Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: A Dream of Empire - Or, The House of Blennerhassett
Author: Venable, William Henry, 1836-1920
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Dream of Empire - Or, The House of Blennerhassett" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



A DREAM OF EMPIRE

_Or_
THE HOUSE OF
BLENNERHASSETT

_By_
WILLIAM HENRY VENABLE

AUTHOR OF "A HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES,"
"JOHN HANCOCK, EDUCATOR," &c.

_New York_
DODD, MEAD AND COMPANY
_MDCCCCI_

----------------------------------------------------------------------

Copyright, 1901,
By Dodd, Mead and Company.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

TO
EMERSON VENABLE

----------------------------------------------------------------------

Contents

I.      AN ECCENTRIC VISITOR.                             1
II.     A NOTED CHARACTER ARRIVES IN PITTSBURG.          16
III.    PILLARS OF SMOKE.                                28
IV.     PLUTARCH BYLE MAKES A NEW ACQUAINTANCE.          39
V.      IN THE LADIES' BOWER.                            45
VI.     DOCTOR DEVILLE AND HIS LUCRECE.                  62
VII.    CONSPIRACY.                                      71
VIII.   DIAMOND CUT DIAMOND.                             82
IX.     DON'T FORGET THE BITTERS.                        97
X.      "NOW TO MY CHARMS AND TO MY WILY TRAINS."       118
XI.     PALAFOX GROWS INSOLENT.                         127
XII.    SNARING A PHILOSOPHER.                          137
XIII.   THE ENCHANTED GROUND.                           150
XIV.    A LARGESS OF CORONETS.                          169
XV.     THERE BE LAND RATS AND WATER RATS.              181
XVI.    A PATRIOT NOT TO BE TAMPERED WITH.              193
XVII.   THE BUSY NOTE OF PREPARATION.                   205
XVIII.  THE VOYAGE OF THE BUCKEYE.                      218
XIX.    ARLINGTON'S RIDE.                               234
XX.     MOSTLY LOVE MATTERS.                            247
XXI.    PRO AND CON.                                    262
XXII.   NOT A TRUE BILL.                                269
XXIII.  THE FATAL CIPHER.                               278
XXIV.   THE MIDNIGHT DEPARTURE.                         286
XXV.    HEROINE AND HERO.                               297
XXVI.   OUT OF THE NET INTO THE TRAP.                   312
XXVII.  FLIGHT AND SURRENDER.                           326
XXVIII. WHAT BECAME OF THEM.                            333

----------------------------------------------------------------------



A DREAM OF EMPIRE.

I. AN ECCENTRIC VISITOR.


It was the first of May, and the sun had passed the noon line in a
bright sky, causing the shadow of Peter Taylor to fall east of north
and infusing his substance with the delightful languor called Spring
Fever. Leaning upon an idle spade, Peter watched the lazy motions of a
negro slave whom he had directed to trim a level lawn ornamented with
flowerbeds. The English origin of the overseer was revealed by his
looks and in his speech.

"Scipio, 'ave you 'oed the corn?"

"No, boss, but I's jes' gwine to ten' to it right away."

"Well, make 'aste. Daniel and Ransom can 'elp you, and tell Honest
Moses to get the south patch ready for the watermelon seed."

Scipio received his orders submissively, and, shouldering a hoe,
sauntered toward the cornfield, and was soon hidden by a clump of
young weeping-willows, the sunny green branches of which trailed to
the darker verdure of the sward. Screened by the drooping foliage, the
shirking menial cast his body on the grass to store up energy for
anticipated toil.

Meanwhile, the taskmaster, having issued commands to his black
subordinates, felt justified in neglecting his own duties, in a
dignified way, by seeking a shady retreat in which he lingered
contemplating the charms of Nature and the pleasing results of his own
skill as a landscape-gardener. The prevailing aspect of the
surroundings was wild, though several acres of cultivated land,
including a fine lawn with gravelled walks and drives, attested that
much labor had been expended in reclaiming a portion of savage Nature
from its primeval condition. The plantation occupied the upper end of
Blennerhassett Island. Standing on a knoll, with his back to the
"improved" grounds, Peter took in at a sweeping glance a reach of
gleaming water which flowed between woody hills overhung by a serene
sky. He saw the silver flood of the Ohio River which, coursing
southward, broke against the island, dividing its broad current into
two nearly equal streams. He admired the meadow slopes of Belpre, on
the Ohio side, and the more dimly seen bluffs of Wood County, on the
Virginia border. The tourist of to-day, standing where the gardener
stood on Blennerhassett Island a hundred years ago, sees in the
northern distance the iron framework of the Parkersburg bridge
spanning the river, so far away as to show like a fairy web in the
air. Beyond, as if issuing from the heart of the hills, the river
blends with the purple mist.

Having "bent the quiet of a loving eye" upon the river and its
delightful valley, the Englishman turned his ruddy face toward the
chief building on the island, a frame structure of odd appearance,
painted in dazzling white save the window shutters, which were vivid
green. The mansion consisted of a main edifice fifty feet square and
two stories high, with a peculiar portico in front, projected not in
straight lines, but forming a semicircle, embracing within the
curvature of its outstretching arms a favored area of dooryard. The
proprietor of the estate had chosen the site and designed the plan of
this his residence with the double purpose of indulging a fancy for
architectural novelty and of providing against disaster by lightning
and earthquake. Never did it occur to him that fire and flood were the
elements he had most reason to fear: each of these ruinous agents was
destined, in turn, to devastate the island.

In the rear of the fantastic dwelling, and not far from it, stood a
row of log cabins for the negroes who served on the place, and a
cluster of barns and stables abundantly stocked. All the houses were
new, and the adjacent cultivated land showed many signs that it had
not long been tilled, or even cleared. The rank soil retained its
quick fertility, as could be seen in the thrifty growth of peas,
beets, radishes, and early potatoes, flourishing in the "truck-patch."
The plum and the peach trees had cast their bloom; the cherry blossoms
were falling like snow; the flowers of the apple loaded the air with
fragrance; the red-buds were beginning to fade; the maples and oaks,
just starting into leaf, hung full of light green tassels.

The vegetable close had irresistible attractions for the gardener, and
this drew his laggard steps from their idle excursion, back to the
freshly spaded spot enriched by leaf mould, and carefully picketed
against the incursions of scratching hens. Here he busied himself in
planting lettuce seed, forgetful of Scipio, who lolled sleepily in the
shadow of the willows.

The drowsy bondman was just sinking into slumber, when his attention
was aroused by a plashing noise followed by the sound of whistling.
Glancing in the direction of the disturbance, his eyes fell upon the
ungainly figure of a man who was stooping at the water's edge. The
negro got upon his feet, and approached the stranger, who at first
took no notice of him, being absorbed in puzzled observation. A cut of
lean meat, encircled by a row of stones, lay immersed in a pool caused
by an eddy in the river.

"Danged if I can make out what this hunk of raw beef is put here for,"
soliloquized the visitor. "The minnies are nibblin' it away. I wonder
if this here Mr. Bladderhatchet means to feed all the fish in the Ohio
on beefsteak. Hello, Cuffey, what do _you_ want?"

"I's not Cuffey, sah; I's Scipio."

"Well, I's Byle, Plutarch Byle," said the stranger, raising his gaunt,
gawky figure to a posture which, though far from erect, revealed a
stature so much above the average height that the negro stepped back a
few paces and stared with astonishment. Plutarch Byle's feet, hands
and head seemed somewhat too large for his trunk and limbs, but were
quite in harmony with the big joints of his knees, elbows and wrists.
His attitudes were grotesque and his gestures awkward. Light, curly
hair covered his head; his nose was long and inquisitive; his eyes,
big, blue and good-humored; his mouth, incredibly wide, with shrewd,
mobile lips, which habitually smiled. A tuft of yellow beard on the
end of his sharp chin, gave his face a comical expression resembling
that which caricature bestows on Uncle Sam. His voice was pitched in a
high key, and was modified by that nasal twang supposed to indicate
Yankee origin; but a habit of giving his declarative sentences an
interrogative finish, might denote that he came from the mountain
regions of Pennsylvania or Virginia. A pair of linsey pantaloons, a
blue hunting shirt with a fringe of red and yellow, moccasins of
tanned leather and a woollen hat were his chief visible articles of
dress.

Scrutinizing Scipio's features as he might inspect a wonder in a
museum, Byle interrogated him:

"Potterin' about for greens, I reckon? Do you belong here, Africanus?"

The only information drawn from the slave was that the proprietor of
the island had bought him in Virginia.

"Bought? Consarn my bones! How much did he give for you? Look here,
Sambo, if I was a Roman general, like you, and in your fix," said
Byle, pointing with his left thumb over his right shoulder and
winking, "I'd skite over to the Buckeye-side of the water and forget
to pay for myself. Don't you know what the Ordinance of '87 says? 'No
involuntary servitude in said territory.' I agree with John Woolman,
that niggers are our feller-creatures."

Turning abruptly, the tall man moved with long, slow strides in the
direction of the white house with green shutters, talking continually,
more to himself than to the perplexed negro who followed at his heels.

"Wonder how things are growing in the front yard? By gum! that's a
fine Italian poplar! Guess the old Coot's at home. Maybe that
youngster is one of the little Bladderhatchets! Say, sonny, come this
way."

The sentence was addressed to a lad, who, bounding from the portico,
ran nimbly toward the intruder. The boy was prettily attired in a
military costume, and wore a toy sword at his side and a gay feather
in his cap. He was followed by a brother smaller and much less jaunty.

"What might your name be, now, bub? By crackey, you've come out in
full blossom, haven't you, like a red-bud bush? What do you say your
name is?"

"Dominick."

"Dominick, hey? I've seen many a young dominick rooster, but I never
saw one with finer feathers than yours. Suppose you flap your wings,
and crow for us, like a fighting cockerel."

"I'll not crow; I'll stick my sword through you!"

"Jerusalem artichokes! He wants to kill me with his tin sword!
Dominick, I give in. If your pappy is about the house, tell him to
come out; a gentleman wants to ask him something."

Before a summons could be served on Mr. Harman Blennerhassett, that
person appeared emerging from a wing of the long porch. Being
extremely near-sighted, he could not distinctly see the man who
awaited him until the distance between the two was diminished to a few
steps. The uninvited guest without ceremony opened conversation.

"How d'ye do? I am Mr. Byle--B-y-l-e--Plutarch Byle. Of course
everybody knows you by reputation, Mr. Bladderhatchet--"

"Blennerhassett."

"It's a prodigious long name, ain't it? Too long, in my opinion. You
can have it shortened by law. I'm told you're from Ireland. You don't
look much Irish, nor you haven't a bad brogue. I s'pose you've got
your naturalization papers all right. This administration is rather
easy on foreigners, especially French, for Jefferson has Frenchy
notions. President Adams was rough on emigrants--maybe too rough; he
wanted to sock it to them hard by acts of Congress. What is your
opinion of the Alien and Sedition laws? I favor them; I'm a Federalist
to the marrow-bones. I don't reckon you're a United Irishman, Mr.
Blanner--"

"Blenner, if you please--Blennerhassett. I belong to the order of
United Irishmen, but I presume your errand here is not to discuss
politics. Your looks denote that you affiliate with--shall I say, the
common people, the humbler class? What is your business here, my good
man?"

"Rattlesnakes and brimstone! _Me_ your good man! _Me_ of the humbler
class! Why, Squire B., we have no humbler class on our side of the
Ohio. But you needn't apologize; I'm not huffy. You're new to the
country and your blunders are excusable. I happened along this way--"

"My time is valuable, I must ask you to be brief. What do you want?"

"You're a bigger man than I calculated to see; you're a large-sized
citizen, full six foot, I should guess, and you stoop consider'bl in
the shoulders, like myself. The Byles are all built that way. But your
feet are smaller than mine, and I should think you'd feel awk'ard in
such toggery as them red breeches and shoe buckles."

"You are impertinent," snapped Blennerhassett, turning from his rude
critic. "If you have nothing to tell or to ask that is of any
importance, make off, for I can be detained no longer."

"Hold on, neighbor; I've heaps yet to tell, and lots more to ask. The
first thing I noticed particularly when I landed was that puddle up
there, with the hunk of raw meat soaking, and I would like dangnation
well to know why you put that meat in that puddle?"

Annoyed beyond endurance, the lord of the island would have hurried
away, but he was diverted from his intention by the unexpected conduct
of his guest, who, suddenly dropping on all fours, fell to examining
with the liveliest interest a wild plant which had forced its stem up
through the sod.

"Do you know what that is?" asked Plutarch of the two boys who stood
near their father, perplexed by the dialogue to which they had
listened. They shook their heads, when, glancing up at Scipio, the
questioner repeated, "Do you know?" and not waiting for a reply,
"That's snakeroot; smell it!" He plucked a portion of the herb, rubbed
it between his thumb and forefinger and thrust the bruised substance
first under his own nose and then beneath the reluctant nostrils of
the disdainful Master Dominick.

Mr. Blennerhassett was himself a botanist, or desired to be considered
one, and his eagerness to become familiar with the flora of his
vicinity so far overcame offended formality, that he also got down on
his knees and directed his imperfect vision to the pungent specimen.
The two men, each an oddity, presented a ludicrous picture as they
knelt on the grass, their heads almost in contact, and their long
noses only a few inches above the object of their scrutiny.

"Yes, Virginia snakeroot, and I couldn't expect it to sprout up in
this open place. This is a different thing from the Seneca
rattlesnake-root; there's more cure in an ounce of this than in a
pound of that. I'll wager five shillings to a sixpence that I can name
you nine out of ten of the medicines and dyestuffs growing on this
island."

"If that is the case," said the Irish recluse, scrambling to his feet,
"I shall be glad to avail myself of your knowledge. There are many
vines, shrubs, and trees flourishing here, the names and qualities of
which I greatly desire to learn and many herbs which perhaps--"

"I'm your man, neighbor; I'm your man. There are three things which I
calculate I do know by experience: the first is fish, the second is
game, and the third is yarbs."

"What is the third?"

"Yarbs. Anything that grows wild. I'm acquainted with pretty much
every critter that has seed, flower, leaf, bark or root. I fish a good
bit, and I doctor a good bit."

"You doctor, fish and hunt," repeated Blennerhassett, his attention
now completely captured; "I myself prescribe simple remedies and I am
fond of the sports you mention, though a defect of vision interferes
with my shooting."

"If you like," proposed Byle, "we will prowl around this very
afternoon and study physic together. I call the wild woods God's
apothecary shop."

Blennerhassett was convoyed to the depths of the island forest, where
the strangely assorted pair conversed intimately on the virtues of
pleurisy-root, Indian physic and columbo. Byle discoursed on the high
price of ginseng, and the new method of preparing that specific for
the Chinese market; recommended the prompt use of succory to cure a
snake bite, and the liberal application of green stramonium leaves to
heal sores on the back of a horse. He advised Blennerhassett to
acquire an appetite for custard apples, which, he said, regulated the
bowels.

On returning from the excursion, Blennerhassett hurried into his
library, lugging a basket filled with botanical specimens; and Byle
prepared to leave the premises. Before starting, he beckoned the
gardener, who sulkily responded to the sign. The pertinacious visitor
was proof against repulse. No social coolness could chill his
confiding ardor. He took Peter's arm, and with a backward jerk of the
head declared interrogatively:

"The Mogul is sort of queer, isn't he? A screw loose somewhere, eh?"

"Well," responded Peter cautiously, "yes and no; he is queer and he
isn't queer. He has plenty of book learning and plenty of money, and a
fool can't get much of either. Folks say he has every kind of sense
but common sense."

"At first he didn't want to be sociable. I asked him a civil question
about a public matter, and he shut up like a clam. Now can _you_ tell
me, as man to man, why the deuce that hunk of beef is put to soak in
that puddle, up at the head of the island?"

Peter chuckled in the contemptuous manner of a practical man, without
sympathy for speculative genius.

"That's one of his chemical experiments. The man is always up to
something of the kind. The carcass of a dead 'og was dug up on the
place, and his Honor noticed that it had turned into something like
tallow, and he takes the notion that the water here has power to
change flesh into solid fat--_hadipocere_, he calls it--which he
thinks may be used to make candles."

Byle listened to the solution of the lean-meat mystery with waning
attention, for before the explanation was concluded his roving eye
caught glimpses of an apparition more interesting than the gardener's
dry sarcasm. He discerned, through openings in the boscage fringing
the river bank on the Ohio shore, an object like a scarlet flag flying
rapidly along.

"Greased lightning! What strange bird is that coming down the river
road? A woman on horseback, sure as Easter flowers! Two of 'em, one in
red and one in black. Don't they make them animals cut dirt? I
wouldn't miss this sight for a hogshead of tree-honey. Why, it beats a
Pittsburg horse-race on the Fourth of July!"

"Oh, it's mamma! It's mamma and Miss Evaleen coming back from
Marietta," shouted Dominick.

A gang of colored men, led by Honest Moses, poled an unwieldy scow to
the Ohio shore, took the dashing equestriennes on board and ferried
back to the island.

The announcement that their mistress was approaching caused a general
flurry among the servants, male and female, and several of them,
headed by the boys, hastened down to the landing to receive the
ladies. Byle was not the man to let slip such an opportunity of taking
a look at the paragon, whose charms of person and brilliancy of mind
he had heard many tongues extol; and he did not hesitate to join the
family group on the river bank. His curiosity was amply rewarded by
the vision of fair women which he beheld.

Madam Blennerhassett stepped from the ferryboat, beaming smiles of
motherly fondness upon her children. She wore a riding-habit of
scarlet cloth embroidered with thread of gold, and a snow-white hat,
adorned with long plumes of ostrich feather. The rich attire did not
blind Plutarch to the natural beauty of "the woman herself." She was
of regal stature, graceful bearing and animated face. Her buoyant
step, her rising bosom, her clear, rich voice evidenced the vital glow
of maturity in a woman still young--a June rose blooming in May.

Byle, pressing nearer, noted that the madam's hair was brown; her
eyelashes long; nose, Grecian; lips, ripe red. When he had fixed her
image on his mind, and was meditating the propriety of making friendly
inquiries concerning the purpose and results of her excursion to
Marietta, her large, calm eyes searched his countenance with a look of
offended dignity, which caused his tongue to cleave to the roof of his
mouth. Speechless for the moment, but not blinded, Plutarch withdrew
his optics from the imperious dame, and took an instantaneous
brain-picture of her companion, a light-footed, quick-glancing girl
about eighteen years of age, whose arrival put little Harman into an
ecstasy, and gave manifest delight to the servants. Her blithe manner
and cheerful voice won Byle's complete approbation, and led him to
describe her as one who "'peared not to know there was a valley of the
shadder of trouble here below."

Madam Blennerhassett instructed Moses to take care of the horses, and
side by side with the winsome maiden walked from the landing to the
house, followed by a retinue of servants.

Thus abandoned, Plutarch Byle plodded his way to his skiff, pushed the
light craft from the sandy beach, ensconced his gaunt person on the
rowing bench, seized the oars, and pulled up stream, saying to
himself:

"She's the compound extract of Queen 'Liz'beth and Cleopatry; but why
didn't she take a fancy to a good-looking Federalist like me, instead
of throwing herself away on a near-sighted United Irishman with silver
shoe-buckles?"



II. A NOTED CHARACTER ARRIVES IN PITTSBURG.


On the last day of April, 1805, more than the usual number of guests
crowded the bar-room or lounged about the open door of the Green Tree,
a popular tavern on the bank of the Monongahela, in Pittsburg. The
proprietor had found difficulty in providing refreshment for the swarm
of hungry mechanics, farmers and boatmen who elbowed their way to a
seat at his famed dining-table. To the clatter of dishes was added the
clamor of voices making demands upon the decanters, which yielded an
inexhaustible supply of rum, whiskey and peach brandy.

In the throng of bar-room loafers was a swarthy boatman, wearing a
leathern waistcoat, who, on being jostled by a stalwart roysterer
carrying a long rifle, poured out curses and slang epithets, swearing
he could whip any man in the tavern or in the town. The challenge was
no sooner uttered than the offender for whom it was meant called out
to the landlord:

"Here, Billy, hold my shooter a minute until I pitch this Louisiana
rat into the river."

"Don't mind him, Mike; he's drunk."

"Drunk or sober," blustered the quarrelsome boatman, "I swear I can
whip the best man in Pittsburg or in Pennsylvania."

This sweeping defiance elicited laughter and derision.

"Give him the heft of your fist, Mike!" cried one.

"Bruise the snout of the Mississippi alligator!"

Thus incited, Mike Fink, the recognized champion of Pittsburg,
disposed of his rifle, doubled up his fists, and stood ready for
assault or defence.

"Fair fight or rough and tumble?" said he, appealing to the crowd.

"Fair fight," growled the boatman and tossed a fiery dram down his
gullet. But fair fight in the accepted sense of the phrase was
farthest from his intention. Quick as a flash, he drew from his belt a
dirk, and would have stabbed his antagonist, had not a bystander
seized his uplifted arm, while another wrenched the weapon from his
grasp. The ruffian's comrades hurried their dangerous leader from the
inn, and guided his steps to the river and aboard a large new flatboat
recently launched.

A flourish of bugle notes and the noise of wheels announced the
arrival of the mail-coach from the East. Everybody went out to hail
the lumbering vehicle, which, drawn by four horses, came bowling down
the road in a dust-cloud of glory. The driver cracked his whip with a
bang like a pistol-shot, and firmly holding in his left hand the four
long lines, brought his team to a sudden halt in front of the tavern.

Only two passengers alighted from the stage, clambering out at the
front, a mode of egress requiring agility to avoid awkward slips and
tumbles. The first to step down was a handsome young man, who held his
head proudly and looked about him with easy self-possession. A
fashionable suit of clothes and a hat in the latest Philadelphia style
proclaimed him a man of "quality." But aristocratic as were the mien
and attire of this fine gentleman, he ceased to be the chief object of
attention when his fellow-traveller emerged from the pent darkness of
the coach and sprang to the pavement.

Every eye fastened on the second stranger. His was an individuality
sure to command deference. Though of slight figure, he bore himself
with a lofty air, which lifted his stature and magnified its
proportions. Not one of those tarrying to behold the man could resist
the feeling that his was a dominating spirit, a will and personality
not to be ignored or slighted. A careful scanning of his externals
discovered that his form was symmetrical, though the head seemed
disproportionately large; the brow was high and sloping; the nose,
rather sharp; every curve of the mouth, clear cut and delicate; the
eyes, black, bright and piercing. Such was the man who, attired in a
suit of black broadcloth, with buff vest, ruffled shirt, and white
stock, and with hair tied in a modish queue, revealed himself to the
gaze of the throng in front of the Green Tree.

The spectators observed as he descended from the coach that his feet
were small, and were fitted to a nicety with polished boots of the
finest leather. No amount of gaping, gazing and inquisitive side
remark embarrassed the newcomer. Perhaps his dark eyes emitted a
sparkle of gratified vanity as he glanced about him, distributing a
gracious bow among his unknown fellow-citizens. Addressing the
innkeeper, he asked:

"Can you inform us whether Judge Brackenridge is in town?"

"Yes, sir; we are going that way," politely replied a stripling, who
stepped forward, followed by another youth with a law book under his
arm. "This is Harry Brackenridge, the judge's son."

"Surely? and your name is--?"

"Morgan Neville."

"Son of Colonel Presley Neville?"

"Yes, sir."

"Indeed! The particular friend of Lafayette." Young Neville blushed
with proud pleasure.

"Yes; father was his aide-de-camp."

"I know," said the stranger, smiling, as he turned to ask young
Brackenridge, "Is the judge at home?"

"We expect him home to-morrow from a trip to Washington College."

"Your new Western college, eh? Judge Brackenridge is a promoter of
learning and literature. Allow me to make you acquainted with Mr.
Arlington, of Virginia." The Southerner saluted the students and,
inclining his head deferentially toward his travelling companion,
said:

"I have the honor of introducing you to Colonel Aaron Burr."

Diverse were the effects produced on the listening spectators by
Arlington's words. At the sound of the notorious name some shrank as
from the hiss of a coiled serpent. Others drew near, as if eager to
manifest partisan sympathy for the renowned leader, whose pistol had
ended the life of Alexander Hamilton ten months prior to the time of
this visit to Pittsburg. The unfledged lawyers whom his favor had
distinguished were of his faction. They manifested their fealty and
gladness with boyish exuberance, by delighted looks and words
expressive of esteem and reverence. Burr was importuned to dine at
their houses, but he excused himself on account of business affairs
which required prompt attention. However, he accepted an invitation to
visit Colonel Neville on the following day.

Dinner over, the newly arrived guests sought the general supply agent,
with whom Burr had contracted by letter for a boat, intending a voyage
down the Ohio. The vessel was ready and that very morning had been
brought from the shipyard to the landing.

"You will find her a first-class flatboat, Mr. Burr--strong and
tight--sixty foot long by fourteen wide--four first-rate rooms, and
as pretty a roof as you ever set foot on anywheres. There's a fellow
here from down Mississippi I've spoke to--a number one pole and a
letter A oar--Captain Burke Pierce by name--and he'll manage her for
you, Mr. Burr, and provide his own crew."

"Where can I find this Captain Pierce?"

"I'll take you to him right away. He's down on the boat now. A mighty
good hand is Burke, tough as a bull, swims like a muskrat, but he has
one failing--only one so far as I know--he will drink, and when he's
drunk he's vicious. But they all take their whiskey, these boatmen,
and so does almost every landsman, for that matter--and Pierce is no
worse than the rest. But here's the point: cap had a row at the
tavern, and his crew took him down to your boat to sober off."

"Why there?"

"Well, I thought you'd ask that. I gave them leave to go to your boat
out of regard to you. I told him if he'd whistle together five or six
experienced poles and a good cook, like as not you'd hire him to take
charge of her for you and steer her down the river; see to the
kitchen, beds and everything."

Inwardly remarking that the agent had presumed beyond his commission,
Burr was conducted to the boat, within which he found half a dozen
rough rivermen seated around a table, playing poker. Their redoubtable
chief rose with a civil salutation not to be expected from one of his
station. He was a stalwart fellow, of swarthy complexion and strongly
marked features. A broad yellow belt confining a leather doublet was
buckled around his waist; the legs of his coarse blue woollen trousers
were stuffed into the wide tops of heavy Suarrow boots, and his head
was covered by a broad hat, such as were worn by Spanish traders on
the lower Mississippi.

"That's your man; that's Burke; born and raised on a broad-horns.
Speak for yourself, cap; this is Mr. Burr, which I told you about."

The boatman spoke for himself in surprisingly good language, with an
air combining the bold and the obsequious. For a fixed sum, payable in
weekly instalments, he proposed to give his own services and to hire
the additional help necessary to navigate the boat, under the general
control of the owner. To this arrangement Burr finally agreed,
notwithstanding an instinctive repugnance which he had felt on first
seeing the letter A oar, who was tough as a bull and who had but one
failing. As the captain received in his palm an advance payment, he
called upon his men to witness the contract and to vouch for his
character, and pledged word and honor that, by six o'clock on the
evening of the following day, the boat would be in readiness for the
voyage.

Relieved of present care, Burr returned to the tavern, where many
citizens, incited by various motives, waited to pay him their
respects. The rumor of his arrival had spread over town, and
speculation was rife concerning his movements. What could be the noted
politician's object in coming to the West? Was he flying from
persecution? Could he be suffering remorse? Or was he merely making a
tour of observation for commercial reasons?

Burr's reticence gave little satisfaction to the busybodies who sought
by direct question to verify their several conjectures. All comers
were received with a hearty handshake and were entertained with urbane
speeches. Not the humblest caller was slighted. It was late in the
evening when, having affably gotten rid of his last visitor, Burr
proposed that he and Arlington should retire. They were well content
to make the best of the scanty accommodations of the one sleeping-room
to which they were both assigned.

After a disturbed night's rest Burr awoke early and called his
drowsing companion.

"Rouse up, Mr. Arlington. Shake off this downy sleep."

"Downy sleep!" answered the Virginian, yawning and stretching; "the
only down of this couch is shucks and corn-cobs."

The two men had scarcely finished breakfasting when a committee of
local officials called to invite them to see the sights of growing
Pittsburg.

The "Emporium," as the _Gazette_ called the town, had a population of
about two thousand. Most of the buildings were of logs; a few of stone
or brick.

Burr listened with every appearance of intense interest to animated
accounts of the academy, the old Dutch church, the ferries, the
shipping-yard, Suke's Run, and Smoky Island. The party sauntered along
muddy thoroughfares--Southfield Street and Chancery Lane. They
strolled through Strawberry Avenue and Virgin Alley. They viewed the
ruins of Fort Pitt, stood on the site of historic Du Quesne, and
paused to gaze up at the garrisoned post of La Fayette, over which
floated the flag of the Old Thirteen. During the tour Burr kept up a
sprightly conversation. His guides took pains, at his request, to
introduce to him the young men of Pittsburg, and those who had the
favor of being presented felt themselves enrolled among his devoted
adherents. He carried their hearts, not by storm, but by irresistible
sunshine.

At the appointed time the visitors were warmly welcomed at Colonel
Neville's, where they were gratified to meet Judge Brackenridge. The
four gentlemen spent an hour in lively political and military talk,
over a decanter of Madeira. Under the mellowing influence of wine and
good company, the judge, with Scotch curiosity, made bold to sound
Burr in regard to the purpose of his Western trip.

"We are going out West to witness the 'Rising Glory of America,'" was
the evasive answer. "I am eager to explore that domain of which the
author of 'Bunker Hill,' has sung so sublimely:

                             'Hail, happy land,
    The seat of empire, the abode of kings,
    The final stage, where time shall introduce
    Renowned characters and glorious works.'"

Flattered to hear his own verse recited by the ex-Vice-president, the
judge returned a quick response:

"It is seldom that a poet lives to hear his own prophecies fulfilled.
The 'renowned characters' are entering upon the stage; I dare say the
'glorious works' will be accomplished according to prophecy."

The conversation returned to general themes: prospects of trade,
routes of migration, growth of western towns, literature, and
education. A passing comment on the recent purchase and organization
of Louisiana led Colonel Neville to ask:

"When did you last see your former comrade-in-arms, General
Wilkinson?"

"Not lately. I thought I might meet him here in Pittsburg. Is he not
due here?"

"Yes, he is on the way from Philadelphia, but he travels with his
family, and is liable to many detentions. His barge lies at the wharf,
to convey him to Fort Massac."

"So I learn," said Burr. "I fear I shall miss him. He is a jovial
companion."

"A bon-vivant," ejaculated the Judge. "Few men enjoy a convivial
occasion with his gusto, or have the constitution to indulge as he
does. Gossip charges him with living beyond his purse. Some
ill-natured rumors assert that he allows the rites of Bacchus to
interfere with the duties of Mars."

"Bacchus is a gross and vicious god. But your gossips traduce
Wilkinson. He is a brave man and a fine officer," said Burr with an
emphasis of finality.

"O undoubtedly! Apropos of the wine-god, Colonel Burr, do not fail to
tie up your boat at Bacchus Island, you and Mr. Arlington, and call on
my friends the Blennerhassetts. Harman Blennerhassett is an agreeable
man, though peculiar, and his wife is charming."

"A fine woman, is she?" responded Burr.

"Both beautiful and opulent. A sultana, sir!"

"Then, gentlemen," said Burr, rising with glass in hand, "let us do
ourselves the honor of drinking the health of Madam Blennerhassett."

When, at six o'clock in the evening, the travellers went down to the
boat, not a soul did they find on board. Seven o'clock came, but no
Captain Pierce, no minion of his. Burr made inquiry of the agent, the
tavern-keeper and others, without obtaining information concerning any
of the missing men.

Much incensed, he and Arlington were compelled to lodge another night
in the best bedchamber of the Green Tree.



III. PILLARS OF SMOKE.


On the morning after their provoking delay, when the travellers again
appeared at the boat landing, impatient to resume their voyage, Aaron
Burr was in a mood not to be trifled with. It scarcely mollified his
anger to discover on the deck of the boat the slippery crew that had
disappointed him.

"Here we are, sharp on time," bawled Captain Pierce audaciously. "How
soon do you want to start?"

Burr, stepping aboard the vessel, confronted his plausible employee,
and said in a tone of stern reprimand:

"You will be of no use to me unless you obey orders to the letter. You
make a bad beginning. Why were you not here twelve hours ago?"

"I didn't agree to shove off before this morning. We were to come at
six--"

"At six last evening. You broke your word."

"What was the use of lying?" said Arlington contemptuously.

The boatman lowered upon the Virginian, and muttered to Burr: "Then I
must have heard wrong. I thought you said six o'clock this morning.
I'll take my oath on a pile of Bibles."

"Produce the Bibles," suggested Arlington.

Burke ignored the sneering remark, and continued his protestations to
Burr. "I mean to do the fair, square thing, as these men will tell
you. Ask them. They know Burke Pierce keeps his promises."

"Enough; I hope you do. Don't disappoint me again. Put the boat in
motion."

Under the captain's directions, all the hands but one bestirred
themselves. The exception, a burly knot of muscles, with stubby beard
and purple nose, instead of joining in the work, stood idle, chewing
tobacco, ostentatiously. Without a word Burr stepped lightly in front
of the impudent roustabout, and, delivering a blow, with the dexterity
of an expert boxer, knocked him into the river, amid the jeers of his
associates, and of the concourse assembled on the shore to see the
boat off.

This prompt stroke of executive policy had a salutary effect.
Recalcitrant subjects had warning that the little man wearing the
queue and the small, shiny boots, could not be bluffed.

The boat, once in midstream, was easily managed by the use of long,
spiked poles, and, now and then, of an oar. The captain kept his
station at the stern of the uncouth craft, handling the steering-pole.
The two travellers, standing upon the roof of the ark, admired their
pilot's skill, and freely exchanged comments regarding him. To their
murmured conversation, the steersman seemed dumb, deaf and
indifferent; nevertheless, he gave the closest attention to every
word, and his sense of hearing was as keen as that of a wildcat.

The scenery along the upper Ohio River is pleasing in any season of
the year; no wonder that, in early May, the travellers were enchanted
by its picturesque beauty. To this day, in many places, the hills,
vales, and woods on either bank, retain almost the original wildness
of primeval Nature. The river winds among high limestone hills, which
are carved in frequent deep ravines, by tumbling brooks, or trickling
rills. Low, green islands rise magically upon the forward view of the
voyager, then vanish in the receding distance, like fairy worlds
withdrawn.

The real and the imaginary became strangely blended in Arlington's
mind. He could hardly distinguish the substantial from the visionary,
while he gazed on cloudlike bluffs in Ohio and dim highlands in
Virginia. The boat drifted on without sound or jar, and he easily
fancied himself at rest on a surface of water, while the woody shore
swam by in slow panorama.

Chester Arlington was the son of a wealthy citizen of Richmond, and a
graduate of the College of William and Mary. He had studied law, and
was beginning life on his own account. Entrusted with a commission to
collect some claims held by his father against a merchant in
Cincinnati, he was on his way to that metropolis of the Miami country.
His acquaintance with Burr dated from a day in the middle of April,
when the two got into the same coach to journey from Philadelphia to
Pittsburg. A difference of twenty-five years in their ages was
cancelled by the art, which the elder possessed, of maintaining
perpetual youth. And Burr's genial conversation won his companion's
confidence and friendship before they had crossed the Alleghanies.
Thus it came about, that the Virginian had been invited to share the
conveniences of the flatboat, a courtesy which he had accepted, on
condition that he might share the expenses.

Toward the close of the fourth day of the voyage, as the two sat on
the top of their drifting domicile, smoking cigars, they fell into a
discussion concerning the Great West, and the prospects of new States
and Territories.

"To me," said the Virginian, in the slightly florid style habitual to
him, "this wonderful new country into which we are sailing is
attractive beyond my power to express. This river, the Oyo of the
Indian, La Belle of the romantic La Salle, excites my imagination and
recalls interesting legends and historic facts. How many keels have
plowed these waters--the canoe of the Iroquois, the peroque of French
explorers, the batteau of early English traders, the boats of the
Spaniards coming up from the Gulf region."

"The boat of the Spaniard has not yet abandoned our western waters,
Mr. Arlington."

"No, not yet. Twenty years have not elapsed since the first white
settlement was made on the soil of Ohio, at Marietta, a town we are
now approaching."

The smokers lapsed into a silence of many minutes. Burr resumed
conversation abruptly:

"Arlington, you are not a Federalist?"

"Could you imagine that a son of my father, Major Arlington, would
hold the principles of Adams and Jay?"

"You are not, you say, an admirer of Adams, the arch-Federalist. Do
you worship his successor? Are you an unconditional Jeffersonian?"

"No, I am not. It seems to me that Jefferson aids the cause of
centralization, with the same motive that moved Adams, but with less
boldness. What do you think, Colonel Burr, of the temporizing policy
of the administration in regard to Spain?"

"In regard to Spain?" echoed Burr, blowing a ring of smoke from his
lips, "what do _you_ think, yourself?"

"I think it infamous! It disgraces this nation to submit to exactions
and insults from the Spaniards. Why don't the Government declare war,
and conquer Mexico?"

"Would you be in favor of that?" asked Burr, lightly touching the
ashes of his cigar with the tip of his little finger--so lightly that
the ashes did not fall.

"Would I be in favor of it? I am in favor of it. Are not you, Colonel
Burr?"

The politician again barely grazed the cylinder of white ashes with
his little finger.

"We must not be rash."

"I feel that I am rash to talk so positively, but how can there be a
difference of opinion on a subject like this? Why don't Congress
declare war?"

"Is it your belief that, if war were declared, there would be
difficulty in raising volunteers in Virginia?"

"Not the least. Thousands would enlist."

"Would you enlist, Mr. Arlington?"

"Yes, sir, I would."

Burr's little finger tapped the burnt out inch of his cigar, and the
frail ash fell, crumbling to fine powder, which the breeze bore away.
The touch recorded a point won.

"Suppose that Congress and the President, disregarding the wishes of
the people, and refusing to declare war, force the country to submit
tamely to the insults of Spain, do you think it possible that
independent men might take upon themselves the responsibility as a
private business enterprise, and march against the Dons in Mexico?"

After a thoughtful pause, the young man replied:

"Yes, some would. Many would. The warfare might not be regular, but,
in my view, the object would justify extraordinary means to a
patriotic end. What is your own feeling on that phase of the subject,
may I ask, colonel?"

"I wish to learn the sense of my fellow-citizens. You may express
yourself to me with perfect freedom."

"Why not? We are discussing a public question."

"Certainly. But your idea, that an expedition against Mexico,
conducted as a private enterprise, might prove popular and--"

"That is _your idea_, sir, not mine. However, I see no objection to
adopting it, providing the Government is in the secret, and tacitly
permits an expedition."

"Oh, surely! That is understood," responded Burr, and fell pondering.

With quick whiffs he revived the dying fire of his cigar, leaned back
in his chair, and lost himself in reverie. What were his meditations?
Perhaps he mused of the past, the half century of crowded events in
which he had borne a conspicuous part. Did his memory fly back to the
far off, sad days when, a lonesome orphan boy, in a Puritan school, he
penned sympathetic letters to his sister? Or was recollection busy
with the scenes of the Revolutionary War, in which he served his
country nobly and won proud laurels? He recalled his part in the march
to Canada and in the assault on Quebec, not forgetting his own heroic
exploit of carrying from the fatal field the body of his slain
general, Montgomery. He thought of the retreat from Long Island, and
of the credit he gained as aide-de-camp to Putnam; he retraced each
step in his military career, reflecting on his rise from the command
of a regiment to that of a brigade, remembering how his distinction as
a brave and able officer reached its culmination in the battle of
Monmouth. Perhaps, through his mind ran the events of his political
history, his transition from the field to the bar, thence to the State
Assembly of New York, to the Senate of the United States, and finally
to the Vice-Presidency.

These memories and a myriad more came thronging to his quickened
consciousness as he sat smoking. The retrospective visions rose before
him, not as vague memories--they seemed living realities as they
reproduced events more recent. At last one vivid picture--nay, was it
not an actual scene?--one set of vital images, usurped his brain and
would not vanish or fade. It showed a grassy ledge guarded by rocks
and forest growths, in a secluded spot overlooking the Hudson. There
stands himself confronting his political rival and partisan foe; the
figures speak and move; a ghastly tragedy is imminent. Yes,
imagination compels the repetition--the men are placed--Burr takes
deliberate aim, touches the trigger, the fatal bullet pierces
Hamilton's breast and the slain Federalist falls heavily, his face
upon the sward. But before he falls, his pistol, which he had resolved
not to fire, is accidentally discharged, sending its ball eight feet
over the head of his antagonist and cutting off a leafy twig from an
overhanging bough. Burr's attention is strangely affected by the fate
of the green branch which he heard the bullet sever, and, as he sees
it come wavering to the ground, he cannot resist the fancy that he
beholds an emblem of his own ruin--a symbol of his future self--a
living thing cut off from its nourishing stock as he was destined to
be from a nation's sympathy and support.

The gloomy retrospect, the dismal forecast, were too painful; by a
strong effort of the will, Burr strove to expunge the past and
illuminate the future. Rising, he took a brisk turn or two, pacing the
deck. His cigar had gone out; casting it into the river, he lit a
fresh one, and again sat down. The kindled roll diffused its searching
perfume and wrought a soothing change of mood. By some subtle chain of
new associations Burr was led to think of the words of Milton's hero
in _Paradise Lost_:

    "The mind is its own place, and in itself
    Can make a heaven of hell."

He puffed at the long cigar, and began to build a future out of
rolling smoke. Toppled fortunes may be rebuilt; lost reputation may be
retrieved. There are new worlds to discover, to conquer, and to
possess. What may not be achieved by genius and courage? What to
undertake, what to dare and do! Shall he span the Ohio with a bridge,
and dig a canal around the falls? Would he find success by settling in
some rising city of the West, and resuming the practice of law? Or
might he not reasonably hope to be returned to Congress from one of
the new States? Or to secure from the President an appointment as
Minister to a foreign court, perhaps that of St. James? Better than
these schemes and more independent, to embark in a stupendous land
speculation in Louisiana, and open a splendid way to riches and power.

The wavering blue nebulæ of intoxicating clouds rise and float, and
fashion their fragrant columns into grander castles of smoke. The
Mississippi Valley is spacious and fertile, Louisiana is a wide
domain, but why limit the scope of enterprise to these? Why not
conquer Mexico, make New Orleans the capital of a magnificent empire,
and possibly annex the southwestern States of the severed Union.
Myself the emperor of the richest realm on the globe, my daughter the
crown princess and prospective queen Theodosia!

Such was the gorgeous dream, the cloud-vision, the unuttered soliloquy
of Aaron Burr, the political bankrupt, as he sat smoking on the deck
of a flatboat, drifting down the devious current of the Ohio.



IV. PLUTARCH BYLE MAKES A NEW ACQUAINTANCE.


The boat had reached a point a few miles above Marietta, when an
incident occurred to interrupt the resumed dialogue on the Spanish
question. A skiff was seen to push off from the Ohio shore, and move
rapidly in the direction of the flatboat, urged on by the long,
powerful oar-strokes of a man who, even in distant perspective,
appeared larger than life-size. Instead of hailing the crew of the
passing vessel, as was customary, the man gave no sign that he was
conscious of the existence of any other craft than his own
fast-gliding skiff. However, he steered straight for the boat, hove
alongside, sprang on board with surprising agility, and, having
fastened his light boat by a chain to a timber of the flat, stalked
deliberately to the stern where Captain Pierce was stationed with
steering-oar.

"I saw you coming down and I thought maybe you'd like to buy some
fresh fish. I've got a thirty-pound cat in the boat; I caught one last
week that weighed one hundred and three pound."

"Don't want any fish. Wouldn't take 'um as a gift."

"You're welcome not to, captain. I suppose a man has a right to hop on
board and ask a civil question. Whose boat is this, anyhow, and where
bound?"

No attention being paid to the question, the nonchalant intruder went
on: "What plunder are you loaded with? Salt or whiskey, or pork or
butter, I reckon? Or maybe you carry passengers? Is it a family of
emigrants? I see two chaps on the upper deck; who are they? What might
your name be, captain?"

The helmsman relieved his irritation by delivering a volley of oaths.

"You 'pear to be out of sorts, captain. Sour stomach, likely. Better
take a dose of saleratus."

Hearing a strange voice, the cook, who was the captain's trusted
confidant, came out. He was recognized by the ubiquitous Byle.

"Abe Sheldrake! as sure as ham is hog's flesh! Abe, if there's an
onrier man than you on earth, the bottomless pit is shaller."

The cook stood speechless, and the tall man sauntered leisurely
through the several apartments of the boat, calculating their
dimensions and inspecting the furniture, and pausing occasionally to
handle such articles as appealed to his curiosity. He passed through
the kitchen into the dining-room, and thence through both the
sleeping-chambers, finally emerging from a door at the bow of the
boat, after which he ascended to the roof, where he accosted Burr and
Arlington.

"How d'ye do? My name is Byle; Plutarch Byle--B-y-l-e. I can't call
your names, gents, but no matter. We all belong to the same human
race. I thought you might be a little bored-like with your own
talk--so long together you know--and I hopped on to cheer you up.
George Washington used to say to his nephew, 'Be courteous to all, but
intimate with few,' and George was half right. I admire a mannerly
man. How goes it?"

The familiarity of this overture puzzled, but did not offend the
travellers, who conceived that chance had thrown into their presence
an original whose company might afford them an hour's entertainment.
Arlington politely offered the visitor a chair.

"No, thank you, stranger. I've been setting in the skiff all day,
fishing, and I'd rather stand up and stretch my bones."

The gentlemen thought, when they saw Mr. Byle throw back his arms, and
gradually straighten up his towering body, that the length and
thickness of bone he had to stretch were extraordinary.

"I've got a lot of mussel shells in my boat for Mr. Blennerhatchet.
Would you like to see 'em? '_Union-idea_,' he says they are. He's a
queer customer, that Blennerhatchet."

"You know him then?" asked Burr.

"Know him! I know him like a book. I know him better than I do you. He
is not so good-looking as either of us, by ginger. I can't make out
why the Rose of Sharon ever took to a near-sighted United Irishman."

"The Rose of Sharon?"

"I mean his old woman--Mrs. B. She's a perfect lady. Pretty! Pretty
as a sassafras tree in October! I didn't just catch your names,
gentlemen. I like to call a man by his Christian name. It seems more
sociable. That's one thing I like about the French--sociability. They
go in for liberty, equality and brotherhood. But I don't take any
stock in their skeptical notions. I'd as soon eat poke-root and sleep
on pizen-vine as read Voltaire and Rousseau. Tom Payne is no better.
What's the latest news from Washington? Is Tom Jefferson going to make
war on Spain? It ain't war we want; it ain't more territory we want;
we need a closer union, and a strong tariff."

"You appear to be a politician, Mr. Pyle."

"Byle--B-y-l-e--Plutarch Byle, if you please. Yes, it's my notion
that every citizen ought to be a politician. I'm a John Jay
Federalist--a centralizer. Which side are you on?"

"I'm not concerned in politics at present. We are lawyers, not
politicians, Mr. Arlington and I."

"Arlington? That's not a bad name. Where do you hail from, Arlington?"

"From Richmond, Virginia," said the young man good humoredly. "This
gentleman is a citizen of New York."

