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Title: The Boys of Old Monmouth - A Story of Washington's Campaign in New Jersey in 1778
Author: Tomlinson, Everett Titsworth, 1859-1931
Language: English
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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 "The Boys of Old Monmouth - A Story of Washington's Campaign in New Jersey in 1778" ***

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[Illustration: "WHAT ABOUT THE BOY?" (page 13)]



THE BOYS OF OLD MONMOUTH

A Story of Washington's Campaign in New Jersey in 1778

BY EVERETT T. TOMLINSON

_Author of "Washington's Young Aids," "Guarding the Border," "The Boys
with Old Hickory," "Ward Hill at Weston," etc., etc._

[Illustration: The Riverside Press]

BOSTON AND NEW YORK HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY The Riverside Press,
Cambridge



          COPYRIGHT, 1898, BY EVERETT T. TOMLINSON
          ALL RIGHTS RESERVED



CONTENTS


    CHAPTER                                     PAGE
         I. OLD MONMOUTH                           1
        II. TOM INVESTIGATES                      15
       III. THE MEETING ON THE RIVER              27
        IV. BENZEOR'S VISITOR                     40
         V. THE MESSENGER                         53
        VI. IN THE TEN-ACRE LOT                   67
       VII. THE PARTING OF THE WAYS               82
      VIII. INDIAN JOHN                           96
        IX. THE YOUNG LIEUTENANT                 112
         X. THE STORY OF THE MISCHIANZA          126
        XI. TO REFUGEE TOWN                      141
       XII. BATHSHEBA'S FEAST                    156
      XIII. WITH THE REDCOATS                    169
       XIV. THE WAY TO CRANBERRY                 182
        XV. THE BOAT ON THE BAR                  195
       XVI. TED WILSON'S VICTIM                  208
      XVII. A FRUITLESS CHASE                    221
     XVIII. A RARE BEAST                         233
       XIX. THE RELEASE OF BENZEOR               246
        XX. THE FLEET OF BARGES                  259
       XXI. THE RIDE WITH THE LIEUTENANT         272
      XXII. A SOLDIER WOMAN                      286
     XXIII. AN INTERRUPTED JOURNEY               298
      XXIV. THE ABODE OF INDIAN JOHN             310
      XXV. THE BEGINNING OF THE GREAT FIGHT      323
      XXVI. THE BATTLE OF MONMOUTH               336
     XXVII. THE RETURN TO BENZEOR'S HOUSE        349
    XXVIII. THE RIDE TO THE MILL                 364
      XXIX. AFTER THE BATTLE                     377
       XXX. TOM COWARD'S PATIENT                 390
      XXXI. AMONG THE PINES                      403
     XXXII. CONCLUSION                           416



THE BOYS OF OLD MONMOUTH



CHAPTER I

OLD MONMOUTH


OLD Monmouth is an expression dear to the heart of every native-born
Jerseyman. The occasional visitor seeking health among its whispering
pines, or relaxation in the sultry summer days along its shore, where
the roll of the breakers and the boundless sweep of the ocean combine to
form one of the most sublime marine views on all the Atlantic seaboard,
may admire the fertile farmlands and prosperous villages as much as the
man to the manor born, but he never speaks of "Old" Monmouth.

Nor will he fully understand what the purebred Jerseyman means when he
uses the term, for to the stranger the word will smack of length of
days, and of the venerable position which Monmouth holds among the
counties of the State.

Monmouth is old, it is true, and was among the first of the portions of
New Jersey to be settled by the Woapsiel Lennape, the name which the
Indians first gave to the white people from across the sea, or by the
Schwonnack,--"the salt people,"--as the Delawares afterwards called
them. But the true Jerseyman is not thinking alone of the age of
Monmouth when he uses the word "Old." To him it is a term of affection
also, used it may be as schoolboys or college mates use it when they
address one another as "old fellow," though but a few years may have
passed over their heads.

The new-comer or the stranger may speak of Fair Monmouth, and think he
is giving all the honor due to the beautiful region, but his failure to
use the proper adjective will at once betray his foreign birth and his
ignorance of the position which the county holds in the affections of
all true Jerseymen.

Still, Monmouth is old in the sense in which the summer visitor uses the
word. Here and there in the county an antiquated house is standing
to-day, which if it were endowed with the power of speech could tell of
stirring sights it had seen more than a century ago. Redcoats, fleeing
from the wrath of the angry Washington and his Jersey Blues, marched
swiftly past on their way to the Highlands and the refuge of New York.
Fierce contests between neighbors, who had taken opposite sides in the
struggle of the colonies for freedom from the yoke of the mother
country, or step-mother country, as some not inappropriately termed her
in these days, occurred in the presence of these ancient
dwelling-places, and sometimes within their very walls. Many, too, would
be the stories of the deeds of tories, and refugees, and pine robbers
contending with stanch and sturdy whigs. Up the many winding streams,
boat-loads of sailors made their way from the gunboat or privateer
anchored off the shore, to burn the salt works of the hardy pioneers, or
lay waste their lands as they searched for plunder or for forage.

The forked trees along the shore, in whose branches the lookouts were
concealed as they swept the ocean for miles watching for the appearance
of the hostile boat, were standing until recent years. In their last
days broken, it is true, and almost destroyed by the winter storms and
their weight of long years, still they stood as the few remaining tokens
of that century when our fathers contended for "their lives, their
fortunes, and their sacred honor." At last the pathos and weakness of
old age prevailed, and to-day there remains scarcely a vestige of those
ancient landmarks.

Perhaps if the boys and girls of New Jersey had been as mindful of those
old trees as the Cambridge lads and lassies have been of the spreading
elm beneath whose branches the noble-hearted Washington assumed the
command of the little American army, some of them might still be
standing; but as it is, the most of them have crumbled and fallen and
disappeared as completely as have the men who sought the shelter of
their branches in the trying times of '78.

So, too, for many years stood the famous tree from whose limbs the noble
patriot, Captain Huddy, was hanged,--as dastardly a deed as was
committed by either side in that struggle which tried the souls of our
fathers. But the trees are gone, and only a few quaint houses and
venerable landmarks and heirlooms remain of those things which witnessed
the contests, and deeds high or base, of that far-away time.

The lofty monument on the old battle-ground of Monmouth is surmounted by
the figure of a man whose face is shaded by his hand, as if he were
still striving to obtain a glimpse of the redcoats in the darkness as
they hastened to gain the Highlands and the refuge of the waiting boats
which were to bear them away to the safety of the great city. But it is
itself essentially modern, and only in its brief records, carved by
patriotic hands upon its sides, and in its figure of the granite soldier
standing upon its summit, does its suggestiveness lie. It looks down
upon a thriving village and out upon the lands of thrifty and prosperous
farmers, and there is nothing in all the vision to remind one that the
soil was ever stained by the blood of soldiers clad in uniforms of
scarlet, or of buff and blue.

And yet, as fierce a struggle as our country ever knew occurred within
the region. Women toiled in the fields while their husbands and sons
fought, or even gave up their lives to drive away their oppressors. Yes,
even in the battles some of the women found places, and Captain Molly
Pitcher was only one among many who had a share in the actual struggle
of the Revolution. Houses were doubly barred at night against the
attacks of prowling bands of refugees or pine robbers, and many times
were defended by the patriotic women themselves. Spies crept in among
them, and evil men who owned no allegiance to either side seized the
opportunity to prey alike upon friend and foe. At times it almost seemed
as if the words spoken many centuries ago were then fulfilled, and that
"a man was set at variance against his father, and the daughter against
her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, and that
a man's foes were they of his own household."

But with all the suffering and bloodshed there were many heroes and
heroines, and even the boys and girls were not without a share in the
struggles of the times which tried men's souls. The houses in which they
dwelt may have disappeared and given place to far more imposing
structures; their very names may no longer be recalled; but, after all,
they displayed many qualities which the world ought not willingly to
permit to die, and the heritage which they have bequeathed to us will
lose nothing of its value if we go back in our thoughts and strive to
comprehend more clearly the price which our fathers paid for the land we
love.

In the early summer of 1778, while the feelings of the Monmouth people
had been deeply stirred,--and indeed the patriots of the county had
been among the foremost to pass resolutions and be enrolled among the
defenders of the new nation,--there had not as yet come the intense
excitement which followed the advance of General Clinton's army from
Philadelphia. The long winter at Valley Forge had at last come to an
end, and when the British moved out from the city,--for holding it
longer seemed to be useless,--Washington had led his troops into the
town almost as soon as the enemy departed. Nor was that all, for he
quickly decided to follow after the departing general, and overtake and
give him battle before Clinton could lead his men across the Jerseys.

The American commander knew that his own forces numbered nearly as many
as those the British general had; and as, in spite of the dreadful
sufferings of the winter, his men were in far better condition than they
had ever been before,--thanks to the tireless energy of Baron
Steuben,--he resolved to depart from Philadelphia and follow after the
British.

Clinton had sent the recently enrolled tories to New York by water, and
as there were some three thousand of these alone, he soon decided that
his troops must go by land.

Accordingly, the journey was begun, but the Continentals, going a little
farther to the north than the line of Clinton's march, planned to gain a
position in advance of the enemy by the rapidity of their movements, and
then, turning about in their course, fall upon the redcoats face to face
and offer them battle in some advantageous place.

The baggage wagons of Clinton stretched out in a long line of twelve
miles as they followed after the army, and in other ways the British
leader was somewhat embarrassed. Consequently, when he learned of
Washington's plan, he quickly decided to change the direction of his
march, and, by passing through "Old Monmouth," lead his army to the
Navesink Highlands and there have them all embark for New York.

Washington had first offered the command of his advance forces to young
Lafayette, but he was somewhat perplexed by the return of General Lee to
his army, and knew not just what to do.

Lee had been captured a little more than a year before this time,
through his own carelessness, near Morristown, and we may be sure that
Washington was not greatly troubled by the loss. Lee had steadily
opposed him, and was plotting to secure his position for himself.
However, the British general Prescott, whose capture by the Americans
had been effected in a manner not unlike that in which Lee himself had
been taken, had been exchanged, and Lee once more returned to the
American army.

He was still the same Lee, sensitive, jealous, and suspected of being in
league with Howe, who recently had sailed away for England to explain to
Parliament the causes of his failures in the preceding year.

Much as he disliked to make the change, Lee's return compelled
Washington to recognize his presence, and after some tactful efforts he
removed Lafayette and gave Lee his position as leader of the advanced
forces. Lee had bitterly opposed the project of following Clinton, and
steadily objected to the march across the Jerseys.

Washington, however, was firm in his determination, and the march was
soon begun; but the lack of confidence which he felt in General Lee must
have sadly increased the troubles of the great commander, already beset
by perils of so many kinds. Whether he was mistaken in his estimate of
the man, we shall learn in the course of this story.

Such then was the general condition of affairs as the summer of 1778
drew on. Those of the people of Old Monmouth who were at home heard
occasional rumors of the advance of the two armies, but few of them had
any thought of the stirring scenes which were to be enacted in their
midst before the summer was ended.

It was now late in June. The summer had been unusually warm, and the men
and boys, as well as the women, who were at home had labored busily in
the fields, in the hope of an early as well as an abundant harvest. For
those who cared to avail themselves of them, the markets in New York
provided a ready place for the sale of their produce, and not only the
tories, but some of the men whose sympathies as yet had not led them
openly to declare their preferences for either side, or who perhaps
cared more for the prices they were likely to receive in New York for
the results of their labors than they did for liberty or any such
abstract quality, were not averse to loading up the boats, which many of
the farmers near the shore owned, and sailing away for the city.

Down the lower bay one such boat was swiftly making its way one
afternoon in June, 1778. On board were four men, three of whom
evidently were in middle life, but the fourth was a sturdy lad about
seventeen years of age, and it was plain that he was not in full
sympathy with his companions. He took but little part in the
conversation, and the expression upon his face frequently betrayed the
feelings in his heart. The three men with him apparently did not give
him much thought or attention, and evidently were too well satisfied
with the results of their expedition to waste any time in questioning
the lad as to the cause of his silence.

"There's the old tree now," said one of the men as they came within
sight of the landmark. "If nothing has gone wrong, we'll soon be in the
Navesink."

"Yes, and back at work again," grumbled another. "For my part I think
Fenton and Davenport and the rest of the pine robbers have the easiest
time of all. They swoop down upon some whig farmer, and all they have to
do is to take what he has worked out. I don't see why it isn't all fair
enough in war."

"If it wasn't for that skull of Fagan, with that pipe stuck in its
mouth, nailed up on the tree over there beyond the Court House, I'd go
in myself," said the first speaker. "The grin on it is almost more than
I can bear."

"That'll do to frighten women and children with," said the third man,
who had been silent for a time. "Fagan got a little too bold, that was
the trouble with him. He carried it a little too far. I happen to know
that there are some men who know enough to put a finger in, and not get
it burned either."

"Perhaps you've done a little yourself in that line, Benzeor Osburn?"
queried the last speaker. "I've thought sometimes you could tell some
tales if you wanted to."

"And who knows but I might?" replied Benzeor. "I may be able to keep my
place from being confiscated and sold, the way my brother's was two
years ago, but that may not mean either that I don't know what's to my
own advantage when I see it. You'd do the same, wouldn't you, Jacob
Vannote?"

"That I would," replied Jacob, "and so would Barzilla Giberson here,
too. All we want is that some good man like you, Benzeor, should tell us
how to do it."

"I can tell you," said Benzeor quietly. "I've made up my mind that I've
held off just as long as I am going to. I'm going in, and if you have a
mind to join, I'll let you in, too."

"Tell us about it," said Jacob eagerly. "What about the boy?" he added
in a low voice, glancing toward the fourth member of the party as he
spoke.

"What? Tom Coward? He's a coward by name as well as by nature. You
haven't anything to fear from him. He's been in my home since he was
five year old. He won't make any trouble."

Nevertheless, the speaker lowered his voice, and for a long time the
trio conversed eagerly upon the new topic. So intent were they that not
one of them noted the flush upon the lad's face at the brutal reference
to him, nor saw the look of determination which came a little later in
its place.

Apparently Tom was not giving any attention to the men with him in the
swift sailing boat. He retained his seat near the bow, and seemed to be
interested only in the waves before him. A brisk wind was blowing, and
the waters betrayed the tokens of a coming storm.

The boat was pitching more and more as it sped on, and Tom watched the
rolling waves, many of them capped with white and rising steadily
higher and higher. The darker hues gave place to a lighter green as they
rose, and the increasing roughness seemed to reflect somewhat the
feelings in his own heart.

Far away in the distance stretched the long sandy beach of the Hook,
becoming more and more distinct as the boat drew nearer. The gulls were
flying low, and the weird cries of the sea-birds were heard on every
side.

Suddenly Tom stood upright, and, after gazing intently for a moment at
some object on the shore, turned to his companions and said,--

"Some one's up in the tree, and the signal's out, too."

The men instantly ceased from their conversation, and peered intently at
the tree in the distance.

Evidently the sight was not altogether pleasing, for with an exclamation
of anger Benzeor Osburn, who was holding the tiller, quickly changed the
course of the boat, and started back in the direction from which they
had come.



CHAPTER II

TOM INVESTIGATES


THERE were many exclamations of impatience heard in the boat as Benzeor
changed her course, and the helmsman himself appeared to be the most
impatient of all. A drizzling rain was now falling and there were many
signs apparent that a stormy night was approaching.

"I wish I knew just what the warning was for," muttered Benzeor. "Fine
night this, to be prowling around the bay in!"

"There was no mistake about the sign, though," replied Jacob. "There's
something wrong, or we shouldn't have seen the white flag. That means
there's something going on up the Navesink."

"All the more reason for going home then!" said Benzeor. "Who was on the
lookout to-day? Does any one know?"

"Yes, 't was Peter Van Mater," said Tom, who up to this time had taken
no part in the conversation. "He told me yesterday that he was to be in
the tree to-day."

"What! Little Peter?" demanded Benzeor quickly.

"Yes," replied Tom. "I saw him out by their cornfield yesterday. He was
there driving away the crows and blackbirds."

"Little" Peter was so called to distinguish him from his father who bore
the same name; and although his son, a well-grown young fellow of
eighteen, towered more than a half head above "Big" Peter now, the
distinctive names given several years before this time still clung to
them both.

The Van Mater place joined the Osburn farm, and for years Tom and Little
Peter had been the best of friends. On those rare occasions when a brief
break in the arduous labors on the farms had come, together they had
gone crabbing, or had sailed down to Barnegat, where the sea-fowl
gathered in great flocks when the proper seasons came.

Tom's heart had gone out to Little Peter as it had not to any other
person. Peter's round face shone with an expression of good nature which
nothing but the mention of a tory or a pine robber seemed to be able to
ruffle. A reference to either of them never failed to arouse the dormant
anger of the lad, and with all the intensity of his quiet and strong
nature he hated both. For the Van Maters, even to the mother and the
girls, were patriots of the strongest kind, and now Big Peter was away
in Washington's army and had left his eldest son and namesake to protect
the family and manage the farm in his absence.

And Little Peter had accepted the task with an outward assent that
deceived even his own father. Only to Tom had he mentioned his true
feelings, and expressed his determination to buy up his time, so that
he, too, might be enrolled in the patriot army.

Tom Coward well knew that the words expressed Little Peter's feelings
and desires rather than his purpose, for he was satisfied that nothing
would induce his friend to desert his mother and the children in their
time of need. But he had fully sympathized with Peter in his desire to
buy up his time, and there were special reasons why the words meant much
more to him than they did to his friend.

About a decade before this time, when one of the numerous "September
gales" was raging along the Jersey shore, a great crowd had assembled on
the beach watching the efforts of a schooner they could see, about a
mile out on the ocean, to weather the storm. All day long the crowd had
remained there, powerless to aid the stricken people on board the
storm-tossed boat, for this was long before the time of the life-saving
crews and their noble work along the coast.

Late in the afternoon on that eventful day, when the storm had abated
somewhat, although the waves, like moving mountains of water, still came
thundering in upon the beach, a boat had been manned and started forth
to the aid of the people in their peril; but before the brave band could
gain the schooner, she had foundered and gone to the bottom.

The men who had gone forth to the rescue had been about to return to the
shore, when they thought they saw something floating over the boisterous
waves toward them. When a second glance was obtained they started
swiftly toward the object, and, as they drew near, saw a huge cotton
bale with a woman and a little lad strapped upon it. At last, after some
desperate efforts, the bodies were rescued, but that of the woman was
lifeless and that of the lad was nearly so.

The rough men had brought both ashore, and, after some labor on the part
of the women in the assembly, the lad had been restored, but the woman
was beyond all earthly aid. Upon some of the clothing of the rescued boy
the name Coward had been found, and "Tom" was improvised, for that would
do as well as any other for the name of a stranger lad whose home and
parents were to be, as the people of Old Monmouth thought, forever
wrapped in mystery.

Tom Coward had been the sole survivor of the wreck. For days some
portions of the ill-fated schooner and its cargo were washed ashore, but
no clue was ever found as to her name or destination.

What to do with the rescued lad then became the perplexing problem among
the simple folk of Monmouth, and it was at last solved by "binding him
out" to Benzeor Osburn, which simply meant that Tom was to live with the
man who had taken him until he was twenty-one years of age, and in
return for the home he received he was to give his labor and life until
that eventful day should arrive when he, too, would become a man.

The lad had gone, for he had no voice in the matter, and all the home he
had ever known had been with Benzeor and his family. Only a faint
recollection of the wreck remained in his mind, but he had heard the
story many times and thought much over it in secret. Often had he
visited the unmarked grave in the churchyard, where he was informed that
all that was mortal of his mother lay resting. But her name and face
were both alike unknown to him. In his dreams, or when he had been
working alone in some of the distant fields, it would almost seem to him
that something of another existence would rise before him, or that he
could almost see the face of a gracious woman bending low over him whom
he could call "mother."

Who he might be he could not determine. Who he was, was a matter much
more easily settled, for all knew him as the "bound boy" of Benzeor
Osburn; and while some of the country people might occasionally think of
him as the little lad, who years before had been rescued from a sinking
schooner, they seldom referred to it, and the past had been crowded out
by the present. But Tom Coward had not entirely forgotten.

Benzeor had received him into his home the more readily because, as he
expressed it, "all of his boys had been born girls," and he felt the
need of the aid and presence of a boy about the place. And Benzeor in
his way had not been unkind to the stranger lad, or at least not
intentionally so, but the labor on the farms in those days had been
severe, and he was a man to whom money had been the one thing needful.
He did not spare himself, and certainly he had no thought of sparing
those who were dependent upon him; and, as a natural consequence,
neither the girls nor Tom, and much less the overworked, spiritless
little mother of the family, found much to relieve the monotonous round
of labor on the farm.

At first, Tom had not complained and had accepted all as a matter of
course, but of late his heart had rebelled against his lot more and
more. It was not that he did not appreciate the rough kindness which was
extended to him, especially by the patient, uncomplaining mother and the
two girls, Sarah and Mercy, who were nearest his own age. But certain
undefined longings kept rising in his soul, he knew not how, and the
increasing eagerness of Benzeor "to make his place pay" had apparently
driven all else from the mind of his foster father.

Perhaps more than any of these things, his interviews with his friend
Little Peter had stirred his soul, for Peter had longings, too, and, as
has been said, had even declared his intention "to buy up his own time."
That he was a son in his own home, and was surrounded by the love of
father and mother, had not made the purpose in Peter's heart appear in
the least strange or unusual, for the custom was not unknown among those
sturdy forefathers of ours. When they had cared for a boy in his infancy
and helpless years, it was considered as no more than a just return that
the years of early manhood, which would naturally be of value to the
fathers in their labors on the farms, should belong not to the son but
to the father. So whenever a well-grown boy felt that he would like to
start in for himself, it was not unusual for him to offer, or to promise
to pay as soon as he could earn the money, the amount which was
considered as a fair equivalent for the value of his services in the few
years before he became "of age," and could enter upon his own career.

In those days the obligation of the child to his father was emphasized.
In our own time the obligation of the father to his child is considered
the more important, and all that love and devotion can offer are laid at
the feet of the children.

Perhaps justice lies somewhere between these two extremes, and no one of
us desires to return to the harsher methods of those earlier years; but
certainly the children who are so fortunate as to be born in these more
fortunate times have some need of recalling the words of one who, long
before the trying days of the Revolution, exhorted all to "honor their
fathers and mothers."

Be that as it may, Tom Coward thought much and long over his friend
Peter's project, and even went so far at one time as to hint to Benzeor
that he would not be averse to entering into some such arrangement with
him. But Benzeor's indignation, and the grief with which Sarah heard of
the proposal, had silenced him, and he had not referred to the matter
again.

None the less, however, did it remain in his thoughts, and of late the
suspicion with which he had come to regard many of Benzeor's actions had
increased his feeling of discontent, for Tom's sympathies were all with
the colonies in their struggle.

Many a time had he and Peter talked over the matter, and the eagerness
of one to serve in the army was fully shared by the other. But Benzeor's
patriotism seemed all to be dormant, and as the troubles increased, his
zeal to make money steadily increased also. At times he would be absent
from home for days together, and more than once Tom had been awakened
in the night by the sound of strange voices heard in conversation with
Benzeor in the room beneath that in which he was sleeping.

Thoughts of all these things had been in Tom's mind throughout that
voyage to New York, and they, as well as his youthfulness, served to
explain the silence he had maintained since he had set sail. He had
known, however, that Peter was to serve as the lookout that day, and
when he volunteered the information it was the first time he had spoken
aloud for a half hour.

The rain now was steadily increasing, and the uneasiness of the men on
board the little boat became more marked. They were far from the tree by
this time, and no one appeared to know just what plan to follow.

"If I was alone, I'd take all the risks," said Benzeor at last.

"You needn't stop on our account," replied Jacob. "I don't believe
there's much danger in starting up the river, any way, for my part.
Little Peter may not have seen anything to amount to much. If you want
to chance it, go ahead."

"We don't just know what's ahead of us," said Barzilla uneasily. "It
may be nothing, and then again it may not be. I wish there was some way
of finding out before we risk too much."

"Why not land farther down the shore and let Tom go up and see?" said
Jacob. "If Little Peter's gone, it will mean the danger's gone, too, and
if he hasn't, why Tom here can find out for us and report; though for my
part I'm not afraid to go up the river as it is. It's too dark for any
one to see us, or it will be soon."

"That's a good suggestion," said Benzeor quickly, as he brought the boat
about. "We'll land down the shore and let Tom go up for us. You're not
too much of a 'coward' to do that, are you Tom?"

"I'll go," said Tom quietly, although his cheeks flushed with anger at
Benzeor's antiquated and brutal pun. He had heard it many times, but
never without feeling angry, although he well knew that Benzeor spoke
the words lightly.

With the change in the course the wind seemed to increase. The spray was
dashed into their faces, and the men were soon drenched. The sail had
been shortened, but the little boat dashed ahead with ever increasing
speed.

"It's a rough night outside," said Benzeor, when at last he gained the
desired point on the shore. "It's lucky for us we're inside the Hook.
Now then, Tom!" he added. "Bestir yourself, lad, and come back soon."

Tom leaped ashore and ran swiftly along the beach toward the tree. He
was familiar with its location and knew that he could find it in the
darkest night. The rain beat upon him and the darkness momentarily
increased, but the wind was with him, and in a brief time he recognized
the dim outlines of the tree.

Then ceasing to run, he began to approach more cautiously. He was not
positive that Peter was there now, for some one might have taken his
place. Certainly caution was the better part in any event.

He stopped and whistled the half dozen notes which he and Peter used as
a call. He waited a moment, but as no answer was heard he advanced a
little nearer and whistled again.

"That you, Tom?" came from some one in the tree.

"Yes," replied Tom.

In a moment Peter dropped from his position, and began to explain to his
friend the cause of the display of the signal of danger.



CHAPTER III

THE MEETING ON THE RIVER


"I'VE been here since noon," began Peter, "but it seems more like a
whole day to me. I've listened to the calls of the sea-birds and heard
the roar of the storm which I knew was coming, till it almost seemed to
me I couldn't bear it any longer. I'm glad you've come, for I've got a
chance to stretch now, and the sound of a voice will help to quiet my
nerves again."

"I didn't know you had any nerves," replied Tom. "But we can't stand
here in this storm talking about such things. Benzeor sent me over to
find out what you meant by hanging out the white flag. You haven't seen
anything suspicious, have you?"

"I have that," said Peter eagerly. "I was beginning to think that my
coming here was all a piece of foolishness, when along about four
o'clock--leastwise I should think it was about that time, though I
didn't have any dial anywhere about to mark the time for me--what
should I see but a whaleboat making for the river? You had better
believe I forgot all about the time and everything else but the boat
then, for I didn't know but some more of the Greens were coming up the
Navesink on another trip such as they made the other day."

Peter referred to an expedition which a band of several hundred tories
from New Jersey, commonly known as the "Greens," had made a few weeks
before this time. They had set forth from New York and had made a visit
to some of their former neighbors and friends, and the tokens of their
affection which they had left behind them had chiefly consisted of the
ashes of burned homes and empty barns. The raid had been a cruel one,
and its object apparently was more for devastation than for plunder, and
many of the good people of Red Bank and Middletown and the adjoining
towns had good cause to remember it so long as they lived. The numbers
of the invaders had rendered them safe from all attacks, and the wanton
destruction they wrought before they returned to New York had been the
chief reason for keeping a watch stationed in the old tree every day
since their visit. And Peter had received strict orders not to depart
from his place of observation, if he saw anything suspicious, until he
was satisfied that all danger was past. And Peter was faithful, that was
well known, or he would not have been selected for the duty that day.

"Well," resumed Peter, "I watched the boat till it went out of sight up
the river. There were seven men on board of her, six of 'em pulling at
the oars and the seventh steering. No more boats followed her, and I
shouldn't have been suspicious if I hadn't thought I recognized the man
who was steering."

"Who was he?"

"He looked to me a good deal like Fenton."

"What? The pine robber?"

"Yes, though of course I may have been mistaken. I never saw him but
once and that was when he was a blacksmith over by the Court House
before the war. My father had sent me over there to have one of the
horses shod at his shop. I don't know that I should have remembered him
if it hadn't been for something he did that day. I saw him take a
half-inch bar of iron and bend it almost double with his hands. That
made a great impression upon me, for I didn't believe there was another
man in the colony who could do that."

"Probably not," replied Tom. "But what made you think this was one of
Fenton's whaleboats?"

"Nothing but Fenton himself. Of course I've heard of the stories of what
he's been doing since he became a pine robber. His gang is one of the
worst, you know, and the minute I set my two eyes on him I suspected it
was Fenton himself."

"Why didn't you get word up the river as soon as you saw him?"

"They've got watchers farther up, and that's their business. Besides, I
didn't care to have him double me up the way he did that iron bar. Then,
my business was to stay here and give the warning to anybody that might
be going up the stream, you see. That's why I waved the flag when I saw
you coming."

"And they haven't come back yet?" inquired Tom eagerly.

"No. That's what I'm waiting for. There isn't any fun in hanging out
here in the wet, I can tell you. Just as soon as I can see that
whaleboat coming out into the bay again I'm done."

"All right, Peter, I'll go right back and report to Benzeor. Maybe he'll
take you on board and carry you home."

"Not unless I see the whaleboat again," said Peter doggedly as he
prepared to climb to his seat in the tree again.

Tom hurriedly departed and started to return with his message to the
waiting Benzeor and his men, who he knew would be becoming impatient by
this time. As he ran along the beach the storm smote him full in the
face, but in spite of the driving rain the night was not very dark. The
moon was near the full and gave sufficient light to enable him to see
far out over the tossing waters. He could even discern the outlines of
the little boat far up the shore, and as he ran swiftly forward he was
thinking of the report he was to make to the waiting Benzeor, and his
thoughts were not entirely pleasing.

Fenton's deeds had become notorious in Old Monmouth. At the head of his
brutal band, composed of men as desperate and reckless as he, he had
pillaged and plundered throughout the county during the preceding year,
and up to this time no one had been found strong enough to put a stop to
his evil deeds. Any unprotected farmhouse was liable to receive one of
his visits, and such a visit was seldom made without profit to the
outlaws, for such in fact they were, and with their ill-gotten gains
they hastened away to store them in their hiding-places among the pines.

Nor was Fenton's band the only one which had its headquarters in that
lonely and unfrequented region known in Old Monmouth as the "Pines."
West, Disbrow, Fagan, Davenport, and many others of the lawless men, had
engaged in similar occupations, and all had their hiding-places in the
same wild spot, and in a measure protected and aided one another.

Up to this time Fagan had been the only one to suffer the well-deserved
penalty of his crimes, and in the preceding winter a band of two hundred
of the desperate patriots had assembled and driven the famous, or rather
infamous, outlaw to bay. At last he had been taken, and the infuriated
men, mindful not only of the sufferings of their own families at his
hands, but also of their possible future sufferings as well, had
measured out a stern justice to the man, and with their own hands had
hanged him from the long limb of a tree which stood by the side of the
road which led from Monmouth Court House[1] to Trenton. Afterwards some
of the patriots who had suffered most from his evil deeds had severed
the skull from the body and nailed it to the tree, and then, placing the
pipe between the grinning jaws, had left the uncanny sight as a warning
to all who might be disposed to follow in the footsteps of the outlaw.

For a few weeks the suffering patriots found relief, but only for a few
weeks.

Despite the terrible warning, the other bands of pine robbers soon
renewed their labors, and now in the early summer of '78 the region was
suffering more from the marauding bands than ever had been known before.

It was all a part of the horrors of war. Sometimes, when we read of the
brave deeds which have made famous some of the men who had a share in
the struggle, we are prone to think only of the heroism displayed. And
there was many a true hero in that and in every other war which our
country has waged. We are never to forget that; but there was another
side which has, to a large extent, passed from the memory of the present
generation. The loss of property and of life, the sufferings of the
women and children in the lonely homes, the barbarity and cruelty of
evil men who, freed from the restraint of law in a time when the worst
passions of men were aroused, gave free rein to their avarice and all
that was bad in them, have frequently been ignored or forgotten. The
glory of war or the pride in true heroism cannot entirely atone for the
sufferings that were only too common in the scattered homes or lonely
places.

And Fenton's band was one of the worst. From their strongholds among the
pines, into which few men had the hardihood to enter, they would set
forth on horseback some dark night, and the tale they might have told
upon their return was ever one of blood and sorrow. People tortured
until in their agony they were compelled to yield up their scanty
savings, raids upon the flocks and herds already becoming far too small
for the necessities of their owners, burning houses, and men and women
deliberately shot by the outlaws, were only a few among the many results
of their raids.

Not the least of the evils was the knowledge that among the people of
Monmouth there were some who, while they might not openly be known as
members of the bands, still gave the desired information to the leaders
as to the places where possessions were secreted, or of the times when
the patriots were aroused and it was best for the "Barons of the Pines,"
as some termed them, to remain in hiding among the tall dark trees.
Professedly, the outlaws acknowledged no allegiance to either side in
the struggle, but somehow it had come to pass that a stanch whig was
liable to suffer far more from their depredations than his tory
neighbor, and as a natural consequence the feeling between neighbors and
those who had been friends was becoming more and more strained and
bitter.

Thoughts of these things were passing rapidly through Tom's mind as he
ran swiftly on through the storm to rejoin his companions. Fenton? Yes,
he had heard of him too many times not to recognize his name and to feel
well assured that a visit from him in such a night could promise little
good for any of the patriots dwelling near the Navesink.

"Well, what is it, Tom?" said Benzeor, as the panting lad rejoined them.
"Is it Little Peter on the lookout? He must have seen a ghost to have
warned us to stay out here in the bay in such a night as this. I'm wet
to the skin."

"It's Fenton," replied Tom huskily, for he had not yet recovered his
breath. "Peter said he saw him and six of his men go up the Navesink
about four o'clock."

"Fenton?" said Jacob quickly. "Then we're in for a night of it. We don't
want to fall into the hands of that pine robber when our pockets are as
well lined as they are to-night."

"I'm not so sure about that," replied Benzeor slowly. "There's ten
chances to one that they won't come back before morning, and if they do
they won't be likely to find us in such a storm as this."

As he spoke a fresh gust swept the rain directly into their faces. The
storm certainly was increasing, and the prospect of spending a night in
the bay was dreary enough to cause the most stout-hearted to hesitate.
And it may have been that other thoughts than that of the storm
influenced Benzeor.

At any rate he gruffly responded, "You can do as you please, but I'm
going up the Navesink. If you're afraid, you can stay here or start out
across the country on foot. You'll have to speak quick if you go with
me, for I'm off."

Benzeor turned and grasped the bow of his boat to push her off the
beach upon which she had grounded. Before he had succeeded, however,
Jacob spoke up quickly and said, "We're with you, Benzeor. If you can
stand it, we can."

"Get aboard then, every one of you!" said Benzeor gruffly.

Tom and Barzilla quickly took their places in the stern, while Benzeor,
with the aid of Jacob, soon sent the boat out from the shore.

The sail was soon rigged and shortened, and the little party then
started for the narrow mouth of the Navesink. The boat rolled and
pitched in the storm, but Benzeor had her well in hand, and soon steered
into the more quiet waters of the river. Tom could see the tree as they
passed, and was positive that Peter could also see them, but no hail was
given, and the point was soon left far behind them.

Then up the narrower waters of the river the boat sped on in her course,
but not a word was spoken by any of those on board. The storm was still
raging and Benzeor's attention was largely occupied in managing his
craft, and the others were busied with thoughts which perhaps they did
not care to express.

Tom was decidedly anxious. A meeting with Fenton and his band was
something of which he was fearful, and as they sped on his fears
increased each moment. Benzeor's apparent indifference had not deceived
him, and deep in his heart there was a lurking suspicion that perhaps he
might be able to account for it, if he felt so disposed.

However, he too was silent, and a half hour had passed and as yet no
signs of danger had appeared. Benzeor was steering as close inshore as
the wind permitted, and Tom was beginning to hope that they would
succeed in making their way up the river without being discovered.

Suddenly Jacob, who was seated in the bow and was keeping a constant
lookout ahead, shouted, "Port! Port your helm, Benzeor! Quick! Quick!"

Benzeor instantly heeded the warning, but his quick movement barely
served to enable them to pass a boat which loomed up in the darkness. It
was a whaleboat, and with a sinking heart Tom saw that there were six
men rowing, while a seventh was seated in the stern and was serving as
helmsman.

Instantly Peter's words flashed into his mind, and he knew that they had
barely escaped a collision with the very boat which the lookout had
discovered making its way up the Navesink late in the afternoon. The
party could be none other than that of Fenton and his outlaw band.

FOOTNOTE:

[1] Freehold.



CHAPTER IV

BENZEOR'S VISITOR


"HOLD on there! Hold on, I say! Stop, or we'll shoot!"

The words were shouted by some one in the whaleboat, and Benzeor
evidently was about to heed the sharp command. He quickly changed the
course of the boat, and as the shortened sail flapped in the wind as the
little craft came about, the whaleboat came alongside and some one
reached forth with a boat-hook, and the progress was instantly stayed.

Tom's heart was beating rapidly in his excitement. A wild impulse to
leap into the river seized him, but before he could leave his position
in the bow, two of the other crew clambered on board, and he knew that
an attempt to escape would now be useless. Doubtless the men were armed,
and the darkness was not deep enough to conceal him from their sight.
His only hope now depended upon the actions of the men and the course
which Benzeor should decide to follow.

The sail was instantly lowered in obedience to the sharp command of the
men who had boarded the boat, and, in great fear, the lad waited for the
purpose of their captors to be declared. He drew back in his position in
the bow, hoping to escape the notice of all on board, as he saw that
Benzeor had arisen from his seat and stood facing the men.

"Who are you? What ye out in a night like this for? Whose boat is this?"
exclaimed the one who appeared to be the leader.

"Is that you, Fenton?" replied Benzeor in a low voice.

"Ho, it's Benzeor Osburn!" exclaimed the man, peering intently into the
face before him as he spoke. "I thought it was strange we didn't find
you in your house. We waited an hour as we agreed to, but when you
didn't put in an appearance, we thought we'd start back. Where ye been,
Benzeor? What's up now?"

"I'd been back home in time if it hadn't been for the storm and an alarm
we had back in the bay. I think ye'd better go back with me now, Fenton.
I've got some facts that may interest you, and we can't talk them over
here."

"Who are these men with you?" inquired Fenton suspiciously.

"Oh, they're all right. I'll vouch for them, every one," replied
Benzeor. "You haven't anything to fear from any of my friends. Come up
to my house and I'll tell ye all about it."

Fenton hesitated a moment before he replied, and Tom peered intently at
the man of whom he had already heard so many tales. He could see his
great form, although he could not distinguish the features of his face
in the darkness. His deep voice and gruff manner had not tended to allay
the lad's fears, and now Benzeor's words and actions filled his heart
with a new alarm. Was Benzeor about to cast in his lot with Fenton? His
words betrayed the fact of their previous acquaintance, and all the
recent suspicious actions of his foster father came back to him. No one
in the party had yet spoken, except Benzeor and Fenton, but the recent
conversation on board the boat, much of which Tom had overheard,
convinced the troubled lad that no very strong protest would be made
against any proposal that Benzeor might feel disposed to make.

"I'm rather of the opinion," said Fenton roughly, "that it's about time
you went home with me. I don't know who these fellows on board here are,
and I don't care. You're the one I'm after, Benzeor, and it seems to me
the time's come for you to join us or quit. You've been shilly-shallying
long enough."

"Hush! Don't speak so loud!" replied Benzeor anxiously.

Fenton laughed outright at Benzeor's evident alarm, and, turning to his
companions in the whaleboat, said, "I think we'd better take the boat
along with us. We can land this crew anywhere along the shore, or we can
sink 'em in the river, just which you please. It's too much of a storm
for us to be hanging around here on the Navesink."

"Fenton," said Benzeor, rising and stepping up to the side of the
outlaw, "you'd better do as I say. I've got something to tell ye, and
it's worth hearing, too."

A low conversation followed between the two men which Tom, with all his
efforts, was not able to hear. The result of it, however, quickly became
apparent when Fenton turned to his companions and said, "It's all right,
boys. You go on without me, and I'll join you to-morrow. I'm going up
to Benzeor's now."

The boat-hook was quickly withdrawn at his command, and the sound of the
oars of the departing boat soon ceased to be heard.

The sail of Benzeor's boat was then hoisted again, and once more the
little party, increased now by the addition of Fenton, began to make
their way up the Navesink. Though the rain was steadily falling, the
wind was favoring, and the boat, handled by the skillful Benzeor, held
steadily to its way. The low shores could be seen in the distance on
either side, and an occasional light betrayed the location of some
lonely farmhouse, whose occupants in the confidence begotten of the
storm had ventured to sit up till a later hour than was customary in
those days.

Not a word was spoken on board the boat, and Fenton had taken a position
near Tom from which he did not move. All were drenched, but a summer
rain was something which none of them minded in such a time as that.

When an hour had passed, Benzeor ran his boat closer inshore and in a
few moments landed. Then turning to his companions he said, "Come over
to my house to-morrow, Jacob, and I'll give you and Barzilla your
shares of the money."

"We'll go with you now," replied Jacob, evidently not desiring to put
off the day of reckoning too long, a desire in which Barzilla also
shared.

"No, I can't fix it up to-night. You can take the bag, though, if you
want to, and bring me my share to-morrow."

Benzeor's confidence in his fellows served the desired purpose, and
Jacob and Barzilla speedily departed, taking with them the little bag of
gold which had been received as the price of the produce they had taken
to New York.

"Tom, you look out for the boat," called Benzeor, as he and Fenton
started towards the little house whose outlines could be discerned in
the distance.

Tom obeyed, and as he worked over the little boat, looking well to all
the details, his thoughts were far more busy than his hands. The changes
which he had noted in Benzeor of late seemed almost to have reached
their climax. Was the man intending now to go with Fenton? All his
recent absences from home came up before the lad's mind, and the strange
visitors he had received there of late were not forgotten. What was it
Benzeor was planning to do? He was not much like the man he had been a
few years before this time, and as Tom thought over all the changes, he
was troubled more and more.

He knew that Sarah had not been unaware of what was going on, for many a
time had they talked it all over together. Sarah had remained a
steadfast champion of her father, but Tom had not failed to see that she
was none the less troubled by his strange actions. His grasping
disposition had become more and more apparent of late, and while he had
never in the presence of his family referred to anything he had in his
mind to do against the patriots, his very silence in such times was more
threatening than any words he could utter. But Sarah had steadily
refused to believe that her father would desert the cause for which at
the outbreak of the war he had professed the most ardent attachment;
still, it was impossible for her not to discover, what Tom for a long
time had seen, that he was strangely silent of late.

The change in Benzeor Osburn had been so gradual as to deceive many of
his friends and neighbors. All had known his "closeness," as the country
people termed his love of money, but few of them had thought it would
ever lead him into the position in which the man at that time really
stood.

Benzeor in '76 had been among the loudest in his expressions of loyalty
to the cause of the colonies, and had been foremost in blaming his own
brother for his "toryism." His brother's property had been confiscated,
but Benzeor's had been left unmolested, so confident had all the whigs
been in the sincerity of his expressions. And at the time Benzeor had
meant what he said, and said what he meant. But never for a moment had
he dreamed that the struggle would be such a long-continued one as it
had proved to be, nor had he thought that patriotism would affect his
own possessions. All that would be done would be to make a strong
protest against the unjust taxation, for Benzeor had hated taxes as he
did few things in this world, and then a compromise would be effected,
which would permit the colonists to go on with their occupations, and
the mother country would soon see that it was not to her own advantage
to drive her rebellious children too far.

The first shock had come to him when the Continental Congress had
declared the country to be a free and independent nation. That was
going too far, Benzeor thought, and so he freely expressed himself; but
still hoping that a compromise of some kind would be made, and that his
own possessions would not be disturbed, he had uttered no further
protests, though his voice ceased to be heard in favor of the rebellion.

As further events betrayed the weakness of the patriot cause, and he had
found that patriotism was likely to prove a somewhat expensive virtue,
his feelings had undergone a still more decided change. At first he had
entered into one or two secret projects by which he had succeeded in
enriching his own pockets, and the success had so affected him that as
his patriotism decreased his hopes of gains correspondingly increased;
and soon from deeds for which he tried to justify himself, he had been
gradually drawn into others which even his own seared conscience
proclaimed to be wrong. In some of the latter he had come into contact
with the outlaws of Fenton's class, and his association with them had
soon banished the feeling of disgust he had formerly cherished for them,
until it had even come to pass that Fenton himself was a not unwelcome
guest in his own home.

At first the visits had been made secretly, and the promises of rich
harvests to be reaped, as the result of their evil deeds, had appealed
to Benzeor more strongly than even he himself was aware. The lawless
times, the constant turmoils, the bitterness between those who had
recently been the warmest of friends, the ease with which raids were
made, and the apparent impossibility of detection, had all combined to
arouse the avaricious Benzeor more and more; and now not very much was
needed to draw him still farther within the toils of Fenton and his
band.

Not all of these things were apparent to Tom when at last he left the
boat and started towards the house, but he had seen sufficient to make
him suspicious of Benzeor, and he was as perplexed as he was troubled.
All his own feelings had gone out more and more to the patriot cause,
and more than once had he been sadly tempted to depart from his home
without waiting for the formality of buying up his time, and he had even
gone so far as to suggest to Sarah several times what he had it in his
mind to do. Sarah's grief, however, and the confidence which she still
professed to feel in her father, as well as the dislike in his own heart
to do anything which bore any resemblance to stealing,--for so the
troubled lad regarded the taking of time which did not really belong to
him as the bound boy of Benzeor Osburn,--had hitherto held him back. How
long such feelings would continue to sway him Tom could not decide when
at last he lifted the latch and entered the kitchen.

Benzeor and his guest were seated before the fire which had been started
in the wide and open fireplace, and were drying their wet clothing as
they conversed eagerly together.

As Tom came in, Benzeor glanced up hastily and said, "You can go to bed,
Tom. You must be wet and tired, and there is a lot of work to be done
to-morrow." Benzeor's voice was not unkind, but Tom did not fail to see
that his presence was not desired. He quickly lighted a candle with a
splinter which he thrust into the fire and held until it was in a flame,
and then went up the low stairway to his room directly over the kitchen
in which the men were seated.

