LAURA SECORD, THE HEROINE OF 1812: A DRAMA AND OTHER POEMS.
BY SARAH ANNE CURZON
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"And among them all move the majestic, white-robed bards, striking their golden harps, and telling the tales of the days of old, and handing down the names of the heroes for ever."—JUSTIN H. MCCARTHY
"The soul of the book is whatever beautiful and true and noble we can find in it."—KINGSLEY'S "HYPATIA."
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TO ALL TRUE CANADIANS,
OF WHATEVER DERIVATION,
THIS VOLUME IS RESPECTFULLY INSCRIBED
The drama of "Laura Secord" was written to rescue from oblivion the name of a brave woman, and set it in its proper place among the heroes of Canadian history. During the first few years of her residence in Canada the author was often astonished to hear it remarked, no less among educated than uneducated Canadians, that "Canada has no history;" and yet on every hand stories were current of the achievements of the pioneers, and the hardships endured and overcome by the United Empire Loyalists. Remembering that, as soon as she had conquered the merest rudiments of reading and grammar at school, she was set to learn English History, and so become acquainted with the past of her country, it seemed to the writer that there was something lacking in a course of teaching that could leave Canadians to think that their country had no historical past. Determined to seek out for herself the facts of the case, it was with feelings of the deepest interest that she read such of the contributions to the newspaper press as came in her way during the debate with regard to the pensions asked of Government for the surviving veterans of 1812 in 1873-4. Among these was incidentally given the story of Mrs. Secord's heroic deed in warning Fitzgibbon. Yet it could not pass without observation that, while the heroism of the men of that date was dwelt upon with warm appreciation and much urgency as to their deserts, Mrs. Secord, as being a woman, shared in nothing more tangible than an approving record. The story, to a woman's mind, was full of pathos, and, though barren of great incidents, was not without a due richness of colouring if looked at by appreciative eyes. Nor were the results of Laura Secord's brave deed insignificant. Had the Americans carried Beaver Dams at that juncture, the whole peninsula was before them—all its supplies, all its means of communication with other parts of the Province. And Canada—Upper Canada, at least—would have been in the hands of the invaders until, by a struggle too severe to be contemplated calmly, they had been driven forth. To save from the sword is surely as great a deed as to save with the sword; and this Laura Secord did, at an expense of nerve and muscle fully equal to any that are recorded of the warrior. To set her on such a pedestal of equality; to inspire other hearts with loyal bravery such as hers; to write her name on the roll of Canadian heroes, inspired the poem that bears her name. But the tribute to her memory would not be complete were it to omit an appeal to Canadians, especially to the inhabitants of this Province, who, in their prosperity owe to her so much, to do their part, and write her name in enduring marble upon the spot where she lies buried.
Nor does it seem asking more than a graceful act from the Government of the Dominion—a Dominion which, but for her, might never have been—to do its share in acknowledgment. One of her daughters still lives, and if she attain to her mother's age has yet nearly a decade before her.
The drama of "Laura Secord" was written in 1876, and the ballad a year later, but, owing to the inertness of Canadian interest in Canadian literature at that date, could not be published. It is hoped that a better time has at length dawned.
S. A. CURZON.
LAURA SECORD, THE HEROINE OF THE WAR OF 1812
A BALLAD OF 1812
THE QUEEN'S JUBILEE
THE HERO OF ST. HELEN'S ISLAND
OUR VETERANS OF 1812. (A PLEA)
ON QUEENSTON HEIGHTS
NEW ORLEANS, MONROE, MAYOR
THE SONG OF THE EMIGRANT
TO THE INDIAN SUMMER
LIVINGSTONE, IN MEMORIAM
THE QUEEN AND THE CRIMEAN SOLDIERS
TO A CHILD
LOST WITH HIS BOAT
LIFE IN DEATH
INVOCATION TO RAIN
REMONSTRANCE WITH "REMONSTRANCE"
THE ABSENT ONES
THE SWEET GIRL GRADUATE. (A COMEDY)
* * * * *
FABLES: ORIGINAL AND FROM THE FRENCH.
THE TWO TREES Le May.
FABLE AND TRUTH Florian.
THE CALIPH Florian.
THE BLIND MAN AND THE PARALYTIC Florian.
THE HOUSE OF CARDS Florian.
THE BULLFINCH AND THE RAVEN Florian.
THE WASP AND THE BEE Florian.
* * * * *
IN MEMORY OF THE HEROES OF 1760 Le May.
THE SONG OF THE CANADIAN VOLTIGEURS Le May.
THE LEGEND OF THE EARTH Jean Rameau.
THE EMIGRANT MOUNTAINEER Chateaubriand.
FROM "LIGHTS AND SHADES" Hugo.
VILLANELLE TO ROSETTE Desportes.
* * * * *
MEMOIR OF MRS. SECORD
It is at all times an amiable and honourable sentiment that leads us to enquire into the antecedents of those who, by the greatness of their virtues have added value to the records of human history. Whether such inquiry increases our estimation of such value or not, it must always be instructive, and therefore inspiring. Under this impression I have sought on every hand to learn all that could be gathered of the history of one of Canada's purest patriots. As Dr. Ryerson aptly says in his U. E. Loyalists and their Times, "the period of the U. E. Loyalists was one of doing, not recording," therefore little beyond tradition has conserved anything of all that we would now like to know of the heroism, the bravery, the endurance, the trials of that bold army of men and women, who, having laid strong hands on the primeval forest, dug wide and deep the foundations of a nation whose greatness is yet to come. In such a light the simple records that follow will be attractive.
Laura Secord came of loyal blood. She was the daughter of Mr. Thomas Ingersoll, the founder of the town of Ingersoll, and his wife Sarah, the sister of General John Whiting, of Great Barrington, Berkshire County, Mass. At the close of the War of 1776, Mr. Ingersoll came to Canada on the invitation of Governor Simcoe, an old friend of the family, and founded a settlement on the banks of the Thames in Oxford County. On the change of government, Mr. Ingersoll and his struggling settlement of eighty or ninety families found their prospects blighted and their future imperilled; Mr. Ingersoll therefore saw it necessary to remove to Little York, and shortly afterward settled in the township of Etobicoke. There he resided until some time after the War of 1812-14, when he returned with his family to Oxford County. Here he died, but left behind him worthy successors of his honourable name in his two sons, Charles and James.
Charles Ingersoll, with that active loyalty and heroic energy which alike characterized his patriotic sister, Mrs. Secord, held prominent positions in the gift of the Government and of the people, and was also a highly respected merchant and trader.
James Ingersoll, though of a more retiring disposition than his brother, was a prominent figure in Western Canada for many years. He was a magistrate of high repute, and occupied a foremost position in the militia, in which he held the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel at the time of his death. This event took place on the 9th August, 1886, at which date he had been Registrar for the County of Oxford fifty-two years.
That Mrs. Secord should be brave, ready, prompt in action, and fervent in patriotism is not surprising, seeing that all the events of her childhood and youth were blended with those of the settlement of Upper Canada by the U. E. Loyalists, in whose ranks her family held so honourable a position, and whose character and sentiments were at all times to be depended upon.
The family of Secord, of which she became so distinguished a member, was also a notable one. Family documents exist which show that in the reign of Louis the Tenth of France a certain Marquis D'Secor was a Marshal of His Majesty's Household. A son of this Marquis embraced the Protestant religion, as did younger branches of the family. During the persecution of the Huguenots many of them suffered at the stake, and the family estates, situated at La Rochelle, were confiscated. The survivors escaped the massacre of St. Bartholomew by flight to England along with many other noble families, among whom were the Comte de Puys, the Baudeaux, and a Holland family, the Van Cortlandts.
Eventually five brothers emigrated to America where they settled in New Jersey, purchasing large tracts of land, founding New Rochelle and engaging in lumbering. On the breaking out of the Revolutionary War the family divided, the Loyalists changing their patronym to Secord by placing the prefix "d" at the end of their name. These brothers after, as King's men, losing, in common with all the Loyalists, their property and estates, emigrated to New Brunswick, again engaging in lumbering and milling operations, and; there certain of their descendants are to be found today. Some of these, and their sons, again removed to Canada West, where one of them, commonly called "Deaf John Secord," who married Miss Wartman, of Kingston, was known all along the coast from St. John to Quebec for his hospitalities. Among those who settled in the Niagara district were Stephen Secord, the miller of St. David's, Major David Secord, after whom the village was named, and James Secord, the husband of the heroine of 1812. Stephen Secord died before the War of 1812, leaving a widow and a family of seven sons. Of Major David Secord, the only record I have been able to procure is to be found in A History of the Late War between Great Britain and the United States of America, by David Thompson, late of the Royal Scots, as quoted for me by the kind courtesy of Miss Louisa Murray, of Stamford. It is as follows: "The Second Lincoln Militia, under Major David Secord, distinguished themselves in this action [the Battle of Chippewa] by feats of genuine bravery and heroism, stimulated by the example of their gallant leader, which are seldom surpassed even by the most experienced veterans. Their loss was proportionate with that of the regular army."
At the outbreak of the War of 1812, Mr. James Secord was living at Queenston, where he had a lumber mill and stores. He held the rank of Captain in the Lincoln Militia until close on the American invasion, but resigned in dudgeon at some action of his superior officer, and thus it is that in the relation of Mrs. Secord's heroic deed he is not designated by any rank. At the first call to arms, however, Mr. Secord at once offered his services, which were gladly accepted, and he was present at the Battle of Queenston Heights. Here he was severely wounded in the leg and shoulder, and lay on the field as one dead, until rescued by his brave wife. He never fully recovered from his wounds, and received an acknowledgment of his voluntary services to the Government in the appointment to the post of Collector of Customs at the Port of Chippewa, which he held until his death in 1841.
The married life of Mr. and Mrs. Secord was a most happy one. Their third daughter, Mrs. Harriet Smith, who still survives, a cheerful and vivacious lady of eighty-six, says that her father and mother were most devoted to each other, and lived in the closest mutual affection.
At the date of the Battle of Queenston Heights, the family consisted of four daughters and one son: Mary—with whom the great Tecumseh is said to have been in love—who was married to Dr. Trumbull, Staff-surgeon to the 37th Regiment, and died in Jamaica; Charlotte, "the belle of Canada," who, died during a visit to Ireland; Harriet—Mrs. Smith—who still survives and lives in great retirement with her eldest daughter at Guelph; and Appolonia, who died at the early age of eighteen. Charles, the only son, lived at Newark, and his surviving children are Mr. James B. Secord, of Niagara, and Alicia, Mrs. Isaac Cockburn, of Gravenhurst.