"New York City? Porcupines and wildcats! You don't say! There's where
Alexander Hamilton lived--the greatest man that ever lived in these
United States, except Washington. I suppose there was a heap of
excitement in New York when Alexander Hamilton was killed--murdered,
I might say. Did you ever see Alexander Hamilton?"

Burr looked steadily into the eyes of the Great Inquisitive. "Yes," he
replied, "I was very well acquainted with Mr. Hamilton. He was a fine
man."

"You're right there, stranger! Give us your hand on that! I'm proud to
shake with a man who has seen Alexander Hamilton."

The enthusiastic Byle extended his prodigious palm and grasped the
delicate hand politely proffered him. Arlington looked on in
astonishment.

Burr, wincing at the vice-like grip of his new acquaintance, placidly
responded: "Yes, there are few men more worthy of esteem than was my
admirable friend Mr. Hamilton--whom I shot."

Byle was struck dumb. He could only open his cavernous mouth, and
gasp. His heavy hand relaxed its hold, and dropped as if paralyzed.
For a moment he stared at Arlington. Then he recovered his powers
sufficiently to articulate.

"You shot him? You--you aren't--?"

"Yes, I am Aaron Burr."

Plutarch Byle turned on his heel and with three strides carried his
leaning tower of a body to the edge of the deck. Scrambling
precipitately down the boat's side, he stumbled into his skiff, undid
the chain, grabbed his oars and fairly shot away, as if pursued by
flying pestilence. He directed his course northward and quickly ran
the bow of his skiff against the river bank. Then plunging his right
hand into the water, he rubbed and scrubbed it vigorously, using sand
for soap.

"Dog-fennel and skunk-cabbage! I don't believe there's water enough in
the Ohio River to take out the wicked smell of that murderer's hand!"



V. IN THE LADIES' BOWER.


The Byle episode put Burr in a merry mood, quite diverting his
thoughts from Mexico and the future to the happenings of the hour. A
reckless spirit of frivolity took possession of him, and he astonished
his fellow traveller by the ebullience of his humor and the play of
his extravagant fancy. He mimicked the speech and grotesque gestures
of Plutarch, and laughed over the ludicrous _finale_ of the encounter
with that free-spoken genius.

"Mr. B-y-l-e, Byle, is exquisite! It is worth coming a thousand miles
by stage coach and flatboat, to meet so droll an adventure with such a
nondescript amphibian. He has a prodigious gift of gab, plain and
ornamental. Did you take note of his metaphors? 'Rose of Sharon' is
good.--By the way, we can't be far from the Bower of Bliss. We must
tie up our Argo there as Brackenridge recommended, and go in quest of
those exotic and visionary Blennerhassetts."

"What do you know of them, colonel, further than we learned in
Pittsburg?"

"But little. They stopped in New York for a few months, after arriving
in this country, ten or twelve years ago. The man is a barrister,
educated in Dublin. He claims to be a descendant of King John. The
lady is a daughter of the governor of the Isle of Wight, and a
granddaughter of the late Brigadier-General Agnew, who was killed in
the battle of Germantown."

"A British general, you say?"

"Oh, certainly--a violent royalist."

While the gentlemen were thus chatting, the boat drifted lazily on,
following the windings of the current. The broad Ohio glowed like
liquid gold, in the slant sunshine of mid-afternoon, and the interplay
of shade and color, shifting from object to object along the shores,
gave the varied scenery an ethereal beauty almost supernatural. The
distant, forest-crowned uplands, seen dimly in the direction toward
which the ark floated, looked as unsubstantial as clouds. A
delightful, spicy fragrance exhaled from the blossomy thickets which
fringed the river margin.

Burr took a deep breath, and began to hum a half-remembered verse
advising youth to "gather the rose whiles yet is prime."

"Yonder is Bacchus Island," said Arlington, pointing down stream.

"I suppose you are right. The _Western Navigator_ locates the spot
somewhere about here. But beware of illusions, my friend. I begin to
doubt the testimony of my senses. Perhaps yonder prospect is a mirage,
and Byle was only a goblin of the mind. This interminable river is
enchanted. I sympathize with La Salle's conviction that the Ohio runs
to Cathay. Maybe we have sailed round the globe and are now in sight
of the Indies. Or we have come to Arabia. Does not the vision resemble
some Mohammedan Isle of the Blest--one of the happy seats reserved
for blameless souls such as yours and mine? I shall expect to discover
the rivers of clarified honey, the couches adorned with gold, and the
damsels having complexions like rubies and pearls, as the Koran
promises."

Arlington laughingly replied in the same extravagant vein.

"Colonel, you have eaten of the insane root. This island belongs to
the Hesperides, not to the East. The best luck we can hope for is to
steal one or two golden apples."

"That may prove a risky adventure even for a bold Virginian. If there
is a dragon to slay I leave the bloody business to you. I stick to my
Oriental paradise."

"Very well; golden apples for me and pearl-ruby damsels for you. But I
am scandalized that a Puritan Senator permits himself to dream of
Mohammed's heaven, and its honey and houri felicities."

"Mr. Arlington, you are the first and only anchorite that Virginia has
produced. You will grant that it is in character for a Senator to pay
his _devoirs_ to a sultana. Something too much of this. See there over
the willows; that must be the house."

They both gazed forward, and caught glimpses of the secluded mansion,
gleaming, snow-white, through forest vistas. Burke Pierce, who knew
the private wharf, steered to the landing, and the boat was moored
fast to a huge sycamore tree.

The travellers disembarked, and following a path which wound among
mazes of shrubbery and early blooming flowers, came to the
semicircular plot of green sward fronting the piazza.

"The place _is_ marvellously beautiful!" remarked Arlington.

"A new Garden of Eden!" answered the other.

On approaching the main entrance, they heard, within, the twangling
music of a harp.

The hall door was decorated with a large, bronze knocker of curious
design. A tap of the falling hammer on its metallic plate, brought to
the threshold a jet-black maid-servant wearing a gaudy turban. She
ushered the visitors into a spacious drawing-room and took their cards
and a note from Judge Brackenridge, to her mistress.

The guests while waiting could not fail to be impressed by what they
saw around them. Walls, ceilings and doors were unique in their
decorative effects. The furnishings of the apartment were elegant and
sumptuous. There were rich hangings at the windows and costly Persian
rugs on the floor.

Soon was heard a swish and rustle of brocade on the stairs, and, a
moment later, the gentlemen rose to meet Madam Blennerhassett, who
came in, smiling a cordial welcome. She was dignified, even stately,
in her demeanor, and looked, not indeed the ideal sultana, but rather
every inch an empress.

Burr was at once upon his mettle. No levity, nothing of the jester, no
trace of ennui lingered in his manner. The presence of the magnificent
woman transfigured his body and called up all his social resources.
His eye kindled its sparkling fires, his lip took a deeper glow of
vital red. These manifestations were spontaneous, almost involuntary,
though he was conscious of an obscure design.

"Gentlemen, it hardly needed this note from Judge Brackenridge to
insure you a welcome here; you do us a great honor by seeking out our
lonely island home." These words, though addressed to both the
visitors, were meant for the elder and more distinguished guest, who
replied suavely:

"Madam, we made bold to invade the privacy of these grounds in the
hope of forming the acquaintance of a family well known by
reputation."

Returning a formal bow and a look of appreciation, the lady continued:

"I regret that you do not find my husband at home; his affairs called
him to Farmers' Castle, just across the river, but I am expecting him
to return at any minute. You must not go without seeing him. Of
course, you will take dinner with us."

The wayfarers, having come ashore for idle adventure and recreation,
were easily persuaded to linger. Burr tactfully advanced to the
borders of familiarity by giving Madam Blennerhassett an embellished
report of the encomiums which Brackenridge had bestowed upon her and
her ancestors. He was lauding the name of Agnew, when a sound from the
vestibule suspended his eloquence, and quickly thereafter the figure
of a graceful girl appeared in the entrance to the drawing-room. The
maiden paused a moment, a glowing picture in the deep doorway. She was
a peerless blonde, blue of eye, scarlet of lip--and her fair head and
face were so aureoled by locks of sunniest yellow, that she seemed to
radiate light and warmth. Her exceeding loveliness smote through
Arlington's nerves and set his southern blood tingling.

"Ah, Evaleen, did you enjoy your ramble?" asked the hostess,
affectionately, as she rose to receive the young lady. "Colonel Burr,
this is my very dear friend, Miss Evaleen Hale."

The American Chesterfield made a courtierly obeisance.

"Permit me to introduce Mr. Arlington, of Richmond."

"Miss Hale, gentlemen, like myself is a sojourner in a far country.
She comes to us from Boston."

Having complied gracefully with the demands of convention, the maiden,
in wilful abstraction, busied herself with some wild flowers which she
had just gathered in the woods.

"Where did you leave the boys?" inquired madam, referring to the lads
Dominick and Harman.

"They are out of doors, making a cage for a young squirrel which I had
the luck to catch. But the lively creature bit me; see here,
Margaret!"

Evaleen held up a dainty hand, on the whiteness of which the teeth of
the captive had left a small purple wound. In her playful
carelessness, she let fall a sprig of wind-flowers and two or three
violets. Arlington gallantly picked up the flowers.

"What peculiar violets," said he, as he offered to return them.

"Yes, they are of a variety found only on this island, I am told. You
may keep them if you like."

"I presume, Mr. Arlington," said Burr, "that you understand the
language of flowers. When I was of the sentimental age I knew the
floral alphabet and could convey all manner of covert messages through
the agency of pinks and pansies and rosebuds and all the sweet
go-betweens of Cupid's court. The blue violet, I believe, signifies
modesty, does it not?"

The question was accompanied by a look at Miss Hale, who made no
reply, not appearing to notice the appeal.

"Our native Western plants," said the hostess, "have no poetical
association. The Indians were devoid of sentiment. It is only in
Persia and such romantic lands that they make roses and lilies talk.
But this island is rich in its flora. Before you resume your voyage
you should take time to visit a beautiful spot which Miss Evaleen
calls her Violet Bank. It is on a bluff overlooking the river, only a
short walk from here."

At Burr's request, Mrs. Blennerhassett was induced to talk of her
island home and of her husband's pursuits. It gave her evident relief
of mind to narrate the story of her life's trials and vicissitudes
since her marriage. She spoke with less reserve than was wise, and
notwithstanding the reverence with which she alluded to him, the
consort she unconsciously described seemed at best the prince of
Utopians. That he was wealthy and lavish could not be doubted. The
wife's unguarded revelations gave Burr food for speculation. Many
pertinent questions by him elicited answers which he locked away in
the safe of memory.

The minutes flew rapidly--an hour went by, yet the master of the
house came not, and at length Madam Blennerhassett renewed her
suggestion that an excursion to the edge of the island might prove
pleasant.

"We shall see him return from the Ohio shore; at least, I hope so."

She reminded her guests that she was an Englishwoman, accustomed to
long walks, and, with the buoyant energy of an Artemis, led the way to
the near green wood.

"I will pilot ahead with Colonel Burr, and you, Mr. Arlington, shall
be taken care of by Miss Hale, who is as familiar as a dryad with
these glades. How romantic! Virginia and New England wander together
on a solitary island in the Ohio."

The elevated level of ground upon which the party halted lay open to
the sunshine, and it was completely covered by a thick bed of wild
pansies.

The view from this fragrant knoll surpassed expectation. While the
admiring spectators were gazing across the river, now on the village
of Belpre, now on the farther off rude fortress aptly named Farmers'
Castle, there came floating by a long, slender craft, rigged somewhat
like a schooner, and displaying from its mast the flag of the United
States. The music of a violin, faintly heard, was wafted across the
water from the deck, upon which could be seen a bevy of ladies, a few
dancing, others waving handkerchiefs to those watching from the
island. By means of a field-glass which Mrs. Blennerhassett handed
him, Burr could bring out plainly the forms and faces of the
passengers. His attention was immediately fixed upon one striking
figure--that of a woman in black, who stood apart from her
fellow-voyagers in a pensive attitude, gazing into the sky. A cheer
arose from the boat's crew, and the report of a small cannon boomed
and echoed along the woody shores; yet Burr still held the magnifying
lens before his eye, and a certain agitation was observable in his
behavior.

"That," said he, handing back the glass, "is General Wilkinson's
barge. He is bound for St. Louis, to take possession of his domain as
governor of Upper Louisiana and commander-in-chief of the Army of the
West."

For a time the four stood gazing in silence at the receding craft.
Then Madam Blennerhassett, speaking aside to Miss Hale, asked:

"How long does the captain intend to remain with you in Marietta? I
understand he has orders to proceed to the general's headquarters for
duty."

The answer was spoken softly and with a rising blush, noticing which,
Arlington was disquieted by a feeling much akin to jealousy.

"We do hope he may stay with us at least another fortnight."

"In that case we will expect him to spend a few days here. I wonder
what detains Harman? He may have crossed over while we came through
the grove. Perhaps we shall find him at home waiting for us."

With sauntering steps the four returned through the twilight of the
woods, breathing the scent of new leaves and now and then stopping to
pick a stem of sweet dicentra or a white addertongue. Soon after they
reached the house dinner was served in a style distinctively English.
During this meal, and afterward, when the cheerful party repaired to
the drawing-room, Burr, as was expected of him, assumed the leadership
in conversation.

The affluence and the brilliancy of his discourse seemed appropriate
to the splendor of the surroundings. He did not monopolize the talk,
and never failed to return an appreciative response to any remark or
question. To the ladies he gave the most deferential attention.
Arlington, a peer in the social realm, felt piqued to admit himself
outrivalled by an undersized widower who was a grandfather.

The conversation, in which Miss Hale now more freely participated,
flowed afresh in livelier and more sparkling stream--ripples of wit
and humor--foam-bells of nonsense. The Geneva clock in the room
across the hall struck nine--struck ten--but its musical warning was
not heard. Nor yet did the lord of the mansion make his appearance.
Madam Blennerhassett concealed the secret uneasiness she felt, and did
all she could to contribute to the pleasure of the occasion by every
delicate art of hospitality. She sang a Scottish song, she spoke
piquantly of the amusing phases of life in a new country, and of her
husband's need of congenial literary associates.

"He is compelled more and more to depend upon his books. Would you
like, colonel, to look into the library for a moment?" Burr promptly
rose and followed his queenly hostess into the adjoining apartment.

The couple left together in the drawing-room verified the homely
adage, "Two is company." Arlington might have said, "My blood speaks
to you in my veins," but he could not consistently quote Bassanio's
other words, "Madam, you have bereft me of all speech." From the
presence of Evaleen he received access of eloquence; the two were
conscious of a silent interchange of sentiments more meaningful than
any spoken word. While Evaleen sat listening with responsive interest
to some frank personal disclosures of the young man's hopes and
ambitions, her attention was diverted by a slight sound on the porch.
She glanced up, and saw, or thought she saw, an ugly face staring at
her through a window-pane. Her sudden pallor and dilated eye were
observed by Arlington, who asked in a tone of gentle solicitude:

"What is it?"

"I saw a face at the window--a man staring in."

Arlington immediately left the room and, softly opening the door,
stepped out upon the piazza and looked searchingly in every direction.
Not a sign could be discovered of the prowling eavesdropper whose
shadowy features had frightened Miss Hale.

"I may have been mistaken," she said, when Arlington came back, "but I
am almost certain that I saw a hideous face at the window."

The effect of the incident was to give the conversation of the two a
somewhat more intimate character, and the gentleman's manner assumed
an air of protective regard which the New England beauty did not
repulse. Her resiliant spirit soon regained its wonted gaiety.

Meanwhile, what had Aaron Burr found to interest him so long in the
_sanctum sanctorum_ of the lord of the island?

Blennerhassett's study was both library and laboratory, containing
philosophical apparatus, musical instruments and books. The shelves
were piled with scientific works and standard editions of the ancient
classics. On the wall hung a large oil portrait of a man with an
amiable, meditative face, not wanting in agreeable features, yet not
indicative of force. Burr scanned the indecisive mouth, the handsome,
trustful eyes, the low forehead, at the middle of which was parted the
slightly curling mass of brown hair. While her visitor was studying
the picture, the lady stood at his side, perusing him.

"Well, what is your verdict?"

"A noble face! A noble face!" he repeated, turning to her with an
expression subtly suggestive that his interest was passing from the
flat, dead canvas of the absent husband to the breathing, beautiful
woman he was addressing. "A noble face; but one fact puzzles me.
Madam, pardon my candor. I cannot understand how your husband contents
himself to spend an obscure life in this out-of-the-way spot, when his
education, talents and fortune qualify him for a career so much more
ambitious and useful. I am at equal loss to conceive how a lady of
your distinguished birth, breeding and accomplishments could consent
to exchange the splendid opportunities of social life in lofty places
for the domestic quietude of a rural home, however luxurious. Things
cannot make us happy, human associations only can do that. Is it
possible that you are satisfied with your present limited sphere?"

"No," she replied, speaking low, "nor is he." She glanced at the
portrait. "We have had quite enough of this self-banishment. We grow
discontented and would gladly dispose of the estate."

"Madam, you are not unacquainted with the world. You derive your blood
from a noble source. The granddaughter of General Agnew inherits all
advantages that women covet--rank, wealth, culture, beauty--and you
have a husband who appreciates you." When in the enumeration of her
endowments Burr pronounced the word beauty, the lady's eyelids drooped
and a perceptible constraint came over both the woman and the man--he
not feeling sure he had chosen a safe approach to her favor--she in
doubt whether to invite or to repulse further personal compliment. It
entered his consciousness that she might become part of his political
plan--might somehow abet his magnificent purposes. In the pause which
succeeded his appeal to her self-love and ambition she once more
scanned the mild, meditative countenance beaming from the pictured
canvas.

A mesmeric influence drew her eyes from the portrait to encounter
those of Aaron Burr, regarding her with a gentle look of wistful
melancholy. The color deepened in her cheeks, and her bosom labored
with an inaudible sigh.

"Ah, madam, you should give your husband back to the world of great
actions suited to one in whose veins runs the blood of a king. How I
wish he were here that I might tell him so in your presence. Give him
my profound regrets. We have tarried too long."

Madam Blennerhassett never forgot this _tête-à-tête_ with Burr; but
an inexplicable qualm kept her from mentioning it to her belated lord
on his return from Farmers' Castle. It was nearly midnight when the
two visitors reluctantly took leave of the ladies and stepped out into
the diffused light of the May moon.

"Pretty late," called out Burke Pierce familiarly from the stern of
the boat where he stood, ready to resume his piloting.

No tattling breeze carried to the ears of the ladies the comments
spoken by Burr as he stood in the moonlight on the roof of the vessel,
beside Arlington.

"Exceedingly fine women, are they not?"

The Virginian made no reply. He was pinning to the lapel of his coat a
tiny bunch of violets, and his face was turned from his
fellow-voyager.

"Both are ladies of decided individuality. They are amazingly
beautiful, too, and possess unusual force of character, especially the
captain's lady."

"Damn the captain."

"So say I. You stole a march on him in the Hesperian Garden, and we
both escaped the jaws of the absent Dragon."

Soon after their guests left the house Madam Blennerhassett and
Evaleen Hale, standing by an open window in a chamber upstairs, looked
out toward the wharf. They heard the voices of the watermen and the
noise made in shoving out from the gravel beach. Then came silence,
and they knew the ark was adrift, bearing away two passengers whom
they could not easily forget, but expected never to meet again.

"How delightful he is!" mused the madam, speaking more to herself than
to her friend.

"Do you think so?" returned Evaleen abstractedly.

"Perfectly captivating! A brilliant mind! I am charmed with him, are
not you?"

"He is pleasant enough, but too bold, too audacious, isn't he?"

"Not, I think, Evaleen, for a person of his age. We expect more
freedom in elderly men."

"Elderly! Why, he can't be more than twenty-five!

"Twenty-five! My dear child, he has a married daughter!"

"Oh, you are speaking of Colonel Burr! I _hate_ him."



VI. DOCTOR DEVILLE AND HIS LUCRECE.


"Behold this Ohio city of the Gauls. Volney's ruins of modern
date--new oldness--fresh decay--dilapidation to begin with! I am
proud of this consummation of American enterprise!"

This irony was uttered by Burr to Arlington as the two men stood
taking a first look at Gallipolis, a poor village, consisting of a
dozen miserable log houses patched with clay and occupied by a score
of wretched French families. The travellers had walked up a steep bank
to the natural terrace on which the forlorn dwellings stood.

"Shall we go back to our boat? Have you seen enough of Palmyra? Here
are the palaces, but where are the citizens? _Ecce Homo!_ One
inhabitant turns out to receive us."

The person to whom Arlington's attention was thus called was a small,
nervous gentleman, about sixty years old, who came forth from a
whitewashed cot, and, taking off a scarlet cap, saluted the strangers,
whom he had eagerly watched from the moment of their landing.

"Pardon, messieurs. Permit that I speak. May it be convenient should
one passenger more be accommodated in your polite boat? I much wish to
go to Cincinnati, for one of my business very special. I have courage
to ask ze bold favor by my necessity professional to come to _mon
frère_."

"Ours is a private boat. Do you say it is to meet a brother that you
wish to go to Cincinnati?"

The old man's countenance fell. "Monsieur, accept my apology. Permit
me to speak my explanation. _Pardieu_, I deceive not. When I speak I
shall not indicate ze son of my mother, but I shall indicate ze
brother in medicine, Monsieur Goforth, ze physician _celèbre_.
Pardon. Pardon that I detain you so long."

Disappointed, the old man turned toward his modest domicile, at the
door of which stood a petite maiden awaiting the issue of the
interview. Immediately descrying the damsel, Burr remarked aside to
Arlington:

"Another alluring petticoat. Tree nymphs or naiads haunt every island
and green bank."

"Père," asked the girl anxiously, in a gentle voice, so clear that
every word she spoke reached the ear of Burr, "may you go with them?"

The father shook his head.

"_Non, chérie_."

He went up to his daughter, who impulsively kissed him, as if to
solace his disappointment. He seemed about to enter the cottage, when,
like one suddenly recollecting a neglected duty, he wheeled round and
again approached the strangers.

"Do me ze honor, messieurs, before you depart to enter in my poor
dwelling and drink with me one glass of wine."

An invitation so naïvely extended could not be declined. Burr felt a
kindly impulse toward the cordial sire and was not averse to wasting a
few stray glances on mademoiselle.

"It will give us great pleasure to accept your hospitality and also to
have your company as our guest on the boat. There is room, and you
shall be accommodated."

The doctor's spirits rose. His face shone with gratification.

"Your courtesy lift my heart. I shall never forsake to do you ze
friendly service. Is it convenient now that we present us. I am your
servant, Eloy Deville."

Having imparted his own name, the flighty Frenchman waited not for the
completion of the ceremony he had proposed, but, taking on trust the
respectability of the strangers, he hastily led the way to his
cottage. Burr noticed that he was attired in a tight-fitting suit of
brown cloth, clean and well pressed but threadbare and redeemed from
shabbiness only by the stitch in time. The feminine apparition
vanished from the threshold as the travellers approached, but the
father, ushering them in, placed chairs beside a small table, and
called out cheerily: "_Lucrèce, ma chère enfant une bouteille de
vin_." The girl promptly obeyed by carrying in a salver on which were
a flask and three tiny wine-glasses. She glided to the table upon
which she set her light burden, keeping her head demurely bowed and
her eyes cast down bashfully.

"Messieurs, permit that I you present my daughter, my _aide
chirurgeon_." Thus introduced, Lucrèce, raising her head, bestowed a
modest smile of welcome on her father's guests and divided between
them a coy courtesy.

She could not elude the pardonable glances cast upon her by the
strangers--glances which left in their memories the form and face of
a dainty brunette with large and very brilliant black eyes. Her waist
was slender, her hands and feet were nimble and delicate, and her
dress fitted her so neatly that she looked the personation of
trimness.

"This wine is not original of Ohio. No, no. Ze cask was from Bordeaux,
very old, very old--he has fourteen years. Presented to me by my
countryman, Comte Malartie. I speak ze truth. From this very cask I
have ze honor to drink also ze health of ze General St. Clair, and at
one time of Daniel Boone. _Eh bien!_ Long have I suffer in this
wilderness; it is fifteen years that Eloy Deville was ze fool to leave
France, to leave my native Lyons, and seek ze Terre promise--to find
ze tree of natural sugar, ze plants also with wax candles for ze
fruit, ze no work, no tax, no war, no king--ze paradise on ze ground!
_Oui_, sold I not all my property--take ze ship, take ze wagon, ze
flatboat--_en route pour Gallipolis!_ Ah! _mon dieu!_ ze damn fever
kill _ma femme_; you see ze old Frenchman in ze poverty; _voilà sa
richesse! une cabane, un verre de vin--et ma bien aimée--ma
pauvre fille--ma Lucrèce!_"

To justify his grievance, the excited man sprang up and ran to a
drawer, from which he took an old French map of the Seven Ranges of
the Ohio, representing as cleared and inhabited lands large tracts of
unbroken wilderness. This chart had been used by speculators to induce
French families to migrate to the Ohio Valley.

"See!" continued Deville explosively; "ze scoundrel Barlow cheat my
honest poor friends--he print here no veracity--he draw here only to
deceive! Look on this place I put my finger"--he tapped the paper
angrily--"you see ze Premiereville--ze Premiereville? Eh? I come to
Premiereville--no street--no house, only ze forest tree! Messieurs,
my little axe make ze first log in ze city, in Premiereville, where we
drink now this wine."

The doctor's preparations for the trip down the river were quickly
made. Half the population of the village, led by Lucrèce, flocked to
the boat-landing to see him safely off. After the passengers had gone
on board, and while the damsel stood waiting their departure, Burke
Pierce, leering in her direction, threw her a kiss and as the boat was
pushed off began to sing a ribald song. Deville did not witness the
insult, but Arlington, with quick anger kindling his chivalrous blood,
strode up to Pierce.

"You ought to be flogged, you filthy cur."

The boatman scowled and clenched his fists, but did not attempt to
strike the imperious Southerner.

"Cur? I'll remember that!" he muttered, and swaggered away. "I'm a
dog, a filthy cur! But I'll have my day!" he growled to Sheldrake.

The loquacity of the French doctor seemed accelerated by the motion of
the boat and the breezy freedom of its deck. Unlike most of his Gallic
brethren who left their native land to come to America in 1790, he was
in sympathy with the Revolution, and had rejoiced at the falling of
the Bastile. By chance a copy of the Marseillaise Hymn had reached
him, and snatches of this he would sing, keeping time to the music
with his own springing steps as he marched up and down. The cry of
"_Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité_," often broke from his lips. When
Burr opened to him part of the plausible scheme against Mexico he
eagerly volunteered to join any expedition gotten up in the name of
freedom. He proffered his services as surgeon, and asked with amusing
simplicity what would be the emoluments.

"_Sacré!_" exclaimed he. "_Il faut vivre!_ Let us destroy ze
Spaniard. _Vive l'amérique! Vive le Général Bur-r-r! Vive Eloy
Deville!_"

The tedious passage from Gallipolis to Cincinnati required almost a
week's time. On the last day of the voyage, soon after breakfast,
while Burr and Deville were enjoying the morning sunshine and
discussing the French Revolution, Arlington heard a knock on the door
of his room, in which he sat writing a letter.

"Come in," he shouted, hurrying to pen down the sentence that was in
his mind. The door opened, and Burke Pierce thrust his head and
shoulders into the room. Arlington glanced up from his writing and saw
a flushed face and a pair of bloodshot eyes.

"You know what you called me up at Gallipolis?"

"Yes--dog."

"I'm a dog, eh? a filthy cur?"

The Virginian made an impatient gesture and dipped his quill into the
ink. The drunken boatman after a moment's pause said:

"I want you out here in the kitchen."

Arlington paid no attention to the insolent speech, but went on with
his letter writing.

Pierce, without closing the door, stepped back into the narrow
quarters in which Sheldrake did the cooking, and a minute later
reappeared with two long butcher knives, which he flung down on the
table, in front of Arlington.

"Take your choice."

Arlington picked up both the ugly weapons, one in each hand, and
stepping to a window, tossed them out into the river. The contemptuous
act raised the fury of the captain to the point of frenzy; he seized a
stick of firewood and rushed forward. Arlington parried the stroke,
closed in, and grappled his assailant. The noise of the scuffle
brought to the place Sheldrake and others of the crew. Summoning all
his strength, Arlington hurled Pierce backward over a chair with such
violence that the ruffian, falling on his head, was rendered
senseless. The Southerner stood on the defensive, expecting to be
attacked by the others, as he would have been, had not Burr strode
into the room, followed by the French doctor. The colonel's sudden
appearance on the scene prevented further turbulent demonstrations.
The three passengers repaired to the deck, leaving the drunken captain
to be revived by his faithful henchman, Sheldrake.

Arlington in few words told how he had been challenged, not stating
any cause for Burke Pierce's animosity.

"Wanted to butcher you without provocation! Has the fellow gone mad?"

"Mad from drink."

"This fellow's bellicose propensity," said Burr, "must be punished. I
shall have him arrested by the first magistrate I can find."

"Not on my account, colonel. He'll sober off. Your unctuous agent in
Pittsburg allowed that when cap is drunk he's vicious."

"_Sacré!_" burst in the doctor, "not always a gentleman shall be able
to observe formality in a quarrel with ze savage. I who tell it you
was one time attack on this very river by three red devil in ze canoe.
See here, ze scar on my head! Ze wild gentlemen make no ceremony--he
yell, and he shall right away take ze scalp with his knife. _Pardieu!_
By good chance I shoot ze one impolite Iroquoix--and ze two, his
second, paddle away!"

"We must beat our swords and pistols into scalping-knives and
bludgeons," remarked Burr, banteringly. "The code of honor is not
observed by Indians or Western boatmen. Mr. Arlington, you may be
compelled to adapt yourself to the customs of the country."



VII. CONSPIRACY.


Near Yeatman's Cove, at the foot of Sycamore Street, Cincinnati, stood
a commodious tavern, built with some reference to architectural
effect. Being directed to this resort, the party from the boat climbed
the slope of the levee, ascended a flight of wooden steps, and entered
the vestibule of the inn, a long, narrow corridor which the landlord
considered very imposing. The first objects to attract attention in
this public haunt were life-size wax-figures of two men fighting a
duel. One of the figures represented Burr with an aimed pistol in
hand, the other Hamilton staggering forward mortally wounded. To
Arlington Burr remarked as they passed by the waxen show:

"The artist makes me a beauty, don't he? What boots! What eyes!"

Seldom had genial Grif Yeatman welcomed guests more desirable and less
like one another than were the strongly individualized men who came
from the flatboat to his tavern to take temporary lodging before
hunting up the several citizens they wished to meet.

Burr's arrival in the embryo Queen City of the West was noised from
house to house, and within an hour many citizens had called to shake
hands. The suave New York politician had partisan adherents and
personal friends in the Buckeye State. Among these was John Smith,
whose acquaintance he had made in Washington--the Hon. John Smith,
one of the first two senators representing Ohio in Congress.

Burr procured a fine saddle-horse, and after bidding good-by to
Arlington set out to visit the Senator who lived some twelve miles
from town. The solitary horseman was not sorry to leave behind him the
raw metropolis, the dirty streets of which were lined with log cabins
and dingy white frame houses. Beyond Deer Creek the horseman spurred
eastward along a black loamy wagon road, trotting through groves and
half-cleared fields until he passed a small hamlet bearing the great
name Columbia. Beyond this cluster of habitations lay Turkey Bottom,
so named on account of the wild flocks which made it their resort.
Burr selected the most distinctly marked of the several discernible
trails and traces in the mazy wilderness before him. Uncertain wheel
tracks indicated that the backwoods farmers, whose cabins were never
less than a mile apart, took various routes, according to their fancy
or the exigencies of the season. At one place a tree, recently blown
down, lay across the bridle-path, and, while guiding his horse around
this obstacle the rider saw a brown bear lurch off, swaying its head
in sulky humor.

The grandeur of the primeval solitude impressed Burr more profoundly
than he had imagined possible. The solemn majesty of the brotherhood
of lofty trees around and above him inspired awe. A sense of
bewilderment stole upon him. "Am I lost in the woods?" he wondered,
looking around for signs of human life. So strange did everything
appear that he was in doubt whether the log house not a hundred feet
ahead of him was an actual structure. The house was real, and in the
dooryard he saw a human being busy about some task. He rode up and
asked the way to Senator Smith's.

"Smith? You mean Elder Smith?" gossipped a woman, pausing from her
soap-making, near an ash-hopper. "Some do call him Senator, and some
call him Preacher, but most call him Elder Smith or else plain John."

"Does he preach?"

"Yes; some Sundays; generally he only exhorts. Turn to your right
after passing that wild-cherry, and you will see the Miami; follow
along up stream, and you can't miss sight of the mill and the
still-house. They belong to him, and so does the big store at
Columbia. John Smith is the richest man in these parts, but he isn't
proud and stuck up. When you come to the mill they'll show the way to
the house. A mighty fine house it is."

Burr thanked the woman and spurred on. "Smith is worth the trouble of
coming out for to see. No broken reed, but a pillar of state and
church is this same senator, elder, farmer, merchant, miller and
distiller." Thus meditating, the fisher of men followed the road by
the cherry tree and along the river, and soon reached Smith's lonely
dwelling, a new farmhouse, constructed of hewn logs and having a huge
stone chimney. Dismounting, Burr stepped upon the porch and knocked at
the door. The summons was answered by Mrs. Smith, who, though a
senator's wife, was country bred and untaught in artificial usages.
She received the urbane stranger with a timidity amounting almost to
trepidation.

Her husband had gone to the woods to cut a wagon pole, and pending his
return Burr waited in the front room of the log mansion, and made a
heroic effort to melt the ice of reserve which seemed to congeal Mrs.
Smith's flow of speech. Seldom had he failed in the winning art of
conversation, especially with women. Ladies were his favorite pursuit,
if not his prey. But Elder Smith's wife proved unapproachable by
language of tongue or eye. Talking to her was like talking to a lay
figure with vocal and locomotive organs.

Luckily or otherwise, an unexpected diversion was in store for
Burr--a rôle which he did not anticipate devolved upon him, and
required him to play his part in a dramatic scene with a character
much more sympathetical than Mrs. Smith. From the moment he crossed
the threshold to enter the plain parlor he had been conscious of a
fugitive fragrance, scarcely perceptible, which he recognized as the
scent of Parisian musk, a perfume much in favor with the exquisite
beaux and belles of that day. The telltale odor was reminiscent of
past gallantries, and it served in a subtle way to herald the coming
of a person whose appearance suggested knowledge of the gay world. Not
uncurious to steal a glance at the strange visitor, a woman, tastefully
arrayed in sable robes, entered unannounced from a cozy side-room. An
unbidden blush betokened her surprise and emotion. Burr blenched
slightly, but neither the red signal nor its effect was observed by
Mrs. Smith, who, glad to shift the task of entertaining Colonel Burr,
introduced him to Mrs. Rosemary.

"You will please excuse me; I'll send a boy to the woods for Mr.
Smith. Make yourselves at home; we housekeepers in the country have a
good many chores."

Like the practical Martha that she was, Dame Smith, cumbered with much
prospective serving, hastened to the dining-room to set the table. On
her exit from the parlor she closed the door behind her, not having
the slightest suspicion that chance had made her house a place of
clandestine meeting.

"Salome! Can it be you?"

"It can, if we are not both in a delirium. I did not expect ever to
see _you_ again. Who could induce Aaron Burr to come to Ohio?"

"Perhaps an irresistible attraction--some spell of bewitchment. You
must inform me. What brings you to this wandering wood like a lost
Una?"

"Business. I came a passenger on General Wilkinson's barge. We had a
delightful voyage, a May festival, gaiety, music, dancing."

"Do you recollect passing Bacchus Island?"

"Yes. Why do you ask? We floated by the interesting place one heavenly
afternoon. We saw four persons looking at us from a high bank--two
couples that seemed strolling lovers. I wondered if either of the
women could be the beautiful Madam Blennerhassett. We were dancing on
the deck--that is, the other ladies were; I do not now dance."

"I grieve to see that you do not, Mrs. Rosemary. I did not even know
that you had become his wife; these mournful robes tell me you are a
widow."

"You did not know? Do you care? You grieve to see me a widow? Ah, me!
Men are consistent. Let me explain the cause of my coming West. I own
ever so much land near Cincinnati and a whole block of town lots,
bequeathed to me by my late husband. George was kinder to me than I
deserved. When I read his will I cried. I went to my lawyer in
Philadelphia and asked what I should do to realize most on this Ohio
property. He advised me to come here, and have the title examined, and
learn the real value of the land, and he gave me a letter to Senator
Smith, who, he said, was a good man, one who knows about law and deeds
and everything. So I am here. These pokey people are very obliging;
they insisted I should lodge with them until my affairs were settled.
Now you have my story--tell me yours. As for my bereavement--my
heart history--why speak of that?" A film of tears dimmed her eyes as
Burr made answer in soothing words.

"I am to blame. Let us not pain ourselves by talking or thinking of
death or mourning. I dreamt lately of you as you now appear. How
beautiful and brilliant you look in black, Salome. Pardon me,
Madam--, I knew you by that name in the past, and you must not be
offended if I recall."

"Ah! do not recall. I am willing for you to let bygones be
bygones--if--you--desire. Do you like this black gown better than
the blue brocaded one I wore that evening at Princeton?"

"How can I decide? You always dress in perfect taste. Whatever you
wear is pretty, and you, I am sure, are lovelier than ever."

Smilingly the young widow sighed, then in a listening attitude, with
finger on lip, whispered, "Sh! Our hostess!" and changing her voice
continued in a tone of conventional languor: "Yes, the weather is very
fine. We were remarking, Mrs. Smith, how sweet and pure the
atmosphere."

"Well, yes; the air seems fresh and healthy, but we have a touch of
malaria now and then in this Miami Valley."

Hon. John Smith, having chopped down a hickory sapling to make a
coupling pole, put his axe-craft to further use by cutting off a
forked bough, crooked by Nature, in the exact shape for a pack-saddle.
Satisfied with these forest spoils, the rustic statesman returned to
his house, where Burr met him with a cordial grasp and a ready tribute
of adulation.

"My dear Senator, this is like greeting Cincinnatus on the pastoral
side of Tiber, where he dwelt in domestic peace with his wife
Racilia."

The salutation gratified the Member of Congress, for he was
susceptible to flattery, and knew enough of Roman history to
understand the allusion to Cincinnatus, though he had never before
heard of Racilia. He valued the evidence of Burr's esteem, implied in
the pilgrimage the latter had taken the trouble to make, and no effort
was spared to load the colonel with proofs that his visit was
appreciated.

In Washington, Burr had known Smith only slightly and officially as
one of the senators from Ohio. In the retirement of a lonely farm
hourly companionship fostered intimacy. Conversation forgot
constraint; the two freely unfolded to each other their thoughts,
feelings and hopes, and a community of ideas was gradually established
between them. Burr encouraged personal revelation and solicited
confidential opinions. He affected warm interest in the details of
Smith's affairs--farming operations, grinding of wheat and corn,
profitable sales of whiskey, and growing trade at the Columbia store.
Neither the piety of the preacher nor the patriotism of the senator
could quell in Smith the cupidity of the fortune-builder. Adroitly did
Burr shift the trend of discourse to suit his own ends, leading the
elder by plausible arguments to accept as logical the sophistry of
self-love and greed. The word business was stretched to cover a
multitude of sins; the new dictionary of self-aggrandizement concealed
a spurious gospel of intrigue and treason.

Spoken words are but breath, and who can report all that passed
between the tempter and the tempted? Or who can be sure that the
craftiness of the guest was greater than the cunning of the host? The
nebulous emanations of Burr's mind were rounding into a definite world
of purpose. He invoked the aid of the Hon. John Smith to set the new
planet revolving. Conspiracy was planned in the woods and fields of a
quiet farm in the valley of the Little Miami.

Burr, yielding to persuasion, protracted his stay almost a week, being
feasted and lodged in the country house. Many were the spoken
confidences and frequent the "fair, speechless messages" which passed
between him and Mrs. Rosemary, as occasion offered, while they
lingered at the home of their common friend and counsellor. On the day
preceding that of Burr's departure, a bright Sunday, they accompanied
the Smith family to a religious service held in a maple grove, near
the Miami. The devout farmers, who, with their wives and children,
came many miles to the place of worship, observed with solemn eyes of
approbation that Burr studied his hymn-book and small gilded Bible,
and that the demure lady by his side, dressed in mourning, looked the
pattern of saintly piety. While going home from the camp meeting,
supporting Mrs. Rosemary on his arm, Burr spoke feelingly of himself,
his hopes, and secret plans. Then it was that he told his lovely
partner about his contemplated Southern empire which, he declared,
would be an elysium for women. Then it was that he gallantly offered
to invest to her advantage any portion of the cash she might realize
from the sale of her deceased husband's estate. She hung on his arm
confidingly and promised to consider his words.

Sitting on the porch in the Sabbath twilight beside Salome, Burr
softly intoned his regret that in the morning he must part from her.
Sportfully he drew from her finger a diamond ring. "Do you want it
back after all these years?" she murmured. "No, dear, you shall have
it again in a moment." He turned to a window, and with the sparkling
stylus incised some delicate characters upon a pane of glass. Then he
returned the ring to its owner, who, after perusing the inscription,
looked round into his face, her own radiant with happiness.

The window-pane remained unbroken for nearly a century, and the
writing on it was always shown to strangers visiting the old historic
homestead. The cutting diamond traced two names upon the glass--those
of Senator Smith's transitory guests. Many a sentimental girl, pausing
over the double inscription, and mildly condemning Burr, has wondered
whatever became of Salome Rosemary.



VIII. DIAMOND CUT DIAMOND.


Bearing in mind his hours of cautious interview with the elder and
minutes of furtive dalliance with the widow, Burr rode back to
Cincinnati, and regretful that he had lost the companionship of
Arlington, resumed his housekeeping and his journey on the flatboat,
which he now christened Salome.

Burke Pierce was retained as captain, notwithstanding his late
atrocious conduct.

"I didn't know what I was about," he assevered, in self-exculpation;
"I was full of Monongahela, and there's a quarrel in every pint of
that and manslaughter in every quart."

Burr, whose prospective foray in Mexico would require the service of
all the dare-devils who could be enlisted, did not scruple to
conciliate this outlaw, nor to give him an inkling of warlike
preparations against the Spaniard. Pierce, flattered by this
confidence, readily volunteered to lend his aid at any time to
whatever enterprise Burr might propose, and, like one of the tools of
Brutus, he was ready to say, "Set on your foot; I follow you to do I
know not what." Yet he knew more than might be supposed, of the
history, official rank and designs of his employer. To the soothing
counsel, "You must not bear malice toward that young Virginian;
remember, he is one of us." Burke replied with a nod and a sinister
laugh.

The Salome was moored at the landing near Fort Massac. General
Wilkinson, whose barge lay in port, was stopping temporarily at this
station before proceeding to his headquarters in St. Louis. Burr must
win Wilkinson, and to the winning of an ally so influential he must
bring to bear all the arts of address and insinuation, for he had to
deal with a wily character. Yet he did not doubt that, by discreet
appeals to the vanity and cupidity of the general, he could induce
that blandest of politicians to embark in an enterprise which promised
evergreen laurels and rich returns of gold.

Arrayed in his best cloth, with boots freshly polished and face
smoothly shaven, with queue and ruffles in perfect condition, a Beau
Brummel of exterior proprieties and a Machiavelli in _finesse_, Aaron
Burr presented himself at the barracks, and was welcomed with effusive
cordiality by his friend and comrade. The two shook hands with the
hearty familiarity of veterans glad to renew old associations.

"Colonel Burr, I am delighted to see you here. Your letter, written in
Philadelphia, reached me at the capital. Pray, take this big chair; it
is rather comfortable."

"Very elegant, I should say, general, especially for a remote outpost
like this. The Government, I imagine, does not furnish you with such
costly articles."

"Oh, no, no, certainly not; the chair is part of the furniture of my
barge. I must provide myself with these necessaries from my private
purse. Necessaries, I say; for use breeds wants; I was habituated from
my birth to social refinements, ease and the luxuries of the
table.--You must take a cup of kindness with me. What will you drink?
I have here sherry, whiskey, peach-brandy and applejack."

The general, as he enumerated the liquors, stepped to the sideboard,
which, with its array of bottles, looked like a bar.

Wilkinson was a handsome man, about forty-eight years old. Slightly
under the average height, he was of symmetrical figure, and his
countenance was agreeable, despite a deeply florid complexion. He held
his head well, his walk was firm and dignified, and his bearing was
graceful. The well-fitting suit of blue and yellow uniform which he
wore with an air of pomp and authority was very becoming to his noble
form.

Burr, out of courtesy, drank a glass of light wine, but his
entertainer, apologizing for his own robuster taste, poured out a
stiff tumbler of brandy, which he swallowed with relish.

"I congratulate you, general," began Burr, "on your appointment to the
governorship. The President showed wisdom in his selection."

"I appreciate your confidence, colonel. My good name is my pearl of
price. In the many stations I have filled I have always tried to do my
duty, and shall try in this. I owe it to you, my dear sir, to say so
much, for I believe I am indebted to the late Vice-President for my
new position. Mr. Jefferson is understood to have appointed Wilkinson
as a mark of favor to Colonel Burr."

"Possibly so; I claim no credit. But I am sincerely glad you are the
man. The office is no sinecure. The state of feeling in regard to the
Spanish boundary is ominous. Shall you be able to adjust the matter
amicably or will the dispute result in war?"

"That is a question events must answer. I am devoted to my country and
her interests, and whether as a leader of her armies or as governor of
part of her wide domain I shall proceed with an eye single to those
interests."

"I know, general, that whatever is right and just you will do, and I
assume that when you speak of devotion to your country and her
interests, you mean the _people_ and their interests. Under a properly
constituted government there should be no conflict between the welfare
of the nation and the welfare of the individuals comprising the
nation. If the authority of an arbitrary government prove oppressive,
or if the liberties of those dwelling in a section be disregarded, I
hold to the good old democratic rule that the injured have a right to
protest and to resist. The principles for which you and I fought were
the principles of individual liberty and of State sovereignty. We were
revolutionists."

"Yes," said Wilkinson, playing with one of his brass buttons, "I fully
agree with your fundamental propositions."

"But you don't see how they are going to help you in adjusting the
boundary line between our country and the Spanish possessions. I have
a suggestion to make. There ought to be no boundary line at all
between the two countries. This republic, or perhaps I should say, the
Western people, should wash out that line with Spanish blood, and make
Louisiana and Mexico one domain. I go in for war."

"There is prospect of war, Colonel Burr, but Congress and the
President seem timid about making an open declaration. In case
hostilities should be precipitated by the Spaniards--"

"What in that case?"

"Why, then an invasion of Mexico might be a military necessity."

"Invasion? Would not the conquest of Mexico be easy? A sufficient
force can be raised."

Wilkinson left off toying with his button and looked far away--far as
Mexico, far as the Pacific Ocean.

"You are aware, governor--no man living has ampler knowledge of the
facts than you have--that only five or six years ago Washington and
Hamilton planned and were about to execute a project to seize the
Spanish provinces, with British aid. The pretext was war with France,
the real object was to take New Orleans, probably Mexico. You were the
person whom they wisely entrusted with the management of the
business."

