Harper's Round Table, December 10, 1895 online

. (page 1 of 7)
Online LibraryVariousHarper's Round Table, December 10, 1895 → online text (page 1 of 7)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


Produced by Annie R. McGuire

[Illustration: HARPER'S ROUND TABLE]

Copyright, 1895, by HARPER & BROTHERS. All Rights Reserved.

* * * * *



* * * * *



A Story of the Revolution.




The tide ran so swiftly that at first it appeared to George that he did
not gain an inch on the drifting boat, and the short choppy waves
dashing against his face almost drove his breath away at times. The day
when his brother William had saved him from drowning at Stanham Mills
came back to him.

But surely he was drawing nearer! he could see the hull much more
distinctly, and could hear the loose oars rolling across the thwarts.

Desperately he forged along; he was calling on his nerves, his vital
force, for a last effort. In a moment more he reached the stern, and,
placing his knee on the rudder, fell inside the boat.

To save himself he could not lift a finger now; he lay there perfectly
conscious, sprawled in the stern sheets, his chest heaving, his head
thrown back - played out in every muscle. It was fully half an hour
before he moved, and when he did so the sense of his position came fully
upon him.

All about reached the opaque white wall, and although a short time
before it had been so warm, George now felt chilled - his teeth were
rattling. This reminded him of the coats, and the letter in Carter's
pocket that had nearly cost his life.

Getting on his knees he perceived to his astonishment that the boat was
half filled with water, and that the coats were floating in it at his

At once he set to work, and there being nothing else to use he took his
hat and Carter's and baled with both hands.

This exercise warmed him, and started his blood and pulse going once

When the water had been put over the side, George wrung out the coats
and drew the sail about his shoulders. But first he found the letter
that had caused all the trouble. It was addressed, "To the Convention at
White Plains," and in the corner was inscribed, "A plan to destroy the
British fleet by means of floating barrels of gunpowder, suggested by
Mason Hewes, Colonel III. N. J., Reg't of Foot."

"One of the Colonel's schemes," said George to himself. But this did not
seem so important as a memorandum in Carter's hand, made on a slip of
paper, and showing the disposition of the American forces on Long

He tore up the latter, but Colonel Hewes's address to the convention he
attached to a bit of iron that he found, ready at a moment's notice to
drop it overboard.

"I haven't the least idea where I am," he remarked, "so I had best be
content with being alive. Oh, if this abominable fog would only clear

It had been quite late in the afternoon when the boys had left the
little cove at the foot of Brooklyn Heights, and now the light that
filtered through the mist was growing dimmer. The ebb was still on, for
the boat was drifting slowly. Another half-hour passed.

"What is that?" exclaimed George, suddenly, for a lapping sound came to
his ears; it was the noise of the little tide waves against the prow of
a vessel at anchor - he had heard it often along the wharves. As he
peered out with his face over the side he heard loud and distinct,
almost above him, the rattle and click of a block and tackle.

"'Vast 'eeaving there," called out a voice, so close that George
started. "Belay, you lubbers," called the voice again.

A strange odor filled the air, a smell compounded of so many things that
it cannot be described. George knew it to be that of a crowded ship - the
smell of a man-of-war.

"I must be right among them," he murmured.

All at once, so close to him that he could almost reach it with an oar,
loomed a great black shape, and over his head extended the muzzles of a
line of guns, and above them another, and still above, a third.

"A seventy-four!" said George, crouching down in the bottom of the boat
beneath the sail.

Slowly he drifted past; he could see the white streaks on her sides, and
hear snatches of songs and the hum of voices. At last he was directly
beneath the bulging quarter galleries, and a voice called out,

"What's that below?"

"A boat, sir, adrift," some one answered, in gruff sailor tones.

"Any one in her, Quartermaster?" inquired the first again.

"Can't see, sir," was the reply.

"Tumble into the cutter, then, and take after her," came the order.

The shrilling of a boatswain's pipe followed, and the hoarse bawl, "All
first cutters away," started George to action.

"Now for another swim," he said, as he passed the battle-ship's mighty
stern. "The shore of Staten Island must be off there to the left."

He hove both coats into the water, and, taking Mr. Hewes's epistle in
his teeth, lowered himself after them. He hated to sacrifice the
spy-glass, but overboard it went with the rest.

