For Love of Country
A Story of Land and Sea in the Days of the Revolution
CYRUS TOWNSEND BRADY
AUTHOR OF "THE GRIP OF HONOR," "FOR THE FREEDOM OF THE SEA," ETC.
CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS
BY CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS
All rights reserved.
Society of the Sons of the Revolution,
And those kindred organizations whose chief function is to cultivate a spirit of patriotism and love of country in the present by recalling the struggles and sacrifices of the past.
Since the action of this story falls during the periods, and the book deals with personages and incidents, which are usually treated of in the more serious pages of history, it is proper that some brief word of explanation should be written by which I might confirm some of the romantic happenings hereafter related, which to the casual reader may appear to draw too heavily upon his credulity for acceptance.
The action between the Randolph and the Yarmouth really happened, the smaller ship did engage the greater for the indicated purpose, much as I have told it; and if I have ventured to substitute another name for that of the gallant sailor and daring hero, Captain Nicholas Biddle, who commanded the little Randolph, and lost his life, on that occasion, I trust this paragraph may be considered as making ample amends. The remarkable fight between those two ships is worthy of more extended notice than has hitherto been given it, in any but the larger tones (and not even in some of those) of the time. As far as my information permits me to say, there never was a more heroic battle on the seas.
Again, it is evident to students of history that the character of Washington has not been properly understood hitherto, by the very people who revere his name, though the excellent books of Messrs. Ford, Wilson, Lodge, Fiske, and others are doing much to destroy the popular canonization which made of the man a saint; in defence of my characterization of him I am able to say that the incidents and anecdotes and most of the conversations in which he appears are absolutely historical.
If I have dwelt too long and too circumstantially upon the Trenton and Princeton campaigns for a book so light in character as is this one, it may be set down to an ardent admiration for Washington as man and soldier, and a design again to exhibit him as he was at one of the most critical and brilliant points of his career. Furthermore, I find that the school and other histories commonly accessible to ordinary people are not sufficiently awake to the importance and brilliancy of the campaign, and I cherish the hope that this book may serve, in some measure, to establish its value.
I have freely used all the histories and narratives to which I had access, without hesitation; and if I have anticipated a distinguished arrival, or hastened the departure of a ship, or altered the date of a naval battle, or changed its scene, I plead the example of the distinguished masters of fiction, to warrant me.
In closing I cannot refrain from thanking those who have so kindly assisted me with advice and correction during the writing of this story and the reading of the proof, especially the Rev. A. J. P. McClure.
C. T. B.
PHILADELPHIA, PENNA., November, 1897.
THE EVENTS OF A NIGHT
I KATHARINE YIELDS HER INDEPENDENCE II THE COUNTRY FIRST OF ALL III COLONEL WILTON IV LORD DUNMORE'S MEN PAY AN EVENING CALL V A TIMELY INTERFERENCE VI A FAITHFUL SUBJECT OF HIS MAJESTY VII THE LOYAL TALBOTS VIII AN UNTOLD STORY IX BENTLEY'S PRAYER X A SOLDIER'S EPITAPH
KNIGHTS ERRANT OF THE SEA
XI CAPTAIN JOHN PAUL JONES XII AN IMPORTANT COMMISSION XIII A CLEVER STRATAGEM XIV A SURPRISE FOR THE JUNO XV CHASED BY A FRIGATE XVI 'TWIXT LOVE AND DUTY XVII AN INCIDENTAL PASSAGE AT ARMS XVIII DUTY WINS THE GAME
THE LION AT BAY
XIX THE PORT OF PHILADELPHIA XX A WINTER CAMP XXI THE BOATSWAIN TELLS THE STORY XXII WASHINGTON—A MAN WITH HUMAN PASSIONS XXIII LIEUTENANT MARTIN'S LESSON XXIV CROSSING THE DELAWARE XXV TRENTON—THE LION STRIKES XXVI MY LORD CORNWALLIS XXVII THE LION TURNS FOX XXVIII THE BRITISH PLAY "TAPS" XXIX THE LAST OF THE TALBOTS
A DEATH GRAPPLE ON THE DEEP
XXX A SAILOR'S OPINION OF THE LAND XXXI SEYMOUR'S DESPERATE RESOLUTION XXXII THE PRISONERS ON THE YARMOUTH XXXIII TWO PROPOSALS XXXIV CAPTAIN VINCENT MYSTIFIED XXXV BENTLEY SAYS GOOD-BY XXXVI THE LAST OF THE RANDOLPH XXXVII FOR LOVE OF COUNTRY XXXVIII PHILIP DISOBEYS ORDERS XXXIX THREE PICTURES OF THE SEA.
THE DEAD ALIVE AGAIN
XL A FINAL APPEAL XLI INTO THE HAVEN AT LAST
THE EVENTS OF A NIGHT
For Love of Country
Katharine Yields her Independence
If Seymour could have voiced his thought, he would have said that the earth itself did not afford a fairer picture than that which lay within the level radius of his vision, and which had imprinted itself so powerfully upon his impressionable and youthful heart. It was not the scenery of Virginia either, the landscape on the Potomac, of which he would have spoken so enthusiastically, though even that were a thing not to be disdained by such a lover of the beautiful as Seymour had shown himself to be,—the dry brown hills rising in swelling slopes from the edge of the wide quiet river; the bare and leafless trees upon their crests, now scarce veiling the comfortable old white house, which in the summer they quite concealed beneath their masses of foliage; and all the world lying dreamy and calm and still, in the motionless haze of one of those rare seasons in November which so suggests departed days that men name it summer again. For all that he then saw in nature was but a setting for a woman; even the sun itself, low in the west, robbed of its glory, and faded into a dull red ball seeking to hide its head, but served to throw into high relief the noble and beautiful face of the girl upon whom he gazed,—the girl who was sun and life and light and world for him.
The most confirmed misogynist would have found it difficult to challenge her claim to beauty; and yet it would require a more severe critic or a sterner analyst than a lover would be likely to prove, to say in just what point could be found that which would justify the claim. Was it in the mass of light wavy brown hair, springing from a low point on her forehead and gently rippling back, which she wore plaited and tied with a ribbon and destitute of powder? How sweetly simple it looked to him after the bepowdered and betowered misses of the town with whom he was most acquainted! Was it in the broad low brow, or the brown, almost black eyes which laughed beneath it; or the very fair complexion, which seemed to him a strangely delightful and unusual combination? Or was it in the perfection of a faultless, if somewhat slender and still undeveloped figure, half concealed by the vivid "Cardinal" cloak she wore, which one little hand held loosely together about her, while the other dabbled in the water by her side?
Be this as it may, the whole impression she produced was one which charmed and fascinated to the last degree, and Mistress Katharine Wilton's sway among the young men of the colony was-well-nigh undisputed. A toast and a belle in half Virginia, Seymour was not the first, nor was he destined to be the last, of her adorers.
The strong, steady, practised stroke, denoting the accomplished oarsman, with which he had urged the little boat through the water, had given way to an idle and purposeless drift. He longed to cast himself down before the little feet, in their smart high-heeled buckled shoes and clocked stockings, which peeped out at him from under her embroidered camlet petticoat in such a maliciously coquettish manner; he longed to kneel down there in the skiff, at the imminent risk of spoiling his own gay attire, and declare the passion which consumed him; but something—he did not know what it was, and she did not tell him—constrained him, and he sat still, and felt himself as far away as if she had been in the stars.
In his way he was quite as good to look at as the young maiden; tall, blond, stalwart, blue-eyed, pleasant-featured, with the frank engaging air which seems to belong to those who go down to the sea in ships, Lieutenant John Seymour Seymour was an excellent specimen of that hardy, daring, gallant class of men who in this war and in the next were to shed such imperishable lustre upon American arms by their exploits in the naval service. Born of an old and distinguished Philadelphia family, so proud of its name that in his instance they had doubled it, the usual bluntness and roughness of the sea were tempered by this gentle birth and breeding, and by frequent attrition with men and women of the politest society of the largest and most important city of the colonies. Offering his services as soon as the news of Lexington precipitated the conflict with the mother country, he had already made his name known among that gallant band of seamen among whom Jones, Biddle, Dale, and Conyngham were pre-eminent.
The delicious silence which he had been unwilling to break, since it permitted him to gaze undisturbed upon his fair shipmate, was terminated at last by that lady herself.
She looked up from the water with which she had been playing, and then appearing to notice for the first time his steady ardent gaze, she laughed lightly and said,—
"Well, sir, it grows late. When you have finished contemplating the scenery, perhaps you will turn the boat, and take me home; then you can feast your eyes upon something more attractive."
"And what is that, pray?" he asked.
"Your supper, sir. You must be very anxious for it by this time, and really you know you look quite hungry. We have been out so long; but I will have pity on you, and detain you no longer here. Turn the boat around, Lieutenant Seymour, and put me on shore at once. I will stand between no man and his dinner."
"Hungry? Yes, I am, but not for dinner,—for you, Mistress Katharine," he replied.
"Oh, what a horrid appetite! I don't feel safe in the boat with you. Are you very hungry?"
"Really, Miss Wilton, I am not jesting at all," he said with immense dignity.
"Oh! oh! He is in earnest. Shall I scream? No use; we are a mile from the house, at least."
"Oh, Miss Wilton—Katharine," he replied desperately, "I am devoured by my—"
"Lieutenant Seymour!" She drew herself up with great hauteur, letting the cloak drop about her waist.
"Only my friends call me Katharine."
"And am I not, may I not be, one of your friends?"
"Well, yes—I suppose so; but you are so young."
"I am just twenty-seven, madam, and you, I suppose, are—"
"Never be ungallant enough to suppose a young lady's age. You may do those things in Philadelphia, if you like, but 't is not the custom here. Besides, I mean too young a friend; you have not known me long enough, that is."
"Long enough! I have known you ever since Tuesday of last week."
"And this is Friday,—just ten days, ten long days!" she replied triumphantly.
"Long days!" he cried. "Very short ones, for me."
"Long or short, sir, do you think you can know me in that period? Is it possible I am so easily fathomed?" she went on, smiling.