"Yes, but not with the command of the troops."

"No; you were to organize the Legion of the West, not to lead it to
victory, as you surely would have done had opportunity offered.
Hamilton secured the leadership as his perquisite and was careful to
see that I was not advanced. He dissuaded Washington from choosing me
quartermaster. But they could not obscure my name nor dim your
reputation. The people know what is what and who is who. They know
'little Burr' and they know the 'Washington of the West.'"

Wilkinson sat up straighter in his chair.

"The epoch in which it has been my lot to live has been eventful. I
little dreamed, when a lad on a Maryland farm, what fortunes lay
before me. Who could have prophesied, when you and I began our
military career, that my humble services would ever be likened to
those of the Father of our Country?"

"You are a better general than ever George Washington was," declared
Burr, employing a tone and look so candid and emphatic that his
sincerity was not doubted. "What he and Hamilton failed to accomplish,
owing to the action of Jefferson in purchasing Louisiana, and so
ending the French quasi war, why may not you and I bring to a
successful issue? If there was no irregularity in that, there can be
none in a renewal of essentially the same plans. Let the Legion of the
West be organized once more, and the Washington of the West direct it
as he will."

Wilkinson went to the sideboard and moistened his lips.

"There is much that I might tell you, colonel, concerning that
proposed expedition of Hamilton's. Men are but men, and the
philanthropist weeps over their frailties. For myself, I am open and
above board; I abhor deceit and intrigue; I am a man whose head may
err, but whose heart cannot be misled. That all are not so I have
learned to my cost. You have no idea, sir, what whisperings, what
suppression of motives, what secret understandings, marked the
proceedings of eminent persons whose public or private interests were
involved in the scheme of 1799."

"All men's consciences are not so sensitive as yours, general, nor do
all men proceed so boldly. You have courage. But there is some excuse
for the secret methods which your nature condemns. Prudence is a prime
virtue. There are questions of method and of policy, which are best
discussed confidentially, by sagacious men."

"Oh, yes, yes, yes, of course."

"For instance, we two, Wilkinson, here in private, may properly
compare opinions on such subjects as this of the Spanish dispute. You
and I are in substantial agreement on theories of government. I
presume you have no more faith than I have in the permanency of the
present Constitution. It is on its trial, and I am of the opinion that
it cannot last long."

"Colonel Burr, you are right. The Union is held together by a thread.
Yet the salutary restraints of religion and morality are none the less
binding. The hallowed bonds which connect the citizens and the State
are not made of paper. There is a stronger law than the letter of the
Constitution."

"Law, as the world goes," said Burr, "is whatever is boldly asserted
and plausibly maintained. But I wish to speak to you of the prospect
opening before us in the Mississippi Valley. Here are you,
commander-in-chief of the Western troops and governor of Upper
Louisiana. Immense power rests in your hands. Now, if it be the will
of the people of Kentucky and the Southern States that Mexico should
become a part of our common country, or should the sovereign citizens
of this section prefer that Mexico shall become part of an independent
republic or empire, formed by uniting all the States and Territories
of the Southwest, including Mexico--I say if 'we, the people,' demand
this, and volunteer to devote lives and fortunes and sacred honor to
establish such a new nationality, could not you, would not you, must
you not, as a patriot, as a friend of liberty, as a servant of the
people, seize an opportunity of making yourself greater than
Washington, by fathering a richer, freer and more glorious country
than that now held together by a Constitution which, as you truly say,
is no stronger than a thread?"

Is it possible that Burr when he uttered these words could have been
aware that he was repeating arguments very similar to those which
Baron Carondelet had addressed to Wilkinson nine years before, to
induce him to deliver Kentucky to his Catholic Majesty, the King of
Spain? Burr's proposal had so many points of coincidence with that
made by the Spanish governor, that Wilkinson felt a momentary sense of
being detected. There was also a confusion of impressions in his
brain; the very service he had tendered to Spain, for gold and for
glory, was now solicited against Spain for glory and for gold.

Burr saw that his words were striking home and resumed
interrogatively:

"Were you not instrumental in the good work of separating Kentucky
from Virginia? You made eloquent speeches, you managed everything."

"Yes, I pleased everybody."

"You will please more by abetting a grateful constituency in their
efforts to form a better government than the East can pledge them. If
it was a good thing to separate Kentucky from Virginia, how much
better to sever the Southwest from--"

"This much I will say," interrupted Wilkinson: "I am in favor of State
sovereignty and the rights of secession. I am a consistent man. The
principles I advocated in 1785 I still hold. My dear colonel," he
continued, coming up to Burr and placing both hands on his shoulders,
"I must reflect on all this; you broach momentous matter and you take
me by surprise. No doubt you have considered the subject in all its
phases. I have not. Tell me what you have learned, so far, in regard
to the drift of popular feeling."

"I have learned much and am learning more every day. I have conversed
with men of every rank, in the East and in the South and in the West,
and I am sure of the ground I walk on. These people of Kentucky and
Tennessee are ripe for war with the abhorred Spaniard. They have a
thousand grievances. They hate New England and mistrust the Federal
Government. They are ready for any new combination which can be shown
conducive to their prosperity locally. They only wait a leader or
leaders. The destiny of the West is manifestly independence. What I
intend is this: I shall go to New Orleans, the very heart of the
disturbed region, and shall ascertain the wishes, temper and resources
of the people upon whom we have to depend. On my return I will report
to you the results of my inquiry and observation, and then, if you
desire, we may hold further conference."

"I must take time to reflect. Prudence, to recall your own words, is a
prime virtue. I am a public servant, an officer of the Government,
entrusted with sacred obligations. Your advice, however, cannot be
other than wise and statesmanlike."

"General Wilkinson, we are old friends--comrades in arms once; now
associates in a magnificent enterprise, if you so will--an enterprise
harmful to no American citizen, vastly beneficial to Louisiana,
Mexico, and the West in general, and fraught with sure and superb
fortunes for the men who have the ability, the courage and the
fortitude to carry it to a successful issue."

The general, again stepping to the sideboard and filling two glasses
from the brandy bottle, passed one of them to his guest.

"This to the memory of past successes and the hope of future
prosperity for us both."

"I drink to the hope more than to the memory, for the past is an empty
chest, the future a full coffer," said Burr, and drained his glass.

"You take your liquor like a hero!" joked Wilkinson. "It will do you
good, colonel."

The men shook hands and Burr departed, after promising to renew the
conversation next day. Slowly he walked along the river bank, saying
to himself, "If I could only rely on him. He is slippery as an eel,
but a net of golden promise will hold him if anything will. I fancy I
have caught James Wilkinson, and if so, half the battle is won."

Wilkinson sat in his big easy-chair, pondering. "Aaron Burr is a
shrewd manipulator of men. Naturally he is looking out for his own
elevation. He is a falling angel. But his plans are good and hold out
strong inducements to the course he proposes. If he will undertake to
fit out an expedition and provide recruits, I see no reason why I
should not avail myself of the results of his energy. I am in power
already--I combine the authority of general and governor--and I
cannot see how Burr's co-operation can lessen my dignity or prevent my
aggrandizement. Precaution is the word. We shall see how events
develop. Perhaps this scheme will open my way to attain the height of
my ambition. So long as the signs are propitious I will be safe in
trusting them; but should disaster threaten, I can at any time change
my policy. Precaution! No precipitancy, no ill-considered pledges."

Thus reflected General Wilkinson. Then, left alone, he gradually
yielded to the sedative effect of dinner and drink and fell into a
drowse. The dusk of evening had stolen over the river and darkened the
woods around the fort. The sound of footsteps at the door startled the
sleeper.

"Who's that?"

A swarthy boatman with a leathern coat slouched in.

"Palafox. You back again?"

"Don't call me Palafox, general. I've changed my name for reasons you
might guess. Palafox ha'n't been a safe name to carry since that
business at the mouth of the Ohio."

"You need not worry yourself about that 'business,' as you call it, of
ten or eleven years ago. I got you out of a bad scrape; your
associates, who were arrested, and tried were discharged; the
accusations are forgotten. What do you want, Palafox?"

"I tell you I'm not Palafox--I'm Captain Burke Pierce--that's the
name I've been going by at Pittsburg and all along the Ohio. I left
the other name in New Orleans. Folks don't forget names or deeds so
soon as I wish they would. I know the court cleared the men, but they
don't forget the trick played on them. Pepillo, who was the helmsman
of the piroque, isn't dead, and he would shoot or stab me on sight.
Vexeranno is alive yet, too, and he is one of the three who planned to
do it."

"Speak no more of the horrible affair, my friend. We were none of us
gainers by it. You know how much I lost. But I saved you from arrest,
and you ought to be grateful. Why are you here?"

"General Wilkinson, I don't know whether I am thankful or not. You
call me your friend, and I have been your friend. It wasn't so much
for my sake that you got me off as to keep evidence from leaking out
that might have made somebody else uncomfortable. Yes, I've done
things for you that you ought to be grateful for, governor! Why am I
here? I'm here for back pay. You owe me six hundred dollars."

"Man, you are mad. You presume on my generosity and my past indulgence
toward you. I have already paid you more than I should have done, and
you owe to me your life and your safety. You overestimate the value of
your past services, and I am tired of your importunity. Remember that
I am the commander-in-chief of the army and the governor of Louisiana.
Do you think it safe to trifle with me? How did you get by the guard
to-night?"

"Walked; same as I got by Aaron Burr."

Wilkinson looked up anxiously.

"Palafox--I won't be harsh with you. Take a dram. You were faithful
to me and to your duty in former years, and I hope to find profitable
employment for you again. Here are five dollars; now leave the
premises."

Palafox took the money and disappeared in the gathering gloom. General
Wilkinson closed the door and locked it. Then he sat back in his big
chair, bowed his brow, and with arms folded sat meditating the past.
At length he rose, shook his head, as if sadly answering in the
negative some question of conscience, and--took another glass of
brandy.



IX. DON'T FORGET THE BITTERS.


Monsieur Deville, having consulted Dr. Goforth, on vaccination,
milk-sickness and miasma, took the mail-packet for Gallipolis.
Arlington, after transacting the business which brought him to
Cincinnati, started for his distant Virginia home, not by water nor by
the direct route through Kentucky to the Old Wilderness Road, but
across southern Ohio, over the highway which led to Marietta. The
young man told landlord Yeatman that his object in choosing this
roundabout course was to see the country; and he told the truth, but
not the whole truth. Arlington cared not so much about going to
Marietta as about getting there. He had not escaped the consequences
of his recent perilous exposure to the rays of bewitching eyes. As he
rode along through the woods he saw flocks of paroquets fluttering
their emerald wings and making love as they flew. The red birds were
singing bridal songs in the sugar-trees, and the shy hermit thrush
betrayed his domestic secrets by husbandly notes piped from the
spice-brush thicket. The wild flowers, too, anemone, puccoon and
addertongue, nodding in the light breeze, seemed conscious of the joy
of life in spring.

The pilgrimage to the Muskingum was one long meditation on Evaleen
Hale. Arlington was powerless to break the rosy mesh which entangled
him. The bright image of the golden-haired New England girl waylaid
him again and again. He reached Marietta on a fine, bright morning,
and having consigned his horse to the care of the ostler of the
Travellers' Rest, he presently started out in search of the
dwelling-place of Evaleen, trusting, like Shelley's Indian lover, to
the Spirit in his feet.

It did not take long to make the rounds of the prim, Puritan village,
and though he caught sight of more than one pretty maid peeping with
coy curiosity from cottage window or garden plot, he saw no face
comparable with that which he had cherished in memory since seeing the
original in Blennerhassett's parlor. A lame soldier of the
Revolutionary War pointed out to him the squares named Campus Martius
and Capitolium, and directed him to follow the Sacra Via, through a
covert way, to the wonderful ancient earthworks hard by--vast
enclosures, terraces and tumuli, resembling natural hills, but, in
fact, the piled-up monuments of the Mound Builders. The greatest and
most impressive of these mysterious remains, a huge mound in the form
of a sugar-loaf, appealed so strongly to Arlington's imagination,
that, contemplating it, he for a time forgot everything else, losing
himself in admiration and conjecture. Intending a closer inspection of
the steep, artificial hill, he crossed a dry _fosse_ which ran around
it in a perfect circle, and was clambering up the mound when a voice
from above startled him.

"Come up, come right up! There's a good path starts t'other side of
that wild gooseberry bush."

Looking aloft, Arlington beheld, seated on the summit of the mound,
the grotesque figure of Plutarch Byle.

"It blows a body, don't it?" said Byle, recognizing the Southerner
with a familiar nod. "Give us your hand; I'll haul you safe to the
peak of Aryrat. I'm right glad to see you, and I'm not sorry he isn't
along with you. Have you got rid of him for good?"

"Do you mean Colonel Burr?"

"Exactly; he's a sort of burr I hope to God will never stick to me or
to any friend of mine. I like you, Burlington, and I congratulate you,
as the saying is, that you pulled him off. Folks oughtn't to be too
familiar with strangers, ought they? You or I might be taken in by
appearances. I confess I was deceived in--I won't say that man, but
that hoop-snake. He was as fine looking a man as I am. But let's not
mention him. Which way do you hail from now? When did you strike
Marietta?"

"To-day, Mr. Byle."

"Call me Plutarch. I don't like European forms. How long do you
calculate to stay, Burlingham?"

"Not long. I am on my return to Virginia, and stop in Marietta to see
these earthworks. You are acquainted here. Do you know--do you know
of a family by the name of Hale?"

"Well, yes; that is, I know old Squire George Hale by sight, and I met
his daughter once in a sort of social way like, at Mrs.
Blennerhassett's. The Hales is a fine family, regular high posts with
a silk tester; they're upper-crust Boston quality. George hasn't lived
here long, only about a year, and I've been away up on Yok River, at
brother Virgil's, most of the time for the last five year. The Hales
are blue blood, and no mistake. The young woman is a seek-no-farther.
She is about to marry a feller from Massachusetts, who is here now
a-sparking like fox-fire. I don't know the particulars, but I put this
and that together, and I'm satisfied it's a match, and though I'm
always danged sorry for any girl who gets married, I reckon this
feller is about as decent as any of us. His names is Danvers--Captain
Danvers; a right peert young chap, in the reg'lar army. I saw them
yesterday, Evaleen and him--her name's Evaleen--walking,
spooney-like, down by Muskingum, and I says to myself, 'By the holy
artichokes, I'd like to be in the captain's military boots.'"

"Are you sure they are engaged?" queried Arlington.

"Yes, sure as coffin-nails; why? Do _you_ know the Spring Beauty?"

"I have met her."

"I'll bet you took a fancy to her the minute you sot eyes on her. So
did I; but I nipped it in the bud. You look as if you might be hugely
in love, Burlington. I know adzactly how you feel. Everything is
prodigious out here in the West--big trees, big fish, big mammoth
bones, and big hearts. I'll swan! the kind of love that you are liable
to in these tremendous woods is like the rest of the works of Nature,
immense. Howsomever, a man can stand a terrible sight of love and get
over it. I know what I'm talking about. Love's a queer complaint! By
ginger, I realize from experience how it takes hold of the system. You
mightn't guess it, but I pulled through the toughest case of
woman-stroke that ever a young feller was took with.

    'Cheeks of my youth,
    Bathed in tears have you been.'

It's facts I'm stating. Still, a good constitution does mend fast when
the flightiness and distress in the imagination leaves him and he
cools down to his right mind. And there's medicine for every ailment,
balm in Gilead, by gum, even for love sickness. The seed-pods of the
cucumber tree soaked in raw whiskey makes a first-rate bitters for all
such like fevers. I'm sorry for you, but--hold up, what did I tell
you? Look yonder! Do you see that couple walking this way from Campus
Martius? That's them!"

Looking in the direction indicated by Plutarch's long forefinger,
Arlington saw a man and a woman, side by side, slowly approaching the
mound, so absorbed in each other's companionship that they seemed
oblivious to the landscape and the sky. Neither glanced upward, though
they came so near the base of the hill that the envious spy on the
summit, peering down, identified the person and the voice of the lady
as belonging unmistakably to Miss Hale. The pair paused under a
dog-wood from which Captain Danvers plucked a flowery bough; then they
resumed their stroll, walking toward the village, arm in arm.

"Shall I holler to them?" asked Byle with the friendliest intentions.

"By no means!" said Arlington hastily. "I have not the slightest
interest in either of them. What have you here in your basket--botanical
specimens?"

The inquiry set Plutarch's tongue running on his favorite theme. "I'm
a sort of self-made doctor, Mr. ---- won't you please write your name
out just as you spell it yourself, and let me have it? I ain't sure of
the accent. I've been digging roots and so on, for brother
Blennerhassett. He's an odd fish--he fancies he knows yarbs. Well,
now, he _does_; that is, he can learn and is learning faster than you
would believe a near-sighted United Irishman could learn anything
outside of books. He knows ginseng from pleuresy-root, anyhow. This
plant--I'm taking the whole thing, root and stem, to show him how it
grows--is the genuine Indian physic; I got it right by a big rotten
log in Putnam's woods. What do you say to taking a tour to
Blennerhassett's with me in my piroque? I've got as snug a piroque as
ever oversot."

There was no reason why Arlington should not seize this offered
opportunity of once more visiting the island, and pay his respects to
the proprietor, whom he had some curiosity to meet. Besides, might he
not chance to learn the true condition of affairs regarding Evaleen
Hale and the objectionable captain?

Rocking on lazy eddies of a sheltered cove lay the piroque. It was a
dugout or canoe, made by hollowing with axe and adz a section of a
cucumber tree. One-fourth of its length was covered with canvas
stretched on hoops, forming a canopy to shed rain and to screen the
passenger from the sun's rays. The cosy shelter was made use of by
Plutarch as a receptacle for "specimens" of all varieties, animal,
vegetable and mineral. The boat was propelled by a paddle, and, as the
owner had warned Arlington, was liable to be toppled over by any
heedless movement of its occupants. In this craft, the distance from
Marietta to the island was measured without accident. Landed on the
gravelly beach, Plutarch bent his steps toward the dazzling white
house, Arlington at his side. Peter Taylor, puttering in the front
yard, greeted the visitors in his saturnine style.

"Which way is the Highcockolorum?" inquired Plutarch, thrusting out
his hand.

The gardener was perplexed.

"I mean your boss. Ah, there he is, with a gun! What's the fraction
now? When I first came to this place his little boy offered to stick a
tin sword through me, and I wonder now if pap means to shoot me!"

"'E couldn't 'it you at ten paces," grumbled the Englishman,
manifesting grim enjoyment. Byle winked in response. Blennerhassett,
leading Dominick by the hand, came to meet them, and Arlington was
courteously received.

"I regret my absence at the time you did us the honor to call. I have
since had a delightful letter from Colonel Burr, who promises to favor
us again. Mrs. Blennerhassett told me every particular of your brief
sojourn here. She was charmed with her guests. I am sorry she happens
to be from home. She has gone to spend the day with friends in
Marietta."

"That's where she was, by gum, the first time I called here," broke in
Byle, whose unconscious temerity Blennerhassett, not being able to
rebuke, had concluded to tolerate. "I have fetched you a lot more
plants and roots, and the spines of that big cat-fish I told you
about. Here's another curiosity--the wing of a queer bird that I
don't know--maybe you will--I shot the fowl flying. I see _you_ own
a rifle!"

"Yes," answered the recluse, placing the piece in Plutarch's hands.
"You are familiar with American guns. What is your opinion of this
one? It was recommended to me as an excellent article, and I bought it
at an enormous price, so my neighbors tell me. But from my indifferent
success in bringing down game with it, I am forced to the conclusion
that the barrel must be defective. Peter thinks not, but he is more of
an adept in horticulture than in shooting."

The gardener was miffed by this left-handed compliment, but he did not
venture to resent the impeachment. Plutarch handled the gun with the
confident facility of an expert, poised it to ascertain the weight,
noticed the calibre and the maker's name, admired the beauty of the
stock, and tested the action of the trigger, lightly lifting the maple
breech to his shoulder. The spectators marvelled at the delicate touch
of his seemingly coarse fingers.

"This is a good rifle," said he. "Do you see that red head on the top
of that tree t'other side of the house?" No one did perceive the bird
which the hunter professed to discover on the top of a tall sycamore
distinctly visible at a distance of many rods beyond the roof. Byle
drew up the rifle and fired.

"Run, bub, and pick him up," said Plutarch, dropping the butt of the
rifle and resting it carelessly on the toe of his shoe. Dominick
hesitated, but the black man, Scipio, who had drawn near to witness
the shooting, trudged away to the foot of the tree, where he found a
dead woodpecker lying on the ground. He picked up the bird, still warm
and bleeding, and brought it to Blennerhassett, who expressed
enthusiastic admiration for the marksman's skill. Plutarch received
the praise without showing the pleased vanity he inwardly felt, and
having reloaded the gun with neat celerity, he passed it to the owner,
saying in his unceremonious way, "Now, boss, it's your turn."

Blennerhassett at first declined to make an exhibition of his skill,
but on persuasion consented to fire at a mark under the direction of
his faithful servant, Peter Taylor, who was accustomed to attend him
on hunting excursions. Mr. Byle, with accommodating alacrity, offered
his hat as a suitable target, having stuck a maple leaf on the centre
of the crown to answer as the bull's eye. The party shifted ground to
the rear premises, and the hat was fixed to the side of the barn.
Blennerhassett took his place directly in front of the mark, at a
distance from it of twenty steps deliberately paced off by Plutarch.
When their chief cocked the rifle there was a general commotion among
the servants, black and white, for by this time the whole retinue of
the establishment, including ostler, footman, butler, field hands and
housemaids, had collected to see the sport. The principal actor, being
self-absorbed as well as near-sighted, was scarcely aware of the
tittering assemblage. Abstracted from every other thought, he fixed
his attention on the great business in hand, not without misgiving and
nervous agitation. When he lifted the rifle to his shoulder, and,
trembling with excitement, pointed it in the manner he conceived to be
proper, Peter Taylor, stationed at his master's back as prompter and
artillerist, gave directions: "Now, sir, cool and steady! 'Old her
level! Not so 'igh, Mr. Blennerhassett. There! So! 'Old on! 'Old on! A
leetle more up! Ready! Fire!"

In agitation, the gentleman drew the trigger, and the next instant a
pane of window-glass, fully six feet from the outmost rim of Mr.
Byle's straw hat, was shivered to pieces, and the fragments were heard
to tinkle as they fell within the barn. The chagrin of the mortified
rifleman was cunningly abated by Peter's declaring that he himself was
at fault in confining his master's attention to vertical rather than
to horizontal considerations; but while he thus explained away the
failure, he winked at the other servants and whispered aside to
Plutarch that, though horticulture was his profession, he was a better
shot than his distinguished employer.

"That's claiming a good deal, isn't it?" replied Byle, following with
his eye the humiliated subject of their comment, who, conscious that
he had made himself ridiculous, withdrew from the scene and tried to
recover lost dignity by retiring with his guest to the privacy of his
library. There, rallying his spirits, he dilated upon law, science and
_belles-lettres_, oblivious of the fact that his commonplace remarks
were tedious to a lively mind. He was opinionated, though not
egotistical; revered authority, took himself seriously, and was a hero
worshipper lacking humor and imagination. Pedantically conscious of
imparting his stored wisdom to the attentive listener, whom he desired
to entertain, he glowed with ingenuous enthusiasm while he commented,
in mildly magisterial fashion, on books and authors. He read aloud
extracts from "Shaftsbury's Characteristics," nodding approval of the
dullest sentences. Then he opened a large new folio, illustrated with
allegorical plates and profusely annotated.

"This is my latest literary treasure, Erasmus Darwin's wonderful poem,
'The Temple of Nature,' recently published, and superior, I think, to
the 'Botanic Garden.' Let me read from the first canto, on the
Production of Life."

Arlington in "wise passivity" submitted to the infliction, and with
feigned pleasure followed the torturer's voice, delivering page after
page of solemn science in polished heroic couplets. At length, in a
lull between the lines on Imitation and those on Appetency, the young
man mustered courage to broach the subject nearest his heart, by
asking the irrelevant question, "You are acquainted, I dare say, with
the prominent families of Marietta; do you happen to know a gentleman
by the name of Hale? George Hale?"

Blennerhassett, keeping one eye on the Temple of Nature, answered
mechanically:

"Yes; George Hale is one of our best citizens. He is held in high
esteem, a man of some wealth and of great probity, but not college
bred. I am sure, Mr. Arlington, you will discern high poetical
qualities in this passage from the second canto, entitled Reproduction
of Life. Shall I read it aloud?"

"By all means, sir. I should be delighted to hear you read the entire
volume, but I regret that I have engagements up the river."

"I will detain you only a moment, Mr. Arlington. Perhaps you would
like to carry the book with you to read on your way back. This is the
passage I referred to:

    'Now, young Desires, on purple pinions borne,
    Mount the warm gale of Manhood's rising morn;
    With softer fires through Virgin bosoms dart,
    Flush the pale cheek, and goad the tender heart!'

Those are well-constructed verses, my dear sir--equal to Dryden. 'On
purple pinions borne,' sounds well. The alliteration is pleasing. Note
the effect, also, in the phrase 'Manhood's morn,' and the last line is
poetical,

    'Flush the pale cheek, and goad the tender heart.'

Or this, suggesting how love and sympathy causes affinities which--

    'Melt into Lymph or kindle into gas.'

There are those who contend that scientific truths cannot be stated
poetically; but here, I am sure, science and sentiment are at one. Am
I not right?"

"Doubtless your judgment is correct," assented Chester, uncertain
whether Blennerhassett was speaking in earnest or in irony. "I confess
I am not a literary student. Pardon the interruption and my
inquisitiveness, but am I correctly informed that the young lady to
whom I was introduced, a few weeks ago, when I called here, is related
to Mr. Hale of whom we were speaking?"

"Quite right; she is his daughter, Miss Evaleen, an amiable girl.
Margaret and the boys think the world of her."

Arlington made another effort to satisfy his jealous curiosity. "I was
told by a gentleman in Marietta that Miss Hale is about to be married.
Am I correctly informed? The lucky man is to be envied."

Blennerhassett, whose eyes were still picking poetic gems from Darwin,
answered vaguely.

"Oh, to be sure. A fortunate man. She will make an excellent wife. Did
you hear such a report? Not surprising; I remember now that Margaret
mentioned something of Evaleen's prospects in that way--to the
effect, I believe, that she, that is, Miss Hale, had received gallant
attentions from an eligible young man--a suitor. Women take more
interest than we men do in affairs of this nature. I can give no
particulars."

"This Captain Danvers--?" faltered Chester.

"Danvers? Danvers?" repeated the absent-minded philosopher amiably.
"Ah, yes. Captain Danvers is at present stopping at the Hale
residence. My wife tells me that Evaleen and he are exceedingly
devoted to each other. Naturally. You would be welcome, I assure you,
if you should call. They are very hospitable."

Without further inquiries, Arlington presently took leave to join
Byle, with whom he voyaged back to Marietta. Wrapped in meditation he
sat, taciturn, ballasting the unstable piroque which his stalwart
comrade propelled with astonishing speed against the current. Chester
spoke not a dozen sentences during the tedious passage from the island
to the village. Byle, strange to say, also held his tongue, but he
watched his melancholy companion with varying facial expressions,
eloquent of fellow-feeling. The piroque was brought to shore on the
east bank of the Muskingum, a short distance above the mouth of the
river.

"You can tell your grandchildren that you sot your foot just where
Rufus Putnam did when he jumped off the Mayflower in 1788. This is the
spot where the first settlers of Ohio landed."

"You make me feel quite like a historical character," said Arlington,
and thanked his obliging guide.

"I don't reckon history is all over yet, Arlington. Good-night, and
take keer of yourself. I'm goshamighty sorry your goose is cooked in
regards to Evaleen. Still, this Danvers is a perfect gentleman--you'd
say so yourself if you knowed him as she does. By dad, we can't all
have the same girl, or others would suffer. Don't forget the bitters.
Speaking of bitters and how to cure trouble in this vale of tears, as
the saying is, I reckon you have heard of a man by the name of
Jonathan Edwards? He's dead now, but he made his living by preaching,
and he wrote books. The only one of his works that I ever read was his
_Rules_, and they are elegant. One of Jonathan's rules I learned by
heart: 'When you feel pain, think of the pains of martyrdom and of
hell.' You might try that. But whatever you try, _don't forget the
bitters_--fruit of the cucumber tree in raw whiskey."

"Don't forget the bitters." These words kept repeating themselves in
Chester's mind long after he had gone to bed in the small room
assigned to him by the host of the Travellers' Rest. He slept
wretchedly, rose late the next morning, breakfasted, and after
ordering his horse to be saddled at nine o'clock, walked to the wharf
where lay the mail-boat ready to start down the Ohio. Among the few
taking passage on the vessel was Captain Danvers, who had been ordered
to report for service in St. Louis, and was on his way thither.
Arlington observed the fine-looking young officer with the petulant
dislike of foiled envy. So spiteful was his mood that he wished a
pretext for saying or doing something offensive to his handsome rival.
Such a pretext was afforded. A veteran major who had accompanied
Danvers to the boat, to bid him good-bye, called out:

"Captain, don't let the Indians scalp you or the Spaniards take you
prisoner. If you had been three weeks sooner you might have had Aaron
Burr for a fellow-traveller. He stopped here on his way down the
river."

"I would not travel on the same boat with Aaron Burr. I consider him
guilty of murder."

Arlington's wrath broke forth. "Any man who says that speaks calumny."

"Do you mean to insult me, sir? I never saw you before, and did not
address you."

"I do not stand on ceremony with those who traduce my friends,"
retorted the Southerner sneeringly. "Colonel Burr is my friend--you
have maligned him."

Danvers contemptuously replied: "You seem proud of your alleged
intimacy with a notorious criminal. Perhaps you are the
Vice-President's brother, or are you his man-servant?"

The taunt raised a laugh at Arlington, who roared out:

"Burr did right in calling Hamilton to the field; he vindicated his
own honor."

"Push off! Loosen that line!" shouted the captain from the deck.
"Hurry up! blast you! we're a year behind time!"

The boat-hands made a show of haste without making speed, reluctant to
miss the chance of witnessing a fight.

"Captain Danvers, perhaps, like other Yankees, you preach against
duelling, but do not scruple to traduce men who are not present to
resent your words."

"You know my name!" cried Danvers, "but are wrong in supposing that I
will stand an affront. If you are a gentleman--"

"If? Couldn't you waive ifs and buts long enough to try the Weehauken
experiment and then investigate my pedigree? The question is, are you
a man or a dastard?"

"Swaller your fire, young salamander," broke in the captain of the
boat. "We hain't got no time to fuss nor fight duels. Push off, there,
boys! Get your poles in hand and give her a reverend set! If the
feller on shore is hankering for gore let him swim after us. Let go
that cordelle, you cussed, lazy, flat-bellied, Hockhocking idiot!
Can't you learn that a vessel won't navigate while she's tied to a
tree and stuck fast in the mud?"

Soon in midstream, the boat moved away rapidly, impelled by the triple
force of current, wind and oars, and the Virginian was jeered at from
deck and shore. It completed his mortification to observe Danvers
waving him a disdainful farewell. He returned to the tavern, paid his
reckoning, mounted his horse, and rode away dejected and miserable.
Self-disgust wrought in him a revulsion against Ohio, Marietta and the
Blennerhassetts, and caused him, for the moment, to wish he had never
met Evaleen. He rode along the village street, his mind's ear ringing
with Byle's parting advice: "Don't forget the bitters." While his
horse was trotting past a house that stood back from the street, in
the midst of shrubbery, he thought he heard his own name spoken. On
turning his head, he saw two ladies observing him from a leaf-screened
veranda. His impulse was to halt; he drew bridle, but, recalling the
scene on the wharf, he spurred on.

"My dear girl," exclaimed the elder of the two ladies, watching the
unheeding horseman, "that gentleman is Mr. Arlington or Mr.
Arlington's twin brother."

Evaleen's lips trembled as she replied hesitatingly, "It cannot be he;
he would have called. He knows we live in Marietta."

"I am sure it is Mr. Arlington, and I cannot account for his failing
to pay you his respects. He showed a decided interest in you that day
on the island. To my eye it looked very like love at first sight; and
I cannot help believing that his sole errand in Marietta is to see you
again."

Evaleen, reddening, plucked leaflets from the honeysuckle which
covered the porch.

"What am I to Mr. Arlington?"

"Perhaps more than he is to you. I wish he could have met Captain
Danvers."

Evaleen's blush faded.

"I may never see Warren again," she sighed; "he is reckless and will
not shun Spanish bullets or yellow fever. I can't bear to think of
what he must endure in the army."

"Be proud that he has gone to the war as a brave man should. I admire
men who are fearless."

"Oh, Margaret, you don't know how dear he is to me!"

"My darling, I understand. But Natchez is not out of the world, even
if the soldiers should be sent there. After all, there may be no
fighting. But I can't solve the mystery of our Virginia friend's
ungallant conduct."

Midday came and went, the afternoon wasted away, the sun set, but the
disappointing cavalier came not back to the village. Madam
Blennerhassett said no more about him, though she noticed that at
intervals Evaleen furtively glanced through an open window eastward
down the long perspective of the shaded road.



X. "NOW TO MY CHARMS AND TO MY WILY TRAINS."


Burr tarried at Massac, spinning subtle webs to entangle human flies.
He "lived along the line" of correspondence, keeping in touch with
former associates and recent acquaintances. In his ark, seated at a
rough table, he wrote to those he hoped to gain or feared to lose. He
did not neglect the Blennerhassetts, nor Arlington, nor the confiding
young law-students of Pittsburg. A lengthy letter was penned to the
Hon. John Smith, and, at the same sitting, a model _billet-doux_ to
Mrs. Rosemary. Other business was combined with this epistolary
industry, for, even before the stamp of the writer's seal was lifted
from the soft, red wafer on the widow's letter, a backwoods settler
came, by appointment, to close a bargain by which the flatboat
"Salome" was sold.

The somewhat damaged vessel was knocked to pieces by its new owner,
who used the timber to construct a shanty, a stable, and a pig-pen,
for his family and other live-stock. Before this degrading
transmutation was begun, the original proprietor of the now abandoned
craft removed to the commodious cabin of an elegant barge, provided by
the courtesy of Wilkinson. In this convenient vessel, navigated by a
select crew under command of a faithful sergeant, the sole passenger
embarked for New Orleans. In frequent conference with Wilkinson he had
amplified and enforced the arguments broached at the first interview.
On the day set for the statesman's departure, the two men spoke
together, very confidentially.

"Good-bye, Aaron; I augur well of your undertaking. The auspices are
favorable. We are engaged in a scheme full of danger, requiring
enterprise; but, if successful, fraught with fortune and glory."

"General, we are engaged, not in a scheme, but in a sublime exploit.
We are to create an ideal commonwealth. The materials are ready. I go
to take seizin of the grandest dominion on the curve of the globe.
Military force will be requisite to sustain civil polity. The names
Burr and Wilkinson are linked together in the chain of destiny.
Farewell, and God bless you. When I return, I will hasten to join you
at St. Louis, and give a full report of my stewardship."

With rhetoric like this, the parting guest closed his valedictory. His
barge was soon under way. Down the calm Ohio, down the solemn
Mississippi fared Aaron Burr, bound for the prodigal South. Swept
along by the urgent stream, his boat seemed the plaything of fate, and
the unstable element upon which it rode and rocked and trembled, he
likened to human life, fleeting, turbulent, treacherous, yet grandly
beautiful. Yielding to that mood in which the judgment and the will
are suspended, and the passive brain is played upon by every sight and
sound, he sat in an easy chair smoking, lost in sensuous languor, like
an Asian prince. He was, for the time, possessed by the sensation of
being royal. He enjoyed by anticipation the prerogatives of
sovereignty, the power, the luxury, the voluptuous pleasure. The
objects of his ambition appeared then how easy of attainment! To
accomplish seemed no more difficult than to desire. The stream was
running his way, and the wind was blowing his way. As surely as the
Mississippi goes to the Mexican Gulf, would destiny waft Burr to the
ocean of his desire. Imaginations so extravagant, courted in solitude
and fed by indolence, served to beguile the days of the long voyage
from Fort Massac to New Orleans.

At last the barge rounded into port, late in the afternoon of a
perfect summer day. Aaron the First, standing upon deck, was coming
unto his own; or rather, the city came floating out to meet her king.
The bending shore which gives the name Crescent City to the emporium
of the South, was lined with ships from every sea, and with
innumerable river craft. New Orleans was one of the richest marts on
the hemisphere. Burr stepped ashore and quickly ascended the levee.
Hundreds of pleasure-seekers swarmed the footpaths or rested on the
benches under the rows of orange trees which shaded the broad
causeway.

On turning his eyes towards the city, Burr experienced a thrill of
surprise. The prospect surpassed his pre-conceptions. In the subdued
glow of the setting sun, he saw all things touched with a visionary
splendour. Streets, roofs, belfries, the cathedral spire, and the flag
of the Union streaming far away above the fort, appeared objects in an
enchanted scene. Were the seven cities of Cibola clustered in one
golden capital?

The spell was broken by the practical promptings of common sense. Not
in possession, but only in pursuit of a treasury and a scepter, the
would-be monarch addressed himself to the solution of his complicated
problem. It was necessary to learn how the Louisianians regarded the
Federal government, how much prejudice they felt against the Atlantic
States, and whether they could be influenced to break away from the
Union and to organize a separate autonomy. Burr wished further to know
who and how many were disposed to wage war against the Spaniards with
the ulterior design of conquering Mexico. In order to learn the inside
facts he must gain the confidence of all, must make himself popular,
must fathom hearts and steal away brains. The final success of his
plans would depend on the good-will of the people. The good-will of
the people must be won by address--by social tact. Social tact was
Aaron Burr's art of arts. He deliberately set about the delicate
business of captivating a city that he might eventually capture it.

Wilkinson had pressed upon him letters of introduction to the magnates
of the town. Neither letters nor formal receptions were needed to
introduce Aaron Burr to society. His manner was passport, entitling
him to cross all borders; his sympathy was cosmopolitan, his
toleration unlimited, his pleasure, to please others, his study
urbanity. Jews thought him a Hebrew, and Christians voted him
orthodox. The amiable but capricious creoles, easy to take offense,
yet blind in their devotion to those they confide in, swarmed to his
standard. The Roman Catholic bishop countenanced him, endorsed his
aims, and signalized an official friendliness by accompanying him on a
visit to the Ursuline Convent, and there the son of a Protestant
preacher chatted pleasantly with my lady prioress and her demure nuns.
Burr went everywhere, and wherever he went, he made discreet use of
his opportunity to inquire, to observe, to listen, to make friends and
proselytes. He felt the pulse of public sentiment. Never to any person
did he fully disclose his designs. Without argument or appeal, he
convinced, persuaded, and inflamed the victims of his corrupting
influence. To the avaricious his intimations promised riches; to the
luxurious, pleasure; to those disaffected towards the East, revolt and
secession.

Affairs in the Southwest were unsettled. Only a year and a half had
elapsed since Louisiana had passed into American hands. Jefferson's
land purchase was a current topic of conversation. Opinions differed,
and men hotly discussed the question whether, even if the President
had a constitutional right, he had a moral warrant for saddling upon
the young republic a wild domain, of doubtful value, sparsely
inhabited by Indians and already dedicated, by tradition, to the rule
of an alien, white population. The Spaniard and the Frenchman, sold
and transferred, by one power to another, could not be expected to
submit. The citizens had long yielded willing allegiance to his
Spanish majesty, the emblem of whose sovereignty had been hauled down,
to give place to the tri-color of France; and now that second banner
had disappeared. Though an American governor ruled the district, there
prevailed among the populace a hope and belief, that, after a brief
meteoric display, the red, white and blue, emblazoned with stars,
would fade and vanish from its proud height over the old fort, new
garrisoned by American soldiers. Spanish officers in disguise lingered
in the haunts of their former dignity and sway. They stirred up secret
dissension. They deemed themselves not extinguished, though eclipsed.
Discontent and resistance were in the air. War-clouds hung dark along
the Mexican and Floridan border, rumbling with ominous thunder.

Into this chaos of troubled politics, and conflicting interests, Aaron
Burr came exploring, vigilant to note and sedulous to question. The
sum of the impressions which he received confirmed him in the belief
that the people of the West and Southwest were ready and anxious to
separate their section from the Atlantic States; and he felt convinced
that it would be no trouble "to enlist recruits and make arrangements
for a private expedition against Mexico," especially in case of war
with Spain.

It was the middle of September when, true to his promise, Burr
appeared at St. Louis, in Wilkinson's quarters, to unfold the tale of
his triumph in New Orleans. In the course of his animated narrative,
he said:

"There is an infinite difference between floating down to New Orleans
in your delightful barge, and jogging homeward a thousand miles on
horseback. That interminable stretch of dreary wilderness from Natchez
to Nashville, along the Indian trail, over sandy wastes, through pine
woods, was intolerable. I was glad enough to reach Tennessee and old
Kentucky. The people of Frankfort treated me very handsomely, as did
those of Lexington. I paid my respects to the local idol, the young
Virginia orator and rising lawyer, Henry Clay. That man is a
prodigy--he will make his mark. I wish he were hand in hand with us,
like Jackson, and ready to embark his fortune at our prompting."

"So do I. Clay is a rising power, notwithstanding his conceit. He will
make a stir in Congress some of these days."

"That he will," said Burr, and proceeded with his story, at the close
of which he exclaimed,

"I wish you could attend one of the meetings of the Mexican Society in
New Orleans. Its object is to discuss means of emancipating Mexico.
You should hear, as I have heard, the outspoken discontents of the
creole population. They adore the institution of African slavery. They
hate New England. They will not buy even a Yankee clock if it is
adorned with an image of the Yankee Goddess of Liberty. But they are
_mine_, every mother's son of them, and what is more important, every
father's daughter of them. I took the city by storm, and the outlying
provinces belong to us. We have a people and, virtually, an army. The
moral conquest is complete. When the hour strikes for extending the
borders of our conceded realm, you are the chosen Cæsar."

"Can we depend on David Clarke's co-operation?"

"Why not? His interests are bound up in ours. We have a host of stanch
adherents, in all parts of the country and on the high sea, and in
Europe, soldiers, statesmen, capitalists. I need not name them to you.
All these are to be kept in mind and treated with due consideration.
Our enterprise is in its preliminary stage. The shrewd work of
enlisting recruits must be intrusted to carefully selected captains. I
have the ways and means clearly in my head. Every detail must be
worked out in practice."

"Burr, you are more circumspect than I gave you credit for being.
There is always danger in the dark. Have you entertained the
possibility of defection?"

"I have measured my ground, and calculated the curve of my leap. I
shall not fall into an abyss, or dash myself upon a rock. If we fail
to sever the Union, and do not succeed in the conquest of Mexico, I
have so masked our designs as to make them appear in the guise of
innocent land-speculations on the Wachita river."



XI. PALAFOX GROWS INSOLENT.


Early in October Wilkinson's duties required him to visit the town of
Genevive, some fifty miles south of St. Louis. The best cabin in a
keelboat had been furnished in sumptuous style for the accommodation
of the self-indulgent chief. Such was the attractiveness of this cosy
retreat that the general preferred it to his official quarters on the
shore and he occasionally spent a whole afternoon reading, writing or
dozing there in undisturbed privacy.

On the day before that fixed for his departure he prolonged his stay
in the cabin to a late hour, for reasons partly physical, partly
mental. His robust health and ebullient spirits were suffering an
unwonted depression. Even his strong constitution could not withstand
the "miasmatic" vapor of the lowlands near the Western watercourses.
The malarial poison had entered his blood, causing low fever, dull
headache and general hypochondria. Copious doses of Peruvian bark
bitters aggravated the unpleasant symptoms. Moreover, the weather had
turned unseasonably raw and gusty. The characteristic mildness of
October gave way to gloomy inclemency. The month was not like its
usual self, and Wilkinson partook of its exceptional harsh melancholy.
Appropriate for a season so dreary was the sad name of Fall--Fall,
the period of decline, decay and death. For the first time in his life
Wilkinson "heard the voice which tells men they are old," though he
was not old.

The general sat holding in his hand a short letter, in cipher. The
last sentence did not please him. "God bless you and grant you a safe
deliverance from factions and factious men." These words Wilkinson
read over and over. To him, in his dejected mood, with nerves unstrung
and head swimming in quinine bitters, the blessing sounded ironical; a
mocking face seemed concealed behind the mask of considerate
friendliness. The tone of the communication struck him as patronizing,
perhaps unconsciously made so, but the more offensive on that account.
One suspicious fancy engenders another; it now occurred to the general
that his former comrade and late guest, in more than one unguarded
speech, had arrogated superiority, and that he had presumed, without
sufficient warrant, on the subserviency of men greater than himself.

"Does he think I am committed to him, body and soul? Does he take it
for granted that I am a tool and a fool? Burr should consider his own
position and mine. I have had too much experience in the world to be
caught by this shrewd contriver, or by any man."

Wilkinson put the letter away, and taking a book, threw himself on his
bed. The volume he had chosen was a fine copy of the _Sentimental
Journey_, his favorite reading. The italicised wit and glossy
licentiousness of Yorick did not fix attention. Neither the "Dead
Ass," nor the "Starling," nor the fair "Fille de chambre," had now a
charm to steal the reader from his petty miseries of head and heart.
Casting the book aside, he again arose, paced nervously up and down
the cramped cabin, and once more sought comfort in the cushioned seat.
Prudence bade him seek home before nightfall, but the inertia of
despondency kept him from going. The gathering darkness, the whining
wind, the sound of restless water lapping and sucking around the keel,
suggested superstitious forebodings and called up dismal images. To
every mood there is a season; this was Wilkinson's hour of
self-examination. He looked backward on his deeds and inward on his
motives. He mistrusted the future. If he were sure that Burr's rainbow
dipped its gorgeous ends in gold, no accusing ghost of the past would
deter him from chasing the yellow temptation over mountains or through
bogs. He was not given to brooding over bygone failures, nor was he
much afraid that his buried sins would arise to find him out. He began
to think better of his friend's message. Burr was certainly a deep man
and bold; he had genius; he had perseverance, enthusiasm, resource,
resolution. Taking him all in all, he was a masterful spirit, a fit
partner, nay, even a leader for James Wilkinson.

To dispel mental gloom, the general summoned his familiar, the nimble
spirit of alcohol. One dram proved so enlivening, by going "straight
to the spot," that another was tossed off, from a sense of gratitude.
Evidently the best ingredient in the bitters was the solvent, not the
Peruvian bark. Wilkinson placed the bottle in a cupboard, and was
preparing to leave the cabin, when the door opened and in walked
Palafox. The commander-in-chief, whom fever and quinine had rendered
hot-headed, stared angrily.

"What does this mean? Didn't I warn you never again to come to me
unless sent for? You sneak in without so much as knocking! Your
effrontery deserves a horsewhip! Begone!"

Instead of going, the intruding boatman pulled off his slouch hat and
made a humble bow: "I beg your pardon, general, but I used to come and
go, you recollect, by your order, informally, like a kind of private
secretary, and I can't get rid of the familiar habit."

"Familiar! I should say so! You are brazen! I doubt you are drunk or
you would not have the audacity to invade my privacy and speak as you
do."