He had taken but a few dozen strokes when the thrumming of oars sounded
plainly, and he rolled over on his back to listen - the oars stopped.

"Cutter there!" came from the deck of the seventy-four. "Have you found
that boat?"

"Ay, ay, sir," the cutter hailed in return. "There's nothing in it but a

George smiled and struck out again. "That shore's a long ways off," he
thought, after he had swum for some time steadily, and as he made this
remark to himself his knee struck something hard; he dropped his feet to
sound, and found that the water scarcely reached his waist.

Tired and faint, he waded up to a shelving beach and fell forward in the
sand. But he could not stay there long, for he knew that Staten Island
was overrun with English soldiers. He must find some place to hide.

The fog had lessened, but it was growing dark. A ship's bell struck the
hour, and the sound was taken up by a hundred others in a chorus of
clanging and ding-donging out in the mist.

George walked up the beach. The water's edge was littered with débris
from the fleet - baskets and empty boxes, crates, and drift-wood of all
sorts. Something caught his eye, and he stooped and picked up a
stout-handled boat-hook.

"Some poor fellow got the rope's end for losing this," he said. "It may
come in handy for me." He shouldered it and walked quickly away. A few
rods further on he came across a narrow pier or causeway that ran from
the bank above the beach to a boat-landing some distance out.

There was just room for a man to crawl underneath. George stooped on his
hands and knees and worked his way in as far as he could with comfort.
Then he half buried himself in the dry sand. Tired with his two long
swims and with the excitement of the last few hours, he went to sleep.
But it was not for long. Suddenly he awoke - a great fear was on him. Why
had he not thought of it before? _Had Carter reached the shore?_ George
had heard no sound from him after he had turned to speak of leaving the
paper in the boat.



The reason that Carter did not hail, as tacitly agreed upon, is simply
told. He could not have raised his voice if the fate of the country
depended on his doing it, for he never remembered reaching land at all.

When George had left him, Carter had kept straight ahead, but made the
great mistake of trying to fight against the swiftly running tide.

It buffeted him hither and thither, until he became utterly exhausted,
and could just keep himself afloat and no more by weakly treading water.
The direction of the shore he lost completely for some minutes, when all
at once he heard the rippling sound again. Desperately he struck out,
and then, oh joy! he heard the sound of voices.

Carter tried to shout, but a sturdy wave catching him fair in the face
muffled the cry and almost foundered him. He remembered taking two or
three strokes after that; then all went black.

"I'm certain I heard a cry out here," said a voice in the fog.
High-pitched and distinct, the tones were very different from those that

"You have ears like a rabbit's, then," growled a deep bass. "For I heard
nothing. Come, as I was saying - "

"Pardon me. Just hearken for a minute. It may sound again," interrupted
the first speaker.

Two figures leaned out over the Battery wall.

The owner of the deep voice was a large man who sloped off in all
directions. A huge scratch-wig was pulled over his forehead. The other
would have attracted attention anywhere. Above a tightly buttoned
snuff-colored coat appeared a thin pinched face, whose little eyes
looked out above prominent cheek bones, and whose chin was thrust
forward from a voluminous neckcloth. His movements were quick and active
as a weasel's. As he peered through the mist he pointed with his finger
as if he were following something of whose constantly changing position
he were not exactly sure.

"Yes; there it is," he said at last. "Gadzooks, it's a man's body! Here
goes for it."

The little man vaulted to the top of the wall, and made a beautiful
clean-cut dive out into the water. The counter-current set up by the ebb
tide swirled softly against the sea-wall. It was easier swimming than a
few rods further out.

"Hulloa!" called a voice at last.

"Hulloa! This way," answered the large man, who was deftly casting loose
a stout rope made fast to a ring-bolt in one of the stone posts. "Here.
This way."

"I have him," said the one in the water, panting slightly. "But whether
alive or dead I know not. It's the body of a lad," he added, as he
caught the rope the big man hurled to him.

Quickly he tied the end under Carter's armpits, and finding room for his
fingers and toes in clefts in the masonry, he climbed unassisted to the
Battery wall.

Together both men pulled the apparently drowned boy to the top.

"Jabez, you are one of the greatest I know of," said the big man, as he
helped to carry the senseless figure to a grass-plot.

