural finish as characterized the fields on the lower land.
To this sylvan scene, at a moment which preceded the setting of the sun by a little more than an hour, and in the first week of the genial month of May, we must now bring the reader in fancy. The season had been early, and the Beaver Manor, or the part of it which was cultivated, lying low and sheltered, vegetation had advanced considerably beyond the point that is usual, at that date, in the elevated region of which we have been writing. The meadows were green with matted grasses, the wheat and rye resembled rich velvets, and the ploughed fields had the fresh and mellowed appearance of good husbandry and a rich soil. The shrubbery, of which the captain's English taste had introduced quantities, was already in leaf, and even portions of the forest began to veil their sombre mysteries with the delicate foliage of an American spring.
The site of the ancient pond was a miracle of rustic beauty. Everything like inequality or imperfection had disappeared, the whole presenting a broad and picturesquely shaped basin, with outlines fashioned principally by nature, an artist that rarely fails in effect. The flat was divided into fields by low post-and-rail fences, the captain making it a law to banish all unruly animals from his estate. The barns and out-buildings were neatly made and judiciously placed, and the three or four roads, or lanes, that led to them, crossed the low-land in such graceful curves, as greatly to increase the beauty of the landscape. Here and there a log cabin was visible, nearly buried in the forest, with a few necessary and neat appliances around it; the homes of labourers who had long dwelt in them, and who seemed content to pass their lives in the same place. As most of these men had married and become fathers, the whole colony, including children, notwithstanding the captain's policy not to settle, had grown to considerably more than a hundred souls, of whom three-and-twenty were able-bodied men. Among the latter were the millers; but, their mills were buried in the ravine where they had been first placed, quite out of sight from the picture above, concealing all the unavoidable and ungainly-looking objects of a saw-mill yard.
As a matter of course, the object of the greatest interest, as it was the most conspicuous, was the Hutted Knoll, as the house was now altogether called, and the objects it contained. Thither, then, we will now direct our attention, and describe things as they appeared ten years after they were first presented to the reader.
The same agricultural finish as prevailed on the flats pervaded every object on the Knoll, though some labour had been expended to produce it. Everything like a visible rock, the face of the cliff on the northern end excepted, had disappeared, the stones having been blasted, and either worked into walls for foundations, or walls for fence. The entire base of the Knoll, always excepting the little precipice at the rivulet, was encircled by one of the latter, erected under the superintendence of Jamie Allen, who still remained at the Hut, a bachelor, and as he said himself, a happy man. The southern-face of the Knoll was converted into lawn, there being quite two acres intersected with walks, and well garnished with shrubbery. What was unusual in America, at that day, the captain, owing to his English education, had avoided straight lines, and formal paths; giving to the little spot the improvement on nature which is a consequence of embellishing her works without destroying them. On each side of this lawn was an orchard, thrifty and young, and which were already beginning to show signs of putting forth their blossoms.
About the Hut itself, the appearance of change was not so manifest. Captain Willoughby had caused it to be constructed originally, as he intended to preserve it, and if formed no part of his plan to cover it with tawdry colours. There it stood, brown above, and grey beneath, as wood or stone was the material, with a widely projecting roof. It had no piazzas, or stoups, and was still without external windows, one range excepted. The loops had been cut, but it was more for the benefit of lighting the garrets, than for any other reason, all of them being glazed, and serving the end for which they had been pierced. The gates remained precisely in the situation in which they were, when last presented to the eye of the reader! There they stood, each leaning against the wall on its own side of the gateway, the hinges beginning to rust, by time and exposure. Ten years had not produced a day of sufficient leisure in which to hang them: though Mrs. Willoughby frequently spoke of the necessity of doing so, in the course of the first summer. Even she had got to be so familiarized to her situation, and so accustomed to seeing the leaves where they stood, that she now regarded them as a couple of sleeping lions in stone, or as characteristic ornaments, rather than as substantial defences to the entrance of the dwelling.
The interior of the Hut, however, had undergone many alterations. The western half had been completed, and handsome rooms had been fitted up for guests and inmates of the family, in the portion of the edifice occupied by the latter. Additional comforts had been introduced, and, the garners, cribs and lodgings of the labourers having been transferred to the skirts of the forest, the house was more strictly and exclusively the abode of a respectable and well-regulated family. In the rear, too, a wing had been thrown along the verge of the cliff, completely enclosing the court. This wing, which overhung the rivulet, and had, not only a most picturesque site, but a most picturesque and lovely view, now contained the library, parlour and music-room, together with other apartments devoted to the uses of the ladies, during the day; the old portions of the house that had once been similarly occupied being now converted into sleeping apartments. The new wing was constructed entirely of massive squared logs, so as to render it bullet-proof, here being no necessity for a stone foundation, standing, as it did, on the verge of a cliff some forty feet in height. This was the part of the edifice which had external windows, the elevation removing it from the danger of inroads, or hostile shot, while the air and view were both grateful and desirable. Some extra attention had been paid to the appearance of the meadows on this side of the Knoll, and the captain had studiously kept their skirts, as far as the eye could see from the windows, in virgin forest; placing the barns, cabins, and other detached buildings, so far south as to be removed from view. Beulah Willoughby, a gentle, tranquil creature, had a profound admiration of the beauties of nature; and to her, her parents had yielded the control of everything that was considered accessary to the mere charms of the eye; her taste had directed most of that which had not been effected by the noble luxuriance of nature. Wild roses were already putting forth their leaves in various fissures of the rocks, where earth had been placed for their support, and the margin of the little stream, that actually washed the base of the cliff, winding off in a charming sweep through the meadows, a rivulet of less than twenty feet in width, was garnished with willows and alder. Quitting this sylvan spot, we will return to the little shrub- adorned area in front of the Hut. This spot the captain called his glacis, while his daughters termed it the lawn. The hour, it will be remembered, was shortly before sunset, and thither nearly all the family had repaired to breathe the freshness of the pure air, and bathe in the genial warmth of a season, which is ever so grateful to those who have recently escaped from the rigour of a stern winter. Rude, and sufficiently picturesque garden-seats, were scattered about, and on one of these were seated the captain and his wife; he, with his hair sprinkled with grey, a hale, athletic, healthy man of sixty, and she a fresh-looking, mild-featured, and still handsome matron of forty-eight. In front, stood a venerable-looking personage, of small stature, dressed in rusty black, of the cut that denoted the attire of a clergyman, before it was considered aristocratic to wear the outward symbols of belonging to the church of God. This was the Rev. Jedidiah Woods, a native of New England, who had long served as a chaplain in the same regiment with the captain, and who, being a bachelor, on retired pay, had dwelt with his old messmate for the last eight years, in the double capacity of one who exercised the healing art as well for the soul as for the body. To his other offices, he added that of an instructor, in various branches of knowledge, to the young people. The chaplain, for so he was called by everybody in and around the Hut, was, at the moment of which we are writing, busy in expounding to his friends certain nice distinctions that existed, or which he fancied to exist, between a tom-cod and a chub, the former of which fish he very erroneously conceived he held in his hand at that moment; the Rev. Mr. Woods being a much better angler than naturalist. To his dissertation Mrs. Willoughby listened with great good-nature, endeavouring all the while to feel interested; while her husband kept uttering his "by all means," "yes," "certainly," "you're quite right, Woods," his gaze, at the same time, fastened on Joel Strides, and Pliny the elder, who were unharnessing their teams, on the flats beneath, having just finished a "land," and deeming it too late to commence another.