As he entered the room he noted the gleam which came through the open
space near the rude chimney, and, placing the candle on the low table,
he advanced and peered down at the men. He could see both plainly, and,
after observing them for a moment, he was about to turn away and take
off his dripping clothing, when he suddenly stopped. He had overheard a
word which caused his heart to beat much more rapidly, and in a moment
he was upon his knees striving to hear what more would be said.

He remained in the same position for an hour, and at last arose only
when Fenton opened the door and went out into the darkness. Then Benzeor
closed and barred the door, and started directly up the stairway.

Instantly Tom blew out his candle and leaped into bed, all wet and muddy
as he was, and drew the bedclothes close up around his face.

Benzeor came slowly on and then stopped before the door of Tom's room.
The lad was trembling in his excitement, for he well knew that if the
man should enter and discover that he had not removed his clothing
before going to bed, his suspicions would at once be aroused. And above
all things Benzeor's suspicion at that time was what Tom most desired to
lull.

There were wild thoughts in Tom's mind of leaping from the bed and,
rushing past the man, making a break for the outside. Perhaps the man
might not enter, however, and, trembling with fear and excitement, Tom
waited.

It seemed to him that a long time had elapsed, and still no sound
outside the door could be heard. Had Benzeor gone on? The light of his
candle which still shone through the cracks disproved that. What could
he then be doing?

Tom tried to conjecture what must be going on on the stairway, but the
silence was still unbroken. The minutes were like hours to the
frightened lad. It seemed to him as if the beatings of his heart must be
heard throughout the house.

His suspense was soon ended--when Benzeor lifted the latch and Tom felt
the light of the candle streaming in full upon his face.



CHAPTER V

THE MESSENGER


FOR a moment Tom closed his eyes and waited for the words which he
expected and feared to hear. His body was trembling and all his strength
was required to prevent his teeth from chattering. If Benzeor should
enter the room Tom knew that at once his predicament would be
discovered, and in the present state of his foster father's feelings he
was aware that he could expect no mercy at his hands.

He heard no footstep, but he felt that the light of the candle was still
shining upon his face and knew that Benzeor had not departed. At last,
unable to bear the suspense longer, he opened his eyes, for he felt that
he must see what was going on in the room. There stood Benzeor in the
doorway holding the candle with one hand, and intently regarding the
apparently sleeping boy before him.

"I'll be down directly," said Tom drowsily, as if he were just awaking.
"I didn't know it was time to get up. I'll be with you in a minute."

"It isn't time to get up," replied Benzeor slowly. "I'm just going to
bed. I stopped to see if you were all right. Have you been asleep long?"

"I--I don't know. Is there anything wrong?" Tom still kept the
bedclothes drawn tightly about his face, and although he was feigning
that he had been sleeping, he was in a state of terror. If Benzeor
should approach the bed he well knew what would follow.

"No, there's nothing wrong," replied Benzeor. "I just wanted to see if
you were all right. It's been a hard trip, and there's much work to be
done to-morrow."

Tom closed his eyes and did not continue the conversation, hoping that
the man would feel satisfied and leave him to himself. Nor was he
disappointed, for Benzeor soon withdrew and closed the door behind him.

Tom could hear him as he stumbled about in the adjoining room, preparing
for bed. Frightened as the lad had been, he had not failed to notice the
expression upon Benzeor's face. It seemed to him that fear and
recklessness were combined there, and that in the recent decision which
the man had made, he had bidden farewell to everything good in his
nature.

Benzeor had not been without his good qualities. Even then, in spite of
his alarm, Tom recalled his rough kindnesses, and thought how much
better in many ways his foster father had treated him than had some of
the true fathers treated their own sons, for the times were rough and
the one thing which was demanded of all the growing boys was implicit
obedience to their elders. And this obedience had been ofttimes
compelled by no gentle means. The use of the strap upon boys who were as
large as their fathers was not unknown, and no one ever thought of
resenting the harsh treatment. But Benzeor had seldom struck him. Tom
almost wished that he had, for it would make the carrying out of the
project he had already formed much easier.

Then, too, all the kindness he had received at the hands of Benzeor's
wife and of the girls came back to him. It was true that this had been
largely of a negative character, but in times like these through which
the troubled lad was then passing, even that was not forgotten. He had
toiled early and late, and knew that he had given more than a full
equivalent for the scanty food and rough clothing he had received. But
after all, Benzeor's home had been all the home he had ever known, and
he was not unmindful of the benefits he had received.

His soul now, however, was in a state of turmoil. The words he had
overheard had proved conclusively that Benzeor was a changed man, and as
Tom thought of the project which Fenton had presented, and into which
his foster father had entered with apparent eagerness, his own
indignation increased. The long waiting was past now, and the time for
action, the time of which he had dreamed and thought so much of late,
had come at last.

He removed the bed-clothing and sat up on the side of the bed, listening
intently. Benzeor had ceased to move about in his room, and the sounds
which now came indicated clearly that he was asleep. Against the little
window the rain was still beating, and the darkness was so intense in
the room that Tom could not distinguish any object.

For several minutes he continued in his position, undecided whether he
had better make the attempt to depart from the house by the way of the
stairs, or through the window in his room. If he should select the
former, the stairs would be sure to creak under his feet; and then, too,
there would be the bars which must be drawn from the door. There were
too many possibilities of detection to make that method of departure the
desirable one.

If he should go through the window, all he would have to do would be to
drop upon the woodpile directly beneath,--a pile which Tom knew was
there, for he himself had drawn and cut the wood only a few days before
this time. He decided to use the window.

Stepping slowly and carefully, he approached and quietly raised the
sash. As he looked out into the night, the farm buildings could be seen,
and yonder was the road he was to seek.

Hesitating no longer, the resolute boy crawled through the open window,
and then, clinging for a moment to the sash with his hands, dropped upon
the woodpile below. There was a noise as the wood rolled from under him,
but, quickly rising, he ran to the long lane which led out to the road,
and then stopped to learn whether his departure had been discovered or
not.

The silence was unbroken. The outlines of the rude little house stood
out in the darkness, the rain was falling steadily, and the heavy clouds
hung low over the earth. Not even the dog had been disturbed, and with a
lighter heart Tom turned and ran down the lane and was soon in the road.

The mud was now thick and heavy, and he found his progress difficult.
But as he had not far to go, he ran steadily on, and soon came within
sight of Little Peter's house. There was no light to be seen within it,
and he was not at all certain that his friend had returned.

He approached and stood beneath the window of the boy's room, which,
like his own, was over the kitchen. Then he gave the low whistle which
they both had used as a "call." At first there was no response, and when
he had given it two or three times he concluded that his friend had not
returned from his work as the lookout in the tree by the mouth of the
Navesink. Nothing then remained to be done but to rouse the family, for
Tom was determined, and was well aware that what he planned to do must
be done quickly.

Approaching the kitchen door he rapped loudly upon it. Twice had he
repeated the summons before a window was raised, and some one looking
out upon him called, "Who's there? Is that you, Peter?"

"No, it's not Peter. It's Tom Coward, and I want to get in. I've got
something to tell you."

"I'll be down in a moment," said Peter's mother, for Tom had recognized
the voice as her's.

Tom soon heard the heavy bars withdrawn, and in a brief time the door
was opened, and then closed and carefully barred behind him.

"What's wrong, Tom?" inquired the woman anxiously. "Has anything
happened to Peter?"

"I don't think so," replied Tom. "He was all right when I left him a few
hours ago down by the Hook. But what I want to know now is whether
you've had any word from his father?"

"Not a word, except that it's reported the army's on the march again.
Why do you ask?"

"I don't know that I ought to tell you," replied Tom hesitatingly, "but
the truth of the matter is that I happened to hear that he was coming
home."

"You've heard something more than that, Tom Coward," said the woman now
thoroughly alarmed. "I know you've heard more, or you wouldn't have come
over here at this time of night and in such a storm. What is it? What is
it?"

Tom perceived that he had gone too far to retreat now, and so he began
his story. He did not go into all the details, for as yet he did not
desire to implicate Benzeor, at least in the eyes of all his neighbors.

"The way of it is this," began Tom hesitatingly. "I happened to be
to-night where I overheard the talk between two men, and one of 'em was
Fenton, the pine robber."

Tom could perceive the expression of alarm which swept over the face of
the woman, who was still standing before him. Apparently ignoring it,
however, he went on. "It seems that both of the armies are on the march
across Jersey, and that Washington has halted over by Hopewell. Somehow,
Fenton had got word that your husband was coming home for a day, and
he's fixed up a plan to trap and take him."

"I haven't heard a word," said the woman slowly. "When was he coming?"

"To-morrow."

"And Fenton knows of it?"

"Yes. And he knows something more, too, or at least he pretends to. I
heard him say that you had some money hidden in an old sock, which you'd
stored away in the garret."

Tom saw the woman start at his words, and knew then that Fenton's
statement had been correct, although he could not conjecture how the
pine robber had received his information. Little Peter's mother was a
resolute woman, but even the stoutest heart might well be alarmed to
hear that Fenton was aware of such possessions.

"Have you any idea when Little Peter will come home?"

"No. It's too bad to keep him out in such a night. And we need him here
now."

"I'll wait till he comes," said Tom quietly. "There's no danger
to-night, but I want to see him, and I don't think you'll object to my
staying, will you?"

"No," said the woman eagerly. "Oh, what times these are! My husband has
been in the army more than a year, and the end hasn't come yet. What
will become of us? What shall we do? Tom," she added suddenly, "what was
Fenton going to do with him if he caught him?"

"Take him and send him to New York. You know there's a reward for every
prisoner taken. But he hasn't got him yet."

"No, that's so; and what's more he won't either, if it can be prevented.
Have you told Benzeor about it? Hark! There's some one at the door now!"

The woman was not mistaken, for a low tapping on the kitchen door could
be distinctly heard. For a moment neither spoke, but they could not
conceal their fears from each other. Just then a stronger gust of wind
drove the rain with added force against the windows. The sound of the
storm seemed to increase the fear of those within the house. Perhaps
Fenton himself had even then come; or, as was more probable, Tom
thought, his own departure had been discovered, and Benzeor had come for
him. As between the two, Tom decidedly preferred to meet Fenton at that
time.

Again the low rapping was heard, and Tom knew that some response must be
made. "I'll open the door. Maybe it's Little Peter come back," he
whispered.

"No, it isn't Peter. He wouldn't come in that way."

"I'll find out who it is," replied Tom more resolutely, although his
heart was oppressed by a great fear. His hands were trembling, and he
almost expected that the moment he drew back the bars a rush against the
door would be made.

"You stand ready to push against the door," he said as he grasped the
bar. Slowly he drew it back, and standing away from the slight opening
called out, "Who's there?"

No reply was heard, and the wind which swept through the open space
quickly extinguished the candle, leaving them both in total darkness.
For a moment Tom thought they were being attacked, and he instantly
slammed the door back, and shot the bar into its place.

The rapping upon the door was quickly repeated, and the voice of some
one outside could be heard. "Don't light the candle again," whispered
Tom. "It'll let them see what's inside here. Who's out there?" he called
in louder tones. "Who's there? You'll have to tell who you are, or we
shan't let you in. Who is it?"

Another rap was the only reply, and Tom was almost decided not to heed
the summons longer, but to leave the callers, whoever they might be, out
there in the storm.

"I'll go upstairs and look out of the window," whispered Peter's mother;
and, creeping softly out of the room, she soon made her way up the
stairway to the room overhead from which she had replied to Tom's own
summons a few minutes before.

Tom waited and listened. The rapping was not repeated, and no sound
could be heard outside the door. What could it all mean? Had the
marauders gone around to some of the windows? These were barred by heavy
inside shutters, and no light could be seen to reveal the presence of
any one. The darkness in the room was intense, and Tom almost thought he
could feel it. He was breathing hard in his excitement, but he had not
left his position by the door.

Soon he heard the sound of the woman returning down the stairway. He
waited breathlessly, and she soon rejoined him.

"I can't see but one man," she whispered. "He's right there in front of
the door."

"Is it Benzeor?"

"I couldn't see. You'd better open the door and let him in. We can
handle one."

Tom did not feel so positive about that, but bidding her light the
candle, he again drew back the bar. "Come in! Come in! Quick!" he
called.

Some one pushed past him, and the door was instantly closed and barred
again.

The candle was not yet lighted, and in the darkness he felt as if some
one were about to grasp him. He could almost feel hands upon him now. He
stepped farther back from the door, and waited in breathless suspense
for the candle to be lighted.

After several attempts, the woman succeeded in igniting a splinter from
the embers in the ashes on the fireplace, and the beams of the lighted
candle quickly dispelled the darkness.

"It's Indian John!" said Tom with a great sigh of relief as he saw the
man before him.

The visitor was a strange appearing being, clad in the leggings and
moccasins of his race, while over his shoulders he wore a faded coat
which once had done duty for some Continental soldier. His dark eyes
burned as if they had caught a reflection from the sputtering candle,
but with a countenance unmoved he gazed quietly at his companions in the
room.

"Oh, John, what a fright you gave us!" said the woman at last. "What
brings you here on a night like this?"

The Indian made no reply, save to draw a letter from the pocket of the
dripping, faded coat, and quietly held it forth to the woman.



CHAPTER VI

IN THE TEN-ACRE LOT


LITTLE Peter's mother instantly grasped the letter, and seating herself
by the table, and drawing the candle nearer, at once began to read. Tom
watched her eagerly, but she did not speak, and the expression upon her
face did not betray any of the emotions in her heart.

The Indian still stood motionless in the position he had taken when he
first entered the room, and except for the occasional turning of his
dark eyes from the boy to the woman, so far as appearances went he might
have been a statue. The rain still dashed against the windows, and the
sounds of the wind outside showed that the storm was unabated. The
flickering candle served to intensify the darkness, and the alarm which
Tom had felt had not entirely departed.

The woman read the letter all through carefully, and then, without a
word of explanation, began to read it again. Tom hardly knew what to
do. He had given her his warning, and whether she would care for his
further services he could not determine. He did not feel like
interrupting her, and yet he feared that his presence now might not be
altogether welcome, for he had no means of knowing what the message was,
or who had sent it.

His uncertainty was quickly dispelled, however, as the woman laid the
letter upon the table, and turning to him said, "You were right, Tom.
Peter is coming home; but how you found it out, I cannot even guess."

Tom did not feel at liberty to enlighten her upon the subject beyond
what he had told her already, for he was sadly troubled about Benzeor
and his relations with Fenton. Doubtless Benzeor was implicated, but
matters had not yet gone so far that he felt he was at liberty to betray
his foster father to the neighbors.

"Yes," resumed the woman, "Peter is coming home, but only for a day or
two."

"Where is he? What does he say of the army?" inquired Tom.

"Washington is at Hopewell, as you said, Tom. When he found out that
Clinton really intended to march across Jersey, he detached General
Maxwell's brigade and some of the militia to obstruct and bother the
British, and Peter was in the militia, you know. They were to keep close
to the redcoats, and by their skirmishes keep them from going too fast,
and so give Washington a chance to pass them, and then, when the place
he wanted was found, turn about and fight. When the army crossed the
Delaware at Coryell's Ferry, Washington sent Colonel Morgan with six
hundred of the riflemen to reinforce Maxwell, and with the rest of his
men he set out to march toward Princeton."

"I thought you said he was at Hopewell now," said Tom.

"So he is, Peter writes, but Hopewell isn't but a few miles from
Princeton, you know, and he decided to stop there and give his army a
good rest. Peter writes that all the men now think that Clinton is
marching so slowly on purpose, and that his plan is to let the Americans
go on into the lower country and then gain the right of our army by a
quick march and get possession of the higher ground on the right of our
men. Peter writes that that is what all the Continentals think Clinton
is trying to do, and so General Washington has halted at Hopewell.
That's only five miles from Princeton, you see, and he is going to stay
there a few days so that he can give his men a good rest before any
engagement takes place; and he can find out what Clinton's plans are,
too."

"And while the army is waiting there, Big Peter thinks he'll run up home
for a day, does he?" said Tom.

"Yes, that's just it. He's sent me word of his coming by Indian John,
here. But you must have been delayed John," she said, turning to the
Indian as she spoke.

"Heap wet," said the Indian quietly.

"When does he say he expects to be here?" inquired Tom.

"To-morrow; no, to-day, for it must be long past midnight now. I
shouldn't be surprised to see him any time."

"Well I've given you my message, and you'll know what to do now. I think
perhaps I'd better be going back home, that is, unless there's something
you think I can do to help you."

"No, there's nothing more now, Tom. Little Peter will soon be here, and
with him and Indian John in the house, I don't think we shall have much
to fear. It was good of you to come, Tom. I shall never forget you, and
I know that Peter will not, either. I am sadly troubled, but I think it
will be all right."

"Good-night, then," said Tom.

"Good-night, and thank you again for all your trouble and kindness."

Tom drew back the bar, and, opening the door, passed out into the night,
little dreaming that he had looked upon the face of Little Peter's
mother for the last time.

As he ran along the lonesome road, he could see that the clouds were
breaking, and in low masses were swept by the wind across the sky. The
rain had almost ceased now, but the air was damp and heavy and strangely
oppressive. Perhaps it was the oppressiveness which affected Tom more
than the excitement through which he had just passed, for the lad was
much depressed as he came nearer to Benzeor's house. All the
conversation he had overheard between the men came back to him, and he
almost wished that he had not left Peter's mother alone with Indian John
and the children. His feeling of obligation to Benzeor had mostly
departed now, and as he recalled the plots of his foster father his
heart was hot within him. He even thought of going over to the Court
House and reporting the matter to Sheriff Forman that very night; but
the hope that Benzeor still might not join Fenton in the evil project
they had formed deterred him, and as he just then obtained a glimpse of
the house which for more than ten years had been the only home he had
ever known, his mind was recalled to his own immediate plans. At least
he had given Peter's mother the warning, and if Fenton's band should
make the proposed visit, in any event she would be prepared to receive
them.

At first Tom thought he would not return to his room, but would pass the
night in the barn; still the fear that Benzeor might discover his
absence, and be led to suspect its cause, quickly presented itself, and
the troubled lad decided to go back to his accustomed place.

Carefully he climbed up on the woodpile, and grasping the sill drew
himself up and passed through the open window. He stood for a moment in
the room and listened intently. Not a sound could be heard, and even the
long drawn-out snores with which Benzeor had been wont to proclaim to
the household the fact that he had entered the land of dreams were
silent now. He waited several moments, and as the silence was still
unbroken he proceeded carefully to remove his wet clothing, and climbed
into his high bed.

For the first time then he realized how thoroughly tired he was. The bed
had never been more grateful to him, and a heavy sigh of relief escaped
his lips. He heard the crowing of the cocks and knew that the morning
could not be far away now.

Not even the exciting events of the day, or the treacherous project of
Benzeor, or his anxiety for the safety of Little Peter's father, now
availed to keep the wearied lad awake.

How long he slept he did not know, but it was broad daylight when he
opened his eyes. Some one was pounding upon his door, and with a
confused thought that Fenton was besieging the house, or that Washington
had begun an attack upon Clinton's forces, he quickly sat up in the bed
and listened.

The summons was repeated, and Tom at once realized where he was and what
was expected of him. There was no mistaking Benzeor's rude method of
proclaiming the presence of the morning, and if he had had any doubts,
they would have been quickly dispelled by the words which followed.

"Come, Tom, get up! It's high time we were at work again!"

"I'll be down in a minute," replied Tom as he leaped out of bed and
hastily dressed.

While he was engaged in that occupation he tried desperately to collect
his thoughts and think of some way out of the troubles which he feared
were sure to come that day. Should he tell Benzeor plainly that he could
no longer remain under his roof? Ought he to tell him what he had
overheard the night before? Had the time come for him to declare himself
and to take the open stand which he had for a long time secretly planned
to do? Thoughts of Sarah and the toiling, careworn little mother of the
household presented themselves before his troubled mind, and the longer
he thought, the more perplexed he became.

The problem was not solved when he passed down the stairs and went out
of the house to the barrel which stood beneath the corner of the eaves.
He took the rude wooden bowl and filled it with water, and desperately
tried to arrive at some conclusion as he bathed his flushed face.

The family were already seated at the breakfast-table, and the sounds of
Benzeor's gruff voice could be distinctly heard through the open
windows. The hens with their broods were moving about the yard, and the
dog came and rubbed against his leg as the lad dried his face and hands
on the rough towel that was hanging near the water barrel. The storm had
passed, and the summer sun was shining clear and strong now.

As he lifted his eyes and looked out over Benzeor's fertile lands, only
a vision of peace and restfulness could be seen on every side. It was
all so different from the storm which was in his own soul that Tom
almost groaned aloud as he turned to enter the kitchen and take his
accustomed place at the table.

As he entered the room, Benzeor said, "You're late this morning, lad,
but I thought I would let you sleep, you had such a hard day of it
yesterday. But there's no trip to New York this morning, and not likely
to be one again soon."

Benzeor's manner was not unkind, and as Tom glanced at him he wondered
whether the man was in any wise suspicious of him or not. Apparently he
was not, but without making any reply Tom seated himself and quietly
decided to wait until they were alone before he spoke of what was in his
mind.

"Tom," said Benzeor after a brief silence, "I want you to go over to the
ten-acre lot to-day. The ground's wet, but the corn there needs hoeing,
and we can't wait."

The "ten-acre lot" was on the border of Benzeor's possessions, and was
nearly a mile distant from the house. On all sides it was bordered by
woods, and was as lonely a place as could be found in all the region.

"Are you going, too?" inquired Tom, with an apparent indifference he was
far from feeling.

"No. I've got to go in another direction to-day. I may not be back at
night either, though I can't say as to that. You'd better take your
dinner, too, Tom, and I'll leave one of the muskets for you. You can
load it up with bird-shot and keep the blackbirds and crows away.
They're raising the mischief this year, and corn's going to be worth
money this fall, if I'm not greatly mistaken."

Tom made no reply, although his heart was beating a little more rapidly
than usual. Benzeor's absence from home promised little good, and the
words which he had overheard the night before came back now with
redoubled force. Where was Benzeor going? And why did he send him to
work in the distant field, when he was positive that some of the corn
nearer the house was in far greater need of hoeing than that in the
ten-acre lot?

However, he did not voice his questions, and immediately after the
breakfast was over Benzeor mounted his horse and departed up the road,
going in the opposite direction to that which led to Little Peter's
house.

Tom went up into the unfinished room in which Benzeor kept his guns and
ammunition, but instead of taking the musket to which the man had
referred, he selected a rifle, and loaded it with a ball instead of the
bird-shot as Benzeor had directed. Just why he did this Tom could not
have explained even to himself, but somehow there was the feeling in his
heart that he might need to be prepared to deal with larger game that
day than the thieving blackbirds or the noisy crows.

"I've got your dinner all ready, Tom," said Sarah, as the boy came back
with his gun into the kitchen. "Why, you've got the rifle!" she added in
surprise, as she noted the weapon he had in his hands. "There's nothing
wrong, is there?" she said anxiously.

"I hope not. I don't know. I thought I'd take this gun," replied Tom in
some confusion.

Sarah said nothing more, but Tom knew from her manner that she was
alarmed. He would have been glad to quiet her fears, but the anxiety in
his own heart rendered him somewhat embarrassed, and without saying
anything more he shouldered his gun, and picking up the little pail, or
"blicky," as the country people termed it, having adopted the Dutch word
whether they themselves were Dutch or not, he set forth on his walk to
the distant ten-acre lot.

He stopped in the barn long enough to select a hoe, and then with the
added implement resumed his journey across the fields. When he came to
the borders of the woods through which he was to pass, he turned and
looked back at the house.

Sarah was still standing in the doorway, and as she saw Tom stop she
waved at him the sunbonnet which she was holding in one hand by the
strings. Tom waved his "blicky" by way of a return, and then entered the
woods, which shut out the view of all that lay behind him.

The birds were flitting about in the trees and filling the air with
their songs. The squirrels darted along the branches, stopping only
occasionally to chatter at the intruder. High over all he could see a
fish-hawk and his mate circling in the air, and Tom knew that their nest
was not far away, and doubtless they were watching him to see that he
did no harm to their little ones, which by this time must be well grown.

As he came near to a marshy little pond which lay in the centre of an
open place in the woods, he stopped for a moment when he heard the angry
notes of a ground thrush near by. He soon saw that the bird was engaged
in a fierce contest with a water snake which had crawled up the bank and
doubtless had been endeavoring to make his breakfast upon the
fledgelings in the nest he had discovered.

Tom watched the contest for a moment, and then advanced to the aid of
the bird, which was beating the ground with her wings, and occasionally
darting swiftly at her foe. His approach was instantly seen by the
snake, which quickly abandoned the contest, and, squirming down the
bank, slid into the stagnant water; but Tom could still see the head
which was lifted above the water, and the glittering little eyes were
intently watching his movements, although the rest of the long slimy
body was concealed in the pond.

"That's just like Benzeor," said Tom aloud, as he dropped his pail, and
picking up a stone threw it savagely at the head he could see a few
yards out from the bank.

The head instantly disappeared, and Tom turned to watch the bird, which
now was hopping about in the bushes, uttering harsh little notes of
relief.

"You're all right now, old lady," said Tom. "Go back and tend to your
babies. I only wish I could serve every crawling thing the way I served
your enemy."

He soon arrived at the end of his journey, and, placing his gun within
easy reach, began his task for the day. Why he had put off his
conversation with Benzeor he could not explain. But the energy with
which he began his work served to afford a measure of relief for his
pent-up feelings, and when the noon hour at last came he had done far
more work than a morning often witnessed.

Once he had stopped suddenly when he thought he heard the report of a
gun in the distance. The sound had twice been repeated, but it seemed to
be muffled and far away, and as he resumed his labor he tried to
persuade himself that it was only Little Peter firing at the blackbirds
or the thieving crows.

The reports had made him anxious, however, and when he had stopped for
dinner he had kept his gun near him all the time. The silence served to
increase his feeling of loneliness. On every side stood the forests; and
the great trees, which had never as yet felt the stroke of the axe, were
companions without sympathy.

With a feeling of desperation Tom soon resumed his labors. The sun
passed over his head and began to sink below the tops of the taller
trees. He had stopped for a moment to wipe his dripping face and gain a
brief rest, when he was startled by the sight of some one emerging from
the forest.

He gazed for a moment intently at the new-comer, and soon recognized
Sarah. What was the trouble? Her dress had been torn by the bushes, her
hair had become loose and was streaming down her back. But her
disheveled appearance was not the worst, for as Tom dropped his hoe and
ran across the lot to meet her, he saw that her eyes were filled with an
expression of terror, and her face betrayed the wild alarm which seemed
to possess the swiftly running girl.



CHAPTER VII

THE PARTING OF THE WAYS


"WHAT'S wrong, Sarah? What is it? What is it?" said Tom excitedly, as he
drew near the almost breathless girl. "Has anything happened at the
house?"

"Oh, Tom!" was all that Sarah at first could say. The reaction from her
excitement and the swift pace at which she had been running had come,
and the frightened girl burst into a flood of tears.

Tom looked on in helpless amazement. Sarah was usually such a strong and
self-contained girl that her present distress was all the more
perplexing. He looked at her a moment, feeling how utterly unable he was
to comprehend the state of her feelings and how helpless he was to aid
or comfort her. Benzeor might be faced; and even Fenton, in spite of the
fear with which Tom regarded him, might be met; but a weeping girl was
entirely outside the realm of all his previous experiences, and he stood
leaning upon his gun, eager to do something to aid Sarah, and feeling a
deep sympathy for her as he silently watched her.

Perhaps his silence was the very best aid he could offer, for in a brief
time the resolute Sarah gained control of herself, and lifting her
tear-stained face to that of the troubled lad by her side she said, "Oh
Tom, they've killed Little Peter's mother!"

"What!" exclaimed Tom in amazement. "Killed her? You can't mean it! Who
killed her?"

"Yes, they shot her, and have carried off his father, too."

"I don't understand, Sarah," said Tom more quietly. "Tell me about it."

"Little Peter came over to our house just a little while ago to leave
the children, and he told us all about it. It seems, he was the lookout
yesterday down by the Hook and didn't get home till it was almost light
this morning.

"He said he went up to his room and laid down upon his bed, and must
have gone to sleep, but he was waked up by the sound of the voices of
men in the house. He jumped out of bed and listened, and pretty soon he
heard one of them tell his mother that she must hand over the money she
had hidden in a stocking up in the garret, and tell where his father
was.

"She refused to do either, and then Little Peter hurriedly dressed and
ran down the stairs, but some of the men just grabbed him and held him
fast so that he couldn't do anything to help his mother. He said the men
all had masks on their faces except Fenton, for he thinks it was
Fenton's band that did the work, and he was sure he recognized the
blacksmith."

"No doubt about that!" exclaimed Tom. "What did they do then?"

"They held his mother while some of them ran up into the garret, and
pretty soon one of them came back with the stocking. They made quite a
time over that, and Little Peter thought they wouldn't do anything more,
but it seems they didn't find as much money in the stocking as they
expected. Little Peter explained it to me by saying that his mother had
divided it, and had hidden a part in the garden back of the house and
left only a part in the stocking.

"For a little time they didn't suspect that, but wanted to know where
her husband was. Of course she didn't tell them. How could she, when he
wasn't there? Well, they searched the place high and low. They tore open
the feather beds, and broke down the walls in two or three places, but
they couldn't find Peter. Then they went out into the barns and searched
them, but not a trace of him could they find. They must have been pretty
angry by that time, for when they came back to the house they told her
they knew there must be more money than they had found in the stocking,
and she must tell them where it was.

"Just then one of the children called out that she knew where it was for
she had seen her mother dig a hole in the ground and put a bag of money
in it. Two of the men then took the child out into the garden and tried
to make her show them the place where the money was, but she must either
have forgotten or else did not know, for the men came back into the
house more angry than before, and told her mother that she must go with
them and show them the place.

"Of course she refused, and then Fenton raised his gun and told her he'd
give her till he could count five, to tell. She didn't say a word, and
when the blacksmith had counted four he stopped a minute to give her a
chance to speak. He waited, and as she only shook her head the outlaw
pulled the trigger and shot her in the breast."

"And killed her?" inquired Tom in a low voice.

"Yes, killed her. The bullet must have struck her heart, for Little
Peter said she fell dead. They threw the body on the bed and then they
turned upon Little Peter. He said he thought his turn had come then, but
at that very minute the guard they had stationed down by the road came
running into the house, and going up to Fenton whispered something in
his ear.

"Little Peter didn't know what it was, he said, but in a minute Fenton
turned to his men and gave them some directions, and they all stopped
and went out of the house, that is, all except two, who were looking
after Little Peter and the children.

"In almost no time Little Peter heard some one coming up the lane on
horseback and stop right before the kitchen door. He heard him jump off
from the horse, and after a pause of a minute the men all made a rush
out of the house. Pretty soon they came back, and Little Peter saw that
his own father was a prisoner in their hands.

"He said his father took on fearfully when he saw his wife dead, and
what the men had been doing, but in a minute they bound him hand and
foot, and put a gag in his mouth, and then he was as helpless as a baby
in their hands.

"Little Peter said he didn't know what was coming next. He thought
they'd torture him or his father into telling where the money was, or
would set fire to the house; but before they could do anything the guard
came running into the house again and called out that some one was
coming.

"They only stopped long enough to tie Little Peter to the post of the
very bed on which his mother was lying dead, and then they made a break
out of the house and took their horses and were off down the lane in no
time."

"How did you hear about it? How did Little Peter get away?" said Tom
slowly.

"Why, in a few minutes Indian John came into the house, and he set
Little Peter free. 'Twas lucky for him that he did, for Fenton might
have come back, you see."

"And Little Peter came over to your house with the children, then?"

"Yes, he brought them all over, and they're at our house now. But, oh
Tom, it's dreadful! dreadful! I'm so afraid they'll come to our place
next, and so I ran out here to get you. Come Tom! Come right away! They
may be there now!"

Tom hesitated, not knowing just what to do. He was only a boy, and knew
that alone he could do nothing against Fenton and his band. But the
appeal of Sarah and the unprotected condition of the children and her
mother moved him strongly, and his first impulse was to return with the
frightened girl.

"Sarah," said he abruptly, "where is your father?"

"Why, you know he went away this morning, and he hasn't come back yet.
He said he might not be back before to-morrow morning. We're all alone,
Tom, and you must come right away. Oh, it's awful!" And Sarah buried her
face in her hands again as she spoke.

It was almost upon Tom's lips to tell her what he knew of Benzeor. But
the misery of the weeping girl before him was even stronger than the
impression produced by the sad tale she had just related, and he could
not quite bring himself up to the point of telling her what he
suspected,--that her own father had been connected with the attack upon
Little Peter's home. But he had decided now as to the course of action
he must follow.

"Sarah," said he gently, "there isn't the least danger in the world that
your house will be attacked. I can't tell you how I know, but I know
it's so."

"But we're all alone, Tom! I don't know what you mean! We're as likely
to be attacked as any one. You must go back with me! We must go right
away, for they may be there now! Poor mother, she was so frightened that
she didn't want me to leave and come over here for you! Come! We must go
right back now!"

"Sarah, I'm never going into that house again. You can tell your father
that I've slept for the last time under his roof."

"Not going back with me?" said Sarah aghast, and looking up in surprise
as she spoke. "Not going back?" she repeated, as if she did not fully
understand what Tom had said.

"No, I'm not going back," said Tom firmly. "You know I've been thinking
a good while of leaving, and after what you've just told me I know the
time has come."

The color slowly faded from Sarah's face and a different expression came
into her eyes. Even her alarm was apparently forgotten for the moment,
and as Tom looked at her, her eyes seemed to snap and a sneer replaced
the look of sorrow.

"Tom Coward, you're afraid!" she said; "that's what's the trouble with
you. You're afraid, that's what you are! You'd rather leave mother and
me alone there with the children than run any risks of meeting the
blacksmith! I wouldn't have believed it, but my father was right. You're
a coward by nature as well as by name."

"Sarah"--began Tom, his face flushing at the words of the angry girl.

"Don't 'Sarah' me! I know you now! I never could have believed it,
never! But I've heard you with my own ears, and now I know it's true!
You're afraid! You're a coward, that's just what you are! Oh, you're
well named, you are! Very well, sir, it shall be as you say. Perhaps we
shall be better off without you than we would with you, for it would
only make another child for us to look after if you should come back!
I'll go back home and face Fenton and every one of his band myself! I'm
afraid, but I'm no coward!"

[Illustration: "TOM COWARD, YOU'RE AFRAID!"]

Turning abruptly away, after giving Tom a glance which he never forgot,
she started resolutely and swiftly back along the pathway which she had
followed in her flight to the ten-acre lot.

Tom looked after her in helpless amazement. Never before had he heard
such an outburst from the gentle and even-tempered Sarah, who had been
the leading spirit in Benzeor's household. The children had gone to her
with their troubles rather than to their mother, and Sarah had never
failed to have a word of comfort or of help for every one. Even Benzeor
himself had come to depend upon her judgment in many of his affairs, and
she had been as patient and gentle with him as she had been with the
troubled little ones.

And to Tom she had been the one true friend he had ever known. Somehow
she had always understood him, and from the days of their early
childhood it had always been a matter of pride to him that he was her
acknowledged champion and protector. Many a time, when he was a sturdy
little lad, had he taken her part against the tormenting boys in the
school. For her he had carved quaint and strange looking dolls out of
horse-chestnuts, and the childish Sarah had never failed to receive
them with many expressions of pleasure, and had lavished a wealth of
affection upon them which was almost as pleasing to Tom as to the little
mother herself. For her he had gathered the chestnuts in the autumn and
the bright colored flowers in the springtime; and when, with the passing
of the years, there had come to them both new feelings and new
interests, he still had shared with her all those dimly perceived
ambitions and longings which are ever present in the boyish heart when
it arrives at that position where it can look out upon the time when the
boy is to become a man.

Perhaps Tom had enjoyed her sympathy and interest the more because of
the loneliness of his own position. But Sarah never by word or act had
caused him to feel that he was only Benzeor Osburn's "bound boy," and
not truly one of the household.

Tom was thinking of some of these things as he watched the departing
girl, and, forgetting for the moment all the anger and shame which her
last words had aroused, he called aloud after her.

"Sarah! Sarah!" he shouted. "Wait a minute! Come back! Come back!"

Sarah apparently did not hear him, or heed him if she heard, and without
once turning her head or looking behind her soon disappeared in the
forest.

An impulse to follow her seized Tom, and he even ran a few steps after
her, but quickly stopped. How could he explain himself to her without
informing upon Benzeor? And then her sorrow would be harder for him to
bear than her present anger, hard as that was. No; all he could do was
to remain silent for the time, and trust that in the future some
explanation might be made which should set him aright once more in the
estimation of the best friend the homeless boy had ever known.

The departure of Sarah left him face to face with the perplexing problem
of what he was now to do. To return to Benzeor's house was impossible;
but where should he go?

Tom stood for several minutes in deep thought. There was no home which
would now be open to him except Little Peter's, and that had been
wrecked by the dreadful deeds of Fenton and his followers. Washington's
army he had heard was at Hopewell, and that was at least forty miles
away. It was to the army he had ultimately hoped to go, and perhaps the
present was the very time to which he had been looking forward so long.

The longer he thought about it the more strongly was he impressed with
the conviction that his best plan would be to try to make his way to
Hopewell, or to the place to which the army might have moved by this
time. It was true he was without provisions, and he knew of no place in
which he would be likely to obtain any, or in which he might find a
resting-place for a night. Of the long journey he thought but little,
for a walk even of forty miles had no terrors for him.

Tom decided to start for Washington's army, but first he must stop at
Little Peter's and learn what his friend's plans were to be, and offer
him such aid as it lay within his power to give.

The decision once made, Tom picked up his rifle, which now he somehow
had come to regard as his own property, and started through the forest
toward the distant road.

When at last he gained it and started towards Little Peter's home, he
was startled as he saw some one running down the road, and his first
impulse was to conceal himself in the forest and wait for the stranger
to pass; but his fears were relieved when he recognized the long lope of
the runner, and then knew that his old friend Indian John was
approaching.



CHAPTER VIII

INDIAN JOHN


INDIAN JOHN had for years been a frequent visitor in the home of
Benzeor, as he had in many of the other homes of the region. He was an
old man now,--how old no one knew, perhaps not even Indian John
himself,--but he had lingered about old Monmouth long after the
Schwonnack had taken possession of the lands and his own tribe had
gradually relinquished their homes and mostly withdrawn from the region.

For months together he would disappear, and no one would know whither he
had gone, although it was thought that he was on a visit to some of his
kindred, who had withdrawn farther into the interior of the country; but
he would soon return and resume his wandering life. At such times,
Indian John would be restless and uneasy. Perhaps then he realized more
fully the loss of the homes of his ancestors, and his heart would be
filled with thoughts he never uttered. He continued to be friendly with
the settlers, and though he never refused to accept the food which
almost every housewife was willing to give him, he had never been
willing to pass a night under a roof. It was commonly reported that he
used a cave in the woods not far away as his abode, but he never had
welcomed any one there, nor had any one ever seen the aged Indian in the
place. Still the report was believed, and "Indian John's cave" was a
well-known name among the boys of Old Monmouth.

Between Tom and the lonely warrior there had been a very strong feeling
of sympathy, although not even Tom himself was able to explain it. It
had come about, however, as the result of an accidental meeting between
them a few years previous to this time. Tom had gone down to the shore
one day when a storm had been raging, and the great breakers had been
rolling in upon the beach.

As the lad had walked on over the sand, he had been surprised to see the
figure of a man in the distance, standing motionless, and evidently
watching the tumult of the angry waters. He had not changed from his
position as Tom approached, and the lad did not know that his presence
was even recognized by the Indian, who seemed to be absorbed in his
reflections as he looked out over the tossing waves.

Tom had gone on and at last touched the Indian upon the shoulder. Indian
John had then slowly turned his head, and Tom knew that his presence had
been perceived, but for a moment neither had spoken.

Then the aged warrior, with a gesture toward the ocean, had said, "Boy
no home. Warrior no home. Brothers."

It was the first time Tom had known that Indian John was aware of his
own early history, and his heart had been deeply touched by the sympathy
of the red man.

"Boy no home. Warrior no home. Both like waves. Driven here. Driven
there. No rest. No home. Storm there. Storm here," said the Indian
laying his hand upon his bosom as he spoke.

From that time, although Indian John never referred to his loneliness
again, a strong bond of sympathy had existed between the two, and every
time Tom had seen the old man, he thought of his quiet eloquence in the
presence of that storm which they both had witnessed from the shore.

And Indian John had been kind and thoughtful to all the white children
of the region. He had made bows for the boys, and taught them their use,
and as their skill had increased, his pride was as marked, although it
had not been as demonstrative, as that of the youthful warriors
themselves. He had taught them how to make and set their traps for the
foxes and the rabbits, and how to catch the eels in the river.
Apparently his happiest hours had been those which he passed with his
young companions.

Highly as the boys had prized the lessons he had given them, still more
did they prize the marvelous tales which Indian John could tell. To them
he told what the waves were saying when they came rolling in upon the
sandy shore. He knew what the tall trees were whispering when the wind
swept through their branches and brought the leaves into contact with
one another. The hoarse calls of the wild geese, when they passed high
overhead on their long journeys in the spring and autumn, were all known
to Indian John, and the screams of the eagles and the fish-hawks were
all in a language which he clearly understood.

He knew, also, all the tales his fathers had told him of the first
appearance of the Woapsiel Lennape in Old Monmouth, when, in the spring
of 1524, John de Verrazano, in his good ship The Dolphin, had entered
Sandy Hook, and had soon after written a long letter to King Francis the
First of France, and had given a full account of the marvelous
adventures which had befallen him, and the no less marvelous country he
had discovered. He had heard, also, of the visit, in the summer of 1609,
which Sir Henry Hudson had made in The Half Moon, and how that one of
his crew had fallen as the first victim of the rage of the Indians at
the invasion of their lands.

The tale which Tom had always enjoyed most, however, was that of the
origin of the troublesome little pests which, in the warm days of the
summer, were the torment of the people, for Jersey mosquitoes were not
unknown in those far-off times of the Revolution.

It seemed that ages before this time, indeed away back in the days
before John de Verrazano or Henry Hudson had come, or even the memory of
the oldest warriors could run, the Great Spirit had permitted two huge
monsters to appear and prey upon the red men of Monmouth as a penalty
for some crime they had committed, a crime the nature of which Indian
John did not know, or, if he knew, he never explained.

In size these monsters were larger than any house. They had long slender
legs which held their huge bodies higher in the air than the tallest
trees could have done. They also had immense wings, which, although they
were as fine in texture as the finest silk, were so large and strong
that when the huge monsters used them they created such a breeze that
even the strongest trees of the forest fell before them.

Their most distinguishing characteristic, however, was an immense
"bill," which was as long as the tallest pine-tree and as sharp and
delicate in its point as that of the smallest needle. With this they
wrought incalculable destruction and suffering among the helpless
people. The largest man served only as a single "bite," and the bodies
of little children seemed only to whet the appetite of these savage
monsters.

The helpless warriors knew not what to do. They sacrificed, and prayed,
and besought the Great Spirit to free them from their tormentors, but
all was without avail. Their prayers were unanswered, and the Great
Spirit was not appeased.

No man could describe the destruction wrought by the huge tormentors.
Whole tribes disappeared before them, and it soon came to pass that the
warriors dared not venture forth in search of food for their starving
little ones, who were kept concealed in dens and caves of the earth.
Watchers were stationed to give warning of the approach of the monsters,
for their great bodies cast shadows upon the earth like those of the
low-passing clouds on a summer day, and long before they appeared in the
sky the cry of the watchman sent all within the sound of his voice to
their places of refuge under the ground. Not even then were they always
safe, for the monsters could bore into the ground with their bills, and
often brought to the surface the body of a man, who struggled and kicked
much after the fashion of a frog impaled on the beak of some long-legged
heron. The torments of the people increased. The women neglected their
fields, and the warriors remained in their hiding-places, while the
frightened children cried for food.

At last, rendered desperate by their sufferings, the warriors of the
entire region banded themselves together, and one day fell upon the
monsters as they were lying asleep in a valley which their immense
bodies almost filled.

The carnage was frightful to behold. All day long the contest was waged,
and the multitudes of men that fell could not be counted up for numbers.
But at last the red men were victorious, and when the few remaining
warriors left the field of battle, their enemies lay stretched upon the
valley, dead.

Great was the rejoicing among the people. They came forth from their
hiding-places, and their feastings and songs of victory were continued
for two entire days. The land was freed from its tormentors, and peace
and prosperity would now return, or so at least they thought.

Great was the astonishment and sorrow of Indian John's forefathers when,
upon the third day, they discovered that their troubles were not ended.
As decay had begun to work upon the dead bodies of the mammoth
mosquitoes, little particles became loosened, and as they were lifted
into the air by the summer wind, each tiny and separate atom became
endowed with life and received a body in shape exactly like that of the
huge monsters themselves, only they were exceedingly small in size. Day
after day clouds of these tiny torments were borne away by the breezes
from the valley of the dead, and, filled with a burning desire to avenge
the death of their parents, they fell upon the unprotected people.

From these there had been no relief. The camp-fires of the warriors did
not avail, and although the men went valiantly forth to give them
battle, their efforts were all futile, and from that day until the
present time the Jersey mosquito has remained a foe to the red man and
the white, and ever consumed by the one purpose, to avenge the death of
the parents, who had fallen years ago in their battle with the
red-skinned warriors of Old Monmouth.

To Indian John this story of the origin of the pests of New Jersey had
been eminently satisfactory, and never by word or deed had he shown that
he had the slightest doubt of the accuracy of the tradition which had
come down to him through many generations. Tom at first had received the
account with all the implicit faith of an ardent admirer of Indian John,
and his first rude shock had come when Benzeor had laughed aloud upon
his relating the story with all seriousness one morning at the
breakfast-table. With the passing of the years other doubts as to the
entire reliability of some of Indian John's stories had crept into his
mind. Alas that it should be so with us all! But his strong regard for
the old warrior had never ceased, and Tom's heart was glad that morning
when he recognized the new-comer as his long-time friend.

"Where have you been, John?" he said, as the Indian approached.

"See Peter."

"Have you seen him?" said Tom eagerly. "Where is he? Has he got away?"

"How?" replied the Indian quickly; and Tom at once perceived from the
expression upon his face that he was aware of some but not of all the
recent events in Peter's home.

