Hyphenation has been made consistent.
Archaic and variable spellings are preserved.
The author's punctuation style is preserved, except quotation marks, which have been standardized.
Text in italics is enclosed by underscores (italics).
Text in bold face is enclosed by equal signs (bold).
THE CONTINENTAL DRAGOON.
R. N. STEPHENS.
* * * * *
Works of R. N. STEPHENS.
An Enemy to the King. The Continental Dragoon.
In Press: The Road to Paris.
L. C. PAGE AND COMPANY, Publishers, (INCORPORATED) 196 Summer St., Boston, Mass.
* * * * *
THE CONTINENTAL DRAGOON
A Love Story of Philipse Manor-House in 1778
ROBERT NEILSON STEPHENS
Author of "An Enemy to the King"
Illustrated by H. C. Edwards
"Love's born of a glance, I say"
Boston L. C. Page and Company (Incorporated) 1898
Copyright, 1898 By L. C. Page and Company (Incorporated)
Entered at Stationer's Hall, London
Colonial Press: Electrotyped and Printed by C. H. Simonds & Co. Boston, U. S. A.
Chapter Page I. The Riders 11 II. The Manor-house 32 III. The Sound of Galloping 50 IV. The Continental Dragoon 65 V. The Black Horse 87 VI. The One Chance 116 VII. The Flight of the Minutes 140 VIII. The Secret Passage 156 IX. The Confession 180 X. The Plan of Retaliation 197 XI. The Conquest 214 XII. The Challenge 236 XIII. The Unexpected 252 XIV. The Broken Sword 267
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
"'Take that rebel alive!' ordered Colden." Frontispiece
"'Give it to the Colonel.'" 82 "Leaned forward on the horse's neck." 111 "'You are too late, Jack!'" 154 "'Go, I say!'" 196 "'I take my leave of this house!'" 248
"I dare say 'tis a wild, foolish, dangerous thing; but I do it, nevertheless! As for my reasons, they are the strongest. First, I wish to do it. Second, you've all opposed my doing it. So there's an end of the matter!"
It was, of course, a woman that spoke,—moreover, a young one.
And she added:
"Drat the wind! Can't we ride faster? 'Twill be dark before we reach the manor-house. Get along, Cato!"
She was one of three on horseback, who went northward on the Albany post-road late in the afternoon of a gray, chill, blowy day in November, in the war-scourged year 1778. Beside the girl rode a young gentleman, wrapped in a dark cloak. The third horse, which plodded a short distance in the rear, carried a small negro youth and two large portmanteaus. The three riders made a group that was, as far as could be seen from their view-point, alone on the highway.
There were reasons why such a group, on that road at that time, was an unusual sight,—reasons familiar to any one who is well informed in the history of the Revolution. Unfortunately, most good Americans are better acquainted with the French Revolution than with our own, know more about the state of affairs in Rome during the reign of Nero than about the condition of things in New York City during the British occupation, and compensate for their knowledge of Scotch-English border warfare in remote times by their ignorance of the border warfare that ravaged the vicinity of the island of Manhattan, for six years, little more than a century ago.
Our Revolutionary War had reached the respectable age of three and a half years. Lexington, Bunker Hill, Brooklyn, Harlem Heights, White Plains, Trenton, Princeton, the Brandywine, German-town, Bennington, Saratoga, and Monmouth—not to mention events in the South and in Canada and on the water—had taken their place in history. The army of the King of England had successively occupied Boston, New York, and Philadelphia; had been driven out of Boston by siege, and had left Philadelphia to return to the town more pivotal and nearer the sea,—New York. One British commander-in-chief had been recalled by the British ministry to explain why he had not crushed the rebellion, and one British major-general had surrendered an army, and was now back in England defending his course and pleading in Parliament the cause of the Americans, to whom he was still a prisoner on parole. Our Continental army—called Continental because, like the general Congress, it served the whole union of British-settled Colonies or States on this continent, and was thus distinguished from the militia, which served in each case its particular Colony or State only—had experienced both defeats and victories in encounters with the King's troops and his allies, German, Hessian, and American Tory. It had endured the winter at Valley Forge while the British had fed, drunk, gambled, danced, flirted, and wenched in Philadelphia. The French alliance had been sanctioned. Steuben, Lafayette, DeKalb, Pulaski, Kosciusko, Armand, and other Europeans, had taken service with us. One plot had been made in Congress and the army to supplant Washington in the chief command, and had failed. The treason of General Charles Lee had come to naught,—but was to wait for disclosure till many years after every person concerned should be graveyard dust. We had celebrated two anniversaries of the Fourth of July. The new free and independent States had organized local governments. The King's appointees still made a pretence of maintaining the royal provincial governments, but mostly abode under the protection of the King's troops in New York. There also many of those Americans in the North took refuge who distinctly professed loyalty to the King. New York was thus the chief lodging-place of all that embodied British sovereignty in America. Naturally the material tokens of British rule radiated from the town, covering all of the island of Manhattan, most of Long Island, and all of Staten Island, and retaining a clutch here and there on the mainland of New Jersey.
It was the present object of Washington to keep those visible signs of English authority penned up within this circle around New York. The Continental posts, therefore, formed a vast arc, extending from the interior of New Jersey through Southeastern New York State to Long Island Sound and into Connecticut. This had been the situation since midsummer of 1778. It was but a detachment from our main army that had cooperated with the French fleet in the futile attempt to dislodge a British force from Newport in August of that year.
The British commander-in-chief and most of the superior officers had their quarters in the best residences of New York. That town was packed snugly into the southern angle of the island of Manhattan, like a gift in the toe of a Christmas stocking. Southward, some of its finest houses looked across the Battery to the bay. Northward the town extended little beyond the common fields, of which the City Hall Square of 1898 is a reduced survival. The island of Manhattan—with its hills, woods, swamps, ponds, brooks, roads, farms, sightly estates, gardens, and orchards—was dotted with the cantonments and garrisoned forts of the British. The outposts were, largely, entrusted to bodies of Tory allies organized in this country. Thus was much of Long Island guarded by the three Loyalist battalions of General Oliver De Lancey, himself a native of New York. On Staten Island was quartered General Van Cortlandt Skinner's brigade of New Jersey Volunteers, a troop which seems to have had such difficulty in finding officers in its own State that it had to go to New York for many of them,—or was it that so many more rich New York Loyalists had to be provided with commissions than the New York Loyalist brigades required as officers?
But the most important British posts were those which guarded the northern entrance to the island of Manhattan, where it was separated from the mainland by Spuyten Duyvel Kill, flowing westward into the Hudson, and the Harlem, flowing southward into the East River. King's Bridge and the Farmers' Bridge, not far apart, joined the island to the main; and just before the Revolution a traveller might have made his choice of these two bridges, whether he wished to take the Boston road or the road to Albany. In 1778 the British "barrier" was King's Bridge, the northern one of the two, the watch-house being the tavern at the mainland end of the bridge. Not only the bridge, but the Hudson, the Spuyten Duyvel, and the Harlem, as well, were commanded by British forts on the island of Manhattan. Yet there were defences still further out. On the mainland was a line of forts extending from the Hudson, first eastward, then southward, to the East River. Further north, between the Albany road and the Hudson, was a camp of German and Hessian allies, foot and horse. Northeast, on Valentine's Hill, were the Seventy-first Highlanders. Near the mainland bank of the Harlem were the quarters of various troops of dragoons, most of them American Tory corps with English commanders, but one, at least, native to the soil, not only in rank and file, but in officers also,—and with no less dash and daring than by Tarleton, Simcoe, and the rest, was King George III. served by Captain James De Lancey, of the county of West Chester, with his "cowboys," officially known as the West Chester Light Horse.
Thus the outer northern lines of the British were just above King's Bridge. The principal camp of the Americans was far to the north. Each army was affected by conditions that called for a wide space of territory between the two forces, between the outer rim of the British circle, and the inner face of the American arc. Of this space the portion that lay bounded on the west by the Hudson, on the southeast by Long Island Sound, and cut in two by the southward-flowing Bronx, was the most interesting. It was called the Neutral Ground, and neutral it was in that it had the protection of neither side, while it was ravaged by both. Foraged by the two armies, under the approved rules of war, it underwent further a constant, irregular pillage by gangs of mounted rascals who claimed attachment, some to the British, some to the Americans, but were not owned by either. It was, too, overridden by the cavalry of both sides in attempts to surprise outposts, cut off supplies, and otherwise harass and sting. Unexpected forays by the rangers and dragoons from King's Bridge and the Harlem were reciprocated by sudden visitations of American horse and light infantry from the Greenburg Hills and thereabove. The Whig militia of the county also took a hand against British Tories and marauders. Of the residents, many Tories fled to New York, some Americans went to the interior of the country, but numbers of each party held their ground, at risk of personal harm as well as of robbery. Many of the best houses were, at different times during the war, occupied as quarters by officers of either side. Little was raised on the farms save what the farmers could immediately use or easily conceal. The Hudson was watched by British war-vessels, while the Americans on their side patrolled it with whale-boats, long and canoe-like, swift and elusive. For the drama of partisan warfare, Nature had provided, in lower West Chester County,—picturesquely hilly, beautifully wooded, pleasantly watered, bounded in part by the matchless Hudson and the peerless Sound,—a setting unsurpassed.