Beulah, her pretty face shaded by a large sun-bonnet, was superintending the labours of Jamie Allen, who, finding nothing just then to do as a mason, was acting in the capacity of gardener; his hat was thrown upon the grass, with his white locks bare, and he was delving about some shrubs with the intention of giving them the benefit of a fresh dressing of manure. Maud, however, without a hat of any sort, her long, luxuriant, silken, golden tresses covering her shoulders, and occasionally veiling her warm, rich cheek, was exercising with a battledore, keeping Little Smash, now increased in size to quite fourteen stone, rather actively employed as an assistant, whenever the exuberance of her own spirits caused her to throw the plaything beyond her reach. In one of the orchards, near by, two men were employed trimming the trees. To these the captain next turned all his attention, just as he had encouraged the chaplain to persevere, by exclaiming, "out of all question, my dear sir"—though he was absolutely ignorant that the other had just advanced a downright scientific heresy. At this critical moment a cry from Little Smash, that almost equalled a downfall of crockery in its clamour, drew every eye in her direction.
"What is the matter, Desdemona?" asked the chaplain, a little tartly, by no means pleased at having his natural history startled by sounds so inapplicable to the subject. "How often have I told you that the Lord views with displeasure anything so violent and improper as your outcries?"
"Can't help him, dominie—nebber can help him, when he take me sudden. See, masser, dere come Ole Nick!"
There was Nick, sure enough. For the first time, in more than two years, the Tuscarora was seen approaching the house, on the long, loping trot that he affected when he wished to seem busy, or honestly earning his money. He was advancing by the only road that was ever travelled by the stranger as he approached the Hut; or, he came up the valley. As the woman spoke, he had just made his appearance over the rocks, in the direction of the mills. At that distance, quite half a mile, he would not have been recognised, but for this gait, which was too familiar to all at the Knoll, however, to be mistaken.
"That is Nick, sure enough!" exclaimed the captain. "The fellow comes at the pace of a runner; or, as if he were the bearer of some important news!"
"The tricks of Saucy Nick are too well known to deceive any here," observed Mrs. Willoughby, who, surrounded by her husband and children, always felt so happy as to deprecate every appearance of danger.
"These savages will keep that pace for hours at a time," observed the chaplain; "a circumstance that has induced some naturalists to fancy a difference in the species, if not in the genus."
"Is he chub or tom-cod, Woods?" asked the captain, throwing back on the other all he recollected of the previous discourse.
"Nay," observed Mrs. Willoughby, anxiously, "I do think he may have some intelligence! It is now more than a twelvemonth since we have seen Nick."
"It is more than twice twelvemonth, my dear; I have not seen the fellow's face since I denied him the keg of rum for his 'discovery' of another beaver pond. He has tried to sell me a new pond every season since the purchase of this."
"Do you think he took serious offence, Hugh, at that refusal? If so, would it not be better to give him what he asks?"
"I have thought little about it, and care less, my dear. Nick and I know each other pretty well. It is an acquaintance of thirty years' standing, and one that has endured trials by flood and field, and even by the horse-whip. No less than three times have I been obliged to make these salutary applications to Nick's back, with my own hands; though it is, now, more than ten years since a blow has passed between us."
"Does a savage ever forgive a blow?" asked the chaplain, with a grave air, and a look of surprise.
"I fancy a savage is quite as apt to forgive it, as a civilized man, Woods. To you, who have served so long in His Majesty's army, a blow, in the way of punishment, can be no great novelty."
"Certainly not, as respects the soldiers; but I did not know Indians were ever flogged."
"That is because you never happened to be present at the ceremony—but, this is Nick, sure enough; and by his trot I begin to think the fellow has some message, or news."
"How old is the man, captain? Does an Indian never break down?"
"Nick must be fairly fifty, now. I have known him more than half that period, and he was an experienced, and, to own the truth, a brave and skilful warrior, when we first met. I rate him fifty, every day of it."
By this time the new-comer was so near, that the conversation ceased, all standing gazing at him, as he drew near, and Maud gathering up her hair, with maiden bashfulness, though certainly Nick was no stranger. As for Little Smash, she waddled off to proclaim the news to the younger Pliny, Mari, and Great Smash, all of whom were still in the kitchen of the Hut, flourishing, sleek and glistening.
Soon after, Nick arrived. He came up the Knoll on his loping trot, never stopping until he was within five or six yards of the Captain, when he suddenly halted, folded his arms, and stood in a composed attitude, lest he should betray a womanish desire to tell his story. He did not even pant but appeared as composed and unmoved, as if he had walked the half-mile he had been seen to pass over on a trot.
"Sago—Sago," cried the captain, heartily—"you are welcome back, Nick; I am glad to see you still so active."
"Sago"—answered the guttural voice of the Indian, who quietly nodded his head.
"What will you have to refresh you, after such a journey, Nick—our trees give us good cider, now."
"Santa Cruz better,"—rejoined the sententious Tuscarora.
"Santa Cruz is certainly stronger" answered the captain laughing, "and, in that sense, you may find it better. You shall have a glass, as soon as we go to the house. What news do you bring, that you come in so fast?"
"Glass won't do. Nick bring news worth jug. Squaw give two jug for Nick's news. Is it barg'in?"
"I!" cried Mrs. Willoughby—"what concern can I have with your news. My daughters are both with me, and Heaven be praised! both are well. What can I care for your news, Nick?"
"Got no pap-poose but gal? T'ink you got boy—officer—great chief—up here, down yonder—over dere."
"Robert!—Major Willoughby! What can you have to tell me of my son?"
"Tell all about him, for one jug. Jug out yonder; Nick's story out here. One good as t'other."
"You shall have all you ask, Nick."—These were not temperance days, when conscience took so firm a stand between the bottle and the lips.—"You shall have all you ask, Nick, provided you can really give me good accounts of my noble boy. Speak, then; what have you to say?"
"Say you see him in ten, five minute. Sent Nick before to keep moder from too much cry."
An exclamation from Maud followed; then the ardent girl was seen rushing down the lawn, her hat thrown aside; and her bright fair hair again flowing in ringlets on her shoulders. She flew rather than ran, in the direction of the mill, where the figure of Robert Willoughby was seen rushing forward to meet her. Suddenly the girl stopped, threw herself on a log, and hid her face. In a few minutes she was locked in her brother's arms. Neither Mrs. Willoughby nor Beulah imitated this impetuous movement on the part of Maud; but the captain, chaplain, and even Jamie Allen, hastened down the road to meet and welcome the young major. Ten minutes later, Bob Willoughby was folded to his mother's heart; then came Beulah's turn; after which, the news having flown through the household, the young man had to receive the greetings of Mari', both the Smashes, the younger Pliny, and all the dogs. A tumultuous quarter of an hour brought all round, again, to its proper place, and restored something like order to the Knoll. Still an excitement prevailed the rest of the day, for the sudden arrival of a guest always produced a sensation in that retired settlement; much more likely, then, was the unexpected appearance of the only son and heir to create one. As everybody bustled and was in motion, the whole family was in the parlour, and major Willoughby was receiving the grateful refreshment of a delicious cup of tea, before the sun set. The chaplain would have retired out of delicacy, but to this the captain would not listen; he would have everything proceed as if the son were a customary guest, though it might have been seen by the manner in which his mother's affectionate eye was fastened on his handsome face, as well as that in which his sister Beulah, in particular, hung about him, under the pretence of supplying his wants, that the young man was anything but an every-day inmate.
