University of Virginia Library

Search this document 


“Our will we can command. The effects of our actions we
cannot foresee.”


Herbert Linwood to his Sister.

Dearest Belle,

—I write under the inspiration
of the agreeable consciousness that my letter may
pass under the sublime eye of your commander-in-chief,
or be scanned and sifted by his underlings.
I wish to Heaven that, without endangering your
bright orbs, I could infuse some retributive virtue
into my ink to strike them blind. But the deuse
take them. I defy their oversight. I am not discreet
enough to be trusted with military or political
secrets, and therefore, like Hotspur's Kate, I
can betray none. As to my own private affairs,
though I do not flatter myself I have attained a
moral eminence which I may challenge the world
to survey, yet I'll expose nothing to you, dear Belle,
whose opinion I care more for than that of king,
lords, and commons, which the whole world may
not know without your loving brother being dishonoured
thereby: so, on in my usual `streak o'
lightning style,' with facts and feelings.


Page 165

“You have before this seen the official account
of our successful attack on Stony Point, and have
doubtless been favoured with the additional light
of Rivington's comments, your veritable editor.
These thralls of party editors! The light they emit
is like that of conjurers, intended to produce false

“Do not imagine I am going to send you a regular
report of the battle. With all due deference to
your superior mental faculties, my dear, you are
but a woman, and these concernments of `vile
guns' must for ever remain mysteries to you. But,
Belle, I'll give you the romance of the affair—`thy
vocation, Hal.'

“My friend Eliot Lee has a vein of quixotism,
that reminds me of the inflammable gas I have seen
issuing from a cool healthy spring. Doctor Kissam,
you know, used to say every man had his insanity.
Eliot's appears in his affection for a half-witted
follower, one Kisel; the oddest fellow in this world.
His life is a series of consecutive accidents, of good
and bad luck.

“On the 10th he had been out on the other side
of the river, vagrantizing in his usual fashion, and
returning late to his little boat, and, as we suspect,
having fallen asleep, he drifted ashore at Stony
Point. There he came upon the fort, and a string
of trout (which he is seldom without) serving him
as a passport, he was admitted within the walls,
His simplicity, unique and inimitable, shielded him


Page 166
from suspicion, and a certain inspiration which
seems always to come direct from Heaven at the
moment of his necessity, saved him from betraying
the fact that he belonged to our army, and he was
suffered to depart in peace. The observations he
made (he is often acute) were of course communicated
to his master, and by him made available to our
enterprise. Eliot and myself were among the volunteers.
He, profiting by Kisel's hints, guided us
safely through some `sloughs of despond.' With
all his skill, we had a killing scramble over pathless
mountains, and through treacherous swamps,
under a burning sun, the mercury ranging somewhere
between one and two hundred, so that my
sal volatile blood seemed to have exhaled in vapour,
and my poor body to be a burning coal, whose next
state would be ashes.

“Our General Wayne (you will understand his
temper from his nom de guerre, `mad Anthony')
had ordered us to advance with unloaded muskets
and fixed bayonets. He was above all things
anxious to avoid an accidental discharge, which
might alarm the garrison. At eight in the evening
we were within a mile and a half of the fort, and
there the detachment halted; while Wayne, with
Eliot and some other officers, went to reconnoitre.
They had approached within gunshot of the works,
when poor Kisel, who away from Eliot is like an
unweaned child, and who had been all day wandering
in search of him, suddenly emerged from the


Page 167
wood, and in a paroxysm of joy discharged his
musket. Wayne sprang forward, and would have
transfixed him with his bayonet, had not Eliot
thrown himself before Kisel, and turned aside
Wayne's arm: some angry words followed, but it
ended in the general leaving Kisel to be managed
by Eliot's discretion. The general's displeasure,
however, against Eliot, did not subside at once.

