Sometime Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel on the Staff of his Excellency General Washington.
By S. WEIR MITCHELL, M.D., LL.D.
WITH FOUR ILLUSTRATIONS
By HOWARD PYLE
[Frontispiece Illustration: "IS IT YES OR NO, DARTHEA?"]
[Transcriber's Note: The drawing depicts a man and woman riding on horseback side-by-side.]
PREFACE TO NINETEENTH EDITION
Since Hugh Wynne was published in book form in 1896, it has been many times reprinted, and now that again there is need for a new edition, I use a desired opportunity to rectify some mistakes in names, dates, and localities. These errors were of such a character as to pass unnoticed by the ordinary reader and disturb no one except the local archaeologist or those who propose to the novelist that he shall combine the accuracy of the historical scholar with the creative imagination of the writer of what, after all, is fiction.
Nevertheless, the desire of the scientific mind even in the novel is for all reasonable accuracy, and to attain it I used for six years such winter leisures as the exacting duties of a busy professional life permitted, to collect notes of the dress, hours, sports, habits and talk of the various types of men and women I meant to delineate. I burned a hundred pages of these carefully gathered materials soon after I had found time, in a summer holiday, to write the book for which these notes were so industriously gathered.
It is probable that no historical novel was ever paid the compliment of the close criticism of details which greeted Hugh Wynne. I was most largely in debt for the pointing out of errors in names and localities to a review of my book in a journal devoted to the interest of one of the two divisions of the Society of Friends.
I deeply regretted at the time that my useful critic should have considered my novel as a deliberately planned attack on the views entertained by Friends. It was once again an example of the assumption that the characters of a novel in their opinions and talk represent the author's personal beliefs. I was told by my critic that John Wynne is presented as "the type of the typical character of the Friends." As well might Bishop Proudie be considered as representative of the members and views of the Church of England or Mr. Tulkinghorn of the English lawyer.
A man's course in life does not always represent simple obedience to the counsels of perfection implied in an accepted creed of conduct, but is modified by his own nature. He may therefore quite fail to secure from his beliefs that which they produce in more assimilative natures. Age softens some hard characters, but in John Wynne the early development of senile dementia deprived him of this chance. I drew a peculiar and happily a rare type of man who might have illustrated failure to get the best out of any creed.
The course of this great revolutionary struggle made or marred many men, and the way in which such a time affects character affords to the novel of history its most interesting material.
Erroneous statements in regard to the time and place of Friends' Meetings have been pointed out. As concerns these and the like, I may here state that the manuscript of my novel was read with care by a gentleman who was a birthright member of the Society and both by age and knowledge competent to speak. He remarked upon some of my technical errors in regard to the meetings and discipline of Friends, but advised against change and said that it was traditionally well known that at the time of the Revolution there was much confusion in their assemblies and great bitterness of feeling when so many like Wetherill chose to revolt against the doctrine of absolute obedience to what, whether rightfully or not, they regarded as oppression. Needless to say that I meant no more than to delineate a great spiritual conflict in a very interesting body of men who, professing neutrality, were, if we may trust Washington, anything but neutral.
The amount of accuracy to be allowed in historic fiction aroused fresh interest when Hugh Wynne first appeared. In romances like Quentin Durward and Ivanhoe the question need not be considered. What may annoy the historian in the more serious novel of history does not trouble the ordinary reader nor does it detract from the interest of the story. How little the grossest errors in biography and history affect the opinions of the public concerning a novel long popular may be illustrated by the fact that one of my critics referred me to Henry Esmond for an example of desirable accuracy. It was an unfortunate choice, for in Esmond there is hardly a correct historical statement. The Duke of Hamilton described as about to marry Beatrix was the husband of a second living wife and the father of seven children—an example of contemplated literary bigamy which does not distress the happily ignorant, nor are they at all troubled by the many other and even more singular errors in statement, some of them plainly the result of carelessness. A novel, it seems, may sin sadly as concerns historic facts and yet survive.
The purpose of the novel is, after all, to be acceptably interesting. If it be historical, the historic people should not be the constantly present heroes of the book. The novelist's proper use of them is to influence the fates of lesser people and to give the reader such sense of their reality as in the delineation of characters, is rarely possible for the historian.
With these long intended comments, I leave this book to the many readers whose wants a new edition is meant to supply. I may say in conclusion that I should have been less eager to alter, correct, and explain if it were not that in schools and colleges Hugh Wynne has been and is still used in a variety of ways so that the example of accuracy and a definition of its desirable extent in historic fiction becomes in some sense a literary duty.
S. WEIR MITCHELL.
It is now many years since I began these memoirs. I wrote fully a third of them, and then put them aside, having found increasing difficulties as I went on with my task. These arose out of the constant need to use the first person in a narrative of adventure and incidents which chiefly concern the writer, even though it involve also the fortunes of many in all ranks of life. Having no gift in the way of composition, I knew not how to supply or set forth what was outside of my own knowledge, nor how to pretend to that marvellous insight, as to motives and thoughts, which they affect who write books of fiction. This has always seemed to me absurd, and so artificial that, with my fashion of mind, I have never been able to enjoy such works nor agreeably to accept their claim to such privilege of insight. In a memoir meant for my descendants, it was fitting and desirable that I should at times speak of my own appearance, and, if possible, of how I seemed as child or man to others. This, I found, I did not incline to do, even when I myself knew what had been thought of me by friend or foe. And so, as I said, I set the task aside, with no desire to take it up again.
Some years later my friend, John Warder, died, leaving to my son, his namesake, an ample estate, and to me all his books, papers, plate, and wines. Locked in a desk, I found a diary, begun when a lad, and kept, with more or less care, during several years of the great war. It contained also recollections of our youthful days, and was very full here and there of thoughts, comments, and descriptions concerning events of the time, and of people whom we both had known. It told of me much that I could not otherwise have willingly set down, even if the matter had appeared to me as it did to him, which was not always the case; also my friend chanced to have been present at scenes which deeply concerned me, but which, without his careful setting forth, would never have come to my knowledge.
A kindly notice, writ nine years before, bade me use his journal as seemed best to me. When I read this, and came to see how full and clear were his statements of much that I knew, and of some things which I did not, I felt ripely inclined to take up again the story I had left unfinished; and now I have done so, and have used my friend as the third person, whom I could permit to say what he thought of me from time to time, and to tell of incidents I did not see, or record impressions and emotions of his own. This latter privilege pleases me because I shall, besides my own story, be able to let those dear to me gather from the confessions of his journal, and from my own statements, what manner of person was the true gentleman and gallant soldier to whom I owed so much.
I trust this tale of an arduous struggle by a new land against a great empire will make those of my own blood the more desirous to serve their country with honour and earnestness, and with an abiding belief in the great Ruler of events.
In my title of this volume I have called myself a "Free Quaker." The term has no meaning for most of the younger generation, and yet it should tell a story of many sad spiritual struggles, of much heart-searching distress, of brave decisions, and of battle and of camp.
At Fifth and Arch streets, on an old gable, is this record:
BY GENERAL SUBSCRIPTION, FOR THE FREE QUAKERS. ERECTED A.D. 1783, OF THE EMPIRE, 8.
In the burying-ground across the street, and in and about the sacred walls of Christ Church, not far away, lie Benjamin Franklin, Francis Hopkinson, Peyton Randolph, Benjamin Rush, and many a gallant soldier and sailor of the war for freedom. Among them, at peace forever, rest the gentle-folks who stood for the king—the gay men and women who were neutral, or who cared little under which George they danced or gambled or drank their old Madeira. It is a neighbourhood which should be forever full of interest to those who love the country of our birth.
A child's early life is such as those who rule over him make it; but they can only modify what he is. Yet, as all know, after their influence has ceased, the man himself has to deal with the effects of blood and breed, and, too, with the consequences of the mistakes of his elders in the way of education. For these reasons I am pleased to say something of myself in the season of my green youth.
The story of the childhood of the great is often of value, no matter from whom they are "ascended," as my friend Warder used to say; but even in the lives of such lesser men as I, who have played the part of simple pawns in a mighty game, the change from childhood to manhood is not without interest.
I have often wished we could have the recorded truth of a child's life as it seemed to him day by day, but this can never be. The man it is who writes the life of the boy, and his recollection of it is perplexed by the sittings of memory, which let so much of thought and feeling escape, keeping little more than barren facts, or the remembrance of periods of trouble or of emotion, sometimes quite valueless, while more important moral events are altogether lost.