Two daughters were born to Mr. and Mrs. Secord subsequent to the war. Hannah, who was married to Mr. Carthew, of Guelph. and died in 1884, leaving several sons, and Laura, who was married to Dr. Clarke, of Palmerston, and died young, leaving one daughter, Laura.
Mrs. Smith relates that she very well remembers her mother setting off for St. David's, ostensibly to see her brother Charles, who lay sick at the mill, and her father's ill-concealed agitation during that trying day. What must the night have been to him? She also relates that during the short occupation of Queenston by the invaders, their soldiery were very tyrannical, entering the houses and stores to look for money and help themselves to plunder, and even destroying the bedding, by ripping it up with their swords and bayonets, in the search. Mrs. Secord who had a store of Spanish doubloons, heirlooms, saved them by throwing them into a cauldron of water which hung on a crane over a blazing fire. In this she unconsciously emulated the ready wit of one of her husband's Huguenot progenitors, a lady, who during the persecution that followed the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, at a period of domiciliary search for incriminating proofs of unorthodoxy, is said to have thrown a copy of the Bible—a doubly precious treasure in those days—into a churn of milk from whence it was afterwards rescued little the worse, thanks to heavy binding and strong clasps.
Envy having sent a shaft at even so warm and patriotic a breast as that of Mrs. Secord, Col. Fitzgibbon sent her a certificate, dated only a short time before his death, vouching to the facts of the heroic deed. It was evidently one of the cruel necessities of this hard life. The certificate runs as follows:
"I do hereby certify that Mrs. Secord, the wife of James Secord, of Chippewa, Esq., did, in the month of June, 1813, walk from her house in the village of St. David's to Decamp's house in Thorold, by a circuitous route of about twenty miles, partly through the woods, to acquaint me that the enemy intended to attempt by surprise to capture a detachment of the 49th Regiment, then under my command; she having obtained such knowledge from good authority, as the event proved. Mrs. Secord was a person of slight and delicate frame; and made the effort in weather excessively warm, and I dreaded at the time that she must suffer in health in consequence of fatigue and anxiety, she having been exposed to danger from the enemy, through whose line of communication she had to pass. The attempt was made on my detachment by the enemy, and his detachment, consisting of upwards of 500 men, with a field-piece and fifty dragoons, was captured in consequence. I write this certificate in a moment of much hurry and from memory, and it is, therefore, thus brief.
"(Signed) JAMES FITZGIBBON,
"Formerly Lieutenant in the 49th Regiment."
It is well to consider this great achievement of Mrs. Secord carefully, that we may be the better able to realize the greatness of the feat. To assist in so doing, it will not be amiss to quote the following, from Coffin's Chronicles of the War, bearing on the prudential reasons of Proctor's retreat at Moravian Town. "But whether for advance or for retreat, the by-paths of the forest intermediate were such as the macadamized and locomotive imagination of the present day cannot encompass. A backwoodsman, laden with his axe, wading here, ploutering there, stumbling over rotted trees, protruding stumps, a bit of half-submerged corduroy road for one short space, then an adhesive clay bank, then a mile or two or more of black muck swamp, may, possibly,—clay-clogged and footsore, and with much pain in the small of his back,—find himself at sundown at the foot of a hemlock or cedar, with a fire at his feet, having done manfully about ten miles for his day's work." This was written of a time of year when the fall rains predict an approaching winter. Mrs. Secord's exploit was made on the 23rd of June, a time when the early summer rains that set the fruit and consecrate an abundant harvest with their blessing, nevertheless make clay banks slippery, and streams swift, and of these latter the whole Niagara district was full. Many have now been diverted and some dried up. I am happy to be able to give my readers the heroine's own simple account of her journey, as furnished me by the courtesy of Mr. Benson J. Lossing, author of the "Pictorial Field Book of the War of 1812," to whom the aged lady in 1862 recounted it in a letter (given in a note in Mr. Lossing's book), the historian, on his visit to Chippewa in 1860, having failed to see her. She was then eighty-five years of age.
"DEAR SIR,—I will tell you the story in a few words.
"After going to St. David's and the recovery of Mr. Secord, we returned again to Queenston, where my courage again was much tried. It was there I gained the secret plan laid to capture Captain Fitzgibbon and his party. I was determined, if possible, to save them. I had much difficulty in getting through the American guards. They were ten miles out in the country. [Footnote: The American sentries were out ten miles into the country; that is, at any point commanding a possible line of communication within a radius of ten miles from Fort George, Mrs. Secord might come upon an American sentry. The deep woods, therefore, were her only security. These she must thread to the best of her ability, with what knowledge she might possess of the woodman's craft, for even a blazed path was not safe. And by this means she must get out of American cover and into British lines. To do this she must take a most circuitous route, as she tells us, all round "by Twelve-mile Creek," whose port is St. Catharines, climbing the ridge that is now cut through by the Welland Canal, and thus doubling upon what would have been the straight route, and coming on Fitzgibbon from the back, from the way of his supports, for Major de Haren lay at Twelve-mile Creek, but not within several miles of where the heroine crossed it. And it was dark, and within a few hours of the intended surprise when she reached it. To go to De Haren, even though it might have been nearer at that point—it may not have been so, however—was a greater risk to Fitzgibbon, whose safety she was labouring to secure, than to send him aid which might only reach him after the event. Forgetting her exhaustion she proceeds, fulfils her errand, and saves her country. And shall that country let her memory die?] When I came to a field belonging to a Mr. De Cou, in the neighbourhood of the Beaver Dams, I then had walked nineteen miles. By that time daylight had left me. I yet had a swift stream of water (Twelve-mile Creek) to cross over on an old fallen tree, and to climb a high hill, which fatigued me very much.
"Before I arrived at the encampment of the Indians, as I approached they all arose with one of their war yells, which, indeed, awed me. You may imagine what my feelings were to behold so many savages. With forced courage I went to one of the chiefs, told him I had great news for his commander, and that he must take me to him or they would all be lost. He did not understand me, but said, 'Woman! What does woman want here?' The scene by moonlight to some might have been grand, but to a weak woman certainly terrifying. With difficulty I got one of the chiefs to go with me to their commander. With the intelligence I gave him he formed his plans and saved his country. I have ever found the brave and noble Colonel Fitzgibbon a friend to me. May he prosper in the world to come as he has done in this.
"CHIPPEWA, U.C., Feb. 18, 1861."
Mr. Lossing further adds in his letter to me:
"When, in the summer of 1860, the Prince of Wales visited Queenston the veteran soldiers of the Canada side of the Niagara frontier signed an address to his Royal Highness; Mrs. Secord claimed the privilege of signing it. 'Wherefore?' was asked. She told her story, and it was allowed that she eminently deserved a place among the signers. Her story was repeated to the Prince. He was greatly interested, and learning that the heroine had not much of this world's goods, sent her $500 soon after his return home, in attestation of his appreciation of her patriotism."
Her sole surviving daughter at this date, says the gift was carried to her mother by ten gentlemen who had formed part of the Prince's suite.
A correspondent at Drummondville, to whom I am indebted for several Valuable particulars, says: "Mrs. Laura Second is remembered here as a fine, tall, strong woman. Strong, too, in mind, purpose, determination, and yet womanly and maternal withal. She is spoken of as indeed a brave woman, of strong patriotism and courage.
"The difficulties and dangers then, were those of anew, uncleared, pathless country increased by lurking foes, and by wandering, untaught Indians.
"In connection with her chief act of heroism the following anecdote has been told me:—Three American soldiers called at her log house at Queenston to ask for water. One of them said, 'You have a nice place here, missis, when we come for good to this country we'll divide the land, and I'll take this here for my share.' Mrs. Secord was so nettled by the thoughts expressed that although the men were civil and respectful, she replied sharply, 'You scoundrel you, all you'll ever get here will be six feet of earth!'
"When they were gone her heart reproached her for her heat, because the men had not molested her nor her property." (Yet her indignation was righteous, since they were invaders in the worst sense of the term, having no lawful cause for their invasion.) "Two days after two of the men returned. They said to Mrs. Secord, 'You were right about the six feet of earth, missis! The third man had been killed."
In speaking of the heroine, Mr. James B. Secord, of Niagara, says in a letter to me, "My grandmother was of a modest disposition, and did not care to have her exploit mentioned, as she did not think she had done any thing extraordinary. She was the very last one to mention the affair, and unless asked would never say any thing about it."
This noble-minded and heroic woman died in 1868, aged ninety-three years. She lies in Drummondville Churchyard, by the side of the husband she loved so well. Nothing but a simple headstone, half defaced, marks the place where the sacred ashes lie. But surely we who enjoy the happiness she so largely secured for us, we who have known how to honour Brock and Brant, will also know how to, honour Tecumseh and LAURA SECORD; the heroine as well as the heroes of our Province—of our common Dominion—and will no longer delay to do it, lest Time should snatch the happy opportunity from us.
S. A. C.
TORONTO, 4th August, 1887.
NOTE.—The headstone of Laura Secord is three feet high, and eighteen inches wide, and has the following:
HERE RESTS LAURA, BELOVED WIFE OF JAMES SECORD, Died, Oct. 17, 1868. Aged 93 years.
The headstone of her husband has the following:
IN MEMORY OF JAMES SECORD, SENR., COLLECTOR OF CUSTOMS, Who departed this life on the 22nd day of Feb., 1841, In the 68th year of his age.
Universally and deservedly lamented as a sincere Friend, a kind and indulgent Parent, and an affectionate Husband.
THE HEROINE OF THE WAR OF 1812.
* * * * *
LAURA SECORD, the Heroine, wife of James Secord.
ELIZABETH SECORD, widow of Stephen Secord, the Miller at St. David's.
MARY, a girl of thirteen, daughter of James and Laura Secord.
CHARLOTTE, her sister.
HARRIET, her sister.
BABETTE, the maid at the Mill.
A WOMAN, the keeper of a roadside tavern at Beaver Dams.
JAMES SECORD, a wounded militia officer, home on sick leave, husband of Laura Secord.
LIEUTENANT FITZGIBBON, a British officer holding the post at Beaver Dams.
MAJOR DE HAREN, a British officer lying at St. Catharines with his command.
COLONEL THOMAS CLARKE, A Canadian militia officer.
