University of Virginia Library


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“Adventurous I have been, it is true,
And this fool-hardy heart would brave—nay, court,
In other days, an enterprise of passion;
Yea, like a witch, would whistle for a whirlwind.
But I have been admonished.”

Our humble story treats of the concerns of individuals,
and not of historical events. We shall
not, therefore, embarrass our readers with the particulars
of the secret mission on which Eliot Lee
had been sent to the city by the commander-in-chief.
He needed an agent, who might, as the
exigency should demand, be prudent or bold, wary
or decided, cautious or gallant, and self-sacrificing.
He had tested Eliot Lee, and knew him to be
capable of all these rarely-united virtues. Eliot
had confided to Washington his anxieties respecting
his unfortunate sister, and his burning desire to go
to the city, where he might possibly ascertain her
fate. Washington gave him permission to avail
himself of every facility for the performance of his
fraternal duty, consistent with the public service
on which he sent him. His sympathies were alive
to the charities of domestic life. While the military
chieftain planted and guarded the tree that was


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to overshadow his country, he cherished the birds
that made their nests in its branches.

Eliot was instructed to seek a hiding-place in
the city at a certain Elizabeth Bengin's, a woman
of strong head and strong heart, whose name is
preserved in history as one who, often at great
personal risk, rendered substantial service in the
country's cause. Dame Bengin and her parrot
Sylvy, who seemed to preside over the destinies
of the shop, and did in fact lure many a young
urchin into it, were known to all the city. The
dame herself was a thick-set, rosy little body,
fair, fat, and forty; her shop was a sort of thread
and needle store: but as the principle of division
of labour had yet made small progress in our young
country, Mistress Bengin's wares were as multifarious
as the wants of the citizens. Mrs. Bengin's
first principle was to keep a civil tongue in her
own and in Sylvy's head, she “holding civility
(as she often said and repeated) to be the most disposable
and most profitable article in her shop.”
It was indeed seriously profitable to her, for it surrounded
her with an atmosphere of kindness, and
enabled her, though watched and suspected by the
English, to follow her calling for a long while unmolested.

She gave Eliot an apartment in a loft over her
shop, to which, there being no apparent access,
Eliot obtained egress and ingress by removing a
loose board that, to the uninstructed eye, formed a
part of the ceiling of the shop.


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From this hiding-place Eliot sallied forth to
execute his secret purposes, varying his disguises,
which were supplied by Mrs. Bengin, as caution
dictated. As all sorts of persons frequented the
shop, no attention was excited by all sorts of persons
coming out of it. Eliot's forced masquerading
often compelled him to personate various characters
during the day, and at evening, with simply a
cloak over his own uniform, and a wallet over his
arm, like those still used by country doctors, and
precisely, as Dame Bengin assured him, like that
carried by the “doctor that attended the quality,”
he made his way, sheltered by the obscurity of the
night, to Mrs. Archer's, where he was admitted by
one of the children, whose acute senses caught the
first sound of his approaching footsteps. Eliot, in
spite of remonstrances from his prime minister,
Mrs. Bengin, had persisted in appearing in his own
dress at Mrs. Archer's. In vain the good dame
speculated and soliloquized; she could not solve
the mystery of this only disobedience to her counsel.
“To be sure,” she said, “it makes a sight
of difference in his looks, whether he wears my
tatterdemalion disguises, wigs, scratches, and what
not, or his own nice uniform, with his own rich
brown hair, waving off his sunshiny forehead—a
bright, pleasant, tight-built looking youth he is,
as ever I put my two eyes upon; and if he were
going to see young ladies, I should not wonder
that he did not want to put his light under a bushel;


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but, my conscience! to keep up such a brushing
and scrubbing—my loft is not so very linty either
—just to go before the widow Archer—to be sure,
she is a widow; but then, there never was a man
yet that dared to have any courting thoughts of
her, any more than if she were buried in her husband's
grave; and this is not the youth to be presuming.”

