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Title: Peggy Owen Patriot - A Story for Girls
Author: Madison, Lucy Foster, 1865-1932
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Peggy Owen Patriot - A Story for Girls" ***

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[Illustration: “CAN I BE OF ANY ASSISTANCE?”]



                           Peggy Owen Patriot

                           A Story for Girls

                                   BY

                          Lucy Foster Madison

                               Author of

                              “Peggy Owen”
                        “Peggy Owen at Yorktown”
                        “Peggy Owen and Liberty”

                        Illustrated by H.J. Peck

                      The Penn Publishing Company
                          Philadelphia MCMXVII



                               COPYRIGHT
                                1910 BY
                                THE PENN
                               PUBLISHING
                                COMPANY

                 “I pray you, let us satisfy our eyes
                 With the memorials and things of fame
                 That do renown this city.”



                              Introduction

In “Peggy Owen,” the preceding book of the series, the heroine, a little
Quaker maid, lives across from the State House in Philadelphia. By
reason of this she becomes much interested in the movements of the
Continental Congress, and when her father, in spite of his religion,
takes up arms for the Whigs she too becomes an ardent patriot. While
David Owen is with the army before Boston, Peggy and her mother find a
kinsman of his—William Owen, a colonel in the English army—a prisoner in
the city’s new jail.

They succeed in having him released on parole, and take him into their
home, where he requites their kindness by selfishness and arrogance,
even killing Peggy’s pet dog, Pilot. He is exchanged at length, but
before leaving he brings one James Molesworth to the house, claiming
that he does not like to leave them unprotected. This man Peggy
discovers to be a spy.

Upon the advance of the British toward Philadelphia Peggy and her mother
go to their farm on the banks of the Wissahickon. Here they are almost
denuded of supplies by foragers, one party of which is headed by their
own kinsman, Colonel Owen. American troopers arrive, and a sharp
skirmish takes place, in which Colonel Owen is wounded. While caring for
him word is received that David Owen is a prisoner in Philadelphia, and
ill of a fever. General Howe proposes to have him exchanged for one
Thomas Shale, and Peggy rides to Valley Forge to secure the consent of
General Washington. Owing to the fact that the man is a spy and a
deserter the exchange cannot take place, and, in a blaze of anger at
finding her cousin so comfortable while her own father lies ill, Peggy
denounces him, and forces him to accede to the proposal that he be
exchanged for her father. The book closes with the evacuation of
Philadelphia by the British.

The present volume shows the Owens at Washington’s camp in northern New
Jersey. Peggy’s further adventures are continued in “Peggy Owen at
Yorktown” and “Peggy Owen and Liberty.”



                                CONTENTS

           CHAPTER                                          PAGE
                I. On the Road to Philadelphia                11
               II. The Home-Coming                            24
              III. An Old Time Advertisement                  37
               IV. A Girl’s Sacrifice                         48
                V. Up in the Attic                            61
               VI. Tea at Headquarters                        69
              VII. A Summer Soldier                           87
             VIII. Peggy’s Resolve                            98
               IX. The Tale of a Hero                        107
                X. Peggy Teaches a Lesson                    119
               XI. Peggy Pleads for Drayton                  129
              XII. Another Chance                            141
             XIII. Good News                                 151
              XIV. The Camp at Middlebrook                   159
               XV. Harriet                                   176
              XVI. The Two Warnings                          188
             XVII. A Letter and a Surprise                   205
            XVIII. Stolen Thunder                            222
              XIX. A Promise and an Accusation               232
               XX. A Regretted Promise                       247
              XXI. The Reckoning                             258
             XXII. A High-Handed Proceeding                  269
            XXIII. In the Lines of the Enemy                 281
             XXIV. The Reason Why                            291
              XXV. The Alert That Failed                     303
             XXVI. The Battle With the Elements              319
            XXVII. A Haven After the Storm                   335
           XXVIII. A Taste of Partisan Warfare               346
             XXIX. Peggy Finds an Old Friend                 361
              XXX. An Interrupted Journey                    376
             XXXI. How the News was Received at Camp         387
            XXXII. On the Altar of His Country               401
           XXXIII. A Great Surprise                          419
            XXXIV. Home                                      429



                             ILLUSTRATIONS

     “Can I be of Any Assistance?”                     Frontispiece
     “Friend—I Should Say—General Arnold”                        80
     Slowly He Turned Toward the Reader                         124
     “My Wife and Daughter, Your Excellency”                    169
     “Why Should Thee Play the Spy?”                            261
     The Dingey was Caught by a Current                         334
     “You Are Welcome,” said General Gates                      396



PEGGY OWEN, PATRIOT



CHAPTER I—ON THE ROAD TO PHILADELPHIA


              “And rising Chestnut Hill around surveyed
              Wide woods below in vast extent displayed.”

                       —“The Forester,” Alexander Wilson.

“Oh, gracious!”

The exclamation burst from the lips of a slender girl mounted upon a
small black mare, and she drew rein abruptly.

“What is it, Peggy?” asked a sweet-faced matron, leaning from the side
of a “one horse chair” drawn up under the shade of a tree by the
roadside. “What hath happened? Thee seems dismayed.”

“I am, mother,” answered the girl, springing lightly from the back of
the horse. “My saddle girth hath broken, and both Robert and Tom are
back with the wagons. There is a breakdown. What shall I do? This will
cause another delay, I fear.”

“Thee can do nothing, Peggy, until Robert returns. Try to content
thyself until then.”

“I could repair it myself, I believe, if I only had a string,” said the
maiden. “I wonder if there isn’t one in the chaise. Let’s look, mother.”

Throwing the bridle over her arm the girl joined her mother, and the two
began a hasty search of the vehicle.

It was a golden day in September, 1778, and the afternoon sun was
flooding with light the calm and radiant landscape afforded by the
wooded slopes of Chestnut Hill, penetrating even the dense branches that
overarched the highroad leading to Germantown.

It was one of those soft, balmy days when the fathomless daylight seemed
to stand and dream. A cool elixir was in the air. The distant range of
hills beyond the river Schuylkill was bound with a faint haze, a frail
transparency whose lucid purple barely veiled the valleys. From the
motionless trees the long clean shadows swept over tangles of underbrush
brightened by the purple coronets of asters, feathery plumes of
goldenrod, and the burning glory of the scarlet sumac. Ranks of silken
thistles blown to seed disputed possession of the roadside with lowly
poke-bushes laden with Tyrian fruit.

The view from the crest of the hill where the chaise had stopped was
beautiful. The great forest land spread out beneath seemed boundless in
extent, for the farms scattered among the woodland were scarcely visible
from the height, but the maiden and her mother were so intent upon the
mishap of the broken strap as to be for the nonce insensible to the
delights of the scenery. So absorbed were they that they started
violently when a voice exclaimed:

“Your servant, ladies! Can I be of any assistance?”

“Why,” gasped Peggy, turning about in amazement as a lad of about
eighteen, whose appearance was far from reassuring, stepped from the
woods into the road. “Who art thou, and what does thee want?”

“I want to help you mend your saddle,” said the youth coolly, doffing a
tattered beaver with some grace. “Didst not say that the girth had
broke?”

“Yes, but,” began the girl, when her mother spoke:

“Art sure that thou canst aid us, my lad?” she asked mildly. “Thou wilt
not mind if I say that thee looks in need of aid thyself.”

“As to that, madam, it can be discussed later,” he rejoined. “For the
present, permit me to say that here is a piece of rawhide, and here a
jack-knife. What doth hinder the repairing of the saddle but your
permission?”

“And that thou hast,” returned the lady. “We shall be indeed grateful to
thee for thy aid.”

At once the youth stepped to the side of the mare, and inspected the
broken band critically. Then, removing the saddle to the ground, he set
to work upon it with a dexterity that showed him to be no novice. “What
is the name of the pony?” he asked, addressing the maiden directly.

“Star,” answered she regarding him with curious eyes.

He was in truth a spectacle to excite both curiosity and pity. He was
haggard and unkempt, and his garments hung about him in tatters. His
form was thin to emaciation, and, while he boasted the remains of a
beaver, his feet were without covering of any sort.

“’Tis a pretty beast,” he remarked, seeming not at all concerned as to
his rags. “One of the likeliest bits of horse-flesh I’ve seen in many a
day. Are you fond of her?”

“I am indeed,” answered the girl, patting the mare gently. “My father
gave her to me, and I would not lose her for anything. He is now with
the army at White Plains, New York.”

“Are you not Quakers?” he queried, glancing up in surprise.

“We are of the Society of Friends, which the world’s people call
Quakers,” interposed the matron from the chaise.

“And they, methought, were neutral,” he observed with a smile.

“Not all, friend. There be some who are called Free Quakers, because
they choose to range themselves upon the side of their country. Methinks
thou shouldst have heard of them.”

“I have,” he rejoined, “but as Fighting or Hickory Quakers.”

“It doesn’t matter what we are called so long as we are of service to
the country,” exclaimed Peggy with some warmth. “Is thee not of the army
too? Thou art an American.”

The lad hesitated, and then said quickly: “Not now. I have been.” And
then, abruptly—“Are you ladies alone?”

“No,” replied the girl, casting an anxious glance down the roadway. The
highways of Pennsylvania, once so peaceful and serene, were by this
period of the war so infected with outlaws and ruffians as to be
scarcely safe for travelers. “We have an escort who are coming up with
the wagons. One broke, and it took all hands to repair it. They should
be here at any time now.”

“There!” spoke the youth, rising. “I think, mistress, that you will find
your saddle in prime order for the rest of your journey.”

“Thank thee,” said Peggy gratefully. “It is well done. And now what
shall we do for thee? How can we serve thee for thy kindness?”

“Are you bound for Philadelphia, or do you stop in Germantown?” he
asked.

“Philadelphia, my lad,” spoke the mother.

“Would thee——” She hesitated a moment and then drew forth some bills.
“Would thee accept some of these? ’Tis all I have to offer in the shape
of money. Hard coin is seldom met with these days.”

“Nay,” said the boy with a gesture of scorn. “Keep your bills, madam. I
have had my fill of Continental money. ’Twould take all that you have to
purchase a meal that would be filling, and I doubt whether the farmers
hereabouts would take them.”

“There is a law now compelling every one to take them,” cried Peggy.
“They will have to take the Continental money whether they wish to or
not. And they should. Every good patriot should stand by the country’s
currency.”

“You are all for the patriots, I see,” he remarked. “When one has
suffered in the cause, and received naught from an ungrateful country
one doesn’t feel so warmly toward them.”

“But, my lad,” broke in the lady, “thee will pardon me, I know, if I say
again that thee looks in need of assistance. If we cannot aid thee here
perchance in the city we could be of service. I am Lowry Owen, David
Owen’s wife. Thou mayst have heard of him?”

“Perchance then, madam, you would not mind if I accompanied you to the
city?” queried the lad. “Wilt let me ride with you?”

“With pleasure,” answered Mrs. Owen. “Thou shalt sit in the chaise with
me while Tom may go in the wagons. This chair is not so comfortable as a
coach, because it hath no springs or leather bands, but thou wilt not
find it unbearable.”

“’Twill be better than walking,” he returned with easy assurance. His
assurance deserted him suddenly, and he sank upon the ground abruptly.
“I am faint,” he murmured.

“The poor lad is ill,” cried Peggy hastening to his side. “Oh, mother!
what does thee think is the matter?”

“’Tis hunger, I fear,” replied Mrs. Owen hastily descending from the
chair. “Peggy, fetch me the portmanteau from under the seat. Why did I
not ask as to thy needs?” she added with grave self-reproach as the
youth reached eagerly for the food. “There! Be not too ravenous, my lad.
Thou shalt have thy fill.”

“Oh, but——” uttered the boy, clutching the provisions. He said no more,
but ate with frantic haste, as though he feared the viands would be
taken from him. Mrs. Owen and Peggy regarded him with pitying eyes.
Presently he looked at them with something of his former jauntiness.
“’Tis the first real food that I have eaten for three days,” he told
them. “I have been living on wild grapes, and corn whenever I could find
a field. I thank you, madam; and you also, mistress.”

“And hast thou no home, or place to go that thou art reduced to such a
pass?” asked the lady.

“There is no place near. Perhaps when I reach Philadelphia I shall find
a way to get to mine own home, and then——”

“Ah! there comes Robert with the wagons,” exclaimed Peggy, as four
wagons escorted by as many troopers appeared from behind a bend in the
highway. “I am so glad, for now we can start again. He will know what to
do for thee, thou poor lad!”

“Is he—is he a soldier?” asked the boy gazing at the approaching wagon
train with evident alarm.

“Why, yes; of course,” answered Peggy. “He is aide for the time being to
General Arnold, who hath charge of Philadelphia. Why——”

“I thank you again,” cried the lad, springing to his feet with such a
sudden accession of strength that the girl and her mother were
astonished. “I thank you, and bid you good-morrow.” Darting across the
road, he plunged into the forest, and was soon lost to sight, leaving
Peggy and Mrs. Owen staring blankly after him.

“Heigh ho!” gasped Peggy when she had presently recovered herself. “I
wonder why he did that? There is naught about Robert to fear.”

“Perhaps Robert can explain,” said her mother with a peculiar smile. “I
rather think ’twas because he feared to meet a soldier.”

“But why?” persisted the girl. “I see not why he should fear—mother,”
she broke off suddenly as a thought came to her, “was the lad a
deserter?”

“I fear so, Peggy. There are many such roaming the country, I hear.”

“Oh, Robert,” cried the maiden as a youth of soldierly bearing rode up
to them. “We have had such an adventure! My saddle girth broke, and a
youth came out of the woods and mended it. Then he was faint for the
want of food, and mother fed him. He was to go with us to the city, but
when he heard that thee was a soldier, he thanked us and disappeared
into the forest. Mother thinks him a deserter.”

“I make no doubt of it,” spoke the young man gravely. “The woods are
full of such fellows. Why! Are you alone? Where is Tom? I sent him to
stay with you, as we were delayed by a breakage. You should not have
been here alone.”

“Tom?” Peggy looked her dismay. “Why, we have not seen him since he went
with thee. Was he not at the wagons? Oh! I hope that naught hath
befallen him.”

“He must be about somewhere,” said the youth comfortingly. Nevertheless
he dismounted and began to look among the bushes that overhung the
roadside. “Why, you black rascal,” he shouted as he came upon a negro
asleep behind some brush. “Get up! I thought I sent you to guard your
mistresses?”

“Dere wuzn’t nuffin’ ter guard ’em frum,” yawned Tom, who counted
himself a privileged character. “I seed dey wuz all right, so I ‘prooves
de shinin’ hour by gittin’ a li’l res’. Yo’ ain’t a gwine ter ‘ject ter
dat, is yer, Marster Dale?”

“And your mistress might have been robbed while you were doing so,”
began Robert Dale sternly. “I’ve a mind——”

“Don’t scold him, Robert,” pleaded Peggy. “The ride hath been a long one
from the farm. I wonder not that he is tired. Why,” closing her bright
eyes in a vain attempt to look drowsy, “I could almost go to sleep
myself.”

“You spoil that darkey,” remonstrated the youth as Tom, knowing that his
case was won, climbed to his place in the chaise. “Let me look at that
saddle, Peggy. If it is all right we must start at once, else ’twill be
night ere we reach the city. Ah! ’tis well done,” he added with
approval, after an inspection of the band. “Our deserter, if such he be,
understands such things. Come, Peggy!”

He adjusted the saddle, assisted the maiden to it, then mounting his own
horse gave the command, and the journey was resumed.



CHAPTER II—THE HOME-COMING


            “Such is the patriot’s boast, where’er we roam,
            His first, best country, ever is at home.”

                                                —Goldsmith.

The bells of Christ Church were pealing out the joyous chime

                        “Market-day to-morrow!”

as the girl and Robert Dale, followed immediately by the chaise and more
remotely by the wagons, cantered into Front Street. It was Tuesday
evening, or in Quaker parlance, Third Day, and the streets were full of
stir and bustle incident to the preparation for next day’s market.

“Oh!” cried Peggy drawing a deep breath. “How good it is to be home once
more! How musical sounds the rattling of even the carriages!”

“Very harsh music, methinks,” smiled the youth.

“But preferable to the croaking frogs and screeching owls of farm life,”
said the girl quickly. “If thee had been away for a year I make no doubt
but that thee would be as glad to return to this dear city as I am.”

“I make no doubt of it too,” he agreed.

“Just think,” went on Peggy. “I have not seen either Sally or Betty
since the Fourth of July. Had it not been for thee I would know naught
of what hath occurred since then. Thou hast been very kind to us,
Robert.”

“It hath been a pleasure,” returned he gravely. “I think you cannot know
what a relief it is to get away from the incessant round of gaiety with
which the city seems beset. I weary of it, and long to be in the field.”

“I hope that thee will not go just as we have returned to town,”
remarked the maiden. “Mother and I will welcome the chance to return
some of thy favors.”

“Don’t, Peggy,” exclaimed the lad coloring. “I like not for you to speak
of requiting favors as though you and your mother owed aught to me. It
hath been a pleasure, as I have said.”

“Thee is too modest, Robert. None the less we owe thee much, even though
thee does try to deny it. How, sir, could we have come to the city
without thy escort? With father away thee knows that ’twould have been
impossible for mother and me to have managed the wagons. And——But oh,
Robert! Aren’t the shops opened yet? So many seemed to be closed.”