As he related the story which Sarah had told him, Indian John made no
reply, although his eyes seemed to blaze as he listened to Tom's words.
He then explained that he had left the house soon after Tom had departed
on the preceding night, to intercept Big Peter on the road and give to
him the warning which his wife had bidden him to carry. But Peter must
have returned by a different route from that which he had been expected
to use, and as a natural result Indian John had not seen him, the
warning word had not been given, and Big Peter had returned to learn of
the sad death of his wife and to be carried away a prisoner by Fenton
and his brutal band.

"I don't know just what to do now, John," said Tom. "I want to go and
join the army. You have been there, and perhaps you would like to go
back with me."

Indian John had been with the soldiers in Washington's army, but he made
no reply to Tom's words, and indeed the lad was not certain that he had
heard, for he stood looking upon the ground and evidently was thinking
deeply.

"Where Little Peter now?" said the Indian abruptly, looking up at Tom as
he spoke.

"I don't know. Fenton didn't take him with him, though I don't know why
he didn't."

"Little Peter home," said the Indian decidedly. "Go see Little Peter."

Tom hesitated. He, too, had longed to go to his friend, not only to
express his sympathy but also to learn what his plans were to be, for he
knew that Little Peter would not remain in his home now. Indeed, he
could not, if he would, after such a scene as that which he had
witnessed there. But Tom's mind was filled with thoughts of Benzeor, and
a meeting with him certainly was not very desirable at that time.

"Go see Little Peter," said the Indian again, starting on up the road as
he spoke.

"All right, I'll go with you," replied Tom, as he joined his companion.

Little Peter's house was not far away, and he would not lose much time
in going there. It was almost night now, and if his friend should be at
home they might be able to devise some plan by which they could act
together. Besides all that, Tom was more than glad to have an
opportunity to express his sympathy for his friend in his sorrow.

They soon came within sight of the house, and both stopped when they saw
a little group of people near the garden. Tom knew at once what their
presence meant, for they were near the spot where two of the members of
the family had been buried. He had seen the rude wooden headstones which
marked their graves many times before this.

The few neighbors who had assembled to perform the last rites for Little
Peter's mother had just returned to the house as Tom and Indian John
approached. Tom at once went to his friend, and the warm grasp of the
hand was all he could give. Not one of the children save Little Peter
was there, and the hurried duties had been hastily performed by kind,
though rough hands.

The two boys withdrew from the house, and after an awkward silence Tom
said in a low voice, "What are you going to do now?"

"I'm going to leave the children at Benzeor's house. He has been very
kind, or rather Sarah has, Tom. And then I'm going to start for Refugee
Town; I think father may be there."

"Refugee Town?" said Tom in surprise. "Do you think that will be safe?"

Tom well knew the place. It was a spot on the outer beach of the Hook,
where some of the more desperate refugees, tories and negroes, had
assembled. A few huts and tents served as their dwelling-places, and the
men were supposed to be in league with the men on board the boats which
the British had stationed near by, for a part of Howe's fleet was
already anchored there, waiting for the coming of Clinton's men.
Clinton's original plan had been to march across Jersey to New
Brunswick, there embark his men on the Raritan, and sail away for New
York; but the rapid march of Washington had caused him to abandon the
project, and word had been sent for the fleet to be ready for him when
he should arrive at the Highlands.

Refugee Town had become a familiar name within the past few weeks.

"No, it isn't safe exactly, but I've got to do something for father. If
he's taken to New York and shut up in the sugar-house I'll go with him;
and if he's still there at the Town I may be able to do something,
though I don't know what," said Little Peter sadly.

"But there are the children," protested Tom. "What'll become of them?"

"They're at Benzeor's, and they'll be all right. You'll help look after
them, won't you?"

"I've left Benzeor's."

"Left Benzeor's? What for?"

"I'm going to join the army. It's time I was doing my share."

Tom gave no other reason. He knew the children would be safe at
Benzeor's, and with what Little Peter then had it in his mind to do it
would perhaps be unwise to tell him all he knew. However, he intended
to tell him all, and that soon.

"Going to join the army?" repeated Little Peter, as if he did not
comprehend the words.

"Yes; you know I've been thinking of it a long time, and now that
they're on the march, and coming this way, I've made up my mind that my
turn has come. I didn't know but you would want to go, too, now."

"I'd like to, but I can't. I've got this other matter on hand. Come into
the house, Tom, and spend the night with me. You can start in the
morning as well as now, and besides it's almost dark. You can't go in
the night."

Tom hesitated, but finally consented, and with his friend went into the
house which so recently had been the scene of the greatest sorrow which
had ever entered Little Peter's life.

Indian John followed them, but after his custom refused to remain,
although he promised to return early in the morning. One of the women of
the neighborhood had stayed to look after Little Peter's immediate
wants, but as soon as her duties were done she departed for her own home
with an eagerness she could not entirely conceal. And Tom did not blame
her, for he himself was not without fear when at last Little Peter
closed the doors for the night, and, after having slipped the heavy bars
into their places, the two boys sought their bed in the low room over
the kitchen.



CHAPTER IX

THE YOUNG LIEUTENANT


IT was long before daylight when the boys were stirring on the morning
which followed the events recorded in the preceding chapter. No one had
disturbed them, and with the return of the day their courage was
somewhat revived. Tom, however, had decided to start at once for the
army, which he knew from Indian John's words was not many miles away. He
was thoroughly familiar with all the roads in the county, for he had
ridden over them many times in company with Benzeor, or when he had been
sent on errands to the more remote regions by his foster father, and
consequently had no fears of losing his way.

Little Peter did not urge his friend to accompany him on his expedition
to Refugee Town, for he was aware of the perils that were likely to
beset him on his journey. He would not listen to any of the protests of
Tom, for he was fully determined to learn what had become of his
father, and even share his experiences if the occasion demanded. And Tom
could not find it in his heart to blame Little Peter, hopeless as he
considered all his efforts likely to be. Perhaps he would do the same
thing if his own father had been carried away by the pine robbers, and
he found himself conjecturing how it was a boy would feel in such
circumstances as those in which his friend had been placed. The feeling
was one of which he knew nothing by experience, and his own loneliness
seemed to press upon him with a heavier weight.

However, he still said nothing to Little Peter concerning Benzeor's
recent actions, for he was well assured that his friend's younger
brothers and sisters could be in no place where they would so easily
escape all further troubles for the present as in his foster father's
house; and then all of Little Peter's plans would be changed at once if
he knew the part which his neighbor had taken in the tragedy which had
recently occurred.

"Perhaps Indian John will go with me," said Little Peter. "He'll be a
great help if he'll go."

"That he will," replied Tom, "and I'm sure he'll be glad to go with
you. I should like to go myself."

"That's all right, Tom; I know you would, but you couldn't do any good,
and might only get into trouble yourself. Perhaps I'll be with you in a
day or two, if I don't hear anything about my father down by Refugee
Town,--that is, if Benzeor is willing for the children to stay in his
house. I'll have to look after them, you see, for it's likely I'll have
to be father and mother, as well as big brother, now," he added sadly.

"I know, I know," said Tom; "but I'm hoping you'll have good luck, and
if the army really is coming here, it may be that you'll get some help
from the Continentals if you need it then. Good-by, Peter."

"Good-by, Tom," replied his friend.

Tom placed some bread in his pockets, and then started forth on his
journey. Somewhere off towards Hopewell the American army must be,
according to all the reports which had come, and to that place he must
make his way. The time for which he had been waiting at last had come,
and with a lighter heart than he had known for days the lad began his
journey.

The summer morning was clear and warm. The birds were flitting about in
the trees and filling the air with their songs. In spite of the heat,
there was a delicious freshness in the early morning air, and as he
walked rapidly forward he soon came to feel a sense of exhilaration
which not even the loss and grief of his boy friend could entirely
banish.

By the time the sun rose red and full in the east, he had placed several
miles between him and Little Peter's home, but with unabated zeal he
steadily pushed onward, resolved to make the best possible use of the
early hours before the more intense heat of the day should come.

By the middle of the forenoon more than ten miles had been left behind
him, but he was beginning to feel the effects of his exertions. His face
was flushed and streaming with perspiration. The rough road was hot and
dusty, for only a single day had been required to dry out all the
vestiges of the recent storm. He was beginning to feel somewhat tired,
and was about to stop for a brief rest by the roadside, when he saw some
one approaching on horseback.

He quickly drew back among the trees which grew close to the road,
thereby hoping to escape all notice by the stranger; but his plan was
quickly changed when he discovered, as the horseman came nearer, that he
was clad in the uniform of the Continental army. His relief was greater
when he recognized the man as the son of one of Benzeor's neighbors, who
more than a year before this time had enlisted and had passed the
preceding winter in Valley Forge.

He quickly resolved to hail the man as he passed, and accordingly
stepped out into the road and waved his arms as a signal for the
horseman to stop. The man quickly heeded, and as he drew the rein and
checked his horse he peered down at the lad by the roadside, and Tom's
fears were instantly relieved when he perceived that he had been
recognized.

"Why, Tom Coward, what are you doing here? Nothing wrong over home, is
there?"

"Yes, there is;" and Tom at once proceeded to give young Lieutenant
Gordon an account of all that had occurred in the past three days.

"That's bad," said the lieutenant slowly, patting his horse's dripping
neck as he spoke. "That's bad. I wish I could take a company and go over
there this minute. I can't, though; it's out of the question. But the
army will be here shortly now, and there may be a chance to give these
pine robbers a dose then. Where are you going now, Tom?"

"I thought I'd start for the army," replied Tom. "I've no other place to
go to, and I've been waiting to join it a long time."

The lieutenant smiled at the lad's words as he replied, "That's all
right. You're a well-grown fellow, and I doubt not they'll find a place
somewhere for you in the Jersey militia. There are younger fellows than
you there."

"So I hear," replied Tom eagerly. "Indian John told me the army was over
by Hopewell, and had halted there, so I thought I'd put straight for
that place."

"There isn't very much of the militia there now," said the lieutenant.
"They're mostly regulars at Hopewell, and I doubt not have started from
there before this."

"Where are the militia then?" said Tom quickly. "I've got a rifle here,
and if I'm to join them I want to know where they are."

"That would be a little difficult to say just at present, my lad,"
replied the lieutenant, assuming a more fatherly air than the
difference between their years would seem to warrant. "That would be a
little difficult to say."

As Tom plainly showed his disappointment, the young officer continued:
"You see it's this way, Tom. It was early in the morning of the 18th
when the last of General Clinton's forces marched out of the city of
Philadelphia. They went by the way of Gloucester Point, about three
miles below Camden, and then the entire force, with Knyphausen and his
Hessians in advance, marched over to Haddonfield and halted there. We
had means up at Valley Forge of finding out what was going on, and
before they were fairly out of Philadelphia some of our scouting parties
and light horse were in the city, and they gathered in about sixty or
seventy prisoners and were back again at the Forge with the men and the
news. By three o'clock that same day General Lee's division had started,
and by five o'clock General Wayne's had gone, too. They lost no time
over there, I can tell you."

"But I don't understand," said Tom. "Where are the militia, and what are
you doing here?"

"That's what I'm explaining to you," replied the lieutenant. "Well, at
five o'clock the next morning,--that was the 19th of June, you
know,--Washington had the rest of the army on the march for Coryell's
Ferry; but the roads were so heavy--for we've been having some great
rains this month--that the divisions which had been sent out didn't
cross the Delaware until Saturday morning, and the main body till
Monday. And all this time the British were mighty careful, let me tell
you. They thought Washington was after their baggage-wagons and stores,
you see. Clinton and his main body moved out of Haddonfield on Friday,
but he left Knyphausen and his Dutch butchers, as well as two brigades
of the regulars behind him, while he marched eight miles up to Evesham
and went into camp there. He wanted to keep his train of baggage-wagons
well protected, you see, for the militia were doing all sorts of
mischief. You wanted to know where they were. Well, that's where they
were."

"They're away down at Haddonfield, then, are they?"

"No, no. But they'd been sent out to bother the British, you see, and
try to hold them back by skirmishes and a few such gentle deeds. They
were tearing up bridges and firing at the regulars from the woods, and
doing all sorts of things. Why, when Clinton was marching from
Haddonfield to Evesham, General Leslie, who was in command of his
advanced guard, fell in with a party of these very militia I'm telling
you about. Leslie hid some of his men in a rye-field, and they saw
Captain Jonathan Beesley. He was a captain in the Cumberland County
militia, you know, and had been in the army two years,--yes, and he was
one of the best men we ever had, too, let me tell you. Well, Leslie's
men saw Beesley and a couple of his officers reconnoitring in advance of
their companies, and they fired on them. Captain Beesley was wounded,
and of course they took him prisoner and carried him with them into
camp. They tried to get him to own up what Washington's plans were, but
Captain Beesley just stopped them by saying they wouldn't get a word out
of him. And they didn't; but the next day the poor fellow died from his
wounds. They'd taken him into Hinchman Haines's house, you see, and that
was where he died. I understand that they buried him there with the
honors of war, and I understand, too, that they've given permission for
the body to be taken up and placed in the Friends' burying-ground down
at Haddonfield. It may have been done before this, for all that I know.
Captain Beesley was a good man. The redcoats couldn't do too much for
him."

"But where are the militia now? That's what I want to know."

"And that's what I'm trying to tell you. This is too hot to be standing
out here in the road. Let's go into the shade. I've got time enough, and
it may be a bit safer there, too."

The lieutenant led his horse a short distance into the woods, and,
slipping the bridle-rein over his head, he permitted him to graze, while
he himself resumed his story.

"At four o'clock the next morning,--that was Saturday, the
20th,--Clinton took up the line of march, but he only went seven miles,
as far as Mount Holly, and there he halted till Monday. On Sunday,
Knyphausen joined him, having marched by the way of Moorestown. The next
morning they all marched on to Black Horse and halted again, but at five
o'clock Tuesday morning they were up and at it once more. They divided
their forces there a bit, Leslie going by the way of Bordentown,
Clinton keeping on along the road to Crosswicks, while Grant and the
Dutch butchers brought up the rear and served as a kind of guard for the
baggage-train. All this was only yesterday, the 23d, you see."

"But where are the militia now?" protested Tom. "They are the ones I
want to join, not the British. You keep telling me about them. What I
want is the other side."

"Listen, then, and you shall hear. Yesterday General Dickinson, with the
Jersey militia, was right there in Bordentown."

"What! when the British came up?"

"Yes, when the British came up, that is, when Leslie's division did. Not
all of the militia were there, though. A good many had been withdrawn
and posted where they could do the most good. There weren't very many
left in Bordentown, but when they found out that Leslie was almost upon
them, they made up their minds in very short order that the climate
there was not the best in the world, so they cleared out and left. But
before they went they left a few slight tokens of their regard. They
pulled up the planks of the bridge there over Crosswicks Creek, and
raised the draw so that Leslie had to find another crossing-place.
Before they did that they tried to fix up the bridge, but they were
fired upon, and I understand that four were killed and quite a large
number were wounded.

"Clinton, too, wasn't finding his road all covered over with roses
either. About five hundred of our men met him as he came up nearer to
Crosswicks, and they thought they were ready, but they weren't anything
of the kind. They had cut down a lot of trees and stretched them across
the road, but that didn't stop the British. They came on just as if they
didn't mind marching over such little things as trees, and there was a
little skirmish there, and two or three of the redcoats were killed. One
of their officers was shot and they took him up to a house near by, and
left him there. Of course the Americans couldn't stand there long, but
they didn't run very far.

"Well, the British divisions joined then and started on again. They came
to another bridge and our men had it all fixed so that they could just
let it fall by one or two strokes of an axe. They had one or two little
cannons there, too."

"Who did? The British?"

"No, our men. You know Sam Clevenger, don't you? Well, he stood there
on the bridge with his axe in his hands when the British came in sight.
He'd cut the sleepers almost through, and when he saw the redcoats
coming, he lifted his axe, and the third time he struck down went the
bridge and all. Then Clevenger started to run, but the British fired at
him and he fell dead. They'd shot him in the back of the head. Our men
then fired their cannon once or twice, but all they hit was the Friends'
meeting-house. Of course the British didn't mind that, and then our men
pulled back and left. That was only yesterday. I shouldn't be surprised
if the British were over here by Allentown or Imlaystown now, or it may
be both."

"What! not more than ten or fifteen miles away?" said Tom excitedly.

"That's what I say. And they'll be nearer, too, before they're farther
off, let me tell you."

"Why? How? What do you mean?"

"They'll never go to Brunswick or Amboy, for Washington's right in front
of them, and ready to head them off. They'll just have to come this way
or go back, and that they won't do, for 'Britons never retrograde.'
That's one of their pet words, you know. Isn't that what John Burgoyne
said, too?"

"I don't know anything about that," said Tom. "Then General Washington
has been using a part of the militia and a part of the regulars to
bother Clinton and keep him from getting to Brunswick or Amboy, has he?"

"Yes, that's just it."

"Well, I shan't have very far to go, then, to join them now."

"Oh, you're not going to join them. You're coming with me. You're just
such a lad as I have been looking for, and you can help me, if I'm not
greatly mistaken."

As Tom made no reply except to look up in surprise, the young officer at
once began to explain to him the nature of the task to which he had
referred.



CHAPTER X

THE STORY OF THE MISCHIANZA


"I'VE been sent out, as a good many others have been, to look up the
bridges over the creeks" (the young officer called them "runs," as many
of the Jerseymen did then, and still do for the matter of that) "and
find out the lay of the land. As I happened to be born in Old Monmouth,
and lived here till I was a man grown, it was naturally thought I'd be
pretty well informed, so you see I was selected for this special work. I
don't know that I object to it, but I'd rather be back with my men."

"And that's what you've been doing, is it?" said Tom.

"Yes, I've been in that work ever since the British started out from
Philadelphia. I've kept just a little ahead of the men all the way, and
have gone back every night to report, and then the next day they'd
follow all my plans. You see I've got a map of every road in the county
here," and as he spoke the young lieutenant drew from his pocket a
paper on which had been traced every road and every little stream in the
region, while the places where bridges were to be found were indicated
by red marks.

"Whew!" he added, throwing back his coat. "Isn't it warm! I don't
believe there's been a summer like this in years. We've had showers and
thunder-storms almost every day. The air now feels as if we'd get
another one pretty soon, too."

The air was exceedingly sultry, and a strange stillness seemed to be
resting over all. Not a leaf was stirring, and as Tom looked up through
the tops of the trees the bright blue of the sky appeared to be more
intense than ever he had seen it before. Here and there separate masses
of heavy clouds could be seen, which, with the sunlight streaming
through them, glistened almost like silver. He knew the signs well.
There was the appearance of a coming shower.

"It's too hot to go on," said the young lieutenant. "I'm almost afraid
to take my horse out in such heat. I've got the most of my work for the
day done, though, and I thought that perhaps you might be able to help
me out, Tom. You must know every bridge in this part of the country.
Now you go over this map with me, and tell me if the places are marked
right. I've been gone so long I'm not sure of myself, but you ought to
know. It'll save me a trip in this broiling sun, if you can help me."

Tom took the map and looked over it carefully. He was thoroughly
familiar with the roads and streams, as the lieutenant had intimated,
and in a brief time he had given him all the information he possessed.

"There," said the lieutenant at last, folding the paper and restoring it
to his pocket again, "that helps me out. I'd been over most of the way,
and the two or three places you have told me about finishes the whole
thing. I'm ready to go back and report. I think I'll take a bite,
though, before I start, and wait and see what the weather is likely to
be."

Going to his saddle-bags the young officer brought out the dinner which
he carried with him. "Sometimes I stop at some farmhouse and get
something to eat," he explained, "but it isn't always safe to trust to
that, you see, so I always go provided. I want you to join me, Tom.
It'll seem almost like old times."

The horse had been tied to one of the trees, and, as the lieutenant
seated himself upon the ground, Tom gladly joined him. He was tired and
hungry, and the piece of bread which he had in his own pocket would
keep, and, as he was aware that he might find further use for it, he was
the more willing to accept the invitation which had been given him. For
a few minutes neither spoke, for they both seemed to be intent upon the
immediate duty.

As soon, however, as the first pangs of his hunger were relieved Tom
said, "I never understood just why it was that the British left
Philadelphia. They'd been there all winter, and after holding the city
so long I never could understand why it was that they abandoned it
without even a skirmish. What did they do it for?"

"Why, the way of it was this," replied the lieutenant, taking an
unusually large bite of the bread he was holding in his hand, as he
spoke. "You see, we'd been trying for a long time to get up some kind of
a treaty with France. Ben Franklin, and I don't know who all, had been
over there trying to work it up, and at last the Frenchmen agreed. Our
Congress ratified the treaty on the 4th of last May, and that
completely changed the plans of the redcoats."

"I don't see just how that could do it," replied Tom, somewhat puzzled.

"Why it really means a declaration of war by the French against the
British. I don't believe the Frenchmen care very much for us, barring
young Lafayette and a few others of his kind, but they hate the British,
and took this way to get even with them. It's expected that they'll send
a fleet over here, and of course the redcoats have got to be ready to
meet it,--that is, if they can. Well, Philadelphia doesn't amount to
very much any way in war times. It isn't very easy to get into it, so
the British there thought they'd better get out and go over to New York,
which was a good deal more likely to be threatened by the French fleets.
That's the cause of the change, my lad."

"I should think the redcoats would feel like giving up, now that the
French are going to join us."

The young officer laughed as he replied: "That's just where you're
mistaken, my young friend. They don't feel that way after they've sent
so many armies over here and have spent so much money in discovering
us, you see. And then, too, they don't object to getting a few taxes and
such like things out of us, either. I've a dim suspicion that the
Frenchmen may have just a bit of a dream that they may get back some of
the country that dropped out of their hands during the French and Indian
war. But, however that may be, we're glad to have their help now, for we
need it badly enough, and will have to let the future take care of
itself."

"I don't see that any one can blame the British for wanting to hold on
to us. They have spent a lot of money, and lots of their soldiers have
been killed in the wars with the Indians and the Frenchmen."

"Oh no, we don't blame them," laughed the lieutenant. "We don't blame
them. It's all natural enough for them to want to hold on to us, but how
about ourselves? What about the Stamp Act and the tea tax? What about
all their oppression and the way they've treated us? They seem to forget
that we're men of like passions with themselves. Oh, it's all natural
enough for them to want to keep a good hold on us, but it's just as
natural for us to object to being held on to. And, Tom, such things as
have happened lately, too! Why, this story about Little Peter's mother
is only one of a thousand here in Jersey. I've been pretty much all over
the colony--the state, I mean--and it's the same story everywhere. It's
just plundering, and robbing, and worse. And then to bring over here
those Dutch butchers,--that's the worst of it all! To think of hiring
those butchers! Why, it just makes my blood boil to think of it! And
against us, too, who are their own blood relatives! That's more than
human nature can stand!"

Tom felt the contagion of the young lieutenant's enthusiasm, but he made
no reply, and his companion continued, "The redcoats had a great time
when they cleared out of Philadelphia. I was there and saw it myself."

"You were there? I thought you were up at Valley Forge all winter!"

"So I was, when I wasn't in Philadelphia. I had to go there sometimes,
but I never wore my uniform then. Oh no, I didn't think it was very
becoming to my peculiar style of beauty, so I always left it behind me."

"What were you, a spy?"

"That isn't what we call it," replied the young officer, lowering his
voice and glancing quickly about him at Tom's words, "Never mind what I
was, but I was there and that's enough. I'm telling you now about the
time the redcoats had when Sir William Howe gave over the command to Sir
Henry Clinton. His officers got it up as a kind of a farewell, you see.
They called it the Mischianza."

"What's that? I don't understand."

"What, the Mischianza? Oh, that's an Italian word, and means a 'mix up'
or a 'medley,' or some such thing; I don't know just what. But I'm
telling you now what it was, and what they did. It commenced with a kind
of a regatta which they'd arranged in three divisions. Up the river in
front came the Ferret galley, and on board were some of the general
officers and their ladies. Then came the Centre galley,--that was called
the Hussar,--and carried both the Howes and Clinton and their suites,
along with a lot of ladies. Behind came the Cornwallis galley, in which
were Knyphausen and some of the British generals, and, of course, a lot
of ladies.

"Well, sir, they looked fine, I can tell you, for I was in the crowd
which watched the affair from the shore, and I saw every bit of it. On
each quarter of the galleys there were five flatboats, all lined with
green, and having lots of people on board. Then, in front of the
galleys, were three more flatboats, and a band of music was on board of
each, and they could play, too, let me tell you, if they were redcoats.
Six rowed along each flank, and they were all dressed up in bright
colors, and so were the ships and the transport boats, which made a line
all the way down to the city. All the wharves were crowded and the
people were just wild. The boats started out from Knight's wharf--that's
away up in the northern part of the city, you know--and rowed all the
way down to Market wharf. There they rested on their oars, the bands
played 'God save the King,' the people shouted and sang, and I couldn't
help feeling something of the excitement, though I hate the very sight
of a redcoat.

"Well, they landed at the Old Fort, and the bands were still playing,
and the Roebuck fired seventeen guns and then the Vigilant fired
seventeen more. The grenadiers had been drawn up in a double file on
shore, and the company then marched up between the lines. They had
horsemen there, too, and what with the bright dresses of the ladies and
the bright favors of blue and white ribbons on the breasts of the
managers, who moved in front of the procession, and the uniforms and
all, it was a great sight. I should have thought Lord Howe would almost
have been sorry he was going to leave.

"The avenue led up to a big lawn, which was all fixed up with arches and
rows of benches, rising one above another, where the ladies were to be
seated; and then they had some tilts and tournaments, something as they
used to have in old England. There were young ladies there, too, lots of
them, and they were all dressed up in Turkish costumes, and such like.

"Pretty soon the trumpets sounded, and then a band of knights, dressed
in red and white silk, on horses all decked out in the same colors,
advanced. Lord Cathcart was the chief, and he had squires to carry his
lances and others to carry his shield, and two black slaves with silver
clasps on their bare necks and arms held his stirrups. The band then
marched around the square and saluted the ladies, and then the herald,
after a great flourish of trumpets, declared the ladies of the Blended
Rose were ahead of all others.

"When the challenge had been given the third time, some other heralds
and a trumpeter came in, along with a lot of knights dressed up in black
and orange, and after going through a lot of motions and the bands had
played, the herald proclaimed that the Knights of the Burning Mountain
were prepared to contest the claim of the others. Then the gauntlet was
thrown down and picked up, and the encounter began.

"After they had met four times, the two leaders, Lord Cathcart and
Captain Watson, advanced and began a contest between themselves. After
they had kept it up a little while, the marshal of the field rushed in
between them, and declared the ladies were all right on either side, and
commanded the men to stop. Then bands filed off in different directions,
playing lively tunes and saluting the ladies as they marched.

"Then the whole company marched through great arches to the garden, and
then up into the hall, which had been painted up to resemble Sienna
marble. They had a faro table in that room and one great cornucopia all
filled with flowers and fruit, and another one empty. Then they went to
the ballroom, which was all painted in pale blue, and there were
festoons of flowers, and I don't know what all. I never saw anything
like it before. There were eighty-five big mirrors in the room, and they
were all fixed out with ribbons and flowers, and as they sent back the
light from the branches of waxlights, it made the room look bright
enough, I can tell you. On that same floor they had four drawing-rooms,
where they got their refreshments, and these rooms were all decorated
and lighted up, too.

"They kept up the dancing till ten, and then the fireworks began and the
windows were all thrown open. I remember that the first of the fireworks
was a great bouquet of rockets,--but that was only one, and they kept it
up till twelve o'clock.

"When midnight came, the great folding doors, which had been all covered
over with flowers so that no one knew they were there, were thrown open,
and there was a great room all decorated and lighted up, most too
wonderful to tell about; and there, too, was a great table, which they
said had twelve hundred dishes on it--just think of that, will you?--and
four hundred and thirty people could sit down to the table at the same
time.

"They had supper then, and when they had finished that part of the
programme the herald and trumpeters entered and proclaimed the health of
the king and the royal family. Of course all the people there responded,
and then there was a toast for the knights, and the ladies, and lots of
others, and there was a great flourish of trumpets as each toast was
announced.

"Then they all went back to the ballroom and began to dance again. They
kept it up till four o'clock, and I don't know how much later, for I
left then."

"And you saw it all?" said Tom slowly.

"Yes, almost every bit of it; 'twas a great sight, too. The like of it
has never been seen before on this side of the water, and never will be
again, I'm thinking. By the way, Tom, I heard a man there called by your
name. It was Captain Coward, I think--though it may have been colonel or
judge; I don't just recollect."

"I'm sorry for him."

"You needn't be. Just show that the name's of no account. But I've got
to start now. I wish I could take you with me, but I can't. I'll see you
soon, though, so good luck to you till we meet again."

"But it's raining," said Tom quickly, as the patter of the falling
drops could be heard on the leaves.

"Can't stop for that; I'm due at five o'clock, rain or no rain. Good-by
to you, Tom, and thank you for your help. You've saved me a hard ride in
such a day as this!"

The young lieutenant was gone, and Tom waited for the shower to pass.
The rain continued only a few minutes, but left the air still more
sultry than it had been before, and walking became much more difficult.

However, Tom started on as soon as the rain ceased, and kept steadily to
his work until the sun was low in the heavens. His thoughts had been
withdrawn, in a measure, from the camp at Hopewell, and he was thinking
of the description which the young lieutenant had given of the
Mischianza, and the brilliant scene which it must have presented. What
could the poor and desperate Continentals do against men who had feasts
like that? And Captain, or Colonel, Coward, who was he? Tom found
himself thinking of the man, and wondering how he came to have the name.

He turned the bend in the road and saw a band of soldiers marching
directly toward him, and not far away. Startled by the sight, he
stopped a moment and gazed intently at them, striving to discover
whether they wore red coats or buff; but they were covered with dust and
he could not decide.

He quickly realized that he must act, and he had just turned about,
prepared to run back in the road, when he heard several shots fired at
the approaching men from the woods by the roadside.

The band instantly halted and prepared to defend themselves. Without
waiting to watch the contest, he once more turned to run, when he
obtained a glimpse of men behind him, partially concealed among the
trees and standing with their guns raised to their shoulders, and with
their attention fixed upon the advancing soldiers.

Were the men friends or foes? Tom could not determine; and, trembling
with fear and excitement, he stopped. He was between the opposing bands,
while off on his right it was evident that other men were concealed.
Thoughts of the Mischianza and of the captain with the unfortunate name
were all gone now. He could not advance; he dared not retreat.



CHAPTER XI

TO REFUGEE TOWN


WHEN Little Peter reëntered the lonely house after his friend Tom
departed, the full sense of his own sorrow for the first time swept over
him. Up to this time the necessity of action had prevented him from
fully realizing his loss. The death of his mother, the capture of his
father, the provision he was compelled to make at once for his younger
brothers and sisters, had so absorbed his thoughts that he had had but
little time to dwell upon his own sorrow.

With the departure of Tom, however, there came the reaction, and for a
few moments the heartbroken lad was almost overcome. The very silence
was oppressive. The only sound he could hear was the loud and regular
ticking of the tall clock which stood in one corner of the kitchen. How
proud his mother had always felt of that ancient timepiece! Many a time
had she told him of its history and the pride with which she had
received it from her own father, when as a young bride she had first
entered the new house which henceforth was to be hers. To Peter, it
almost seemed as if the stately clock had been a member of the family,
and its voice was almost human to him. On the summer afternoons, when he
was a little fellow and his mother had been busied in her household
duties, he had often stretched himself upon the sanded floor, and,
resting his face upon his hands, with eager eyes had gazed up into the
face of the old timepiece and listened to the swing of its long
pendulum, which for him had had a language all its own.

And now in the light of the early morning the old clock still stood in
the corner and regularly ticked off the passing hours, as if it were
unmindful of all the sad scenes to which it had recently been a witness.
And yet to Peter it almost seemed, too, as if there was a tone of
sadness after all in the monotonous tickings that day. Perhaps the old
clock was striving to express its sympathy for the sorrowing boy, but
not even its sympathy must be permitted to interfere with its duty in
marking the passage of the swiftly flying minutes.

The few antiquated chairs were standing just as they had stood when his
mother had been there. The brass-rimmed mirror, the one ornament of the
room, which hung over the low mantelpiece, reflected the scene before
it, but in all the picture one figure was wanting and would be
forevermore. Overcome by the full knowledge of his loss, Little Peter
bowed his head upon his hands and leaned low upon the table, and burst
into a flood of tears--the first he had shed since the sad event had
occurred. Indian John was forgotten, the few chores about the place were
ignored, and for a time the heartbroken lad gave way to his sorrow for
the loss of his mother, upon whose face he never was to look again.

How long he remained in that attitude he did not know, but he was
recalled to the necessities of the present by the sound of footsteps
outside the door. His first thought was that Indian John had returned,
and he hastily rose to greet him; but quickly he perceived that the
new-comer was not his Indian friend, but Barzilla Giberson, one of his
nearest neighbors. If Little Peter had looked carefully into his
neighbor's face, he would doubtless have noticed that the man was
evidently somewhat troubled, and apparently was not overjoyed at the
prospect of an interview; but the lad was too busied with his own
thoughts and sorrows to bestow a critical examination upon a neighbor's
countenance, and Barzilla's evident uneasiness, therefore, was all
passed by unnoticed.

"Good-morrow to you, Little Peter," said Barzilla. "The women folks
wanted me to come over and say to you that you were welcome to make your
home with them, if you so chose."

"Thank you, Barzilla," replied Peter. "If I were going to stay here I
should be glad to do that, but I'm going away this morning."

"Sho! Ye don't say so! Where ye goin', if I may be so bold as to ask?"

"I'm going to look up my father."

"Where ye goin' to look him up?" said Barzilla, somewhat uneasily.

"I'm going down to Refugee Town first. I don't know what I'll do if I
don't find him there."

"Ye won't find him there," said Barzilla quickly. "In course I don't
know where he is," he hastily added, "but I don't b'lieve ye'll find him
there; and, besides, that's no place for a lad like you to go to alone,
for I take it ye're goin' alone?"

"Yes, I'm going alone," replied Peter, to whom Barzilla's anxiety was
not apparent.

"In course it isn't for me to say what ye shall do and what ye shan't,
but I don't believe a trip there will do ye any good. Ye've got to
remember that other folks has suffered, too. Yer marm isn't the only one
that's been shot, and yer pop isn't the only man that's been carried off
by the British."

"It wasn't the British that carried my father away," said Peter quickly.

"'Twan't the British? Who was it then, I'd like to know?"

"'Twas Fenton and his band, that's who it was."

"Sho! I can't believe that! I reckon ye're mistaken, Peter. It must 'a'
been the redcoats."

"It was Fenton," repeated Peter decidedly.

"I can't b'lieve it," said Barzilla, rising as he spoke. "I can't
b'lieve it. However, Peter, we'll look after yer place. The women folks
or I will do the chores for ye, while ye're gone. It's only neighborly,
ye know, and what's friends good for if they can't help in a time like
this?"

"Thank you," said Peter quietly. "There isn't much to be done, but if
you'll look after what there is, I shall be glad. The children are at
Benzeor's house, you know."

"So I hear. So I hear. Well, they're in good hands; ye can rest easy
about that. Well, I must be a-goin'. Ye still think ye'd better go down
to Refugee Town, do ye?"

"Yes."

"Well, good luck to ye. Good luck to ye. We'll look after the place,"
called Barzilla as he departed.

If Peter had gone to the door, he would have discovered that Barzilla
had not departed to go to his own house, but that after he had entered
the road he had turned quickly and started in the direction in which the
Navesink lay. But as Peter did not rise from his seat, he missed all
that, and, besides, in all probability he would only have been puzzled
by his neighbor's actions and unable to account for the haste with which
he had made the change.

Peter prepared his breakfast, and then waited for the coming of Indian
John. The minutes passed, but the Indian did not put in an appearance,
and the lad began to suspect that he would not return. At last, when the
sun had appeared, his suspicions passed into certainty, and, resolving
to wait for him no longer, he closed the house and started resolutely
on the path which led down to the bank of the Navesink, where he kept
his little skiff concealed.

He soon arrived at the familiar place, and, after taking his oars from
their hiding-place on the bank, pushed the little boat out into the
stream and began to row. The heat of the morning soon began to make
itself felt, but Peter did not cease from his labors. He was thinking of
his father and where he might then be. He was hoping that he would be
retained and sent to New York as a prisoner, for Little Peter was well
aware of the value of the reward which was offered for every prisoner
taken; but Fenton, eager as he was for money, was not likely to incur
any unnecessary risk for himself by keeping any one near him who might
prove to be a source of danger. And Little Peter knew that his father,
especially after the recent events, was not likely to be quiet. Of what
might then occur, the lad hardly dared to think. He only knew that what
he was to do must be done quickly, if it was to avail, and he rowed on
and on without once stopping for rest.

He had covered about half the distance he was to go, when he heard a
hail from down the river. Hastily turning about at the unexpected
summons, he saw a little cat-boat slowly coming up the river, and now
not many yards away.

"It's Benzeor Osburn," said Peter to himself, as he obtained a glimpse
of the man at the helm. "But who's that with him? It's Jacob Van Note.
Yes, and that's Barzilla Giberson, too. What in the world"--

His meditations were interrupted by Benzeor's hail, "Where ye bound this
mornin', Little Peter? There's to be no lookout to-day, is there?"

"I haven't heard of any," replied Peter, looking at Barzilla and
striving to understand how it was that the man who had so recently left
his house could now be with Benzeor sailing up the Navesink.

"I came down here after I left you," said Barzilla, as if he felt that
he must reply to the question expressed in Peter's manner, "and I fell
in with Benzeor, so I stopped and came back to tell him all about the
doin's that have been goin' on since he went away. Benzeor's been gone
from home two days and more, ye know."

"Has he?" replied Peter. "No. I didn't know. Benzeor, the children are
at your house. Sarah said I could leave them there and she'd look after
them. If it isn't all right, I'll take them away as soon as I come
back."

"It's all right. In course it's all right. Barzilla here has been
tellin' me about your troubles. It's hard, Peter, but then ye know that
lots of people have been served the same way. 'Misery loves company,' ye
know."

As Peter made no reply, Benzeor quickly began to talk again, too quickly
the lad might have perceived, if he had not been so filled with his own
thoughts that all else seemed to escape his observation. "Barzilla tells
me as how ye're goin' down to Refugee Town to look up yer pop. Is that
so?"

"Yes."

"Well, I'm tellin' ye it won't do any good. He isn't there--leastwise,
that is, I don't believe he's there. In course I don't know anything
about it, but it stands to reason he isn't. Ye'd better let me take yer
skiff in tow, as I've done with Barzilla's, and come along back with
us."

"I think I'll go on. If I don't find him there I can report to Captain
Dennis. Perhaps he'll be able to help me a bit, if it's not too late."

Captain Dennis was in command of the local militia, and he and his men
already had had several skirmishes with the pine robbers. Indeed, the
militia had been enrolled with the very purpose of protecting the
scattered homes from the inroads of the outlaws and refugees. Thus far,
however, their efforts had not met with a very marked success.

Peter did not observe the scowl which crept over Benzeor's face at the
mention of the name of Captain Dennis. "Have it your own way then," said
the man gruffly. "They say there's no fool like an old fool, but for
downright foolishness give me the young fool every time. I'm tellin' ye
that ye won't find yer pop down at Refugee Town, but ye'll have to find
it out for yerself, I suppose."

Surprised as Peter was at the abrupt change in Benzeor's manner, his own
purpose was not changed, and without replying he picked up his oars and
began to row again. He could see the men in earnest conversation as he
drew away from them, but it had not yet entered his thoughts that
anything could be wrong with them. He was puzzled to account for
Barzilla's unexpected presence, but his offer to look after his home in
his absence was still fresh in his mind, and left no room for suspicion.

As for Benzeor, Little Peter knew that he was considered as a strange
man,--"odd," the country people termed it,--and he gave little heed to
him or his words. His one purpose now was to go to Refugee Town. He had
but little fear of meeting the men who had assembled there, although he
knew they were all desperate and reckless. They would not harm him, he
thought, and it was possible that he might find his father there, or
learn of his whereabouts. Just what he would do if he should find him,
he did not know. In any event, he would be with him again, and if he was
to be sent as a prisoner to the sugar-house in New York, or to the
Whitby or the Jersey, at least his captivity might be shared.

Accordingly, Little Peter rowed steadily forward and in the course of an
hour arrived at the mouth of the Navesink. Then he landed and hauled his
skiff up on the shore, striving to conceal it among the bushes which
grew there. It was only a mile now across the sandy strip to the shore
of the ocean, and the lad began to walk rapidly. Refugee Town was not
far away, and the end of his journey would soon be gained.

The heat of the sun was now intense. Across the sands he could see
eddies in the heated air, and he felt as if he were breathing the blasts
from an oven. His face was streaming with perspiration, while the touch
of the sand beneath his feet seemed almost as if it would blister them.

He soon arrived at a place from which he could look out upon the ocean,
and it was with a sigh of relief he felt its first cool breath upon his
face. Refugee Town now was not far away, so he began to run.

He stopped as he saw two gunboats riding at anchor about a quarter of a
mile out from the shore. What could it all mean? They were British
vessels, their flags disclosed that; but what was their purpose in
casting their anchors there?

He was upon the beach now, and stopped for a moment to gaze at the
graceful vessels. He thought he could almost make out the figures of the
sailors on the deck. And a little boat was just approaching the larger
of the gunboats. Doubtless it had been ashore and was now returning.

"How!"

Peter turned suddenly as he heard the exclamation, and saw Indian John
standing before him. His alarm subsided as he recognized his friend, and
he said reprovingly, "I thought you were going to go with me this
morning, John. Why didn't you?"

"John been. Go to 'Gee Town. No fader there."

"What, my father isn't there? Are you sure, John?"

The Indian made no reply, evidently considering his first words
sufficient. He was gazing intently at the boats in the distance, and
Little Peter almost unconsciously turned and followed his look. At first
he could discover nothing to indicate what had interested his companion;
but he soon saw that the little boat, which he had thought was returning
to the gunboat, was coming to the shore. Startled by the sight, he was
about to inquire of John whether he knew anything concerning the
vessels, when he heard a shout.

At a distance of a hundred yards up the beach he saw a motley crowd
approaching. Negroes and poorly clad men were among them, and the
appearance of all revealed that they were doubtless from Refugee Town.

Their own presence was discovered at the same time, and a shout greeted
them.

"Come!" said Indian John quickly; and in an instant Little Peter obeyed,
and both were running swiftly over the sand along the beach.

Their flight was greeted by another shout from the men behind them, and
one or two guns were discharged, but the bullets passed harmlessly over
the heads of the fugitives. One glance, however, showed Peter that some
of the men had started in pursuit.

"They're after us, John!" he said in a low voice to his companion.

Instantly increasing their efforts, they sped swiftly on in their
flight, but the shouts, which were now redoubled, betrayed that the
pursuit had not been abandoned. On and on ran pursuers and pursued,
while at intervals a gun was discharged and the calls and shouts could
be distinctly heard.

[Illustration: "THEY'RE AFTER US, JOHN!"]

For a half mile the flight had continued, and Peter was beginning to
feel that he could go no farther. The hot air of the summer morning, the
burning sand beneath his feet, as well as the weariness arising from his
previous exertions, combined to sap his strength. His breath was coming
in gasps now, and down his face the perspiration was pouring in
streams. He felt that he could go no farther.

Another glance behind him showed that the men had not abandoned the
pursuit. A half dozen of them were still running swiftly along the
beach, and to Little Peter it seemed as if they were gaining upon him.



CHAPTER XII

BATHSHEBA'S FEAST


INDIAN JOHN had been slightly changing the direction in which they were
running, although Little Peter had not perceived the change. At first
they had kept close to the water's edge, and at times the creeping tide
had rolled up to their feet. As his companion had gradually drawn closer
to the higher ridge which extended somewhat farther back from the beach,
Peter had thought nothing of the slight divergence, except that the
Indian was desirous of keeping a little farther from the water.

Along this ridge in advance of him, Peter saw that thick bushes and
stunted trees were growing, and he thought of the possibility of finding
some hiding-place there; but he was hardly prepared for the change which
Indian John then made. They had just passed a bend in the ridge which
shut out the view of their pursuers, and come to a little gully which
the winter storms had in the course of many years cut deep into the
bank. Here Indian John turned sharply, and, bidding his companion follow
him, turned directly into the woods, which extended from the shore far
back into the adjoining country.

Little Peter instantly followed, but they had not gone many yards before
they came suddenly upon a wigwam in the midst of the forest. Indian John
stopped, and, after a few hurried words with the Indian who was standing
near and who had silently watched the approaching fugitives, beckoned
for Peter to follow him, and both entered the conical shaped dwelling
and threw themselves upon the ground.

The lad was so thankful for the respite, and was so nearly exhausted by
his efforts, that for a time he said nothing, being only too glad of an
opportunity to rest. Every moment he expected to hear the voices of
their pursuers, and more than once was on the point of starting forth
from the hut and resuming his flight, so certain was he that the men had
discovered the hiding-place.

After a time he was positive that he was not deceived. He could hear the
voices of men in conversation with the Indians, and all of his fears
returned. His companion placed his hand upon the arm of the trembling
lad, and Peter waited, listening intently, and fearful every moment that
some one would enter the hut and summon them to come forth.

The conversation lasted several minutes, and then abruptly ceased. Peter
could not determine whether the strangers had departed or not; but he
waited anxiously and did not speak.

The moments slowly passed and his suspense increased. It seemed to him
that he must escape from the place in which he was concealed. The very
air was strangely oppressive, and the ignorance as to what was going on
outside the wigwam increased the anxiety of the frightened boy.

He did not know where he was, nor who were the people whose abode Indian
John had so unceremoniously entered. No voice within or without the hut
could now be heard, and the silence itself added to his alarm.

He could see that Indian John was seated upon the ground with his head
resting upon his knees. He had not moved nor changed his position since
they had entered. Motionless as a statue he remained seated, as if he
were utterly unmindful of all about him.

"John!" whispered Little Peter at last.

The Indian raised his head and looked at his companion, but did not
speak.

"John, don't you think we'd better start on again?"

Indian John still made no reply, and his head dropped again upon his
knees. Peter then perceived that his companion intended neither to speak
nor to depart, and that he must wait in silence for him to explain his
purpose, or to act.

The impatient lad endeavored to possess his soul in patience, but as the
moments passed his anxiety and fear increased. The uncertainty, he
thought, was even more difficult to be borne than was the pursuit
itself, for action of some kind was then possible, while this waiting in
silence was almost unbearable. Not a sound could now be heard. The very
birds were silent under the burning heat of the noontime, and the
grating notes of the crickets had ceased.