Thus was it that Miss Elizabeth Philipse, Major John Colden, and Miss Philipse's negro boy, Cuff, all riding northward on the Albany post-road, a few miles above King's Bridge, but still within territory patrolled daily by the King's troops, constituted, on that bleak November evening in 1778, a group unusual to the time and place.
'Twas a wettish wind, concerning which Miss Elizabeth expressed, in the imperative mood, her will that it be dratted,—a feminine wind, truly, as was clear from its unexpected flarings up and sudden calmings down, its illogical whiskings around and eccentric changes of direction. Now it swept down the slope from the east, as if it meant to bombard the travellers with all the brown leaves of the hillside. Now it assailed them from the north, as if to impede their journey; now rushed on them from the rear as if it had come up from New York to speed them on their way; now attacked them in the left flank, armed with a raw chill from the Hudson. It blew Miss Elizabeth's hair about and additionally reddened her cheeks. It caused the young Tory major to frown, for the protection of his eyes, and thus to look more and more unlike the happy man that Miss Elizabeth's accepted suitor ought to have appeared.
"I make no doubt I've brought on me the anger of your whole family by lending myself to this. And yet I am as much against it as they are!" So spake the major, in tones as glum as his looks.
"'Twas a choice, then, between their anger and mine," said Miss Elizabeth, serenely. "Don't think I wouldn't have come, even if you had refused your escort. I'd have made the trip alone with Cuff, that's all."
"I shall be blamed, none the less."
"Why? You couldn't have hindered me. If the excursion is as dangerous as they say it is, your company certainly does not add to my danger. It lessens it. So, as my safety is what they all clamor about, they ought to commend you for escorting me."
"If they were like ever to take that view, they would not all have refused you their own company."
"They refused because they neither supposed that I would come alone nor that Providence would send me an escort in the shape of a surly major on leave of absence from Staten Island! Come, Jack, you needn't tremble in dread of their wrath. By this time my amiable papa and my solicitous mamma and my anxious brothers and sisters are in such a state of mind about me that, when you return to-night and report I've been safely consigned to Aunt Sally's care, they'll fairly worship you as a messenger of good news. So be as cheerful as the wind and the cold will let you. We are almost there. It seems an age since we passed Van Cortlandt's."
Major Colden merely sighed and looked more dismal, as if knowing the futility of speech.
"There's the steeple!" presently cried the girl, looking ahead. "We'll be at the parsonage in ten minutes, and safe in the manor-house in five more. Do look relieved, Jack! The journey's end is in sight, and we haven't had sight of a soldier this side of King's Bridge,—except Van Wrumb's Hessians across Tippett's Vale, and they are friends. Br-r-r-r! I'll have Williams make a fire in every room in the manor-house!"
Now while these three rode in seeming security from the south towards the church, parsonage, country tavern, and great manor-house that constituted the village then called, sometimes Lower Philipsburgh and sometimes Younker's, that same hill-varied, forest-set, stream-divided place was being approached afar from the north by a company of mounted troops riding as if the devil was after them. It was not the devil, but another body of cavalry, riding at equal speed, though at a great distance behind. The three people from New York as yet neither saw nor heard anything of these horsemen dashing down from the north. Yet the major's spirits sank lower and lower, as if he had an omen of coming evil.
He was a handsome young man, Major John Colden, being not more than twenty-seven years old, and having the clearly outlined features best suited to that period of smooth-shaven faces. His dark eyes and his pensive expression were none the less effective for the white powder on his cued hair. A slightly petulant, uneasy look rather added to his countenance. He was of medium height and regular figure. He wore a civilian's cloak or outer coat over the uniform of his rank and corps, thus hiding also his sword and pistol. Other externals of his attire were riding-boots, gloves, and a three-cornered hat without a military cockade. He was mounted on a sorrel horse a little darker in hue than the animal ridden by Miss Elizabeth's black boy, Cuff, who wore the rich livery of the Philipses.
The steed of Miss Elizabeth was a slender black, sensitive and responsive to her slightest command—a fit mount for this, the most imperious, though not the oldest, daughter of Colonel Frederick Philipse, third lord, under the bygone royal regime, of the manor of Philipsburgh in the Province of New York. They gave classic names to quadrupeds in those days and Addison's tragedy was highly respected, so Elizabeth's scholarly father had christened this horse Cato. Howsoever the others who loved her regarded her present jaunt, no opposition was shown by Cato. Obedient now as ever, the animal bore her zealously forward, be it to danger or to what she would.
Elizabeth's resolve to revisit the manor hall on the Hudson, which had been left closed up in the steward's charge when the family had sought safety in their New York City residence in 1777, had sprung in part from a powerful longing for the country and in part from a dream which had reawakened strongly her love for the old house of her birth and of most of her girlhood. The peril of her resolve only increased her determination to carry it out. Her parents, brothers, and sisters stood aghast at the project, and refused in any way to countenance it. But there was no other will in the Philipse household able to cope with Elizabeth's. She held that the thing was most practicable and simple, inasmuch as the steward, with the aid of two servants, kept the deserted house in a state of habitation, and as her mother's sister, Miss Sarah Williams, was living with the widow Babcock in the parsonage of Lower Philipsburgh and could transfer her abode to the manor-house for the time of Elizabeth's stay. Major Colden, an unloved lover,—for Elizabeth, accepting marriage as one of the inevitables, yet declared that she could never love any man, love being admittedly a weakness, and she not a weak person,—was ever watchful for the opportunity of ingratiating himself with the superb girl, and so fearful of displeasing her that he dared not refuse to ride with her. He was less able even than her own family to combat her purpose. One day some one had asked him why, since she called him Jack, and he was on the road to thirty years, while she was yet in her teens, he did not call her Betty or Bess, as all other Elizabeths were called in those days. He meditated a moment, then replied, "I never heard any one, even in her own family, call her so. I can't imagine any one ever calling her by any more familiar name than Elizabeth."
Now it was not from her father that this regal young creature could have taken her resoluteness, though she may well have got from him some of the pride that went with it. There certainly must have been more pride than determination in Frederick Philipse, third lord of the manor, colonel in provincial militia before the Revolution, graduate of King's College, churchman, benefactor, gentleman of literary tastes; amiable, courtly, and so fat that he and his handsome wife could not comfortably ride in the same coach at the same time. But there was surely as much determination as pride in this gentleman's great-grandfather, Vrederyck Flypse, descendant of a line of viscounts and keepers of the deer forests of Bohemia, Protestant victim of religious persecution in his own land, immigrant to New Amsterdam about 1650, and soon afterward the richest merchant in the province, dealer with the Indians, ship-owner in the East and West India trade, importer of slaves, leader in provincial politics and government, founder of Sleepy Hollow Church, probably a secret trafficker with Captain Kidd and other pirates, and owner by purchase of the territory that was erected by royal charter of William and Mary into the lordship and manor of Philipsburgh. The strength of will probably declined, while the pride throve, in transmission to Vrederyck's son, Philip, who sowed wild oats, and went to the Barbadoes for his health and married the daughter of the English governor of that island. Philip's son, Frederick, being born in a hot climate, and grandson of an English governor as well as of the great Flypse, would naturally have had great quantity of pride, whatever his stock of force, particularly as he became second lord of the manor at the lordly age of four. And he could not easily have acquired humility in later life, as speaker of the provincial Assembly, Baron of the Exchequer, judge of the Supreme Court, or founder of St. John's Church,—towards which graceful edifice was the daughter of his son, the third lord, directing her horse this wintry autumn evening. As for this third lord, he had been removed by the new Government to Connecticut for favoring the English rule, but, having received permission to go to New York for a short time, had evinced his fondness for the sweet and soft things of life by breaking his parole and staying in the city, under the British protection, thus risking his vast estate and showing himself a gentleman of anything but the courage now displayed by his daughter.