Now it is ill making love in a rowboat at best, and when one is in earnest and the other jests it is well-nigh impossible; so to these remarks Lieutenant Seymour made no further answer, save viciously to ply the oars and drive the boat rapidly toward the landing.
Miss Katharine gazed vacantly about the familiar river upon whose banks she had been born and bred, and, finally noticing the sun had gone down, closing the short day, she once more drew her cloak closely about her and resumed the neglected conversation.
"Won't you please stop looking at me in that manner, and won't you please row harder, or is your strength all centred in your gaze?"
"I am rowing as fast as I can, Miss Wilton, especially with this—"
"Oh, I forgot your wounded shoulder! Does it hurt? Does it pain you? I am so sorry. Let me row."
"Thank you, no. I think I can manage it myself. The only pain I have is when you are unkind to me."
At that moment, to his great annoyance, his oar stuck fast in the oar-lock, and he straightway did that very unsailorly thing known as catching a crab.
Katharine Wilton laughed. There was music in her voice, but this time it did not awaken a responsive chord in the young man. Extricating his oar violently, he silently resumed his work.
"Do you like crabs, Mr. Seymour?" she said with apparent irrelevance.
"I don't like catching them, Miss Wilton," he admitted ruefully.
"Oh, I mean eating them! We were talking about your appetite, were we not? Well, Dinah devils them deliciously. I 'll have some done for you," she continued with suspicious innocence.
Seymour groaned in spirit at her perversity, and for the first time in his life felt an intense sympathy with devilled crabs; but he continued his labor in silence and with great dignity.
"What am I to infer from your silence on this important subject, sir? The subject of edibles, which everybody says is of the first importance—to men—does not appear to interest you at all!"
He made no further reply.
The young girl gazed at his pale face at first in much amusement; but the laughter gradually died away, and finally her glance fell to the water by her side. A few strong strokes, strong enough, in spite of a wounded shoulder, to indicate wrathful purpose and sudden determination to the astute maiden, and the little boat swung in beside the wharf. Throwing the oars inboard with easy skill, Seymour sat motionless while the boat glided swiftly down toward the landing-steps, and the silence was broken only by the soft, delicious lip, lip, lip of the water, which seemed to cling to and caress the bow of the skiff until it finally came to rest. The man waited until the girl looked up at him. She saw in his resolute mien the outward and visible sign of his inward determination, and she realized that the game so bravely and piquantly played since she met him was lost. They had nearly arrived at the foregone conclusion.
"Well, Mr. Seymour," she said finally, "we are here at last; for what are you waiting?"
"Waiting for you."
"Ay, only for you."
"I—I—do not understand you."
"You understand nothing apparently, but I will explain." He stepped out on the landing-stage, and after taking a turn or two with the painter to secure the boat, he turned toward his captive with a ceremonious bow.
"Permit me to help you ashore."
"Oh, thank you, Lieutenant Seymour; if I only could, in this little boat, I would courtesy in return for that effort," she answered with tremulous and transparent bravery. But when the little palm met his own brown one, it seemed to steal away some of the bitterness of the moment. After he had assisted her upon the shore and up the steps into the boathouse, he held her hand tight within his own, and with that promptitude which characterized him he made the plunge.
"Oh, Miss Wilton—Katharine—it is true I have known you only a little while, but all that time—ever since I saw you, in fact, and even before, when your father showed me your picture—I have loved you. Nay, hear me out." There was an unusual sternness in his voice. My lord appeared to be in the imperative mood,—something to which she had not been accustomed. He meant to be heard, and with beating heart perforce she listened. "Quiet that spirit of mockery but a moment, and attend my words, I pray you. No, I will not release you until I have spoken. These are troublous times. I may leave at any moment—must leave when my orders come, and I expect them every day, and before I go I must tell you this."
Her downcast eyes could still see him blush and then pale a little under the sunburn and windburn of his face, as he went on speaking.
"I have no one; never had I a sister, I can remember no mother; believe me, I entreat you, when I tell you that to no woman have I ever said what I have just said to you. We sailors think and speak and act quickly, it is a part of our profession; but if I should wait for years I should think no differently and act in no other way. I love you! Oh, Katharine, I love you as my soul."
There was a note of passion in his voice which thrilled her heart with ecstasy; the others had not made love this way.
"You seem to me like that star I have often watched in the long hours of the night, which has shown me the way on many a trackless sea. I know I am as far beneath you as I am beneath that star. But though the distance is great, my love can bridge it, if you will let me try. Katharine—won't you answer me, Katharine? Is there nothing you can say to me? 'Dost thou love me, Kate?'" he quoted softly, taking her other hand. How very fair, but how very far away she looked! The color came and went in her cheek. He could see her breast rise and fall under the mad beating of a heart which had escaped her control, though hitherto she had found no difficulty in keeping it well in hand. There was a novelty, a difference, in the situation this time, a new and unexpected element in the event. She hesitated. Why was it no merry quip came to the lips usually so ready with repartee? Alas, she must answer.
"I—I—oh, Mr. Seymour," she said softly and slowly, with a downcast face she fain would hide, he fain would see. "I—yes," she murmured with great reluctance; "that is—I think so. You see, when you defended father, in the fight with the brig, you know, and got that bullet in your shoulder you earned a title to my gratitude, my—"
"I don't want a title to your gratitude," he interrupted. "I want your love, I want you to love me for myself alone."
"And do you think you are worthy that I should?" she replied with a shadow of her former archness.
He gravely bent his head and kissed her hand. "No, Katharine, I do not. I can lay no claim to your hand, if it is to be a reward of merit, but I love you so—that is the substance of my hope."
"Oh, Mr. Seymour, Mr. Seymour, you overvalue me. If you do that with all your possessions, you will be— Oh, what have I said?" she cried in sudden alarm, as he took her in his arms.
"My possessions! Katharine, may I then count you so? Oh, Kate, my lovely Kate—" It was over, and over as she would have it; why struggle any longer? The landing was a lonely little spot under the summer-house, at the end of the wharf; no one could see what happened. This time it was not her hand he kissed. The day died away in twilight, but for those two a new day began.
The army might starve and die, battles be lost or won, dynasties rise and fall, kingdoms wax and wane, causes tremble in the balances,—what of that? They looked at each other and forgot the world.
The Country First of All
"Oh, what is the hour, Mr.—John? Shall I call you Seymour? That is your second name, is it not? But what would people say? I— No, no, not again; we really must go in. See! I am not dressed for the evening yet. Supper will be ready. Now, Lieutenant Seymour, you must let me go. What will my father think of us? Come, then. Your hand, sir."
The hill from the boat-landing was steep, but Mistress Kate had often run like a young deer to the top of it without appreciating its difficulties as she did that evening. On every stepping-stone, each steep ascent, she lingered, in spite of her expressed desire for haste, and each time his strong and steady arm was at her service. She tasted to the full and for the first time the sweets of loving dependence.
As for him, an admiral of the fleet after a victory could not have been prouder and happier. As any other man would have done, he embraced or improved the opportunity afforded him by their journey up the hill, to urge the old commonplace that he would so assist her up the hill of life! And so on. The iterations of love never grow stale to a lover, and the saying was not so trite to her that it failed to give her the little thrill of loving joy which seemed, for the moment at least, to tame her restless spirit, that spirit of subtle yet merry mockery which charmed yet drove him mad. She was so unwontedly quiet and subdued that he stopped at the brow of the hill, and said, half in alarm, "Katharine, why so silent?"
She looked at him gravely; a new light, not of laughter, in her brown eyes, saying in answer to his unspoken thought: "I was thinking of what you said about your orders. Oh, if they should come to-day, and you should go away on your ship and be shot at again and perhaps wounded, what should I do?"
"Nonsense, Katharine dear, I am not going to be wounded any more. I 've something to live for now, you see," he replied, smiling, taking both of her hands in his own.
"You always had something to live for, even before—you had me."
"And what was that, pray?"
"Yes," he replied proudly, taking off his laced hat, "and liberty; but you go together in my heart now, Kate,—you and country."
"Don't say that, John—well, Seymour, then—say 'country and you.' I would give you up for that, but only for that."
"You would do well, Katharine; our country first. Since we have engaged in this war, we must succeed. I fancy that more depends, and I only agree with your father there, upon the issue of this war than men dream of, and that the battle of liberty for the future man is being fought right here and now. Unless our people are willing to sacrifice everything, we cannot maintain that glorious independence which has been so brilliantly declared." He said this with all the boldness of the Declaration itself; but she, being yet a woman, asked him wistfully,—
"Would you give me up, sacrifice me for country, then?"
"Not for the whole wide—" She laid a finger upon his lips.
"Hush, hush! Do not even speak treason to the creed. I am a daughter of Virginia. My father, my brother, my friends, my people, and, yes, I will say it, my lover are perilling their lives and have engaged their honor in this contest for the independence of these colonies, for the cause of this people, and the safeguarding of their liberties; and if I stood in the pathway of liberty for a single instant, I should despise the man who would not sweep me aside without a moment's hesitation." She spoke with a pride and spirit which equalled his own, her head high in the air, and her eyes flashing.
She had released her hands and had suited the gesture to the word, throwing out her hand and arm with a movement of splendid freedom and defiance. She was a woman of many moods and "infinite variety." Each moment showed him something new to love. He caught the outstretched hand,—the loose sleeve had fallen back from the wrist,—he pressed his lips to the white arm, and said with all his soul in his voice,—
"May God prevent me from ever facing the necessity of a choice like that, Katharine! But indeed it is spirit like yours which makes men believe the cause is not wholly desperate. When our women can so speak and feel, we may confidently expect the blessing of God upon our efforts."
"Father says that it is because General Washington knows the spirit of the people, because he feels that even the youths and maidens, the little children, cherish this feeling, he takes heart, and is confident of ultimate success. I heard him say that no king could stand against a united people."
"Would that you could have been in Paris with your father when he pleaded with King Louis and his ministers for aid and recognition! We might have returned with a better answer than paltry money and a few thousand stand of arms, which are only promised, after all."
"Would that I were a man instead of being a weak, feeble woman!" she exclaimed vehemently.