"Well, governor, what if I am drunk? You don't see anything
disgraceful in that, do you?"

The insolence of this personal thrust enraged Wilkinson beyond
endurance. In his indignation he snatched a sheathed sword from the
wall and struck Palafox a rash blow. The ruffian recoiled, staggering,
and clutched at the hilt of a dirk in his belt.

"Is that enough for you?" cried the furious general.

The Spaniard, livid and trembling, checked the impulse to draw his
dirk, and slowly raising his hand to the bleeding welt on his
forehead, said with sullen irony:

"It's now more'n three months since I invaded your privacy, as you
call it. I came all the way from Natchez for money, not for abuse. You
owe me, and if you are a man of your word you'll pay me. I want to
leave this part of the country, and won't bother you any more after
you've paid what's coming to me, unless you want to hear some facts
concerning your own good that I've picked up for you."

The unabashed, persistent importunity of Palafox, astounded Wilkinson.
There was an accent of admiration in his exclamation, "You
dare-devil!"

"I'm not daring you, general, and if I was, you are not a devil, only
a debtor."

The dignity of Wilkinson could not suffer further saucy retort or
question.

"This farce must end. I cannot bandy words with such as you. Not
another dollar shall you receive from me--not a penny. You had my
final word at Massac, last Spring. Quit this boat instantly, and leave
St. Louis. If I see you again, or hear of your hanging around the
garrison, I'll settle your account in short order."

"I don't belong to the army."

"No!" answered the chief, sternly, "but I _do_; and I have civil
authority also. If you had justice, Palafox, you would hang. I am
ashamed of myself to speak to you further. Now, go."

"Yes, I'll go; I'll go in a minute; but I've got a scrap of paper I
want to read to you. Will you hear it?"

Not unwilling to learn what might be the purport of the writing so
dramatically introduced, and in order to get rid of Palafox without
further violence, Wilkinson consented to listen.

With his back to the door, the lowering Spaniard read the following:
"It is not necessary to suggest to a gentleman of your experience and
knowledge of the world, that man, throughout the world, is governed by
private interest, however variously modified it may be. Some men are
avaricious, some are vain, others are ambitious. To detect the
prevailing passion, to lay hold of and to make most of it is the
profoundest secret of political science."

Pausing, he asked sarcastically:

"Are those your sentiments? Folks say you wrote this to Gardoqui, in
January, 1789. That was before your plot with the Spanish Minister,
Carondelet. Liars say, and say in print, that you hatched up a plan to
split the West from the East, and to put the West under Spanish
control. They say, these malicious liars do, that Tom Power brought
ten thousand dollars bribe money, packed in barrels of sugar and bags
of coffee, from New Madrid to Louisville, and that Philip Nolan
conveyed the sweetened lucre to Fort Washington."

Wilkinson laughed. "You do not believe such absurdities, do you
Palafox?"

"Why should I disbelieve? Carondelet's plan seems excellent to me, a
Spaniard. We have been talking about events that happened ten years
since. I was in your service nearly twenty years ago; you sent
correspondence down the river when I was a boy, but I was a good,
careful boy, and always tried to act with intelligence. I've saved
lots of nice letters. I'm fond of good reading."

Whether it was owing to illness or quinine or conscience, a slight
dizziness came over Wilkinson; his head swam; he leaned far back in
his chair, and endeavored to steady his thoughts. Palafox cast on him
a sidelong malicious glance and continued his monologue:

"Yes, I've got lots of fine sentiments in my archives. Here's an
original. It's tolerable old, you see, stained and worn." This he said
displaying a soiled paper, which he drew carefully from a large
leathern pocket-book. "Let's see. Yes, this is the original of a fine
letter, a copy of which I delivered to Governor Miro."

"Miro!" exclaimed Wilkinson.

"Yes; Miro, that's the name--Don Estevan Miro, Spanish governor of
Louisiana, before Carondelet's day."

Wilkinson rose menacingly. Palafox did not flinch, but leering
significantly, read these words:

"My situation is mortally painful because, whilst I abhor all
duplicity, I am obliged to dissemble. This makes me extremely desirous
of resorting to some contrivance that will put me in a position in
which I flatter myself to be able to profess myself publicly the
vassal of his Catholic majesty, and, therefore, claim his protection,
in whatever public or private measures I may devise to promote the
interests of the crown."

"There, general, I should say this might be valuable property for you
to possess, and damaging to you if it falls under the eye of the
public," remarked Palafox, thrusting the letters into his pocket. "It
bears your signature. I deciphered every secret letter that touched my
hand from you to Miro and Carondelet, and from them to you. Now,
hadn't you better buy the whole damned correspondence?"

"Buy?" sneered Wilkinson, trembling with passion. "So this is all the
desperate attempt of a felon to levy blackmail upon his benefactor!"

The boatman turned to lift the latch.

"You won't buy, then?"

No reply was vouchsafed the desperado.

"I'll tell you what I'll do. I'll throw in a spice of Aaron Burr
pepper that he happened to spill in my sight. You and Aaron appear to
be thick. He and I are chums, too. He is one of us. The colonel is a
lovely mole, very smooth and shiny, but he don't always tunnel deep
enough to hide his track."

"Begone!"

"O, I'm going. If you won't buy, I'll keep. Good-bye, general."

He deliberately put on his slouch hat and backed out through the
narrow doorway. As a parting salute he touched with his finger the red
contusion on his forehead. Wilkinson stood a few seconds, in rigid
silence, then stepped to the open door and called aloud:

"Palafox! Comeback!"

No answer was returned to the cry, nor did the vanished figure
reappear. Not even the sound of his retreating footfalls could be
heard. A dense fog had risen, shrouding the river and crawling over
cottage and chapel and fort. Alone, in the boat's cabin, by the dim
light of a flickering lamp, the general waited and waited, anxious to
soothe and conciliate the malignant underling, once his minion, now an
unscrupulous enemy, too dangerous to be despised. The proud officer
listened for a returning step or a relenting voice, but heard no other
noise than that made by the whining winds, and by the waters of the
Mississippi fretting and swirling around the keel of his solitary
boat.



XII. SNARING A PHILOSOPHER.


After his tour in the West, Burr, homeward bound, pursued his way from
St. Louis to Vincennes, thence to Cincinnati, and up the Ohio to the
beautiful island he had visited in the month of May. Change of season
had transformed a paradise of soft verdure and tender bloom into an
Eden of gorgeous foliage and gaudy flowers. The house of
Blennerhassett he saw embowered in trees magnificently colored by the
wonder-working frosts of October. The place was Færie Land, but had
not Gloriana been there, it may be doubted whether other attractions
of the lovely isle would have detained the restless conspirer. Once
more the American statesman stood in the presence of the fairest dame
west of the Alleghanies, and she received him with cordial words and
kind eyes.

"We have been expecting this visit. Your letters to my husband kept us
both in hope you would not fail to honor us before your return to
Philadelphia."

"The boat which brought me up-stream, madam, rounded into your wharf
of its own motion, attracted by some lodestone or guiding star. I am
here again, after many days."

"You have wandered far since you happened to discover our hiding-place
last May."

"Wandered is the word. Like a pilgrim, I went in Spring to come back
in Autumn."

"Bringing the palm?"

"Palm, olive, laurel, myrtle--the whole botany of lucky leaves. How
are my boys, Dominick and--what's the younger one's name?--Yes,
Harman, how are they? I am due in Philadelphia, but I delay business
to indulge inclination."

"You did not quite forget the lonely island and its solitary family?"

"He would be an insane palmer who could forget the most attractive
shrine in the round of his long pilgrimage--"

As Burr was saying these words, a soft shuffling step was heard in the
adjoining room, and a grave gentleman in spectacles made his
appearance in the doorway.

"Colonel Burr, my husband."

"A happiness and an honor to meet you, Colonel Burr."

Bow followed bow, urbane word echoed word, awkwardly protracting the
salutatory ceremony until Burr felt like a Chinese mandarin at a court
reception. According to his wife's judgment, Mr. Blennerhassett
acquitted himself admirably; she felt that Burr must recognize
sterling manhood and aristocratic breeding. This he did, and more, for
at a glance he read the book and volume of her husband's character,
interpreting more accurately than it was in her nature to do. The
woman's partial eye discovered the sound qualities it wished to see,
while the calculating insight of the man of the world detected the
flaws he was too willing to find.

The solemnities of introduction being safely over, Blennerhassett
monopolized the guest, and led the way to his study, eager to set
forth a feast of information. Among his books he could talk like a
book; out of the library he lost energy. There was one source from
which he took a current of mental force more vitalizing than any
stream of ideas from books, and that source was the superior intellect
of his wife. Hardly could he make up his mind on any practical matter,
unassisted by her thinking and advice. Doubly dependent, he was not
the man to cope with the daring, self-reliant, versatile Aaron Burr.
But once in his stronghold, bulwarked by standard editions, and, as it
were, in the arsenal of established science, the philosopher rose to
his best. He fairly glowed with learning's soft fire, while exhibiting
his telescope, microscope, electrical machine, _et cetera_, and
stating to the last shilling what each piece of apparatus cost and how
it was to be used. Burr, himself a victim of mild bibliomania, took
most interest in the loaded shelves, along which his eyes travelled
with rapid discrimination.

"I see familiars here. Your Voltaire is a match for mine.
Ah!--Rousseau, Bentley, Gibbon, Hume--I fancy myself in my study on
Richmond Hill. You must be a free-thinker. Where is the Holy Bible? I
hope you are not past that?"

"The Sacred Scripture? I have two copies. I believe they are both in
Margaret's room--I mean Mrs. Blennerhassett's. She reads the Bible
frequently, especially the poetical parts. The Hebrew mind is
poetical. I have searched the Scripture in vain for scientific data.
There is little or no exact science in the work. Nothing on physic,
though they claim that St. Luke was a doctor. Let me show you a
remarkable volume--centuries old--this folio copy of Hippocrates,
translated from the original Greek into Arabic and from Arabic into
Latin. My favorite reading, however, is purely literary--the book of
books--the incomparable Homer. Alexander the Great kept his Homer in
a golden box; I keep mine in my head, sir, or perhaps I should say, in
my heart. I have committed to memory the greater part of the epic."

"Is it possible?"

To Burr's consternation, the host seemed desirous of proving that it
was possible, by reciting the _Iliad_.

Blennerhassett kept hexameters flowing several minutes, marking
quantity with tongue and moving finger.

"What a pity we lack spondees, in English, colonel. Do you write
verse, sir?"

"Not I. I suppose you do?"

"No; not since leaving college. I admire poetry, but I could never
master the meters. It is different with Margaret--I mean my wife. She
writes correctly. She is a born poet. You recall Horace, '_poeta
nascitur_.' I confine my pen to the composition of music and political
essays."

"I have heard of your political writings, but not of your musical
compositions," said Burr; the last half of the speech being true. "Nor
have I had the good fortune to read the poems of Madam Blennerhassett.
Are they in print?"

"Some have been published, fugitively; the most of them remain in
manuscript."

"Sir, you could not give me a greater pleasure than the perusal of
those poems would afford."

The near-sighted sage unlocked a rosewood cabinet and took out three
leaves of tinted paper which he gave to Burr. On the pages were
written, in fine hand, several stanzas under the title, "Indian
Summer."

"Read this at your leisure and give me your opinion." Burr, bowing,
took the manuscript, and the complaisant husband, pointing to a pile
of sheet music, spoke on. "This is of my own composition. Do you play
the violoncello?"

Burr shook his head.

"Perhaps you prefer the violin or the flute?"

"No, I cannot play any instrument--not even a jewsharp."

"Not even that?" murmured the other, with a sigh of infinite regret.
"I am fond of the violincello, the viola da gamba of medieval times.
Properly it is not a viol--not a base viol as some suppose, but a
violin of extra large size. That is what it is."

While imparting this knowledge, the speaker drew from a baize bag the
instrument, and tuned it. He placed an open music book upon a rest,
and proceeded to entertain his audience of one. He played and played
and played. The best way to please such an artist is to humor the
illusion that his exertions give pleasure. No human performance can
last forever--not even a concert. A string broke, and the musician,
putting his 'cello aside with a sigh, suffered the conversation to run
in a new channel opened by Burr.

"Bravo! You play delightfully. There is magic in your fingers. Beware
of such skill; it may charm yourself to your injury. You have read
everything; you remember Bunyan's episode of the Enchanted Ground.
This island reminds me of that valley of rest. Is it possible you have
forgotten the world since abandoning public affairs?"

"No, sir; no. I sought retirement for many reasons, but I am a
cosmopolitan. I care for the welfare of the race. I may describe
myself as a philanthropist, a humanitarian. I know Europe, I am
learning America. My local attachments are not strong, though my
principles are like iron. I left my native country to seek a larger
freedom in the United States."

"Then why do you confine your liberty? This is a pent-up field for a
man of broad views."

"I beg your pardon. Solitude is the best school in which to study
society. In this seclusion I read, and reading makes a full man.
Though a newcomer, I try to keep myself informed concerning this
country's history and institutions. I do not understand all the
complications of your politics; I am no partisan. No one is better
prepared than yourself to expound public matters. This dispute in
regard to the boundary line between Louisiana and Mexico threatens
war, does it not?"

"I fear not," replied Burr, remarking an opportunity to inform and
bias an unwary savant. The lump had invited the leaven.

"I fear not."

"Then you desire war?"

"This Government should take care of its own, at all hazards. The
Spaniards wish to provoke hostilities. My friend and fellow-officer,
General Wilkinson, commander-in-chief of the Western troops, holds the
army in readiness to advance into Mexico at a moment's warning."

"At a moment's warning?" repeated Blennerhassett, dubiously. "General
Wilkinson told you so? Is he--a reliable officer?"

"He and I are most intimate friends. We consult on public and on
private concerns. I have just returned from his headquarters in St.
Louis, where we were considering a business enterprise--the purchase
of a large tract on the Wachita river, between the Red and the
Sabine."

"Do you purpose returning South to remain?"

"My intention is to buy those fertile lands, establish a colony, and
develop the resources of the region, as a sure and easy means of
making my own fortune, and the fortunes of my associates."

"You are confident that the prospect of increasing your capital is
good?"

"I am absolutely certain. I speak positively, but not rashly."

Blennerhassett nodded slowly, three or four times, and Burr spoke on.

"That the investment will prove enormously profitable I have not the
shadow of a shade of doubt. General Wilkinson knows the property, and
so do I. There are more than a million acres to be had for fifty
thousand dollars. The present value is ten times that amount."

"If the inquiry is not impertinent, sir, have you organized a joint
stock company? Have you completed your plans?"

"Practically, everything is arranged. Negotiations are afoot. The
necessary capital will be forthcoming. We take no risk. To you I will
say, in confidence, that the number of shareholders will be severely
limited. You know how desirable it is, in partnerships of this kind,
to admit only men of unimpeachable honor."

Again Blennerhassett nodded three or four times, like an automaton.
Burr, affecting to dismiss the topic, turned again to the book-shelves
and fell to reading the gilded titles. A copy of "The Prince" arrested
his eye. Taking this down, he opened it at random, and read aloud:
"Men will always prove bad, unless by necessity they are compelled to
be good."

"What do you think of that as an estimate of human nature?"

"Abominable!"

Burr fluttered the leaves of the famous treatise and came upon this
sentence, marked by a pen: "It is of great consequence to disguise
your inclination and to play the hypocrite well; and men are so simple
in their temper and so submissive, that he that is neat and cleanly in
his collusions shall never want people to practice upon."

"Why did you mark that passage?"

"To condemn the doctrine. The hypocrite can never thrive; the plain,
honest man always sees through the disguise. Virtue is all-seeing, but
fraud is blind."

"You mint apothegms, sir. It is an intellectual feast to hear you
talk."

Burr replaced Machiavelli on its shelf, confronted his host, and, in a
tone deferential and almost apologetic, said, "You must not accuse me
of flattery, sir, when I bluntly charge you with defrauding the world
and robbing that humanity which you profess to love."

"I can't find any flattery in such accusation. Kindly explain what you
mean. Whom do I defraud? and how is it flattery to charge a man with
insincerity?"

"Well, you seem to me to be evading your duty to the world, by hiding
from its great public interests, enterprises and conflicts. You linger
here, a magnificent hermit. If ever a philanthropist hid his light
under a bushel, thou art the man. If ever brilliant talents rusted in
a napkin, yours do. Your noble wife is cut off from the splendid
career appropriate to her, and is compelled to devote her days to
rural walks and the direction of a few negro slaves. Not to dwell on
the sacrifice of mother and sons, your own learning, fortune, and
extraordinary mental powers--your genius for dealing with men--are
here employed, not in the service of mankind, but in--" Burr was
tempted to say "fiddling," but he substituted the words--"gazing at
the stars through a telescope. Pardon me for speaking strongly. It is
only a few hours since we first met, but I am drawn to you. I admire
and esteem you, and my motive in this perhaps impertinent appeal, is
the wish to serve you."

Blennerhassett felt much gratified by the insidious censure. His
portrait, amiably regarding its original from the wall, listened
approvingly to Burr, and smiled acquiescence. "Does the mild-eyed
thing recollect me?" mused Burr. The picture betrayed no sign of
recognition and the original spoke.

"Such candor is rare, and I appreciate it. I am honored by the
outspoken confidence of the man I know you to be, not only from what I
have read of your political course, which I wholly approve, but from
Mrs. Blennerhassett's reports of your conversation. Her judgment is
unerring. I defer to it. You will confer a great favor on me by
explaining, in detail, your Southern plans."

Thus solicited, Burr adroitly availed himself of the opportunity to
divulge, not only his project of settling the Bastrop lands, but such
part of his other plans as he deemed it prudent to reveal at the time.
He learned to his satisfaction that Blennerhassett had no repugnance
to the idea of separating the Western States from the Eastern and of
invading Mexico. Burr's angling had gone on for an hour, with lures so
tempting that the gudgeon seemed about to swallow bait, hook and all,
when the conversation was disturbed by an unusual clamor of excited
voices coming from the negro quarters. Blennerhassett, in a flurry,
excused himself, and hastened to inquire what was the matter. He found
his servants, black and white, huddled together around Scipio, who had
just told the grinning crowd that Honest Moses was missing from the
plantation, having been enticed by an Ohio farmer to cross the river
and run away to the free North.

This was Scipio's story, but Peter Taylor, who stood smoking a small
pipe, with looks of austere indifference to all human interests, had
another theory to account for the leave-taking of Moses.

"I've no hidea 'e ran away to Ohio. That lazy nigger 'ated work too
much to run away to Ohio. I suspicion that the rascal drifted away on
a flatboat."

"What makes you think so, Peter?"

"I can't say that I altogether think anything sure about the nigger.
It isn't my business to think about other people's business. I only
say I suspicion. If I knew what was hid in the future, I would have
told. But it's my firm suspicion that a boatman by the name of
Sheldrake lured Honest Moses away on a flatboat."

"No; Mars Taylor," reiterated Scipio, "Moses done tole Ransom he was
gwine to run off, up Muskingum."

"When did he tell you?"

"Las' Crismus."

"For de Lawd sake!" cried out Juno, the kitchen maid, whose rolling
eyes were the first to see the master approaching. "I never 'spected
Honest Moses of sneaking fum his good home and kind Mars and Missus
like a brack thief in de night. Whar's Daniel? I hy'ard him prayin'
for Moses yesterday."

"No prayin' is gwine to keep Honest Moses fum de debil. Dat nigger's
not got no religion to his name--not a speck. Didn't I tell Missus
when she thought she cotched me and Ransom sellin' watermillions and
sweet 'tatoes to de boys from Marietta, dat it was Moses done it?"

Exasperated, perplexed, not knowing how to act, Blennerhassett sought
his wife, with whom he held a closet conference, lamenting his
troubles and soliciting counsel. The lady advised him to summon Peter
Taylor, and suggested that the two should go across the river to
Belpre, there consult the squire, and set in motion every available
agency to insure the recapture of the fugitive. The much-worried
philosopher begged Burr to excuse him for a couple of hours, and
hurriedly started on his vexatious quest, accompanied by the
phlegmatic gardener. Complying good-naturedly with a proposal of
Dominick and little Harman, and convoyed by those devoted children,
Burr explored orchards, fields and stockyard, and won the extravagant
praises of the black people by visiting their quarters and greeting
every one, from Scipio to the youngest pickaninny, with a cheerful
word and a smile. Every slave on the plantation was in voluntary bonds
to "Mars Burr, de fine gen'leman wi' de coal brack eyes."



XIII. THE ENCHANTED GROUND.


While Blennerhassett tramped about Belpre, his wife assumed the
government at home, and Burr studied fresh means of invading her
heart. The lady neither saw nor wished any escape from the pleasant
task of entertaining the affable "pilgrim." Considering how seldom a
person of extraordinary mental gifts brought to her isolated home the
sparkle of wit, the hostess made the most of a golden opportunity. She
waited with eagerness for Burr's return from his ramble with the boys,
whose adhesiveness she knew by experience might prove too constant,
like the clinging of Sindbad's Old Man of the Sea.

Burr, despite his professed fondness for the company of boys, longed
to exchange the society of Dominick and Harman for that of their
winsome mother. Therefore, he managed to engage the lads in the
construction of a mimic fort in a cornfield. Promising to inspect the
grand earthwork when it was completed, the colonel slipped away to
reconnoiter another field.

Retreating in good order, he arrived at the long portico, and, under
its cover, passed to the hall, through which he reached the cosy room
where he and Arlington had been entertained. The French sofa, the
ebony stand, the clavier, looked familiar. The gilded harp stood
invitingly in a place of honor. He drew near the instrument, and,
smiling to himself, thrummed a few notes on the lower strings. As if
summoned by the sound, from the routine of household tasks, the
mistress of the mansion entered in her regal manner and begged pardon
for having neglected her guest.

Burr was in his element as the bird in air; his winged words now
skimmed the surface of common levels, now soared, then circled round
subjects grave or gay, often fluttering, but never failing. The range
of discussion was wide and free. They talked society, arts, countries,
travels, the pleasure of life and its pain. He told of his sojourn in
New Orleans, describing a city not celestial, but abounding in the
delights of this world. She gave reminiscences of her birthplace, the
Isle of Wight, spoke of her marriage and subsequent journeyings in
Europe and America.

Burr recalled the incidents of his previous visit, and besought madam
to sing again the songs which had delighted him that evening after the
ramble in the woods. She cheerfully complied; for singing was her
prime accomplishment. The lady felt keen enjoyment in the
consciousness of being understood and sympathized with, by a man of
brains and character.

The hour for lunch having arrived, Burr was conducted to the
dining-room, and the pair sat down to a dainty repast, served by a
black damsel, who cast furtive glances upon the stranger, and observed
that the "Missus" wore her finest jewels and seemed refreshed by the
cares of hospitality. Never before had such enlivening gossip been
heard by a servant in that sober house. The table-talk played
familiarly with names and individuals.

"What became of the handsome young Arlington?"

"You think him handsome? He is in Virginia. I expect him to join me in
a business enterprise. A fine fellow, thorough-bred. His name calls to
mind your _protégée_, the golden-haired Yankee beauty. Arlington was
smitten by her demure eyes--pierced to the heart. Those wild violets
worked him woe."

"Are you sure? Did he own it?"

"He did not confess in words, but I divined the secret, which was no
secret, for he revealed it by every sign known to the Court of Love.
He was struck as by lightning--stunned by a love bolt."

"The stroke was harmless. On his return from Cincinnati he passed
through Marietta, where he knows Evaleen lives, and made no effort to
meet her, but rode by her house; I was with her on the porch, and we
both saw him trot past on a black horse. He stared our way and must
have identified us, yet he turned his face forward and spurred on."

"Incredible! Your eyes deceived you."

"No; it was Mr. Arlington; he made a flying trip to the island in
company with a peculiar person, one Plutarch Byle."

"Byle? I shall never forget Plutarch!" interjected Burr, laughingly.
"Dominick christened our fort, 'Fort Byle.'"

"Have you seen our gaunt Hercules? Isn't he an odd Grecian? In his
'piroque' he brought Mr. Arlington here. I was from home, as I said.
My husband suggested to your Virginian friend that he ought to call on
the Hales, but the faithless cavalier slighted us. I much doubt his
interest in Evaleen."

"I am certain he was smitten."

"Then he is inconstant, or else belongs to the tribe of faint hearts.
How ridiculous the idea of folks falling in love at first sight! Yet
they often do. The girl was pleased with him, and she still likes
him."

"Likes him, does she?" drawled Burr, sarcastically, and lifted a
gherkin to his teeth.

"Yes, don't you like him?"

"Very much."

He bit the pickle quite savagely.

"What do you think of _her_?"

"It cannot be the fault of the male sex that she remains single."

"Some women are not inclined to marry."

"Is Miss Hale one of those foolish virgins?"

"She is wise in taking time to select. She has many suitors."

"And you think she likes Arlington?"

"I know she does."

"Humph! she might do better."

"She might fare worse."

"Does he write to her?"

"No, not that I know of."

"He is an idiot."

"You show a jealous interest in the young man." Here madam halted
abruptly. "Pardon me; I hear the boys; their father must have
returned."

She rose expecting to receive her husband at the dining-room door, but
the footsteps she heard were not his. The vociferous boys came rushing
in. "Fort Byle" was finished. Wouldn't "General" Burr come and see?

"You should not storm in, rudely, children; you disturb us. Harman,
you have ruined your clothes; you are covered from head to foot
with--I don't know what!"

"Spanish needles and sticktights; they won't hurt. Juno will scrape
them off. We're hungry."

"Won't he come to the fort after luncheon?" importuned Dominick.

"Yes, I will come."

"Listen," said the mother. "My son, you must first go with me to the
ferry. I am uneasy about papa. He did not intend to be gone longer
than a couple of hours. We must try to meet him. Perhaps the colonel
will go along, down to the landing."

"Certainly," replied the colonel, studying how to get rid of the
"sticktights."

After luncheon, all set out on the proposed walk to the river-side.
The island and the vistas it commanded naturally drew folks out of
doors. Finer weather could not be imagined. The distance from the lawn
to the wharf, by way of the winding road, measured not less than a
quarter of a mile. The boys raced ahead in the frolic fashion of human
colts, yelling, leaping and throwing stones. Slowly the matron and her
escort followed, far in the wake of the obstreperous juveniles.

"They are growing up like savages," said the mother, deprecatingly.
"What shall I do with them? To teach them properly seems impossible. I
am the parent of a brace of barbarians. Yet they are dear sweet
boys--loving and brave. They despise meanness and never tell lies."

"Then you are the mother of nobles. They will be men--to-morrow.
Plato truly says the boy is the most unmanageable of animals. Boys
have an element of the cruel and ferocious. But we need not take this
much to heart. They will outgrow the savage. We must not look for ripe
fruit on green sprouts, nor for elaborate reason or virtue in
children."

"Yet I cannot bear to have them grow up in wild ignorance."

"No; youth must be guided. No greater evil can befall a lad than to be
left to do as he pleases. Yet in well-born children, such as yours,
much may be trusted to nature. I rely on human essence. Freedom is the
best school. I don't believe we are born with evil passions and base
propensities. God made our faculties. The doctrine of total depravity
slanders the Creator. The perfect man uses all, abuses none of his
organs or energies. To educate a man is to give his hands, brain, and
heart their maximum power. This can be done outside of academies. The
free schooling out of school, which your sons now enjoy, is a
discipline towards success in life. Those fellows will be of some
account, depend upon it. The ancient Eastern wisdom said, 'Know
thyself'; the new Western oracle says, 'Do something worth doing.'"

"How true and how encouraging," exclaimed the enthusiast at his side.
"I wish Mr. Blennerhassett could hear your broad views. But I am not
sure you are right in relying entirely on weak human nature. I was
taught to mistrust the natural man. Is not conversion necessary?"

"In case the soul begins with a pure inheritance, I see no necessity
for regeneration. We come into the world potentially complete. The
thorough development of body and mind will furnish the world with a
perfect man. The best education gives man's natural powers the right
direction and the greatest efficiency. _We must trust_ in what we
are,--in our own selfhood. Give man elbow room, give him breathing
space, liberty to think, feel and do. This is true living."

Mrs. Blennerhassett stooped to pick up a blood-red leaf. They were
nearing the boat-landing. The way was overarched by spreading branches
of gigantic maple-trees. The boys had wandered to the head of the
island, two furlongs away.

"What of woman's education? Should it differ from man's?"

"No; I train my daughter as I might train a son."

"Are her thoughts like yours?"

"I put slight restraint on her thoughts or emotions. There is no sex
in soul. Woman should be free as the free breeze singing in the leaves
over our head, and ruffling the waves out yonder on the river."

"You grow eloquent. Is it the singing breeze or the rippling water
that causes you to put your principles in language so poetical?"

"Do I speak poetically? That grand oak tree may shed Dodonian
influence. It looks the king of trees--the emperor. These magnificent
maples, robed and crowned in emerald, gold, and royal crimson, are the
queens."

"I am glad you love the forest, and are susceptible to nature's
subtile appeals. I don't like people who have no feeling for scenery,
and are not affected by the sublime and beautiful in nature. Mr.
Blennerhassett does not agree with me in applying such a test to judge
one's friends by. He thinks I might be deceived, and says that very
wicked folks may delight in very lovely scenes. In my opinion the good
and the beautiful are in harmony, and a wicked heart seldom goes with
an æsthetic taste. I may be wrong, but I like to think that souls
which are thrilled by the stars and the mountains and the sea, and by
such forms and colors as we now contemplate, must be the nobler and
purer for the experience."

Burr listened attentively to this rhapsody. The melodious voice spoke
on: "I never grow tired gazing on this landscape. Splendid!"

"Splendid!" echoed Burr.

A subdued rapture animated the lady's features and imparted fresh
vitality of beauty to her breathing form. She advanced to the edge of
the water, stepped upon the ferryboat, an uncouth scow, like a
floating wharf, with stout railing upon the sides. From this platform
she could take in a fuller prospect. The joy of admiration possessed
her. She stood, self-forgetful, looking upon the gleaming river and
the distant, gorgeous Ohio hills. Burr, lingering on the bank, a few
yards behind, certainly took an intense human interest in the
landscape, seeing in the foreground that symmetrical figure, with
plump arm outstretched. To be the sole spectator of that unstudied
pose was worth more than the Vatican and all the galleries in the
world.

"See the bright sunshine, the soft shadow, the dim gold of the water,
and the misty blue of the sky! Those magnificent hills seem not solid
substance but piled clouds, yellow, and green, and scarlet. Can any
other valley in the world show a more satisfactory picture, outlines
as lovely, tints so delicate!"

"Nowhere else, in all my travels," murmured Burr, speaking from his
point of view. "Nowhere have I seen so much beauty at a single glance.
The picture is unrivalled."

"Do you say this in earnest or only to please me?" queried the frank
gentlewoman, turning her face shoreward in time to see a pair of dark
eyes regarding her with unaccountable ardor. Burr courteously
proffered his hand to assist her from the pedestal, the deck of the
scow. She accepted his aid, and lightly sprang to the damp sand of the
beach, into which her foot sank deep enough to print a pretty track.

"Look out, you will soil your shoes; shall I remove the mud?" said
Burr, taking out his handkerchief.

"No, thanks; it is only clean sand." A tuft of soft green grass
furnished a ready mat, on which she wiped her small foot, not
invisible to Burr while he modestly inspected the mussel shells and
polished pebbles washed ashore by the plashing ripples. From the beach
he picked a bone-like fragment resembling milky quartz. This he
brought to the lady, who had chosen a mossy seat on the trunk of a
fallen sycamore.

"It is a lucky-stone," she remarked. "It brings fortune."

"I will send it to Theodosia," said the finder, pocketing the
treasure.

A pensive mood had succeeded the anxious wife's elation. She gazed
across the river expectantly. Not a rowboat in sight, excepting a
skiff lying alongside the scow.

"I fear he is having needless bother. How miserable! Our slaves are a
burden, not worth the trifles they pilfer. I wish they would all run
away, then we might have an excuse for flying."

"And could you leave your earthly paradise?"

"Yes; though I am attached to the island. I should regret to lose the
trees, the river, the sky."

"Earth and sky stretch far. I sympathize with your feeling for the
place. I told your husband it was like Bunyan's Enchanted Ground.
Beulah, however, and the Delectable Mountains lie beyond the Enchanted
Ground."

"More poetry!"

"Could I make verse, I would sing of October in the Ohio Valley, or of
Indian Summer, which comes in November, don't it?"

She glanced up inquiringly. He held some leaves of pink paper covered
with writing, recognizing which, she flushed.

"How did you come by that? Did he--?"

She made a motion as if to take the paper. Burr, pretending not to see
the gesture, began to read in a low voice, infusing into the verse
more thought and sentiment than it contained. His perfect reading gave
the commonplace stanzas æsthetic effect. The authoress confessed
their merit to her secret soul.

"I am vexed that Harman gave you that. It is silly stuff."

"On the contrary, it is literature. You don't know, madam, how good it
is. I have a favor to beg; allow this poem to be printed in the _Port
Folio_. I know the editor, Jo Dennie, and shall call and give him this
copy when I reach Philadelphia. You will not deny me this pleasure?"

Confident that she would not take offense he slid the lines on Indian
Summer into his breast pocket, to keep company with the lucky-stone.
The situation had become riskily sentimental and intensely stimulating
to Burr's disposition as a social trifler. He was reckless of
consequences, vain of conquest over any woman, and scrupulous only to
avoid failure in his amours. The more innocent and virtuous the
victim, the keener and more careful was he in pursuit. To entrap
unsuspecting game without exciting alarm he considered the most
exquisite art of gallantry. What sport it was to entangle this superb
creature in a web of invisible gossamer threads!

"Tell me more about your Theodosia. Have you a picture of her?"

The question and request smote the father's conscience with a
momentary compunction.

"I will tell you all about Theodosia. I like to think and speak of
her. She is my life, my soul, my ambition, my joy. Theodosia has no
fault that I can see, no trait which I do not admire and love. She
is--"

The sentence was stopped short by a startling cry--a scream. Madam
Blennerhassett sprang to her feet, trembling, and saw Dominick running
towards her. He fell at her feet exhausted, caught at her gown and
gasped:

"Harman! Harman will drown!"

She took the boy's hand and made him stand up.

"Be a man. Keep calm. Speak plain. What is the matter?"

"O mother! He wouldn't mind me! He pushed a rotten, old leaky dugout
from the sandbar and climbed in, with a piece of paddle, and got out
so far that the current caught him."

"What sandbar? Which channel?"

"This side. The Ohio side."

The mother suddenly grew faint. Speech forsook her tongue. The trees
vanished and the air was a blur, through which she saw a moving shape
that looked the shadow of a human figure. All this in an instant. The
swoon passed, the trees reappeared, the shadow took the form of Aaron
Burr, tugging at a chain which fastened a skiff to a timber of the
scow. A violent jerk wrenched out the strong staple that held the
chain padlocked to the ferryboat, and the mother saw the colonel leap
into the skiff, seize the oars, and launch out into midstream. This
natural act, heroic in her esteem, she saw and her heart grew big with
gratitude. She beheld another sight which caused at once a shock of
hope and a shudder of despair. She had hurried to the deck of the scow
to get an unobstructed view of the river both up stream and down.
Dominick at her side uttered a wild cry. "There he comes now!"

"There he comes!" But where she could not at first make out. Dominick
pointed to an object like a drifting log in the middle of the
swift-flowing stream. The object--a wooden trough, not three yards
long--carried one mariner, the venturesome baby, Harman. The tiny
craft and its helpless passenger came into plain view nearly opposite
the landing. Burr's boat was rapidly nearing the crazy dugout when the
terror-stricken castaway, catching a glimpse of his mother, rashly
stood up and called "Mamma! Mamma!"

"Sit down! Sit down!" shouted Burr.

"Keep still! Sit down!" screamed Dominick.

The distracted mother, to enforce obedience, added gestures to cries.
The scared child, further agitated by these demonstrations, entirely
lost self-control. His posture caused the unstable trough to topple
over and the lad was plunged into the flood. The frothing mouth of a
wave swallowed him. No; his doom was not sealed; taught by instinct or
by pluck, the little fellow had the presence of mind to save himself
by clinging to the capsized canoe. He held on tenaciously, drifting
like a part of the treacherous log. Burr's skiff was in full chase a
few rods in the wake. The mother watched the race, breathless, numb,
with all-seeing eye. Her hands gripped the oaken bar fastened across
that end of the ferryboat which was farthest out in the river and she
stretched forward head and body, heedless of the down-tumbling mass of
her loosened hair, reckless of everything but the fate of her boy. Her
strained gaze kept focussed on the precious drift. Dominick wept
aloud.

"What shall we do? What shall we do? Oh, if papa were only here!"

"Hush! Don't cry. Don't speak. What could your father do? Pray with
all your soul; pray to Heaven that Colonel Burr may save your
brother."

The aching eyes measured the diminishing distance between the two
boats. It seemed to the mother possible, for nothing is impossible to
faith, that by the sheer force of her projected will she might hold
the child back from death. Even while she solaced her dread with this
fancy the gliding log slipped free from the lad's tired fingers, and
again the woman watching from the ferry gave up hope. She shuddered,
closed her eyes, and pressed her forehead hard against the oak
railing.

"O my God, my God! our darling is gone!"

At this crisis Dominick believed he saw what his mother, bowed and
blinded, did not see--a miracle working. Pantingly he cried out
"Mamma!" The only response to his call was a moan and the despairing
words, "Drowned! My baby is drowned!"

"No! No! Look, mother! See there! Colonel Burr won't let Harman sink!
Look! He has him by the arm, he has pulled him into the skiff. It did
good to pray."

Burr, acting as any man would have done under the circumstances,
having rescued the child without danger to himself and with little
difficulty, was a demi-god in the estimation of the Blennerhassett
family. Little Harman's misadventure, the enforced long swimming in
rough water, the two duckings and their disagreeable effects on throat
and lungs, left him in a wretched condition, but by no means in need
of a coffin. His teeth chattered, his hands were blue, he whimpered,
but when Burr landed him high, if not dry, on a bed of gravel at the
river's margin, the drenched youngster mustered heroism enough to
comfort his mother by piping out the assurance, "I'm all right."

"Thank God you are, my sweet pet, and thank Colonel Burr for saving
you," sobbed Madam Blennerhassett, while she gathered the shivering
young one into her bosom, and almost extinguished the life that was
left in him with tears and fondlings.

Burr took off his coat, and wrapped it about the protesting infant,
and carried him home, a feat as glorious, in the mother's mind, as his
historic exploit of bearing Montgomery's body from the battlefield.
Dry clothing, doses of cordial, vigorous chafing of body and limbs, by
many loving hands, soon brought the patient "round." By the time his
father came home, soon after the rescue, the urchin declared he was
"well" and would rather upset again in the river than be rubbed and
hugged any more.

The endeavors of Blennerhassett to trace Honest Moses proved futile.
That the slave had escaped by water, the balance of testimony rendered
probable. Abe Sheldrake, in all likelihood, had coaxed the negro away.

When night came, Blennerhassett, holding curtain council, as usual,
with his wife, dutifully repeated to her what Burr had revealed of the
Wachita speculation, and asked advice. She made up his mind promptly.
"Share the enterprise, if you think he really wishes your
co-operation. Do whatever he desires. We can never cancel our debt of
obligation. We owe him everything. He saved your namesake's life."

Convinced by this womanly reasoning, Harman, senior, could scarcely
sleep nor wait till morning, so eager was he to lay his influence, his
purse and his property at Burr's disposal. Before the clock struck
five he was out of bed, and the quavering of his flute disturbed the
colonel's slumber. No sooner was breakfast over than the conference on
the land-purchase project was resumed, Madam Blennerhassett
participating.

"You propose," said Blennerhassett, "to buy forty thousand acres for
forty thousand dollars, and you have the pledge of Mr. Clarke, of New
Orleans, and of your son-in-law, Governor Alston, that they will stand
surety for you. I will gladly make a third with these gentlemen."

The offer was graciously accepted as a trust betokening future
transactions of mutual profit. Further confidential discourse ensued,
and it was agreed that Mr. Blennerhassett should assist the cause by
writing, under a pseudonym, a series of essays for the Ohio _Gazette_,
on the commercial interests of the West, indirectly favoring disunion.

Burr congratulated himself on the successful issue of his second
campaign in the Enchanted Ground. He had won the islanders. Promising
to keep the Blennerhassetts apprised of the progress of his plans, he
bade old and young good-bye, and departed for Philadelphia, the
lucky-stone in his breast pocket.



XIV. A LARGESS OF CORONETS.


The story leaps over a period of nine months. The winter of 1805-6
disrobed the trees on Blennerhassett's Island and spring again
reclothed them. Wild violets once more sprinkled the glades and a new
flowering of rosebushes in the garden fronting the house increased the
fame and complacency of Peter Taylor. Another July plumed the maize,
where the plough had obliterated Fort Byle. At last came imperial
August, and with the glowing month returned Aaron Burr, his designs
ripened, his enthusiasm culminant. The silent wheelwork of conspiracy
had now been in operation for upward of a year. The arch complotter
was of buoyant heart and happy tongue, for he came accompanied by
Theodosia, the loved associate in whom he reposed absolute trust, the
good familiar whom he invoked when all other spirits failed him.

Theodosia made no enemies. Her beauty attracted and her amiability
retained the devotion of men, the friendship of women. Nature had
lavished upon her those rare, delicate, elusive qualities which go to
make up that top flower of evolution, the woman of fascination, a
creature indefinable, like poetry. In New York, city and State, she
was a reigning belle, caressed by society; she had been named the
social queen of South Carolina, under the title of la Sainte Madam
Alston. To Theodosia, his only child, whose education he directed,
whose opinions he had shaped, whose sympathies were always with him,
right or wrong, who after her marriage scarce less than before, looked
to him for guidance, as he to her for implicit approval--to her Burr
confided every detail of his plan of conquest, every vaulting
anticipation of sovereignty. "Be what my heart desires and it will
console me for all the evils of life. With a little more determination
you will obtain all that my ambition or vanity fondly imagines." In
this strain was the father wont to appeal to the daughter, by letter.
His thoughts, like carrier pigeons, were always homing to her. Hounded
by obloquy, accused of murder, when he fled from Richmond Hill after
the duel at Weehauken, he sought security and absolution in the
sanctuary of la Sainte Alston's house in Charleston. "You and your boy
will control my fate," he had exclaimed. And now, when the
seek-no-further hung ruddy on the orchard bough, and the wild bigonia
swang in air ten thousand trumpets of red gold, Burr reappeared at the
White House of Blennerhassett, according to his promise, bringing with
him Theodosia Alston and her little son.

"Behold," said Burr to Madam Blennerhassett, in the ornate style he
had learned to use when addressing her, "this is my Sheba, to whom I
have not told the half of your bounty or the king's wisdom. She has
not come to prove him with hard questions, but to repose under his
almug trees. My daughter, Mrs. Alston."

"She is no stranger to my thoughts," said the hostess, embracing and
kissing Theodosia. "Our minds have met in our correspondence. How very
young you look, and how like your father. And the baby resembles you
both."

"No baby," chimed in Burr, cheerily. "He has grown a big boy, have you
not, Gamp? Harman must take charge of him and teach him to build
forts, play Indian, and go buccaneering in a dugout."

"What a funny name!" returned Harman, partly in self-defense.

"Gamp is his short, everyday name," explained the colonel. "It means
grandpa. But on great public occasions, when Gamp is on his dignity,
we must address him by his full title, Don Gampillo."

Theodosia valued the lightest foam-bell on the wayward surface of
fashion, yet had escaped what Burr condemned as "the cursed effects of
fashionable education," and it is needless to say that conventional
ceremonies were waived between herself and the lady of the isle.

"You came from Marietta; were you agreeably entertained there?"

"They lionized father."

"No; they 'snaked' me. I was dragged into service by main force."

"Father means that they insisted on his drilling the militia. We
arrived on a muster day, and nothing would do but he must prove the
right to his rank by explaining the manual of arms. There are ever so
many old soldiers in Marietta."

"Yes, I drilled the men as soldiers, in the afternoon, and she drilled
them as captives, in the evening, at the ball; a modified fan-drill
made them march to her orders. Theodosia danced with at least a dozen
distinguished citizens."

"How many wives, widows, spinsters and school-girls did you lead up
and down?" retorted Theodosia.

"I don't know; I didn't count; I dance for politeness, not for
victory. My daughter has a drop of coquette's blood in her veins;
though where it came from I can't imagine. Do you recollect,
Theodosia, the remark of the Mayor of New York, when he invited you to
go on board a war vessel? 'Don't bring any of your sparks on board,
for they have a magazine and we should all be blown up.'"

To the ponderous mind of Mr. Blennerhassett, the feather-light
badinage flying back and forth between Mrs. Alston and her sire,
smacked of unbecoming levity. He had looked up a topic for weightier
talk.

"Did you name your daughter, may I ask, Colonel Burr, anticipating
extraordinary rank for her? Had you in mind Theodosius the First,
called the Great, or the second and more famous emperor of the name?
Eudosia was a Roman empress, wife of the second Theodosius. She was a
poetess."

The man of facts glanced significantly toward his own wife, and
resumed:

"Perhaps you had the name Eudosia vaguely in your memory when you
chose the name Theodosia. History informs us that Theodosius was
controlled by his wife and by his sister Pulcheria."

"My Theodosia was so christened," answered Burr, "because I like the
name. It sounds well. I like it the better now that you tell us it
suggests a possibility of imperial sway. Who knows what may come to
pass?"

In anticipation of the third advent of Burr to the island, many
letters had been exchanged, and it was arranged that, for some months
at least, "the close contriver" of the vast enterprise in hand should
remain with Theodosia and Don Gampillo in the mansion, the island
being an eligible point for headquarters. Around this nucleus the
hitherto mobile elements of his design should crystallize into
definite shape.

What had Burr been doing in the three-quarters of a year which had
elapsed since he bade good-bye to the Blennerhassetts in October? He
had employed most of this time in Washington and Philadelphia, writing
hundreds of letters, sounding the President, tampering with civil and
military officials, intrigueing with the British Minister, in a word,
organizing a conspiracy, which he believed would eventually give him a
dictator's unlimited command over a magnificent realm. To Wilkinson he
had written in cipher many letters, one of which ran thus: "The
execution of our project is postponed until December; want of water in
the Ohio rendered movement impracticable; other reasons rendered delay
expedient. The association is enlarged and comprises all that
Wilkinson could wish. Confidence limited to few. Though this delay was
irksome, it will enable us to move with more certainty and dignity.
Burr will be through the United States this summer. Administration
damned, which Randolph aids. Nothing has been heard from the brigadier
since October. Address Burr at Washington."

The "brigadier" remained in St. Louis until late in August, when he
was ordered to collect his force at Fort Adams, now Vicksburg, and in
September he transferred the troops to Natchitoches on the Red River,
to defend the western frontier against threatened invasion by
Spaniards beyond the Sabine.

Arlington, ignorant of the treasonable designs of Burr, but zealous
against Spain and ambitious to share in the conquest of Mexico, had
volunteered to make a tour through Kentucky and Tennessee, to Natchez
and New Orleans, on business relating to the Wachita lands, which Burr
had purchased. The Virginian started on his long journey early in
autumn.