Elizabeth, therefore, must have derived her spirit, with a good measure of pride and a fair share (or more) of vanity, from her mother, though, thanks to that appreciation of personal comfort which comes with middle age, Madam Philipse's high-spiritedness would no longer have displayed itself in dangerous excursions, nor was it longer equal to a contest with the fresher energy of Elizabeth. She was the daughter of Charles Williams, once naval officer of the port of New York, and his wife, who had been Miss Sarah Olivier. Thus came Madam Philipse honestly by the description, "imperious woman of fashion," in which local history preserves her memory. She was a widow of twenty-four when Colonel Philipse married her, she having been bereaved two years before of her first husband, Mr. Anthony Rutgers, the lawyer. She liked display, and her husband indulged her inclination without stint, receiving in repayment a good nursery-full of what used, in the good old days, to be called pledges of affection. Being the daughter of a royal office-holding Englishman, how could she have helped holding her head mighty high on receiving her elevation to the ladyship of Philipsburgh, and who shall blame her daughter and namesake, now within a stone's throw of St. John's parsonage and in full sight of the tree-bowered manorial home of her fathers, for holding hers, which was younger, a trifle higher?
Not many high-held heads of this or any other day are or were finer than that of Elizabeth Philipse was in 1778, or are set on more graceful figures. For all her haughtiness, she was not a very large person, nor yet was she a small one. She was neither fragile nor too ample. Her carriage made her look taller than she was. She was of the brown-haired, blue-eyed type, but her eyes were not of unusual size or surpassing lucidity, being merely clear, honest, steady eyes, capable rather of fearless or disdainful attention than of swift flashes or coquettish glances. The precision with which her features were outlined did not lessen the interest that her face had from her pride, spirit, independence, and intelligence. She was, moreover, an active, healthy creature, and if she commanded the dratting of the wind, it was not as much because she was chilled by it as because it blew her cloak and impeded her progress. In fine, she was a beauty; else this historian would never have taken the trouble of unearthing from many places and piecing together the details of this fateful incident,—for if any one supposes that the people of this narrative are mere fictions, he or she is radically in error. They lived and achieved, under the names they herein bear; were as actual as the places herein mentioned,—as any of the numerous patriotic Americans who daily visit the genealogical shelves of the public libraries can easily learn, if they will spare sufficient time from the laudable task of hunting down their own ancestors. If this story is called a romance, that term is used here only as it is oft applied to actual occurrences of a romantic character. So the Elizabeth Philipse who, before crossing the Neperan to approach the manor-house, stopped in front of the snug parsonage at the roadside and directed Cuff to knock at the door, was as real as was then the parsonage itself.
Presently a face appeared furtively at one of the up-stairs windows. The eyes thereof, having dwelt for an instant on the mounted party shivering in the road, opened wide in amazement, and a minute later, after a sound of key-turning and bolt-drawing, the door opened, and a good-looking lady appeared in the doorway, backed up by a servant and two pretty children who clung, half-curious, half-frightened, to the lady's skirts.
"Why, Miss Elizabeth! Is it possible—"
But Elizabeth cut the speech of the astonished lady short.
"Yes, my dear Mrs. Babcock,—and I know how dangerous, and all that! And, thank you, I'll not come in. I shall see you during the week. I'm going to the manor-house to stay awhile, and I wish my aunt to stay there with me, if you can spare her."
"Why, yes,—of course,—but—here comes your aunt."
"Why, Elizabeth, what in the world—"
She was a somewhat stately woman at first sight, was Elizabeth's mother's sister, Miss Sarah Williams; but on acquaintance soon conciliated and found to be not at all the formidable and haughty person she would have had people believe her; not too far gone in middle age, preserving, despite her spinsterhood, much of her bloom and many of those little roundnesses of contour which adorn but do not encumber.
"I haven't time to say what, aunt," broke in Elizabeth. "I want to get to the manor-house before it is night. You are to stay with me there a week. So put on a wrap and come over as soon as you can, to be in time for supper. I'll send a boy for you, if you like."
"Why, no, there's some one here will walk over with me, I dare say. But, la me, Elizabeth,—"
"Then I'll look for you in five minutes. Good night, Mrs. Babcock! I trust your little ones are well."
And she rode off, followed by Colden and Cuff, leaving the two women in the parsonage doorway to exchange what conjectures and what ejaculations of wonderment the circumstances might require.
Night was falling when the riders crossed the Neperan (then commonly known as the Saw Mill River) by the post-road bridge, and gazed more closely on the stone manor-house. Looking westward, from the main road, across the hedge and paling fence, they saw, first the vast lawn with its comely trees, then the long east front of the house, with its two little entrance-porches, the row of windows in each of its two stories, the dormer windows projecting from the sloping roof, the balustraded walk on the roof-top; at both ends the green and brown and yellow hints of what lay north of the house, between it and the forest, and west of the house, between it and the Hudson,—the box-hedged gardens, the terraces breaking the slope to the river, the deer paddock enclosed by high pickets, the great orchard. The Hudson was nearer to the house then than now, and its lofty further bank, rich with growth of wood and leaf, was the backing for the westward view. To the east, which the riders put behind them in facing the manor-house, were the hills of the interior.
"Not a sign of light from the house, and the shutters all closed, as if it were a tomb! It looks as cold and empty as one. I'll soon make it warm and live enough inside at least!" said Elizabeth, and turned westward from the highway into the short road that ran between the mansion and the north bank of the Neperan, by the grist-mill and the gate and the stables, down a picturesque descent to a landing where that stream entered the Hudson.
She proceeded towards the gate, where, being near the southeast corner of the house, one could see that the south front was to the east front as the base to the upright of a capital L turned backward; that the south front resembled the east in all but in being shorter and having a single porched entrance, which was in its middle.
As the party neared the gate, there arose far northward a sound of many horsemen approaching at a fast gallop. Elizabeth at once reined in, to listen. Major Colden and Cuff followed her example, both looking at her in apprehension. The galloping was on the Albany road, but presently deviated eastwardly, then decreased.
"They've turned up the road to Mile Square, whoever they are," said Elizabeth, and led the way on to the gate, which Cuff, dismounting, quickly opened, its fastening having been removed and not replaced. "Lead your horse to the door, Cuff. Then take off the portmanteaus and knock, and tie the horses to the post."
She rode up to the southern door in the east front, and was there assisted to dismount by the major, while Cuff followed in obedience. Colden, as the sound of the distant galloping grew fainter and fainter, showed more relief than he might have felt had he known that a second troop was soon to come speeding down in the track of the first.
Elizabeth, in haste to escape the wind, stepped into the little porch and stood impatiently before the dark, closed door of the house of her fathers.
The stone mansion before which the travellers stood, awaiting answer to Cuff's loud knock on the heavy mahogany door, had already acquired antiquity and memories. It was then, as to all south of the porch which now sheltered the three visitors, ninety-six years old, and as to the rest of the eastern front thirty-three, so that its newest part was twice the age of Elizabeth herself.
Her grandfather's grandfather, the first lord of the manor, built the southern portion in 1682, a date not far from that of the erection of his upper house, called Philipse Castle, at what is now Tarrytown,—but whether earlier or later, let the local historians dispute. This southern portion comprised the entire south front, its length running east and west, its width going back northward to, but not including, the large east entrance-hall, into which opened the southern door of the east front. The new part, attached to the original house as the upright to the short, broad base of the reversed L, was added by Elizabeth's grandfather, the second lord, in 1745. The addition, with the eastern section of the old part, was thereafter the most used portion, and the south front yielded in importance to the new east front. The two porched doors in the latter front matched each other, though the southern one gave entrance to the fine guests in silk and lace, ruffles and furbelows, who came up from New York and the other great mansions of the county to grace the frequent festivities of the Philipses; while the northern one led to the spacious kitchen where means were used to make the aforesaid guests feel that they had not arrived in vain.
The original house, rectangular as to its main part, had two gables, and, against its rear or northern length, a pent-roofed wing, and probably a veranda, the last covering the space later taken by the east entrance-hall. The main original building, on its first floor, had (and has) a wide entrance-hall in its middle, with one large parlor on each side. The second floor, reached by staircase from the lower hall, duplicated the first, there being a middle hall and two great square chambers. Overhead, there was plentiful further room beneath the gable roof. Under the western room of the first floor was the earlier kitchen, which, before 1745, served in relation to the guests who entered by the southern door exactly as thereafter the new kitchen served in relation to those entering by the eastern door,—making them glad they had come, by horse or coach, over the long, bad, forest-bordered roads. Adjacent to the old kitchen was abundant cellarage for the stowing of many and diverse covetable things of the trading first lord's importation.
The Neperan joined the Hudson in the midst of wilderness, where Indians and deer abounded, when Vrederyck Flypse caused the old part of the stone mansion to grow out of the green hill slope in 1682. He planted a foundation two feet thick and thereupon raised walls whose thickness was twenty inches. He would have a residence wherein he might defy alike the savage elements, men and beasts. For the front end of his entrance-hall he imported a massive mahogany door made in 1681 in Holland,—a door in two parts, so that the upper half could be opened, while the lower half remained shut. The rear door of that hall was similarly made. Ponderous were the hinges and bolts, being ordinary blacksmith work. Solid were the panel mouldings. He brought Holland brick wherewith to trim the openings of doorways and windows. He laid the floor of his aforesaid kitchen with blue stone. The chimney breasts and hearthstones of his principal rooms were seven feet wide.