“When the moment for attack came, I felt myself
shivering, not with fear, no, `franchement' (as
our old teacher Dubois used to say on the few
occasions when he meant to tell the truth), franchement,
not with fear, but with the recollection of my
father's last words to me. The uncertain chances
of a fierce contest were before me, and my father's
curse rung in my ears like the voices that turned
the poor wretches in the Arabian tale into
stone. Once in the fight, it was forgotten; all men
are bulldogs then, and think of nothing past or to

“They opened a tremendous fire upon us; it was
the dead of night, Belle, and rather a solemn time,
I assure you. Our commander was wounded by
a musket ball: he fell, and instantly rising on one
knee, he cried, `Forward, my brave boys, forward.'
The gallant shout gave us a new impulse;
and we rushed forward, while Eliot Lee, with that
singular blending of cool courage and generosity
which marks him, paused and assisted the general's
aid in bearing him on, in compliance with the wish


Page 168
he had expressed (believing himself mortally
wounded), that he might die in the fort. Thank
God, he survived; and being as magnanimous as he
is brave, he reported to the commander-in-chief
Eliot's gallantry and good conduct throughout the
whole affair, and particularly dwelt on the aid he
had given him, after having received from him injurious
epithets. In consequence of all this, Eliot
is advanced to the rank of captain. Luck is a
lord, Belle; I would fain have distinguished myself,
but I merely, like the rest, performed my part
honourably, for which I received the thanks of
General Washington, and got my name blazoned
in the report to Congress.

“I hear that Helen Ruthven is dashing away in
New-York, not, as I expected, after her romantic
departure hence, as the honourable Mrs. O—.
Well! all kind vestals guard her! Heaven knows
she needs their vigilance. Rumour says, too, that
you are shortly to vow allegiance to my royalist
friend. God bless you! my dear sister. If it
were true (alas! nothing is more false) that matches
are made in Heaven, I know who would be your
liege-lord. Another match there was, that in my
boyhood—my boyhood! my youth, my maturity,
I believed Heaven had surely made. It is a musty
proverb, that. Farewell, Belle; kiss my dear mother
for me, and tell her I would not have her, like
the old Scotch woman, pray for our side, `right or
wrong,' but let her pray for the right side, and then


Page 169
her poor son will be sure to prosper. Oh, would
that I could, without violating my duty to my country,
throw myself at my father's feet. His loyalty
is not truer to King George, than mine to him.

“Dearest Belle, may Heaven reunite us all.

H. Linwood.
“P. S.—Kind love, don't forge it, to Rose.”

A day or two after Herbert's letter was despatched,
Eliot received a summons from Washington;
and on his appearing before him, the general said,
“I have important business to be transacted in
New-York, Captain Lee. I have despatches to
transmit to Sir Henry Clinton. My agent must be
intrusted with discretionary powers. An expedition
to New-York, even with the protection of a
flag of truce, is hazardous. The intervening country
is infested with outlaws, who respect no civilized
usages. My emissary must be both intrepid
and prudent. I have therefore selected you. Will
you accept the mission?”

“Most gratefully, sir—but—”

“But what? if you have scruples, name them.”

“None in the world, sir; on my own account I
should be most happy, but I should be still happier
if the office might be assigned to Linwood. It
would afford him the opportunity he pines for, of
seeing his family.”

“That is a reason, if there were no other, why
Captain Linwood should not go. Some embarrassment


Page 170
might arise. Your friend has not the
coolness essential in exigencies.”

Eliot well knew that Washington was not a man
with whom to bandy arguments, and he at once
declared himself ready to discharge, to the best of
his ability, whatever duty should be imposed on
him; and it was settled that he should depart as
soon as his instructions could be made out.

Eliot soon after met Linwood, and communicated
his intended expedition. “You are always
under a lucky star,” said Linwood; “I would have
given all I am worth for this appointment.”

“And you certainly should have it if it were
mine to bestow.”

“I do not doubt it, not in the least; but is it not
hard? Eliot, I am such a light-hearted wretch, for
the most part, that you really have no conception
how miserable my father's displeasure makes me.
I don't understand how it is. The laws of Heaven
are harmonious, and certainly my conscience acquits
me, yet I suffer most cruelly for my breach of filial
obedience. If I could but see my father, eye to
eye, I am sure I could persuade him to recall that
curse, that rings in my ears even now like a death-knell.
Oh, one half hour in New-York would be
my salvation! The sight of Belle and my mother
would be heaven to me! Don't laugh at me, Eliot,”
he continued, wiping his eyes, “I am a calf when
I think of them all.”

“Laugh at you, Linwood! I could cry with


Page 171
joy if I could give my place to you; as it is, I must
hasten my preparations. I have obtained leave to
take Kisel with me.”

