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Page 244


“Great is thy power, and great thy fame
Far kenn'd and noted is thy name!
An' tho' yon lowin' heugh's thy hame,
Thou travels far.”


Eliot Lee returned to his lodgings from Sir
Henry's in no very comfortable frame of mind. It
was his duty, and this duty, like others, had the inconvenient
property of inflexibility, to return to
West Point with the despatches without attempting
to extricate his friend from the shoals and
quicksands amid which he had so rashly rushed.
He consoled himself, however, under this necessity,
by the reflection that he could in no way so
efficiently serve Herbert as by being the first to
communicate his imprudence and its consequences
to General Washington. His anxiety to serve him
was doubled by the consciousness that he should
thereby serve Isabella. An acquaintance of a day
with a young lady ought not, perhaps, to have
given a stronger impulse to the fervours of friendship;
yet the truest friend of three-and-twenty
will find some apology for Eliot in his own experience,
or would have found it, if, like Eliot, he had
just seen the incarnation of his most poetic imaginings.


Page 245

While he awaited in his room the despatches, he
tried to adjust the complicated impressions of the
day. He reviewed the scene in the library, and
his conclusions from it were the result of his observations,
naturally tinged by the character of the
observer. Is it not impossible for any man to understand
perfectly the intricate machinery of a
woman's heart, its hidden sources of hope and
fear, trust and distrust; all its invisible springs and
complex action? “If,” he thought, “Miss Linwood
knew Meredith as I know him; if she knew
what she now fears, that he had fed his vanity, his
idol, self, on the exhalations of homage, love, trust,
and hope, from a pure heart that, like a flower,
withered in giving out its sweets, she would not
love him; not that it is a matter of volition to love
or not to love,—but she could not. If Isabella
Linwood, gifted as she is in mind and person, were
less sought—if, like my poor little Bessie, she were
in some obscure, shady place of life, her pre-eminence
unacknowledged and unknown, like her she
would be deserted for an enthroned sovereign.
This she cannot know; and she is destined to be
one of the ten thousand mismated men and women
who have thrown away their happiness, and found
it out too late. Find it out she must; for this detestable
selfishness dulls a man's perception of the
rights of others, of their deserts, their wants, and
their infirmities, while it makes him keenly susceptible
to whatever touches self. He resembles
those insects who, instead of the social senses of


Page 246
hearing and seeing which connect one sentient
existence with another, are furnished with feelers
that make their own bodies the focus of all sensation.

Eliot was roused from his sententious revery
by a whistle beneath his window. He looked out
and saw by the moonlight a man squatted on the
ground, and so shaded by the wooden entrance to
the door as to be but dimly seen. Eliot, conjecturing
who it might be, immediately descended the
stairs and opened the outer door. The man leaped
from the ground, seized both Eliot's hands, and
cried out in a half articulate voice—“Could not
Kisel find you? hey! when the dog can't find his
master, nor the bean its pole, nor the flower the
side the sun shines, then say Kisel can't find you,
Misser Eliot—hey!”

“My poor fellow! How in the name of wonder
did you get here alone?”

“Ah, Misser Eliot, always told you you did not
know what a salvation it was to pass for a fool,
and all the while be just as wise as other folks.
I have my own light,” he pointed upwards,—
“there's one that guides the owl as well as the
eagle, and the fool better than the wise man.”

“But how came the enemy to let you pass?”

“Let me! what for should not they? what harm
could such as I do them? I told them so, and they
believed me—good, hey!”

“You cannot have walked all the way?”

“Walked!—when did wit walk? No, Misser


Page 247
Eliot, not a step of it. Hooked a fishing canoe
and poled 'long shore some,—jumped into a wagon
with a blind nigger fiddler and his wife, and rode
some,—then up behind a cowboy, and paid him
in whistling some,—boarded market-carts some,—
and musquashed some.”

“And here you are, and now I must take care
of you.”