Here, in feudal fashion, with many servants and slaves to do his bidding, and tenants to render him dues, sometimes dwelt Vrederyck Flypse, with his second wife, Catherine Van Cortlandt, and the children left by his first wife, Margaret Hardenbrock; but sometimes some of the family lived in New York, and sometimes at the upper stone house, "Castle Philipse," by the Pocantico, near Sleepy Hollow Church, of this Flypse's founding. He built mills near both his country-houses, and from the saw-mill near the lower one did the Neperan receive the name of Saw Mill River. He died in 1702, in his seventy-seventh year, and the bones of him lie in Sleepy Hollow Church.
But even before the first lord went, did "associations" begin to attach to the old Dutch part of the mansion. Besides the leading families of the province, the traders,—Dutch and English,—and the men with whom he held counsel upon affairs temporal and spiritual, public and private, terrestrial and marine, he had for guests red Indians, and, there is every reason to believe, gentlemen who sailed the seas under what particular flag best promoted their immediate purposes, or under none at all. That old story never would down, to the effect that the adventurous Kidd levied not on the ships of Vrederyck Flypse. The little landing-place where Neperan joined Hudson, at which the Flypses stepped ashore when they came up from New York by sloop instead of by horse, was trodden surely by the feet of more than one eminent oceanic exponent of—
"The good old rule, the simple plan, That they should take who have the power And they should keep who can."
A great merchant may have more than one way of doing business, and I would not undertake to account for every barrel and box that was unladen at that little landing. Nor would I be surprised to encounter sometime, among the ghosts of Philipse Manor Hall, that of the immortal Kidd himself, seated at dead of night, across the table from the first lord of the manor, before a blazing log in the seven-foot fireplace, drinking liquor too good for the church-founding lord to have questioned whence it came; and leaving the next day without an introduction to the family.
This 1682 part of the house, in facing south, had the Albany road at its left, the Hudson at its right, and at its front the lane that ran by the Neperan, from the road to the river. Thus was the house for sixty-three years. When the first lord's grandson, Elizabeth's grandfather, in 1745 made the addition at the north, what was the east gable-end of the old house became part of the east front of the completed mansion. The east rooms of the old house were thus the southeast rooms of the completed mansion, and, being common to both fronts, gained by the change of relation, becoming the principal parlor and the principal chamber. The east parlor, entered on the west from the old hall, was entered on the north from the new hall; and the new hall was almost a duplicate of the old, but its ceiling decorations and the mahogany balustrade of its stairway were the more elaborate. This stairway, like its fellow in the old hall, ascended, with two turns, to a hall in the second story. Besides the new halls, the addition included, on the first floor, a large dining-room and the great kitchen; on the second floor, five sleeping-chambers, and, in the space beneath the roof-tree, dormitories for servants and slaves. Elizabeth's grandfather gave the house the balustrade that crowns its roof from its northern to its southern, and thence to its western end. He had the interior elaborately finished. The old part and its decorations were Dutch, but now things in the province were growing less Dutch and more English,—like the Philipse name and blood themselves,—and so the new embellishments were English. The second lord imported marble mantels from England, had the walls beautifully wainscoted, adorned the ceilings richly with arabesque work in wood. He laid out, in the best English fashion, a lawn between the eastern front and the Albany post-road. He it was who married Joanna, daughter of Governor Anthony Brockholst, of a very ancient family of Lancashire, England; and who left provision for the founding of St. John's Church, across the Neperan from the manor-house, and for the endowment of the glebe thereof. And in his long time the manor-house flourished and grew venerable and multiplied its associations. He had five children: Frederick (Elizabeth's father), Philip, Susannah, Mary (the beauty, wooed of Washington in 1756, 'tis said, and later wed by Captain Roger Morris), and Margaret; and, at this manor-house alone, white servants thirty, and black servants twenty; and a numerous tenantry, happy because in many cases the yearly rent was but nominal, being three or four pounds or a pair of hens or a day's work,—for the Philipses, thanks to trade and to office-holding under the Crown, and to the beneficent rule whereby money multiplies itself, did not have to squeeze a living out of the tillers of their land. The lord of the manor held court leet and baron at the house of a tenant, and sometimes even inflicted capital punishment.
In 1751, the second lord followed his grandfather to the family vault in Sleepy Hollow Church. With the accession of Elizabeth's father, then thirty-one years old, began the splendid period of the mansion; then the panorama of which it was both witness and setting wore its most diverse colors. The old contest between English and French on this continent was approaching its glorious climax. Whether they were French emissaries coming down from Quebec, by the Hudson or by horse, or English and colonial officers going up from New York in command of troops, they must needs stop and pay their respects to the lord of the manor of Philipsburgh, and drink his wine, and eat his venison, and flirt with his stunning sisters. Soldiers would go from New York by the post-road to Philipsburgh, and then embark at the little landing, to proceed up the Hudson, on the way to be scalped by the red allies of the French or mowed down by Montcalm's gunners before impregnable Ticonderoga. Many were the comings and goings of the scarlet coat and green. The Indian, too, was still sufficiently plentiful to contribute much to the environing picturesqueness. But, most of all, in those days, the mansion got its character from the festivities devised by its own inmates for the entertainment of the four hundred of that time.
For Elizabeth's mother, of the same given name, was "very fond of display," and in her day the family "lived showily." Her husband (who was usually called Colonel Philipse, from his title in the militia, and rarely if ever called lord) had the house refurnished. It was he who had the princely terraces made on the slope between the mansion and the Hudson, and who had new gardens laid out and adorned with tall avenues of box and rarest fruit-trees and shrubs. Doubtless his deer, in their picketed enclosure, were a sore temptation to the country marksmen who passed that way. Lady, or Madam, or Mrs. Philipse, the colonel's wife, bedazzled the admiring inhabitants of West Chester County in many ways, but there is a difference between authorities as to whether it was she that used to drive four superb black horses over the bad roads of the county, or whether it was her mother-in-law, the second lord's wife. Certainly it was the latter that was killed by a fall from a carriage, and certainly both had fine horses and magnificent coaches, and drove over bad roads,—for all roads were bad in those days, even in Europe, save those the Romans left.
Of all the gay and hospitable occasions that brought, through the mansion's wide doors, courtly gentlemen and high-and-mighty ladies, from their coaches, sleighs, horses, or Hudson sloops, perhaps none saw more feasting and richer display of ruffles and brocade than did the wedding of Mary Philipse and Captain Morris, seven years after the death of her father, and two after the marriage of her brother. It was on the afternoon of Sunday, Jan. 15, 1758. In the famous east parlor, which has had much mention and will have more in course of this narrative, was raised a crimson canopy emblazoned with the Philipse crest,—a crowned golden demi-lion rampant, upon a golden coronet. Though the weather was not severe, there was snow on the ground, and the guests began to drive up in sleighs, under the white trees, at two o'clock. At three arrived the Rev. Henry Barclay, rector of Trinity, New York, and his assistant, Mr. Auchmuty. At half-past three the beauteous Mary (did so proud a heart-breaker blush, I wonder?) and the British captain stood under the crimson canopy and gold, and were united, "in the presence of a brilliant assembly," says the old county historian. Miss Barclay, Miss Van Cortlandt, and Miss De Lancey were the bridesmaids, and the groomsmen were Mr. Heathcote (of the family of the lords of the manor of Scarsdale), Captain Kennedy (of Number One, Broadway), and Mr. Watts. No need to report here who were "among those present." The wedding did not occur yesterday, and the guests will not be offended at the omission of their names; but one of them was Acting Governor De Lancey. Colonel Philipse—wearing the ancestral gold chain and jewelled badge of the keepers of the deer forests of Bohemia—gave the bride away, and with her went a good portion of the earth's surface, and much money, jewelry, and plate.
After the wedding came the feast, and the guests—or most of them—stayed so late they were not sorry for the brilliant moonlight of the night that set in upon their feasting. And now the legend! In the midst of the feast, there appeared at the door of the banquet-hall a tall Indian, with a scarlet blanket close about him, and in solemn tones quoth he, "Your possessions shall pass from you when the eagle shall despoil the lion of his mane." Thereupon he disappeared, of course, as suddenly as he had come, and the way in which historians have treated this legend shows how little do historians apply to their work the experiences of their daily lives,—such an experience, for instance, as that of ignoring some begging Irishwoman's request for "a few pennies in the Lord's name," and thereupon receiving a volley of hair-raising curses and baleful predictions. 'Tis easy to believe in the Indian and the prophecy of a passing of possessions, even though it was fulfilled; but the time-clause involving the eagle and the lion was doubtless added after the bird had despoiled the beast.