To Blennerhassett, Burr dilated in confidential privacy:

"All is planned and ready to be put into execution. The iron is red on
the anvil. At least five hundred men are pledged to me, and I have on
my memorandum books, the names of as many thousands who will join us
when wanted. Every man is to receive one hundred acres of the Bastrop
land, besides his regular pay. All are to present themselves armed and
equipped, when boats are provided for their transportation and the
signal is given. I have told none of the volunteers exactly what will
be expected of them, but all are devoted to us. Of prominent persons
now in our confidence and ready to act at a word from me, I could name
scores, besides yourself and Governor Alston. Among our confederates
are Commodore Truxton, the British Minister at Washington, and the
Catholic Bishop of New Orleans."

"Have you considered," asked Blennerhassett, "what might be the
condition of our venture, in case General Wilkinson fails to second
your designs against Mexico?"

"Even that contingency, I have taken into account, though we do
Wilkinson injustice to suppose it possible that he will fail us. Our
plans are excellent. If the Mexican string should break--as it will
not--the Wachita string, which you helped to twist, will send a sure
arrow to the mark of our high calling. Failure, my dear sir, is not
possible. The gods invite to glory and to fortune."

In collocutions of this tenor, Burr, adapting himself to the moods of
his sedate ally, unfolded his purposes. The philosopher heard,
acquiesced, and accepted the part assigned to him in the execution of
the great business. Blennerhassett's temperament, however, was such as
to check, in some degree, the full flow of Burr's exuberant speech. It
was always with constraint and reservation that the latter
communicated himself to the head of the house. Not so when in familiar
converse with Madam Blennerhassett and Theodosia; uninfluenced by the
dampening presence of the husband, he poured out his innermost
cogitations, assurances, optimistic surmises. The three were in
perfect accord. One evening they were seated in the seclusion of the
library. The children had gone to sleep, upstairs, Harman and Gampy
under the same chintz canopy. Mr. Blennerhassett, detained in Marietta
on an errand relating to the affairs of the Wachita company, probably
would not reach home before morning. Theodosia asked for a sentimental
ballad.

"Not a love-song," said Burr, "but something heroic--a battle hymn or
a stirring march."

"Will you both agree to a compromise and accept some half-romantic,
half-pious verses which I composed and set to music? The colonel will
remember the incident which suggested the lines."

The harp was brought in from the adjoining room and Mrs.
Blennerhassett sang her original lay with the following chorus:

    "No longer in Enchanted Ground
      Thy lingering feet delay;
    Beulah's borders lie beyond,
      Rise, pilgrim, and away!"

"Bravo! Well sung and well said!" Burr emphasized this verdict by
clapping his hands, and Theodosia joined in the applause.

"Your allegory is no enigma to me," said she. "There is this
difference between us and Bunyan's pilgrim--he left the Enchanted
Ground forever--you can return when you please, and as often as you
please. Our promised land takes in and retains all the desirable
property on the road to the Shining Gates, and we shall possess the
Happy City without crossing that awful river."

"Ah, yes," quoth Burr, in low, earnest tones, as if uttering the
authentic revelations of an oracle. "This life we are sure of. The
part of wisdom is to live as if to-day were our only day, and yet
provide for an infinite series of to-morrows. _Dum vivimus vivamus_.
When we are established in Eldorado, in my new Spain, my Mexican
Cathay, in our Woman's Paradise, where the tree of knowledge is not
forbidden--then will you think the Golden Age is come again. Ours
will be no feeble Republic, no Union of States loosely tied together
by a filament; we will have a firmer government, a strong, liberal,
enlightened Empire. That grand old Roman word, _Imperium_, pleases my
ear. I will extirpate the Spanish power from the continent, and
establish a throne at the old capital of the Montezumas."

"Father!" asked Theodosia, catching fresh enthusiasm. "The Western
States will hasten to cast off their allegiance to the East, whose
rulers have traduced and persecuted you, and they will claim the
protection of your banner?"

"That, my daughter, is for the future to decide. If the States west of
the Alleghanies, exercising the sacred right to secede, renounce the
Union, and seek to join our Empire, we shall welcome them."

"New Orleans would be your capital city, at first, would it not?--and
our home would be there and not in Mexico?"

"As you choose, Theodosia," replied Burr, caressing his daughter's
hand.

"And you know, my dear Mrs. Blennerhassett," chimed the radiant
favorite, "you will be a duchess and your husband Minister to the
Court of St. James; Mr. Alston is Chief Grandee and Secretary of
State."

In such airy nothings did the credulous women put their trust,
entranced by the voice of the sanguine charmer. Their faith in him was
absolute. For was not this daring leader wise and powerful and
popular? Had he not been Vice President and had he not come within one
vote of being President of the United States? He was cheated out of
that one vote. Why should he not establish an independent government
in that great West, through which his tour had been as the triumphal
progress of a beloved monarch?

In the course of the talk, Madam Blennerhassett chanced to mention the
name of Miss Hale.

"Ah! Miss Hale!" said Burr, his eyes brightening, "I have often
thought of that splendid woman in connection with our court. She must
be approached on the subject, madam, and by you."

Theodosia glanced at her beautiful friend with a look of jealous
surprise.

"There are difficulties in the way, Colonel Burr," answered the lady
of the island, coloring deeply. "Her father, one of the most
influential citizens of Marietta, entertains a violent prejudice
against you."

"We want nothing to do with him, then," said Theodosia, sharply.

"Ah, my dear child, there are many good men who do not know Aaron Burr
as you know him, and whose political antipathies we must tolerate. But
his antagonism need not prevent his peerless daughter from accepting
the coronet of a countess."

"Countess!" exclaimed Theodosia. "Is this young woman a sorceress? Has
she bewitched you?"

Mrs. Blennerhassett glimpsed her own image in the mirror. "Perhaps
Colonel Burr anticipates raising the countess to the throne of an
empire."

"I will have a voice in that, and so will Gampy," declared Theodosia,
with a merry laugh. "The succession is fixed."

"You should become acquainted with Miss Evaleen Hale, Mrs. Alston.
Evaleen is my most intimate friend. She is now in much anxiety on
account of an uncle in New Orleans, a wealthy merchant, who was
stabbed in the back by a drunken Spaniard. The wound caused partial
paralysis, and Richard Hale desires his niece, who has always been a
favorite, to come and attend him in his helpless condition. Several
urgent letters have decided her to make the tedious and not altogether
safe journey down the river on a barge, which is to start from
Marietta within six weeks."

"Did I not say the gods are propitious?" broke in Burr; "Miss Hale is
going our way at an opportune time. Her rich uncle will bequeath her
his fortune and go to Heaven; she will take the money and go to
Mexico."



XV. THERE BE LAND RATS AND WATER RATS.


At some distance north of Natchez, and below the third Chickasaw
bluff, near the bank of one of the bayous, which seem to run from
rather than toward the Mississippi, a band of desperadoes had
established a temporary abode, sometime in the year 1805. They were an
organized league of robbers, bandits of stream and shore, preying on
the solitary traveller who rode through the pines on the way between
Natchez and the North, and more frequently surprising the unwary
farmer or trader, transporting goods to market by water. A number of
flatboats laden with the plunder of the freebooters lay moored close
to the north shore, under the shelter of the overhanging bushes, at
the distance of a mile or two up this narrow but deep creek. Farther
up the bayou, and a few rods from it, in an obscure hollow and almost
hidden by cypress trees, from which depended curtains and streamers of
gray Spanish moss, stood a log building, the rendezvous of the
outlaws. The structure was low and long, consisting of three huts so
joined as to look like one.

If a wandering stranger chanced upon this out-of-the-way and
forbidding lodge, he might read, painted on a board over the entrance
of the cabin, the words, "Cacosotte's Tavern." Within the dingy front
cell or bar-room of the prison-like shanty, one evening in the early
part of September, five or six persons had assembled. They were rough
characters, engaged in drinking and coarse talk. One of the company
was a negro. The only woman there was a big-bosomed, brown-visaged,
black-eyed, savage looking creature not destitute of wild charm. If
long hair be a glory to woman, then was this dark female covered with
glory--her glossy mane fell far down over her shoulders and back.
Whether she was English, French, Spanish or Indian, or a mixture of
these, neither her looks nor her speech determined. She spoke little,
and took small interest in what others said, yet seemed to regard
herself as the responsible mistress of the premises. She had charge of
the housekeeping, such as it was, and dealt out tobacco and liquor. It
appeared, however, that she was not the sole manager of Cacosotte's
Tavern. Cacosotte himself claimed superior authority, as proprietor.

Cacosotte was a most ill-favored knave, of a purplish yellow
complexion and mumbling speech. His comrades called him "Sott" for
brevity, or "Nine Eyes," not because he had nine eyes, as he had only
one, but because he boasted he had "gouged" nine enemies--that is,
dug out their organs of sight with thumb and fingers.

Two of the select party were Burke Pierce and Abe Sheldrake. The least
conspicuous individual in the room was a sullen, suspicious,
cat-footed man, who kept his slouch hat pulled over his face, and sat
apart, smoking a pipe. He was a fresh recruit, and had given his name
as Turlipe. Only one day had he been sworn to the service of the
brigands, promising to do the bidding of their chief, Burke Pierce.

Expurgated of much grossness and profanity, the discursive talk, in
this hiding place of criminals, may be partially reproduced as
follows. The chief is first to speak:

"There was a French hunter, who hid a lot of skins in a clearing close
by Red River, at a place called 'Cache la Turlipe.' Are you akin to
that Turlipe?"

The sullen man shook his head.

"Have you been in the business before this?"

"More or less. I have run on the river all my life; was patron on a
Kentucky boat."

"'Tain't a business, it's a profession," put in Nine Eyes. "But the
profits ain't wot they used to be, and the risks is greater. I mind
the time, cap, when Cave in the Rock, up the Ohio, jest below Massac,
was the headquarters of the biggest men in our line. Wilson's boys
done their wreck'n along by Hurricane, and stored their stuff in the
cave. They carried on the Last Night-Cap game when they could get hold
of a good customer."

"What's that?" asked Sheldrake. Cacosotte grinned and winked at
Pierce.

"Your pard's too green to plug, cap."

"Don't you Pittsburgers drink a las' snort before goin' to bed? Well,
can't you see the pint? They played the game this-a-way. Lodgers at
the House of Natur often overslep themselves--couldn't wake up. There
was a sign down on the river bank, jest under the cave--'Wilson's
Liquor Vault and House for Entertainment.' The durn fool farmers
comin' down the river with their produce had a cur'osity to see what
the plague a _vault_ was like and how Wilson's liquor tasted. They
clim up, got drunk, were put to bed, and--" Here Nine Eyes went
through a pantomime suggestive of throat-cutting. The black man, who
stuck close by Sheldrake's side, twisted in his seat, and showed the
white of his eyes. Sott, delighted to note these signs of trepidation,
went on with his reminiscences.

"Cap'n, you ric'lect Colonel Plug, that carried on at Hurricane Island
and the mouth of Cash, after Wilson was nabbed? Plug was a Yankee, and
a hell of a smart un. He was from Pensylvany. His real name was
Fluger, but we called him Plug and his woming Pluggie. I got into a
misunderstanding with the colonel about that lady; colonel allowed her
and me was too thick, so me and him, begad, had a rough-and-tumble,
and that's how I come by this here." He pointed to his empty
eye-socket. "Pluggie was one of your furriners--jest like Mex, but
not so pooty."

"If she was half as handsome as Mex," said Pierce, "I don't wonder
that you gave your right eye for her."

To this compliment Mex responded by resentfully casting the contents
of a whiskey glass into Pierce's face and breast, whereupon the men
all laughed loud.

"You dasn't smoke the senorita, cap," mumbled Nine Eyes, aside to
Pierce.

"The purtiest wench I ever seen," babbled Sheldrake, "was the one me
and you spied through the winder at Blennerhassett's, that night Aaron
Burr and his pard from Virginy stopped over. I'll never forgit how we
snuck up and seen them two sparkin' on the sofy."

"Right you are, Abe; and I was a damned fool not to nab her that day,
when she was pullin' posies in the woods--"

"She'd of been a screechin' armful for you, Burke, with them shiny
yaller curls of hern flyin' over your shoulder!"

This side colloquy, Mex heard, and her countenance glowered.
Noiselessly she came to the bench upon which Palafox sat, and pressed
close to his side. The captain, without looking at her, mechanically
stroked her long mane.

"Fine wimming," remarked Sott, sagely, "is like pizen vine, pooty and
clingin,' but pesky dangerous; I hadn't better teched Pluggie. A
woming of your own is worse yet. She spiles on you, and you can't sell
her as you do a hoss or a nigger."

Pierce looked at the darky, who grinned self-consciously.

"How many times over has Abe sold you since you ran away from the
island?"

"Seben times," answered Honest Moses, and chuckled. "Mistah Sheldrake
done sell me fo' cash, plunk down; I fugitives back to him, and he
done sell me agin fo' mo' cash. I gits mo' money out o' speculatin' in
dis heah darky, dan Scipio and Dan'l can git ahookin' watermillions
fo' a hundred yeahs."

Nine Eyes took up his dropped theme.

"The hoss trade," said he, "the hoss trade don't pay here as it did
with Wilson's boys. There's more risk in gettin' rid of a hoss than in
sellin' the same nigger ten times over. Say, cap, is your new man onto
the pass words and signs?" The speaker flung out three fingers of his
left hand, to which signal Pierce responded by an answering gesture.
But the captain had grown tired of Cacosotte's conversation. He
ordered Mex to bring him another drink. Then, turning to Sheldrake, he
said in undertones:

"Abe, you mind that trip from Pittsburg to Massac. Recollect what I
told you that night? Before many weeks there's going to be a chance
for men like us to make our fortunes as easy as floating down the
Mississip."

The jealous eye of Mex was constantly dartling, and her ear was alert
to catch every syllable Pierce uttered. She paid no attention to
Sheldrake, who responded guardedly to his chief's overtures.

"Captain, if you know a safer way, I'd like to learn it. Now that the
army is at Fort Adams, and soldiers is comin' and goin' from St. Louis
to Orleans, we can't do nothin' widout bein' found out by Gen'l
Wilkinson."

"Wilkinson," growled Pierce, with an oath. "Do you suppose I am afraid
of his big names, 'General' and 'Governor'? Jimmy Wilkinson owes me
money, and he owes me an apology, and he's got to come down from his
high horse, or I'm a liar. Eh? Sheldrake, did you ever hear anybody
call me a liar? Did you, Mex? Did you, Sott? ever hear any one say
Burke Pierce was a liar or a foot-licker?"

"I'd hate to be in the place of the man that 'u'd dare," swore
Cacosotte, hastily. He had noticed the excessive drinking, with dread
of the probable consequence.

"I guess you would hate to rile me up even if you was a great general,
dressed in uniform, and with gold epaulettes and buttons all over. I
want to say to you, Abe, and you, Sott, and _you_ over there smoking
your pipe, you raw recruit--I've got in my pocket, what will bring
the brigadier to terms. Bet your souls on it! Bet your black hair,
Mex! Say, you raw recruit, where's your pal? Where's the feller you
said wanted to join us? Open you jaws!"

"He is down on the boat," said the sullen man, rising and emptying his
pipe. "I'll go hunt him."

"You'll be back and bunk here, or will you sleep on one of the boats?"
asked Cacosotte.

"If it's all the same to you, I'll come back and bunk here."

The night was advancing, and the great white owls were beginning a
dismal hooting in the cypress trees. Upon reaching the place where the
boats were moored to the bushy shore of the bayou, Turlipe called:

"Hello, are you there?"

A man scrambled up the bank in response to the call. The two Spaniards
sat upon the bank of the bayou, and held a long consultation in their
native language. It was eleven o'clock when Pepillo, alias Turlipe,
arose to go back to the tavern.

"You needn't come along, Vexeranno; I can do the job without help.
Only stay here and wait. Have the skiff ready to carry us down stream
as fast as we can row. I may come back any time in the night."

While Pepillo, squatting on the ground beside the sluggish estuary,
imparted to his accomplice the details of a bloody design, Palafox in
the tavern waxed more and more violent. He menaced an imaginary foe
with clinched fist. Mex tried to soothe him. He sat for a while in
sulky quiet. Rousing again, he ordered a candle, opened a leathern
wallet, and took from it a number of soiled papers. His hand shook.

"Look here, Abe, these old letters are worth more money than all our
plunder will fetch."

No response came from Sheldrake, who had prudently retired to the
second compartment of the row of huts opening into one another. The
whimsical Cacosotte had named the several rooms "Hell," "Purgatory,"
and "Heaven." Sheldrake sought a sleeping couch in "Purgatory,"
whither Honest Moses had preceded him to "flop" in a corner.

Mex stood behind the captain while he sat fumbling over a timeworn
manuscript, peering at its hieroglyphics in the dim light of the
candle. Cacosotte, yawning, rubbed his one eye, and groped his way to
a slumber-rug in "Heaven." Then Mex put her brown hand timidly on the
shoulder of Palafox.

"One in woods--not nab--no! no!" she said, shaking her head
violently and frowning.

"What you jabbering about now? Don't you see I'm busy?"

"Woman through window--not big Mex--look so!"

She wrinkled her features, and shrank down mimicking a dwarf. The
robber now understanding her speech and pantomime, slapped his thigh,
guffawed exasperatingly, and, roughly pushing the jealous barbarian
aside, "No, Mex, she don't look like that. Tall, white as your teeth,
smooth and purty as an antelope--"

"Mex purtier. Mex not Choctaw--Castiliano. Look blood." She nipped
her forearm with sharp teeth, and crimson drops oozed.

Palafox laughed.

The mane shook, and the wild eyes glared behind the half-drunken man,
who continued to fumble his papers. Before long his hand fell heavily,
his eyes closed, and he slept. Mex shook him by the shoulders.
Partially aroused, he looked up, thrust the papers and the wallet deep
within a breast pocket, quitted the bench, and lay down on a pallet in
the corner of the room. Mechanically he deposited a primed pistol
under his blanket, ready to hand. Soon he was snoring.

An hour went by. The new recruit had not returned. Mex scarcely kept
her eyes open where she crouched, Indian fashion, on a buffalo robe,
behind the bar. Nine Eyes had bolted the outer door before retiring.
Eleven o'clock; the white owls were at their boldest, hooting
lugubrious serenades to the answering wolves. Pepillo was at the cabin
door, trying the latch. Mex heard the sound, got up, and unfastened
the bolts.

"Sh!" said she, and giving him the candle, pointed to the back room;
then drowsily resumed her nest on the buffalo robe. Pepillo took the
feeble light; nodded, but did not immediately follow directions. He
set the candle down upon the floor in front of the bar, so that its
faint flicker, unobserved by the woman, made objects barely visible in
the room. This done, he shuffled his feet slightly to apprise the
half-conscious guardian of the ominous house that he was obeying her
orders, and vanished in the rear darkness. The dead hush of sleep now
reigned over the place. So it seemed, but the stealthy Pepillo was
wide awake. He remained motionless, breathless, hidden in the gloom of
the second cabin. At length he reappeared, took up the candle, stood
awhile listening, then moved cautiously to the edge of the counter,
behind which the woman slept in her lair. He peeped over to assure
himself of her complete somnolence. Satisfied that Mex would not
likely be roused by any slight disturbance, he stole to the front door
and undid the fastenings so softly that not a creak of the bolt
sliding from its staple was heard even by his own quick ear. But when
he swung the door open, providing for his ready escape, the hinges
gave out a complaining sigh. The sound was faint, but it startled Mex.
She raised her drowsy head, and through the mass of sable hair
tangling over her half-open eyes, peered out from behind the shelter
of the bar. Pepillo had drawn a poignard and was tip-toeing toward the
sleeping captain. Mex gave a catamount cry. Palafox started up, pistol
in hand, none too soon to avoid the deadly blade of the assassin.
"Palafox!" This one word was all Pepillo uttered. In the act of
springing to stab, he leaped to his own death, shot through the head.
As he fell, the poignard, escaping his relaxed grasp, rang on the
floor. Mex, who tiger-like had sprung from her covert, snatched up the
shiny weapon, and fiercely stabbed it into Pepillo's lifeless breast.

Cacosotte and Sheldrake, roused by the report of a pistol, hurried in,
staring amazedly at Palafox, Mex and the fallen Spaniard.

"Carry that out," ordered Palafox, nodding toward the body. "Tie a
stone to its neck and chuck it into the bayou." The two men obeyed.
"Get something, Mex, and wipe up that puddle," pointing to the blood
on the floor. "You must keep Hell clean."

The wild creature, quivering with ferocious passions, put a fondling
arm around the manslayer.

"Mex wake captain. Help kill. Mex Castiliano. Nigger
wench--no!--Injun squaw--no!--Your woman."



XVI. A PATRIOT NOT TO BE TAMPERED WITH.


Four men on horseback were nearing the country house of Colonel George
Morgan, a veteran of the Revolutionary War, living near Cannonsburg,
Pennsylvania. Two of the riders were Colonel Morgan's stalwart sons,
and they were escorting Aaron Burr and Colonel Dupeister, one of
Burr's confederates. The ex-Vice-President rode beside the elder
brother, who was an officer of high rank in the militia.

"Speaking of Washington County, General Morgan,--are the people of
your neighborhood prosperous and contented?"

"We are a community of farmers, very prosperous and hopeful. Our
population is increasing rapidly. We have no cause for discontent."

"What is the condition of the new college at the county seat? I am
told there is an educational awakening among your young men."

"Yes; we are proud of Jefferson College; the institution is now in its
fourth year, and is flourishing beyond expectation."

"You call it Jefferson College; it was named for Washington _and_
Jefferson, was it not? The lesser star is in the ascendant, and
twinkles amazingly now that the greater has set. Don't you think we
are too much be-Jeffersoned?"

"Thomas Jefferson is an able man," was the commonplace reply, spoken
bluntly, and accompanied by a look of irritation at the sarcastic
question. Burr, conscious of the disapproval implied in the officer's
curt answer, managed to change partners so as to ride abreast of the
younger brother, Thomas, while Dupeister spurred forward and engaged
John in discourse on stock-raising and the prospect of crops. With
Thomas, an aspiring soul, in the flush of those discursive hopes and
speculations which make ambitious youth restless, Burr employed his
usual suasive arts, hopeful of winning a recruit.

"Your brother and I were speaking about the outlook here, for
enterprising citizens. What are your pursuits? Are you a Knight of the
Plow?"

"No, sir; not permanently; I am trying to make a lawyer of myself."

"That's good in a way, as a stepping-stone. The study of the law
disciplines the mind, but is not profitable otherwise. The practice is
a species of servitude, often a servitude to inferiors, for doubtful
reward. Politics is better, but not the best."

"What is the best?"

"That depends upon the man. Some are easily contented. But I am not
sure that contentment is a trait of a noble mind. I used to own negro
slaves in New York. They were contented. To rest satisfied is the
virtue of slaves."

"Yes, the niggers are contented, generally speaking. You were about to
say what you think the best profession."

"The best for an ignorant African may be bondage to a good master; the
best for you would be something more aspiring. I regard military
life--the profession of arms, as the highest and most independent."

"Not in times of peace."

"This is not a time of peace, Mr. Morgan. We are on the eve of war and
stupendous conquests. I speak advisedly. I am a soldier myself. You
have heard rumors of war on the Sabine?"

"Yes; rumors. The Morgans are a military family, also; and I feel
fighting blood stir in me when I read about the Spaniards."

"Does the red stuff boil? Your blood is right. You can't help it. If
you, or your younger brother--I believe you have a brother besides
the general?"

"Yes, George. My name is Thomas. They call me Tom."

"Tom, eh? Well, then, Tom, I was about to say if you and your brother
George--"

"Spur up, gentlemen, we are leaving you behind," shouted General
Morgan, looking back. "We are within half a mile of father's
residence."

"More talk another time," said Burr, not finishing his sentence, and
the pair, urging their horses to a faster gait came up with the
others. Just then the party met a robust countryman who saluted the
Morgans, as he trotted by on a skittish colt.

"What a fine-looking fellow! I wish I had ten thousand just such
vigorous young giants!"

"What would you do with them?" the general asked. "Ten thousand would
form a large colony. That is one of the farm hands. Those are our
barns and the house is just beyond."

On their arrival, Colonel George Morgan stood on the porch to receive
his guests. A well-preserved old gentleman, he might have said:

            "My age is as a lusty winter,
    Frosty, but kindly."

His career had been eventful, aggressive, venturesome, and romantic.
At the close of the Revolutionary War he felt aggrieved because of the
non-payment of claims he held against the Government. Odium attached
to his name on account of his procuring from Spain a grant of lands
west of the Mississippi, on which he founded the village of New
Madrid. He had expressed sympathy for Aaron Burr, whom he regarded as
a much-abused statesman. The prevailing sentiment among army men
justified the duel with Hamilton.

After dinner, the visitors repaired to the parlor, where was held a
conversation in which Burr was the principal talker. More virulent and
less discreet than usual, he indulged in witty flings at public men
and roundly censured the administration, not aware that most of his
auditors heard him with impatience. Colonel Morgan attempted to
introduce another theme, by referring to the rapid spread of
population westward.

"When I first went out West on my New Madrid scheme, there was
scarcely a family between the Alleghanies and the Ohio. Now we have
three great States. We shall have to remove the National capital to
Pittsburg."

"No, never," said Burr, positively. "In less than five years you will
be totally divided from the Eastern States."

"God forbid! I hope no such disaster will come in my time."

"Disaster or no disaster, the Union will split, or I am a false
prophet. How can it be otherwise? What is to hold us together?
Congress is a shadow, the executive a phantom too thin to cast a
shadow. With two hundred armed men I could drive Congress, the
President and Cabinet into the Potomac; with five hundred I could take
New York City. Ask Colonel Dupeister!"

Dupeister nodded an emphatic yes; but not so did bluff John Morgan.

"By God, sir, you couldn't take our little village of Cannonsburg with
five hundred men!"

"That, then, is because _you_ are at the head of the militia. I should
want your Cannonsburgers in my five hundred. But I talk too loud.
Pardon; let us get out of doors; I would like to go the round of your
plantation and look through the mill. Tom, won't you oblige us?"

While Tom piloted the visitors about the place, the eldest son took
occasion to speak a word of warning to the father. "You may depend
upon it, Colonel Burr is here on a secret errand to you. He will open
himself to you this night. He is engaged in some suspicious enterprise
in which he wants Tom to join."

"What foolishness you talk, my son; Aaron Burr is a soldier, a loyal
man who fought for his country's flag; he would never do a
dishonorable thing; certainly he would not approach _me_ with improper
suggestions."

"Then my precaution is needless. Yet have your mind prepared. Tom
revealed to mother some of Burr's words, which, if seriously meant,
are not such as you will approve."

The subject was dropped, nor was any more said in the course of the
afternoon on political topics. About nine o'clock the guests were
shown to their bedrooms and the members of the family also retired,
except Colonel and Mrs. Morgan. They were in the habit of sitting up
late, the wife reading aloud to her husband in the quiet hours, after
the rest of the family had retired. The book which engaged their
attention was "Modern Chivalry," the first novel written and published
west of the Alleghanies. They had reached that part of the story which
describes how Teague O'Regan was treated to a coat of tar and
feathers. The passage amused the grizzled colonel, and he listened
eagerly to the words:

"By this time they had sunk the butt end of the sapling in the hole
dug for it, and it stood erect with a flag displayed in the air, and
was called a liberty pole. The bed and pillow-cases had been cut open,
and were brought forward. The committee seized Teague and conveyed him
to a cart, in which the keg of tar had been placed."

"That's correct," interrupted the veteran. "That's the way to do it.
Read on."

Mrs. Morgan proceeded: "They stripped him to the waist, and, pouring
the tar upon his naked body, emptied at the same time a bed of
feathers on his head, which, adhering to the viscous fluid, gave him
the appearance of a wild fowl of the forest."

"Ha! ha! I've seen that done more than once; the author describes it
well. What next?"

The tall Dutch clock in the next room, after a grumble and whirr,
struck eleven, as if reproving the old couple for sitting up so late
to read a novel. Before the ringing of the last stroke died away,
footsteps were heard descending the stairs. Mrs. Morgan gave her
husband a significant glance, saying in a low tone, "John was right;
you have it now," and hurriedly left the parlor by a back door. She
had scarcely made her exit when Burr entered, with a lighted candle in
his hand.

"What, Colonel Burr, are you still up?"

"You yourself are not yet abed. Do I intrude?"

"Oh, no, no, no! Take a chair. We have a practice of sitting up to
read after the children have gone to bed. John, Tom, and George are
the children. Mrs. Morgan has been reading aloud from 'Modern
Chivalry.'"

"A clever book," said Burr, "very lively and ingenious."

"I agree with you. The story gives a true picture of scenes which the
author must have witnessed in Pittsburg. We were laughing over the
account of Teague's adventure with the tar-and-feather committee. Poor
Teague! He should have been spared. His persecutors were guilty, and
not he."

"That's the way of the world, Colonel Morgan. Often the wrong man is
blackened with the tar of calumny. You and I have not escaped. Pardon
me for claiming a few moments' conference. You have had much
experience, know many public men, and are a judge of human nature. I
wish to ask your counsel."

Morgan blinked hard at the candle, nodding his willingness to listen,
and tapping nervously on the table with his middle finger. Burr drew
from an inside pocket a long, narrow memorandum book, written full of
names.

"This is what I call my Roster of the Faithful," he said, and looked
searchingly into the face of the patriarch, whose glum reticence
puzzled him.

"Umph! Faithful to what?"

"To their principles and their friends. I assume that we know each
other's history and political views. Colonel Morgan has not always had
justice from those clothed in brief authority; you have freely
exercised your individual right to better your worldly condition; you
were not acting inconsistently as a citizen when you entered into
perfectly proper contracts with a foreign 'power.'" The speaker
paused, for he was aware of a bristling antagonism on Morgan's part.

"Yes," grunted the old gentleman, "perfectly proper."

Burr hesitated, more and more doubtful of his ground; but his was an
audacious nature. Turning over the leaves of his memorandum book, he
asked,

"Do you know Mr. Vigo, at Fort Vincent, a Spaniard?"

"I ought to know him! I have every reason to believe he was deeply
involved in the British Conspiracy of '88, the object of which was to
separate the States. The design which Vigo abetted was nefarious, yes,
sir, nefarious! yes, damnable! The same disloyal and turbulent spirit
caused the Whiskey Rebellion here in Pennsylvania, which General Dave
Morgan, General Neville, and I crushed out. The diabolic sentiment of
disunion survives yet; Pittsburg tolerates a set of seditious young
men, a nest of vipers of the Vigo species."

The general checked his tirade, noticing that Colonel Burr put the
list of names into his pocket with an air of hurt dignity.

"You must excuse me; I would not be rude, but soldiers use plain
terms. You asked me about Vigo, and you have my opinion."

"Your feeling in regard to Colonel Vigo certainly is not flattering to
the gentleman. I regard him as a deserving patriot. May you not be in
error? Give the devil his due. You must not tar-and-feather the wrong
man."

"Yes, yes, yes! I mean to be just. The devil should have his due. As
for Vigo, I want no dealings with him, or with any of his stripe. I
shouldn't hesitate to recommend a coat of tar-and-feathers and a ride
upon a fence-rail for him. And if I should ever detect Tom, or any of
my boys, even sympathizing in any attempt to dissolve the Union, I
would warm the pitch for them myself, as sure as there is a God
Almighty."

"Good-night," said Burr, stiffly, and went upstairs to bed. The next
morning he and Dupeister rose early, and were on the way to Pittsburg
before their host was well awake. The sons arose betimes, however, and
bade the parting guests good speed.

After breakfast, Colonel Morgan summoned his family and told what had
passed between himself and guest.

"He has insulted us by assuming us to be traitors at heart. Aaron Burr
is meditating dangerous designs. I will write to the President."

Tom and George, impressed by their father's stern seriousness, and now
realizing the presumably infamous nature of the service to which
temptation might have lured them, hung their heads. The mother held
hers high. Her jealous patriotism was alarmed and quickened. No taint
of disloyalty should infect her sons, nor should word or look of hers
hint weak misgiving of their rectitude. She assumed the Morgan stock
incorruptible, and spoke proudly as befits an American matron. There
was no tremor in her voice, no indecision in her steady eye, which
flashed the sentiments uttered by the tongue.

"The brightest name in the world's history is that of George
Washington--the blackest that of--" She paused, and her youngest
son pronounced the detested name, "Benedict Arnold."

"Benedict Arnold--yes; his sword was recreant, his heart false. In
all our annals only this one officer's record is polluted, God forbid
the rise of a second traitor. But, my sons, if treason should again
threaten liberty, I know on which side the Morgans will be found."

So speaking, this true "Daughter of the Revolution" unlocked a
colonial chest containing relics cherished as credentials of family
honor, and took from it a banner, tattered and rent in battles of the
Revolutionary War. Dark stains consecrated its stripes and stars.

"This is my only brother's blood. My boys are patriots by inheritance
from two lines of ancestors; you will always stand faithful to your
Mother Land as to me, your mother."

"Have no fear for us, mother," said Tom. "The Morgans and the American
flag stand or fall together."

"Amen!" added the deep voice of the husband and father.



XVII. THE BUSY NOTE OF PREPARATION.


"Peggin' away, all hands, eh? I never heard such a swishing of
handsaws and banging of hammers; you make more noise than ten navy
yards. How you getting along?"

"Not so briskly as I could wish; we are under contract to finish
fifteen of these large batteaux, besides a sixty-foot keelboat by
December."

"Sassyfax! Fifteen? What for?"

"To carry colonists down the Mississippi to the Wachita lands. The big
keelboat is to transport provisions."

"You don't say! Now, how many men will them fifteen boats accommodate,
when they're done? 'Bout thirty to a boat?"

"Yes; thirty or forty; we calculate the whole fleet will carry five
hundred men."

"Five hundred! I'll swan! Do you think they'll ever drum up five
hundred lunatics for such an expedition?"

"You'll have to ask Mr. Blennerhassett about that. My business is to
build the boats, not to man them."

"Right you are, mister; every man ought to mind his own business, and
I'll bet a pewter toothpick you understand flatboats, even if you
don't know anything else. I will speak to my friend Mr. B. in regard
to _his_ end of the business, for I see him coming. That's him walking
this way along the shore; you can know Harman a mile off by his stoop.
'Fore I go, I'll take a squint at the extra-fine ark they tell me you
are fixing up for the family--I mean Blennerhassett's own folks.
Blame my buttons, if I don't always hate to pronounce that larruping
long name Blennerhassett! Byle is a heap shorter and better name. I
s'pose you reco'nize me, don't you? I'm pretty well known in these
parts. Plutarch is my Christian name. Did you ever read Plutarch's
Lives? I didn't write 'em, but I'm living one of 'em. I ought to know
you, you're dadblamed face is familiar, but bejiggered if I haven't
let your last name slip my mind."

The ship-carpenter, to whom these questions and comments were
addressed, had resumed his work, not paying any attention to Mr. Byle,
who, finding his words unheeded, gave no sign of discomfiture, and
went on talking to himself in the friendliest manner.

"Here we are, five miles above the mouth of Muskingum, making batteaux
to go five million miles south of the jumping-off place of creation!
Will I go with you, friends and fellow-citizens? No, not by a jugful.
Do you think Byle is a plumb fool? I wouldn't mind going on a voyage
with the madam and the young ones, but not with such an addle-pate as
the near-sighted. Nor with Colonel Hoop Snake! No, there's no use
arguing; I tell you once for all, I won't go. I'd no more trust in him
than I'd trust _you_, old Muskingum, not to undermine your banks at
Spring flood. A felon who would murder Alexander Hamilton--what crime
wouldn't he commit? I'm consarned sorry for the family over on the
island; ain't you, neighbor? Yes, you; I ask you, Mr. Jay Bird,
singing and chattering to yourself on the willows. How are you?"

"Pretty well, I thank you," replied a stoop-shouldered pedestrian,
who, drawing near, had recognized the voice without distinctly seeing
the person of Byle. "How are _you_?"

"I was talking to that other jay, Mr. B. But I'd ruther talk to you.
I'm hearty. How's all your kith an' kin? I thought of coming down to
the island, to see you, but now you're here, I'll put off the trip a
week or so. Jist say to the boys I'm making a crossgun for 'em. Give
my regards to your better half, and I wish you'd tell Scipio that the
melon he sent me was luscious. I'm here on a kind o' important
business; came clear up from town to inquire about this expedition.
You're managing the colony matters, and you're the codger to give me
the real facts."

Blennerhassett, who had undertaken to use every means in his power to
induce men to join the proposed colony, suffered Byle's fraternal
confidences with as good a grace as possible, hoping to enlist a
useful factotum.

"I will gladly give any information you desire in regard to the
Wachita settlement, and our plans for the winter."

"I knowed you would. I told what-ye-call-him--the boss carpenter so.
He allowed I'd best ask you for the particulars, and it's fair to you
that I should. You pay for all this lumber and hammering and sawing,
out of your own pocket; you have a right to answer questions. How much
is the whole caboodle going to cost you?"

"Perhaps that question is not pertinent to our present interview. I
presume you wish to learn the conditions of our agreement with
volunteers?"

"That's so; you don't presume a speck; I wish to learn all about
everything. What are the conditions?"

"We pledge ourselves to pay every man who goes with us fair wages, and
to give every one a hundred acres of the Bastrop land. Each man is to
provide himself with a blanket, a good rifle and a supply of
ammunition."

"What do you want with rifles? Do you expect to have to fight?"

"Not necessarily; all pioneers need guns. Did not the forty men who
settled Marietta bring rifles and ammunition?"

"I swow you've got me, Mr. B. No man can keep house without a gun, I
admit that. I'd as soon go without my head. I've got a gun, all right,
and a blanket. What else?"

"That is all. Be ready on the first of December with your blanket and
rifle, and we'll provide for your other wants."

"Well, that looks fair. But let me give you a bit of advice before you
start. Don't you go at all. As sure as my name is Byle, you'll be
sorry for yourself and Maggy, as you call her, if you do go. You
mustn't git mad at me, Harman, for speaking out plain. I'm friendly to
you and your folks; don't like to see you put upon; and I consider it
my goshdurned duty to tell you that this here Colonel Beelzebub is
making a cussed fool of you. I'd have no hobnobbing with a hoop snake.
Don't trust ary shape of a sarpent in your apple-tree. You know your
eyes are not as long-ranged as some. This is God's truth with the bark
off. He don't talk to Adam in the Garden in our days, but I sh'd think
you'd hear what mortal men are saying. You're a readin' man--haven't
you come across what the press wrote about that scorpion in your
bozom?

    'Oh, Aaron Burr, what have you done?
    You've shot our General Hamilton!
    You stood behind a bunch of thistles,
    And murdered him with two horse-pistols!'

Excuse my interest in you; a full kittle will bile over. I've lots and
slithers of United States information that ain't to be found in your
green emerald Erin, no more than snakes is."

Blennerhassett was in doubt whether to consider himself insulted or
befriended. He had misgivings concerning Burr and the colony. Common
sense told him that Byle might be more than half right.

"Do you know anything of the far West?" he asked. "Report gives out
that it is a marvellous region."

Byle had a spice of mischief in his composition. He could not resist a
humorous impulse to gull a credulous foreigner.

"Maybe I can give you some curious facts not generally known. I'm a
sort of bookworm myself. I've nosed the Coon Skin Library. Did anybody
ever tell you of the Missouri salt mountain? a mountain of real salt
one hundred and eighty miles long, and forty-five broad, white as
snow, and glittering in the sun? No vegetation grows near it, but a
river of brine runs from its base. I have a chunk of the salt."

"Wonderful, wonderful!" ejaculated Blennerhassett.

"Isn't it wonderful? But not so contrary to nature as the
shoe-and-stocking trees that grow at the headwaters of this Muskingum
River."

"That seems impossible--shoe-and-stocking trees, did you say?"

"It does sound improbable, I admit, but seeing is believing. I've
pulled half-grown shoes off one of those trees with these hands. I
don't expect you to take my word. I didn't believe the story myself at
first, and can't bring my mind to believe what my own brother Virgil
told me he had seen and tasted--the Whiskey Lake in Southern
Kentucky."

Gullible as he was, Blennerhassett looked incredulous. Byle's
expression was serious to solemnity. His big blue eyes vouched for his
perfect sanity.

"Now, I _must_ go," said he, turning away; "I've a heap of things to
do and folks to see before sunset. Good-bye."

Genuine kindness had prompted Plutarch to blurt out unsought counsel,
and he hurried away, congratulating himself on having discharged an
obligation to his conscience. His long, swinging strides propelled him
to Marietta in half an hour. Near the court-house he met a gentleman,
whom he accosted, taking him cordially by the hand and inquiring,
"Isn't this Squire George Hale?"

"George Hale is my name," returned the gentleman, reservedly, and
disengaging his fingers from the strong grip of the tall man.

"Yes, you are the individual I took you to be, and no mistake. I
seldom forget faces, though I get names crooked now and then. Your
name and your corporosity go together; you look hale and hearty! I
never was picked up but once, in shaking hands with a stranger, but
that once was enough. Before I knew what I was about I shook hands,
last May was a year ago, with--I vow I'm ashamed to tell you who
with. Are you going home, Mr. Hale? Is Miss Evaleen in town now? The
first time I met your daughter she was down at Blennerhassett's! The
last time was here in Marietta, out by the big mound. Is she as well
as usual?"

Mr. Hale stared in blank bewilderment. He first surmised that an
escaped lunatic was face to face with him. Yet there was coherence in
the strange man's speech, and nothing wild in his looks. In fact, Mr.
Hale had frequently seen the gaunt, gigantic figure of Plutarch
dodging about the town, and had heard his name spoken as that of a
very eccentric person. Like everybody else who was brought within
speaking distance of the oddity, the sedate New Englander was at a
loss how to behave toward him. Plutarch was never at a loss. Detecting
a hair lodged on the squire's shoulder, he picked it off, and winked.

"A pretty long hair, old man, to be found on your collar. I hope it
came from one of your own women-folks. What's the last word from
Captain Danvers? When is that knot to be tied, anyhow? If you'll give
me an invite, I'll be there, sure. I told young Burlington--no, I
mean Arlington--all the facts just as they are."

"You did? What facts? Who is Arlington?"

"Don't you know Arlington, Squire Hale? Is it possible? Well, well,
well! Now that explains a good deal. These young folks are as sly as a
gallinipper. You have to keep your eye skinned to see all that goes
on, by land and river, and especially on islands. There's not a bit of
criticism to be made on Evaleen's conduct, nor on Arlington's. He
couldn't help himself, no more than a fly in a honey-pot. The minute
he saw your gal, he fell slap dab in love with her. The poor feller
was nigh about dead for love the day we sot on the summit."

"What rigmarole is this? You sot on the summit? Arlington? My
daughter? Tell me simply and briefly what you mean."

"I mean briefly and simply, Mr. Chester Arlington, of Virginia, came
here to spark Evaleen; he as good as told me so; that is, I am
satisfied he did; it stands to reason and the nature of a gentleman!
Secondly, I told him it was no go. I said to Chester, 'You must hunt
up another sweetheart, for Leeny Hale is engaged. She is going to be
married,' says I, 'to Captain Warren P. Danvers.'"

"You told this Mr. Arlington that my daughter was engaged to marry
Captain Danvers?"

"Yes; that's what I told him. Isn't that so? Of course, she couldn't
marry 'em both at once, and I wanted to put Chester out of misery.
That's why I broke it to him. You may tell the betrothed, as you call
it, I mean your daughter, as much or as little as you please; but if
that young woman had saw how that young man looked when I told him he
couldn't have her, I do believe she might have shook Danvers and took
Arlington. That's what I had to say to you, Squire Hale, and now I've
said it, I feel easier. I must be going. Mighty fine weather, this!
Good-bye! Gals will fool their daddies."

Away went Byle, about everybody's business, and home hastened George
Hale, not so much to tell Evaleen what he had heard concerning
herself, as to learn from her the solution of the mystery of
Arlington, Danvers and "the summit."

Day after day, and week after week, the shipwrights plied their tasks
with saw and hammer, with adz and mallet, constructing the vessels to
convey men and goods down the river in the Winter. A large purchase of
provisions, ham, bacon, flour, whiskey, was made in advance, and
various accoutrements were secretly collected in anticipation of
Burr's enterprise.

New gods had been set up in the sequestered home of the
Blennerhassetts. The Lares and Penates there honored were not now the
images of Emmett and Agnew, not the names of dead ancestors, but the
living spirit and example of Napoleon and the magic word Empire. No
longer could the harpsichord charm or the strings of the viol allure.
The music-books gathered dust in the alcove, and the "Iliad" stood
unopened on the shelf. Instead of rambling in the woods, or strolling
on the banks of the Ohio, or galloping to Marietta clad in a crimson
cloak, or giving banquets or balls to entertain the admiring gentry of
Belpre, Madam Blennerhassett spent busy days and anxious nights
working and planning for a potential greatness, a prospective high
emprise. A change had come over the spirit of her dream. She had
ceased to feel an interest in domestic duties and pleasures; she
neglected the simple cares of the plantation, took no satisfaction in
binding up the bruises of her slaves, or curing their ailments with
medicine and kindness; the talk of Peter Taylor about flowers and
fruit, or of Thomas Neal, concerning pet heifers, and new milk and
butter and cheese, became tedious; the jokes and laughter of the
farm-hands and dairymaids she heard with irritation; nor could the
prattle and play of her romping boys divert her mind from the one
absorbing theme--the descent of the Mississippi, the conquest of
Mexico, the creation of a New World. In close daily communion with
Theodosia, she dwelt not in a white frame house on a woody island of
the Ohio River, not in the present; but in the future, and in a marble
palace in the splendid domain of Aaron I. The two enthusiastic women,
allied in a common cause, inspired alike by the experience of wifehood
and maternity, similarly ambitious, passionate and imaginative,
reciprocated each other's sentiments and strengthened each other's
resolution.

The summer flew away. In October, Governor Alston visited the island.
Many consultations were held in the gilded parlor and in the hushed
library; more plans were divulged, more pledges given--and Burr
departed never again to cross the threshold of the house on the
island. Theodosia and her husband and child went to Lexington,
Kentucky, whither they were accompanied by Blennerhassett.

Left alone in the great ghost-white house, its mistress wandered from
room to room, restless and melancholy. The boys were at play on the
lawn; she could hear their mirthful shouts. She felt a vague longing,
like homesickness, and yet she was at home. Wearily she sat down in
her husband's study chair in the quiet library. She glanced round at
the books, the apparatus, the musical instruments. Everything
presented an unnatural aspect. Startled by the snapping of a string on
the untouched violincello, she uttered an involuntary exclamation,
rose, and went up close to the portrait of her husband. But owing to
the dimness of the light or the sadness of her mood, the features,
instead of smiling, seemed to regard her with a mournful gaze. A sense
of desolation overwhelmed her. Endeavoring once more to fly from
herself, she called her children. They came, and she kissed them,
putting an arm around each.

"Dominick, do you want to go away, away to Mexico, and become rich and
great?"

"No, no, mamma; I want to live here forever with you and papa."

"We both do," iterated Harman. "We both do."

"Colonel Burr will be there to take care of us all. He saved your
life, Harman, and he loves you, I am sure."

"Mamma, he loves _you_, but he don't love papa."

The mother blushed, and a big tear rolled down her cheek.



