History From America's Most Famous Valleys
WAR OF INDEPENDENCE
P. D. LAMBE, PRINTER. "SOLVAY PILOT" OFFICE
Donated and Typed by Gerald Horton.
This book must be classified as fiction due to the presence of dialog and the absence of supporting notes. Having said that, the story stands as an account of oral tradition and legend apparently passed down through the Johnson family. It provides the only record of the experiences of Lady Mary Watts Johnson when she was incarcerated and escaped in 1776.
No author was shown when the story was published. This leaves authorship open to speculation. A letter written by William Gordon Johnson is attached to the copy of the book housed in the Library of Congress. In the letter he states the author was his aunt, Susan Griffith Colpoys Johnson. She married one of Sir John Johnson's sons making her Lady Johnson's daughter-in-law. In the absence of other evidence, it appears Susan Colpoys Johnson should be considered the author of the work.
though there are some distorted facts and the authorship is debatable, this
piece provides the only record of Lady Johnson's ordeal. It also provides
a glimpse into the people and conditions in those times. For these reasons,
the story is worth reading. I hope you find it interesting.
It was in the year 17--, at an early period of those disturbances in the United States which ended in their separation from Great Britain, that the family of a wealthy Baronet residing on the Mohawk river, distinguished for his determined loyalty, were aroused from their beds by a continued ringing at the hall door. The state of the country had induced a considerable degree of watchfulness, so that in a few moments lights were gleaming in every direction, and every man appeared armed, though but half dressed. Before even replying to the summons, Sir John reconnoitered through a loop hole which commanded the entrance, and after a single glance ordered the doors be thrown open, in a voice that indicated no further necessity for caution; and the words "the Indians," uttered in a tone of satisfaction, seemed to reassure all who heard them. Yet few Europeans would have witnessed the scene that followed without trepidation. The hall was instantly filled with swarthy forms in their war costume, whose leaders pressed forward hastily to Sir John, while on the lawn might be seen at least as many more, pausing with their habitual good breeding in order not to crowd on the half dressed females of the family, who had also rushed down on the first alarm. A few words delivered to Sir John with dignified composure (for though it was manifest their business was pressing - an Indian never loses his calm demeanour) accounted for their intrusion. It appeared that a large body of those in arms against the British Government, irritated at Sir John's unflinching determination and uncompromising language against the "rascally rebels," had determined to surround the hall and carry off him and his family as hostages, to restrain those
tribes of Indians who were devoted to him as their hereditary leader, and whose enmity was most dreaded in the desultory warfare which was now spreading through the United Provinces. Information of this scheme having reached Sir John's swarthy allies, a party had instantly set off to warn and rescue him. And having by the exercise of their usual vigilant ingenuity succeeded in eluding the different parties of rebels scattered over the country, they reached the Hall at midnight, and proposed that Sir John should escape with them, place himself at the head of their warriors, and then advance to support his own tenantry and the loyalists in the neighborhood, who were all ready to unite in support of the Royal Government. No time was to be lost. The Indians had ascertained by their scouts that a strong body, against which they could make no head, were within an hour's march of the Hall. Sir John paused a moment, as indeed a man might be expected to do when abandoning a noble property and a mansion filled with all the elegancies and luxuries that were rare and costly in those days, to the coarse violence of a fierce mob, - for the revolutionary bands were hardly above that denomination at that early period. But the case was hopeless as regarded the preservation of his liberty and property. For the safety of his family he had no uneasiness as, in spite of the bitter indignation with which his vehement loyalty regarded all the proceedings of the revolutionary party, he had an unwilling consciousness that the blood of the defenceless had never yet stained their arms. The Indians, with their bright intelligent eyes fixed on his face, saw the glance of the father and the husband towards the young and lovely woman who with two small children clung to his side. In their own language they repeated the necessity of expedition, and the impossibility of conveying women and children through the woods with that secrecy which their critical position required. But one of the warriors, as if to yield something to the father's feelings, caught up a fine boy of three years old who was grasping Sir John's hand with a look of anxiety, and swinging him over his shoulder, seemed to infer that one so light and yet so strong might accompany their perilous career. The child, though averse to the position, showed no dread of his friendly
captor, but loudly announced his determination to remain with "papa." "It must be done!" said the young wife, who readily understood that the long expected sacrifice of home and property to her husband's duty to his sovereign was now about to be consummated. "Yes, Sir John; you must go, and without delay; each moment adds to your danger. But you must leave us all; I have no fears, but I cannot be parted from my children; even this little man (as she lifted the eldest from the shoulders of the Indian) could not endure the fatigue of your march. Do not fear for me. You know in the party that are coming my friends and relatives are sufficiently numerous and influential to prevent either insult or injury, if any was attempted. But you know, rebels as they are, they have never harmed women or children." A fierce ejaculation from Sir John, indicating his belief that they were capable for any wickedness, was followed, however, by an acknowledgement that he believed she would be safe; and once in command of a larger number of Indians he would ensure her being well treated by the more powerful engine of fear. "In a few days," he said, as he hastily adjusted his arms and traveling costume, "I will come down on their villages in such force that their lives and property shall answer for your perfect security. God bless you, my dear, and you my darlings. Farewell. But that I hope to serve the Royal cause more effectually, by keeping together our Indian allies, I would not thus secure my personal freedom. Gain as much time as you can, my men (turning to the servants), for we would rather not be overtaken in the open country." Another hasty adieu, and the Chief, the only white man in the party, disappeared with his dusky companions from the house and grounds; the former was immediately closed, and the Lady began to concert measures with her servants and head bailiffs for detaining the insurgent force at the Hall as long as possible. Every light was extinguished to induce the supposition that the whole family were buried in profound sleep. Many more precautions for defence were ostentatiously arranged than had really been practiced before, and hardly had all these measures been completed than the tramp of many feet and the clatter of horses on every side informed the eager listeners that the house was being surrounded.
Through the same loophole which had exhibited to Sir John the stealthy approach of the children of the forest the steward watched their proceedings, but remained motionless till the leaders, believing every avenue was secured, struck loudly on the hall door demanding instant admittance. Lights then appeared, though slowly, in different parts of the building, and after such delay as might be expected from a family at rest, the steward approached another window and enquired their business. "We wish to speak to Sir John, and immediately," was the answer. "Sir John is not accustomed to be called out of his bed without some good reason," was the sturdy reply of the steward. "At any rate you can open the door and not keep gentlemen waiting outside. I guess those ain't royal manners," was replied with a marked sneer. "If it was Royalists came to speak to him it would be in rather a different fashion, I guess, and it's not often he wishes to speak with them that's rebels, except at arms length." "It's just like your tyrant masters to be throwing hard words at true patriots when you've a wall between you and them and a strong barred door; but come out on the green and we'll see who's the best man." Much more of this irritating argument was carried on till another voice interposed, and in a more subdued manner said, "My good fellow, we have business of importance with Sir John, and instead of exciting my men by angry words to angry deeds you had better enquire his pleasure at once." "Well, sir," said the steward, "since you speak like a gentleman, I'll send to ask Sir John; but his apartments are far from this part of the house, and as he has an easy conscience, he sleeps sound; but I'll send to him, for its my duty to keep an eye on the door." Directions were apparently given, but as there seemed some difficulty in restraining those outside from violent measures, the last speaker, whose name was Sammons, and who was a neighbor of Sir John's, and in all but political feeling on friendly terms, again hailed the steward: "Come, my friend, there has surely been time allowed to awake Sir John, and for him to dress himself too, and we cannot wait much longer. What's he about?" "I'll tell you," replied a female voice, pushing the steward aside from the window, "he'd have been here before, and
well prepared, too, for you; but his tender-hearted wife is holding him back and begging him to leave his arms behind him, for she can't bear the thoughts of bloodshed, rebels though you are." "Well, then, Mrs. Margaret," replied Sammons, "if that's the reception Sir John means to give us, I don't think we're bound to wait for it; and if you don't open the door we will, and the consequence must be on your own head. I know your sister is a gentle-hearted woman, and no harm shall come to her if she will keep out of the way. Go at the door, my friends, but keep back your fire if we can do without." The lady, addressed as Mrs. Margaret, retreated from the window with a mocking laugh, but placed herself so as to watch the attack on the door and windows of the entrance hall. It may be supposed that a building never intended for defence could not long resist the assault of armed and irritated men, in far greater numbers than had at first appeared; but even when they entered the Hall they met with obstacles for which they were little prepared, in every direction. Beds, wardrobes, all kinds of furniture blockaded every passage that led to the different wings of the house, and in removing them tubs filled with water, flour, meal, etc., fell on the heads of the assailants, sometimes wetting and sometimes blinding them with the dust and extinguishing their lights. Even all these ingenious devices could not long have delayed regular troops or real determination; but among the insurgent force (of a very motley nature) were mingled many whose personal regard for Sir John and his family led them to magnify the obstacles, and to soothe the irritation of those who suffered from them. All desired to secure his person; but many hoped that his hitherto unshaken loyalty might not be proof against the prospect of the utter destruction of his property, and that if treated with some consideration, he might be at least persuaded to remain neuter in the approaching struggle. To others who were actuated by inferior motives, they suggested that it was a pity to do more damage than was necessary to effect an entrance, as the Hall would be a fine place for some better man. Having at last reached the apartment in which the Lady and her children, apparently in a state of
disorder and alarm, they began to question her about Sir John. She replied with calmness and dignity, that they could not mean that she should betray the place of concealment of her husband; that of course both she and all his attached domestics had done their best to secure his personal safety, and that she did not believe there was one in the house who would betray him. Sammons admitted her plea, and retired with some of his followers to search in every direction. The more rough and violent leader, Waldston, continued to urge her by alternate threats and persuasion to avoid irritating his men by uselessly detaining them in a pursuit which must be successful, as he assured her a complete cordon had been drawn around the house before they had given any sign of their approach. She appeared to give some weight to his arguments, keeping him in play as long as possible, partly by entreaties to spare her the distress of seeing her husband a prisoner, partly by hints that Sir John's retreat was so well chosen that any attempt to use force would be attended with certain loss of life. The respect which her position in the country involuntary commanded even over the democrats of that day, and the influence of her grace and beauty, enabled her to engage successively the attention of different leaders who entered her apartment with a view of extracting from her some hints respecting her husband. Her sister, whom we have heard addressed as Mrs. Margaret, was well known to most of the invaders, and by her very different character and bearing also contrived to interrupt the proceedings of the parties spread about the house. Sometimes when removing wardrobes and forcing the doors of closets, she would watch them with every token of alarm and agitation, and at the last crash a shriek, apparently involuntary, indicated, as they supposed, her terror at the discovery of Sir John, or her apprehension of his firing on them from his retreat. Towards the last, as they were advancing to a very narrow winding staircase, with several doors on the landing place above, she exclaimed, after several jesting, but apparently hysterical attempts to detain them, "Well, if you will go there, I'd rather not be with you - you don't want me, I suppose. I think you'd prefer if I was to show you the way to the cellar." And on her hastily
retreating, she observed with malicious satisfaction that a pause ensued, and such precautions were taken as might be expected from men not much accustomed to arms, and not particularly desirous to be the first to face the hot-headed Sir John, placed at an advantage, and with perhaps equally desperate retainers. Besides, it was then far from their intention to injure him personally; in fact, his name was so powerful among the Indians, that the report of any such outrage would have severed all hopes of drawing the tribes to their party, and have brought upon their province a reckless and desperate irruption. When, however, it appeared that Sir John was not to be found, the patience of the rebel leaders and the influence of the Lady's friends was at last exhausted, and the language and demeanor for which she was little prepared, she was ordered instantly to accompany the party on their return to Albany. No time was allowed her for preparation; the wailings of her infant child and her own delicate situation merely sufficed to secure her the attendance of a single woman servant; and she was subjected to the still greater deprivation of being parted form her sister, whose reckless confidence in the privileges of her sex, had at last excited a degree of indignation which was barely restrained from breaking out into personal violence, and whom they also suspected of directing the concealment of certain valuables, which some of the more covetous of the party had hoped to secure for themselves. Neither plate nor jewels were to be found, nor was any portion of them ever traced by the rebel party. The servants were fiercely ordered to leave the building, and withheld from even a farewell to their lady and children; one only, a black, succeeded in throwing himself at her feet, and weeping a farewell over the little ones. Sammons, who had mingled among the men who acted as guards, pretended to advance to drag the man away, but in truth was protecting him from the violence which rougher hands would not have scrupled to bestow. He perceived that a few words reached the Lady, which seemed to give her a momentary satisfaction, but he did not deem the matter of sufficient consequence to report his observation to others, and thereby expose the faithful fellow to an examination which habitual contempt