SERGEANT GEORGE MOSIER, an old Pensioner, and U. E. Loyalist of 1776.
MISHE-MO-QUA (The Great Bear), a Mohawk Chief.
JOHN PENN, a farmer (Harvey's Quaker).
GEORGE JARVIS, a Cadet of the 49th Regiment.
A Sergeant of the 8th Regiment.
A Sergeant of the 49th Regiment.
JAMES CUMMINGS, a Corporal of Militia.
ROARING BILL, a Private in the 49th Regiment.
JACK, a Private in the 49th Regiment.
Other Soldiers of the 49th, 8th, or King's Own, and 104th Regiments.
Indians, British Allies, chiefly Mohawks.
TOM, a child of six, son of the Widow Secord.
ARCHY, a little Boy at St. David's Mill.
CHARLES, a boy of four, son of James and Laura Secord.
Other Boys of various ages from eight to sixteen.
COLONEL BOERSTLER, an American officer.
CAPTAIN MCDOWELL, an American officer.
PETE and FLOS, slaves.
A large body of American soldiers, infantry, dragoons and artillerymen.
LAURA SECORD: THE HEROINE OF THE WAR OF 1812
* * * * *
SCENE 1.—Queenston. A farmhouse.
John Penn, a Quaker, is seated on a chair tilted against the wall. Mr. Secord, his arm in a sling, reclines on a couch, against the end of which a crutch is is placed. Mrs. Secord, occupies a rocking-chair near the lounge. Charlie, a little fellow of four, is seated on her lap holding a ball of yarn from which she is knitting. Charlotte, a girl of twelve, is seated on a stool set a little in rear of the couch; she has a lesson-book in her hand. Harriet, a girl of ten, occupies a stool near her sister, and has a slate on her lap. All are listening intently to the Quaker, who is speaking.
Quaker. The midnight sky, set thick with shining points, Hung watchingly, while from a band of gloom That belted in the gloomier woods, stole forth Foreshortened forms of grosser shade, all barred With lines of denser blackness, dexter-borne. Rank after rank, they came, out of the dark, So silently no pebble crunched beneath Their feet more sharp than did a woodchuck stir. And so came on the foe all stealthily, And found their guns a-limber, fires ablaze, And men in calm repose. With bay'nets fixed The section in advance fell on the camp, And killed the first two sentries, whose sharp cries Alarmed a third, who fired, and firing, fled. This roused the guard, but "Forward!" was the word, And on we rushed, slaying full many a man Who woke not in this world. The 'larum given, A-sudden rose such hubbub and confusion As is made by belching earthquake. Waked from sleep, Men stumbled over men, and angry cries Resounded. Surprised, yet blenching not, Muskets were seized and shots at random fired E'en as they fled. Yet rallied they when ours, At word from Harvey, fell into line, And stood, right 'mid the fires, to flint their locks— An awful moment!— As amid raging storms the warring heaven Falls sudden silent, and concentrates force To launch some scathing bolt upon the earth, So hung the foe, hid in portentous gloom, While in the lurid light ours halted. Quick, Red volcanic fire burst from their lines And mowed us where we stood! Full many a trembling hand that set a flint Fell lifeless ere it clicked: yet silent all— Save groans of wounded—till our rods struck home; Then, flashing fire for fire, forward we rushed And scattered them like chaff before the wind. The King's Own turned their left; the Forty-ninth, At point of bay'net, pushed the charge, and took Their guns, they fighting valiantly, but wild, Having no rallying point, their leaders both Lying the while all snug at Jemmy Gap's. And so the men gave in at last, and fled, And Stony Creek was ours.
Mr. Secord. Brave Harvey! Gallantly planned and carried. The stroke is good, the consequences better. Cooped as he is in George, the foe will lack His forage, and perforce must—eat his stores; For Yeo holds the lake, and on the land His range is scarce beyond his guns. And more, He is the less by these of men to move On salient points, and long as we hold firm At Erie, Burlington, and Stony Creek, He's like the wretched bird, he "can't get out."
Mrs. Secord. You speak, friend Penn, as if you saw the fight, Not like a simple bearer of the news.
Quaker. Why, so I did.
Mrs. Secord. You did! Pray tell us how it was; For ever have I heard that Quakers shunned The sight of blood.
Quaker. None more than I. Yet innate forces sometimes tell o'er use Against our will. But this was how it happed: Thou seest, Mistress Secord, I'd a load Of sound potatoes, that I thought to take To Vincent's camp, but on the way I met A British officer, who challenged me; saith he, "Friend, whither bound?" "Up to the Heights," say I, "To sell my wares." "Better," saith he, "Go to the Yankee camp; they'll pay a price Just double ours, for we are short of cash." "I'll risk the pay," say I, "for British troops; Nay, if we're poor, I can afford the load, And p'rhaps another, for my country's good." "And say'st thou so, my Quaker! Yet," saith he, "I hear you Quakers will not strike a blow To guard your country's rights, nor yet your own." "No, but we'll hold the stakes," cried I. He laughed. "Can't you do more, my friend?" quoth he, "I need A closer knowledge of the Yankee camp: How strong it is, and how it lies. A brush Is imminent, and one must win, you know Shall they?" His manner was so earnest that, before I knew, I cried, "Not if I know it, man!" With a bright smile he answered me, "There spoke A Briton." Then he directed me How I might sell my load, what I should mark, And when report to him my observations. So, after dusk, I met him once again, And told him all I knew. It pleased him much. Warmly he shook my hand. "I am," saith he, "Lieutenant-Colonel Harvey. Should it hap That I can ever serve you, let me know."
Mrs. Secord. And then you stayed to see the end of it?
Quaker. Mistress, I did. Somewhat against my creed, I freely own; for what should I, a Quaker, E'er have to do with soldiers, men of blood! I mean no slight to you, James.
Mr. Secord (laughing). No, no! go on.
Quaker. Well, when I thought how tired poor Dobbin was, How late the hour, and that 'twould be a week Before I'd hear how Harvey sped that night, I thought I'd stay and see the matter out; The more, because I kind o' felt as if Whatever happed I'd had a hand in it.
Mrs. Secord. And pray where did you hide? for hide you must, So near the Yankee lines.
Quaker. It wasn't hard to do; I knew the ground, Being a hired boy on that very farm, Now Jemmy Gap's. There was an elm, where once I used to sit and watch for chipmunks, that I clomb, And from its shade could see the Yankee camp, Its straggling line, its fires, its careless watch; And from the first I knew the fight was ours, If Harvey struck that night.
Mr. Secord. Ha! ha! friend John, thine is a soldier's brain Beneath that Quaker hat.
Quaker (in some embarrassment, rising). No, no, I am a man of peace, and hate The very name of war. I must be gone. (To Mrs. Secord.) My woman longs to see thee, Mistress. Good-bye to all.
The Little Girls (rising). Good-bye, sir.
Mrs. Secord. Good-bye, John, 'Twould please me much to see my friend again, But war blots out the sweet amenities Of life. Give her my love.
Quaker. I will.
Mr. Secord (rising and taking his crutch). I'll walk a piece with you, friend Penn, And see you past the lines.
[His little daughter, HARRIET, hands him his hat.
Quaker. That's right, 'twill do thee good: Thy wounds have left thee like an ailing girl, So poor and pale.
[Exeunt Quaker and MR. SECORD.
Charlotte. Oh, dear, I wish I were a man, to fight In such brave times as these!
Enter MARY, a girl of fourteen.
Mary. Were wishing aught Soon should another sword strike for the King, And those dear rights now rudely overlooked.
Mrs. Secord. My child?
Mary. Oh naught, mamma, save the old tale: no nook That's not invaded, even one's books Borrowed without one's leave. I hate it all!
Mrs. Secord. We must be patient, dear, it cannot last.
Harriet. Oh, if we girls were boys, or Charles a man!
Mrs. Secord. Poor baby Charles! See, he's asleep; and now, Dear girls, seeing we cannot fight, we'll pray That peace may come again, for strife and blood, Though wisely spent, are taxes hard to pay. But come, 'tis late! See Charlie's dropt asleep; Sing first your evening hymn, and then to bed. I'll lay the darling down.
Exit MRS. SECORD, with the child in her arms.
Charlotte. You start it, Mary.
Softly as falls the evening shade, On our bowed heads Thy hands be laid; Surely as fades the parting light, Our sleep be safe and sweet to-night Calmly, securely, may we rest, As on a tender father's breast.
Let War's black pinions soar away, And dove-like Peace resume her sway, Our King, our country, be Thy care, Nor ever fail of childhood's prayer. Calmly, securely, may we rest As on a tender father's breast.
* * * * *
SCENE 2.—The same place and the same hour.
Enter MRS. SECORD.
After a weary day the evening falls With gentle benison of peace and rest. The deep'ning dusk draws, like a curtain, round, And gives the soul a twilight of its own; A soft, sweet time, full of refreshing dews, And subtle essences of memory And reflection. O gentle peace, when—
Enter PETE, putting his head in at the door.
Pete. O, mistis! Heh, mistis!
Mrs. Secord. What now, Pete?
Pete. Oh, mistis, dat yar sergeant ossifer— Dat sassy un what call me "Woolly-bear." An' kick my shin, he holler 'crass to me:— "You, Pete, jes' you go in, an' tell Ma'am Secord I'se comin' in ter supper wiv some frens." He did jes' so—a sassy scamp.
Mrs. Secord. To-night? At this hour?
Pete. Yes, mistis; jes', jes' now. I done tell Flos Ter put her bes' leg fus', fer I mus' go An' ten' dat poo', sick hoss.
Mrs. Secord. Nay, you'll do nothing of the kind! You'll stay And wait upon these men. I'll not have Flos Left single-handed by your cowardice.
Pete. I aint a coward-ef I hed a club; Dat poo', sick hoss—
Mrs. Secord. Nonsense! Go call me Flos, and see you play no tricks to-night.
Pete. No, mistis, no; no tricks. [Aside. Ef I'd a club!] He calls from the door: Flos! Flos! Ma'am Secord wants ye.
Mrs. Secord (spreading a cloth upon the table). God help us if these men much longer live Upon our failing stores.
What have you got to feed these fellows, Flos?
Flos. De mistis knows it aint much, pas' noo bread, An' two—three pies. I've sot some bacon sisslin', An' put some taties on when Pete done tole me.
Pete. Give 'em de cider, mistis, an' some beer, And let 'em drink 'em drunk till mas'r come An' tell me kick 'em out.
