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Page 261


“We are men, my liege.
“Ay, in the catalogue ye go for men.”

Surprise has sometimes been expressed by our
English friends who have travelled among us, that
the Americans should cherish such lively recollections
of the war that achieved their independence,
when their countrymen had almost forgotten that
such a contest ever existed. They seem to have
forgotten, too, that while their part was enacted by
soldiers by profession and foreign mercenaries, our
battle was fought by our fathers, sons, and brothers;
that while the scene of action was three
thousand miles from them, it was in our home-lots
and at our firesides; and above all, that while they
fought for the preservation of colonial possessions,
at best a doubtful good, we were contending for
national independence—for the right and power to
make the last and best experiment of popular government.

Such circumstances as it falls to our lot now
to relate, are not easily forgotten; and such, or
similar, occurred in some of the happiest homes
of our land.

Mrs. Archer was quietly sleeping with her children,
when she was awakened by unusual sounds
in the room below her; and immediately her maid,


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who slept in the adjoining apartment, rushed in,
crying out “that the house was full of men—she
heard them on the stairs, in the parlour, hall, everywhere!”

Mrs. Archer sprang from the bed, threw on her
dressing-gown, bade the girl be quiet, and beware
of frightening the children; and then, as they,
startled by the noise, raised their heads from their
pillows, she told them, in a calm and decidedly
cheerful voice, that there were men in the house
who she believed had come to rob it, but that they
would neither do harm to them nor to her. She
then ordered her maid to light the candles on the
dressing-table, and again reassuring her trembling
children, who had meanwhile crept to her side, she
awaited the fearful visiters, whose footsteps she
heard on the staircase.

A fierce-looking wretch burst into the apartment.
The spectacle of the mother and her children arrested
him, and he involuntarily doffed his cap. It
was a moment for a painter, if he could calmly
have surveyed the scene. The maid had shrunk
behind her mistress's chair, and kneeling there,
had grasped her gown with both hands, as if there
were safety in the touch. Poor little Lizzy's face
was hidden in her mother's bosom, and her fair
silken curls hung over her mother's dark dressing-gown.
Ned, at the sound of the opening door,
turned his sightless eyeballs towards the villain.
There was something manly and defying in his
air and erect attitude, something protecting in the expression


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of his arm as he laid it over his sister, while
the clinging of his other arm around his mother's
neck, indicated the defencelessness of childhood
and his utter helplessness. Mrs. Archer had
thrown aside her nightcap; her hair was twisted up
in a sort of Madona style; but not of the tame
Madona cast was her fine, spirited countenance,
which blended the majesty of the ideal Minerva
with the warmth and tenderness of the woman and

The marauder, on entering, paid her, as we have
said, an instinctive homage; but immediately recovering
his accustomed insolence, he replied to
her calm demand, of “what is your purpose?”
“To get what we can, and keep what we get—my
name is Hewson, which, if you've heard it, will be
a warrant to you that I sha'n't do my work by

The name of the skinner was too notorious
not to have been heard by Mrs. Archer. Her
blood ran cold, but she replied, without faltering,
“Proceed to your work; the house is open to
you, not a lock in your way. Abby, give him
my purse off the dressing-table—there is all the
money I have by me—now leave my room, I pray

“Softly, mistress—catch old birds with chaff.
First surrender your watch, plate, and jewels,
which I take to be in this very room that you are
so choice of.”

“My watch, plate, and jewels, are in New-York.”


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“The d—l they are!” Then emptying out and
counting the gold and silver the purse contained,
“this will never do,” he said—“this will not pay
the reckoning—live and let live—every one to his
trade.” He then proceeded, without further ceremony,
to rip open beds and mattresses, emptied the
contents of every box, trunk, and drawer, explored
every corner and recess as adroitly as a trained dog
would unearth his game, and seized on such light
articles as attracted his eye, grumbling and swearing
all the time at being cheated and out-manœuvred
by a woman; for in this light he seemed to view
the measures Mrs. Archer had taken to secure her

In this humour he rejoined his comrades in the
dining-room; who he found, with the exception of
a few dozen silver spoons and forks, had had an
equally bootless search, and were now regaling
themselves with cold meats, etc., from the pantry.