for his race would have rendered severe if not fatal. When the Lady was placed in the vehicle which was to convey her from her happy and luxurious home, and all the excitement of action was over, it may be supposed that her heart was wrung with many sorrowful thoughts. She had long been aware that her husband's feelings were so utterly averse to all compromise with the revolutionary party, that he had fully determined no personal considerations should induce him to purchase even the security of a dog. He had infused the same spirit into those Indian tribes with whom he had the greatest influence, and it was partly owing to the terror which they inspired that he had remained so long unmolested. His vast estates were all in those provinces which were now in arms against the mother country; therefore, ruined fortunes, separation from her husband, and scenes of strife and bloodshed were the prospects that lay before the young wife, who previous to these unhappy dissentions had held the highest position in the peaceful and flourishing state of New York, in which her family had long been settled. She was also dismayed at the treatment she experienced, so contrary to what she had expected, for she had always believed her husband's views of the conduct of the revolutionary party to be prejudiced in the extreme; but even his bitter denunciations of their principles and practices fell far short of the reality. Her distress and discomfort were considerable during the first day's journey. Hardly dressed and crowded into a small open carriage with her young child and the nurse; and on their arrival at the first place where the rebels could find food for themselves and their horses, regardless of her necessities, she was rudely ordered to enter the house and ascend the stairs to a miserable apartment, where, without any reply to her intreaties for a bed and some food for her children, the door was locked upon her, and the sound of a measured step outside told her she was guarded by a sentry. Urged, however, by the cries of her children, the Lady and the nurse endeavoured to draw his attention and excite his compassion by calling through the door. For some time he made no reply; but at last another voice was heard addressing him, and in a few minutes a subdued rap induced the helpless captives to desist from their intreaties
and listen with earnestness to a whisper through the keyhole. "You know me, my Lady," said the last arrival. "I'm Parkin, of Albany. I was with them last night at the Hall, but didn't come in, for your black boy, Sambo, told me I'd be doing you and Sir John a great service if I could keep their eyes off a particular part in the shrubbery. So I staid outside and came on after the carriage, and now I've given the sentry something to drink to get a word with you. I'll try to get some food brought up for you and the children; but I dare not appear your friend, or they never would trust me with a command. You know, my Lady, I don't go with Sir John in his notions; but I haven't forgotten your kindness to me and mine, or your good father's before you, and I'll watch for every chance. There's a new commanding officer coming in here early - a terrible fellow - and when he finds we haven't caught Sir John, I don't know what he'll do." Then raising his voice, he added, "It's no use calling out in that way, my good woman. The gentlemen below must get their breakfast before their prisoners. A pretty work you gave us last night." The heavy tread of the sentry coming up stairs showed the cause of this change of tone. The unfortunate Lady was somewhat reassured by the knowledge that a friend was at hand, and endeavored to soothe her children. In about half-an-hour the door was opened, and a couple of soldiers ushered in the servant of the inn with some breakfast, which was thankfully received; but to the Lady's intreaties to be taken to a better room, and afforded the means of washing her children and arranging her own dress, the girl said she could do nothing but what the gentlemen (glancing at the soldiers) directed. They answered at first rudely, but on the Lady and her servant representing that they would not give more trouble, if equally secured in a better room; and pointing out the heated and suffering state of the pretty little children, they were induced to consent; and the unhappy Lady thus obtained a few hours rest, which enabled her to keep up her strength and spirits for the rougher treatment that awaited her. Late in the afternoon, the quietness that had reigned around, and which, while it permitted the captives to get a little sleep, seemed to indicate that the soldiers and their
horses had equally sought that refreshment, was broken by a loud hail; and immediately after an angry and vehement discussion was carried on for a short time, when the Lady was made aware of her being the chief object of it by her door being rudely thrown open, and she commanded to come down instantly to Colonel D----. At this name she trembled, for she knew the man's insolent manners and brutal character; but hopeless of appeal to the soldiers, she took her youngest child in her arms, and with the elder one and his nurse followed her guards to the presence of the commandant, who was on horseback before the door of the inn. How little did the Lady suppose it possible, when she insisted on being left to the "tender mercies" of her countrymen, that she could have been assailed with the course and violent language that was now addressed to her, as she stood pale with fatigue and agitation before the brutal demagogue. Yet few others could look at her slight graceful figure, her youthful countenance turned towards him with an expression of dismay and surprise, and her whole demeanour so indicative of gentle birth and breeding, without feelings of pity and admiration, which were hardly restrained by the presence of the commanding officer. With her usual presence of mind, the Lady saw at a glance the sympathy that was excited, and taking advantage of the barbarian pausing for breadth, she addressed him with calm dignity, yet raising her voice so as to compel a hearing when he endeavoured to interrupt her. "When I became a prisoner, sir, in the hands of my countrymen, I had such entire dependence on their consideration for women and children, that no attempt was made, many present well know, to conceal or defend me." "Ay,ay; you thought you could live at ease and send your husband to ------." "Sir, I thought, and I still think, that my countrymen will not shame their name by ill treatment of helpless women and children. In this sad conflict, let not the cause of your independence be sullied by conduct that we have hitherto only apprehended from savages. Gentlemen, you are fathers and husbands. I appeal to you to secure to me such treatment as every civilized nation affords even to prisoners taken in battle." Here the Colonel's rage became ungovernable, and he
vociferated that if she dared to appeal to any one but himself, he would shoot her on the spot; but having exhausted himself in coarse invective against the Lady, in which even the remaining richness of her dress, and her delicate situation, were brutally alluded to, he ordered a conveyance to be brought out, of the most miserable description. In the crowd assembled round, Parkins had mingled, and apparently examining the wheels, he said, "I say, Colonel," as he advanced closer, and lowered his voice, "if we don't keep 'em alive, what good will they be to check Sir John? And the children are but small - the boy there, the heir you know (with a sneer), may be settled if he gets a roll out of that high thing. There's another setout just as handy in the yard." And in a moment the other setout was produced, evidently to the satisfaction of most of those around. It was sufficiently mean and uneasy to satisfy the desire of Colonel D----, to subject the Lady to every humiliation and discomfort; but as for a time it withdrew her from the gaze of the soldiery, and the abuse of the commandant, she entered it with thankfulness. A cold and weary drive brought her to Albany, then the head-quarters of the rebels, where the unfortunate Lady and her children were confined in a comfortless abode, and denied all communication with any friends. A few days of rest, however, enabled her to compose her spirits, and arrange her scanty wardrobe and wretched accommodation to the best advantage. The men who were her guards, and the people of the little inn, were evidently grieved at her situation, and took every opportunity of showing her kindness; but a few brutal demagogues were mingled among them, who counteracted all attempts at correspondence with her friends, or enquiry after her husband and sister, for both of whom she experienced the most painful anxiety. She was soon relieved from all doubts as to the position of the former, but in a manner most terrific to herself. A guard of soldiers one day appeared at her door, desiring her to accompany them,
but forbidding the children or servant to follow. She was conducted with rather more ceremony than she had before experienced through the street to a larger hotel, where she was ushered into the presence of a general officer with whom she had been formerly well acquainted; and though she knew he had taken an active part in the rebellion, she was not yet aware that all former intimacies would be cancelled at the shrine of political enmity, and was about to greet him as a deliverer, when the stern gravity with which he desired a chair to be placed for "the prisoner," chilled her feelings and overwhelmed her with terror. About a dozen other persons of note, civil and military, were assembled round the General (someone wrote in: 'Schuyler') who in a tone mingled with formal politeness and suppressed indignation, asked the Lady if she knew where Sir John was? "How is it possible, General," she replied, "that I should know anything beyond the walls of the miserable inn where I have been locked up and guarded since I was taken from my own house." "Indians are very ingenious messengers, Madam; but as I trust my soldiers have done their duty, and prevented any intelligence from reaching you, I beg to inform you that Sir John, with his bloodhounds at his heels, and some hundreds of his tenantry, who like him are opposed to the freedom of their country, has poured down on the open country, and is burning and slaughtering in every direction. Now, Madam," continued the General, interrupting the words which the Lady was preparing to utter, "my command does not extend beyond this province; but if Sir John comes one foot within my district with his murderous allies - your fate is sealed." "How , sir; what do you mean? What can I do?" gasped the Lady, overcome for the moment by the information and the manner in which it was conveyed. "I mean, Madam, that if your husband lets his Indians go on scalping our people, we can't prevent them shooting you. And what you can do is this - write to your husband and tell him what I say." "Gentlemen," replied the Lady, recovering her presence of mind from the very astonishment which the brutality of such a menace excited, and addressing herself to all present, "are you Christians! Are you gentlemen! Are you Americans! Is it possible that
you can think of deliberately permitting the murder of a helpless and inoffensive woman? For what is my offence; or, indeed, what has Sir John done but his duty to his King?" But the fierce looks which these last words elicited from all around, admonished her that she must drop that tone of defence, so she continued - "It is perhaps unbecoming for me to argue on a point on which both parties have long ago made up their minds; but for myself I would venture to say that it has ever been my most earnest endeavour to restrain the vehemence of my husband's feelings, and but for my prayers and entreaties he would have raised all his tenantry in arms long ago. In barricading my house, was I not fully justified in endeavouring to preserve my property? You know, sir, not a blow was struck nor a shot fired, though I had full thirty men inside, well armed. Was there anything unbecoming a woman or a wife in attempting a passive defence? And when I had done all that was befitting my sex and position, I resigned myself and infant children into the hands of those who I never can believe will stain the banner of their independence with the blood of the defenceless. They have never done so yet, are the words I have repeatedly made use of to those friends who long ago urged me to seek safety in flight." "Your case, Madam, is different from all others. Sir John has power over the Indians, whom no one else can control. We have no wish to injure you individually; but we must save our people from his savages. We hold you and your children as hostages; and we consider that another such descent as the Indians made yesterday on the village of -----, will justify us in the eyes of the whole world in avenging the slaughter of many women and children as helpless, and more innocent, than yourself. We wish, however, to try gentle measures first. If you will write to Sir John, and inform him of our unalterable determination, it may be the means of allaying the horrors of the unhappy contest into which we have been driven by the tyrannical measures of the King Of England." "I shall obey you, sir," replied the Lady, "and most willingly as regards intercession for the lives of others; as for my own, I believe Sir John's ideas of duty would lead him to disregard all perils, either
for himself or those belonging to him." "You will write what you please, madam, as the effects will be on your own head. Your letter will be sacred. I would only recommend you to accompany it with some token that will assure Sir John it comes from yourself, and expresses your unbiased sentiments. Corporal, you may remove the prisoner." "Sir," said the Lady, "permit me, before returning to the wretched abode where I am confined, to request that I may be allowed some necessaries for myself and children. I was not permitted to bring anything away with me; whatever may be my fate, surely there can be no objection to our having a sufficiency of clothes and wholesome food." "You must be aware, madam, that in the struggle we are maintaining against despotism, we have a difficulty in supplying the wants of patriots gratuitously serving in the army, leaving their families in distress; and you can hardly suppose we can be inclined to maintain our prisoners in luxury." "But at any rate, sir, may I receive such articles as my friends can send me?" "There must be great precaution used in admitting any such privilege; nothing will be given to you without being subjected to very close examination." "Then, sir, as the Hall is in the hands of your people, would they allow me to have clothes from thence, of little value, but to me an inestimable comfort?" A smile of malicious import passed over the General's face as he replied, "Whatever you can get form the Hall, madam, you are welcome to have; but my time is precious - and your's too, as regards the letter to your husband - I beg to have it as quickly as possible; and remember," he added, sternly, "on the impression it may make on Sir John, will depend your own safety, as well as the lives of your unfortunate countrymen in the neighborhood of your late residence." He turned away with his companions, and the guard drawing round the Lady, intimated that she must immediately retire. As she passed down the stairs, her dress caught on the accoutrements of one of the men, who, with a rude ejaculation, assisted her to disengage it. It seemed to have taken a firm hold, as his rough hand approached hers, murmuring as he did so at her awkwardness; but to her infinite joy and surprise, she felt he was conveying to her a scrap of paper, which she
instantly clutched, and expressing great concern at having delayed them, she drew her dress around her, apparently to prevent the same inconvenience recurring, but in reality to conceal the paper.