"How the lad has grown!" said the captain, tears of pride starting into his eyes, in spite of a very manful resolution to appear composed and soldier-like.
"I was about to remark that myself, captain," observed the chaplain. "I do think Mr. Robert has got to his full six feet—every inch as tall as you are yourself, my good sir."
"That is he, Woods—and taller in one sense. He is a major, already, at twenty-seven; it is a step I was not able to reach at near twice the age."
"That is owing, my dear sir," answered the son quickly, and with a slight tremor in his voice, "to your not having as kind a father as has fallen to my share—or at least one not as well provided with the means of purchasing."
"Say none at all, Bob, and you can wound no feeling, while you will tell the truth. My father died a lieutenant-colonel when I was a school-boy; I owed my ensigncy to my uncle Sir Hugh, the father of the present Sir Harry Willoughby; after that I owed each step to hard and long service. Your mother's legacies have helped you along, at a faster rate, though I do trust there has been some merit to aid in the preferment."
"Speaking of Sir Harry Willoughby, sir, reminds me of one part of my errand to the Hut," said the major, glancing his eye towards his father, as if to prepare him for some unexpected intelligence.
"What of my cousin?" demanded the captain, calmly. "We have not met in thirty years, and are the next thing to strangers to each other. Has he made that silly match of which I heard something when last in York? Has he disinherited his daughter as he threatened? Use no reserve here; our friend Woods is one of the family."
"Sir Harry Willoughby is not married, sir, but dead."
"Dead!" repeated the captain, setting down his cup, like one who received a sudden shock. "I hope not without having been reconciled to his daughter, and providing for her large family?"
"He died in her arms, and escaped the consequences of his silly intention to marry his own housekeeper. With one material exception, he has left Mrs. Bowater his whole fortune."
The captain sat thoughtful, for some time; every one else being silent and attentive. But the mother's feelings prompted her to inquire as to the nature of the exception.
"Why, mother, contrary to all my expectations, and I may say wishes, he has left me twenty-five thousand pounds in the fives. I only hold the money as my father's trustee."
"You do no such thing, Master Bob, I can tell you!" said the captain, with emphasis.
The son looked at the father, a moment, as if to see whether he was understood, and then he proceeded—
"I presume you remember, sir," said the major, "that you are the heir to the title?"
"I have not forgot that, major Willoughby; but what is an empty baronetcy to a happy husband and father like me, here in the wilds of America? Were I still in the army, and a colonel, the thing might be of use; as I am, I would rather have a tolerable road from this place to the Mohawk than the duchy of Norfolk, without the estate."
"Estate there is none, certainly," returned the major, in a tone of a little disappointment, "except the twenty-five thousand pounds; unless you include that which you possess where you are; not insignificant, by the way, sir."
"It will do well enough for old Hugh Willoughby, late a captain in His Majesty's 23d Regiment of Foot, but not so well for Sir Hugh. No, no, Bob. Let the baronetcy sleep awhile; it has been used quite enough for the last hundred years or more. Out of this circle, there are probably not ten persons in America, who know that I have any claims to it."
The major coloured, and he played with the spoon of his empty cup, stealing a glance or two around, before he answered.
"I beg your pardon, Sir Hugh—my dear father, I mean—but—to own the truth, never anticipating such a decision on your part, I have spoken of the thing to a good many friends—I dare say, if the truth were known, I've called you the baronet, or Sir Hugh, to others, at least a dozen times."
"Well, should it be so, the thing will be forgotten. A parson can be unfrocked, Woods, and a baronet can be unbaroneted, I suppose."
"But, Sir William"—so everybody called the well-known Sir William Johnson, in the colony of New York—"But, Sir William found it useful, Willoughby, and so, I dare say, will his son and successor, Sir John," observed the attentive wife and anxious mother; "and if you are not now in the army, Bob is. It will be a good thing for our son one day, and ought not to be lost."
"Ah, I see how it is, Beulah; your mother has no notion to lose the right of being called Lady Willoughby."
"I am sure my mother, sir, wishes to be called nothing that does not become your wife; if you remain Mr. Hugh Willoughby, she will remain Mrs. Hugh Willoughby. But papa, it might be useful to Bob."
Beulah was a great favourite with the captain, Maud being only his darling; he listened always to whatever the former said, therefore, with indulgence and respect. He often told the chaplain that his daughter Beulah had the true feelings of her sex, possessing a sort of instinct for whatever was right and becoming, in woman.
"Well, Bob may have the baronetcy, then," he said, smiling. "Major Sir Robert Willoughby will not sound amiss in a despatch."
"But, Bob cannot have it, father," exclaimed Maud—"No one can have it but you; and it's a pity it should be lost."
"Let him wait, then, until I am out of the way; when he may claim his own."
"Can that be done?" inquired the mother, to whom nothing was without interest that affected her children. "How is it, Mr. Woods?— may a title be dropped, and then picked up again?—how is this, Robert?"
"I believe it may, my dear mother—it will always exist, so long as there is an heir, and my father's disrelish for it will not be binding on me."
"Oh! in that case, then, all will come right in the end—though, as your father does not want it, I wish you could have it, now."
This was said with the most satisfied air in the world, as if the speaker had no possible interest in the matter herself, and it closed the conversation, for that time. It was not easy to keep up an interest in anything that related to the family, where Mrs. Willoughby was concerned, in which heart did not predominate. A baronetcy was a considerable dignity in the colony of New York in the year of our Lord, 1775, and it gave its possessor far more importance than it would have done in England. In the whole colony there was but one, though a good many were to be found further south; and he was known as "Sir John," as, in England, Lord Rockingham, or, in America, at a later day, La Fayette, was known as "The Marquis." Under such circumstances, then, it would have been no trifling sacrifice to an ordinary woman to forego the pleasure of being called "my lady." But the sacrifice cost our matron no pain, no regrets, no thought even: The same attachments which made her happy, away from the world, in the wilderness where she dwelt, supplanted all other feelings, and left her no room, or leisure, to think of such vanities. When the discourse changed, it was understood that "Sir Hugh" was not to be "Sir Hugh," and that "Sir Robert" must bide his time.
"Where did you fall in with the Tuscarora, Bob?" suddenly asked the captain, as much to bring up another subject, as through curiosity. "The fellow had been so long away, I began to think we should never see him again.
"He tells me, sir, he has been on a war path, somewhere out among the western savages. It seems these Indians fight among themselves, from time to time, and Nick has been trying to keep his hand in. I found him down at Canajoharie, and took him for a guide, though he had the honesty to own he was on the point of coming over here, had I not engaged him."
"I'll answer for it he didn't tell you that, until you had paid him for the job."