As these pages will show, I have found it agreeable, and at times useful, to try to understand, as far as in me lay, not only the men who were my captains or mates in war or in peace, but also myself. I have often been puzzled by that well-worn phrase as to the wisdom of knowing thyself, for with what manner of knowledge you know yourself is a grave question, and it is sometimes more valuable to know what is truly thought of you by your nearest friends than to be forever teasing yourself to determine whether what you have done in the course of your life was just what it should have been.
I may be wrong in the belief that my friend Warder saw others more clearly than he saw himself. He was of that opinion, and he says in one place that he is like a mirror, seeing all things sharply except that he saw not himself. Whether he judged me justly or not, I must leave to others to decide. I should be glad to think that, in the great account, I shall be as kindly dealt with as in the worn and faded pages which tell brokenly of the days of our youth. I am not ashamed to say that my eyes have filled many times as I have lingered over these records of my friend, surely as sweet and true a gentleman as I have ever known. Perhaps sometimes they have even overflowed at what they read. Why are we reluctant to confess a not ignoble weakness, such as is, after all, only the heart's confession of what is best in life? What becomes of the tears of age?
This is but a wearisome introduction, and yet necessary, for I desire to use freely my friend's journal, and this without perpetual mention of his name, save as one of the actors who played, as I did, a modest part in the tumult of the war, in which my own fortunes and his were so deeply concerned. To tell of my own life without speaking freely of the course of a mighty story would be quite impossible. I look back, indeed, with honest comfort on a struggle which changed the history of three nations, but I am sure that the war did more for me than I for it. This I saw in others. Some who went into it unformed lads came out strong men. In others its temptations seemed to find and foster weaknesses of character, and to cultivate the hidden germs of evil. Of all the examples of this influence, none has seemed to me so tragical as that of General Arnold, because, being of reputable stock and sufficient means, generous, in every-day life kindly, and a free-handed friend, he was also, as men are now loath to believe, a most gallant and daring soldier, a tender father, and an attached husband. The thought of the fall of this man fetches back to me, as I write, the remembrance of my own lesser temptations, and with a thankful heart I turn aside to the uneventful story of my boyhood and its surroundings.
I was born in the great city Governor William Penn founded, in Pennsylvania, on the banks of the Delaware, and my earliest memories are of the broad river, the ships, the creek before our door, and of grave gentlemen in straight-collared coats and broad-brimmed beaver hats.
I began life in a day of stern rule, and among a people who did not concern themselves greatly as to a child's having that inheritance of happiness with which we like to credit childhood. Who my people were had much to do with my own character, and what those people were and had been it is needful to say before I let my story run its natural and, I hope, not uninteresting course.
In my father's bedroom, over the fireplace, hung a pretty picture done in oils, by whom I know not. It is now in my library. It represents a pleasant park, and on a rise of land a gray Jacobean house, with, at either side, low wings curved forward, so as to embrace a courtyard shut in by railings and gilded gates. There is also a terrace with urns and flowers. I used to think it was the king's palace, until, one morning, when I was still a child, Friend Pemberton came to visit my father with William Logan and a very gay gentleman, Mr. John Penn, he who was sometime lieutenant-governor of the province, and of whom and of his brother Richard great hopes were conceived among Friends. I was encouraged by Mr. Penn to speak more than was thought fitting for children in those days, and because of his rank I escaped the reproof I should else have met with.
He said to my father, "The boy favours thy people." Then he added, patting my head, "When thou art a man, my lad, thou shouldst go and see where thy people came from in Wales. I have been at Wyncote. It is a great house, with wings in the Italian manner, and a fine fountain in the court, and gates which were gilded when Charles II came to see the squire, and which are not to be set open again until another king comes thither."
Then I knew this was the picture upstairs, and much pleased I said eagerly:
"My father has it in his bedroom, and our arms below it, all painted most beautiful."
"Thou art a clever lad," said the young lieutenant-governor, "and I must have described it well. Let as have a look at it, Friend Wynne."
But my mother, seeing that William Logan and Friend Pemberton were silent and grave, and that my father looked ill pleased, made haste to make excuse, because it was springtime and the annual house-cleaning was going on.
Mr. Penn cried out merrily, "I see that the elders are shocked at thee, Friend Wynne, because of these vanities of arms and pictures; but there is good heraldry on the tankard out of which I drank James Pemberton's beer yesterday. Fie, fie, Friend James!" Then he bowed to my mother very courteously, and said to my father, "I hope I have not got thy boy into difficulties because I reminded him that he is come of gentles."
"No, no," said my mother.
"I know the arms, madam, and well too: quarterly, three eagles displayed in fesse, and—"
"Thou wilt pardon me, Friend Penn," said my father, curtly. "These are the follies of a world which concerns not those of our society. The lad's aunt has put enough of such nonsense into his head already."
"Let it pass, then," returned the young lieutenant-governor, with good humour; "but I hope, as I said, that I have made no trouble for this stout boy of thine."
My father replied deliberately, "There is no harm done." He was too proud to defend himself, but I heard long after that he was taken to task by Thomas Scattergood and another for these vanities of arms and pictures. He told them that he put the picture where none saw it but ourselves, and, when they persisted, reminded them sharply, as Mr. Penn had done, of the crests on their own silver, by which these Friends of Welsh descent set much store.
I remember that, when the gay young lieutenant-governor had taken his leave, my father said to my mother, "Was it thou who didst tell the boy this foolishness of these being our arms and the like, or was it my sister Gainor?"
Upon this my mother drew up her brows, and spread her palms out,—a French way she had,—and cried, "Are they not thy arms? Wherefore should we be ashamed to confess it?"
I suppose this puzzled him, for he merely added, "Too much may be made of such vanities."
All of this I but dimly recall. It is one of the earliest recollections of my childhood, and, being out of the common, was, I suppose, for that reason better remembered.
I do not know how old I was when, at this time, Mr. Penn, in a neat wig with side rolls, and dressed very gaudy, aroused my curiosity as to these folks in Wales, It was long after, and only by degrees, that I learned the following facts, which were in time to have a great influence on my own life and its varied fortunes.
In or about the year 1671, and of course before Mr. Penn, the proprietary, came over, my grandfather had crossed the sea, and settled near Chester on lands belonging to the Swedes. The reason of his coming was this: about 1669 the Welsh of the English church and the magistrates were greatly stirred to wrath against the people called Quakers, because of their refusal to pay tithes. Among these offenders was no small number of the lesser gentry, especially they of Merionethshire.
My grandfather, Hugh Wynne, was the son and successor of Godfrey Wynne, of Wyncote. How he chanced to be born among these hot-blooded Wynnes I do not comprehend. He is said to have been gay in his early days, but in young manhood to have become averse to the wild ways of his breed, and to have taken a serious and contemplative turn. Falling in with preachers of the people called Quakers, he left the church of the establishment, gave up hunting, ate his game-cocks, and took to straight collars, plain clothes, and plain talk. When he refused to pay the tithes he was fined, and at last cast into prison in Shrewsbury Gate House, where he lay for a year, with no more mind to be taxed for a hireling ministry at the end of that time than at the beginning.
His next brother, William, a churchman as men go, seems to have loved him, although he was himself a rollicking fox-hunter; and, seeing that Hugh would die if left in this duress, engaged him to go to America. Upon his agreeing to make over his estate to William, those in authority readily consented to his liberation, since William had no scruples as to the matter of tithes, and with him there would be no further trouble. Thus it came about that my grandfather Hugh left Wales. He had with him, I presume, enough of means to enable him to make a start in Pennsylvania. It could not have been much. He carried also, what no doubt he valued, a certificate of removal from the Quarterly Meeting held at Tyddyn y Garreg. I have this singular document. In it is said of him and of his wife, Ellin ("for whom it may concern"), that "they are faithfull and beloved Friends, well known to be serviceable unto Friends and brethren, since they have become convinced; of a blameless and savory conversation. Also are P'sons Dearly beloved of all Souls. His testimony sweet and tender, reaching to the quicking seed of life; we cannot alsoe but bemoan the want of his company, for that in difficult occasion he was sted-fast—nor was one to be turned aside. He is now seasonable in intention for the Plantations, in order into finding his way clear, and freedom in the truth according to the measure manifested unto him," etc. And so the strong-minded man is commended to Friends across the seas. In the records of the meetings for sufferings in England are certain of his letters from the jail. How his character descended to my sterner parent, and, through another generation, to me, and how the coming in of my mother's gentler blood helped in after-days, and amid stir of war, to modify in me, this present writer, the ruder qualities of my race, I may hope to set forth.
