University of Virginia Library


Page 32


“Wherefore is light given to him that is in misery, and life
unto the bitter in soul?”

We ought not to tax too severely the ingenuity
of our readers, and therefore must briefly explain
our poor friend Kisel's sudden appearance with the
marauders. He had waked from his sound sleep
on Gurdon Coit's floor at the moment that Eliot
galloped off with his associates towards Mrs. Archer's,
and in spite of all remonstrance he had
mounted his horse and followed him. He had the
dog's affection, but not his instinct; and failing to
find the right track, he fell in with the skinners instead
of rejoining his master. It occurred to Hewson
that the poor fellow might be a useful agent in
reconveying the child to Mrs. Archer; and ordering
his men to ride on each side of Kisel, he enforced
his continuance in the company into which he had
unwittingly fallen. One flash of hope came upon
him at the sight of his master, but he was soon
beyond the possibility of Eliot's pursuit or rescue;
and with a heavy heart he commended him to that
Power that had seemed hitherto to care for him as
for the ravens and all helpless things.

When Eliot reached Gurdon Coit's, he found


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that the general and men from West Point had
been gone for a half hour. Coit stood before the
door, holding by the halter a fine bay horse, and as
soon as he had expressed his heartfelt joy at
Eliot's report from Mrs. Archer's, he said, “I am
thinking, captain, you are pretty near breaking the
tenth commandment—no wonder, this is a noble
animal; how he paws the dust, as though he smelt
the battle afar off. But here's a note the gen'ral
left for you.”

As some among the youth of the present day
may be shocked at the spelling of the canonized old
general, before Eliot reads the note we must premise,
that as neither reading, writing, nor spelling
(Jack Cade to the contrary notwithstanding) “come
by nature,” the general's accomplishment in these
arts was very limited; and we beg them to remember,
that even in these days of universal learning,
a patriot-soldier might be forgiven very imperfect
orthography—but to the note.


“Dere, galunt young friend

—I could have huged
you before we parted, I have been so pleased with
you from the beginin to the end of this biznes. I
felt for you in the loss of your hors, and I can't
bear the thots of your riden that sorry jade, that's
only been used to prouling about o' nights, on all
sorts of diviltry; so I've ordered Gurden to put
into your hands a likely oretur, that our fokes at
home has sent up to be sold to the ofisers in camp.


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Take it, my boy, and don't feel beholden to me; for
when the war is at end, and it's conveneyent, we'll
settle for it.

“Yours, tell death, and ever after, if the Lord

Israel Putnam.”

We will leave Eliot's surprise, joy, and gratitude
to be imagined. The last emotion was greatly
augmented by his benefactor's exempting him from
the pain of a pecuniary obligation. He was soon
mounted on his new steed, and retracing his way,
with many a delightful recollection to counteract
his anxieties. These however prevailed when he
was ushered into Washington's presence, and felt
the whole weight of the task Herbert's rashness
had imposed on him. He first delivered his despatches,
and had the happiness of receiving his
commander's thanks for the manner in which he
had performed his mission. Washington wasted
no time in formal compliments, and Eliot felt his
approval to be more than the praise of other men.
Might not that approval be withdrawn? Eliot
must encounter the risk, and he proceeded to ask
the general's patience while he recounted the misdemeanors
and misfortunes of his friend.

It is well known that Washington's moderation
and equanimity were the effects of the highest
principle, not the gift of nature. He was constitutionally
subject to gusts of passion, but he had


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acquired a power, almost divine (and doubtless from
a divine source), by which he could direct the
whirlwind and subdue the storm. A power that
has seemed to the believing to verify that prophetic
verse in Proverbs, which accords with his natal
day, and which so truly graduates and expounds
his virtues—“He that ruleth his own spirit is
greater than he that taketh a city.”

Eliot saw, as he proceeded in his narrative, that
Washington's brow contracted, and that “the angry
spot” glowed there; but he continued to speak with
the calmness and manly freedom that suited a man
conscious of his own integrity and zealous for his
friend, nor did he change colour till Washington,
checking the hasty strides he was making up and
down the apartment, said, “What proof is there,
Captain Lee, that you were not privy to this mad
and disgraceful expedition of your friend?”