Arrived at her former lodging, she was supplied with writing materials, and the moment she was alone, seized upon the secret communication with eagerness. The contents were alarming, considering the position in which she was placed. It appeared that the Hall had been burnt to the ground by Sir John's directions. After leaving it he received more certain information as to the numbers and intentions of the party dispatched to take possession thereof; and contriving to communicate with his faithful steward, he desired that they should set fire to it, with all its contents, as soon as his own people were cleared out. But he left it to their ingenuity to devise means of executing his directions in such a manner that it should be supposed to arise from the carelessness of the invaders, who were scattered about smoking and drinking in every direction. The letter went on to state that Sir John had returned within a short distance of his estate, invited the tenantry to join him, and then retreated to a part of the country where he could remain unmolested with his Indian allies; but on his way, hearing of the manner in which his wife and children had been treated, he had set fire to some barns and houses belonging to those of the opposite party, and the Indians had committed terrible slaughter, which Sir John was unable to restrain. His influence could keep them to the royal cause, but when once excited in action, they were beyond all control. The Lady was also informed that her friends had frequently attempted, and as frequently failed in opening any communication with her; that the revolutionary party were so furious against Sir John, that they were most anxious to retain her and the children as hostages, and besides were fearful of her having it in her power to give any useful information to her husband. The writer added, that her brothers and cousins (of the opposite party to Sir John) were using all their influence, and venturing as much as they dared, to procure for her some indulgence and consideration; and finally, she was warned to be attentive to any signs made by persons of the
humblest class, market women, or pedlars, who might be allowed to traffic with her guards.
Having carefully concealed this paper, the Lady hastened to apply herself to the letter she was ordered to write to her husband. She did not enlarge on the treatment she had experienced, fearing to excite his irascible temperament beyond all control; but she earnestly pressed him to restrain the cruelties of the Indians, and to endeavour to temporize with the opposite party, so as to procure her freedom and abate the miseries of civil war, pointing out that she and her children might be in great peril if further outrages were perpetrated, but withholding the fact that her life had been already threatened. When the allotted time had elapsed, an officer of the native army appeared for an instant at her door to receive her letter, and she was then again left to seclusion and discomfort.
In about a week, she was ordered to accompany a detachment going to another part of the country, but in a direction equally remote from New York (where her family resided.) or the district about which she believed Sir John and his forces to be hovering. This, of course, gave her great uneasiness; besides which, whenever passing out from her prison, or halting on the journey, she was constantly exposed to every kind of insult. Sometimes she was protected from the most brutal by others, apparently as rude, who came up, and while loudly addressing her, and offering drink to the men, contrived to give her some trifling information; and on one occasion a small purse was dropped into her lap. Another time a stout market woman pushed her way through the men with baskets of fruit, declaring that the poor children weren't tyrants, if their mother was, and that they must be thirsty in this hot weather. She kept the soldiers in play by chucking her peaches at them, assuring them, however, that they should pay her well the next time they beat the king's troops, and with all this rollicking and careless tone, she contrived to slip in a letter, and to whisper, "Have one ready for the next chance."
The information the Lady received on this occasion was rather more consolatory than the first epistle; it was from the sister who had been left at the Hall, and who related
that, having been allowed to join her family, she had used every exertion, and spared neither bribes nor intreaties with the different revolutionary leaders, to procure indulgence and some comforts for the unhappy captives - in all which attempts she had failed; that those who were known as friends or relations dared not interest themselves openly for any one connected with Sir John. However, they had given her hints by which she hoped to succeed in communicating with her sister, but that none of her emissaries had brought any reply to the various letters she had dispatched, which made her intensely anxious; however, she had now set those to work whose fidelity and ingenuity she felt sure would accomplish some of her objects, one of which was to furnish the Lady with writing materials, so that she might be always prepared to answer the intelligence she would receive, which would most frequently reach her through persons whose conduct and language would least incline her to suppose them to be friendly. The letter concluded thus: - "You cannot imagine, my dear, the terrible scene at the Hall after you departed; our poor servants all turned out destitute, and everything burnt. They were greatly irritated at not finding any quantity of plate, intending to melt in down, as they are very short of money; and for my part, I cannot conceive what has become of it. I remember the large chest was removed by the steward on the first alarm to a remote laundry, and I suppose some of the more active rebels contrived to secrete its contents for their private benefit. I was kept from communicating with any of the servants; but when the fire became so strong that there was no chance of the invaders being able to remain in any part of the building, I was sent off to a village some miles distant, and when beyond the reach of communicating with any friends, I was allowed to find my own way to New York. My various adventures would alternately amuse and terrify you. God grant that we may yet meet to talk over these things in peace! But I am in great alarm; it is now open decided war, and the rebels are most furious against Sir John, because they have so little hope of inducing him to enter into any compromise. I hear they would secure his property, and even add to it, if he would only remain neuter;
but we know too well that he will never listen to any terms, or lay down his arms, except at the command of his sovereign. The Indians are the only beings they fear, for it is now too evident that the royal troops will never be able to make head successfully against the rapidly extending insurrection against the mother country. I cannot but grieve that the savages should be employed by one connected with our party, and was dreadfully shocked to hear that our poor neighbor, J----, who was at the Hall, and certainly did afford you some protection, fell under their murderous knives, with all his family, even his little boy of eight years old. Sir John could not restrain them; but, oh! That he had not been present at such a scene! Do, my dearest, endeavour to persuade him that he owes a duty to his family as well as to his sovereign. If you or your children sink under your sad captivity, what compensation can he ever receive even from the most munificent government; and if the struggle goes on long, they will have such demands on their treasury, that they are not likely to be very liberal. Now, my dearest, adieu! May God preserve and strengthen you, prays your ever affectionate sister - M.L."
This communication, though containing so much that was painful and alarming, was yet like a sunbeam to the unhappy captive, who, though not as at first forcibly restricted to a single room, was yet debarred from free air or exercise by the insulting and ferocious language with which she was greeted whenever she left the precincts of her small apartments. On one occasion, feeling unusually nervous and unwell, yet unwilling to deprive her little ones of their short walk, she allowed them for the first time to go without her; but in a few minutes the nurse returned, breathless and alarmed; "Oh, my Lady! I don't know what has happened; but there are more people about than usual, and they seem all very angry; and the few words I could catch make me think we are none of us safe outside. The soldiers cursed the poor children as they came up - and - oh! It was well you were not with us, my Lady."
This account was sufficient to keep the unhappy lady in a state of great alarm, which was increased to its utmost pitch when, the next morning, her apartment was invaded by a
stronger guard than usual, and she was led out of the house where she was confined to another, where she again confronted the General whose previous conduct had been so harsh. Several old friends were present; but no look of kindness encouraged her to attempt recognition. Alas! For the effects of civil discord! That could so steel the hearts of men and gentlemen, that they could thus stand in unmoved judgment upon a young and helpless woman, with whom they had lived in habits of social intimacy, and whose delicate situation and failing health gave her claim to consideration.
"It appears, madam," said the General, "either that Sir John has little care for your safety, or that you did not honestly represent the peril you are in; for he is still collecting those accursed bloodhounds in the woods, and though compelled by our gallant troops to keep within a certain distance, our unhappy countrymen fall a sacrifice to their scalping knives whenever unprotected by the military. Under these circumstances, I must inform you that we shall consider ourselves justified in carrying out the strongest measures. Motives of humanity induce me and my colleagues to defer executing so painful a duty, yet I am compelled to assure you that, in case of any further atrocities being committed by your husband and his bloodthirsty allies, it will hardly be in our power to protect you from the effects of the just indignation of the people." "Sir," replied the Lady, "I know not what I can say or do to avert such a fate. I am entirely in your power; my only defence is my helpless situation, on which it may please God to look with more compassion than it appears likely to excite in my countrymen." "It is in your power, madam, to write a more urgent appeal to your husband, and to tell him that no mistaken kindness will induce us to spare his wife and children, when he is so inhumanly indifferent to the miseries of those of his former neighbors." This was the first time any menaces had been leveled against the children, and the Lady's heart sank within her; but she endeavoured to preserve an air of resolution as she replied, "It does not appear, sir, from what you have told me, that my husband has in any way transgressed the customary usages of war.
When your party are successful, they do not hesitate to slay, burn, and destroy; and if they have Indians with them, they have the same difficulty in restraining them as my husband no doubt now experiences." The General was evidently much irritated at such an argument, and broke in with, "We are not accustomed to bandy words with our prisoners; you may retire." But the Lady gathered courage to reply, "If it be my doom to fall by the hands of my fellow countrymen, I protest against such an act as unjustifiable by all the usages of war, and I appeal to all present to convey that protest against a cowardly murder to all America, to Europe, to the world. The very threat should cover with shame those who utter it! Are you! Can you be my countrymen! Thus to sit in judgment on a weak, defenceless woman, who has never transgressed any laws, and whose only offence is being devoted to her husband and her children. I have done, sir." She added in a faltering voice; "it is not surprising that I should be somewhat overcome at the treatment I have experienced from those whom I once knew so well as friends and neighbors; but it is more bodily weakness than terror. I do not, cannot, believe that you could sully your cause by such an act as you have threatened." She rose to depart, and the guard re-entered. The General was evidently in a state of great irritation and uncertainty, as the countenances of several round him indicated some emotion at the words and manner of the spirited captive. She was led back to her former abode; but though protected by the soldiers from the near approach of the rough rabble in the streets, she was compelled to hear language that assured her that the General's threats were not empty, as regarded her probable fate from their hands, if not under military escort. Writing materials were again supplied to her, and this time she wrote a stronger appeal to Sir John, giving full particulars of her situation, and earnestly pressing him to come to some terms for the sake of their children.