"Why, to own the truth, he did not, sir. He pretended something about owing money in the village, and got his pay in advance. I learned his intentions only when we were within a few miles of the Hut."
"I'm glad to find, Bob, that you give the place its proper name. How gloriously Sir Hugh Willoughby, Bart., of The Hut, Tryon county, New York, would sound, Woods!—Did Nick boast of the scalps he has taken from the Carthaginians?"
"He lays claim to three, I believe, though I have seen none of his trophies."
"The Roman hero!—Yet, I have known Nick rather a dangerous warrior. He was out against us, in some of my earliest service, and our acquaintance was made by my saving his life from the bayonet of one of my own grenadiers. I thought the fellow remembered the act for some years; but, in the end, I believe I flogged all the gratitude out of him. His motives, now, are concentrated in the little island of Santa Cruz."
"Here he is, father," said Maud, stretching her light, flexible form out of a window. "Mike and the Indian are seated at the lower spring, with a jug between them, and appear to be in a deep conversation."
"Ay, I remember on their first acquaintance, that Mike mistook Saucy Nick, for Old Nick. The Indian was indignant for a while, at being mistaken for the Evil Spirit, but the worthies soon found a bond of union between them, and, before six months, he and the Irishman became sworn friends. It is said whenever two human beings love a common principle, that it never fails to make them firm allies."
"And what was the principle, in this case, captain Willoughby?" inquired the chaplain, with curiosity.
"Santa Cruz. Mike renounced whiskey altogether, after he came to America, and took to rum. As for Nick, he was never so vulgar as to find pleasure in the former liquor."
The whole party had gathered to the windows, while the discourse was proceeding, and looking out, each individual saw Mike and his friend, in the situation described by Maud. The two amateurs— connoisseurs would not be misapplied, either—had seated themselves at the brink of a spring of delicious water, and removing the corn-cob that Pliny the younger had felt it to be classical to affix to the nozzle of a quart jug, had, some time before, commenced the delightful recreation of sounding the depth, not of the spring, but of the vessel. As respects the former, Mike, who was a wag in his way, had taken a hint from a practice said to be common in Ireland, called "potatoe and point," which means to eat the potatoe and point at the butter; declaring that "rum and p'int" was every bit as entertaining as a "p'int of rum." On this principle, then, with a broad grin on a face that opened from ear to ear whenever he laughed, the county Leitrim-man would gravely point his finger at the water, in a sort of mock-homage, and follow up the movement with such a suck at the nozzle, as, aided by the efforts of Nick, soon analyzed the upper half of the liquor that had entered by that very passage. All this time, conversation did not flag, and, as the parties grew warm, confidence increased, though reason sensibly diminished. As a part of this discourse will have some bearing on what is to follow, it may be in place to relate it, here.
"Ye're a jewel, ye be, ould Nick, or young Nick!" cried Mike, in an ecstasy of friendship, just after he had completed his first half-pint. "Ye're as wilcome at the Huts, as if ye owned thim, and I love ye as I did my own brother, before I left the county Leitrim—paice to his sowl!"
"He dead?" asked Nick, sententiously; for he had lived enough among the pale-faces to have some notions of then theory about the soul.
"That's more than I know—but, living or dead, the man must have a sowl, ye understand, Nicholas. A human crathure widout a sowl, is what I call a heretick; and none of the O'Hearns ever came to that."
Nick was tolerably drunk, but by no means so far gone, that he had not manners enough to make a grave, and somewhat dignified gesture; which was as much as to say he was familiar with the subject.
"All go ole fashion here?" he asked, avoiding every appearance of curiosity, however.
"That does it—that it does, Nicholas. All goes ould enough. The captain begins to get ould; and the missus is oulder than she used to be; and Joel's wife looks a hundred, though she isn't t'irty; and Joel, himself, the spalpeen—he looks—" a gulp at the jug stopped the communication.
"Dirty, too?" added the sententious Tuscarora, who did not comprehend more than half his friend said.
"Ay, dir-r-ty—he's always that. He's a dirthy fellow, that thinks his yankee charactur is above all other things."
Nick's countenance became illuminated with an expression nowise akin to that produced by rum, and he fastened on his companion one of his fiery gazes, which occasionally seemed to penetrate to the centre of the object looked at.
"Why pale-face hate one anoder? Why Irishman don't love yankee?"
"Och! love the crathure, is it? You'd betther ask me to love a to'd"— for so Michael would pronounce the word 'toad.' "What is there to love about him, but skin and bone! I'd as soon love a skiliten. Yes—an immortal skiliten."
Nick made another gesture, and then he endeavoured to reflect, like one who had a grave business in contemplation. The Santa Cruz confused his brain, but the Indian never entirely lost his presence of mind; or never, at least, so long as he could either see or walk.
"Don't like him"—rejoined Nick. "Like anybody?"
"To be sure I does—I like the capt'in—och, he's a jontleman— and I likes the missus; she's a laddy—and I likes Miss Beuly, who's a swate young woman—and then there's Miss Maud, who's the delight of my eyes. Fegs, but isn't she a crathure to relish!"
Mike spoke like a good honest fellow, as he was at the bottom, with all his heart and soul. The Indian did not seem pleased, but he made no answer.
"You've been in the wars then, Nick!" asked the Irishman, after a short pause.
"Yes—Nick been chief ag'in—take scalps."
"Ach! That's a mighty ugly thrade! If you'd tell 'em that in Ireland, they'd not think it a possibility."
"No like fight in Ireland, hah?"
"I'll not say that—no, I'll not say that; for many's the jollification at which the fighting is the chafe amusement. But we likes thumping on the head—not skinning it."
"That your fashion—my fashion take scalp. You thump; I skin—which best?"
"Augh! skinnin' is a dreadthful operation; but shillaleh-work comes nately and nat'rally. How many of these said scalps, now, may ye have picked up, Nick, in yer last journey?"
"T'ree—all man and woman—no pappoose. One big enough make two; so call him four."
"Oh! Divil burn ye, Nick; but there's a spice of your namesake in ye, afther all. T'ree human crathures skinned, and you not satisfied, and so ye'll chait a bit to make 'em four! D'ye never think, now, of yer latther ind? D'ye never confess?"
"T'ink every day of dat. Hope to find more, before last day come. Plenty scalp here; ha, Mike?"
This was said a little incautiously, perhaps, but it was said under a strong native impulse. The Irishman, however, was never very logical or clear-headed; and three gills of rum had, by no means, helped to purify his brain. He heard the word "plenty," knew he was well fed and warmly clad, and just now, that Santa Cruz so much abounded, the term seemed peculiarly applicable.
"It's a plinthiful place it is, is this very manor. There's all sorts of things in it that's wanted. There's food and raiment, and cattle, and grain, and porkers, and praiching—yes, divil burn it, Nick, but there's what goes for praiching, though it's no more like what we calls praiching than yer'e like Miss Maud in comeliness, and ye'll own, yourself, Nick, yer'e no beauty."
"Got handsome hair," said Nick, surlily—"How she look widout scalp?"
"The likes of her, is it! Who ever saw one of her beauthy without the finest hair that ever was! What do you get for your scalps?—are they of any use when you find 'em?"