Flos. You!—jes' hol' yer sassy tongue.
[Footsteps are heard without.
Pete. Dat's um. Dey's comin'. Dat poo', sick hoss—
[He makes for the door.
Mrs. Secord. You, Pete, come back and lay this cloth, And wait at table properly with Flos.
Enter a Sergeant, a Corporal and four Privates.
Sergeant (striking Pete on the head with his cane). That's for your ugly phiz and impudence.
[Exit Pete, howling.
(To Mrs. Secord.) Your slaves are saucy, Mistress Secord.
Mrs. Secord. Well, sir!
Sergeant. None of my business, eh? Well, 'tis sometimes, You see. You got my message: what's to eat?
Mrs. Secord. My children's food, sir. This nor post-house is, Nor inn, to take your orders.
[FLOS and PETE enter, carrying dishes.
Sergeant. O, bless you, we don't order; we command. Here, men, sit down.
[He seats himself at the head of the table, and the others take their places, some of them greeting MRS. SECORD with a salute of respect.
Boy, fill those jugs. You girl, Set that dish down by me, and haste with more. Bacon's poor stuff when lamb and mint's in season. Why don't you kill that lamb, Ma'am Secord?
Mrs. Secord. 'Tis a child's pet.
Sergeant. O, pets be hanged!
[Exit MRS. SECORD.
Corporal. Poor thing! I'm sure none of us want the lamb.
A Private. We'll have it, though, and more, if Boerstler—
Corporal. Hold your tongue, you—
Second Private (drinking). Here's good luck, my boys, to that surprise—
Corporal (aside). Fool!
Sergeant (drinking). Here's to to-morrow and a cloudy night. Fill all your glasses, boys.
* * * * *
SCENE 3.—Mrs. Secord's bedroom. She is walking up and down in much agitation.
Enter MR. SECORD.
Mrs. Secord (springing to meet him). Oh, James, where have you been?
Mr. Secord. I did but ramble through the pasture, dear, And round the orchard. 'Twas so sweet and still. Save for the echo of the sentry's tread O'er the hard road, it might have been old times. But—but—you're agitated, dear; what's wrong? I see our unasked visitors were here. Was that—?
Mrs. Secord. Not that; yet that. Oh, James, I scarce can bear The stormy swell that surges o'er my heart, Awaked by what they have revealed this night.
Mr. Secord. Dear wife, what is't?
Mrs. Secord. Oh, sit you down and rest, for you will need All strength you may command to hear me tell.
[Mr. Secord sits down, his wife by him.
That saucy fellow, Winter, and a guard Came and demanded supper; and, of course, They had to get it. Pete and Flos I left To wait on them, but soon they sent them off, Their jugs supplied,—and fell a-talking, loud, As in defiance, of some private plan To make the British wince. Word followed word, Till I, who could not help but hear their gibes, Suspected mischief, and, listening, learned the whole. To-morrow night a large detachment leaves Fort George for Beaver Dam. Five hundred men, With some dragoons, artillery, and a train Of baggage-waggons, under Boerstler, go To fall upon Fitzgibbon by surprise, Capture the stores, and pay for Stony Creek.
Mr. Secord. My God! and here am I, a paroled cripple! Oh, Canada, my chosen country! Now— Is't now, in this thy dearest strait, I fail? I, who for thee would pour my blood with joy— Would give my life for thy prosperity— Most I stand by, and see thy foes prevail Without one thrust?
[In his agitation he rises.
Mrs. Secord. Oh, calm thee, dear; thy strength is all to me. Fitzgibbon shall be warned, or aid be sent.
Mr. Secord. But how, wife? how? Let this attempt succeed, As well it may, and vain last year's success; In vain fell Brock: in vain was Queenston fought: In vain we pour out blood and gold in streams: For Dearborn then may push his heavy force Along the lakes, with long odds in his favour. And I, unhappy wretch, in such a strait Am here, unfit for service. Thirty men Are all Fitzgibbon has to guard the stores And keep a road 'twixt Bisshopp and De Haren. Those stores, that road, would give the Yankee all.
Mrs. Secord. Why, be content now, dear. Had we not heard, This plot might have passed on to its dire end, Like the pale owl that noiseless cleaves the dark, And, on its dreaming prey, swoops with fell claw.
Mr. Secord. What better is it?
Mrs. Secord. This; that myself will go to Beaver Dam, And warn Fitzgibbon: there is yet a day.
Mr. Secord. Thou! thou take a task at which a man might shrink? No, no, dear wife! Not so.
Mrs. Secord. Ay, prithee, let me go; 'Tis not so far. And I can pass unharmed Where you would be made prisoner, or worse. They'll not hurt me—my sex is my protection.
Mr. Secord. Oh, not in times like these. Let them suspect A shadow wrong, and neither sex, nor tears, Nor tenderness would save thy fate.
Mrs. Secord. Fear not for me. I'll be for once so wise The sentries shall e'en put me on my way. Once past the lines, the dove is not more swift Nor sure to find her distant home than I To reach Fitzgibbon. Say I may go.
Mr. Secord (putting his arm 'round her tenderly). How can I let thee go? Thy tender feet Would bleed ere half the way was done. Thy strength Would fail 'twixt the rough road and summer heat, And in some, gloomy depth, faint and alone, Thou would'st lie down to die. Or, chased and hurt By wolf or catamount, thy task undone, Thy precious life would then be thrown away. I cannot let thee go.
Mrs. Secord. Not thrown away! Nay, say not that, dear James. No life is thrown away that's spent in doing duty. But why raise up these phantoms of dismay? I did not so when, at our country's call, You leapt to answer. Said I one word To keep you back? and yet my risk was greater Then than now—a woman left with children On a frontier farm, where yelling savages, Urged on, or led, by renegades, might burn, And kill, and outrage with impunity Under the name of war. Yet I blenched not, But helped you clean your musket, clasped your belt, And sent you forth, with many a cheery word. Did I not so?
Mr. Secord. Thou didst indeed, dear wife, thou didst. But yet,— I cannot let thee go, my darling. Did I not promise in our marriage vow, And to thy mother, to guard thee as myself.
Mrs. Secord. And so you will if now you let me go. For you would go yourself, without a word Of parley, were you able; leaving me The while in His good hands; not doubting once But I was willing. Leave me there now, James, And let me go; it is our country calls.
Mr. Secord. Ah, dearest wife, thou dost not realize All my deep promise, "guard thee as myself?" I meant to guard thee doubly, trebly more.
Mrs. Secord. There you were wrong. The law says "as thyself Thou shalt regard thy neighbour."
Mr. Secord. My neighbour! Then is that all that thou art To me, thy husband? Shame! thou lovest me not. My neighbour!
Mrs. Secord. Why now, fond ingrate! What saith the Book? "THE GOOD, with all thy soul and mind and strength; Thy neighbour as thyself." Thou must not love Thyself, nor me, as thou must love the Good. Therefore, I am thy neighbour; loved as thyself: And as thyself wouldst go to warn Fitzgibbon If thou wert able, so I, being able, Thou must let me go—thy other self. Pray let me go!
Mr. Secord (after a pause). Thou shalt, dear wife, thou shalt. I'll say no more. Thy courage meets the occasion. Hope shall be My standard-bearer, and put to shame The cohorts black anxiety calls up. But how shall I explain to prying folks Thine absence?
Mrs. Secord. Say I am gone to see my brother, 'Tis known he's sick; and if I venture now 'Twill serve to make the plot seem still secure. I must start early.
Mr. Secord. Yet not too soon, lest ill surmise Aroused by guilty conscience doubt thy aim.
Mrs. Secord. That's true. Yet at this time of year do travellers start Almost at dawn to avoid the midday heats. Tell not the children whither I am bound; Poor darlings! Soon enough anxiety Will fall upon them; 'tis the heritage Of all; high, low, rich, poor; he chiefly blest Who travels farthest ere he meets the foe. There's much to do to leave the household straight, I'll not retire to-night.
Mr. Secord. Oh, yes, dear wife, thou shalt not spend thy strength On household duties, for thou'lt need it all Ere thy long task be done. O, but I fear—
Mrs. Secord (quickly). Fear nothing! Trust heaven and do your best, is wiser. Should I meet harm,'twill be in doing duty: Fail I shall not!
Mr. Secord. Retire, dear wife, and rest; I'll watch the hours Beside thee.
Mrs. Secord. No need to watch me, James, I shall awake.
[Aside. And yet perhaps 'tis best. If he wake now he'll sleep to-morrow Perforce of nature; and banish thus Some hours of sad anxiety.]
Mr. Secord. I'd better watch.
Mrs. Secord. Well then, to please you! But call me on the turn Of night, lest I should lose an hour or two Of cooler travel.
* * * * *
SCENE 4—Daybreak on the 23rd June, 1813.
The porch of Mr. Secord's farmhouse. A garden path, with a gate that opens on to the high road from Newark to Twelve-Mile Creek.
Enter JAMES SECORD and his wife.
Mr. Secord. Heaven speed thee, then, dear wife. I'll try to bear The dreadful pangs of helplessness and dread With calm demeanour, if a bursting heart.
Mrs. Secord. Then will you taste a woman's common lot In times of strait, while I essay man's role Of fierce activity. We will compare When I return. Now, fare-thee-well, my husband.
(Fearful of being observed, they part without an embrace. Mrs. Secord walks down the garden slowly, and gathers a few clove pinks; a the gate she stops as though the latch were troublesome, raises the flowers to her lips, and makes a slight salute to her husband, who yet stands within the porch watching her. She then rapidly pursues her way, but soon encounters an American sentry, whom she essays to pass with a nod and a smile: the man prevents her by bringing his musket to the charge, and challenging.)
Mrs. Secord. Why do you stop me?
Sentry. Where is your pass? You know that none may take the road without one.
Mrs. Secord. But surely I may go to milk my cow, Yonder she is.
[A cow is seen in the clearing.
She's wandered in the night. I'll drive her back again, poor thing. She likes new pasture best, as well she may.
Sentry. Keep you your kine at home, you've land enough.
Mrs. Secord. Why, that's our land, and those our barns and sheds.
Sentry. Well, pass!
[He suddenly observes the flowers.
But where's your milking pail? I guess the bunch of flowers is for the cow.
Mrs. Secord (gently). You are too rough! The pinks weep dewy tears Upon my hand to chide you. There, take them;
[She offers him the flowers.