“None, sir,” replied Eliot, unappalled, but not
unmoved. Washington seemed struck with the
dignity of his manner; his countenance somewhat
relaxed as Eliot proceeded:—“There may be
probabilities as conclusive to a generous mind as
proofs to a common one. You will perceive, sir,
that the same action that was indiscretion in my
friend would have been crime in me, honoured as I
was by your trust. And further, that I could have
had no temptation to a violation of that trust but a
desire to oblige my friend, while he was urged on
and blinded to consequences by the intensity of


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filial and fraternal love, which, allow me to say,
sir, has been kept in long and painful abeyance by
his devotion to his country.”

“Your zeal for your friend is generous, Captain
Lee. Fidelity in friendship is a bond for integrity
in other matters; be assured, I will not hastily
withdraw the confidence I have with so much
reason placed in you. I must take time to reflect
on this matter. To what did you allude as having
occurred last night?”

Eliot briefly related the affair at Mrs. Archer's.
He saw a smile on Washington's lips when he
spoke of his hearty coadjutor “the gen'ral.” He
concluded by saying he trusted he had not offended
by following what seemed to him the imperative
dictates of humanity.

“No, my friend—no,” replied Washington, not
unmoved; “war too often cuts us off from the humanities—in
God's name let's perfect them when
we may. I am engaged now, come to me again
this evening.”

Eliot left his commander somewhat relieved, but
still not without deep anxiety for Linwood. He
had reason for solicitude. No man that ever lived
more jealously guarded against the appearance of
evil than Washington. One who kept with his
exactness the account with conscience, might, in
ordinary circumstances, have afforded to be careless
of appearances, and regardless of public opinion;
but he was aware that his reputation belonged to
his country, that it was identified with the cause


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he had espoused, the cause of liberty and popular
government; and how has that glorious cause
profited by it? Heralded by his spotless name,
it has gone forth to restore the order of God's
providence; to abase the high, and raise up those
that were bowed down; to break the golden sceptre,
to overthrow thrones, to open Bastiles, to unbind
chains, to reclaim the deserts that man had made,
and to sow at broadcast the seeds of knowledge,
virtue, and happiness!

The issue of Eliot's second interview with
Washington is already known, so far as it appeared
by the despatches sent to New-York. He had
the consolation of being assured that not a shadow
of distrust remained on Washington's mind. Never
man more needed solace in some shape than did
Eliot at this conjuncture of his affairs. On first
going to his quarters he found there a packet from
his mother. He pressed it to his lips, and eagerly
broke the seal. The following is a copy of his
mother's letter.


My dear Son,

—I perceive by your letters of
the first, which, thanks to a kind Providence, have
duly come to hand, that it is now nearly three
months since you have heard from us. Much good
and much evil may befall in three months! Much
good have I truly to be grateful for: and chiefly


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that your life and health have been thus precious
in the sight of the Lord, and that you have received
honour at the hand of man (of which our good Dr.
Wilson made suitable mention in his prayer last
Sabbath); and, as I humbly trust, approval from
Him who erreth not.

“We have had a season of considerable worldly
anxiety. The potato-crop looked poorly, and our
whole harvest was cut off by the blight in the rye,
which, as you see in the newspapers, has been
fatal through Massachusetts. This calamity has
been greatly aggravated by the embargo they have
laid on their flour in the southern states. The
days seemed to be coming upon us when `plenty
should be forgotten in our land, and sore famine
overspread the borders thereof.'—Our people have
been greatly alarmed, and there have been fasts in
all our churches, at which the carnally-minded have
murmured, saying it would be time enough to fast
when the famine came. It is indeed a time of
desolation in our land—`there is no more in our
streets the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness—the
voice of the bridegroom and the voice
of the bride'—the step of the father and the brother
are no more heard on our thresholds, and we stretch
our ears for tidings of battles that may lay them
in the dust. Think you, my son, that our children's
children, when they bear their sheaves rejoicing,
will remember those who sowed in tears,
and with much patience and many prayers?