“Not all are open, Peggy. Everything is fast becoming as ’twas before
the coming of the British, but it will take some time to restore matters
to a normal condition. ’Tis but September, and they only left in June.”

“I know,” observed she thoughtfully, “that ’twill be indeed long before
we are as we were before their coming. An enemy makes sad havoc, does it
not?”

“Yes,” he agreed. And then, as the memory of all that the British
occupation had brought came to them, they fell into a silence.

In common with many Whig families Lowry Owen and her daughter had
deferred their permanent return to the city until it had regained some
semblance of its former order. Under the command of Major-General
Arnold, Philadelphia, bruised, and sore, and shaken after the occupation
for nine long months by the British, was striving to become once more
the city of brotherly love, but the throes of reconstruction had not yet
settled into the calm of its former serenity. Something of this was
discernible even to the lenient eyes of the overjoyed maiden, and cast a
momentary shadow over her happiness at being once more within the
confines of her native city. But, as they entered Chestnut Street, the
tinge of sadness vanished, and her eyes sparkled.

“I cannot wait for thee, Robert,” she called, giving her mare a gentle
pat. “Perhaps the girls may be waiting.”

She smiled a farewell, and set off at speed, drawing rein presently
before a large double brick house at the western extremity of the town,
just across from the State House.

Before she could dismount the door of the dwelling was thrown wide, and
two girls came running down the steps, and flung themselves upon her.

“Oh, Peggy! Peggy!” they cried simultaneously. “We were waiting for
thee. Robert told us that we might look for thee to-day. What kept thee
so long? And where is thy mother? And Robert? Is not he with thee?”

“Oh, girls!” exclaimed Peggy, returning their embraces rapturously. “How
good it is to see you. Sally, thee is prettier than ever! And how Betty
hath grown!”

“Oh, Peggy, I have a thousand things to tell thee,” cried Sally Evans.
“I will give thee so droll an account of my adventures that thee will
smile.”

“I am prepared to hear amazing things,” answered Peggy. “And I too have
adventures to tell.”

“’Tis time for thee to come back, Peggy Owen,” exclaimed Betty Williams.
“For what with the routs and the tea drinkings the city is monstrously
gay. The Tories had it all their way while the British were here, but
now ’tis the Whigs’ turn.”

“I am not so sure about that, Betty,” demurred Sally. “If there is any
difference made ’tis in favor of the Tories.”

“I have heard Robert say they were favored,” observed Peggy. “It seems
strange. What causes such conduct?”

“Has thee not heard?” laughed Sally, a mischievous sparkle in her blue
eyes. “Know then, Mistress Peggy Owen, that it originates at
headquarters. Cupid hath given our general a more mortal wound than all
the hosts of Britons could. In other words, report hath it that General
Arnold is to marry our Miss Peggy Shippen. ’Tis union of Whig and Tory,
and the Tories are in high favor in consequence.”

“Perhaps,” said Peggy, “that the general wishes not to carry the
animosities of the field into the drawing-room. I have heard that
gallant soldiers never make war on our sex.”

“Well, he certainly is gallant,” conceded Sally. “There are many tales
afloat concerning his prowess. I make no doubt but that thee has hit the
heart of the matter. Ah! here is Robert,” as the youth rode up. “Peggy
did not need thy assistance to dismount, sir,” she cried. “Betty and I
lifted her from Star ourselves.”

“I expected it,” laughed Robert Dale. “Let me take Star, Peggy. I will
care for her until Tom comes.”

“Oh, but,” began Peggy in expostulation, when Sally interrupted her.

“Let him take her, Peggy. Is he not an aide? ’Tis his duty.”

“Sally, thee is saucy,” laughed Peggy resigning the mare into the lad’s
keeping. “Come, girls!” leading the way into the dwelling. “Now tell me
everything.”

“First,” began Betty, “thee is to go with us to see a wonderful aloe
tree on Fifth Day morn, but more of that anon. Where is thy mother?”

“She is coming in the chaise with Tom, and should be here now. Girls,
you should have seen Robert caring for the wagons. He looked like a
woodsman. You would have thought that he was about to start for the
frontier.”

“She belies me,” said Dale entering at this moment. “I will leave it to
Mistress Owen if I looked like one, though I would I had the
marksmanship of a backwoodsman. Our companies of sharpshooters are
almost the mainstay of the army.”

“The army?” spoke Mrs. Owen catching the last word as she came into the
room unperceived. “Is there news, Robert? And what about the chances for
peace?”

“The conditions have not changed, Mistress Owen, since last we spoke of
them,” returned the lad. “And peace seems as far off as ever. Sir Henry
Clinton still holds New York City, while General Washington watches him
from the highlands of the Hudson. Along the frontier the savage warfare
which began with the massacre at Wyoming continues, and these, aside
from skirmishes, constitute all of action there hath been since
Monmouth. It seems now to be a question of endurance on the part of the
patriots, and of artifice and trickery on the British side.”

“But with the French to help us,” spoke the lady returning the greetings
of her daughter’s friends warmly. “The alliance which Dr. Franklin hath
at last succeeded in effecting. Surely with such aid the war must soon
be brought to a close.”

“The allies have not been as effective so far as ’twas hoped they would
prove,” announced he. “Many of the people are seriously disaffected
toward the French, declaring that ’tis only a question of English or
French supremacy. The soldiers, I grieve to say, incline toward this
view, and the loyalists are doing all they can to further such belief.”

“Well, here is one who is not disaffected toward the French,” broke in
Sally. “Oh, Peggy, thee should have been here to attend the
entertainment which the French minister gave in honor of the king’s
birthday. ’Twas highly spoke of, and everybody attended. And he was so
considerate of the Quakers.”

“In what way, Sally?” asked Mrs. Owen.

“Why, he hung a veil between the ballroom and the chamber in which they
sat that they might view such worldly pleasures with discretion,”
laughed Sally.

“But Sally would not endure it,” spoke Betty. “When General Arnold came
in she told him that she did not wish to take the veil, as she had not
yet turned papist, and desired to partake of her pleasures more openly.”

“Sally, thee didn’t,” gasped Peggy.

“But I did,” declared Sally with a toss of her head. “He laughed, and
immediately took me without. And the dressing, Peggy! There never was so
much as there is now. Thee will thank thy stars that thee has been made
to embroider and learn fine sewing, for thee will need it.”

“But is there naught but tea drinking, and dancing and dressing?” asked
Peggy perplexed. “We used to do so much for the army. Is nothing done
now?”

“Oh, yes;” Sally blushed a little and then brightened up. “I have set a
stocking on the needles,” she said. “True, ’twas some time since, but I
am going to finish it. Mrs. Bache, she that was Sally Franklin, talks of
a society for making shirts and gathering supplies for the soldiers. I
fancy the most of us will belong, and then there will be something
beside enjoyment. Does that suit thee, Miss Peggy?”

“Yes,” returned Peggy thoughtfully. “Not that I object to the enjoyment,
Sally, but I think we ought to do some of both.”

“Well, here comes the beginning of the enjoyment,” exclaimed Betty from
the window. “Here is a soldier from headquarters, and I know that he
bears an invitation from the general for tea. We had ours this morning.”

It was as Betty said, and an orderly was announced almost immediately.

“I cry you pardon, madam,” he said advancing toward Mrs. Owen, “for
intruding so soon upon you. But a certain aide hath importuned our
general so urgently that you should be waited upon directly upon your
return that he dared not delay an instant beyond your arrival to deliver
this invitation to you and to your daughter. He bids me welcome you back
to the city in his name, and will do himself the honor to wait upon you
in person before the day set.”

So saying he handed Mistress Owen two cards upon which were written the
invitations, and bowed himself out.

“Oh, Robert, thee must be the aide of whom he spoke,” cried Peggy
receiving her card excitedly. “See, girls! ’tis for tea on Fifth Day
week. How delightsome! May we go, mother? How exciting town life is! I
had forgot ’twas so gay.”

“Too gay, I fear me,” said her mother looking at the invitation
dubiously. “Yes; we will go, Peggy, because ’tis right that we should
pay respect to General Arnold. He hath no small task to restore the city
to order, but I do not wish to be drawn into a round of frivolity.”

“But thee must let Peggy frivol a little,” protested Sally. “It hath
been long since she hath been with us, Mistress Owen.”

Mrs. Owen laughed.

“A little, Sally, I am willing for. But I wish not that nothing else
should be thought about. It seems as though the city hath gone wild with
merrymaking. I like it not.”

“Of a truth there is too much tea drinking and feasting, madam,” spoke
Robert Dale soberly. “There are many who are dissatisfied with the state
of things while the army is ill-fed and ill-clothed. I for one would far
rather be yonder in the field, even in misery, than here dancing
attendance upon routs, and the whims of females.”

“Oh, Robert!” came in a reproachful chorus from the girls. “Thee is
unmannerly.”

“Your pardon,” said the youth sweeping them a profound curtsey to hide
his confusion. “I meant no offense to any present, but spoke of the sex
in general.”

“Thee does not deserve forgiveness; does he, Peggy?” pouted Sally.

“If ’twere for aught else than the army, I should say no,” answered
Peggy laughing. “But because he would rather be in the field for the
country we shall have to forgive him, Sally.”

“Thank you, Peggy,” said the lad gratefully. “I will try to make amends
for my untoward speech at another time. Now I must attend my general.
Shall I bear your acceptance of his invitation, Mrs. Owen?”

“If thee will, Robert,” answered she with a smile.

“Thee is routed, Robert,” cried Sally saucily as he left them.



CHAPTER III—AN OLD TIME ADVERTISEMENT


              “Now goes the nightly thief prowling abroad
              For plunder; much solicitous how best
              He may compensate for a day of sloth,
              By works of darkness and nocturnal wrong.”

                                     —“The Task,” Cowper.

It was Thursday morning, and Mrs. Owen and Peggy had been very busy
bringing the house and grounds into something like order. Now, however,
both mother and daughter were surveying ruefully a pile of garments that
constituted the remains of their depleted wardrobes. Presently the lady
laid down a gray gown of tabby silk with a sigh.

“There is no help for it, my daughter. Thee must have a new frock. I see
not how thou art to go to General Arnold’s tea otherwise.”

“Oh!” breathed Peggy a look of pleasure irradiating her face. Then as a
thought came to her: “But are not goods very high, mother? How can we
afford it?”

“We must, my child. Thou hast had no new frocks since Lexington, and
’tis quite time for others.”

“But neither hast thou, mother. Does thee not remember that we
covenanted together that whatever we had to spend on clothes should be
given for garments for the soldiers? Now if I have a new gown, thee must
also.”

“We will see, Peggy. But a gown thee must have. We will go to the
mercer’s to-day; but stay! Did not Sally speak of coming for thee to go
to see a tree of some sort? That will delay us for another day.”

“How thee remembers, mother! She did, and ’tis nine of the clock now. If
she is coming ’tis time she were here. Does thee not hear horses,
mother? Perhaps that is she now.”

She ran to the window just in time to see a party of youths and maidens
draw rein before the door. Sally Evans dismounted and ran quickly into
the dwelling.

“Art ready, Peggy?” she cried. “We are going now to see the aloe tree.”

“What aloe tree is it, Sally?” queried Peggy. “I have lived in
Philadelphia all my life, yet never before did I ever hear of one.”

“’Tis because it hath only of late become remarkable,” answered Sally.
“Mr. Dunlap hath an account of it in the last ‘Packet.’ This is the only
one in the whole state, and every one is going to see it.”

“But I don’t understand, Sally. Why should every one go? How is it
remarkable?”

“Oh, Peggy! Peggy! That comes from staying on a farm and not reading the
papers. Know then,” assuming a didactic tone, “that the morning after
the arrival of the French Ambassador this tree shot forth its spire,
which it never does but once in the course of its existence, and in some
climates not less than a hundred years. This one has been planted about
forty-five years in the neighborhood of this city, and heretofore has
produced every year four leaves, but this spring early it spread forth
thirteen. And the spire,” concluded Sally impressively, “is thirteen
inches round, and hath grown thirteen feet in thirteen days.”

“But that is marvelous!” exclaimed the amazed Peggy.

“Is ’t not? ’Tis regarded as a wonderful omen anent the French alliance
and the thirteen states. Now do get ready, Peggy. Have Tom to bring Star
around at once. The others are waiting.”

“Shall I wear a loo-mask or a vizard, mother?” questioned Peggy, giving
an anxious glance at her reflection in the mirror.

“The loo-mask, Peggy. ’Tis easier held in place. Not thy gray duffle
riding frock, child. ’Tis o’er warm for that. Methinks that a safeguard
petticoat over the gown that thee has on with a short camlet cloak will
do nicely. I will tell Tom to bring Star around for thee.”

“Sally, what does thee think? I am to have a new frock for General
Arnold’s tea,” confided Peggy as her mother left the room. “I did not
dream that we could spare money for furbelows, but mother insists that I
shall have it.”

“Oh, but that is _charmante_!” exclaimed Sally. “Would that my mother
thought likewise, but I fear me that I shall have to wear the same
muslin frock that I’ve been wearing. Hey day! Thee is a fortunate girl,
Peggy.”

“Am I not?” said Peggy gaily. “I have had no new one for so long that it
quite upsets me. I think of nothing else, and long for the time to come
to choose it.”

“Yes; but do hurry now,” cried Sally impatiently. “Thou art sufficiently
smart for a country lass.”

“Thee is saucy, Sally,” answered Peggy giving her a playful push. “Don’t
call me a country girl. Thou art not so citified.”

“Well, I haven’t spent a whole year on a farm,” retorted Sally. “Peggy,
if thee gives another stroke to thy hair thy cap will slip off. ’Tis as
smooth as satin now.”

“There! I am ready at last,” declared Peggy adjusting her riding mask.
“Oh, Sally, ’tis so good to be home again!”

“And ’tis so good to have thee, Peggy,” returned her friend. “Nothing is
the same without thee. Why, when the city was under Sir William Howe——”

“Something hath happened,” interrupted Peggy hastily, bending her head
to listen. “Mother is calling, and she seems upset. Come, Sally.”

They hurried out of the room, and went quickly to the eastern piazza
where Mrs. Owen and Tom, the groom, stood.

“What is it, mother?” asked Peggy noting their disturbed looks.

“Peggy,” said her mother going to her, “thee must be very brave, my
child. Star is gone. She hath been stolen from the stable.”

“Star! My pony stolen!” cried the girl as though unable to believe her
ears. “My pony! Oh, mother, it can’t be true!”

“I fear that it is only too true,” answered the lady sorrowfully.

“But stolen? Who would steal Star? Tom,”—turning quickly to the negro
groom,—“when did thee see her last? Didn’t thee feed her this morning?

“No’m; I ain’t seed her dis mo’nin’,” answered Tom who seemed stupefied
by the occurrence. “I fed her las’ night, Miss Peggy, but when I kum out
dis mo’nin’ she wuz gone. De back doah wuz open, an’ I know’d she wuz
stole, kase I fas’n’d dat doah my own sef las’ night.”

“Oh, but she can’t be,” cried Peggy with a sob. “Maybe she has just
strayed away. Has thee looked in the garden, Tom? Or through the
orchard?”

“I hab looked ebberwhar, Miss Peggy,” declared the black with dignity.
“Torm warn’t gwine ter take any chances ob not seein’ dat are mare when
she de onlyest piece ob hoss-flesh dat we has dat mounts ter a row ob
pins. No’m; she stole. Dat’s all dere is to it.”

“Peggy, Peggy!” called Robert Dale who, grown tired of waiting, had come
in search of the girls. “What keeps you so long?”

“Oh, Robert!” wailed Peggy bursting into tears. “My horse is stolen! My
pretty, pretty pony that father gave me!”

“Star stolen?” cried the youth aghast. Tom told his story again.

“And the door was fastened last night, you say? How about the door into
the yard, Tom?”

“I lock hit wid a padlock,” declared Tom. “Dey wuz both fasten’d,
Marster Dale. ‘Clare ter goodness dey wuz! I did it my own sef. I
fastens de inside doah on de inside, an’ de outside one on de outside.
De front one wuz locked dis mo’nin’, but de back one wuz wide open.”

“Then some one must have been hiding inside,” declared Robert. “I will
take a look through the barn.”

With Sally’s arm about her, Peggy and her friend followed the youth to
the stables. The lad mounted the ladder that led to the mow, and
presently called down excitedly:

“There hath been some one here of a truth. Here is a place where he hath
lain concealed in the straw, and the remnants of food that hath been
eaten. ’Tis all as plain as day!”

“But Star?” questioned Peggy with quivering lips as Robert descended the
ladder and stood once more beside them.

“We’ll do everything we can to find her, Peggy,” answered the boy as
cheerfully as he could. “Now let us tell the others. They will be
wondering what the matter is.”

“Oh, Peggy, what will you do for a horse to go with us?” cried Betty
Williams as the party of young people heard the news.

“She may take mine,” suggested Robert. “I will stay here to see what can
be done about Star.”

“That is good of thee,” said Peggy, wiping her eyes. “Do thou, Sally,
and all the others go on as planned. If Robert will stay to do whatever
can be done there is no need of any one else. ’Twould be mean to spoil
thy pleasuring just for my sake.”

And so, despite their protests the young people were sent on, and Robert
turned to Peggy.

“Weep no more,” he entreated, “but give me your aid in writing an
advertisement. This we will put in ‘The Packet,’ as that paper will
appear before ‘The Gazette,’ and that may bring some result. That will
be the best thing to do, will it not, Madam Owen?”

