heard the sound of long rapid steps.
A hasty glance revealed Zeb in something like pursuit. Her heart
fluttered slightly, for he had looked so stern and sad of late that she
had felt a little sorry for him in spite of herself. But since he could
"wrastle" with nothing more formidable than a stony farm, she did not
wish to have anything to say to him, or meet the embarrassment of
explaining a tacit estrangement. She was glad, therefore, that her gate
was so near, and passed in as if she had not recognized him. She heard
his steps become slower and pause at the gate, and then almost in shame
in being guilty of too marked discourtesy, she turned to speak, but
hesitated in surprise, for now she recognized his equipment as a
"Why, Mr. Jarvis, where are you going?" she exclaimed.
A dull red flamed through the bronze of his thin cheeks as he replied
awkwardly, "I thought I'd take a turn in the lines around Boston."
"Oh, yes," she replied, mischievously, "take a turn in the lines. Then
we may expect you back by corn-husking?"
He was deeply wounded, and in his embarrassment could think of no other
reply than the familiar words, "'Let not him that girdeth on his
harness boast himself as he that putteth it off.'"
"I can't help hoping, Mr. Jarvis, that neither you nor others will put
it off too soon - not, at least, while King George claims to be our
master. When we're free I can stand any amount of boasting."
"You'll never hear boasting from me, Miss Susie;" and then an awkward
silence fell between them.
Shyly and swiftly she raised her eyes. He looked so humble,
deprecatory, and unsoldier-like that she could not repress a laugh.
"I'm not a British cannon," she began, "that you should be so fearful."
His manhood was now too deeply wounded for further endurance even from
her, for he suddenly straightened himself, and throwing his rifle over
his shoulder, said sternly, "I'm not a coward. I never hung back from
fear, but to keep mother from charity, so I could fight or die as God
wills. You may laugh at the man who never gave you anything but love,
if you will, but you shall never laugh at my deeds. Call that boasting
or not as you please," and he turned on his heel to depart.
His words and manner almost took away the girl's breath, so unexpected
were they, and unlike her idea of the man. In that brief moment a
fearless soldier had flashed himself upon her consciousness, revealing
a spirit that would flinch at nothing - that had not even quailed at the
necessity of forfeiting her esteem, that his mother might not want.
Humiliated and conscience-stricken that she had done him so much
injustice, she rushed forward, crying, "Stop, Zebulon; please do not go
away angry with me! I do not forget that we have been old friends and
playmates. I'm willing to own that I've been wrong about you, and
that's a good deal for a girl to do. I only wish I were a man, and I'd
go with you."
Her kindness restored him to his awkward self again, and he stammered,
"I wish you were - no, I don't - I merely stopped, thinking you might
have a message; but I'd rather not take any to Zeke Watkins - will,
though, if you wish. It cut me all up to have you think I was afraid,"
and then he became speechless.
"But you acted as if you were afraid of me, and that seemed so
He looked at her a moment so earnestly with his dark, deep-set eyes
that hers dropped. "Miss Susie," he said slowly, and speaking with
difficulty, "I AM afraid of you, next to God. I don't suppose I've any
right to talk to you so, and I will say good-by. I was reckless when I
spoke before. Perhaps - you'll go and see mother. My going is hard on
His eyes lingered on her a moment longer, as if he were taking his last
look, then he turned slowly away.
"Good-by, Zeb," she called softly. "I didn't - I don't understand. Yes,
I will go to see your mother."
Susie also watched him as he strode away. He thought he could continue
on steadfastly without looking back, but when the road turned he also
turned, fairly tugged right about by his loyal heart. She stood where
he had left her, and promptly waved her hand. He doffed his cap, and
remained a moment in an attitude that appeared to her reverential, then
passed out of view.
The moments lapsed, and still she stood in the gateway, looking down
the vacant road as if dazed. Was it in truth awkward, bashful Zeb
Jarvis who had just left her? He seemed a new and distinct being in
contrast to the youth whom she had smiled at and in a measure scoffed
at. The little Puritan maiden was not a reasoner, but a creature of
impressions and swift intuitions. Zeb had not set his teeth, faced his
hard duty, and toiled that long summer in vain. He had developed a
manhood and a force which in one brief moment had enabled him to compel
"He will face anything," she murmured. "He's afraid of only God and me;
what a strange thing to say - afraid of me next to God! Sounds kind of
wicked. What can he mean? Zeke Watkins wasn't a bit afraid of me. As
mother said, he was a little forward, and I was fool enough to take him
at his own valuation. Afraid of me! How he stood with his cap off. Do
men ever love so? Is there a kind of reverence in some men's love? How
absurd that a great strong, brave man, ready to face cannons, can bow
down to such a little - " Her fragmentary exclamations ended in a peal
of laughter, but tears dimmed her blue eyes.