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“For my own part, my dear Eliot, I have had
but little part in this worldly anxiety, for divers
reasons which you will presently see. One care
eats up another.” (Bessie's name was here written
and effaced.) “Let me tell you, before I forget it,
that the Lord has smiled on our Indian corn. I
had an acre put in the south meadow, which you
know is a warm soil, and Major Avery tells me it
will prove a heavy yield. He is a kind neighbour
(as indeed we all try to be in these times), and
called yesterday to ask me to get into his wagon,
and take a ride, saying it would cheer me up to
see the golden ears peeping out of their seared
and rustling leaves; but I did not feel to go.”—
(Here again Bessie's name was written, and again
effaced—the tender mother shrunk from giving the
blow that must be given.) “Do not have any care,
dear Eliot, about our basket and our store; they
are sufficiently filled. The children are nicely prepared
for winter, even to their shoes. Just as I
was casting about to see how I should get them
made, there being no shoemaker left short of Boston,
Jo Warren came home, his term of service
having expired, and he, as he says, `liking much
better the clack of his hammer and lap-stone than
bloody soldiering.'

“My dear son, I have written thus far without
touching on the subject which fills heart and mind,
day and night. I felt it to be suitable to mention
the topics above; but I knew if I left them to the


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last you would read without reading, and thereby
lose the little comfort they might give you. Fain
would I finish here! God grant you may receive
with submission what follows.—You know, that
never since you went away have I been able to
hold out any encouragement to you about your poor
sister. The dear child struggled, and struggled,
but only exhausted her strength without making
any headway; I shall always think it was from the
first more weakness of body than any thing else,
for she had such a clear sense of what was right,
and this it was that weighed her down—a for ever
tormenting sense that she was wasting in idle feelings
the life and faculties that God had given to
her. She tried to assist me in family duties, but
she moved about like a machine; and often her
sewing would drop from her hands, and she would
sit silent and motionless for hours.

“In the first part of Herbert Linwood's visit she
was more like her former self—old feelings seemed
to revive, and I had hopes—but oh! they were suddenly
dashed, for immediately on his going away she
seemed to have such self-reproach—such fear that
she had foregone her duty, and had for ever forfeited
your confidence. All night she was feverish and
restless, and during the day she would sit and weep
for hours together. She never spoke but to accuse
herself of some wrong committed, or some
duty unperformed. When the clock struck she
would count the strokes, and you could see the


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beatings of her heart answer to each of them, and
then she would weep till the hour came round
again. Dr. Wilson and some of our godly women
hoped she was under conviction; but I did not
favour their talking to her as often as they wished,
for I knew that her health was much broken, her
mind hurt, and that in this harp of a thousand
strings (as Dr. Watts says) there were many they
did not understand.

“Through the summer her flesh has wasted
away till she seemed but the shadow of her former
self. Her eyes appeared larger, and as the shadows
deepened about them, of a deeper blue than ever—
sometimes as I looked at her she startled me; it
seemed to me as if all of mortality were gone, and
I were standing in the presence of a visible spirit.
There was such a speaking, mournful beauty
about her, that even strangers—rough people too—
would shed tears when they looked at her.

“She never spoke of —. If the children
mentioned his name, or but alluded to him, she
seemed deaf and palsied. She never approached
the honeysuckle window where they used to sit.
She never touched the books he read to her—her
favourite books; and, one after another, she put
away the articles of dress he had noticed and admired.
Still with all these efforts she grew worse,
till her reason seemed to me like the last ray of the
sun before its setting.

“Two weeks ago she brought me a small box,


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enveloped and sealed, and asked me to keep it for
her; `be sure,' she said, `and put it where I cannot
find it—be sure, mother.' From this moment there
was a change—it seemed as if a pressure were
taken off—from hour to hour her spirits rose—she
talked with more than her natural quickness and
cheerfulness—joined in the children's sports, and
was full of impracticable plans of doing good, and
wild expectations of happiness to all the world.
I saw a fearful brightness in her eye. I knew
her happiness was all a dream; but still it was
a relief to see the dear child out of misery. I
hoped, and feared, and lived on, trembling from
hour to hour. Last night she asked me for her
box, and when she had taken it she threw her arms
around me, and looked in my face smiling—O!
what a wild, strange smile it was. She then kissed
the children and went to her room. She has
scarcely been in bed five minutes together for the
last fortnight; and as she did not come to breakfast
in the morning, I hoped she was still sleeping,
and truly thankful for this symptom that her
excitement was abating, I kept the house still.
Ten o'clock came, and not yet a sound from her
room—an apprehension darted through my mind
—I ran up stairs—her room was empty, her bed