XVIII. THE VOYAGE OF THE BUCKEYE.


George Hale, yielding to the importuning letters of his brother
Richard, consented that Evaleen should risk the peril of a voyage to
New Orleans. Luckily the young lady was to have travelling companions.
One of her uncle's letters contained this passage: "Ask your father to
hunt up my old-time friend, Dr. Eloy Deville, to whose care and
medical skill I owe my life. He still lives, I believe, in Gallipolis.
Tell dear old Frenchy and little Lucrèce--I suppose she is now
almost grown--that I have unearthed family facts much to their
worldly advantage. They must come to this city, to the French quarter.
My discoveries are astounding, but credible. Eloy may inherit a
fortune. I will see that he loses nothing. My advice is, come at once.
The doctor and his daughter will be good company for you on your
voyage."

Eloy was easily induced to do as his friend and former patient
advised.

"Oui, monsieur, certainment shall we depart most glad from ze log hut.
Lucrèce, ma chère fille, dance for ze delight! We shall, on ze
to-morrow, us depart, on ze joli bateau with ze mademoiselle; quick
shall run ze stream, row ze oar, fly ze sail--we come right away to
ze excellent long friend of your father. Ze honor and ze felicity
shall be to me to serve mademoiselle for ze sake of her divine uncle,
for ze own beautiful sake of ze fair angel."

The Buckeye, on which Evaleen and her friends took passage, carried a
cargo for the Southern market. The crew numbered eight picked men,
commanded by Eli Winslow, a talkative Vermonter, with none too much
experience on the Mississippi, but overstocked with self-confidence.

Such clothing and household goods as he thought essential to take
along for himself and daughter, Doctor Deville packed in old trunks,
or tied up in bundles, all of which were deposited on the river bank,
six hours ahead of time. The luggage included a basket of Bordeaux, a
surgeon's case, a chest of medicine, and a violin in a green bag. At
last the barge hove in sight, announced by the echoing of the boat
horn. The fidgety Frenchman gave Lucrèce a kiss and almost dislocated
her arm by pulling her after him to the landing. A long half hour he
had yet to wait before The Buckeye was made fast to the posts on the
bank and Eloy was helped on board, still holding fast to his _chère
fille_. It would require a volume to report the conversation which
enlivened the many days' journey down the Ohio and the Mississippi.
The doctor chirruped constantly. He knew a little of everything, and
talked much of nothing, very amusingly. Often he sang French songs,
often played dance tunes on the violin, now and then took an
enlivening taste of wine.

Past Cincinnati, past Louisville and the Falls of the Ohio, past
Shawnee Town, past Fort Massac, and Diamond Island and Battery Rock,
the vessel moved slowly and steadily along. The voyagers were told
that the lower river was infested still by wreckers, one scene of
whose frequent depredations was Wolf Island. Captain Winslow
discoursed much on the state of Western commerce, and the dangers
which menaced travel.

"A great part," said he, "of the Territory of Mississippi, stretching
from Tennessee to Natchez, is unbroken forest, inhabited by Indians,
and infested with wolves and panthers. We shall see no sign of
civilization on the eastern shore until after we have skirted six
hundred miles of waste, howling wilderness."

At length they came to where the Ohio is merged and lost in the
Mississippi. The turbid onhurrying volume of mighty waters heaved and
foamed, as if troubled by furious, disturbing forces working below.
The boat shuddered and its strong joints groaned in the strenuous hug
of the river.

"Hereafter we can proceed only by daylight," said Winslow. "We shall
have many dangers to contend with--a succession of chutes, races,
chains, and cypress bends. You will see no end of this gloomy forest.
There are plenty of rattlesnakes, bears, and catamounts in those
jungles, doctor."

"Par bleu! Ze catamount shall stay in ze jungle and delight heself
with her family amiable. We not shall invite heem to tea. Are no
inhabitants in this wilderness?"

"A few whites and some Indians. See those squaws digging wild potatoes
for food."

"Do many boats go to New Orleans?" asked Miss Hale.

"Yes, ma'am; all sorts from a birch canoe to a full-rigged ship.
Hundreds are lost. We are now coming to a wreck-heap."

The passengers saw an immense huddle of drifted logs, and the broken
timbers of shattered boats, and entire scows, rotting, half-submerged,
or warping high and dry on top of the hill of confused ruin. The sight
of these hulks, abandoned to the grinding eddies, added a sense of
dread to the weary anxiety already felt by the girls. The progress
down the Ohio had been tedious; how much more so the interminable
windings on the Mississippi, and the long, lonesome nights, made
sleepless by the cries of birds that flit in darkness, and by the
howls of wild beasts. Evaleen's nocturnal fears, when the barge lay
moored, were not so well founded as were the apprehensions which
daylight renewed, of disaster on the treacherous flood. The more she
learned of the river, the more she realized the risks of each day's
navigation.

"Young ladies, see! That is a sawyer; an ugly one, sticking its sharp
horn up to hook us. I don't mind a danger which shows above water; but
your sleeping sawyer is the mischief to be dreaded."

"What's a sleeping sawyer?"

"If I could point out the nasty thing, I wouldn't dread it; a sleeping
sawyer does its sawing under the surface. We are liable to run on to
the point of one any second."

"Mercy! Do you think we are coming on a sleeping sawyer now?" asked
Evaleen.

The captain hoped not, and directed attention to another phenomenon
not of a nature to induce feelings of security.

"What do you see away down the river?"

"Do you mean that low island?"

"Yes, an island and not an island. Wait until we drift nearer. You
will see river moss and rank water plants growing over the surface,
but it is not part of the firm land; it is a wooden island."

"How? A wooden island?"

"Just so. We shall see many such. Logs and all kinds of drift lodge
against the upper part of a stable island or peninsula, and the
accumulated mass grows into a great raft matted together by roots and
vines. The whole thing, driven by winds or currents, sometimes swings
free from its anchorage and drifts away. Then it is called a floating,
or wandering island."

Lucrèce, who had been sweeping the circle of the horizon with the
seaman's glass, caught far to the northward, the glimpse of a sail.

"I see away up the river what looks like a leetle black house, with a
white thing on the roof."

"That boat," said Winslow, "is miles and miles behind us; it is above
the second bend. Let me look.--She carries a square sail, amidships,
as we do, but she is not a barge. Stop, I know what she is--there's a
flag at the top of the mast--she must be a government transport,
coming with troops for Fort Adams or the Natchitoches country."

Lucrèce caught a quick breath and asked eagerly:

"Troops from St. Louis, think you?"

"Most likely, miss."

Evaleen's interest was also excited, but she kept silent, and soon
slipped away alone into her cabin. The French maiden remained on deck
a long time, watching the transport, whenever she could bring it
within the field of vision.

"The soldiers, will they perhaps overtake us?" she inquired, turning
her brilliant big eyes to Winslow.

"Like enough; but you needn't be afraid of the reg'lars; they won't
molest us."

"I haf no fear; I haf curiositee."

At last Lucrèce returned the glass to the captain, thanked him, and
slowly sought her companion, keeping a small, brown hand just over her
heart to make sure that a precious letter which she carried there was
still safe and in its right place.

Lucrèce and Evaleen had readily fallen into sympathetic relations.
Days of chattering on deck, and nights of prattle before falling
asleep on the same couch, left few girlish secrets unexchanged. The
scant experience of Lucrèce's isolated life had brought her only a
small stock of personal doings or feelings to disclose. Yet, up to the
hour of her coming into the private cabin, after seeing the government
transport, she had not told the very thing which she knew would most
surely enlist the sympathy of Evaleen or of any other woman.

Now, Lucrèce was moved to pour out her simple heart in maiden
confidence to Miss Hale, her only female friend.

"Ah, ma sweet Evaleen, I no more shall be able to hide my feeling--I
tell you, right as it happen, the beginning and the end of my story,
that no person shall know.

"One day, at Gallipolis, a young soldier there stopped. He came in the
mail-boat, and the reason he entered our cottage was one of the boatmen
had been hurt by accident--his arm crushed, poor man--and as papa is
known by all as a surgeon, the young officer--he was capitaine--he run
up the hill to our log cabin. I tell him mon père, alas, was not at
home--mon père had gone that day to Belpie. The very handsome face--how
shall I say?--was upset by disappointment--teach me if I use the wrong
word. I saw the sad regret and was grieved also. He looked in my eyes
with a kind pity for the hurt boatman, and quickly I spoke. 'Monsieur,
I, also, can use the instruments of mon père, and wrap the bandages.
Always I assist. Mon père names me his aide. I will go and dress the
hurt arm.' The young man did not say no, but his eyes were full of
doubt, very much in doubt of me. I took the surgeon's case, and we made
haste to the mail-boat. How they all did stare and stare! I had handled
the sharp knives, and my father had taught me perfection. Instantly I
did the operation nécessaire, the brave captain much helping. Then the
gallant soldier brought me home, carrying the case, and, oh, my Evaleen,
how shall I say, he kissed my lips, say 'Forgive,' and went away. I have
see him no more."

As Evaleen listened to these naive sentences, her expression grew more
and more troubled.

"Kissed you!"

Lucrèce nodded.

"At Gallipolis? A captain? Do you know his name?"

"His name--oh, yes, I know his name--Warren Danvers."

Evaleen's lip quivered. A shade of anxiety and pain saddened her
countenance.

"I should resent the insult," she said coldly. "Have you told me all?"

"No, my sweetest sister; I confess to you now my great, precious
secret. Alas, I give my heart that day. I love that only man."

"You _love_ him? This is the silliest tale I ever heard. Let us go out
and breathe the fresh air. Absurd! Do you fancy he loves you?"

"He has written me one letter of love--here it is."

Lucrèce drew a tiny note from her bosom and went with Evaleen near
the prow of the barge to take the evening breeze. The first pale stars
were barely visible in the clear sky.

Lucrèce unfolded the missive, and held it up in the dim light, but
she did not know that tears were blinding Evaleen's eyes.

"Sometime, Lucrèce, but not now, I will tell you a story of foolish
love to match your own. We are all alike, and we all hope against
reason."

"No; there is no reason, no wisdom, no prudence--only love. Yes, yes,
something more, as I see the only star that shines there above the
dark trees, and seems to die and live again while we look at it. I see
the hope that my soldier loves me and will be faithful."

On the sixth day after leaving the mouth of the Ohio, the boat had
passed the third Chickasaw Bluff, and was within fifty miles of
Natchez, when blue-black clouds suddenly overcast the sky, and a
violent storm burst upon the river. Buffeted by opposing forces, the
Mississippi soon began to fume and rage like a wrathful brute. The
three passengers were on deck.

"How wicked the river looks under this indigo sky!" said Evaleen. "I
wish we were ashore. There must be extreme danger in such a high
wind."

"There is always danger on the Mississippi, but such gusts soon blow
over. We are safer in midstream than near shore. I'll manage the boat,
never fear. You and Miss Deville had best go into the cabin before the
rain comes upon us."

The girls had scarcely found shelter when a volley of big drops swept,
rattling, over the deck. Soon the waves rose so high as to bury the
running board of the barge. The cotton-wood trees along the shore were
twisted and torn up; blinding spray and rain filled the dark air. The
captain saw his vessel in danger of drifting upon a wooden island, and
could not decide whether to steer to the right or to the left of the
obstruction. Voices from the eastern bank of the river were heard,
shouting through the storm.

"Sheer clear of the island! This is the safe channel! Row in close to
this side! There's a bayou here!"

Winslow could not see the men who gave this warning, but he was
relieved. The halloo and answering shouts were heard by Lucrèce and
Evaleen. Regardless of advice, and wind, and rain, they returned to
deck. The men, unable to steady the barge, lost presence of mind; the
captain knew not what orders to give, but finally commanded,

"Lower the yawl, we will try to make fast to a tree. Quick! Steady!
Four of you jump in! John, take charge of the cordelle; can you row,
doctor? We need help."

"Certainment. Do not fear, my two brave daughters; this good shower
shall refresh ze atmosphere."

He sprang into the yawl with the others, and seized the oars. The
barge was driven and sucked toward a revolving eddy. Evaleen,
observing the consternation of the rivermen, felt a sudden shock of
terror.

"Lucrèce!" she cried, grasping the French girl by the wrist. "We are
lost! We shall drown! The men can do nothing! How the boat creaks and
trembles!"

Lucrèce was preternaturally calm. She took Evaleen protectingly in
her arms.

"Have no fear, my sister. Mon père shall not let us perish--he has
the strong rope. And see! see, is there not somebody who could come to
our aid?"

Evaleen gazed through the driving haze, and saw, tossing on the rough
water, a skiff which seemed to be making toilsome progress toward the
doomed craft. Farther up the stream she thought she could discern the
party in the yawl, striving to reach shore with the cumbersome
cordelle. Pole, nor oar, nor rudder could save the Buckeye from the
fury of the eddy. The slender craft, sixty feet in length, was whirled
round and round with dizzy rapidity. The violence of the down-pull at
the vortex broke her in the middle. All on board fled aft, to the
highest deck, an elevation peculiar to barges. There remained the
forlorn hope that the men in the skiff might approach the sinking
wreck. This they did. They pulled alongside the half-hull, and with
great difficulty and risk succeeded in taking the girls aboard. Three
of the four boat-hands on the barge at the time of the disaster
perished in the funnel of the eddy. One swam ashore. Evaleen devoutly
thanked the Divine Power for her deliverance. Lucrèce crossed
herself. The French girl's anxiety was now all for her father. She did
not see the yawl, though it had landed.

"Mon père! O mon père--mon pauvre père!"

"He'll turn up, mam'sel," said a voice she did not like. There were
two men in the skiff. Lucrèce now observed their appearance closely.
A look at the features of the man who had spoken confirmed a reviving
impression that he and the ribald boatman who had insulted her from
the deck of Burr's flatboat at Gallipolis were the same. He affected
not to identify her, but kept gloating eyes on Evaleen.

"You needn't feel a bit afraid, young ladies; you are in trusty hands.
Our business is to save property and to rescue folks. We will row you
to a safe place, and then come back and help the men pick up what they
can of their wrecked goods."

Evaleen saw floating barrels and boxes, part of the cargo of the
Buckeye. She also noticed skiffs putting out from shore.

"Them is some of our organization coming to save goods. This here eddy
is a dangerous place for boats."

"Why did you direct our captain to pass this way, if it is a dangerous
place?" asked Lucrèce.

"Oh, the island over yonder is a damned sight more dangerous, ain't
it, Abe?"

"You are not rowing direct for the shore. I shall be very grateful to
you, gentlemen, if you land us at the nearest point and assist our
friends who are out on the water in a yawl."

"Be easy, miss; we'll look after your friends by and by. I reckon they
can take care of themselves, though."

"Ladies fust, and gents next," interjected Sheldrake, leering at
Evaleen. "We know how to be perlite to women. Don't we, cap? Specially
to purty women. The young lady is right when she calls me and you
gents, eh, cap?"

"Shut your gab, and mind your oar," answered the chief.

What object had these unknown watermen in conveying their unwilling
passengers away from communication with Captain Winslow and Doctor
Deville? Evaleen could not hide her dismay. Lucrèce grew desperate.

"Will you stop the boat, sir? I beg it as a favor. I must go back to
mon père. He will think us drowned. I must find him."

"Keep cool, miss. We will help you to a place where you will be taken
good care of, by nice folks. You can stay there and rest yourselves,
and get a bite to eat and a glass of cordial, while we go back to look
after the salvage."

Five minutes more and the skiff was brought to rest beside a scow
loaded with damaged merchandise. The abducted women were hustled to
the shore.

"Come along, miss; this way."

Thus speaking, Palafox, going ahead, almost dragged Evaleen by an
obscure path to Cacosotte's Tavern. Lucrèce followed perforce,
convoyed by Sheldrake. When they reached the threshold, the chief
outlaw kicked the door, which was soon opened from within. The
frowning face and bold bosom of Mex fronted the captives. With one
hand she flung back the tangled hank of her long black hair, while the
light of her black eyes shone full on Evaleen. The side glare cast on
Lucrèce was less vicious.

"Mex, here is two fine ladies that will stop in our house a while,"
said Palafox. "Treat 'em to the best you've got. Take mighty good care
of 'em till I come back, Blackie, or you'll hear from me. Put 'em in
number three, there's most light there, and it's safer. Tell Sott,
when he comes back, to keep his nine eyes on the front door, to see
that nobody that oughtn't to gets in or out."

"One apiece for us, eh, Mex?" added Sheldrake.

The kidnappers departed, after fastening the outer bolt of the door.
Mex, sole custodian of the unwilling guests, scowled upon them, in
silence. Evaleen came to her with appealing looks.

"Please unlock the door and let us go. Here, take my purse. I will
give you more if you will set us free--all I have. You are a woman;
have pity; let us go."

Mex grasped the silken purse, keeping her eyes steadily on the
beautiful pleader.

"You window woman?"

Evaleen, nonplussed, ventured to nod acquiescence with these
unintelligible words.

"White antelope?"

The captive nodded again, in dumb perplexity, eager to encourage any
sign of human kindness on the part of the wild being into whose power
she had fallen.

"White Mex teeth." She showed her sharp incisors, presenting an aspect
of fierce scorn.

"Castiliano. My home. Come."

The laconic hostess accompanied these words with a gesture, beckoning
the young ladies to follow her, and led the way through the second
room, to the heavy wooden portal of the third.

"Mex let lady out."

With exulting hearts, the girls heard this promise. The dark woman
opened the door and motioned them to enter, which they did. Mex then
slammed the door, and bolted it upon her unlucky prisoners.



XIX. ARLINGTON'S RIDE.


Chester Arlington set out from his Virginia home for the Southwest,
carrying in his brain many anticipations, memories, and dreams, having
slight connection with his nominal duties as Burr's business agent. He
hoped to swell his own fortune by speculation in Wachita land;
certainly he was eager to be among the first to march into Mexico when
the signal for invasion should be given, openly or secretly. Moreover,
sheer restlessness and love of adventure prompted him to ride over the
hills and far away.

As he proceeded westward along the Old Wilderness Road, through
Cumberland Gap, into the heart of Kentucky, he had plenty of time for
meditation. The varied prospects continually appealing to his eye
mixed their images with pictures in his memory, especially with
recollections of his journey down the Ohio. The interesting route over
which he was now passing had been marked out by Boone and the early
pioneers. Of the eighty thousand or more inhabitants living in
Kentucky at this time, nearly all had come West on horseback or on
foot. The famed region--the hunting ground of the Indians before the
"Long Knives" invaded it--retained the chief features of a primeval
forest. The settlers' houses were cabins in the clearing.

The Virginian's meditations were broken in upon by various diverting
sights and sounds. His attention was attracted by some picturesque
hunter, dressed in buckskin pantaloons, fringed jacket, broad yellow
belt, and wolfskin cap, and carrying a long rifle; or, perchance, he
exchanged good-humored remarks with a wayfaring rustic who proposed to
swap horses. He wended his way through the Blue Grass region, through
Lexington and Frankfort, and southward into Tennessee. Arlington found
keen enjoyment in what he saw and heard, though never quite losing
from consciousness a haunting memory of the Lady of the Violets. He
read with curiosity the tavern signs, wondering what relation such
names as "The General Washington," "The Sign of the Wagon," "The Seven
Stars," "The Golden Bull," "The Red Lion" bore to the character of the
entertainment advertised by the several symbols, for Chester never
failed to revive at meal-times a hearty regard for victuals and drink.
The table fare in Kentucky and Tennessee was much the same wherever
the traveller stopped--consisting of bacon, eggs, and of corn bread
in the form of dodgers, or of big loaves weighing eight or ten pounds,
cooked in a portable iron Dutch oven. Coffee the landlord always
served, tea never, and no meal was complete without toddy. Peaches
abounded; and a drink called metheglin, made of their juice mixed with
whiskey and sweetened water, the thirsty traveller thought a rival to
mint julep.

One night Arlington put up at a locally celebrated tavern on the
border of Tennessee. He found the genial host--an honest gossip
called Chin--enjoying a hospitable carouse with half a dozen boon
companions soaked full of flip and peach brandy. The jolly topers
welcomed the newcomer to share their cups. They imparted much old
news, and volunteered many encomiums on the landlord and his inn. They
took special pride in Chin's tavern, owing to the undoubted historical
fact that the guest-room had been occupied by Louis Philippe one night
in the year 1802. On requesting to be shown to bed, the Virginian was
conducted by the landlord, candle in hand, to a bare loft, on the
floor of which lay a straw tick covered by a blue blanket.

"There's a bed a young gentleman ought to be proud to sleep on,"
affirmed the host, waving the candle over the couch. "If it's good
enough for the son of the Duke of Orleans, it's good enough for me or
you, eh? Wouldn't you like an applejack or a stiff metheglin to make
you sleep sound? The boys downstairs respect you, sir, for the way you
liquored. A young man travellin' can't be too sociable or treat too
often. Well, good-night; you're lucky to strike that bed; you don't
lay every night under a kiver and onto a tick slep between by the son
of the Duke of Orleans."

Chester found the bed conducive to dreams, in which he was happy
beyond the happiness of duke or king, dreams of Blennerhassett's
island in May, and of wandering with a wingless Yankee angel in that
earthly Paradise. Next morning, in payment for lodging and breakfast,
he offered a silver dollar.

"That's too much," said Chin. "Here, Joel, chop this coin. I must give
you the change in sharp-shanks. Will you have it in quarters or
eighths?"

"In whatever form you please."

"Then make it quarters, Joel," directed the landlord, tossing the
dollar to a negro, who neatly cut the piece into four equal segments,
one of which was handed back to the departing guest.

Arlington proceeded southward toward Natchez, following the road over
which Burr had travelled toilsomely nearly two years before. Though
warned not to undertake the journey alone, our hero, like James Fitz
James, chose to trace a dangerous path only because it was "dangerous
known." Road, properly so called, none had yet been opened through the
wilderness stretching from Tennessee to lower Louisiana, and spreading
eastward from the Mississippi. The route led the traveller along an
old trail, over sandy spaces shadowed by melancholy pines, beside
stagnant lagoons, across sluggish streams, and into cypress swamps,
the lurking-place of reptiles, the dreary haunt of bats and vultures.
The road, at best, was an indifferent bridle path, and at worst, a
blind labyrinth of seldom trodden ways in the woods. Arlington carried
in his saddle-bags a supply of bread and cheese, and he kept ready
primed, in holster at his pommel, a brace of big pistols.

On the evening of the second day after entering the piny woods of
Mississippi, he came upon a party of Creeks and Cherokees. They were
friendly; their chief offered the hospitality of the camp, venison to
eat and a buffalo hide to sleep on. These mild savages spoke a few
English words, and they had partially adopted the customs of white
people. The men wore an upper garment, like a shirt, and, about their
loins a girdle of blue cloth a yard and a half long. Their legs were
bare, their feet shod with moccasins of stag-skin. They were shorn of
all hair except a grotesque tuft on top of the head. To enhance their
masculine beauty, they sported nose-rings and painted their faces red,
blue or black. The dress of the squaws consisted of a shirt, a short
petticoat, and ornamental gaiters. Not one of them suffered a ring in
her nose or paint on her cheeks, and all seemed proud of their hair. A
dusky beauty, the chief's daughter, insisted on picketing and feeding
Arlington's horse. On the next morning, before quitting the camp, the
young man gallantly gave her a silk scarf, a present which all the
other Indians, from the chief down, envied her.

No adventure of an unpleasant kind befell Chester Arlington until
after he had crossed Black River, well on the way to Natchez. One day,
in the dusk of evening, he heard a voice from a distance shout after
him, "Ho, there!" He looked in the direction from which the shout had
been sent, and returned an answering "Hello!" but could see no person,
nor could he elicit another cry from the solitude. This unaccountable
voice, sounding in the wilderness, had a disagreeable effect on
Arlington's nerves, though he was not in the least alarmed by it. His
horse, however, tired as the brute was, pricked up its ears, gave a
suspicious snort, and moved with quicker pace. Perhaps half an hour
passed; the twilight deepened, and the weary traveller looked right
and left for a suitable camping spot for the coming night. He checked
the horse, rose in his stirrups, turning his head to prospect a green
nook near the bridle path, when, crack! whiz! and a bullet grazed his
left ear. This was more serious than a lone cry in the wilderness.
Horse and rider instantly sought security in flight. The spurs were
hardly needed to urge the black stallion forward. A brisk gallop along
such ready avenues as Jetty could follow in the darkening woods,
rapidly put a safe distance between the traveller and the random
highwayman who had shot at him. At any rate, Arlington decided to
dismount and take the chances. He tethered the animal, ate a dodger,
and slept on his arms.

On the following morning new cause for anxiety arose. The bridle path
was not to be found. In galloping away to avoid bullets, Chester had
swerved much to the westward, and far from the obscure and crooked
"trace." For a whole day he wandered circuitously, in vain search for
the beaten course. The more stubbornly he resolved to keep "calm,
cool, and collected," the worse confused were his calculations. He
experienced sensations unlike any he had ever before felt. It vexed
him to confess to himself that his usually clear brain was a muddle.
He seemed not only to have missed the way, but had also lost the
faculty of self-direction.

The night was again coming on. Now, Arlington regretted his obstinacy
in refusing the service of a guide. Danger for danger's sake was
playing ironically with him. He reflected that the wisest thing for
him to do was to save his strength, recover his wandering wits, and
start afresh the next morning. Luckily his saddle-bags were stored
with a good stock of rations. He tied his jaded horse to a
cypress-tree, and sat down on the ground to endure as patiently as he
could the long dark hours. "A prince's bed in Chin's loft," thought
he, "is luxury compared with this. All comfort is relative. I will
sleep if I can. I shall need myself to-morrow."

The croaking of frogs in the swamp and the shrill trumpeting of the
mosquito army attacking his face and hands were not agreeable
lullabies. As the darkness deepened, a medley of doleful noises
pervaded the horrible wilderness. An unearthly gabble of strange
water-fowl broke out suddenly, was kept up for a few seconds only, and
then ceased. Only once in the night did Arlington hear that demoniac
gabble; but he lay awake for hours expecting and dreading to hear it
again. The owls were not so sparing of their vocal performances,
scores of them joining in concert to serenade the lost man. Sometimes
their prolonged notes sounded like the wail of a deserted babe,
sometimes like mocking laughter, and again like a deep guttural snore.
Nothing worse than mosquitos, dismal sounds, and the dank vapor of the
swamp afflicted the weary man, who, falling asleep at midnight, slept
so soundly that on waking late next morning he reproached himself for
not having dreamed as usual of Evaleen Hale.

"How do you feel this morning, Jetty?" he said, patting his black
horse. "Are you well rested? I will get you the best breakfast to be
had in this God-forsaken region, and we must trot on or stay here and
perish. Never say die, Jetty."

Real difficulties invigorate the brain of a brave man. Arlington awoke
with a definite plan of procedure in his mind. After feeding Jetty and
breakfasting with keen gusto, he renewed his search for the lost path,
keeping the points of the compass ever in view. Natchez lay to the
south and also to the west. By going due south one must certainly
strike the road at some point.

"Are you ready to start, my lad?" said the man to the horse. The horse
whinnied an equine response, and was soon bearing his master southward
through the underbrush. Many an hour was wasted; the sun climbed to
the meridian, and no indication of the anxiously looked-for trail was
seen. At length, just as Arlington's pioneering eye lit upon the
shining surface of a lazy brook, a dozen yards away, Jetty suddenly
halted, put nose to the ground and began to paw. The animal had found
a path, scarcely discernible, yet a practicable road marked by
hoof-tracks. The course of it was along the edge of the small stream
flowing westerly. "Manifestly the rational thing to do now is to
follow the new-found trail, which, in all probability, is the right
road to Natchez, or if not, it may lead to the Mississippi, where a
boat can be hailed."

Progress was slow and painful. The oppressive afternoon was half spent
when a breeze started up, the precursor of a thunder-gust. The breeze,
strengthening to a brisk gale, made Arlington hold fast to his hat,
and caused the long streamers of Spanish moss to wave like gray
banners from the limbs of the cypress-trees. The air grew murky,
clouds were flying in dark blotches. A hurricane was sweeping across
the country; the loud rush of it came roaring up the stream; it lashed
and twisted and tore trees; poured down torrents; thundered around and
above Arlington and his terrified horse, without doing either man or
beast the slightest hurt, save deluging them with rain, and pounding
them as with mighty hammers of wind. The storm swept past, the rain
ceased, the wind died away, and the traveller thanked his stars he had
escaped death. On, on, farther and farther toiled the travellers, now
both afoot, Arlington leading his panting beast. The water-way on
their south, near the bank of which the road lay, widened abruptly,
and became a broad, natural canal, with crumbling shores. Arlington
paused to speculate on the strange aspect of things. Long had he
journeyed among bushes and trees, over logs and across streams and
oozy marshes; now he deemed he was nearing the Mississippi. "I am De
Soto the Second; an explorer of new regions, a discoverer of strange
watercourses. This Acheron at my left must flow into some larger body
of water, if it flows at all. Courage, Jetty! We are on the way to the
Father of Waters."

Climbing once more into the saddle, Arlington resumed his ride,
patting his horse on the neck, and encouraging him with words.

"Patience, good boy; keep up a day or two more. Surely this widening
stream on our left creeps to the big river. See! A boat! A vessel made
by man's hands lies on the shore of this Dead Sea!"

Joyfully Chester sprang to the ground, and leaving the animal to
browse, ran down to the edge of the bluff to learn if any living
creature were aboard. He discovered three or four large boats,
freighted with barrels and boxes. He called, but no answer came back.
Turning to look after his horse, he noticed a foot-path leading into a
thicket, and having pushed his way amid the wet bushes, he came into a
broader path, which brought him to a supposititious tavern, the
headquarters of Palafox's gang.

"A queer place for a public house," thought Arlington, reading the
sign over the door. "Table set in the wilderness; I am out of danger
of starvation, anyhow. Blessed be the name of Cacosotte."

Thus communing with himself, the young man pounded vigorously on the
puncheon door. No one came to open to him. Loudly he called in the
hearty manner of the backwoodsman:

"Hello the house!"

Nobody answered the call, though Arlington could have sworn he heard
suppressed voices within. It flashed upon him that the place might be
a trap for travellers, and the sign-board a decoy. His two heavy
pistols, each more than a foot long, hung strapped to his belt. The
priming was fresh; the flints were accurately set.

"Hello, there, within!"

Still no answer, yet again the sound of voices--women's voices. The
stranger left the front portal to investigate the rear end of the long
cabin. Loopholes in the log walls permitted air and light to enter the
rooms. Through one of these openings, an aperture which might very
likely conceal the muzzle of an aimed rifle, Arlington heard--not the
report of a gun, but what surprised him more--his own name shrieked
by Evaleen Hale. The hurried, excited appeal of the captives made
clear the prompt and only course for the man to take. He hastened to
the front door again, and now saw a reason why the strong bolts on the
outside had been fastened. These he drew, and almost heaving the door
off its hinges, rushed into the den. Mex stood on guard in the first
partition door, a butcher knife in her hand. Slight parley did the
athletic, impetuous Virginian ranger hold with the dragon who
interposed between him and his lady-love. "Drop the knife! Throw up
your hands!" he demanded, with an emphasis of desperation, which left
no doubt of his intentions. Mex knew the meaning of pistols; she was
cowed; the knife fell and her hands went up. Secretly she was glad to
be foiled. She wished to be rid of the woman Palafox admired, and she
could think of but two modes of disposing of her--killing her or
letting her escape. Slowly walking backward, menaced by a cocked
pistol, Mex retreated to the door of the room in which the ladies were
locked up. The bolts were unfastened by her, the door swung inward,
and the prisoners sprang to freedom. Now again Mex showed fight. She
flashed Pepillo's poignard from a hidden sheath and made at Arlington,
who struck the weapon down, shoved the savage woman back into the
room, and bolted the door.



XX. MOSTLY LOVE MATTERS.


Captain Winslow and those with him in the yawl at the time of the
sinking of the barge, intent on their work of landing and of managing
the cordelle, did not witness the rescue of Miss Hale and her
companion. The place where the yawl came to shore, was overhung by
bushes, and shut from view in the direction of the mouth of the bayou
by trees and branches just blown down. Throughout the disastrous
half-hour, only Dr. Deville thought less of self-preservation than of
the safety of others. Constantly he tried not to lose sight of his
daughter and of Evaleen, and he felt sure he had seen the girls going
ashore in a skiff, rowed by two men. The boatman, who escaped by
swimming when his fellows went down in the whirl of the eddy, could
not believe but that the women were drowned.

Winslow and his drenched crew followed Dr. Deville down to the angle
formed by the river and the bayou, where stood those of the wreckers
not employed with oar or boat-hook. And now the conclusion of the
sailor who swam to shore was confirmed by other testimony. These
fellows swore they had seen the lost women struggling in the water.
Another declared he saw them sink while he was making a desperate
effort, against wave and gale, to reach them in his boat.
Notwithstanding the assertions of the watermen, Deville did not
relinquish faith in his own eyes. He suspected foul play. So did
Winslow, who began to discover the spurious quality of the pretended
salvage corps. The vigilant exertions of these hookers-in of flotsam
could be accounted for only on the supposition that here, at the
outlet of Cypress Bayou, Captain Winslow had fallen into the hands of
a gang such as he had described to his passengers.

Palafox and his confederate made haste to return from their thieves'
den to the scene of the wreck. Deville's pleading inquiry concerning
the missing girls drew from the abductors feigned expressions of
surprise and regret. Turning to Winslow, Palafox said:

"I'm 'stonished, captain, that you risked takin' women on board a
freight boat."

"Yes," added Sheldrake. "You'll blame y'rself 's long 's you live.
Them bodies will come up as floaters, down about Baton Rouge."

Doctor Deville groaned.

"No, no! Say not that. My dear daughter shall not be lost! Ah! Mon
dieu!"

"Daughter? Was one of 'em your daughter, grand-daddy?" exclaimed
Sheldrake. "Think of that, Burke! His daughter drownded!"

"_Je suis fachè de votre malheur, père_," said Palafox, in a tone of
affected commiseration. Then turning to Sheldrake with a grin, "Better
not devil the old man any more, Shel; he's gone crazy. Hello, there
comes another boat!"

The craft sighted was a transport, flying the Stripes and Stars, and
bearing a detachment of soldiers from St. Louis to Natchez. On being
vociferously hailed by Winslow and his men, the batteau headed for the
shore. During the slow and laborious process of landing, the wreckers,
observing uniformed soldiers, with guns, furtively slipped away, one
by one, disappearing in the bush; all excepting Palafox, who, with
brazen audacity, still held his ground, acting his part as succorer of
the unfortunate.

"I mean to join the army myself," said he to Winslow, as a lieutenant
and several men came ashore. "I'd enlist now if it wasn't for my
family at home--two sick babies."

A yell of delight from Dr. Deville startled all on shore and on the
boat. His vigilant eye, ever enfilading the tangled copse to the
eastward, had caught through an opening in the bushes the flutter of a
blue gown, which he recognized as the kirtle of his idolized Lucrèce.
She presently emerged from the thicket, accompanied by Arlington and
Evaleen. Palafox was much disconcerted. He forgot his role of public
benefactor, and was casting about to slip away as his fellows had
done, when Arlington, rushing forward, pistol in hand, savagely
confronted him.

"Stop!" thundered the Virginian, covering the desperado with his
pistol, and glaring upon him with determined eye. Palafox, unable to
escape, nonchalantly bit a chew of tobacco and nodded insolently.

"Take this man prisoner!" demanded the Virginian, keeping his eye and
his pistol on the boatman.

"You've no warrant to take me," sneered Palafox.

"No warrant is required. Seize him, soldiers--he is a robber, an
outlaw!"

To the accusation of Arlington, Miss Hale added her entreaties in
terms so urgent that Palafox was arrested with little ceremony.

While the soldiers were hustling the kidnapper aboard the boat, the
officer in command, Captain Warren Danvers, hastened to the shore,
having recognized the voice of Evaleen. Neither Lucrèce, who loved
Danvers, nor Chester, who loved Evaleen, could hear what passed, in
rapid speech, between the affectionate couple. The story of the
voyage, the wreck, the abduction, Evaleen imparted in a breath. She
told as briefly the circumstances of the rescue.

"Oh, Warren, is it really you? A divine Providence guards us. Such a
coincidence is not blind chance. Who could guess when we parted that
we should come together under these circumstances. The hand of Heaven
saved us."

"My dear girl, will you give no credit to human saviors? It appears
you owe special gratitude to a mortal. I can't claim any merit for
saving you, but I am extremely happy that we are once more together.
Who is your travelling companion? We must look after her."

"Are you tired of me already," she playfully chided, "and curious to
make a new friend? They are French people from Gallipolis."

"French? Is she French?" asked Danvers, gazing toward Lucrèce.

"French? Is she French?" tenderly mocked Evaleen. "I told you they
were French. Now I _am_ jealous. Do you know any French girl in
Gallipolis?"

"Nonsense, Evaleen! I am not a woman's man. Pardon, I don't mean that
I don't like _you_, of course--"

"Like--don't you love me? I love you with all my heart, you dear
fellow! But I love Lucrèce also, and maybe I'll let you love her just
a little."

Danvers seemed embarrassed. Evaleen went on:

"We are forgetting our friends. Come, you must thank the man who saved
us."

The pair hurried to where Arlington stood.

"Mr. Arlington, this is Captain Danvers."

"I have met Captain Danvers."

"How, what? Have you, Warren, formed the acquaintance of--?"

"I have seen Mr. Arlington once before."

"Where?"

"In Marietta."

"When?"

"A good while ago. On the day I left for St. Louis."

"You never told me." Danvers looked hard at Arlington, who felt called
upon to explain.

"Madam, I challenged Captain Danvers to fight."

Evaleen's blue eyes opened wide.

"Challenged Warren!"

"Yes."

"And you accepted the challenge?"

"Yes."

"Why, brother!"

Arlington's heart leapt within him. "Brother?" he stammered. "Captain
Danvers your brother?"

"He is my half brother."

Danvers laughed out. Putting his arm around Evaleen, he said, "Mr.
Arlington, if you are still disposed to fight me, we may meet when you
please. But I am of the opinion you will learn from Evaleen that you
have more cause to cherish hard feelings against the man you champion
than against me."

"At any rate," said Arlington, as the two shook hands, "whatever you
may think concerning Colonel Burr, this is not the place nor time for
quarrelling. You have the Spaniards to fight--I must fight a rash
temper."

Lucrèce, pale and sad-eyed, was leaning upon her father's shoulder.
Evaleen hastened to her, and the doctor went up to Arlington to pour
out endless thanks.

"Are you sick, Lucrèce? Shall we go to the boat?"

"Sick, sick at heart."

"There is a way to cure that."

"No, my Evaleen, there is no cure. But you shall it all forgive. How
could I know? You say you sometime tell me the story I read, alas, too
late."

"Story? What story?"

"Ah, my sweet friend--pardon me--pity Lucrèce. _Mon soldat--mon
capitaine_, you love heem--he love you--how shall we not hate us?"

The captain made bold to approach the ladies. When his eyes met those
of Lucrèce, Evaleen interpreted the silent language exchanged.

"Lucrèce, your soldier is my brother, you jealous little tigress!
But," she added in a whisper, "don't let him kiss you again."

Danvers, without delay, gave directions for all to embark, and himself
conducted Lucrèce and her jubilant father on board.

Arlington, escorting the Lady of the Violets, asked her, in an
undertone, "Did you get my last letter from Virginia?"

"Yes," answered Evaleen. "Did you receive mine, in which I explained
the mistakes of Byle?"

"No; I did not get such a letter. Tell me all the contents."

"That will require time."

"Did you answer my--my question?"

"Wait until you see the letter."

"I don't think I can wait."

"Then until we can talk on the boat."

Danvers proposed to take the crew and passengers of the wrecked barge
Buckeye aboard his transport and carry them as far south as Natchez,
where a family boat could be procured for the continuance of their
voyage to New Orleans. Arlington, of course, was accommodated; also
his faithful horse, Jetty, which had followed him down the margin of
the bayou. The understanding was that Winslow should conduct the
doctor and the ladies from Natchez to New Orleans, leaving Danvers
free to march his troops to Natchitoches, while Arlington remained in
Natchez to transact the business intrusted to him by Burr.

The transport was soon afloat. Monsieur Deville, quickly recovering
his habitual gaiety, chirruped:

"Have I not said, Mees Hale, to your father that hees gairl sall be
safe as ze baby in ze cradle? Have I not keep my word? Ze leetle blow
of ze wind, it is all ovair. What we care now for ze boat-wreckair, ze
bad robbair? _Voila!_ have we not brush away ze mosquito? But say to
me, my daughter's dear friend, am I myself Eloy Deville? Ze Captain
Danvers, is he a lunatic?"

"No, doctor, not a lunatic, but a lover. My brother and your daughter
have been sweethearts for many moons."

"Now I am sure you also, Mees Hale, have lost your head. You also are
in ze delirium."

Danvers, attempting to ingratiate himself with père Eloy, was called
away by an occurrence which caused him chagrin. The sentinel to whom
was assigned the duty of keeping watch over Palafox was not
sufficiently vigilant to foil his cunning. The amphibious athlete
managing deftly to loosen the cords which bound his wrists, slipped
like an eel from the boat into the river, and, diving deep, swam
awhile under water, then on the surface, and finally reached the
eastern shore of the Mississippi, a few miles south of the point at
which the boat had landed. Long, toilsome, exhausting, was his return
tramp toward the sole haunt in which he could expect sympathy or
command protection. He did not rely on honor among thieves, but he had
confidence in Mex, who was bound to him, he believed, by two strong
ties, love and fear.

Night had fallen before Palafox reached the southern edge of the bayou
at the point opposite his only house and home, and it was pitchy dark,
when, having swam across the stagnant channel, he trudged, wet and
weary, to the barred door of Cacosotte's Tavern, and knocked. Mex
undid the bolts and let her master in, her sagacious eyes swiftly
taking note of his bodily plight and desperate mood. To her
demonstration of savage tenderness he returned a ferocious growl, and
shoved her from him roughly.

"Fetch me the brandy, quick! Don't you see I'm drowned?"

He swallowed at a gulp the potation she poured out, and stepping into
a dark recess christened "The Captain's Corner," where hung various
stolen articles of men's apparel, he exchanged his soaked garments for
dry ones.

Meanwhile, Mex sullenly placed upon a table such food as her cupboard
could supply. Palafox emerged, mollified in temper, but still
irascible. In his hand he held the long leathern pocket-book
containing the alleged evidence of Wilkinson's complicity with the
Spanish government. It was creased and dripping, and before eating he
opened it, carefully took out the papers, and spread them on the
counter of the bar to dry.

"You wouldn't guess there might be a fortune in these, would you,
Blackey?"

"_Not_ Blackey! No negar-wool!" She shook her long black hair, and her
blacker eyes glittered. "No Mexicano, no red squaw--your woman."

Palafox was wont to amuse himself by provoking the pride and jealousy
of this caged creature of untamed affections.

"Where is Sott? Did he come home? He ought to be burnt alive for
letting my game escape. Where is he?"

Mex, standing behind her lord and watching him as he ate and drank,
explained that Nine Eyes had been badly hurt in a fight with one of
the band; a bullet had shivered the bones of his arm; the sufferer had
groaned and howled, but she soothed him, she said, by a charm, and he
at last slept.

Sott's nondescript nurse had in fact, administered an opiate. In
addition to the arts of the hoodoo and medicine man, she possessed
unusual knowledge of the virtue of wild plants, including those of
dangerous quality. There was never race or tribe so primitive as to be
ignorant of deadly herbs. This scarcely half-civilized daughter of
miscegenation was a Hecate in the skilful decoction of potent leaves,
roots and berries.

"You _charmed_ him to sleep?" sneered Palafox, glancing back
threateningly, and speaking in Spanish. "Be careful who you charm.
Best not be coddling Nine Eyes, or any other man, while I'm livin'.
Bring another bottle. You could have kept those girls here for me, if
you'd tried. You allowed that strutting dandy to carry them off before
your eyes. This makes the second time he got away from me. The third
time is the charm. Not your kind of charm, Mex, but one that acts
quicker."

"What charm?" asked Mex, who had gone behind the bar, and was busy
with bottles and cups. She decanted some drops into a flask.

"What charm! Copper-cheeks! You don't recollect how I dosed Pepillo
that night!"

"Yes, that night me save your life. Me your wife then! Me kill dandy?"

Palafox chuckled at the question.

"No, señora, no. I'll do that part of the business, and you see after
the charming. You might have captivated the dandy for all I care, and
kept him to yourself. It isn't him I want. I want her. And I'll have
her yet. I've set my heart on getting ahold of that woman."

The hand of Mex could not have been steady; she let fall something
that broke like glass.

"What are you spilling, there? Don't break my bottles. Bring me more
drink."

Mex started up confusedly from behind the bar, brought a flagon, sat
down on the bench beside Palafox, and looked into his face. A furious
resentment was raging in her heart.

Palafox enjoyed his temporary wife's manifestations of jealousy. He
laughed, took a deep draught from the flagon, and said:

"You are infernal particular, Mex. I never heard of another woman of
your pedigree who was opposed to polygamy."

She did not understand all the words he used, but gathered the chief
import, and replied with impetuous wrath:

"No Mex--not Choctaw--me Castiliano--me Señora Palafox." The
desperado sat still several minutes, drank again from a bowl which Mex
had mixed.

"You're all right, señora--I couldn't keep house without you. Look
ye here, bring all those papers and I'll put 'em safe back in the
pocket book." The papers were folded up and enclosed carefully into
the leathern wallet. Palafox, with trembling hand, thrust the package
in his pocket, and then staggered to his feet.

"There's a queer pain in the back of my neck and in my chest, Mex; I
can't stand up--help me." He leaned on the bar, and the woman hastily
drew to the middle of the floor the great buffalo robe which was her
usual bed. She also brought a panther's hide rolled up to serve as a
pillow. The horribly staring eyes of Palafox followed her motions.

"There's something ails my heart, I tell you."

He stumbled upon the bed of pelts and lay sprawling.

"More drink! water! brandy! quick!"

With difficulty Mex turned the man upon his back. A while he lay
still. His breathing was labored and he twitched convulsively. The
entire nervous system was suddenly depressed. Mex stood motionless
beside the pallet, her eyes riveted upon him. Presently his livid lips
opened, and he spoke gaspingly, "I'm done for."

His hand fumbled about his heart. He was falling into syncope. He did
not feel the sweep and tickle of downfalling hair which, for a moment,
enmeshed and covered his face, when Mex knelt at his side and took
from his bosom the pocket-book he had told her contained a fortune.

Having secured this treasure, the slighted mistress of a dying robber
slid noiseless as a shadow to her accustomed covert behind the bar.
When she came thence her feet and ankles were encased in high buckskin
moccasins adorned in bright colors. About her shoulders she drew an
Indian blanket decorated in richest style of barbaric elegance. She
paused to bestow a parting look on the distorted face of him she had
loved and poisoned. A feeble moan came from his lips. She knew it
meant death, for wolf's-bane was mixed with the last draughts he had
taken.

Like a shadow Mex passed from the cabin into the darkness of the
woods. She had prevented the man from pursuing any other woman.

The hours of night wore slowly away, and Cacosotte, returning to
consciousness after his anæsthetic sleep, felt renewed pain in his
disabled arm. As soon as he realized his condition, he sat up in bed
and shouted for his nurse. "Mex!" No answer.