Susie did visit Mrs. Jarvis, and although the reticent woman said
little about her son, what she did say meant volumes to the girl who
now had the right clew in interpreting his action and character. She
too was reticent. New England girls rarely gushed in those days, so no
one knew she was beginning to understand. Her eyes, experienced in
country work, were quick, and her mind active. "It looks as if a giant
had been wrestling with this stony farm," she muttered.
Zeb received no ovations on his lonely tramp to the lines, and the
vision of Susie Rolliffe waving her hand from the gateway would have
blinded him to all the bright and admiring eyes in the world. He was
hospitably entertained, however, when there was occasion; but the
advent of men bound for the army had become an old story. Having at
last inquired his way to the position occupied by the Connecticut
troops, he was assigned to duty in the same company with Zeke Watkins,
who gave him but a cool reception, and sought to overawe him by
veteran-like airs. At first poor Zeb was awkward enough in his
unaccustomed duties, and no laugh was so scornful as that of his rival.
Young Jarvis, however, had not been many days in camp before he guessed
that Zeke's star was not in the ascendant. There was but little
fighting required, but much digging of intrenchments, drill, and
monotonous picket duty. Zeke did not take kindly to such tasks, and
shirked them when possible. He was becoming known as the champion
grumbler in the mess, and no one escaped his criticism, not even "Old
Put" - as General Putnam, who commanded the Connecticut quota, was
called. Jarvis, on the other hand, performed his military duties as he
had worked the farm, and rapidly acquired the bearing of a soldier.
Indomitable Putnam gave his men little rest, and was ever seeking to
draw his lines nearer to Boston and the enemy's ships. He virtually
fought with pick and shovel, and his working parties were often exposed
to fire while engaged in fortifying the positions successively
occupied. The Opinquake boys regarded themselves as well seasoned to
such rude compliments, and were not a little curious to see how Zeb
would handle a shovel with cannon-balls whizzing uncomfortably near.
The opportunity soon came. Old Put himself could not have been more
coolly oblivious than the raw recruit. At last a ball smashed his
shovel to smithereens; he quietly procured another and went on with his
work. Then his former neighbors gave him a cheer, while his captain
clapped him on the shoulder and said, "Promote you to be a veteran on
The days had grown shorter, colder, and drearier, and the discomforts
of camp-life harder to endure. There were few tents even for the
officers, and the men were compelled to improvise such shelter as
circumstances permitted. Huts of stone, wood, and brush, and barricades
against the wind, lined the hillside, and the region already was
denuded of almost everything that would burn. Therefore, when December
came, Zeke Watkins found that even a fire was a luxury not to be had
without trouble. He had become thoroughly disgusted with a soldier's
life, and the military glory which had at first so dazzled him now wore
the aspect of the wintry sky. He had recently sought and attained the
only promotion for which his captain now deemed him fitted - that of
cook for about a dozen of his comrades; and the close of the December
day found him preparing the meagre supper which the limited rations
permitted. By virtue of his office, Zeke was one of the best-fed men in
the army, for if there were any choice morsels he could usually manage
to secure them; still, he was not happy. King George and Congress were
both pursuing policies inconsistent with his comfort, and he sighed
more and more frequently for the wide kitchen-hearth of his home, which
was within easy visiting distance of the Rolliffe farmhouse. His term
of enlistment expired soon, and he was already counting the days. He
was not alone in his discontent, for there was much homesickness and
disaffection among the Connecticut troops. Many had already departed,
unwilling to stay an hour after the expiration of their terms; and not
a few had anticipated the periods which legally released them from
duty. The organization of the army was so loose that neither appeals
nor threats had much influence, and Washington, in deep solicitude, saw
his troops melting away.