At last it seemed to him he could bear it no longer, and he was about to
arise and go forth from the hut, regardless of consequences, when some
one entered and spoke a few words in an unknown tongue to Indian John.

"Come," said the Indian gently, standing erect as he spoke; and Little
Peter at once followed him out into the open air.

He glanced quickly about him, but no one was to be seen except three
Indians, one of whom was a man, and the others, two women. Little Peter
instantly recognized them as Moluss, or "Charlie" Moluss, as many of the
whites called him, and his wife and her sister.

The two women were busily engaged in preparing the contents of a small
iron vessel, which was hanging from a stick supported by two forked
branches, driven into the ground, and beneath which a brisk fire was
burning.

One of the women was feeding the fire, while the other was stirring the
contents of the hanging pot. A savory odor greeted Little Peter's
nostrils, and as soon as he perceived that he was in no immediate danger
he realized that he was hungry; and, with the passing of his alarm,
there came an eager interest in the occupation of the two women before
him.

Little Peter had seen the trio many times before this. They had their
home with others of their tribe in a little settlement several miles
back in the interior. This settlement was commonly known as Edgepelick,
or Edge Pillock, and to it the Indians had gradually withdrawn after
they had disposed of their lands, for the good people of Old Monmouth
were as scrupulous as their New England cousins in not taking the lands
from the dusky owners without giving a so-called equivalent for them.

It is true that this "equivalent" sometimes was a barrel of cider, or a
piece of bright-colored cloth; but perhaps the Indians thought that was
better than nothing, and as their lands were certain to be taken from
them, even such an equivalent as that which was offered was not to be
despised, and so they had submitted to the unequal exchange. At all
events, the exchanges had been made, and in the summer of 1778, many of
the Indian families were dwelling in Edge Pillock, and there continued
to reside until the year 1802, when the men who had driven such shrewd
bargains with them caused them all to be removed to Oneida Lake, in the
neighboring State of New York.

Charlie Moluss, with his wife and her sister, had been frequent visitors
in Little Peter's home, and he knew them almost as well as he did Indian
John. Somehow, they had not been content to abide continuously in Edge
Pillock, and at least twice each year came down to the shore, where they
erected a wigwam, and while Moluss fished and gathered oysters and
clams, the women made baskets and sold them among the scattered homes of
the settlers. Doubtless this, then, was their annual visit, thought
Little Peter, and their abiding place had been known to Indian John, who
had sought its shelter as a place of refuge from their pursuers. And
Little Peter was quite content, at least for the present, and his
feeling of relief was not diminished by the savory odor which now arose
from the iron vessel.

Charlie Moluss's wife was a strikingly handsome Indian woman, and was
known as Bathsheba, which the irreverent settlers had shortened into
"Bath," as they had her sister's name into "Suke."

Bathsheba was considered as an Indian queen, and the respect which the
Indians showed her was, to a certain extent, shared by the white people,
especially by the Quakers. She was regarded as a highly intelligent
woman, and the most prominent people of the region were always glad to
welcome her to their homes.

Little Peter thought of all these things as he seated himself upon the
ground beside the two men, who were, apparently, as deeply interested in
the occupation of the women as was he, himself. The work went steadily
on, and, while Peter found that his hunger was increasing, he
nevertheless listened to what Indian John told him of Moluss's success
in turning their pursuers back to their camp at Refugee Town. Some of
them had followed the fugitives as far as the wigwam, but had turned
away after the Indian had professed his inability to give them the
information they desired, and, doubtless, before this time, were safely
back in "'Gee Town," as Indian John termed their little settlement by
the Hook.

Just why they had been pursued Indian John could not explain, but he had
connected it in some way with the appearance of the boat off the shore,
and Little Peter was not inclined to differ from his conclusion. He was
satisfied now that his father was not to be found in Refugee Town, and
he had decided to go farther down the shore to the place where he
thought he would be likely to find Captain Dennis, or some of the local
militia who had been stationed near to protect the salt works and
strive to hold back the pine robbers, many of whom had their places of
concealment not far away.

Just at present, however, the thought of his dinner was uppermost in his
mind. He eagerly watched Bathsheba and her sister in their work, and,
from their movements, he concluded that his waiting time was soon to
end. One of the women entered the wigwam and brought out several small
wooden bowls. Into these she dipped some of the steaming contents of the
iron vessel, placing each bowl upon the ground when it had been filled.

A word from Bathsheba caused Moluss to arise, and, approaching the fire,
he took one of the bowls in both hands and then seated himself upon the
ground and proceeded to blow with his breath upon the soup, preparatory
to drinking it.

His example was speedily followed by Indian John and Little Peter, who
took their bowls and seated themselves beside Moluss on the ground. An
expression of deep satisfaction was manifest upon the faces of the two
men, while the women, apparently proud of their success in the culinary
art, looked on with evident pleasure. Little Peter also raised the bowl
in his hands and blew upon it.

"Good!" said Moluss, taking a long draught. "Good hop! Hop good!"

"Good!" muttered Indian John, following his friend's example. "Good hop!
Good hop!"

"What?" said Little Peter suddenly, placing his bowl again on the ground
before him as he spoke. "What was that you said, John?"

"Good! Good hop," replied the Indian, with evident satisfaction.

"You don't mean to say that hop-toads are in this soup, do you?"

"Um!" replied Indian John, with a grunt of pleasure. "Good! Little
hop-hop! John like um! Good hop! John like um little hop-hop!" And,
suiting the action to the word, he proceeded to take a deeper draught of
the savory mixture.

All of Little Peter's hunger, however, had disappeared. He quickly arose
from his seat, and, with an expression of disgust upon his face, which
he could not entirely repress, prepared to pass the group and go into
the forest.

A loud laugh greeted his action, and as he passed Moluss, the Indian
held forth his bowl, and said, "Peter like um hop-hop? Good! Moluss like
um hop-hop! John like um hop-hop! Squaw like um hop-hop! All like um
hop-hop! All like um hop-hop! Peter like um, too?"

Little Peter was not to be tempted, and the broad grin upon the faces of
the women, as well as the loud laugh of the men which followed him as he
turned into the forest, did not tend to overcome his feeling of disgust.
How was it possible that they could be willing to eat such filthy
creatures as hop-toads? Little Peter was all in ignorance of some of the
dainty viands which, under high-sounding names, are served up in our
modern restaurants, and so, as a matter of course, could draw no
comparison between the tastes of the rude, uncivilized savages and those
of the more highly cultivated men of our own times. Perhaps he would not
have compared them if he had been possessed of the prophet's foresight.
He knew, however, that his own hunger had disappeared, and as he walked
on he found many excuses for his uncivilized friends. They were welcome
to their own customs, but they must not expect him to join them in their
feasts.

He had gone so far from the wigwam by this time that he thought the
repast, which had so highly delighted his friends, would be ended by
the time he could walk back. Accordingly, he reversed his steps, but as
he walked on his own pressing problem returned in full force.

His father was not to be found in Refugee Town, of that he felt certain;
for, while Indian John had not said much, he knew him so well that he
was satisfied he had known whereof he had spoken.

Where, then, could he be? It was currently reported that Fenton's band
had a place in the lower part of the county, to which they carried their
booty and from which they started forth on their raids. It was just
possible that his father had been taken there by the outlaws in their
flight, but he would not long be retained there. Fenton knew what
American prisoners were worth in the New York market, and, doubtless, he
would find some means by which he could send him there. And the pine
robber would act soon, too, for with the approach of the armies, there
would be many opportunities for his own special work, and he would not
long be hampered by the presence of a single prisoner, whose value would
be slight compared with that of the plunder he might secure.

Little Peter decided that what he was to do he must do quickly. He
would start at once for the place where Captain Dennis's men were said
to be, and place the entire matter in their hands. The captain was a man
whose bravery was well known in Old Monmouth, and he was ever ready to
aid the scattered settlers.

Captain Dennis would surely help him, too, Peter thought, and, with his
heart somewhat lightened, he began to walk more rapidly. He would return
to the wigwam and inform Indian John of his decision. If John would go
with him, he would be glad of his aid, but, whether he went or not, the
lad felt that his own problem was, in a measure, already solved.

"Little Peter, is that you?"

The startled lad looked up quickly at the unexpected summons, and saw,
standing directly in his pathway, nine men. Each had a musket in his
hands, but they wore no uniforms, and for a moment Little Peter could
not determine whether they were friends or foes.



CHAPTER XIII

WITH THE REDCOATS


THE fear in Tom Coward's heart, when he discovered that he was between
the lines of the soldiers, made him almost desperate. The men before him
already had raised their guns, and at any moment he expected to hear
their report. When he had glanced behind him he had seen that the men
there were also prepared to shoot, and he was in a position where he was
likely to receive the discharges of both sides.

Along by the side of the road was a deep ditch, which had been worn by
the spring floods. Just at present there was no water in it, and Tom
instantly threw himself upon the ground, and, still grasping his gun,
rolled toward the place. As he slipped over the side he heard the
discharge of the guns, and his heart almost stood still in his terror.
The bullets, however, had all gone over his head, and the lad was
unharmed, although he was so frightened that even the thoughts of his
own personal safety were almost driven from his mind.

Shouts and calls followed the discharge of the guns, and then there was
a rush of men past the place in which he was lying. From the direction
from which the men had come, Tom concluded that those who were behind
him had fled, and that the others were in swift pursuit of them. He did
not dare to raise his head, nor try to obtain a glimpse of the
combatants, but lay still in his hiding-place, hoping that in the
excitement his presence would not be discovered. The shouts continued,
but as they sounded farther and farther away, the trembling lad
concluded that pursuers and pursued must have turned the bend in the
road. If they kept on, he would soon be able to crawl forth from the
ditch, he thought, and in the woods would find some place in which he
might remain until all the immediate danger had passed.

Still, he did not yet dare to leave his hiding-place, and, as the
moments passed, his own fears and anxiety were not allayed. His face and
hands were covered with the mud which had clung to them when he had slid
into the ditch. The mosquitoes gathered about him, and, do what he
would, he could not drive off the tormenting little pests. The
sultriness which had followed the brief storm was almost unbearable, and
Tom felt as if he could not have selected a worse place in which to
conceal himself. There had not been much of any "selecting" about it, he
grimly thought, for he had crawled into the first shelter that presented
itself. A place in the muddy ditch was to be preferred to one in the
middle of the road, and between two contending bands of soldiers. Here
the bullets were not likely to find him, at least for the present, and
his only hope depended upon the possibility of his presence not having
been heeded. Perhaps the soldiers in either band had been so intent upon
watching what the others would do, that a frightened lad between their
lines would not be discovered.

This hope was not strong enough to induce him to leave his shelter, and
he decided to remain in the ditch until he was satisfied that all danger
was past. The moments dragged on, and the silence which had followed the
brief contest was unbroken. The heat was becoming more and more intense,
and Tom felt that he could not remain much longer in his present
position. Still, he waited and listened, but the sound of the cawing
crows was all that he could hear. He counted off the minutes, and when
what he judged must be an hour had passed, he concluded to remain there
no longer. The men had not been heard in all that time, and doubtless
must have disappeared from the immediate vicinity.

The sight of the men had shown Tom that he was nearer the army than he
had supposed. For a moment the thought of his former eager desire to
join it came into his mind, and when he contrasted his feelings then
with those he now had, his present position seemed almost ludicrous.
Bespattered with mud, hiding in a ditch by the roadside, in constant
fear of the return of the men, he certainly did not present the
appearance of a very brave young soldier. Even Tom smiled as he thought
of all this, but he was wiser than he had been a few days before this
time, and the sound of guns was not exactly like that of which he had
dreamed.

Tom Coward was not lacking in bravery, however, but the position in
which he had found himself certainly was a trying one, and perhaps the
boldest of us might have done no better had we been caught in his
predicament.

The time had now come, he thought, when it must be safe for him to
venture out upon the road again, and, grasping his gun, he prepared to
climb out of the ditch, when he suddenly paused as he thought he heard
the sound of voices once more.

Yes, there could be no mistake about it; the men were approaching from
the direction in which both bands had disappeared.

He crouched lower and waited for them to pass. If they were foes, it
certainly would be wiser, as well as safer, for him not to attract their
attention; and if they were friends he was hardly in a condition to
present himself before them.

The men were coming nearer, and were almost opposite his hiding-place
now. The lad's excitement returned, and he leaned harder against the
muddy bank. It seemed to him as if the loud beatings of his heart would
betray him.

The band had halted, and were within a few feet of the ditch. What could
it mean? Had his hiding-place been discovered? He crouched still lower,
and did not once look up. He clutched his gun in his hands as if he
thought he could lean upon that. The suspense was intense, and almost
unbearable.

"Hello! Here's some one in the ditch!"

Tom's heart sank, and, as he glanced hastily upward, he saw a redcoated
soldier peering down at him. The end had come, and all his efforts to
conceal himself had been in vain.

"The fellow's alive," exclaimed the soldier in surprise. "Come up out of
that and give an account of yourself!"

Tom obeyed, and, crawling up the bank, stood facing the men. There were
thirty-five or forty of them, and, as he saw that they were clad in the
British uniform, he realized that he was in the presence of the enemy.
The suspense, at least, was ended now, and, as he glanced at the
soldiers, in spite of the fact that he was well aware of his danger,
much of his alarm had disappeared, for Tom Coward was not unlike others
in being stronger to face the actual condition than the uncertainty
which is connected with the approach of perils.

The men glanced curiously at him a moment and then burst into a loud
laugh. The troubled boy at first could not discover the cause of their
merriment, but as he glanced at his hands and saw that they were covered
with the mud which was not yet dry, he realized that doubtless his face
and clothing were in the same condition. And Tom's appearance was not
very prepossessing at that moment. His hat was gone, his face was so
completely covered with mud that any one would have had difficulty in
deciding whether he was white or black, and his bearing was far from
being bold.

The laughter of the men continued until an officer approached and said,
"Who are you? What were you hiding for?"

Tom hesitated a moment, and then replied, "I was trying to keep out of
the way of your bullets."

Again the soldiers laughed, and the officer said, "You didn't differ
very much from the other fellows in the band, although they took to the
woods and you to the ditch."

"What band?"

"Why, those men of Dickinson's we've just driven away. You don't mean to
say that you didn't belong to them?"

"I didn't belong to any band," said Tom slowly. "I was just coming
across the country, and when I stepped out into the road I found I was
right between you and the other fellows. I crawled into the ditch, for I
was afraid that both of you would hit me."

"Quite right, my lad, quite right. But how does it happen that you carry
a rifle? The most of the Yankees are glad enough to get muskets, and
here you are traveling round the country with a rifle. I'm afraid your
story won't do, my lad. We'll have to take you along with us, and let
you tell your story to the colonel."

Tom perceived that any further protest on his part would be useless,
and, as the word to advance was at once given, he obediently took his
place in the ranks and marched on with the men.

The heat was so intense that they were compelled to halt frequently for
rests. A few of the men evidently were Hessians, and their high
jack-boots, their heavy fur hats, as well as the short broadswords they
carried, in addition to the short guns or carbines which were slung over
their shoulders, seemed sadly out of place under the burning heat of the
summer day. Tom did not know how the British officers had protested
against the customs of their allies, so unsuitable in the country in
which they were fighting; but the men from Hesse were obstinate, and,
firmly believing that the equipment which had been good enough for them
in the old country would certainly be good enough in the new, clung to
the uncomfortable garments and unwieldy arms, unmindful alike of the
jeers of their comrades in arms and the danger they incurred by the use
of them.

In the course of two hours the band arrived at a little camp in command
of a man whom the leader addressed as Colonel Simcoe. Tom was at once
summoned by him and taken into the presence of the colonel, or
lieutenant-colonel, as he then really was.

"What have you here?" inquired the colonel, glancing at Tom as he spoke.

"We picked this fellow out of a ditch back here. We had a little brush
with a band of Dickinson's men, but they didn't wait for us. We chased
them a mile or two up the road; but the day was so warm, and as the
rebels took to the woods, we soon gave it up and came back. We found
this fellow on our return. He claims he doesn't belong to the rebels;
but as we found that he carried a rifle, we thought best to bring him
into camp with us. We didn't know but he might be able to give you some
of the information you wanted just now."

"You did right, lieutenant. I'll talk with him later. Now tell me what
you learned. Did you hear anything more about Washington? How are the
roads and the bridges?"

"The rebels have been tearing up the bridges, and Dickinson has a good
many of the militia scattered along in the woods. I rather suspect they
are planning to serve us as the countrymen served Lord Percy up at
Lexington."

"I fancy we shall be able to put a stop to that, though your report is
much like that which I have found out myself. Did you hear anything more
of Washington?"

"I couldn't get a word out of anybody. I don't believe he's moved from
the position he held yesterday, though."

For several minutes the men conversed, and when at last the younger
officer departed, Colonel Simcoe turned to Tom and said, "Now, my lad,
I'll listen to your story."

"I haven't any story," replied Tom. "I was coming through the woods back
here, and when I stepped out into the road I found myself right between
the two bands, and as I was afraid I'd be caught by the fire of both of
them, I crawled into the ditch to be out of the way. That's why I'm
covered with this dirt," he added apologetically.

"You don't need any one to confirm your words as to that," said the
colonel, smiling slightly, as he spoke, at Tom's appearance. "Now what I
want to know is who you are and what you were doing with a rifle? Few
people here carry rifles, I find."

Tom hesitated a moment, not knowing just what to say in reply to the
question. The colonel was watching him intently, and the lad felt that
he must say something. "I live back here," he said at last. "I've lived
in Old Monmouth all my life. I'd started out from home to go to--to--to
some of my friends, and, as I told you, I got caught between the lines."

"How about the rifle?"

"My father had the other guns and I had to take that. The last thing he
told me was to take a gun and scare the blackbirds and crows from the
ten-acre lot."

"Is your father a loyalist?"

"Yes."

"That's good; and now if you can answer my questions, perhaps I'll be
inclined to let you go. You say you've lived here all your life. Do you
know all the roads and bridges? Could you find your way anywhere in the
county?"

"Yes, sir; I think I could."

"Tell me about the bridges. Have many of them been torn up?"

Tom did not know, but he thought of his meeting with young Lieutenant
Gordon that morning, and boldly answered, "Yes, sir."

"How does it happen that your good father and the other loyalists permit
that?"

"My father's not at home, and there are too many of the pa--of the
rebels."

"I thought you told me your father sent you out with your gun," said the
colonel quickly. "How is that? How could he send you if he wasn't at
home?"

"He sent me before he left," replied Tom, his voice trembling in spite
of his efforts to control it.

"Do you know where Washington is?" inquired the colonel abruptly.

"I hear he's up by Hopewell. I don't know." Tom might have added that he
would be glad to learn, but his wish was not expressed.

"That's right. He _is_ at Hopewell. Is there any talk about his plans?
Have you heard of any rumors among the rebels as to what he plans to
do?"

"Yes, sir. I hear he is planning to fall on Clinton's baggage train."

"Sir Henry Clinton, you mean, I suppose," said the colonel sharply. "Do
you think you could find your way from here to Cranberry?"

"Yes, sir."

"Do you know every road?"

"Yes, sir."

"Very well, then, I shall expect you to go with a party to-night and
show them the way."

"But," protested Tom, "I thought you said I could go if I answered your
questions."

"You'll have to stay now. Your father's a good loyalist, you say, and
he'll not object to his son's remaining here for a day or two and
serving as a guide. I'll see that you have some supper and are ready to
start before it's dark."

Tom left the colonel's presence, and with a heavy heart turned to look
about the little camp.



CHAPTER XIV

THE WAY TO CRANBERRY


IT was late in the evening when Tom started from Colonel Simcoe's camp
in company with the lieutenant, whose name he had learned was Ward, and
the band of six men. A hearty supper had greatly refreshed the weary
lad, and although he was aware that his companions were not without
suspicions of him, he still had hopes that he would be able to convince
them of his knowledge of the country roads, and then could leave them.
His efforts to convince the colonel that he was merely a country lad,
who had taken no part in the hostilities, had not been without a measure
of success, and if they met with no mishap on the road, doubtless they
would be willing for him to depart.

As to leading the little band into Cranberry, Tom had not the slightest
objection to that, for it would be going directly toward the place where
Washington's army lay, and every step was one nearer the men whom he was
most eager to join.

The entire party were mounted, and a horse was also provided for Tom. To
be sure, the steed was not a remarkable one, yet, as the lad looked him
over before he mounted, he was satisfied that riding would be much
easier than walking, and of walking Tom had had sufficient, he thought,
on that hot June morning.

"Now, my lad," said Lieutenant Ward, as the party prepared to move, "if
you do well by us this night, I have two half joes for you in my pocket.
On the other hand, if you fail us, or try to lead us into any trap, you
shall have a good taste of the lead my men carry, or know how it feels
to dance at one end of a rope with your feet a good yard from the
ground. You hear what I'm saying, don't you?"

"Yes, sir," Tom replied. "I can lead you straight to Cranberry, but of
course I can't tell what men we shall meet on the way. All I know is
that General Dickinson has men out, just as you have."

"Never mind your 'General' Dickinson. I only wish we might have the good
fortune to meet the rebel himself. You show us the way and we'll look
after any of his men we may fall in with. All we want of you is to show
us the way. They won't be likely to be out on the road in the night."

Tom by no means felt so positive concerning that as the lieutenant did,
but the word to start was then given, and mounting his horse he departed
from the camp with the men.

The moon was now full and hung low in the heavens like a great ball of
fire. The frogs in the swamps were croaking loudly as the men rode past.
The air of the summer night was almost motionless, and the heat of the
day had only slightly decreased with the coming of the darkness. In all
his life in Jersey, Tom had never known a hotter "spell"--as the natives
termed it--than they had experienced during the past few days. A Hessian
was riding beside him, and Tom could not understand how it was that he
still insisted upon wearing the heavy fur hat in such weather.

So intensely warm was the night that the band were compelled to halt at
frequent intervals to rest their dripping steeds. The occasional breeze
was like the hot breath from an oven, and, in spite of the fact that he
was riding, Tom's face was wet with perspiration. The progress was
necessarily slow, but the lad soon came to Doctor's Creek, and as they
found the bridge across that stream intact, the lieutenant was pleased
and warmly praised the young guide.

The Assanpink Creek was crossed not long afterwards, and as the bridge
across that also was still standing, the elation of the leader was
visibly increased and he ordered the men to halt for another rest. Some
without removing their clothing waded into the stream, which was narrow
and shallow where they were, and led their horses in after them. The
heaving sides of the poor beasts were wet with sweat and foam, and the
men themselves seemed to be but little better. Tom thought he had never
suffered more from the heat.

After a rest of a half hour the men resumed their journey. Thus far no
one had been met on the road, and the confidence of the band was
steadily increasing, in spite of the fact that they were approaching the
region in which the American army was supposed to be.

Five miles farther on they came to Rocky Branch and the bridge over this
stream was as strong and safe as those they had left behind them.

"The half joes are likely to be yours, my boy," said the lieutenant.

Tom made no reply, for he was thinking that something beside safe
bridges might be discovered before they arrived at their destination.
Only one more stream remained to be crossed, and then they would be in
Cranberry. Just where they were then to go, or what was to be done, Tom
did not know. Not a word had been spoken to him concerning the object of
the expedition, and all that he was expected to do was to lead the band
to Cranberry.

"How much farther have we to go, my boy?" inquired the leader.

"That depends upon the place you've started for," replied Tom. "We shall
be in Cranberry after we've gone about ten miles farther, but it covers
a good many miles. The township is a big one."

"We'll decide that after we get there. Have we any more streams to
cross?"

"Yes. The Millstone river isn't very far away now."

The rests had become so frequent that morning could not be far away, Tom
thought. With the appearance of the sun their dangers were likely to be
increased, but he made no mention of the fears in his heart, and the
band soon started on again.

When they arrived at the Millstone, the first break in the success of
the expedition was found, for the bridge was down. This plainly showed
that the Americans were not far distant now, and as the lieutenant drew
rein on his horse, he said,--

"This means that Sir Henry will find difficulty in getting his baggage
train across here. Do you know whether the stream can be forded?"

"Yes," replied Tom, pointing as he spoke to a place a little farther
down the stream. "We can wade our horses across there."

"But can the baggage wagons be driven through?"

"That I cannot say. I think not."

"We'll soon find out," said the lieutenant, leading the way to the ford.

The men all followed him, but as the water came well up to their horses'
flanks, it was at once evident that Clinton would find great difficulty
in getting his baggage train across. The party halted near the bank
after they had crossed the stream, and the lieutenant had an earnest
conversation with one of his men.

Tom could not hear their words, but he had no doubt that they were
discussing the possibilities of Clinton's march by the way they had
come that night.

"We'll go on a bit farther," said the lieutenant at last, and the men
obediently mounted and followed their leader.

The gray of the dawn had just appeared in the east, and the air was
filled with the songs of the birds. They were now in the township of
Cranberry, and the end of their journey could not be far away, Tom
thought, although he did not know what that end was to be. Thus far they
had come without trouble, but with the coming of the morning, and their
proximity to the American army, their difficulties were likely soon to
be increased.

The men were silent as they rode slowly forward, and were keeping a
constant watch on every side. The sun by this time had made its
appearance, and the day gave promise of being even warmer than the
preceding one. Before them they could see two rude little houses on
opposite sides of the road and at the end of lanes which led back from
the roadside. The one on the left Tom instantly recognized as the abode
of a Quaker named Nathan Brown, or "Friend Nathan," as his neighbors
called him. Many a time had Tom been there, and even then he recalled
many of the quaint expressions of the gentle man who had steadily
opposed all the hostilities, in accordance with his creed which forbade
even the resistance to tyrants.

As the lieutenant saw the two houses he drew the rein on his horse, and
the party halted.

"It's time we had some breakfast," he said. "I am wondering whether we
can't find something here in these houses. Do you know anything about
them, my lad?"

"I know the man that lives in the house on the left. He is a Quaker,"
replied Tom.

"All the better for us. I think I'll let you go up to his house, and
I'll send a man up to the other. The rest of us had better stay here and
keep watch, for there may be some prowling rebels around here, for all
that we may know."

"I'll go," said Tom quickly. "But I can leave you then, can't I? We're
in Cranberry now and all you wanted of me was to lead you there."

"Yes, if you wish," replied the lieutenant. "You've done well, but you'd
do better still to go back with us. The rebels are not far away, and you
may get into trouble. You must do as you like, though," he added.
"You've earned your pay," and he drew the two half joes from his pocket
and handed them to Tom.

The lad received the money, no small amount to him, and, after thanking
the lieutenant, started quickly up the lane which led to Nathan's house.
As he glanced behind him, he perceived that one of the men had started
towards the other house, while all the others had dismounted and were
still in the road, although they evidently were keeping a careful watch.

When Tom drew near the house he saw the Quaker standing in the doorway.
His broad-brimmed hat and the peaceful expression upon his face were in
marked contrast to the warlike men he had just left behind him in the
road.

"How now?" said Nathan, as he perceived who the approaching man was.
"Thee travels early, Friend Thomas; I trust all is well at thy house."

Tom quickly dismounted, and in a few words explained how it was that he
happened to be there, and what the purpose of his visit was.

"Thee doesn't say so!" said Nathan in surprise. "And the redcoats even
now are at my door and seek refreshment?"

"They are out in the road. They want some breakfast, and I think they'll
pay you for it."

"Friend Thomas, I think I can trust thee. I have known thee since thou
wert a little lad. Ah, these are sad times for men of peace! The sons of
Belial are on all sides. Verily, these days are days of wrath."

Tom was puzzled by Nathan's manner and made no reply. The man turned
quickly into the house and soon returned with a well-filled stocking in
his hands. Tom instantly surmised what the stocking contained, for he
was well aware of the banking purposes to which that article of clothing
was turned in many of the homes.

"Come with me, Friend Thomas," said Nathan, grasping a hoe as he spoke
and leading the way into his garden. There he dug a hole, and, placing
his "bank" within it, covered it again with the earth.

"But Nathan," protested Tom, "if these men search your place for money
they'll find this spot, and it'll show at once you've hidden something
there. The earth is all fresh and moist here, and it's dry all around
it."

"Yea, thou speakest truly, Friend Thomas, but I have a thought by which
I may yet outwit these men of war. Tarry here till I return."

The Quaker instantly turned and again entered the house. In a moment he
appeared, bearing a large bowl in each hand. One contained water, which
he poured over the place where his money was concealed, and the other
was filled with corn. He quickly scattered the corn over the wet ground,
and then, turning towards the barn, called, "Chick! Chick! Chick! Come,
chick! Come, chick!"

Instantly there was a fluttering within the barns, the doors to which
were wide open, and the hens came running from every direction.

Nathan's face took on a meaning smile as he watched his flock hastening
toward him for their breakfast, and then, turning to Tom, he said, "Is
it plain to thee, Friend Thomas, that it is still possible for a man of
peace to outwit these sons of Belial? Now go and tell thy companions
that such food as I have shall be set before them."

Tom laughed at the trick of the Quaker, and then ran back to his horse,
and, mounting, started towards his recent companions, whom he could see
still waiting in the road. Doubtless they were becoming impatient by
this time, and, without waiting to go all the way back to the road, he
stopped at a distance and called to them, beckoning with his hand for
them to come, as he shouted.

As soon as he perceived that the lieutenant heard him, he turned about
and once more rode back to Nathan's house. He then dismounted and tied
his horse to a post which stood near to the kitchen door.

As he glanced up he saw that the leader was riding alone up the lane and
now was near the house. Just then he heard the sound of a horse behind
him, and, turning quickly about, saw young Lieutenant Gordon dash past
him on horseback.

Amazed by the sudden and unexpected appearance of his friend, he stood
still and watched him as he rode swiftly up the lane directly toward the
approaching men. Gordon was leaning low on his horse's neck, and Tom
could see that he was grasping a pistol in his right hand.

Before the startled lad could fairly realize what was occurring, he saw
the young lieutenant raise his weapon and aim it at the approaching
horseman. He waited for the report, but none came. Again Gordon raised
his pistol, and once more it flashed without a report.

His heart almost stopped when he perceived that the other members of the
band had now entered the lane and were riding towards their leader,
although as yet they were far behind him. The young lieutenant had also
discovered them, and, instantly turning his horse about, dashed back up
the lane, with the British lieutenant in swift pursuit.

Unmindful of Tom, they swept past him, and Gordon turned the corner of
the barn. Twice around the barn the men raced their horses, and then
Gordon turned his horse into the open doorway and dashed through to the
other side.

After him followed the leader of the British band in desperate pursuit,
and then, as Tom glanced up, he saw his recent companions come shouting
and hallooing into the yard which was between the barn and Friend
Nathan's little house.



CHAPTER XV

THE BOAT ON THE BAR


WHEN Little Peter discovered the presence of the men before him, his
first impulse had been to turn and make a dash into the woods; but the
call which he heard quickly changed all that. As one after another of
the band appeared, he recognized some of them as men who had been
enrolled in the local militia, and his alarm for a moment subsided.

The one who had addressed him he remembered as a young man not much
older than himself, who had all the summer been away from his home,
busied with his friends and neighbors in protecting the salt works along
the shore, and striving to hold back the outlaws from their raids in the
county.

The salt works were of especial value at this time, as some of them were
owned by the government and aided in increasing the scanty revenues of
the poverty-stricken country. Several of them already had been burned by
tories or bands of sailors, who had landed from some of the gunboats
which had come to anchor off the shore for the purpose of inflicting
such damage as lay within their power upon the adjacent region.

"What are you doing here, Peter?" repeated the lad who had first spoken.

As Little Peter now recognized the men before him as friends, he quickly
related to them the story of the sad misfortunes which had come upon his
home; and the many expressions of anger and sympathy which his words
called forth were not unwelcome, we may be assured, to the troubled boy.

When his brief story was told, the young man who had hailed him said,
"We're on an errand that may fit into your feelings a bit. We're short
one man, too. Don't you want to join us?"

"What are you trying to do?"

"We've just had word that a boat is aground off here on the bar, and
we're going to see if we can't get her. We've got a whaleboat down here
on the shore, and we're going to put out in her and see if we can't pull
the other boat off and bring her in with us."

"But there are a couple of gunboats not more than three quarters of a
mile out," protested Peter. "You can't do anything while they are
there."

"We can try," said the man who was acting as the leader. "We're one man
short, as Lyman here has just said, and if you feel inclined to join us
we shall be glad to have you."

Little Peter hesitated. It was not alone the danger of the enterprise
which troubled him. He was thinking of his father and his own purpose to
discover whether he had been sent to New York or not.

When he explained the cause of his perplexity, the leader said, "That's
all right, Peter. We're going down to Tom's River just as soon as we've
taken this boat out here. You see, our watch told us the boat is loaded
with supplies, and, if we can get her, we're going to do a double deed,
for we'll keep the others from having them, and we'll make good use of
the stuff ourselves. Now, if you'll go along with us, you'll make
another oar for us, and we'll be all the more likely to succeed. Then
you can go with us down to Tom's River, and poor company will be better
than none in times like these."

"I'll go," said Little Peter quickly, and the march was at once
resumed.

As they approached the wigwam, where Peter had left his Indian friends,
he stopped for a moment to explain to Indian John the cause of the
change in his plans.

John listened quietly until the lad had finished, and then said, "Me see
um again."

Little Peter did not understand just what the Indian meant by his words,
but he did not wait to inquire, for his friends were already in advance
of him, and he hastened to rejoin them.

No one spoke as they silently walked on to the shore, but when they had
gained the bluff, Lyman suddenly said, "There! Look there, will you? The
word was all right. The boat's aground out there on the bar."

Little Peter instantly recognized the boat as the one which he had seen
approaching from the gunboats, and for which the band of men from
Refugee Town had evidently been waiting. Doubtless they had mistaken him
and Indian John for members of the neighboring militia, and the cause of
their pursuit was now explained.

The men did not hesitate now, but going to a place a little farther up
the shore, they hastily removed a pile of brush and drew forth the long
whaleboat which they had concealed beneath it. The boat was not heavy,
and, lifting it in their arms, they bore it down to the water's edge.

Then grasping its sides, they ran with it into the water, and, at the
word from the leader, scrambled on board. In a moment they were all
seated, the long oars were drawn forth, and the men gave way with a
will.

Little Peter was in the bow, next to his friend Lyman. The excitement
now for a time banished from his mind the thoughts of his sorrow, and
even the search for his father was for the moment forgotten.

About three-quarters of a mile out at sea were the two gunboats riding
at anchor, and resting as gracefully upon the water as if they had been
birds. Directly before them was the supply boat, about a quarter of a
mile from the shore, and not more than that distance in advance. They
could see that four men were on board, and they were still striving
desperately to push her off from the bar on which she had grounded.

Not a word was spoken on the whaleboat now, and the men were all rowing
with long and steady strokes. The ocean was unusually calm, but every
lift of the heavy groundswell disclosed to them more clearly the
outlines of the boat they were seeking. Their purpose had not yet been
discovered by the men on the other boat, or if it had been discovered no
token was displayed. It was more than possible that they were regarded
as friends coming to the aid of the unlucky boat.

In this manner several minutes passed, the whaleboat, meanwhile, making
rapid progress over the water, driven forward by the efforts of the
determined men. The long, sandy shore stretched away in the distance,
the masses of clouds in the sky seemed to be lined with silver as the
rays of the sun shone through them, and not a sound could be heard
except the heavy breathing of the men and the regular clicks of the oars
in the row-locks.

In spite of the peacefulness of the scene, however, all the men in the
whaleboat fully realized the desperate nature of their undertaking, and
the likelihood that in a moment everything might be changed. Still,
there were no evidences of action on the gunboats, and the men on the
grounded boat betrayed no signs of alarm.

"There are some men on the shore up yonder," said the leader, as he saw
a group standing on the beach directly opposite the boat they were
seeking. "They don't seem to be able to help them," he added. "I don't
believe we've anything to fear from them. Give way, men! Give way!"

The band responded with a will, and the whaleboat darted forward with
increasing speed. The other boat lay only a few yards away, and the end
had almost come. The excitement on board was intense now, and, although
no one spoke, the expression on every face betrayed the feelings of the
men. They could see that the others were watching them, but still they
manifested no alarm at the approach of the whaleboat.

As the latter ran in alongside, and the men quickly backed water, one of
the sailors on the stranded boat--for such their uniforms disclosed them
to be--called out, "You're just in time, men! We thought we'd never get
this tub off the bar. The tide's coming in, but we're stuck fast."

"That's just what we came for," replied the leader, as he threw a rope
to the other boat. "Now make fast and we'll yank you off before you know
it."

One of the sailors caught the rope and made it fast, but evidently a
change came over his feelings then, for, glancing suspiciously at the
men before him, the one who had acted as the leader said, "You're from
Refugee Town, aren't you? You're strangers to me, but I take it for
granted you're all right!"

"No, sir; we're militia from Old Monmouth. We've come out here to get
you and your boat, too. Here, none of that!" he quickly added, as he saw
the men turn to grasp their guns. "We'll send you to the bottom before
you can tell your names if you try any of your games on us."

At his command the men in the whaleboat quickly covered the others with
their guns. For a moment the silence was unbroken. The advantage for the
present was very decidedly with the attacking party. Not only did they
outnumber the others, but they were also in a condition to act, and act
quickly. The situation, however, could not long remain as it was. The
gunboats were not more than a half mile away, and, doubtless, assistance
would be sent as soon as the predicament of the men should be
discovered.

Then, too, there were the men on the shore to be reckoned with.
Apparently, they had no boat with which they could come to the rescue
of the luckless sailors, but they might soon obtain one, for Refugee
Town was not far away. Why they had not already gone there was not
apparent. Perhaps they were trusting to the aid of the rising tide and
the efforts of the men.

"Pass over your guns!" said the leader on the whaleboat.

The men obeyed, and silently picked up and handed their guns to the
attacking party.

"Now we'll see what can be done," said the leader, after he had
deposited the weapons on the bottom of the whaleboat. "These fellows are
harmless now, and we'll take our oars and see if we can't pull them off
from the bar."

His men grasped their oars and began to row. The rope tightened, the
boat started a little, but still stuck fast to the bottom. Again the men
pulled desperately, but with all their efforts they could not move the
grounded boat.

"I'm afraid we'll have to cast overboard a part of the load," said the
leader, when the third effort proved as futile as its predecessors.

He arose from his seat and grasped the rope to pull the whaleboat
nearer, when the four men before him suddenly united in a loud shout,
and, leaping from their seats, together grasped some other guns which
had been concealed beneath the sailcloth, and, turning about before
their captors could recover from their surprise, stood aiming their
weapons directly at their faces.

"It's our turn," laughed one of the men. "You'll hand over your own guns
now!"

No one in the whaleboat moved from his position. The leader still stood,
leaning over the side and grasping the rope with his hands. Every one
had been so startled by the unexpected summons that he seemed almost
incapable of action.

"Come, be quick about it!" said the sailor, as the men still did not
move.

A faint sound of a shout now could be heard from the shore, and the
movements of the men there, as they ran about the beach, betrayed the
fact that they were aware that something was wrong. In the distance,
Little Peter could see that two barges filled with men were starting
forth from the gunboats. The situation was becoming rapidly worse,
critical as it then was.

"Their guns aren't loaded, men!" called the leader suddenly. "They can't
harm us."

Still his men did not respond. For an instant no one moved, while their
fear was plainly evident from the expressions upon their faces. No one
knew whether the leader's words were true or not, and in breathless
suspense they waited, fearing every moment to hear the reports of the
guns in the other boat.

As the men did not fire, the leader quickly shouted again, "They're not
loaded, I tell you! They can't hurt us! Don't pay any attention to
them!"

His words instantly served to arouse his companions, for they now knew
that if the guns had been loaded they would have been discharged before
this.

The sight of the barges which had started forth from the gunboats, and
the increasing confusion of the men on the shore, combined to render the
attacking party desperate now. Whatever they were to do they must do
quickly.

The leader called to his companions to cover the others with their guns,
and, drawing the whaleboat close up, said: "The boat's loaded with guns
and powder! That's just what we want. Now you take your oars and push
while my men row," he added, speaking to the sailors. "The first one of
you that draws back will get a dose of lead. Now! Quick! Do as I tell
you!"

The men sullenly laid down the empty guns, and, picking up their oars,
began to push against the sandy bottom. The men in the whaleboat were
rowing desperately, and soon could feel that the other boat had started.

It was not yet free, however, and the leader called again to the
sailors, "Harder, men, harder! You aren't half pushing. That's right!
Harder yet! Harder, I say! We'll be out of this in a minute. Give way,
men! You aren't asleep, are you? Pull! Pull!"

In his eagerness, the leader laid down his gun, and, hastily grasping an
oar, began to pull with his companions. Slowly the grounded boat
responded to their efforts. Inch by inch it slipped from the bar, but
was not yet free.

Meanwhile, the confusion on the shore was increasing. The men were
running up and down the beach, waving their arms and shouting. The two
barges were coming swiftly from the gunboats, and if the loaded boat was
not soon dragged from the bar, it would once more be in the possession
of the enemy.

They were still working desperately. The perspiration stood out in great
drops upon their faces. They braced their feet against the seats in
front of them and put forth all their strength. The moments seemed like
hours to the struggling men, but the loaded boat was slow to respond to
their efforts. It was steadily yielding, however, and at last they saw
the boat slide from the bar and rest easily upon the open water.



CHAPTER XVI

TED WILSON'S VICTIM


A SHOUT arose from the eager crew as they perceived the success which
had crowned their desperate efforts, but an answering shout from the men
in the two approaching barges quickly recalled them to the necessity for
further and immediate action. Why it was that the guns of the gunboats
had remained silent they could not understand, but there was no time now
for investigations. It was sufficient that they had not been molested
thus far; and as the leader at once gave the command for them to resume
their labors with their oars, the men at once responded and gave way
together, the supply boat still being towed.

The whaleboat had been built for speed, and was long, narrow, and light.
Had it not been for the laden supply boat, which as yet they were not
willing to abandon, they would easily and speedily have drawn away from
the pursuing barges. As it was, they swept forward swiftly, and
apparently were almost holding their own in the race.

For several minutes the desperate efforts of the men continued. The
heavy clouds had gathered in the sky, and the blaze of the sun had
disappeared. The air was sultry and oppressive, and the unusual calm
which rested over the waters indicated that the storm which had been
threatening was fast approaching. No one glanced at the heavens,
however, the set and streaming faces indicating that the immediate task
in hand was sufficient of itself to occupy all their thoughts.

On and on rowed the men, and on and on swept the pursuing barges. Less
than a quarter of a mile lay between them, and, heavily laden as the
supply boat was, it materially decreased the speed which otherwise the
whaleboat might have made. The moments passed, but the efforts were not
relaxed. Together, the long oars struck the water, and the bodies of the
men swayed back and forth as if they were controlled by a common
impulse. The distance between the boats was not materially changed,
although if any change was to be seen it was in favor of the barges.

"This will never do," said the leader at last, letting his oar go, and
rising in his seat as he spoke. "Here, you men," he added, grasping his
gun and facing the prisoners in the other boat as he spoke, "it's time
for you to work your passage. Take those oars and pull your prettiest!
Four oars are better than one, and I can do more with a gun than I can
by pulling. Take your oars, every one of you, and the first one to drop
will be fired on!"

The four men in the supply boat sullenly obeyed, and the increased
impulse of their efforts at once became manifest. The leader stood in
the stern of the whaleboat facing the prisoners, and watchful of their
every movement. His words of encouragement served to inspire his
companions, and for a time it appeared as if they were gaining upon
their pursuers.

Still, the distance between them did not materially increase, and such
efforts as the men were then making could not be long maintained.
Indeed, signs of distress were already becoming apparent, and Little
Peter felt every time he drew in his oar as if he had not strength
enough left to pull another stroke. His face betrayed the pain he was
suffering, but his condition was not much worse than that of some of
the other men with him in the boat.

The exciting contest could not be continued much longer, and as the
leader glanced about the boat he almost decided to cut the rope which
held the supply boat, and, leaving that behind, seek safety in flight.

He had drawn his knife from his pocket, and was standing ready to free
them from their heavy load, when the rain began to fall. In a moment the
wind swept down upon them, and the storm was at hand.

Prom the first of the pursuing barges came a shot, but no damage was
done, and the leader muttered, "That's all right. It's a farewell salute
you're giving us. You might as well say good-by to us, for I take it
you'll never see us again."

The waves were now rising, and the rain was falling in torrents. Between
them and the shore it almost seemed as if a cloud intervened, so heavy
was the downpour. The voice of the leader could hardly be heard by his
men. The deep-toned thunder sounded almost continuously, and the darting
lightning appeared to be all about them. In escaping from one peril they
had encountered another.

The barges could now no longer be seen, and, with the passing of the
fear of pursuit, the men gave all their attention to their efforts to
keep the whaleboat out of the trough of the rolling waves. Still, the
supply boat was not cut loose, for the determined men were resolved to
hold to that so long as it lay within their power to do so.

For a half hour the shower continued, and although much water was
shipped, and the men were compelled to bail the boats, they behaved
well. When at last the storm had passed and the low mutterings of the
thunder sounded far out to sea, they all looked keenly behind them to
discover the whereabouts of their pursuers.

Neither of the barges was to be seen. Doubtless, with the approach of
the shower, they had both put back to the gunboats for safety. The
whaleboat had weathered the storm, and the supply boat was still safely
in tow.

Drenched though the men were, new strength seemed to come with the
knowledge that they were no longer being pursued, and then, relieved of
their fear, they continued on their way down the shore.

They frequently stopped for rest and to scan the waters behind them,
but no boat could anywhere be seen. Nor was any one to be discerned upon
the beach. Doubtless the men from Refugee Town had fled for safety and
shelter, or, as the leader grimly said, "They were afraid of being wet,
for water was something to which all the men assembled there were
strongly opposed."

For mile after mile they held steadily to their course, even their
excitement apparently having mostly disappeared. The supply boat
contained guns and ammunition, and if there was anything of which the
militia stood in need, it was of that very commodity.

At first it was thought that they would put in at the entrance to Shark
River, but it was soon decided to continue on their way until they
should come to Manasquan Inlet, and then go up the river to a place
where some of their friends were to be found. To gain Tom's River they
would be compelled to keep on to Barnegat Inlet, and then retrace their
way up Barnegat Bay, to the place where the river entered; and as that
would require a voyage of thirty miles more, no one regretted the change
in the plan.

They were all nearly worn out by their exertions, and no one knew what
British vessel might be met before they could gain the shelter of Tom's
River.