“Kisel! heaven forefend, Eliot. Do you know
what ridicule such a valet-de-place as Kisel will
call down on your head from those lordly British

“Yes, I have thought of that, and it would be
sheer affectation to pretend to be indifferent to it;
but I can bear it. Providence has cast Kisel upon
my protection, and if I leave him he will be sure
to run his witless head into some scrape that will
give me ten times more trouble than his attendance.”

“Well, as you please; you gentle people are
always wilful.” After a few moments' thoughtful
silence, he added, “How long before you start,

“The general said it might be two hours before
my instructions and passports were made out.”

“It will be dark then, and,” added Linwood,
after a keen survey of the heavens, “I think, very

“Like enough; but that is not so very agreeable
a prospect as one would infer from the tone of your

“Pardon me, my dear fellow; it was New-York
I was thinking of, and not any inconvenience you
might encounter from the obscurity of the night
Your passports are not made out?”


Page 172

“Not yet.”

“Do me a favour, then—let Kisel ride my gray.
I cannot endure the thought of the harlequin
spectacle you'll furnish forth, riding down the
Broadway with your squire mounted on Beauty;
besides, the animal is not equal to the expedition.”

“Thank you, Linwood. I accept your kindness
as freely as you offer it. You have relieved me
of my only serious embarrassment. Now get
your letters ready; any thing unsealed (my orders
are restricted to that) I will take charge of, and
deliver at your father's door.”

“My father's door!” exclaimed Linwood, snapping
his fingers with a sort of wild exultation that
made Eliot stare, “oh, what a host of images those
words call up! but as to the letters, there is no
pleasure in unsealed ones; I sent a bulletin of my
health to Belle yesterday; I have an engagement
that will occupy me till after your departure; so
farewell, and good luck to you, Eliot.” The friends
shook hands and parted.

The twilight was fading into night when Eliot
was ready for his departure. To his great vexation
Kisel was missing; and he was told he had
ridden forward, and had left word that he would
await his master at a certain point about three
miles on their way. The poor fellow's habits
were so desultory that they never excited surprise,
though they would have been intolerable to one
less kind-tempered than Eliot Lee. He found him


Page 173
at the point named. He had reined his horse up
against the fence, and was awaiting his master, as
Eliot saw, for he could just descry the outline of
his person lying back to back to the horse, his legs
encircling the animal's neck.

“Sit up, Kisel,” said his master, in an irritated
tone; “remember you are riding a gentleman's
horse that's not accustomed to such tricks. And
now I tell you, once for all, that unless you behave
yourself quietly and reasonably, I will send
you adrift.”

Kisel whistled. He always either replied by a
whistle or tears to Eliot's reproof, and the whistle
now, as usual, was followed by a fit of sulkiness.
The night was misty and very dark. Kisel, in
spite of sundry kind overtures from his master, remained
doggedly silent, or only answered in a
muttered monosyllable. Thus they travelled all
night, merely stopping at the farmhouses to which
they had been directed to refresh their horses.
On these occasions Kisel was unusually zealous in
performing the office of groom, and seemed to
have made a most useful transfer of the nimbleness
of his tongue to his hands.

The dawn found them within the enemy's lines,
at twenty miles distance from the city of New-York,
and in sight of a British post designated in
their instructions where they were to stop, exhibit
their flag of truce, show their passports, and obtain
others to the city. “Now, Kisel,” said Eliot, “you


Page 174
must have done with your fooleries; you will disgrace
me if you do not behave like a man; pull up
your cap—do not bury your face so in the collar
of your coat—sit upright.”

Kisel threw the reins upon his horse's neck,
affected to arrange his cap and coat, and in doing
so dropped his whip. This obliged him to dismount
and go back a few yards, which he did as
if he had clogs at his heels. In the meantime
Eliot spurred on his horse, and rode up to the door
where the enemy's guard was stationed. His
passports were examined, and returned to him
countersigned. He passed on; and the guard was
giving a cursory glance at the attendant, when it
seemed to strike him there was some discrepance
between the description and the actual person.
“Stop, my man,” said he, “let's have another
glance. `Crooked, ill-made person;' yes, crooked
enough—`sandy hair;' yes, by Jove, sandy as a
Scotchman's—`gray eyes, small and sunken;'
gray to be sure, but neither small nor sunken.”