And let their fragrance teach you courtesy, At least to women. You can watch me.
Sentry. Madam, suspicion blunts politeness. Pass. I'll take your flowers, and thank you, too; 'Tis long since that I saw their fellows in The old folks' garden.
(Mrs. Secord crosses the road, takes a rail out of the fence, which she replaces after having passed into the clearing, and proceeds to the barn, whence she brings an old pail, luckily left there, and approaches the cow.)
Mrs. Secord (aside). Could I but get her out of sight, I'd drive The creature round the other way, and go My own. Pray Heaven the sentry watch me not Too closely; his manner roused my fears.
[She waves her hand at the cow, which moves on.
Co' boss! co' boss. Sh! Haste thee, poor cow; Fly from me! though never didst thou yet: Nor should'st do now, but for the stake I play.
[Both disappear in the bush.
Sentry (apostrophising the disappearing "enemy"). Well, mistress, were you gentle as your face, The creature wouldn't run you such a race. It serves you right! The cows my Anna milks, Come at her call, like chickens. O, sweet voice, When shall I hear you next? Even as I pace With measured step this hot and dusty road, The soft June breezes take your tones, and call, "Come, Henry, come." Would that I could! Would I had never joined! But my hot blood o'ermastered my cool sense, Nor let me see that always is not bought Honour by arms, but often dire disgrace. For so it is, as now I clearly see, We let the animal within remain Unbroke, till neither gyve nor gear will serve To steady him, only a knock-down blow. Had I, and others, too, within the ranks, Haltered our coltish blood, we should have found That hate to England, not our country's name And weal, impelled mad Madison upon this war; And shut the mouths of thousand higher men Than he. It is a lesson may I learn So as to ne'er forget, that in the heat of words Sparks oft are struck that should be straightway quenched In cool reflection; not enlarged and fed With passionate tinder, till a flame is blown That reaches past our bonds, and leaves behind Black, sullen stumps where once the green trees grew. If honour's what we want, there's room enough For that, and wild adventure, too, in the West, At half the cost of war, in opening up A road shall reach the great Pacific. (A step). Ha! Who goes there? [Exit.
* * * * *
SCENE 5.—The Road at the foot of Queenston Heights.
Mrs. Secord (looking in the direction of her home). Gone! Gone! Quite out of sight! Farewell, my home, Casket that holds my jewels! If no more My happy eyes rest on thy lowly roof, If never more my ears drink in the sounds Of sweeter music, in your loving tones, My darlings, than e'er was drawn from harp The best attuned, by wandering Aeolus, Then let my memory, like some fond relic laid In musk and lavender, softly exhale A thousand tender thoughts to soothe and bless; And let my love hide in your heart of hearts, And with ethereal touch control your lives, Till in that better home we meet again.
(She covers her face with her hands, and weeps unrestrainedly for a few seconds, then recovers herself, and raises her hands in prayer.)
Guard them and me, O Heaven.
[She resumes her journey, but still gazes In the direction of the Heights.
And Brock! McDonnell! Dennis! All ye hero band, who fell on yonder Heights! If I should fall, give me a place among ye, And a name will be my children's pride, For all—my all—I risk, as ye, to save My country.
SCENE I.—The great kitchen at St. David's Mill. Breakfast-time.
At the board are seated the Widow Stephen Secord, Sergeant George Mosier, and little Tom. Babette is waiting at table.
Widow. 'Tis pitiful to see one's land go waste For want of labour, and the summer days, So rich in blessing, spend their fruitful force On barren furrows. And then to think That over both the Provinces it is the same,— No men to till the land, because the war Needs every one. God knows how we shall feed Next year: small crop, small grist,—a double loss To me. The times are anxious. (To Sergeant Mosier.) Have you news?
Sergeant. Not much, ma'am, all is pretty quiet still Since Harvey struck them dumb at Stony Creek. Along the Lake bold Yeo holds them fast, And, Eric-way, Bisshopp and Evans back him. Thus stand we now; but Proctor's all too slow. O had we Brock again, bold, wise, and prompt, That foreign rag that floats o'er Newark's spires Would soon go down, and England's ensign up.
Widow. Ah, was he not a man! and yet so sweet, So courteous, and so gentle.
Babette. Ah, oui, madame. So kind! not one rough word he ever had, The General, but bow so low, "Merci, Babette," For glass of milk, et petit chose comme ca. Ah, long ago it must be he was French: Some grand seigneur, sans doute, in Guernsey then. Ah the brave man, madame, ce hero la!
Widow. Yes, brave indeed, Babette, but English, English. Oh, bravery, good girl, is born of noble hearts, And calls the world its country, and its sex Humanity.
Widow. You do not understand me, not; but you Were very brave and noble-hearted when You faced the wolf that scented the young lambs.
Babette. Brave! moi! Madame is kind to say it so. But bravery of women—what is that To bravery of man?
Tom. An' that's just what I said to Hatty, mother, When she declared that Aunty Laura was As brave as soldiers, 'cause she went an' fetched Poor Uncle James from off the battlefield. After the fight was over. That wasn't much!
Widow. You're but an ignorant little boy, my son, But might be wiser were you not so pert.
Sergeant. I heard not that before, ma'am.
Widow. Did you not? 'Tis very true. Upon that dreadful day, After Brock fell, and in the second fight, When with the Lincoln men and Forty-first Sheaffe led the attack, poor Captain Secord dropped, Shot, leg and shoulder, and bleeding there he lay, With numbers more, when evening fell; for means Were small to deal with wounded men, and all, Soldiers and citizens, were spent and worn With cruel trials. So when she learned he lay Among the wounded, his young wife took up A lantern in her hand, and searched the field— Whence sobs and groans and cries rose up to heaven And paled the tearful stars—until she found The man she loved, not sure that life remained. Then binding him as best she might, she bore, With some kind aid, the fainting body home,— If home it could be called where rabid hate Had spent its lawless rage in deeds of spite; Where walls and roof were torn with many balls, And shelter scarce was found. That very night, Distrustful lest the foe, repulsed and wild, Should launch again his heavier forces o'er The flood, she moved her terror-stricken girls— Four tender creatures—and her infant boy, Her wounded husband and her two young slaves, 'Neath cover of thick darkness to the farm, A mile beyond: a feat even for a man. And then she set her woman's wit and love To the long task of nursing back to health Her husband, much exhaust through loss of blood, and all the angry heat of gunshot wounds. But James will never be himself again Despite her care.
Sergeant. 'Twas well and bravely done. Yet oft I think the women of these days Degenerate to those I knew in youth.
Widow. You're hasty, Sergeant, already hath this war Shown many a young and delicate woman A very hero for—her hero's sake; Nay, more, for others'. She, our neighbour there At Queenston, who when our troops stood still, Weary and breathless, took her young babe, Her husband under arms among the rest, And cooked and carried for them on the field: Was she not one in whom the heroic blood Ran thick and strong as e'er in times gone by? O Canada, thy soil is broadcast strown With noble deeds: a plague on him, I say, Who follows with worse seed!
(She rises and prepares for making pies. Babette clears off the table, and Sergeant George smokes his pipe, sitting close to the open chimney, now filled with fresh branches of spruce and cedar.)
Sergeant. Well, mistress, p'rhaps you're right; old folks aye think Old times the best; but now your words recall The name of one, the bravest of her sex, So far as e'er I saw, save, p'rhaps, the Baroness. Tender of frame, most gentle, softly raised, And young, the Lady Harriet Acland shared, With other dames whose husbands held commands, The rough campaign of 'Seventy-six. But her lot fell so heavy, and withal She showed such spirit, cheerfulness, and love, Her name became a watchword in the ranks.
Widow. And what about her, Sergeant?
Sergeant. Well, mistress, as you ask I'll tell the tale: She was the wife of Major John Dyke-Acland, An officer of Grenadiers, then joined To Highland Frazer's arm of Burgoyne's troops. At Chamblee he was wounded. Leaving the Fort, His wife crossed lake and land, by means so rough As tried the strength of men, to nurse him. Recovered; next he fought Ticonderoga, And there was badly wounded. Lake Champlain She traversed to his aid in just a batteau. No sooner was he better, than again He joined his men, always the first to move, And so alert their situation was, That all slept in their clothes. In such a time The Major's tent took fire, and he, that night, But for a sergeant's care, who dragged him out, Had lost his life. Twice saved he was; For thinking that his wife still lay within, Burning to death, he broke away, And plunged into the fiery mass. But she, Scarce half awake, had crept from out the tent, And gained her feet in time to see him rush In search of her—a shuddering sight to one Loving and loved so well. But luckily, Both then were saved. She also shared the march That followed up the foe, action impending At every step; and when the fight began, Though sheltered somewhat, heard all the din, The roar of guns, and bursting shells, and saw The hellish fire belch forth, knowing the while Her husband foremost in the dreadful fray. Nay, more; her hut was all the shelter given To dress the wounded first; so her kind eyes Were forced to witness sights of ghastly sort, Such as turn surgeons faint; nor she alone, Three other ladies shared her anxious care: But she was spared the grief they knew too soon, Her husband being safe. But when Burgoyne At Saratoga lost the bloody day, The Major came not back—a prisoner he, And desperate wounded. After anxiety So stringent and prolonged, it seemed too much To hope the lady could support such sting And depth of woe, yet drooped she not; but rose And prayed of Burgoyne, should his plans allow, To let her pass into the hostile camp, There to beseech for leave to tend her husband. Full pitifully Burgoyne granted her The boon she asked, though loath to let her go; For she had passed hours in the drenching rain, Sleepless and hungry; nor had he e'en a cup Of grateful wine to offer. He knew Her danger, too, as she did,—that she might fall In cruel hands; or, in the dead of night Approaching to the lines, be fired on. Yet yielding to her prayer, he let her go, Giving her all he could, letters to Gates, And for her use an open boat. Thus she set forth, with Chaplain Brudenell For escort, her maid, and the poor Major's man— Thus was she rowed adown the darkling stream. Night fell before they reached the enemy's posts, And all in vain they raised the flag of truce, The sentry would not even let them land, But kept them there, all in the dark and cold, Threatening to fire upon them if they stirred Before the break of day. Poor lady! Sad Were her forebodings through those darksome hours, And wearily her soft maternal frame Bore such great strain. But as the dark Grows thickest ere the light appears, so she Found better treatment when the morning broke. With manly courtesy, proud Gates allowed Her wifely claim, and gave her all she asked.