Little Peter, in spite of his eagerness to go on to the place where he
hoped to learn something concerning his father, was so weary from the
work of the day, and as he had not tasted food since early that morning,
he rejoiced with the others when at last the boats turned into Manasquan
Inlet and began to make their way up the little stream.

The sun was now low in the western sky, and the night would soon be upon
them. The shadows already were lengthening when the two boats passed out
of the inlet into the waters of the river. The leader, however, had not
yet given the word to rest on their oars, and Little Peter did not know
where they were to pass the night.

The whaleboat kept steadily on in its course, and the wearied men were
still pulling at the oars. The river was becoming narrower now, and more
than one was hoping that the word would soon be given for them to land.

Suddenly, the leader called to his men, and, standing erect, pointed
excitedly to a place on the shore not far in advance of them. His
companions quickly looked in that direction and saw on the little point
of land, around which the river swept in its course, two men standing
in the water. But what was it they were doing? One of them was holding
the other and frequently forcing his head beneath the surface of the
river. He would hold him in that position for a moment and then lift him
upon his feet again, and shake him, much as a dog might have done with a
rabbit. Apparently neither had observed the approaching boats, nor had
either uttered a sound which the men in the whaleboat could hear.

"The fellow's drowning him!" said the leader excitedly. "He's drowning
him. Give way, men, and we'll lend a hand."

The men, no less excited than their leader, instantly responded, and the
boats dashed rapidly forward. The eyes of all were fixed upon the two
men before them, and the leader shouted and called; but apparently,
unmindful of their approach, the strange actions continued. The larger
of the two men again and again forced the head of his companion under
the water, and then would lift him up and repeat the shaking. So
thoroughly intent was he upon his strange occupation, that he did not
once heed the hail, or even glance toward the whaleboat.

Nearer and nearer swept the boats, and finally, when they were almost
upon him, the man ceased his efforts and glanced coolly up at the
approaching men, still, however, retaining his grasp on his victim, who
apparently was helpless in his hands.

A startled exclamation escaped Little Peter's lips when he saw that the
smaller of the men was none other than his own neighbor, Benzeor Osburn.
"Help him! Help him!" he said excitedly to the leader. "It's Benzeor!
It's Benzeor Osburn! He's my neighbor! He's being drowned! He'll be
killed!"

"Be still!" said the leader roughly. "It's Ted Wilson that's got him.
Ted knows what he's doing. What's the trouble, Ted? What's gone wrong?"
he added quickly, addressing the man who still held Benzeor tightly in
his grasp.

The huge man slowly turned his head as he heard himself addressed, and
Little Peter thought he never before had seen such an expression of rage
upon any human countenance. His great muscular arms were bare, and his
entire body seemed to express the marvelous strength he possessed.
Benzeor was not struggling, and indeed there seemed to be but little
hope of protecting himself from the powerful man whose prisoner he was.

Little Peter could see that, although Benzeor was almost breathless, he
had recognized him, but he made no effort to speak and scarcely glanced
at the men before him.

"What's wrong, Ted?" repeated the leader. "What's the matter with the
man?"

"The matter isn't with the man, it's with me," said Ted slowly, speaking
in a deep, gruff voice, which betrayed the strong feeling under which he
labored.

"You're not going to drown him, are you?"

"Naw--though the snake deserves it. Drownin' is too good for such as
he!"

Ted had not moved from his position, and still was standing up to his
waist in the water.

"Tell us about it. Maybe we can help you a bit."

"Naw, ye can't help any. It's my business. I don't mind tellin' ye how
it came about, though. This forenoon I sold some corn and stuff up here
at the mill, and got my pay in coin, too. Well, this fellow was there
and he saw me get paid off, and I half suspected the reptile from the
way he looked at me when he saw me take the money. Here you!" he
quickly added, as Benzeor struggled slightly. "Ye want some more, do ye?
Well, I'll give ye all ye want and all ye need, too," and again he
thrust the helpless Benzeor's head beneath the water.

"Let him up. You'll drown him!" said the leader, when Ted had held his
victim several seconds under the water.

"It's no more than he deserves," replied the huge man, nevertheless
lifting his victim and shaking him again. "Now will ye keep still?"

As Benzeor was unable to reply, Ted again turned to the men in the boat
and said, "Well, I took that money home and gave it to Sallie. She's my
wife, ye know, and I always gives her what money I get, not that it's
ever very much, though. I didn't ferget the eyes o' this fellow,
however, and I told Sallie,--she's my wife, ye know, and as likely a
woman as there is in Old Monmouth, if I do say it as ought not to,--I
told her to keep a good lookout for the pine robbers, fer I had a kind
of a suspicion this here reptile might know where they was, and might
get word to 'em, too.

"I took my axe and went off down into my swamp-lot to cut some wood, and
left Sallie up in the house. Sallie's my wife, ye know. I felt uneasy
like all the time, but I worked on for three hours or more, but I kept
a-gettin' uneasier and uneasier, and, finally, I just couldn't stand it
any longer and put straight fer the house.

"'Twas mighty lucky I did, too, I'm tellin' you, fer when I came in
sight o' the house,--ye can see it up there now," and Ted pointed to his
home, a short distance up the bank, giving the unfortunate Benzeor an
additional shake as he did so,--"I see somethin' was wrong. There was
three or four men a-standin' out by the big maple in front o' my house,
and the minit I looked I see what they was up to. Somebody was a hangin'
from a bedcord they'd threw over a limb o' that very maple-tree.

"Mebbe ye know how I felt when I see it was my Sallie; she's my wife, ye
know. They was a-drawin' her up and then lettin' her down, and I knew
then they was tryin' to make her own up where that money was. I had my
axe in my hands, and when I see what they was up to, I didn't wait very
long, I'm tellin' ye. I cut Sallie loose,--she wasn't very much hurt;
she's my wife, ye know,--and then I took after the rascals. They
scattered in every direction, but this vermin started for the river and
I after him."

"You got him, I see."

"Did I get him? Let him answer for hisself."

And the angry Ted again shook the helpless Benzeor until the men
wondered that his trembling limbs still held together.



CHAPTER XVII

A FRUITLESS CHASE


THE surprise of Tom Coward was not diminished as the novel race
continued. Twice through the open doors of the barn dashed the two
riders, their horses' hoofs slipping on the rough floor and almost
throwing the men from their seats. Both continued to maintain their
positions, however, and would no sooner disappear from Tom's sight than
they would be seen coming around the corner of the barn again, the young
American lieutenant still in advance and the British officer in close
pursuit.

Friend Nathan was standing in the doorway of his house, and, in spite of
his peaceful professions, there was an eager expression upon his face
which betrayed the fact that he was not an uninterested observer of the
strange contest. Tom had not moved from his position, and his excitement
had almost deprived him of the power of speech.

Again through the open doorways of the barn the riders had urged their
swiftly running horses, but as yet their relative positions had remained
unchanged. The British officer was leaning forward on his horse's neck
and endeavoring to grasp the bridle of the young lieutenant's horse, but
the quick movements of the latter had prevented him, and the mad race
continued.

As Lieutenant Gordon dashed around the corner of the barn, and for the
fourth time prepared to enter the open door, Tom saw that the other
members of the band were just entering the yard. The excited lad could
not longer remain silent. His friend was beset by new perils and must be
warned.

"Look out! Look out!" shouted Tom.

Young Gordon looked up and for the first time beheld the increase in the
number of his enemies. Without hesitating a moment, he turned his horse
toward the low fence and cleared it at a bound. Then, directly across
the open lot toward the woods in the distance he urged his trusty steed,
and almost before the men in the yard perceived what had occurred, he
had placed a considerable distance between him and the barn.

The confusion, however, lasted but a moment, for, with a shout, several
of the men urged their horses forward, and, leaping the low fence,
renewed the pursuit. Those who did not follow raised their guns and
discharged them at the fleeing officer; but either his movements were
too swift, or their excitement prevented them from taking careful aim,
for the bullets went wide of their mark, and in a very brief time the
young lieutenant disappeared within the woods, and soon after his
pursuers followed him.

"Thee didn't seem to catch him," said Nathan blandly to the men who
remained in the yard.

"They'll get him. They'll get him," replied the leader. "They'll soon
run him down, never you fear. But he's a bold fellow, there's no mistake
about that. What did you call out to him for?" he added, turning sharply
to Tom.

"Did I call out to him?" replied Tom. "I don't just know what I did, I
was so excited. I thought you had him."

"So I would, if it hadn't been for the barn floor."

Tom thought the barn floor was perhaps as much of a disadvantage to the
pursued as to the pursuer, but he discreetly held his peace and said no
more.

"Now, old man, you can get us some breakfast. My men will be back here
in no time with the young rebel, and will have all the better appetite
because of their morning's work. You can feed us all, can't you?" said
the officer.

"I have spoken to Rachel. Doubtless she will do her best for thee."

The men at once proceeded to place their horses in the barn and serve
them freely from the Quaker's store. Then they entered the house and
seated themselves at the table which Rachel had spread for them,
although they first stationed one of their companions as guard.

For a time no one spoke, so busied were they in their occupation, and
Tom Coward was not one whit behind any of them. He was tired and hungry,
and the breakfast was doubly welcome to him. Rachel moved quietly about
the room, her drab dress and broad white collar being in marked contrast
to the brilliant uniforms of her self-invited guests.

"Old man," said the officer at last, "I wish you'd tell me how it
happened that that young rebel was here on your place. You weren't
sheltering him, were you?"

"Nay," replied Nathan. "In times like these, Friends are not prone to
shelter any soldiers. Our guests are only those who come without any
bidding of ours."

"Ha! ha!" laughed the officer. "I fancy you mean that as a reproach for
us. Well, we'll pay you for our breakfast, never you fear about that.
Your scruples don't carry you so far that you object to receiving a
return in good yellow or white metal, do they?"

"The laborer is ever worthy of his hire. I shall be thankful for any
equivalent it may seem good unto thee to bestow upon me."

"That's right, that's right. Trust a broad brim for that every time. I'm
not complaining, old man, I'm not complaining. You don't happen to know
just where the rebel army is at present, do you?"

"It is reported that Washington is on the march for this very place.
Even now he may be approaching."

"Do you know that?" inquired the officer in a lower tone.

"Nay. I know nothing of their movements. It is all of the current report
I am speaking to thee. I fear me that a man of peace is likely to suffer
double ills between the two armies, for it is also reported that the
British and their Hessian companions are also likely to march through
this very region."

If the officer had glanced at the old Quaker he would have discovered
that there was a very keen expression upon his face as he ventured the
last supposition. But as he did not look up it was all lost upon him,
and perhaps if he had seen it, he would not have understood its meaning,
since his host was ostensibly a man of peace.

"I'm not so sure of that," said the officer quietly. "We've come to look
over the land and report to Colonel Simcoe. What makes you think the
rebels are near here, and are likely to march this way?"

"I will tell thee truly. The young man whom your companions are pursuing
slept last night in my barn. He informed me frankly that Washington was
to pass this way"--

"And fall on our army?" broke in the officer eagerly.

"That is the natural inference for thee to draw. It's a sad day for the
Friends. They are ground between the upper and the nether millstones,
for I understood thee to say that the British also were to come
hither."

"You can understand what you please," replied the leader gruffly.
"You've given me the information I most desire and Colonel Simcoe would
be glad to reward you for it, but being, as you are, a man of peace, of
course you wouldn't be willing to take anything from a man whose
occupation is blood letting. Hello! here's the guard!" he added, rising
abruptly from the table as he spoke. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing," replied the guard, "except that our men are returning from
the woods."

"And did they catch the young rebel?"

"No, or at least he's not with them now."

All hurriedly left the table and rushed out into the yard, Tom also
going with them. The men could be seen returning across the lot, but it
was at once evident that the young lieutenant was not with them.

"What's the trouble? How was it that you let the slippery little rebel
get away from you?" demanded the leader, as the soldiers once more
entered the yard.

"Simply because he could ride faster than we could," replied one of the
band in a surly tone. "His horse was fresh and ours had been out all
night."

The officer was angry, but, after a few sharp words to his men, he bade
them enter the kitchen and get their breakfast.

"Did thee find him?" inquired Nathan.

"No, we didn't find him. I'd chase him right into camp if it wasn't that
I must hurry back to the colonel with the word you've given me. You're
sure about what you told me?"

"What did I tell thee?" inquired Nathan blandly.

"About the march of the rebels," replied the officer angrily. "I half
believe you're in league with them yourself, in spite of all your
whining words. If I thought you were I'd leave your body for the crows
to pick."

"And is that the method which seemeth to thee to prove thou art right,
and that I am no man of peace?"

"Oh, never mind, old man, never mind my words. Perhaps I'm a little too
hard with you. This young rebel's getting away from us has put me out of
temper. What I want to know is whether you believe what you said about
the rebels coming through Cranberry."

"I have given thee the words as they were given me. I am not in the
councils of the 'rebels,' as it seemeth good to thee to call them, and
cannot say more. It is for thee to judge, not me, who am a man of peace
and not familiar with the ways of warlike men."

By this time the men had finished their breakfast, and a hurried
consultation followed. The decision at which they arrived was soon
apparent when the leader approached Nathan, and, holding forth some
silver in his hand, said, "There, take that for the breakfast you've
given us."

"I thank thee," replied Nathan, accepting the money.

"Are you going back with us, lad?" said the officer, turning to Tom as
he spoke.

"No. You said all you wanted of me was to point out the way to
Cranberry."

"So I did, but if this old man speaks the truth,--and I'm inclined to
think he does,--you'll be better off with us than you will be to stay
behind when the rebels are coming. You'll have a good horse to ride,
too; you must not forget that."

"I think I'll stay. I'm not afraid of the rebels, and can find my way
all right." Tom's heart was beating rapidly, and the fear that
permission for him to remain would not be granted was uppermost in his
thoughts.

"Have it your own way, lad, have it your own way. I only spoke what I
thought was for your own best good."

He gave a few orders to his men, and in a brief time the band departed,
riding swiftly up the road and soon disappearing from sight.

"This was not a bad morning's work, Friend Thomas," said Nathan, when at
last the men were gone, jingling the silver in his pocket as he spoke.

"It was a good deal better than I ever expected to have," replied Tom.

Neither of them realized, however, the full consequences, for Nathan's
words, in addition to what the officer had already discovered, caused
him to return in all haste with the information he had received to
Colonel Simcoe. That officer, upon receiving the word, which was
corroborated by other discoveries he had made, at once reported to Sir
Henry Clinton, and an immediate change in the plans of the British was
made. The advance to the Raritan was speedily abandoned, the route to
the Highlands was at once chosen, and it was decided that the army
should march by the way of Monmouth Court House. The battle of Monmouth,
which soon followed, thus became possible, and that, with all its
consequences to the struggling patriots, turned upon the information
which Colonel Simcoe had received, and which he speedily carried to his
commander.

Upon such slight events do those which we sometimes call the greater
ones turn. Perhaps as we grow older and wiser we shall come to perceive
more clearly the true relation which the so-called little things of life
bear to the greater ones. A very wise man once declared that "he who was
faithful in the little affairs of life was very greatly faithful." In
any event, we have partially learned the lesson that it is a test of
true greatness to be able to do little things well, and that the very
best evidence of a man's being able to do the greater things is that he
is willing to do the smaller ones, as they come to him, faithfully and
honestly.

However, neither Nathan nor Tom was moralizing after this fashion when
they entered the house after watching the departure of the British
soldiers. Tom then related all his recent experiences to Nathan, not
omitting the story of Benzeor's misdeeds.

The old Quaker listened attentively, and it was apparent from his
frequent expressions of anger that his interest in the success of the
Continentals was not entirely banished by his peaceful professions.

"What thee needs now, friend Thomas," he said, when at last the lad's
story was ended, "is a good rest. Rachel has a bed ready for thee."

Tom followed his friend to the room upstairs, and soon stretched himself
upon the bed. How grateful it seemed to the weary lad! For a moment he
gazed at the four high posts, but soon everything was forgotten and he
was asleep.

How long he slept he did not know, but he was awakened by Nathan, who
called to him and said, "Friend Thomas, there is some one below who
desires to see thee."

Tom leaped from the bed and followed the Quaker down the stairs,
wondering who it was that wished to see him. There were confused
thoughts in his mind of the British officer and Benzeor, but he was not
in the least prepared for the sight upon which he looked when he entered
the room.



CHAPTER XVIII

A RARE BEAST


IT is necessary now for us to turn and follow some of the movements of
that army which Tom Coward was so eager to join.

Sir Henry Clinton fully understood that he had little to gain from an
engagement with Washington's army at this time. The Americans were not
holding any position which he desired to gain, their stores and
equipments were of slight value, and if Washington should be defeated,
the result would be that his men would simply be scattered in the
surrounding region, where they would still be free to carry on their
straggling methods of warfare, and harass the British by falling upon
their baggage trains and shooting at the men as they marched along the
country roads.

On the other hand, Clinton's stores were numerous and of no little
value. The loss of them would be a serious blow to the redcoats, while
the possession of them by the Continentals would put new life into the
cause of the poorly equipped patriots. And above all of these things,
the danger which now threatened from the approach of a French fleet led
the British commander to hasten forward to the defense of New York,
which he feared was likely to be the first place to be attacked by the
allies of the colonies.

The very motives which caused Sir Henry to wish to avoid an engagement
were those which appealed most strongly to Washington to enter into one.
He had but little to lose and much to gain. A defeat for the British
would mean a weakening of the defense of New York, and the long train of
baggage wagons was a most tempting prize. The possession of those stores
would replenish the scanty supplies of the Americans; and, as we know,
Washington had eagerly pushed his army forward, hoping to gain a
position in advance of the British and fall upon them in some
advantageous position which he himself could select.

The main body had advanced as far as Hopewell, as we have already
learned in the course of this story, but there had halted for a brief
time. The weather had been unusually trying, and as a consequence the
men were suffering intensely. Even the "oldest inhabitants" had never
known such a summer. The thermometer had climbed well up into the
nineties and then had stayed there. The frequent thunder showers
apparently did not cool the air and afforded no relief, as the
sultriness seemed to be increased by each one. The roads had become
heavy and well-nigh impassable in places, and when at last the men had
marched to the plains of Hopewell, Washington wisely halted to give them
their much needed rest.

Another matter led the great commander to remain there for a time. He
had now gained a position which offered him a considerable advantage,
and he wished to call a council of his officers to consult concerning
his further movements.

Accordingly, the second of the councils since the army had departed from
Philadelphia was then called, and the one question in the mind of the
commander was this: "Will it be advisable to hazard a general
engagement?"

General Charles Lee, who was second in command, and was by some even
then suspected of being in secret league with Howe, was present, and his
voice was soon heard. Lee was a Welshman, brilliant in certain ways,
and had seen much service in the armies of Europe. Many had preferred
him to Washington as the commander-in-chief of the American armies, and
Lee himself was not averse to the idea. He affected to regard Washington
with contempt, looking upon him as a man who lacked military training
and of but little ability. His jealousy already had been the cause of
many serious troubles, and at the present time, in spite of the fact
that he had been exchanged for the British general Prescott, captured in
a manner not unlike that in which Lee himself had been taken in a
previous winter at Morristown, he apparently was unmindful of all the
regard bestowed upon him, and was not unwilling to see Washington make
some mistakes which would bring upon the leader the anger of his
fellows, and perhaps open the way for Lee to gain his position. This
view of the case is certainly to be preferred to that which marked him
simply as a traitor and in league with the enemy, although in all
likelihood both, in a measure, were correct. Probably Washington
understood the man thoroughly at the time, and we may be certain that
his troubles were not decreased by his knowledge.

Lee was possessed of a strikingly ugly face, and his plain features were
the cause of many rude jests among the soldiers who were opposed to him.
But whatever his lacks in personal beauty or moral character may have
been, he at least had a most persuasive tongue. His eager and impulsive
manner, his commonly accredited ability, and his foreign training, which
had great influence among many of his ruder and unpolished companions,
caused some of the men about him to become ready listeners to what he
had to say.

In the council which Washington called at Hopewell, Lee exerted himself
to the utmost to oppose the proposition to enter into an engagement with
the advancing British. So persuasive were his words that the majority of
the officers voted with him that it would not be advisable to detach
more than fifteen hundred men from the main body to harass the enemy on
their flank and rear, while the remainder of the army should preserve
their present position relative to the British, and be governed by
circumstances.

Just what Lee's motive was is not fully apparent. Whether he wished to
avoid a battle or simply desired to cause Washington to fail in taking
advantage of the favorable opportunity, which Lee himself must have seen
had presented itself, is not clearly known. It may have been a
combination of both wishes.

General Wayne bitterly opposed the proposition of Lee, and generals such
as Greene, Lafayette, Steuben, and others, expressed themselves as being
decidedly of the opinion that, at the very least, twenty-five hundred
men should be detached from the main body and sent forward to carry out
Washington's plan.

Lee's motion, however, prevailed; but while Washington seemingly
consented to the decision of the council, we can now see, as we look
backward, that his own purpose was not changed. Perhaps he was
strengthened in his opinion by the words of General Wayne and General
Greene, spoken after the breaking up of the assembly, for we know that
they then expressed themselves very freely to their leader.

Apparently yielding to the expressed wishes of the majority, Washington
dispatched General Scott with fifteen hundred men "to gall the enemy's
left flank and rear," as he expressed it in the letters he wrote that
day to General Dickinson and the president of the Continental Congress;
and on the following day advanced with his army to Kingston, and halted
there on the very day when Tom Coward arrived at the house of Friend
Nathan Brown in Cranberry.

As Tom came down the stairs and entered the room below, his surprise was
great when he saw young Lieutenant Gordon standing before him.
"Where--where did you come from?" said the astonished boy. "I thought
they chased you out into the woods!"

"So they did. So they did," laughed the young officer; "but that doesn't
mean that I was bound to stay there, does it? I had spent the night with
Friend Nathan here, and I had such a good time I almost decided to come
back for another. And then, too, I left a lad here whose face haunted
me, he looked so scared and white."

"I was scared," said Tom, "for I thought they'd got you. How in the
world did you ever manage to get away from them?"

"Oh, I've learned by experience," replied the lieutenant, laughing.
"This was about the closest call I ever had, and once there, when my
horse slipped on the barn floor, I thought I was done for; but it's all
come out right, you see. When I once got into the woods I knew I was
all right, and I didn't have to go very far, either. About noon I
thought I'd venture back and see what had become of Friend Nathan and
Tom Coward, for I didn't believe those redcoats would stay here very
long after they found out that our army is over here by Kingston."

"Kingston?" said Tom quickly. "Kingston? Why, that's only ten miles from
here!"

"Correct, my son; correct. They'll be nearer yet, very soon."

Tom was excited in a moment, and eagerly began to ask many questions.
The young lieutenant replied to them all, and then said to the Quaker,
who had remained silent during the conversation, "And now, Friend
Nathan, you feel sure that those redcoats will carry the word back to
Clinton that we've turned out of our way to meet them, do you?"

"Verily, I do," replied Nathan. "It was for the very purpose of learning
the plans of Washington that they dared to venture as far as this. I
endeavored to learn from the soldier what effect he thought his report
would have upon the British leader, but he did not speak in many words.
Doubtless he considered them valueless to a man of peace. But thy
surmise is correct, I doubt not."

"Then the sooner we put out of this the better, Tom; that is, if you're
still of the same mind you were day before yesterday."

"I'm ready to go," replied Tom eagerly.

The thought of the American army being only ten miles away aroused all
his enthusiasm once more. He knew nothing of camp life, and the
hardships were not in his thoughts. He knew that he had no place to
which he could go, and now that he had left Benzeor's home he felt like
an outcast. Besides, he had dreamed of joining the army, and, now that
at last the longed-for day had arrived, all his curiosity and eagerness
returned in full measure.

"But I haven't any horse and you're mounted," he added. "I don't see how
I can go with you. You can't wait for me to trudge along on foot."

"That is something of a poser," replied the lieutenant. "No, it's a fact
I can't waste much time on the road with such news as I have to carry
back to camp. Perhaps my horse will carry double part of the way."

"I have a beast I might let thee have," said Nathan.

"That's the way to talk!" said the lieutenant eagerly. "Where is this
horse of yours?"

"It is out in the back lot in the woods. My heart was filled with fears
of the war men, and I dared not to leave any of my property within their
sight."

As Nathan still hesitated, the lieutenant said quickly, "Hurry up,
Nathan! Get your horse and let us start. We've no time to lose."

"Thou knowest that I am a man of peace," said the Quaker slowly. "It is
not for me to waste my property in this wicked war."

"That's the way the wind blows, is it?" laughed the lieutenant. "Well, I
don't know that I can promise you very much, but I'll do what I can for
you after I get back to camp. But I'll tell you what, Nathan, you'll not
be the loser to give up the horse to us, and with a good grace, too.
Both of the armies are likely to pass this way, and you won't have much
left on your place, I can tell you. Now, if you give it up you may get
something for it, and then, too, you'll have the credit of doing
something for your country."

"What did the war men give thee, Friend Thomas? Did I not hear thee say
that the war men rewarded thee for thy services?"

"Yes," said Tom quickly, drawing the two half joes forth from his pocket
as he spoke. "Here they are. You can have them and welcome."

"The beast is not what would be considered a valuable one, Friend
Thomas, and yet he is still capable of rendering some service to me. I
will take one of thy half joes and leave the other with thee. Then thou
canst see that I am suitably repaid after thou hast joined thy comrades
in the war."

The young lieutenant slyly winked at Tom as the lad handed the man one
of his half joes, and then said, "Hurry up, Nathan! We've got to start
soon, and ought to be off now. We'll do the best we can for you, as we
said. You're going to give us something to eat, aren't you, before we
go?"

"It shall be according to thy desire. Rachel, if thou hast some milk and
a small portion of corn bread, set it before these guests whilst I am
gone for my beast."

The old man departed, and his wife carried out his request. The
lieutenant and Tom at once seated themselves at the table and hastily
ate the food she set before them, for neither knew when another
opportunity might be found. In the ten miles which lay between them and
the army of Washington many adventures might be awaiting them, and it
was only the part of wisdom to make the most of the present.

"I have thy beast for thee," said Nathan, soon afterwards entering the
room. "He is not what might be called by thee a swift beast, but he is
still possessed of some excellent qualities. Thou hast promised to see
that I am further rewarded for my gift."

Tom and the lieutenant hastened out of the room to examine Nathan's
"gift," and, as they saw the horse which he had tied to the post, they
both stopped in surprise and the lieutenant broke into a loud laugh.

"Oh, Friend Nathan," said he, adopting the Quaker's style of speech,
"thou art a friend indeed! Dost thou call that thing a 'beast'? Thou
hast cheated the lad woefully. A good half joe for that scarecrow? Thou
oughtest to reward Thomas for riding him, for I am of the opinion that I
shall be compelled to carry him into camp in two pieces if he mounts
that 'razorback.' Oh, Nathan, Nathan! Who would have believed it of
thee?"

The horse was old and gaunt. A spavin was apparent in one leg, while on
another was a great ringbone. One eye betrayed its blindness, and,
altogether, the poor animal presented a most woe-begone and helpless
appearance.

"He hath not beauty, as I told thee," said Nathan soberly. "But he is of
value to me, and thou hast promised to see that I am suitably rewarded."

"Oh, Tom! Tom!" laughed the lieutenant. "What a sight you'll be on the
back of that bunch of bones! There's no help for it, though. Come on and
we'll see what the poor 'beast' can do!"



CHAPTER XIX

THE RELEASE OF BENZEOR


BENZEOR'S plight was a sad one, but as he gazed about him in his
helplessness the only face upon which he could discover any traces of
sympathy or compassion was that of Little Peter. The lad had had no
suspicion of his neighbor, and was ignorant, as we know, of the part
which Benzeor had taken in the attack on his father's house. Even now it
was difficult for him to believe that Ted had spoken truly. He must have
been mistaken, Peter thought, as he recalled the kindness of Sarah and
Benzeor's wife in permitting the children to find a shelter in their
home.

Perhaps the perplexed lad's face betrayed his feelings, for just at that
moment Benzeor looked up and said,--

"There! That boy knows me!" and he pointed at Little Peter as he spoke.
"He knows all about me, for he's a neighbor of mine. I tell you there's
been a mistake. I'm not the man you're"--

Benzeor's words were suddenly interrupted by Ted, who thrust his head
again under the water, and when he lifted him out once more the prisoner
was sputtering and gasping for breath.

"Made a mistake, did I?" exclaimed the angry giant. "Well, mebbe I did,
but I reckon the biggest one was in not keepin' you under the river all
the time. Runnin' round here prowlin' on defenseless women folks and
tryin' to steal what little money they've got left! Drownin' 's too good
for such as you!" And, unable to restrain himself, the angry man again
shook his helpless victim till it seemed as if the little breath Benzeor
retained must be driven from his body.

"I--I--I'm telling you the truth," gasped Benzeor when he had recovered
sufficiently to be able to speak again. "Won't you help me? Won't you
save me from this--this--man?" he pleaded, turning to the men in the
whaleboat. "That--that boy there knows me, and he'll tell you I--I--I'm
all right. Won't you, Little Peter? Please! Please, tell them!"

"Do you know him?" said the leader to Little Peter.

"Yes," replied the lad quietly.

"Ye don't know any good of him, do ye?" said Ted, interrupting, and
tightening his grasp upon the collar of his victim as he spoke.

"He is a neighbor of mine, as he said. I never knew any bad of him. And
his wife and girl are taking care of the children. I know that." Little
Peter was perplexed, and his suspicions had been aroused by the
discovery of his neighbor in his present predicament, but the
recollection of Sarah's kindness moved him to refer to their recent
actions, in the hope that he might aid her father.

"Ho! ho! ho!" laughed Ted. "Then his wife takes care of her children,
does she? She must be a wonderful woman to do that. Well, let her take
care of her brats, and I'll take care of her man, and good care, too!"

As Ted acted as if he were about to renew his attentions, the leader
hastily said, "The lad doesn't mean this fellow's children, but his own
little brothers and sisters," and in a few words he related the story of
the attack on Little Peter's home, and the sad loss which had occurred
there.

"Ye don't say so!" said Ted, bestowing a glance of sympathy upon the
boy. "That's bad! It is indeed! And ye say this fellow has taken yer
little brothers and sisters into his place?"

"Yes," said Peter eagerly.

"Well, all I can say is that I'd about as soon put a hawk to look after
chickens, if it was my doin's."

"Yes," said Benzeor quickly, striving to take advantage of the
impression which Little Peter's words had momentarily created. "Yes, the
children are all at my house, and being well looked after, too. That
doesn't look very much, does it, as if I was a bad man? I tell you
there's been a mistake! There's been a mistake! I didn't have anything
to do with the attack on this man's place. Help me! Help me!" he hastily
cried out, as Ted acted as if he were about to repeat his former
actions.

"Hold on a minute, Ted. Perhaps the man's got something more to say,"
said the leader.

"I am a-holdin' on. Can't ye see that?" replied Ted grimly, once more
tightening his grasp upon the unfortunate Benzeor's collar.

"I have got something to say. Something you want to hear, too," said
Benzeor eagerly, and appealing to the leader in the whaleboat as he
spoke.

"Say it," said Ted gruffly.

"The British are going to make an attack on the ship down in the bay."

"What's that you say?" said the leader quickly. "Do you mean on the
Washington?"

"Yes, yes, that's just what I mean. There are a couple of gunboats off
the shore here now, and they're going to land some men and get her back
again."

"There are two boats off the shore, Ted. I happen to know that, for this
very craft we've got along with us we took from them this afternoon,"
said the leader. And he briefly related the story of the capture.

"There, ye see I'm right!" said Benzeor, eager to follow up the
impression his words and those of the leader had created. "Now if you'll
help me out of the clutches of"--

"Keep still, you!" interrupted Ted angrily. "It'll be time enough for
you to talk when I let go on ye. I reckon nobody is a-goin' to take you
out o' my clutches till I get good and ready to let ye go. Now then,
stand up straight and speak yer piece like a little man! How did ye
happen to know the British was a-goin' to make an attack on the
Washington?"

"I heard one of the men up by your house say so."

"I thought ye didn't have anything to do with that attack on poor
Sallie! She's my wife, I'd have ye know. I thought you was a-sayin' you
wasn't there, and all the time I see ye, and chased ye right out o' my
yard, clear down to the river! And now ye say ye heard one of the men
there tell about the plan the British have on deck to get the Washington
back again!"

"I didn't say I wasn't there," pleaded Benzeor. "All I said was that I
didn't have anything to do with it, and I didn't."

"Ye"--began Ted, all his anger instantly returning.

"Hold on, Ted! Hold on! Let's hear what the man has to say," exclaimed
the leader.

"I'll hold on, never ye fret yerself about that!" replied Ted, still
retaining a firm grasp on his victim, but nevertheless abandoning the
action he had evidently had in mind.

"I was there, I'm not denying that," pleaded Benzeor; "but I didn't have
a gun in my hands, and I didn't touch the rope either. I fell in with
the men and they made me go with them. I just couldn't help myself. And
it was while I was there I heard 'em talking about the plan to take the
Love--I mean the Washington," he hastily added. "They're going to take
her in the morning."

"You mean they're going to try to take her," said the leader.

"Yes, that's what I mean; they're going to try to take her."

"The reptile may be tellin' the truth," said Ted soberly. "I had some o'
the best o' the Washington's cargo myself. Ye know they brought about
all that was aboard o' her up to Manasquan, and sold it here, or
leastwise Marshal John Stokes sold it for 'em. I happen to know about
that, and the vermin here may be tellin' the truth. Sometimes he does it
by mistake, I suppose."

A few weeks prior to this time the British ship Love and Unity ran
ashore near Tom's River. There were those among the people of the region
who wagged their heads and winked slyly whenever they referred to the
misfortune of the vessel, for it was a prevailing impression there that
the pilot had not been especially favorable to the British, and more by
design than by accident had grounded the vessel near the shore.

Be that as it may, the militia had quickly rallied, and as most of the
men were as much at home upon the water as they were upon the land, they
seized the unfortunate Love and Unity, and brought her safely into port
as a prize.

The cargo was considered a very valuable one, consisting, as it did,
chiefly of sugar and various liquors highly prized by the men of those
days, and, after being duly advertised, was sold by John Stokes at
Manasquan.

The Love and Unity was renamed the Washington, and at this time was
lying at anchor near the mouth of Tom's River, within the shelter of
Barnegat Bay. As most of the men in the whaleboat, as well as the mighty
Ted himself, were familiar with these facts, the words of Benzeor
naturally created a far deeper impression than they might otherwise have
done.

"I'll tell ye what," said Ted suddenly, turning Benzeor about so that he
could look directly into his face as he spoke, "ye seem so well posted
I've half a mind to let ye go."

"I'm telling you just exactly what I heard," said Benzeor, his hope of
escape instantly increasing. "That's what I heard the men say."

"And it was in the mornin' when they was goin' to come?"

"Yes."

"Well, I'm a-goin' to let you off. Hold on a minit," he added as Benzeor
strove to free himself. "I haven't finished yet. I'm thinkin' of lettin'
ye go on one condition."

"What's that?" said Benzeor eagerly.

"I'm comin' to that pretty quick. I'm pretty comfortable here, so to
speak, and don't appear to be in such a hurry as you." As the two men
were still standing in the water, and Benzeor's teeth were chattering
from cold or fear, the words of the huge man were perhaps not fully
appreciated by his prisoner. "Ye appear to be so happy over yer
information--though fer my part I don't see what ye held it back till
this time fer--that I'm a-goin' to give ye a treat. I'm a-goin' to let
ye go, yes, I am; ye needn't be scart about that. Ye're goin', and I'll
tell ye where ye're goin', too. Ye're goin, to join the crew o' this
whaleboat and go down and help them defend the Washington against her
enemies. That's the condition I'm placin' on ye, and that's what I'm
goin' to do with ye."

And the powerful man picked Benzeor up in his arms and placed him in
the whaleboat next to Peter, who, we may be sure, had not been an
uninterested observer of all that had occurred.

"There ye be," said Ted, breaking forth into a loud laugh as he saw the
dripping Benzeor hastily take his seat and glance apprehensively toward
him. "Now, then," he added, turning to the leader, and still remaining
in the water, which came well up to his shoulders as he placed his hand
on the side of the supply boat, "if ye want me to, I'll take charge o'
yer prize. You'll be puttin' straight fer Tom's River, I doubt not, and
ye won't want to be bothered by an extra craft. I'll hide her in a good
place up the shore, and likely enough I may come down to the bay myself
in the night. Ye'll be settin' up a-waitin' fer me, won't ye?" he added,
speaking to Benzeor.

As that individual made no reply, Ted again began to converse with the
leader of the band, and in a few minutes all the details were arranged.
The captured boat was to be left in his charge, and soon the whaleboat
started down the river toward the ocean.

The sun had now disappeared from sight, but the approach of night was
all the more favorable for the plans of the men. When once they were
out on the ocean, they hoisted a sail and sped rapidly down the coast.

A sail of a little more than twenty miles brought them to Barnegat
Inlet, and as they entered the bay it was decided to make use of the
oars again. It was almost midnight when at last they saw the Washington
at anchor in Tom's River, and their hail was quickly answered.

Little Peter was so thoroughly wearied by the labors of the long day
that he was rejoiced to be told that he could turn in for the night.
Benzeor was to have a hammock near him, and, tired as the lad was, he
eagerly began to ply the man with questions when they had withdrawn from
their fellows.

"Benzeor, I came down here to find out about father. I suppose you know
he was taken by Fenton's gang and that my mother was shot?"

"I heard about it."

"It was terrible, Benzeor. I don't know what I should have done if Sarah
hadn't taken the children. 'Twas good of her, and of you, too, for you
know all about it, I see. I shan't forget it very soon."

As Benzeor made no reply, Peter continued: "I don't know just what to
do to find out about father. The pine robbers have their quarters down
here, I'm told, and I thought I'd tell Captain Dennis about it and
perhaps he would send out a party to search for him. I didn't know just
what to make of your being here at first, but I see you have had trouble
with them, too. That was mean of Ted to treat you as he did when you
said the pine robbers made you go with them. Was it Fenton's band that
got hold of you?"

"Yes; that is, I don't think so. I'm not just sure who they were."

"Couldn't have been Fenton then, for you know him when you see him, I'm
sure. Benzeor, don't you think I'd better report the capture of my
father to Captain Dennis and ask him if he won't send out a searching
party?"

"No," said Benzeor slowly. "I don't think that will do any good."

"Why not? What else can I do?"

"Why, the fact is," said Benzeor, "I heard those men talking about your
father, too."

"Did you?" said Peter eagerly, sitting up in his hammock as he spoke. He
could not see his companion's face in the darkness, and perhaps it was
as well for the troubled lad that he could not, for he would have seen
little to comfort him expressed upon it.

"Yes, I heard 'em. There's no use in your reporting it to Captain Dennis
or to any one else."

"Why not? Why not? They haven't shot him, have they?"

"No. He's been sent to New York."

Peter said no more. The thick darkness seemed like that within his own
soul. All his efforts had been worse than useless, and the troubled boy
knew not what next to do.



CHAPTER XX

THE FLEET OF BARGES


THE present visit was by no means the first which Little Peter had made
to Barnegat Bay and the vicinity of Tom's River. Before the outbreaking
of the war he had occasionally gone there with Webberly West, the most
noted hunter of deer and wolves in all the region. Great had been the
pride of Little Peter when he had returned home with his first deer,
some four or five years before this time; and, as he lay in his hammock
that night, again and again his thoughts wandered from his present
difficulties to the days when he had tramped through the region with the
venerable hunter Webberly.

The old man had died just before the war began, but many of his quaint
expressions and kindly acts remained in Little Peter's memory. He it was
who had taught him how to dig the pits and cover them over with brush,
and place the tempting pieces of meat as a decoy for the prowling
wolves. Little Peter could never forget the first time success had
crowned his efforts, and he had looked down upon the eyes of the wolf
which had fallen into the pit. He could feel the thrill of that
excitement even now.

And Webberly had taught him also how to catch the great snapping turtles
which abounded in the streams. Sometimes turtles were taken which
weighed fully thirty pounds each. What savage creatures they were! and
yet the old hunter had handled them as if he had known no fear. A
constant war was waged upon these creatures by the settlers for two
reasons, one of which was that they were highly valued as an article of
food. The captive would be thrown into a barrel and for a few days fed
upon the refuse from the tables, to which perhaps at times more
substantial food would be added, and then when the turtles had gained
the proper degree of plumpness, a feast would be made to which friends
and neighbors were not infrequently invited. The eggs of the turtles
also were highly valued; and so plentiful were they in the warm sand
along the shore that a bushel-basket was frequently filled with them
after a brief search. It was true the foxes were as eager as the men to
dig out and devour the turtles' eggs, but the supply appeared to be
almost inexhaustible and there were more than enough for all.

Another reason which prompted the settlers to prey upon the huge turtles
was the fact that their ducks suffered from the savage creatures. A
turtle would seize a duck in his claws and tear and devour the bird in
an incredibly short time. Naturally, the owners of the ducks objected to
the methods of the turtles, and a constant warfare was the result.

Peter had occasionally gone down to Barnegat with Indian John also. The
Indian always seemed to know just where the clams could be found in
greatest abundance, and he knew as well just how they ought to be
cooked. He would dig a hole in the sand and then fill it with wood, to
which he would set fire. Then the clams would be poured into the place
and covered over with seaweed and brush. When a sufficient time had
passed, the brush and seaweed would be raked out, and the cooked clams
were considered as a great luxury. This custom of the Indians was
bequeathed to the whites, and their method of cooking the clams remains
in some portions of the land until this day.

Between the thoughts of his own troubles and his recollections of former
visits to the place in which he then was, not much sleep came to Little
Peter that night. The knowledge that his father had been sent to New
York--for the troubled lad did not think of doubting Benzeor's
words--and the prospect of an attack upon the Washington on the
following morning were both sources of deep anxiety to the sadly
troubled boy. Only four men were on board when the whaleboat had
returned; and while the addition of the ten men she brought, or eleven
if Benzeor was to be included in the list of the Washington's defenders,
materially increased her strength, still, the prospect of a strong
defense was not very bright, and if the truth was known Little Peter was
not the only one on board who passed a sleepless night.

In addition to all this, the lad was sorely troubled as to his own
future movements. With his father a prisoner in New York and the
children quartered for the present at Benzeor's, Little Peter could not
determine what was best for him to do. To go to the city and seek to aid
his father there would be worse than useless now; nor was he able to
provide for his younger brothers and sisters. The problem had not been
solved when at last he fell into a troubled sleep, from which he was
awakened by the sound of men moving about on deck.

Hastily arising, and noting that Benzeor already was astir, he soon made
his way up to his companions. The sun was well up in the eastern sky,
and the men were preparing for such a defense as might be made against
any attempt to retake the boat.

Little Peter found that the most of the men did not believe that any
such attempt would be made; and the suspicion with which they regarded
Benzeor increased the feeling of sympathy which the lad felt for him,
for to him it seemed as if his neighbor had been most unjustly treated,
not only by the powerful Ted, but by the men of the whaleboat as well.
He thought he had abundant cause for believing in Benzeor's honesty, for
had he not received his own little brothers and sisters into his home?
Surely, a man who would do that could not be bad, and his indignation
against his recent companions increased as he noticed their
ill-concealed dislike for his neighbor.

The men all had breakfast on board; and while a constant watch was
maintained, nothing as yet had been seen to arouse their suspicion that
an attack was likely to be made. Even Little Peter was beginning to
think that either Benzeor had been mistaken or that the British had
changed their plans, and that nothing would be done that morning. He was
about to approach the leader and explain to him the necessity for his
own departure, when he was startled by a cry from the watch.

Looking out over the bay, Little Peter could see a number of barges
approaching. Startled by the sight, he counted the boats until he could
distinctly make out eight of them. Doubtless there were eight or ten men
in each boat, and altogether there must be at least seventy in the
approaching party.

The excitement on board the Washington at once became intense. The men
stood together on the deck watching the little fleet on the bay. The
only means by which they could defend themselves were their muskets, and
it was soon discovered that these would not avail much against the
enemy, for with the aid of a glass it was discovered that in the bow of
one of the approaching boats a small cannon had been mounted.

A hurried consultation was held by the men on board, to which neither
Little Peter nor Benzeor was invited; the former because he was
considered too young to be of much account, and the latter because no
one trusted him.

"They'll get this craft now," said Benzeor, approaching the place where
the lad was standing. "Perhaps these fellows will believe me another
time."

There was a tone of exultation in Benzeor's voice that startled Little
Peter, and turning quickly about he said, "You did speak truly, Benzeor.
I wish I were out of this. We stand no chance at all."

"You needn't be alarmed. There won't be any fighting done. You took my
part yesterday, and I'll not see you suffer now. I'll fix you out all
right."

"You'll fix me out? I don't see what you can do. We ought to leave the
ship this minute. I don't see what we're waiting for." Little Peter
spoke anxiously and was at no pains to conceal the alarm he felt.

"I hope they won't run," said Benzeor quietly. His air of confidence was
confusing; but as yet Little Peter was not suspicious of his neighbor.

"They don't act as if they were going to," said the lad quickly, as the
assembly of the men broke up and all began to rush about the deck.

"Come, my lad! come!" said the leader. "Lend a hand here! And you, too,"
he added to Benzeor; "bestir yourself."

Benzeor's face fell, but he was in no position to refuse to obey. Such
defenses as the Washington possessed were rolled together behind the
rail, and it was at once evident that the men were not planning to give
up the ship without a struggle.

The long whaleboat was placed in readiness to receive them, in case
flight became necessary, and then the men waited for the approach of the
attacking party.

The boats came steadily on, keeping well together. Little Peter found
himself sharing in the excitement, but as the outlines of the men became
more distinct his fears increased. What could be done against so many,
for it was now seen that there were more men in the barges than at first
had been estimated. The boats were spread out in a semicircle, but they
were all converging toward the Washington, and plainly would begin the
attack together. There were more of those small cannon also than at
first had been seen; and as the boats came nearer and nearer, it was
discovered that a man was standing near each and ready to fire at the
word of command.

The faces of the men on board the Washington were all pale now, and not
a word had been spoken for several minutes. Each man was intent upon the
movements of the men in the barges, and did not turn away from the sight
before him. Benzeor was the sole exception, and Little Peter could not
understand the meaning of the half exultant smile upon his face. For
himself, he was too badly frightened to speak, and the evident fear
manifested by his companions did not tend to allay his own.