Dame Bengin knew enough of human nature to
have solved the mystery of Eliot's toilet, if she
had been apprized of one material fact in the case.
At Mrs. Archer's, watching at Bessie's bedside,
Eliot always found Miss Linwood; and though the
truest, the most anxious, and tender of brothers, he
was not unconscious of her presence, nor unconscious
that her presence mingled with his sufferings
for his sister a most dangerous felicity. His
fate was inevitable; he at least thought it so; and
that fate was an intense and unrequited devotion to
one as unattainable to him as if she were the inhabitant
of another planet. He did not resist his destiny
by abating one minute of those hours that were
worth years of a drawing-room intercourse. In
ordinary circumstances, Isabella's soul would have
been veiled from so new an acquaintance; but now,
constantly under the influence of strong feeling
and fresh impulses, and a most joyous sense of
freedom, her lofty, generous, and tender spirit
glowed in her beautiful face, and inspired and
graced every word and movement.


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Her devotion to Bessie was intense; not simply
from compassion nor affection, but remembering,
that in her self-will she had insisted, in spite of her
father's disinclination, and her aunt's most reasonable
remonstrances, on Bessie's visit to the city,
she looked upon herself as the primary cause of
her friend's misfortunes, and felt her own peace of
mind to be staked on Bessie's recovery. What a
change had the discipline of life wrought in Isabella's
character! the qualities were still the same;
the same energy of purpose, the same earnestness
in action, the same strength of feeling, but now all
flowing in the right channel, all having a moral
aim, and all governed by that religious sense of
duty, which is to the spirit in this perilous voyage
of life what the compass is to the mariner.

Of Bessie's recovery there seemed, from day to
day, little prospect. One hopeful circumstance
there was. The intelligent physician consulted by
Mrs. Archer had frankly confessed that his art
could do nothing for her, and had advised leaving
her entirely to the energies of nature. Would
that this virtue of letting alone were oftener imitated
by the faculty! that nature were oftener permitted
to manifest her power unclogged, and unembarrassed
by the poisons of the drug-shop!

Bessie was as weak and helpless as a new-born
infant, and apparently as unknowing of the world
about her. With few and brief exceptions, she
slept day and night. Her face was calm, peaceful,


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and not inexpressive, but it was as unvarying as a
picture. Her senses appeared no longer to be the
ministers of the mind; she heard without hearing,
and saw without seeing, and never attempted to
speak. At times, her friends despaired utterly, believing
that her mind was extinct; and then again
they hoped it was a mere suspension of her faculties,
a rest preluding restoration.

While fear and hope were thus alternating, a
week passed away. Eliot's mission was near
being accomplished. The evening of the following
day was appointed for the consummation of his
plans. The boats, with muffled oars and trusty
oarsmen, were in readiness, and the plan for the
secret seizure of a most important personage so
well matured, that it was all but impossible it
should be baffled. The most brilliant result seemed
certain: and well-balanced as Eliot's mind was,
it was excited to the highest pitch when a communication
reached him from headquarters, informing
him that Washington deemed it expedient to
abandon the enterprise of which he was the agent;
and he was directed, if possible, to cross the Hudson
during the night, and repair to the camp near
Morristown. And thus ended the hope of brilliant
achievement and sudden advancement; and he
went to pay his last visit to his sister—for the last
time to see Isabella Linwood!

She met him with good news lighting her eyes,


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“Bessie is reviving!” she said; “she has pressed
my hand, and spoken my name!”

“Thank God!” replied Eliot, approaching the
bedside. For the first time Bessie fixed her eye
on him as if conscious at whom she was looking;
then, as he bent over her, she stretched out her
arms, drew his face to hers, and kissed him, feebly
murmuring, “dear Eliot!”

The effort exhausted her, and she reverted to
her usual condition. “This must be expected,”
said Miss Linwood, replying to the shade of disappointment
that passed over Eliot's brow; “but
having seen such a sign of recovery, you will leave
her with a light heart?”

Eliot smiled assentingly; a melancholy smile
enough. “You still,” she continued, “expect to
get off to-morrow evening?”

“No, my business in the city is finished, and I
go this very night.”

“To-night! would to Heaven that Herbert were
going with you!”