“Hey, boys—always after the provender before
you've done your work.”

“There's no work to be done, captain—we can't
carry off chairs and tables—so what's the use of
bothering? we've done our best, and nobody can
do better.”

“Your best—maybe, Pat—but your and my
best are two. We shall have whigs, tories, and reg'lars
at our heels for this flash in the pan.” He
strided up and down the room, kicking out of his
way whatever obstacle was in it, and muttering to
himself a plan he was revolving: “Madam must
turn out the shiners,” he concluded aloud.


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“Ay, captain—but how's the bird that won't sing
to be made to sing—she is a cunning old one, I'm

“Old!—Time has never made a track on her
yet—cunning she may be, but I don't believe she
lied to me—she seems high as the stars above
that—but if she has not got the money, boys, she
can get it—I'll make her, too—I'll wager your soul
on that, Pat.”

“Wager your own, honey, that's forfeit to the
devil long ago.”

A little more time was wasted in similar retorts,
well shotted, in their own phrase, with oaths, and
washed down with plentiful draughts of wine,
when the captain returned to Mrs. Archer's apartment.
“I say, mistress,” he began, his flushed
face and thickened voice indicating she had fresh
cause for alarm, “I say we can't be choused—
so if you want to save what's choicer than money,”
he shook his fist with a tiger-like expression at
the children, “you must have two hundred guineas
put under ground for me, on the north side of the
big oak, at the bridge, and that before Saturday night;
nobody to know it but you—no living soul but
you and that gal there—no false play, remember.
Come, strike while the iron's hot, or we'll say three

Mrs. Archer reflected for a moment. She would
have given a bond for any sum by which she
could relieve herself of the presence of the outlaws.
They had already produced such an effect


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on little Lizzy, a timid, susceptible creature, that
she expected every moment to see her falling into
convulsions; and with this dread each moment
seemed an hour. She replied, that the money
should, without fail, be placed in the appointed spot.

“That is not quite all, madam; I must have
security. I know how the like of you look on
promises made to the like of me. I got a rope as
good as round my neck by trusting to them once,
and no thanks to them that I slipped it. I'll clinch
the nail this time—I'll have security.”

“What security?” demanded Mrs. Archer, the
colour for the first time forsaking her cheeks and
lips; for by the ruffian's glance, and a significant
up and down motion of his head, she guessed his

“A pawn—I must have a pawn—one of them
young ones. You need not screech and hold
on so, you little fools. If you behave, I'll not hurt
a hair of your head. The minute I handle the
money you shall have 'em back; but as sure as
my name's Sam Hewson, I'll make 'em a dead
carcass if you play me false.”

“You shall not touch my children—any thing
else—ask all—take all—anything but my children.”

“Take all!—ay, that we shall—all we can take;
and as to asking, we mean to make sure of what
we ask—`a bird in the hand,' mistress.”

“Oh, take my word, my oath—spare my children!”

“Words are breath, and oaths breath peppered.
Your children are your life; and, one of them in our


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hands, our secret is as safe with you as with us—
we've no time to chaffer—make one of them ready.”

“Oh, mother!—mother!” shrieked Lizzy, clinging
round her mother's waist.

“Hush, Lizzy—I'll go,” said Edward.

“Neither shall go, my children—they shall
take my life first.”

The outlaw had advanced with the intention of
seizing one of them; but, awed by the resolution
of the mother, or perhaps touched by the generosity
of the boy, he paused and retreated, muttering
to himself, “It's a rough job—Pat shall do it.”
He once more left the apartment and returned to
his comrades.

A sudden thought occurred to Mrs. Archer; a
faint hope dawned upon her. “Bring me the horn
from the hall-table,” she said to her servant. The
girl attempted to obey, but her limbs sunk under
her. Mrs. Archer disengaged herself from the children,
ran down the stairs, returned with the horn,
threw open her window, and blew three pealing
blasts. The outlaws were engaged in packing
their spoil.