William died suddenly in 1679 without children, and was succeeded by the third brother, Owen. This gentleman lived the life of his time, and, dying in 1700 of much beer and many strong waters, left one son, Owen, a minor. What with executors and other evils, the estate now went from ill to worse. Owen Wynne 2d was in no haste, and thus married as late as somewhere about 1740, and had issue, William, and later, in 1744, a second son, Arthur, and perhaps others; but of all this I heard naught until many years after, as I have already said.
It may seem a weak and careless thing for a man thus to cast away his father's lands as my ancestor did; but what he gave up was a poor estate, embarrassed with mortgages and lessened by fines, until the income was, I suspect, but small. Certain it is that the freedom to worship God as he pleased was more to him than wealth, and assuredly not to be set against a so meagre estate, where he must have lived among enmities, or must have diced, drunk, and hunted with the rest of his kinsmen and neighbours.
I have a faint memory of my aunt, Gainor Wynne, as being fond of discussing the matter, and of how angry this used to make my father. She had a notion that my father knew more than he was willing to say, and that there had been something further agreed between the brothers, although what this was she knew not, nor ever did for many a day. She was given, however, to filling my young fancy with tales about the greatness of these Wynnes, and of how the old homestead, rebuilded in James I.'s reign, had been the nest of Wynnes past the memory of man. Be all this as it may, we had lost Wyncote for the love of a freer air, although all this did not much concern me in the days of which I now write.
Under the mild and just rule of the proprietary, my grandfather Hugh prospered, and in turn his son John, my father, to a far greater extent. Their old home in Wales became to them, as time went on, less and less important. Their acres here in Merion and Bucks were more numerous and more fertile. I may add that the possession of many slaves in Maryland, and a few in Pennsylvania, gave them the feeling of authority and position, which the colonial was apt to lose in the presence of his English rulers, who, being in those days principally gentlemen of the army, were given to assuming airs of superiority.
In a word, my grandfather, a man of excellent wits and of much importance, was of the council of William Penn, and, as one of his chosen advisers, much engaged in his difficulties with the Lord Baltimore as to the boundaries of the lands held of the crown. Finally, when, as Penn says, "I could not prevail with my wife to stay, and still less with Tishe," which was short for Laetitia, his daughter, an obstinate wench, it was to men like Logan and my grandfather that he gave his full confidence and delegated his authority; so that Hugh Wynne had become, long before his death, a person of so much greater condition than the small squires to whom he had given up his estate, that he was like Joseph in this new land. What with the indifference come of large means, and disgust for a country where he had been ill treated, he probably ceased to think of his forefathers' life in Wales as of a thing either desirable or in any way suited to his own creed.
Soon the letters, which at first were frequent, that is, coming twice a year, when the London packet arrived or departed, became rare; and if, on the death of my great-uncle William, they ceased, or if any passed later between us and the next holder of Wyncote, I never knew. The Welsh squires had our homestead, and we our better portion of wealth and freedom in this new land. And so ended my knowledge of this matter for many a year.
You will readily understand that the rude life of a fox-hunting squire or the position of a strict Quaker on a but moderate estate in Merionethshire would have had little to tempt my father. Yet one thing remained with him awhile as an unchanged inheritance, to which, so far as I remember, he only once alluded. Indeed, I should never have guessed that he gave the matter a thought but for that visit of Mr. John Penn, and the way it recurred to me in later days in connection with an incident concerning the picture and the blazoned arms.
I think he cared less and less as years went by. In earlier days he may still have liked to remember that he might have been Wynne of Wyncote; but this is a mere guess on my part. Pride spiritual is a master passion, and certain it is that the creed and ways of Fox and Penn became to him, as years created habits, of an importance far beyond the pride which values ancient blood or a stainless shield.
The old house, which was built much in the same fashion as the great mansion of my Lord Dysart on the Thames near to Richmond, but smaller, was, after all, his family home. The picture and the arms were hid away in deference to opinions by which in general he more and more sternly abided. Once, when I was older, I went into his bedroom, and was surprised to find him standing before the hearth, his hands crossed behind his back, looking earnestly at the brightly coloured shield beneath the picture of Wyncote. I knew too well to disturb him in these silent moods, but hearing my steps, he suddenly called me to him. I obeyed with the dread his sternness always caused me. To my astonishment, his face was flushed and his eyes were moist. He laid his hand on my shoulder, and clutched it hard as he spoke. He did not turn, but, still looking up at the arms, said, in a voice which paused between the words and sounded strange:
"I have been insulted to-day, Hugh, by the man Thomas Bradford. I thank God that the Spirit prevailed with me to answer him in Christian meekness. He came near to worse things than harsh words. Be warned, my son. It is a terrible set-back from right living to come of a hot-blooded breed like these Wynnes."
I looked up at Mm as he spoke. He was smiling, "But not all bad, Hugh, not all bad. Remember that it is something, in this nest of disloyal traders, to have come of gentle blood."
Then he left gazing on the arms and the old home of our people, and said severely, "Hast thou gotten thy tasks to-day?"
"It has not been so of late. I hope thou hast considered before speaking. If I hear no better of thee soon thou wilt repent it. It is time thou shouldst take thy life more seriously. What I have said is for no ear but thine."
I went away with a vague feeling that I had suffered for Mr. Bradford, and on account of my father's refusal to join in resistance to the Stamp Act; for this was in November, 1765, and I was then fully twelve years of age.
My father's confession, and all he had said following it, made upon me one of those lasting impressions which are rare in youth, but which may have a great influence on the life of a man. Now all the boys were against the Stamp Act, and I had at the moment a sudden fear at being opposed to my father. I had, too, a feeling of personal shame because this strong man, whom I dreaded on account of his severity, should have been so overwhelmed by an insult. There was at this period, and later, much going on in my outer life to lessen the relentless influence of the creed of conduct which prevailed in our home for me, and for all of our house. I had even then begun to suspect at school that non-resistance did not add permanently to the comfort of life. I was sorry that my father had not resorted to stronger measures with Mr. Bradford, a gentleman whom, in after-years, I learned greatly to respect.
More than anything else, this exceptional experience as to my father left me with a great desire to know more of these Wynnes, and with a certain share of that pride of race, which, to my surprise, as I think it over now, was at that time in my father's esteem a possession of value. I am bound to add that I also felt some self-importance at being intrusted with this secret, for such indeed it was.
Before my grandfather left Wales he had married a distant cousin, Ellin Owen, and on her death, childless, he took to wife, many years later, her younger sister, Gainor [Footnote: Thus early we shed the English prejudice against marriage with a deceased wife's sister.] for these Owens, our kinsmen, had also become Friends, and had followed my grandfather's example in leaving their home in Merionethshire. To this second marriage, which occurred in 1713, were born my aunt, Gainor Wynne, and, two years later, my father, John Wynne. I have no remembrance of either grandparent. Both lie in the ground at Merion Meeting-house, under nameless, unmarked graves, after the manner of Friends. I like it not.
My father, being a stern and silent man, must needs be caught by his very opposite, and, according to this law of our nature, fell in love with Marie Beauvais, the orphan of a French gentleman who had become a Quaker, and was of that part of France called the Midi. Of this marriage I was the only surviving offspring, my sister Ellin dying when I was an infant. I was born in the city of Penn, on January 9, 1753, at 9 P.M.
I have but to close my eyes to see the house in which I lived in my youth. It stood in the city of Penn, back from the low bluff of Dock Creek, near to Walnut street. The garden stretched down to the water, and before the door were still left on either side two great hemlock-spruces, which must have been part of the noble woods under which the first settlers found shelter. Behind the house was a separate building, long and low, in which all the cooking was done, and upstairs were the rooms where the slaves dwelt apart.
The great garden stretched westward as far as Third street, and was full of fine fruit-trees, and in the autumn of melons, first brought hither in one of my father's ships. Herbs and simples were not wanting, nor berries, for all good housewives in those days were expected to be able to treat colds and the lesser maladies with simples, as they were called, and to provide abundantly jams and conserves of divers kinds.
There were many flowers too, and my mother loved to make a home here for the wildings she found in the governor's woods. I have heard her regret that the most delicious of all the growths of spring, the ground-sweet, which I think they now call arbutus, would not prosper out of its forest shelter.
