Jeanie Gould Lincoln.

An Unwilling Maid Being the History of Certain Episodes during the American Revolution in the Early Life of Mistress Betty Yorke, born Wolcott online

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Being the History of Certain Episodes during the American Revolution in
the Early Life of Mistress Betty Yorke, born Wolcott

By Jeanie Gould Lincoln

"O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo?"



A great-grandmother's bewitching face,
Looks forth from this olden story,
For Love is a master who laughs at place,
And scoffs at both Whig and Tory.

To-day if he comes, as a conqueror may,
To a heart untouched by his flame,
Be loyal as she of the olden day,
That Eighteenth Century dame!





















It was a warm summer day. Not too warm, for away up in the Connecticut
hills the sun seemed to temper its rays, and down among the shadows of
the trees surrounding Great Pond there were cool, shady glades where one
could almost fancy it was May instead of hot July.

At a point not far from the water, leaning against the trunk of a
stately maple, stood a young man. His head, from which he had raised a
somewhat old and weather-beaten hat, was finely formed, and covered with
chestnut curls; his clothes, also shabby and worn, were homespun and
ill-fitting, but his erect military carriage, with an indescribable air
of polish and fine breeding, seemed strangely incongruous in connection
with his apparel and travel-worn appearance.

"I wonder where I am," he said half aloud, as he surveyed the pretty
sheet of water sparkling in the afternoon sun. "Faith, 'tis hard enough
to be half starved and foot-sore, without being lost in an enemy's
country. The woman who gave me that glass of milk at five o'clock this
morning said I was within a mile of Goshen. I must have walked ten miles
since then, and am apparently no nearer the line than I was
yesterday - Hark! what's that?" - as a sound of voices struck his ear
faintly, coming from some distance on his right. "Some one comes this
direction. I had best conceal myself in these friendly bushes until I
ascertain whether 'tis friend or foe."

So saying, he plunged hastily into a thicket of low-lying shrubs close
at hand, and, throwing himself flat upon the ground under them, was
comparatively secure from observation as long as he remained perfectly
still. The next sound he heard was horses' feet, moving at a walk, and
presently there came in view a spirited-looking bay mare and a gray
pony, the riders being engaged in merry conversation.

"No, no, Betty," said the little girl of about nine years, who rode the
pony; "it is just here, or a few rods farther on, where we had the
Maypole set last year, and I know I can find the herbs which Chloe wants
near by on the shore of the pond. Let's dismount and tie the horses
here, and you and I can search for them."

"It's well I did not let you come alone," said the rider of the bay
mare, laughing as she spoke. "Truly, Miss Moppet, you are a courageous
little maid to wish to venture in these woods. Not that I am afraid,"
said Betty Wolcott suddenly, remembering the weight and dignity of her
sixteen years as compared with her little sister, "but in these
troublous times father says it were well to be careful."

"Since when have you grown so staid?" said Miss Moppet, shaking her long
yellow hair back from her shoulders as she jumped off her pony and led
him up to a young ash-tree, whose branches allowed of her securing him
by the bridle to one of them, "Of all people in the world, Betty, you to
read me a lecture on care-taking," and with a mischievous laugh the
child fled around the tree in pretended dismay, as Betty sprang to the
ground and shook her riding-whip playfully in her direction.

"Ungrateful Moppet," she said, as she tied both horses to the tree
beside her, "did I not rescue you from punishment for dire naughtiness
in the pantry and beg Aunt Euphemia to pardon you, and then go for the
horses, which Reuben was too busy to saddle.

"Yes, my own dear Betty," cried the small sinner, emerging suddenly from
the shelter and seizing her round the waist, "but you know this
soberness is but 'skin-deep,' as Chloe says, and you need not cease to
be merry because you are sixteen since yesterday. Come, let's find the
herbs," and joining hands the two ran swiftly off to the shore, Betty
tucking up her habit with easy grace as she went. The occupant of the
covert raised his head carefully and looked after the pair, the sound of
their voices growing faint as they pushed their way through the
undergrowth which intercepted their progress.

"What a lovely creature!" he ejaculated, raising himself on one elbow.
"I wonder who she is, and how she comes in this wild neighborhood.
Perhaps I am not so very far off my road after all; they must have come
from a not very distant home, for the horses are not even wet this warm
day. Egad, that mare looks as if she had plenty of speed in her; 't
would not be a bad idea to throw my leg over her back and be off, and so
distance those who even now may be pursuing me." He half rose as the
thought occurred to him, but in an instant sank back under the leaves.