“Not one regret for my going!” thought Eliot,
and he sighed involuntarily. “You seem,” resumed
Isabella, “very suddenly indifferent to
Herbert's fate—you do not care to know, before
you go, how our plans are ripening?”

“Indifferent to Herbert's fate!—to aught that
concerns you, Miss Linwood!”

“A commonplace compliment from you, Captain
Lee—well, as it is the first, I'll forgive you—


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not so would Herbert, for making him secondary
in a matter where he is entitled to the honour, as he
has the misery of being principal. Poor fellow!
his adversities have not taught him patience, and
Rose tells me he is very near the illness he has
feigned, and that if he does not get off by tomorrow
night, he will fret himself into a fever.”

“Have you made Lady Anne acquainted with
your project?”

“Yes, indeed! and her quick wit, loving heart,
and most ingenious fingers, have been busy in contriving
and executing our preparations. She is wild
enough to wish to be the companion of Herbert's
flight—this is not to be thought of—but I have
promised her that she shall see him once more.
Lizzy Bengin will go with us to the boat, where, if
Heaven prosper us, he will be by eight to-morrow
evening. And then, Captain Lee, should you persuade
General Washington to receive and forgive
him, we shall be perfectly happy again.”

“Perfectly happy!” echoed Eliot, in a voice
most discordant with the words he uttered.

“Oh, pardon me! I did not mean that. It is
cruel to talk to you of happiness while Bessie is
in this uncertain condition—and most unjust it is to
myself, for I never shall be happy unless she is restored,
and mistress of herself again.”

“Ah, Miss Linwood, that cannot be. In her
best days she had not the physical and mental
power required to make her `mistress of herself;'


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no, it can never be. If it were not for my mother,
who I know would wish Bessie restored to her,
even though she continue the vacant casket she
now is, I should, with most intense desire, pray
God to take her to himself—there alone can a
creature so sensitive and fragile be safe and at

“You are wrong—I am certain you are wrong.
There is a flexibility in our womanly nature that
is strength in our weakness. Bessie will perceive
the delusion under which she has acted and suffered,
and which had dominion over her, because, like
any other dream, it seemed a reality while it lasted.
Yes, her affections will return to their natural channels
to bless us all.” Eliot shook his head despondingly.
“You are faithless and unbelieving,”
continued Isabella; and then added, smiling and
blushing, “but I reason from experience, and
therefore you should believe me.”

This was the first time that Meredith had been
alluded to. The allusion was intrepid and generous;
and if a confession of past weakness, it was
an assurance of present, conscious, and all-sufficient
strength. That Eliot at least thought so,
was evident from the sudden irradiation of his
countenance; a brightness misinterpreted by Isabella,
who immediately added, “I have convinced
you, and you will admit I was not so very rash
in saying that we should all again be perfectly


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Eliot made no reply; he walked to the extremity
of the room, paused, returned, gazed intently yet
abstractedly at his sister, then at Isabella, and then
mechanically took up his hat, laid it down, and
again resumed it.

Isabella was perplexed by his contradictory
movements. “You are not going so soon?” she
said. He did not reply. “Shall I call my
aunt?” she added, rising.

Eliot seized her hand, and withheld her. “No,
no, not yet—Miss Linwood, I am playing the
hypocrite—it is not alone my anxiety for my sister
that torments me—that made your prediction of
happiness sound to me like a knell.” He paused,
and then yielding to an irresistible impulse, he impetuously
threw himself at Isabella's feet. “Isabella
Linwood, I love you—love you without the
presumption of the faintest, slightest hope—before
we part for ever, suffer me to tell you so.”

“Captain Lee, you astonish me!—you do not

“I know I astonish you, but I will not offend
you. Is it folly—rashness—obtrusiveness, to pour
out an affection before you, that expects nothing
in return, asks nothing but the satisfaction of being
known, and not offensive to you?”

“Oh, no, no; but you may regret—”

“Never, never. From this moment I devote
my heart—I dedicate my existence to you; insomuch
as God permits me to love aught beneath


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himself, I will love you. I must now part from
you for ever; but wherever I go your image will
attend me—that cannot be denied me—it shall defend
me from temptation, incite me to high resolves,
pure thoughts, and good deeds.”