For some time after this she remained undisturbed; but though opportunities were offered her of communicating with her friends, she received no tidings from them; and it was not till long after that she was informed that her temporary tranquility was owing to the unsuccessful operations of the
royal army, by which disasters Sir John was obliged to retire to a greater distance. Some of her relations, of high standing in the popular party, had also represented the disgrace that would be cast upon them if she received any personal ill usage; ---- and the General who had behaved with such brutality, was called to serve in another part of the country. But her health, and that of her children, was manifestly declining so much that, though her solicitations for medical aid were disregarded, she was removed with rather more consideration than usual, to a small hamlet, many miles distant, in a very secluded, though healthy, situation, where she was more at liberty to seek such benefit as wholesome air and unrestrained exercise could confer on her pining infants. The people of the place seemed also less excited by political feelings, for they seldom noticed her; yet some who saw her wandering in the fields, kindly offered her simple medicines for her children, and some trifling comforts for herself. As she regained a greater degree of strength and composure of mind, it occurred to her that a thorough acquaintance with the paths and bye roads of the neighborhood might prove of essential service in furthering her escape; for in spite of the secluded position in which she was placed, she could not by hope that a turn of fortune might enable her husband to send emissaries to rescue her, in which case an accurate knowledge of the country would greatly assist their endeavours. Her intimate acquaintance with the Indian mode of finding their way through the woods was of great service to her, and she beguiled many a weary hour in rehearsing the knowledge she had acquired, and tracing the path of the day before by the marks she had carried to a given point. No suspicion was excited by her long absences. She generally left her children within a moderate distance, and was supposed to be within reach of them, gathering plants and flowers. No one but the nurse was aware of the plan she was pursuing, as those who were appointed to guard her naturally relaxed in their watchfulness, from the conviction that she was perfectly incapable of attempting to escape; and it was part of the policy of those who directed them, to preserve her life, which they conceived might be endangered
by any further shocks or agitation, as the time of her confinement drew near.
One day, as she was sitting on a bank with her children, at no great distance from the village, she perceived two women watching them from a neighboring field. Presently they separated; one appeared to pursue her path, and disappeared behind a hedge, and the other, coming forward, began to play with the children. The Lady, always prepared to expect secret communications, entered into conversation with the woman, and soon perceiving that she had something to tell, assured her she might speak without fear; for as long as she returned to her prison before dusk, the men who occupied the lower part of the house never noticed her absence; "for, indeed," she added "they may see I am little able to exert myself in any way; the thoughts of my desolate situation, " --- here she paused, weeping, for the compassionate looks of the woman touched a chord of feeling that she had long been obliged to restrain. "Alas!" she continued, "I believe I am forgotten by my friends as well as my enemies." "Perhaps not so much as you think, my Lady," said the woman, for the first time using her title. "I was at Albany a little while ago, and there I saw your sister, and she told me she hoped yet to set you free; and if not, she would try for leave to come and stay with you." "My sister!" exclaimed the Lady, "Oh, heavens! Did you see her? My dear, brave, active sister! How could I fancy she could forget me! but I feared she was in peril herself. Oh, tell me, pray! think what I must feel! Tell me quickly! "Well now, my Lady, keep yourself quiet, and I will tell you, that I am almost sure she will be able to come to you, and before very long, too." As the woman spoke, she kept glancing towards the hedge where she had parted with her companion, who now reappeared and approached with an air of confidence that gave the Lady a sudden suspicion. "Who is that!" she cried, "Is it - can it be!" and in a moment she was clasped in her sister's embrace!
The joy of such a meeting under such circumstances was overpowering; - for a time they wept in each other's arms -
then embraced the wondering children, and again turned to gaze on each other. They quickly bent their steps to the house, to seek rest and retirement to relate their mutual adventures. To the afflicted Lady, the comfort of having such a friend - active, careful, and affectionate, in her approaching hour of trial, was beyond description; her presence seemed as a sunbeam in the dreary apartment; and as Mrs. Margaret tenderly placed her on her bed to rest, after the violent agitation of the morning, and pressed upon her refreshment she herself prepared, she forgot for a moment that she was still a captive at the mercy of her brutal enemies, and separated from all dear to her except this one devoted relative. The effect upon her health and spirits was rapid and striking, and she was soon able to listen with composure, but with deep interest, to the account her sister gave, not only of her own proceedings, but of the position of her husband and her many relatives engaged in that momentous struggle which ended in the Independence of the British North American Colonies.
END OF THE FIRST PART.
It would be wearisome to those who do me the favor to read this narrative, to enter into the minute details afforded by old family papers, of the war between the Colonies and the Mother Country, the remembrance of which must ever be painful to all concerned in it. The representation I have felt myself entitled to make, of the treatment of the unfortunate Lady is strictly true; but it must also be borne in mind, that the feelings of the opposite party were justly and terribly excited by the shocking massacres committed by the Indians, for which Sir John was held responsible, though I have documents to prove that he made every effort to restrain them, and was deeply distressed by such enormities, I shall not, therefore, recapitulate the whole of the information which Mrs. Margaret brought to her sister, but merely introduce such parts as relate to the immediate history of Sir John and his captive wife. In reply to her sister's request for more minute particulars, Mrs. Margaret observed; "After all I have told you respecting the proceedings of both parties, there is much that I cannot fully explain, in spite of my unceasing endeavours to ascertain the exact truth. I suppose you received some of the notes and messages I sent you by various channels, and know that Sir John, after nineteen days of inconceivable hardships, reached Montreal with his companions in a state of fatigue and destitution which they could not have survived many days longer. The regular roads were so entirely occupied by the rebels, that they had to take a circuitous route through the thickest of the forests. The few provisions the Indians had prepared were soon exhausted, and they had to subsist on
roots; their boots and clothes were completely destroyed, and when they reached the shores of the St. Lawrence, it was difficult to recognize or understand the gaunt specters across from the wondering 'habitans' of the first settlement they came to. But a few weeks sufficed to restore Sir John to his usual vigour both of mind and body; and before he was able to assume an active command, he was at work organizing a force of Loyalists, of which he is the Colonel, and his frequent irruptions into the territory, held by the Continentals, as they call themselves, were the cause of your being removed from Albany. He is charged by them with having broken his word of honor, pledged that he would remain passive; but we all know that his person would have been seized had he remained that night at the Hall. Several very painful circumstances are reported to have occurred in these forays, and I fear he has not been able to restrain the Indians from many atrocities; but sure I am, that he would never willingly hurt any helpless creature, which he has been accused of doing."
"Most true," observed the Lady, "but I was very fearful of the irritation that might be excited if they heard of the General's savage threats to me. Besides, man's hot blood may often lead to actions quickly and bitterly regretted. Oh! If I could but be with him."
"To sit on his pistol case, my dear, as you did when his wrath was stirred at seeing a regiment drawn out, and not in the King's name! How he rushed to the carriage where he had left you, vowing he would shoot the soi-disant Commander, and how you slipped the pistol case under the cushion and pretended it must have been left at home."
"Well, was not that the right interposition for a woman perfectly passive! But though you have brought a smile to my sorrow stricken face, as you call it, with recollections of the past, often both ludicrous and mournful, you have yet a great deal to tell - so pray go on. Where is my husband now, and how came you to find me out, or to be allowed to come to me?"
"Neither achievement very difficult, my dear, with so many relations as we have among the opposite party. I
had, to be sure, a hard fight with General S----, and then I found the chief cause of your ill-treatment was the belief that you had been giving information to Sir John respecting the movements of the Colonists, and also what I mentioned before, the slaughter that took place at a village that he surprised with the Indians - how I made the strongest representations to our Uncle to assure him that Sir John had used his utmost efforts to prevent any person being harmed. He knows as well as we do, that though hasty and violent, it is not in Sir John's nature to be cruel, even to an animal; but then the answer is, 'He should not employ Indians unless he can control them.'"
The Lady: "But who else could guide him through the woods? And who saved him from falling into the hands of the rebels that night when his house was entered in defiance of all law or right. Surely he was fully justified in striving to recover at least his family papers and his plate - and, still more to the point, Indians are employed on the other side."
Mrs. M.: "All that is quite correct, and I pleaded it earnestly to our relations; but you can hardly imagine how strong party spirit is, and how completely warped is the judgment of men at other times temperate and rational. None of my arguments appeared to make the slightest impression; but at last I wrung from them, by dint of importunity, the permission to share your captivity - being informed at the same time that we should be strictly watched, and all communication with Sir John interdicted. They wanted me to give my word that I would not attempt either escape or intercourse - but I contrived to get out of that by laughing at the idea of binding a woman's tongue, and enquiring if they had ever heard of ladies being put on their parole. In short, it was a regular scene of womanish bullying. I kept up my spirits to the last, and answered right and left in a way I was almost ashamed of; but I contrived to throw things in their teeth that they were quite ashamed of. They know what our connections are in England; and if posts were more regular and expeditious than they are, the country would ring with clamour at such treatment of a woman. General G---- has been persuaded
not to believe it; but I have written it all to our cousin, Lady G----, and if she ever gets my letter, public opinion will plead strongly in favor of a different system for the future. However, the present state of the case is this: you are a hostage to restrain Sir John, of whom they are more afraid than of any leader in the country; - his boundless influence with the Indians, and his spirit and activity, make him a most formidable adversary. Besides, they know he is so staunch a loyalist - he will not listen to a word on their side. Now several of the most wealthy proprietors do not feel so strongly - they blame the royal measures, and are therefore considered open to conviction, and hopes are entertained that they will at least remain neutral; - now there is not a chance of Sir John agreeing to that."
The Lady: "Why, I think he could hardly now do so with honor; but I deeply regret that he did not accept the overtures made to him at the commencement. I cannot feel that he was bound to sacrifice - and such a property! - and without even being regularly engaged by Government! There is not one family in the States who had such a position as ours - that beautiful place, with money flowing in on all sides from its rich domains. No; I really cannot see that such a sacrifice was called for."
Mrs. M.: "I am afraid the jurisconsalto will not agree with you in that matter; we certainly owe allegiance to the British Crown."
The Lady: "Yes; but I would have had my husband keep himself and his tenantry quiet, and await the issue of the struggle."
Mrs. M.: "It is at any rate quite clear now that Sir John cannot compromise matters; and you have so much to lament in the past, and to fear for the future, - that I must keep your thoughts to the present, and teach you to rejoice in my presence, and let me learn how to be of use to you, by at once examining the capabilities and vicinage of this charming domicile of yours."
The Lady: "It looks bright and cheerful, my beloved, since you came into it; but when alone, how sad and forlorn the whitewashed walls, the deal furniture, and the total want of employment, except mending my own clothes and those of my children, as well as I could. Perhaps, however, this
destitution of indoor occupation has been beneficial in one way: I have walked about the whole of every day, and by watching the progress of the sun, I have formed a tolerably correct notion of the bearing of different paths; and I am sure I could find my way to any given point within seven miles."
Mrs. M.: "That is the very thing I was so desirous should occur to you. We can do nothing, of course, till after your confinement; but when you are strong again, if we could get a few hours start, we might reach a point which the pursuers could only attain by bridle roads.
The Lady:' "But consider the distance to any of the royal lines, and the danger of my falling into the hands of an infuriated rabble. Think what I went through before, when I do really believe the council of officers threatened me in that infamous manner, chiefly to satisfy the clamour of the people!"
Mrs. M.: "The very reason why you would be safer in the low country; - for however earnest for what they call their country's cause - and we call rebellion - you know our colonists are not savage or cruel, except when stirred up by ferocious demagogues. If they only suspected you of trying to make your escape, though they would not help. I don't think they would hinder. It was very different when you were charged with giving information to Sir John, and at a time, too, when their affairs were in a very critical state, and they knew not whom to trust."
The Lady: "But the poor little children; how could William or Catherine endure the fatigue?"
" 'God tempers the wind to the shorn lamb,' my dear. Your children are hardy and spirited; you and I are not weakly; and nurse is a treasure of prudence and energy. And I have so recently left the places in possession of the opposite party, that I am sure I could contrive to open a communication with one, at least, of our faithful blacks. You know, they have not yet been suspected of the daring and ingenuity with which they contrived to save your valuable plate on the night when the 'Hall' was taken possession of ."