"Tush!" was the answer. "I'm a good swimmer, mayhap, for my light weight
and growing years, that's all." Indeed, this had been proved, for the
small one had not even paused to remove his coat. "The lad's alive," he
went on, speaking with his ear pressed close to Carter's chest. "Bear a
hand quickly, we must get him in-doors."

"Ay, but where?" rejoined the larger.

"To our friend the widow's. 'Tis but a step."

Again they picked up their burden and disappeared in the mist.

When Carter Hewes came to his senses he found himself in a little room
that was nearly filled by the big four-poster bed in which he lay. His
head throbbed, and he felt faint and weary. But the feeling of being
safe and warm was so comforting that he did not at once worry as to his

Some persons were talking close to him; he could hear the words they
said, but at first he could not raise himself. At last he got up,
however, on his elbow. The voices came from behind the closed door at
the head of his bed.

"I am sick of hiding here like a fat badger in a strange hole that,
by-the-way, is much too small for comfort," grumbled a deep voice.

"Take heart. It's for a righteous cause," answered a high-pitched one.

"Why not declare ourselves, and have it done with?" returned the first.

"The time's not ripe. We will be able to accomplish much more - and to
play the rôle will require no dissembling."

"That's well enough, but I'm tired of it all," came the grumble.
"Suppose the British do not take the city."

"Tush! New York cannot be held. Remember that we - " The reply stopped,
for a woman's voice broke in.

"How's the young gentleman?" inquired a loud feminine whisper with an
unmistakable brogue.

"I'm just going in to see how fares it with him," was the response.

Carter dropped back on the pillow, and half closed his eyelids. There
was a small mirror at the foot of the bed, and in the reflection he saw
the door open and a face peep in. He caught a glimpse of a pair of keen
eyes, a large nose, and a strong determined jaw. Immediately the door

"He's asleep," was whispered out in the hall. "'Tis the best thing; when
he wakens you can ask him questions. But not a word as to who fetched
him here."

"No, sur, not a word," the woman replied.

Whether it was the suggestion contained in the warning or not that
worked the charm, it is hard to tell. The fact was, however, that in a
moment Carter began to snore. It was dusk when he awakened the second
time. He felt much stronger, and a flood of recollections that had not
bothered him before came over him.

"Where was George? I hope and trust he's safe; God grant so," he said
out loud. Then he weakly stepped out on the floor, and made his way to
the window. "Hullo!" he said; "I know where I am, thank goodness." He
had looked out on the Battery green. "Now to find out to whom I am
indebted," he added, walking to the door. "Ahem," he said, loudly, to
attract attention. Then, "I beg pardon. Is there any one in?"

No answer, although Carter thought he heard a movement up stairs. Again
he called, then he whistled.

"They must be all out - or dead!" he ejaculated. "What am I to do for

As he turned back into the room he saw a much-worn coat hanging over a
chair, a pair of shoes with brass buckles, and some thick yarn
stockings. He tried them on; the coat was a trifle tight, so were the
shoes, but he squeezed into them, and went down the stairway. No one was

"Well, I can't wait to thank my unknown friends to-day," he said; "I'll
call again." He slowly walked out of the doorway, looking over his
shoulder every step or so.

It had grown very dark in the last few minutes, so dark that a number of
people had lit candles in their houses. Carter noticed that they shone
with a peculiar greenish light; some shutters were closed noisily. When
he reached the green he paused. Many a thunder-storm had he seen
gathering before, but never a sight like that. To the south-west rose a
sheer wall of blue-black cloud, and overhead were circling and twisting
huge billows, like the smoke of burning tar; a few big drops spattered
out of the sky. But there was dead silence - not a sound of thunder or a
quiver of light.

"Looks like rain," said a facetious burgher, who stood with gaping mouth
and face upturned.

Carter did not answer, but hurried on; somehow he felt that he was
dreaming. He had half expected to see the British fleet anchored off the
Battery. There was not a sail in sight, so he made straight for the
headquarters of George's regiment, praying that there they would have
news of him.

"No one's heard of Sergeant Frothingham since yester-morning," replied a
number of George's squad. "He got leave for a day and hain't come back,"
the man added, grinning.