Widow. Could he do less! Yes, Sergeant, I'll allow Old times show tender women bold and brave For those they love, and 'twill be ever so. And yet I hold that woman braver still Who sacrifices all she loves to serve The public weal.
Sergeant. And was there ever one?
Widow. Oh, yes—
Enter MRS. SECORD.
Why, Laura! Now you're just too late To have your breakfast with us. But sit down. (She calls.) Babette! Babette!
Haste, girl, and make fresh tea, Boil a new egg, and fry a bit of ham, And bring a batch-cake from the oven; they're done By this.
(To Mrs. Secord.) Take off your things, my dear; You've come to stay a day or two with Charles, Of course. He'll be awake just now. He's weak, But better. How got you leave to come?
[SERGEANT GEORGE is leaving the kitchen.
Stay, Sergeant, you should know James Secord's wife, Poor Charles's sister.
(To Mrs. Secord.) Laura, this is a friend You've heard us speak of, Sergeant George Mosier, My father's crony, and poor Stephen's, too.
Mrs. Secord (curtesying). I'm glad to meet you, sir.
Sergeant (bowing low). Your servant, madam, I hope your gallant husband is recovered.
Mrs. Secord. I thank you, sir, his wound, but not his strength, And still his arm is crippled.
Sergeant. A badge of honour, madam, like to mine,
[He points to his empty sleeve.
Enter BABETTE with tray.
[Exit SERGEANT GEORGE.
Widow. That's right, girl, set it here. (To Mrs. Secord.) Come eat a bit. That ham is very nice, 'tis Gloucester fed, And cured-malt-coombs, you know, so very sweet. (To Babette.) Mind thou the oven, lass, I've pies to bake, And then a brisket.
(To Mrs. Secord.) I thought you fast Within the lines: how got you leave to come?
Mrs. Secord. I got no leave; three several sentries I, With words of guile, have passed, and still I fear My ultimate success. 'Tis not to see Poor Charles I came, but to go further on To Beaver Dam, and warn Fitzgibbon there Of a foul plot to take him by surprise This very night. We found it out last eve, But in his state poor James was helpless, So I go instead.
Widow. You go to Beaver Dam! Nineteen long miles On hot and dusty roads, and all alone! You can't, some other must.
Mrs. Secord. I must, no other can. The time is short, And through the virgin woods my way doth lie, For should those sentries meet, or all report I passed their bounds, suspicion would be waked, And then what hue and cry!
Widow. The woods! and are you crazed? You cannot go! The woods are full of creatures wild and fierce, And wolves prowl round about. No path is blazed, No underbrush is cleared, no clue exists Of any kind to guide your feet. A man Could scarce get through, how then shall you?
Mrs. Secord. I have a Guide in Heaven. This task is come To me without my seeking. If no word Reaches Fitzgibbon ere that murderous horde Be on him, how shall he save himself? And if defeat he meets, then farewell all Our homes and hopes, our liberties and lives.
Widow. Oh, dear! oh, dear! and must you risk your life, Your precious life? Think of it, Laura, yet: Soldiers expect to fight; and keep strict watch Against surprise. Think of your little girls, Should they be left without a mother's care; Your duty is to them, and surely not In tasks like this. You go to risk your life. As if you had a right, and thereby leave Those who to you owe theirs, unpitied, Desolate. You've suffered now enough With all you've lost, and James a cripple, too, What will the children do should they lose you Just when their youthful charms require your care? They'll blame you, Laura, when they're old enough To judge what's right.
Mrs. Secord. I do not fear it. Children can see the right at one quick glance, For, unobscured by self or prejudice, They mark the aim, and not the sacrifice Entailed.
Widow. Did James consent to have you go?
Mrs. Secord. Not till he found there was no other way; He fretted much to think he could not go.
Widow. I'm sure he did. A man may undergo A forced fatigue, and take no lasting hurt, But not a woman. And you so frail— It is your life you risk. I sent my lads, Expecting them to run the chance of war, And these you go to warn do but the same.
Mrs. Secord. You see it wrong; chances of war to those Would murder be to these, and on my soul, Because I knew their risk, and warned them not. You'll think I'm right when tramp of armed men, And rumble of the guns disturb you in your sleep. Then, in the calmer judgment night-time brings, You'd be the first to blame the selfish care That left a little band of thirty men A prey to near six hundred.
Widow. Just the old story! Six hundred—it's disgraceful! Why, Were they tailors—nine to make a man— 'Tis more than two to one. Oh, you must go.
Mrs. Secord. I knew you'd say so when you came to think: It was your love to me that masked your judgment. I'll go and see poor Charles, but shall not say My real errand, 'twould excite him so.
[Exit MRS. SECORD.
Widow. Poor Laura! Would to God I knew some way To lighten her of such a task as this.
[Enter SERGEANT GEORGE.
Sergeant. Is it too early for the invalid? The lads are here, and full of ardour.
Widow. Oh, no, his sister's with him.
[Exit SERGEANT. [A bugle is heard sounding the assembly.
Enter MRS. SECORD in alarm.
Mrs. Secord. What's that! What's that!
Widow. I should have warned you, dear, But don't be scared, its Sergeant George's boys. He's gathered quite a company of lads From round about, with every match-lock, gun, Or fowling-piece the lads could find, and drills Them regularly every second morn.
He calls 'em "Young St. David's Yeoman Guard," Their horses, "shankses naigie." Look you here!
(Both ladies look through the open window from which is visible the driving shed: here are assembled some twenty lads of all ages and heights, between six and sixteen. They carry all sorts of old firelocks and are "falling in." They are properly sized, and form a "squad with intervals." In the rear stands a mash-tub with a sheepskin stretched over it for a drum, and near it is the drummer-boy, a child of six; a bugle, a cornet and a bassoon are laid in a corner, and two or three boys stand near.)
Sergeant George. Now, Archy, give the cadence in slow time. (To the squad.) Slow—march. (They march some thirty paces.) Squad—halt. (They halt, many of them out of line.) Keep your dressing. Steps like those would leave some of you half behind on a long march. Right about face—two—three. That's better. Slow—march. (They march.) Squad—halt. (They all bring up into line.) That's better. No hangers back with foe in front. Left about face—two—three. Keep up your heads. By the right—dress. Stand easy. Fall in, the band. We'll try the music.
(The band falls in, three little fellows have fifes, two elder ones flutes, one a flageolet; the owners of the cornet, bugle and bassoon take up their instruments, and a short, stout fellow has a trombone.)
Sergeant George (to the band). Now show your loyalty, "The King! God bless him."
[They play, the squad saluting.
Sergeant George (to band.) That's very well, but mind your time. (To the squad.) Now you shall march to music. (To the band.) Boys, play—"The Duke of York's March." (To the squad.) Squad—attention. Quick march. (They march.) Squad—halt.
[At a signal, the band ceases playing.
Yes, that's the way to meet your country's foes. If you were Yankee lads you'd have to march to this (he takes a flageolet). Quick—march.
(Plays Yankee Doodle with equal cleverness and spite, travestying both phrase and expression in a most ludicrous manner until the boys find it impossible to march for laughter; the Sergeant is evidently delighted with the result.)
Ho! Ho! That's how you march to "Yankee Doodle." 'Tis a fine tune! A grand, inspiring tune, Like "Polly put the Kettle on," or "Dumble-dum-deary." Can soldiers march to that? Can they have spirit, honour, or do great deeds With such a tune as that to fill their ears?
Mrs. Secord. The Sergeant's bitter on the foe, I think.
Widow. He is, but can you wonder? Hounded out When living peaceably upon his farm. Shot at, and threatened till he takes a side, And then obliged to fly to save his life, Losing all else, his land, his happy home, His loving wife, who sank beneath the change, Because he chose the rather to endure A short injustice, than belie his blood By joining England's foes. He went with Moody.
Mrs. Secord. Poor fellow! Those were heavy times, like these.
Sergeant George. Now boys, the grand new tune, "Britannia Rules the Waves," play con spirito, that means heart! mind! soul! as if you meant it.
(He beats time, and adds a note of the drum at proper points, singing the chorus with much vigour and emphasis. Mrs. Secord betrays much emotion, and when the tune is begun for the third verse, she hastily closes the window.)
Shut, shut it out, I cannot bear it, Ellen, It shakes my heart's foundations! Let me go.
Widow. Nay, but you're soon upset. If you must go, Your bonnet's on my bed. I'll get a bite Of something for you on the road.
[She busies herself in filling a little basket with refreshment, and offers MRS. SECORD cake and wine.
Here, eat a bit, and drink a sup of wine, It's only currant; the General's got a keg I sent, when stores were asked; James Coffin's good; He always sends poor Ned, or Jack, or Dick,— When commissariat's low; a mother's heart, A widowed mother, too, he knows, sore longs To see her lads, e'en if she willing sends Them all to serve the King. I don't forget him Morning and night, and many a time between. No wine? Too soon? Well, take this drop along. There's many a mile where no fresh water is, And you'll be faint—
[She bursts into tears.
Good lan', I cannot bear to see you go.
Mrs. Secord. Nay, sister, nay, be calm! Send me away light-hearted,
I trust in God, As you for your dear lads. Shew me the way To gain the woods unseen by friend or foe, The while these embryo soldiers are engaged.
Widow. I'll go with you a mile or two.
Mrs. Secord. No, no. It might arouse suspicion.
[She opens the door, and the WIDOW SECORD joins her.
Widow. Times indeed When every little act has some to watch!
[Points to a tree.
You see yon oak just by the little birch—
Mrs. Secord. I do.
Widow. There is a little path leads down To a small creek, cross that, and keep the sun Behind you half a mile, and then you strike The bush, uncleared and wild. Good God, to think—
Mrs. Secord. Think not, but pray, and if a chance occurs Send aid to poor Fitzgibbon. Little help Just in the nick of time oft turns the scale Of fortune. God bless you, dear! Good bye.
[They embrace with tears. Exit MRS. SECORD.
* * * * *
SCENE 2.—A beautiful glade.
Enter MRS. SECORD.—After scanning the spot searchingly, she seats herself on a fallen trunk.
Mrs. Secord. This spot is surely safe; here I will rest, For unaccustomed service tires my limbs, And I have travelled many a weary rood More than a crow-line measures; ups and downs Absorb so many steps that nothing add To distance. Faint am I, too, and thirsty. Hist! hist! ye playful breezes that do make Melodious symphonies and rippling runs Among the pines and aspens, hear I not A little tinkling rill, that somewhere hides Its sweet beneficence 'mid ferns and moss?