It was dark by the time the heavy tramp of the working party was heard
returning from the fortifications. The great mess-pot, partly filled
with pork and beans, was bubbling over the fire; Zeke, shifting his
position from time to time to avoid the smoke which the wind, as if it
had a spite against him, blew in his face, was sourly contemplating his
charge and his lot, bent on grumbling to the others with even greater
gusto than he had complained to himself. His comrades carefully put
away their intrenching tools, for they were held responsible for them,
and then gathered about the fire, clamoring for supper.
"Zeke, you lazy loon," cried Nat Atkinson, "how many pipes have you
smoked to-day? If you'd smoke less and forage and dun the commissary
more, we'd have a little fresh meat once in a hundred years."
"Yes, just about once in a hundred years!" snarled Zeke.
"YOU find something to keep fat on, anyhow. We'll broil you some cold
night. Trot out your beans if there's nothing else."
"Growl away," retorted Zeke. "'Twon't be long before I'll be eating
chickens and pumpkin-pie in Opinquake, instead of cooking beans and
rusty pork for a lot of hungry wolves."
"You'd be the hungriest wolf of the lot if you'd 'a' been picking and
shovelling frozen ground all day."
"I didn't 'list to be a ditch-digger!" said Zeke. "I thought I was
going to be a soldier."
"And you turned out a cook!" quietly remarked Zeb Jarvis.
"Well, my hero of the smashed shovel, what do you expect to be - Old
Put's successor? You know, fellows, it's settled that you're to dig
your way into Boston, tunnel under the water when you come to it. Of
course Put will die of old age before you get half there. Zeb'll be the
chap of all others to command a division of shovellers. I see you with
a pickaxe strapped on your side instead of a sword."
"Lucky I'm not in command now," replied Zeb, "or you'd shovel dirt
under fire to the last hour of your enlistment. I'd give grumblers like
you something to grumble about. See here, fellows, I'm sick of this
seditious talk in our mess. The Connecticut men are getting to be the
talk of the army. You heard a squad of New Hampshire boys jeer at us
to-day, and ask, 'When are ye going home to mother?' You ask, Zeke
Watkins, what I expect to be. I expect to be a soldier, and obey orders
as long as Old Put and General Washington want a man. All I ask is to
be home summers long enough to keep mother and the children off the
town. Now what do you expect to be after you give up your cook's ladle?"
"None o' your business."
"He's going home to court Susie Rolliffe," cried Nat Atkinson. "They'll
be married in the spring, and go into the chicken business. That'd just
"It would not suit Susie Rolliffe," said Zeb, hotly. "A braver, better
girl doesn't breathe in the colonies, and the man that says a slurring
word against her's got to fight me."
"What! Has she given Zeke the mitten for your sake, Zeb?" piped little
"She hasn't given me anything, and I've got no claim; but she is the
kind of girl that every fellow from Opinquake should stand up for. We
all know that there is nothing chicken-hearted about her."
"Eight, by George - George W., I mean, and not the king," responded
Hiram Woodbridge. "Here's to her health, Zeb, and your success! I
believe she'd rather marry a soldier than a cook."
"Thank you," said Zeb. "You stand as good a chance as I do; but don't
let's bandy her name about in camp any more'n we would our mother's.
The thing for us to do now is to show that the men from Connecticut
have as much backbone as any other fellows in the army, North or South.
Zeke may laugh at Old Put's digging, but you'll soon find that he'll
pick his way to a point where he can give the Britishers a dig under
the fifth rib. We've got the best general in the army. Washington, with
all his Southern style, believes in him and relies on him. Whether
their time's up or not, it's a burning shame that so many of his troops
are sneaking off home."
"It's all very well for you to talk, Zeb Jarvis," growled Zeke. "You
haven't been here very long yet; and you stayed at home when others
started out to fight. Now that you've found that digging and not
fighting is the order of the day, you're just suited. It's the line of
soldiering you are cut out for. When fighting men and not ditch-diggers
are wanted, you'll find me - -"
"All right, Watkins," said the voice of Captain Dean from without the
circle of light. "According to your own story you are just the kind of
man needed to-night - no ditch-digging on hand, but dangerous service. I
detail you, for you've had rest compared with the other men. I ask for
volunteers from those who've been at work all day."
Zeb Jarvis was on his feet instantly, and old Ezra Stokes also began to
rise with difficulty. "No, Stokes," resumed the officer, "you can't go.
I know you've suffered with the rheumatism all day, and have worked
well in spite of it. For to-night's work I want young fellows with good
legs and your spirit. How is it you're here anyhow Stokes? Your time's
"We ain't into Boston yet," was the quiet reply.