“Yes, Misser Eliot, depend on you now, pretty
much like other folks—Kisel, hey! depends on
Providence when he can get nothing else to depend

“Thank Heaven,” thought Eliot, “I have not to
draw on my extempore sagacity. Now that I have
the real Dromeo, I shall get on without let or hinderance.”
He re-entered the house, encountered
his landlady, and, imboldened by the presence of
Kisel, laughed at the unnecessary suspicion that
had been excited, ordered his horses, and having
received his despatches and his countersigned passports
from Sir Henry, he determined to profit by
the moonlight, and immediately set forth on his

As they passed Mr. Linwood's house Eliot
paused for a moment, but there was no intimation
from its silent walls; and hoping and believing that
his friend was safe within them, and breathing a
prayer for the peerless creature who seemed to
him, like a celestial spirit, to sanctify the dwelling
that contained her, he spurred his horse as if
he would have broken the chain that bound him to


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the spot—the chain already linking in with his
existence, and destined never to be broken till that
should be dissolved.

He proceeded some twenty or five-and-twenty
miles without incident, when, as he passed a narrow
road that intersected the highway, five horsemen
turned from it into the main road. Kisel,
with the instinct of cowardice, reined his horse
close to his master. The men remained in the
rear, talking together earnestly in low tones. Suddenly,
two of them spurred their horses and
came abreast of the forward party, the one beside
Kisel, the other beside Eliot. There was, at
best, impertinence in the movement, and it annoyed
Eliot. It might mean something worse than
impertinence. He placed his hand on the loaded
pistol in his holster, and calmly awaited further
demonstrations from his new companions. A cursory
glance assured him they were questionable
characters. They wore cloth caps, resembling
those used by our own winter travellers, drawn
close over the eyes, and having a sort of curtain
that hid the neck, ears, and chin. The mouth and
nose were the only visible features; and though
they were dimly seen by the starlight (the moon
had set), they seemed to Eliot, with a little aid
from imagination, to indicate brutal coarseness
and vulgarity. They had on spencers of a dreadnaught
material, girded around them with a leathern
strap.—“Good evening,” said the man at Eliot's


Page 249

Captain Lee made no reply; but his squire,
eager to accept a friendly overture, and always
ready on the least hint to speak, replied, “Good
evening to you, neighbour; which way are you

“After our horses' noses,” replied the fellow,

“Oh, that's the way we are travelling—so we
may as well be friendly; for in these times there's
many a bird on the wing at night beside owls and

“Where are you from, fellow?” asked the first

“From below.”

“Where are you going?”


The man, not disposed to be silenced by Kisel's
indefinite replies, repeated his first question to

“The true answer is safest,” thought Eliot, who
was determined, if possible, to avoid a contest
where the odds were five to one; and he briefly
communicated his destination and errand.

“Despatches!” replied the man, echoing Eliot.
“Is that all you have about you? I wish you
well, then, to your journey's end—and that wish is
worth something, I can tell you. Come, Pat, spur
your horse—we've no time to be lagging here.”

“I'm thinking, captain, we had better change
horses with these gentlemen, and give them our
spurs to boot;” and suiting the action to the word,


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he seized Kisel's bridle and ordered him to dismount.
At the same instant his comrade-captain
made a lunge at Eliot, as if for a corresponding
seizure; but Eliot perceived the movement in time
to evade it. He roused the metal of his horse
with a word—the fine animal sprang forward—
Eliot turned him short round, and presented his
pistol to Kisel's antagonist, who let fall the bridle
and turned to defend himself.

“Now spur your horse and fear nothing, Kisel,'
cried his master.

Not to fear was impossible to Kisel; but the first
injunction he obeyed, even to the rowels of his
spurs; and he and his master soon distanced their
pursuers, who, now partly incited by revenge,
pursued the hopeless chase for two or three miles.

Soon after losing sight of these men, Eliot
reached Gurdon Coit's. Coit was a farmer, who, on
the borders of the river and on the neutral ground,
kept a public house as supplemental to his farm,
which, in these troubled times, was roughly handled
by friends and foes. Friends and foes we say: for
though Coit observed, as beseemed a man of his
present calling, a strict outward neutrality, in heart
he was on his country's side; as he often testified,
with considerable risk to himself, by affording facilities
to secret emissaries to the city, and by receiving
into his house valuable supplies, that were run up
from the city (where Washington had many secret
trusty friends) for the use of the army at West


Page 251

Eliot stopped at Coit's, and announced his intention,
received by a hurra from Kisel, of remaining
there till daylight. Coit was roused from
a nap in his chair by the entrance of his new
guests. In reply to Eliot's request for refreshment
and lodging, he said, “You see, captain”
(he recognised Eliot, who had been at his house
on his way down), “my house is brimful. Caesar,
and Venus, and all the little niggers, sleep
in the kitchen. My wife's sisters are here visiting,
and they've got the best bedroom, and my wife
and the gals the other; for you know we must
give the best to the women, poor creturs—so a
plank here in the bar-room is the best sleeping
privilege I can give you, and the barn to your man.”