"Is it possible! But I have heard nothing of that; do tell me."
You must know, that while the invaders were hunting
through every nook and corner of our extensive mansion for Sir John, our dear old butler gave the word to our sturdy blacks, and in an inconceivably short space of time, the plate chests were carried into the thickest part of the shrubbery, and buried in holes dug that and the following night."
"Ah! I remember now. Paul contrived to say a few words to me, but what with the state of agitation I was in, and the low tone he was obliged to use, I did not fully understand him. Dear, faithful creatures, shall we ever be able to recompense their services and again give them a home, where I am sure they were very happy!"
"Ah! Laissons l'avenio machere, - and that reminds me that if we are to get into Canada we must recall our French, which, however, I have never lost, having, as you know, a turn for picking up scraps of any language, and among the clan of our Norman and German ancestors, there certainly is a perfect Babel of tongues, - English rather the worst spoken of the number, I fear."
"You are just the same as ever, you dear, thoughtful creature, trying to keep my thoughts from reverting to painful subjects; but perhaps the plans and schemes for reaching my husband may be the best distraction for my mind. So to return, - have you any notion of the positions of the Royal forces? Not much, certainly: but as they are in constant motion, it is of little consequence at present, and I shall trust to my wits to ascertain the nearest point of their lines, when we are ready to start. You will be able to travel, if it please God, early in the spring, which though a very trying time for travelers, is the most suitable for escape, because the opposing forces must be stationary. We ought to prepare some light provisions - light as to weight, I mean - such as very strong jelly, and biscuits that will keep, as we may often have difficulty in procuring sustenance. Luckily our captors do not starve us; and during your confinement I may occupy many a leisure hour in concocting such a stock of meat jelly as will be a resource in places where we may find a difficulty in procuring or cooking provision, What a great mercy it is, my dearest, that your
fine constitution and energetic mind fit you to 'rough it' like a poor settler's wife, when required, just as much as your fair face and elegant figure were suited to the high position you have hitherto held, as the finest specimen of our Colonial ladies. Only that I can't fancy you in any thing but satin and jewels - it seems to me as if you must be found out."
"By the time I have faced the bitter winds and the scorching sun of our early spring for a few days, and trudged through the compound of snow and mud that will then prevail, I dare say I shall look quite rough enough to pass muster with the Continentals, even if I meet some that knew me formerly. I trust I may be spared coming in unfriendly contact with any old acquaintance. I think I never felt anything so bitterly as when looking round at faces familiarized by almost daily intercourse, I met only looks of stern indignation and tones of harsh rebuke, and that from men who had so often sat at my table, and if not relations, were at least connections!
"Now, my dear Mary, once for all, no more of this. We must lose no time in finishing off such preparation as we have been able to make for the coming stranger, and then the sooner it makes its appearance the better."
Mrs. Margaret's wishes were speedily granted. Her sister very shortly gave birth to a fine boy, and when able to take exercise, the bright though severe weather braced her strength so rapidly, that they only awaited an answer to a communication they had sent to one of their old servants requesting his escort and information as to the position of the Royalists, to start on their perilous expedition. Tony, a black, who had been in daily attendance on his Lady when residing at the Hall, as one of her grooms, joyfully accepted the task proposed. He was strong, active, and intelligent, and had the ingenuity so far to conceal his capacity, as to be viewed as a useful drudge; and as such he was engaged by an officer of high standing in the Continental forces, to attend to his horses. And his careful attention to that business, yet good humoured readiness to aid in anything else, admitted him into his master's tent and about his
person at many times, when he contrived to pick up a great deal more than any of those around him supposed he could understand. On receiving Mrs. Margaret's missive, he assured her that he would leave his present master and find his way to his former Lady, as soon as he could discover enough of the proposed movements of the Continental forces, so as to be able to direct the route of the fugitives; but he could not expect to ascertain all he required under a few weeks, nor did he think the weather sufficiently favourable. It was, therefore, a great surprise to the ladies within ten days of their receiving the message to encounter Tony in one of their walks. He was driving a very poor sleigh, with a rough-looking horse, bearing a load of wood. With the utmost caution he called their attention, and gave them the startling intelligence, that in consequence of an irruption of the Indians, Colonel D----, the Lady's former enemy, had determined on fetching her from her retirement and placing her in a prison, under military guard, to threaten Sir John with the most severe treatment unless he obliged the Indians to withdraw. The affair having occasioned great excitement in the camp, and the measures respecting the Lady being openly talked of, Tony ascertained that many were vehemently opposed to any rough treatment of a female, and besides that they could not at once spare any detachment, however small, to fetch the Lady. The alarm occasioned by the unexpected appearance of the Indians making them consider it inexpedient to move her from her present lonely position without an escort.
Tony therefore procured leave from his master, on some pretence, to leave the camp; and by performing part of his journey on horseback, and crossing many fields on snowshoes, he arrived in time to give them a start of some days before any fresh directions could come from headquarters. There was, however, no time to be lost; yet it was impossible to depart in the night, as they would be missed in the morning, and would be placed at a disadvantage by traveling through dusk and dark, and pursued in broad daylight. They arranged, therefore, that Tony with his sleigh, should wait at about two miles distance, chopping wood, so as not to attract attention; and that in the course of the day they
should bring out to him such small articles of food and clothing as they had prepared for their journey.
It must be mentioned here that, with respect to the people under whose charge they were placed, their vigilance had greatly relaxed, partly from the conviction that the remoteness of the place from any town or beaten road must make it impossible for females to attempt to escape, and in some degree from choosing to form their own opinions on the subject. They did not see what mischief women could do! and as for the Indians, they had never come near them - never in the memory of man - and so they subsided into a sociable demeanour towards their prisoners, not giving themselves any particular trouble either to oblige or annoy them. An allowance was given for their maintenance, which was an advantage, as in those remote parts, where no market offers, - the produce of a farm or garden, if not consumed, is wasted. They desired, therefore, to retain their advantage, and not to give offence to their employes; but, unused to military authority or regular control, they had become so careless of their charge, that the two men of the farm were often absent for a night or two on any business they fancied at a distance.
To return to the arrangement of the ladies. Mrs. Margaret, with her usual resolution, impressed upon her sister the absolute necessity of endeavouring to compose her nerves and spirits, so as not to deprive herself of the sleep requisite to sustain her strength; and the conviction that wakefulness was perfectly useless, and rest most important for a nursing mother, induced the Lady to retire early to rest, and strive to calm her troubled thoughts.
"You know, my dear," said Mrs. Margaret, "it is out of the question to start earlier than the hour we go out for our customary ramble, it would excite observation and suspicion. We must dress the children and breakfast exactly as we always do, and I shall contrive with nurse's aid to carry out at different intervals the little valuables to be received by Tony and packed in his sleigh. Nurse often carries out her linen to bleach, so they are accustomed to see her going in and out with bundles. Tony will be under the shadow of the wall, which she can reach without
notice. So now all is settled, and you will please retire to rest." said the affectionate sister, driving the exhausted mother into her bedroom, where, relying on those so devoted, and desirous to spare her all fatigue and anxiety, she sank into a profound and refreshing sleep.
Happily for the poor fugitives, the following day dawned brightly on their departure; and at their usual hour they left the farmhouse in their customary fashion, the little boy chasing his leather ball, and begging permission to make a wonderful snowball, in which amusement the nurse joined him; and together they propelled the increasing mass till they were out of sight of the house, when they all quickened their pace till they reached the place appointed by Tony, who speedily cleared out all his faggots, and with some difficulty crammed them all into his sleigh. The roads were in the finest winter order; and the horse, whose appearance had been purposely neglected, and who had far more vigour and speed than a transient inspector would have given him credit for, carried them on at a brisk pace. In about two hours they stopped at a solitary cottage, whence issued the kind-hearted woman who had accompanied Mrs. Margaret on her journey to meet her sister. She was rejoiced to see them, and at Tony's request had prepared some common country clothes for the Lady, whose wardrobe, though scanty, was entirely composed of materials that must have attracted attention. The change of dress, and a hasty meal, were made while Tony transferred his horse to the stable of the owner, and put in the one belonging to the good woman's husband, with which he was to proceed to a village several miles distant. "Now," said the kind-hearted creature, "you are to drive right up to the house with the green verandah, and ask for Jeremiah Braddon, and tell him, as your horse was knocked up, you gave me a dollar for the use of his horse and sleigh; and if he looks grumpy, why you must seem to screw out another dollar, and say - though you're not rich, you've business that's worth hurrying for. But mind, you mustn't let the lady and children be seen, nor let on a word about 'em; it might bring him into trouble. For though, you see, I can't bear to have a lady I know was always so kind, left in any danger, yet it's not for me to set
myself up against my husband and his people. I don't pretend to understand the rights of it, and I can't see how we're the better for all this fighting and soldiering; but still, I could not help any on against them. And I'm sure, a woman with a baby at her breast can't do nobody any harm; and if she should be hurt or vexed, what would become of the little dear. And then, to think - if her sister hadn't gone to her, why, it might never have been born - the darling!" And with this compliment to Mrs. Margaret, and an affectionate hug to the infant, she packed them all into her sleigh - a much more commodious one than that in which they started; and they drove off greatly cheered by her kindness and seasonable refreshment. The children were laid in the bottom of the vehicle, and the rough wraps with which they covered themselves were so disposed as not to display the number and sex of the party to a casual observer. Still they were sadly apprehensive that if pursued they might be traced by enquiries among the scattered wood-cutters and occasional travellers whom they passed. But their well-founded alarm was relieved by a sudden change of weather. About two in the afternoon the sky became clouded over, and snow began to fall thickly. The Lady looked alarmed, knowing the perils and difficulties of a snow-storm. "It won't last, my Lady," said old Tony, answering her glances of dismay, "and it's the best thing in the world for us: not a soul can see us now or track our runners." This was some consolation; but still the flakes fell faster and thicker, and the horse struggled wearily through the fast accumulating snow. Mrs. Margaret and Tony began to look uneasily at each other. "The Lord be praised!" said Tony, "I know that old fence; we're not far from the town. And now, my Lady, you must all get out, and I must go in alone and give up the horse to Jerry Braddon." This was rather alarming: to wait in a blinding snow alone, while Tony left them to ascertain how they were to get on. However, the cheerful resolution of Mrs. Margaret, as usual, kept up her sister's spirits by making light of all difficulties; and they alighted from the sleigh, and chose a position under a fence where they would be a little sheltered. Just as Tony was leaving them, a sudden thought seemed to dart into Mrs. Margaret's
head, "Stop, Tony!" she cried, "it will never do for you to fetch us as a party to any house in this village; you heard what Mrs. Braddon said. It is evident all the people there are on the side of the rebels; and if our jailers come this way, every information would be given. I think, therefore, we must divide, and come in as separate parties, seeking shelter and refreshment. You shall take Master William with you, and can say that his mamma let him go to market with you, and you're so afraid she'll be anxious, that if it clears at all, you will walk on with him, though he's got a terrible ear-ache. And now, Willie, I shall tie up your face, and you're not to speak a single word. If you're spoken to, put your hand up to your face, and only mutter; for they'd know in a minute your accent is not that of a settler's child. Keep your mouth shut, and go to sleep if you can. Then, Tony, nurse shall follow soon after you with the little girl, and I and my sister at another interval with the baby. In such weather as this, and a market day, there will be plenty of people taking shelter, so that we may hope to escape notice. Only, Tony, after talking to Jerry Braddon, you must come out to the door, and while looking at the weather, we must arrange some sign by which we can know if it is the kind of place which we may venture to enter and have a bed, if we cannot get on." "All right, my Lady, I'll be hanging about the door of the cattle shed, and hail you as a stranger, and tell you the best place to go to." "And, Tony, I need hardly tell you, - beware of questions!" "Oh, my Lady, don't I know their ways and how to puzzle them! They won't ask faster than I'll answer!" So saying, he drove off, and the party followed as arranged - the nurse leading the little girl, who could not speak plain, and therefore required no caution. They kept at a good distance from each other, and as they approached the first houses, a man who was clearing the snow from his door called out to them, and with the usual inquisitiveness of the natives, began to enquire what they wanted, where they were going, and from whence they came. The first question was easily answered with truth; they were going northwards, and wanted shelter from the snow-storm. "Well then, I don't think you can do better than turn in here." said the
man, with the 'rough and ready' hospitality which long existed in every part of North America. "And I'm sure," said Mrs. Margaret, "I think so too; and many thanks for the offer. But stop," she said, seeming to recollect herself, "you see her husband (pointing to her sister.) will come, maybe, with a sleigh to meet her, and he'll drive to the inn, and so he'll miss her." "Well, as to that, you're heartily welcome to what I have: but it's a little place and a little bed: I couldn't no ways take in more than you two. But couldn't you - for you look the stoutest - just trudge on to the inn, and leave word where you are: for in such weather as this, there'll be no room to spare there, I'm sure."