The waters in the mouth of the river spread out almost as smooth as
glass. The rays of the morning sun were reflected from the surface of
the water and made it sparkle like silver. The occasional call of some
seabird or the flight of the low flying gulls were all that broke in
upon the silence, but no one heeded them. It was that slow moving but
steadily approaching fleet of barges that held the attention of all.

Little Peter wondered why the command to shoot was not given, for the
boats were all within range now. His own hands were trembling in his
excitement, but he was eager to act. At one moment he longed to leap
overboard and try to swim to the shore, and then again he would feel as
if he must do something to check the approach of those men in the
barges.

Not a word had yet been spoken, however. The oars of the approaching men
could now be distinctly seen as they rose and fell together. Steadily on
and on came the little fleet, and now could not be more than two hundred
yards away. Why did not the men on board do something? He felt that the
time for action had come, but all were standing silent and motionless,
apparently fascinated by the sight before them. The smile on Benzeor's
face was almost mocking, and Little Peter saw him look from the fleet to
the men on board, almost as if he were exulting in their predicament.
What could it all mean? Why was not something done? Surely the time for
action had come, but still no one spoke.

A hail now came from the approaching fleet, and the man who evidently
was in command stood up in his place. He was still too far away for his
words to be heard, and again the barges, which had halted for a moment,
resumed their approach and with an increased speed.

"Men," suddenly called the leader of those on board the Washington, in a
low voice, "we must get out of this! We're outnumbered seven or eight to
one, and it would be just murder for us to stay here. Man the whaleboat,
and we'll put out for the shore."

The hopelessness of any defense was so apparent that the men instantly
responded and made a rush for the whaleboat, which had been made ready
for just such an emergency. In a moment the men were on board and had
grasped their oars preparatory to starting for the shore, when Little
Peter suddenly noticed that Benzeor was not with them.

"Hold on! Hold on a minute!" he called. "Benzeor isn't here!"

The leader, who had remained on deck to be the last to leave, turned
quickly at the words and discovered Benzeor striving to conceal himself
among the defenses which had been piled together against the rail.

"Here, you!" he shouted. "Come out of that and get aboard! Be quick
about it! I'll wing you if you don't," he added, raising his gun as he
spoke, noticing that his call was not likely to be heeded.

Benzeor quickly responded, and sullenly took his place on board the
whaleboat; but the men were all too intent upon their escape to bestow
much attention upon him.

In a moment the leader leaped on board and gave the order to give way.
The long whaleboat darted swiftly forward as the men began to pull
desperately at their oars. They needed no encouragement now, for, with
their departure from the Washington, their only hope of safety lay in a
quick passage to the shore, which lay about a hundred yards away.

A shout from the men in the barges greeted the appearance of the
whaleboat as it shot out into sight, but the hail was not heeded. One of
the small cannon was discharged, and from one of the barges came a
volley; but only one man was hit, and the whaleboat rapidly increased
its speed.

The shore was near now, and the desperate men were putting forth all
their strength. The barges did not pursue, for the sailors were intent
upon gaining the ship first of all. In a few moments the whaleboat
grounded, and the men leaped out and started quickly for the woods which
grew close to the shore.

Little Peter was in the rear, and as he turned back to see what would be
done by the other party, he was astonished to see Benzeor turn quickly
and start at full speed for the whaleboat again. In a moment he had
leaped on board, and, seizing one of the oars, with a strong push sent
the boat far out upon the river.



CHAPTER XXI

THE RIDE WITH THE LIEUTENANT


TOM COWARD followed young Lieutenant Gordon as he led the way to the
post to which Friend Nathan had tied the steed, and then stopped and for
a moment gazed ruefully at the beast. His friend's good-natured laugh
broke forth again as he beheld Tom's evident hesitancy about mounting to
the back of the animal; and surely to a boy who had been accustomed to
ride the colts in Benzeor's pastures without saddle or bridle, and dash
about the lots in sheer delight at the antics and efforts of the
unbroken steeds to dislodge their rider, there was not much to inspire
or impress him in the sight of the broken-winded beast which Nathan had
provided. Even the horse himself appeared to be conscious of his
degradation, and stood motionless and with hanging head, as if he, too,
would protest against any warlike efforts on his part.

"I've only one request to make, Nathan," said the lieutenant. "I'm sure
you will not object to it, but I think I'd better make it before we
start."

"What is thy request?" said the Quaker.

"If General Washington once sees that horse, he'll want it for himself.
You'll not object, will you, to his use of it?"

"Nay. I think not that George Washington will care for this beast of
mine," protested Nathan soberly, and apparently not suspecting that the
young officer was poking fun at him. "Still, he may be able to make him
of some use. Thee will not forget to see that I am suitably rewarded?"

"Never fear as to that, though I doubt not my friend Tom here will be of
the opinion that you ought to pay him handsomely for the pain he will
suffer after he has ridden your beast a few miles. That is, if the horse
can go as far as that."

"Thy heart may rest easy as to that. He may limp when he first starts,
but as soon as his joints are warmed he will do thy service."

"We'll warm his joints, then," laughed the lieutenant. "You might be
warming him up now, Tom," he added, turning to his companion, "while I'm
getting my horse ready. He's in the barn, and I'll join you in a minute
or two."

In a brief time the officer returned, but his steed was showing the
evidences of his recent hard work, and Nathan's eyes twinkled with
satisfaction at the sight, for his own horse, perhaps, might not then be
at such a disadvantage, and the prospect of a "suitable" reward became
more promising.

The young men quickly mounted, and, after thanking their host in a
substantial manner for his hospitality, started down the long lane which
led to the road beyond. Tom's horse limped painfully and caused no
little delight to young Gordon, who again and again laughed aloud and
offered all manner of suggestions to the lad concerning the impression
he would create when the army should discover his approach.

At times Tom thought of dismounting and, turning the horse loose in the
road, strive to make his own way on foot; but the creaking joints of the
poor beast seemed to find relief with action, and the young riders had
not gone far on their way before, to the surprise of both, Nathan's
steed was proving his ability to keep up with the lieutenant's horse,
which evidently had been overridden and was in no condition for a hard
ride.

But, with the discovery of the service which Tom's horse might render,
all the disposition to regard their journey lightly departed from the
riders, and the serious nature of their undertaking rendered both of
them silent. The American army could not be far distant now, but between
them and it all the dangers had not disappeared. The visit of the
British band at the home of Nathan Brown had indicated that other
parties might be in the region on similar errands; but Tom was not
thinking of these possibilities so much as was the young officer who was
riding by his side.

Tom's meditations were mostly concerning the American army. For months
his strongest desire had been to join it, and now that the time had come
when his desires were likely to be satisfied, he discovered that much of
his eagerness was gone. Not that he had any thought of turning back, but
the proximity of the two armies clearly indicated that a meeting between
the forces was not improbable, and Tom's thoughts were largely of that.
The glamour was all gone now, and the serious nature of his undertaking
was uppermost in his mind. The silence also of his companion did not
tend to allay his fears, but the lad did not refer to them, and was
doing his utmost to make his horse keep up the pace at which he was
going.

"Whew! This is a warm morning! Let's give our horses a drink and a
rest," said the lieutenant at last, as he turned into a little brook
that crossed the road.

Tom followed his example, and the dripping horses thrust their heads
deep into the water. The sun had now appeared and the beams fell full on
their faces. The air was motionless, and even at that early hour was in
places quivering under the heat of the summer sun. The very birds were
silent, while high overhead the heavens were like brass. On the horizon
masses of dark clouds were piled, and a low, deep rumble startled both
the young riders.

"Was that a cannon, or was it thunder?" inquired Tom quickly.

"Thunder. We may hear the cannon before long, though."

"Why don't we start on, then? The sooner we gain the army the better. We
don't want to be caught in here between them." Tom spoke anxiously, and
his fear was as apparent in the expression upon his face as in his
words.

"We've got to give our horses a bit of a rest. Mine has been going hard
all night, and yours won't be able to go far in such heat as this. We'll
have to be careful of their strength, or we shall be worse off than we
are now."

"Have you been out all night? What have you been doing?"

"Finding out what Clinton is up to. When I was talking with Nathan I
knew all the time more about it than he did."

"Did you find out?" said Tom eagerly. "What are the redcoats doing now?"

"Pretty much the same thing they've been doing right along. They're
making a change in the direction they're going, unless I'm greatly
mistaken. And then, too, they've done something else which doesn't
promise very well."

"What's that?"

"They've drawn all their stronger forces into the rear guard and sent on
the Hessians with the baggage train in front, for one thing."

"Why do you suppose they have done that?"

"Oh, they've an idea, I fancy, that we're going to try to take their
supplies. They'll find out, though, that we're after men more than we
are after their baggage wagons. However, that explains the change in
the direction of their march, if I'm not greatly mistaken. They've put
the Hessians in front and the best men behind."

"I wish they had left the Dutch butchers there!" said Tom impulsively.
"I hate the Hessians. I hate the very name and sight of them! Think of
it! A lot of men just hired to come over here and shoot and kill and
steal! I wish they had been left where they were, that is, if General
Washington is ready for them!"

"I think you'll find him ready when the time comes," remarked the
lieutenant quietly. "But about the Hessians. I don't like them any
better than you do, but somehow I can't bring myself to feel about it as
some of the men do. I can't see that they're to be blamed for being
brought over here, or even being engaged in such work as they're doing;
and I know more about that than you do, too. The ones who are the worst
are not those who have come over here, but those who have sent them.
Just think of a petty little prince, or king, being able to hire out a
lot of his own subjects to pay off his own debts with! These men feel
just the same as you or I would, I have thought. They have wives and
mothers and children, and yet they have to leave them all and come over
here and be marks for our bullets, whether they want to be or not. They
just haven't anything to say about it. They're told to come and come
they must, though there won't be so many to go back as came over, I'm
thinking. At least, I'm going to do all I can to thin out their ranks,
though I feel sorry for the poor fellows all of the time."

This was a new way of looking at the hated "Dutch butchers," at least it
was entirely new to Tom Coward. He had heard only the expressions of
rage among the colonists which their coming had aroused, and their
strange words and brutal acts had never received much mercy in the
judgment which he had heard passed upon them by his acquaintances.

The anger of the patriots, perhaps, was but natural; but the employment
of the Hessians has not furnished the only instance in history where the
first and most apparent view has not always been the most correct one.
Indeed, it frequently happens that the troubles between men, to say
nothing of boys, arises from a misunderstanding; and it is the part of
wisdom, as well as of justice, to look below the surface and try to
discover the true conditions.

"Then the British are to be blamed, if what you say is true," said Tom,
after a brief silence. "They are the ones at the bottom of it all."

"Yes, the British are the ones who are most to be blamed. But even
there, Tom, if I'm correctly informed, it's the leaders and not the
people. The way I understand it is that the rank and file of the common
people in England are opposed to this war, and would put a stop to it in
a moment if they could."

"If they could?" repeated Tom. "I don't understand what you mean."

"Just what I say. The very best people in England have, from the very
beginning of this war, been opposed to the taxes, the use of the
Indians, and the hiring of these Hessians. It's the king and Lord North
and a few others of the pig-headed fellows who are doing it all. Tom, my
father and my mother both came from England. As far back as I can
remember they have told me stories of our old home and of the friends we
have over there. Why, do you know it's been the dream of my life to go
over there some day, and meet some of my cousins and see the place
where my father and mother were born."

"I didn't know you were a tory," said Tom slowly.

"Tory? I haven't a drop of tory blood in my veins, and hope I never
shall have."

"But--but--you talk like one."

"Is it tory talk for me to say I don't blame the Hessians for coming
over here, but those who hired them and sent them? Is it tory talk for
me to say I love to think of the place where my father and mother were
born, and that I should be glad to look into the faces of those who bear
the same name I do, and who have some of the same kind of blood in their
veins? Is it tory talk for me to say that I'm proud of what Old England
has done, or rather of many things she has done, from the days of
William the Conqueror until now? And that belongs to me as much as it
does to them, for my own grandfather was one of the bravest men in the
whole British army! This war is like one between brothers, and it's all
the more wicked on that account. And it's worse yet, because the most of
the Englishmen are not in favor of it at all."

"I don't just see why you don't fight with the redcoats, instead of
against them, then."

"Because this is my home and this is my country, and because the king
and his court aren't fit to govern cannibals, to say nothing of men. No,
sir, it's just because I do believe in all I've said that I'm fighting
for my country and shall till the war is ended--which I hope will be
soon!"

"And would you shoot a redcoat or a Dutch butcher?"

"Every time! It was a sad thing that the war had to come, but as come it
did, it would be sadder still not to do everything in our power now to
carry it through. I'm sorry for the Hessians, but I'd shoot every one of
them if I could do it. I'm sorry for the redcoats, and I know they are
not to be blamed, or at least some of them are not, but I'd mow them
down now, every one of them, as I'd cut the grass in haying-time. Fight?
Why, my lad, I'm in this war from the crown of my head to the sole of my
foot! And I wouldn't stop till the redcoats cry 'enough,' or we drive
them right into the Atlantic ocean, the way Parson Tennent used to tell
about the pigs in Gadara being chased by the devils right into the sea.
Not that I think the ones who are doing the chasing are in any way
connected with the swine drivers in the parson's story," he added,
laughing lightly as he spoke. "But we must be going. Our horses are
rested now, and we'll be running into a thunder-storm before we see the
Continentals, if we don't look out."

The ride was quickly resumed, but Tom Coward was silent and sadly
puzzled to account for his friend's words. Apparently, he was
enthusiastic in his devotion to the cause of the patriots, but he had
never heard any one talk in that manner before. His friends and
neighbors were all hard and bitter, and the bitterness seemed to
increase as the war continued. But here was his friend, fighting with
all the devotion of his heart, and yet not blaming the very men he was
trying hard to conquer for the part they were taking in the war.

It seemed to him all strange, and while he was deeply impressed by many
of the words of the enthusiastic young lieutenant, his own feelings were
of a very decidedly different character. For a half hour they rode
forward as swiftly as their steeds could carry them, but the heavy
clouds had meanwhile been climbing higher in the heavens, and the
mutterings of the thunder had now become deeper and heavier.

"We'll put into that barn ahead there, and wait for the storm to pass,"
said the lieutenant, pointing as he spoke to a rude barn by the
roadside.

As the rain was now falling, Tom was glad to follow the advice, and in a
few moments they approached the open door. They had not dismounted when
a strangely clad being stepped forth from the barn and shouted:--

"Halt, will yez? I'll be after havin' yez give an account of yerselves,
that I will."

Tom glanced up in fear and surprise, and the sight before him did not
tend to allay his alarm. The soldier presented a gun, but was its bearer
a man or woman? A long petticoat certainly looked like the garb of a
woman, but the soldier also was clad in an artilleryman's coat, while a
cocked hat and feathers crowned the head of the strange being.

Tall, broad-shouldered, and with a voice that was gruff and deep, the
strangely clad soldier bore but slight resemblance to a woman, though
the dress certainly seemed to proclaim the sex of the speaker.

The rain was now falling in torrents and Tom was drenched in a moment;
but in the brief silence which followed the demand of the soldier, he
could not determine what course his companion would decide to follow.



CHAPTER XXII

A SOLDIER WOMAN


"WHY, Molly, you aren't going to keep us out here in the rain, are you?"

Tom looked up in surprise as he heard the young lieutenant's words; and
while his fears were somewhat relieved by the assurance that his
companion evidently had recognized the peculiar being before them, his
confusion was not diminished by the reply which the strangely clad woman
quickly made.

"Sure, and it's me bye! It's me beautiful bye! Come in, me darlint! What
for should ye be standin' out there in the storm?"

The two dripping young soldiers speedily accepted the invitation, and
entered the barn, leading their horses with them. To their surprise they
now discovered that several men were also in the building, and that
other horses were stalled in the barn.

The appearance of Tom's horse was greeted by a shout of delight, and the
person whom Lieutenant Gordon had addressed as "Molly" approached, and,
after critically examining the poor beast for a moment, said:--

"And where in the world did ye be after findin' that? It's a pity, it is
indade, to be after compellin' such poor bastes as that to be fightin'
the Dootch butchers! Sure, and it's the surgeon the poor thing is after
needin'."

Molly's hair was of a bright red color, her face was covered with
freckles, which were like great blotches upon the skin, and her eyes
were so faded as to be almost colorless; but her expression was so
evidently one of good nature that Tom was compelled to join in the laugh
which her words raised among the half dozen men who quickly assembled to
pass judgment upon the steed which had been led into the barn.

"Oh, that's something we bought back here to carry my friend as far as
the army."

"It's lucky, it is, that ye haven't very far to go, thin," laughed
Molly.

"Perhaps you're right, Molly," replied the lieutenant. "How far back is
the army now?"

"About a mile, I'm thinkin'."

"What? What's that you say? Only a mile from here?"

"That's what I'm tellin' yez. The army's been marchin' in the night; but
this rain will be after compellin' it to halt right in--in Gooseberry,
as I'm told they call it."

"Cranberry," laughed the lieutenant.

"Cranberry or Gooseberry is all one and the same thing to me. Now, me
bye, ye'll be after wantin' some breakfast, I'm thinkin'. Jest say the
word and I'll be fixin' ye out, and have a bit left over for yer poor
baste, which doesn't look as if he'd been livin' any too high of late."

"No, no, Molly," protested the lieutenant quickly, and, as Tom thought,
with an eagerness he could not understand. "We're not hungry, for we had
some breakfast before we started this morning. We did indeed," he added,
as he noted the woman's apparent unbelief. "We're not hungry, but it's
kind of you to think of us, and we thank you just the same as if you had
fed us."

In the course of the conversation between the young lieutenant and the
men in the barn, Tom learned that the main body of the army was now less
than a mile away. The little band had been one of the advance parties,
and the storm had compelled them to seek the shelter of the barn by the
roadside.

Meanwhile, the rain continued to fall, and long after the thunder ceased
the storm showed no signs of abating. The water almost covered the road
and penetrated the roof of the barn, which was far from being in a good
state of repair. The heavy downpour, however, did not seem to cool the
air, and the men and horses were in a sad plight. Just why they should
have sought the shelter, which virtually was no shelter at all, Tom
could not understand; but he asked no questions, and busied himself in
listening to the conversation of the men, and watching the intrepid
Molly, who to all appearances was not aware of the fact that she was not
as much of a true soldier as any of the men.

After a half hour had passed the lieutenant approached the boy, who was
standing before the open door, looking out upon the storm.

"Who is she? What is she?" inquired Tom, indicating by a glance of his
eyes the strange woman whom his friend had addressed as "Molly."

"She? Oh, she's the wife of one of the cannoneers. She's been in the
army for a long time. She's from New Jersey, too, I understand, though
her husband's home is in Pennsylvania."

"I didn't know there were women in the army."

"Oh yes, there have always been some. Why, even on that expedition of
Arnold's to Quebec there were several women who marched all the way with
their husbands, and they say they stood the long tramps and the cold
better than a good many of the men did."

"Why did you call this woman 'Molly'? Is that her name?"

"Oh, in the army, or at least in this army, the women have been the ones
to bring us water on the warm days, and so we call each one Molly
'Pitcher.' They've been kept busy during this hot spell, too. This
woman's name I believe is really Molly, though,--Molly McCauley. Then
you didn't expect to see women with their husbands in the army?" laughed
the lieutenant, as he noticed that Tom was regarding Mistress McCauley
curiously.

"No, I didn't. I don't think I like it."

"You'll find all sorts and kinds of people in the ranks. Some of the
women have been worth more than the men. There was one up at Fort
Clinton. She was very much such a looking woman as Captain Molly here,
only she was a good deal more careless. They used to call her 'Dirty
Kate,' because she wasn't always very neat in her personal appearance.
But she was brave as a lion, and such a fighter! Why, she fired the last
cannon at the British, as they came scrambling over the ramparts, which
happened to be about the same time our men were leaving. Well, Kate's
husband was a cannoneer, just as Molly's here is, and he was holding the
match in his hand ready to fire the gun when he saw the redcoats coming,
and the sight suddenly reminded him that he had some work to do outside
the fort which demanded his immediate attention. Well, Kate just picked
up the match her husband had dropped, touched off the cannon, and then
scampered away after the men. She was a brave woman, and so is Captain
Molly, here. She'd do as well as Kate did, if she had the chance, and
perhaps she will before the end comes. I shouldn't want to have her
fight me, I can tell you!"[2]

Tom turned and looked again at the woman. She stood talking with her
husband now, and her strange garb served to intensify her peculiarities.
Her great size and evident strength were plainly to be seen, but her
face beamed with good nature, and her enjoyment of the life she was
living was indicated by her every word and action.

Tom thought of Sarah, and the contrast between her gentleness and the
rough appearance and masculine manners of Captain Molly aroused within
him a feeling which was not altogether in favor of the soldier woman. It
is true that the name of Sarah is unknown to-day, while that of Captain
Molly Pitcher is recorded in all our school histories; but, after all,
notoriety may not be the most valuable quality in life, and while the
names of many men and women who lived quiet, faithful, honest lives may
have been forgotten by their descendants, they may not have been of the
less value to the world because of that fact. A good name is sometimes
better than a notorious one, and an honest man, though he may be soon
forgotten, may be greater than a dishonest man whose name is frequently
mentioned. Few of us would desire to be like Benedict Arnold, although
his name is a very familiar one to all.

"I don't see any use in staying here," said Tom at last. "It's wet
inside the barn, and it can't be much worse outside. Why don't we start
on?"

Now that he was so near to the American army, the lad was eager to go
forward. All his dreams and visions of the forces which were fighting
against the redcoats came back to him, and his impatience to proceed
increased each moment. Perhaps the sight and presence of Captain Molly,
as well as the account the young lieutenant had given of her, had
created a still greater desire in Tom's heart to quit the place; but, be
that as it may, he was ready to go, and apparently his companion shared
in his feeling.

"If you think your horse will stand up for a mile, we might do as you
say," replied the lieutenant. "I think we'll be going on," he added,
turning to the men as he spoke. "I've some important information to give
the general, and as I don't see any signs of the rain stopping, I think
we ought not to delay longer. We can't be much worse off than we are
now."

"Sure, and ye'll not be after goin' out in such a storm as this!"
protested Molly. "It would be a shame to take that poor baste out into
the rain now. He has all he can do to stand up in the barn, to say
nothin' of havin' to be carryin' a load. It's the last drop that'll be
after breakin' of his back, yez know."

The men all laughed at the woman's words, but the lieutenant was not to
be deterred, and accordingly the horses were brought forth and the two
men speedily mounted. Tom's horse was limping painfully when he started,
and as the lad glanced backward he could see Captain Molly standing in
the doorway, her hands resting upon her hips, and her broad, freckled
face beaming with delight over the sorry spectacle he was well aware
that he presented.

A feeling of disgust arose in his heart as he watched her. Surely she
must be lacking in all the qualities which he had most honored in the
women he knew. Coarseness was in place of delicacy, boldness instead of
modesty, and her entire bearing was such that Tom never afterwards could
hear her name mentioned without expressing his disgust. Not even the
bravery of the deed which Captain Molly Pitcher did not many hours after
this time, and which Tom Coward himself witnessed, entirely banished the
prejudice which he entertained against the coarse, good-natured, manly,
unwomanly woman.

The storm had ceased when, after a short ride, Tom and his companion
first came within sight of the American army. All the long pent-up hopes
of the lad were now about to be fulfilled, and for the first time in his
life he was to look upon the men whose names and deeds had long been
familiar to him. His eagerness brought a smile to his companion's face,
but while he watched the lad he did not speak.

Molly Pitcher had spoken truly, and the American army had halted after a
brief march from Kingston in the preceding night, and now were compelled
to remain during the entire day in Cranberry. Only the advance corps had
moved forward, and at that time were holding a position on the road to
Monmouth Court House and within five miles of the rear of the British.

In spite of his own excitement, and that which was apparent among the
men in the camp when Tom and the lieutenant entered, the lad's first
feeling was one of keen disappointment. Were these the men of whom he
had heard so much and from whom so much was expected? Mud-stained, worn
by their recent exertions, plainly showing the effects of the intense
heat, many of them without uniforms, some hatless and coatless, to the
vision of Tom Coward they presented far more the appearance of a mob
than of the orderly and well-trained soldiers he had expected to see.

The young lieutenant had left him as soon as they entered the camp,
leading the two horses away with him,--a fact over which Tom did not
long lament, we may be sure. An hour passed before the young officer
returned, for he was to make a report of all that he had learned, and
Tom's hopes were not strengthened as he watched the men about him during
his companion's absence.

Lieutenant Gordon noticed the expression upon Tom's face when he
rejoined him, but, attributing it to the fear which he supposed the lad
felt, he did not refer to it, and in the labors which soon followed no
opportunity to explain was given by either.

General Dickinson, with the New Jersey militia, was not with the main
body, as we already know, and Tom found that he could not be assigned to
them. Through the lieutenant's influence, he was to be retained with the
main body, and to assist in serving as a guide for the army, an office
which Tom was well fitted to hold, although it was not just in accord
with the plans he had formed in his own mind.

Reports came into the camp during the day which clearly indicated that
the advance corps was too far away to be properly supported at once in
the present condition of the roads. But on Saturday morning Lafayette,
with his troops, was ordered to file off by his left towards
Englishtown, and in the same day the main body, under General
Washington, marched out from Cranberry and encamped within three miles
of the place.

This brought the two opposing armies now within eight miles of each
other, while General Lee's forces, five thousand strong, without
Morgan's dragoons or the New Jersey militia, were three miles nearer the
British.

Such was the condition of affairs on that night of Saturday, June 27
(1778), and Tom Coward, as well as many of the men in Washington's army,
slept but little, with the knowledge that on the morrow the long delayed
battle would doubtless be begun.

FOOTNOTE:

[2] In many of our histories the "Captain Molly" of Monmouth has been
confounded with "Dirty Kate" of Fort Clinton. They were, however, two
women,--not one. Lossing, in the first edition of his _Field Book of the
American Revolution_, referred to them as if they were identical, but
the correction was to have been made for his second edition, and was in
type, but through an oversight was omitted.



CHAPTER XXIII

AN INTERRUPTED JOURNEY


THE surprise of Little Peter at the unexpected action of Benzeor was
increased when the escaping man seated himself in the whaleboat and
quickly began to row the long craft back toward the Washington.

"Hurrah for the redcoats! Hurrah for King George! Hurrah for the
British!" shouted Benzeor defiantly.

This boldness was as surprising to Peter as the sudden departure had
been; but, as he glanced toward the Washington and saw that the
attacking party had already boarded her, and then realized that he
himself had been left alone by his recent companions, he was quickly
recalled to the necessity of action on his own part. Without waiting to
observe the further movements of Benzeor or the British, he instantly
turned and entered the woods; but a quarter of an hour had elapsed
before he overtook the men, whom he found resting by the side of the
road which led past the home of Ted Wilson.

To this house the entire party now made their way, and as Ted listened
to the story of Benzeor's perfidy, his anger broke forth afresh.

"I never ought to have let the rascal go!" exclaimed Ted excitedly. "I
had him right there in the river, and if you hadn't interfered with me
I'd have fixed him so that he never would have betrayed any one again.
Now the rascal's where he can keep up his evil doings."

"He's shown where he stands, any way. That's some comfort," said one of
the men.

"It may comfort you, but it doesn't me," replied Ted. "I'm a peaceable
man, I am, and I never cared much about whether it was to be the King of
England or the Continental Congress that ruled over me. I don't see as
it would make very much difference to me, for my part. But when that
rascal hangs my Sallie up on the limb of a tree,--Sallie's my wife, ye
know,--why, then Benzeor Osburn has jest got to look out for himself."

Ted's anger was so evident that Little Peter almost had a feeling of
sympathy for Benzeor, angry as he himself was at the treachery his
neighbor had displayed.

"Are you going to follow him up, Ted?" inquired the leader.

"Am I goin' to follow him? That's just what I'm going to do! I'm goin'
to send Sallie and the babies over to your house, and I'm just goin' to
leave my place here,--they can't steal that, any way,--and follow up
Benzeor Osburn till I find him. I don't care if he runs clear to the
other side of the Alleghany Mountains,--I've heard as how there was some
mountains by that name away out west somewhere,--why, Benzeor'll wake up
some fine mornin' and find himself a-shakin' hands with me. Yes, sir,
this land o' ours may put up with the Hessians, but it isn't big enough
to hold such a fellow as Benzeor! Hangin' Sallies! I'll put a stop to
his fine work! Sallie's my wife, ye know!"

"Remember us to him when you meet him, Ted," said the leader. "You can
charge him for the loss of the Washington, too!"

"His door will be free of all chalk scores when I'm done with him," said
Ted savagely. "That's goin' to be my work, clearin' the land of pine
robbers, just as I once cleared it of pine stumps!"

"We must start on now," said the leader. "Take your wife and children up
to my house, Ted. The women can fight together against the pine robbers,
if they come there."

"They won't come there," replied Ted. "There'll be fewer of 'em when
I've done my duty. There'll be no more hangin' Sallies. Sallie's my
wife, ye know."

"I suspected as much from your words," said the leader. "Are you going
with us?" he added, turning, as he spoke, to Little Peter.

"No," replied the lad.

"What are you going to do now? You can't get your father out of the New
York prisons. You'd better come with us."

"I can't. I've other work to do."

"Have it your own way, my lad, though I think you're making a mistake
not to come with us."

The band soon departed, leaving Little Peter and the huge Ted behind
them. There was slight likelihood that the men who had captured the
Washington would venture on shore to pursue the fugitives, and the
knowledge of this fact had made all the parties feel comparatively safe.

"What are you goin' to do now?" said Ted, when he and Little Peter were
left alone.

"I'm going straight to Benzeor's house. After what I have just seen, I'm
afraid to leave the children there another minute. I never would have
thought Benzeor was a traitor, never! But he is, there's no doubt about
it now! I don't know what will become of them. I don't know where to
turn, or what to do."

Little Peter then went on to relate the story of the sad loss which had
occurred in his home, Ted listening meanwhile with intense interest.

"It's Benzeor's work!" he said excitedly when the lad at last stopped.
"Yes, sir! You mark my words, Benzeor Osburn was at the bottom of it
all. You'll have to go in with me and help rid the land of him! The
rascal! Goin' round hangin' Sallies and shootin' mothers!"

"I've all I want to do to look after my little brothers and sisters,"
said Little Peter quietly. "I don't know what I can do with them, but I
can't leave them at Benzeor's!"

"No more you can't," said Ted. "I'll tell you what to do with 'em. Jest
bring 'em all down here and leave 'em with Sallie over at the captain's.
I think they'll be safe enough there."

"Thank you; but it's most too far to bring them, I'm afraid. It's a good
twenty miles from here, and we haven't a horse left."

"I wish I could let ye have one, but all of mine are gone too, except
one little mule; and you'd have to turn him round and make him go
backward if you wanted to go anywhere, he's such an obstinate little
beast. I'll tell you what I'll do, Peter! Just as soon as I've taken
Sallie--she's my wife, ye know--and the babies over to the captain's,
I'll go with ye and help ye out. That's what I'll do for ye."

"Thank you again," replied Peter, "but I don't think you had better do
it. You may be needed around here, and I don't know yet what I shall
do."

"Maybe you're right, Peter, maybe you're right. Well, have it your own
way. When are you goin' to start?"

"Right away."

Little Peter at once bade his friend good-by and started forth on his
long walk. He had appreciated the offer of the mighty Ted, but there
were many reasons why he wished to be alone, for a time at least.
Benzeor's treachery was still so fresh in his mind that he knew not what
to do, and the excitement attending the escape from the Washington had
not yet disappeared. Then, too, he did not know what the angry giant
might be moved to do. Ordinarily good-natured and easy-going as the
powerful man was, when once his wrath was aroused there would be no
limits to what it might lead him into. And Little Peter's heart was too
heavy, under the burden of his recent sorrows and present perplexities,
to permit the lad to be drawn aside from the task which had presented
itself to him.

He had gone about half the way down the long lane which led from Ted's
house to the road, when he heard some one calling to him. Looking
quickly behind him, he discovered Ted himself running rapidly down the
path toward him.

Startled by the sight and fearful that some new danger had appeared, he
stopped, and then turned back to meet the man.

"What is it? What is it?" he called.

Ted stopped as the lad called, and, shaking one of his great fists in
the air, replied, "Hangin' Sallies! Hangin' Sallies!"

"What? Have they tried it again?"

"No! Once was enough, I should think, when Sallie's my wife, ye know! I
just wanted to remind ye what the password was. It's 'Hangin' Sallies,'
that's what it is! Ye won't forget it, will ye?"

"No," replied Peter soberly. "I'll try to keep it in mind."

"That's right! See that ye do! Hangin' Sallies, that's the word. I jest
wanted to remind ye of it, that was all. Hangin' Sallies! Hangin'
Sallies!"

Little Peter resumed his journey, but, until he passed around the bend
in the road, whenever he looked behind him he could see the mighty Ted
standing in the lane, and shaking his fist in the air if he perceived
that the lad beheld him.

What a strange man Ted was, thought Little Peter as he walked on. He had
known him for years, as had most of the people in Old Monmouth. His
feats in the country wrestling matches had made him famous, and
marvelous were the tales told concerning his almost superhuman strength.
It had been related that Ted one time had lifted a great ox bodily from
the ground, and Little Peter had believed the report. And yet, with it
all, Ted had always seemed to him like a boy. Kind-hearted, ever willing
to grant a favor or do anything within his power for another, he had
never before seen him when his wrath was kindled. "Hanging Sallies!"
Perhaps Ted's feelings were only natural when he had discovered the
pine robbers in their cruel act. Benzeor would not be likely to escape
from his hands so easily, if the angry man once held him in his grasp
again.

But Sallie Wilson was still alive, and the lad thought Ted's position
was far better than his own. His mother shot by the pine robbers, his
father sent away a prisoner, perhaps to die of starvation in those
dreadful prison ships of which so many stories already had been told,
and his younger brothers and sisters homeless and helpless, and all
looking to him as their sole support. What could he do? Surely no one in
Old Monmouth had suffered more than he, although Old Monmouth itself had
known more of the evils of war than almost any other portion of our land
in all that fearful struggle of the American Revolution.

"How?"

Little Peter's meditations were suddenly interrupted by Indian John, who
stepped forth into the road and greeted him with his customary
salutation.

"Where did you come from, John? I thought you were up in Moluss's
wigwam."

"Moluss gone, Bath gone, John gone, too. Come to help friend. Find
fader?" he suddenly added, peering keenly, as he spoke, into Little
Peter's face.

"No; my father has been sent to New York."

"Bad. What boy do now?"

"I'm going back to Benzeor's to look after the children."

The Indian's eyes betrayed the question he might have asked, but did
not. Indian John soon induced his companion to abandon the road and
follow him through the forests. Many a mile was saved in this manner,
and, under the burning heat of the sun, the shade of the great trees was
most grateful to the sadly troubled lad. There was something in the
presence of the majestic trees which seemed to appeal to Little Peter.
He was alone and yet not alone with such companions. Indian John also
seemed to share in his feelings, and seldom spoke. For mile after mile
they continued on their journey, and the shadows were lengthening when
at last they stepped forth into the road, which Peter recognized, and
then knew that Benzeor's house was not far away. The long journey would
soon be ended now, and fresh hope came to the weary lad, as he thought
that he would see the children again.

What he should do with them, however, was a problem still unsolved, and
the solution apparently was no nearer than when he had set forth on his
journey from the home of Ted Wilson. With all of the anger which had
come with the discovery of Benzeor's treachery, Little Peter could not
bring himself to believe that either Sarah or her mother had any
knowledge of his evil deeds. His confidence in them was still unbroken,
and his sole hope was that they might be able to suggest some plan by
which the children could be cared for. As for leaving them at Benzeor's,
that was impossible; and as the lad thought again of the discovery of
his neighbor's crimes, he quickened his pace, and he and his companion
began to walk more rapidly along the hot and dusty road. Not more than
two miles remained between them and the end of their journey, and, in
his eagerness, Little Peter almost forgot his weariness and constantly
urged the Indian by his side to increase their speed.

They had been in the road but a few minutes when they heard the sound of
horsemen approaching from behind them. All unsuspicious of danger,
Little Peter and Indian John halted, waiting for the men to pass. There
were five of them in the band, and all were riding swiftly. Their horses
were dripping, and with almost every step flung the foam from their
mouths. Surely something must be wrong, to induce men to ride like that
upon such a warm day, thought Little Peter; but his surmises were
quickly driven from his mind when he recognized Fenton and Benzeor in
advance of the band.

Startled by the unexpected sight, he hardly knew what to do. The men
were too near for him to hope to escape their notice now; and, even
while he hesitated, he saw Benzeor quickly draw the rein on the horse he
was riding and leap to the ground.

"Get him! Shoot him! Stop that boy!" shouted Benzeor.

Indian John had been keenly watching the approaching band, and as he
heard the shout of the angry man, he touched Peter upon the arm, and
said, "Come."

Little Peter instantly responded, and followed his companion as he
started swiftly across the open lot toward the woods which lay beyond
it.



CHAPTER XXIV

THE ABODE OF INDIAN JOHN


THE pursuit of Little Peter and Indian John was not long continued, nor
was a single gun discharged; a fact for which the frightened lad was
unable to account at the time, although on the following morning the
cause for it was made clear.

Wearied though the lad was by his long journey, the shout of Benzeor had
provided an impulse sufficiently strong to compel him to keep up with
his companion, who was running swiftly toward the shelter of the woods
which were not far away.

In a brief time the breathless fugitives gained its shelter, and then
for the first time turned and glanced behind them. The men had turned
back and now could be seen still standing by the roadside, near the
place where Peter and the Indian had started across the lot. What they
were doing could not be discovered; but, without waiting for further
investigations, the flight was at once resumed, and, keeping well
together, the lad and his companion ran swiftly forward, and soon the
distance between them and the pine robbers had been still further
increased.

The sunlight had now departed from the forest, and the dusk had settled
over all. The air was close and oppressive, and Peter's dripping face
betrayed the force of his recent exertions and the excitement under
which he was laboring. Already the night birds had made their
appearance, and here and there among the branches of the lofty trees the
bats could be seen darting about in quest of their evening meal. The
very silence served to increase the feeling of utter loneliness which
swept over the weary, heartbroken lad, and for a moment it almost seemed
to him as if any further efforts on his part were as useless as they
were difficult. Benzeor's anger promised little good for the children
who had been left in his home, and fears for his little brothers and
sisters were mingled in Little Peter's mind with the consciousness of
his own weariness and the thought of his own forlorn condition.

Difficult as the problem doubtless was, he knew he must not give way to
it, and when Indian John indicated in a few moments that the time had
come when they must go on, the lad resolutely again turned to follow
him, although he had not the slightest conception of the plan which was
in his companion's mind.

Carefully they walked on through the increasing gloom, and within a half
hour Little Peter heard the sounds of a running brook in the distance.
He instantly recognized the locality, for many a time had he and Tom in
the springtime followed the course of the "run," as the people of Old
Monmouth called the stream, and the strings of fish which they had
brought home with them had borne ample witness to the success which had
crowned their efforts.

But none of these things were in Little Peter's mind as he followed
Indian John, who had now turned and was proceeding along the bank and
making his way up the stream. As they walked on, the sound of a
waterfall began to be more and more distinctly heard, and soon they came
out into a place from which, in the deepening gloom, the falling waters
could be seen. Into the basin which had been formed by the sharp fall of
the stream, a tall, large tree had fallen years before this time. Its
broken roots had torn up the earth, and now stood like a barrier on the
bank, and Indian John led the way directly toward this spot.

As they approached, Peter discovered a hole in the rocks, but he was not
prepared for the action of his companion; for, without a word, the
Indian dropped upon his hands and knees and crawled into the entrance
and speedily disappeared from sight.

Hesitating only a moment, Little Peter soon followed his companion, and
after crawling along on his hands and knees for a number of yards,
suddenly beheld a large, open space directly before him. Indian John had
provided a light by this time, for he had been willing to follow the
customs of his more civilized neighbors to the extent of making use of
candles, and as Peter arose and glanced about him, he knew at once that
he was in the cave which it was reported was the abode of the red man.

Frequently as the lad had passed the very place into which he had
crawled that night, it had never occurred to him that it was anything
more than a hole in the rocks that formed the bank of the "run," and his
surprise was therefore the greater at the sight before him. The spot was
considerably above the bed of the stream, and consequently was
comparatively dry. Straw and dry leaves lay scattered about over the
floor, and the sheltered place apparently was safe from all approach or
danger.

Indian John at once indicated to his companion that he was to pass the
night there, and the weary lad was glad to accept the invitation, and
soon stretched himself upon the bed of straw. The light of the candle
was extinguished, and the Indian then speedily followed the example of
Peter. The sounds of the running brook came faintly to the ears of the
troubled lad, but that was all he could hear. The darkness was intense,
and for a time the fear of other occupants of various kinds prevented
Peter from sleeping, but at last even that was forgotten in the
dreamless sleep that followed.

When he awoke, Little Peter at first could not determine where he was,
but as the outlines of the cave were seen in the dim light which
penetrated it, the experiences of the preceding day were recalled, and
he quickly arose. Indian John was not in the cave, however, and as the
lad now was aware that the morning had come, he hastily crawled through
the passageway that led to the bank.

As he regained the bank, he saw that his companion was busily engaged in
roasting some birds he had shot. The sight was a welcome one, for Peter
was now aware of the fact that he was decidedly hungry, and, following
his companion's advice, he departed in search of some berries to add to
the morning meal. In the course of a half hour he returned with his hat
well filled, and, after bathing his hands and face in the cool waters of
the brook, prepared at once to join his companion.

For a few minutes neither spoke, but the rapid manner in which the
roasted birds disappeared showed that conversation was not uppermost in
their minds.

At last, when several of the birds had been eaten, and many of the
berries had disappeared, Indian John turned to his companion and said,
"Boy want 'hop-hop' now? Plenty 'hop-hop.' Make um good."

"No, no," replied Peter quickly. "The birds are enough. Where did you
get them, John?"

"Shoot um. Plenty birds; plenty 'hop-hop.'"

"You must have been up early this morning, John. I didn't hear you."

The Indian made no reply and remained silent for several minutes. Then,
turning abruptly and looking keenly at Peter, he said, "What boy do
now?"

"I don't know," replied Little Peter disconsolately.

The words brought him face to face again with the problem that must be
solved. The fresh cool air of the morning, the silence of the forest,
and, above all, the enjoyment of the breakfast which John had provided,
made him at first wish that he might remain there and forget all the
troubles that were so near. But Peter was not a selfish lad, and knew
that the motherless children must be provided for.

"I was going to Benzeor's," he said after a time, "but I don't know what
to do now. I can't understand what he meant by coming back here in broad
daylight after what has happened. He knows that I know all about it, and
that was the reason why he wanted to catch me last night. I can't go up
to his house now, and yet I don't dare leave the children there,
either."

"Boy go," said Indian John quietly.

"But I can't go, John. How can I? There were four men with Benzeor, and
you heard what he said. It wouldn't be safe for me to go there now. I
don't know what to do."

"Boy go; Benzeor no there."

"Benzeor not there? How do you know? What makes you think that, John?"

"John been there."

"When? This morning?"

The Indian nodded his head, and then said, "Man no there. Girl there.
Two, t'ree little Peters there. Boy go. All safe."

"You don't mean it?" said Peter eagerly, and standing erect as he spoke.
"Come on, then, John; we'll start this minute."

"Boy go; Indian no go."

"Why not? I thought you were going with me."

"John no go. John no home, no papoose, no notin'. All white man now. All
gone. Indian no stay. Boy go."

"All right, John; I won't urge you. But if you're right, and Benzeor
isn't at home, you needn't be afraid."

The Indian's eyes snapped at the words, but he made no reply, and Little
Peter was too eager to start now to realize the force of his own words.
As he departed, he saw his recent companion standing on the bank of the
brook in an attitude as if he were listening to sounds far off in the
forest. Perhaps if the lad had realized that it was the last time he
would ever behold the face of Indian John, he would have lingered
longer; but, as it was, his desire to go to Benzeor's house and learn of
the present condition of the children banished all other thoughts from
his mind, and in a few moments he had started toward the road.

He retraced his way across the open lot, and as he came within sight of
the road he suddenly stopped, as he saw a mounted man there. Apparently
the man was alone, and what was strange was the fact that he apparently
was not moving.

Little Peter waited several minutes, but as the man still retained his
position, and no one joined him, he resolved to proceed. Approaching
cautiously, and ready to run at the first appearance of danger, his
surprise was increased as he beheld the strange manner in which the
horseman was seated on his beast. Instead of sitting with his face
toward the head of his steed, his position was exactly reversed, and to
all appearances he either was going in a direction opposite to that of
his horse or else was riding backward.

Puzzled to account for the strange attitude, Peter also noticed as he
approached that the beast on which the man was mounted was a mule and
had stopped in the middle of the road. In a moment he recognized the man
as Ted Wilson, and with a shout he ran forward.

"Why, my lad, what are you doing here?" exclaimed Ted, as he beheld the
approaching boy.

"It's more to the point to ask what you are doing here. What are you
sitting on that mule that way for? What have you stopped for? Why don't
you go ahead?"

"There are several good reasons," replied Ted blandly. "In the first
place, if the mule won't go, I can't go. Then, if he stops, I have to
stop, too. As to the reason for my being here, why, I'm looking for
Benzeor."

"I don't know where you expect to find him," laughed Peter--forgetting
his own anxiety for the moment in the ludicrous sight before him.

"Well, I got to thinking of it yesterday after you left me; and when I'd
taken Sallie and the babies up to the captain's,--Sallie's my wife, ye
know,--I jest made up my mind as how I'd got to look after Benzeor afore
he did any more damage. Goin' around the country hangin' Sallies! The
rascal! Old Monmouth never'll be safe till Benzeor Osburn has been
'tended to. And if I'm not the man to do it, I don't know who is. So
Jeshurun and I decided to start out last night, and we've been travelin'
ever since."

"Jeshurun? I don't see anybody with you," said Peter, glancing quickly
about him as he spoke.

"Ha! ha!" laughed Ted. "Ye're lookin' too far afield, young man. This
here fellow's Jeshurun. Whoa, Jesh! Whoa!" he suddenly added, as the
mule darted to one side and turned several circles in the road before
his rider could stop him.