“Ha!” exclaimed Hewson, “it rings well—again
—again. Never mind; you'll wake nothing, mistress,
but the dogs, cocks, and owls. Hear how
they're at it!—`bow—wow—wow—the beggars
are come to town,'—ha, ha—well done. But boys,
I say, we'd best be off soon. Pat, you know” (he
had already communicated his plan to Pat), “bring
down one of them young ones.”


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Pat went—he lingered. “Come, boys, hurry,”
cried Hewson, who now began to apprehend the
possibility of a response to Mrs. Archer's summons:
“what the d—l ails that fellow?”—he went
to the staircase and called. Pat appeared; but
without the child, and looking as a wild beast
might, subdued by a charm. “They're blind, captain—both
blind!” he said. “I can't touch them
—by all that's holy I can't—there's not strength in
my arm to hold the sightless things—the one nor
the t'other of 'em.”

“Fool—baby!” retorted Hewson, “you know
we don't mean to hurt 'em.”

“Then do it yourself, captain—I can't, and
there's an end on't.”

Hewson hesitated. The image of the mother
and her blind children daunted even his fierce
spirit. An expedient occurred to him:—“A sure
way,” he thought, “of drowning feelings.” In
ransacking the pantry he had seen a flask of
brandy, and then prudently concealed it from his
men. He now brought it forth, and passed it round
and round. It soon began its natural work: consumed
in its infernal fires all intellectual power,
natural affection, domestic and pitiful emotion;
put out the light of Heaven, and roused the brute
passions of the men.

Hewson saw the potion working; their “human
countenances changed to brutish form.” “It's a
d—d shame,—ant it, boys,” said he, “for this
tory madam to balk us?—we shall have a hurra


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after us for this frolic, and nothing to show—we
might as well have robbed a farmhouse, and who
would have cared?”

“We'll tache her better, captain,” said Pat;
“we'll make an example of her, as the judges say
in Ireland when they hang the lads. I'll give her
a blow over the head, if you say so, handy like—
or wring the chickens' necks—it's asy done.”

“Pshaw, Pat—it's only your asses of judges
that think examples of any use. If we hook one
of the chickens, you know, Pat, she'll be glad to
buy it back with the yallow shiners, boy, that's
lodged safe in York—fifty a piece—share and
share alike—my turn is it?—here's to you, boys—
a short life and a merry one. I've charged 'em
up to the mark,” thought he; and in raising the flask
to his lips, it slipped through his hands and was
broken to fragments. “Ah, my men! there's a sign
for us—we may have a worse slip than that `'tween
the cup and the lip:' so let's be off—come, Pat.”

“Shall I fetch 'em both, captain?”

“No, no—one is as good as a thousand. But
stay, Pat. Drunk as they are,” thought Hewson,
“I'll not trust them in the sound of the mother's
screeches. First, Pat, let's have all ready for a
start—tie up your bags, boys, come.”

The men's brains were so clouded, that it seemed
to Hewson they were an eternity in loading their
beasts with their booty. Delay after delay occurred;
but finally all was ready, and he gave the signal to


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Pat now obeyed to the letter. He mounted the
stairs, sprang like a tiger on his prey, and returned
with Lizzy, already an unconscious burden, in his
arms. One piercing shriek Hewson heard proceeding
from Mrs. Archer's apartment, but not
another sound. It occurred to him that Pat might
have committed the murder he volunteered; and
exclaiming, “The blundering Irish rascal has
kicked the pail over!” he once more ascended the
stairs to assure himself of the cause of the ominous
silence. Edward was in the adjoining apartment
when Lizzy was wrested from her mother's
arms. He was recalled by Mrs. Archer's scream;
and when Hewson reached the apartment, he found
Mrs. Archer lying senseless across the threshold
of the door, and Edward groping around, and calling,
“Mother!—Lizzy!—where are you?—do
speak, mother!”

A moment after, Mrs. Archer felt her boy's arms
around her neck. She returned to a consciousness
of her condition, and heard the trampling of the
outlaws' horses as they receded from her dwelling.