“Such homage might well make me proud,” replied
Isabella, “and I am most grateful for it; but
your imagination is overwrought; this is a transient
excitement—it will pass away.”

“Never!” replied Eliot, rising, and recovering
in some degree the steadiness of his voice; “hear
me patiently; it is the only time I shall ever
ask your indulgence. I am not now, nor was
I ever, under the dominion of my imagination or
my passions. I have been trained in the school of
exertion, of self-denial, and self-subjection; and I
would not, I could not love one who did not sway
my reason, who was not entitled to the homage of
my best faculties. I have been moved by beauty,
I have been attracted by the lovely—I have had
my fancies and my likings—what man of two-and-twenty
has not?—I never loved before; never
before felt a sentiment that, if it were requited,
would have made earth a paradise to me; but that
unrequited, unsustained but by its own independent
vitality, I would not part with for any paradise on
this earth.”

The flush of surprise that first overspread Isabella's
face had deepened to a crimson glow. If a
woman is not offended by such language as Eliot's,


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she cannot be unmoved. Isabella's was a listening
eye. It seemed to Eliot, at this moment, that its
rays touched his heart and burned there. She
passed her hand over her brow, as one naturally
does when the brain is becoming a little blurred in
its perceptions. “This is so very strange, so unexpected,”
she said, in the softest tone of that
voice, whose every tone was music to her lover's
ear—“in one short week—it cannot be!”

Isabella but half uttered her thoughts: she had
been misled, as most inexperienced observers are in
similar cases, by the tranquillity of Eliot's manner;
she respected and liked him exceedingly; but she
thought him unexcitable, and incapable of passion.
She had yet to learn that the strongest passions
are reducible to the gentlest obedience, and may
be so subjected as to manifest their power, not in
irregular and rebellious movements, but only in the
tasks they achieve. She did not now reflect or
analyze, but she felt, for the first time, there was
that in Eliot Lee that could answer to the capacities
of her own soul.

“This is, undoubtedly, unexpected to you,” resumed
Eliot, “but should not be strange. When
I first saw you I was struck with your beauty;
and I thought, if I were a pagan, I should imbody
my divinity in just such a form, and fall down and
worship it—that might have been what the world
calls falling in love, but it was far enough from
the all-controlling sentiment I now profess to you.


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Our acquaintance has been short (I date farther
back than a week); but in this short period I have
seen your mind casting off the shackles of early
prejudices, resisting the authority of opinion, self-rectified,
and forming its independent judgments
on those great interests in which the honour and
prosperity of your country are involved. I have
gloried in seeing you willing to sacrifice the pride,
the exclusiveness, and all the little idol vanities of
accidental distinctions, to the popular and generous

“Nay, hear me out, Isabella; I will not leave
you till you have the reasons of my love; till
you admit that I have deliberately elected the
sovereign of my affections; till you feel, yes, feel,
that my devotion to you can never abate.” He
hesitated, and his voice faltered; but he resolutely
proceeded: “Other shackles has your power over
woman's weakness enabled you to cast off.”

“Oh, no—no; do not commend me for that—
they fell off.”

“Be it so: they could not fetter you, that is

“Then,” said Isabella, somewhat mischievously,
“I think you like me for, what most men like not
at all—my love of freedom and independence of

“Yes, I do; for I think they are essential to the
highest and most progressive nature; but I should


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not love it if it were not blended with all the tenderness
and softness of your sex. The fire that
mounts to Heaven from the altar, diffuses its gentle
warmth at the fireside. Think you, that while
you have been tending my sister, I have been unmindful
of your kindly domestic qualities, or blind
to the thousand womanly inventions by which I see
you ministering to the happiness of these unfortunate
children? Have you thought me insensible
to your intervention for my poor boy, Kisel, though
God, in much mercy to him, willed it should be
bootless? I do homage to your genius, talent,
and accomplishment, but I love your gracious, domestic,
home-felt virtues. I am exhausting your
patience.” Isabella had covered her face; overpowered
with the accumulated proof that Eliot had
watched her with a fond lover's eye. After a slight
hesitation, he proceeded to obey a most natural, if
it be a weak longing. “Allow me, if you can,
one solace, one blessed thought to cheer a long
life of loneliness and devotion. I am bold in asking
it; but, tell me, had I known you earlier, had
no predilection forestalled me, had no rival intervened,
do you think it possible that you should
have returned my love?”