“I think so, Robert. And offer a reward also. It may meet the eye of the
person who took the mare and induce him to return her. I like not to
think of any taking her, though. Philadelphia is changed indeed.”

“It is, madam. Naught is safe though General Arnold strives to enforce
strict military rule. War doth indeed cause sad havoc with the morals of
people. How much shall the reward be?”

“One hundred dollars,” answered the lady, after a moment’s calculation.
“What a help thou art.”

“’Tis a pleasure,” returned he gallantly. “Beside, is not your husband
in the field while we who dally here have naught to do? ’Tis good to
have something beside pleasuring to divert the mind. And the
advertisement? ’Tis highly fashionable to have it writ in verse. I like
it not, but anything in the mode commands more attention. If you will
help me, Peggy, perhaps I can compass it, though straight prose is more
to my liking.”

So, drying her eyes, Peggy brought forth inkhorn and quills, and the two
evolved the following advertisement, which followed the fashion of the
day:

  ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS REWARD!

  Last night was stole away from me
  A likely jet-black mare was she
  Just four years old this month or nigh,
  About fourteen and half hands high;
  She’s in good order and doth trot,
  And paceth some, I’m sure of that;
  Is wondrous pretty; a small star
  In her forehead there doth appear;
  Her tail was waved three days ago
  Just like her mane, you’ll find it so;
  Above her eyes, if you come near,
  She’s very hollow, that is clear;
  She has new fore shoes on, this I know—
  I had her shod a week ago.
  The above reward it will be sure
  To any person that secures
  Said thief and mare, that I may see
  My mare again restor’d to me.
  Or Fifty Dollars for the mare,
  If the thief should happen to get clear;
  All traveling charges if brought home
  Upon the nail I will pay down.

“There!” declared Robert Dale when the two had completed their labor.
“There will be no more elegant effusion in the paper. ’Tis finely writ
and to the point. I’ll take it at once to Mr. Dunlap, so that he may put
it into Saturday’s ‘Packet.’ If that doesn’t fetch your mare back,
Peggy, I don’t know what will.”



CHAPTER IV—A GIRL’S SACRIFICE


           “In Being’s floods, in Action’s storm,
           I walk and work, above, beneath,
           Work and weave in endless motion!
             Birth and Death,
             An infinite ocean;
             A seizing and giving
             The fire of living:
           ’Tis thus at the roaring Loom of Time I ply,
           And weave for God the Garment thou seest Him by.”

                                            —“Faust,” Gœthe.

“Thee is troubled, mother,” observed Peggy as she and Mrs. Owen left the
yard of Christ Church where they had been attending morning service.

The meeting-house which was built for the use of those Quakers who had
so far departed from the tenets of the Society of Friends as to array
themselves on the side of their country had not yet been erected, and
the Free Quakers, as they were called, were therefore compelled to
attend worship of other churches, or content themselves with “religious
retirement,” as family service was called.

“I am, Peggy,” answered the lady a look of anxiety overcasting her face.
“Let us walk for a little before returning home. It may be that the air
will soothe my feelings.”

Seeing that her mother wished to be left in quiet the girl walked
sedately by her side, ever and anon stealing a glance of apprehension at
the lady’s face. Presently Mrs. Owen spoke:

“Tis naught to make thee look so uneasy, child. I am concerned over the
city, and the extravagance that abounds on every side. See the ferment
that it is in! Formerly on First Day the streets were orderly and quiet.
Now observe what a noisy throng fills the thoroughfares. Let us walk on.
Perchance at Wicaco we may find the peace and quiet we seek.”

The quiet, sedate city of Penn had in truth lost its air of demure
respectability. As the metropolis of the colonies it attracted all those
adventurers of the older countries who sought to mend their fortunes at
the expense of the new United States. Many also who were sincere in
their admiration of the struggle for liberty had come to offer Congress
their services, and taverns and inns were filled to overflowing with
strangers of distinction and otherwise. Militia drilled; troops marched
and countermarched; while many British officers, prisoners on parole,
paraded the streets, adding a bright bit of color with their scarlet
coats.

Mother and daughter passed slowly below High Street and continued down
Second. Past shops they went, and the City Tavern, crowded about with
sedan chairs and chaises; past the Loxley House, in which lived that
Lydia Darrach who had stolen out of the city the winter before to warn
the patriots of a contemplated attack by the British; past the dwelling
of the Cadwaladers; past also the great house built and formerly owned
by the Shippens; and on past other mansions with their gardens until
finally they paused involuntarily as the sound of singing came to them.
The sounds were wafted from the old Swedish church of Gloria Dei, and
the two stood in silence until the singing ceased.

“Friends believe not in hymns or singing,” remarked Mrs. Owen as they
turned to retrace their steps. “But there is something about the
intoning of the psalms that calms the mind. It has ever brought comfort
to me.”

“Mother,” spoke Peggy shyly.

“Yes, my daughter.”

“The one thing that I have always minded about the Friends is that very
lack of music. When I see other girls play the spinet I too would like
dearly to play upon it. I have always loved music, mother.”

“I know thee has, Peggy. That is the reason that I have not chided thee
when I heard thee singing the ballads and songs of the world’s people.
Perhaps some time we may see our way to thy learning the spinet. If it
is right thee will be led to it.”

“I know,” answered Peggy. And then, after a moment—“What troubled thee,
mother?”

“Vanities, child. ’Twas the dressing, and the pomade, and the powder
discovered in the meeting. I have never seen so much before. And also, I
shame to confess it, Peggy, thy garb troubled me.”

“Mine, mother?” Peggy looked up in amazement, and then glanced down at
her girlish frock of chintz. “Why, mother?”

“In the first enthusiasm of the war,” said Mrs. Owen, “thee remembers
how we, thou and I, together with many patriotic women and girls, banded
together in an association formed against the use of foreign goods. We
pledged ourselves to wear homespun rather than buy any of the foreign
calicoes and silks. Before the Declaration every patriotic woman was
known by her clothes, and it so continued until we left the city at the
coming of the British. Of course, now that the line of separation hath
been drawn between Britain and her colonies, there no longer exists the
same patriotic reason for such abstinence; but we seem to be the last to
come to such knowledge.”

“Mother, I never knew thee to be concerned anent such things before,”
said the girl quickly.

“Perchance it hath been because we have not been dressed with
singularity before,” observed the lady. “I hold that every gentlewoman
should be arrayed becomingly and with such due regard to the mode that
her attire will not excite comment. Not that I wish thy thoughts
altogether concerned about such matters. Thee knows how we have received
warnings from good and wise men on the subject in our own meetings, but
we must do credit to David. And,” she added with a slight smile, “while
we are still ready to sacrifice our lives even for the cause of liberty,
we cannot steer clear of the whirlpool of fashion if we are to remain in
the city. Was thee not sensible of the difference between thy garb and
that of thy friends?”

“Yes,” admitted the maiden candidly. “But I tried not to think about it.
I have been longing for some new frocks, but since Star hath been taken
I have not cared so much.”

“The city seems caught in a very vortex of luxury and extravagance,”
went on the matron. “I do not mean that we should be of those who care
for naught but self-adornment and useless waste. Were it not for thee——”
She paused a moment and then continued: “Thou hast been very
self-denying, my daughter, concerning this matter, and hast borne the
filching of thy pony bravely. So then thou shalt have not only a frock
for the general’s tea, but another also. And a cloak, and a hat,
together with a quilted petticoat.”

“Mother, mother!” almost screamed Peggy. “Thee overwhelms me. Where will
the money come from?”

“We have made a little from the harvests of the past summer, Peggy. Then
the farm pays in other ways. Some of David’s ventures have turned out
well, despite the war and the fact that he is in the army. We shall have
to be careful, my daughter, and not run into extravagance, but there is
enough to furnish thee with a simple wardrobe.”

“And thou?” questioned the girl.

“I shall do well as I am, dear child. And now let us turn our thoughts
from this too worldly subject to others more befitting First Day.
To-morrow we will go to the mercer’s for the things.”

And so, despite the fact that nothing had as yet been heard of the
stolen pony, it was a very happy maiden that set forth with her mother
the next day for the shops in Second Street.

“Friend,” said the lady to a mercer who came forward to wait upon them,
“let us look at thy petticoats, calimanico; for,” she said in an aside
to Peggy, “’twill be the part of wisdom to purchase the homely articles
first, lest we be carried beyond our intention for the frocks. We shall
have to be careful, as the prices, no doubt, have become higher. How
much is this, friend?”

“Fifteen pounds, fifteen shillings,” answered he.

Mrs. Owen looked up in amazement, while Peggy, with less control, cried
out:

“Such a price, and without quilting! Once it could have been bought for
fifteen shillings.”

“’Tis very likely,” smiled the shopkeeper. “That must have been before
the war. Prices are soaring on everything, and are like to go higher
before falling.”

Mrs. Owen laid down the garment gravely.

“A coat and a hat,” she said. “What will be the cost of a very ordinary
one of each?”

“They cannot be procured under two hundred pounds, madam.”

“And gauze for caps?”

“The common grade is twenty-four dollars a yard. The better quality
fifty dollars.”

“Mother,” whispered Peggy, “why need thee buy the petticoat? We can
weave cloth for it, and I can quilt it myself.”

“True, Peggy,” assented her mother. “I think we can manage about the
petticoat, but a frock thou must have. A frock and some gloves.”

“Cloth for a frock, madam?” questioned the merchant eagerly. “Shall it
be lutestring, poplin, brocade, or broadcloth? I have the best of
England, madam.”

But Mrs. Owen’s face grew grave indeed as he mentioned prices. Peggy’s
eyes filled with tears. She saw her new frock vanishing into thin air as
fabric after fabric was brought forth only to be rejected when the cost
was named. She knew that she had nothing to wear to the tea at
headquarters unless a new gown was purchased, and she choked in her
disappointment. Her mother saw her tears and turned to the merchant with
determination.

“I will——” she opened her lips to say, when some one tapped her lightly
on the shoulder, and a clear voice called:

“Why, Madam Owen, are you buying gowns? What extravagance! If farm life
pays well enough to buy cloth these times I shall get me to a farmery at
once. Mr. Bache wishes to go.”

“Sally Franklin, how does thee do?” exclaimed Mrs. Owen, greeting the
young matron warmly. “I came down intending to buy a great deal, but——”

“The prices! The prices!” cried Franklin’s daughter, waving her hands.
“It takes a fortune to keep a family in a very plain way. And there
never was so much dressing and pleasure going on! I wrote to father to
send me a number of things from France, among them some long black pins,
lace, and some feathers, thinking he could get such things much cheaper
there.”

“And did he?” eagerly questioned Peggy, who had now recovered herself.

“No; and I got well scolded for my extravagance,” laughed Mrs. Bache.
“He sent the things he thought necessary, omitting the others. He
advised me to wear cambric ruffles instead of lace, and to take care not
to mend them. In time they would come to lace, he said. As for feathers,
why send that which could be had from every cock’s tail in America.”

“How like Dr. Franklin that is,” remarked Mrs. Owen much amused. “What
did thee answer?”

“That I had to be content with muslin caps in winter, and in summer I
went without. As for cambric I had none to make lace of. Oh, we shall
all come to linsey-woolsey, I fear. Dr. Shippen talks of moving his
family from the city, and the rest of us will have to do the same.”

She moved away. The shopkeeper turned to bring on more goods, hoping to
tempt his customers, and Peggy took hold of her mother’s hand gently.

“It will cut into thy resources greatly to get these things, won’t it,
mother?”

“Yes,” assented the lady soberly. “For the frock alone I would have to
pay as much as I had intended for thy entire outfit.”

“Then thee must not do it,” said Peggy gravely.

“There is one way that it can be done, my daughter,” said her mother not
looking at her. “If thou wilt consent to forego all charitable gifts
this winter; if thou wilt let the soldiers or any other needy ones go
without benefit from thee; then thou canst take the money for all thy
things: the hat, the coat, the two frocks, the gloves, and all the other
necessaries of which we spoke. Now, Peggy, I will not blame thee if thou
dost choose according to thy wishes, for thou hast already given up
much. It rests with thee.”

Peggy looked at the dazzling array of fabrics spread temptingly upon the
counter. She did want a new gown so badly. She needed it, she told
herself quickly. She had given up a great deal. Must she give up in this
too? For an instant she wavered, and then a vision of some of the
soldiers that she had seen flashed across her mind, and she turned from
the glittering array with a little sob.

“I could not, I could not,” she cried. “And have nothing for the poor
soldiers! It would be a sin! But oh, mother! do let us hurry away from
here. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is so weak.”

Pausing only for a word of courteous explanation to the mercer the lady
followed the maiden from the store.



CHAPTER V—UP IN THE ATTIC


            “Up in the attic where mother goes
              Is a trunk in a shadowed nook—
            A trunk—and its lid she will oft unclose,
              As if ’twere a precious book.
            She kneels at its side on the attic boards,
              And tenderly, soft and slow,
            She counts all the treasures she fondly hoards—
              The things of long ago.”

                                                —Anonymous.

“I fear we have made a mistake in returning to town,” observed Mrs. Owen
when at length they reached the dwelling after a silent walk home. “I
had no idea things had become so dear. There is hardly such a thing as
living in town, but David wished us to be here. In truth, with so many
outlaws scouring the country, I feel that we are far safer than we would
be on the farm. And yet what shall be done anent the matter of clothes?
Thou must have a frock for the tea party.”

“I can wear my blue and white Persian,” said the girl bravely. “Thee
must not worry so over my frock, mother.”

“Thy Persian was new three years since,” objected her mother. “And thou
hast grown, Peggy. Beside, ’tis faded. Stay! I have the very thing. Come
with me, child.”

She sprang up with so much animation that Peggy wondered at her. It was
not customary with Mrs. Owen to be harassed over such a matter as
clothes, but her daughter’s unselfishness when her need was so great had
stirred her to unusual tenderness. Up to the garret they went, the lady
leading the way with the agility of a girl. The attic extended over the
entire main building. There were great recesses under the eaves which
pigeons sought, and dark closets where one might hide as in the old
legend of the old oak chest.

From one of the shadowed niches Mrs. Owen drew forth a chest. It was
battered and old, yet it required all the lady’s strength to force the
lock.

“The key is lost,” she explained to Peggy who was following her
movements with eagerness. “’Tis a mercy the house was occupied by
British in place of Hessians. Had they had it everything would have been
taken. The English were more moderate in their plundering, though they
did take many of Dr. Franklin’s books, I hear, and his portrait.[[1]]

“There,” she exclaimed almost gaily, drawing forth a yellowing dress,
and holding it up to view with gentle pride. “There, Peggy! There is thy
frock.”

A faint sweet perfume emanated from the folds of the garment as Mrs.
Owen held it up. Peggy touched it wonderingly.

“Whose was it, mother?” she asked almost in a whisper. “Not thine?”

“Mine, Peggy? Why, ’twas my wedding dress.” The lady smoothed the satin
folds tenderly. “’Twas once the sheerest white, but it hath lain so long
that it hath mellowed to cream. But that will be the more becoming to
thy dark hair and eyes.”

“And I am to wear it?” queried the maiden in awed tones. “Oh, mother,
’tis too much to ask of thee.”

“Thee deserves it, my daughter. I would far rather that thou shouldst
have the good of it than it should lie here to rot. Let me see!” Diving
down into the chest with a gaiety she did not often exhibit, she brought
up some little shoes, silken to match the gown. “Ah! I thought these
should be here. And here is a fan with sticks of sandal wood. And a
piece of fine lawn that will make thee an apron. Come! we shall do
nicely. ’Tis a veritable treasure chest we have come upon. We will not
explore it further now. There may come another time of need. Take thou
the shoon, Peggy, and the fan. I will carry the gown. We will begin work
at once. I was slender when the frock was worn, but thou art a full inch
smaller about the waist. ’Twill be easily fixed.”

With reverent hands Peggy took the shoes and fan, and followed her
mother down to the living-room.

As Sally had said, Peggy was indeed thankful for the hours of training
in fine sewing and embroidery. When finally the day came for the trying
on, and the desired frock fulfilled her highest expectation, her ecstasy
was unable to contain itself.

“Thee is the best mother that ever lived,” she cried catching Mrs. Owen
about the waist and giving her a girlish hug. “What would I do without
thee? Oh, mother! what if thee had had no wedding gown? What would we
have done?”

Mrs. Owen laughed, well pleased at her enthusiasm.

“We will not consider that part of it, Peggy,” she said. “We have it in
truth, and it does indeed look well. A new frock would have looked no
better. Ah! here is Sally. Let her give her opinion.”

“Thee comes just in time, Sally,” cried Peggy as Sally Evans was shown
into the room. “How does thee like my new frock?”

“’Tis much prettier than mine,” declared Sally eying the gown
critically. “And vastly distinctive. Where did thee get the material,
Peggy? I never saw quite the shade.”

“Then thee thinks it citified and à la mode?” queried Peggy, ignoring
the question.

“’Tis as sweet and modish as can be,” cried Sally generously. “Thee will
outshine all us females, Peggy.”

“Thee can’t mean that, Sally,” reproved Peggy flushing at such praise.
“I know that thee is partial to thy friend, but that is going too far.”

“But ’tis the truth,” answered Sally. “Would that I had seen that
fabric, and I would have chosen it for my new frock. I did get a new one
after all. I teased mother into getting it by telling her that thee was
to have a new one.”

“Oh! did thee?” cried Peggy. “Why, Sally, this was mother’s wedding
gown. We went to get a frock, but found the prices beyond us. Mother was
determined that I should have the gown though, so she gave me this.”

