University of Virginia Library


Page 239


“Let the great gods,
That keep this dreadful pother o'er our heads,
Find out their enemies now.”

Isabella and Lady Anne, cloaked and hooded,
repaired to Dame Bengin's some half hour, as may
be remembered, before the time appointed for their
meeting with Linwood. This forerunning of the
hour was to allow them to take advantage of Rose's
escort. It did not pass without a censure from
their wary coadjutor. “You lack discretion,
young ladies,” she said; “and I lacked it too
when I let you in partners in this business. My
father used to say, `if you want to go safe over a
tottering plank, always go alone.' However, we
must make the best of it now: so just take this
box of ribands, and stand at the farther end of the
counter, and seem to be finding a match. It is
nothing strange for ladies to be tedious at that.”

The young ladies obeyed, but Lady Anne fretted
in an under voice at the delay; and Isabella ventured
a remonstrance, to which Dame Bengin, an
autocrat in her own domain, replied, “She must go
her own way; that full twenty minutes were left
to the time appointed for the meeting at Smith's
house, and time was money to her.”


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“I wish to Heaven I could wring that parrot's
neck,” whispered Lady Anne; “I do believe the
people answer to its call.” The parrot kept up a
continuous scream of “Come in!—come in!” that
might have tormented nerves less excitable than
our friend's were at this moment.

“I surmise we are going to have a storm,” said
an old woman, who had stepped in for a penny-worth
of cochinia for her grandchildren; “its always
a sign of a storm when Sylvy keeps up such
a chattering at night-fall.” Lizzy Bengin went to
the door, and looked anxiously at the gathering

“Come in!—come in!” cried Sylvy; and, as if
obedient to her summons, trotted in, one after
another, half a dozen urchins. One wanted “a
skein of sky-blue silk for aunt Polly: not too
light, nor too dark; considerable fine, and very
strong; not too slack nor too hard twisted.” Lizzy
Bengin looked over half a dozen papers before she
could meet the order of her customer.

“Pray send the whole to aunt Polly,” cried
Lady Anne; “I will pay you, Bengin.” The boy
stared, the dame seemed not to hear her, and bade
the boy run home and tell aunt Polly she hoped
the skein would suit.

“Twopence worth of button-moulds—just this
size, ma'am.” The indefatigable Mrs. Bengin explored
the button-mould box.

“Mammy wants a nail of silk, a shade lighter


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than the sample.” Mrs. Bengin looked over her
pile of silks.

“Come in!—come in!” still cried Sylvy, certainly
not the silent partner of the house.

“Aunty wants a dust of snuff, and she'll pay
you to-morrow.”

“How much is a drawing of your best bohea,
Mrs. Bengin?”

“Mrs. Lizzy, uncle John wants to know if
you've got any shoes about little Johnny's size?”

While Mrs. Bengin, who was quite in the habit
of securing the mint, anise, and cummin of her
little trade, was with the utmost composure satisfying
these multifarious demands, the minutes
seemed ages to our impatient friends; Isabella took
out her watch. The dame perceived the movement,
and seemed to receive an impulse from it,
for she was dismissing the shoe inquirer with a
simple negative, when in came a black girl, with a
demand for “spirits of camphire.”

“What's the matter, Phillis?”

“Madam Meredith has got the hystrikes.”

“Then she has my note,” whispered Lady

While the camphire was pouring out, a sturdy
sailor-boy entered. “Ah, is that you, Tom Smith?
A hand of tobacco you're wanting? Well, first
come first served—just be taking in Sylvy, while
I'm getting a cork to suit the vial.” Mrs. Bengin
seemed suddenly fluttered by a look from Tom,


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and she bade the servant run home sans cork.
The moment Phillis had passed the threshold,
Lizzy said, “Speak out, Tom, there are none but
friends here!”

“It's too late, Lizzy Bengin, you're lost!”

The inquiries and replies that followed were
rapid. The amount of Tom's intelligence was,
that some combustibles had been discovered near
the magazine, and that as strange persons had
recently been observed going to and coming from
Lizzy's shop, it was believed that a plot had been
there contrived; the commandant had issued an
order for her apprehension, and men were by this
time on their way to seize her.

Lizzy Bengin had so often been suspected, and
threatened, and eluded detection, that she did not
now believe her good fortune had deserted her.
She heard Tom through, and then said, “My boat
is ready and I'll dodge them yet.”

Isabella ventured to ask, with scarcely a ray of
hope, “if they might still go with her?”