"Bring plenty bye'm-by. Whole country glad to see him before long—den beavers get pond ag'in."
"How's that—how's that, Indian? Baiver get pounded? There's no pound, hereabouts, and baivers is not an animal to be shut up like a hog!"
Nick perceived that his friend was past argumentation, and as he himself was approaching the state when the drunkard receives delight from he knows not what, it is unnecessary to relate any more of the dialogue. The jug was finished, each man very honestly drinking his pint, and as naturally submitting to its consequences; and this so much the more because the two were so engrossed with the rum that both forgot to pay that attention to the spring that might have been expected from its proximity.
The soul, my lord, is fashioned—like the lyre. Strike one chord suddenly, and others vibrate. Your name abruptly mentioned, casual words Of comment on your deeds, praise from your uncle, News from the armies, talk of your return, A word let fall touching your youthful passion, Suffused her cheek, call'd to her drooping eye A momentary lustre, made her pulse Leap headlong, and her bosom palpitate.
The approach of night, at sea and in a wilderness, has always something more solemn in it, than on land in the centre of civilization. As the curtain is drawn before his eyes, the solitude of the mariner is increased, while even his sleepless vigilance seems, in a measure, baffled, by the manner in which he is cut off from the signs of the hour. Thus, too, in the forest, or in an isolated clearing, the mysteries of the woods are deepened, and danger is robbed of its forethought and customary guards. That evening, Major Willoughby stood at a window with an arm round the slender waist of Beulah, Maud standing a little aloof; and, as the twilight retired, leaving the shadows of evening to thicken on the forest that lay within a few hundred feet of that side of the Hut, and casting a gloom over the whole of the quiet solitude, he felt the force of the feeling just mentioned, in a degree he had never before experienced.
"This is a very retired abode, my sisters," he said, thoughtfully. "Do my father and mother never speak of bringing you out more into the world?"
"They take us to New York every winter, now father is in the Assembly," quietly answered Beulah. "We expected to meet you there, last season, and were greatly disappointed that you did not come."
"My regiment was sent to the eastward, as you know, and having just received my new rank of major, it would not do to be absent at the moment. Do you ever see any one here, besides those who belong to the manor?"
"Oh! yes"—exclaimed Maud eagerly—then she paused, as if sorry she had said anything; continuing, after a little pause, in a much more moderated vein—"I mean occasionally. No doubt the place is very retired."
"Of what characters are your visiters?—hunters, trappers, settlers— savages or travellers?"
Maud did not answer; but, Beulah, after waiting a moment for her sister to reply, took that office on herself.
"Some of all," she said, "though few certainly of the latter class. The hunters are often here; one or two a month, in the mild season; settlers rarely, as you may suppose, since my father will not sell, and there are not many about, I believe; the Indians come more frequently, though I think we have seen less of them, during Nick's absence than while he was more with us. Still we have as many as a hundred in a year, perhaps, counting the women. They come in parties, you know, and five or six of these will make that number. As for travellers, they are rare; being generally surveyors, land-hunters, or perhaps a proprietor who is looking up his estate. We had two of the last in the fall, before we went below."
"That is singular; and yet one might well look for an estate in a wilderness like this. Who were your proprietors?"
"An elderly man, and a young one. The first was a sort of partner of the late Sir William's, I believe, who has a grant somewhere near us, for which he was searching. His name was Fonda. The other was one of the Beekmans, who has lately succeeded his father in a property of considerable extent, somewhere at no great distance from us, and came to take a look at it. They say he has quite a hundred thousand acres, in one body."
"And did he find his land? Tracts of thousands and tens of thousands, are sometimes not to be discovered."
"We saw him twice, going and returning, and he was successful. The last time, he was detained by a snow-storm, and staid with us some days—so long, indeed, that he remained, and accompanied us out, when we went below. We saw much of him, too, last winter, in town."
"Maud, you wrote me nothing of all this! Are visiters of this sort so very common that you do not speak of them in your letters?"
"Did I not?—Beulah will scarce pardon me for that. She thinks Mr. Evert Beekman more worthy of a place in a letter, than I do, perhaps."
"I think him a very respectable and sensible young man," answered Beulah quietly though there was a deeper tint on her cheek than common, which it was too dark to see. "I am not certain, however, he need fill much space in the letters of either of your sisters.'
"Well, this is something gleaned!" said the major, laughing—"and now, Beulah, if you will only let out a secret of the same sort about Maud, I shall be au fait of all the family mysteries."
"All!" repeated Maud, quickly—"would there be nothing to tell of a certain major Willoughby, brother of mine?"
"Not a syllable. I am as heart-whole as a sound oak, and hope to remain so. At all events, all I love is in this house. To tell you the truth, girls, these are not times for a soldier to think of anything but his duty. The quarrel is getting to be serious between the mother country and her colonies."
"Not so serious, brother," observed Beulah, earnestly, "as to amount to that. Evert Beekman thinks there will be trouble, but he does not appear to fancy it will go as far as very serious violence."
"Evert Beekman!—most of that family are loyal, I believe; how is it with this Evert?"
"I dare say, you would call him a rebel," answered Maud, laughing, for now Beulah chose to be silent, leaving her sister to explain, "He is not fiery; but he calls himself an American, with emphasis; and that is saying a good deal, when it means he is not an Englishman. Pray what do you call yourself, Bob?"
"I!—Certainly an American in one sense, but an Englishman in another. An American, as my father was a Cumberland-man, and an Englishman as a subject, and as connected with the empire."
"As St. Paul was a Roman. Heigho!—Well, I fear I have but one character—or, if I have two, they are an American, and a New York girl. Did I dress in scarlet, as you do, I might feel English too, possibly."
"This is making a trifling misunderstanding too serious," observed Beulah. "Nothing can come of all the big words that have been used, than more big words. I know that is Evert Beekman's opinion."
"I hope you may prove a true prophet," answered the major, once more buried in thought. "This place does seem to be fearfully retired for a family like ours. I hope my father may be persuaded to pass more of his time in New York. Does he ever speak on the subject, girls, or appear to have any uneasiness?"
"Uneasiness about what? The place is health itself: all sorts of fevers, and agues, and those things being quite unknown. Mamma says the toothache, even, cannot be found in this healthful spot."
"That is lucky—and, yet, I wish captain Willoughby—Sir Hugh Willoughby could be induced to live more in New York. Girls of your time of life, ought to be in the way of seeing the world, too."
"In other words, of seeing admirers, major Bob," said Maud, laughing, and bending forward to steal a glance in her brother's face. "Good night. Sir Hugh wishes us to send you into his library when we can spare you, and my lady has sent us a hint that it is ten o'clock, at which hour it is usual for sober people to retire."
The major kissed both sisters with warm affection—Beulah fancied with a sobered tenderness, and Maud thought kindly—and then they retired to join their mother, while he went to seek his father.