“Mother was going to get it anyway, Peggy,” said Sally quickly, seeing
her friend’s dismay. “It might not have been until later but I was to
have a dress this winter. So thee must not think it thy fault that I got
it. Would though that I had not. I wonder if my mother hath a wedding
gown. This is vastly pretty.”

“Is ‘t not?” cried Peggy. “And, Sally, I hear there is to be dancing
after the tea at the general’s. It is strange for Quakers to attend such
affairs. Why, does thee not remember how we used to wish to attend the
weekly assemblies, and how it was spoke against in the meeting?”

“It is strange,” assented Sally, “but Quakers go everywhere now with the
world’s people. What was it that Master Benezet used to teach us?
Something anent the times, was it not?”

“‘O tempora! O mores,’” quoted Peggy. “‘O the times! O the manners!’ How
long ago it seems since we went to Master Benezet’s school. Heigh ho!
would I were attending it again!”

“Why, Peggy Owen, would thee wish to miss this tea?” demanded her
friend. “For my part I am monstrously glad that I am through with books;
for now I am going to——” She paused abruptly. “But ’tis to remain secret
for a time,” she added.

“Sally! a secret from me?” exclaimed Peggy reproachfully. “I thought
thee told me everything.”

“I do; usually,” returned the other with a consequential air. “But this
is of great import, and is not to be known for a few days. Oh, Peggy,”
she cried, suddenly dropping her important mien, and giving Peggy a
hearty squeeze. “I am dying to tell thee all about it, but I cannot
until—until—well, until the night of General Arnold’s tea.”

And so it came about that Peggy had another incentive for awaiting that
event impatiently.

-----
[1] This, in fact, was not recovered until long afterward in London.



CHAPTER VI—TEA AT HEADQUARTERS


          “Give Betsy a brush of horse hair and wool,
            Of paste and pomatum a pound,
          Ten yards of gay ribbon to deck her sweet skull,
            And gauze to encompass it round.
          Her cap flies behind, for a yard at the least,
            And her curls meet just under her chin,
          And those curls are supported, to keep up the jest,
            By a hundred, instead of one pin.”

                                         —A Verse of the Day.

“Will I do, mother?” asked Peggy, taking up the old fan with the sandal
wood sticks, and turning about slowly for the lady’s inspection.

It was the night of General Arnold’s tea, and the maiden had just put
the finishing touch to her toilet, and was all aglow with excitement.
The creamy folds of the silken gown well became her dark hair and eyes.
The bodice, cut square, revealed her white throat so young and girlish.
Her white silk mitts, long and without fingers, were held to the sleeve
by “tightens.” A gauze cap with wings and streamers perched saucily upon
her dark locks which were simply drawn back from her low, broad
forehead, braided with a ribbon, and powdered but little. The prim
little frock fell just to her ankles, revealing the clocked white
stockings and dainty high heeled slippers with pearls glistening upon
the buckles.

“Didst ever behold a more bewitching damsel than thy daughter, Mistress
Peggy Owen?” she cried, sweeping her mother a deep curtsey.

Her eyes were shining. She was for the nonce a happy maiden concerned
with naught save the pleasures of girlhood, and possessed of a mood that
would have been habitual had not the mighty sweep of public events
tinged her girlish gaiety with an untoward gravity.

Some such thought flitted through Mrs. Owen’s mind as she surveyed her
daughter with tender eyes, and she sighed. A look of anxiety flitted
over Peggy’s face.

“Is thee not well?” she queried. “Or is it wrong, mother, for me to be
so happy when father is in the field?”

“Neither, my daughter. I was but wishing that thou couldst be as care
free all the time as thou art to-night. But there! we will partake of
the fruit that is offered leaving the bitter until the morrow. Thy gown
well becomes thee, child. I make no doubt but that thou wilt look as
well as any.”

“Mother,” exclaimed the girl, a soft flush dyeing her face, “thee will
make me vain.”

“I trust not, my daughter. Others will, no doubt, tell thee so, and ’tis
as well that thou shouldst hear it first from me. Let it not spoil thee,
Peggy. Ah! here is Sukey to tell us that Robert and his uncle have come
for us.”

Peggy gave a backward look at her reflection in the mirror, and well
pleased with what she saw there followed her mother sedately to the
drawing-room where Robert Dale and his uncle, Mr. Jacob Deering, awaited
them.

The latter, stately in an olive-colored silk velvet with knee buckles,
silk stockings, bright silver shoe-buckles and the usual three looped
hat held in his hand, hastened to greet them as they entered.

“Zounds! Miss Peggy,” he cried. “’Tis well that I am not a young buck,
else you should look no further for a gallant. Bless me, but you have
grown pretty! Bob, you rascal! why did you not prepare me for what I
should see? Upon my word, child, you must not mind a kiss from an old
man.”

So saying he held her at arm’s length in admiration, and then kissed her
on both her cheeks. Whereat Peggy blushed right prettily.

“Thee will make me vain,” she protested. “And mother hath but ceased
warning me against such vanity. In truth, Friend Deering, I believe that
no girl was ever so happy as I am to-night.”

  “‘Gather ye rosebuds while ye may:
    Old Time is still a-flying;
  And this same flower that smiles to-day,
    To-morrow may be dying,’”

he quoted gaily. “Have your fling, child. The morrow may bring grave
problems to be solved, so be happy while you can. ’Tis youth’s
prerogative. Bob, do you follow with Mrs. Owen. I shall take an old
man’s privilege and lead the princess to the coach myself. I’ faith,
there will be no opportunity for a word with her once she reaches
headquarters.”

Peggy gave Robert Dale an arch glance over her shoulder as the old
gentleman led her to the coach, where she settled herself to await with
what patience she could their arrival at Major-General Arnold’s.

At this time there was no suspicion whispered against the patriotism of
Benedict Arnold. Scarcely any soldier had done so much to sustain the
liberties of his country, and tales of his prowess, his daring and
courage were rife in the city. Upon being placed in charge of
Philadelphia by the commander-in-chief, General Washington, he had taken
possession of the mansion in High Street, once the home of Richard Penn,
and recently occupied by Sir William Howe. It was regarded as one of the
finest houses in the city, was built of brick, and stood on the
southeast corner of Front and High Streets.

Peggy and her mother knew that the affair was to be more than the
ordinary tea, but they were scarcely prepared for the sumptuousness of
the occasion.

“Is it a ball, Robert?” whispered the girl as they stood for a moment in
the crush about the door.

“No,” answered the youth a frown contracting his brow. “’Tis elaborate
enough for one, and that is truth, Peggy. But when one is given it seems
to be the general’s purpose to outvie all that rumor hath spoken of the
Mischianza. All his entertainments are given on a most magnificent
scale; as though he were a man of unbounded wealth and high social
position. I like it not.”

Peggy opened her lips to reply, but before she could do so the way was
cleared for them to approach the general. The girl looked with intense
interest at the gallant soldier of whose prowess she had heard so much.
He was a dark, well-made man, still young, not having reached the
meridian of life; his face, bronzed and darkened by fatigue and
exposure, indicated that he had seen the severest hardships of a
soldier’s life. Unable to accept a command in the field because of the
wounds received at Saratoga the preceding fall he had been made
commandant of the city. He was still on crutches, being thin and worn
from the effects of his hurt.

Some of the stories of his great courage upon that occasion came to
Peggy’s mind, and brought a glow of admiration to her eyes. She flushed
rosily as he said in greeting:

“I am pleased to welcome you, Mistress Peggy. A certain aide of mine
hath talked of naught else but your return for a week past. You are to
report him to me if he does not give you an enjoyable time. Ah, Dale!
look to’t that you distinguish yourself in the matter.”

“Are there none but Tories?” questioned Peggy, as General Arnold turned
to greet other arrivals, and Mrs. Owen paused to converse with some
acquaintances.

“Well,” the lad hesitated a moment and then continued, “they seem
remarkably fond of him, Peggy, and he of them. I would it were not so,
but many of the staff have thought that they flocked to his
entertainments in mischievous numbers.”

“But are there no others?” asked the girl again, for on every side were
Tories and Neutrals to such an extent that scarce a Whig was to be seen.

“Oh, yes, the gentlemen of Congress are here somewhere, for there is Mr.
Charles Lee, who is always to be found where they are. He pays court to
them upon every occasion in the endeavor to convince them what great
merit he showed at the battle of Monmouth.” And the youth laughed.

“And the head-dresses,” exclaimed the girl in astonishment. “How high
they are. And the pomade! And the powder! Why, Robert, all the fashion
of the city is here!”

“And what did the general say to thee, Peggy?” cried Sally’s voice, and
Robert and Peggy turned to find Sally and Betty directly behind them.
“Did he compliment thee upon thy name? ’Tis his favorite, thee knows.
There comes Miss Margaret Shippen now, and look at thy general, Robert.
One could tell that he was paying court to her.”

“They are to be married soon, I hear,” announced Betty, when the laugh
that had followed Sally’s remark died away.

“How beautiful she is,” exclaimed Peggy admiringly as she gazed at the
stately Miss Shippen.

“She is indeed,” assented Robert, “though I would she were not a Tory.”

“Fie, fie, Robert,” laughed Peggy. “Is not thy Cousin Kitty a Tory? I
never heard thee object to her.”

“Oh, Kitty! that’s different.” Robert was plainly embarrassed.

“Is it?” The three girls laughed again, enjoying his confusion.

“I but voice the objections of the army,” explained he when their
merriment had subsided. “Of the Congress also, who fear the effect upon
the people, there is so much feeling anent the Tories.”

“Congress!” exclaimed Sally with a scornful toss of her head. “I should
not mind what Congress said if I were General Arnold. They wouldn’t even
give him his proper rank until after Saratoga, though His Excellency,
General Washington, did his utmost to make them. I wouldn’t ask the old
Congress anything anent the matter. So there!”

“Hoity-toity, my young lady! Have a care to your words. Know you not
that the gentlemen of that same Congress are present? It seems to me
that I have heard that some of those same gentlemen are the very men who
are on the board of a certain institution——”

“Oh, hush, hush, Mr. Deering,” cried Sally turning with some excitement
to the old gentleman. “’Tis a secret known to but few.”

“Now what did I say?” he demanded as the others looked at the two in
surprise. “Miss Peggy, won’t you defend me?”

“Let him say it over, Sally,” said Peggy roguishly. “Perhaps we can tell
then.”

“No, no,” uttered Sally with a questioning glance at him. “Thee does
know,” she burst forth as she met his twinkling eyes. “How did thee find
it out, Mr. Deering?”

“If you will glad an old man by treading this measure with him, I’ll
tell you,” he answered. “Or perhaps you prefer a younger squire?”

“Oh, thee! Thee every time,” cried she, linking her arm in his.

“Won’t you follow them, Peggy?” asked Robert.

“Why, no,” she answered in surprise. “Thee knows that I am a Quaker,
Robert.”

“But not now, Peggy,” interposed Betty. “Since thee has become a Whig,
and have been read out of meeting thee is an apostate. Sally and I both
have learned to languish and glide at the new academy in Third Street.
They are taught there in the politest manner. Thee must attend.”

Peggy looked troubled.

“I do not think we should give up everything of our religion because we
are led to differ from the Society in the matter of politics,” she said.
“At least that is the way mother looks at it, though I should like to
learn to dance. Oh, dear! I am getting worldly, I fear. Now, Betty, thee
and Robert run along while I stand here and watch you. It hath been long
since I saw so bright a scene.”

Thus urged, Robert and Betty glided out upon the floor, and Peggy looked
about her.

The extravagance of the costumes was beyond anything hitherto seen in
the quiet city of Penn, and Peggy’s eyes opened wide at the gorgeous
brocades and wide hooped skirts. But most of all did she marvel at the
headdresses of the ladies. These, built of feathers, aigrets and
ribbands, topped the hair already piled high upon steel frames and
powdered excessively. The air was full of powder from wig and
head-dress. Happy laughter mingled with the music of the fiddles, and
the rustle of brocades. All made up a scene the luxury of which stole
over the little maid’s senses and troubled her. Unconsciously she
sighed.

“Why not treading a measure, my little maid?” queried General Arnold’s
pleasant voice, and Peggy looked up to find him smiling down upon her.

“I am a Quaker,” she told him simply.

“Then mayhap we can console each other; although I do not refrain from
religious scruples.”

“No; thee does it because of thy wound,” uttered the girl a glow of such
intense admiration coming into her eyes that the general smiled
involuntarily. “Does it pain thee much, Friend—I should say—General
Arnold?”

[Illustration: “FRIEND—I SHOULD SAY—GENERAL ARNOLD”]

“Nay; call me friend, Miss Peggy. I like the name, and no man hath too
many. At times I suffer much. At first I was in a very fever of
discontent, ’twas so long in healing. I chafed under the confinement,
for it kept me from the field. Of late, however, I have come to bear its
tardiness in healing with some degree of patience.”

“Mother thinks that as much bravery may be shown in endurance as in
action,” she observed shyly.

“More, more,” he declared. “Action is putting into execution the resolve
of the moment, and may be spurred by excitement or peril to deeds of
daring. One forgets everything under its stimulus. But to be compelled
to sit supinely when the liberties of the country are in danger——Ah!
that is what takes the heart out of a man. It irks me.”

“Thee should not fret,” she said with such sweet gravity that his worn
dark face lighted up. “Thou hast already given so much for thy country
that ’tis well that thou shouldst take thy ease for a time. Thee has
been very brave.”

“Thank you,” he returned, his pleasure at her naive admiration being
very apparent. Already there had been detractions whispered against his
administration of the city, and the genuine appreciation of this little
maid for his military exploits was soothing to him. “I know not how our
talk hath become so serious,” he said, “but I am a poor host to permit
it. ’Tis not befitting a scene of pleasure. Wilt take tea with me, Miss
Peggy?”

Peggy looked up quickly, thinking she had not heard aright. What! she, a
simple young girl, to be taken to tea by so great a general! Mr. Arnold
stood courteously awaiting her assent, and realizing that he had indeed
bestowed the honor upon her, she arose, swept a profound curtsey, and
murmured an almost inaudible acceptance.

There were little gasps of surprise from Sally and Betty, as she swept
by them, but pride had succeeded to Peggy’s confusion, and she did not
turn her head. Assured that never again would she be filled with such
felicity Peggy held her head high, and walked proudly down the great
drawing-room by Benedict Arnold’s side.

’Twas customary in Philadelphia for the mistress of a household to
disperse tea to guests, but the general having no wife pressed his
military attachés into this duty. So overwhelmed was Peggy with the
honor conferred upon her that she did not notice that her cup was filled
again and again by the obliging servitor. She was recalled to herself,
however, by an audible aside from Sally:

“And hath thy general plenty of Bohea in the house, Robert? ’Tis to be
hoped so, else there will be none for the rest of us. That is Peggy’s
sixth cup, is it not?”

“Oh, dear!” gasped Peggy flushing scarlet, and hastily placing her spoon
across the top of her cup, for this was the proper mode of procedure
when one had been served sufficiently. “I did not know, I did not
think—in fact, the tea was most excellent, and did beguile me. Nay,” she
broke off looking at him bravely. “’Twas because I was so beset with
pride to think that it was thou who served me that I forgot my manners.
In truth, the incident is so notable that I shall never forget it.”

“Now, by my life, you should drink all there is for that speech though
no one else were served,” declared he laughing. “What! No more? Then we
will see to ’t that your friend hath cause for no further complaint. Do
you read, Miss Peggy?”

From a small spindle-legged table that stood near, he selected a book
from several which lay on its polished surface, and handed it to her.

“Pleasure me by accepting this,” he said. “’Tis Brooke’s ‘Lady Juliet
Grenville.’ Most young ladies like it, and it hath more endurance than a
cup of tea.”

“Oh, thank thee! Thank thee!” cried she delightedly. “I have heard much
of the tale, and have longed to read it. I shall truly treasure it.”

“Would that my name were Margaret,” cried Sally as General Arnold left
her with her friends. “And what did thee do to merit all this honor,
Miss Peggy?”

“I know not,” answered Peggy regarding the book almost with awe. “Oh,
girls! hath he not indeed been kind to me? ’Tis most wonderful how
everything hath happened. How vastly delightsome town life is! I hope
mother will go to every tea to which we are asked.”

“And has thee had so much excitement that thee does not care for my
secret?” asked Sally. “’Twas my purpose to declare it at this time.”

“Do tell it, Sally,” pleaded Peggy aroused by Sally’s earnest tone.
“Thee promised.”

“Yes, yes, Sally,” urged Betty. “Do tell us.”

“Then come close,” said Sally motioning to Robert and Mr. Deering to
draw nearer. “Know then, all of you, that to-morrow I am to begin to
prepare for being a nurse in the General Hospital.”

“Oh, Sally!” cried Betty and Peggy in a chorus.

“Yes,” said she, enjoying their surprise. “Mr. Deering seems to have
known it, and Robert here, but ’tis known to no others. I have been
minded for some time to do something more than make socks and shirts,
though they are badly needed, too, I hear.”

“’Tis just splendid, Sally,” declared Peggy. “But Betty and I must do
something too. It will never do for thee to be the only one of us girls
to do so well. What shall we do, Betty?”

“I fancy that my hands at least will be full,” said Betty. “Mother
thinks it advisable for me to take the smallpox as soon as she can spare
me.”

“La!” giggled Sally. “How will that help the country, Betty?”

“By preventing it from spreading,” answered Betty, at which they all
laughed.