"Ah, but I very much prefer you as you are, Katharine, and 't is not little that you can do. You can inspire men with your own patriotism, if you will. There, for instance, is your friend Talbot. If you could persuade him, with his wealth and position and influence in this country, to join the army in New Jersey—" As she shook her head, he continued:
"I am sure if he thought as I do of you, you could persuade him to anything but treachery or dishonor." His calm smile of superiority vanished in an expression of dismay at her reply,—
"Talbot! Hilary Talbot! Why, John, do you know that he is—well, they say that he is in love with me. Everybody expects that we shall marry some day. Do you see? These old estates join, and—"
"Kate, it is n't true, is it? You don't care for him, do you?" he interrupted in sudden alarm.
"Care for him? Why, of course I care for him. I have known him ever since I was a child; but I don't love him. Besides, he stays at home while others are in the field. Silly boy, would I have let you kiss me in the summer-house if it were so? No, sir! We are not such fine ladies as your friends in the city of Philadelphia, perhaps, we Virginia country girls upon whom your misses look with scorn, but no man kisses us, and no man kisses me, upon the lips except the one I—that I must—let me see—is the word 'obey'? Shall you make me obey you all the time, John?"
"Pshaw, Katharine, you never obey anybody,—so your father says, at least,—and if you will only love me, that will be sufficient."
"Love you!"—the night had fallen and no one was near—"love you, John!" She kissed him bravely upon the lips. "Once, that's for me, my own; twice, that's for my country; there is all my heart. Come, sir, we must go in. There are lights in the house."
"Ah, Katharine, and there is light in my heart too."
As they came up the steps of the high pillared porch which completely covered the face of the building, they were met, at the great door which gave entrance to the spacious hallway extending through the house, by a stately and gracious, if somewhat elderly gentleman.
There was a striking similarity, if not in facial appearance, at least in the erect carriage and free air, between him and the young girl who, disregarding his outstretched hand and totally disorganizing his ceremonious bow, threw her arms about his neck and kissed him with unwonted warmth, much to his dismay and yet not altogether to his displeasure. Perhaps he suspected something from the bright and happy faces of the two young people; but if so, he made no comment, merely telling them that supper had been waiting this long time, and bidding them hasten their preparation for the meal.
Katharine, followed by Chloe, her black maid, who had been waiting for her, hastily ran up the stairs to her own apartments, upon this signal, but turned upon the topmost stair and waved a kiss to the two gentlemen who were watching her,—one with the dim eyes of an old father, the other with the bright eyes of a young lover.
"Colonel Wilton," exclaimed Seymour, impulsively, "I have something to say to you,—something I must say."
"Not now, my young friend," replied the colonel, genially. "Supper will be served, nay, is served already, and only awaits you and Katharine; afterward we shall have the whole evening, and you may say what you will."
"Oh, but, colonel—"
"Nay, sir, do not lay upon me the unpleasant duty of commanding a guest, when it is my privilege as host to entreat. Go, Mr. Seymour, and make you ready. Katharine will return in a moment, and it does not beseem gentlemen, much less officers, to keep a lady waiting, you know. Philip and Bentley have gone fishing, and I am informed they will not return until late. We will not wait for them."
"As you wish, sir, but I must have some private conversation with you as soon as possible."
"After supper, my boy, after supper."
Left to himself for a moment, the colonel heaved a deep sigh; he had a premonition of what was coming, and then paced slowly up and down the long hall.
He was attired, with all the splendor of an age in which the subject of dress engrossed the attention of the wisest and best, in the height of the prevailing mode, which his recent arrival from Paris, then as now the mould of fashion, permitted him to determine. The soft light from the wax candles in their sconces in the hall fell upon his thickly powdered wig, ran in little ripples up and down the length of his polished dress-sword, and sparkled in the brilliants in the buckles of his shoes. His face was the grave face of a man accustomed from of old not only to command, but to assume the responsibility of his orders; when they were carried out, his manner was a happy mixture of the haughty sternness of a soldier and the complacent suavity of the courtier, tempered both by the spirit of frankness and geniality born of the free life of a Virginia planter in colonial times.
In his early youth he had been a soldier under Admiral Vernon, with his old and long-deceased friend Lawrence Washington at Cartagena; later on, he had served under Wolfe at Quebec. A visitor, and a welcome one too, at half the courts of Europe, he looked the man of affairs he was; in spite of his advanced age, he held himself as erect, and carried himself as proudly as he had done on the Heights of Abraham or in the court of St. Germain.
Too old to incur the hardships of the field, Colonel Wilton had yet offered his services, with the ardor of the youngest patriot, to his country, and pledged his fortune, by no means inconsiderable, in its support. The Congress, glad to avail themselves of the services of so distinguished a man, had sent him, in company with Silas Deane and Benjamin Franklin, as an embassy to the court of King Louis, bearing proposals for an alliance and with a request for assistance during the deadly struggle of the colonies with the hereditary foe of France. They had been reasonably successful in a portion of their attempt, at least; as the French government had agreed, though secretly, to furnish arms and other munitions of war through a pseudo-mercantile firm which was represented by M. de Beaumarchais, the gifted author of the comedy "Le Mariage de Figaro." The French had also agreed to furnish a limited amount of money; but, more important than all these, there were hints and indications that if the American army could win any decisive battle or maintain the unequal conflict for any length of time, an open and closer alliance would be made. The envoys had despatched Colonel Wilton, from their number, back to America to make a report of the progress of their negotiations to Congress. This had been done, and General Washington had been informed of the situation.
The little ship, one of the gallant vessels of the nascent American navy, in which Colonel Wilton had returned from France, had attacked and captured a British brig of war during the return passage, and young Seymour, who was the first lieutenant of the ship, was severely wounded. The wound had been received through his efforts to protect Colonel Wilton, who had incautiously joined the boarding-party which had captured the brig. After the interview with Congress, Colonel Wilton was requested to await further instructions before returning to France, and, pending the result of the deliberations of Congress, after a brief visit to the headquarters of his old friend and neighbor General Washington, he had retired to his estate. As a special favor, he was permitted to bring with him the wounded lieutenant, in order that he might recuperate and recover from his wound in the pleasant valleys of Virginia. That Seymour was willing to leave his own friends in Philadelphia, with all their care and attention, was due entirely to his desire to meet Miss Katharine Wilton, of whose beauty he had heard, and whose portrait indeed, in her father's possession, which he had seen before on the voyage, had borne out her reputation. Seymour had been informed since his stay at the Wiltons' that he had been detached from the brig Argus, and notified that he was to receive orders shortly to report to the ship Ranger, commanded by a certain Captain John Paul Jones; and he knew that he might expect his sailing orders at any moment. He had improved, as has been seen, the days of his brief stay to recover from one wound and receive another, and, as might have been expected, he had fallen violently in love with Katharine Wilton.
There were also staying at the house, besides the servants and slaves, young Philip Wilton, Katharine's brother, a lad of sixteen, who had just received a midshipman's warrant, and was to accompany Seymour when he joined the Ranger, then outfitting at Philadelphia; and Bentley, an old and veteran sailor, a boatswain's mate, who had accompanied Seymour from ship to ship ever since the lieutenant was a midshipman,—a man who had but one home, the sea; one hate, the English; one love, his country; and one attachment, Seymour.
Colonel Wilton was a widower. As Katharine came down the stairway, clad in all the finery her father had brought back for her from Paris, her hair rolled high and powdered, the old family diamonds with their quaint setting of silver sparkling upon her snowy neck, her fan languidly waving in her hand, she looked strikingly like a pictured woman smiling down at them from over the mantel; but to the sweetness and archness of her mother's laughing face were added some of the colonel's pride, determination, and courage. He stepped to meet her, and then bent and kissed the hand she extended toward him, with all the grace of the old regime; and Seymour coming upon them was entranced with the picture.
He too had changed his attire, and now was clad in the becoming dress of a naval lieutenant of the period. He wore a sword, of course, and a dark blue uniform coat relieved with red facings, with a single epaulet on his shoulder which denoted his official rank; his blond hair was lightly touched with powder, and tied, after the fashion of active service, in a queue with a black ribbon.
"Now, Seymour, since you two truants have come at last, will you do me the honor to hand Miss Wilton to the dining-room?" remarked the colonel, straightening up.
With a low bow, Seymour approached the object of his adoration, who, after a sweeping courtesy, gave him her hand. With much state and ceremony, preceded by one of the servants, who had been waiting in attention in the hall, and followed by the colonel, and lastly by the colonel's man, a stiff old campaigner who had been with him many years, they entered the dining-room, which opened from the rear of the hall.
The table was a mass of splendid plate, which sparkled under the soft light of the wax candles in candelabra about the room or on the table, and the simple meal was served with all the elegance and precision which were habitual with the gentleman of as fine a school as Colonel Wilton.
At the table, instead of the light and airy talk which might have been expected in the situation, the conversation assumed that grave and serious tone which denoted the imminence of the emergency.
The American troops had been severely defeated at Long Island in the summer, and since that time had suffered a series of reverses, being forced steadily back out of New York, after losing Fort Washington, and down through the Jerseys, relentlessly pursued by Howe and Cornwallis. Washington was now making his way slowly to the west bank of the Delaware. He was losing men at every step, some by desertion, more by the expiration of the terms of their enlistment. The news which Colonel Wilton had brought threw a frail hope over the situation, but ruin stared them in the face, and unless something decisive was soon accomplished, the game would be lost.
"Did you have a pleasant ride up the river, Katharine?" asked her father.
"Very, sir," she answered, blushing violently and looking involuntarily at Seymour, who matched her blush with his own.
There was a painful pause, which Seymour broke, coming to the rescue with a counter question.
"Did you notice that small sloop creeping up under the west bank of the river, colonel, this evening? I should think she must be opposite the house now, if the wind has held."
"Why, when did you see her, Mr. Seymour? I thought you were looking at—at—" She broke off in confusion, under her father's searching gaze. He smiled, and said,—
"Ah, Katharine, trained eyes see all things unusual about them, although they are apparently bent persistently upon one spot. Yes, Seymour, I did notice it; if we were farther down the river, we might suspect it of being an enemy, but up here I fancy even Dunmore's malevolence would scarcely dare to follow."