"To be sure I can," said Mrs. Margaret, "and be back in ten minutes: and you sit down here, my dear, and rest." And away went Mrs. Margaret in the direction of the inn, to give a message to Tony to say they had found a shelter preferable to the inn, and that if he would wander along the street, Mrs. Margaret would meet him and arrange for their proceeding as soon as the weather would admit. The snow was now falling so thickly that they had little fear of pursuit, and therefore the sisters sat down thankfully to the meal which the hospitable owner of the house soon set before them. The Lady could not but feel uneasy and depressed at being separated from her two elder children: but her sister, feeling such a measure necessary to the ultimate success of their journey, almost severely insisted on the folly of endeavouring to keep together - in that case they would answer exactly to the description given by the men who would doubtless be in pursuit of them sooner or later.
"As we are now, " she said, "there is no clue to distinguish you from the many women who are returning from the markets with their infants: and as they have no notion of our having a black with us, there is nothing to draw attention to William so pray keep yourself quiet and lie down to rest, for you will need all your strength if we have to walk far tonight. I must now try to settle with our kind host about leaving the house, for as soon as it is possible, on we must go."
"Well, my dearest, I will try to do as you bid me. You
are my sole stay and support, and I can only show my gratitude by being as obedient as a child."
"There's a dear! So now step into that room and lie down with baby till I call you - trust all to me."
The good natured host had placed a little adjoining room at their disposal: but as he said it was "close quarters" even for two women, and he certainly could not have found sleeping room for the supposed husband had he made his appearance. Mrs. Margaret then returned to the fireside and entered into conversation with the owner, who seemed to live a very lonely life, and to be glad of an opportunity of a chat. Mrs. Margaret's entire ignorance of all that was going on, she accounted for by saying, they lived at a secluded farm and never heard a word of news except from pedlars, and their visits had been very scarce since the troubles began. "Ay, you may well say so. I'm sure I can't think why we couldn't go on as we did before, carrying our goods to market and getting well paid by the folks who lived happily in their fine houses. We'd as much meat and drink as ever we wanted, and plenty of British goods to buy. I'm old now, and even if I could handle a musket, I wouldn't take part against my own people; but I wish they had never began." &c, &c. And after humouring the old man with a long talk, Mrs. Margaret expounded to him that if her sister's husband should have been delayed by the snow-storm from coming to fetch her, he might arrive in the night, and she begged to know if he would mind their going off if they fastened the door after them. "Lord bless you! No," said the old fellow; "and as for fastening the door! Why, unless the Britishers or the Indians find their way here (and then what good would locks do?) we don't know what a robbery is. Why, if a neighbor wants my washtub or my churn early, and I'm fast asleep, she just walks in and takes it and puts it back again, and maybe I never know it's been borrowed! Do just whatever you like, only don't set the house on fire. And now, as I'm sleepy, I'll turn in and wish you God speed, and I hope we may meet again in quieter times;" and with a hearty shake of the hand the old fellow retired. As soon as Mrs. Margaret believed him to be asleep, she went out into the road to look out for
Tony, who shortly appeared with better tidings than they had expected. Jeremiah Braddon not only freely forgave his wife for turning a penny by the loan of his sleigh, but was very willing to earn a little more by giving him the use of that and his horse to a place about fifteen miles distant, where he was to leave both, after making arrangements with some people there who would be returning to the place where Braddon had no objections to stay all night, as his business was not pressing, and Tony declared his mistress would be in agony about her boy, and that fair or foul he must go on. The nurse had acted her part admirably, and had begged a cast from him as a stranger for a part of the way. Tony, therefore, was to prepare the sleigh, bestow the nurse and the two elder children in it, and Mrs. Margaret and her sister were to walk on briskly to a point where the houses terminated, and where the addition to the party would not be noticed. All this was successfully carried out. The Lady was roused from her short slumber. The snow had ceased to fall, and by a moon literally as "bright as day." The party united without interruption, and were presently flying along the smooth snow at a most exhilarating pace. On reaching the place where Braddon's horse was to be left, they were to turn out and disperse as before, and Tony was to use every effort to obtain another conveyance. In this he unhappily failed. It was not very likely that any of the people would turn out their horses at that hour for strangers: and as to houses where conveyances were regularly for hire, no such convenience existed in that secluded part of the country. "I fear," said Mrs. Margaret, "that we cannot venture to pause; we cannot depend on not being pursued; and though I trust that the weather and the division of our party will prevent their tracking us, or gaining any correct information, yet as enquiries will be made in every direction, the further we get the better. How do you feel?"
"Wonderfully strong." Said the Lady: "the rest and refreshment given us by that capital old fellow has quite set me up. Let us go on at once. When we can walk no further, we may come to some farm-house off the road, where, if the owners should be absent, we can sit down and eat our own provisions; and if within, we may be sure they
will kindly replenish our stock, if they have not a warm meal prepared." "En avant done mathere; but, nurse, you must give me a turn with the little one. Willy has had such a famous rest he will be able to trot for a long time, I am sure." "That I can, aunty; for do you know I went to sleep almost immediately; for as you told me I was not to say a word, I kept so quiet that my eyes shut up quite of themselves." "So much the better, my boy;" and thus encouraging each other, the party trudged on almost merrily for a considerable time. But when, at last, strength and spirits began to flag, Mrs. Margaret and Tony looked anxiously about for some resting place. No inn was at hand, and they could not venture to arouse the inmates of any dwelling at such an unreasonable hour; yet it was too cold to admit of their sitting down with safety without shelter. At last Tony discovered an out-house full of straw, where he thought, if the party huddled closely together, they might remain with safety for a couple of hours. As for himself, his strength seemed to rise to the occasion, though his anxiety for his mistress and her children had prevented his closing his eyes for two nights. He knew there was a large village within a few miles, and when sufficiently renovated to go forward, they could boldly ask for food and shelter at the usual breakfast hour without exciting any observation. On reaching it, however, great was their dismay: there was unusual bustle in every direction, and they soon found that a considerable number of the Continental troops had halted there for the night. This was the most startling difficulty they had yet encountered. It was always within possibility that the Lady or her sister, or even Tony might be recognized by some former acquaintance, and even if kindly disposed, their sense of duty to their party would induce them to arrest their flight. But Mrs. Margaret, whose intrepid and energetic character made difficulties rather a pleasure, proposed to go on in advance with one of the children, while Tony, the Lady, and her nurse should drop in as a separate party, ascertaining first by tokens she arranged that all was safe. Their dress being that of the humbler class, and a number of people lounging about in an unusual manner in consequence of the halt
of the troops, prevented their arrival being anything remarkable. Still the inveterate habit among the Colonists, of asking questions innumerable, was always a source of alarm and perplexity. Mrs. Margaret, however, considered herself as running less risk than any of the others if recognized, as she believed that her residence with her sister was not generally known. The permission had been granted by the heads of officers in New York, who had doubtless considered that in allowing the Lady the comfort of her sister's society, they were ensuring the peaceable submission of both to their retirement. The late irruption of Sir John, which had led to the intention of placing the Lady in close confinement, was not likely to be known to these people, as they came from an opposite direction. Besides which, it was hoped that Tony's movements would have so far outstripped the messengers dispatched, that the only real ground of apprehension was in the pursuit of those charged with the Lady's detention. They therefore agreed as to what they should answer if questioned. The Lady was to be on her way to her friends, her husband having joined the Continental army: Tony, as before, in charge of a little boy, and delayed by the snow-storm: the nurse and little girl also on their way home. It was easy for them to assume the names of some families whose position they were well acquainted with near their former residence. So Mrs. Margaret boldly sped forward, the others following more slowly, and appearing to join in with the different groups moving up and down the wide and straggling street of the village. Avoiding all appearance of haste, and really striving to pick up information as they went along, it was full an hour before they came to a house which seemed to be a resort for travellers: and while looking about with apparent indifference and real anxiety for the signal Mrs. Margaret was to give, to their astonishment and momentary dismay, a woman with her arms covered with flour and plentifully besprinkled with the same, by two or three officers who followed her laughing, rushed out of the door and seizing the Lady by the arm, exclaimed: "Well, if my cake is not good enough for you, here's a poor soul, I'll answer for it, who won't despise it. Now, have you had any break
fast yet, because if you can eat a bit, come in and shame these fellows who pretend that I don't know how to bake a cake - a Union cake I mean to call it - and I've vowed for their manners that I'll give it to the first person passing. So come in, come in: if you haven't a cent to pay for your breakfast, I'll treat you, sooner than those dainty fellows should have my cakes."
"Well, I'm not quite so badly off as that." replied the Lady, who had presently recognized her sister: "but I'm hungry enough to eat anything, and I can't but say -"
"Well, well, come in and sit down," and so she drew her sister in, talking the whole time, and when some of the men began questioning her and remarking upon the infant, Mrs. Margaret vehemently protested the poor soul ought to be left in peace to eat her breakfast, and observing, too, how pale and fagged she looked. She asked the mistress of the house, if she might be allowed to take it in a dark room off the general apartment, as the bustle and noise prevented the baby from sleeping.
When the nurse came in with the little girl, Mrs. Margaret advised her to share the retirement of that poor weary body. And having thus put them all out of sight, she fearlessly joined the military at their breakfast, keeping them occupied and amused with her frank and rattling conversation.
On her first arrival, she had found the mistress of the house bewilded with the number clamouring for breakfast; and being herself beset with questions, she turned them off, by offering her services to the landlady; and declaring she could make hot rolls, such as they had never seen before, She was presently engaged with a rolling pin and board, but anxious for her sister's arrival she took advantage of a jesting remark on her probable failure to throw them down, and rush into the street, the result of which we have seen.