The house was of black and red brick, and double; that is, with two windows on each side of a white Doric doorway, having something portly about it. I use the word as Dr. Johnson defines it: a house of port, with a look of sufficiency, and, too, of ready hospitality, which was due, I think, to the upper half of the door being open a good part of the year. I recall also the bull's-eye of thick glass in the upper half-door, and below it a great brass knocker. In the white shutters were cut crescentic openings, which looked at night like half-shut eyes when there were lights within the rooms. In the hall were hung on pegs leathern buckets. They were painted green, and bore, in yellow letters, "Fire" and "J.W."
The day I went to school for the first time is very clear in my memory. I can see myself, a stout little fellow about eight years old, clad in gray homespun, with breeches, low shoes, and a low, flat beaver hat. I can hear my mother say, "Here are two big apples for thy master," it being the custom so to propitiate pedagogues. Often afterward I took eggs in a little basket, or flowers, and others did the like.
"Now run! run!" she cried, "and be a good boy; run, or thou wilt be late." And she clapped her hands as I sped away, now and then looking back over my shoulder.
I remember as well my return home to this solid house, this first day of my going to school. One is apt to associate events with persons, and my mother stood leaning on the half-door as I came running back. She was some little reassured to see me smiling, for, to tell the truth, I had been mightily scared at my new venture.
This sweet and most tender-hearted lady wore, as you may like to know, a gray gown, and a blue chintz apron fastened over the shoulders with wide bands. On her head was a very broad-brimmed white beaver hat, low in the crown, and tied by silk cords under her chin. She had a great quantity of brown hair, among which was one wide strand of gray. This she had from youth, I have been told. It was all very silken, and so curly that it was ever in rebellion against the custom of Friends, which would have had it flat on the temples. Indeed, I never saw it so, for, whether at the back or at the front, it was wont to escape in large curls. Nor do I think she disliked this worldly wilfulness, for which nature had provided an unanswerable excuse. She had serious blue eyes, very large and wide open, so that the clear white was seen all around the blue, and with a constant look as if of gentle surprise. In middle life she was still pliant and well rounded, with a certain compliment of fresh prettiness in whatever gesture she addressed to friend or guest. Some said it was a French way, and indeed she made more use of her hands in speech than was common among people of British race.
Her goodness seems to me to have been instinctive, and to have needed neither thought nor effort. Her faults, as I think of her, were mostly such as arise from excess of loving and of noble moods. She would be lavish where she had better have been merely generous, or rash where some would have lacked even the commoner qualities of courage. Indeed, as to this, she feared no one—neither my grave father nor the grimmest of inquisitive committees of Friends.
As I came she set those large, childlike eyes on me, and opening the lower half-door, cried out:
"I could scarce wait for thee! I wish I could have gone with thee, Hugh; and was it dreadful? Come, let us see thy little book. And did they praise thy reading? Didst thou tell them I taught thee? There are girls, I hear," and so on—a way she had of asking many questions without waiting for a reply.
As we chatted we passed through the hall, where tall mahogany chairs stood dark against the whitewashed walls, such as were in all the rooms. Joyous at escape from school, and its confinement of three long, weary hours, from eight to eleven, I dropped my mother's hand, and, running a little, slid down the long entry over the thinly sanded floor, and then slipping, came down with a rueful countenance, as nature, foreseeing results, meant that a boy should descend when his legs fail him. My mother sat down on a settle, and spread out both palms toward me, laughing, and crying out:
"So near are joy and grief, my friends, in this world of sorrow."
This was said so exactly with the voice and manner of a famous preacher of our Meeting that even I, a lad then of only eight years, recognised the imitation. Indeed, she was wonderful at this trick of mimicry, a thing most odious to Friends. As I smiled, hearing her, I was aware of my father in the open doorway of the sitting-room, tall, strong, with much iron-gray hair. Within I saw several Friends, large rosy men in drab, with horn buttons and straight collars, their stout legs clad in dark silk hose, without the paste or silver buckles then in use. All wore broad-brimmed, low beavers, and their gold-headed canes rested between their knees.
My father said to me, in his sharp way, "Take thy noise out into the orchard. The child disturbs us, wife. Thou shouldst know better. A committee of overseers is with me." He disliked the name Marie, and was never heard to use it, nor even its English equivalent.
Upon this the dear lady murmured, "Let us fly, Hugh," and she ran on tiptoe along the hall with me, while my father closed the door. "Come," she added, "and see the floor. I am proud of it. We have friends to eat dinner with us at two."
The great room where we took our meals is still clear in my mind. The floor was two inches deep in white sand, in which were carefully traced zigzag lines, with odd patterns in the corners. A bare table of well-rubbed mahogany stood in the middle, with a thin board or two laid on the sand, that the table might be set without disturbing the patterns, In the corners were glass-covered buffets, full of silver and Delft ware; and a punch-bowl of Chelsea was on the broad window-ledge, with a silver-mounted cocoanut ladle.
"The floor is pretty," she said, regarding it with pride, "and I would make flowers too, but that thy father thinks it vain, and Friend Pemberton would set his bridge spectacles on his nose, and look at me, until I said naughty words, oh, very! Come out; I will find thee some ripe damsons, and save thee cake for thy supper, if Friend Warder does not eat it all. He is a little man, and eats much. A solicitous man," and she became of a sudden the person she had in mind, looking somehow feeble and cautious and uneasy, with arms at length, and the palms turned forward, so that I knew it for Joseph Warder, a frequent caller, of whom more hereafter.
"What is so—solicitous?" I said.
"Oh, too fearful concerning what may be thought of him. Vanity, vanity! Come, let us run down the garden. Canst thou catch me, Hugh!" And with this she fled away, under the back stoop and through the trees, light and active, her curls tumbling out, while I hurried after her, mindful of damsons, and wondering how much cake Friend Warder would leave for my comfort at evening.
Dear, ever dear lady, seen through the mist of years! None was like you, and none as dear, save one who had as brave a soul, but far other ways and charms.
And thus began my life at school, to which I went twice a day, my father not approving of the plan of three sessions a day, which was common, nor, for some reason, I know not what, of schools kept by Friends. So it was that I set out before eight, and went again from two to four. My master, David Dove, kept his school in Vidall's Alley, nigh to Chestnut, above Second. There were many boys and girls, and of the former John Warder, and Graydon, who wrote certain memoirs long after. His mother, a widow, kept boarders in the great Slate-roof House near by; for in those days this was a common resource of decayed gentlewomen, and by no means affected their social position. Here came many officers to stay, and their red coats used to please my eyes as I went by the porch, where at evening I saw them smoking long pipes, and saying not very nice things of the local gentry, or of the women as they passed by, and calling "Mohair!" after the gentlemen, a manner of army word of contempt for citizens. I liked well enough the freedom I now enjoyed, and found it to my fancy to wander a little on my way to school, although usually I followed the creek, and, where Second street crossed it, lingered on the bridge to watch the barges or galleys come up at full of tide to the back of the warehouses on the northeast bank.
I have observed that teachers are often eccentric, and surely David Dove was no exception, nor do I now know why so odd a person was chosen by many for the care of youth. I fancy my mother had to do with the choice in my case, and was influenced by the fact that Dove rarely used the birch, but had a queer fancy for setting culprits on a stool, with the birch switch stuck in the back of the jacket, so as to stand up behind the head. I hated this, and would rather have been birched secundum artem than to have seen the girls giggling at me. I changed my opinion later.
Thus my uneventful life ran on, while I learned to write, and acquired, with other simple knowledge, enough of Latin and Greek to fit me for entrance at the academy, which Dr. Franklin had founded in 1750, in the hall on Fourth street, built for Whitefield's preaching.
At this time I fell much into the company of John Warder, a lad of my own age, and a son of that Joseph who liked cake, and was, as my mother said, solicitous. Most of the games of boys were not esteemed fitting by Friends, and hence we were somewhat limited in our resources; but to fish in the creek we were free; also to haunt the ships and hear sea yarns, and to skate in winter, were not forbidden. Jack Warder I took to because he was full of stories, and would imagine what things might chance to my father's ships in the West Indies; but why, in those early days, he liked me, I do not know.
Our school life with Dove ended after four years in an odd fashion. I was then about twelve, and had become a vigorous, daring boy, with, as it now seems to me, something of the fortunate gaiety of my mother. Other lads thought it singular that in peril I became strangely vivacious; but underneath I had a share of the relentless firmness of my father, and of his vast dislike of failure, and of his love of truth. I have often thought that the father in me saved me from the consequences of so much of my mother's gentler nature as might have done me harm in the rude conflicts of life.