“Oh, Misser Eliot, I've got a trembling in my
limbs to-night,” interposed Kisel; “don't send me
away alone.”

Eliot explained the cause of poor Kisel's trembling
limbs; and it was agreed that he should
share his master's sleeping privilege. In answer
to Eliot's communication, Coit said, “As sure as a
gun, you've met the skinners; and you're a lucky
man to get out of their hands alive. They've been
harrying up and down the country like so many
wolves for the last three weeks, doing mischief
wherever 'twas to be done;—nobody has escaped
them but Madam Archer.”

“Who is Madam Archer?”

“I mistrust, captain, you a'n't much acquainted
with the quality in York state, or you'd know


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Madam Archer of Beech-Hill; the widow lady
with the blind twins. I believe the Lord has set
a defence about her habitation; for there she stays,
with those helpless little people, and neither harm
nor the fear of it come nigh her, though she has
nothing of mankind under her roof except one old
slave; and them that are brought up slaves, you
know, have neither sense nor pluck for difficult

Kisel interrupted the landlord's harangue to hint
to his master that his fright had brought on a great
appetite; and Eliot, feeling the same effect, though
not from precisely the same cause, requested his
host to provide him some supper, while he and his
man went to look after their horses; a duty that
he gratefully performed, rejoicing in the rustic
education that made it light to him to perform services
for which he often saw the noble animals
of his more daintily-bred brother officers suffering.

“Who are these, my bed-fellows?” he asked
of Coit, a few moments after, as he sat discussing
some fine bacon and brown bread, and handing
slice after slice to Kisel, who, squatting on the
hearth, received it like a petted dog from his hand.
The subjects of his inquiry were two long fellows
wrapped in blankets, and their heads on their knapsacks,
stretched on the floor, and soundly sleeping.

“They are soldiers from above,” replied Coit in
a whisper, “who have come here to receive some
tea and sugar, and such kind of fancy articles, for
the ladies at the Point.”


Page 253

“And who is this noisy person on the settle?”

“He does snore like all natur,” replied Coit,
laughing, and then continued in a lowered voice:—
“I don't know who he is, though I can make a
pretty good guess; and if I guess right, he a'nt a
person I should like to interfere with, and it's plain
he don't choose to make himself known. He has
a rough tongue, that does not seem like your born
quality—he does not handle his victuals like them
—but he has that solid way with him that shows
he was born to command the best of you in such
times as these, when, as you may say, we value a
garment according to its strength, and not for the
trimmings. No offence, captain?”

“None in the world to me, my good friend; I am
not myself one of those you call the born quality.”

“A'n't? I declare! then you've beat me—I
thought I could always tell 'em.” Coit drew his
chair near to Eliot, and added, in an earnest tone,
“The time is coming, captain, and that's what the
country is fighting for; for we can't say we are
desperately worried with the English yoke; but the
time is coming when one man that's no better than
his neighbour won't wear stars on his coat, and another
that's no worse a collar round his neck; when
one won't be born with a silver spoon in his mouth,
and another with a pewter spoon, but all will start
fair, and the race will be to the best fellow.”

“Hey! Misser Eliot,” cried Kisel, in his wonted
tone, when a ray of intelligence penetrated the
mists that enveloped his brain.


Page 254

His shrill voice awakened the sleeper on the
settle, who, lifting up his shaggy head, asked
what “all this cackling meant?” Then seeming
to recover his self-possession, he keenly surveyed
Eliot and his man, covered his face with his bandana
handkerchief, and again composed himself
to sleep.

Eliot, after securing a “sleeping privilege” for
Kisel, received from our friend Coit the best unoccupied
blanket and pillow the house afforded;
and giving his fellow-lodgers, in seamen's phrase,
the best berth the width of the room admitted, he
was soon lost in the deep refreshing sleep compounded
of youth, health, and a good conscience.