It must be remembered that distinction of ranks could not at that period be very decided in the Colonies. It is true that the governors of the different provinces, supported by the old established and wealthy families (many of whom were highly connected in England.) formed a little circle in each of the capital cities, from which were excluded, with as much jealousy as from a court, those whom they designated 'new
people." but in the existing state of public affairs, the wealth, intelligence, and public spirit of these "new people" could not be disregarded, and all being united in the bonds of a common cause, social distinctions were for a time overlooked, though not unknown even in distant parts. So, when Mrs. Margaret, in her coarse and shabby dress, occasionally named the Livingstones, Van Renselvoers, Watts, and Van Corstlands, and also displayed a cultivation of mind not then common in remote parts of the country, she saw that her companions became curious and puzzled. Others would have paused and feared to excite curiosity, but Mrs. Margaret, with the recklessness of a child who delights in approaching the very verge of a precipice, enjoyed their perplexity, and contrived to mystify them completely. She had never been handsome, but was rather clever, and her fearless independence of character, not without a dash of conceit, made her amusing to all, and a general favourite with the male sex. Her present object being to keep them entirely occupied with herself, having a strong impression that her sister's grace and beauty might attract attention, she rattled away on all possible subjects - politics, governors, fine company, etc. At one moment she insinuated her intimacy with such and such people of distinction, and at another gave such a peculiar description of Lady ----'s dress, and the way it was put on, that one of the least ceremonious broke in with - "It's my belief you were her lady's maid, a regular pin-sticker for one of old George's starving grandees." "Much you know of those people, indeed; as if any such would be seen in an old dress like this, if it was ever such weather; - but whatever you may think of me. I think we have had a capital breakfast, and that I'm sorry we must be moving, for I see your men are gathering:" and so bustling about, she broke up the party, feeling no small degree of thankfulness when the last soldier quitted the village.
It was fortunate for her that her friendly intercourse with the officers of the detachment had given the people of the inn an impression that she was in some way connected with their leaders, and they were therefore willing to lend a sleigh and horses, which, according to their simple habits, would
be brought back by any of the neighbors who might have stopped at what we should now call the next stage. As this negotiation was carried on at the door, and all parties made it their business to listen to what was going on, Tony took occasion to offer his services to drive, making rather a sharp bargain for remuneration; and while Mrs. Margaret was haggling with him as to the payment, the Lady again enacted the part of begging for a cast for a short distance. This being granted, they entered a roomy and comfortable sleigh, and set off in good spirits, - the nurse having walked on, as if entirely independent of them, and being taken up about a mile from the village.
They now had the opportunity of imparting to each other the information they had respectively gained, which was of a nature to damp their exultation at their hitherto successful progress. It appeared that, to reach the British lines, where alone the Lady could hope for safety, they must pass through the country in possession of the rebel army, thereby encountering the risk of being stopped by sentinels, and obliged to account for their proceedings before the commanding officers. In every point of view their situation was most perplexing. If they travelled by night, they would certainly be stopped; if by day, they might be recognized. Their only chance seemed to be, disguising themselves as much as possible, which the hoods, veils, and cloaks usually worn at that season admitted of their doing without making a grotesque appearance. They could form no plan; they must leave all to circumstances. The only arrangement they made was as to the names and connection with each other to be assumed in case of being stopped and questioned. Mrs. Margaret observed, that if they could get within twenty miles of the Royal lines, they could pursue their journey with much less observation on foot. "Poor way-worn looking people," she said, "may be on their way to some neighboring farm or village; but comfortably ensconced in a good sleigh, and stout horses, not known to the immediate inhabitants, we may be asked more questions than we can answer." "Then, my dear Margaret," said the Lady, "we will be satisfied with the meanest conveyance we can find; but how could the poor little ones struggle on, even with
being occasionally carried; and I fear much that I should break down after ten miles." "So do I fear for you greatly; but you perceive it is difficult to hire or borrow the very poor sleighs, as they are generally kept by those who depend entirely on their use for fetching wood or carrying things to market. However, we shall see. Perplexities seem to thicken round us; but we have hitherto been mercifully preserved, and have no choice but to persevere."
On arriving at the place where they were to leave the sleigh, they found no difficulty in procuring refreshment and comfortable accommodation; and after the night they had passed, it was absolutely necessary to allow themselves a few hours sleep.
The village was quiet, and most of the men were absent; but no conveyance was to be had; and they had no alternative but to pursue their way on foot. They had, however, the opportunity of procuring a good deal of information, and could shape their course accordingly. The following day and night they struggled on with great difficulty, - sometimes getting a cast in a sleigh, but often obliged to separate, which was always a source of alarm and perplexity. They came at last to a village where a regular force was stationed, and were presently challenged by a sentinel, and desired to wait for the officer on guard, whose inspection was not very minute, as he seemed to be perfectly satisfied with their account of themselves. At the next place they were not so fortunate: - the British camp was now within fifteen miles, and every precaution was used to avoid information being carried. Having taken down the name of the family whose house was their professed destination, the lieutenant informed them that his commanding officer was returning from that immediate neighborhood in the course of the day, and that they must await his arrival, as he would know whether the family expected any such party. They were obliged to conceal their consternation, and only humbly entreated to be allowed to seek accommodation in the village. To this he assented, only reminding them that any attempt to go on without a pass would be at once useless and dangerous, as guards were stationed at every outlet. Thankful, however, for the
permission to retire, they turned out of the main street, and were presently comforted by the friendly hospitality of one of the villagers, who seeing their travel-worn garments and distressed looks, invited them into her house. While she was preparing a meal for them, they took the opportunity of discussing their position. Mrs. Margaret was very decided as to the danger that would be incurred were they to be recognized by the commanding officer, whose name they had not been able to ascertain, and she therefore determined to present herself to him alone, and if she found he was disposed to let them go on, she could fetch her sister; if any difficulty arose, of which notice would be given by a preconceived sign, the Lady was to lie down, and complaining of indisposition, would have an opportunity of concealing her features. Mrs. Margaret accordingly went back to the place where the sentries were stationed, and on enquiring if the commanding officer had arrived, she was told with little ceremony - she might go up and see. He was seated writing with his back to her when she entered, but turning round hastily, he began: "Well, my good woman, what is it you want?" - when words seemed to fail, and he remained gazing at her for a moment in mute astonishment, then recovering, he exclaimed "Good heavens! Is it possible!" to which she replied, with apparent coolness, though the pulsation of her heart was almost suspended - "And how very fortunate to meet you, Mr. Van Horne; for in these times a stranger might give me some trouble; but you can readily understand that a woman like myself may find it expedient to travel in a very scrubby style, and ----" "But, my dear Mrs. Margaret," interrupted the young patriot, who was quite aware of the loquacious powers of his former acquaintance, "though it would distress me exceedingly to give you any annoyance, yet you see, I have a duty to perform, and you must let me know a little more about your movements and the people who are with you." "But now, really, my good friend, it would be excessively absurd to occupy your time with an account of the frolic that brought me here, though you shall certainly have it at your leisure; but as for the poor people - they are two women with two children, and a black, none of them likely to be bearers
of dispatches. I joined them on the road, as there was a difficulty in getting a separate sleigh, and it really seems important for them to get on. The woman with the baby is sadly fagged, and she will not feel comfortable till she reaches her husband's relations." "Ah, at the Grove House. I have been staying there, and heard they expected the family of one of their tenants who is with the army." "What a merciful coincidence!" thought Mrs. Margaret, as well as that he should not require to see the sleigh in which we got a lift for the last few miles - but she remained silent and unmoved, awaiting further enlightenment. "There is a black with you; who is he?" "The man I hired to drive me, and who offered to go on with the women and children." "Very well - but still my dear Mrs. Margaret, for all your observations that woman can do no harm, I confess to having that opinion of your capacity and intelligence, that I think you could work us a little mischief if so inclined; and I don't particularly like finding you on the high road to our enemies. Your brother we know to be a staunch patriot; but there is no doubt about Sir John's animosity, and we are not particularly satisfied as to your brother-in-law, Captain K----, so I don't see how I could answer it to my superiors, or still less to my conscience, if I admitted your progress in that direction." "Is that all?" said Mrs. Margaret, who had turned over in her mind while he was speaking the best mode of proceeding. "Why, I don't want to go a step further, if I can get accommodation here for a day or two. I did not separate my self from the people with me when questioned this morning, for I had promised to let them have the sleigh and the driver as far as the Grove House, and there were so many troops about that, though hardly acquainted with the family, I was sure they would give me house-room till I could find an escort back to New York." "I shall be able to find you a suitable room in this village, which I suppose will answer your purpose quite as well." "Quite as well, if not better," answered Mrs. Margaret readily, for she detected a trace of suspicion in his objection to her rejoining the party, "only I should like to get my small luggage, which is bestowed in the sleigh with these people, and to pay the driver, as I may
not see him again, if they are allowed to go on." "That you can do, of course; and you shall have my servant to bring it for you; for though I never saw you before in such attire as at present, my dear Mrs. Margaret, I doubt if your business, whatever it may be, has yet accustomed you to carry your own luggage." "You shall hear all about my business when I come back, and I think the history will amuse you not a little." "I shall be delighted to have a chat with you on your return; but just now," he added, taking a packet of papers from an orderly dragoon who entered at the moment, "I must attend to these dispatches." He then called his servant, desired him to accompany that lady to fetch her luggage, handed him a pass for the women and their driver, who were going to Grove House; but added a whispered injunction that he was not to lose sight of the lady till he had lodged her at the house where she could have accommodation for the night. Mrs. Margaret suspected the instructions given, besides which she felt it would only involve her sister in hopeless difficulty were she to attempt to evade the officer's directions. He was the son of a family with whom she was intimate, and though she was convinced he would not willingly do anything harsh or unkind, she believed that his high sense of honour would not allow him to sanction the escape of a prisoner who, in spite of her sex, was considered of importance: nor could she feel satisfied to involve him in so painful an alternative. She, therefore, proceeded quietly but speedily with the servant, who contented himself with keeping a watch on the sleigh, while she went into the room to speak to her sister, who had followed her advice and was lying down as if indisposed.
When the unhappy Lady understood that she was to separate from her sister, her agitation was such that it was with difficulty she was restrained by the prudence of the latter from giving way to such utterance of her feelings as would have excited attention. "Oh, my dearest." She cried, "What, what will become of me! I never can get on alone. I must, I will go to Henry Van Horne; he cannot, I am sure, he will not refuse me; I'll throw myself on his generosity; I'll take the poor children --- ." "Hush, hush,
my dear! This is folly, madness. Think of the risk he would be exposed to. Have you any right to ask him to sacrifice his commission, if not his life, certainly his reputation? You must command yourself for the sake of your dear little ones. You have still your faithful servant, and the use of the sleigh for a time. You must get off at once, and trust to the kind Providence which has hitherto preserved you. Do you not think my heart is wrung at the thought of leaving you? Do not make the task harder. Let this be our farewell embrace, for as soon as we are outside we must appear to be strangers. Nurse, you must explain to Tony. I fear to stay, lest the captain should find time to come to look after me. God keep you, my dearest:" and so hurrying out, she beckoned the servant to join her with her little bundle, and calling out, "I hope you'll find it all comfortable at Grove House. I shan't want the sleigh any more, and I've paid all." And she bustled away, with an aching, trembling heart, which was relieved by a violent burst of tears when she found herself alone in the apartment Captain Van Horne had ordered for her. Thus suddenly separated from the objects of so much care and solicitude, her spirits gave way completely, and her anxiety reached such a pitch that she almost determined to leave all risks and rejoin them. But a short time sufficed to restore her to composure, and to the conviction that her hastily-formed plan was the best. By keeping in communication with Captain Van Horne, she would be enabled to hear if the names of the fugitives were discovered or their progress arrested, and in such case her address and intreaties might avail to procure their release; whereas if she made any attempt at escaping herself, she would at once bring upon them the fate which might yet be averted by prudence on her part and expedition on theirs. She, therefore, turned her thoughts to consider what kind of history she was to concoct for the mystification of Captain Van Horne, in case he called upon her to explain, according to promise, the motive of her strange appearance. Though fertile in imagination and ready at repartee, it was perhaps fortunate that that gentleman was so much occupied with military affairs that he had not time to attend to Mrs.