Katharine looked up in alarm. "Oh, father, do you think it is quite safe? Chloe told me that Phoebus told her that the raiders had visited Major Lithcomb's plantation, and you know that is not more than fifty miles down the river from us. Would it not be well to take some precaution?"
"Tut, tut, child! gossip of the negro servants!" The colonel waved it aside carelessly. "I hardly think we have anything to fear at present; though what his lordship may do in the end, unless he is checked, I hardly like to imagine."
"But, father," persisted Katharine, "they said that Johnson was in command of the party, and you know he hates you. You remember he said he would get even with you if it cost him his life, when you had him turned out of the club at Williamsburg."
"Pshaw, Katharine, the wretch would not dare. It is a cowardly blackguard, Seymour, whom I saw cheating at cards at the Assembly Club at the capital. I had him expelled from the society of gentlemen, where, indeed, he had no right of admittance, and I scarcely know how he got there originally. He made some threats against me, to which I naturally paid no attention. But what did you think of the vessel?"
"I confess I saw nothing suspicious about her, sir," replied Seymour. "She seemed very much like the packets which ply on the river; I only spoke idly of the subject."
"But, father, the packet went up last week, the day before you came back, and is due coming down the river now, while this boat is coming up," said Katharine.
"Oh, well, I think we are safe enough now; but, to relieve your unusual anxiety, I will send Blodgett down to the wharf to examine and report.—Blodgett, do you go down to the boat-landing and keep watch for an hour or two. Take your musket, man; there is no knowing what you might need it for."
The old soldier, who had stationed himself behind the colonel's chair, saluted with military precision, and left the room, saying, "Very good, sir; I shall let nothing escape my notice, sir."
"Now, Katharine, I hope you are satisfied."
"Yes, father; but if it is the raiders, Blodgett won't be able to stop them."
"The raiders," laughed the colonel; and pinching his daughter's ear, he said, "I suspect the only raiders we shall see here will be those who have designs upon your heart, my bonny Kate,—eh, Seymour?"
"They would never dare to wear a British uniform in that case, father," she retorted proudly.
"Well, Seymour, I hear, through an express from Congress to-day, that Captain Jones has been ordered to command the Ranger, and that the new flag—we will drink to it, if you please; yes, you too, Katharine; God bless every star and stripe in it—will soon be seen on the ocean."
"It will be a rare sight there, sir," said Seymour; "but it will not be long before the exploits of the Ranger will make it known on the high seas, if rumor does not belie her captain."
"I trust so; but do you know this Captain Jones?"
"Not at all, sir, save by reputation; but I am told he has one requisite for a successful officer."
"And what is that?"
"He will fight anything, at any time, or at any place, no matter what the odds."
Colonel Wilton smiled. "Ah, well, if it were not for men of that kind, our little navy would never have a chance."
"No, father, nor the army, either; if we waited for equality before fighting, I am afraid we should wait forever."
"True, Katharine. By the way, have you seen Talbot to-day?"
"I wish that we might enlist his services in the cause. I don't think there is much doubt about Talbot himself, is there?"
"No. It is his mother, you know; she is a loyalist to the core. As were her ancestors, so is she."
The colonel nodded gently; he had a soft spot in his heart for the subject of their discussion. "With her teaching and training, I can well understand it, Katharine. Proud, of high birth, descended from the 'loyal Talbots,' and the widow of one of them, she cannot bear the thought of rebellion against the king. I don't think she cares much for the people, or their liberties either."
"Yes, father; with her the creed is, the king can do no wrong."
"Ah, well," said the colonel, reflectively, "I thought so too once, and many is the blow I have struck for this same king. But liberty is above royalty, independence not a dweller in the court; so, in my old age, I find myself on a different side." He sipped his wine thoughtfully a moment, and continued,—
"Madam Talbot has certainly striven to restrain the boy, and successfully so far. He is a splendid fellow; I wish we had him. He would be of great service to the cause, with his name and influence, and the money he would bring; and then the quality of the young man himself would be of value to us. You have met him, Seymour, I believe?"
"Yes, sir, several times; and I agree with you entirely. It is his mother who keeps him back. I have had one or two conversations with her. She is a Tory through and through."
"Not a doubt of it, not a doubt of it," said the colonel. "Katharine, can't you do something with him?"
"Oh, father, you know that I have talked with him, pleaded with him, and begged him to follow his inclination; but he remains by his mother."
"Nonsense, Katharine! Don't speak of him in that way; give him time. It is a hard thing: he is her only son; she is a widow. Let us hope that something will induce him to come over to us." He said this in gentle reproof of his spirited daughter; and then,—
"Permit me to offer you a glass of wine, Seymour,—you are not drinking anything; and to whom shall we drink?"
Seymour, who had been quaffing deep draughts of Katharine's beauty, replied promptly,—
"If I might suggest, sir, I should say Mistress Wilton."
"No, no," said Katharine. "Drink, first of all, to the success of our cause. I will give you a toast, gentlemen: Before our sweethearts, our sisters, our wives, our mothers, let us place—our country," she exclaimed, lifting her own glass.
The colonel laughed as he drank his toast, saying, "Nothing comes before country with Katharine."
And Seymour, while he appreciated the spirit of the maiden, felt a little pang of grief that even to a country he should be second,—an astonishing change from that spirit of humility which a moment since contented itself with metaphorically kissing the ground she walked upon.
"By the way, father, where is Philip?" asked Katharine.
"He went up the branch fishing, with Bentley, I believe."
"But is n't it time they returned? Do you know, I feel nervous about them; suppose those raiders—"
"Pshaw, child! Still harping on the raiders? and nervous too! What ails you, daughter? I thought you never were nervous. We Wiltons are not accustomed to nervousness, you know, and what must our guest think?"
"Nothing but what is altogether agreeable," replied Seymour, a little too promptly; and then, to cover his confusion, he continued: "But I think Miss Wilton need feel under no apprehension. Master Philip is with Bentley, and I would trust the prudence and courage and skill of that man in any situation. You know my father, who was a shipmaster, when he died aboard his ship in the China seas, gave me, a little boy taking a cruise with him, into Bentley's charge, and told him to make a sailor and a man of me, and from that day he has never left me. At my house, in Philadelphia, he is a privileged character. There never was a truer, better, braver man; and as for patriotism, love of country is a passion with him, colonel. He might set an example to many in higher station in that particular."
"Yes, I have noticed that peculiarity about the man. I think Philip is safe enough with him, Katharine, even if those— Ha! what is that?" The colonel sprang to his feet, as the sound of a musket-shot rang out in the night air, followed by one or two pistol-shots and then a muffled cry.
Lord Dunmore's Men Pay an Evening Call
"Oh, father, it must be the raiders! That was Blodgett's voice," cried Katharine, looking very pale and clasping her hands.
"Let me go and investigate, colonel," said Seymour, leaping to his feet and seizing his sword.
"Do so, Seymour," cried the colonel, as the sailor hastily left the room. "Phoebus," to the butler, "go tell Caesar to call the slaves to the house. You, Scipio," to one of the footmen, "go open the arm-chest. Katharine, reach me my sword. See that the doors are closed, Billy," said the colonel to the other servant, rapidly and with perfect coolness. "I think, Katharine, that perhaps you would better retire to your room;" but even as he spoke the sound of hurried footsteps and excited voices outside was heard. After a few moments one of the field-hands, followed by Seymour, burst panting into the room, his mouth working with excitement and his eyes almost starting from his head.
"Well, sir, what is it?" said the colonel.
"Foh de Lawd's sake, suh, dey'se a-comin', suh, dey'se a-comin'. Dey'se right behin' me; dey'll be heah in a minute, suh."
"Who is coming, you idiot!" exclaimed the colonel.
"De redcoats, de British sojuhs, suh; dey 'se fohty boat-loads ob 'em; dey'se come off fum de lil' sloop out in de ribah, and dey 'se gwine kill we all, and bu'n de house down. Dey done shot Mars' Blodgett, and dey'se coming heah special to get you, suh, Mars' Kunnel, kase I heahd dem say, when I was lyin' down on de wha'f, dat de man dey wanted was dat Kunnel Wilton."
"It is quite true, sir; they seem to be a party of raiders of some sort," said Seymour, coolly. "I fear that Blodgett has been killed, as I heard nothing of him. I saw them from the brow of the hill. Perhaps you may escape by the back way, though there is little time for that. Do you take Miss Wilton and try it, sir; leave me to hold these men in play."
"Yes, yes, father," urged Katharine; "I know it must be Lord Dunmore's men and Johnson. They know that you have come back from France, and now the man wants to take you prisoner. You remember what the governor told you at Williamsburg, that he would make you rue the day you cast your lot in with the colonists and refused to assist him in the prosecution of his measures. And you know we have been warned at least a dozen times about it. Oh, what shall we do? Do fly, and let me stay here and receive these men."
"What! my daughter, do you think a Wilton has ever left his house to be defended by his guest and by a woman! Seymour, I believe, however, as an officer in the service of our country, your best course is to leave while there is yet time."
"I will never leave you, sir; I will stay here with you and Mistress Katharine, and share whatever fate may have in store for you."
But even as he spoke, the crowding footsteps of many men were heard at both entrances to the wide hall-way which ran through the house. At the same moment the door was violently thrown open, and the dining-room was filled with an irregular mass of motley, ragged, red-coated men, whose reckless demeanor and hardened faces indicated that they had been recruited from the lowest and most depraved classes of the inhabitants of the colony. They were led by a middle-aged man of dissipated appearance, whose rough and brutal aspect was not concealed by the captain's uniform he wore, nor was the malicious triumph in his bearing and in his voice veiled by the mock courtesy with which he advanced, pistol in hand.
"What means this intrusion, sir?" shouted Colonel Wilton, in a voice of thunder.
"This is Colonel Wilton, I believe, is it not?" said the leader of the band, taking off his hat.
"Yes, sir, it is; you, Mr. Johnson, should be the last to forget it, and I desire to know at once the meaning of this outrageous descent upon a peaceful dwelling."