Our host was left to his own musings, which, as
he fixed his eye on Eliot's fine face, marked with
nature's aristocracy, were somewhat in the following
strain:—“ `Not of the born quality!'—hum—
well, he has that that is quality in the eye of God,
I guess. How he looked after his dumb beast,
and this poor creater here, that seems not to have
the wit of a brute; he's had the bringing up of a
gentleman, any how. I see it in his bearing, his
speech, his voice. Well, I guess my children will
live to see the day when the like of him will be
the only gentlemen in the land. The Almighty
must furnish the material, but the forming, polishing,
and currency, must be the man's own doings;
not his father's, or grandfather's, or the Lord knows

While Coit pursues his meditations, destined


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soon to be roughly broken, we offer our readers
some extracts from a letter which fortunately has
fallen into our hands, to authenticate our veritable
history. It was written by Mrs. Archer, of Beech
Hill, to her niece, Isabella Linwood.

“No, no, my dear Belle, I cannot remove to the
city—it must not be; and I am sorry the question
is again mooted. `A woman, and naturally born
to fears,' I may be; but because I have that inconvenient
inheritance, I see no reason why I
should cherish and augment it. Your imagination,
which is rather an active agent, has magnified
the terrors of the times; and it seems just
now to be unduly excited by the monstrous tales
circulated in the city, of the atrocities the Yankees
have committed on the tories. I see in Rivington's
Gazette, which you wrapped around the
sugarplums that you sent the children (thank you),
various precious anecdotes of Yankee tigers and
tory lambs, forsooth! that are just about as true
as the tales of giants and ogres with which your
childhood was edified. The Yankees are a civilized
race, and never, God bless them! commit
gratuitous cruelties. If they still `see it to be
duty' (to quote their own Puritan phrase), they will
cling to this contest till they have driven the remnant
of your Israel, Belle, every tory and Englishman,
from the land; but they will commit no
episodical murders: it is only the ignorant man
that is unnecessarily cruel. They are an instructed,


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kind-hearted, Christian people; and of this there
will be abundant proof while the present war is remembered.
Remember, Belle, these people have
unadulterated English blood in their veins, which
to you should be a prevailing argument in their favour;
and believe me, they have a fair portion of
the spirit of their freedom-loving and all-daring ancestors.
Our English mother, God bless her, too,
should have known better than to trammel, scold,
and try to whip her sons into obedience, when
they had come to man's estate, and were fit to
manage their own household. Thank Heaven, I
have outlived the prejudices against the people of
New-England which my father transmitted to his
children. `There they come,' he used to say,
when he saw these busy people driving into the
manor; `every snow brings them, and, d—n them,
every thaw too!'

“What a pander to ignorance and malignity is
this same prejudice, Belle! How it disturbs the
sweet accords of nature, sacrilegiously severs the
bonds by which God has united man to man, and
breaks the human family into parties and sects!
How it clouds the intellect and infects the heart
with its earthborn vapours; so that the Englishman
counts it virtue to scorn the American, and
the true American cherishes a hatred of the Englishman.
Our generous friends in the south look
with contempt on the provident, frugal sons of the
Puritans; and they, blinded in their turn, can see
nothing but the swollen pride of slave-owners and


Page 257
hard-heartedness of slave-drivers in their brethren
of the south. Even you, dear Belle, have not
escaped this atmospheric influence. After a general
denunciation of the rebels, as you term the
country's troops, you say, in the letter now before
me, `of course, you have nothing to fear from the
British regulars;' and I reply, like the poor brute
in the fable, `Heaven save me from my friends!'
The British soldiers are aliens to the soil; they have
neither `built houses nor tilled lands' here; and
they cannot have the same kindly and home feeling
that a native extends to the denizens of his
own land. Besides, they are, for the most part,
trained to the inhuman trade of war; and though
I have all due respect for English blood, and know
many of their officers to be most amiable and
accomplished men, I never see a detachment of
their troops, with their colours flying (and such
often pass within sight of us), without a sudden
coldness creeping over me. Then there are the
Jagers and other mercenaries that our friends have
brought over to fight out this family quarrel—is
this right, Belle? You will suspect me of having
turned whig—well, keep your suspicion to yourself.
The truth is, that living isolated as I do, I
have a fairer point of view than you, surrounded as
you are by British officers and tories devoted to
the royal cause, and to you, my beautiful niece,
their elected sovereign.