David Dove, among other odd ways, devised a plan for punishing the unpunctual which had considerable success. One day, when I had far overstayed the hour of eight, by reason of having climbed into Friend Pemberton's gardens, where I was tempted by many green apples, I was met by four older boys. One had a lantern, which, with much laughter, he tied about my neck, and one, marching before, rang a bell. I had seen this queer punishment fall on others, and certainly the amusement shown by people in the streets would not have hurt me compared with the advantage of pockets full of apples, had I not of a sudden seen my father, who usually breakfasted at six, and was at his warehouse by seven. He looked at me composedly, but went past us saying nothing.
On my return about eleven, he unluckily met me in the garden, for I had gone the back way in order to hide my apples. I had an unpleasant half-hour, despite my mother's tears, and was sent at once to confess to Friend James Pemberton. The good man said I was a naughty boy, but must come later when the apples were red ripe, and I should take all I wanted, and I might fetch with me another boy, or even two. I never forgot this, and did him some good turns in after-years, and right gladly too.
In my own mind I associated David Dove with this painful interview with my father. I disliked him the more because, when the procession entered the school, a little girl for whom Warder and I had a boy friendship, in place of laughing, as did the rest, for some reason began to cry. This angered the master, who had the lack of self-control often seen in eccentric people. He asked why she cried, and on her sobbing out that it was because she was sorry for me, he bade her take off her stays. These being stiff, and worn outside the gown, would have made the punishment of the birch on the shoulders of trifling moment.
As it was usual to whip girls at school, the little maid said nothing, but did as she was bid, taking a sharp birching without a cry. Meanwhile I sat with my head in my hands, and my fingers in my ears lest I should hear her weeping. After school that evening, when all but Warder and I had wandered home, I wrote on the outside wall of the school-house with chalk, "David Dove Is A Cruel Beast," and went away somewhat better contented.
Now, with all his seeming dislike to use the rod, David had turns of severity, and then he was far more brutal than any man I have ever known. Therefore it did not surprise us next morning that the earlier scholars were looking with wonder and alarm at the sentence on the wall, when Dove, appearing behind us, ordered us to enter at once.
Going to his desk, he put on his spectacles, which then were worn astride of the nose. In a minute he set on below them a second pair, and this we knew to be a signal of coming violence. Then he stood up, and asked who had written the opprobrious epithet on the wall. As no one replied, he asked several in turn, but luckily chose the girls, thinking, perhaps, that they would weakly betray the sinner. Soon he lost patience, and cried out he would give a king's pound to know.
When he had said this over and over, I began to reflect that, if he had any real idea of doing as he promised, a pound was a great sum, and to consider what might be done with it in the way of marbles of Amsterdam, tops, and of certain much-desired books, for now this latter temptation was upon me, as it has been ever since. As I sat, and Dove thundered, I remembered how, when one Stacy, with an oath, assured my father that his word was as good as his bond, my parent said dryly that this equality left him free to choose, and he would prefer his bond. I saw no way to what was for me the mysterious security of a bond, but I did conceive of some need to stiffen the promise Dove had made before I faced the penalty.
Upon this I held up a hand, and the master cried, "What is it?"
I said, "Master, if a boy should tell thee wouldst thou surely give a pound?"
At this a lad called "Shame!" thinking I was a telltale.
When Dove called silence and renewed his pledge, I, overbold, said, "Master, I did it, and now wilt thou please to give me a pound—a king's pound?"
"I will give thee a pounding!" he roared; and upon this came down from his raised form, and gave me a beating so terrible and cruel that at last the girls cried aloud, and he let me drop on the floor, sore and angry. I lay still awhile, and then went to my seat. As I bent over my desk, it was rather the sense that I had been wronged, than the pain of the blows, which troubled me.
After school, refusing speech to any, I walked home, and ministered to my poor little bruised body as I best could. Now this being a Saturday, and therefore a half-holiday, I ate at two with my father and mother.
Presently my father, detecting my uneasy movements, said, "Hast thou been birched to-day, and for what badness?"
Upon this my mother said softly, "What is it, my son? Have no fear." And this gentleness being too much for me, I fell to tears, and blurted out all my little tragedy.
As I ended, my father rose, very angry, and cried out, "Come this way!" But my mother caught me, saying, "No! no! Look, John! see his poor neck and his wrist! What a brute! I tell thee, thou shalt not! it were a sin. Leave him to me," and she thrust me behind her as if for safety.
To my surprise, he said, "As thou wilt," and my mother hurried me away. We had a grave, sweet talk, and there it ended for a time. I learned that, after all, the woman's was the stronger will. I was put to bed and declared to have a fever, and given sulphur and treacle, and kept out of the paternal paths for a mournful day of enforced rest.
On the Monday following I went to school as usual, but not without fear of Dove. When we were all busy, about ten o'clock, I was amazed to hear my father's voice. He stood before the desk, and addressed Master Dove in a loud voice, meaning, I suppose, to be heard by all of us.
"David Dove," he said, "my son hath been guilty of disrespect to thee, and to thy office. I do not say he has lied, for it is my belief that thou art truly an unjust and cruel beast. As for his sin, he has suffered enough [I felt glad of this final opinion]; but a bargain was made. He, on his part, for a consideration of one pound sterling, was to tell thee who wrote certain words. He has paid thee and thou hast taken interest out of his skin. Indeed, Friend Shylock, I think he weighs less by a pound. Thou wilt give him his pound, Master David."
Upon this a little maid near by smiled at me, and Warder punched me in the ribs. Master Dove was silent a moment, and then answered that there was no law to make him pay, and that he had spoken lightly, as one might say, "I would give this or that to know." But my father replied at once:
"The boy trusted thee, and was as good as his word. I advise thee to pay. As thou art Master to punish boys, so will I, David, use thy birch on thee at need, and trust to the great Master to reckon with me if I am wrong."
All this he said so fiercely that I trembled with joy, and hoped that Dove would deny him; but, in place of this, he muttered something about Meeting and Friends, and meanwhile searched his pockets and brought out a guinea. This my father dropped into his breeches pocket, saying, "The shilling will be for interest" (a guinea being a shilling over a king's pound). After this, turning to me, he said, "Come with me, Hugh," and went out of the school-house, I following after, very well pleased, and thinking of my guinea. I dared not ask for it, and I think he forgot it. He went along homeward, with his head bent and his hands behind his back. In common, he walked with his head up and his chin set forward, as though he did a little look down on the world of other men; and this in truth he did, being at least sis feet three inches in his stocking-feet, and with no lack of proportion in waist or chest.
Next day I asked my mother of my guinea, but she laughed gaily, and threw up her hands, and cried, "A bad debt! a bad debt, Hugh! Dost thou want more interest? My father used to say they had a proverb in the Midi, 'If the devil owe thee money it were best to lose it.' Le diable! Oh, what am I saying? Mon fils, forget thy debt. What did thy father say?" And I told it again to her amusement; but she said at last, very seriously:
"It has disturbed thy father as never before did anything since he would not join with Friend Bradford against the Stamp Act. I would I had seen him then, or this time. I like sometimes to see a strong man in just anger. Oh, mon Dieu! what did I say! I am but half a Quaker, I fear." My mother never would turn away from the creed of her people, but she did not altogether fancy the ways of Friends.
"Eh, mon fils, sometimes I say naughty words. Give me a sweet little pat on the cheek for my badness, and always come to me with all thy troubles." Then I kissed her, and we went out to play hide-and-find in the orchard.
My father's grim, sarcastic humour left him as years went on, and he became as entirely serious as I ever knew a man to be. I think on this occasion his after-annoyance, which endured for days, was more because of having threatened Dove than for any other cause. He no doubt regarded me as the maker of the mischief which had tempted him for a moment to forget himself, and for many a day his unjust severity proved that he did not readily forgive. But so it was always. My mother never failed to understand me, which my father seemed rarely able to do. If I did ill he used the strap with little mercy, but neither in these early years, nor in those which followed, did he ever give me a word of praise. Many years afterward I found a guinea in a folded paper, laid away in my father's desk. On the outer cover he had written, "This belongs to Hugh. He were better without it."
My mother scarce ever let slip her little French expletives or phrases in my father's hearing. He hated all French things, and declared the language did not ring true—that it was a slippery tongue, in which it was easy to lie. A proud, strong man he was in those days, of fixed beliefs, and of unchanging loyalty to the king. In his own house he was feared by his son, his clerks, and his servants; but not by my mother, who charmed him, as she did all other men, and had in most things her desire.