The captain was smoking in the library, as a room of all-head- work was called, in company with the chaplain. The practice of using tobacco in this form, had grown to be so strong in both of these old inmates of garrisons, that they usually passed an hour, in the recreation, before they went to bed. Nor shall we mislead the reader with any notions of fine-flavoured Havana segars; pipes, with Virginia cut, being the materials employed in the indulgence. A little excellent Cogniac and water, in which however the spring was not as much neglected, as in the orgies related in the previous chapter, moistened their lips, from time to time, giving a certain zest and comfort to their enjoyments. Just as the door opened to admit the major, he was the subject of discourse, the proud parent and the partial friend finding almost an equal gratification in discussing his fine, manly appearance, good qualities, and future hopes. His presence was untimely, then, in one sense; though he was welcome, and, indeed, expected. The captain pushed a chair to his son, and invited him to take a seat near the table, which held a spare pipe or two, a box of tobacco, a decanter of excellent brandy, a pitcher of pure water, all pleasant companions to the elderly gentlemen, then in possession.
"I suppose you are too much of a maccaroni, Bob, to smoke," observed the smiling father. "I detested a pipe at your time of life; or may say, I was afraid of it; the only smoke that was in fashion among our scarlet coats being the smoke of gunpowder. Well, how comes on Gage, and your neighbours the Yankees?"
"Why, sir," answered the major, looking behind him, to make sure that the door was shut—"Why, sir, to own the truth, my visit, here, just at this moment, is connected with the present state of that quarrel."
Both the captain and the chaplain drew the pipes from their mouths, holding them suspended in surprise and attention.
"The deuce it is!" exclaimed the former. "I thought I owed this unexpected pleasure to your affectionate desire to let me know I had inherited the empty honours of a baronetcy!"
"That was one motive, sir, but the least. I beg you to remember the awkwardness of my position, as a king's officer, in the midst of enemies."
"The devil! I say, parson, this exceeds heresy and schism! Do you call lodging in your father's house, major Willoughby, being in the midst of enemies? This is rebellion against nature, and is worse than rebellion against the king."
"My dear father, no one feels more secure with you, than I do; or, even, with Mr. Woods, here. But, there are others besides you two, in this part of the world, and your very settlement may not be safe a week longer; probably would not be, if my presence in it were known."
Both the listeners, now, fairly laid down their pipes, and the smoke began gradually to dissipate, as it might have been rising from a field of battle. One looked at the other, in wonder, and, then, both looked at the major, in curiosity.
"What is the meaning of all this, my son?" asked the captain, gravely. "Has anything new occurred to complicate the old causes of quarrel?"
"Blood has, at length, been drawn, sir; open rebellion has commenced!"
"This is a serious matter, indeed, if it be really so. But do you not exaggerate the consequences of some fresh indiscretion of the soldiery, in firing on the people? Remember, in the other affair, even the colonial authorities justified the officers."
"This is a very different matter, sir. Blood has not been drawn in a riot, but in a battle."
"Battle! You amaze me, sir! That is indeed a serious matter, and may lead to most serious consequences!"
"The Lord preserve us from evil times," ejaculated the chaplain, "and lead us, poor, dependent creatures that we are, into the paths of peace and quietness! Without his grace, we are the blind leading the blind."
"Do you mean, major Willoughby, that armed and disciplined bodies have met in actual conflict?"
"Perhaps not literally so, my dear father; but the minute-men of Massachusetts, and His Majesty's forces, have met and fought. This I know, full well; for my own regiment was in the field, and, I hope it is unnecessary to add, that its second officer was not absent."
"Of course these minute-men—rabble would be the better word—could not stand before you?" said the captain, compressing his lips, under a strong impulse of military pride.
Major Willoughby coloured, and, to own the truth, at that moment he wished the Rev. Mr. Woods, if not literally at the devil, at least safe and sound in another room; anywhere, so it were out of ear-shot of the answer.
"Why, sir," he said, hesitating, not to say stammering, notwithstanding a prodigious effort to seem philosophical and calm—"To own the truth, these minute-fellows are not quite as contemptible as we soldiers would be apt to think. It was a stone-wall affair, and dodging work; and, so, you know, sir, drilled troops wouldn't have the usual chance. They pressed us pretty warmly on the retreat."
"Retreat! Major Willoughby!"
"I called it retreat, sure enough; but it was only a march in, again, after having done the business on which we went out. I shall admit, I say, sir, that we were hard pressed, until reinforced."
"Reinforced, my dear Bob! Your regiment, our regiment could not need a reinforcement against all the Yankees in New England."
The major could not abstain from laughing, a little, at this exhibition of his father's esprit de corps; but native frankness, and love of truth, compelled him to admit the contrary.
"It did, sir, notwithstanding," he answered; "and, not to mince the matter, it needed it confoundedly. Some of our officers who have seen the hardest service of the last war, declare, that taking the march, and the popping work, and the distance, altogether, it was the warmest day they remember. Our loss, too, was by no means insignificant, as I hope you will believe, when you know the troops engaged. We report something like three hundred casualties."
The captain did not answer for quite a minute. All this time he sat thoughtful, and even pale; for his mind was teeming with the pregnant consequences of such an outbreak. Then he desired his son to give a succinct, but connected history of the whole affair. The major complied, beginning his narrative with an account of the general state of the country, and concluding it, by giving, as far as it was possible for one whose professional pride and political feelings were too deeply involved to be entirely impartial, a reasonably just account of the particular occurrence already mentioned.
The events that led to, and the hot skirmish which it is the practice of the country to call the Battle of Lexington, and the incidents of the day itself, are too familiar to the ordinary reader, to require repetition here. The major explained all the military points very clearly, did full justice to the perseverance and daring of the provincials, as he called his enemies—for, an American himself, he would not term them Americans—and threw in as many explanatory remarks as he could think of, by way of vindicating the "march in, again." This he did, too, quite as much out of filial piety, as out of self-love; for, to own the truth, the captain's mortification, as a soldier, was so very evident as to give his son sensible pain.
"The effect of all this," continued the major, when his narrative of the military movements was ended, "has been to raise a tremendous feeling, throughout the country, and God knows what is to follow."
"And this you have come hither to tell me, Robert," said the father, kindly. "It is well done, and as I would have expected from you. We might have passed the summer, here, and not have heard a whisper of so important an event."
"Soon after the affair—or, as soon as we got some notion of its effect on the provinces, general Gage sent me, privately, with despatches to governor Tryon. He, governor Tryon, was aware of your position; and, as I had also to communicate the death of Sir Harry Willoughby, he directed me to come up the river, privately, have an interview with Sir John, if possible, and then push on, under a feigned name, and communicate with you. He thinks, now Sir William is dead, that with your estate, and new rank, and local influence, you might be very serviceable in sustaining the royal cause; for, it is not to be concealed that this affair is likely to take the character of an open and wide-spread revolt against the authority of the crown."
"General Tryon does me too much honour," answered the captain, coldly. "My estate is a small body of wild land; my influence extends little beyond this beaver meadow, and is confined to my own household, and some fifteen or twenty labourers; and as for the new rank of which you speak, it is not likely the colonists will care much for that, if they disregard the rights of the king. Still, you have acted like a son in running the risk you do, Bob; and I pray God you may get back to your regiment, in safety."
"This is a cordial to my hopes, sir; for nothing would pain me more than to believe you think it my duty, because I was born in the colonies, to throw up my commission, and take side with the rebels."