Margaret further than by sending messages through his servant, who was desired to see that she was comfortably accommodated, and also, privately, to prevent any communication with persons not fully known to the Continental authorities.
The following day Mrs. Margaret was rather surprised at being told that a gentleman wished to see her. On his entering, she recognized an old friend and connection who, though engaged on the popular side, was very moderate in his views and feelings. "Why, my dear Mrs. Margaret, what's all this that I hear from Van Horne? He tells me that you arrived here in a kind of disguise, and that he does not feel quite satisfied as to your intentions. Surely you are not going to follow the crazy example of Sir John, and sacrifice friends and country to the Royal cause." "Perhaps it's lucky for me that I have no such alternative forced upon me. Royalist as you know I am, for I don't think I could make up my mind to give up all that Sir John will lose. Still, I won't admit that his conduct is that of a madman. You must, at least, allow that it is disinterested." "Yes, I must confess now, there is no doubt of that. At one time I thought he might gain a peerage, and, God knows what besides, by adhering to Great Britain: but as matters stand at present, the old country will certainly be beat, and I suspect that those who will lose all in an unsuccessful cause, will not receive much compensation. But now, as to your family. Did you see Captain K---- before he left the country?" "Left the country, and what then has become of my sister?" "She is doing the best and wisest thing possible, living quietly near her brother in New York, and keeping a look-out on her husband's property, which I think will be spared, as we all feel he cannot in honour join us, being an officer of the Royal Navy: but I am sure he will never serve against us - his feelings would prevent that - besides which I hear he is likely to succeed to the title of C----. So if you've one sister ruined, the other may soon be a Countess.* Well, I am very fond of them both; but
*Captain K---- succeeded to the title of C---- in 17--. His wife died in 17--. She was the great grandmother of the present Marquis of A----.
Sir John's wife was my favorite. Why did she not persuade her husband to follow K----'s example? It's quite distracting to me, as an old friend, to think of the position she is placed. Good heavens! To see all what she was, and what she is! alas! alas!" "Tis no use thinking about it, my good friend. She might as well have hoped to turn the Falls of Niagara as Sir John. My only wish and endeavour for some time has been to get her safely out of the country." "You're right there, and now tell - for I came on purpose to have a little confidential chat with you - do you know how your sister is situated at the present moment?" "What do you mean - when? The last I heard of her was - you alarm me - pray tell me the worst?" she continued, turning very pale, "have they _____ ." Here, fortunately, her voice failed, and he continued, "I trust they never will do anything so dastardly as to injure her: but the fact is, orders have been sent to remove her from the place where she was secluded to await her confinement, and to place her in close imprisonment." "Oh!" replied Mrs. Margaret, drawing a deep breath of relief, "that is indeed rather alarming: but still - I never can believe that our people would use her ill, independent of respect for her sex and character - my brother's influence should be some protection." "One would think so; but still they may manage not to let him hear much about the matter, and if he would draw suspicion on himself, and thereby neutralize the influence he has hitherto had from being supposed to be a red-hot patriot. It's hardly possible for those who have never witnessed the effects of civil war, to conceive how distressing and complicated all the relations of society are in these unhappy times. As for information on any subject, it's most difficult to obtain. We know not if the person who asks us a question, may not have relations in communication with the enemy; and even where treachery is not intended, intelligence may be conveyed that might be exceedingly injurious to our cause. For instance, situated as you are now, if you had an opportunity of communicating with Sir John, we could hardly expect that you would not be very willing to give him a few hints as to our position and
numbers. Women can do that as well as men, and we pay our old friend, Mrs. Margaret, the compliment to think that her wits are as sharp as most people's." "But while remaining as I have done, entirely within the four walls of this tidy little abode, I think it would be beyond the stretch of the utmost female ingenuity either to pick up or transmit tidings of any kind." "Well, I shall not presume to set bounds to the extent of that very useful quality, only let me earnestly recommend you to avoid giving any grounds for suspicion. It would distress us all very much to do anything to annoy you; but our duty to our country obliges us to practice a degree of caution, more painful to us as to you, be assured. Trust to me for letting you have any tidings of your sisters, that strictly relate to their own situations or affairs, at any rate. I will see you often while you remain here, which I suppose will not be very long. Adieu."
We must now follow the course of the poor dispirited, agitated mother, who, though relying much on the zeal and fidelity of her devoted servants, yet felt keenly the loss of her active and affectionate sister, whose stronger health and spirits were such an inestimable support. Poor Tony's chief ground of consolation arose from the conviction that being so very near the British lines, they could not fail of reaching them - they were almost within sight, he said! Poor fellow, if strength and courage could have ensured the safety of his mistress and her children, he would have carried them or fought for them till he dropped; but as resistance to sentries was out of the question, the present business of all was to be prepared to exercise self-command, and to reply with composure to the questions that would be asked. Fortunately, Grove House was but a little out of the way to their real destination, and as it was probable enquiries might be made there, it would not have been safe for them to take the sleigh on. They, therefore, stopped at the cattle shed, a little distance from the mansion, and leaving the sleigh and horse there, with one of their heaviest wrappings, as an indication that they intended to return, pursued their way with as much speed as possible in the direction of the British camp. By means of their pass, and
avoidance of the larger bodies posted at different stations, they went on uninterruptedly to the end of that day; and when they reached a resting place for the night, it was a matter of deep thankfulness to find that as the Continental camp was protected on that side by a wide river just in a state of partial thaw that rendered the crossing it dangerous for individuals and impracticable for a body of troops, it had been deemed unnecessary to keep that point very strictly guarded. They easily found, as usual, a meal and a bed; but the anxiety of the Lady was cruelly aggravated by the state of her infant, who depending entirely on the nourishment derived from its unfortunate mother, participated in her physical exhaustion and suffering. The elder children, too, were both so fagged that Tony and the nurse were obliged to carry them almost without intermission, so that the poor Lady could hardly be relieved from the burden of the infant. They rose, therefore, the next morning with trembling frames and spirits, their sole consolation being that they were but two miles from the river; yet how to cross it was a question that could only be solved on its banks. While taking their breakfast, a soldier was seen looking about in the few cottages that were near their refuge, and presently he came in to them. Happily there was no sign of travelling about them, and supposing them to be the established inhabitants, he began explaining his business by asking after some people who had arrived in a sleigh, driven by a black. Most fortunately, also, Tony had separated from them, and was taking his meal in another cottage. The soldier did not seem to have been dispatched with any very exact or urgent directions: but his officer having received a message from the camp near Grove House to enquire after a party who had been expected there, and had not arrived, sent his servant to gain some information previous to the arrival of more particular instructions. Taking the licence which young and inexperienced soldiers are apt to exercise of using their own judgment, the man said, "If the Britishers were sending women and children over to us, we'd send them back pretty smartly; but if any of the stupid fellows who are taking old George's pay, instead of fighting for their country, have a mind to have
their wives with them, why, I say, let 'em have the keep of 'em; and I think my Captain don't much approve of being sent woman-hunting, and not even a written order. However, if you hear anything of 'em, you can let me know. I'm going by the lane round the corner out there, for I believe there's a kind of an inn to be found:" and so saying he wished them good bye, and marched off. No sooner was he out of sight than the terrified females summoned Tony, and with steps quickened by fear set off towards the river. It was no great distance, and on reaching it the state of the ice showed clearly why its shores were not very carefully guarded. It must here be remarked that the danger of crossing a river, partially covered with ice, is different from that incurred in a milder climate. As long as the ice lasts, it is much too thick to give way to the heaviest weights; but when repeated thaws have loosened its firm adherence to the shore, it breaks into enormous masses, which driving and struggling against each other, and the force of the current, partially released from its winter bondage, form at once one of the grandest exhibitions of Nature, and threaten fearful peril to those who venture to attempt a passage. But like most dangers to which the natives of a country are habituated, they often risk their lives even for an inconsiderable motive, and it is not uncommon to see a sleigh passing the well marked road over the ice, which in two hours afterwards is floating away like a vast field, unbroken till it crashes against another mass, when both pile upon each other in awful grandeur, till further additions shove them on to final destination.
By the side of a mighty stream in this state, stand the fugitives, hopeless of escape, and supposing that the hour was come when they must yield themselves back to captivity, - a bitter anticipation after all their toils and dangers. Tony's experienced eye, however, descried and pointed out to the Lady that the center of the river was tolerably clear, and that if they could take advantage of one of those moments when the opposing masses were locked against each other, a boat might land them on the opposite side. But could a boat be found? Yes. They see one, and a man in it, paddling about, apparently seeking a safe
nook wherein to bestow his little vessel. Tony chose a point nearest the shore, and springing over fissures and firm pieces of ice, succeeded in making the man hear. He was one of those bold, careless characters, who rather enjoyed the risk, as well as the acquirement of the dollars often lavishly bestowed for a passage. It was now unnecessary for the party to feign poverty, therefore the gold hitherto hidden in their garments was produced, and each carrying a child made their way with infinite labour and peril of slipping, to the frail vessel, which was to be guided among masses that might in an instant be in motion to crush or overwhelm them. The poor Lady clasped her infant closer and closer to her bosom, not venturing to speak lest she should withdraw Tony's attention from the guidance of the boat; yet trembling at the suspension of the feeble cries, which till then had wrung her heart with anguish. The little face was chilled, and the eyes closed; but though she feared the worst, she yet hoped that it was but the sleep of exhaustion. Half-an-hour, which seemed an interminable period, brought them to the opposite shore. The British tents were within sight, gold was thrown to the boatman, and though the snow was deep and soft, and the Lady staggered with weakness, she struggled on through a mile which yet separated them from the first line of sentries. Indians were the first who espied the party, and though they received with their usual composure the announcement of the Lady's name, a glance sent off two of their number towards the camp, while the others, wrapping some furs rounds the Lady and her infant, lifted them with the utmost care and tenderness in their powerful arms, till they were met by the messengers returning with blankets and mattresses hastily formed into litters. On these all were carefully deposited and carried on swiftly. Tony seeping with joy and thankfulness over his mistress and telling her Sir John was coming! The poor mother cast one hopeful glance towards the distance, and another of anxiety upon her infant, who just opened its little eyes, and ere she could see that it was the last convulsion of its sinking frame, she was clasped in the arms of her husband and borne insensible to the quarters of the Commander-in-Chief, where every care and comfort was
bestowed on her and her children that their exhausted state required. The first delight of being restored to her husband and seeing her children at rest and in safety was marred by the anguish of missing the little loved one, whom she had borne through so much sorrow and suffering. "But a few hours sooner," she thought, "and my pretty one had been saved." But the joy and thankfulness of those around her soon stilled her repining. Both her surviving children appeared to be entirely restored to health; but with the little girl the appearance was fallacious. After the first week her strength and appetite declined, and her parents had the grief of laying her in an untimely grave, from the destructive effects of cold and exposure on a frame previously debilitated by illness during her mother's captivity, when she could not procure either advice or proper medicines.
Sir John and his Lady never again saw the land of their birth. After the peace they settled in Canada, and the vast possessions which they sacrificed to their loyalty passed into other hands. The "Hall"* was burnt to the ground, as has been before stated; but by whose directions, or whether accidentally, appears very doubtful. Some believed it to be done by Sir John's orders, in preference to knowing that his paternal abode was occupied by those whom, to the last day of his life, he viewed as rebels.
*(One of the more obvious errors in the story was the statement that the Hall was burned - it was not. G. Horton)
Copyright © 1998, -- 2003. Berry Enterprises. All rights reserved. All items on the site are copyrighted. While we welcome you to use the information provided on this web site by copying it, or downloading it; this information is copyrighted and not to be reproduced for distribution, sale, or profit.