“On the table, unsealed, was the packet I enclose
to you. I read it, and was relieved of my
worst fear. Our kind neighbours went yesterday in


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search of her, but in vain—last evening we heard
the tramp of a horse to the door, and it proved to
be Steady. He has been kept in the home-pasture
all the fall; and it seems the poor child, who you
know is so timid that she never before rode without
you or—at her side, had put on the saddle
and bridle, and started in the night. How far she
rode we can only conjecture from Steady appearing
quite beat out. Major Avery judges he may
have travelled eighty miles, out and home. You
will conclude with me that it is Bessie's intention
to go to New-York; and when I think of her worn
and distracted condition, and the state of the country
through which she must pass, filled with hostile
armies and infested with outlaws, do I sin in wishing
she were dead beneath her father's roof? If
any thing can be done, you will devise and execute
—my head is sick with thinking, and my heart
faint with sorrowing. Farewell, my beloved son.
Let us not, in our trouble, forget that we are all,
and especially the poor, sick, wandering lamb of
our flock, in the hands of a good Being who doth not
willingly afflict us.—

Your loving, grieving mother,

S. Lee.”

The first part of Bessie's letter appeared to have
been written at intervals, and some weeks antecedent
to the conclusion. It was evidently traced
with a weak and faltering hand, and had been
drenched with her tears. She began:


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“Dear brother Eliot” (the word “dear” was effaced
and re-written): “I am but a hypocrite to call
you `dear' Eliot, for all permitted affections are
devoured by one forbidden one. The loves that
God implanted have withered and died away under
the poisonous shadow of that which has been sown
in my heart—think you by the evil spirit, Eliot?
I sometimes fear so. I used to love our overkind
mother; and for our little brothers and sisters my
heart did seem to be one fountain of love, ever
sweet, fresh, and overflowing; and you, oh Eliot,
how fondly—proudly I loved you!—and now, if I
were to see you all dead before me, it would move
me no more than to see the idle leaves falling from
the trees.”

“I have read your letters over and over again, till
they have fallen to pieces with the continual dropping
of my hot tears; but every syllable is imprinted
on my heart. You did not believe your
`sister would waste her sensibility, the precious
food of life, in moping melancholy.' Oh, Eliot,
how much better must I have appeared to you than
I was! I have been all my life a hypocrite. You
believed `my mind had a self-rectifying power,'
and I imposed this belief on you! I am ready,
now, to bow my head in the dust for it. `Love,'
said your letter, `can never be incurable when it is
a disease: that is to say, when its object is unworthy.'
Ah, my dear brother, there was your


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fatal mistake. It was I that was unworthy—it
was your simple sister that, in her secret, unconfessed
thoughts, believed he loved her, knowing
all the while that his lot was cast with the high,
the gifted, the accomplished—with such as Isabella
Linwood, and not with one so humble in condition,
so little graced by art as I am. I do not blame
him. Heaven knows I do not. `Self-rectifying
power!' Eliot, talk to the reed, that has been uprooted
and borne away by the tides of the ocean,
of its `self-rectifying power!' ”

A long interval had elapsed after writing the
above; and the subsequent almost illegible scraps
indicated a mind in ruins.

“Oh, Eliot, pray—pray come home! They
are all persecuting me. The children laugh at me,
and whistle after me; and when I am asleep, they
blow his name in my ears. Mother looks at me,
and will not speak.”

“They have printed up all the books. Even
the Bible has nothing but his name from beginning
to end. I can never be alone; evil spirits are
about me by day and by night;—my brother, I am

“Eliot, my doom is spoken! Would that it
were to cut down the cumberer of the ground! but,


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no: I am to stand for ever on the desolate shore,
stricken and useless, and see the river of life glide
by. The day, as well as the night, is solitary;
and there is no joyful voice therein.”