The man bowed low with mock courtesy. "I shall have to ask your pardon, my dear sir, for appearing before the great Colonel Wilton so unceremoniously. But my orders, I regret to say, allow me no discretion whatever; they are imperative. You are my prisoner. I have been sent here by my Lord Dunmore, the governor of this colony of Virginia, to secure the persons of some of the principal rebellious subjects of his majesty King George, and your name, unfortunately, is the first and chiefest on the list. I shall have to request you to accompany me at once."
The master of the situation smiled mockingly, and the colonel, white with anger, looked about the room. Resistance was perfectly hopeless; all the windows even were now blocked up by the irregular soldiery.
"He has chosen a fit man to do his work," said the colonel, in haughty scorn; "failing gentlemen, he must needs take blackguards and bullies into his service as housebreakers and raiders."
Johnson flushed visibly, as he said with another bow, "Colonel Wilton would better remember that I am master now."
"Sir, I am not likely to forget it. There is the family plate. I presume, from what I know of your habits, that will not be overlooked by you."
"Quite so," he returned; "it will doubtless be a welcome contribution to the treasury of his majesty's colony. Mistress Wilton's diamonds also," he said meaningly; and then, turning to two of his men, "Williams, you and Jones bundle up the plate in the tablecloth, get what's on the sideboard too;" and laying his pistols down upon the table, he continued:
"But before Colonel Wilton insults me again, it might be well for him to remember that I am master not only of his person, but of the persons of all others who are in this room."
The colonel started, and Johnson laughed, looking with insolence from Katharine to her father.
"What, sir! I reach through your insolent pride now, do I? Curse you!" with sudden heat, throwing off even the mask of politeness he had hardly worn. "I swore I would have revenge for that insult at Williamsburg, and now it's my hour. You are to go with me, and go peaceably and quietly, or, by God, I 'll have you kicked and dragged out of the building, or killed like that old fool who tried to stop us coming up on the landing."
"What! Blodgett, my old friend Blodgett! You villain, you haven't dared to kill him, have you? Oh, my faithful—"
"Silence, sir! We dare anything. What consideration has a rebel a right to expect at the hands of his majesty's faithful Rangers? You, Bruce and Denton, seize the old man. If he makes any trouble, knock him down, or kill him, for aught I care. One of you, take the girl there. As for you, sir," to Seymour, who had been quietly watching the scene, "I don't know who you are, but you are in bad company, and you will have to consider yourself a prisoner; I trust you have sense enough to come without force being used. And so," clapping his hat on his head defiantly, "God save the king!"
Two of the soldiers seized the colonel in spite of the vigorous resistance he made; another approached Katharine, who had stood with clasped hands during the whole of the colloquy between Johnson and her father. The soldier rudely chucked her under the chin, saying, "Come on, my pretty one! you 'll give us a kiss, won't you, before we start?" As she drew back, paling at the insult, Seymour, who had seen and heard it all, quick as a flash drew his sword, and threw himself upon the soldier; one rapid thrust at the surprised man he made, with all the force and skill begotten of long practice and a strong arm, and the hilt of his blade crushed against the man's throat, and he fell dead upon the floor. At the same instant one of the other soldiers, who had observed the action, struck Seymour over the head with his clubbed musket, and he also fell heavily to the floor, and lay there senseless and still, blood running from a fearful-looking wound in his forehead. The room was filled with tumult in an instant, and with shouts of "Kill him!" "Shove your bayonet through the damn rebel hound!" "Shoot him!" "Kill him!" the men moved towards Seymour. Johnson looked on unconcernedly.
"Good God!" shrieked the colonel, writhing in the grasp of the men who held him, "are you going to allow a senseless, wounded man to be murdered before your eyes? Oh, how could anybody ever mistake you for a gentleman for an instant?" he added, with withering contempt; and then turning his head toward the fierce soldiery, "Stop, stop, you bloody assassins!" he cried.
"Silence, sir! He might as well die this way as on the gallows. Besides, he struck the first blow, and he has killed one of his majesty's loyal soldiers. The soldier only wanted to kiss the girl anyway, and she will find, before she gets to camp, that kisses are cheap."
"Oh, my God," groaned the father, "and they call this war!"
At this moment one of the soldiers lifted his bayonet to plunge it into the prostrate form of the unconscious sailor. There was a blinding flash of light in the room, and a quick, sharp report. The man's arm dropped to his side, and he shrieked and groaned with pain. Katharine, unnoticed in the confusion, had slipped to the side of the table, and had quickly picked up one of the pistols which Johnson had laid upon it after the silver had been taken away. Her ready decision and unerring aim had saved her lover's life. She threw the smoking pistol she had used with such effect down at her feet, and, seizing the other, she stepped over to the side of her unconscious lover.
"I swear," she said, in a shrill, high-pitched voice which just escaped a scream, and which trembled with the agitation of the moment, "by my hope of heaven, if a single man of you lay hands on him, he shall have this bullet also, you cowards!"
After a moment's hesitation, amid shouts of "Kill the girl!" the men surged toward her. Chloe, her black maid, flung herself upon her mistress' breast.
"Oh, honey, I let dem kill me fust."
"Well done, Kate! It's the true Wilton blood. Oh, if I had a free arm, you villains!" cried the still struggling colonel.
"Seize the girl," Johnson commanded promptly, "and let us get out of this."
The men made a rush toward the table where Katharine stood undaunted, her face flushed with excitement, her mouth tense with resolution. She cried,—
"Have a care, men! have a care!"
One life she could still command with her loaded pistol. Her hands did not tremble. She waited to strike once more for love and country, but it would be all over in a moment.
The colonel groaned in agony, "Kate, Kate!" but they were almost upon her, when a new voice rose above the uproar,—
"Hold! Are you men? Do you war with old men and women? Back with you! Get back, you dogs! Back, I say!"
A Timely Interference
A young man in the uniform of a British naval lieutenant leaped in front of the girl with drawn sword, with which he laid about him lustily, striking some of the men with the flat of it, threatening others with the point; and backing his actions by the prompt commands of one not accustomed to be gainsaid, he soon cleared the space in front of her.
"How dare you interfere in this matter, my lord?" shouted Johnson, passionately. "I command this party, and I intend—"
"I know you do," replied the officer, "and that I am only a volunteer who has chosen to accompany you, worse luck! but I am a gentleman and a lieutenant in his Britannic majesty's navy, and by heaven! when I see old men mishandled, and wounded helpless men about to be assassinated, and young women insulted, I don't care who commands the party, I interfere. And I don't propose to bandy words with any runagate American partisan who uses his commission to further private vengeance. And I swear to you, on my honor, if you do not instantly modify your treatment of this gentleman, and call off this ragamuffin crew, you shall be court-martialled, if I have any influence with Dunmore or Parker or Lord Howe, or whoever is in authority, and I will have the rest of you hung as high as Haman. This is outrage and robbery and murder; it is not fighting or making prisoners," continued the young officer. "You are not fit to be an officer; and you, you curs, you disgrace the uniform you wear."
Johnson glanced at his men, who stood irresolute before him fiercely muttering. A rascally mob of the lowest class of people in the colony, to whom war simply meant opportunity for plunder and rapine, they would undoubtedly back up their leader, in their present mood, in any attempt at resistance he might make the young officer. But he hesitated a moment. Desborough was a lord, high in the confidence of Governor Dunmore, and a man of great influence; his own position was too precarious, the game was not worth the candle, and the risk of opposition was too great.
"Well," he said in sulky acquiescence, "the men meant no special harm, but have it your own way. Fall back, men! As to what you say to me personally, you shall answer to me for that at a more fitting time," he continued doggedly.
"When and where you please," answered Desborough, hotly, "though I 'd soil a sword by passing it through you. What was Dunmore thinking of when he put you in charge of this party and sent you to do this work, I wonder? Give your orders to your men to unhand this gentleman instantly. You will give your parole, sir? I regret that we are compelled to secure your person, but those were the orders; and you, madam," turning to Katharine, "I believe no order requires you to be taken prisoner, and therefore you shall go free."
But Katharine had knelt down by her prostrate lover as soon as the space in front of her had been cleared, and was entirely oblivious to all that was taking place about her.
"Allow me to introduce myself, colonel," he resumed. "I am Lord Desborough. I have often heard my father, the Earl of Desmond, in Ireland, speak of you. I regret that we meet under such unpleasant circumstances, but the governor's orders must be carried out, though I wish he had sent a more worthy representative to do so. I will see, however, that everything is done for your comfort in the future."
"Sir," said the colonel, bowing, "you have rendered me a service I can never repay. I know your father well. He is one of the finest gentlemen of his time, and his son has this day shown that he is worthy of the honored name he bears. I will go with you cheerfully, and you have my parole of honor. Katharine, you are free; you will be safe in the house, I think, until I can arrange for your departure."
She looked up from the floor, and then rose. "Oh, father, he is dead, he is dead," she moaned. "Yes, I will go with you; take me away."
"Nay, my child, I cannot."
"Enough of this!" broke in the sneering voice of Johnson. "She has been taken in open resistance to the king's forces, and, warrant or no warrant, orders or no orders, or court-martial either," this with a malevolent glance at Desborough, "she goes with us as a prisoner."
"I will pledge my word, Colonel Wilton, that no violence is offered her," exclaimed Desborough, promptly, and then, turning to Katharine,—
"Trust me, madam."
"I do, sir," she said faintly, giving him her hand. "You are very kind."
"It is nothing, mistress," he replied, bowing low over it, as he raised it respectfully to his lips. "I will hold you safe with my life."
"Very pretty," sneered Johnson; "but are you coming?"
"What shall we do with these two, captain?" asked the sergeant, kicking the prostrate form of Seymour, and pointing to the body of the man who had been slain.
"Oh, let them lie there! We can't be bothered with dead and dying men. One of them is gone; the other soon will be. The slaves will bury them, and those other three at the foot of the hill—d' ye hear, ye black niggers? There 's hardly room enough on the sloop for the living," he continued with cynical indifference.
"All right, captain! As you say, poor Joe's no good now; and as for the other, that crack of Welsh's was a rare good one; he will probably die before morning anyhow," replied the sergeant, there being little love lost among the members of this philosophic crew; besides, the more dead, the more plunder for the living. And many of the band were even now following the example of their leader, and roaming over the house, securing at will whatever excited their fancy, the wine-cellar especially not being forgotten.