"How would her mistress fare without her?" he said ruefully "'Tis not to
be thought of; they may be miles from home, even here, and I am too much
a squire of dames to take such unkind advantage. There must be some
other way out of my present dilemma than this," and rolling over on the
mixture of grass and dry leaves which formed his resting-place he lay
still and began to ponder.

Half an hour passed; the shadows began to deepen as the sun crept down
in the sky, and the horses whinnied at each other as if to remind their
absent riders that supper-time was approaching. But the girls did not
return, and the thoughts which occupied the young wanderer were so
engrossing that he did not hear a cry which began faintly and then rose
to a shriek agonized enough to pierce his reverie.

"Good heavens!" he cried, springing to his feet, as borne on the summer
wind the frantic supplication came to him -

"Help, help! oh, will nobody come!" and then the sobbing cry
again - "help!"

Tim tall muscular form straightened itself and sped through the bushes,
crushing them down on either side with a strong arm, as he went rapidly
in the direction of the cries.

"Courage! I am coming," he cried, as, gaining the shore of the pond, he
saw what had happened. Just beyond his halting-place there was a jutting
bank, and overhanging it a large tree, whose branches almost touched the
water beneath. At the top of the bank stood the elder of the two girls;
she had torn off the skirt of her riding-habit, and was about to leap
down into the water where a mass of floating yellow hair and a wisp of
white gown told their story of disaster. As he ran the stranger flung
off his coat, but there was no time to divest himself of his heavy
riding-boots, so in he plunged and struck out boldly with the air of a
strong and competent swimmer.

The pond, like many of our small inland lakes, was shallow for some
distance from the shore, and then suddenly shelved in unexpected
quarters, developing deep holes where the water was so cold that its
effect on a swimmer was almost dangerous. Into one of these depths the
little girl had evidently plunged, and realizing the cause of her sudden
disappearance the stranger dived with great rapidity at the spot where
the golden hair had gone down. His first attempt failed; but as the
child partially rose for the second time, he caught the little figure
and with skillful hand supported her against his shoulder, as he struck
out for the shore, which he reached quickly, but chilled almost to the
bone from the coldness of the water.

"Do not be so alarmed," he said, as Betty, with pallid cheeks and
trembling hands, knelt beside the unconscious child on the grass; "she
will revive; her heart beats and she is not very cold. Let me find my
coat," and he stumbled as he rose to go in search of it.

"It is here," gasped Betty; "I fetched it on my way down the slope; oh,
sir, do you think she lives?"

For answer the young man produced from an inner pocket of his shabby
garment a small flask, which he uncorked and held toward her.

"It is cognac," he said; "put a drop or two between her lips while I
chafe her hands - so; see, she revives," as the white lids quivered for a
second, and then the pretty blue eyes opened.

"Moppet, Moppet, my darling," cried her sister, "are you hurt? Did you
strike anything in your fall?"

"Why, Betty!" ejaculated the child, "why are you giving me nasty stuff;
here are the tansy leaves," and she held up her left hand, where tightly
clenched she had kept the herbs, whose gathering on the edge of the
treacherous bank had been her undoing.

"You are a brave little maid," said the stranger, as he put the flask to
his own lips. "The shock will be all you have to guard against, and even
that is passing;" for Miss Moppet had staggered upon her feet and was
looking with astonished eyes at her dripping clothing.

"Did I fall, Betty?" she said. "Why my gown is sopping wet, - oh! have I
been at the bottom of the pond?"

"You had stopped there, sweetheart, but for this good gentleman," said
Betty, holding out a small, trembling hand to the stranger, a lovely
smile dimpling her cheeks as she spoke. "Sir, with all my heart I thank
you. My little sister had drowned but for your promptness and skill; I
do not know how to express my gratitude."

"I am more than rewarded for my simple service," replied the young man,
raising the pretty hand to his lips with a profound bow and easy grace,
"but I am afraid your sister may get a chill, as the sun is so low in
the sky: and if I may venture upon a suggestion, it would be well to
ride speedily to some shelter where she can obtain dry clothing. If you
will permit me to offer you the cape of my riding-coat (which is near at
hand) I will wrap her in it at once, and then I think she will he safe
from any after-effects of her cold bath in the pond."