Some one says that all women are reared hypocrites—trained
to veil their natures; Isabella Linwood,
at least, was not. She replied, impulsively
and frankly, “Most certainly I should.”


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Eliot again fell at her feet. He ventured to take
her hand, to press it to his lips, to wet it with his
tears. “I am satisfied,” he said; “now I can go;
and the thought that I might, under a happier star,
have been loved by Isabella Linwood, shall elevate,
guide, and sooth me, in all the chances and changes
of life.”

While Eliot was uttering these last words,
and while Isabella was absorbed in the emotions
they excited, the door was softly opened,
and Lizzy Archer, flitting across the room, said
in a low voice, “Oh, Captain Lee! what shall we
do?—there are horrid soldiers watching at both
our doors for you—mamma is out, and I could not
sleep—I never sleep when you are here, for fear
something will happen—I heard their voices at the
side door; and when I came through the hall, I
heard others through the street door—what shall we
do?—Cousin Belle, pray think—you can always
think in a minute.”

But “Cousin Belle's” presence of mind had
suddenly forsaken her; and as Eliot's eye glanced
towards her, he saw she was pale and trembling.
A hope shot into his mind, a thought of the possibility
that if he were not now severed from her,
that which she had generously admitted might
have been, might still be. To exclude this newborn
hope seemed to him like the extinction of
life. He rapidly revolved the circumstances in
which he was placed. He had done, in the affair


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intrusted to him, all, and even more than his commander
expected; it had failed of consummation
through no fault of his; he was in the American
uniform, and thus captured, he might claim the
rights of a prisoner of war; the temporary loss
of his presence in camp would be unimportant to
the cause; and remaining for a time within reach
of Isabella Linwood might result in good, infinite
good, and happiness to himself. He wavered;
but the fixed habit of rectitude prevailed, the duty
of the soldier over the almost irresistible inclinations
of the man: he shut out the temptation,
and only considered the means of escape. “Dear
Lizzy,” he said, “if I could find my way to your
skylight—I have observed the descent would not
be dangerous from there to the back building, and
so down on the roofs of the other offices.”

“But,” said Lizzy, for the little creature seemed
to have considered the whole ground, “if there
should be soldiers too at the back gate?”

“I will avoid them, Lizzy, by going into the
next yard to yours, then over two or three walls,
till I find it safe to emerge into the street.”

“I can lead you to the skylight. I am very
glad I am blind, so I shall not need any light; for
that would show you to the soldiers, who are
standing by the side windows of the hall-door.
Oh, dear, I hope they won't hear my heart beat;
but it does beat so!”

There were other hearts there that beat almost


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audibly besides poor Lizzy's; but there was no
time to indulge emotions. Eliot kissed his unconscious
sister; and then grasping the hand Isabella
extended to him, he would have said, “Farewell
for ever!” but his voice was choked, and the last
ominous word was unpronounced. His little guide
led him noiselessly up the stairs, through the entries,
and to the skylight; and then fondly embracing
him and promising to give his farewells to
“mother and Ned,” she parted from him, and stood
fixed and breathless, listening till she believed he
had eluded those who were lying in wait for him,
when she returned to give full vent to her feelings
on Isabella's bosom, and to find more sympathy
there than she wotted of.

We shall not follow our hero through his “imminent
dangers and hair-breadth 'scapes.” Suffice it
to say, he did escape; and having passed the
Hudson in the same little boat that brought “Harmann
Van Zandt” to the city, he eluded the British
station at Powles Hook, passed their redoubts, and
at dawn of day received at the camp at Morris-town
the warm thanks of Washington, who estimated
conduct by its intrinsic merit, and not, according
to the common and false standard, by its