“Yes, if you're not afeared, and will be prudent.
Shut the shutters, Tom—lock the door after us, and
keep them out as long as possible, that we may
gain time. Throw my books into the loft—don't
let 'em rummage and muss my things, and look to
Sylvy.” Her voice was slightly tremulous as she
added, “If any thing happens to me, Tom, be kind
to Sylvy!”

By this time her cloak and hood were on, and


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they sallied forth. Dame Lizzy's valour was too
well tempered by discretion to have permitted her to
consent to the attendance of the young ladies, if
she had not, after calculating the chances, been
quite sure that no danger would be thereby incurred.
She believed that her pursuers, after being
kept at bay by her faithful ally Tom, would be at
a loss where next to seek her. The place appointed
for meeting Linwood was a little untenanted
dwelling, near the water's edge, called “Smith's
house.” There he was to doff his disguise, and
there, should there be any uproar in the streets, the
young ladies could remain till all was quiet. Isabella
and Lady Anne were in no temper to consider
risks and chances. Life, to the latter, seemed
to be set on the die of seeing Herbert once more.
Isabella felt a full sympathy with this most natural
desire, and an intense eagerness to be immediately
assured of her brother's escape; so, clinging close
to their sturdy friend, they hastened forward.

The old woman's interpretation of Sylvy's cries
proved a true one. A storm was gathering rapidly.
Large drops of rain pattered on the pavement, and
the lightning flashed at intervals. But the distance
to the boat, lying in a nook just above Whitehall,
was short, and the moon, some seven nights old,
was still unclouded. They soon reached “Smith's
house,” and heard the joyful signal-whistle previously
agreed on.

“He is here!” exclaimed Isabella.


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Lady Anne's fluttering heart was on her lips,
but she did not speak. Herbert joined them.

“Now kiss and part,” cried Lizzy Bengin. The
first command was superfluous; the second it
seemed impossible to obey. It was no time for
words, and few did they mingle with the choking
sighs of parting, but these few were of the marvellous
coinage of the heart, and the heart was
stamped upon them. The storm increased, and
the darkness thickened. “Come, come; this won't
do, young folks,” cried their impatient leader; “we
must be off—we've foul weather to cross the river,
and then to pass the enemy's stations before day-light—the
hounds may be on our heels too—we
must go.”

All felt the propriety, the necessity of this
movement. Lady Anne only begged that they
might go to the water's edge, and see the boat off.
Dame Bengin interposed no objection; that would
only have caused fresh entreaties and longer delay,
and they set forward. The distance to the boat
was not above a hundred yards; they had reached
the shore, Mrs. Bengin was already in the boat,
and Herbert speaking his last word, when they
heard the voices of pursuers, and the next flash of
lightning revealed a file of soldiers rushing towards
them. Lady Anne shrieked; Lizzy Bengin
screamed, “Jump in, sir, or I'll push off without

“Go,” cried Isabella, “dear Herbert, go.”


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“I will not—I cannot, and leave you in the
hands of these wretches.”

“Oh, no! do not—do not, Herbert,” entreated
Lady Anne, “take me with you.” This was
enough and irresistible. Herbert clasped his arm
around her, and leaped into the boat.

“Come with us, Isabella,” screamed Lady Anne.

“For God's sake, come, Belle,” shouted Herbert.
Isabella wavered for an instant. Another glare of
lightning showed the soldiers within a few feet of
her, looking, in that lurid light, fierce and terrible
beyond expression; Isabella obeyed the impulse
of her worst fears and leaped into the boat; and
Lizzy, who stood with her oar fixed, instantly pushed
from the shore. Curses burst from the lips of
their balked pursuers.

“We'll have them yet,” exclaimed their leader.
“To the Whitehall dock, boys, and get out a boat!”

Our boat's company was silent. Herbert, amid
a host of other anxieties, was, as he felt Lady
Anne's tremulous grasp, bitterly repenting this last
act of a rashness which he flattered himself experience
had cured, and Isabella was thinking of
the beating hearts at home.

Dame Bengin, composed, and alone wholly intent
on the present necessity, was the first to speak.
“Don't be scared, little lady,” she said; “sit down
quiet—don't touch his arm—he'll need all its
strength. Do you take the tiller, Miss Linwood—
mind exactly what I tell you—I know every turn


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in the current—don't lay out so much strength on
your oars, Captain Linwood—keep time to the dip
of mine—that will do!”

Dame Bengin, with good reason, plumed herself
on her nautical skill. Her father had been a pilot,
and Lizzy being his only child, he had repaired, as
far as possible, what he considered the calamity of
her sex, by giving her the habits of a boy. Her
childhood was spent on the water, and nature and
early training had endowed her with the masculine
spirit and skill that now did her such good service.
The courage and cowardice of impulse are too
much the result of physical condition to be the occasion
of either pride or shame.