"Mex, for God's sake come and fix my arm."

No answer. No sound whatever was to be heard in the lonely cabin.

"Mex, O Mex!"

No response. Cacosotte waited half an hour and again called out.
Finally he got up, and in the gray light of a cloudy November dawn
made his way from his remote couch in "Heaven" to the glimmering
twilight of "Hell." Mex was not in her lair, nor was the couch itself
in the usual place.

Cacosotte bent over Palafox and saw a corpse.



XXI. PRO AND CON.


"No, sir, no, sir! I deny the statement. Burr is not getting justice.
Daviess is a persecutor, not a prosecutor. He hates Burr as he hates
every Republican. He rakes up all the filthy lies of the past,
concerning Burr and Wilkinson, and peddles them round in that
dung-cart, _The Western World_, which his man Friday, John Wood,
drives."

"You'd best not talk too loud, Hadley; Wood is at the door."

"Who wants John Wood?" bawled the bearer of that name. "Hadley, you?"

"No; I avoid you and your paper. You ought to be sued for libel. I say
to you as I just now said to Ogden, that Jo Hamilton Daviess is making
this fuss, not for furtherance of law and justice, but to blacken the
name of Burr."

"Burr blackened it himself," retorted Wood, "with the blood of
Hamilton."

"Black blood it was, from a black heart. Don't say anything against
that duel here in Kentucky!" said Hadley.

The wrangle, of which the foregoing speeches were a part, took place
in Frankfort, Kentucky, on the morning of December 2, 1806. The town
was thronged with zealous partisans, Federalists and Republicans, from
near and far. Scores of sturdy ploughmen and cavalcades of
stock-raisers had ridden from their Blue Grass farms to the State
capital, on horses of a breed and beauty unsurpassed in the world.
Every tavern, blacksmith-shop, and grocery drew its crowd, for the
weather was cold, and the country folks were glad of a chance to warm
themselves while they boisterously discussed the latest phases of the
legal proceeding then in progress, involving the reputation of Aaron
Burr, and threatening his personal liberty.

Daviess, a staunch Federalist, controlled a political newspaper, the
avowed purpose of which was "to drag to light the men who had been
concerned with Miro in the Spanish conspiracy of 1787." Daviess had
written to Jefferson accusing General Wilkinson of having been in
Spanish pay, and later had charged both Wilkinson and Burr with the
grossest disloyalty. These two men were openly and repeatedly attacked
in the paper, a copy of which Wood held in hand when he confronted
Hadley.

"You can't smutch the character of Daviess," said Wood. "His name is
above suspicion. He performs his duty as United States District
Attorney without fear or favor."

"You are not competent to give an unbiased opinion; your
bread-and-butter depends upon the man who set you up in business."

The sneer drew applause from a majority of those in the store. Burr
had won the heart of the populace. Wood returned a sharp rejoinder.

"What a pity that some good man has not set Hadley up in a better
business than pettifogging. Apply to your patron, Judge Innes. Lick
his foot. There's an immaculate judge for you! Talk of corruption!
I've been present at every session of the court whenever the case of
Burr came up. Away back as early as the beginning of November Daviess
moved for a process to compel the attendance of Burr in court to
answer charges of treason. Daviess made affidavit that he had positive
evidence of Burr's plotting to wage war against Spain, invade Mexico,
and break up the Union. What was the action of Judge Hary Innes? He
overruled the motion--denied the course of justice."

"No," broke in the other, "he denied the motion because there were no
grounds for the charge."

"Hold on, Mr. Hadley, till I am through. I want these young men from
the Blue Grass and from Lexington to know the truth, the whole truth,
and nothing but the truth."

"Fust time truth ever come from the editor of _The Western World_!"
growled a backwoodsman in buckskin breeches. "I'll bet my money on
Burr. Burr ought to be President 'stid of Jefferson. He was cheated
out of the Presidency."

"That's the talk!" put in a squeaky-voiced old man, wiping his lips
with the back of his hand, after having taken a drink of cheap
whiskey, for a dram went gratis with every purchase, and old Jim Sweet
had bought a long woollen "comfort" for his scrawny neck. "That's the
talk, gen'l'men. I say, hurrah for Wilkinson and Burr and Harry Clay!
I wisht Clay had popped a hole in Daviess, jest like Burr did in
Hamilton. Why didn't they fight? They say Daviess sent a challenge.
Wonder why that dool 'tween Jo and Harry never come off?"

Hadley shrugged his shoulders.

"That gits me," continued Jim. "Reckon it were a case of one askeert
and an' t'other da'sn't, eh, Hen?"

"Skeert nothin'!" mumbled the backwoodsman. "Clay's a dead shot."

The man of the newspaper here put in. "Daviess sent Clay a challenge;
that's certain."

"Yes! an' there's another fack what's durn certain, my friend, or I'm
a liar!" The backwoodsman roused himself from his stooping posture and
sat glaring at the editor. "Harry Clay done accepted Daviess's
challenge; an' if matters was arranged satisfactory to both parties
without no pluggin', I reckon there ain't no need of comments from
outsiders."

Editor Wood, aware that the public sentiment was against him,
prudently withdrew, leaving the floor to Hadley, which zealous
Democrat, addressing sympathetic auditors, voiced their feelings and
his own.

"I was in the court room, and I saw some of you there when first
Daviess tried to calumniate Burr; and I was there when Innes overruled
the motion. That was a great day. The judge had scarcely finished
speaking when Burr himself, just from Lexington, entered the
court-house. He made the neatest speech ever I heard--perfectly calm
and dignified--and he asked for a full and free investigation--the
sooner the better, he said--_now_, if possible. You heard that
speech, Jim, didn't you?"

Old Jim, who, with trembling hands, was in the act of adjusting his
new comfort, swore he had heard all the great preachers and lawyers of
his day, but Burr knocked the persimmons.

"Do you recamember, Hen," said he, familiarly addressing Hadley. "Do
you recamember how Daviess hopped up and snarled out, 'You shall have
all the _investigation_ you want!' He said it in jest that tantulatin'
style. 'All the in-ves-ti-gation you want.' _I_ was riled. I hissed."

"Like an old snappin' turtle," said the backwoodsman.

"I recollect," resumed Hadley, "the judge fixed the next Wednesday for
the hearing, as Burr desired. Wednesday came, but Daviess wasn't
ready. One of his witnesses absent. What could the judge do but
discharge the jury? He did discharge the jury, and then, gentlemen, we
had another surprise! No sooner had those jurymen left the box than in
marched Burr once again, and said he regretted that the jury had been
discharged, and asked the reason. Daviess buzzed up, like a mad
hornet, and explained that one of his principal witnesses, Davis
Floyd, was in Indiana attending a territorial legislature. Everybody
burst out laughing, and the judge had to call the court to order. You
ought to have seen Burr! Without cracking a smile, he desires that the
cause of Floyd's absence be entered upon record. Then he makes another
address, partly to the court and partly to the people, denying in toto
the charges against him, and insisting on a fair investigation. There
is not a franker, more open-and-above-board soul living than this same
Aaron Burr of New York! They can't catch him by any tricks of law or
lying. He won't be downed. To-day comes the last tug of war. I never
saw such another crowd in this town as we have now to attend court.
All Frankfort is here, all Lexington, and pretty much all Kentucky."

"I'll be danged," piped old Jim, "if I don't start right away and try
to git a bench. An ailin' man, like me, can't scrouge, as I used to
could."

"Go 'long wi' me; I'll jam you through the crowd, or mash you, Jim,"
offered the backwoodsman. "Fetch out the jug, Sanders, it's my treat.
Come up to the counter, neighbors, 'less you mean to insult me. Here,
use this dipper, Jim. All must drink--yes, you too, Solly." These
last words were addressed to a ghost-like man with a long white beard
and insane eyes, who had glided into the store. He was recognized by
all present under the name of "Solly," an abbreviation of Solitarius.
The demented fanatic sadly shook his head.

"Peace be with you all. Amen!"

"Amen, Solly; how's the Halcyon Itinerary?" asked Hadley, in playful
irony. "Where's your revelations?"

"Awake from your dreams." This monition, uttered in a slow, solemn
tone, was received by the loafers good-naturedly, being advice they
had often heard from the same lips.

"This whiskey'll wake 'em up, Solly, if anything this side of liquid
fire can. Here's a tinful for you."

The crazy prophet waved the offering away, raised his palms in silent
benediction, and glided out as noiselessly as he had entered.

"Badly cracked," said the grocery-keeper.

"Religion done it," exclaimed Old Jim, between swallows.

The drinks having been paid for, the entire company, led by the
backwoodsman, left the store and hurried to the court-house.



XXII. NOT A TRUE BILL.


The oft-deferred and eagerly expected hour came, in which the charges
brought against Aaron Burr by the United States District Attorney of
Kentucky were to be investigated before a Grand Jury, Judge Hary Innes
presiding. The court-room was crammed from wall to wall with a crowd
of men impatiently awaiting the first move in the anticipated war of
words between two famous lawyers, who were known to be not only
political antagonists, but also personal enemies. The cause of the
impending battle was worthy of the contestants. On the result of that
day's testimony and debate hung the fortunes of the conspirator and
his federaries. This Burr realized, though few of his devoted
adherents in that crowded room had suspicion that the charges against
him were true. In the minds of most of them he figured as a martyr, a
patriotic citizen maligned and traduced. There were many in that
assemblage who, had they believed his designs traitorous, would have
greeted him not with applause, but with a volley of rotten eggs.

When Judge Innes stepped behind the high desk of justice, and took his
official seat, a buzz of expectation went round. The clerk of the
court bustled in with an air of importance, and shook hands with the
District Attorney, whose troubled, anxious eye shot piercing glances
in every direction. Daviess appeared to be seeking for somebody he
hardly hoped to find. Old Jim, standing in a corner, craned his neck
to get a better view, wheezily murmuring in the ear of his friend, the
backwoodsman, "Jo looks cross. I reckon he has lost somethin'."

"'Spect he has lost his case," remarked Buckskin Breeches, stooping to
spit tobacco juice on the floor. At this moment a cheer, seconded by
general handclapping, announced the coming of Burr and his counsel,
Clay and Allen. The judge did not check the demonstration; on the
contrary, he smiled a beaming welcome and was unjudicial enough to nod
familiarly from his high bench.

The case was called with the usual forms of procedure, when, to the
disgust of Old Jim and the auditors generally, Daviess asked a further
postponement owing to the absence of an indispensable witness, John
Adair. The judge hesitated, Burr had nothing to say, and the
spectators manifested signs of democratic protest against being
disappointed in their hopes of a forensic entertainment. Burr's
lawyers were very willing to treat the populace to a taste of oratory,
which, in the guise of legal discussion, might produce remote
political effects, for office-seeking was a fine art in the good old
days of Jackson and Clay. Colonel Allen arose to insist that the
investigation go on or else be abandoned finally and entirely, and to
this the judge seemed to assent. Daviess, fearful that the court and
the balance of public opinion were against him, felt the difficulty of
his position, but determined to summon all his power of argument and
persuasion, hoping to turn the tide in his favor. A bold man, ready in
debate, sharp at repartee, the leader of his party, the District
Attorney was considered a match for any member of the Kentucky bar.
The judge, the assembled lawyers, and the waiting audience perceived
in the very attitude of Daviess, when he rose to plead for
postponement, that he was loaded with a great speech. They were not
mistaken. For more than an hour he held the absorbed attention of
every listener. He set forth clearly and forcibly the fundamental
reasons why the accusation of treason against a prominent citizen
should be fully investigated.

"Your Honor," said he, in conclusion, "I appear before you and before
the people of this State and county, and before the throne of Almighty
God; I come in the discharge of an imperative duty, as a servant of
the United States, to which I am bound by a sacred oath; I come to lay
before you damning evidence that the accused is guilty of treason to
his country. Only give me time--grant me another day. I shall produce
unwilling witnesses whose testimony will convince even the most
prejudiced politician, will persuade even his own deluded followers
that Aaron Burr is engaged in machinations to destroy this Federal
Union which the men of Lexington and Bunker Hill fought and died to
establish. Behold the Brutus who would stab, not a despotic Cæsar,
but the nourishing bosom of his native country. We have here, in loyal
Kentucky, a Lexington, our most populous city. Remember that it was
named in commemoration of the first battle of the Revolution. Shall
our Lexington be suffered to become a hot-bed of sedition? No, your
Honor--a thousand times, no!"

The effect of this peroration was for the moment overwhelming. A dead
silence prevailed throughout the court-room. Garrulous Old Jim
attempted no sarcastic criticism; he rolled his blear eyes in the
direction of the backwoodsman and shook his head as if to say, "I give
it up." The climax of the day's oratory, however, was yet to come.
Daviess took his seat and Clay instantly sprang up to answer him.
"Harry of the West," already a popular idol, was the most celebrated
speaker in Kentucky. Not yet thirty years of age, he had just been
chosen to represent his State in the Senate of the nation. Burr,
soliciting his professional aid, had written a note denying either
treasonable intentions or complicity with traitors. "You may be
satisfied," wrote he, "that you have not espoused the cause of a man
any way unfriendly to the laws, the government, or the interest of his
country." Relying on this assurance, Clay gave his services without
fee, perhaps in anticipation of the satisfaction he would enjoy in
vanquishing with the tongue the man who had once challenged him to
mortal combat with pistols. His resolute mien, tall, graceful figure,
expressive gestures, flashing eye, and mellifluous voice captivated
independently of the substance of his discourse. Clay was eloquent by
nature. There was no resisting the flood of his impassioned speech.

In the course of his address, which was meant as much for the public
ear as for that of the judge, he said: "These paltry charges, may it
please your Honor, these foul and slanderous charges, the filthy ooze
of an irresponsible newspaper, are incredible, preposterous--nay,
mendacious! They are not made in good faith. The purpose of those who
are fomenting mischief, under the pretence of performing public duty,
is not what it professes to be. The motives underlying this show of
public virtue are sinister and selfish."

"Do you mean to cast reflections on my character, sir?" demanded
Daviess.

"Not at all. You are brilliant enough to shine by your own light.
Look, sir, a moment, at the history of this illustrious American
citizen whom you are called upon to vex and vilify; remember his
heroic conduct in war, his splendid services in peace; recall the
story of his public sacrifices and his private misfortunes; who, I
ask, is worthy of a generous people's gratitude and confidence if
Aaron Burr be not worthy? Do you charge him with disloyalty? him the
hero of Quebec, of Long Island, and of Monmouth? him the very sword
hand of Washington?" This flourish of rhetoric added an extra inch to
the length of Jim Sweet's craned neck.

"Sock it to 'em!" he tried to shout, but his phthisicky effort ended
in a spell of coughing.

"Order in the court!" shouted the clerk, fixing the disturber with
threatening eye.

"They tell us Republics are ungrateful, and it seems that my learned
friend, the district attorney, would have you believe that miserable
maxim. Out upon such a sentiment! We boast, sir, of the hospitality of
Old Kentucky, especially of the Blue Grass region, and well we may
boast. Our people are magnanimous--their hearts are great. But what
shall be said of the unspeakable meanness, baseness, perfidy, of that
man or that community which would betray the stranger at the gates,
that would traduce and malign a high-minded, unsuspecting guest? What,
your Honor, is the hospitality of that section or city in this vast
Republic, the function of whose tribunals is to protect the rights of
the individual; what is the hospitality of a neighborhood which
permits a citizen to lie in wait to assassinate a pilgrim of peace?
That, your Honor, is what the prosecutor purposes. He would blacken
the reputation of his brother who happens to be of a different
political complexion. He would filch from the ex-Vice-President of the
United States his good name."

"He'd flitch his own mother," ventured Jim, on whose brain the
dipperful of whiskey was producing mixed results.

"Hold yer gab," said the backwoodsman, hoarsely. "Listen!"

The orator turned full upon the district attorney and thundered: "Has
it come to such a pass that a private citizen cannot make a tour of
observation through this free country without being dragged before a
court to answer trumped-up accusations as preposterous as they are
malignant? What will become of your rights and mine? Will some
prosecuting attorney arrest me on my way to Washington, because I have
somewhere, at some time, expressed private opinions from which he
dissents! I would like Mr. Daviess to tell us what the Constitution
means? Does it not insure to us all the right of habeas corpus?"

The outcome of the day's debate was a substantial victory for Burr,
though a technical one for Daviess. The court adjourned to the
following morning. Again the officers of the county, the jury, the
lawyers, and the great concourse of citizens, assembled. The district
attorney submitted his indictment and sent his evidence to the jury.
The jury heard witnesses and returned the presentment, "Not a true
bill."

On hearing the foreman announce this decision, the partisans of Burr
and his counsel broke out in tumultuous rejoicing. Hadley stood up on
a bench and shouted:

"Three cheers for Aaron Burr; Hip, hip, hurrah!"

The judge could not or did not check the enthusiasm.

"Three and a tiger for Clay!" squeaked Old Jim, and the cheers were
repeated.

Burr, escorted by his attorneys, made his way through the crowd,
shaking hands right and left. On the sidewalk, near the court-house,
the three gentlemen were accosted by the ghostly Solitarius.

"Awake from your dreams!" said the mild lunatic, in his peculiar,
hollow, monotonous voice--and he rolled his overlustrous eyes upon
Burr.

"Brethren, be not forgetful to entertain the stranger! I am that
Solitarius, to whom this new gospel was revealed, by an angel of God,
while I dwelt in a cell at the foot of the Alleghany Mountains, in the
year of our Lord 1799."

Clay drew his client forward by the arm, but not before "Solly" had
thrust into Burr's hand a copy of the "Millennial Prophecy."

"Awake from your dreams!" These repeated parting words of the crazy
prophet stuck in Burr's memory.

The ordeal of a legal investigation had been endured, apparently
without scath to the accused. The grand jury, not satisfied with
acquitting Burr, pressed upon him a written declaration, signed by
every member, exonerating him completely. A public ball was given in
his honor. Exulting in his triumph, he danced and made merry, admired
by the chivalry and adored by the beauty of the choicest society in
Frankfort and Lexington.

On the very day in which Daviess moved for a process to compel Burr's
appearance before the Frankfort court, a woman clothed in black and
closely veiled was granted an interview with the President of the
United States, in his private office at Washington City. She came from
Philadelphia, and appeared to have no acquaintance in the new capital
on the Potomac. She declined to unveil her face or to impart her name.

"I am here to put into the hands of the President a written statement,
accompanied by copies of letters and other documents, revealing the
secret plans of a conspirator, who, if not quickly arrested in his
career of treason, will disrupt this Union and establish a rival
government in the Southwest."

The President mechanically accepted the package handed him, and the
mysterious woman left his apartment, re-entered her carriage, and
ordered the driver to take the road back toward Philadelphia.



XXIII. THE FATAL CIPHER.


The disgruntled Spaniards continued to threaten war. Governor
Claiborne ordered Casco Calvo and Intendant Morales to quit the
territory of New Orleans. Soon after this a body of Spanish troops,
supported by Indian allies, assembled on the Sabine to menace the
American borders. In August a force actually crossed the Sabine and
advanced to Bayou Pierre, near Natchitoches, a hundred and twenty
miles west of Natchez.

General Wilkinson came from St. Louis to Natchez, and presently
advanced to Natchitoches at the head of a body of one hundred regulars
and five hundred militia. Late one afternoon in October word was
brought to Wilkinson in his tent that a young man of fine appearance
had arrived in camp, desiring to enlist as a volunteer. The general
gave orders to bring the man into his presence. The would-be soldier
was conducted immediately to headquarters, and there he imparted his
name and the real cause of his coming, his representation to the
sentinel being a ruse.

"Ah, you are Colonel Burr's confidential secretary; you have travelled
far and must be exhausted. You bring documents for me?"

"Yes, sir; my credentials are included with matters more important."

"You know the contents of the enclosure?"

"Only the general import. The sender of these missives has divulged
much to me. You may trust me."

"I trust you implicitly, Mr. Swartwout. The embassy on which you come
is of a delicate character, requiring discretion--as secret service
always does."

The general opened the package, and found that it contained three
separate papers. The first was a letter introducing Samuel Swartwout,
and vouching for his prudence, courage and trustworthiness. The other
two papers were in hieroglyphics. Wilkinson, smiling graciously,
turned to the messenger.

"Perhaps I had best be alone while I examine the other documents. I
will see that you are made comfortable."

An officer was summoned. "Captain Danvers, this gentleman is my guest.
Please see that he is suitably quartered and provided with a seat at
my table. He is the son of an old military acquaintance of mine."

The cipher agreed upon by Wilkinson and Burr was a composite of
arbitrary signs and of numerals representing letters of the alphabet.
The first riddle read by Wilkinson was a private letter to Burr from
General Dayton. Part of the contents ran thus: "Under the auspices of
Burr and Wilkinson, I shall be happy to engage, and when the time
arrives, you will find me near you. Write and inform me, by first
mail, what may be expected from you and your associates.... Wealth and
honor, courage and union, Burr and Wilkinson! Adieu."

The other communication was from Burr himself.

"Your letter, postmarked 13th May, is received. At length I have
obtained funds and have actually commenced. The eastern detachments
from different points, and under different pretences, will rendezvous
on the Ohio, 1st of November. Everything internal and external favors
our views. Naval protection of England is secured. Truxton is going to
Jamaica, to arrange with the admiral on that station. It will meet us
at the Mississippi. England, a navy of the United States, are ready to
join, and final orders are given to my friends and followers. It will
be a host of choice spirits. Wilkinson shall be second to Burr only,
and Wilkinson shall dictate the rank and promotion of his officers.
Burr will proceed westward 1st of August, never to return. With him go
daughter and grandson. The husband will follow in October, with a
corps of worthies. Send forwith an intelligent friend, with whom Burr
may confer. He shall return immediately with further interesting
details; this is essential to harmony and concert of movement. Send a
list of all persons known to Wilkinson west of the Alleghany
Mountains, who could be useful, with a note delineating their
character. By your messenger send me four or five of the commissions
of your officers, which you can borrow under any pretence you please.
They shall be returned faithfully. Already are orders given to the
contractor to forward six months' provisions to points Wilkinson may
name; this shall not be used until the last moment, and then under
proper injunctions. Our project, my dear friend, is brought to a point
so long desired. Burr guarantees the result with his life and honor,
with the lives and honor and the fortunes of hundreds, the best blood
of our country. Burr's plan of operation is to move down rapidly, from
the falls, on the 15th of November, with the first five hundred or
thousand men, in light boats now constructing for that purpose, to be
at Natchez between the 5th and 15th of December, there to meet you,
there to determine whether it will be expedient in the first instance
to seize on, or pass by, Baton Rouge ... on receipt of this send Burr
an answer ... draw on Burr for all expenses, etc. The people of the
country to which we are going are prepared to receive us; their
agents, now with Burr, say that if we will protect their religion and
will not subject them to a foreign power, that in three weeks all will
be settled. The gods invite us to glory and fortune; it remains to be
seen whether we deserve the boon. The bearer of this goes express to
you; he will hand a formal letter of introduction to you, from Burr;
he is a man of inviolable honor and perfect discretion, formed to
execute rather than project, capable of relating facts with fidelity,
and incapable of relating them otherwise. He is thoroughly informed of
the plans and intentions of ----, and will disclose to you, as far
as you inquire, and no further; he has imbibed a reverence for your
character, and may be embarrassed in your presence; put him at ease,
and he will satisfy you."

The eastern sky was flushed faintly with morning red before the
general finished deciphering this long message. Wilkinson saw that he
could no longer maintain an equivocal attitude, but must either yield
positively to Burr's proposals or denounce them. Early in the day he
summoned the messenger to his tent for a private interview.

"My dear sir," said the general, "you should be proud to be
recommended by such a man, in such language. Burr has absolute
confidence in your honor, fidelity, veracity and courage."

Swartwout answered with feeling and dignity.

"I hope I may prove myself worthy of his confidence and of yours. I
would not hesitate to risk my life for Colonel Burr or for his best
friend, General Wilkinson."

"That is very noble of you. Tell me, now that you are rested and
refreshed after your long journey, by what route did you come?"

"I came straight from Pittsburg, thence westward through Ohio and
Kentucky to Louisville, and from there on to St. Louis, expecting to
find you at that post. Learning that you had gone down the Mississippi
I followed in a skiff. I have been more than two months on the way
from Philadelphia to Natchitoches and have travelled fully fifteen
hundred miles."

"The document in your custody justified the difficult journey, Mr.
Swartwout. What information did you gather in the progress of your
trip, concerning our preparations?"

"I learned that, with the support of a powerful association extending
from New York to New Orleans, Colonel Burr is levying an armed body of
seven thousand men, with the view of carrying an expedition against
the Mexican provinces. Five hundred men are to descend the Alleghany,
for whose accommodation boats are ready."

"What will be the course of action?"

"This territory will be revolutionized. Some property will be seized
in New Orleans, I suppose. Our boats will be ready to leave in
February for Vera Cruz; the troops will march from there to the City
of Mexico."

"Does Colonel Burr know there are several millions of dollars in the
Bank of New Orleans?"

"We know that full well."

"Is it the intention to seize upon the deposits of private
individuals?"

"We mean to borrow, not to violate private property. We must equip
ourselves in New Orleans; we expect naval protection from Great
Britain. Of course, general, everything depends upon your
co-operation."

"Mr. Swartwout, the plans set forth in Colonel Burr's schedule are
admirable! You will readily perceive, however, that my part in
carrying them into effect must be manipulated with caution. I am
surrounded, as you see, by officers whom I must manage discreetly. It
is impossible that I should ever dishonor my commission. If I cannot
join in the expedition, the engagements which the Spaniards have
prepared for me in my front might prevent my opposing your operations.
Do you understand me?"

Burr's agent understood. He interpreted Wilkinson's language to mean
much more than it said, attributing to the commander a profound
sagacity which imposed reticence for causes beyond an ordinary man's
ken. His unsuspicious mind had been schooled by Burr to believe
implicitly in Wilkinson.

Swartwout was under engagement to join Burr at Nashville, and he
pressed for a letter which he might deliver to his chief. This request
Wilkinson evaded. Promising to return Burr a speedy answer, he
detained the envoy under various pretexts, bestowing upon him every
hospitable attention, and finally dismissed him with oral messages,
after having consumed ten days of his time.

Three days subsequent to the departure of Swartwout another messenger,
as secret and more swift, was dispatched from Natchitoches, bearing to
Washington City from the commander-in-chief, a full disclosure of the
plans of conspiracy, and fastening the charge of treason on Aaron
Burr. All the machinery of civil and military executive power was put
in motion in the districts over which Wilkinson's authority extended.

The information forwarded by Wilkinson's messenger reached Washington
City November 25, 1806. It was by no means the only evidence the
President had received, impeaching the loyalty of the eminent
politician. Daviess had written, and Morgan had written, and the
veiled witness in black had come in person with the facts reiterated
in Wilkinson's letter of exposure.

The President issued a proclamation, "warning and enjoining those who
had been led to participate in the unlawful enterprise, to withdraw
without delay, and requiring all officers, civil and military, of any
one of the States or Territories, to be vigilant, each within his
respective department, in searching out and bringing to punishment all
persons engaged or concerned in the undertaking."



XXIV. THE MIDNIGHT DEPARTURE.


The first snowstorm of early winter was whirling its flaky showers
over the frozen fields and through the naked woods of Bacchus Island.
The short day was nearing a dismal close. Harman Blennerhassett paced
uneasily to and fro within the narrow confines of his study. His face
was haggard, his general aspect that of a man harassed and hopeless.
Yet he seemed idle and without sense of responsibility for the future.
His air indicated irresolution, ennui, mild disgust of the world and
of himself. He took down Homer, brushed the dust from the covers, and
then replaced the volume on its shelf. He gave the glass cylinder of
his electrical machine a turn or two, and was for the moment gratified
to elicit a faint spark, a feeble snap of blue fire, which clicked
from the "receiver" to his knuckles. His eye dwelt fondly for a few
seconds on the air-pump, but wandered from that to the telescope, and
finally took cognizance of an apparatus for weighing heavy articles.
This was provided with a small platform, upon which the recluse
philosopher stepped, to determine his exact weight. He was busied in
this personal experiment, when a visitor was announced and ushered
into his _sanctum sanctorum_.

"I beg pardon! Do I intrude?" said the caller, a man of official
bearing, who gave the name of Graham.

"Not in the least, Mr. Graham. I have been taking my weight, and I beg
you to excuse me until I note the precise number of pounds and ounces.
My memory is treacherous. I make it a rule to ascertain my weight and
my height several times a year, but I can never remember either, an
hour after. I actually forget the date of my own birthday and how old
I am."

"That is owing, doubtless, to the fact that your mind is absorbed in
important things," said Graham, not very tactfully. "I make bold to
come to your house, Mr. Blennerhassett, uninvited, but not without
warrant. You are, I am informed, a partner of Aaron Burr in certain
enterprises now much talked of. It is of this Wachita expedition that
I wish to speak with you."

"Speak freely, Mr. Graham. Colonel Burr intimated that you would
probably join us. Here are letters giving recent information. Read for
yourself."

Graham glanced over a number of communications containing secrets that
Blennerhassett, had he been a man of ordinary forethought, would not
have trusted out of his own hands. Among the letters was one from
Burr, giving a brief account of his troubles in Frankfort. "You
perceive, my dear sir," so ran the lines, "that this step will
embarrass me in my project of the Wachita settlement, and will deprive
me of the pleasure of seeing you at your own house." Graham smiled
gravely at the guileless simplicity of the man who had not hesitated
to take a stranger into his confidence, unquestioned and unsuspected.

"It is my duty, as a man of honor, to undeceive you, Mr.
Blennerhassett. I have no intention of joining your expedition. The
fact is, I am here, not to aid and abet you, but the reverse. I come
commissioned, as the agent of the Federal Government, and my duty is
to prevent the execution of Burr's designs. Do you not know that
orders have been issued for the civil authorities to interfere with
your plans?"

Blennerhassett opened his eyes wide, with a stupefied stare.

"Then you are not one of us? I was told that you were a leader in the
New Orleans Association for the invasion of Mexico. The printer of the
_Gazette d'Orleans_ informed me that three hundred men had joined the
company."

"There is not a word of truth in the report. I am an officer of the
Government, but I have no desire to molest misguided people. My motive
in coming through this snowstorm to you to-day is friendly. I want to
save your family and you from disaster. I hope to dissuade you from
your present purpose. You are misinformed--deluded."

The lord of the isle plucked up spirit and replied haughtily:

"I thank you for your good intentions toward me and my family, though
your coming is inopportune, not to say impertinent. We know our own
affairs. Colonel Burr and myself are, I conceive, sufficiently
experienced in business, and well enough informed in law, to know what
we are about. The interference of local officials I shall resent, and
if necessary, prosecute. As for yourself, you have not shown your
credentials. I trust you will have the honor not to magnify or distort
any information I may have inadvertently exposed to your scrutiny. I
wish you farewell. Shall I send one of my servants to conduct you to
the wharf?"

The official, who was really sincere in all that he had said, left the
house and the premises in rather bad temper, yet he cherished no
resentment on account of the rebuff.

No sooner was Graham gone than Blennerhassett's courage collapsed. He
flung himself into a big chair, and yielded to the pressure of
despondency. His wife came into the study and discovered him with his
head bowed upon his hands.

"Husband, what ails you?"

"Oh, Maggie, Maggie--we have been deceived. I fear Colonel Burr has
not told me all he should have told. We must go no farther in this
enterprise." He went on to tell what had passed between himself and
Graham, and ended his lament by saying: "I am worried to death! Half
my fortune is already squandered! We must think of the boys; we must
stop further expenditure, before we have lost all."

The wife stood erect, unshaken, firm almost to rigidity. A white heat
of resolute energy burnt in every capillary of her nerved body.

"Give up nothing! Carry out the original plans decided upon here in
this library. We expected difficulties--we shall overcome them. All
great enterprises are difficult. What do we care for the prattling of
this Graham? Now is our time to act. We must do our own thinking. Burr
is not here to direct, and if he were, I would not trouble him with
details. Why play a secondary part? You are as wise a man as he is,
and you are my husband. You have spent money--spend more! To abandon
the enterprise is to throw away your chances, all your past
expenditures, and all your labor."

"But, my dear wife--"

"Harman, this is not a time for ifs and buts. Hasten your
preparations. Bring the boats down from Marietta. Keep every
engagement with Burr, and join him at the mouth of the Cumberland at
the appointed time. Whoever weakens, let not you and me do so.
Remember the pledges made to and by us, and bear yourself as becomes
the man chosen to be Minister to the Court of St. James."

What spur more sharp than a beautiful woman's appeal to a proud man's
vanity? Blennerhassett hastened every preparation for the forwarding
of provisions, ammunition, arms, and men. Night and day the busy work
went on. Skiffs flitted in and out of the secluded cove, fetching and
carrying supplies or recruits. Skilful hands folded cartridges and
manipulated the bullet-mould in the light and heat of the kitchen
fire--even the slender fingers of the mistress shared in this
significant task.

The time came for bringing the fifteen batteaux from the shipyard on
the Muskingum, where Byle had heard the clatter of saw and hammer. But
when Blennerhassett's tardy employees made an attempt to get the
boats, they were frustrated by the civil and military authorities of
Marietta. Only a single batteau was brought down. Jefferson's
proclamation was producing its intended effect. The country had
awakened to a sense of public danger. The militia was called out in
Ohio and a rumor came to Blennerhassett that Colonel Phelps, at the
head of the militia of Wood County, Virginia, was about to cross over
to the island, seize whatever supplies might be found there, and
arrest the proprietor.

The islanders were alarmed. There was no time to waste. Nevertheless,
the head of the household hesitated--dawdled. The crisis paralyzed
his energy. It was an imperative duty, now, for his wife to make up
his mind and to make it up strong. Her will was adequate. She took
command of the domestic ship, captain and crew. Peter Taylor hung
around his master deprecatingly; she sent him to Belpre on an errand.
Albright, the dairyman, spoke disparagingly; she ordered him to look
after the cows. She put an arm round her wavering lord, and drew him
into his favorite retreat, the library.

"You must embark to-night or lose your liberty, possibly your life.
The trunks are packed--everything is ready! We must be brave, as an
example to the children." While she spoke Dominick knocked at the
door. "May I come in, mamma? I want to go along with papa; I want to
go along to Mexico!" The mother gently pushed him from the room. Tears
were in the eyes of both parents.

"Margaret, ought I leave them and you unprotected?" She kissed him on
the forehead and pressed his tremulous hand.

"Have no fear. I shall be safe. To-morrow we will follow you. Now make
haste and complete your final preparations. Tell your men just what to
do. We know not the instant that Colonel Phelps may come to arrest
you." Blennerhassett assured his wife that everything had been
attended to, and that he was ready, at a moment's warning, to start
for his boat, which lay waiting by the shore. Night came on, however,
and still the fond husband and father lingered. The snow was falling
in the outer darkness, and the wind howled through the long avenue of
the portico. No wonder the easy-going devotee of luxury shrank from
stepping into the bleak night, to navigate a scow down the rough, icy
current of the Ohio. Against his wife's protest he took up the
violincello and began to tune up its three remaining strings. Touching
the chords lightly with the bow, he attempted to play "Auld Lang
Syne." A confused noise in the direction of the river stopped the
plaintive music.

"Now you _must_ start; I will go along to the river's edge, and see
you safe aboard."

Blennerhassett hurried to the bedroom of his boys. Little Harman was
asleep. The father kissed the favorite child, and then embraced
Dominick.

"Be a good boy, Nicky. Mamma will soon bring you to me again."

Voices were heard shouting, somewhere, in the distance. When Madam
Blennerhassett opened the hall door to go forth with her husband, a
dash of snow was driven into her face by the insolent wind. Arm in arm
went the pair, through the drift which heaped the dooryard path and
covered the flower beds. They saw a fire which a squad of the recruits
had kindled near the river, to warm their numb hands. The flickering
blaze made fantastic lights and shadows among the gaunt bare trees.
Just beyond the limits of the snow could be seen the broad Ohio.

"How sullen the black flood looks!" thought the woman.

"Do you hear the water swash against the logs along the shore?" said
Blennerhassett.

The couple made straight for the camp-fire, breaking a track. The dry
leaves under the snow, when trodden on, gave back a muffled rustle.
Near the fire stood a group of a dozen men, with guns in their hands.

"Who are these? Are they militiamen? Will they arrest you? O Harman,
my dearest!"

"They are my own people!" answered the husband.

The words had scarcely passed his lips when a figure emerged from the
hollow of a huge sycamore, and advanced to intercept the coming party.
A powerful man clapped his hand on Blennerhassett's shoulder.

"Harman Blennerhassett, I arrest you in the name and by the authority
of the State of Ohio."

"The hell you do!" a gruff voice responded from the group of armed
men, who instantly levelled their guns at the intruder.

"Take your hands off that man, and take yourself away, or we will blow
your damned brains out!"

"Don't shoot! don't shoot!" cried the foiled agent of the State of
Ohio, taken by surprise. "You won't be rash enough to kill an old army
officer, will you?"

"We will be rash enough to shoot any man who interferes with our
affairs. Who the devil are you?"

"I am General Tupper."

He came forward, into the light of the fire, and was recognized by
several.

"You say you represent the State of Ohio," Blennerhassett faltered.
"This island belongs to the State of Virginia; you have no business
here."

"Blow his head off!" growled one of the guards, and again the recruits
covered the spy with their muskets.

"For God's sake, men, don't fire! Upon my word and honor, I came here
with good intent. All Marietta is friendly to you, Mr. Blennerhassett.
Can't you be persuaded to give up your rash design? You are rushing to
your own ruin."

"Put down your guns," commanded Blennerhassett.

"Time is flying," whispered the wife, impatiently. "Let them scare him
away."

"If you delay us longer, General Tupper, I cannot be answerable for
what my men may do."

The cocking of a gun warned the well-intentioned officer to hurry
away.

"Farewell," he shouted back, "I wish you a safe escape down the river,
and a fortunate adventure."

The speech was answered by a yell of derision from the boatmen as they
leapt on board the batteau, muskets in hand.

"Good-bye, my love," whispered Blennerhassett, clasping his wife in a
parting embrace.

"Good-bye, dear!" she said, and kissed him. "Be strong! Be brave! All
will end well. God bless you! Think of a glorious future!"

She turned to go, looked back, turned again from the icy margin of the
river, and started homeward; but, after taking a few steps, she again
stopped and stood a minute, shivering, and weeping under the bare
boughs of the great oak tree beneath which Burr had read aloud to her
one of her own sentimental poems. Groaning in spirit, and heart-stung
by pangs of self-reproach, she hurried up the slope of the carriage
road alone.

Through the drifting snow the brave woman returned to her house,
which, seen dimly through a veil of falling flakes, had looked to her
from a distance like an unsubstantial pile--a phantom habitation for
spectres. As she entered its dark hall the Geneva clock struck twelve.



XXV. HEROINE AND HERO.


Blennerhassett was afloat to join Burr. The management of the affairs
of the island devolved upon his wife. In the sole care of one woman
were left houses and land, man and beast, domestic duties at home and
business transactions abroad. Her children required constant
attention, and the servants, bond and free, for the most part lazy,
evasive, and insubordinate--spoilt by the inefficiency of a
vacillating master--were hard to govern or to please. Peter Taylor
was insidious, but plausible; Albright, obstinate; the negroes, with
few exceptions, "something between a hindrance and a help."

On returning to her house at midnight, having just seen her husband
embark, the vigilant wife and mother did not bury her troubles in
sleep. The urgent demands of a crisis not to be postponed forbade
slumber. The words of General Tupper rang in her ears: "I arrest you
by the authority of the State of Ohio." That her peace and liberty
would soon be threatened, if not taken from her, by civil or by
military force, she had much reason to fear; that her island retreat
was already invaded by scouts from the Virginia militia she did not
surmise. "How I wish I were a man," she said to herself, and sat down
to think how a man in her situation would act. Whatever may have been
the sex of her brain, her mind worked swiftly, both to decide and to
will. "I shall go to Marietta," was her mental conclusion, "and make
another effort to secure the family boat for my children and myself.
It belongs to my husband; he paid for it from his own private purse; I
will claim that boat."

The tardy sun, peering through the dense fog of the following morning,
caught a first glimpse of Madam Blennerhassett when she dismounted
near Fort Harmar, and asked to be ferried across the Muskingum, to the
boatyard on the eastern shore. The resolute lady sought the town
authorities of Marietta--magistrates, lawyers, generals, merchants,
common laborers--whom she importuned to intercede in her behalf. She
argued, she coaxed, she threatened, she tried the persuasive influence
of bribes, and as a last resort, she summoned tears to plead her
cause--but of no avail--she failed to obtain the boat. Enraged,
disappointed, filled with anxious forebodings, she recrossed the
Muskingum, and started back over the road which leads to Belpre,
following the windings of the Ohio.

During her absence from home a very disagreeable surprise was
preparing for her. The militia of Wood County, Virginia, crossed over
to the island and camped on the most eligible grounds they could find,
the premises nearest Blennerhassett's buildings. The commander of this
reckless and undisciplined infantry, Colonel Hugh Phelps, did not
appear at the place of rendezvous until late in the day, having gone
on a reconnoitering errand, to the mouth of the Kanawha, hoping to
intercept Blennerhassett. The soldiers, if a name so honorable can be
applied to the raw levy, mustered on the spur of the moment, assumed
all the boisterous swagger which, as they imagined, was the
prerogative of the citizen dressed in uniform and armed with musket.
It was their idea that a soldier's privilege is insolence, and the
badge of his superiority, self-importance. The captain and lieutenants
exercised slight control over the men in the ranks, who conceived that
the offices had gone to the wrong men. The Wood County militia
regarded itself as an "army of occupation," by law and precedent
warranted in abusing a brief authority. Instead of guarding and
protecting property not their own, the men showed their patriotic zeal
by mutilating or demolishing the results of Blennerhassett's labor.
They took malicious pleasure in wantonly defacing whatever was elegant
or ornamental. They tore off the fence-palings to build their
camp-fires; they broke down young fruit trees and pulled up evergreen
shrubs; they ransacked barns and outhouses, stole hoarded apples,
killed chickens, and frightened the negro slaves out of their small
wits. Peter Taylor protested in vain; the roysterers threatened to put
Peter in the guard-house and gag him, or even to "string him up," if
he didn't hold his tongue.

The butler was forced to produce the keys to the wine-cellar, and the
consequences of his surrender were what might have been expected. The
mischief already perpetrated in coarse fun--the horseplay of
backwoods big boys cut loose from restraint, though rude and
destructive, was harmless compared with the orgies to which it was a
prelude. The rich and abundant liquors stored away to supply the
family demand for twenty years were in a day poured down the throats
of the pseudo-soldiers. Under the influence of drink many of the
privates, and not a few officers, lost all sense of decency. Some of
the bolder among them entered the house, roamed through kitchen,
parlor, library, bedrooms. One drunken lout smashed the rare
violincello, another brought the gilded harp out into the barnyard and
used it as a gridiron on which to roast a confiscated pig. The oil
portrait of Blennerhassett, set up as a target, was riddled with
bullets.

Dominick made a frantic effort to rescue his father's picture from so
ignominious a fate, but, cuffed on the ear by a bully, the boy had no
recourse except to hide away in his mother's room with Harman and the
black housemaid, Juno.

Such were the scenes enacting in and around her beautiful mansion,
while the disappointed mistress was hurrying homeward. A heavy fog
still hung over the valley and almost hid the sullen waters of the
river from view. As Madam Blennerhassett urged her horse along the
river road, her vigilant eye kept her aware of a small boat, which,
soon after her starting back from Marietta, she had seen glide out of
the mouth of the Muskingum and drift down the Ohio, hugging close to
the north shore. Indistinctly, through the mist, she could make out
the shape of a man rowing the boat. Whenever she quickened the pace of
her horse, the man plied his oars rapidly; whenever she slackened
reins, the man slowed up; he kept opposite her and was watching her.
Madam Blennerhassett was a courageous woman; but she was a woman, and
she began to be afraid. Why was that man furtively following her down
the river? Why did he keep her constantly in sight? What might be his
evil design? Her terror increased as she neared the ferry, where she
had ordered Peter Taylor and Ransom, the negro, to await her return.
Striking her steed smartly with the riding whip, she galloped fast.
She reached the ferry landing, the boat was there, but Peter Taylor,
in whose face she read distressful tidings, was reluctant to carry her
over.

"Maybe, mum, you'd best stay in Belpre; there's a rough set on the
island."

"The militia, I suppose," said she. "Make haste! Take me to my
children."

Hesitatingly, the rowers obeyed their mistress, whose eyes watchfully
pierced the fog, in every direction, though nothing could she see of
the sneaking river-spy or of his canoe. She drew a long breath of
relief, and turned inquiringly to Peter Taylor.

"Has anything gone wrong?"

"Heverything 'as gone wrong!"

He told her a dismal tale of the doings of the militia, dwelling on
his own inglorious sufferings. A flush reddened his mistress's cheeks,
her eyes flashed and her heart was on fire. "Go faster! Work with all
your might!"

The white man and his black helper bent hard to their poles, and
brought the boat speedily to the landing. The horse was led ashore and
its rider sprang into the saddle, and galloped to the door of her
house. The soldiers, bivouacking in the front yard, stared in
amazement as she rode past. In a minute, in a second, she alighted and
swept into the parlor, where six or eight brawling intruders sat on
mahogany chairs and upholstered sofas, drinking wine and singing
filthy songs. One fellow, maudlin from liquor, rolled on the Smyrna
rug. Another was in the act of firing a bullet at the frescoed
ceiling.

"Robbers! Cowards! Beasts! Begone! Where is your commanding officer?
By whose permission are you here? Young man"--this to a
captain--"you wear a sword--draw it and drive these ruffians out!
This is my house. You have no warrant to break in, like a band of
thieves."

This speech and the imperious bearing of the offended woman checked,
but did not stop the orgies of the irresponsible men. A few slunk from
the room, ashamed and overawed. But the mob spirit was not to be
quenched by an angry lady's lofty speech. The brutal element
prevailed. What cared those intoxicated revellers for a scolding
tongue? The young captain, his head swimming in the fumes of whiskey,
impudently replied, "I'm in command here myself, my dear. When Phelps
comes back, I'll interduce you to him." The soldiers yawped applause.
In the midst of the uproar, Juno, the house servant, ventured to come
in by way of the library, with Harman. The child ran to his mother
where she stood in the centre of the room. A saucy corporal broke out
with obscene speech and plucked at the dress of the negro girl,
imitating the affrighted child.

Again the mistress made a vain appeal:

"Do American soldiers abuse women?"

"A nigger's not a woman!" hiccoughed the corporal, and his words were
applauded by a general guffaw.

"Think of your own sisters and mothers and wives!"

"Wives! That's good! How many wives do you s'pose I've got? I wish to
hell I had a bloomin' wife like yerself. Yer man's run away, how will
I do for a substitute?"

"Shouldn't wonder," interrupted the captain, "if the damned Irish
traitor was lynched by this time."

Madam Blennerhassett looked around imploringly and supplicated:

"I am alone here with my poor children. Will no one take our part? Is
there not one man here who will defend me?"