"I do not conceive that to be your duty, any more than I conceive it to be mine to take sides against them, because I happened to be born in England. It is a weak view of moral obligations, that confines them merely to the accidents of birth, and birth-place. Such a subsequent state of things may have grown up, as to change all our duties, and it is necessary that we discharge them as they are; not as they may have been, hitherto, or may be, hereafter. Those who clamour so much about mere birth-place, usually have no very clear sense of their higher obligations. Over our birth we can have no control; while we are rigidly responsible for the fulfilment of obligations voluntarily contracted."
"Do you reason thus, captain?" asked the chaplain, with strong interest—"Now, I confess, I feel, in this matter, not only very much like a native American, but very much like a native Yankee, in the bargain. You know I was born in the Bay, and—the major must excuse me—but, it ill-becomes my cloth to deceive—I hope the major will pardon me—I—I do hope—"
"Speak out, Mr. Woods," said Robert Willoughby, smiling—"You have nothing to fear from your old friend the major."
"So I thought—so I thought—well, then, I was glad—yes, really rejoiced at heart, to hear that my countrymen, down-east, there, had made the king's troops scamper,"
"I am not aware that I used any such terms, sir, in connection with the manner in which we marched in, after the duty we went out on was performed," returned the young soldier, a little stiffly. "I suppose it is natural for one Yankee to sympathize with another; but, my father, Mr. Woods, is an Old England, and not a New-England-man; and he may be excused if he feel more for the servants of the crown."
"Certainly, my dear major—certainly, my dear Mr. Robert—my old pupil, and, I hope, my friend—all this is true enough, and very natural. I allow captain Willoughby to wish the best for the king's troops, while I wish the best for my own countrymen."
"This is natural, on both sides, out of all question, though it by no means follows that it is right. 'Our country, right or wrong,' is a high-sounding maxim, but it is scarcely the honest man's maxim. Our country, after all, cannot have nearer claims upon us, than our parents for instance; and who can claim a moral right to sustain even his own father, in error, injustice, or crime? No, no—I hate your pithy sayings; they commonly mean nothing that is substantially good, at bottom."
"But one's country, in a time of actual war, sir!" said the major, in a tone of as much remonstrance as habit would allow him to use to his own father.
"Quite true, Bob; but the difficulty here, is to know which is one's country. It is a family quarrel, at the best, and it will hardly do to talk about foreigners, at all. It is the same as if I should treat Maud unkindly, or harshly, because she is the child of only a friend, and not my own natural daughter. As God is my judge, Woods, I am unconscious of not loving Maud Meredith, at this moment, as tenderly as I love Beulah Willoughby. There was a period, in her childhood, when the playful little witch had most of my heart, I am afraid, if the truth were known. It is use, and duty, then, and not mere birth, that ought to tie our hearts."
The major thought it might very well be that one child should be loved more than another, though he did not understand how there could be a divided allegiance. The chaplain looked at the subject with views still more narrowed, and he took up the cudgels of argument in sober earnest, conceiving this to be as good an opportunity as another, for disposing of the matter.
"I am all for birth, and blood, and natural ties," he said, "always excepting the peculiar claims of Miss Maud, whose case is sui generis, and not to be confounded with any other case. A man can have but one country, any more than he can have but one nature; and, as he is forced to be true to that nature, so ought he morally to be true to that country. The captain says, that it is difficult to determine which is one's country, in a civil war; but I cannot admit the argument. If Massachusetts and England get to blows, Massachusetts is my country; if Suffolk and Worcester counties get into a quarrel, my duty calls me to Worcester, where I was born; and so I should carry out the principle from country to country, county to county, town to town, parish to parish; or, even household to household."
"This is an extraordinary view of one's duty, indeed, my dear Mr. Woods," cried the major, with a good deal of animation; "and if one- half the household quarrelled with the other, you would take sides with that in which you happened to find yourself, at the moment."
"It is an extraordinary view of one's duty, for a parson;" observed the captain. "Let us reason backward a little, and ascertain where we shall come out. You put the head of the household out of the question. Has he no claims? Is a father to be altogether overlooked in the struggle between the children? Are his laws to be broken—his rights invaded—or his person to be maltreated, perhaps, and his curse disregarded, because a set of unruly children get by the ears, on points connected with their own selfishness?"
"I give up the household," cried the chaplain, "for the bible settles that; and what the bible disposes of, is beyond dispute—'Honour thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee'—are terrible words, and must not be disobeyed. But the decalogue has not another syllable which touches the question. 'Thou shalt not kill,' means murder only; common, vulgar murder—and 'thou shalt not steal,' 'thou shalt not commit adultery,' &c., don't bear on civil war, as I see. 'Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy'—'Thou shalt not covet the ox nor the ass'—'Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain'—none of these, not one of them, bears, at all, on this question."
"What do you think of the words of the Saviour, where he tells us to 'render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's? Has Caesar no rights here? Can Massachusetts and my Lord North settle their quarrels in such a manner as to put Caesar altogether out of view?"
The chaplain looked down a moment, pondered a little, and then he came up to the attack, again, with renewed ardour.
"Caesar is out of the question here. If His Majesty will come and take sides with us, we shall be ready to honour and obey him; but if he choose to remain alienated from us, it is his act, not ours."
"This is a new mode of settling allegiance! If Caesar will do as we wish, he shall still be Caesar; but, if he refuse to do as we wish, then down with Caesar. I am an old soldier, Woods, and while I feel that this question has two sides to it, my disposition to reverence and honour the king is still strong."
The major appeared delighted, and, finding matters going on so favourably, he pleaded fatigue and withdrew, feeling satisfied that, if his father fairly got into a warm discussion, taking the loyal side of the question, he would do more to confirm himself in the desired views, than could be effected by any other means. By this time, the disputants were so warm as scarcely to notice the disappearance of the young man, the argument proceeding.
The subject is too hackneyed, and, indeed, possesses too little interest, to induce us to give more than an outline of what passed. The captain and the chaplain belonged to that class of friends, which may be termed argumentative. Their constant discussions were a strong link in the chain of esteem; for they had a tendency to enliven their solitude, and to give a zest to lives that, without them, would have been exceedingly monotonous. Their ordinary subjects were theology and war; the chaplain having some practical knowledge of the last, and the captain a lively disposition to the first. In these discussions, the clergyman was good-natured and the soldier polite; circumstances that tended to render them far more agreeable to the listeners than they might otherwise have proved.
On the present occasion, the chaplain rang the changes diligently, on the natural feelings, while his friend spoke most of the higher duties. The ad captandum part of the argument, oddly enough, fell to the share of the minister of the church; while the intellectual, discriminating, and really logical portion of the subject, was handled by one trained in garrisons and camps, with a truth, both of ethics and reason, that would have done credit to a drilled casuist. The war of words continued till past midnight, both disputants soon getting back to their pipes, carrying on the conflict amid a smoke that did no dishonour to such a well-contested field. Leaving the captain and his friend thus intently engaged, we will take one or two glimpses into different parts of the house, before we cause all our characters to retire for the night.