The music struck up at this moment, and the talk which had threatened to
become serious was interrupted. About eleven a genteel supper was
served, and General Arnold’s tea had come to an end.



CHAPTER VII—A SUMMER SOLDIER


      “What, if ‘mid the cannon’s thunder,
        Whistling shot and bursting bomb,
      When my brothers fall around me,
        Should my heart grow cold and numb?”
          But the drum
          Answered “Come!
      Better there in death united than in life a recreant—come!”

                                     —“The Reveille,” Bret Harte.

“Mother, what did thee think of the tea?” asked Peggy of Mrs. Owen the
next morning.

Lowry Owen laid down her sewing and turned toward her daughter gravely:

“’Twas an enjoyable occasion in many respects, my daughter. ’Twas most
pleasant to meet with old friends, but——”

“Yes, mother?” questioned the maiden as the lady hesitated.

“There was so much of extravagance and expenditure in the costumes and
even in the entertainment that I fear we cannot indulge often in such
pleasures. Mr. Arnold”—calling him after the London manner, a fashion
much in vogue at this time in the colonies—“must be a man of great
wealth to afford such hospitality. I understand that ’tis extended often
to his friends, and ’tis expected to some extent from a man in his
position. But we are not wealthy now, my child, and I wish not to be
drawn into a manner of life beyond our means.”

“I know, mother,” answered the girl soberly. “Last night I was carried
away by the enjoyment of it all, and methought I would like naught else
than teas, and routs and parties all the time. Didst think thy daughter
could be so foolish?”

“’Twas very plain to be seen, my child,” said the lady with a smile.
“And with thy father and others in the field it seems to me that thou
and I may be employed to better purpose, Peggy? What does thee say?
Shall we give up assemblies, tea drinkings and finery to patriotism, or
wouldst thou rather——”

“Mother, thee knows that when ’tis a choice between such things and the
country they must go,” cried Peggy warmly.

“I knew that I could count on thy cooperation,” observed Mrs. Owen
quietly. “Thou shalt have thy young friends, Peggy, and shall share
their pleasures, but we will have no more of public parade and
ostentation. I like it not. ’Tis not befitting the wives and daughters
of soldiers to indulge in such pastimes. And we shall be busy, Peggy. We
must spin and weave.”

“I do not mind the work, mother. Sally is to be a nurse, and I would not
be happy could I not do something too.”

And so the spinning-wheel was brought from the attic, and given a
prominent place in the living-room. The loom was set up in the large
kitchen, and from early morn until eight at night the girl spent the
long hours of the day spinning and weaving. Other Whig women also,
dismayed by the spirit of frivolity and extravagance that was rife in
the city, followed their example, and the hum of the wheel and burr of
the loom were heard in every household.

“Thou hast been spinning since five of the clock this morning, Peggy,”
remonstrated Mrs. Owen one afternoon. “Is thee not tired? How many
skeins hast thou spun to-day?”

“I have lost count, mother,” laughed Peggy. “It behooves me to be
thrifty, else there will be no yarn to knit. And such heaps and heaps of
unspun wool as there are! ’Tis no time to be weary.”

“But thee must not overdo in the beginning. There is also much
unhatcheled flax to be made into thread for cloth, and if thee is too
wearied from the spinning of the wool thou wilt not be able to undertake
it. So stop now, and take a run through the garden.”

“Just as soon as I finish this skein, mother.”

Peggy’s light foot on the treadle went swifter and swifter, and for a
time no sound was heard in the living-room save the hum of the wheel.
Presently the spindle uttered an angry snarl, and the thread snapped
short in her fingers.

“There!” she cried merrily, unraveling the knot dexterously. “Had I but
heeded thy advice, mother, this mishap would not have occurred. The
moral is that a maid should always obey her mother. I tried to outdo my
stint of yesterday, and by so doing have come to grief. Now if thee will
hold the skeins I will wind the yarn of to-day’s spinning ready for
knitting.”

So saying she uprose from the wheel and took a snowy skein from the reel
on the table, and adjusted it upon her mother’s outstretched hands.

“Sukey and I could do this after supper, Peggy,” expostulated the
matron. “I like not to have thee confined too closely to work, albeit I
would not have thee idle.”

“Mother, thee knows that thee likes to have me excel in housewifery, and
how can I do so unless I practice the art? I cannot become notable save
by doing, can I?” questioned the maiden archly, her slim figure looking
very graceful as she stood winding the yarn with nimble fingers. “I
shall take the air when I have finished winding this ball, if it will
please thee; though”—and a shadow dimmed the brightness of her face—“I
like not to go out in the grounds since Star hath gone. How strange it
is that something should happen to both the pets that father gave me!
Pilot, my dog, was shot, and now my pony is stolen. Dost think I will
ever hear of her, mother?”

“It hath been some time since thou didst advertise, Peggy, hath it not?”

“Yes, mother. Three long se’nnights.”

“And in all that time there hath come no word or sign of her.” The lady
hesitated a moment, and then continued: “Dear child, I fear that thou
wilt see no more of thy pretty horse. But take comfort in the thought
that though the gift hath been taken from thee the giver hath not. David
is well, and in good spirits. That is much to be thankful for, Peggy.”

“It is, mother. Dear father! would he were home for all time.”

Without further remonstrance Peggy went out under the trees. A slight
chill was in the air, for it was drawing toward evening. Summer’s spell
was released, and the sere decadence of the year was sweetly and sadly
going on. Up and down the neglected alleys of the garden she strolled,
pausing ever and anon to admire the scarlet fire of the late poppies.
Almost unconsciously her feet turned in the direction of the stable, a
place to which she made daily pilgrimages since the loss of her pet. As
she drew near the building the unmistakable sound of a low whinny broke
upon the air. A startled look swept across the girl’s face, and she
stopped short in astonishment.

“That sounded like Star,” she exclaimed. “Mother was right in thinking
that I needed the air. I must not sit so long again at the wheel. I——”

But another and louder whinny broke upon her ear, and full of excitement
Peggy flung wide the door, and darted within.

“Oh, Star! Star!” she cried throwing her arms about the pony’s neck, for
the mare was really standing in her stall. “Where did thee come from?
Who brought thee? And where hast thou been?”

But the little mare could only whinny her delight, and rub her soft nose
against her mistress’s sleeve.

“Thou dear thing!” cried the girl rapturously. “Is thee glad to get
back? Does thee want some sugar? Oh, how did thee get here? Thee doesn’t
look as though thee had had much to eat. Poor thing! Couldn’t they even
groom thee?”

“Mistress!”

Peggy turned around abruptly, and there stood the same young fellow who
had mended her saddle when she and her mother were waiting on the
Germantown road. He was more ragged than ever, and thinner too, if that
were possible. He still wore his air of jaunty assurance, however, and
returned her astonished gaze with a glance of amusement.

“Thou?” breathed Peggy. “And what does thee want?”

“Naught, but to return thy horse,” he answered.

“Oh! did thee find her?” cried the girl in pleased tones. “How good of
thee to bring her to me! Where did thee find her? And the thief? What
did thee do with him?”

“The thief? Oh, I brought him too,” he said coolly.

“But where is he?” she demanded looking around. “I do not see him.”

“Here,” he said sweeping her an elaborate bow.

“Thee?” Peggy recoiled involuntarily as the lad spoke. “Oh, how could
thee do it? How could thee?” she burst forth.

“I couldn’t. That’s why I brought her back. I don’t steal from a girl.”

“But why did thee keep her so long?” she asked, mollified somewhat by
this speech.

“I wanted to see my people,” he answered.

“And did thee?” she queried, her tender heart stirred by this.

“No; they had moved, or something had happened. They weren’t there any
more.” He spoke wearily and with some bitterness. “I’d have sold that
horse if I hadn’t kept thinking how fond you were of her.”

“And did thee know that I had offered a reward for her, friend?”

“Why, of course I knew,” he replied. “Now as I am entitled to the money
for both the horse and thief, suppose you bring it out to me.”

“But my pony,” objected Peggy. “How do I know that thee will not take
her again?”

“Your horse?” he questioned angrily. “Don’t fear! Don’t you suppose that
if I had wanted to keep her I’d have done it? Now if you are going to
give me the money, do it. Then feed your mare. She hasn’t had much more
than I have. Don’t be afraid of me, but hurry. I can’t stay around here
any longer.”

“I am not afraid, friend,” responded Peggy her hesitation vanishing. “I
was just thinking that thee looked hungry. Come to the house, and eat
something. Then thou shalt have thy money, though I know not what my
mother will say to that part of it. But thee should eat anyway. Come!”

“I will not,” he cried. “I will not. Someone might see me and arrest
me.”

“But if mother and I do not wish to prosecute ’tis not the concern of
any,” she told him mildly. “Now that I have Star, I would not wish to be
severe, and thou didst bring her back. Mother will feel the same way.”

“’Tis not that,” he cried sharply. “Don’t you understand? I have run
away from the army, and I don’t want to be caught. I have been
advertised, as well as your horse.”

“And so thee could not steal from a girl, but thee can desert thy
country in her fight for liberty,” said Peggy, her eyes blazing with
scorn. “I had rather a thousand times that thou hadst taken Star; that
thou couldst find it in thy heart to steal, though that were monstrous
sinful, than that thou should stand there, and declare thyself a
deserter. Why, thou art worse than a thief! Thou hast committed robbery
twice over; for thou hast robbed thyself of honor, and despoiled thy
country of a man.”

“But”—he began, amazed at her feeling—“you do not know. You do not
understand. I——”

“No,” blazed the girl. “I do not know. I do not want to know how a man
can be a summer soldier, as Mr. Thomas Paine calls them. A sunshine
patriot who rallies to his country’s side in fair weather, but who
deserts her when she needs men. A deserter! Oh!” her voice thrilling,
“how can thee be such a thing?”

“It’s—it’s all up,” he said leaning against the door white and shaken.
“I’m done for!” And he fell limply to the floor.



CHAPTER VIII—PEGGY’S RESOLVE


               “Stand! the ground’s your own, my braves!
               Will ye give it up to slaves?
               Will ye to your homes retire?
               Look behind you! They’re afire!
                 And, before you, see
               Who have done it!—From the vale
               On they come!—And will ye quail?”

                                         —John Pierpont.

In an instant Peggy was out of the stable and running to the house.

“Mother,” she cried bursting in upon Mrs. Owen so suddenly that the lady
started up in alarm, “the lad that mended my saddle is in the stable. He
hath brought Star back, and I fear he hath fainted. Come quickly!”

“Fainted?” exclaimed the lady rising hastily. “And Star back? Tell Sukey
to follow with Tom, Peggy.”

Seizing a bottle of cologne and a vinaigrette she went quickly to the
barn followed by Peggy and the two curious servants.

“’Tis lack of nourishing food more than aught else that ails him,” was
Mrs. Owen’s comment as she laved the youth’s forehead with vinegar, and
bade Sukey burn some feathers under his nose. “Peggy, get the
guest-chamber in readiness. We will carry him in as soon as he hath
regained his consciousness.”

The girl hastened to do her bidding, and presently the lad, by this time
recovered from his swoon, was put to bed, and the household all a bustle
with preparing gruel and delicacies. Shortly after partaking of food, he
gave a sigh of content and fell into a deep sleep. And then Peggy turned
to her mother.

“Are we to keep him?” she queried.

“Surely, my daughter. Why dost thou ask? The lad is not strong enough to
depart now. There is naught else to be done.”

“But he is in truth a deserter, mother.”

“I surmised as much, as thee remembers,” observed Mrs. Owen quietly.

“And a thief,” continued the maiden with some warmth. “Mother, he
acknowledged that ’twas he who stole Star.”

“And it was also he who brought her back,” reminded her mother.

“But to desert,” exclaimed Peggy a fine scorn leaping into her eyes. “To
leave when his country hath such need of him!”

“True, Peggy; but the flesh is weak, and when subjected to the pangs of
hunger ’tis prone to revolt. Our soldiers are so illy cared for that the
wonder is that more do not forsake the army.”

“Mother, thee does not excuse it, does thee?” cried Peggy in so much
consternation that Mrs. Owen smiled.

“Nay, Peggy. I only suspend judgment until I know all the circumstances.
Did he tell thee aught of his reasons for deserting?”

“I fear,” answered Peggy shamefacedly, “that I gave him no opportunity.
In fact, mother, I discovered some warmth in speaking anent the matter.”

Mrs. Owen smiled. Well she knew that in her zeal for the country Peggy
was apt to “discover warmth.”

“Then,” she said, “we will bring naught into question until he hath his
strength. Yon lad is in no condition for fighting or aught else at the
present time.”

“But once he hath his strength,” broke in the girl eagerly, “would it be
amiss to reason with him?”

“Once he hath his strength I will say nothing,” answered the lady, her
mouth twitching. “Thou mayst reason with him then to thy heart’s
content.”

And so it came about that the young deserter was attended with great
care, and none was so assiduous in attention to his comfort as Peggy.
For several days he did little but receive food and sleep. This soon
passed, however, and he was up and about, though he still kept to his
chamber both as a matter of precaution and as though enjoying to the
full the creature comforts by which he was surrounded.

“Friend,” remarked Peggy one day after she had arranged his dinner
daintily upon a table drawn up by the settle upon which he was lying,
“thee has not told thy name yet.”

“’Tis Drayton. John Drayton,” he returned an apprehensive look flashing
across his face. “You would not—would you?—betray me?”

“I did not ask for that purpose,” she replied indignantly. “Had we
wished to denounce thee we would have done so long since. Why shouldst
thou think such a thing?”

“I cry you pardon,” he said with something of his old jauntiness. “I
have heard that a guilty conscience doth make cowards of us all. ’Tis so
in my case. In truth I should not tarry here, but——”

“Thee is welcome to stay until thy strength is fully restored, friend,”
she said. “My mother and I are agreed as to that. And then——”

“Well? And then?” he questioned sharply turning upon her.

“Friend, why did thee desert?” asked she abruptly.

“Why? Because the thought of another winter took all the spirit out of
me. Because I am tired of being hungry and cold; because I am tired of
being ragged and dirty. I am tired of it all: the long hard marches with
insufficient clothing to cover me by day, and no blanket but the snow at
night. I made the march to Quebec through all the perils of the
wilderness. Through sleet and driving snow it hath always been my
fortune to serve. Last winter I spent among the dreary hills of Valley
Forge, enduring all the miseries of that awful time. And then, after all
that, for three such years of service what does an ungrateful country
bestow upon me? The rank of ensign.” And he laughed bitterly. “But every
foreign adventurer that comes whining to Congress may have the highest
commission that is in their power to bestow. And what do they care for
us who have borne the burden? Why, nothing but to let us starve.”

“True,” said Peggy troubled. “True, Friend Drayton, and yet——”

“And yet when we have given so much to an ungrateful country if we
desert we are hounded like dogs, or runaway slaves,” he continued
passionately. “And you, Mistress Peggy, who have known neither hunger
nor cold, nor what it is to be in battle, stand there accusingly because
I, forsooth, who have known all these things have tired of them. A
summer soldier, you called me. A winter soldier would have been the
better term.”

Peggy’s face flushed.

“Now,” he continued, “I am seeking to follow the precepts of the great
Declaration which doth teach that every man hath the right to life,
liberty and the pursuit of happiness after his own fashion.”

“Still,” remarked the girl, who was plainly puzzled by his reasoning,
“if the British should succeed in defeating us what would become of the
Declaration? Methinks that ’twould be the part of wisdom not to accord
thy life by such precepts until they were definitely established.”

“You are pleased to be sharp, mistress,” he said pushing back from the
table. “I—I am in no condition to argue with you. I am weak,” he added
reclining once more upon the settle.

Peggy made no reply, and silently removed the dishes. A sparkle came
into her eye as she noted their empty condition.

“Mother,” she said as she entered the kitchen where that lady was, “does
thee not think that our friend is able now to stand being reasoned with?
He said but now that he was still weak.”

Mrs. Owen laughed quietly as she saw that nothing had been left of the
meal.

“’Tis but natural that he should feel so, Peggy,” she said. “When one
hath been without food and a proper place to sleep the senses become
sharpened to the enjoyment of such things, and he but seeks to prolong
his delight in them. Be not too hard on the lad, my child.”

“But would it harm him, mother, to reason with him?” persisted Peggy.
“If he can eat so, can he not be brought to see the error of his ways? I
would not injure him for the world.”

“Set thy mind at rest upon that point, Peggy. Naught that thou canst say
to him can work him injury. Hath our friend told thee why he deserted?”

“He feared another winter,” answered Peggy. “And perhaps he hath cause
to; for he hath been through the march to Quebec under General Arnold,
and last winter he spent at Valley Forge. And so he ran away to keep
from passing another such season in the army.”

“Poor lad!” sighed the lady. “’Tis no wonder that he deserted. Yet those
who endure such hardships for so long rarely desert. ’Tis but a passing
weakness. Let us hope that he will return when he is well enough. He is
of too good a mettle to be lost.”

“I mean him to go back,” announced Peggy resolutely.

“Peggy, what is worrying thy brain?” exclaimed her mother. “Child, let
me look at thee.”

“Leave him to me, mother,” cried the girl, her eyes shining like stars.
“He shall yet be something other than a summer soldier.”



CHAPTER IX—THE TALE OF A HERO


               “Paradise is under the shadow of swords.”

                                               —Mahomet.

“Thee must excuse me, Friend John. I am late with thy dinner because
General Arnold dined with us, and we sat long at table,” explained Peggy
the next day as she entered the room where Drayton sat.