Outside of his own walls few men cared to oppose him. He was rich, and coldly despotic; a man exact and just in business, but well able, and as willing, to help with a free hand whatever cause was of interest to Friends. My Aunt Gainor, a little his senior, was one of the few over whom he had no manner of control. She went her own way, and it was by no means his way, as I shall make more clear by and by.
Two days later I was taken to the academy, or the college, as some called it, which is now the university. My father wrote my name, as you may see it in the catalogue, and his own signature, with the date of 6th month 4th, 1765. Beneath it is the entry of John Warder and his father, Joseph; for Jack had also been removed from Dove's dominion because of what my father said to Joseph, a man always pliable, and advised to do what larger men thought good. Thus it came about that my friend Jack and I were by good fortune kept in constant relation. Our schoolmate, the small maid so slight of limb, so dark and tearful, was soon sent away to live with an aunt in Bristol, on the Delaware, having become an orphan by the death of her mother. Darthea Peniston passed out of my life for many years, having been, through the accident of her tenderness, the means for me of a complete and fortunate change.
The academy was, and still is, a plain brick building, set back from Fourth street, and having a large gravelled space in front and also at the back. The main school-room occupied its whole westward length, and upstairs was a vast room, with bare joists above, in which, by virtue of the deed of gift, any Christian sect was free to worship if temporarily deprived of a home. Here the great Whitefield preached, and here generations of boys were taught. Behind the western playground was the graveyard of Christ Church. He was thought a brave lad who, after school at dusk in winter, dared to climb over and search around the tombs of the silent dead for a lost ball or what not.
I was mightily afraid of the academy. The birch was used often and with severity, and, as I soon found, there was war between the boys and the town fellows who lived to north and east. I was also to discover other annoyances quite as little to the taste of Friends, such as stone fights or snowball skirmishes. Did time permit, I should like well to linger long over this school life. The college, as it was officially called, had a great reputation, and its early catalogues are rich with names of those who made an empire. This task I leave to other pens, and hasten to tell my own personal story.
In my friend Jack Warder's journal there is a kind page or two as to what manner of lad I was in his remembrance of me in after-years. I like to think it was a true picture.
"When Hugh Wynne and I went to school at the academy on Fourth street, south of Arch, I used to envy him his strength. At twelve he was as tall as are most lads at sixteen, but possessed of such activity and muscular power as are rarely seen, bidding fair to attain, as he did later, the height and massive build of his father. He was a great lover of risk, and not, as I have always been, fearful. When we took apples, after the fashion of all Adam's young descendants, he was as like as not to give them away. I think he went with us on these, and some wilder errands, chiefly because of his fondness for danger, a thing I could never comprehend. He still has his mother's great eyes of blue, and a fair, clear skin. God bless him! Had I never known him I might perhaps have been, as to one thing, a happier man, but I had been less deserving of such good fortune as has come to me in life. For this is one of the uses of friends: that we consider how such and such a thing we are moved to do might appear to them. And this for one of my kind, who have had—nay, who have—many weaknesses, has been why Hugh Wynne counts for so much to me.
"We, with two other smaller boys, were, at that time, the only sons of Friends at the academy, and were, thanks to the brute Dove, better grounded in the humanities than were some, although we were late in entering."
I leave this and other extracts as they were writ. A more upright gentleman than John Warder I know not, nor did ever know. What he meant by his weaknesses I cannot tell, and as to the meaning of one phrase, which he does not here explain, these pages shall perhaps discover.
Not long after our entrance at the academy, my father charged me one morning with a note to my aunt, Gainor Wynne, which I was to deliver when the morning session was over. As this would make me late, in case her absence delayed a reply, I was to remain and eat my midday meal. My father was loath always to call upon his sister. She had early returned to the creed of her ancestors, and sat on Sundays in a great square pew at Christ Church, to listen to the Rev. Robert Jennings. Hither, in September of 1763, my aunt took me, to my father's indignation, to hear the great Mr. Whitefield preach.
Neither Aunt Gainor's creed, dress, house, nor society pleased her brother. She had early made clear, in her decisive way, that I was to be her heir, and she was, I may add, a woman of large estate. I was allowed to visit her as I pleased. Indeed, I did so often. I liked no one better, always excepting my mother. Why, with my father's knowledge of her views, I was thus left free I cannot say. He was the last of men to sacrifice his beliefs to motives of gain.
When I knocked at the door of her house on Arch street, opposite the Friends' Meeting-house, a black boy, dressed as a page, let me in. He was clad in gray armozine, a sort of corded stuff, with red buttons, and he wore a red turban. As my aunt was gone to drive, on a visit to that Madam Penn who was once Miss Allen, I was in no hurry, and was glad to look about me. The parlour, a great room with three windows on the street, afforded a strange contrast to my sober home. There were Smyrna rugs on a polished floor, a thing almost unheard of. Indeed, people came to see them. The furniture was all of red walnut, and carved in shells and flower reliefs. There were so many tables, little and larger, with claw-feet or spindle-legs, that one had to be careful not to overturn their loads of Chinese dragons, ivory carvings, grotesque Delft beasts, and fans, French or Spanish or of the Orient. There was also a spinet, and a corner closet of books, of which every packet brought her a variety. Upstairs was a fair room full of volumes, big and little, as I found to my joy rather later, and these were of all kinds: some good, and some of them queer, or naughty. Over the wide, white fireplace was a portrait of herself by the elder Peale, but I prefer the one now in my library. This latter hung, at the time I speak of, between the windows. It was significant of my aunt's idea of her own importance that she should have wished to possess two portraits of herself. The latter was painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds when she was in England in 1750, and represents her as a fine, large woman with features which were too big for loveliness in youth, but in after-years went well with her abundant gray hair and unusual stature; for, like the rest of us, she was tall, of vigorous and wholesome build and colour, with large, well-shaped hands, and the strength of a man—I might add, too, with the independence of a man. She went her own way, conducted the business of her estate, which was ample, with skill and ability, and asked advice from no one. Like my father, she had a liking to control those about her, was restlessly busy, and was never so pleased as when engaged in arranging other people's lives, or meddling with the making of matches.
To this ample and luxurious house came the better class of British officers, and ombre and quadrille were often, I fear, played late into the long nights of winter. Single women, after a certain or uncertain age, were given a brevet title of "Mistress." Mistress Gainor Wynne lost or won with the coolness of an old gambler, and this habit, perhaps more than aught beside, troubled my father. Sincere and consistent in his views, I can hardly think that my father was, after all, unable to resist the worldly advantages which my aunt declared should be mine. It was, in fact, difficult to keep me out of the obvious risks this house and company provided for a young person like myself. He must have trusted to the influence of my home to keep me in the ways of Friends. It is also to be remembered, as regards my father's motives, that my Aunt Gainor was my only relative, since of the Owens none were left.
My mother was a prime favourite with this masterful lady. She loved nothing better than to give her fine silk petticoats or a pearl-coloured satin gown; and if this should nowadays amaze Friends, let them but look in the "Observer," and see what manner of finery was advertised in 1778 as stole from our friend, Sarah Fisher, sometime Sarah Logan, a much respected member of Meeting. In this, as in all else, my mother had her way, and, like some of the upper class of Quakers, wore at times such raiment as fifty years later would have surely brought about a visit from a committee of overseers.
Waiting for Aunt Gainor, I fell upon an open parcel of books just come by the late spring packet. Among these turned up a new and fine edition of "Captain Gulliver's Travels," by Mr. Dean Swift. I lit first, among these famous adventures, on an extraordinary passage, so wonderful, indeed, and so amusing, that I heard not the entrance of my father, who at the door had met my aunt, and with her some fine ladies of the governor's set. There were Mrs. Ferguson, too well known in the politics of later years, but now only a beautiful and gay woman, Madam Allen, and Madam Chew, the wife of the Attorney-General.
They were eagerly discussing, and laughingly inquiring of my father, what colour of masks for the street was to be preferred. He was in no wise embarrassed by these fine dames, and never, to my thinking, was seen to better advantage than among what he called "world's people." He seemed to me more really at home than among Friends, and as he towered, tall, and gravely courteous in manner, I thought him a grand gentleman.
As I looked up, the young Miss Chew, who afterward married Colonel Eager Howard, was saying saucily, "Does not Madam Wynne wear a mask for her skin! It is worth keeping, Mr. Wynne."