“Oh, memory!—memory!—memory! what an
abyss of misery art thou! The sun rises and sets—
the moon rolls over the sky—the stars glide on in
their appointed paths—the seasons change, but no
change cometh to me—the past, the past is all—
there is no present, no future!”

“I remember hearing Dr. Wilson preach about
sin deserving infinite punishment, because it was
against an Infinite Being. I did not comprehend
him then—now I do. In vain I raise my faded
eyes and fevered hands to God.”

The remainder was written in a more assured
and rapid hand.

“Eliot, you have seen those days, have you not?
when clouds gathered over the firmament; when,
one after another, each accustomed and dear object
was lost in their leaden folds, when they grew
darker and came nearer, till you felt yourself
wrapped about in their chilling drapery, and you
feared the blessed sun was blotted out of Heaven.
Suddenly God's messenger hath come forth—the
clouds have risen at his bidding, and unveiled his


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beautiful works. The smiling waters and the
green fields, one after another, have appeared—the
silvery curtain has rolled up the mountain's side,
and then melted away and left the blue vault spotless.
Such darkness has oppressed me; such
brightness is now above and around me. Dear Eliot
how glad you will be! My spirits dance as they
did in my childhood. The days are all clear, and
the nights so beautiful, that I would not sleep if I
could. Shame to those who steep themselves in
the dull and brutish oblivion of sleep, when the
intelligences of Heaven are abroad on the moon-beams,
calling to the wakeful spirit to leave the
drowsy world and join their glorious company—to
career from star to star, and commune in the silence
of night with their creator. Oh, Eliot! I
have heard the music `of the young eyed cherubim;'
and I have learned secrets—wonderful secrets
of the offices and relations of spirits, if I
were sure you would believe them—but no, you
cannot. The mind must be prepared by months
of suffering—it must pass a dark and winding way
to reach (while yet on earth) the bright eminence
where I stand. But take courage, brother; when
you pass the bounds of time you will hear, and see,
and know what I now do.

“You will wonder how I have escaped the manacles
that so long bound me. I cannot explain all
now; but thus much I am permitted to say, that they
were riveted by certain charms: and I cannot be


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assured of my freedom till I myself return them to
him from whom they came—to him who has so
long been the lord of my affections and master of
my mind. Then, and not till then, shall I be the
`self-rectified' being you blindly but truly predicted.
I must go to New-York; but mind, dear
brother, and indulge no idle fears for me. Do you
remember once, when we read Comus together,
wishing your sister might, like the sweet lady
there, be attended by good spirits—dear Eliot, I
am. I cannot always see them through this thick
veil of mortality, but I can both hear and feel them.

“Our good mother pesters me so. Should you
think, brother, that a being accompanied as I am
could eat and drink, and lie down and sleep as
other mortals do? Oh, no! And, besides, are
they not all the time praying that the Lord would
send corn into their empty garners; and yet, poor
dull souls, they cannot see their prayer is answered,
when I am fed and satisfied with bread from
Heaven—sweet, spiritual food!

“I shall set forward to-night when they are all
steeped in this sleep they would fain stupify me
with. I have not hinted to our mother my purpose,
because, dear Eliot, since you are gone she
is quite different from what she was. I would say
it to none but you in the world; but the truth is,
she has grown very conceited, and would not believe
one word of my superior knowledge. I do
not blame her. The time is coming when the


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scales will fall from her eyes. Farewell, dear
brother,—`angels guard thee,' as Jasper used to
say;—I can write his name now with a steady
hand—what a change! They do guard me—the
blessed angels! Once more, fear nothing, Eliot.
In going, I am attended by that `strong siding
champion, conscience;' if I stay, he will desert me.”

Eliot's maliness was vanquished, and he wept
like a child over his sister's letter. He reproached
himself for having left home. He bitterly reproached
himself for not having foreseen the danger
of her long, exclusive, and confiding intercourse
with Meredith. He was almost maddened when
he thought of the perils to which she must have
been exposed, and of his utter inability to save her
from one of them. The only solacing thought that
occurred to him was the extreme improbability
that her fragile and exhausted frame could support
the fatigues she must encounter, and that even
now, while he wept over her letter (a fortnight had
elapsed since it was written), her gentle spirit
might have entered upon its eternal rest.