“Arnold?” cried the young fellow, starting up. “Was General Arnold here?
Here? Under this very roof? Could I get a glimpse of him?”

He ran to the front window as he spoke and threw it open. Now this
window faced upon Chestnut Street, and there was danger of being seen,
so Peggy ran to him in great perturbation.

“Come back,” she cried in alarm. “Some one might see thee. He hath gone.
Thou canst not see him. Dost forget that if any see thee thou mayst be
taken?”

“I had forgot,” said Drayton, drawing back into the room. “You did not
speak of me?” he asked quickly, with some excitement.

“Nay; calm thyself. We spoke naught of thee to him, nor to any. Have I
not said we would not? Was thee not under the general during the march
into Canada?”

“Yes; but he was a colonel then. Hath his wound healed yet? Last spring
at Valley Forge he was still on crutches. Is he still crippled?”

“Yes, he is still lame. He uses the crutches when he hath not one of his
soldier’s arms to lean upon.”

“Would that he had mine to lean upon,” cried Drayton, with such feeling
that Peggy was surprised.

“Why? Does thee think so much of him?” she asked.

“I’d die for him,” uttered the lad earnestly. “There isn’t one of us
that was on that march to Quebec under him who wouldn’t.”

“Suppose thee tells me about it,” suggested Peggy. “I have heard
something of the happenings of that time, but not fully. The city rings
with his prowess and gallant deeds. ’Tis said that he is generous and
kind as well as brave.”

“’Tis said rightly, Mistress Peggy. Doth he not care for the orphans of
Joseph Warren who fell at Bunker Hill? In that awful march was there
ever a kinder or more humane leader? No tongue can tell the sufferings
and privations we endured on that march through the wilderness, but
there was no murmuring. We knew that he was doing the best that could be
done, and that if ever man could take us through that man was Benedict
Arnold. I cannot describe what hardships we endured, but as we
approached the St. Lawrence River I became so ill that I could no longer
march. Utterly exhausted, I sank down on a log, and watched the troops
pass by me. In the rear came Colonel Arnold on horseback. Seeing me
sitting there, pale and dejected, he dismounted and came over to me.

“‘And what is it, my boy?’ he asked. ’I—I’m sick,’ I blubbered, and
burst out crying.

“He didn’t say a word for a minute, and then he turned and ran down to
the river bank, and halloed to a house which stood near. The owner came
quickly, and Colonel Arnold gave him silver money to look after me until
I should get well. Then with his own hands he helped me into the boat,
gave me some money also, and said that I must not think of joining them
until I was quite strong. Oh!” cried Drayton huskily, “he was always
like that. Always doing something for us to make it easier.”

“And did thee join him again?” questioned Peggy, her voice not quite
steady. She had heard of the love that soldiers often have for their
leaders, but she had not come in touch with it before.

“Ay! who could forsake a commander like that? As soon as I was able I
followed after them with all speed. In November we stood at last on the
Plains of Abraham before Quebec. We were eager to attack the city at
once, but Sir Guy Carleton arrived with reinforcements, and we could not
hope to take the city until we too were reinforced. Finally we were
joined by General Montgomery and three hundred men, and the two leaders
made ready to assault the town.

“On the last day of the year, in the midst of a driving snow-storm we
started. It was so dark and stormy that in order that we might recognize
each other each soldier wore a white band of paper on his cap on which
was written—Liberty or Death!

“General Montgomery was to attack the lower town by way of Cape Diamond
on the river, while Colonel Arnold was to assault the northern part. The
storm raged furiously, but we reached the Palace Gate in spite of it.
The alarm was ringing from all the bells in the city, drums were
beating, and the artillery opened upon us. With Colonel Arnold at our
front we ran along in single file, bending our heads to avoid the storm,
and holding our guns under cover of our coats to keep our powder dry.

“The first barrier was at Sault au Matelot, and here we found ourselves
in a narrow way, swept by a battery, with soldiers firing upon us from
the houses on each side of the passage. But Arnold was not daunted. He
called out, ‘Come on, boys!’ and we rushed on. ’Twas always that. He
never said, ‘Go, boys!’ like some of the officers. ’Twas always ‘Come
on, boys!’ and there he’d be at our head. I tell you a braver man never
lived.

“Well, as he rushed on cheering us to the assault, he was struck by a
musket ball just at the moment of the capture of the barrier. His leg
was broken, and he fell upon the snow. Then, can you believe it, he got
up somehow, though he could only use one leg, and endeavored to press
forward. Two of us dropped our muskets, and ran to him, but he refused
to leave the field until the main body of the troops came up. He stood
there leaning on us for support, and calling to the troops in a cheering
voice as they passed, urging them onward. When at last he consented to
be taken from the field his steps could be traced by the blood which
flowed from the wound.”

“Was it the same one that was hurt at Saratoga?” queried Peggy.

“The very same. And no sooner was he recovered than he was in action
again. Although the attack on the city was a failure he would not give
up the idea of its capture. I believe that had not General Montgomery
fallen it would have succeeded.”

“’Twas at Quebec that William McPherson fell,” mused Peggy. “He was the
first one of our soldiers to fall. Philadelphia is proud of his renown.
But oh, he was so young, and so full of patriotic zeal and devotion to
the cause of liberty!”

“Every one was full of it then,” observed Drayton sadly. “When we were
on the Plains of Abraham before the battlements of the lofty town, think
you that no thought came to us of how Wolfe, the victorious Wolfe,
scaled those rocks and forced the barred gates of the city? I tell you
that there was not one of us whose heart did not feel kinship with that
hero. His memory inspired us. His very presence seemed to pervade the
field, and we knew that our leaders were animated by the memory of his
victory.”

“Thou hast felt like that, and yet thou hast deserted?” exclaimed the
girl involuntarily.

A deep flush dyed the young fellow’s face. He sat very still for a
moment and then answered with passion:

“Have I not given all that is necessary? And I have suffered, Mistress
Peggy. I have suffered that which is worse than death. Why, death upon
the battle-field is glorious! I do not fear it. But ’tis the long
winters; the cold, sleepless nights, huddling in scanty wisps of straw,
or over a low fire for warmth; the going without food, or having but
enough to merely keep life within one. This it is that takes the heart
out of a man. I’ll bear it no more.”

Two great tears forced themselves from Peggy’s eyes, and coursed down
her cheeks. “Thee has borne so much,” she uttered chokingly. “So much,
Friend John, that I wonder thee has lived to tell it. And having borne
so much ’tis dreadful to ask more of thee, and yet to have thee
fail—fail just at the very last! To dim such an honorable record! To
blot out all that thou hast endured by desertion! Oh, how could thee?
How could thee? Could thee not endure a little more?”

Drayton stirred restlessly.

“They haven’t treated me well,” he blurted out. “I wanted to be in the
Select Corps, and they wouldn’t put me there. And I merited it, Mistress
Peggy. I tell you I merited it.”

“What is the Select Corps, John?” asked the girl curiously.

“’Tis a body of soldiers made up of picked men from the whole army,” he
returned. “They are always in advance, and lead every charge in an
active campaign. I wanted to be there, and they wouldn’t put me in.”

“But,” persisted Peggy speaking in a low tone, “does thee think that thy
general would desert as thee has done just because he was not treated
well? Thee knows that ’tis only of late that Congress would give him his
proper rank.”

“He desert!” The boy’s sullen eyes lighted up again at the mere mention
of his hero, and he laughed. “Why, I verily believe that General Arnold
would fight if everybody else in America stopped fighting. Why, at
Saratoga when General Gates deprived him of his command, and ordered him
to stay in his tent, he would not. When we boys heard what had been
done, we were afraid he would leave us, and so we got up a petition
asking him to wait until after the battle. And, though he was smarting
from humiliation, he promised that he’d stay with us. But Gates told him
not to leave the tent, and ordered us forward. We went, but our hearts
were heavy to be without him.

“At the first sound of battle, however, he rushed from the tent, threw
himself on his horse, and dashed to where we were, crying, ‘No man shall
keep me in my tent this day. If I am without command, I will fight in
the ranks; but the soldiers, God bless them, will follow my lead.’

“How we cheered when we saw him coming! Brandishing his broad-sword
above his head, he dashed into the thickest of the fight, calling the
old, ‘Come on, boys! Victory or death!’ and the regiments followed him
like a whirlwind. The conflict was terrible, but in the midst of flame
and smoke, and metal hail, he was everywhere. His voice rang out like a
trumpet, animating and inspiring us to valor. He led us to victory, but
just as the Hessians, terrified by his approach, turned to flee, they
delivered a volley in their retreat that shot his horse from under him.
At the same instant a wounded German private fired a shot which struck
him in that same leg that had been so badly lacerated at Quebec, two
years before.

“As he fell he cried out to us, ‘Rush on, my brave boys, rush on!’ But
one, in fury at seeing the general wounded, dashed at the wounded
German, and would have run him through with his bayonet had not the
general cried: ‘Don’t hurt him, he but did his duty. He is a fine
fellow.’”

“I don’t wonder that thee loves him,” cried Peggy, her eyes sparkling at
the recital. “I believe with thee that though all others should fail he
would fight the enemy even though he would fight alone. Oh, I must get
thee to tell mother this! I knew not that he was so brave!”

“Yes,” reiterated Master Drayton positively. “He would fight even though
he fought alone. But I am not made of such stuff. I am no hero, Mistress
Peggy. Beside, have not the Parley-voos come over to fight for us? They
have all the honors given them; let them have the miseries too.”

“But why should the French fight our battles for us?” demanded the girl
bluntly. “They are only to help us. Why should they exert themselves to
save that which we do not value enough to fight for?”

“’Tis expected by the army, anyway,” said Drayton. “I know that I’ll do
no more.”

“Thee is a poor tired lad,” said the girl gently. “And thy dinner. See
how little thou hast eaten. I have talked too long with thee to-day.
Later we will renew the subject.”

“Renew it an you will,” retorted the boy assuming again his jaunty
manner, half defiance, half swagger. “’Twill make no difference. I have
served my last. Unless the recruiting officer finds me you won’t catch
me in the army again.”

Peggy smiled a knowing little smile, but made no answer.

“We shall see,” she thought as she left the room. “Methinks thee has
some martial spirit left, Friend John.”



CHAPTER X—PEGGY TEACHES A LESSON


             “Rise then, my countrymen! for fight prepare,
             Gird on your swords, and fearless rush to war!
             For your grieved country nobly dare to die,
             And empty all your veins for liberty.”

                                 —Jonathan Mitchell Sewall.

It was several days before Peggy could have another talk with Master
Drayton, but meantime she set up the needles and began to knit
vigorously on stockings, spun into thread more of the flax, and put
Sukey to work weaving it into cloth.

“Peggy, what is thee so busy about?” asked Mrs. Owen, coming into the
kitchen where the girl had been at work since the dawn.

Peggy looked up from the dye kettle with a puzzled look on her face, and
gave an extra poke at the cloth reposing therein by way of emphasis.

“I am trying to dye some cloth, mother, but it doesn’t seem to come
right. What shall be done to indigo to get a pretty blue? I had no
trouble with the yellow dye. See how beautifully this piece came out.
Such a soft fine buff! I am pleased with it—but this——”

She paused and turned inquiringly toward her mother. Mrs. Owen took the
stick from her hand, and held up a piece of cloth from the steaming
kettle, examining it critically.

“Fix another kettle of water, Peggy,” she said, “and let it be near to
boiling. Into it put some salts of tin, alum and cream of tartar. It
needs brightening, and will come a pretty blue when washed in the
solution. There! Punch each part of the cloth down into the water,
child, so that it may be thoroughly wetted. So! Now rinse well, and hang
it out to dry. That done thou shalt tell me for what purpose thou hast
dyed the cloth such especial colors. Thy father hath no need of a new
uniform.”

“’Tis for Friend John,” said Peggy dabbling the cloth vigorously up and
down in the rinsing water.

“Why! hath he expressed a wish to return?” exclaimed Mrs. Owen in
amazement. “I had heard naught of it.”

Peggy laughed.

“Not yet, mother,” she cried, her eyes dancing with mirth. “But I see
signs. Oh, I see signs. This must be ready anent the time he does wish
to go. This, with socks, and weapons, and aught else he may need.”

“Hast thou been reasoning with him, Peggy, that thee feels so sure?”

“A little,” admitted the girl. “This afternoon, if none comes to
interrupt, I shall do more. Mother, what would I do without thee? Thee
did just the right thing to bring this cloth to the proper color. Is it
not beautiful? Would I could do so well.”

“’Twill come in time, my daughter. Skill in dyeing as in aught else
comes only from practice. But here is Sukey to tell us of visitors. Wash
thy hands and join us, Peggy. If ’tis Sally Bache I make no doubt but
that there is news from Dr. Franklin.”

’Twas customary at this time to pay morning visits in Philadelphia, and
several came, one after another, so that by the time she had finished
her interrupted tasks Peggy found the afternoon well on toward its close
before she could pay her usual visit to Master Drayton. She found him
awaiting her coming with eagerness.

“’Tis good to be sheltered and fed,” he said as the maiden entered the
room, “but none the less ’tis monstrous tiresome to be cooped up. What
shall be done to amuse me, Mistress Peggy?”

“Would thee like to have me read to thee?” she asked, a gleam of
mischief coming into her eyes.

“The very thing,” he cried, seating himself comfortably on the settle.
“Is it a tale? Or perchance you have brought a verse book?”

“Neither,” she answered. “Art sure that thou art comfortable, Friend
John? Does thee need anything at all?”

“Nothing at all,” he replied pleased at her solicitude. “And now for the
reading. I am curious to see what you have chosen, for I see that you
have brought something with you.”

“Yes,” she responded, producing a pamphlet. “’Tis just a little
something from a writer who calls himself, ‘Common Sense.’” Before he
had time to expostulate she began hurriedly:

“‘These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the
sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his
country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of men
and women. We have this consolation with us, that the harder the
conflict, the more glorious the triumph.’”

“Now see here,” broke in the youth in an injured tone sitting bolt
upright. “That’s mean! Downright mean, I say, to take advantage of a
fellow like that. If you want to begin again on that summer soldier
business, why say so right out.”

“Does thee object very seriously, John, to listening?” queried the
maiden mildly. “I would like to read thee the article.”

“Oh, go ahead! I guess I can stand it.” Drayton set his lips together
grimly, and half turned from her.

Peggy waited for no further permission. The pamphlet was one of the most
powerful written by Thomas Paine, and, as he passed from paragraph to
paragraph of the tremendous harangue, he touched with unfailing skill,
with matchless power, the springs of anxiety, contempt, love of home,
love of country, fortitude, cool deliberation and passionate resolve.
Drayton listened for a time in silence, with a sullen and injured air.
Slowly he turned toward the reader as though compelled against his will,
and presently he sprang to his feet with something like a sob.

“In pity, cease,” he cried. “Hast no compassion for a man?”

[Illustration: SLOWLY HE TURNED TOWARD THE READER]

But Peggy knew that now was the time to drive the lesson home, so
steeling her heart to pity, she continued the pamphlet, closing with the
peroration which was such a battle call as might almost startle slain
patriots from their graves:

“‘Up and help us; lay your shoulders to the wheel; better have too much
force than too little, when so great an object is at stake. Let it be
told to the future world, that in the depth of winter, when nothing but
hope and virtue could survive, the country and city, alarmed at one
common danger, came forth to meet and repulse it.... It matters not
where you live, or what rank of life you hold, the evil or the blessing
will reach you all.... The heart that feels not now is dead. The blood
of his children will curse his cowardice who shrinks back at a time when
a little might have saved the whole, and made them happy. I love the man
that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress, and
grow brave by reflection. ’Tis the business of little minds to shrink;
but he whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves his conduct,
will pursue his principles until death.... By perseverance and
fortitude, we have the prospect of a glorious issue; by cowardice and
submission the sad choice of a variety of evils,—a ravaged country, a
depopulated city, habitations without safety, and slavery without hope.
Look on this picture and weep over it; and if there yet remains one
thoughtless wretch who believes it not, let him suffer it unlamented.’”

“No more,” cried the youth in great agitation. “I can bear no more.
‘’Tis the business of little minds to shrink; but he whose heart is
firm, and whose conscience approves his conduct, will pursue his
principles until death.’ ’Tis true. Do not I know it. Until death! Until
death! Wretch that I am, I know it. There have been times when I would
have given my life to be back in the army. Do you think it is pleasant
to skulk, to hide from honest men? To know always and always that one is
a poltroon and a coward? I tell you no. Do you think that I have not
heard the inward pleading of my conscience to go back? That I have not
seen the accusing look in your eyes? You called me a summer soldier! I
am worse than that, and I have lost my chance.”

“Thee has just found it, John,” cried she quickly. “Before thee served
for thine own advancement; now thee will begin again, and fight for thy
country alone. If preferment comes to thee, it will have been earned by
unselfish devotion. But thy country, John, thy country! Let it be always
in thy thoughts until its liberties are secured beyond recall.”

“Would you have me go back?” he cried, stopping before her in amazement.

“Why, of course thee is going back,” answered Peggy simply. “There is
naught else for a man to do.”

Drayton noted the slight emphasis the girl laid upon the word man, and
made an involuntary motion of assent.

“Did you know that deserters are ofttimes shot?” he asked suddenly.

Peggy clutched at the back of a chair, and turned very pale. “No,” she
said faintly. “I did not know.”