A drawling voice responded:

"By ginger-root, there _is_ sich a man. Blast you, you forward skunks,
git out of this! Say, you woods-colt with the humps on your shoulders
and a stalk-knife by your side, help drive these hogs into the Ohio
River. They've got more devils in 'em than what's-his-name, in the
Holy Scripture, cast into all the swine of Jerusalem. Git out, I say,
you knock-kneed jackasses!"

Loquacity was Byle's riches, but he could transmute speech into
action. Instead of wasting words, he began to deliver convincing
blows. His first stroke sent the obscene corporal to the floor, minus
front teeth and consciousness. The amazed captain labored to unsheath
his sword, but Byle snatched the rusty weapon and thwacked the young
scapegrace over the pate with it. A rash rustic drew up musket and
fired; the ball grazed Plutarch's right thumb, bringing blood. This
enraged the doughty champion to the highest pitch of his fighting
compass. Rushing upon the dismayed private, he seized the offending
musket with both hands, and snapped stock from barrel by suddenly
pressing the piece against his bent knee. So impetuous and so violent
and so general was the onslaught of Plutarch, that the untried
militiamen, "flown with insolence and wine," were taken aback,
surprised and confounded. Seeing his advantage, the gaunt giant
resumed bellicose speech, like a Greek taunting the Trojans.

"Bust my buttons, bimeby I'll get mad, and hurt some of you 'fore I
know what I'm about! What the Holy Moses did you shoot my thumb for?
durn you! Don't you guess I've any feelin', you onery idiot? Needn't
be skeered, Margaret, I'll make ground mustard out of anybody that
dares touch a hair of your head with his sass!"

The rout, ignominiously driven from the parlor by the vigorous
assaults of Byle, immediately rallied, in the yard, ashamed of their
precipitate panic and retreat. The humiliated captain gave orders to a
file of men to enter the house and take the champion, alive or dead.
This command might have been executed had not Colonel Phelps come upon
the scene unexpectedly. A rapid survey of the premises, a few
inquiries, revealed to him the shameful misbehavior of his officers
and men. Byle freely imparted his version of how matters stood.

"Colonel, these scandalous boys of yourn are guilty of burglary in
open daylight! yes, and of unprovoked 'sault and batter, prepense. The
law is on our side, all round. The citizen has an inalienable right to
defend his home and family, and we did, didn't we, Harman?"

Phelps admitted the correctness of Plutarch's views. To the captain
the colonel said sternly:

"Consider yourself under arrest. You have disgraced your temporary
commission." Addressing the derelict soldiery, he added:

"You are not fit to carry muskets! Shame upon you, men, shame! You
have soiled the name of Virginia, and stained the honor of your
homes."

"Say, cap'n," resumed Byle, staunching his bloody thumb with the
fringe of his buckskin doublet, "you'd best trade your side arms for
this young un's tin sword; git it for him, bub; and I'll make him a
pop-gun of elder-wood. Colonel Hugh Phelps, of Parkurgberg, how are
you? Excuse my not shaking hands sooner."

Phelps assumed a haughty military attitude, which displayed to
advantage his large and imposing form. "Who is this person?" he asked
the captain.

"Jersey cranberries! Don't you know me? I've heard of the Phelpses
ever since I was knee-high to a duck. They are folks nobody need feel
ticklish about shaking hands with. You're the only swelled up one of
the stock. I never knowed but one wuthless Phelp, and he was a good
enough fisher when he was sober. Colonel, were you ever picked up by
puttin' out your paw to the wrong man? Want to see inside the
'stablishment? Come right in, I'll introduce you to Mrs.
Blennerhassett."

The colonel pushed forward through the open door and accosted the
dignified lady, who was taking an inventory of the ruined household
effects. Byle stalked into the room at the officer's side.

In the stately manner of the gentry of the period, Phelps made his
compliments and solicited a brief interview. He apologized as well as
he could for the outrageous behavior of the militia, and offered to do
anything in his power to make amends. The only favor which the proud
woman asked was the privilege of embarking as soon as practicable, on
a down-river boat that would carry her and her children to the South.

"Can you procure for me the family boat which my husband provided for
us at Marietta?"

The colonel feared not. Marietta was out of his jurisdiction.

"Is there any boat that I can borrow here, or buy? I must join my
husband; I promised him that I would not delay."

"I'd lend you my big piroque, but you'll overset before you get as far
as Farmer's Castle," said Byle.

"Pardon me," responded Madam Blennerhassett, in tones of apology,
bestowing looks of infinite gratitude on her zealous guardian; "I
cannot put in words my sense of obligation to you, sir. Colonel
Phelps, I owe to this gentleman more than money can repay! It was he
who protected me and my servants from the drunken soldiers; he drove
them out, risking his life; he was wounded defending us!"

"You don't owe me a fip. It is no trouble at all to me to do a little
chore for you. It was fool's luck, anyway. I saw you in town this
morning, skiting about, from pillar to post, and says I to myself,
'There's uneasiness under that fine bonnet!' I noticed you dodge in at
the court-house and at Squire Hale's, and everywhere, and something
told me to investigate. So I went in wherever I saw you come out, in
reg'lar order, and larnt, I guess, just about as much as you did,
about your disappointment and your worry. Then I thought, 'as like as
not that woman is having more trouble down upon the island than I know
anything about. So, true as calamus is sweet-flag, as soon as you was
on your white horse, like the old lady of Banbury Cross, I was in my
everyday skiff, and I didn't lose you out of my sight from the minute
you started to the minute Peter and Ransom took you on the ferry--but
I slid along where you couldn't spy me."

"I did see you, sir, and I confess I imagined you might be some
river-ruffian watching me with no good intention. I did you great
injustice."

"I looked like a river pirate, did I? No, ma'am, I was a privateer,
but not a pirate. I was sailing under your colors, unbeknown to you.
Is that correct military language, Phelps? To make a long story short,
Scipio told me in his charcoal style what happened last night, and all
about Harman's sudden going away. Well, sir--ma'am, I mean--it
struck me of a heap. I never was worse doubled up by news in my life.
I'm not a praying man, as a rule--I only remember praying out loud
once--that was when brother Euc was near 'bout dead with cholera
morbus--I began to pray, and he says, 'Don't be fooling with the Lord
now, but give me some more camphire.' That speech of Euc's sort of
cured me of praying out loud, though I'm orthodox. Let's see; where
was I? Oh, yes, I felt so dangnation sorry for the family, that I
says, in my mind, or I reckon it was in my soul, I says to God, 'Don't
forget to keep your all-seeing eye on Margaret.' Well, Colonel Phelps;
I leave you in charge of the widow and the fatherless. If you have any
trouble with the militia, just send for Plutarch Byle. Good-bye, Mrs.
B. I never seen you lookin' handsomer since the day I first met you
and Evaleen, last May a year ago, when I was up here investigating
that hunk of raw beef in the puddle."

Notwithstanding his precipitate farewell, Plutarch lingered at the
door, and kept nervously wiping the blood off his thumb upon the
fringe of his doublet. Mrs. Blennerhassett, with gracious solicitude,
insisted upon wrapping a small linen handkerchief about the wounded
member. The gawky hero looked very sheepish while she tied the soft
bandage fast.

"Is this yourn?" he asked.

"It was mine," she answered, smiling amusedly, "but it now belongs to
the knight who came to fight my battle when I was in great distress."

"By gum, I'm obliged to you."

Uttering these elegant parting words, Byle bolted out of the room to
the long porch. He stood a moment, then turned his face toward the
door, where stood the lady, smiling her embarrassed thanks and adieux.
Big tears were trickling down Plutarch's cheeks. The awkward giant
gulped, wheeled round, and with long strides made a bee-line for his
boat, followed as he left the yard by cheers from the Wood County
militia.

       *       *       *       *       *

Fortunately, a party of youths, including Morgan Neville, William
Robinson, young Brackenridge, and a dozen others, who had attached
themselves to Burr and Arlington in Pittsburg, came down the Ohio, in
a flatboat belonging to one of their associates, Thomas Butler. These
adventurous voyagers, suspected of complicity with Burr, were
arraigned before three justices of the peace, of the Dogberry caliber,
and after a ludicrous examination were acquitted. The best room of
their boat was fitted up with carpets, hangings, and a suite of
furniture taken from the chambers of the White House, soon to be
deserted. The unplaned, unpainted cabin, perfumed by the sour odor of
oaken planks and the scent of pine resin, was transformed into an
Eastern boudoir--couches, divans, gorgeous colors and all, for the
accommodation of Mrs. Blennerhassett.

The ill-starred gentlewoman whose passion for the magnificent prompted
her to adorn her floating bower thus luxuriously, and who, like
Cleopatra, was attended on her barge by Ethiop slaves, had not
relinquished her faith in Burr's dream of conquest and empire.

"Where are we going," asked Harman, when the boat which was to convey
the family to Bayou Pierre had been pushed off from their island, and
the mother and her children realized that they were afloat upon the
river.

"We are going to meet your father in a splendid city far away in the
South."

"Will Colonel Burr be there?"

"Yes, but we shall not then call him Colonel; he will be Emperor."

"And what will you be, mamma?"

"A duchess, my son."

The weary mother sank back upon her oriental divan, which was piled
with cushions, and closed her eyes in fragrant slumber, a luxury she
had foregone for many days and nights.



XXVI. OUT OF THE NET INTO THE TRAP.


December was well-nigh spent when Blennerhassett's bateau reached the
mouth of the Cumberland and joined Burr's flotilla of a dozen similar
boats. The number of men ready to embark for the Wachita counted only
three or four score. This informidable showing discouraged
Blennerhassett, but the "general," for so Burr was now styled, saw
fleet and men with the multiplying eye of faith, and he rejoiced to
have actually begun the campaign. Followers yet unseen were surely on
their way to join his resolute band. The miscarriage of plans at the
island imposed only a temporary delay on the five hundred expected to
descend from the Alleghany country. That recruits would flock the
Mississippi shores to look for the coming of the leader, and to offer
themselves--blanket, gun and soul--for the bold venture, was to be
expected of men whose names were written in the "Roster of the
Faithful."

The motley forces drawn up on the bank of the Cumberland for review
and instruction made up in fantastic variety for what they lacked in
number. There was much of the grotesque and somewhat of the pitiful in
the spectacle presented by the straggling ranks of boatmen and
backwoods farmers. Many wore garments of butternut linsey; others had
on buckskin breeches and coats of bear's pelts; some, in imitation of
Boone and the pioneers, had donned moccasins and wolf's skin caps,
ornamented with foxtails. Some of these picturesque resolutes leaned
on their long rifles, displaying to advantage tomahawk and scalping
knife.

To this nucleus of an expected great army Burr made a brief speech:
"There can be no failure in any enterprise backed up by patriots of
such stock as I see before me. You have the muscle and the sinew, the
blood and the brains, the heart and the soul, of Western heroes. Your
officers, while expecting obedience, give in return their friendship
and protection. We are to share common hardships and dangers, putting
up with things as they are to-day, in certainty of reward to-morrow."

The progress of the unwieldy batteaux was impeded by perils of winter
navigation. Burr exercised his best generalship in directing his men
how to overcome the difficulties they must encounter. He now thought
he knew the river in its two siren moods, its summer singing hour and
its winter rage of hunger for decoyed victims. His royal progress in
Wilkinson's barge he recollected as an event so long ago as to seem an
impression revived in the brain, of a voyage enjoyed in some previous
state of existence.

The flotilla had passed New Madrid, when, one afternoon, Burr standing
near the stern of his boat--amused himself by contemplating a
procession of flying clouds in distorted shapes of dragons,
hippogrifs, witches, and ghosts. The boat was close to shore, skirting
a low bluff, covered with shrubs and trees. A majestic poplar standing
on the river's edge drew the colonel's attention by its noble aspect.
At the very moment when the prow drove opposite the monarch tree, its
lofty top trembled, the towering trunk reeled and fell into the river
with a terrific plunge. The twenty-foot long steering pole, to which
was attached a rudder like the blade of a huge oar, was struck and
splintered by the falling trunk. The seemingly firm-rooted and defiant
poplar had been undermined by the incessant erosion of the flood.

"Good Heaven!" exclaimed Burr, involuntarily. "Am I the tree or the
undercurrent?"

That he had far less to dread from winds, waves, and falling trees
than from ominous storm gatherings of human element, menacing the
fleet from the shore, the adventurer discovered full soon. He was
prepared to battle with the Mississippi, but had not anticipated
collision with the territorial militia, for he was in ignorance of the
fact that his plans had been exposed, and that a thunderbolt from the
hand of national authority had been hurled. His flotilla, as it
proceeded southward, instead of being hailed and boarded by eager
recruits, was bayed by the watch-dogs of the law, civil and martial.
Intrusive messengers from the courts and officious colonels of raw
militia regiments pestered and threatened; those, with paper warrants
from local magistrates, these, with flintlock muskets in reserve.

Not until his boat arrived at Bayou Pierre, near Natchez, and landed
in Petite Gulf, was Burr fully informed of the action taken by the
National Government and the several States. The situation was
disclosed to him by Major Flaharty of the Second Regiment, who, acting
under the authority of the territorial governor of Mississippi,
ordered Burr to appear at the village of Washington to undergo
examination. The order was not promptly enforced, and the boats were
permitted to cross the river to a point on the western shore, a few
miles lower down.

Before Burr's boat pushed out from Petite Gulf, Blennerhassett hurried
to his superior, and with many apologies, handed him a letter,
crumpled from having been carried long in the bearer's pocket.

"This came by mail to the island, addressed, as you see, in my care.
Margaret warned me to deliver it to you promptly; but the commission
escaped my mind." The superscription on the letter, written in fine
hand, ran thus: "To Colonel Aaron Burr, care of Mr. Harman
Blennerhassett, Blennerhassett's Island, opposite Belpre, Ohio, U. S.
A." Burr waited until the boat was in motion before entering his cabin
to open and read the belated _billet-doux_, for such he judged the
missive to be. The news he had just heard of Wilkinson's changed
attitude, and the prospect of his own arrest, left him in a state of
mind not favorable to playing the capricious game of flirtation, with
pen or tongue. He cast the sealed epistle on the table provided for his
use, and sat down on a wooden stool to ponder. The only illumination of
his rude quarters came from a tallow candle stuck in a socket made by
boring an auger-hole in a block of wood. Night had fallen, the wind blew
in violent gusts and the timbers of the flatboat creaked and shuddered.
Burr sat in meditation, his face buried in his hands, his elbows resting
on the table, a foiled conspirator--frustrated, trapped, as he
conjectured, by his suave confederate. He had drifted into the eelpot
prepared for him. No mode of escape could he devise. He thought of Madam
Blennerhassett, of Theodosia, of glorious visions seen and royal
assurances given, in the secluded library of the White House on the
lonely island in the Ohio. Vividly he remembered his first voyage down
the beautiful river, the conversations with Arlington, the serio-comic
encounter with Plutarch Byle, the reverie on deck of the ark, the
evening in the ladies' bower. Slowly he raised his head from his hands,
and moved by the automatism of habit drew a cigar from its case, lit the
solacing weed at the blue-yellow cone of the candle flame, and smoked.
He now felt not disinclined to take up the neglected _billet-doux_. He
broke the seal and read.

                                            PHILADELPHIA, NOV. 31, 1806.

    "Forgive--forgive me, if you can--I am dying of remorse. You deceived
    me, betrayed me, in my girlhood, but I pardoned that, for I loved
    you more than any other woman ever loved a man. When we met in Ohio,
    by strange accident, all was reconciled. How happy I was! But when I
    learned of your perfidy; when I was forced to realize that I was not
    only your jilted victim, but your hoodwinked dupe; that your object
    in coaxing from me my fortune was wholly selfish; that you never
    meant to restore either my property or my good name; while your
    kisses were warm upon my lips your heart was planning proposals to
    another woman to become your wife that I, your discarded tool, could
    not claim even to be regarded as your mistress; when I felt sure of
    all this, I was frantic with grief and rage. I went to Washington,
    saw the President, gave him all the facts and papers you had
    intrusted to me. I did this in hatred, for revenge. In my madness I
    wanted to crush you, to blast your hopes, to kill you, if I could.
    But anger gave way to remorse. I would undo what I have done, but it
    is too late. I know you cannot love me--you cannot pity or forgive. I
    never shall forgive myself. There is nothing for me to live for--I am
    wretched, wretched, ruined--abandoned by you and despised by the
    world. When this reaches you, if it ever reaches your dear hand, I
    will be out of this awful misery and free from shame.

    "I send enclosed the diamond ring you gave me in Princeton--the one
    you took from my finger in that farmhouse on the Miami, to write
    with it on the window-pane your name, dear Aaron, my first love, and
    underneath it my own.

                                                               "Salome."

The unhappy trifler having reread the reproachful lines, took up the
ring which had fallen upon the table when the letter was unfolded.
There was a small window in the side of the cabin, opening on hinges.
Burr rose, stepped to the rude casement, unfastened the bolt, thrust
his arm out as far as he could reach, holding betwixt his thumb and
finger the sparkling gem, and was about to cast it into the water; but
he checked the impulse, drew back his hand and slipped the love-token
on his little finger.

"Poor Salome!" he murmured, closing the sash. "Foolish Salome! She
thinks she is the cause of my ruin; but she is not. I wish to God I
could say I am not the cause of hers."

The fickle lover, rousing from his remorseful reverie, became the man
of action. His boat was freighted, in part, with military stores,
proof positive of warlike designs. This objective evidence must not
come to the knowledge of judge or militia-man. Burr seized an axe, and
calling one of the boatmen to his assistance, led the way to the main
storage room, where guns and ammunition, packed in chests, lay piled.
The place was closely boarded up, having no openings whatever in the
sides.

"Here, Gilpin, take the axe, while I hold the light. Cut a hole in the
side of the boat, between these two upright braces. Hurry up! Make the
space large enough to let these boxes pass through."

The boatman chopped with lusty strokes and soon hewed an opening
sufficiently long and wide through the plank siding.

"Now, take hold; help lift this, and slide it overboard."

Rapidly the two worked with might and main, casting chest after chest
overboard to sink plumb to the muddy bottom of the Mississippi. By the
time the steersman gave orders for landing on the Arkansas shore, the
telltale cargo had all been unloaded. The innocent vessel was brought
to harbor in a bend and made fast to some friendly trees.

Military officers, acting for the governor of Mississippi Territory,
lay in wait to seize Burr and Blennerhassett. To the governor's
aide-de-camp the chief conspirator said with bitter resentment:

"As to any projects or plans which may have been formed between
General Wilkinson and myself, heretofore, they are now completely
frustrated by the treacherous conduct of Wilkinson; and the world must
pronounce him a perfidious villain. If I am sacrificed, my portfolio
will prove him such."

This petulant outburst was of no avail to stave off the minions of the
law. Burr was again in the toils. He, the distinguished attorney who
had won so many cases before the New York bench, and who had presided
over the Senate of the United States, was summoned to a hearing before
a grand jury in the obscure village of Washington. What a descent from
Washington, the capital, to Washington, the frontier hamlet; from
presidency of the Senate to a prisoner's box in a backwoods
court-house!

The good genius of Burr did not desert him at the hour of this, his
second humiliating ordeal. Fortune, who had rescued him in Kentucky,
again favored him in Mississippi. The grand jury, to the chagrin of
judge and territorial governor, brought in the unexpected presentment
that Aaron Burr was not guilty of any crime or misdemeanor. The jury
was dismissed, but the prisoner was not discharged. Burr, who had many
secret friends, was advised that the governor intended to seize on his
person the moment the court should release him. The conspirator
resolved to elude judiciary and executive by flight. Prudence and
dignity, however, forbade precipitate action. Never was fugitive so
intrepid, so calm. No valet had ever regarded him less than a hero.
But how would Madam Blennerhassett judge him? She had arrived at Bayou
Pierre--that Burr knew--and the first tidings she heard of her
husband told her that he and Burr had been arrested. Burr sat down,
and penned the following:

                                     "WASHINGTON, MISS., Jan. 31, 1807.

    "_Mrs. M. Blennerhassett._

    "Dear Madam: Your good husband has informed you of the miscarriage
    of our plans, and of our humiliating detention by Government
    officials. This temporary delay on the road to Beulah is wholly
    chargeable to the treachery of one individual in whom I placed
    absolute trust. No fit abiding place is yet provided for you on the
    Wachita acres. And Orleans is a port closed against us. How
    mortifying! Let not these tidings distress you, but draw upon the
    infinite resources of a determined will. I am not discouraged--only
    pestered and stung by a swarm of mosquitoes in the shape of
    magistrates, militia colonels, and false witnesses. Doubtless, Mr.
    Blennerhassett will be restored to you soon; as for myself, I take
    all the responsibility for his misfortunes upon my shoulders.
    Circumstances compel me, for the present, to move with
    circumspection, but you shall hear from me in good time.

    "Last night, in my sleep, I had a delightful experience. I dreamed
    we were all sailing the Mediterranean, in a silken-sailed barge,
    bound for Egypt, Syria, Arabia, and every spicy, flowery land. I
    awoke to the 'slumbery agitation' of today's evil chances. However,
    'there's nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.' The
    Kingdom is within us. You recollect old Shirley's solemn lines,

        'The glories of our blood and state
        Are shadows, not substantial things.'

    The only substantial world is comprised within the two hemispheres
    of the human heart.

    "Dear madam, will you console Theodosia with one of your brave,
    loving, womanly letters? She is the one who will suffer most from
    the miserable collapse of our plans--she and poor little Gampy.

    "I presume you will return to the Enchanted Ground! 'Tis a heavenly
    retreat. I enclose a sprig of Spanish moss from a cypress-tree near
    the village jail. Adieu,

                                                                "A. B."

The gallant traitor did not linger for the governor's catchpoll to
seize him. French leave was better than a sheriff's hospitality. Three
of Burr's faithful adherents agreed to convey him secretly, in a
skiff, to a point twenty miles from Bayou Pierre, and there to provide
him with a horse and a mounted guide, to facilitate his escape from
the Territory. In pursuance of his project, he was about to leave
Washington, on foot, to join his clandestine abettors, when he was
curtly accosted by a young man whom he was startled to recognize at
that time and place. Burr put out his hand, but the young man
haughtily withheld his own. He spoke vehemently.

"Colonel Burr, I challenged a brave man, a patriotic soldier, to fight
a duel with me, because he spoke severe words about you. He wronged
you a little, but you have wronged me much--my friends more. You
called Hamilton to the field for traducing you; I demand satisfaction
from you for treacherously involving me and my family name with your
own, in charges of disloyalty to the Government. You lied to me!"

Burr compressed his lips and filled his lungs with a quick-drawn
breath. His cheeks purpled and his eyes shot dark fire.

"Mr. Arlington, you go too far. I cannot brook insult."

"Do not brook it. Resent it. You have smutched my honor. You have
ruined the Blennerhassetts. You have betrayed a host of confiding
people. You have endeavored to destroy the Union. I can right myself
before the country and in my own estimation only by calling you to
personal account. Will you meet me with pistol or with sword?"

Burr quenched the resentful fires that burnt in his heart, and replied
calmly:

"My friend, I decline to meet you in any form of duel. You cannot
provoke me to accept your challenge. I respect you too much to kill
you. You demand satisfaction. Arlington, no satisfaction comes to
either party in a fatal conflict. The dead man is indifferent to the
boast of honor vindicated. I have fought my last duel. But don't
imagine me afraid of threats, or bullets, or swords."

The Virginian responded in milder tones.

"Can you justify your deceptions, practised on me, or make amends for
the injury done the Blennerhassetts?"

"I justify nothing. I promise no reform. My plan failed. I did my
best. I am no traitor. I meant to benefit everybody. I shall be
vindicated. Good-bye. Go, Arlington, marry the belle of Marietta, and
be a happy man."

Arlington's nostrils quivered. A second surge of anger swept over him.
Burr continued:

"I advise seriously. Win Miss Hale. I know she likes you. She is the
finest woman west of the Appalachians--or east of them. I had
matrimonial inclinings toward the paragon myself."

"That I know," said the young man, with crabbed acrimony.

"Yes, you know that. That is an additional reason, you think, for
wishing to meet me in dudgeon. A lover hates a rival, even an
unsuccessful one, and cherishes hotter resentment against the man who
steals a kiss from his lady love than against him who violates a dozen
federal constitutions, and breaks all the apron strings of his mother
country."

The flippancy of this speech renewed Arlington's animosity.

"You will not, then, permit me to right myself by the code of honor?"

"No, Arlington, as I told you, I fought my last duel on the bank of
the Hudson. Good-bye. I am not the bad man you believe me to be. But I
am under a cloud. My hopes are darkened. I would like to keep your
friendship, but cannot demand it. It was in our plans to make you a
'belted knight, a marquis, duke, and a' that,' but the Creator
anticipated me by making you a true gentleman, which is the highest
title of nobility."

Burr started on the path which led to the covert where his three
faithful friends awaited his coming, to row him down the river.
Halting for a minute, he looked back at Arlington wistfully, and said:

"I am an outcast and an outlaw. Farewell."

Burr followed the path which he hoped would extricate him from the
labyrinth of his troubles, and Arlington left the village of
Washington, and was soon on the way to New Orleans, where Evaleen Hale
expected him at the house of her uncle.



XXVII. FLIGHT AND SURRENDER.


Disguised in the borrowed clothes of a boatman--pantaloons of coarse
stuff, dyed in copperas, a drab-colored roundabout, a broad-brimmed
slouch hat much the worse for hard usage in rain and sun--Aaron Burr
fled. He deemed it impossible that any detective could recognize him.
One precaution, however, he neglected to take; his genteel feet
disdained the boatman's cowhide shoes, nor would he put on the pair of
big Suarrow boots proffered by one of his followers. He insisted on
wearing, as usual, his tight-fitting, neat, elegant city-boots of
polished calfskin.

Clad and accoutred for flight through a wild country, mounted upon a
spirited horse provided by devoted accessories for the severe journey,
and accompanied by a guide who knew the forest ways, he set out, a
fugitive from justice. Both he and his pilot carried pistols in
holster and provisions in saddle-bags. Their route lay through a
desolate region sparsely settled by pioneers, and not yet relinquished
by wandering aborigines, nor by the bear and the catamount. The month
of February was spent before they reached the valley of the Tombigbee,
a distance of two hundred miles from the Mississippi River.

Late one evening the weary travellers drew rein at the door of a log
tavern in Alabama. A bright fire was crackling within, and several
guests sat conversing before the broad hearth.

"Hello the house!" shouted Burr's attendant. Not hearing a prompt
response to the call, the guide dismounted, rapped on the deal door,
at the same time jerking a stout leathern bobbin which drew up the
wooden latch inside. The door flew open, disclosing a puncheon floor,
a bar with bulging decanters of whiskey, and the group of talkers
sitting in the ruddy glow of the wide fireplace. The landlord came to
the threshold.

"Alight and come in, stranger. I have good beds."

"We are obliged to you, landlord," said Burr from the saddle, "but we
can't stop. We hailed the house only to inquire the way to Colonel
Hinson's. How far is it?"

"A long seven miles, and all that isn't stump is mud hole. Better put
up here till morning. A bite of pork and pone, washed down with a cup
of hot coffee, will make a new man of you."

"Thank you, my friend, but we are in some hurry. What direction shall
we take?" The tavern-keeper gave the desired information, with tedious
minuteness. Meanwhile the party at the fireside took sharp notice of
the man on horseback, whom they could plainly see in the outshining
light of the fire. A tall gentleman, whom the host called "colonel,"
inspected the strangers with comprehensive scrutiny.

"Neighbors," said he, listening to the receding hoof-beats of the
horses, "did you notice that man's face and his feet? He don't look
like a common man. Our backwoodsmen don't wear shiny boots." Leaving
his companions mystified by this speech, the colonel hurried from the
inn, and bent his steps toward a cabin, from the single small window
of which a lard-lamp levelled its faint ray. This was the lodge of the
district sheriff. The tall colonel called the officer out and
described the appearance and actions of the two travellers.

"Brightwell, I have my suspicions. Hadn't we better go--you and
I--to Hinson's, and learn who these parties are and what they want? I
doubt if your cousin, Mrs. Hinson, knows that her husband sympathizes
with a certain individual who falls under the charges of Jefferson's
proclamation."

Colonel Perkins easily persuaded the sheriff it was their duty to
follow the suspected persons, and the self-constituted spies saddled
horses and spurred through the woods, along a solitary road, to
Hinson's lonely cottage. Perkins remained outside, holding the horses
and shivering under the gusty pines. The sheriff knocked at the back
door of the cabin; the mistress of the house received him kinswomanly
in the kitchen. From this rear apartment Brightwell could peep into
the front room, where sat the object of his curiosity. Having
exchanged a few familiar remarks and inquiries with Mrs. Hinson, the
sheriff asked, in a whisper:

"Who is that man--the small man with black eyes and white hands?"

"He calls himself Hodge--Jeremiah Hodge--and claims acquaintance
with my husband. He says he came by request to have a talk with Hinson
about raft-building on the Tombigbee."

"Do you believe this?"

"I don't know what to think. He is a civil man--very civil--as soft
spoken as a girl, and he has the nicest table manners I ever seen in a
_man_. I couldn't turn strangers away on such a raw night."

"No," said the sheriff, "you could not; we must be neighborly; but I
have my doubts of Jeremiah Hodge. Good-bye, Jane. Drop over and see
Fanny and the new baby."

The officer, highly satisfied with his cunning detective work, slipped
out and joined his impatient companion, Perkins, who agreed to
communicate straightway with Lieutenant Gaines, commandant at Fort
Stoddart, a post on the Tombigbee. Having secured a canoe and a
colored boy to paddle it, Colonel Perkins, on the following morning,
descended the river, and told Gaines his story.

While Perkins was floating down the Tombigbee, the polite boatman,
Jeremiah Hodge, was writing letters, eating breakfast, and chatting
most agreeably with his admiring hostess. At about nine-o'clock he
requested his fellow-traveller to saddle the horses, and within the
few minutes required for this to be done he surprised Mrs. Hinson by
disclosing his real name.

"Madam, if you should ever chance to meet a boatman by the name of
Jeremiah Hodge, which is not probable, please make my apologies to him
for borrowing his name, as I have borrowed also another man's clothes.
I am Aaron Burr, of New York, a name pretty widely known and much
bandied about in these scandalmongering days. I know your husband
well; Colonel Hinson and myself are old friends; I saw him lately in
Natchez, and he was kind enough to invite me to make his house my
home, in case I had need of a comrade soldier's hospitality. Under the
circumstances now existing I cannot remain longer."

Mrs. Hinson looked incredulous and scared.

"Mercy me!" was her suppressed interjection.

"Pardon me for giving a false name, and not a pretty one, either. A
reward of two thousand dollars is offered to any one who will give
information leading to my arrest. Such a snug sum might serve you for
pin-money." This was jocularly said and with a smile. Mrs. Hinson
found a tongue to protest.

"Don't fear I'll blab. I wish I could help you to get out of danger.
Now I see why cousin Brightwell was Paul Prying here last night.
There's your horse saddled and bridled. Take keer of yourself."

"Good-bye, my dear madam. I cannot, of course, offer to pay you for
your generous entertainment of me and my follower. But you must not
deny me one small favor--take this ring as a keepsake from Jeremiah
Hodge."

He waited not for a reply, but gently raising her hand, which was a
very pretty one, he placed on her finger Salome Rosemary's diamond
ring! Bowing a graceful adieu, the versatile fugitive rode away at his
faithful servant's side.

The brace of horsemen had not trotted a mile before they were
overtaken on the highway by a rider who accosted them very cordially.
His sorrel steed kept even pace with the other two horses.

"A nice frosty morning," chirpped the friendly bore. "I hope I don't
intrude. I like company myself when I am on the road. Which way are
you bound? Pensacola?"

Burr made no reply, but his attaché answered freely:

"Yes, Pensacola. Which is the best road from here to Carson's Ferry?"

"The best road and the shortest is by way of the cut-off. I am going
that way--I'll show you the road."

All three cantered forward. In half an hour they came to a place where
the road made an abrupt turn, and just at this bend a file of mounted
and armed soldiers stopped their progress. Lieutenant Gaines and
Colonel Perkins rode at the head of the troopers. The lieutenant waved
a military salute and spoke.

"Have I the honor of addressing Colonel Burr?"

"You have that honor; I am Aaron Burr."

"You are my prisoner."

"By what authority do you detain me, a private citizen, attending
peaceably to my own affairs, on a public thoroughfare?"

"I arrest you, Aaron Burr, in the name and at the instance of the
United States of America. I hold in my hand the proclamation of
President Jefferson. I am a lieutenant in the United States Army. The
gentleman at your side is Theodore Brightwell, a sheriff, and the
officer accompanying me is Colonel Nicholas Perkins, who detected you
last evening when you rode up to the Piny Woods Tavern."

Burr surrendered. That night he slept, a prisoner, in Fort Stoddart.



XXVIII. WHAT BECAME OF THEM.


Almost eight years had elapsed since the date of Burr's arrest and
imprisonment, when on the first day of May, 1815, two young families
loitered away an afternoon in picnic outing on Blennerhassett Island.
The party consisted of eight persons--Colonel Warren Danvers, his
wife and a small daughter; and Mr. and Mrs. Arlington, their two
pretty little girls and a boy-baby. The children, excepting the
infant, were old enough to enjoy gathering wild-flowers. They kept
within call of the parents, who, conversing on events familiar to them
all, strolled over the deserted grounds of an estate rendered sadly
famous by the misfortunes of its former possessors. Amid scenes
associated with the disastrous failure of a treasonable conspiracy, it
was natural to speak of Burr.

"He is paying a bitter penalty for his crime," Danvers commented.
"Though acquitted by the Federal Court at Richmond, in spite of Wirt's
arraignment, the traitor will not recover the people's good-will. He
lives in New York City, a man forbid. His four years' self-exile in
Europe, I am told, was a humiliating banishment from the loyal and
patriotic. No country can be a "Sweet Home" to the man who repudiates
his own nation's flag. Burr declares himself severed from the human
race, and so he is."

"You are relentless, Warren," said his sister. "I feel much pity for
the man, since his heart-breaking experience of two or three years
ago."

"Ah, yes; yes," Lucrèce impulsively said; "Theodosia was her father's
incentive and his happiness. It was bad enough to lose the little
grandson. Think how you would grieve if your dear little boy should
die."

"We don't ever think of dying, do we, Dicky?" Evaleen cooed, making
mother eyes at her baby. "The world must have seemed a blank to Burr
after Theodosia was drowned."

"_Was_ she drowned?" questioned Arlington. "That was a mysterious
affair--the disappearance of the schooner--what was the vessel's
name, Danvers?"

"The Patriot. She sailed from Charleston for New York in the winter of
1812. I remember reading of the disaster just before marching with
General Harrison to Fort Meigs."

"The boat may have foundered or wrecked," said Arlington. "Some
believe it was captured by pirates, who carried Theodosia away to a
foreign port."

"That's an absurd theory!" declared Danvers.

"But not impossible, my dear," put in Lucrèce. "I hope the poor lady
was not carried away; drowning is preferable," said Evaleen.

"You two wouldn't drown when you had a chance at Cypress Bayou,"
laughed the husband. "You chose to be carried away by one robber and
brought back by another."

Lucrèce snugged close to her soldier, and he gave her a playful kiss.

"Spoony," sang Evaleen, whereupon her prim younger daughter, whose
plump fist tightly held a bunch of spring-beauties, looked up in
wonder and lisped:

"Mamma, what is spoony?"

The elder sister, some seven years old, came running to her mother's
side.

"There's a man by the well!"

"I saw him first," chimed in the smaller child. "Didn't I see him
first, Eva?"

The rambling party had returned from the woodland to the cleared
tract, in the midst of which the White House of Blennerhassett
formerly stood. The mansion, never occupied after the ill-starred
family left it, was destroyed by fire a few years before the time of
the picnic excursion. Near the low foundation walls of blackened stone
stood the wooden curb surrounding the mouth of a deep well. The old
windlass, below which a leaky bucket still swung, was kept in repair
by unknown hands. Upon looking for the man whom Eva had discovered,
Mrs. Arlington saw leaning upon the curb, in a posture of meditation,
a figure which both she and her husband recognized. There was no
possibility of avoiding or of evading a meeting with the meddlesome
babbler who had volunteered to prescribe "cowcumber bitters" as a sure
cure for Chester's love. Within the ten years since the revelation on
the summit of the mound, and the piroque tour to the island, Arlington
had seen and heard a good deal of Plutarch Byle. Though it was always
more or less of a social annoyance, and at times an intolerable bore,
to encounter the gossipy humorist, his numberless acquaintances, far
from wishing him ill, admired his honesty and lauded his goodness of
heart.

Byle heard the children's voices, and straightening up his awkward
form, turned to observe the advancing group. His wide mouth opened
with a grin of pleasure; he came forward with gangling strides.

"By crackey, if it isn't the Arlingtons! Home from Virginia, Evaleen,
to old Marietta, on a visit to the folks? You're looking peart. How do
you all do?"

Arlington, out of regard for his wife and kinsfolk, made some
dignified efforts to stem the tide of Byle's familiarity, but his
polite formality was not noticed by the associable democrat, who shook
hands with every one, beginning with the baby.

"So these is your offspring, as the preacher says, are they, Chester?
I knowed you'd have a lot of 'em when I recommended the match. Here's
the suckin' kid; let Uncle Byle heft him once. Gosh, baby, you want to
grab uncle's nose, do you? Well, then, pull away till the cows come
home. What's 'is name?"

"Richard," answered the mother.

"Why didn't you name him after me? P. B. Arlington would sound sort of
uppercrusty, eh? 'Richard,' you say? Oh, I see. Named for your daddy's
Orleens brother, the cripple! Yes! yes! Did Richard leave you as big a
pile of money as folks say? It must have been a heavy slam on you,
Evaleen, when he dropped off. Lucky, too, in another pint of view;
he's better off, and so are you--lots better off."

Danvers and Lucrèce, wishing to prevent posthumous comments on Uncle
Richard, came to Evaleen's rescue.

"You are a frequent comer to this island. You know its products and
topography?"

"Topography, yarbography, bugology and the dickens knows wot ology.
The ground is jest kivered, in places with Injun arrers, and pipes and
stone hatchets, and I've dug up some of the durndest queer-shaped
arthen pots you ever sot eyes on. Yes, I reckon I know Bacchus Island,
major."

"Not major," interrupted Arlington. "He was promoted after the battle
of New Orleans. He is now Colonel Danvers."

"Jehoshaphat! Let's shake hands on that, Danvers. No resk this time,
Arlington, _is_ there? You recollect, don't you? the day I first seed
you and Hoopsnake on the roof of his flatboat? I read t'other day in
the noospaper that Harry Clay met the aforesaid in the court-house in
New York. The sarpent put out his hand, but Harry wouldn't tech it. By
gum, Clay was smarter than me."

Danvers and Lucrèce looked mystified. Byle winked at Arlington.

"Don't tell 'em my disgrace. So cap's a colonel? This _is_ a surprise.
I'm just back from a jant to Cinc'natti. Stayed there a coon's age
with brother Virgil, who moved down from the Yok, last fall, and went
into the pork trade. Virgil's married, same as you four, but I'll be
dadbanged if he wasn't fooled in his woman. I tell _you_, Mrs.
Danvers, matrimony ain't always sich honey in the comb as Warren is
swallerin'. Virgil's wife looks nice, but Spanish flies! how he enjoys
her going away from home. Well, that's _that_. I went down on the
Enterprise. You've rid in a steamboat, I dare say, going to see your
pa, in Orleens? How's he? I forgot to ask. They say the old man's got
to be stylisher than ever. Jest run slap bang into rich relations. How
much is the doctor wuth? He never met me, but they say Deville is a
choice mackerel, for a Frenchman. I was about to say, I went down to
Cinc'natti on the Enterprise last December. Best boat on the river,
Captain Shreve says, and the fourth one built. I have saw the Orleens,
the Comet and the Vesuvius, but the Enterprise knocks 'em all.
Keelboats and barges is clean cut out."

To check the deluge of Byle's conversation, the picnickers soon took
occasion to shift their ground from the well to the beautiful green
plot which had been the carefully kept lawn of the Blennerhassett
premises.

Raised flowerbeds, of various forms, circular, crescent, and diamond,
could still be traced, though overgrown with grass and weeds. These
abandoned garden beds furnished convenient seating space for the
excursionists, while they ate lunch and drank water fetched from the
old well by Plutarch. The conversation reverted to Burr and his
alleged associates, involving the name of Wilkinson. Danvers defended
the general from severe animadversions. Arlington had no patience with
his brother-in-law's lenient judgment.

"Why, Warren, you, a colonel in the regulars, must know Wilkinson to
have been a failure every way. Wasn't he court-martialed last spring,
after holding the command of the Northern army less than a year? He
blundered in all he undertook. He was, in effect, discharged for want
of generalship and for excess in wine."

"I admit he lost laurels in the late war. So did many others. Jackson
and Harrison are our heroes now. General Wilkinson was acquitted by
the court-martial, as he was acquitted in 1811 of charges accusing him
of complicity with Burr."

"Acquitted! I know he was acquitted; so was Burr; but public opinion
condemns the decision of the courts. Before the bar of history both
stand accused and sentenced. They are guilty alike. Wilkinson seems to
me no better than Burr. Perhaps he is worse, for he betrayed his
comrade."

"Did he betray Burr, or did he only find him out? I was in Wilkinson's
tent when Burr's cipher letter was exposed. Wilkinson was outspoken in
denouncing Burr."

"Hold yer hosses. Let me put in a word edgeways, Captain
Danvers--'scuse me, I mean colonel. You spoke of Andy Jackson. He's
not my stripe--I'm a Federalist yist'day, to-day and forever--but
Old Hickory is a truth teller. What did Jackson say? I give you his
upside dixit, word for word, _ex litteratum_, as they say. Andrew
Jackson says, says he, 'Whatever may have been the project of Burr,
James Wilkinson has went hand in hand with him.'"

Mrs. Arlington introduced a new topic of conversation by saying, "I'll
not believe that Mr. Blennerhassett was consciously guilty."

"No, my dear, he was deluded. Mr. Wirt is right in contending that
Blennerhassett was comparatively innocent, 'a mere accessory.'"

Here Mr. Byle stood up and began rummaging in his pockets. The mention
of the name of Blennerhassett had altered his mood and changed his
manner. A shade of seriousness bordering on melancholy came over his
features. He slowly drew from the poke of his warmus a white cambric
handkerchief, which he blinked at for a minute, and then replaced,
venting an audible sigh. Long he listened in silence to remarks about
the islanders and their untoward fate. At length he broke in with:

"I told Harman before he sot out for Eternal Smash what he was comin'
to. _He_ wouldn't take my advice. But, gentlemen and ladies, in my
opinion, the near-sighted was about as much to blame for what
happened, as a pewee is for being swallered by a black snake. Harman
lost everything, as I told him he would. Fust in debt heels over
head--then the house burns--then he sells the plantation. Now he's
tryin' to run a cotton-gin down about Natchez. The boys are growin' up
no account. And she--Jerusalem artichokes! What a shame it war for
Margaret to throw herself away!"

The amused expression of Arlington indicated his appreciation of
Byle's sentiments, but Evaleen could not smile when the distress of
her much-beloved friend was the theme of conversation. The rich,
beautiful, commanding lady, who had presided like an Eastern princess,
in her luxurious island palace, was now struggling with adverse fate,
on a cotton plantation, near Port Gibson, Mississippi. Recollecting
the downfall and humiliation of Madam Blennerhassett, Evaleen sighed
and cast her gaze mournfully toward the spot upon which had stood the
stately mansion, which had been to her a second home. But on that May
day in 1815, could she have lifted the veil of the future, events far
more depressing would have been disclosed. She would have beheld the
former lord of the isle, landless, harassed by debts, now in Natchez,
now in New York, and now in Canada, unsuccessfully attempting the
practice of the law. He made a voyage to Ireland, returned to
Montreal, and then again crossed the ocean to reside with his maiden
sister, Avis, on the Isle of Jersey. His wife shared his
disappointments and sorrows, and it was on her faithful bosom that he
breathed his last at Port Prerie, Guernsey, in 1831. Ten years later,
the widow, having returned to the United States destitute, forlorn,
her health gone, her beauty faded, took up lodgings in a poor
tenement-house in the city of New York--and it was here that she
died, forsaken by fortune and by friends. Such were the crown of
thorns and the crucifixion of Margaret Blennerhassett, who aspired to
wear the coronet of a duchess in the court of Aaron the Emperor.

The sons, Dominick and Harman, were reserved to fates not less
abortive and wretched. The first entered the navy as surgeon-mate, but
was discharged for drunkenness. He died in penury, an outcast. Harman
became a portrait painter in New York, but he lost his strength of
body and mind, and finally perished in an almshouse on Blackwell's
Island. His body lies buried beside that of his mother, in the family
vault of Emmet, the Irish patriot, in the "Marble Cemetery," New York.

Well was it that the Book of Fate, in which was written the story of
the House of Blennerhassett, was not opened to Evaleen, for had she
read therein, the revelation would have turned the day's pensive
melancholy into poignant grief.

Moved by a common impulse of commiseration, and by reverential regard
akin to such as one feels when standing beside the tomb of a dear
friend, the married couples and the lank bachelor bent their steps
from the lawn to the rubble-strown site of the burnt mansion-house.
The foundation stones indicated the size and location of the several
rooms formerly occupying the ground floor. Danvers and his wife sat
down upon the sandstone steps leading, in bygone days, to the wide
hall door. The three little girls were at play in the paths of the
ruined shrubbery; Evaleen's baby boy lay asleep on the lap of
Lucrèce.

Arlington and Evaleen stepped across the crumbling foundation wall,
and a few short paces brought them to the middle of the square area
once covered by the floor of the reception room. A bunch of wild
violets, in bloom, grew in the charred leaf mould at their feet. The
wife plucked one of the flowers, and gave it into the hand of her
constant lover.

"Here is just where you stood when we met for the first time, love; do
you remember? And look, Chester," she pointed upward to the empty
space once enclosed in the walls of Lady Blennerhassett's bower,
"right up there is the window through which we watched you go away in
the moonlight."

"Yes, darling; there you stood, caring very little whether or not we
should ever meet again. It is exactly ten years since the day
you--didn't kiss me. Do it now."

"Hold on for about three shakes of a sheep's tail. Then fire away when
I'm gone. I want to tell you, Chester, here is just the spot where I
stood when I fit for her--"

"Fought for my wife?"

"No, for Harman's wife." Byle took out the handkerchief again, and
Evaleen thought he intended to tell its history.

"That is a fine piece of cambric. It looks like a lady's token."

"This hankercher?"

"Yes."

Plutarch gulped down a big emotion.

"It's a thumb-stall."

                               THE END.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

TRANSCRIBER'S NOTES

1. Punctuation has been normalized to contemporary standards,
   including multi-paragraph quotations without open double-quote marks
   at each break, retained as in original.

2. Added table of contents not in original edition.

3. Typographic errors corrected from original:
   p. 53 fragrant for fragant ("fragrant knoll")
   p. 75 tastefully for tastefuly ("tastefully arrayed")
   p. 98 huge for hugh ("huge mound")
   p. 182 creature for creatrue ("savage looking creature")

4. Page 317: invalid date ("November 31, 1806") retained.





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Dream of Empire - Or, The House of Blennerhassett" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home