"Let me recommend to you a vizard with silver buttons to hold in the mouth, or, better, a riding-mask," cried Aunt Gainor, pleased at this gentle badgering, "like this, John. See, a flat silver plate to hold between the teeth. It is the last thing."
"White silk would suit her best," cried Mrs. Ferguson, "or green, with a chin-curtain—a loo-mask. Which would you have, sir?"
"Indeed," he said quietly, "her skin is good enough. I know no way to better it."
Then they all laughed, pelting the big man with many questions, until he could not help but laugh, as he declared he was overwhelmed, and would come on his business another day. But on this the women would not stay, and took themselves and their high bonnets and many petticoats out of the room, each dropping a curtsey at the door, and he bowing low, like Mr. John Penn, as never before I had seen him do.
No sooner were they gone than he desired me to give him the note he had written to his sister, since now it was not needed, and then he inquired what book I was reading. Aunt Gainor glanced at it, and replied for me, "A book of travels, John, very improving too. Take it home, Hugh, and read it. If you find in it no improprieties, it may be recommended to your father." She loved nothing better than to tease him.
"I see not what harm there could be in travels," he returned. "Thou hast my leave. Gainor, what is this I hear? Thou wouldst have had me sell thee for a venture threescore hogsheads of tobacco from Annapolis. I like not to trade with my sister, nor that she should trade at all: and now, when I have let them go to another, I hear that it is thou who art the real buyer. I came hither to warn thee that other cargoes are to arrive. Thou wilt lose."
Aunt Gainor said nothing for a moment, but let loose the linen safeguard petticoat she wore against mud or dust when riding, and appeared in a rich brocade of gray silken stuff, and a striped under-gown. When she had put off her loose camlet over-jacket, she said, "Will you have a glass of Madeira, or shall it be Hollands, John? Ring the bell, Hugh."
"Hollands," said my father.
"What will you give me for your tobacco to-day, John?"
"Why dost thou trifle?" he returned.
"I sold it again, John. I am the better by an hundred pounds. Two tobacco-ships are wrecked on Hinlopen. An express is come. Have you not heard?"
"Farewell," he said, rising. He made no comment on her news. I had an idea that he would not have been unhappy had she lost on her venture.
Joseph Warder was her agent then and afterward. She rarely lost on her purchases. Although generous, and even lavish, she dearly loved a good bargain, and, I believe, liked the game far more than she cared for success in the playing of it.
"Come, Hugh," she said, "let us eat and drink. Take the book home, and put it away for your own reading. Here is sixpence out of my gains. I hope you will never need to trade, and, indeed, why should you, whether I live or die? How would the king's service suit you, and a pair of colours?"
I said I should like it.
"There is a pretty tale, Hugh, of the French gentlemen, who, being poor, have to make money in commerce. They leave their swords with a magistrate, and when they are become rich enough take them back again. There is some pleasing ceremony, but I forget. The Wynnes have been long enough in drab and trade. It is time we took back our swords, and quitted bow-thouing and bow-theeing."
I said I did not understand.
"Oh, you will," said Aunt Gainor, giving me a great apple-dumpling. "Take some molasses. Oh, as much as you please. I shall look away, as I do when the gentlemen take their rum."
You may be sure I obeyed her. As to much that she said, I was shocked; but I never could resist a laugh, and so we made merry like children, as was usual, for, as she used to say, "To learn when to laugh and when not to laugh is an education."
When my meal was over, and my stomach and my pockets all full, Aunt Gainor bade me sit on her knees, and began to tell me about what fine gentlemen were the Wynnes, and how foolish my grandfather had been to turn Quaker and give up fox-hunting and the old place. I was told, too, how much she had lost to Mr. Penn last night, and more that was neither well for me to hear nor wise for her to tell; but as to this she cared little, and she sent me away then, as far too many times afterward, full of my own importance, and of desire to escape some day from the threatened life of the ledger and the day-book.
At last she said, "You are getting too heavy, Hugh. Handsome Mrs. Ferguson says you are too big to be kissed, and not old enough to kiss," and so she bade me go forth to the afternoon session of the academy.
After two weeks at the academy I got my first lesson in the futility of non-resistance, so that all the lessons of my life in favour of this doctrine were, of a sudden, rendered vain. We were going home in the afternoon, gay and happy, Jack Warder to take supper with me, and to use a boat my aunt had given me.
Near to High street was a vacant lot full of bushes and briers. Here the elder lads paused, and one said, "Wynne, you are to fight."
I replied, "Why should I fight? I win not."
"But it is to get your standing in the school, and Tom Alloway is to fight you."
"This was a famous occasion in our lives," writes my friend Jack; "for, consider: I, who was a girl for timidity, was sure to have my turn next, and here were we two little fellows, who had heard every First-day, and ever and ever at home, that all things were to be suffered of all men (and of boys too, I presume). I was troubled for Hugh, but I noticed that while he said he would not fight he was buttoning up his jacket and turning back the cuff of one sleeve. Also he smiled as he said, 'No, I cannot;' and many times since I have seen him merry, in danger.
"For, of a truth, never later did he or I feel the sense of a great peril as we did that day, with the bigger boys hustling us, and Alloway crying, 'Coward!' I looked about for some man who would help us, but there was no one; only a cow hobbled near by. She looked up, and then went on chewing her cud. I, standing behind Hugh, said, 'Run! run!'
"The counsel seemed good to me who gave it. As I think on it now, I was in great perplexity of soul, and had a horrible fear as to bodily hurt. I turned, followed by Hugh, and ran fleetly across the open ground and through the bushes. About midway I looked back. Two lads were near upon us, when I saw Hugh drop upon his hands and knees. Both fellows rolled over him, and he called out, as they fell to beating him, 'Run, Jack!'
"But I was no longer so minded. I kicked one boy, and struck another, and even now recall how a strange joy captured me when I struck the first blow."
There was a fine scrimmage, for no quarter was asked or given, and I saw my poor Jack's girl face bloody. This was the last I remember clearly, for the lust of battle was on me, and I can recall no more of what chanced for a little, than I could in later years of the wild melley on the main street of Germantown, or of the struggle in the redoubt at Yorktown.
Presently we were cast to right and left by a strong hand, and, looking up, as I stood fierce and panting, I saw Friend Rupert Forest, and was overwhelmed with fear; for often on First-day I had heard him preach solemnly, and always it was as to turning the other cheek, and on the wickedness of profane language. Just now he seemed pleased rather than angered, and said, smiling:
"This is a big war, boys. What is it about?"
I said, "I must fight for my standing, and I will not."
"I think thou wert scarcely of that mind just now. There will be bad blood until it is over."
To this I replied, "It is Alloway I am to fight."
To my surprise, he went on to say, "Then take off thy jacket and stand up, and no kicking."
I asked nothing better, and began to laugh. At this my foe, who was bigger and older than I, cried out that I would laugh on the other side of my mouth—a queer boy phrase of which I could never discover the meaning.
"And now, fair play," said Friend Forest. "Keep cool, Hugh, and watch his eyes."
I felt glad that he was on my side, and we fell to with no more words. I was no match for the practised fists of my antagonist; but I was the stronger, and I kept my wits better than might have been expected. At last I got his head under my arm with a grip on his gullet, and so mauled him with my right fist that Friend Forest pulled me away, and my man staggered back, bloody, and white too, while I was held like a dog in leash.
"He hath enough, I think. Ask him."
I cried out, "No! Damn him!" It was my first oath.
"Hush!" cried Forest. "No profane language."
"I will not speak to him," said I, "and—and—he is a beast of the pit." Now this fine statement I had come upon in a book of Mr. William Penn's my father owned, wherein the governor had denounced one Mr. Muggleton.
Friend Forest laughed merrily. "Thou hast thy standing, lad." For Alloway walked sullenly away, not man enough to take more or to confess defeat. Jack, who was still white, said:
"It is my turn now, and which shall it be?"
"Shade of Fox!" cried Friend Forest. "The war is over. Come, boys, I must see you well out of this." And so reassuring us, he went down Fourth street, and to my home.
My father was in the sitting-room, taking his long-stemmed reed pipe at his ease. He rose as we followed Friend Forest into the room.
"Well," he said, "what coil is this?" For we were bloody, and hot with fight and wrath, and our garments in very sad disorder.
Friend Forest very quietly related our story, and made much of his own share in the renewal of our battle. To my surprise, my father smiled.