“I thought not,” he said. “None the less what you have said is true.
‘There is naught else for a man to do.’ I am going back, Mistress Peggy.
I shall try for another chance, but if it does not come, still I am
going back.”

“And be shot?” she cried. “Oh, what have I done?”

“Shown me my duty,” he answered quietly. “Blame not yourself, for there
hath been an inward cry toward that very thing ever since I ran away
from my duty. I have stifled its calling, and tried to palliate my
wrong-doing by excuses, but neither winter’s cold, nor the ingratitude
of an unappreciative country will excuse a man’s not sticking by his
convictions. Never again will you have it in your power to call me a
summer soldier.”

“Thee is right,” faltered the girl. “I—I am glad that thee has so
resolved, and yet——Oh! I hope that thee will not be shot.”

She burst into tears and ran out of the room. Girl-like, now that the
end was accomplished, Peggy was rather aghast at the result.



CHAPTER XI—PEGGY PLEADS FOR DRAYTON


                 “‘Me from fair Freedom’s sacred cause
                   Let nothing e’er divide;
                 Grandeur, nor gold, nor vain applause,
                   Nor friendship false, misguide.’”

                        —The American Patriot’s Prayer.
                            (Ascribed to Thomas Paine.)

It was Mrs. Owen who found a way out of the situation.

“Nay, lad,” she said in her gentle way after Peggy had poured forth her
fear that the boy might be shot, and Drayton had expressed himself as
eager to go back at once. “Be not too hasty. Youth is ever impulsive,
and prone to act on the resolve of the moment. Thee would prefer another
chance, would thee not?”

“Yes,” answered the lad quickly. “If I could have it, I would show
myself worthy of it. But if I cannot, Madam Owen, I am still resolved to
go back, and face death like a man.”

“Thee is right, John,” she answered. “But if we could reach the proper
authorities something might be done to give thee an opportunity to
redeem thyself. Stay! I have it! Was not Mr. Arnold thy general?”

“Yes,” he said. “But oh, madam! is it necessary that he should know?
Think, think what it would be should he learn that John Drayton, one of
his soldiers, deserted. I could not bear to see him.”

“But would he not take more interest in thee than any other officer
might? He alone would know all that thou didst endure in that march
through the Maine wilderness. He would have a more complete
understanding of thy privations, and how thou hast borne thyself under
them. It is to him we must look to get thee thy chance.”

Drayton buried his face in his hands for a time, and sat in thought.
Presently he looked up.

“You speak truly, madam,” he said. “’Tis the only way. He is the one to
whom we must go. I am ashamed to face him, but I will. I’ll ask for
another chance, but oh! this is a thing that he cannot understand: he
who would give his life rather than fail in his duty. ’Tis a part of my
punishment. I’d rather die than face him, but I will.”

“Once more, lad, let us not be too hasty,” said the lady again, laying a
detaining hand upon his arm as he rose to his feet. “We must approach
him with some little diplomacy. So much have I learned in this long war.
He hath discovered a liking for Peggy here, and hath bestowed marked
notice upon her upon several occasions. Therefore, while I like not to
seem to take advantage of such favor, in this instance it might be well
to send her as an advocate to him for thee. What does thee say, Peggy?”

“That ’tis the very thing,” cried Peggy, starting up. “Oh, I will gladly
go to him. And I will plead, and plead, John, until he cannot help but
give thee another chance.”

“It seems like shirking,” remonstrated Drayton, his restored manliness
eager to begin an expiation.

“Thee has been advertised as a deserter, lad, and should thee attempt to
go to him thee might be apprehended. Also, if the general were to see
thee without first preparing him, he might not listen to thy
explanation, and turn thee over to the recruiting officer. It will be
the part of wisdom for Peggy to see him first.”

And so it was arranged. September had given place to the crisp bracing
air of October, and on the uplands the trees were beginning to wear the
glory of scarlet and yellow and opal green. Sunshine and shadow flecked
the streets of the city, and as Peggy wended her way toward the
headquarters of General Arnold, she was conscious of a feeling of
melancholy.

“Is it because of the dying year, I wonder?” she asked herself as a dead
leaf fell at her feet. “I know not why it is, but my spirits are very
low. Is it because I fear the general will not give the lad his chance?
Come, Peggy!” Addressing herself sternly, a way she had. “Put thy heart
in attune with the weather, lest thee infects the general with thy
megrims.”

So chiding herself she quickened her steps and assumed an aggressively
cheerful manner. Just as she turned from Fifth Street into High she
heard a great clamor. She stopped in alarm as a rabble of men and boys
suddenly swept around a corner and flooded the street toward her. The
girl stood for but a moment, and then ran back into Fifth Street, where
she stopped so frightened that she did not notice a coach drawn by four
horses driving rapidly down the street.

“Careful, my little maid! careful!” called a voice, and Peggy looked up
to find General Arnold himself leaning out of the coach regarding her
anxiously. “Why, ’tis Miss Peggy Owen,” he exclaimed. “Know you not that
you but escaped being run down by my horses?”

“I—I—’tis plain to be seen,” stammered the maiden trembling.

“Sam, assist the young lady into the coach,” he commanded the coachman.
Then, as Peggy was seated by his side: “I cry you pardon, Miss Peggy,
for not getting out myself. I am not so nimble as I was. What is it?
What hath frightened you?”

“Does thee not hear the noise?” cried Peggy.

Before he could reply the mob swept by. In the midst of it was a cart in
which lay a rude pine coffin which the crowd was showering with stones.

“’Tis the body of James Molesworth, the spy,” he told her. “When he was
executed ’twas first interred in the Potter’s Field; then when the
British held possession of the city ’twas exhumed and buried with
honors. Since the Whigs have the town again ’tis thought fitting to
restore it to its old resting place in the Potter’s Field.”

“’Tis a shame not to let the poor man be,” she exclaimed, every drop of
blood leaving her face. “Why do they not let him rest? He paid the debt
of his guilt. It were sin to maltreat his bones.”

“’Tis best not to give utterance to those sentiments, Miss Peggy,” he
cautioned. “They do honor to your heart, but the public temper is such
that no mercy is shown toward those miscreants who serve as spies.”

“But it hath been so long since he was executed,” she said with
quivering lips. “And is it not strange? When I came into the city to
seek my father ’twas the very day that they had exhumed his body and
were burying it with honors. Oh, doth it portend some dire disaster to
us?”

“Come, come, Miss Peggy,” he said soothingly. “Calm yourself. I knew not
that Quakers were superstitious, and had regard for omens. Why, I verily
believe that you would look for a stranger should the points of the
scissors stick into the floor if they fell accidentally.”

“I would,” she confessed. “I fancy all of us girls do. But this—this is
different.”

“Not a whit,” he declared. “’Tis a mere coincidence that you should
happen to be present on both occasions.” And then seeing that her color
had not returned even though the last of the mob had gone by, he gave a
word to the coachman. “I am going to take you for a short drive,” he
announced, “and to your destination.”

“Why! I was coming to see thee,” cried Peggy with a sudden remembrance
of her mission. “I wish to chat with thee anent something and—someone.”

“Robert Dale?” he questioned with a laugh. “He is a fine fellow, and
well worthy of a chat.”

“Oh, no! Not about Robert, though he is indeed well worthy of it, as
thee says. ’Tis about one John Drayton.”

“What? Another?” He laughed again, and settled himself back on the
cushions with an amused air. Then as he met the innocent surprise of her
clear eyes he became serious. “And what about him, Miss Peggy?”

“Does thee not remember him, Friend Arnold?” she queried in surprise.
“He was with thee on thy march through the wilderness to Quebec.”

“Is that the Drayton you mean?” he asked amazed in turn. “I do indeed
remember him. What of him? He is well, I hope. A lad of parts, I recall.
And brave. Very brave!”

“He hath not been well, but is so now,” she said.

“You have something to ask of me,” he said keenly. “Speak out, Miss
Peggy. I knew not that he was a friend of yours.”

“He hath not been until of late,” she answered troubled as to how she
should broach the subject. “Sir,” she said presently, plunging boldly
into the matter, “suppose that after serving three long years a soldier
should weaken? Suppose that such an one grew faint hearted at the
prospect of another winter such as the one just passed at Valley Forge;
would thee find it in thy heart to blame him, if, for a time, he
should”—she paused searching for a word that would express her meaning
without using the dreadful one, desert—“he should, well—retire without
leave until he could recover his strength? Would thee blame him?”

“Do you mean that Drayton hath deserted?” he asked sternly.

“He did; but he repents,” she told him quickly. “Oh, judge him not until
I tell anent it. He wants to go back. His courage failed only because of
sickness. Now he is ready and willing, nay, even eager to go back even
though he meets death by so doing. As he says himself ’twas naught but
the cold, and hunger, and scanty clothing that drove him to it.” Peggy’s
eyes grew eloquent with feeling as she thought of the forlorn condition
of the lad when she first saw him.

“And if he goes back, will he not have hunger, and cold, and scanty
clothing to endure again?” he asked harshly.

“Yes; but now he hath rested and grown strong,” she answered. “He will
have the strength to endure for perchance another three years should the
war last so long. He wants to go back. He wants a chance to redeem
himself.”

“And had he not the courage to come to me himself without asking you to
intercede for him?” he demanded. “He was in my command, and he knows me
as only the soldiers do know me. Since when hath Benedict Arnold ceased
to give ear to the distress of one of his soldiers? I like it not that
he did not appeal to me of himself.”

“He wished to,” interposed the girl eagerly. “Indeed, ’twas mother’s and
my thought for me to come to you. We thought, we thought”—Peggy
faltered, but went on bravely—“we thought that thee should be approached
diplomatically. We wished the lad to have every chance to redeem
himself, and we feared that if thee saw him without preparation thee
might be inclined to give him to the recruiting officer. He is so
sincere, he wishes so truly to have another chance that mother and I
could not bear that he should not have it. I have made a poor advocate,
I fear,” she added with a wistful little smile, “though he did say that
he would rather die than face thee.”

“Unravel the matter from the beginning,” he commanded, with a slight
smile at her confession of diplomacy.

And Peggy did so, beginning with the time that the lad mended the saddle
on the road, the loss of her pony, and everything leading to Drayton’s
stay with them, even to the making of the uniform of blue and buff and
the reading of “The Crisis.”

“Upon my life,” he cried laughing heartily at this. “I shall advise
General Washington to appoint you to take charge of our fainthearted
ones. So he did not relish being called a summer soldier, eh? Miss
Peggy, I believe that I should like to see the lad, and have a talk with
him.”

“Thee will not be harsh with him, will thee?” she pleaded. “He hath
indeed been in a woeful plight, and he could not bear it from thee. And
he doth consider the country ungrateful toward him.”

“He is right,” commented Arnold, a frown contracting his brow.
“Ungrateful indeed! Not only he but others have suffered from her
injustice. Have no fear, Miss Peggy, but take me to him at once.”

Nevertheless Peggy felt some uneasiness as the coach turned in the
direction of her home.



CHAPTER XII—ANOTHER CHANCE


       “Thy spirit, Independence, let me share,
         Lord of the lion-heart and eagle eye;
       Thy steps I follow, with my bosom bare,
         Nor heed the storm that howls along the sky.
       Immortal Liberty, whose look sublime
       Hath bleached the tyrant’s cheek in every varying clime.”

                                                      —Smollett.

Drayton was lying on the settle when Peggy announced General Arnold. He
sprang to his feet with an exclamation as the latter entered, and then
shrank back and hung his head.

“You, you,” he murmured brokenly. “Oh, how can you bear to see me?”

“And is it thus we meet again, Drayton?” said the general, all the
reserve and hauteur of his manner vanishing before the distress of his
former soldier.

“’Twas cold,” muttered Drayton too ashamed to raise his head. “I—I
feared it sir. You cannot understand,” he broke out. “How can a man of
your courage know how such things eat the very heart out of a fellow?”

“I do know, boy,” exclaimed Arnold seating himself on the settle. “What
would you say if I were to tell you that once I deserted?”

“You?” cried the youth flinging up his head to stare at him. “I’d never
believe it, sir. You desert! Impossible!”

“Nevertheless, I did, my lad. Listen, and I will tell you of it. I was
fifteen at the time, and my imagination had been fired by tales of the
atrocities committed on the frontier by the French and Indians. I
resolved to enlist and relieve the dire state of my countrymen as far as
lay in my power. So I ran away from home to Lake George, where the main
part of the army was at the time. The wilderness of that northern
country was dense, and I passed through hardships similar to those we
sustained in our march to Quebec. You know, Drayton, what an army may
have to endure in such circumstances?”

Drayton nodded, his eyes fixed on his beloved leader with fascinated
interest.

“Well,” continued the general, “the privations proved too much for a lad
of my age, so I deserted, and made my way home. I shall never forget the
fright my good mother would be in if she but caught a glimpse of the
recruiting officer. I was under the required age for the army, to be
sure, but none the less I skulked and hid until the French and Indian
war had ceased, and there was no longer need for hiding.”

“You,” breathed the youth in so low a tone as scarce to be heard, “you
did that, and then made that charge at Saratoga? You, sir?”

“Even I,” the general told him briefly. “’Tis a portion of my life that
I don’t often speak of, Drayton, but I thought that it might help you to
know that I could understand—that others before you have been faint
hearted, and then retrieved themselves.”

“You?” spoke the lad again in a maze. “You! and then after that, the
march through that awful wilderness! Why, sir, ’twas you that held us
together. ’Twas you, that when the three hundred turned back and left us
to our fate, ’twas you who cried: ‘Never mind, boys! There’ll be more
glory for the rest of us.’ ’Twas you that cheered us when our courage
flagged. ’Twas you that carried us through. And then Valcour! Why, sir,
look at the British ships you fought. And Ticonderoga! And Crown Point!
And Ridgefield, where six horses were shot from under you!”

“And do you remember all those?” asked Arnold, touched. “Would that
Congress had a like appreciation of my services; but it took a Saratoga
to gain even my proper rank.”

“I know,” cried the boy hotly. “Haven’t we men talked it over by the
camp-fires? Were it left to the soldiers you should be next to the
commander-in-chief himself.”

“I know that, my lad,” spoke the general, markedly pleased by this
devotion. “But now a truce to that, and let us consider your case. Miss
Peggy here tells me that you wish to return to the army?”

“I do,” said the youth earnestly. “Indeed, General Arnold, no one could
help it about her. She gave me no peace until I so declared myself.”

“I understand that she read ‘The Crisis’ to you,” said Arnold, a smile
playing about his lips. “But you, Drayton. Aside from that, is it your
wish to return to the army? It hath ofttimes been in my thoughts of late
to obtain a grant of land and retire thereto with such of my men as were
sick and weary of the war. I have in truth had some correspondence anent
the subject with the state of New York. Would you like to be one of my
household there?”

“Beyond anything,” spoke Drayton eagerly. “But not until I have redeemed
myself, general. Were I to go before you would always be wondering if I
would not fail you at some crucial moment. You have won your laurels,
sir, and deserve retirement. But I have mine to gain. Give me another
chance. That is all I ask.”

“You shall have it, Drayton. Come with me, and I will send you with a
note to General Washington. He hath so much of friendship for me that
because I ask it he will give you the chance you wish.”

“But the uniform,” interposed Peggy who had been a pleased listener to
the foregoing conversation. “I made him a uniform, Friend Arnold. Should
he not wear it?”

“’Twould be most ungallant not to, Miss Peggy,” returned the commander
laughing.

“I knew not that you had made it,” exclaimed Drayton as Peggy
disappeared, and returned with the uniform in question. “Why, ’tis but a
short time since I said that I would go back. How could you get it done
so soon?”

Peggy laughed.

“It hath been making a long time,” she confessed. “Mother helped me with
dyeing the cloth, but all the rest I did myself. I knew that thee would
go back from the first.”

“’Twas more than I did then,” declared Drayton as the girl left the room
once more in search of her mother. “Sir, could a man do aught else than
return to his allegiance when urged to it by such a girl?”

“No,” agreed his general with a smile. “Drayton, your friend hath
clothed you with a uniform of her own manufacture. You have shown an
appreciation of Benedict Arnold such as I knew not that any held of my
services to the country. Take therefore this sword,” unbuckling it from
his waist as he spoke. “’Tis the one I used in that dash at Saratoga
that you followed. Take it, Ensign Drayton, and wear it in memory of him
who was once your commanding officer.”

“Your sword?” breathed Drayton with a gasp of amazement. “Your sword,
General Arnold? I am not worthy! I am not worthy!”

“Tut, tut, boy! I make no doubt but that you will wield it with more
honor than it hath derived from the present owner,” said the other
pressing it upon the lad.

“Then, sir, I take it,” said Drayton clasping it with a reverent
gesture. “And may God requite me with my just deserts if ever I bring
disgrace upon it. Sir, I swear to you that never shall it be used, save
as you have used it, in the defense of my country. Should ever I grow
faint hearted again, I will have but to look at this sword, and think of
the courage and patriotism of him who gave it to renew my courage. Pray
heaven that I may ever prove as loyal to my country as Benedict Arnold
hath shown himself.”

“You, you overwhelm me, boy,” gasped Arnold who had grown strangely pale
as the lad was speaking. “I make no doubt but that you will grace the
weapon as well as the original owner. Ah!” with evident relief, “here
are Mrs. Owen and the fair Peggy. Doth not our soldier lad make a brave
showing, Miss Peggy?”

“He doth indeed,” cried Peggy in delight. “And thee has given him thy
sword, Friend Arnold! How monstrously good of thee!”