It was years and years afterward, and when and because the eagle had decided to attempt the said despoiling, that there was a change of times at Philipse Manor Hall. Meanwhile had young Frederick, and Maria, and Elizabeth, and their brothers and sisters arrived on the scene. What could one have expected of the ease-loving, beauty-loving, book-loving, luxury-loving, garden-loving, and wide-girthed lord of the manor—connected by descent, kinship, and marriage with royal office-holding—but Toryism? In fact, nobody did expect else of him, for though he tried in 1775 to conceal his sympathy with the cause of the King, the powers in revolt inferred it, and took measures to deter him from actively aiding the British forces. His removal to Hartford, his return to the manor-house,—where he was for awhile, in the fall of 1776, at the time of the battle of White Plains,—his memorable business trip to New York, and his parole-breaking continuance there, heralded the end of the old regime in Philipse Manor Hall. The historians say that at that time of Colonel Philipse's last stay at the hall, Washington quartered there for awhile, and occupied the great southwestern chamber. Doubtless Washington did occupy that chamber once upon a time, but his itinerary and other circumstances are against its having been immediately before or immediately after the battle of White Plains. Some of the American officers were there about the time. As for the colonel's family, it did not abandon the house until 1777. With the occasions when, during the first months of Revolutionary activity in the county, use was sought of the secret closets and the underground passage thoughtfully provided by the earlier Philipses in days of risk from Indians, fear of Frenchmen, and dealings with pirates, this history has naught to do.
In 1777, then, the family took a farewell view of the old house, and somewhat sadly, more resentfully, wended by familiar landmarks to New York,—to await there a joyous day of returning, when the King's regiments should have scattered the rebels and hanged their leaders. John Williams, steward of the manor, was left to take care of the house against that day, with one white housemaid, who was of kin to him, and one black slave, a man. The outside shutters of the first story, the inside shutters above, were fastened tight; the bolts of the ponderous mahogany doors were strengthened, the stables and mills and outbuildings emptied and locked. Much that was precious in the house went with the family and horses and servants to New York. Yet be sure that proper means of subsistence for Williams and his two helpers were duly stowed away, for the faithful steward had to himself the discharge of that matter.
So wholesale a departure went with much bustle, and it was not till he returned from seeing the numerous party off, and found himself alone with the maid and the slave in the great entrance-hall, which a few minutes before had been noisy with voices, that Williams felt to the heart the sudden loneliness of the place. The face of Molly, the maid, was white and ready for weeping, and there was a gravity on the chocolate visage of black Sam that gave the steward a distinctly tremulous moment. Perhaps he recalled the prediction of the Indian, and had a flash of second sight, and perceived that the third lord of the manor was to be the last. Howbeit, he cleared his throat and set black Sam to laying in fire-wood as for a siege, and Molly to righting the disorder caused by the exodus; betook himself cellarward, and from a hidden place drew forth a bottle of an old vintage, and comforted his solitude. He was a snug, honest, discreet man of forty, was the steward, slim but powerful, looking his office, besides knowing and fulfilling it.
But, as the months passed, he became used to the solitude, and the routine of life in the closed-up, memory-haunted old house took on a certain charm. The living was snug enough in what parts of the mansion the steward and his two servitors put to their own daily use. As for the other parts, the great dark rooms and entrance-halls, we may be sure that when the steward went the rounds, and especially after a visit to the wine-cellar, he found them not so empty, but peopled with the vague and shifting images of the many beings, young and old, who had filled the house with life in brighter days. Then, if ever, did noise of creaking stair or sound as of human breath, or, perchance, momentary vision of flitting face against the dark, betray the present ghost of some old-time habitue of the mansion.
When the raiding and foraging and marauding began in the county, the manor-house was not molested. The partisan warfare had not yet reached its magnitude. After the battle of White Plains in 1776, the British had retained New York City, while the main American army, leaving a small force above, had gone to New Jersey. Late in 1777, the British main army, leaving New York garrisoned, had departed to contest with the Americans for Philadelphia. Not until July, 1778, after Monmouth battle, did the British main army return to New York, and the American forces form the great arc, with their chief camp in upper West Chester County. Then was great increase of foray and pillage. The manor-house was of course exempt from harm at the hands of King's troops and Tory raiders, while it was protected from American regulars by Washington's policy against useless destruction, and from the marauding "Skinners" by its nearness to the British lines and by the solidity of its walls, doors, and shutters. Its gardens suffered, its picket fences and gate fastenings were tampered with, its orchards prematurely plucked. But its trees were spared by the British foragers, and the house itself was no longer in demand as officers' quarters, being too near King's Bridge for safe American occupancy, but not sufficiently near for British. Hessians and Tories, though, patrolled the near-by roads, and sometimes Continental troops camped in the neighboring hills. In 1778, the American Colonel Gist, whose corps was then at the foot of Boar Hill, north of the manor-house, was paying his court to the handsome widow Babcock, in the parsonage, when he was surprised by a force of yagers, rangers, and Loyalist light horse, and got away in the nick of time. The parsonage, unlike the manor-house, was often visited by officers on their way hither and thither, but I will not say it was for this reason that Miss Sally Williams, the sister of Colonel Philipse's wife, preferred living in the parsonage with the Babcocks rather than in the great deserted mansion.
On a dark November afternoon, Williams had sent black Sam to the orchard for some winter apples, and the slave, after the fashion of his race, was taking his time over the errand. The shades of evening gathered while the steward was making his usual rounds within the mansion. Molly, whose housewifely instincts ever asserted themselves, had of her own accord made a dusting tour of the rooms and halls. She was on the first landing of the stairway in the east hall, just about to finish her task in the waning light admitted by the window over the landing and by the fanlight over the front door, when, as she applied her cloth to the mahogany balustrade, the door of the east parlor opened, and Williams came out of that dark apartment.
"Lord, Molly!" he said, a moment later, having started at suddenly beholding her. "I thought you were a ghost! It's time to get supper, I think, from the look of the day outside. I'll have to make a light."
From a closet in the side of the staircase he took a candle, flint, and tinder, talking the while to Molly, as she rubbed the balusters. Having produced a tiny candle-flame that did not light up half the hall, Williams started towards the dining-room, but stopped at a distant sound of galloping horses, which were evidently coming down the Albany road. The steward and the maid exchanged conjectures as to whether this meant a British patrol or "Rebel" dragoons, "Skinners" or Hessian yagers, Highlanders, or Loyalist light horse; and then observed from the sound that the horses had turned aside into the Mile Square road.
But now came a new sound of horses, and though it was of only a few, and those walking, it gave Williams quite a start, for the footfalls were manifestly approaching the mansion. They as manifestly stopped before that very hill. And then came a sharp knock on the mahogany door.
"See who it is," whispered Molly.
Williams hesitated. The knock was repeated.
"Who's there?" called out Williams.
There was an answer, but the words could not be made out.
"Who?" repeated Williams.
This time the answer was clear enough.
"It's I, Williams! Don't keep me standing here in the wind all night."
"It's Miss Elizabeth!" cried Molly; and Williams, in a kind of daze of astonishment, hastily unlocked, unbolted, and threw open the door.
THE SOUND OF GALLOPING.
A rush of wind came in from the outer gloom and almost blew out the candle. Williams held up his hand to protect the flame and stepped aside from before the doorway.
The wind was promptly followed by Elizabeth, who strode in with the air that a king might show on reentering one of his palaces, still holding her whip in her gloved hand. Behind her came Colden, the picture of moody dejection. When Cuff had entered with the portmanteaus, Williams, seeing but three horses without, closed the door, locked it, and looked with inquiry and bewilderment at Elizabeth.
"Br-r-r-r!" she ejaculated. "Light up my chamber, Molly, and have a fire in it; then make some hot tea, and get me something to eat."
Elizabeth's impetuosity sent the open-mouthed maid flying up-stairs to execute the first part of the order, whereupon the mistress turned to the wondering steward.
"I've come to spend a week at the manor-house, Williams. Cuff, take those to my room."
The black boy, with the portmanteaus, followed in the way Molly had taken, but with less rapidity. By this time Williams had recovered somewhat from his surprise, and regained his voice and something of his stewardly manner.
"I scarcely expected any of the family out from New York these times, miss. There——"
"I suppose not!" Elizabeth broke in. "Have some one put away the horses, Williams, or they'll be shivering. It's mighty cold for the time of year."
"I'll go myself, ma'am. There's only black Sam, you know, and he isn't back from the orchard. I sent him to get some apples." And the steward set the candlestick on the newel post of the stairway, and started for the door.