This was the first intimation Carter had that he had been unconscious
twenty-four hours. He felt sick at heart. His regiment was over on Long
Island, his father was there also, and he knew few people in the town.
George's commander was his own cousin, however, and getting the
direction of Captain Clarkson's house, he started out. It was dark as a
mine shaft in the street - hardly light enough to see the walk ahead.

The young soldier plunged through the door of a public-house only a few
steps further on. It had commenced to blow, and the wind roared
furiously in the swaying elms outside. Occasionally the lightning made
it bright as day. Carter sank into a big oak chair.

"Ah, Lieutenant Hewes! Not over on the island?" said some one, clapping
his hand on the lad's shoulder. "Where have you been?"

"I do not know exactly," murmured Carter, faintly, looking up at the
handsome face of Lieutenant Alexander Hamilton, whom he had met often on
the drill-grounds.

"That means there's a story to be told," went on the other. "Come, join
me in my dining. Don't let the elements interfere with our natural

Carter did not know that part of his faintness came from lack of food.
But when a big bit of tender mutton was placed before him, he ate with
every mouthful putting life into him.

As he was about to begin to tell the tale of adventure of the previous
day he felt something hard in the lining of the borrowed coat, and
inserting his fingers, he drew forth a small note-book; he uttered an
exclamation of surprise.

"George Frothingham - his book, 1774," he read, and sat there too
astonished to speak. "That was the year he left school - to go to Mr.
Wyeth's," said Carter out loud. Again the anguish and fear shook him,
for it recalled the last time he had seen George's face, and this book
in the pocket of a strange coat. What meant it?

Lieutenant Hamilton looked as if he feared that his friend's senses had
left him suddenly.

"Let us have the story, Comrade Hewes," he said.

But it was never to be told. An interruption occurred just then that
changed the current of every thought, and stirred the room to a pitch of

The door was burst open, and a man dripping with rain came in; he
carried a lantern, whose light had been extinguished.

"Oh! but it's a frightful night for a body to be out," he said. "Three
persons were killed by the thunder-bolts on Broadway. But have ye heard
the cannon firing?"

"You're crazy," said some one. "Cannon on such a night as this! But,

Three distinct reports sounded in quick succession.

"That's no thunder," said the landlord.

"The signal guns!" exclaimed Lieutenant Hamilton.

Again the door was forced open, and, accompanied by a blast of wind and
rain, a soldier plunged into the room. His hat was gone, and his loose
hair was plastered down his face.

"A spy has arrived through the storm from Staten Island!" he shouted.
"The British are landing in force at Gravesend. Officers are ordered to
their commands at once."





Ten days after the lawn party Aunt Patty and Cynthia were alone once
more in the old farm-house, for Ida had departed to Rocky Beach to spend
the month of August with Angela Leverton.

She went away in gay good humor, eager - as are all young people - for a
change. But she was very affectionate when she parted with her aunt and

"I do wish you were going also, Cynthia," she said.

Cynthia's plain, sweet face lighted up with pleasure.

"Do you, really?" she asked.

"Yes, I do, _really_," answered Ida. "I would be willing to stay at home
myself if you could go in my stead, Cynthia."

She gave a pleasant greeting to old Jake Storm when the stage stopped
for her; and as it bore her away she waved her handkerchief from a
window until the old farm-house and the two watchers at the gate were no
longer to be seen. How little she dreamed what was to happen to her
before she saw Brookville again!

"How we miss Ida!" said Aunt Patty or Cynthia half a dozen times a day
during the next week, and with what pleasure they read her frequent
letters! Their tone was entirely different from that of those she had
written during her stay at Aunt Stina's.

"She actually inquires about Moses," laughed Cynthia one day, as she
laid down a letter just received from Ida.

As Moses was only a lame white turkey, this interest on Ida's part
seemed surprising when contrasted with the utter indifference she had
shown to everything about the farm on her arrival in June.

Ida herself was surprised at the amount of thought she gave to those she
had left behind. More than once she astonished Angela by remarking that
she "wondered what Aunt Patty and Cynthia were doing now," and often,
when wandering along the beach, she wished Cynthia could see the waves
breaking against the rocks, and hear the lap of the surf.

One day - a day fraught with much importance as it turned out - Angela and
Ida drove to the little town of Edgerton to attend to some shopping for
Mrs. Leverton, who was an invalid - or fancied herself one.

