University of Virginia Library


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“This fierce spirit of liberty is stronger in the English colonies,
probably, than in any other people of the earth.”


Meredith's last interview with Isabella, broken
off so inopportunely by her mother, had left him
perplexed and disappointed. His love for her, if
analyzed, might have exhibited much of the dross
that belongs to a selfish and worldly spirit,—pride
and vanity, and something perhaps yet lower than
these; still it was a redeeming sentiment, and if
it had not force enough to conquer all that was evil
in him, it at least inspired some noble aspirations.

He had been apprized of his mother's arrival by
a sort of official note which she sent him from the
Narrows, the amount of which was, “that she had
come out because she could see no prospect of an
end to the atrocious war—that she had brought her
dear niece, Lady Anne, because it was as impossible
to separate from her as to prolong her own
cruel absence from her son.” Meredith interpreted
this note as readily as if he were reading a conventional
diplomatic cipher, and thus re-read it.
“The term of my dear niece, Lady Anne's
mourning, is nearly expired—she will have scores
of suitors, and her fortune will pass out of the


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family; while you, my dear son, are throwing yourself
away upon the broken-down Linwoods—the
only hope is in my crossing the horrible Atlantic,
and braving storms and privateers.”

Strange as it may seem, though thus forewarned,
he felt that he was not forearmed, at least in panoply
divine; he distrusted his power of resistance,
and was anxious to secure himself with grappling
irons before he should be wafted by his mother's
influence whither she would. Once assured
by her own lips, of what he had but the faintest
doubt, that Isabella Linwood loved him, his fate
would be fixed. He could tell his mother it was
so, and she would be saved the trouble of setting
her toils, and he from the necessity of avoiding her
snare, and—from the danger of falling into it. If
Jasper Meredith's virtue was infirm, he was sagacious,
and had at least the merit of being conscious
of the tottering base on which it rested.

When he left Isabella, he deferred his filial
duties, and proceeded forthwith to the city prison,
then called the Provost, where the prisoners of war
who were in the city, with the exception of such
officers as were on their parole, were herded together,
and treated in all respects like criminals.

Meredith, provided with an order from Robertson,
the commandant, and countersigned by Cunningham
(of infamous memory), the keeper of the
city prison, made his way through dens crowded
with American soldiers, to a small inner cell which


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Linwood was allowed the privilege of occupying
alone. Meredith had paid Linwood daily visits,
had reported to him his father's condition, and had
each day laboured to give such a bias to his mind
as to lead him to the course which he was now
authorized to set before him.

“Good morning, and good news for you, Linwood!”
he said, as he shut the door after him.

“Ha! has General Washington interposed for

Meredith shrugged his shoulders: “I alluded to
your father.”

“God forgive me! he is better, then?”

“Quite relieved—the gout has gone to the feet,
and if—if he were easy about you, there would be
no danger of a relapse. But, my dear Linwood,
you are looking ill yourself.”

“Not ill—no, but deused hungry. Cunningham's
short and sour commons leave an aching void, I
assure you.” Linwood placed his hands upon the
seat of his most painful sensations at the moment.

“I hoped the partridges and madeira I smuggled
in yesterday would have made you independent
of Cunningham's tender mercies, for twenty-four
hours at least.”

“Don't mention them just now, if you love me.
I worked myself up to making them over to some
poor wretches out there, who are dying by inches
of bad and insufficient food—but hunger is selfish,
and sharp-set as I now am, I am afraid I shall repent


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me of my good deeds—so don't speak of
them. Are there no despatches, no letters, nothing
yet from West Point?”

Meredith told him of the official communication
received from Washington, and the letter from
Eliot; of the one he spoke contemptuously, of
the other coldly. He then paused for Herbert to
give utterance to the disappointment expressed in
his truth-telling face, but he was silent, and Meredith
proceeded:—“One would think that a brave
young officer who, like you, had sacrificed every
thing to a fancied duty, deserved a kind word at
least from his commander; but these old-fashioned
courtesies have a little too much of the aristocratic
feudal taint for your republican leader. They
savour of the protection the lord extends to his
follower in return for services that are more cheaply
paid in continental rags, or in the promises of
King Congress! It is a hard service where there
is neither honour, favour, nor profit.” Meredith
again paused. Linwood was still silent, and he
went on to make the proposition authorized by Sir
Henry, and which he enforced by arguments of
policy so artfully and plausibly urged, that an older
and sterner casuist than our friend Herbert might
have been puzzled, if not tempted. But “it was
a joyous sight to see” how he brushed away the
web that was spun about him. He opened the
door that communicated with the adjoining apartment,
and the generous blood mounting to his