"Oh, you are too kind," cried Betty, as the stranger disappeared in the
underbrush. "Moppet, Moppet, what can we say to prove our gratitude? You
had been drowned twice over but for him."

"Ask him to come to the manor," said Miss Moppet, much less agitated
than her sister, and being always a small person of many resources.
"Father will be glad to bid him welcome, and you know" -

"Yes," interrupted Betty, as their new friend appeared at her elbow with
a cape of dark blue cloth over his arm.

"Here is my cape," he said, "and though not very large it will cover her
sufficiently. Let me untie your horses and help you to mount."

"Oh, we can mount alone," said Miss Moppet, who had by this time
recovered her spirits, "but you must come home with us; you are dripping
wet yourself; and if you like, you may ride my pony. He has carried
double before now, and I am but a light weight, as my father says."

"Will you not come home with us?" asked Betty wistfully. "My father,
General Wolcott is away just now from the manor, but he will have warm
welcome and hearty thanks, believe me, for the strength and courage
which have rescued his youngest child from yonder grave," and Betty
shuddered and grew pale again at the very thought of what Miss Moppet
had escaped.

"General Wolcott," said the stranger, with a start. "Ah, then you are
his daughters. And he is away?"

"Yes," said Betty, as they walked toward the tree where the horses were
tied. "There has been a raid upon our coast by Governor Tryon and his
Hessians; we got news three days ago of the movement of the Loyalists,
and my father, with my brother Oliver, has gone to the aid of the poor
people at Fairfield. Do you know of it, sir? Have you met any of our

"I have seen them," said the stranger briefly, with a half smile curving
his handsome mouth, "but they are not near this point" - and beneath his
breath he added, "I devoutly hope not."

"Which way are you traveling?" asked Betty, as she stood beside her bay
mare. "Surely you will not refuse to come to the manor? Aunt Euphemia
and my elder sister are there, and we will give you warm welcome."

"I thank you," said the stranger, with great courtesy, "but I must be on
my way westward before night overtakes me. Can you tell me how many
miles I am from Goshen, which I left this morning?"

"You are within Litchfield township," said Betty. "We are some four
miles from my father's house. Pray, sir, come with us; I fear for your
health from that sudden plunge into the icy waters of our pond."

"Oh, no," said the stranger, laughing. "I were less than man to mind a
bath of this sort. With all my heart I thank you for your solicitude;
that I am unable to accept your hospitality you must lay at the door of
circumstances which neither you nor I can control."

"But your cape, sir," faltered Betty, her eyes dropping, as she blushed
under the ardent yet respectful gaze which sought hers; "how are we to
return that? And you may need it; I am sorely afraid you will yet suffer
for your kindness."

"Not I," said the stranger, pressing her hand, as he gave the reins into
her fingers; "as for the cape, keep it until we meet again,
and - farewell!"

But Miss Moppet threw her arms around his neck as he bent over the gray
pony and secured the cape more tightly around her small shoulders.

"I haven't half thanked you," she said, "but I will do so properly some
day, when you come to Wolcott Manor. Farewell," and waving her little
hand in adieu, the horses moved away, and were presently lost to sight
in the underbrush.

"Egad!" said the stranger, gazing after thorn, as he picked up his coat
and started for the spot where he had left his hat. "What a marvelous
country it is! The soldiers are uncouth farmer lads, yet they fight and
die like heroes, and the country maids have the speech and air of court
ladies. Geoffrey Yorke, you have wandered far afield; I would you had
time and chance to meet that lovely rebel again!" and with a deep-drawn
sigh he plunged farther into the woods.



"Oh, Betty, Betty," cried Miss Moppet, as the pair gained the more
frequented road and cantered briskly on their homeward way, "what an
adventure we have had! Aunt Euphemia will no doubt bestow a sound rating
on me, for, alas!" - with a doleful glance downward - "see the draggled
condition of my habit."

"Never mind your habit, Moppet," said Betty. "Thank Heaven instead that
you are not lying stiff and cold at the bottom of the pond. You can
never know the agony I suffered when I saw you fall; I should have
plunged in after you in another second."