"Yes, sir; this is Jeshurun, and a more onery little beast never lived.
I told ye about him yesterday, and how he'd suddenly take it into his
head to go backwards for a bit. That's the reason I ride him this way
part of the time. He thinks I want to go the other way, ye see, and
that's how I come it over him by jest sittin' the wrong way, too.
Besides, a good twist of his tail is worth more than a bridle sometimes.
Instead of controllin' him with a bridle, as any decent beast would be
glad to have me do, I just have to steer him by twistin' his tail,
same's I use the rudder in my boat, ye see. Whoa there, Jesh! Whoa
there! What's the matter with ye, anyhow? Whoa! Whoa!"

These last remarks of Ted were caused by a sudden movement on the part
of Jeshurun, whose heels were thrown into the air, while with his teeth
he almost literally bit the dust. The mule was small and the feet of his
rider almost touched the ground, and the antics of the pair caused Peter
to laugh aloud.

"Where did you get that name for him?" he inquired when quiet was
restored.

"Oh, it came to him jest natural like. Two years ago when I bought him,
and was a-leadin' him home, I got him into the yard and then he just
began to make his heels fly like a pair o' drumsticks. It's likely there
was some noise made by him or me, I don't jest know which, and the first
thing I knew, Sallie--she's my wife, ye know--and a whole lot o' folks
came a-runnin' out o' the house to see what all the rumpus was about.
They was havin' meetin' in the house, though I didn't know anything
about that, or I wouldn't have argued with the mule as I was doin', o'
course. Well, sir, if you'd believe it, the parson had been a-preachin'
about somebody in the Old Testament. His text was: 'But Jeshurun waxed
fat and kicked: thou art waxen fat, thou art grown thick, thou art
covered with fatness.' Yes, sir; those were his very words. Well, when
Sallie--she's my wife, ye know--set eyes on this here beast, she said
Jeshurun should be his name, and Jeshurun it's been ever since. Whoa
there! Whoa, I say! What ye up to now?"

Perhaps Jeshurun objected to the story, for he suddenly whirled about
and started swiftly up the road. In vain Ted tried to restrain him, but
after his attempts failed, he turned and shouted, "I'll see you farther
on! Jesh'll get tired o' this."

As Jeshurun and his rider disappeared in a cloud of dust, Little Peter
quickly recovered from his surprise and started briskly after them.



CHAPTER XXV

THE BEGINNING OF THE GREAT FIGHT


THE morning of Sunday, June 28, 1778, dawned clear and warm. Not a cloud
could be seen in the sky, and the air was motionless, save in occasional
places where it quivered under the burning heat of the summer sun. By
eight o'clock the thermometer already had indicated ninety-six degrees,
and before the day was done it had risen considerably above a hundred.

The British forces had now arrived within ten or twelve miles of the
Heights of Middletown, and if once they should succeed in gaining that
position, all attempts on the part of the Americans to attack them would
be worse than useless, for it was now as well known by Washington as it
was by Clinton that British vessels were lying at anchor off Sandy Hook,
ready and waiting to receive the advancing army and its stores on board,
and transport all in safety to New York.

Clinton, as we already know, still believed that the Americans were
seeking only to capture his stores and train of baggage wagons, and,
therefore, wisely had placed them in the care of General Knyphausen and
the Hessian soldiers, in advance of the place of danger, as he supposed,
and also of the place where the brave leader himself took his stand with
his men. All of the British grenadiers, light infantry, and chasseurs of
the line were encamped in the strong position that Clinton had selected
in the parting of the road which led from Monmouth Court House to
Middletown, the right wing extending about a mile and a half beyond the
court house itself, while the left lay stretched for three miles along
the road from Allentown. Thick woods afforded strong protection to the
flanks, while a swamp extended toward the rear and the left, and woods
also covered their front. The British general had chosen his place
wisely, and there he waited until that eventful Sunday morning.

General Washington was well aware of all that was going on, and had
determined to attack the British the moment they moved from the position
they then occupied. Late on Saturday night, the commander had given
orders for General Maxwell to send out parties of observation, who were
to watch the British and report instantly any signs they might discover
of an attempt to retreat during the night, and to keep up a constant
communication with himself. General orders had also been given Lee to be
prepared to attack Clinton's forces the moment they should depart from
their camping-place.

General Lee's treachery or incompetency, or both, are well known to-day,
and the only cause of surprise is that General Washington should have
given him such discretionary orders. The great commander must have been
fully aware of Lee's true feelings, for already he had suffered much
from his jealousy and his traitorous designs; but perhaps the rest of
the army did not know what Washington himself well knew, and on the eve
of battle he chose the lesser of the two evils, and thought he would
suffer less by permitting Lee to continue to act, than he would from the
misunderstanding and confusion that might arise if he dealt with the man
at that time as he justly deserved. At all events, his orders were
somewhat general, and the fact that he had not given specific commands
is all that remains to-day to be quoted in favor of the guilty Lee.

It was about five o'clock in the morning when a messenger arrived in
Washington's camp from General Dickinson--who, with the New Jersey
militia, was nearest the enemy's lines--with the information that the
front of the British line had begun its march toward the Heights of
Middletown. Instantly Washington's army was put in motion, and one of
his aids was sent in all haste to inform General Lee of the movement of
the British, and to urge him forward to attack them at once unless some
very strong obstacle should be found, and to assure him that the main
body of the American army would be rushed forward to his support.

I am very certain that if my readers could somehow have been privileged
to witness the march of Washington's soldiers, they would not have been
greatly impressed by the sight. Many of them were without uniforms, and
their flushed and streaming faces under the burning heat, while they
bore an expression of determination, after all would not have been very
prepossessing in their appearance. Numbers of the Continentals had
either cast aside their coats or rolled them up and strapped them across
their backs, so that entire ranks appeared to be marching to battle in
their shirt-sleeves. However, although their personal bearing was not
made more forceful by the absence of coats, their personal comfort was
decidedly improved; and, as we shall soon see, their work in the battle
was not hindered by their lack of bright colored uniforms.

Meanwhile, the advanced corps under General Lee had moved from
Englishtown, and was now advancing toward the British. The redcoats were
also in motion, and the left wing had marched more than a mile beyond
Monmouth Court House when it discovered that the American columns had
out-flanked it on the north. Lee's forces had marched along the main
road, successfully crossing the deep ravines and causeways. They had
halted frequently to receive reports from the scouts and the men in
advance as to the movements of the British, but these reports apparently
were somewhat contradictory and created some confusion among the
American ranks.

One of these halts had been made near the "new church," which was so
called to distinguish it from the smaller structure, which until 1752
had stood upon the same site. This "new church" was of wood, its sides
covered with shingles, and painted white. There such famous preachers as
Whitefield, the missionary Brainerd, Tennent, and others had given their
messages of peace, but it can be safely asserted that in all its long
history the "old" church or the "new" had never seen such a "service" as
that which was held there on that Sunday morning in June, 1778. Before
the day was done bullet marks and the effect of cannon shot were
apparent on its walls, and while the roof and even the steeple were said
to have been covered with people on that day, who had assembled to watch
the battle, probably no other congregation in all our land had ever been
gathered by such summons, or had taken their seats on the roof of the
building instead of in the accustomed place within the walls.

Young General Lafayette, who had command of Lee's right, soon passed the
Court House, and was advancing upon the other end of the British line on
the south at the same time when the left wing was folding about
Cornwallis on the north; and General Wayne, who was in command of the
American centre, was also pressing strongly forward. Apparently, all
things were favoring the rugged Continentals, and had it not been for
Lee's cowardice or treachery, or both, they would have won the battle
there and then, before Washington could come with the aid of his
advancing troops.

Some slight minor engagements had already occurred, though not one of
them was of much importance; but now General Wayne discovered that most
of the British forces before him had descended from the high ground they
had occupied and were advancing along the same route, over the plains of
Monmouth, which the Hessians had followed when they departed earlier in
the morning.

Instantly the impetuous Wayne sent a messenger to General Lee requesting
permission for his own "troops to be pressed on." No such permission was
given, however, until it was discovered that a band of eight or nine
hundred of the redcoats had halted, and, turning about, appeared to be
inviting an attack. General Wayne was then ordered to take about four
hundred men and advance.

Despite the smallness of the number, Wayne eagerly obeyed, when the
Queen's light dragoons were sent back by Clinton to check the movement.

So excited was the little band of Americans that they instantly formed,
and drove the horsemen back upon a body of foot soldiers who had been
sent to their aid. A much larger body of troops were soon discovered to
be moving upon General Wayne's right, but he immediately opened fire
upon them with the two pieces of artillery he possessed, sent back for
reinforcements, and gallantly prepared for the battle.

During this time General Lee apparently was trying to cut off the force
with which Wayne was engaged by making a detour and falling upon the
line of Clinton's march between the rear of the main body and that
detachment.

This action of Lee's, together with those which three of the others of
the divisions of the American forces were making at the same time, led
Clinton to suppose that his baggage train was what the Americans were
striving to gain. As we already know, this, all the time, had been his
understanding of the purpose of Washington, and now the action and
movements of the various bodies of troops strengthened his suspicion.

The first thing the British commander did was to send the Queen's light
dragoons against Wayne. Then he sent a detachment from the men in
advance to strengthen his own right, and next he arranged for the main
body, of which Lord Cornwallis was in command, to form on the plain and
prepare to attack General Lee and the various divisions which were under
him at the time.

General Wayne and his brave men were now fighting desperately, and to
all appearances success was about to crown his efforts, when he was
dumfounded by an order he received from Lee to make only a feigned
attack, and not to press too hard against the redcoats in front of him.

Wayne did not know what to make of the order. He was chagrined and angry
to receive such a word at a time when all things seemed to favor his
determined band. It is said that he made use of some very forceful
language, and even expressed his opinion of his superior officer in no
very complimentary terms; but he was too good a soldier not to obey;
and, although he could not understand what Lee meant by giving him such
directions at such a time, he held back his men, hoping all the time
that Lee himself would come up and grasp the victory which almost seemed
to be in his hand.

General Lee had been watching the movements of the British, and
perceived what Clinton was trying to do by the actions to which we
already have referred. Instead of meeting them boldly, and permitting
his soldiers, who were all now eager for the battle, to advance, he at
once prepared to withdraw them from the field.

Young Lafayette had just discovered a body of British cavalry advancing
toward Lee's right, and, quickly riding up to his commander, he begged
for permission to advance and gain their rear, and so cut them off from
the main body.

"Sir," replied Lee, "you do not know British soldiers. We cannot stand
against them. We shall certainly be driven back at first, and we must be
cautious."

"It may be so, general," said Lafayette quietly, "but British soldiers
have been beaten, and they may be again. At any rate I am disposed to
make the trial."

Reluctantly Lee yielded, so far as to permit the brave young marquis to
wheel his column by the right and make an attempt to gain the left of
the British, but at the same time he ordered three regiments to be
withdrawn from Wayne's command, thereby weakening him for reasons which
neither Wayne nor any one of his men ever understood.

General Lee then rode off to reconnoitre, as he afterwards declared, and
to his astonishment discovered another large body of British soldiers
marching back on the Middletown road toward the Court House. If there
was one thing more than another which Lee apparently disliked at that
time, it was the sight and presence of men clad in scarlet coats, and he
instantly gave orders for the several corps in his division to retreat,
or to make a "retrograde movement," as he afterwards explained it.

His friends claimed for him, and, indeed, Lee afterwards claimed for
himself, that he had only ordered the right to fall back, and had
commanded the left, under Scott and Maxwell, to advance, and his order
was misunderstood; and that when Maxwell's men perceived the retreat of
their comrades on the left, they thought all was ended and they must
save themselves. But, at all events, proof of the truthfulness of his
statement was wanting, and all his men were soon retreating toward the
"new meeting-house," on the roof and steeple of which were assembled the
people of the congregation.

Few of the men beside Lee himself knew why the retreat was made. The
soldiers were angry and were giving vent to their feelings in terms
which had not been carefully selected. General Wayne's men were the only
ones who had even fired a shot, and the anger of Wayne himself was
steadily increasing. Every soldier felt as if he were being robbed of
success, which by right belonged to him and to his country.

Between the "meeting-house" and the parsonage, General Washington, all
unaware of Lee's disgraceful actions and the retreat of the advanced
division, met a fifer, who appeared to be in great haste to leave the
region.

Reining in his horse, the great commander ordered the fleeing man to
halt, and then said sternly:--

"Who are you? Do you belong to the army? Why are you running in this
fashion?"

"I am a soldier," replied the trembling man, "but all the Continentals
are running, too."

"It isn't true! It can't be true! I'll have you whipped if you dare to
mention such a thing to another living man!" cried the astonished
commander.

Nevertheless, he put the spurs to his horse, and in a few minutes
discovered two or three other men, who apparently were in as great
haste to depart as the fifer had been.

Instantly the trembling men halted at his sharp command, and again the
excited general demanded an explanation of their actions.



CHAPTER XXVI

THE BATTLE OF MONMOUTH


EVIDENTLY, the reply which General Washington received from the men, who
were as greatly frightened by the bearing of the commander as they had
been by the sight of the redcoats, did not convince him that they had
spoken truly. He had not heard any firing, except that of a few cannon a
considerable time before this, and he could not believe that the picked
men under Lee's command had ingloriously retreated without making even
an attempt to stand against the forces of Sir Henry Clinton.

This second report, however, caused Washington to send forward two of
his trusty officers, whom he ordered to ride swiftly in the direction of
the Court House, and, after they should have discovered the true
condition of affairs, to report instantly to him.

As the two brave men quickly obeyed and started their horses into a run,
they met on the bridge the members of a regiment in a disorderly
retreat. A little farther on another regiment was discovered, and soon
still another appeared in sight.

Colonel Ogden, who was in command of the last, in a towering passion
declared, in reply to the question of the officers, that Lee's men were
indeed retreating and that "they were flying from a shadow."

Still hoping that they would find that a stand had been made farther
back, the two officers pushed eagerly forward and soon met General
Maxwell and his men. That gallant officer was also in a state of great
anger, and not only confirmed the report that Lee was retreating, but
also added some words of his own, expressing his opinion of that officer
and of the movement in words that would have caused the cheeks of the
treacherous general to tingle, if he had chanced to hear them.

Still hoping against hope, the two aids pressed forward and soon met
General Lee himself. His face at all times was decidedly plain, and
indeed, as we know, he had the reputation of having the "ugliest face in
America;" but at this time a scowl rested upon it which doubtless did
not tend to increase his beauty, and he sullenly refused to reply to the
questions of the men.

The two officers did not long delay to talk to him, but still urged
their horses swiftly forward, although the straggling, disorderly troops
now almost filled the road, and their worst fears were confirmed each
moment.

At last, in the post of danger and nearest to the pursuing British, the
two officers discovered General Wayne and his men. "Mad Anthony" was
certainly "mad" at that time, and while he assured the aids that the
retreat was genuine and general, at the same time he declared that it
was absolutely needless. He also declared that "Lee had drawn off his
best men at the very time when he was facing a body of British far
superior to himself in numbers, but that even then the redcoats could be
beaten if a stand were made against them."

There was no time for an extended conversation, but, doubtless, the two
officers understood what the exceedingly vigorous language of Mad
Anthony Wayne was intended to convey, and after receiving the
suggestions he sent by them to General Washington, and assured now that
they had discovered the worst, they put spurs to their horses and rode
swiftly back to give the information they had received to the great
commander.

Meanwhile, General Washington himself had not been idle, we may be well
assured. Riding swiftly forward, he met band after band of the
retreating, disorderly Continentals, and heard many expressions of anger
and disgust, very like to that which had already greeted the two
officers he had sent forward.

At last, in the rear of the retreating column, he met General Wayne and
his angry men. Hastily summoning Mad Anthony and two or three of his
officers, the great leader told them that he "should depend upon them
that day to give the enemy a check," and quickly directed General Wayne
to form his men, and, with their two pieces of artillery, strive to stop
the progress of the redcoats.

It was just at this moment that General Lee himself rode up, and the
scene which followed was one which those who witnessed it never forgot.
There is no more sublime sight in all this world than the towering
passion of a great man. Not pettiness, not irritability, but the just
and righteous anger of a noble, large-hearted man in the presence of
wickedness.

General Washington probably never before in all his life had been so
angry as he was at that time. Thoughts of the cause of the country he
loved, the lives of thousands of brave and devoted patriots, the sight
of angry, desperate men all about him, the disappointment at the loss of
what he had confidently counted upon, the loss also of that for which so
many noble men had been sacrificing and toiling through many weary days
and on their long marches, rushed upon him like a flood. And before him
stood the guilty man who alone was to be blamed for it all. Small wonder
is it that Washington was almost beside himself with rage and sorrow.

The name of Benedict Arnold is one that is hated to-day by every
American schoolboy, for, after all, most boys can be trusted to hate
evil in whatever form it presents itself. But the treachery of Benedict
Arnold had at least the merit of being unmasked and comparatively open,
for he took his stand boldly on the side of the redcoats, whom he at one
time had fought with a bravery none can ever forget. But the memory of
Charles Lee has not even that redeeming quality, for his actions on the
field of Monmouth can only be explained on the ground of treachery or
cowardice, and a coward is not very greatly to be preferred to a
traitor. If both Lee and Arnold had fallen in battle, how much better
it would have been for them and their friends, for "a good name is to be
preferred above great riches," and they left neither. Perhaps the
strange desire which Lee later expressed in his will, that his "body
should not be interred in any church or churchyard, or within a mile of
any Presbyterian or Baptist church," was not entirely out of keeping
with the man himself.

The conversation between Washington and Lee at the time they met on the
retreat at Monmouth has been variously reported; but doubtless the fact
that those who heard it were as excited as the generals themselves may
in part account for the differences in the reports which have come down
to us. We may be sure the conversation was not extended to the length
which some have said it was, or that it savored largely of the
high-flown expressions which have been quoted.

One of the men who was present is reported to have said that Washington
in his sternest manner looked at Lee, and demanded, "What is the meaning
of all this, sir?"

Dismayed by the terrible appearance of the commander-in-chief, and
mortified that he should be so addressed in the presence of his
soldiers, the crestfallen general could only stammer, "Sir? sir?"

Again the enraged commander demanded the meaning of the retreat, and Lee
attempted to explain. His orders, he said, had been misunderstood, his
officers had not obeyed his commands, he had not thought it wise to
attempt to make a stand against the British with his detachment; but the
angry Washington would not stay to listen to the lame attempts at
explanation, and muttering something about a "poltroon," he hastened
back to the high ground between the meeting-house and the bridge, where
he quickly formed the regiments which were waiting there.

Apparently thinking better of his words, he then rode back to General
Lee and inquired whether he still desired to retain the command on that
height or not. "If you will," he added, "I will return to the main body
and have it formed on the next height."

As Lee accepted the offer, Washington said: "I expect you will take
proper means for checking the enemy."

"Your orders shall be obeyed," replied Lee, "and I shall not be the
first to leave the ground."

Meanwhile, the British general Clinton had also been busy. He had
ordered back many of the troops which the Hessian general Knyphausen
commanded, and was making vigorous attempts to compel the Americans to
keep up the retreat, which Lee had ordered with such disastrous results.

The forces under Mad Anthony had rallied at the call of their leader,
and were bravely holding their position near the parsonage. The British
grenadiers climbed over the fence which crossed the lot in front of
Wayne, but were quickly driven back by the angry Continentals.

Again the determined British advanced, and again were driven back. Then
their brave leader, Colonel Monckton, placing himself at their head, and
calling upon his men to follow him, led the charge. But Mad Anthony and
his men were waiting for them, and under their terrible fire the brave
colonel and many of his men went down as the grass falls before the
scythe of the mower. Desperate was the struggle then for the body of the
fallen leader. Hand to hand, clubbing their muskets, using their
bayonets any way, every way, the men fought on; but the band of sturdy
Americans held both the body and the place, and as the British fell back
it was not to attack Mad Anthony's men again during that day.

Sir Henry Clinton then moved the main body of his troops against the
left of the Americans, where General (Lord) Stirling was in command, but
the batteries were so well handled that there also the redcoats were
repulsed.

Then they turned toward the American right; but that sturdy blacksmith
from Rhode Island, Nathanael Greene, was there, and no better success
crowned their desperate and determined efforts. And Mad Anthony and his
men had rushed to the assistance of their comrades. When his men
perceived the nature of the work which was expected of them, they
prepared for the action after their own peculiar manner. As we already
know, many of them had cast aside their coats when they entered the
battle, but now some of them stopped and deliberately rolled up their
shirt sleeves. A shout greeted the men, when their action was perceived,
and in a moment their companions had followed their example. Then, with
cheers and calls, the unsoldierly appearing soldiers rushed into the
fray, and so vigorous was their work that soon the redcoats were
compelled to retreat behind the defile, where the first stand had been
made in the beginning of the battle.

There they felt secure. On either side lay heavy swamps and thick woods,
while in front of them was a narrow pass, through which the Americans
must go if they continued the attack.

And that was just what General Washington determined to do. Carefully he
arranged for divisions to move upon the right and upon the left, while
the artillery was to be brought up and pour its terrible fire directly
into the front of the position the British had taken.

The men responded with a will, but before the detachments could gain the
desired position the night had come, and darkness spread over the field,
wrapping friend and foe alike within its folds. Although the eager
Americans could not then advance, they resolved to pass the night in the
positions they then held, which were very near to the lines of the
British, and renew the attack as soon as the light of the morning came.

Guards were established, and then the entire army prepared for the
night. The exhausted men threw themselves upon the ground, many of them
lying at full length with their arms spread wide and their faces resting
directly upon the sand. Seldom have men been more completely worn out
than were those hardy soldiers on that day of the battle of Monmouth.
Many had fallen, and when their friends examined their bodies for the
marks of the fatal bullets not a scratch could be found.

The beams of the summer sun had accomplished what, in many instances,
the bullets of the enemy had failed to do. All day long the sun had hung
in the heavens like a great red ball of fire. Steadily the heat had
risen higher and higher, until it had arrived at a point which even the
"oldest inhabitants" could not exaggerate in their stories. The tongues
of some of the men had swelled so that speech became impossible. The
poor Hessians, condemned to wear their heavy fur hats, left many a
lifeless body behind them which the heat had conquered before the
desperate Americans could accomplish the same result.

For hours that night not a sign of life appeared in the American camp.
Motionless as logs the exhausted soldiers lay stretched upon the ground,
and the sounds of their deep breathing were all that could be heard.
They had not stopped even to bury their dead, so little life did the
living men apparently retain.

Great was the astonishment in the American camp when the first faint
streaks of the dawn appeared on the following morning, and it was
discovered that not a soldier remained in the British camp. Sir Henry
Clinton had permitted his weary men to rest until ten o'clock, and then,
in silence, preparations were made to join the forces of General
Knyphausen, who, meanwhile, had marched on and gone into camp at Nut
Swamp, near the Heights of Middletown.

The British soldiers hastily had collected their wounded, leaving only
forty of the poor fellows behind them, and then under the light of the
moon began their march to the position which Knyphausen was holding. So
wearied were the American soldiers, so heavy was their slumber, and so
silent were all the movements of Clinton's men, that their departure was
not discovered before the morning came, and by that time the redcoats
were with the Hessians and safe from all danger of an attack.

General Washington considered a further pursuit as "impracticable and
fruitless," and greatly to the chagrin of his army no attempt was made
to push forward. The great battle of Monmouth had been fought. The
soldiers hastily prepared to bury their dead, and so hurried were their
movements that one man afterwards declared he had seen the bodies of
thirteen men cast into one shallow pit which had been dug in the sand.
Yet the Continentals were neither brutal nor indifferent. A British army
was near them, and desperate haste was considered necessary.

The results of the battle, its effect upon the redcoats and buffcoats,
and those who wore no coats at all, and the parts which Tom Coward and
certain other of our acquaintances had taken in the struggle, we must
reserve for another chapter.



CHAPTER XXVII

THE RETURN TO BENZEOR'S HOUSE


THERE were several motives in the mind of Little Peter which made him
eager to overtake Ted and the fat and kicking Jeshurun, not the least of
which was the sense of protection he felt in the presence of the
powerful man. Boyish as Ted was in many ways, his great size and
wonderful physical strength made him a companion to be desired in the
midst of such dangers as the troubled lad was compelled to face in those
sad times in Old Monmouth.

Accordingly, Little Peter ran eagerly forward, hoping to overtake Ted
before he should arrive at Benzeor's house, which now was not more than
two miles away. Long before he came within sight of the place, he
discovered Ted and his steed in advance of him, and from their
motionless attitude he quickly concluded that Jeshurun had been seized
with another attack of obstinacy.

His surmise proved to be correct, and as he came nearer he beheld Ted
seated by the roadside holding Jeshurun's bridle in his hand, and
apparently waiting patiently for the time when the little beast should
decide to continue his journey.

"I'm glad to see you, lad," remarked Ted, as Little Peter approached. "I
left you rather suddenly back there, but when Jesh makes up his mind to
start, it's time for me to go, too, and I can't always stop to say
good-by to my friends. It's easier than walkin', though, but I wish I
knew some way to fix the little rascal. I've been thinkin' as how, if
Jeshurun kicked when he waxed fat, it might be that if he waxed thin,
the kickin' would go, too, along with the fatness. I say, Little Peter,
I want to ask ye a question."

"All right, Ted, go ahead," replied Little Peter, as he fanned his
dripping face with his hat and took a seat beside his companion.

"In your opinion," said Ted soberly, "is the oyster a wild animal, or a
tame one?"

"What?"

"Is the oyster a wild animal or a tame one? Maybe you don't think he's
an animal at all, only just an insect; but my opinion is that he's an
animal, and what I'd like to know is whether he's wild or tame."

"He isn't savage, anyway," remarked Little Peter demurely.

"I'm not talkin' about whether he's savage or not, but whether he's wild
or tame. That's been a-botherin' me a good bit, and I just can't find
any answer. Whoa! Whoa there, Jesh! What's the matter with ye? If ye
want to start on, I'm your man." These last remarks were directed at the
mule, which had begun to display some of the qualities of the famous
character for whom he had been named; but his owner's words served to
calm him, and Jeshurun soon stood in such an abject attitude that, to
one who was not familiar with his ways, wickedness and kicking would
never have been suspected of him.

"Maybe the oyster's a bird more than he is an insect," said Little
Peter. "When his shell is spread out it looks something like wings."

"No, he isn't a bird, he's a animal," said Ted, "and what I want to know
is whether he's a tame or a wild one."

"What do you want to know for?"

"Why, the way of it is this: Some time ago I planted an oyster-bed off
the mouth of the river, and the first thing I knew my neighbors was
a-helpin' themselves to it. When I said I didn't like that very much,
and those oysters was mine, all the men did was to laugh. Yes, sir, jest
laughed," repeated Ted, as if he felt aggrieved at the levity of his
neighbors. "Then, they went on to tell me that I couldn't plant oysters,
same as I did 'taties and things in my garden. Oysters was wild things
and belonged to anybody that found them, jest the same as turtles and
clams and wild geese did. I've been a-puzzlin' my head a good deal over
it, and I can't make it out. I planted them oysters for Sallie,--she's
my wife, ye know,--and as long as she had all she wanted of 'em, I
didn't care how much the neighbors helped themselves; but when it comes
to sayin' that them oysters I planted don't belong to me, but any one
can go and take all he wants, jest as if they was clams, or
gooseberries, or--or--or--saltwater, I don't know what to do about it.
What do you think, Little Peter?" he added anxiously.

"I don't know; I never thought of it before."

Absurd as the question appears to us, it was far from being so to the
people of Old Monmouth in the times of which we are writing. So warm
had the discussion become that it was soon after carried into the
courts, and in 1808 a case was tried before the supreme court, but no
definite decision was gained. In 1821 another famous trial was held, and
finally in 1858 the supreme court decided that oysters were both tame
and wild. Where they had grown naturally and without being planted, they
were to be considered as wild and the property of any one who chose to
take them; but where they had been planted, and there was no natural
growth, the oysters were "tame" and the property of the one who had made
the bed. Even after that decision there was trouble for a long time in
Old Monmouth over the question, although to-day it is generally accepted
that a man may own oysters as he does other animals.

"I'm sorry ye can't help me," said Ted.

"So am I, but I'm not thinking of oysters just now. I want to go up to
Benzeor Osburn's more than anything else."

"I'm with ye. We're so near, maybe Jeshurun will be willing to go, if he
doesn't have to carry me on his back. I'll try him and see."

To the surprise of both, Jeshurun appeared to be willing to resume the
journey and obediently followed Ted, who led him by the bridle rein
which he slipped over the mule's head.

In this wise they all walked on, but as they came nearer to the end of
their journey, conversation ceased. Little Peter was thinking of the
children and trying to devise some plan by which he might care for them.
What his companion's thoughts were did not appear, but the expression
upon his face had undergone a change, and from the occasional word he
dropped, which sounded very like "Hangin' Sallies," the lad thought he
knew what was going on in Ted's mind. What would occur if Benzeor should
be found at his home, Little Peter could not determine; but he felt
assured from Ted's manner that this time his neighbor would not escape
so easily as he had when the angry man had given him his involuntary
bath in the waters of the Shrewsbury River.

However, there was a deal of comfort for the lad in the company of his
powerful friend; and as Benzeor's little house now appeared in the
distance, he was more and more rejoiced that he was not compelled to
approach it alone. If Indian John's words were correct, Benzeor was not
there now; but it was more than possible that John had been mistaken,
or that the man had returned since his visit in the early morning.

These possibilities were sufficiently strong to increase Little Peter's
excitement, and when they turned into the lane which led up to the house
his heart was beating rapidly and his breathing was hard and fast. As he
glanced toward the place, he suddenly discovered some children playing
in the yard and instantly recognized two of them as his own little
brothers.

The children, then, were safe; and with a sigh of relief he turned to
his companion and said, "There are my little brothers! They're all
right, and so far it looks better."

"Hangin' Sallies!" muttered Ted; and Little Peter said no more, as he
perceived that his companion's rage over the treatment his wife had
received had returned with increased force.

Suddenly out from the barn beyond the house started two men on
horseback, riding directly down the lane toward them. Startled and
perplexed by the sight, both Little Peter and Ted stopped and waited for
the men to approach. If the lad had been alone he would instantly have
turned and fled without waiting to see who the strangers were; but
Ted's presence restrained him, and although he was thoroughly alarmed,
he waited with his companion.

As the horsemen came nearer he discovered that they were Barzilla
Giberson and Jacob Vannote, the two men who had been with Tom and
Benzeor on their voyage to New York just before Tom's departure from his
foster-father's home. Quickly recalling what Tom had reported of their
conversation at that time, the sight of them now did not tend to allay
his fears; but Ted's presence was a source of comfort, and, although he
was trembling in his excitement, he did not speak.

Barzilla instantly stopped his horse as he recognized Little Peter, and,
leaning forward on his horse's neck as he spoke, said, "Where's
Benzeor?"

"I don't know," replied Little Peter. "Isn't he here?"

"No, he isn't here. He came back last night, but he's gone again, and
the women folks pretend they don't know where he is. It's lucky for
him."

"What do you want of him?"

"You and he both will know more about that after we've found him,"
replied Barzilla, as he touched his horse with his spurs, and both men
rode swiftly down the lane and soon disappeared from sight up the road.

Little Peter told his companion of his suspicions as they resumed their
walk, and Ted quickly stopped, and, shaking his fist in the direction in
which the horsemen had disappeared, said, "Hangin' Sallies! Maybe I'd
better take after them, if I don't find Benzeor."

"No, no, Ted. Come on, we're almost here now."

They soon entered the yard, and as the children discovered the presence
of their brother they ran eagerly to him and threw themselves into his
arms.

"I want to go home. I want to go home. May we go home now?" said one of
them.

Little Peter's eyes filled with tears as he lifted the child in his arms
and said, "No, I'm afraid not. We haven't any home now."

"But I want to go home," persisted the little fellow pleadingly. "I
don't want to stay here any longer. I want to go home."

"Hasn't Benzeor been good to you?"

"Yes, but he isn't here. I want to go home. I want to go home."

Little Peter glanced up and saw that Ted's face was moving strangely,
and that the tears were streaming from his eyes. The powerful man had a
heart as tender as a woman's, and the piteous pleadings of the homeless,
motherless little lad were more than he could endure.

"Here, Little Peter!" said Ted hastily. "You go in the house, and I'll
look after the babies while you're gone. Here, my lads and lassies all!
Come take a ride on the back of Jeshurun."

In a moment the grief of the little ones was forgotten, and, laughing in
their delight, they were lifted upon the back of Jeshurun, who to all
appearances had suddenly become as mild and gentle as a lamb.

Little Peter glanced back at the laughing group as he started toward the
house, and then looking up beheld Sarah standing in the doorway. Her
face was red with weeping and she evidently was in great distress.

"Why, Sarah!" exclaimed Little Peter. "What's the trouble? What is it?"

"My father! My father!" sobbed Sarah, burying her face in her hands.

"What's happened to him? Is he killed? Is he dead?"

"No, no. It's worse than that."

"Worse than that? What do you mean?"

"Oh, Little Peter, don't _you_ know?" exclaimed the girl, looking up
again as she spoke.

Peter made no reply. He did not know just what it was to which Sarah
referred, and although he had his own suspicions, he did not feel that
he could refer to them in the presence of the troubled girl.

"Have you seen Tom?" said Sarah suddenly.

"No. He's in the army, I think, and I haven't been near that."

"You wouldn't have to go very far. They say they're both near here, and
that there either has been a battle or there will be one soon. I wish
Tom was here. If you see him, won't you tell him to come back just as
soon as he can?"

"Yes, if I see him. I don't know that I shall very soon, though. I don't
know what to do, Sarah. I came to see about the children."

"They're all right. They seem to be now, don't they?" she said, as a
burst of laughter came from the noisy group. "Perhaps you don't want to
leave them here now, though," she added, her eyes filling with tears
once more as she spoke. "I wish you would leave them. It isn't much we
can do for you, but we want to do what we can."

There was an intensity in Sarah's manner which Little Peter could not
understand. He was in ignorance of all that Sarah knew, and perhaps if
he had known his reply might have been somewhat different.

"It's good of you, Sarah. I don't know what to do or where to go."

"You can stay here, too."

"No, no. I can't do that," he said hastily; and then fearing that he had
said too much, added, "I'll leave the children for a little while.
They'll be safe here till after the battle you tell about."

"I wish you would, Peter. You couldn't please us better. Who's that man
with you?" she added, apparently for the first time becoming aware of
Ted's presence.

"A man to see your father," said Little Peter evasively. "Is he home?"

"No, no," and Sarah shuddered as she spoke. "He came last night, but he
didn't stay long. He went away again, and I don't know when he'll come
again. It'll be a long time. I hope"--

What Sarah hoped for she did not explain, and Little Peter said, "I
want to talk with Ted before I say anything more. He's the man out there
with the children. I'll be back in a minute."

Many minutes passed, however, before the lad returned. He called to Ted
and for a long time they talked together. Ted was decidedly averse to
the plan of leaving the children in Benzeor's home, and freely offered
to take them with him to the place where he had left Sallie and his own
little ones, also venturing to refer several times to the fact that
Sallie was his wife.

Pleased as Little Peter would have been to accept the offer, Sarah's
pleadings could not be forgotten, and as he felt that the children would
be safe where they then were, he declined the kind offer of Ted.

"I'll tell you what, my lad," said Ted at last. "If the armies are as
near here as the girl says they are, the thing for you and me to do is
to go over there. They may need us, too. The most I've done so far has
been to look out for that stuff the men brought up the Shrewsbury in the
supply boat. That's all in good hands now, and I'm free to go. Jesh will
be glad to go, too."

"But you can't leave Sallie and the babies."

"Yes, I can, too. Sallie's my wife, ye know, and when I took her over to
the Dennises I told her I might not be back for a week or two. She won't
be disappointed, and Jesh will be tickled to pieces to join the army.
Jest look at his ears now. When his ears is that way, I always know
Jeshurun wants to fight the Dutch butchers."

"We've no other place to go to, or at least I haven't," said Little
Peter thoughtfully. "Well, we'll do as you say. I'll go and tell Sarah."

"I'm so glad you'll leave the children," said Sarah eagerly, when Little
Peter reported the decision which had been made. "It isn't much we can
do, as I told you, but we do want to do everything we can for you."

"It's good of you to take them."

"It's good of you to leave them. There's one thing, though, I must tell
you. We haven't much to eat in the house. There's some meal over at the
mill, and father would have gone for it if he'd been home to-day. But he
isn't here and I don't know what we'll do."

"You'd like to have me go over there and get it, before we start," said
the boy. "Have you got your horses yet?"

"Yes, there are two in the barn, and you can take the heavy wagon. It's
kind of you to do it, Little Peter, but it won't take you long, and you
don't know how much it will help us just now."

"I'll go right away."

Little Peter turned and explained to Ted the cause of the delay. At
first, Ted insisted upon going with him, but as the lad explained that
only two hours would be required for the journey, he persuaded him to
remain.

In a few minutes the two horses had been led forth from the barn, and
hitched to the wagon ("geared" was what Ted called the task), and then
Little Peter mounted the seat, grasped the reins in his hands, and
turned down the lane, on what proved to be the most eventful ride in all
his life.



CHAPTER XXVIII

THE RIDE TO THE MILL


THE early morning had not yet gone when Little Peter started on his
journey to the mill. He knew the place well, for many a time had he gone
there for his father. It was an antiquated structure beside a pond,
which had been formed by a dam built across the very brook near which he
and Indian John had passed the preceding night.

The work at the mill had been somewhat interrupted since the outbreak of
the war, but the increasing necessities of the people of Old Monmouth
had led the miller to resume his labors, and Sarah had informed Little
Peter that he would surely find him in his accustomed place.

At times, the road led through the woods, and the boy could almost touch
the bushes that grew close to the sandy roadway on either side. His view
was somewhat obstructed by these,--and that fact, together with the
unbroken stillness that rested over all, combined to make Little Peter
watchful, and somewhat fearful as well.

The sunlight flickered through the treetops and cast fantastic shadows
on the ground. The horses did not increase their speed above a slow
trot, for the heat was oppressive and the sandy road was heavy; and,
eager as Little Peter was to be back again at Benzeor's house, he had
not the heart to urge on the toiling beasts. The mill was not more than
three miles from the place from which he had started, and at the pace at
which the horses were then going the lad thought he would be back in
less than two hours.

He had covered about half of the way to the mill when his horses, with a
sudden snort of fear, darted to one side of the roadway. Little Peter
quickly drew the reins tight, and stood up to discover the cause of the
alarm.

Two men stepped from the bushes into the road, and as they grasped the
horses by their bits the lad at once recognized them as Barzilla
Giberson and Jacob Vannote.

"We thought you were Benzeor," exclaimed Barzilla, as he discovered who
the driver was.

"I've got his horses," replied Little Peter.

"So I see. What are you doing with them?"

"Going to the mill. You know the children are at Benzeor's house, and
Sarah wanted me to go for some meal. She said there was none in the
house and her father wasn't likely to be home in time to get it, so I
came for it."

"Where's your father?"

"He's been sent to New York."

"So I've heard. Little Peter, do you know who made the attack on your
house?"

"It was Fenton's gang, I'm sure."

"So am I, and I ought to know, for I was there myself."

"You there?" exclaimed Little Peter. He did not refer to the suspicions
he had entertained concerning the very men who then stood before him;
but he had never expected them to declare their actions so boldly. The
alarm which he had felt, when the two men had suddenly presented
themselves in the road, was greatly increased now, and for a moment he
glanced quickly about as if he were seeking some avenue of escape.

"Yes, we were there," resumed Barzilla, apparently ignoring the lad's
alarm. "I didn't know but you knew it, and I've felt mean enough about
it, too. We didn't have anything to do with what happened there," he
hastily added; "but the truth is, we thought it was about time some kind
of a stop was put to the doings of the pine robbers,--so Jacob, here,
and I pretended to go in with them. Of course we didn't like the work,
but we hoped we could learn enough about their plans to trap them. And
we've almost succeeded. We've been as busy as you have, my lad, and
pretty soon we hope the murderers of your mother will be run to cover."

Little Peter had never thought of the scheme which Barzilla mentioned,
and at first he did not know whether to believe him or not. Certainly
appearances were against him, but he was in no position to dispute the
statement.

"Is that what Benzeor was doing, too?" he inquired.

"Benzeor? Benzeor Osburn? Don't you know what he had to do"--

"Hold on, Barzilla," interrupted Jacob. "Little Peter doesn't know about
him, or he wouldn't let the children stay there."

"Why? What do you mean? Aren't the children safe there?" said Peter
quickly.

"Safe? They couldn't be safer if they were in China, or some other
heathing land," said Barzilla. "Even Benzeor's horses are safe. There
isn't such a team as that left in Old Monmouth," he added, "and if his
beasts aren't touched, I don't think you need to worry very much about
the young ones."

"I don't understand," said Little Peter.

"You don't need to," said Jacob quickly, "You've got enough to worry
about, my boy, without bothering your head over Barzilla's words. He
talks too much, anyway. You just go on and get the meal for Sarah;
that's all you need to think about now."

"Yes, but Little Peter ought to know a bit more," said Barzilla
doggedly. "The truth is that we've run some of Fenton's gang into these
very woods. There are several of us scouring the region, and it's only
fair to tell you that you may run across some of 'em if you keep on. For
my part I advise you to turn back and not go to the mill at all. It
isn't safe."

"Nobody'll touch him. Let him go on," said Jacob. "The children will
have to be fed, and he might as well get the meal. He's safe enough."

"He can do as he pleases," muttered Barzilla.

Little Peter was perplexed, for the actions and words of the men were
sadly confusing. Tom had reported to him some of their previous
conversations, and his own suspicions, as we know, had been aroused. If
Barzilla spoke truly now, he was in no slight danger himself, while the
very decided difference of opinion between the two men tended to
increase his confusion.

"I'm goin' to tell you some more," said Jacob. "Last night some of
Fenton's gang went over to Mr. Farr's. You know the old man, don't you?"

"You mean Thomas Farr, the old man who lives with his wife and daughter
over on the road to Imlaystown?"

"That's the very man. Well, Lew Fenton and some of his gang went over
there about midnight, and attacked the house. There wasn't any one in it
but the old man and his wife and their daughter, and you know she's old
enough to have arrived at years of discretion, to put it mildly. The old
people barricaded the doors with logs of wood just as soon as they
discovered who the men were.

"The pine robbers tried to break the door down with some fence rails,
but when that failed, they fired a volley of bullets right through the
door. One ball broke the leg of the old man, but still they wouldn't let
the pine robbers in. Then the villains went around to the back door and
succeeded in smashing that in. They stuck a bayonet into the old man,
who was helpless on the floor, and then they murdered his wife right
before his eyes. One of the men struck the daughter with the butt of his
gun, but, although she was pretty badly hurt, she managed to get out of
the house.

"Fenton's gang didn't wait to plunder the place, but, as they were
afraid she'd raise an alarm, they all cleared out. 'Twas mighty lucky
for them that they did, for there was a lot of us near by. You see we'd
seen Benzeor"--

"Hold on, Jacob. That's enough. Now, Peter, you see what's going on, and
it's my opinion that some of Fenton's gang, and maybe Fenton himself,
are in these very woods. That's why I advised ye not to go on. Now you
can do jest as ye like, for you've got pretty much the whole story."

"I think you'll be all right," said Jacob. "It's only a little way up to
the mill, and the children need that meal. I should go if I was in your
place, and if I didn't have to keep watch here, I'd go with ye myself."

"I'll go," said Little Peter quietly.

"Good luck to ye, then," said Barzilla. "We'll see you here when you
come back."

Little Peter picked up the reins and at once started, leaving the two
men behind him, who remained standing in the road, and watched him until
he disappeared from sight. The lad's feelings, however, had undergone a
very decided change. He was convinced that the story concerning the aged
Thomas Farr was true, and he was also persuaded that his suspicions of
Jacob and Barzilla were unjust.

Every tree now might be the hiding-place of Fenton, or some of his band.
Each moment he expected to see some one step forth into the road before
him and stop his horses. The very silence in the woods served to
increase his alarm. He quickened the speed of the horses, and soon they
were wet with foam, as they toiled on through the heavy sand. The cry of
a bird, or the chattering of a squirrel, caused the excited lad to
glance fearfully in the direction from which the sound came. To his
excited imagination the woods were filled with his enemies, and more
than once a fallen tree or a broken branch took on the outlines of a
man.

It was with a feeling of intense relief that at last he saw the
crumbling old mill before him. The sound of the water, as it dropped
from the dam to the bed of the brook below, was like music in his ears;
and when he discovered the miller himself standing in the doorway, he
again increased the speed of his horses, and soon halted before the
mill.

"I've come for Benzeor Osburn's grist," he said, as he leaped from his
seat to the ground.

"They must be pretty hungry over there, from the looks of your horses."

"They are. Has any one been here this morning?"

"Not a soul. There's no work now, with all this fighting going on. Have
you heard anything from the soldiers?"

"Not much, only that both the armies must be near here now."

There was nothing, however, in the presence of the old mill to indicate
that war's rude alarms were to be heard anywhere in the region. The
monotonous sound of the falling water, the dull hum of the big wheel,
the little garden which the miller had planted near his log house close
by, the dog lying asleep on the doorsill, the little urchins playing in
the waters of the brook, the hens fluttering in the roadway and covering
themselves with dust,--all seemed to declare that only peace and quiet
were to be found in the region.

And yet, only a few miles away two great armies had assembled, and, on
the morrow the summer air would resound with the booming of cannon, and
many a buffcoat and redcoat would be left lying side by side upon the
plains of Old Monmouth, never again to be mindful of the struggle, or
hear or heed the calls of their officers as they led the men into
battle.

At that very time, if the words of Barzilla Giberson were true, the
woods, which extended between the mill and the main road, concealed some
of the hated pine robbers, as well as outraged patriots who were
searching for their enemies.

The wagon was soon loaded, the miller's share of the grist having first
been set aside, and Little Peter climbed up on the seat and grasped the
reins, as he prepared to start again.

"You'd better be careful," said Little Peter. "I'm told some of the
pine robbers are hiding in these woods."

"I'm not afraid," laughed the miller. "I never harmed them and they
won't harm me."

The lad related the story of the attack upon the house of Thomas Farr,
but still the miller to all appearances was not deeply impressed.

"I haven't any money and they've nothing to gain by disturbing me. I
grind my grists just the same, whether it's a king or Congress that
rules over me, and I don't care much, for my part, which it is. I don't
bother my head about such things. All I want is good water and plenty of
corn, and I'm happy all the day long."