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cheeks, “Do you see that young man?” he asked,
in a low but energetic voice, and pointing to a
youth who, pale and haggard, was stretched on the
floor in one corner, wrapped in his camp-cloak,
eating a crust of mouldy bread; “he is from Carolina,
and as bold and generous a soldier as ever
shouldered a musket. He and his two brothers
joined the American army and came to the north—
by the way, Jasper, please mark how the scattered
and distant members of our vast country are drawn
and bound together by one sentiment—we fight
for Carolina, and Carolina fights for us. This
poor fellow is the survivor of his two brothers—
they fell in battle. His widowed mother lives on
a small plantation. Her slaves have been decoyed
away by the offer of freedom from your British
officers—generous, forsooth! and she is left with
one son. Yesterday this young man contrived to
get a letter forwarded, entreating his mother to give
up this son to her country. Look at that man with
the frame of a Hercules, his joints loosened, and
staggering as he crawls about from the effects of
starvation, and the cursed fetid atmosphere of this
hole! He is a Connecticut farmer, who began
his career at Bunker Hill. Think you he spends
his time in bewailing unrequited services, and
whining about continental money? No, but in
stimulating the spirits of these poor fellows by
visions of the future glory of their free and independent
country. `Never mind, boys,' he says;


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`let 'em burn our houses (his was burned at Fair-field),
our children shall live in better, and shall tie
the flag with thirteen stripes, and maybe more, to
the mast-head of their own ships.' Jasper, there is
not one of these most abused men whose heart does
not beat true to his country—to die doing battle
for her would be nothing; that is the common lot
of a soldier—but they are pining, starving, dying
by inches here, without one thought disloyal to her.
And I,” he continued, after reclosing the door,
“am to be humbled and galled with offers that the
most squalid wretch among them would spurn.
Perhaps I deserve it; there was one moment—but
one, thank God! when, tempted by more than all
the gold and all the honour in the king's gift, I
swerved. I was saved by a look from Isabella.
Do you think I could ever meet that eye again
after I had joined Sir Henry's honourable corps
of Reformees. I am humble, and with reason,
Heaven knows; but I do marvel, Jasper, that you
could suggest dishonour to Isabella's brother.”

“Pardon me, Mr. Linwood, we have different
views of the honour of the course I proposed, which
appears to me simply a return to your inalienable

“We certainly have very different views, Jasper.
You call those poor fellows out there rebels, I
patriots. You think they deserve to be ground to
the dust, I that they are infernally abused. You
think Washington is cold, selfish, calculating, ambitious;


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and I believe that he is generous, disinterested,
just, (thereby I suffer,) and humane I
now him to be; for there is not a man within
these walls, myself excepted, who has not received
some intimation that he is remembered and cared
for by his general. Now, with these views, I could
as easily put on the poisoned tunic of Nessus as
the uniform of the Reformees.”

The young men were both awkwardly silent for
a few moments. Meredith was discomfited and
mortified. Linwood's vexation had effervesced in
his long speech; to use a household simile, the scum
had boiled over and left the liquor clear. “Hang
it, Jasper,” he resumed, in his natural good-humourned
tone, “don't let's quarrel, though the more
you will serve me the more I won't be served. We
will agree to make over these contested topics to
dame Posterity, who, instead of peering forward,
as we must, into the dark future, has only to cast
her eyes behind her to award an infallible decision.
Fifty years hence, my dear fellow, would that we
could be here to see it, New-York will still be, if
you are right, a petty colonial station for British
officers; if I am, the rich metropolis of an independent
empire. But, allons—is there no news,
no gossip, no agreeable scandal afloat?”

Meredith suddenly recollected and communicated
the arrival of his mother and Lady Anne
Seton, and the propriety of hastening to receive
them. Linwood heartily congratulated him, little


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thinking how deeply his own fate was involved in
this arrival.

Meredith went to play his filial part, and Herbert
was left to solitary but not sad reflection.
He felt a most comfortable, and perhaps unexpected
assurance, that his virtues were purified
and strengthened in the fires of adversity.