It was late in the afternoon when they started homeward, and they were
bowling along at a good round rate on the hard road, when suddenly Ida
laid a hand on the reins.

"Stop a moment, Angela," she said. "Look at that poor woman sitting
under that old tree. She must be ill."

"It is more likely that she is intoxicated," answered Angela.

The woman was young, but her appearance was singularly forlorn, for she
was ragged, barefoot, and wore a man's straw hat on her dishevelled
black hair. She sat with her back against the tree, her chin sunk on her
breast, and her eyes closed. In her arms was a baby wrapped in a faded
red shawl, and near by was a cart, in which was heaped a miscellaneous
collection of household goods. She did not look up as the phaeton
stopped, nor appear to hear the voices of the girls.

"I think we ought to find out what is the matter with her," said Ida.

"Oh, it isn't necessary; she is only a common tramp," rejoined Angela.

"She looks as if she were in some sort of a stupor," said Ida.

"Then we had better drive on; she may have some dreadful disease. Ida,
surely you are not going to get out. How foolish!"

"Well, it may be foolish; but I cannot drive on without finding out
first what is the matter with the poor thing," said Ida, as she stepped
out of the phaeton.

Strangely enough, the thought of Aunt Patty had come into her mind.
Would Aunt Patty have driven by without making an effort to help? Of
course not.

The woman raised her head as Ida drew near, and her heavy eyes opened
slowly. She stared dully at Ida without speaking.

[Illustration: "ARE YOU ILL?" ASKED IDA.]

"Are you ill?" asked Ida.

"I'm dyin', I guess," answered the poor creature in a thick voice. "I
don't know what's the matter of me. I ache all over, 'n' my head's 'most
burstin' open."

"Oh, Ida, do - _do_ come away," cried Angela from the phaeton.

But Ida paid no attention to her. She bent over the woman, and, drawing
off her gloves, put her soft cool hand on the flushed forehead.

"You have a high fever," she said, "and you ought not to stay here; it
will soon be dark. Have you no home nor friends?"

"I'm tryin' to get to my sister in Edgerton," was the reply. "I've
walked all the way from Stormville, a-draggin' that cart 'n' a-carryin'
of my baby. I can't go no further. I'm clear worn out."

Ida went out into the road again. "Angela! we can't go off and leave
this poor woman here to die," she said.

"I don't see what we can possibly do for her," rejoined Angela.

"We might put her in the phaeton and drive her to Edgerton."

"Put her into my nice phaeton! That horrid, dirty woman!" Angela stared
at her friend in astonishment at such an extraordinary proposition.
"Indeed, she shall not come anywhere near me! I am sure she has some
dreadful contagious disease."

"Angela, we can't go off and leave her here. It would be utterly

Angela set her mouth stubbornly. "Other people will probably come along
and do something for her," she said. "There may be a dozen wagons along
here before night."

"We can't be _sure_ that even one will pass; this road is not much
travelled," said Ida.

"She must take her chances, then." Angela's tone was cool. "Come, do get
in, and let us drive on, Ida. We have wasted too much time already."

Ida hesitated. Her gaze wandered from Angela to the sick woman, whose
head had fallen forward again. Then her face brightened suddenly. "The
cart!" she said. "Why did I not think of it before? I can get her into
that cart; it will be quite large enough if I take out all those

"But what good will that do?" asked Angela. "How will she be any better
off in the cart?"

"I can pull it, and take her to Edgerton in that way."

"Ida!" Angela almost shrieked.

"Yes, I can, and I _will_, unless," and she smiled winningly, "you will
allow me to put the cart behind the phaeton? Then Prince can pull us

"Well, I suppose I can do that much," said Angela, reluctantly; "but how
will we look!"

"We needn't care for that. People who want to laugh can do so."

"And are you going to handle all those horrid cooking utensils in that
cart? And that soiled pillow and blanket? Oh, Ida, I wouldn't touch them
for anything you could offer."

Ida laughed. "It's in a good cause," she said, cheerfully.

A few minutes later the sick woman and her child were in the cart, and
the little cavalcade set out for Edgerton. As the cart was old and
rickety they feared it would fall to pieces under any strain, so Prince

1 3 4 5 6 7

Online LibraryVariousHarper's Round Table, December 10, 1895 → online text (page 1 of 7)