“Well, now,” said Kisel, with beseeching simplicity,
and looking eagerly after Eliot, who was
watering his horse at a brook a few rods in advance
of him; “well, now, I say, don't hender
me—smallness is according as people thinks. My
eye ant so big as an ox's, nor tant so small as a
mole's; and folks will dispute all the way 'twixt
the two: so what signifies keeping captain waiting?”

“Well, well, it must be right—go on. I don't


Page 175
know, though,” muttered the inquisitor, as Kisel
rode off at a sharp trot—“d—n these Yankees,
they'd cheat the devil. The passport said, `a turnup
nose'—this fellow's is as straight as an arrow.
Here, halloo, sirs,—back.” But Kisel, instead of
heeding the recall, though seconded by his master,
galloped forward, making antic gestures, laughing
and shouting; and Eliot, bitterly repenting his indiscretion
in bringing him, retraced his steps. He
found the inspector's faculties all awakened by
the suspicion that he had been outwitted. “My
friend,” said Eliot, reproducing his passports, “this
detention is unnecessary and discourteous. You
see I am, beyond a question, the person here described;
and I give you my honour that my companion
is the attendant specified. He is a fellow
of weak wits, as you may see by his absurd conduct,
who can impose on no one, much less on a
person of your keenness.”

“That is to say, if he is he. But I suppose
you know, sir, that a wolf can wear a sheep's
clothing. There are so many rebels that have connexions
in the city, outside friends to his majesty,
that we are obliged to keep a sharp look-out.”

“Certainly, my friend: all that you say is perfectly
reasonable, and I respect you for doing your
duty. But you must be satisfied now, and will
have the goodness to permit me to proceed.”

The man was conciliated; and after making an
entry in his note-book, he again returned the passports.


Page 176
Eliot put spurs to his horse; and as the
man gazed after him, he said, “A noble-looking
youth. The Almighty has written his passport on
that face; but that won't serve him now-a-days
without endorsements. That other fellow I doubt.
Well, I'll just forward these notes I have taken
down to Colonel Robertson, and he'll be on the

In the meantime Eliot followed Kisel at full
speed; but, after approaching him within a few
yards, he perceived he did not gain an inch on him;
and, apprehensive that such forced riding might
injure Linwood's horse, or, at any rate, that the
smoking sides of both the steeds would excite suspicion,
he reined his in, and wondered what new
demon had taken possession of Kisel; for, while
he now rode at a moderate pace, he had the mortification
of seeing that Kisel exactly, and with an
accuracy he had never manifested in any other
operation, measured his horse's speed by his master's,
so as to preserve an undeviating distance
from him. Thus they proceeded till they approached
Kingsbridge, where a British picket was
stationed. Here Kisel managed so as to come up
with his horse abreast to Eliot's. The horse
seemed to take alarm at the colours that were flying
from the British flagstaff, and reared, whirled
around, and curvetted, so as to require all his
rider's adroitness to keep on his back. Meanwhile
the passports were being examined, and


Page 177
they were suffered to proceed without a particular

They had passed the bridge, and beyond observation,
when Eliot, who was still in advance of his
attendant, turned suddenly round with the intention
of trying the whole force of a moral battery; but
he was surprised by a coup de main that produced
a sudden and not very agreeable shock to his

His follower's slouched and clownish attitude
was gone; and in its place an erect and cavalier
bearing. His head was raised from the muffler that
had half buried it—his cap pushed back, and from
beneath shone the bright laughing eye of Herbert

“Now, Eliot, my dear fellow,” he said, stretching
out his hand to him, “do not look so, as if you
liked the knave less than the fool.”

“If I do look so, Linwood, it is because fools
are easier protected than knaves. It is impossible
to foresee what may be the consequence of this
rash business.”

“Oh, hang the consequence. I wish you would
get over that Yankee fashion of weighing every
possible danger; you are such a cautious race.”

“Granted, Linwood, we are; and I think it will
take all my caution to get us out of a scrape that
your heroism has plunged us into.”