About the time the battle in the library was at its height, Mrs. Willoughby was alone in her room, having disposed of all the cares, and most of the duties of the day. The mother's heart was filled with a calm delight that it would have been difficult for herself to describe. All she held most dear on earth, her husband, her kind-hearted, faithful, long-loved husband; her noble son, the pride and joy of her heart; Beulah, her own natural-born daughter, the mild, tractable, sincere, true-hearted child that so much resembled herself; and Maud, the adopted, one rendered dear by solicitude and tenderness, and now so fondly beloved on her own account, were all with her, beneath her own roof, almost within the circle of her arms. The Hutted Knoll was no longer a solitude; the manor was not a wilderness to her; for where her heart was, there truly was her treasure, also. After passing a few minutes in silent, but delightful thought, this excellent, guileless woman knelt and poured out her soul in thanksgivings to the Being, who had surrounded her lot with so many blessings. Alas! little did she suspect the extent, duration, and direful nature of the evils which, at that very moment, were pending over her native country, or the pains that her own affectionate hear? was to endure! The major had not suffered a whisper of the real nature of his errand to escape him, except to his father and the chaplain; and we will now follow him to his apartment, and pass a minute, tete-a-tete, with the young soldier, ere he too lays his head on his pillow.
A couple of neat rooms were prepared and furnished, that were held sacred to the uses of the heir. They were known to the whole household, black and white, as the "young captain's quarters;" and even Maud called them, in her laughing off-handedness, "Bob's Sanctum." Here, then, the major found everything as he left it on his last visit, a twelvemonth before; and some few things that were strangers to him, in the bargain. In that day, toilets covered with muslin, more or less worked and ornamented, were a regular appliance of every bed-room, of a better-class house, throughout America. The more modern "Duchesses," "Psyches," "dressing-tables," &c. &c., of our own extravagant and benefit-of-the-act-taking generation, were then unknown; a moderately- sized glass, surrounded by curved, gilded ornaments, hanging against the wall, above the said muslin-covered table, quite as a matter of law, if not of domestic faith.
As soon as the major had set down his candle, he looked about him, as one recognises old friends, pleased at renewing his acquaintance with so many dear and cherished objects. The very playthings of his childhood were there; and, even a beautiful and long-used hoop, was embellished with ribbons, by some hand unknown to himself. "Can this be my mother?" thought the young man, approaching to examine the well- remembered hoop, which he had never found so honoured before; "can my kind, tender-hearted mother, who never will forget that I am no longer a child, can she have really done this? I must laugh at her, to-morrow, about it, even while I kiss and bless her." Then he turned to the toilet, where stood a basket, filled with different articles, which, at once, he understood were offerings to himself. Never had he visited the Hut without finding such a basket in his room at night. It was a tender proof how truly and well he was remembered, in his absence.
"Ah!" thought the major, as he opened a bundle of knit lamb's-wool stockings, "here is my dear mother again, with her thoughts about damp feet, and the exposure of service. And a dozen shirts, too, with 'Beulah' pinned on one of them—how the deuce does the dear girl suppose I am to carry away such a stock of linen, without even a horse to ease me of a bundle? My kit would be like that of the commander-in- chief, were I to take away all that these dear relatives design for me. What's this?—a purse! a handsome silken purse, too, with Beulah's name on it. Has Maud nothing, here? Why has Maud forgotten me! Ruffles, handkerchiefs, garters—yes, here is a pair of my good mother's own knitting, but nothing of Maud's—Ha! what have we here? As I live, a beautiful silken scarf—netted in a way to make a whole regiment envious. Can this have been bought, or has it been the work of a twelvemonth? No name on it, either. Would my father have done this? Perhaps it is one of his old scarfs—if so, it is an old new one, for I do not think it has ever been worn. I must inquire into this, in the morning—I wonder there is nothing of Maud's!"
As the major laid aside his presents, he kissed the scarf, and then—I regret to say without saying his prayers—the young man went to bed.
The scene must now be transferred to the room where the sisters—in affection, if not in blood—were about to seek their pillows also. Maud, ever the quickest and most prompt in her movements, was already in her night-clothes; and, wrapping a shawl about herself, was seated waiting for Beulah to finish her nightly orisons. It was not long before the latter rose from her knees, and then our heroine spoke.
"The major must have examined the basket by this time," she cried, her cheek rivalling the tint of a riband it leaned against, on the back of the chair. "I heard his heavy tramp—tramp—tramp—as he went to his room—how differently these men walk from us girls, Beulah!"
"They do, indeed; and Bob has got to be so large and heavy, now, that he quite frightens me, sometimes. Do you not think he grows wonderfully like papa?"
"I do not see it. He wears his own hair, and it's a pity he should ever cut it off, it's so handsome and curling. Then he is taller, but lighter—has more colour—is so much younger—and everyway so different, I wonder you think so. I do not think him in the least like father."
"Well, that is odd, Maud. Both mother and myself were struck with the resemblance, this evening, and we were both delighted to see it. Papa is quite handsome, and so I think is Bob. Mother says he is not quite as handsome as father was, at his age, but so like him, it is surprising!"
"Men may be handsome and not alike. Father is certainly one of the handsomest elderly men of my acquaintance—and the major is so-so-ish— but, I wonder you can think a man of seven-and-twenty so very like one of sixty odd. Bob tells me he can play the flute quite readily now, Beulah."
"I dare say; he does everything he undertakes uncommonly well. Mr. Woods said, a few days since, he had never met with a boy who was quicker at his mathematics."
"Oh! All Mr. Wood's geese are swans. I dare say there have been other boys who were quite as clever. I do not believe in non-pareils, Beulah."
"You surprise me, Maud—you, whom I always supposed such a friend of Bob's! He thinks everything you do, too, so perfect! Now, this very evening, he was looking at the sketch you have made of the Knoll, and he protested he did not know a regular artist in England, even, that would have done it better."
Maud stole a glance at her sister, while the latter was speaking, from under her cap, and her cheeks now fairly put the riband to shame; but her smile was still saucy and wilful.
"Oh nonsense," she said—"Bob's no judge of drawings—He scarce knows a tree from a horse!"
"I'm surprised to hear you say so, Maud," said the generous-minded and affectionate Beulah, who could see no imperfection in Bob; "and that of your brother. When he taught you to draw, you thought him well skilled as an artist."
"Did I?—I dare say I'm a capricious creature—but, somehow, I don't regard Bob, just as I used to. He has been away from us so much, of late, you know—and the army makes men so formidable—and, they are not like us, you know—and, altogether, I think Bob excessively changed."
"Well, I'm glad mamma don't hear this, Maud. She looks upon her son, now he is a major, and twenty-seven, just as she used to look upon him, when he was in petticoats—nay, I think she considers us all exactly as so many little children."
"She is a dear, good mother, I know," said Maud, with emphasis, tears starting to her eyes, involuntarily, almost impetuously— "whatever she says, does, wishes, hopes, or thinks, is right."
"Oh! I knew you would come to, as soon as there was a question about mother! Well, for my part, I have no such horror of men, as not to feel just as much tenderness for father or brother, as I feel for mamma, herself."
"Not for Bob, Beulah. Tenderness for Bob! Why, my dear sister, that is feeling tenderness for a Major of Foot, a very different thing from feeling it for one's mother. As for papa—dear me, he is glorious, and I do so love him!"
"You ought to, Maud; for you were, and I am not certain that you are not, at this moment, his darling."