"No, let Cuff go," said Elizabeth, sitting down on a settle that stood with its back to the side of the staircase. "You start a fire in the room next mine, for aunt Sally. She'll be over from the parsonage in a few minutes."
Williams thereupon departed in quest of the stable key, inwardly devoured by a mighty curiosity as to the wherefore of Elizabeth's presence here in the company of none but her affianced, and also the wherefore of that gentleman's manifest depression of spirits. His curiosity was not lessened when the major called after him:
"Tell Cuff he may feed my horse, but not take the saddle off. I must ride back to New York as soon as the beast is rested."
"Why," said Elizabeth to Colden, "you may stay for a bite of supper."
"No, thank you! I am not hungry."
"A glass of wine, then," said the girl, quite heedless of his tone; "if there is any left in the house."
"No wine, I thank you!" Colden stood motionless, too far back in the hall to receive much light from the feeble candle, like a shadowy statue of the sulks.
"As you will!"
Whereupon Elizabeth, as if she had satisfied her conscience regarding what was due from her in the name of hospitality, rose, and opened the door to the east parlor.
"Ugh! How dark and lonely the house is! No wonder aunt Sally chose to live at the parsonage." After one look into the dark apartment, she closed the door. "Well, I'll warm up the place a bit. Sorry you can't stay with us, major."
"It is only you who send me away," said Colden, dismally and reproachfully. "I could have got longer leave of absence. You let me escort you here, because no gentleman of your family will lend himself to your reckless caprice. And then, having no further present use for me, you send me about my business!"
Elizabeth, preferring to pace the hall until her chamber should be heated, and her aunt should arrive, was striking her cloak with her riding-whip at each step; not that the cloak needed dusting, but as a method of releasing surplus energy.
"But I do have further present use for you," she said. "You are going back to New York to inform my dear timid parents and sisters and brothers that I've arrived here safe. They'll not sleep till you tell them so."
"One of your slaves might bear that news as well," quoth the major.
"Well, are you not forever calling yourself my slave? Besides, my devotion to King George won't let me weaken his forces by holding one of his officers from duty longer than need be."
But Colden was not to be cheered by pleasantry.
"What a man you are! So cross at my sending you back that you'll neither eat nor drink before going. Pray don't pout, Colden. 'Tis foolish!"
"I dare say! A man in love does many foolish things!"
The utterance of this great and universal truth had not time to receive comment from Elizabeth before Cuff reappeared, with the stable key; and at the same instant, a rather delicate, inoffensive knock was heard on the front door.
"That must be aunt Sally," said Elizabeth. "Let her in, Cuff. Then go and stable the horses. My poor Cato will freeze!"
It was indeed Miss Sarah Williams, and in a state of breathlessness. She had been running, perhaps to escape the unseemly embraces of the wind, which had taken great liberties with her skirts,—liberties no less shocking because of the darkness of the evening; for though De la Rochefoucauld has settled it that man's alleged courage takes a vacation when darkness deprives it of possible witnesses, no one will accuse an elderly maiden's modesty of a like eclipse.
"My dear child, what could have induced you——" were her first words to Elizabeth; but her attention was at that point distracted by seeing Cuff, outside the threshold, about to pull the door shut. "Don't close the door yet, boy. Some one is coming."
Cuff thereupon started on his task of stabling the three horses, leaving the door open. The flame of the candle on the newel post was blown this way and that by the in-rushing wind.
"It's old Mr. Valentine," explained Miss Sally to Elizabeth. "He offered to show me over from the parsonage, where he happened to be calling, so I didn't wait for Mrs. Babcock's boy——"
"You found Mr. Valentine pleasanter company, I suppose, aunty, dear," put in Elizabeth, who spared neither age nor dignity. "He's a widower again, isn't he?"
Miss Sally blushed most becomingly. Her plump cheeks looked none the worse for this modest suffusion.
"Fie, child! He's eighty years old. Though, to be sure, the attentions of a man of his experience and judgment aren't to be considered lightly."
Those were the days when well-bred people could—and often did, naturally and without effort—improvise grammatical sentences of more than twelve words, in the course of ordinary, every-day talk.
"We started from the parsonage together," went on Miss Sally, "but I was so impatient I got ahead. He doesn't walk as briskly as he did twenty years ago."
Yet briskly enough for his years did the octogenarian walk in through the little pillared portico a moment later. Such deliberation as his movements had might as well have been the mark of a proper self-esteem as the effect of age. He was a slender but wiry-looking old gentleman, was Matthias Valentine, of Valentine's Hill; in appearance a credit to the better class of countrymen of his time. His white hair was tied in a cue, as if he were himself a landowner instead of only a manorial tenant. Yet no common tenant was he. His father, a dragoon in the French service, had come down from Canada and settled on Philipse Manor, and Matthias had been proprietor of Valentine's Hill, renting from the Philipses in earlier days than any one could remember. His grandsons now occupied the Hill, and the old man was in the full enjoyment of the leisure he had won. His rather sharp countenance, lighted by honest gray eyes, was a mixture of good-humor, childlike ingenuousness, and innocent jocosity. The neatness of his hair, his carefully shaven face, and the whole condition of his brown cloth coat and breeches and worsted stockings, denoted a fastidiousness rarely at any time, and particularly in the good (or bad) old days, to be found in common with rustic life and old age. Did some of the dandyism of the French dragoon survive in the old Philipsburgh farmer?
He carried a walking-stick in one hand, a lighted lantern in the other. After bowing to the people in the hall, he set down his lantern, closed the door and bolted it, then took up his lantern, blew out the flame thereof, and set it down again.
"Whew!" he puffed, after his exertion. "Windy night, Miss Elizabeth! Windy night, Major Colden! Winter's going to set in airly this year. There ain't been sich a frosty November since '64, when the river was froze over as fur down as Spuyten Duyvel."
There was in the old man's high-pitched voice a good deal of the squeak, but little of the quaver, of senility.
"You'll stay to supper, I hope, Mr. Valentine."
From Elizabeth this was a sufficient exhibition of graciousness. She then turned her back on the two men and began to tell her aunt of her arrangements.
"Thankee, ma'am," said old Valentine, whose sight did not immediately acquaint him, in the dim candle-light, with Elizabeth's change of front; wherefore he continued, placidly addressing her back: "I wouldn't mind a glass and a pipe with friend Williams afore trudging back to the Hill."
He then walked over to the disconsolate Colden, and, with a very gay-doggish expression, remarked in an undertone:
"Fine pair o' girls yonder, major?"
He had known Colden from the time of the latter's first boyhood visits to the manor, and could venture a little familiarity.
"Girls?" blurted the major, startled out of his meditations.
The old country beau chuckled.
"We all know what's betwixt you and the niece. How about the aunt and me taking a lesson from you two, eh?"
Even the gloomy officer could not restrain a momentary smile.
"What, Mr. Valentine? Do you seriously think of marrying?"
"Why not? I've been married afore, hain't I? What's to hinder?"
"Why, there's the matter of age." Colden rather enjoyed being inconsiderate of people's feelings.
"Oh, the lady is not so old," said the octogenarian, placidly, casting a judicial, but approving look at the commanding figure of Miss Sally.
Then, as he had been for a considerable time on his legs, having walked over from the Hill to the parsonage that afternoon, and as at best his knees bent when he stood, he sat down on the settle by the staircase.
Miss Sally, though she knew it useless to protest further against Elizabeth's caprice, nevertheless felt it her duty to do so, especially as Major Colden would probably carry to the family a report of her attitude towards that caprice.
"Did you ever hear of such rashness, major? A young girl like Elizabeth coming out here in time of war, when this neutral ground between the lines is overridden and foraged to death, and deluged with blood by friend as well as foe? La me! I can't understand her, if she is my sister's child."
"Why, aunt Sally, you stay out here through it all," said Elizabeth, not as much to depreciate the dangers as to give her aunt an opportunity of posing as a very courageous person.
Miss Sally promptly accepted the opportunity. "Oh," said she, with a mien of heroic self-sacrifice, "I couldn't let poor Grace Babcock stay at the parsonage with nobody but her children; besides I'm not Colonel Philipse's daughter, and who cares whether I'm loyal to the King or not? But a girl like you isn't made for the dangers and privations we've had to put up with out here since the King's troops have occupied New York, and Washington's rebel army has held the country above. I'm surprised the family let her come, or that you'd countenance it by coming with her, major."
"We all opposed it," said Colden, with a sigh. "But—you know Elizabeth!"
"Yes," said Elizabeth herself with cheerful nonchalance, "Elizabeth always has her way. I was hungry for a sight of the place, and the more the old house is in danger, the more I love it. I'm here for a week, and that ends it. The place doesn't seem to have suffered any. They haven't even quartered troops here."
"Not since the American officers stayed here in the fall o' '76," put in old Mr. Valentine, from the settle. "I reckon you'll be safe enough here, Miss Elizabeth."