“My only substantial fear, after all, is of the
cowboys and skinners, more especially the last,


Page 258
who have done some desperate deeds in my neighbourhood.
I have taken care to have it well
known that I have sent all my plate and valuables
to the city, and I hope and believe they will not
pay me a visit. Should they, however, a widow
and two blind children have little to dread from
creatures who are made in the image of God, defaced
as that image may be. Defenceless creatures
have a fortress in every human heart. No, I
repeat it, I cannot go to the city. You say I am
afraid of the shackles of city life! I confess, that
with my taste for freedom, and my long indulgence
in it, they would be galling to me. I could, however,
bear them without wincing to be near you,
but my children, Belle—my blind children! my
paramount duty is to them, and is prescribed and
absolute. In the city they are continually reminded
of their privation, and the kinder their friends
the more manifold are the evidences of it; there
they feel that they are merely objects of compassion,
supernumeraries in the human family, who
can only receive, not give. Here they have
motives to exertions, dependants on their care.
Their fruits and flowers, doves, rabbits, chickens,
ducks, dogs, and kittens, live and thrive by them.
Nature is to them a perpetual study and delight.
I have just been walking with them over the hill
behind my house. You remember the hill is fringed
with beech-trees, and crowned by their superior
forest brethren, the old tory oak, the legitimate
sovereign by the grace of God; the courtier elm
(albeit American!), that bows its graceful limbs to


Page 259
every breeze; the republican maple, that resists all
hostility; and the evergreen pine, a loyalist—is it,
Belle? well, be it so; it always wears the same
coat, but they say its heart is not the soundest!—
Pardon me, we fall so naturally into political allusions
in these times.

“My children have learned so accurately to discriminate
sounds, that as we walked over the hill,
they made me observe the variations of sound
when the breezes whispered among the light beech-leaves,
when they stole through the dense masses
of the maple foliage, fluttered over the pendent
stems of the elm, rustled along the polished oak-leaves,
and passed in soft musical sighs, like the
lowest breath of the æolian harp, over the bristled
pines. Do you remember the lively little stream
that dashes around the rear of this hill, and winding
quietly through the meadow at its base, steals
into the Hudson? They, in their rambles, unattended
and fearless, have worn a footpath along
the margin of this stream, and wherever there
is a mossy rock, or fallen trunk of a tree, they
may be seen tying up wild flowers, or the arm of
each around the other, singing hymns and songs.
I have seen men with hard features and rough
hands arrested by the sound of their voices, and
as they listened, the tears trickling down their
weather-beaten faces. Can I fear for them, Belle?
They both delight in gardening; they love none
but flowers of sweet odour; no unperfumed flower,
however beautiful, is tolerated; but the lawn, the
borders of the walks, all their shady haunts, are


Page 260
enamelled with mignionette, violets, lilies of the
valley, carnations, clove-pinks, and every sweet-breathed
flower. The magnificent view of the
Hudson from the piazza they cannot see; but they
have wreathed the pillars with honeysuckles and
sweet-briers, and there they sit and enjoy the southwest
breezes, the chief luxury of our climate.
Could I pen them up in a city, where they will
never walk into the fresh air but to be a spectacle,
and where they must be utterly deprived of the
ministration of nature through which God communes
with their spirits? I am sure you will acquiesce
in my decision, my dear Isabella. You
need not try to convince your father of my rationality;
the reasonableness of any woman is a contradiction
in terms to him. Whatever may happen,
your mother will not reproach me: she will only
say again what she has so often said before, `that
she expected it, poor sister Mary was always so
odd.' This letter is all about myself. I have
anxieties too about you, but for the present I keep
them to myself. The bright empyrean of hope
is for youth to soar in, and your element shall not
be invaded by croakings from the bogs of experience.

“Truly yours,

Mary Archer.

The same conveyance that transported this
letter, so full of resolution and trust, to Isabella,
carried her information of the events related in the
next chapter.