The first shaft of Linwood's petulance had
glanced off from the shield of his friend's good-temper,


Page 178
and he had not another. “I confess,” he
said, in an altered voice, “that the boldness is
worse than questionable that involves others in
our own danger. But consider my temptations,
and then try, my dear fellow, to pardon my selfishness.
I have lived three years in exile—I, who
never before passsed a night out of my father's house.
I am suffering the wretchedness of his displeasure;
and am absolutely famishing for the faces and
voices of home. I could live a week upon the
ticking of the old hall-clock.”

“But what satisfaction can you expect, Linwood?
You have always told me you believed
your father's displeasure was invincible—”

“Oh, I don't know that. His bark is worse
than his bite. I cannot calculate probabilities.
One possibility outweighs a million of them. I
shall at any rate see my sister—my peerless, glorious
sister, and my mother. And, after all, what
is the risk? If you did not detect me, others
will not, surely.”

“You did not give me a chance.”

“Nor will I them. The only catastrophe I fear
is the possibility of General Washington finding
me out. But it was deused crabbed of him not
to give me the commission. He ought to know
that a man can't live on self-sacrifice.”

“General Washington requires no more than he

“That is true enough; but is it reasonable to


Page 179
require of children to bear the burdens of men?—
of common men to do the deeds of heroes?”

“I believe there is no limit, but in our will, to
our moral power.”

“Pshaw!—and I believe the moral power of
each individual can be measured as accurately as
his stature. But we are running our heads into
metaphysics, and shall get lost in a fog.”

“A New-England fog, Linwood?”

“They prevail there,” he answered, with a quizzical
smile. “But we are wandering from the
point. I really have taken all possible precautions
to keep my secret. I obtained leave for four days'
absence on the pretext that I was going up the
river on my private business. The only danger
arises from my having been compelled to make a
confidant of Kisel.”

“That occurred to me. How in the name of
wonder did you manage him?”

“Oh, I conjured in your name. I made him
believe that your safety depended on his implicitly
obeying my directions; so I obtained his holyday
suit (which you must confess is a complete disguise),
and sent him on a fool's errand up the river.”

The friends entered the city by passing the
pickets at the Bowery. They were admitted without
scruple:—letting animals into a cage is a very
different affair from letting them out. At Linwood's
suggestion they crossed into Queen-street.
That great mart, now stored with the products of


Page 180
the commercial world, and supplying millions from
its packed warehouses, was then chiefly occupied
by the residences of the provincial gentry. Linwood
had resumed his mufflers and his clownish
air; but the true man from the false exterior
growled forth many an anathema as he passed
house after house belonging to the whig absentees
—his former familiar haunts—now occupied, and, as
he thought, desecrated by British officers, or resident
royalists whose loyalty was thus cheaply paid.

“Look not to the right nor left, I pray you, Linwood,”
said Eliot; “you are now in danger of being
recognised. We are to stop at Mrs. Billings's,
in Broad-street.”

“Just above my father's house,” replied Linwood,
in a sad tone. They rode on briskly; for
they perceived that Eliot's American uniform and
grotesque attendant attracted observation. They
had entered Broad-street, and were near a large
double house, with the carving about the doors and
windows that distinguished the more ambitious
edifices of the provincialists. Two horses, equipped
for their riders, stood at the door, and a black
servant in faded livery beside them. The door
opened; and a gentleman of lofty stature, attended
by a young lady, came forth. She patted the animal
that awaited her, and sprang into the saddle.
“It must be Isabella Linwood!” thought Eliot,
turning his asking eye to his companion, who, he
now perceived, had reined in his horse towards the


Page 181
flagging opposite that where the parties who had
attracted his observation were. “He is right and
careful for once,” thought Eliot. That Eliot would
have thought it both right and inevitable to have indulged
himself in a nearer survey of the beautiful
young lady, we do not doubt; but as he again turned,
her horse suddenly reared his hind legs in the air.
Her father screamed—there were several persons
passing—no one dared approach the animal, who
was whirling, floundering, and kicking furiously.
Some, gazing at Miss Linwood, exclaimed, “She'll
be dashed to pieces!”—and others, “Lord, how
she sits!” She did sit bravely; her face colourless
as marble, and her dark eyes flashing fire-Eliot
and Linwood instinctively dismounted, and
at the risk of their lives rushed to her rescue;
and, at one breath's intermission of the kicking,
stood on either side of the animal's head. She
was an old acquaintance and favourite of Linwood,
and with admirable presence of mind (inspiration
he afterward called it) he addressed her
in a loud tone, in his accustomed phrase, “Jennet—Jennet,
softly—softly!” The animal was quieted;
and, as Linwood afterward affirmed, spoke
as plainly to him with her eye as ever human
voice spoke. At any rate, she stood perfectly
still while Eliot assisted the young lady to dismount.
The people now gathered round; and at the first
burst of inquiry and congratulation, Herbert disappeared.
“Thank God. you are not hurt, Belle!”