"Oh, my God! John," whispered Katharine, falling on her knees again by his side, "must I leave you now, oh, my love!" she moaned, taking his head in her arms, and with her handkerchief wiping the blood from off his forehead, "and you have died for me—for me."
The colonel saw the action, and knew now what was the subject of the interview after supper which Seymour had so much desired. He knelt down beside his daughter, a great pity for her in his soul, and laid his hand on the prostrate man's heart.
"He is not dead, Katharine," he whispered. "I do not even think he will die; he will be all right in an hour. If we don't go soon, Katharine, Philip and Bentley will return and be taken also," he continued rapidly. "Come, Katharine," he said more loudly, rising. "Dearest child, we must go,—you must bear this, my daughter; it is for our country we suffer." But the talismanic word apparently had lost its charm for her.
"What's all this?" said Johnson, roughly; "she must go." She only moaned and pressed her lover's hands against her heart.
"And go now! Do you hear? Come, mistress," laying his hand roughly upon her shoulder.
"Have a care, sir," said Desborough, warningly. "Keep to yourself, my dear sir; no harm is done. But we must go; and if she won't go willingly, she will have to be carried, that's all. Do you hear me? Come on!"
"Come, Katharine," said the colonel, entreatingly.
"Oh, father, father, I cannot leave him! I love him!"
"I know you do, dear; and worthy he is of your love too. Please God you shall see him once again! But now we must go. Will you not come with me?"
"I cannot, I cannot!" she repeated.
"But you must, Kate," said the colonel, lifting her up, in deadly anxiety to get away before his son returned. "You are a prisoner."
"I can't, father; indeed I can't!" she cried again.
She struggled a moment, then half fainted in his arms.
"Who else is here?" said Johnson.
"Only the slaves," replied the colonel.
"Well, we don't want them. Move on, then! Your daughter can take her maid with her if she wishes," he said with surly courtesy. "Is this the wench? Well, get your mistress a cloak, and be quick about it!"
Assisted by Chloe, the maid, and Lord Desborough, the colonel half carried, half led, his daughter out of the room.
"Seymour, Seymour!" she cried despairingly at the door; but he lay still where he had fallen, seeing and hearing nothing.
Faithful Subject of his Majesty
A few miles up the river from Colonel Wilton's plantation, upon a high bluff, from which, as at that point the river made a wide bend, one could see up and down for a long distance in either direction, was the beautiful home of the Talbots, known as Fairview Hall.
On the evening of the raid at the Wilton place, Madam Talbot and her son were having a very important conversation. Madam Talbot was a widow who had remained unwedded again from choice. Rumor had it that many gentlemen cavaliers of the neighborhood had been anxious to take to their own hearthstones the person of the fair young widow, so early bereft, and incidentally were willing to assume the responsibility of the management of the magnificent estate which had been left to her by her most considerate husband. Among the many suitors gossip held that Colonel Wilton was the chief, and it was thought at one time that his chances of success were of the best; but so far, at least, nothing had come of all the agitation, and Madam Talbot lived her life alone, managing her plantation, the object of the friendly admiration of all the old bachelors and widowers of the neighborhood. She had devoted herself to the successful development of her property with all the energy and capacity of a nature eminently calculated for success, and was now one of the richest women in the colony. One son only had blessed her union with Henry Talbot, and Hilary Talbot was a young man just turned twenty-five years of age, and the idol of her soul. Too self-contained and too proud to display the depth of her feelings, except in rare instances, and too sensible to allow them to interfere in the training of the child, she had spared neither her heart nor her purse in his education, with such happy results that he was regarded by all who knew him as one of the finest specimens of young Virginia that it were possible to meet. Of medium height, active, handsome, dark-eyed, dark-haired, fiery and impetuous in temperament, generous and frank in disposition, he was a model among men; trained from his boyhood in every manly sport and art, and educated in the best institutions of learning in the colonies, his natural grace perfected by a tour of two years in England and abroad, from which he had only a year or so since returned, he perfectly represented all that was best in the young manhood of Virginia. For many years there had been hopes in the minds of Colonel Wilton and Madam Talbot, that the affection between the two young people, who had played together from childhood with all the frankness and simplicity permitted by country life, would develop into something nearer and dearer, and that by their marriage at the proper time the two great estates might be united.
The two children, early informed of this desire, had grown up under the influence of the idea; as they reached years of discretion, they had taken it for granted, considering the arrangement as a fact accomplished by tacit understanding and habit rather than by formal promise. Personally attached to each other, nay, even fondly affectionate, the indefinite tie seemed sufficiently substantial to bring about the desired result. Katharine had, especially during Talbot's absence in Europe, resisted all the importunities and rejected all the proposals made to her, and on his account refused all the hearts laid at her feet. Since Talbot's return, however, and especially since he refused, or hesitated rather, to cast his lot in with her own people, his neighbors and friends, in the Revolution, the affair had, on her part at least, assumed a new phase. Still, there had been nothing said or done to prevent this consummation so devoutly to be wished until the advent of Seymour. Then, too, Talbot, calm and confident in the situation, had not noticed Seymour's infatuation, and was entirely ignorant that the coveted prize had slipped from his grasp. The insight of the confident lover was not so keen as that of the watchful father.
It was believed by the principal men of Virginia that Talbot's sympathies were with the revolted colonies; but the influence of his mother, to whom he had been accustomed to defer, had hitherto proved sufficient to prevent him from openly declaring himself. His visit to England, and the delightful reception he had met with there, had weakened somewhat the ties which bound him to his native country, and he found himself in a state of indecision as humiliating as it was painful. Lord Dunmore and Colonel Wilton had each made great efforts to enlist his support, on account of his wealth and position and high personal qualities. It was hinted by one that the ancient barony of the Talbots would be revived by the king; and the gratitude of a free and grateful country, with the consciousness of having materially aided in acquiring that independence which should be the birthright of every Englishman, was eloquently portrayed by the other. When to the last plea was added the personal preference of Katharine Wilton, the balance was overcome, and the hopes of the mother were doomed to disappointment.
For his own hopes, however, the decision had come too late, and it may be safely presumed that his hesitation was one of the main causes through which the woman he loved escaped him; for Katharine's heart was given to young Seymour, after a ten days' courtship, almost before his eyes. In any event, a wiser man would have seen in Seymour a possible, nay, a certain rival by no means to be disregarded. An officer who had devoted himself to the cause of his country in response to the first demand of the Congress, who had been conspicuously mentioned for gallantry in general orders and reports, who had been severely wounded while protecting Katharine's father at the risk of his life; as well bred and as well born as Talbot, of ample fortune, and with a wide knowledge of men and things acquired in his merchant voyagings as captain of one of his own ships in many seas,—Seymour's single-hearted devotion eminently fitted him to woo and win Miss Katharine Wilton, as he had done.
Nevertheless, a friendship had sprung up between Seymour and the unsuspecting Talbot which bade fair to ripen into intimacy; and it may be supposed that the stories of battles in which the older man had participated, his attractive personality, the consideration in which the young sailor was held by men of weight and position in the colonies, as a man from whom much was to be expected, had large influence in determining Talbot in the course he proposed taking, and which he had not yet communicated to his mother.
The evening repast had just been finished, and the mother and son were walking slowly up and down the long porch overlooking the river in front of the house. There was a curious and interesting likeness between the two,—a facial resemblance only, for Madam Talbot was a slender, rather frail little woman, and looked smaller by contrast as she walked by the side of her son, who had his arm affectionately thrown over her shoulder. She was as straight, however, as he was himself, in spite of her years and cares, and bore herself as proudly erect as in the days of her youth. Her black eyes looked out with undiminished lustre from beneath her snowy-white hair, which needed no powder and was covered by the mob cap she wore. She looked every inch the lady of the manor, nor did her actions and words belie her appearance. The subject of the conversation was evidently a serious one. There was a troubled expression upon her face, in spite of her self-control, which was in marked contrast to the hesitating and somewhat irresolute look upon the handsome countenance of her son.
"My son, my son," she said at last, "why will you persist in approaching me upon this subject? You know my opinions. I have not hesitated to speak frankly, and it is not my habit to change them; in this instance they are as fixed and as immutable as the polar star. The traditions and customs of four hundred years are behind me. Our family—you know your father and I were cousins, and are descended from the same stock—have been called the 'loyal Talbots.' I cannot contemplate with equanimity the possibility even of one of us in rebellion against the king."
"Mother—I am sorry—grieved—but I must tell you that that is a possibility I fear you must learn to face. I have—"
"Oh, Hilary, do not tell me you have finally decided to join this unrighteous rebellion. Pause before you answer, my boy—I entreat you, and it is not my habit to entreat, as you very well know. See, you have been the joy of my heart all my life, the idol of my soul,—I will confess it now,—and for you and your future I have lived and toiled and served and loved. I have dreamed you great, high in rank and place, serving your king, winning back the ancient position of our family. I have shrunk from no sacrifice, nor would I shrink from any. 'Tis not that I do not wish you to risk your life in war,—I am a daughter of my race, and for centuries they have been soldiers, and what God sends soldiers upon the field, that I can abide,—but that you should go now, with all your prospects, your ability, the opportunity presented you, and engage yourself in this fatal cause, in this unholy attack upon the king's majesty, connect yourself with this beggarly rabble who have been whipped and beaten every time they have come in contact with the royal troops,—I cannot bear it. You are a man now. You have grown away from your mother, Hilary, and I can no longer command, I must entreat." But she spoke very proudly, for, as she said, entreaty was not so usual to her as command.
"Oh, mother, mother, you make it very hard for me. You know the colonists have been badly treated, and hardly used by king and Parliament. Our liberties have been threatened, nay, have been abrogated, our privileges destroyed, none of our rights respected, and unless we are to sink to the level of mere slaves and dependants upon the mother country, we have no other course but an appeal to arms."