"Of course I shall. Why, our troops patrol all this part of the country, Lord Cathcart told us at King's Bridge, and we have naught to fear from them."
"No, the British foragers won't dare treat Philipse Manor-house as they do the homes of some of their loyal friends," said Miss Sally, who was no less proud of her relationship with the Philipses, because it was by marriage and not by blood. "But the horrible "Skinners," who don't spare even the farms of their fellow rebels—"
"Bah!" said Elizabeth. "The scum of the earth! Williams has weapons here, and with him and the servants I'll defend the place against all the rebel cut-throats in the county."
The major thought to make a last desperate attempt to dissuade Elizabeth from remaining.
"That's all well enough," said he; "but there are the rebel regulars, the dragoons. They'll be raiding down to our very lines, one of these days, if only in retaliation. You know how Lord Cornwallis's party under General Grey, over in Jersey, the other night, killed a lot of Baylor's cavalry,—Mrs. Washington's Light Horse, they called the troop. And the Hessians made a great foray on the rebel families this side the river."
"Ay," chirped old Valentine; "but the American Colonel Butler, and their Major Lee, of Virginia, fell on the Hessian yagers 'tween Dobbs's Ferry and Tarrytown, and killed ever so many of 'em,—and I wasn't sorry for that, neither!"
"Oho!" said Colden, "you belong to the opposition."
"Oh, I'm neither here nor there," replied the old man. "But they say that there Major Lee, of Virginia, is the gallantest soldier in Washington's army. He'd lead his men against the powers of Satan if Washington gave the word. Light Horse Harry, they call him,—and a fine dashing troop o' light horse he commands."
"No more dashing, I'll wager, than some of ours," said Elizabeth, whose mood for the moment permitted her to talk with reason and moderation; "not even counting the Germans. And as for leaders, what do you say to Simcoe, of the Queen's Rangers, or Emmerick, or Tarleton, or"—turning to Colden—"your cousin James De Lancey, of this county, major?"
The major, notwithstanding his Toryism, did not enter with enthusiasm into Elizabeth's admiration for these brave young cavalry leaders. Staten Island and East New Jersey had not offered him as great opportunities for distinction as they had had. It was, therefore, Miss Sally who next spoke.
"Well, Heaven knows there are enough on either side to devastate the land and rob us of comfort and peace. One wakes in the middle of the night, at the clatter of horses riding by like the wind, and wonders whether it's friend or foe, and trembles till they're out of hearing, for fear the door is to be broken in or the house fired. And the sound of shots in the night, and the distant glare of flames when some poor farmer's home is burned over his head!"
"Ay," added Mr. Valentine, "and all the cattle and crops go to the foragers, so it's no use raising any more than you can hide away for your own larder."
Elizabeth was beginning to be bored, and saw nothing to gain from a continuation of these recitals. Doubtless, by this time, her room was lighted and warm. So, thoughtless of Colden, she mounted the first step of the stairway, and said:
"I have no doubt Williams has contrived to hide away enough provisions for our use. So I sha'n't suffer from hunger, and as for Lee's Light Horse, I defy them and all other rebels. Come, aunt Sally!"
She had ascended as far as to the fourth step of the stairway, and Miss Sally was about to follow, when there was heard, above the wind's moaning, another sound of galloping horses. Like the previous similar sound, it came from the north.
Elizabeth stopped and stood on the fourth step. Miss Sally raised her finger to bid silence. Colden's attitude became one of anxious attention, while he dropped his hat on the settle and drew his cloak close about him, so that it concealed his uniform, sword, and pistol. The galloping continued.
When time came for it to turn off eastward, as it would do should the riders take the road to Mile Square, it did not so. Instead, as the sound unmistakably indicated, it came on down the post-road.
"Hessians, perhaps!" Miss Sally whispered.
"Or De Lancey's Cowboys," said Valentine, but not in a whisper.
Elizabeth cast a sharp look at the old man, as if to show disapproval of his use of the Whigs' nickname for De Lancey's troop. But the octogenarian did not quail.
"They're riding towards the manor-house," he added, a moment later.
"Let us hope they're friends," said Colden, in a tone low and slightly unsteady.
Elizabeth disdained to whisper.
"Maybe it is Lee's Light Horse," she said, in her usual voice, but ironically, addressing Valentine. "In that case we should tremble for our lives, I suppose."
"Whoever they are, they've stopped before the house!" said Miss Sally, in quite a tremble.
There was a noise of horses pawing and snorting outside, of directions being given rapidly, and of two or three horses leaving the main band for another part of the grounds. Then was heard a quick, firm step on the porch floor, and in the same instant a sharp, loud knock on the door.
No one in the hall moved; all looked at Elizabeth.
"A very valiant knock!" said she, with more irony. "It certainly must be Lee's Light Horse. Will you please open the door, Colden?"
"What?" ejaculated Colden.
"Certainly," said Elizabeth, turning on the stairway, so as to face the door; "to show we're not afraid."
Jack Colden looked at her a moment demurringly, then went to the door, undid the fastenings, and threw it open, keeping his cloak close about him and immediately stepping back into the shadow.
A handsome young officer strode in, as if 'twere a mighty gust of wind that sent him. He wore a uniform of blue with red facings,—a uniform that had seen service,—was booted and spurred, without greatcoat or cloak. A large pistol was in his belt, and his left hand rested on the hilt of a sword. He swept past Colden, not seeing him; came to a stop in the centre of the hall, and looked rapidly around from face to face.
"Your servant, ladies and gentlemen!" he said, with a swift bow and a flourish of his dragoon's hat. His eye rested on Elizabeth.
"Who are you?" she demanded, coldly and imperiously, from the fourth step.
"I'm Captain Peyton, of Lee's Light Horse," said he.
THE CONTINENTAL DRAGOON.
The Peytons of Virginia were descended from a younger son of the Peytons of Pelham, England, of which family was Sir Edward Peyton, of Pelham, knight and baronet. Sir Edward's relative, the first American Peyton, settled in Westmoreland County. Within one generation the family had spread to Stafford County, and within another to Loudoun County also. Thus it befell that there was a Mr. Craven Peyton, of Loudoun County, justice of the peace, vestryman, and chief warden of Shelburne Parish. He was the father of nine sons and two daughters. One of the sons was Harry.
This Harry grew up longing to be a soldier. Military glory was his ambition, as it had been Washington's; but not as a mere provincial would he be satisfied to excel. He would have a place as a regular officer, in an army of the first importance, on the fields of Europe. Before the Revolution, Americans were, like all colonials, very loyal to their English King. Therefore would Harry Peyton be content with naught less than a King's commission in the King's army.
His father, glad to be guided in choosing a future for one of so many sons, sent Harry to London in 1770, to see something of life, and so managed matters, through his English relations, that the boy was in 1772, at the age of nineteen, the possessor, by purchase, of an ensign's commission. He was soon sent to do garrison duty in Ireland, being enrolled with the Sixty-third Regiment of Foot.
He had lived gaily enough during his two years in London, occupying lodgings, being patronized by his relations, seeing enough of society, card-tables, drums, routs, plays, prize-fights, and other diversions. He had made visits in the country and showed what he had learned in Virginia about cock-fighting, fox-hunting and shooting, and had taken lessons from London fencing-masters. A young gentleman from Virginia, if well off and "well connected," could have a fine time in London in those days; and Harry Peyton had it.
But he could never forget that he was a colonial. If he were treated by his English associates as an equal, or even at times with a particular consideration, there was always a kind of implication that he was an exception among colonials. Other colonial youths were similarly treated, and some of these were glad to be held as exceptions, and even joined in the derision of the colonials who were not. For these Harry Peyton had a mighty disgust and detestation. He did not enjoy receiving as Harry Peyton a tolerance and kindness that would have been denied him as merely an American. And he sometimes could not avoid seeing that, even as Harry Peyton, he was regarded as compensating, by certain attractive qualities in the nature of amiability and sincerity, for occasional exhibitions of what the English rated as social impropriety and bad taste. Often, at the English lofty derision of colonials, at the English air of self-evident superiority, the English pretence of politely concealed shock or pain or offence at some infringement of a purely superficial conduct-code of their own arbitrary fabrication, he ground his teeth in silence; for in one respect, he had as good manners as the English had then, or have now,—when in Rome he did not resent or deride what the Romans did. He began to think that the lot of a self-respecting American among the English, even if he were himself made an exception of and well dealt with, was not the most enviable one. And, after he joined the army, he thought this more and more every day. But he would show them what a colonial could rise to! Yet that would prove nothing for his countrymen, as he would always, on his meritorious side, be deemed an exception.
His military ambition, however, predominated, and he had no thought of leaving the King's service.