"So you want to stay?"
"Then you shall cook for the men till you're better. I won't keep so
good a soldier, though, at such work any longer than I can help. Your
good example and that of the gallant Watkins has brought out the whole
squad. I think I'll put Jarvis in command, though; Zeke might be rash,
and attempt the capture of Boston before morning;" and the facetious
captain, who had once been a neighbor, concluded, "Jarvis, see that
every man's piece is primed and ready for use. Be at my hut in fifteen
minutes." Then he passed on to the other camp-fires.
In a few minutes Ezra Stokes was alone by the fire, almost roasting his
lame leg, and grumbling from pain and the necessity of enforced
inaction. He was a taciturn, middle-age man, and had been the only
bachelor of mature years in Opinquake. Although he rarely said much, he
had been a great listener, and no one had been better versed in
neighborhood affairs. In brief, he had been the village cobbler, and
had not only taken the measure of Susie Rolliffe's little foot, but
also of her spirit. Like herself he had been misled at first by the
forwardness of Zeke Watkins and the apparent backwardness of Jarvis.
Actual service had changed his views very decidedly. When Zeb appeared
he had watched the course of this bashful suitor with interest which
had rapidly ripened into warm but undemonstrative goodwill. The young
fellow had taken pains to relieve the older man, had carried his tools
for him, and more than once with his strong hands had almost rubbed the
rheumatism out of the indomitable cobbler's leg. He had received but
slight thanks, and had acted as if he didn't care for any. Stokes was
not a man to return favors in words; he brooded over his gratitude as
if it were a grudge. "I'll get even with that young Jarvis yet," he
muttered, as he nursed his leg over the fire. "I know he worships the
ground that little Rolliffe girl treads on, though she don't tread on
much at a time. She never trod on me nuther, though I've had her foot
in my hand more'n once. She looked at the man that made her shoes as if
she would like to make him happier. When a little tot, she used to say
I could come and live with her when I got too old to take care of
myself. Lame as I be, I'd walk to Opinquake to give her a hint in her
choosin'. Guess Hi Woodbridge is right, and she wouldn't be long in
making up her mind betwixt a soger and a cook - a mighty poor one at
that. Somehow or nuther I must let her know before Zeke Watkins sneaks
home and parades around as a soldier 'bove ditch-digging. I've taken
"He'll be putting on veteran airs, telling big stories of what he's
going to do when soldiers are wanted, and drilling such fools as
believe in him. Young gals are often taken by such strutters, and think
that men like Jarvis, who darsn't speak for themselves, are of no
account. But I'll put a spoke in Zeke's wheel, if I have to get the
captain to write."
It thus may be gathered that the cobbler had much to say to himself
when alone, though so taciturn to others.
The clouds along the eastern horizon were stained with red before the
reconnoitring party returned. Stokes had managed, by hobbling about, to
keep up the fire and to fill the mess-kettle with the inevitable pork
and beans. The hungry, weary men therefore gave their new cook a cheer
when they saw the good fire and provision awaiting them. A moment
later, however, Jarvis observed how lame Stokes had become; he took the
cobbler by the shoulder and sat him down in the warmest nook, saying,
"I'll be assistant cook until you are better. As Zeke says, I'm a wolf
sure enough; but as soon's the beast's hunger is satisfied, I'll rub
that leg of yours till you'll want to dance a jig;" and with the ladle
wrung from Stokes's reluctant hand, he began stirring the seething
contents of the kettle.
Then little Hi Woodbridge piped in his shrill voice, "Another cheer for
our assistant cook and ditch-digger! I say, Zeke, wouldn't you like to
tell Ezra that Zeb has showed himself fit for something more than
digging? You expressed your opinion very plain last night, and may have
a different one now."
Zeke growld something inaudible, and stalked to his hut in order to put
away his equipments.
"I'm cook-in-chief yet," Stokes declared; "and not a bean will any one
of you get till you report all that happened."
"Well," piped Hi, "you may stick a feather in your old cap, Ezra, for
our Opinquake lad captured a British officer last night, and Old Put is
pumping him this blessed minute."
"Well, well, that is news. It must have been Zeke who did that neat
job," exclaimed Stokes, ironically; "he's been a-pining for the soldier
"No, no; Zeke's above such night scrimmages. He wants to swim the bay
and walk right into Boston in broad daylight, so everybody can see him.