"I know, I know all that," she interrupted impatiently, with a wave of her hand. "I have heard it all a thousand times from ill-balanced agitators and popular orators. There may be some truth in it, of course, I grant you; but in my creed nothing, Hilary, nothing, will justify a subject in turning against his king. The king can do no wrong. All that we have is his; let him take what he will, so he leaves us our honor, and that, indeed, no one can take from us. It is the principle that our ancestors have attested on a hundred fields and in every other way, and will you now be false to it, my boy?"
"I must be true to myself, mother, first of all, in spite of all the kings of earth; and I feel that duty and honor call me to the side of my friends and the people of this commonwealth. I have hesitated long, mother, in deference to you, but now I have decided."
"And you turn against two mothers, Hilary, when you take this course,—old England, the mother country, and this one, this old mother, who stands before you, who has given you her heart, who has lived for you, who lives in you now, whose devotion to you has never faltered; she now humbly asks with outstretched arms, the arms that carried you when you were a baby boy, that you remain true to your king."
"Nay, but, mamma," he said, calling her by the sweet name of his boyhood, taking her hand and looking down at her tenderly with tear-dimmed eyes full of affection, "one must be true to his idea of right and duty first of all, even at the price of his allegiance to a king; and, after all, what is any king beside you in my heart? But I feel in honor bound to go with my people."
The irresolution was gone from his expression now, and the two determined faces—one full of pity, the other of apprehension—confronted each other.
The Loyal Talbots
"Your people, son?" she said after a long pause. "Come with me a moment." She drew him into the brilliantly lighted hall. As they entered, he said to the servant in waiting,—
"See that my bay horse is saddled and brought around at once, and do you tell Dick to get another horse ready and accompany me; he would better take the black pony."
"Are you going out, Hilary?"
"Yes, mother, when our conversation is over, if there is time. I thought to ride over to Colonel Wilton's. The night is pleasant, and the moon will rise shortly. What were you about to say to me?"
She led him up to the great open fireplace, on the andirons of which a huge log was blazing and crackling cheerfully. Over the mantel was the picture of a handsome man in the uniform of a soldier of some twenty years back.
"Whose face is pictured there, Hilary?"
"My honored father," he answered reverently, but in some surprise.
"And how died he?"
"On the Plains of Abraham, mother, as you well know."
"Fighting for his king?"
"And who is this one?" she said, passing to another picture.
"Sir James Talbot; he struck for his king at Worcester," he volunteered.
"Yes, Hilary; and here is his wife, Lady Caroline Talbot, my grandmother. She kept the door against the Roundheads while the prince escaped from her castle, to which he had fled after the battle. And over there is Lord Cecil Talbot, her father; he fell at Naseby. There in that corner is another James, his brother, one of Prince Rupert's men, wounded at Marston Moor. Here is Sir Hilary, slain at the Boyne; and this old man is Lord Philip, your great-uncle. He was out in the '45, and was beheaded. These are your people, Hilary," she said, standing very straight, her head thrown back, her eyes aflame with pride and determination, "and these struck, fought, lived, and died for their king. I could bear to see you dead," she laid her hand upon her heart in sudden fear at the idea, in spite of her brave words, "but I could not bear to see you a rebel. Think again. You will not so decide?" She said it bravely; it was her final appeal, and as she made it she knew that it was useless. The sceptre had departed out of her hand.
He smiled sadly at her, but shook his head ominously. "Mother, do you know these last fought for Stuart pretenders against the house of Hanover? George III., in your creed, has no right to the place he holds. Do I not then follow my ancestors in taking the field against him?"
"Ah, my child, 't is an unworthy subterfuge. They did fight for the house of Stuart, God bless it! It was king against king then, and at least they fought for royalty, for a king; but now the house of Stuart is gone; the new king occupies the throne undisputed, and our allegiance is due to him. These unfortunate people who are fighting here strive to create a republic where all men shall be equal! Said the sainted martyr Charles on the scaffold, ''T is no concern of the common people's how they are governed.' A common man equal to a Talbot! Fight, my son, if you must; but oh, fight for the king, even an usurper, before a republic, a mob in which so-called equality stands in very unstable equilibrium,—fight for the rightful ruler of the land, not against him."
"Mother, if I am to believe the opinions of those whom I have been taught to respect, the rightful rulers of this colony, of our country, of any country, are the people who inhabit it."
"And who says that, pray, my boy?"
"And do you mean to tell me, a Talbot, that you have been taught to look up to men of the social stamp of Patrick Henry, or to respect their opinions?" she said with ineffable disdain.
"Mother, the logic of events has forced all men to do so. Had you heard his speeches before the Burgesses at Williamsburg, you would have thought that he was second to no man in the colony, or in the world beside; but if he be not satisfactory, there is his excellency General Washington."
"Mr. Washington," she replied with an emphasis on the "Mr." "Now there, I grant you, is a man," she said reluctantly. "I cannot understand the perversion of his destiny or the folly of his course."
"And, mother, you know his family was as loyal as our own. One of his forefathers held Worcester for King Charles with the utmost gallantry and resolution. And he had as a companion in arms in that brave attempt Sir George Talbot, one of our ancestors. There is an example for you. I have often heard you speak with the greatest respect of George Washington."
"It is true, my son," she replied honestly, "but I am at a loss to fathom his motive. What can it be?"
"Mother, I am persuaded of the purity of his motives; his actions spring from the very highest sense of his personal obligation to the cause of liberty."
"'Liberty, liberty,' 't is a weak word when matched with loyalty. But be this as it may, my son, it is beside the question. Our family, these men and women who look down upon us, all fought for principles of royalty. It makes no difference whether or no they fought for or against one or another king, so long as it was a king they fought for. Such a thing as a democracy never entered their heads. And if you take this course, you will be false to every tradition of our past. In my opinion, the people are not fit to govern, and you will find it so. In the impious attempt that is being made to reverse what I conceive to be the divinely appointed polity and law of God, disaster must be the only end."
"Mother, I must follow my convictions in the present rather than any examples in the past. But this is a painful discussion. Should we not best end it? I honor your opinions, I love you, but I must go."
There was a long silence. She broke it. "Well, my child," she said in despair, "you have reached man's estate, and the men of the Talbot race have ever been accustomed to do as their judgment dictates. If you have decided to join Washington's rabble and take part among the rebels in this fratricidal contest, I shall say no more. I cannot further oppose you. I cannot give you my blessing—as I might in happier circumstances—nor can I wish success to your cause. I too am a Talbot, and have my principles, which I must also maintain; but at least I can gird your sword about you, and express the hope and make the prayer, as I do, that you may wear and use it honorably; and that hope, if you are true to the traditions of our house, will never be broken,—I feel sure of that, at least."
The young man bent and kissed his mother, a new light shining in his eyes. "Mother, I thank you. At least, as far as I am concerned, I will endeavor to do my duty honorably in every field. And now I think, with your permission, I will go over and tell Katharine that I have at last made up my mind and cast my lot in with her—I mean with our country," he said, blushing, but with the thoughtless disregard of youth as to the meaning and effect of his words.
"Go, my son, and God be with you!" she said solemnly.
He stepped quickly out on the porch, and, swinging into the saddle of the horse which awaited him, with the ease and grace of an accomplished horseman, galloped off in the moonlight night followed by the groom.
The little old woman stood rigidly in the doorway a moment, looking after her departed son, and then she walked quickly down to a rustic seat on the brow of the hill and sat down heavily, following with straining eyes and yearning heart his rapidly disappearing figure. The same pang that every mother must feel, those who have a son at least, once in her life if no more, came to her heart; all her prayers had been unavailing, her requests unheeded, her pleas and wishes disregarded. She had an idea, not altogether warranted perhaps, but still she had it, that the influence was not so much the example of General Washington, nor the eloquence of Patrick Henry, nor the force of neighborly example, nor rigid principle, but the influence of a sunny head, and a pair of youthful eyes, and a merry laugh, and a young heart, and a pleading voice. These have always stood in the light of a mother since the world began, and these have taken her son from her side. All her hopes gone, her dreams shattered, her sacrifice vain, her love wasted, she bowed her white head upon her thin hands, and wept quietly in the silent night. The deep waters had gone over her soul, and the rare tears of the old woman bespoke a breaking heart.
An Untold Story
There were two roads which led from Fairview Hall to the home of the Wiltons,—one by the river, and the other over the hills farther inland. Talbot had chosen the river-road, and was riding along with a light heart, forgetful of his mother and those tears which indeed she would not have shown him, and full of pleasant anticipations as to the effect of his decision upon Katharine.
As he rode along in the moonlight, his mind, full of that calm repose which comes to men when they have finally arrived at a decision upon some point which has troubled them, felt free to range where it would, and naturally his thoughts turned toward the girl he loved. He was getting along in life, twenty-four his last birthday, while Katharine was several years his junior. It was time to settle himself; and if he must ride away to the wars, it were well, pleasant at least, to think that he was leaving at home a wife over whom he had thrown the protecting aegis of his name.
Katharine would be much happier,—his thoughts dwelt tenderly upon her,—and the definite arrangement would be better than this tacit understanding, which of course was sufficiently binding; though, now he thought of it, Katharine had seemed a little difficult of late, probably because of the indefinite character of the tie. He laughed boyishly in pleasure at his own thought. It was another proof that she loved him, that she resented any assumption on his part based on hopes indulged in and plans formed by her father and his mother. He must declare himself at once. Poor mother! it was hard for her; but she would soon get over all that, and when he came back distinguished and honored by the people, she would feel very differently. As for the capricious Katharine, he would speak out that very night, never doubting the issue, and get it done with. Of course, that was all that was necessary.
When she knew that he was engaged heart and soul in the cause of the Revolution, she would be ready to yield him anything. Not that he had any doubt of the result of his proposal in any case; as soon doubt that the nature and orderly sequence of events should be suddenly and violently interrupted, as imagine that these cherished plans, in which they had both acquiesced so long ago, should fall through. And so my lord was prepared to drop the handkerchief at the feet of my lady for her to pick up! It was a time, however, he might have remembered, in which the old established order of events in other fields, which men had long since conceived of as fixed as natural laws, was being rudely broken and destroyed. Many things which had heretofore been habitually taken for granted, now were required to be proved, and Talbot was destined to meet the fate of every over-confident lover. Devotion, self-abnegation, persistency,—these during ten days had held the field; and the result of the campaign had been that inevitable one which may always be looked for when the opposing forces, even after years of possession, muster under the banner of habit, assurance, confidence, and neglect.