[She rises and looks about.
Ay, here it is: a tiny brilliancy That glances at the light, as careful, still, To keep the pure translucency that first It caught from Heaven. Give me, oh give, sweet rill, A few cool drops to slake my parching throat. Fair emblem truly thou of those meek hearts That thread the humblest haunts of suffering earth With Christ-like charities, and keep their souls Pure and untaint, by Heavenly communings.
[She reseats herself, and contemplates the scene.
O this is beautiful! Here I could lie— Were earth a myth and all her trials nought— And dream soft nothings all a summer's day. In this fair glade were surely celebrate The nuptials of the year: and for her gift, Fair Flora, lightly loitering on the wing Of Zephyrus, tossed all her corbel out, Filling the air with bloom. From yonder copse, With kindling eye and hasty step, emerged The gladsome Spring, with leafy honours crowned, His following a troop of skipping lambs: And o'er yon hill, blushing for joy, approached His happy bride, on billowy odours borne, And every painted wing in tendance bent. Procession beautiful! Yet she how fair!— The lovely Summer, in her robes of blue, Bedecked with every flower that Flora gave,— Sweet eglantine and meek anemone, Bright, nodding columbine and wood-star white, Blue violets, like her eyes, and pendant gems Of dielytra, topaz-tipped and gold, Fragrant arbutus, and hepatica, With thousands more. Her wreath, a coronet Of opening rose-buds twined with lady-fern; And over all, her bridal-veil of white,— Some soft diaph'nous cloudlet, that mistook Her robes of blue for heaven.— And I could dream That, from his lofty throne beholding, Great Sol, on wings of glowing eve, came down In gracious haste, to bless the nuptials. (She pauses.) And shall this land, That breathes of poesy from every sod, Indignant throb beneath the heavy foot Of jeering renegade? at best a son His mother blushes for—shall he, bold rebel Entwine its glories in defiant wreath Above his boastful brow, and flaunt it in Her face, rejoicing in her woe? No! No! This priceless gem shall ever deck her crown, And grace its setting with a ray more pure For that, nor flood, nor fire, can flaw its heart. Yes, Canada, thy sons, at least, maintain The ancient honour of their British blood, In that their loyalty contracts no stain From proffered gifts or gold. But I must on. I may not loiter, while So much depends on me.
(She rises to proceed, and at the first step a rattlesnake rears up at her, hissing and springing its rattles. She recoils in fear, but remembering the cowardly nature of the creatures, throws sticks at it, and it glides swiftly away.)
Vile reptile! Base as vile, and cowardly as base; A straight descendant thou of him, methinks, Man's ancient foe, or else his paraphrase. Is there no Eden that thou enviest not? No purity thou would'st not smirch with gall? No rest thou would'st not break with agony? Aye, Eve, our mother-tongue avenges thee, For there is nothing mean, or base, or vile, That is not comprehended in the name Of SNAKE!
[Exit MRS. SECORD.
* * * * *
SCENE 3—A thick wood through which runs a forest path, leading to a high beech ridge.
Enter MRS. SECORD, walking as quickly as the underbrush will allow.
Mrs. Secord. How quiet are the woods! The choir of birds that daily ushers in The rosy dawn with bursts of melody, And swells the joyful train that waits upon The footsteps of the sun, is silent now, Dismissed to greenwood bowers. Save happy cheep Of callow nestling, that closer snugs beneath The soft and sheltering wing of doting love,—Like croon of sleeping babe on mother's breast—No sound is heard, but, peaceful, all enjoy Their sweet siesta on the waving bough, Fearless of ruthless wind, or gliding snake. So peaceful lies Fitzgibbon at his post, Nor dreams of harm. Meanwhile the foe Glides from his hole, and threads the darkling route, In hope to coil and crush him. Ah, little recks he that a woman holds The power to draw his fangs! And yet some harm must come, some blood must flow, In spite of all my poor endeavour. O War, how much I hate thy wizard arts, That, with the clash and din of brass and steel, O'erpowers the voice of pleading reason; And with thy lurid light, in monstrous rays Enfolds the symmetry of human love, Making a brother seem a phantom or a ghoul! Before thy deadly scowl kind peace retires, And seeks the upper skies. O, cruel are the hearts that cry "War!" "War!" As if War were an angel, not a fiend; His gilded chariot, a triumphal car, And not a Juggernauth whose wheels drop gore; His offerings, flowers and fruit, and chaplets gay, And not shrieks, tears, and groans of babes and women. And yet hath War, like Juggernauth, a hold, A fascination, for humanity, That makes his vot'ries martyrs for his sake. Even I, poor weakling, march in keeping-time To that grand music that I heard to-day, Though children played it, and I darkly feel Its burden is resistance physical. 'Tis strange that simple tones should move one so! What is it, what, this sound, this air, this breath The wind can blow away, Nor most intricate fetters can enchain? What component of being doth it touch That it can raise the soul to ecstasy, Or plunge it in the lowest depth of horror? Freeze the stopt blood, or send it flowing on In pleasant waves? Can draw soft tears, or concentrate them hard To form a base whereon the martyr stands To take his leap to Heaven? What is this sound that, in Niagara's roar Brings us to Sinai; Or in the infant's prayer to Him, "Our Father?" That by a small inflection wakes the world, And sends its squadroned armies on To victory or death; Or bids it, peaceful, rest, and grow, and build? That reassures the frighted babe; or starts The calm philosopher, without a word? That, in the song of little bird speaks glee; Or in a groan strikes mortal agony? That, in the wind, brings us to shipwreck, death. And dark despair; Or paints us blessed islands far from care or pain? Then what is sound? The chord it vibrates with its magic touch Is not a sense to man peculiar, An independent string formed by that breath That, breathed into the image corporate, Made man a living soul. No, for all animate nature owns Its sovereign power. Brutes, birds, fish, reptiles, all That breathe, are awed or won by means of sound. Therefore, it must be of the corporate, corporeal And, if so, why then the body lives again, Despite what sceptics say; for sound it is Will summon us before that final bar To give account of deeds done in the flesh. The spirit cannot thus be summoned, Since entity it hath not sound can strike. Let sceptics rave! I see no difficulty That He, who from primordial atoms formed A human frame, can from the dust awake it Once again, marshal the scattered molecules And make immortal, as was Adam. This body lives! Or else no deep delight Of quiring angels harping golden strings; No voice of Him who calls His children home; No glorious joining in the immortal song Could touch our being But how refined our state! How changed! Never to tire or grow distraught, Or wish for rest, or sleep, or quietude, But find in absence of these earthly needs A truer Heaven. O might I rest even now! These feet grow painful, and the shadows tell Of night and dark approaching, my goal An anxious distance off.
[She gazes round.
I'll rest awhile, For yonder height will tax my waning strength, And many a brier all beautiful with bloom Hides many a thorn that will dispute my path Beneath those ancient beeches.
(She seats herself, and having removed her bonnet, partakes of the refreshment brought from the mill. As she eats, a grieved look comes upon her face, and she wipes away a tear.)
The sun leans towards the west: O darlings mine, E'en now, perchance, ye sit in order round The evening board, your father at the head, And Polly in my place making his tea, While he pretends to eat, and cheats himself. And thou, O husband, dearest, might I lay My, weary head as oft upon thy breast!— But no (she rises), I dare not think—there is above A Love will guard me, and, O blessed thought, Thee, too, and they our darlings.
[She proceeds towards the beech ridge, but is stayed at the foot by a rapid-running stream.
Nor bridge, nor stone, nor log, how shall I cross? Yon o'erturned hemlock, whose wide-spreading root Stands like a wattled pier from which the bridge Springs all abrupt and strait, and hangs withal So high that hardihood itself looks blank— I scarce may tempt, worn as I am, and spent. And on the other bank, the great green head Presents a wilderness of tangled boughs By which would be a task, indeed, to reach The ground. Yet must I try. Poor hands, poor feet, This is rough work for you, and one small slip Would drop me in the stream, perchance to drown. Not drown! oh, no, my goal was set by Heaven. Come, rally all ye forces of the will, And aid me now! Yon height that looms above Is yet to gain before the sun gets low.
(She climbs the hemlock root and reaches the trunk, across which she crawls on her hands and knees, and at last finds herself some yards up the beech ridge. After arranging her torn and dishevelled clothing she proceeds up the ridge, at the top of which she encounters a British sentry, who challenges.)
Sentry. Who goes there?
Mrs. Secord. A friend.
Sentry. What friend?
Mrs. Secord. To Canada and Britain.
Sentry. Your name and errand.
Mrs. Secord. My name is Secord—Captain Secord's wife, Who fought at Queenston;—and my errand is To Beaver Dam to see Fitzgibbon, And warn him of a sortie from Fort George To move to-night. Five hundred men, with guns, And baggage-waggons for the spoil, are sent. For, with such force, the enemy is sure Our stores are theirs; and Stoney Creek avenged.
Sentry. Madam, how know you this?
Mrs. Secord. I overheard Some Yankee soldiers, passing in and out With all a victor's license of our hearths, Talk of it yesternight, and in such wise No room for doubt remained. My husband wished To bear the news himself, but is disabled yet By those two wounds he got at Queenston Heights, And so the heavy task remained with me, Much to his grief.
Sentry. A heavy task indeed. How got you past their lines?
Mrs. Secord. By many wiles; Those various arts that times like these entail.
Sentry. And then how got you here?
Mrs. Secord. I left my home At daybreak, and have walked through the deep woods The whole way since I left St. David's Mill.
Sentry. 'Tis past belief, did not your looks accord. And still you have a weary way to go, And through more woods. Could I but go with you, How gladly would I! Such deed as yours Deserves more thanks than I can give. Pass, friend, All's well.
[MRS. SECORD passes the Sentry, who turns and walks with her.
Mrs. Secord. There's naught to fear, I hope, but natural foes, Lynxes or rattlesnakes, upon my way.
Sentry. There are some Mohawks ambushed in the wood, But where I cannot quite point out; they choose Their ground themselves, but they are friends, though rough,— Some of Kerr's band, Brant's son-in-law. You'll need To tell the chief your errand should you cross him.
Mrs. Secord. Thanks: for I rather fear our red allies. Is there a piquet?