Come, Zeb, tell how it happened. It was so confounded dark, no one can
tell but you."
"There isn't much to tell that you fellows don't know," was Zeb's
laconic answer. "We had sneaked down on the neck so close to the
enemy's lines - -"
"Yes, yes, Zeb Jarvis," interrupted Stokes, "that's the kind of
sneaking you're up to - close to the enemy's lines. Go on."
"Well, I crawled up so close that I saw a Britisher going the round of
the sentinels, and I pounced on him and brought him out on the run,
"Oho! you both ran away, then? That wasn't good soldiering either, was
it, Zeke?" commented Stokes, in his dry way.
"It's pretty good soldiering to stand fire within an inch of your
nose," resumed Hi, who had become a loyal friend and adherent of his
tall comrade. "Zeb was so close on the Britisher when he fired his
pistol that we saw the faces of both in the flash; and a lot of bullets
sung after us, I can sell you, as we dusted out of those diggin's."
"Compliments of General Putnam to Sergeant Zebulon Jarvis," said an
orderly, riding out of the dim twilight of the morning. "The general
requests your presence at headquarters."
"Sergeant! promoted! Another cheer for Zeb!" and the Opinquake boys
gave it with hearty goodwill.
"Jerusalem, fellows! I'd like to have a chance at those beans before I
go!" but Zeb promptly tramped off with the orderly.
When he returned he was subjected to a fire of questions by the two or
three men still awake, but all they could get out of him was that he
had been given a good breakfast. From Captain Dean, who was with the
general at the time of the examination, it leaked out that Zeb was in
the line of promotion to a rank higher than that of sergeant.
The next few days passed uneventfully; and Zeke was compelled to resume
the pick and shovel again. Stokes did his best to fulfil his duties,
but it had become evident to all that the exposure of camp would soon
disable him utterly. Jarvis and Captain Dean persuaded him to go home
for the winter, and the little squad raised a sum which enabled him to
make the journey in a stage. Zeke, sullen toward his jeering comrades,
but immensely elated in secret, had shaken the dust - snow and slush
rather - of camp-life from his feet the day before. He had the grace to
wait till the time of his enlistment expired, and that was more than
could be said of many.
It spoke well for the little Opinquake quota that only two others
besides Zeke availed themselves of their liberty. Poor Stokes was
almost forced away, consoled by the hope of returning in the spring.
Zeb was sore-hearted on the day of Zeke's departure. His heart was in
the Connecticut Valley also. No message had come to him from Susie
Rolliffe. Those were not the days of swift and frequent communication.
Even Mrs. Jarvis had written but seldom, and her missives were brief.
Mother-love glowed through the few quaint and scriptural phrases like
heat in anthracite coals. All that poor Zeb could learn from them was
that Susie Rolliffe had kept her word and had been to the farm more
than once; but the girl had been as reticent as the mother. Zeke was
now on his way home to prosecute his suit in person, and Zeb well knew
how forward and plausible he could be. There was no deed of daring that
he would not promise to perform after spring opened, and Zeb reasoned
gloomily that a present lover, impassioned and importunate, would stand
a better chance than an absent one who had never been able to speak for
When it was settled that Stokes should return to Opinquake, Zeb
determined that he would not give up the prize to Zeke without one
decisive effort; and as he was rubbing the cobbler's leg, he stammered,
"I say Ezra, will you do me a turn? 'Twon't be so much, what I ask,
except that I'll like you to keep mum about it, and you're a good hand
at keeping mum."
"I know what yer driving at, Zeb. Write yer letter and I'll deliver it
with my own hands."
"Well, now, I'm satisfied, I can stay on and fight it out with a clear
mind. When Zeke marched away last summer, I thought it was all up with
me; and I can tell you that any fighting that's to do about Boston will
be fun compared with the fighting I did while hoeing corn and mowing
grass. But I don't believe that Susie Rolliffe is promised to Zeke
Watkins, or any one else yet, and I'm going to give her a chance to
refuse me plump."
"That's the way to do it, Zeb," said the bachelor cobbler, with an
emphasis that would indicate much successful experience. "Asking a girl
plump is like standing up in a fair fight. It gives the girl a chance
to bowl you over, if that's her mind, so there can't be any mistake
about it; and it seems to me the women-folks ought to have all the