So musing, the light-hearted gentleman galloped along. The intervening distance was soon passed over, and Talbot found himself entering the familiar stretch of woodland which marked the beginning of the colonel's estate. Under the trees and beneath the high bank of the river the shadows deepened; scarcely any light from the moon fell on the road. It was well, therefore, that our cavalier drew rein, and somewhat checked the pace of his horse, advancing with some caution over the familiar yet unseen road; for just as he came opposite the land end of the pier which led out to the boat-house, the animal stopped with such suddenness that a less practised rider would have suffered a severe fall. The horse snorted and trembled in terror, and began rearing and backing away from the spot. Looking down in the darkness, Talbot could barely discern a dark, bulky object lying in the road.
"Here, Dick!" he called to the groom, who had stopped and reined in his own horse, apparently as terrified as the other, a few paces back of his master; and tossing his bridle rein toward him, "take my horse, while I see what stopped him."
Lightly leaping to the ground, and stepping up to the object before him, he bent down and laid his hand upon it, and then started back in surprise and horror. "It's a man," he exclaimed; "dead, yet warm still. Who can it be?" The moonlight fell upon the pebbly beach of the river a little farther out; overcoming his reluctance, he half lifted, half carried the body out where the light would fall upon its face. This face, which was unknown to him, was that of a desperate-looking ruffian, who was dressed in a soiled and tattered uniform, the coat of which was red; the man's hand tightly clasped a discharged pistol; he had been shot in the breast, for where his coat had fallen open might be seen a dark red stain about a ragged hole in his soiled gray shirt; the bullet had been fired at short range, too, for there were powder marks all about his breast. Talbot noticed these things rapidly, his mind working quickly.
"Oh, Mars' Hil'ry—wha-wha's de mattah? I kyarnt hol' dese hosses; dey'se sumfin wrong, sho'ly," broke in the groom, his teeth chattering with terror.
"Quiet, man! don't make so much noise. This is the dead body of a man, a soldier; he has been shot too. Take the horses back beyond the old tree on the little bend there; tie them securely, and come back here quickly. Make no noise. Bring the pistols from your holsters."
As the man turned to obey him, Talbot glanced about in perplexity, and his eyes fell upon a small sloop rapidly disappearing down the river, under full sail in the fresh breeze which had sprung up. She was too far away now to make out any details in the moonlight, but the sight was somewhat unusual and alarming, he scarcely knew why.
"I got dem tied safe, Mars' Hil'ry," called out the voice of the boy from the road.
"All right, Dick! We will leave this one here, and try to find out what's wrong; you follow me, and keep the pistols ready."
"Yes, Mars', I got dem." The man was brave enough in the presence of open danger; it was only the spiritual he feared.
They had scarcely gone ten paces farther toward the path, when, at the foot of it, they stumbled over another body.
"Here is another one. What does it mean? See who it is, Dick."
The groom, mastering his instinctive aversion, bent down obediently, and lifting the face peered into it. It was lighter here, and he recognized it at once.
"Hit's Mars' Blodgett, de kunnel's old sojuh man. Him got a bullet-hole in de fohaid, suh; him a dead man sholy, an' heah is his gun by his han'," he said in an awestruck whisper.
"Blodgett! Good God, it can't be."
"Yes, suh, it's him, and dere's anoder one ober dah. See, suh!" He laid his hand upon another body, in the same uniform as the first one. This man groaned slightly.
"Dis one's not daid yit," said Dick, excitedly; "he been hit ober de haid, his face all bloody. Oh, Mars' Hil'ry, dem raidahs you done tell me 'bout been heah. Mars' Blodgett done shot dat one by de riber on de waf, an' den hit dis one wid his musket, an' den dey done shoot Mars' Blodgett. Oh, Mars' Hil'ry, le' 's get out ob heah."
Talbot saw it all now,—the slow and stealthy approach of the boat from the little sloop out in the river (it had disappeared round the bend, he noticed), Blodgett's quiet watch at the foot of the path, the approach of the men, Blodgett's challenge, the first one shot dead as he came up, the pistol-shot which missed him, the rush of the men at the indomitable old soldier, the nearest one struck down from the blow of the clubbed musket of the sturdy old man, the second pistol-shot, which hit him in the forehead, his fall across the path. Faithful unto death at the post of duty. The little drama was perfectly plain to him. But who were these raiders? Who could they be? And Katharine?
"Oh, my God," he exclaimed, stung into quick action at the thought of a possible peril to his love. "Come, Dick, to the house; she may be in danger."
"But dis libe one, Mars' Hil'ry?"
"Quick, quick! leave him; we will see about him later."
With no further attempt at caution, they sprang recklessly up the steep path, and, gaining the brow of the hill, ran at full speed toward the house. He noticed that there were no lights in the negro quarters, no sounds of the merry-making usually going on there in the early evening. Through the open windows on the side of the house, he had a hasty glimpse of the disordered dining-room. The great doors of the hall were open. They were on the porch now,—now at the door of the hall. It was empty. He paused a second. "Katharine, Katharine!" he called aloud, a note of fear in his voice, "where are you? Colonel Wilton!" In the silence which his voice had broken he heard a weak and feeble moan, which struck terror into his heart.
He ran hastily down the hall, and stopped at the dining-room door aghast. The smoking candles in the sconces were throwing a somewhat uncertain light over a scene of devastation and ruin; the furniture of the table and the accessories of the meal lay in a broken heap at the foot of it, the chairs were overturned, the curtains torn, the great sideboard had been swept bare of its usual load of glittering silver.
At his feet lay the body of a man, in the now familiar red uniform, blood from a ghastly sword-thrust clotted about his throat, the floor about his head being covered with ominous stains. A little farther away on the floor, near the table, there was the body of another man, in another uniform, a naked sword lying by his side; he had a frightful-looking wound on his forehead, and the blood was slowly oozing out of his coat-sleeve, staining the lace at his left wrist. Even as he looked, the man turned a little on the floor, and the same low moan broke from his lips. Talbot stepped over the first body to the side of the other.
"My God, it's Seymour," he said. He knelt beside him, as Katharine had done. "Seymour," he called, "Seymour!" The man opened his eyes slowly, and looked vacantly at him.
"Katharine," he murmured.
"What of her? is she safe?" asked Talbot, in an agony of fear.
"Raiders—prisoner," continued Seymour, brokenly, in a whisper, and then feebly murmured, "Water, water!"
"Here, Dick, get some water quickly! First hand me that decanter of wine," pointing to one which had fortunately escaped the eyes of the marauders. He lifted Seymour's head gently, and with a napkin which he had picked up from the floor, wiped the bloody face, washing it with the water the groom quickly brought from the well outside.
Then he poured a little of the wine down the wounded man's throat, next slit the sleeve of his coat, and saw that the scarcely healed wound in the arm had broken out again. He bandaged it up with no small skill with some of the other neglected table linen, and the effect upon Seymour of the stimulant and of these ministrations was at once apparent. With a stronger voice he said slowly,—
"Dunmore's men—Captain Johnson—colonel a prisoner—Katharine also—God grant—no harm intended."
"Hush, hush! I understand. But where are the slaves?"
"Terrified, I suppose—in hiding."
"Dick, see if you can find any of them. Hurry up! We must take Mr. Seymour back to Fairview tonight, and report this outrage to the military commander at Alexandria. Oh that I had a boat and a few men!" he murmured. Katharine was gone. He would not tell his story to-night; she was in the hands of a gang of ruffians. He knew the reputation of Johnson, and the motives which might actuate him. There had been a struggle, it was evident; perhaps she had been wounded, killed. Agony! He knew now how he loved her, and it was too late.
Presently the groom returned, followed by a mob of frightened, terror-stricken negroes who had fled at the first advent of the party. Talbot issued his orders rapidly. "Some of you get the carriage ready; we must take Lieutenant Seymour to Fairview Hall. Some of you go down to the landing and bring up the bodies of the three men there. You go with that party, Dick. Phoebus, you get this room cleared up. Hurry, stir yourselves! You are all right now; the raiders have gone and are not likely to return."
"Why, where is Master Philip, I wonder? Was he also taken?" he said suddenly. "Have any of you seen him?" he asked of the servants.
"He done gone away fishin' wid Mars' Bentley," replied the old butler, pausing; "and dey ain't got back yit, tank de Lawd; but I spec 'em ev'y minute, suh."
As he spoke, a fresh youthful voice was heard in the hall. "Father, Kate, where are you? Come see our string of— Why, what's all this?" said a young man, standing astonished in the door of the room. It was Philip Wilton, holding a long string of fish, the result of their day's sport; behind him stood the tall stalwart figure of the old sailor. "Talbot—you? Where are father and Kate? What are these men doing in the dining-room? Oh, what is that?" he said, shrinking back in horror from the corpse of the soldier.
"Dunmore's raiders have been here."
"A prisoner, with your father, Philip, but I trust both are uninjured."
"Mr. Seymour, sir, where is he?" said the deep voice of the boatswain, as he advanced farther into the room. The light fell full upon him. He was a splendid specimen of athletic manhood; tall, powerful, long-armed, slightly bent in the shoulders; decision and courage were seen in his bearing, and were written on his face, burned a dull mahogany color by years of exposure to the weather. He was clothed in the open shirt and loose trousers of a seafaring man, and he stood with his feet slightly apart, as if balancing himself to the uneasy roll of a ship. Honesty and fidelity and intelligence spoke out from his eyes, and affection and anxiety were heard in his voice.
"Lieutenant Seymour," he repeated, "where is he, sir?"
"There," said Talbot, stepping aside and pointing to the floor.
"Not dead, sir, is he?"
"Not yet, Bentley," Seymour, with regaining strength, replied; "I am not done for this time."
"Oh, Mr. John, Mr. John," said the old man, tenderly, bending over him, "I thank God to see you alive again. But, as I live, they shall pay dear for this—whoever has done it,—the bloody, marauding, ruffians!"