"It seems plain," he said, "that the lads were not to blame. But how wilt thou answer to the Meeting, Rupert Forest?"
"To it, to thee, to any man," said the Quaker.
"It is but a month ago that thy case was before Friends because of thy having beaten Friend Wain's man. It will go ill with thee—ill, I fear."
"And who is to spread it abroad?"
"Not I," said my father.
"I knew that," returned the Friend, simply. "I am but a jack-in-the-box Quaker, John. I am in and out in a moment, and then I go back and repent."
"Let us hope so. Go to thy mother, Hugh; and as to thee, John Warder, wait until I send with thee a note to thy father. There are liquors on the table, Friend Forest."
My mother set us in order, and cried a little, and said:
"I am glad he was well beaten. Thou shouldst never fight, my son; but if thou must, let it be so that thy adversary repent of it. Mon Dieu! mon Dieu! j'en ai peur; the wild Welsh blood of these Wynnes! And thy poor little nose—how 't is swelled!"
Not understanding her exclamations, Jack said as much, but she answered:
"Oh, it is a fashion of speech we French have. I shall never be cured of it, I fear. This wild blood—what will come of it?" And she seemed—as Jack writes long after, being more observing than I—as if she were looking away into the distance of time, thinking of what might come to pass. She had, indeed, strange insight, and even then, as I knew later, had her fears and unspoken anxieties. And so, with a plentiful supper, ended a matter which was, I may say, a critical point in my life.
After this my days went by more peacefully. The help and example of Jack assisted me greatly in my lessons, which I did little relish. I was more fond of reading, and devoured many books as I sat under our orchard trees in the spring, or nestled up to the fire on the long winter evenings, coiled on the settle, that its high back might keep off drafts. My aunt lent me an abundance of books after that famous "Travels" of Mr. Gulliver. Now and then my father looked at what she gave me, but he soon tired of this, and fell asleep in the great oak chair which Governor Penn gave my grandfather.
Many volumes, and some queer ones, I fell upon in my aunt's house, but, save once, against the naughtiness of Mrs. Aphra Behn, she never interfered. We liked greatly a book called "Peter Wilkins," by one Paltock, full of a queer folk, who had winged "graundees," a sort of crimson robe made of folds of their own skin. None read it now. My dear Jack fancied it much more than I.
I was nigh to fifteen before we read "Robinson Crusoe," but even earlier I devoured at my aunt's "Captain Jack" and "The History of the Devil." The former book filled us with delight. Jack and I used to row over to Windmill Island, on the great Delaware, and there at the south end we built a hut, and slew bullfrogs, and found steps on the sand, I being thereafter Friday, and Jack my master. We made, too, a sail and mast for my boat, and, thus aided, sailed of Saturdays up and down the noble river, which I have always loved.
A still greater joy was to go in our chaise with my mother to the governor's woods, which extended from Broad street to the Schuylkill, and from Callowhill to South street. There we tied the horse, and under the great trees we found in spring arbutus, even beneath the snow, and later fetched thence turkey-foot ferns, and wild honeysuckle, and quaker-ladies, with jack-in-the-pulpits and fearful gray corpse-lights hid away in the darker woods. In the forest my mother seemed even younger than at home, and played with us, and told us quaint tales of her French people, or fairy stories of Giant Jack and others, which were by no means such as Friends approved.
In our house one same stern, unbending rule prevailed. I have been told by my aunt, Gainor Wynne, that when he was young my father was not always so steadfast in conduct as to satisfy Friends. When I was old enough to observe and think, he had surely become strict enough; but this severity of opinion and action increased with years, and showed in ways which made life difficult for those near to him. In fact, before I attained manhood the tinted arms and the picture of Wyncote were put away in the attic room. My mother's innocent love of ornament also became to him a serious annoyance, and these peculiarities seemed at last to deepen whenever the political horizon darkened. At such times he became silent, and yet more keen than usual to detect and denounce anything in our home life which was not to his liking.
The affairs of a young fellow between the ages of childhood and younger manhood can have but meagre interest. Our school life went on, and while we worked or played, our elders saw the ever-increasing differences between king and colonies becoming year by year more difficult of adjustment. Except when some noisy crisis arose, they had for us lads but little interest.
Most people used the city landings, or lightered their goods from ships in the stream. We, however, had a great dock built out near to the mouth of Dock Creek, and a warehouse. Hither came sloops from my father's plantation of tobacco, near Annapolis, and others from the "permitted islands," the Cape de Verde and the Madeiras. Staves for barrels, tobacco, and salt fish were the exports, and in return came Eastern goods brought to these islands, and huge tuns of Madeira wine. Rum, too, arrived from New England, and salted mackerel. What else my father imported, of French goods or tea, reached us from England, for we were not allowed to trade with the continent of Europe nor directly with India.
Once my father took me with him to Lewes, near Cape Hinlopen, on one of his ships, and to my joy we were met there by Tom, our black slave, with horses, and rode back during two days by Newcastle and Chester. As I rode ill, of course, and was sore for a week, my father thought it well that I should learn to ride, and this exercise I took to easily. Just before I was sixteen my aunt gave me a horse, and after we had separated abruptly a few times, and no harm to any, I became the master, and soon an expert rider, as was needful in a land where most long journeys were made on horseback.
It seems to me now, as I look back, that the events of life were preparing me and my friend Jack for what was to follow. Our boating made every part of the two rivers familiar. Now that I had a horse, Jack's father, who would always do for him readily what my Aunt Gainor did for me, yielded to his desire to ride; and so it was that we began, as leisure served, to extend our rides to Germantown, or even to Chestnut Hill. Thus all the outlying country became well known to both of us, and there was not a road, a brook, or a hill which we did not know.
Until this happy time I had been well pleased to follow my aunt on a pillion behind her servant, Caesar, but now I often went with her, perched on my big horse, and got from my aunt, an excellent horsewoman, some sharp lessons as to leaping, and certain refinements in riding that she had seen or known of in London.
A Captain Montresor—he who afterward, when a colonel, was Howe's engineer—used to ride with her in the spring of '69. He was a tall, stout man of middle age, and much spoken of as likely to marry my Aunt Gainor, although she was older than he, for, as fat Oliver de Lancey said years after, "There is no age to a woman's money, and guineas are always young." My aunt, Gainor Wynne, was still a fine gentlewoman, and did not look her years. As concerned this question of age, she was like a man, and so in fact she was in some other ways. She would tell any one how old she was. She once informed Mr. de Lancey that she was so much more of a man than any British officer she knew that she did not see how she could decently marry any of them.
I think it was about this time that I saw a little scene which much impressed me, and which often recurs to my memory. We—that is, Mr. Montresor, and my Aunt Gainor and I—of a Saturday afternoon rode over by the lower ferry and up Gray's Lane, and so to Mr. Hamilton's country-seat. "The Woodlands," as it was called, stood on a hill amid many beautiful trees and foreign shrubs and flowers. Below it ran the quiet Schuylkill, and beyond, above the governor's woods, could be seen far away Dr. Kearsley's fine spire of Christ Church. No better did Master Wren himself ever contrive, or more proportioned to the edifice beneath it.
On the porch were Mr. Hamilton and Mrs. Penn, with saucy gray eyes, and Mrs. Ferguson. A slim young girl, Rebecca Franks, was teasing a cat. She teased some one all her days, and did it merrily, and not unkindly. She was little and very pretty, with a dark skin. Did she dream she should marry a British soldier—a baronet and general—and end her days in London well on in the century yet to come?
Andrew Allen, whose father, the chief justice, took his wife, Margaret, from this house, sat on the steps near Miss Franks, and beside her little Peggy Shippen, who already gave promise of the beauty which won for her so pitiful a life. Nothing in this garden of gay women and flowers foretold the tragedy of West Point. I think of it now with sad wonder.
In one or another way these people became known in our annals. Most of them were of the more exclusive party known as the governor's set, and belonged to the Church of England. With the Galloways, Cadwaladers, Willings, Shippens, Rawles, and others, they formed a more or less distinct society, affecting London ways, dining at the extreme hour of four, loving cards, the dance, fox-hunting, and to see a main of game-cocks. Among them—not of them—came and went certain of what were called "genteel" Quakers—Morrises, Pembertons, Whartons, and Logans. They had races too,—that is, the governor's set,—and one of my delights was, on the way to the academy, to stop in Third street, above Chestnut, and see the race-horses in the Widow Nichols's stables at the sign of the Indian Queen.