The disagreement between the King and the American Colonies grew, from "a cloud no bigger than a man's hand," to something larger. But Harry heard little of it, and that entirely from the English point of view. He received but three or four letters a year from his own people, and the time had not come for his own people to write much more than bare facts. They were chary of opinions. Harry supposed that the new discontent in the Colonies, after the repeal of the Stamp Act and the withdrawal of the two regiments from Boston Town to Castle William, was but that of the perpetually restless, the habitual fomenters, the notoriety-seeking agitators, the mob, whose circumstances could not be made worse and might be improved by disturbances. Now the Americans, from being a subject of no interest to English people, a subject discussed only when some rare circumstance brought it up, became more talked of. Sometimes, when Americans were blamed for opposing taxes to support soldiery used for their own protection, Harry said that the Americans could protect themselves; that the English, in wresting Canada from the French, had sought rather English prestige and dominion than security for the colonials; that the flourishing of the Colonies was despite English neglect, not because of English fostering; that if the English had solicitude for America, it was for America as a market for their own trade. Thereupon his fellow officers would either laugh him out, as if he were too ignorant to be argued with, or freeze him out, as if he had committed some grave outrage on decorum. And Harry would rage inwardly, comparing his own ignorance and indecorousness with the knowledge and courtesy exemplified in the assertion of Doctor Johnson, when that great but narrow Englishman said, in 1769, of Americans, "Sir, they are a race of convicts, and ought to be thankful for anything we allow them short of hanging."
There came to Harry, now and then, scraps of vague talk of uneasiness in Boston Town, whose port the British Parliament had closed, to punish the Yankees for riotously destroying tea on which there was a tax; of the concentration there of British troops from Halifax, Quebec, New York, the Jerseys, and other North American posts. But there was not, in Harry's little world of Irish garrison life, the slightest expectation of actual rebellion or even of a momentous local tumult in the American Colonies.
Imagine, therefore, his feelings when, one morning late in March in 1775, he was told that, within a month's time, the Sixty-third, and other regiments, would embark at Cork for either Boston or New York!
There could not be a new French or Spanish invasion. As for the Indians, never again would British regulars be sent against them. Was it, then, Harry's own countrymen that his regiment was going to fight?
His comrades inferred the cause of his long face, and laughed. He would have no more fighting to do in America against the Americans than he had to do in Ireland against the Irish, or than an English officer in an English barrack town had to do against the English. The reinforcements were being sent only to overawe the lawless element. The mere sight of these reinforcements would obviate any occasion for their use. The regiment would merely do garrison duty in America instead of in Ireland or elsewhere.
He had none to advise or enlighten him. What was there for him to do but sail with his regiment, awaiting disclosures or occurrences to guide? What misgivings he had, he kept to himself, though once on the voyage, as he looked from the rocking transport towards the west, he confided to Lieutenant Dalrymple his opinion that 'twas damned bad luck sent his regiment to America, of all places.
When he landed in Boston, June 12th, he found, as he had expected, that the town was full of soldiers, encamped on the common and quartered elsewhere; but also, as he had not expected, that the troops were virtually confined to the town, which was fortified at the Neck; that the last time they had marched into the country, through Lexington to Concord, they had marched back again at a much faster gait, and left many score dead and wounded on the way; and that a host of New Englanders in arms were surrounding Boston! The news of April 19th had not reached Europe until after Harry had sailed, nor had it met his regiment on the ocean. When he heard it now, he could only become more grave and uneasy. But the British officers were scornful of their clodhopper besiegers. In due time this rabble should be scattered like chaff. But was it a mere rabble? Certainly. Were not the best people in Boston loyal to the King's government? Some of them, yes. But, as Harry went around with open eyes and ears, eager for information, he found that many of them were with the "rabble." News was easy to be had. The citizens were allowed to pass the barrier on the Neck, if they did not carry arms or ammunition, and there was no strict discipline in the camp of New Englanders. Therefore Harry soon learned how Doctor Warren stood, and the Adamses, and Mr. John Hancock; and that a Congress, representing all the Colonies, was now sitting at Philadelphia, for the second time; and that in the Congress his own Virginia was served by such gentlemen as Mr. Richard Henry Lee, Mr. Patrick Henry, Mr. Thomas Jefferson, and Colonel Washington. And the Virginians had shown as ready and firm a mind for revolt against the King's measures as the New Englanders had. Here, for once, the sympathies of trading Puritan and fox-hunting Virginian were one. Moreover, a Yankee was a fellow American, and, after five years of contact with English self-esteem, Harry warmed at the sight of a New Englander as he never would have done before he had left Virginia.
But it did not conduce to peace of mind, in his case, to be convinced that the colonial remonstrance was neither local nor of the rabble. The more general and respectable it was, the more embarrassing was his own situation. Would it really come to war? With ill-concealed anxiety, he sought the opinion of this person and that.
On the fourth day after his arrival, he went into a tavern in King Street with Lieutenant Massay, of the Thirty-fifth, Ensign Charleton, of the Fifth, and another young officer, and, while they were drinking, heard a loyalist tell what one Parker, leader of the Lexington rebels, said to his men on Lexington Common, on the morning of April 19th, when the King's troops came in sight.
"'Stand your ground,' says he. 'Don't fire till you're fired on, but if they mean to have a war, let it begin here!'"
"And it began there!" said Harry.
The English officers stared at him, and laughed.
"Ay, 'twas the Yankee idea of war," said one of them. "Run for a stone wall, and, when the enemy's back is turned, blaze away. I'd like to see a million of the clodhoppers compelled to stand up and face a line of grenadiers."
"Ay, gimme ten companies of grenadiers," cried one, who had doubtless heard of General Gage's celebrated boast, "and I'll go from one end of the damned country to the other, and drive 'em to their holes like foxes. Only 'tis better sport chasing handsome foxes in England than ill-dressed poltroons in Bumpkin-land."
"They're not all poltroons," said Harry, repressing his feelings the more easily through long practice. "Some of them fought in the French war. There's Putnam, and Pomeroy, and Ward. I heard Lieutenant-Colonel Abercrombie, of the Twenty-second, say yesterday that Putnam—"
"Cowards every one of 'em," broke in another. "Cowards and louts. A lady told me t'other day there ain't in all America a man whose coat sets in close at the back, except he's of the loyal party. Cowards and louts!"
"Look here, damn you!" cried Peyton. "I want you to know I'm American born, and my people are American, and I don't know whether they are of the loyal party or not!"
"Oh, now, that's the worst of you Americans,—always will get personal! Of course, there are exceptions."
"Then there are exceptions enough to make a rule themselves," said Harry. "I'm tired hearing you call these people cowards before you've had a chance to see what they are. And you needn't wait for that, for I can tell you now they're not!"
"Well, well, perhaps not,—to you. Doubtless they're very dreadful,—to you. You don't seem to relish facing 'em, that's a fact! You'll be resigning your commission one o' these days, I dare say, if it comes to blows with these terrible heroes!"
Harry saw everybody in the room looking at him with a grin.
"By the Lord," said he, "maybe I shall!" and stalked hotly out of the place.
His wrath increased as he walked. He noticed now, more than before, the confident, arrogant air of the redcoats who promenaded the streets; how they leered at the women, and made the citizens who passed turn out of the way. Forthwith, he went to his quarters, and wrote his resignation.
When the ink was dry he folded up the document and put it in the pocket of his uniform coat. Then that last tavern speech recurred to him. "If I resign now," he thought, "they'll suppose it's because I really am afraid of fighting, not because the rebels are my countrymen." So he lapsed into a state of indecision,—a state resembling apathy, a half-dazed condition, a semi-somnolent waiting for events. But he kept his letter of resignation in his coat.
At dawn the next morning, Saturday, June 17th, he was awakened by the booming of guns. He was soon up and out. It was a beautiful day. People were on the eminences and roofs, looking northward, across the mouth of the Charles, towards Charlestown and the hill beyond. On that hill were seen rough earthworks, six feet high, which had not been there the day before. The booming guns were those of the British man-of-war Lively, firing from the river at the new earthworks. Hence the earthworks were the doing of the rebels, having been raised during the night. Presently the Lively ceased its fire, but soon there was more booming, this time not only from the men-of-war, but also from the battery on Copp's Hill in Boston. After awhile Harry saw, from where he stood with many others on Beacon Hill, some of the rebels emerge from one part of the earthworks, as if to go away. One of these was knocked over by a cannon-ball. His comrades dragged his body behind the earthen wall. By and by a tall, strong-looking man appeared on top of the parapet, and walked leisurely along, apparently giving directions. Harry heard from a citizen, who had a field-glass, the words, "Prescott, of Pepperell." Other men were now visible on the parapet, superintending the workers behind. And now the booming of the guns was answered by disrespectful cheers from those same unseen workers.