Page 182
exclaimed her father, whose voice, though choked
with emotion, was heard above all others. “What
in Heaven's name possessed Jennet?—she never
kicked before; and how in the world did you
quiet her, sir?” turning to Eliot. “It was most
courageously done!”

“Miraculously!” said Miss Linwood; her face,
as she turned it to Eliot, beaming with gratitude.
There are voices that, at their first sound, seem to
strike a new chord that ever after vibrates; and this
first word that Eliot heard pronounced by Isabella
Linwood, often afterward rung in his ears like a
remembered strain of sweet music. There were
persons present, however, not occupied with such
high emotions; and while Eliot was putting in a
disclaimer, and saying, if there were any merit attending
arresting the horse, it was his servant's,
diligent search was making into the cause of the
animal's transgression, which soon appeared in
the form of a thorn, that, being entangled in the
saddle-cloth, had pierced her side.

The first flow of Mr. Linwood's gratitude seemed
to have been suddenly checked. “Papa has seen
the blue coat,” thought Isabella; “and the gushings
of his heart are turned to icicles!” And infusing
into her own manner the warmth lacking in his,
she asked what name she should associate with
her preservation.

“My name is Lee.”

“A very short one. May we prefix Harry or


Page 183
Charles?” alluding to two distinguished commanders
in the American army.

“Neither. Mine is a name unknown to fame.

“Eliot Lee!—Herbert's friend!—Bessie's brother!
Papa, you do not understand. Mr. Lee is
the brother of your little pet, Bessie Lee, and,”
she added, “Herbert's best friend.”

Her father coloured; and civilly hoped Miss
Bessie Lee was well.

“Well! that is nothing,” exclaimed Miss Linwood.
“We hope all the world is well; but I
must know where Bessie is—what she is doing—
how she is looking, and a thousand million et ceteras.
Papa, Mr. Lee must come home with us.”

“Certainly, Isabella, if Mr. Lee chooses.”

Thus bidden, Mr. Lee could only choose to
refuse, which he did; alleging that he had no time
at his own disposal.

Isabella looked pained, and Mr. Linwood felt
uncomfortable; and making an effort at an amende
he said, “Pray send your servant to
me, sir; I shall be happy to express my obligations
to him.”

“Heaven smiles on Herbert!” thought Eliot;
and he replied eagerly, “I will most certainly send
him, sir, this evening, at eight o'clock.” He then
bowed to Mr. Linwood, took Isabella's hand,
which she again graciously extended to him, and
thanking her for her last kind words—“Best—best


Page 184
love to Bessie; be sure you don't forget it,” he
mounted his horse and was off.

“Send him!” said Mr. Linwood, reiterating
Eliot's last words. “I'll warrant him!—trust a
Yankee for not letting slip a shilling.”

“He is quite right, papa. If he cannot obtain
the courtesy due to the gentleman in return for the
service he has rendered, he is right to secure the
reward of the menial. You were savage, sir—
absolutely savage. Mr. Lee will think we are
barbarians—heathens—any thing but Christians.”

“And so am I, and so will I be to these fellows.
This young man did only what any other young
man would have done upon instinct; so don't
pester me any more about him. You know, Belle,
I have sworn no rebel shall enter my doors.”

“And you know, sir, that I have—not sworn;
oh, no! but resolved, and my resolve is the feminine
of my father's oath, that you shall hang me on a
gallows high as Haman's, before I cease to plead
that our doors may be opened to one rebel at

“Never, never!” replied her father, shutting his
hall-door after him as he spoke, as if all the rebel
world were on the other side of it.


Page 185