Little Peter had given his warning, so he said no more, but bidding the
miller good-day, he spoke to his horses and at once departed.

His load was heavier now than when he had come, and consequently he was
compelled to let his horses walk. Even then the sweltering beasts
labored heavily under the intense heat, and he was compelled to stop
frequently and permit them to rest in some cool and shady spot.

His own fears had not departed, however, but every turn of the heavy
wheels brought him nearer to the main road, and once there he thought he
would be safe. Already one of the three miles had been left behind him,
and he was about to start on, after the brief rest he had given the
horses, when he was startled by the sound of something breaking through
the bushes that lined the road in front of him.

Tremblingly he waited a moment, gazing with frightened face at the place
in the road where the man, or animal, or whatever it was, would first
appear. His suspense was not relieved when a horse and rider broke
through the bushes and stopped only a few yards in advance of him.

Little Peter's face was deadly pale when he instantly recognized the man
as none other than Lewis Fenton himself. He noted the great size, the
broad shoulders, the powerful arms, for the pine robber was riding
without a coat, and his shirt-sleeves were rolled back, disclosing the
great bunches of muscles; but more than all else the brutal face
terrified him.

Before he could speak or move, Fenton leaped to the ground, and leaving
his horse by the roadside approached the wagon.

"How now, young man? Give an account of yourself. Where you going? Who
are you? As I live, if it isn't Little Peter Van Mater!" he added in
evident astonishment.

As he spoke, he grasped the frightened lad by the shoulder and dragged
him to the ground. Then the brutal, cowardly man struck him two savage
blows. The sight of the woods and even of the pine robber faded from
Little Peter's eyes, and the unconscious boy dropped heavily upon the
sand. Even then Fenton was not satisfied, for again and again he kicked
the body, apparently not yet convinced that life was extinct.

But Little Peter suffered no pain. With sightless eyes, his
blood-stained face looked up at the blue sky above the treetops, but
neither the passing clouds nor the further actions of the brutal pine
robber were heeded by the lad.



CHAPTER XXIX

AFTER THE BATTLE


TOM COWARD, as we know, had been selected to serve as one of the guides
of the American army. The roads were not so numerous as to cause any
fear of serious trouble from confusion; but boys and young men from the
region were nevertheless assigned to this duty, and in some instances
were said to have been so greatly excited as to have failed in finding
the way themselves. To this cause some assigned the failure of Morgan's
dragoons to enter the battle; but doubtless there were other causes as
well which prevented that terrible band of riflemen from having a share
in the struggle.

Tom had been reserved to move with the troops that were under the
command of General Washington himself, and that followed the division
which General Lee had failed to lead into battle. Frightened as the lad
was, he still noted keenly all that was occurring about him, and had
been as highly excited as any over the interview which took place
between Washington and Lee when the latter was retreating. The
impressions he there received were those which the people of Old
Monmouth ever after retained concerning Charles Lee, for he was
remembered, not for his experiences abroad or for his successes in the
south, but as the man who had been the traitor in the battle.

When the engagement began, Tom's duties as guide were ended, but as no
one gave him any instructions, he was driven from one band of men to
another, and while he still retained the rifle which he had taken when
he had departed from Benzeor's house, he had not made any use of it.

For a time he remained within sight of the young lieutenant, and they
were together when in the early part of the battle Captain Molly had
done the deed which has caused her name to be remembered until this day.
Molly had marched with her husband, and as the advanced batteries opened
fire upon each other the intrepid woman had been running back and forth
between the men and a little spring, which was near by, bringing water
to her husband and his companions. Her task was no light one in the heat
of that day.

As she had started to return from one of her visits to the spring, she
turned just in time to see her husband fall as he was advancing to his
post, for he was a cannoneer, as we already know. Molly hastily ran to
his assistance, but she at once perceived that he was dead. She heard an
officer order the cannon to be moved from its position, but instantly
controlling her grief, she declared her purpose to take her husband's
place. Amidst the cheers of the men she did so, and so bravely and well
did she perform the duty, that after the battle was ended General Greene
himself presented her to the great commander and related the story of
her bravery. Washington added his words of praise and bestowed upon her
a lieutenant's commission. The men received the news with loud cheers,
and then themselves bestowed upon "Molly Pitcher" the title of "Captain
Molly," and as Captain Molly she was known thereafter.

Another story, told afterwards by the Frenchmen, reflected great credit
upon General Clinton, and perhaps in a measure atoned for the action of
that commander in wantonly burning so many of the houses in Old
Monmouth. An American officer with about twenty of his men advanced
under the English batteries to observe their position. The redcoats
opened fire, and the officer's aid-de-camp fell at his side. The men,
who were dragoons, instantly turned and fled,--that is, all save the
officer, who, although he was directly under the fire of the cannon,
calmly dismounted and advanced to discover whether the fallen man was
dead or not, or whether the wound had been mortal. Quickly discovering
that the man was dead, the American officer, visibly weeping, turned and
remounted his horse and slowly rejoined his comrades. The officer was
the young Marquis de Lafayette, and his white charger had been
recognized by General Clinton, who himself ordered his men not to fire,
and doubtless thereby saved the life of the brave young nobleman. It was
long cherished as the one deed of mercy in the midst of a campaign and
battle which left its marks of suffering and sorrow on every side.

An instance of the other side of the British commander's character came
to Tom's attention not long afterwards, when he heard of the misfortune
of an old lady seventy years of age, in whose house General Clinton made
his headquarters. The British officer, noticing that his hostess had
caused all of her better furniture and valuables to be removed, informed
her that she need have had no fears for the safety of her possessions,
for he himself would protect her and them, and urged her to have them
brought back again. As the old lady expressed her fears and objected, he
repeated his assurances so strongly that she yielded and sent a man with
a wagon to the place in which they had been concealed.

When the wagon-load arrived in front of her door, she in person applied
to the British commander for a guard; but the permission was refused
and, not even giving her a change of dress for herself or her aged
husband, the goods were at once confiscated, and the old lady was
compelled to give up her bedroom and sleep with the negro women upon the
floor of the kitchen.

Among the congregation which had assembled at the "new church" to watch
the battle was one man who, instead of joining his friends upon the roof
or steeple, took his seat upon one of the gravestones. Not long
afterwards, a cannon-ball came speeding in that direction, and struck
the unfortunate man.

The congregation upon the roof did not wait for the customary
benediction to be pronounced, we may be sure, and while the most of them
hastily dispersed, a few remained to carry the wounded man into the
"meeting-house," where he died within a few minutes, and the stains of
his blood remained for many years upon the floor. It was within six feet
of the west end of this same "new church" that the body of the
unfortunate British Colonel Monckton, over which the contending forces
had such a desperate struggle, was buried.

Within the vicinity of Monmouth Court House many houses and farm
buildings were set on fire and burned by the redcoats, some of whom
openly declared that there was no hope of conquering the rebels until
"they had burned every house and killed every man, woman, and child."
Just how they expected to conquer _after_ they had burned the buildings
and slain the people is not clear to us to-day; but doubtless the
expression and the purpose alike were born of the fury of the battle,
and was only one among many of the results of war, which even in its
mildest forms appeals to all that is bad in men. And as the campaign in
Old Monmouth presented none of the milder forms of war, such deeds,
terrible as they were, were not unnatural.

Nor were they all confined to one side, for the men in buff and blue
were as much aroused as the men in scarlet, and, while naturally the
anecdotes and incidents of the battle are largely those of the cruel
deeds of the redcoats, doubtless if all things had been recorded, we
should have found that many of those brave ancestors of ours were not
entirely guiltless of similar deeds.

An unusual story was that of Captain Cook of the Virginia Corps, who was
shot through the lungs. He was carried into a room in a near-by house
and ordered by the surgeon not to speak. A brother officer came into the
room and tenderly asked of the wounded man whether anything could be
done for him. Captain Cook, in spite of his sufferings, was mindful of
the surgeon's words and made no reply. Mistaking the cause of the
silence, his friend departed from the house and reported to Washington
that Captain Cook was dead, and then the commander ordered a coffin to
be placed under the window of the room in which the brave captain was
supposed to be lying dead. But Captain Cook was not dead, nor did he
die until many years afterwards, and lived to visit several times the
good people in Old Monmouth, who had tenderly ministered to his wants
until he was able to rejoin the army.

After the battle, many of the dead were found beneath the shade of
trees, or beside the little streams to which they had crawled for
shelter or for water; and many of these had perished, not from wounds,
but from their labors in the intense heat of the day. Several houses at
Monmouth Court House were filled with the wounded after the battle, and
every room in the Court House itself was likewise filled. The suffering
soldiers lay upon the straw which had been scattered over the floors,
and the groans and cries of the wounded and the moanings of the dying
resounded together. The faces of many were so blackened that their
dearest friends did not recognize them, and as fast as they died their
bodies were taken and buried in pits, which were only slightly covered
by the sand.

A similar service was rendered for the enemy's dead, and among them was
found a sergeant of dragoons whose immense body had been a familiar
sight to both armies, for the man was said to have been the tallest
soldier ever seen in all the struggle of the Revolution, and to have
measured seven feet and four inches in height.

So, side by side, or in neighboring graves, the nameless bodies of
friends and foes were left for their last long sleep. The roar of the
cannon, the shouts of the men, the calls of the officers, the bitter
feelings of the awful war were never to disturb or arouse them again.
They had done their part, and done it well; but the land for which they
struggled could never mark their resting-places, nor perhaps recall the
names of all. But the heroes whose names we praise would never have been
honored except for the part the faithful and brave, but nameless and
forgotten, heroes took. In honoring the one class, let us never forget
to pay a tribute of honor and of praise to the unknown and forgotten
heroes of Old Monmouth.

The loss of the Americans in the battle had been three hundred and
sixty-two. That of the British, while it was reported to have been four
hundred and sixteen, was doubtless much greater, for the Americans
buried no less than two hundred and forty-five of the redcoats, and had
no means of knowing how many had been carried away. Washington himself
believed the loss to have been as great as twelve hundred.

Who were the victors on the plains of Old Monmouth? What were the
effects of the campaign upon the fortunes of the struggling States? Most
American writers have claimed that the victory belonged to the
Continentals because they had driven the British from the field, while
many British writers have claimed that it was a drawn battle.

Certainly, Washington must have felt bitterly disappointed, for he had
hoped to defeat the enemy and capture their baggage and stores. His
failure to do so was not due to the British, but to the treachery of
Charles Lee. Had Lee carried out the orders given him, there can be
little doubt to-day that the battle of Monmouth would have aided in
putting an end to the war long before peace came.

We are not concerned by what might have been the result, however, but by
what was the result. Clinton succeeded in withdrawing his troops and
saving his baggage train, and with both soon after embarked (June 30)
upon the ships which Lord Howe had been keeping in waiting off Sandy
Hook, and thereby gained the safety of New York. But his men were
greatly disheartened, and came to regard the despised "rebels" in an
entirely new light. Indeed, within a week more than two thousand
deserted, the most of whom were Hessians, and the confidence of those
who remained was sadly broken. While it is a current saying that
"nothing succeeds like success," it is also evident that nothing fails
like failure, and this was as true in those trying days of the
Revolution as it is to-day, and General Clinton soon found it to be so.

Upon the Americans, the moral effect of the campaign and battle was more
needed than the material effect. Valley Forge was passed now,
Philadelphia had been abandoned by the British, and the Americans had
found upon the plains of Old Monmouth, as they had at Trenton and
Princeton, that their men were not inferior to their enemies, while
their officers were among the best the world had known. The opponents
and enemies of Washington, and they were many at the time both within
and without Congress, were compelled to be silent, and the great
commander was free to face his difficulties and dangers, which were not
ended after the battle of Monmouth. That campaign had served chiefly to
place behind him one more of his problems, but, as we shall see, many
yet remained to try the soul of the noblest American of them all.

Meanwhile, what had become of the lad Tom Coward? Alarmed by the battle,
not daring to fight and yet not knowing where to withdraw, although his
fear had not been strong enough to lead to such a result, he was driven
about by the movements of the men, and in one of the lulls which came in
the conflict, he found himself almost alone. He was near a barn which
stood beyond the borders of the battlefield, and was just about to turn
the corner when he stumbled over the body of a fallen man.

As he glanced down, he was almost overcome when he discovered that the
soldier was his friend, the young lieutenant. A hurried examination
revealed that he was still living, though he was badly wounded in the
throat. The lad lifted the head of the suffering man, but a groan caused
him to desist. Almost overcome by grief and fear, he turned to seek for
aid.

[Illustration: HE DISCOVERED THAT THE SOLDIER WAS HIS FRIEND]

As he looked quickly about him, he perceived a man in the distance on
the border of the woods away from the battle-ground. Instantly he
turned and ran toward him, and to his surprise discovered that the man
was none other than Friend Nathan Brown.

"Come, Nathan! come! Be quick! Lieutenant Gordon's over here by the
barn. He's terribly wounded and may die any moment. Come and help me
with him!"

The Quaker instantly responded, and without explaining how it had
happened that he should be discovered so near a scene to which in spirit
as well as in practice he was strongly opposed, ran by the side of the
eager lad to the place where the wounded man had fallen.



CHAPTER XXX

TOM COWARD'S PATIENT


THE place where young Lieutenant Gordon was lying was in the rear of the
barn which belonged to the parsonage of the "new church." After the
bullet had hit him, he had managed to crawl to that secluded place, but
the sounds of the battle, which was still being waged in the vicinity,
were not long heard by the wounded officer, for he had soon become
unconscious, and the roar of the cannon and the shouts of the men were
all unheeded and unheard.

"Is he dead?" said Nathan in a low voice, as he looked down upon the
unconscious man.

"No! no!" replied Tom hastily; "or at least he wasn't a minute ago. No,
he's still alive," he added after a hurried examination. "We must carry
him away from this place."

"I see no place for thy friend. These sons of Belial are not likely to
permit thee to depart unnoticed."

Friend Nathan was trembling, and his face betrayed his alarm. And there
was much to frighten him. Clouds of smoke could be seen not far away,
and the loud shouts of men and the reports of their guns could be
distinctly heard. The struggle near the meeting-house was one of the
most severe in all the battle, and the danger of which the frightened
Nathan spoke was not unreal. But Tom's fears had departed now, and
although he never fully understood the cause of the change in his
feelings, the sight of his suffering friend and his determination to aid
him had banished all thoughts concerning his own personal safety.

At a distance of a half mile, Tom could see a little farmhouse, and he
hastily decided that the young lieutenant must be carried there. The
building was on the border of the plain and on the side opposite to the
place where the struggle was going on.

There would be danger in the attempt to carry him across the field, but
thinking only of his friend, Tom said hastily, "We must carry him to
that farmhouse yonder, Nathan. I don't know who lives there, but whoever
does won't refuse to receive a wounded man, I know. You take hold of his
feet, and I'll lift the head and shoulders, and we'll get him there
somehow. Come, Nathan, we mustn't delay a minute."

"Have it thine own way, Friend Thomas," replied Nathan, as he stooped
and grasped the legs of the wounded officer.

Tom gently lifted the head of the young lieutenant at the same time, and
carefully across the field the two men began to move with their burden.
Their progress necessarily was slow, and the lad's fears were not
allayed by the evident alarm of his companion. Nathan repeatedly glanced
behind him, and several times Tom was compelled to speak sharply to
recall the frightened man to their present task. The shouts and reports
of the guns were increasing, and Tom's strongest desire was to avoid
attracting the attention of any of the combatants.

They had safely passed beyond the orchard, and he was just beginning to
hope that their efforts would be successful, when suddenly Nathan's hat
was lifted from his head and the sound of a whistling musket-ball was
heard as it passed above them.

For a moment, the startled Nathan looked down at his hat, and as he
perceived the hole in it which the bullet had made, he instantly
dropped his burden, and turning sharply about, started in a swift run
across the field.

"Come back, Nathan! Come back! Don't leave me here!" pleaded Tom; but
Nathan did not heed the call.

His pace was a marvelous one for a man of his years, and as he bent low
over the ground, as if to avoid other bullets which might be coming
toward him, and sped swiftly forward, under other circumstances Tom
might have felt inclined to laugh at the ludicrous sight the fleeing man
of peace presented. But as it was he felt much more inclined to cry than
to laugh, and, as he realized his own helplessness, he knew not what to
do. If he had been alone he might have followed Nathan and gained a
place of safety, but, as he glanced down upon the suffering man, who now
lay stretched upon the ground, his whole soul rebelled against the
thought of deserting his friend in a time like that.

What could he do? The desperate lad looked about him hoping to discover
some one whom he might summon to his aid. In the distance he could see
the bands of struggling soldiers, and their shouts and shots could be
clearly heard. But they were all intent upon their own contest, and
there was no one who would hear or heed him if he should call.

He could not abandon his friend--that much at least was certain; and at
last he determined to do his utmost to carry the helpless, wounded man
himself. Placing his arms beneath the shoulders of the unconscious
lieutenant, and striving to rest the head against his own body, he
started slowly on, dragging the man with him. His progress was
necessarily slow, and he was compelled to stop frequently, both for his
own sake and that of his friend. Still, on and on he persistently made
his way. The intense heat of the day, his constant fear that life would
depart from the body he was dragging forward, the sound of the battle
behind him, all combined to increase his troubles; but not for a moment
did he think of abandoning his efforts for his friend.

Proceeding slowly, stopping at frequent intervals and then resuming his
efforts, he steadily drew nearer to the farmhouse he had perceived in
the distance. How much time had been consumed he could not determine.
The minutes seemed like hours to the struggling lad. His own danger was
all forgotten for the time, and the one purpose in his mind was to
carry Lieutenant Gordon to some place of safety, where it should be
possible to do something for the relief of the desperately wounded man.

At last, only one more lot remained to be crossed, and with renewed hope
Tom was about to lift his burden, which he had dropped for one of his
brief rests, when he suddenly discovered a man running toward him.
Startled and alarmed by the sight he quickly perceived that the
approaching man was Friend Nathan, who, hatless and with a dripping
face, was soon by his side.

"Thou hast put me to shame, Friend Thomas," said Nathan soberly. "Thou
art a better man than I, as well as a braver. I know not why it was, but
when my hat was lifted from my head, and I perceived that hole the
bullet had made, I lost my self-control. My teaching has been that of
peace and I am poorly prepared for the contests of war. I will give thee
no cause to complain now."

"Take hold, then," said Tom quickly. "We must get the lieutenant out of
this heat, or there'll be no hope for him."

Nathan eagerly responded, and tenderly lifting the wounded man they
proceeded across the lot.

When they halted for their first rest, Nathan said, "I have a word to
say to thee, Friend Thomas. What did Washington say to thee when he
heard thy demand for a recompense for the beast I let thee have?"

"Say? He didn't say anything, because I didn't say anything to him. You
don't suppose he hadn't anything more to do than to talk with a boy like
me about your old, broken-winded razor-back, do you? I don't even know
what has become of the beast. I know I'm glad I don't have to ride it
any more."

"'Tis well, Friend Thomas," replied Nathan, although Tom thought he
discovered a trace of disappointment in the expression upon his face.
"'Tis well, and I would not have it otherwise. I have been humiliated by
my weakness in deserting thee, a mere lad, at such a time as this. I
would like also to restore to you the half-joe you paid me for my
beast." And as Nathan spoke, he drew the coin from his pocket and held
it forth for Tom to take.

"I don't want your money," said the lad quickly. "Take hold of the
lieutenant again, and this time we'll not stop before we come to the
house."

Once more they tenderly took up their burden, and slowly advancing, soon
approached the house. In the doorway a man and a young woman, evidently
his daughter, were standing, watching the movements of the approaching
men with a curiosity which the noise of the battle in the distance could
not entirely dispel.

Tom's heart was lighter when he recognized the man as Jonathan Cook and
the young woman as his daughter Mary.

"We've brought this man here," said Tom quickly, "to find a
resting-place for him. It's Lieutenant Gordon, and he's terribly
wounded. Will you let us put him in one of your beds?"

"We will that," said Mr. Cook. "We've got one poor fellow here now, and
will do all we can for another, too. Take him right in here," he added,
leading the way to a bedroom adjoining the living-room on the ground
floor.

Tom and Nathan eagerly followed him, and in a brief time had placed the
suffering man on the high bed. Although the lad was almost exhausted by
his efforts, with Nathan's aid he soon removed the clothing of the
young officer, and then Mary came and bathed his bleeding face, and with
many expressions of sympathy listened to the story the weary boy had to
tell.

"I don't suppose it's been wise or safe for us to stay here," said Mary,
"but we just couldn't leave the old place until we had to. We've been
keeping watch all day long, and if the redcoats come this way we shall
have to go. It's been a good thing we've stayed, though, for Captain
Nealey is upstairs and he's almost as badly wounded as this poor man is.
Oh, it's horrible, horrible!"

But intense as Mary's feelings were, they did not prevent her from
bestowing a very tender care upon the unconscious young lieutenant, and
as soon as Tom was satisfied that his friend was receiving better
nursing than he could give, the lad went out of the room.

He discovered Nathan bathing his face and hands near the water-barrel,
which stood beneath the corner of the eaves, and after he had followed
his example, he began to be sensible of his own feeling of exhaustion.

"Now, Friend Thomas, thee must lie down and get some sleep," said
Nathan. "I will assist Mary in her care of thy friend, and I insist
that my words he obeyed. The heavy task has been thine, and my own
cowardice has added to thy burdens, so that now it is thy turn to rest."

The tired lad was easily persuaded, and after again going into the room
in which the unconscious lieutenant was lying, he followed Mr. Cook up
the stairs to a room above, and soon threw himself heavily upon the bed
and fell into a deep sleep.

It was dark when he awoke, and at first it was almost impossible for him
to recall the events of the day. They soon returned, however, and
hastily arising, he made his way down the stairs and entered the
living-room, where he discovered Nathan seated in one of the large
wooden chairs. The moonlight came in through the open windows, and as
Nathan perceived the lad, he said,--

"And did sleep come to thee, Friend Thomas?"

"Yes. I'm rested now. How's the lieutenant?"

"There has been no change. Mary comes every hour and bathes his face in
cool water from the well, but he does not open his eyes."

"Is the battle ended? I don't hear any guns."

"I know not. Since sunset all has been quiet, and it is now midnight."

"I'll watch now, and you go upstairs and get some sleep."

"Nay. I ought not to rest after my cowardice."

"Never mind that. You will do all the more if you rest awhile now."

Nathan was soon persuaded, and Tom took his place as watch. He could
hear the troubled breathing of the suffering man, but it was the only
sound to be heard. Outside the house all was silent, and as the slow
hours passed, the only break which came was the occasional visit of Mary
to bathe the face of the sufferer.

At daybreak, Mr. Cook brought the news of the retreat of the British,
and great was the rejoicing in the old farmhouse when it was learned
that at least the Americans had not suffered defeat in the battle of the
preceding day.

Lieutenant Gordon was still living, although no signs of improvement in
his condition could be discovered. Tom speedily decided that, as he was
not enrolled in the army, there was nothing to prevent him from
remaining and caring for his friend. Nathan also declared that he would
return to his aid as soon as he had gone home and explained to Rachel
the necessity for a further absence, and the lad did not protest, for he
thought he understood the motive which prompted the action.

During the day, Mr. Cook brought the reports of the battle, the hundred
prisoners taken, the number of the dead and wounded, and the measures
which were being taken in the scattered farmhouses and the old
Court-House for the care of the sufferers.

Tom did not leave the house. His one thought now was of his wounded
friend, and all that loving hearts and gentle hands could do was
bestowed upon the suffering soldier, who as yet had not shown that he
was aware of what was going on about him.

The long day passed and the dreary night followed, but still Tom and
Mary cared for the sufferer. Captain Nealey was said to be improving
rapidly, but no change as yet had come in the condition of the young
lieutenant.

It was the morning of the second day, and in the early light Tom had
gone out to the water-barrel again to bathe his face and hands. His
heart was heavy, for apparently Lieutenant Gordon was worse, and all
the efforts of the lad and Mary had produced no improvement in his
condition.

As Tom started to enter the house he halted upon the doorstep and looked
up the road. A heavy farm wagon drawn by two horses was approaching, and
as it came nearer the lad suddenly started as he thought he recognized
the team. Surely those were Benzeor Osburn's horses. A moment later his
suspicions were confirmed, and he knew that the lumbering wagon was his
foster-father's.



CHAPTER XXXI

AMONG THE PINES


TOM'S surprise was still further increased when he recognized one of the
men on the seat as Little Peter, and by his side a sergeant, who was
driving. It was Little Peter's condition, however, which quickly drew
all of Tom's attention, for the lad was carrying one arm in a sling,
one of his eyes was discolored, and the marks of suffering were plainly
to be seen on his face.

Tom quickly ran out into the road, and as his friend recognized him, at
a word from him the horses stopped, and the two boys looked at each
other for a moment as if each was trying to understand how it was that
they both were there.

"What's the matter? Were you in the battle?" said Tom, who was the first
to speak.

"No, that is, I wasn't in the battle by the Court-House. I met Fenton
three days ago up by the old mill, and these are a few tokens of his
regard which he left with me," said Little Peter, slightly moving his
wounded arm as he spoke.

As Tom still looked blankly at him, the lad continued, "I suppose Fenton
thought he left me dead, and it's likely I should have died if Barzilla
Giberson and Jacob Vannote hadn't found me. They took me up and carried
me over to Benzeor's, though I didn't know anything about it at the
time. Sarah and her mother took such good care of me that I'm all right
now, or at least I'm a good deal better."

"You don't look as if you ought to be here," replied Tom. "You say
Barzilla and Jacob found you and took you over to Benzeor's? I don't
understand."

"They're all right; I understand just how it is now."

"What, Benzeor all right?"

"No, Barzilla and Jacob. I know all about Benzeor, too," he added in a
low voice.

"Where is he?"

"He hasn't been seen or heard from in four days. I don't think he'll
come home again very soon. Tom, Sarah wanted me to tell you, if I saw
you, that you were to come home just as soon as you could. I think she
wants to explain something to you," he added, noting Tom's expression of
surprise. "Since she's found out about Benzeor she feels all broken up,
and wants you to come home."

"Then she knows about Benzeor, does she?" inquired Tom thoughtfully.

"Yes, and so do I. You'll go, won't you?"

"I can't now; perhaps I will after a while," and Tom went on to explain
the circumstances which seemed to make his return to Benzeor's
impossible for a time.

"But how does it happen that you are here so early in the morning, and
with Benzeor's team? You're almost the last person I expected to see."

"Oh, the way of it is like this. Barzilla and Jacob and some of the
Whigs have been on the track of Fenton for several days now. We've got
word that he's down in the pines, about two miles below Blue Ball.
Several parties are out after him, for they've made up their minds to
rid Old Monmouth of the outlaw, if such a thing can be done. Well,
Barzilla came up to Benzeor's yesterday, and when he found I was all
right again, he suggested that Ted and I report the matter to some of
the officers in the American army, and get a detachment to go down
there, so that's what we've done, you see."

"No, I don't see," replied Tom, looking about for the detachment of
soldiers of which Little Peter had spoken. "Ted? Ted who?"

"Ted Wilson, if you please," said that worthy, suddenly rising from
beneath the straw with which the wagon-box was apparently filled. "I'm
the Ted what Little Peter means. Yes, sir, I'm on the lookout for those
fellows that go around hangin' Sallies. She's my wife, ye know."

Startled as Tom was by the unexpected appearance of the mighty Ted, he
nevertheless was compelled to laugh, as the huge man stood before him
striving to shake himself free from the bits of straw which covered his
face, and shaking his fist at imaginary Fentons, who went about engaged
in the detestable occupation of "hanging Sallies."

"We saw General Lee yesterday, but he had so much trouble of his own
that he couldn't listen much to ours," explained Little Peter, "but he
managed to give us a sergeant and two men. The sergeant here is driving,
and the men are with Ted under the straw."

Tom's first thought was to inquire concerning the trouble of General
Lee, which Little Peter referred to, but Ted interrupted his question by
declaring, "Yes, sir, I've got two companions in my misery, cooped up
here under the straw. I don't see why they don't let us sit up straight
like men; but no, they must cover us all over with straw, and then put
two or three barrels in the wagon-box too. 'Tisn't my way o' doin'
things, for I'd take Jesh and go straight down to the pines and hang
Fenton on the first tree I found. That's the way I'd do it. But I
suppose I'll have to obey orders."

"That's what you will," said the sergeant, who had been manifesting
signs of impatience for several minutes. "We mustn't stand here in the
road talking all day. Lie down, Ted, and we'll cover you up again."

Reluctantly the huge man consented, and was soon hidden from sight by
the straw which was thrown over him. The barrels were again arranged to
present the appearance of an ordinary load, and then the sergeant,
picking up the reins which were lying loose in his hands, spoke to the
horses and started down the road.

Little Peter turned and watched Tom, who had remained by the roadside,
gazing eagerly after the departing wagon, and when at last he could see
him no longer, once more gave all his thought to the dangerous
expedition on which he had started with his companions.

Benzeor's horses were in much better condition than those of his
neighbors, for reasons that are apparent now to all our readers, and
they maintained so steady a pace that by noontime the party had entered
within the borders of the pines.

The road here became rough and heavy, and the progress, as a
consequence, was correspondingly slow. The tall stately trees, the
whisperings of the wind, the silence of the great forest, and above all,
the knowledge that they had entered upon the most dangerous portion of
their journey, made all the men in the wagon anxious and watchful. Not a
word was spoken now, even Ted having ceased to complain of his narrow
quarters, and having no remarks to make concerning the outlaws, whose
disposition led them to go about the country attacking defenseless men
and "hanging Sallies."

Every tree might conceal an enemy, and at any moment the discharge of a
gun might indicate that their presence had been discovered. The
habitations of men had been left behind them soon after they had entered
the sombre forests, and the few rude little shanties near the border,
occupied by negroes and people whose reputation in Old Monmouth was not
of the best, had all been passed. The vegetation was scanty, and long
barren stretches of sand could be seen on every side. The sunlight only
penetrated the gloom in places, and its presence served to increase the
dark and sombre appearance of the unbroken forest.

Little Peter maintained a careful watch upon one side as they advanced,
and the sergeant watched the other, but they seldom spoke now, and then
only in whispers. The full sense of the danger of entering a region,
known to be used by the pine robbers as their headquarters, was
appreciated as it had not been when they started. They had no means of
knowing how many men Fenton might have with him, and hard as the outlaws
were against the defenseless people of Old Monmouth, doubtless they
would display the honor which it is said thieves maintain toward one
another, and if others should be within hailing distance when Fenton was
attacked they would all quickly rally to his assistance.

And the resistance which Fenton himself would be likely to make was not
forgotten. The vision of him, as he suddenly appeared to Little Peter on
that lonely road to the old mill a few days previous to this time, came
up before the lad now. His big and burly frame, his bared and powerful
arms, the brutal and merciless expression upon his evil face, were all
seen again, and the lad shuddered as he recalled his experiences with
him.

"What's wrong?" whispered the sergeant quickly. "See anything?"

"Not yet."

Little Peter had not been in the region since the breaking out of the
war, although before that time he and Tom had made frequent visits
there. Still, he recognized the locality, and knew the place to which
Barzilla had reported that Fenton had gone. It was a rude log house,
built of the pine-trees, and could not be more than two miles in advance
of them.

The horses were toiling now as they dragged the heavy wagon through the
deep sand. Fish-hawks had their nests in the tops of the lofty trees,
and occasionally Peter obtained a glimpse of the great birds as they
sailed in the air far above him. A brown rabbit now and then came forth
from his burrow, and after eying the intruders a moment, would go
bounding away into the thickets, or else dart swiftly back into his
underground home. The note of a wood-thrush now and again broke in upon
the stillness with its clear, sweet whistle, and the watchful men would
glance quickly about them, almost thinking that the sound was the call
of the pine robbers to one another.

Little Peter's fear and the pain he was suffering from his recent
encounter with Fenton made his face pale, and as the sergeant again
turned to him and marked his appearance, he said, "'T was too bad, my
lad, that you had to come."

"I knew the way. I had to come and show you."

"Yes, yes. I know it, but it's hard, for all that."

"We're almost there now. The place can't be more than a quarter of a
mile farther on."

The sergeant did not reply, but turned quickly at the words, and peered
keenly into the forest before him. No one could be seen, and the tall
trees guarded well their secret. The toiling horses were pulling
steadily on their load, and they, at least, felt no alarm; but Little
Peter and his companion were anxious now, and were keeping their eyes
steadily fixed upon the road before them.

"There! That's the place!" whispered the lad excitedly, as he obtained a
glimpse of a little clearing not far in advance of them.

The sergeant did not reply, but he tightened his grasp upon the reins,
and glanced down at the gun which he had placed within easy reach.
Little Peter's excitement had become intense, and he was peering eagerly
ahead of him, while his breathing was quick and hard. They would soon
know what the result of the expedition was to be.

The heavy wagon came out into the clearing, and drew near to the one
small house, which was standing within it. The house was of logs, and
corresponded exactly to the description which Barzilla had given of it.
As yet, no human being had been seen, and the sergeant was just about to
declare that the place was not inhabited when the door was suddenly
opened and a man stepped forth to view. Evidently he had heard the
sounds of the approaching wagon, and had come out to investigate.

He was a tall, broad-shouldered, powerful-appearing man. He was clad in
a pair of rough trousers and high boots, which looked as if they might
have belonged to some Hessian dragoon at one time, and the red flannel
shirt which partially covered his chest could not entirely conceal the
great bunches of muscle there. In one hand he grasped a pistol, and the
expression upon his face might well have caused a man with a much
stouter heart than Little Peter had to tremble.

The sergeant glanced inquiringly at the lad by his side, and Little
Peter nodded his head in reply to the unspoken question. The man was
Fenton himself,--the one who had robbed the widows and the fatherless,
had made the midnight attacks upon the defenseless people of Old
Monmouth, had hanged trembling women from the limbs of trees, and
tortured his helpless victims into revealing the places where their
scanty savings had been concealed. He had been the leader of bands as
desperate and wicked as himself, and the suffering and woe which the
good people of the surrounding region had experienced at his hands can
never be told. And now the man himself stood waiting for the wagon, in
which were Little Peter, himself a victim of the pine robbers' cruelty,
and his companions, to approach.

"Hold on!" called Fenton. "You're movin' too fast. What ye doin' here?"

The sergeant stopped his horses, and as Fenton approached and stood near
the wheel, he said, "We've come down here to look for a man we want to
find."

"I reckon I'll do as well as any other. Look at me! Ye're not goin' any
farther, ye might as well understand that now as any time. Got a bottle
with ye?"

The sergeant drew forth a bottle of brandy and handed it to the outlaw.
Fenton took it, and raised one foot upon the hub of the wheel. As he
lifted the bottle to his lips, his eyes fell upon Little Peter, who had
been endeavoring to conceal himself behind his companion.

Instantly recognizing the lad, he shouted, "You here? You? I thought I
left ye dead up by the mill the other day! You rascal! One whipping
wasn't enough, was it? I'll give ye what ye deserve now!"

Fenton reached back with one hand to grasp the pistol he had thrust into
his pocket when he had taken the bottle. Quickly the sergeant kicked the
foot of Ted Wilson under the straw, and instantly the men arose, and
before Fenton could act, had brought their guns to their shoulders and
the reports rang out together.

The pine robber pitched heavily forward, and lay dead upon the sand. Oh,
it was horrible, awful! A sensation of sickness, of faintness, swept
over Little Peter as he looked down upon the face of the dead outlaw.

"What's that? What's that?" said Ted quickly.

It was the sound of a gun not far away. It might be the answer of other
bands of pine robbers to the volley which had just been fired; and
hurriedly throwing the body of Fenton into the wagon, the sergeant
turned his horses about and started swiftly back up the road.



CHAPTER XXXII

CONCLUSION


IN spite of the heavy sand the horses were driven swiftly, until their
heaving sides and dripping flanks compelled their driver to give them a
much-needed rest. Ted Wilson and one of the soldiers then leaped lightly
to the ground and ran into the woods on either side of the road to
ascertain whether they were pursued or not.

As the silence of the great forest was unbroken they speedily returned,
and the flight was resumed. No one was concealed beneath the straw in
the wagon-box now, and every one stood waiting and ready to share in the
defense which at any moment might become necessary.

On past the tall pine-trees, on through the heavy sandy road, rushed the
returning party, and at last, when they obtained a glimpse of the open
country, they breathed a sigh of relief as they realized that the danger
of immediate pursuit was gone. It was not until nearly a year after
this time that they learned that the gun they had heard had been
discharged by De Bow, the desperate leader of another band of outlaws as
evil in every way as those whom the detested Fenton had himself led.

It was near the close of the day when the party, of which Little Peter
was a member, drove up to Monmouth Court-House. Carelessly, almost
brutally, the sergeant and one of his companions seized the body of the
dead outlaw, and flinging it from the wagon into one of the trenches the
soldiers had made, shouted, "Here's a cordial for your tories and wood
robbers!"

Little Peter had no share in the rejoicing which followed when it was
known that the pine robber was no more. It was true, he knew Fenton had
richly deserved his fate, and that no more would the defenseless people
of Old Monmouth suffer from the evil deeds of his marauding band. He,
too, had known something of Fenton's wickedness, for he was motherless,
homeless, and almost fatherless because of him, and his own body for
many days bore the traces of his meeting with him on his return from the
mill; but in spite of all that, his heart was sick whenever he thought
of the dead face he had seen looking up at him from the wagon-box, and
the brutal rejoicings of the men who had shot him near his abode among
the pines.

On the following day Tom Coward returned to Benzeor's house for a brief
visit, reporting a very decided improvement in the condition of young
Lieutenant Gordon. A long interview between Tom and Sarah followed, and
as the troubled girl explained to the lad what she had learned
concerning the evil deeds of her own father, and begged him to return
and aid her in caring for the family in the presence of such dangers and
perplexities, Tom could not find it in his heart to refuse. The kindness
bestowed upon him in the home, and the obligations to repay as best he
could the care he himself had received there, were too strong to be
ignored, and greatly to the joy of Sarah and her mother he yielded to
their urgent pleas. He had not yet enlisted in the army, and so was free
to decide the question for himself.

He was aided in making the decision by the fact that Little Peter was
also to remain. His own home had been destroyed, and as there was no
place to which he could take his little brothers and sisters, there was
every reason why he should accept the invitation and increase the
defenses of the household.

It was not considered probable that Benzeor would return, nor was it
known what had become of the man, who had gradually and yet steadily
been drawn into the power of the pine robbers, until at last he was
considered by them all as one of themselves, and indeed he was. Neither
the boys nor Sarah knew then whither he had gone. Tom thought he might
have been killed in the battle, and it was not until more than a year
had passed that word came from the missing Benzeor; but where he had
been and what he had been doing do not belong to this story.

On the day following the great battle of Monmouth, General Lee had, to a
certain extent, recovered from his chagrin at the public rebuke General
Washington had administered to him, and in his arrogance, and as a
relief to his feeling of mortification, he wrote a childish letter to
the commander, demanding an apology for the words he had spoken in the
presence of the soldiers.

Washington's reply to Lee's letter was as follows:--

"SIR,--I received your letter, expressed, as I conceive, in terms highly
improper. I am not conscious of making use of any very singular
expressions, at the time of meeting you, as you intimate. What I
recollect to have said was dictated by duty and warranted by the
occasion. As soon as circumstances will permit, you shall have an
opportunity of justifying yourself to the army, to Congress, to America,
and to the world in general; or of convincing them that you were guilty
of a breach of orders, and of misbehavior before the enemy on the 28th
instant, in not attacking them as you had been directed, and in making
an unnecessary, disorderly, and shameful retreat."

Lee's reply to this letter, as impudent as it was childish, certainly
did not tend to elevate him in the estimation of the men of his own
time, or of ours. His letter was as follows: "You cannot afford me
greater pleasure than in giving me the opportunity of showing to America
the sufficiency of her respective servants. I trust that temporary power
of office, and the tinsel dignity attending it, will not be able, by all
the mists they can raise, to obfuscate the bright rays of truth."

Washington's reply to this insulting letter was to arrest Lee. The
traitor was at once court-martialed and charged with disobedience of
orders, misbehavior on the field, making a disgraceful retreat, and also
with gross disrespect to his commander-in-chief. The trial lasted more
than a month, and the result was that Lee was suspended for the term of
one year. If strict justice had been measured out to the man, doubtless
he would not have escaped with so light a sentence; but Washington was
merciful, and although Lee did not appreciate the kindness shown him, he
owed his life to the man whose heart and mind were so much greater than
his own.

General Washington did not long delay in Old Monmouth after the battle.
The British army had gained New York, and so the American commander
moved to the Hudson, and on the 20th of July went into camp at White
Plains, having left some of the militia to look well to the needs of the
country in which the great battle had been fought.

And Monmouth was a great battle. Not only did the men struggle with a
determination such as has been seldom displayed, but the results of the
engagement itself were also marked and strong. While the two armies,
after Washington had gone to the Hudson and Clinton to New York,
occupied much the same relative positions as in the latter part of '76,
the motives which controlled each were exactly reversed. The Americans
now became the aggressors, and the British were compelled to defend
themselves.

All this was intensified by the action of France. Benjamin Franklin had
succeeded in arranging a treaty between that land and ours. France was
to send a fleet of sixteen war vessels under D'Estaing to our shores,
and also an army of four thousand men. It was the coming of this fleet
which, as we know, caused the British to depart from Philadelphia and
hasten to the defense of New York, which place they thought would be
first attacked. The march of the redcoats and Hessians across New Jersey
gave Washington an opportunity to pursue them, and while he failed in
accomplishing all that he hoped, and much that he might have done had it
not been for the treacherous actions of Lee, still he virtually had won
a victory. He compelled the British to retreat with great losses, he
strengthened his own position, he silenced his enemies in Congress, and,
above all, he aroused a new feeling of hope and determination in the
hearts of the struggling Americans.

The British very promptly declared war against France, and then coolly
invited the Americans to join them, promising all that the colonists had
asked three years before this time. The offer had come too late,
however, for now the colonies had become States, and independence had
been declared, and independence the new nation would have. So the war
was continued, but the part which the new allies took and the further
struggles of the determined Americans belong to another story.

It only remains to refer briefly to the experiences of our friends,
whose fortunes we have followed in the course of this book.

Lieutenant Gordon at last recovered from his wound. Tom Coward divided
his time between caring for his friend and the labor on Benzeor's farm.
In the former task he was aided by Friend Nathan Brown until such a time
as the young lieutenant could be removed to his own home.

Friend Nathan had been unable to remain away from the battle of
Monmouth, and while both his feelings and professions had prevented him
from entering into the struggle, still his interest had been so intense
that he had started from his home to the scene of the struggle. There he
met Tom, and the part he then took in caring for the wounded young
officer we already know.

Neither Tom nor Little Peter was idle. There was much work to be done on
both farms, and the lads aided each other. The crop on the ten-acre lot
was successfully grown and harvested, and the immediate problem of food
in Benzeor's household was in a measure solved.

Indian John was never seen by our boys again. Whether he had been slain
by the British or the pine robbers, or had departed from the homes of
his ancestors for a region into which the redcoats and buffcoats did not
enter, was never known. Both Tom and Little Peter were inclined to the
latter conclusion, however, and their opinion was strengthened by the
fact that "Charlie" Moluss, and his wife Bathsheba, and her sister
"Suke" were never seen or heard from again.

Several times the boys made their way into Indian John's cave by the
brook, but they never discovered any signs of their friend. He had
forever disappeared, but his stories concerning the origin of the Jersey
mosquitoes, his interpretations of the roar of the ocean and the calls
of the sea-birds, and above all the assistance he had rendered Little
Peter in the trying days of '78 were never forgotten.

Weeks had passed before Little Peter positively learned that Benzeor's
statement concerning his father had been correct, but at last he
received definite information that he was a prisoner in New York. What
that meant to the troubled lad, few of us to-day can understand. The
sufferings on board the prison-ships and in the prison-houses of New
York almost baffle description; but we may be sure of one thing, and
that is that Little Peter did not sit idly down, nor rest content to
leave his father where he was without making some efforts in his behalf.
But that, too, belongs to another record.

Barzilla Giberson and Jacob Vannote after the death of Fenton did not
find it necessary to play a double part. They believed that their
efforts to run the pine robbers to cover had been successful, and that
now they could boldly and openly take their stand on the side of the
patriots. And take that stand they did, and their services in the New
Jersey militia are known in all the region of Old Monmouth.

Ted Wilson, with Jeshurun "waxen fatter" and consequently still more
inclined to kick, returned to his home after the death of Fenton. He
found Sallie and the babies safe at the Dennises, but all of the mighty
Ted's former indifference as to his rulers had departed. The taste of
the struggle he had had seemed only to whet his appetite for more, and
not many days had passed before Ted and Jeshurun once more started forth
in quest of service and adventure.

Sarah Osburn labored faithfully and cheerfully for the welfare of her
enlarged household, and the boys did not fail to appreciate her
kindness. Tom thought he understood the motive which prompted much of
her care for Little Peter's younger brothers and sisters, but throughout
the long absence of Benzeor he never directly or indirectly referred to
it.

There was a brief lull in the outrages and attacks of the pine robbers
after the death of Fenton, but it was very brief. Stephen Burke (or
Stephen Emmons as he was sometimes called), Stephen West, Ezekiel
Williams, Jonathan West, Richard Bird, Davenport, De Bow, and others
were yet living, and as each was the leader of a band as desperate as
himself, and as all were as reckless and brave as Fenton had been, in a
brief time the suffering people of Old Monmouth found that their
troubles were by no means ended.

Redcoat and buffcoat were again to contend within their borders,
salt-works and houses were to be burned, gunboats were to anchor off her
shore and their crews were to engage in conflicts with the patriots;
whigs and tories were not yet reconciled, the pine robbers were not yet
subdued. Five long and terrible years of the struggle of the Revolution
were yet to come, and the sands of Old Monmouth were again and again to
be dyed by the blood of fallen men.

The waves which came creeping, crawling up the long sandy shore, the
tall pine-trees whose tops whispered together as they bent beneath the
summer winds and winter storms, the fertile plains and noble forests of
oak and chestnut, were unchanged; but the struggling men and women of
Old Monmouth were yet to endure the bitter hardships and fierce
contests, which the closing days of the Revolution brought to them in
greater numbers than to almost any other people of our land.

       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber's Notes:

Obvious punctuation errors repaired.

Page 260, "Webberley" changed to "Webberly" (And Webberly had taught)

Page 404, "did't" changed to "didn't" (didn't know anything)





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