Sentry. No, not near me; our men are all too few— A link goes to and fro 'twixt me and quarters, And is but just now left (he turns sharp about). My limit this— Yonder your road (he points to the woods). God be wi' you. Good-bye.
Mrs. Secord. Good-bye, my friend.
[Exit MRS. SECORD.
Sentry. A bold, courageous deed! A very woman, too, tender and timid. That country's safe whose women serve her cause With love like this. And blessed, too, it is, In having such for wives and mothers.
* * * * *
SCENE 4.—The forest, with the sun nearly below the horizon, its rays illuminate the tops of the trees, while all below is dark and gloomy. Bats are on the wing, the night-hawk careers above the trees, fire-flies flit about, and the death-bird calls.
Enter MRS. SECORD, showing signs of great fatigue.
Mrs. Secord. Gloomy, indeed, and weird, and oh, so lone! In such a spot and hour the mind takes on Moody imaginings, the body shrinks as'twere, And all the being sinks into a sea Of deariness and doubt and death.
[The call of the death-bird is heard.
Thou little owl, that with despairing note Dost haunt these shades, art thou a spirit lost, Whose punishment it is to fright poor souls With fear of death?—if death is to be feared, And not a blank hereafter. The poor brave Who answers thee and hears no call respond, Trembles and pales, and wastes away and dies Within the year, thee making his fell arbiter. Poor Indian! Much I fear the very dread Engendered by the small neglectful bird, Brings on the fate thou look'st for. So fearless, yet so fearful, do we all, Savage and civil, ever prove ourselves; So strong, so weak, hurt by a transient sound, Yet bravely stalking up to meet the death We see.
[A prolonged howl is heard in the distance.
The wolves! the dreadful wolves! they've scented me. O whither shall I fly? no shelter near; No help. Alone! O God, alone!
[She looks wildly round for a place to fly to. Another howl is heard.
O Father! not this death, if I must die, My task undone, 'tis too, too horrible!
[Another howl as of many wolves, but at a distance; she bends to listen, her hand upon her heart.
Be still, wild heart, nor fill my list'ning ears With thy deep throbs.
[The howl of the wolves is again heard, but faintly.
Thank God, not me they seek! Some other scent allures the ghoulish horde. On, on, poor trembler! life for life it is, If I may warn Fitzgibbon.
[She steps inadvertently into a little pool, hastily stoops and drinks gladly.
Oh blessed water! To my parched tongue More precious than were each bright drop a gem From far Golconda's mine; how at thy touch The parting life comes back, and hope returns To cheer my drooping heart!
(She trips and falls, and instantly the Indian war-whoop resounds close at hand, and numbers of braves seem to spring from the ground, one of whom approaches her as she rises with his tomahawk raised.)
Indian. Woman! what woman want?
Mrs. Secord (leaping forward and seizing his arm). O chief, no spy am I, but friend to you And all who love King George and wear his badge. All through this day I've walked the lonely woods To do you service. I have news, great news, To tell the officer at Beaver Dam. This very night the Long Knives leave Fort George To take him by surprise, in numbers more Than crows on ripening corn. O help me on! I'm Laura Secord, Captain Secord's wife, Of Queenstown; and Tecumseh, your great chief, And Tekoriogea are our friends.
Chief. White woman true and brave, I send with you Mishe-mo-qua, he know the way and sign, And bring you safe to mighty chief Fitzgibbon.
Mrs. Secord. O thanks, kind chief, and never shall your braves Want aught that I can give them.
Chief (to another). Young chief, Mish-e-mo-qua, with woman go, And give her into care of big white chief. She carry news. Dam Long-Knife come in dark To eat him up.
Mishe-mo-qua. Ugh! rascal! dam!
[Exeunt MISHE-MO-QUA and MRS. SECORD.
SCENE 1.—Decau's house, a stone edifice of some pretensions. The parlour, with folding doors which now stand a little apart. A sentry is visible, on the other side of them. The parlour windows are barricaded within, but are set open, and a branch of a climbing rose with flowers upon it, swings in. The sun is setting, and gilds the arms that are piled in one corner of the room. A sword in its scabbard lies across the table, near which, in an arm-chair, reclines Lieutenant Fitzgibbon, a tall man of fine presence; in his right hand, which rests negligently on the back of the chair, he holds a newspaper of four pages, "The Times," from which he has been reading. Several elderly weather-beaten non-commissioned officers and privates, belonging to the 49th, 104th, and 8th regiments, together with a few militiamen and two cadets share the society of their superior officer, and all are very much at their ease both in appointments and manner, belts and stocks are unloosed, and some of the men are smoking.
Lieut. Fitzgibbon. 'Tis true, it seems, and yet most horrible; More than five hundred thousand fighting men Crossed with him o'er the front, and not a tenth Remains. Rather than let him find a place For winter quarters, two hundred thousand Happy families had to forsake their homes In dead of winter, and of the ancient seat Of Russian splendour, Rotopschin made a pyre, A blazing pyre of all its precious things: Moscow is burned.
First Sergeant. So Boney could but toast his freezing toes And march back home again: Fine glory that!
Fitzgibbon. Sad waste of precious lives for one man's will. But this mishap will seal his fate. The Czar Will see his interest is a strong alliance, And all the Powers will prove too great a match, Even for Buonaparte.
Second Sergeant. Where is he now, Lieutenant?
Fitzgibbon. In Paris, plotting again, I see; or was Nine weeks ago.
First Private. Yon news coom quick. Now when I were a bairn, that's forty year sin', We heard i' York 'at Merriky refused To pay the taxes, just three munth's arter; An' that wur bonnie toime, fur then t'coaach Tuk but foive daaies ti mak' t' hull waai' doon, Two hunner moile, fra Lunnon.
Fitzgibbon (still scanning the newspaper). Well, Jimmy, here's a man, one Bell, Of Greenock, can send a boat by steam Against the wind and tide, and talks with hope Of making speed equal to both. He's tried it on the Clyde, so we may look For news from England in a month, ere long.
First Private. Na, na, sir; noo doant 'e pooak fun at me! Iver he doos ma' I go hang. Why neist They scatterbrain 'ull mayhap send a shep Jest whear tha' loike wi'oot a win' at all. Or promise till 't. 'Twere pity Nelson, noo, He'd noan o' sech at Copenhaagen Mebbe tha' cu'd ha' gott tha' grunded sheps Afloat, an gett moor men to fe'ht them Daans.
Fitzgibbon. The fewer men the greater glory, Jim. Why, man, he got his title by that fight.
Second Sergeant. And well deserved it! A finer man Never trod deck, sailor or officer; His voice gave courage, as his eye flashed fire. We would have died for him, and he for us; And when the fight was done he got our rights, Or tried at it. More than old Parker did.
First Sergeant. Parker was rich, and so forgot the poor, But Nelson forgot none.
Second Private. He was cliver, too. Dash't! how I laughed, All i' my sleeve o' course. The fight was hot, And getting hotter, for, gad, them Danes can fight! And quite a quarter o' the ships was stuck, The Admiral's among 'em. So Nelson held The squadron at command. Up comes the word, "The signal Thirty-nine is out, sir." Nelson turns, His stump a-goin' as his arm was used Afore he lost it, meets the officer, as says, "Sir, Thirty-nine is out, shall I repeat it?" "No, sir; acknowledge it." Then on he goes. Presently he calls out, "What's flying now?" "The same, sir." So he takes his glass And puts it to his eye, his blind eye, mind you, An' says he, "No signal can I see. No, Ne'er a one." Winking to Ferguson, says he, "I've but one eye, and may be blind sometimes. What! strike off now and lose the day? Not so: My signal keep for 'Closer battle,' flying. That's how I'll answer. Confound the signal! Nail mine to the mast." He won.
First Militiaman. Just touch and go for hanging, that.
Fitzgibbon. Success ne'er saw a scaffold, Jeremy.
A Cadet. Fine-looking fellow Nelson-was, I guess?
First Sergeant. To look at? No, a little, thin, pale man With a long queue, one arm, and but one eye, But that a blazer!
Second Militiaman. These little uns has lots o' spunk: Boney's a little un, I've heerd.
First Private. Just so: and Wellington ain't big.
Fitzgibbon (rising and drawing himself to his full height). Come, boys, you're getting personal. See me! If none but little men may win renown, I hope I'm two in one, for your sakes. And you forget the lion-hearted Brock.
All (interrupting him). No! no! no!
Fitzgibbon. A man of height exceeding any here, And yet whose alt of metred inches Nobly enlarged to full, fair, Saxon mould, And vested in the blazonments of rule, Shewed not so kingly to the obeisant sight As was his soul. Who than ye better knew His bravery; his lofty heroism; His purity, and great unselfish heart? Nature in him betrayed no niggard touch Of corporate or ethereal. Yet I yield That men of lesser mould in outward form Have been as great in deeds of rich renown. But then, I take it, greatness lies not in The flesh, but in the spirit. He is great Who from the quick occasion of the time Strikes out a name. And he is also great Who, in a life-long struggle, throws the foe, And binds on hoary locks the laurel crown. Each is a high exemplar. One with concentrate vigour strikes a blow That rings around the world; the other draws The world round him—his mighty throes And well-contested standpoints win its praise And force its verdict, though bleak indifference— A laggard umpire—long neglect his post, And often leaves the wrestler's best unnoted, Coming but just in time to mark his thews And training, and so decides: while the loud shock Of unexpected prowess starts him aghast, And from his careless hand snatches the proud award. But mark me, men, he who is ever great Has greatness made his aim— The sudden blow or long-protracted strife Yields not its secret to the untrained hand. True, one may cast his statue at a heat, But yet the mould was there; And he who chips the marble, bit by bit, Into a noble form, sees all the while His image in the block. There are who make a phantom of their aim— See it now here, now there, in this, in that, But never in the line of simple duty; Such will accomplish nothing but their shame: For greatness never leaves that thin, straight mark; And, just as the pursuit diverges from it, Greatness evanishes, and notoriety Misleads the suitor. I'd have you think of this.
All. Aye, aye, sir.
Fitzgibbon. Order the lights, for darkness falls apace, And I must write.
[Exit First Private.
Fitzgibbon (cutting the newspaper and handing the halves to the sergeants). There, read to the rest, and let me have them back when done with.
Enter a Soldier with lights.
[A voice is heard in the next room, beginning to sing.
First Private. It's Roaring Bill, sir; shall I stop him?
Fitzgibbon. No; let him sing. It cheers our loneliness, and does us good.