"Dearest Betty," said the child, looking lovingly at her, "I know you
can swim, but you never could have held me up as that stranger did. Oh!"
with sudden recollection, "we did not ask his name! Did you forget?"

"No," said Betty, "but when I told him ours and he did not give his name
in return, I thought perhaps he did not care to be known, and of course
forbore to press him."

"How handsome he was," said Moppet; "did you see his hair? And how
tightly it curled, wet as it was? And his eyes - surely you noted his
eyes, Betty?"

"Yes," replied Betty, blushing with remembrance of the parting glance
the hazel eyes had bestowed upon her; "he is a personable fellow

"Far handsomer than Josiah Huntington," said Moppet mischievously, "or
even Francis Plunkett."

"What does a little maid like you know of looks?" said Betty
reprovingly, "and what would Aunt Euphemia say to such comments, I

"You'll never tell tales of me," said Moppet, with the easy confidence
of a spoiled child. "Do you think he was a soldier - perhaps an officer
from Fort Trumbull, like the one Oliver brought home last April?"

"Very likely," said Betty. "Are you cold, Moppet? I am so afraid you may
suffer; stop talking so fast and muffle yourself more closely in the
cape. We must be hastening home," and giving her horse the whip, they
rode rapidly down hill.

Wolcott Manor, the house of which Betty spoke, was a fine, spacious
house situated on top of the hills, where run a broad plateau which
later in its history developed into a long and broad street, on either
side of which were erected dwellings which have since been interwoven
with the stateliest names in old Connecticut. The house was double,
built in the style of the day, with a hall running through it, and large
rooms on either side, the kitchen, bakery, and well-house all at the
back, and forming with the buttery a sort of L, near but not connecting
the different outhouses. It was shingled from top to bottom, and the
dormer windows, with their quaint panes, rendered it both stately and
picturesque. As the girls drew rein at the small porch, on the south
side of the mansion, a tall, fine-looking woman of middle age, her gray
gown tucked neatly up, and a snowy white apron tied around her shapely
waist, appeared at the threshold of the door.

"Why, Betty," she said in a surprised voice, "you have been absent so
long that I was about to send Reuben in search of you. The boxes are
undone, and we need your help; Moppet - why, what ails the child?" and
Miss Euphemia Wolcott paused in dismay us she surveyed Miss Moppet's
still damp habit and disheveled hair.

"I've been at the very bottom of Great Pond." announced the child,
enjoying the situation with true dramatic instinct, "and Betty has all
the herbs for Chloe safe in her basket."

"What does the child mean" asked her bewildered aunt, unfastening the
heavy cloth cape from the small shoulders, and perceiving that she had
had a thorough wetting.

"It is true, Aunt Euphemia," said Betty, springing off her mare and
throwing the reins to Reuben as he came slowly around the house. "We
were on one of the hillocks overlooking the pond, and somehow - it all
happened so swiftly that I cannot tell how - but Moppet must have
ventured too near the edge, for the treacherous soil gave way, and down
she pitched into the water before I could put out hand to stay her. I
think I screamed, and then I was pulling off my habit-skirt to plunge
after her when a young man ran hastily along the below and cried out to
me, 'Courage!' and he threw off his coat and dived down, down," - Betty
shuddered and turned pale, - "and then he caught Moppet's skirt and held
her up until he swam safely to shore with her. She was quite
unconscious, but by chafing her hands and giving her some spirits (which
the young stranger had in his flask) we recovered her, and, indeed, I
think she is none the worse for her experience," and Betty put both arms
around her little sister and hugged her warmly, bursting into tears,
which until now had been so carefully restrained.

"Thank Heaven!" cried Miss Euphemia, kissing them both. "You could never
have rescued her alone, Betty; perhaps you might both have drowned.
Where is the brave young man who came to your aid? I trust you gave him
clear directions how to reach the house."

"He would not come," answered Betty simply; "he said he was traveling
westward, and I thought he seemed anxious to be off."

"But we pressed him, Aunt Euphemia," put in Moppet, "and I told him my
pony could carry double. And I do not know how we will return his cape;
do you?"

"You must come indoors at once and get dry clothing," said her aunt,
"and I will tell Chloe to make you a hot posset lest you get a chill;
run quickly, Moppet, and do not stand a moment longer in those wet
clothes. Now, Betty," as the child disappeared inside, "have you any
idea who this stranger can be, or whence he came?"