The wind was rising, the lightning becoming
more vivid and continuous, and the pelting cold
rain driving in the faces of our poor fugitives.
The lightning gloriously lit up a wild scene; the
bay, a “phosphoric sea;” the little islands, that
seemed in the hurly-burly to be dancing on the
crested waves; and the shores, that looked like the
pale regions of some ghostly land. Still the little
boat leaped the waves cheeringly, and still no
sound of fear was heard within it. There is something
in the sublime manifestations of power in the
battling elements, that either stimulates the mind
of man, “stirs the feeling infinite,” and exalts it
above a consciousness of the mortality that invests
it, or crushes it under a sense of its own impotence.
Our little boat's company were a group


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for a painter, if a painter could kindle his picture
with electric light. Lizzy Bengin, her short muscular
arms bared, and every nerve of body and
mind strained, plied her oars, at each stroke giving
a new order to her unskilled but most obedient
coadjutors. Isabella's head was bare, her dark
hair hanging in masses on each side her face, her
poetic eye turning from “heaven to earth and earth
to heaven,” her face in the lurid light as pale as
marble, and like that marble on which the sculptor
has expressed his own divine imaginings in the
soft forms of feminine beauty. Lady Anne sat at
Herbert's feet, her eye fixed on his face, passively
and quietly awaiting her fate, not doubting that
fate would be to go to the bottom, but feeling that
such a destiny would be far more tolerable with
her lover, than any other without him. This dependance,
“love overcoming the fear of death,”
inspired Herbert with preternatural strength. His
fine frank face beamed with hope and resolution,
and his eye, as ever and anon it fell on the loving
creature at his feet, was suffused with a mother's

In the intervals of darkness they guided the
boat by the lights on the shores, and towards a
light that, kindled by a confederate of Lizzy Bengin's
for Herbert's benefit, blazed steadily, in spite
of the rain, a mile below Powles Hook.

They were making fair headway, when they
perceived a sail-boat put off from Whitehall.


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They were pursued, and their hearts sunk within
them; but Lizzy Bengin soon rallied, and her inspiring
voice was heard, calculating the chances of
escape. “The storm,” she said, “is in our favour
—no prudent sailor would spread a sail in such a
gusty night. The wind is flawy too, and we can
manage our boat, running first for one point and
then for another, so as to puzzle them, and in some
of their turns, if they have not more skill than any
man has shown since my father's day, they'll
capsize their boat.”

We dare not attempt to describe the chase that
followed; the dexterous manœuvring of the little
boat, now setting towards Long Island, now back
to the city, now for Governor's Island, now up,
and then down the river. We dare not attempt
it. Heaven seems to have endowed a single
genius of our land with a chartered right to all
the water privileges for the species of manufacture
in which we are engaged, and his power but
serves to set in desperate relief the weakness of
his inferiors. The water is not our element,
and we should be sure to show an “alacrity in

Suffice it to say, it seemed that the efforts of
our little boat's crew must prove unavailing; that
after Dame Bengin's sturdy spirit had yielded to
her woman's nature, and she had dropped her
oars, and given the common signals of her sex's
weakness in streaming tears and wringing hands,


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Herbert continued laboriously to row, till Lady
Anne, fainting, dropped her head on his knee,
and Isabella entreated him to submit at once to
their inevitable fate. Nothing indeed now remained
but to run the boat ashore, to surrender
themselves to their pursuers, to obtain aid for
Lady Anne, and secure protection to her and Isabella.
The resolution taken, the boat was suddenly
turned; the sail-boat turned also, but too
suddenly; the wind struck and capsized it. The
bay was in a blaze of light when the sail dipped to
the water—intense darkness followed—no shriek
was heard.

After the first exclamations burst from the lips
of our friends, not a sound proceeded from them,
not a breath of exultation at a deliverance that involved
their fellow-beings in destruction. The
stroke of Herbert's oars ceased, and the fugitives
awaited breathlessly the next flash of lightning, to
enable them to extend their aid, if aid could be
given. The lightning came and was repeated, but
nothing was to be seen but the boat drifting away
at the mercy of the waves.

A few moments more brought them to land,
where, beside their beacon-light, stood an untenanted
fisherman's hut, in which they found awaiting
them a comfortable fire and substantial food.
These “creature comforts,” with rest and rekindled
hope, soon did their work of restoration. And the
clouds clearing away, and the stars shining out


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cheerily, Lizzy Bengin, aware that her presence
rather encumbered and endangered the companions
of her flight than benefited them, bade them a
kind good-night, and sought refuge among some
of her Jersey acquaintance, true-hearted to her, and
to all their country's friends.