"I have not," said Betty, blushing rosy red (though she could not have
told why) under her aunt's clone scrutiny.

"What did he look like?" questioned Miss Euphemia.

"Like a young man of spirit," said Betty, mischief getting the better of
her, "and he had a soldierly air to boot and spoke with command."

"I trust with all due respect as well," said Miss Euphemia gravely.

"Truly, he both spoke and behaved as a gentleman should."

"Do you think it could be Oliver's friend, young Otis from Boston?" said
Miss Euphemia. "He was to arrive in these parts this week."

"It may be he," said Betty, "ask Pamela, she has met him;" and as she
turned to enter she almost fell into the arms of a tall, slender girl
who was hurrying forth to meet her.

At first glance there was enough of likeness between the girls to say
that they might be sisters, but the next made the resemblance less, and
their dissimilarity of expression and coloring increased with
acquaintance. Both had the same slender, graceful figure, but while
Betty was of medium height, Pamela was distinctly taller than her
sister, and her pretty head was covered with golden hair, while Betty's
luxuriant locks were that peculiar shade which is neither auburn nor
golden, but a combination of both, and her eyes were hazel-gray, with
long lashes much darker than her hair. Both girls wore their hair piled
on top of the head, as was the fashion of the time, and both were
guiltless of powder, but Pamela's rebellious waves were trained to lie
as close as she could make them, while Betty's would crop out into
little dainty saucy curls over her forehead and down the nape of her
slender neck in a most bewildering fashion. Their complexions, like Miss
Moppet's, were exquisitely satin-like in texture, but there was no break
in Pamela's smooth cheeks, whereas Betty's dimples lurked not only
around her willful mouth, but perched high in her right cheek, and you
found yourself unconsciously watching to see them come and go at the
tricksy maid's changing will. There was but little more than a year's
difference in their ages, yet Betty seemed almost a child beside
Pamela's gracious stateliness.

"What is it all about?" asked the bewildered Pamela, catching hold of
Betty. "Moppet dashes into the kitchen, damp and moist, and says she has
been at the bottom of the pond, and orders hot posset, and you, Betty,
have an air of fright" -

"I should think she might well," interrupted Miss Euphemia; "I will tell
you, Pamela - Betty, go upstairs and change your habit for a gown, and
then come down to assist me. We are about to mould the bullets."

"Oh, Aunt Euphemia!" cried Betty, interrupting in her turn, "I beg your
pardon, but did those huge boxes contain the leaden statue of King
George, as my father's letter advised us?"

"It was cut in pieces, Betty," said Pamela demurely.

"As if I didn't know that," flashed out Betty; "and that it disappeared
after the patriots hauled it down in Bowling Green, and that General
Washington recommended it should be used for the cause of Freedom, and
that we are all to help transform it into bullets far our
soldiers, - truly, Pamela, I have not forgot my father's account of it,"
and Betty vanished inside the door with a rebellious toss of her head,
resenting the implied air of older sister which Pamela sometimes
indulged in.

"Our little Moppet has come perilously near death," said Miss Euphemia,
following Pamela into the house. "She has been rescued from drowning in
Great Pond by a gentleman whom Betty had never seen before. She
describes him as a fine personable youth, and I think it maybe Oliver's
friend, young Otis, who in expected at the Tracys' on a visit from

"It can hardly be he, aunt," said Pamela, "for Sally Tracy has just told
me that he will not arrive for two days, and moreover he comes with Mrs.
Footer and Patty Warren, who are glad to take him as escort in these
troublous times, I will run up to Moppet, for the girls are waiting for
you; the lead got somewhat overheated, and they want your advice as to
using it."

Miss Euphemia went slowly down the hall and through the large
dining-room, pausing as she passed to knock at a small door opening off
the hall into a sitting-room.

"Are you there, Miss Bidwell?" she said, as a small elderly woman, with
bent figure and pleasant, shrewd face, rose from her chair in response.
"Will you kindly go up and see that Miss Moppet be properly rubbed and
made dry, and let her take her hot posset, and then, if not too tired,
she may come to me in the kitchen."

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Online LibraryJeanie Gould LincolnAn Unwilling Maid Being the History of Certain Episodes during the American Revolution in the Early Life of Mistress Betty Yorke, born Wolcott → online text (page 1 of 12)