“Is it not?” asked Drayton in an awed tone. “And I am only a subaltern.
Oh, Mistress Peggy, you will never have the opportunity to call me a
summer soldier again. I have that which will keep me from ever being
faint hearted again.” He touched the weapon proudly as he ended. “This
will inspire me with courage.”

“Of course it will,” cried Peggy with answering enthusiasm. “Mother said
all along that naught ailed thee but an empty stomach.”

“’Tis what ails the most of our soldiers,” said the boy as the laugh
died away which this speech provoked. “’Tis marvelous how a little food
doth raise the patriotism.”

“And thee will be sure to write?” questioned Peggy when they descended
to the lower floor. “I shall be anxious to hear of thy well-being, and
thee must remember, John, that ’tis my intention to keep thee in socks,
and mittens, and to renew that uniform when ’tis needed. Thee shall be
cold no more if I can help it. And how shall it be done unless thee will
let me know thy whereabouts?”

“Have no fear. I shall be glad to write,” answered Drayton who, now that
the time had come for departure, seemed loath to leave them. “Madam
Owen, and Miss Peggy, you have made a new man of me. How shall I ever
thank you for your care?”

“Speak not of it, dear lad,” said the lady gently. “If we have done thee
good it hath not been without benefit to us also. And if thou dost need
anything fail not to let us know. ’Tis sweet to minister to those who
take the field in our defense. It makes thee very near and dear to us to
know personally all that thee and thy fellows are undergoing for our
sakes.”

“Dear lady, the man who will not fight for such as you deserves the fate
of a deserter indeed,” exclaimed the youth, much moved. “I thank you
again. You shall hear from me, but not as a summer soldier.”

He bent in a deep obeisance before both mother and daughter, and then
with one last long look about him John Drayton followed General Arnold
to the coach.



CHAPTER XIII—GOOD NEWS


                  “To them was life a simple art
                    Of duties to be done,
                  A game where each one took his part,
                    A race where all must run.”

                     —“The Men of Old,” Lord Houghton.

Life flowed along in its customary channels with little of incident for
Peggy and her mother after the departure of Drayton. But if it was not
eventful there was no lack of occupation.

The house and grounds were brought into order; the stores of unspun wool
and unhatcheled flax were at length all spun into yarn and thread which
in turn were woven into cloth from which the two replenished their
depleted wardrobes. But, though all patriotic women strove to supply
their every need by domestic industry, the prices of the commonest
necessities of life advanced to such an extent that only the strictest
frugality enabled them to live.

“There is one thing, mother,” said Peggy one morning in November as she
found Mrs. Owen studying accounts with a grave face. “There is one thing
sure: if the war lasts much longer we shall all be ruined as to our
estates, whatever may be the state of our liberties.”

“True, Peggy,” answered her mother with a sigh. “Philadelphia hath
become a place of ‘crucifying expenses,’ as Mr. James Lovell says. And
how to be more frugal I know not.”

“And yet there was never so much dressing and entertaining going on,”
remarked Peggy.

“Times are strangely altered indeed,” observed the lady with another
sigh. “The city is no longer the town that William Penn desired, but
hath gone wild with luxury and dissipation.”

“Many are leaving the city, mother. ’Tis not we alone who find it
expensive.”

“I know, Peggy. ’Tis affecting every one. Would that a better example
were set the citizens at headquarters. Mr. Arnold is a good soldier. He
hath shown himself to be a man of rare courage, but I fear ’twas a
mistake to put him in charge of our city. Would that he had less money,
or else more prudence. I fear the effect on the country. But there! I
have uttered more than was wise, but I trust to thy discretion.”

“The city is rife with rumors of his extravagance, mother,” Peggy made
answer. “Thee is not alone in commenting upon it. Here was Robert
yesterday looking exceedingly grave anent the reports. He says that
there is much talk concerning the number and magnificence of the
entertainments given at headquarters, and that many deem it but mere
ostentation.”

“I feared there would be comment,” was Mrs. Owen’s reply. “’Tis pity
that it should happen so when he hath such a fine record as a soldier.
Such things cause discontent. There is so much use for the money among
the suffering soldiers that I wonder he does not choose to spend it so.
I like not to see waste. ’Tis sinful. Ah! here is Betty, who looks full
of importance. Belike she hath news.”

“I am come to say good-bye, Peggy,” announced Betty Williams bustling in
upon them. “Mother and family are going to Lancaster. Father hath
advised us to leave the city owing to the high price of commodities, and
while they go there, I, with a party of friends, am going to Dr.
Simpson’s to take the smallpox. It hath been so prevalent that mother
feared for me to delay longer in taking it.”

“Does thee not dread it, Betty?” questioned Peggy, regarding Betty’s
fair skin with some anxiety.

“I like not the pittings,” confessed Betty candidly. “But Dr. Simpson
advertises that he hath acquired special skill in the Orient in
distributing the marks so as to minister to feminine looks instead of
detracting from them, and he promises to limit them to but few. Can thee
not come with me, Peggy? Thee has not had it, and we shall be a merry
party.”

“I fear that it would not be altogether to my liking, Betty. I know that
I should be inoculated, but I shrink from the process. I will say so
frankly.”

“Thee is just like Sally,” cried Betty. “She hath courage to become a
nurse, yet cannot pluck up heart to join a smallpox party. And thee,
Peggy Owen! I am disappointed in thee. I have not half thy pluck, nor
Sally’s; yet I mind not the ordeal. It may save me from a greater
calamity. Just think how relieved the mind would be not to dread the
disease all the rest of one’s life. And then to emerge fairer than
before, for so the doctor promises. Oh, _charmante_!” ended Betty.

“Thee is brave to feel so about it, Betty,” said Peggy. “I hope that all
will result as thee wishes. I shall miss thee.”

“I wish thee would come too,” said Betty wistfully. “The other girls are
nice, but there are none like thee and Sally. It used to be that we
three were together in everything, but since the war began all that hath
changed. What sort of times have come upon us when the only fun left to
a damsel is to take the smallpox? And what does thee think, Peggy? I
wove some linen, and sent it to the ladies to make into sheets for the
prisoners. They said that it was the toughest linen they had ever worked
with. It made their fingers bleed.”

“Oh, Betty, Betty! was it thou who wove that linen?” laughed Peggy
holding up her hands for inspection. “I’ve had to bind my fingers up in
mutton tallow every night since I sewed on it. Never mind! thee meant
well, anyhow. Come now! Shall we have a cup of tea, and a chat anent
things other than smallpox, or tough linen?”

The two girls left the room, and Mrs. Owen turned once more to her
accounts. But as the days passed by and the complexion of the times
became no better her perplexity deepened.

The ferment of the city grew. Personal and political disputes of all
kinds were rife at this time. Men began to refer to the capital city as
an attractive scene of debauch and amusement. In compliment to the
alliance French fashions and customs crept in, and the extravagance of
the country at large in the midst of its distresses became amazing. It
was a period of transition. The war itself was dull. The two armies lay
watching each other—Clinton in New York City, with Washington’s forces
extending from White Plains to Elizabeth, New Jersey. The Congress was
no longer the dignified body of seventy-six, and often sat with fewer
than a dozen members. Even the best men wearied of the war, and their
dissatisfaction communicated itself to the masses. The conditions
favored excesses, and Philadelphia, as the chief city, was caught in a
vortex of extravagances.

So it was much to Mrs. Owen’s relief when she received a letter from her
husband bidding her to come to him with Peggy.

“There will be no luxuries, and few conveniences,” he wrote from
Middlebrook, which was the headquarters for the winter of seventy-eight.
“None the less there is time for enjoyment as well as duty. Many of the
officers have their wives and families with them so that there is no
reason why we should not be together also.

“Tell Peggy that she will live in the midst of military equipment, but
will not find it unpleasant. General Greene told me that he dined at a
table in Philadelphia last week where one hundred and sixty dishes were
served. Would that our soldiers had some of it! What a change hath come
over the hearts of the people! I shall be glad to have thee and my
little Peggy out of it.

“Come as soon as thou canst make arrangements, and we will be a reunited
family once more, for the winter at least. God alone knows what the
spring will bring forth. ’Tis now thought that Sir Henry Clinton intends
for the South at that time. ’Twould change the complexion of affairs
very materially.”

Here followed some instructions as to financial and other matters. Mrs.
Owen called Peggy hastily.

“Oh, mother, mother! isn’t thee glad?” cried the girl dancing about
excitedly. “And we will not only be with father, but with the army too.
Just think! The very same soldiers that we have been making socks and
shirts for so long.”

“The very same, Peggy,” answered her mother, her face reflecting Peggy’s
delight. “I am in truth pleased to go. I was much worried as to the
outcome of the winter here.”



CHAPTER XIV—THE CAMP AT MIDDLEBROOK


                “We are those whose trained battalions,
                  Trained to bleed, not to fly,
                Make our agonies a triumph—
                  Conquer, while we die.”

                        —“A Battle Song,” Edwin Arnold.

“Well, if this be a foot-warmer I wonder what a foot-freezer would be
called,” exclaimed Peggy in tones of disgust, slipping from her seat in
the coach to feel the covered iron at her mother’s feet. “I don’t
believe that the innkeeper at the last tavern where we baited our horses
filled it with live coals, as I told him to. He was none too civil.”

“Belike ’twas because we paid our reckoning in Continental money,”
remarked Mrs. Owen. “Never mind the iron, Peggy. I shall do very well
without it; and if thou art not careful thou wilt drop that box which
thee has been so choice of through the journey.”

Peggy laughed as she resumed her seat by her mother’s side.

“Is thee curious anent that box, mother?” she questioned drawing a small
oblong box of ebony wood closer to her.

“I should be,” observed the lady with a smile, “had I not heard Friend
Deering tell thee that ’twas a secret betwixt thee and him.”

“I should think that being a secret would make thee wonder all the more
concerning it,” remarked the girl. “It would me, mother.”

“Is thee trying to awake my inquisitiveness, daughter?”

“I am to tell thee about it should thee ask,” said Peggy suggestively.
“But in all these four days thou hast not once evinced the slightest
desire to know aught anent the matter. How can thee be so indifferent,
mother? I am eager to tell thee.”

“So I judged,” replied Mrs. Owen laughing outright. “Know then, Peggy,
that I am as desirous of hearing as thou art of telling. ’Tis something
for General Washington; is ’t not?”

“Why, mother, thee knows already,” cried Peggy.

“No, no, child; I am only guessing. ’Twould be like Friend Deering to
send something to the general. That is all I know of the matter.”

“Well, then, ’tis five hundred English guineas,” explained the girl,
enjoying the look of amazement on her mother’s face.

“Peggy, no!” exclaimed the lady. “I thought belike ’twas money, but I
knew not that it was so much. How pleased the general will be. Hard
money is getting scarcer and scarcer, and the people murmur against the
currency of Congress.”

“And shall I tell thee all that I am to say to Friend Washington?” asked
Peggy with an important air. “Mother, thee did not guess that while thee
was gathering supplies I too had business of like nature?”

“No, I did not know,” replied Mrs. Owen. “Unravel the matter, I beg,
Peggy. ’Twill serve well to pass the time, and I am curious also
concerning the affair.”

It was three weeks after the receipt of David Owen’s letter, and
December was upon them ere mother and daughter had completed their
arrangements for the journey. Knowing the great need of supplies at the
encampment, Mrs. Owen determined not to go empty handed, and so made a
personal canvas among the citizens, who responded to her appeal for the
soldiers with their usual liberality. In consequence, when at length
everything was in readiness, it was quite a little caravan that left the
city headed for Middlebrook, New Jersey. First came the coach with Peggy
and her mother inside; then followed two farm wagons loaded with stores
of various kinds; behind these came Tom with Star, for Peggy was hoping
for rides with her father; the whole traveling under the escort of four
of the Pennsylvania Light Horse who had been in Philadelphia on
furloughs.

The roads were bad, the traveling rough and slow, the weather cold and
damp, but to Peggy, who had never before been away from Philadelphia and
its vicinity, the journey was full of interest and excitement. It was
now the afternoon of the fourth day since they had started, and both the
maiden and the lady were conscious of a growing feeling of excitement as
they neared the journey’s end, so the matter of the box, about which the
matron had in truth been wondering, was a welcome diversion.

“At first,” said Peggy pulling the fur robe closer about her and
nestling confidentially up to her mother, “he said ’twas so small an
amount that he wished me to say naught concerning the donor. But I
persuaded him to let me tell who gave it, saying to him that ’twas not
the amount that counted so much as the spirit in which ’twas given.”

Mrs. Owen nodded approval, and the girl continued:

“And so I am to say that since Jacob Deering is esteemed too old to take
up arms for his country ’tis the only thing he can do to show his
sympathy with the cause.”

“Would that there were more like him,” ejaculated the lady. “The cause
would soon languish were it not for just such support. Is thee tired,
Peggy?”

“Not very, mother. Still, I shall be glad when we reach the camp.”

At length, just as the sun was sinking behind the Watchung Mountains,
the cumbersome coach swung round a bend in the road, and the encampment
came into view. They had left Philadelphia by the old York road,
crossing the Delaware at Coryell’s Ferry, and swinging across Hunterdon
County into Somerset, where the army was stationed, so that their first
sight of the Continental cantonment glimpsed nearly all of the seven
brigades stationed there.

All along the Raritan River, and on the heights of Middlebrook the
fields were dotted with tents and parks of artillery. Suddenly, as they
drew nearer, the highways between the different posts seemed alive with
soldiers going and coming. There was the crunch on the frozen ground of
many feet. The country quiet was broken by the rattle of arms, the snort
of horses, and the stir and bustle of camp. There was something
inspiriting in the spectacle. Fatigue was forgotten, and Peggy
straightened up with a little cry of delight.

“Look at the tents, mother,” she cried. “Didst ever see so many before?”

“We must be at Middlebrook,” exclaimed Mrs. Owen, almost as excited as
Peggy. “Just see how the prospect of rest hath reanimated the driver and
his horses.”

The maiden laughed as the driver sat up, cracked his whip and urged his
horses to greater dispatch. The tired animals responded nobly, but their
spurt of speed was checked suddenly by a peremptory command from the
patrol. The examination over, they were allowed to proceed, but were
again halted when they had gone but a short distance.

“What can it be now?” wondered Peggy peering out of the coach. Catching
sight of the tall figure that came alongside, she called gaily:

“The countersign, father! The countersign!”

“’Tis welcome! Thrice welcome!” answered David Owen flinging wide the
door of the vehicle and taking her into a tender embrace. “Art tired,
Peggy?”

“No, father; but I fear that mother is. She hath been cold too.”

“But I am so no longer,” spoke Mrs. Owen cheerily. “Thee is well,
David?”

“Never better, my wife. I have forgot that I was ever ill. But come! let
us proceed to our quarters.”

“And who are in our mess?” asked Peggy as, after a word to the driver,
her father stepped into the coach.

“Thou hast become militaryish already, I see,” he said smiling. “I have
found accommodations for us at a farmhouse very near Bound Brook. ’Tis
just beyond General Greene’s brigade, and close enough to the
Pennsylvania line not to interfere with active duty. There will be but
five in our mess, as thee calls it, Peggy—Friend Decker and wife, thy
mother, thyself and I. ’Tis Friend Decker’s house. Dutch they are, but
patriots staunch and true. See, my wife! We are coming to General
Washington’s headquarters. ’Tis a much better dwelling than he occupied
last year at Valley Forge. To thy right, Peggy. ’Tis the farmhouse in
the midst of the orchard.”

“Friend Deering hath sent some gold to the general by Peggy,” observed
Mrs. Owen bending forward that she might the better see the building.
“And there are supplies behind in the wagons for the soldiers. Two loads
there are.”

“Now that is good news indeed,” exclaimed Mr. Owen. “The chief should
know of it immediately. We will stop there now. ’Twill ensure the
general a better night’s rest to receive such tidings. He hath been
greatly worried lately over the apathy of the people toward the war.”

“Then if ’twill be of any comfort to him to learn of this small aid let
us go to him at once, David,” said his wife.

The last bit of sunlight disappeared behind the hills as they turned
from the road into the meadow in the centre of which stood the large
two-story wooden dwelling where General Washington had established his
quarters for the winter. But lately finished, it was considered a model
of elegance for that section of the country, and was in truth most roomy
and comfortable.

As the light faded, from the meadows and the hills sounded the drums,
fifes and bugles in the retreat, or sunset drum beat. Scarcely had the
music died away than all along the top of the mountain range the
watch-fires of the sentinels blazed out suddenly.

“Oh!” gasped Peggy, her eyes glowing, “if I live long ’mid such
surroundings methinks I shall feel equal to fighting the whole British
army.”

“’Tis so with all new recruits, Peggy,” laughed her father. “Thee will
not be so affected when the novelty wears off. And here is the dwelling.
’Twill not take us long to present our news to the general, and then for
quarters.”

A few rods to the east of the mansion were about fifty tents erected for
the use of the life-guard. Fires flamed before every tent, around which
men were gathered, laughing, talking or singing. Peggy looked about with
much curiosity, but her father hastened at once to the door of the
dwelling, where stood an orderly.

“Will thee tell His Excellency that David Owen is without, and wishes to
see him?” he asked. “’Tis important.”

The orderly was absent but a moment. “His Excellency will see you, Mr.
Owen,” he said. “You are to go right in.”

[Illustration: “MY WIFE AND DAUGHTER, YOUR EXCELLENCY”]

Peggy’s heart began to flutter painfully as she found herself once more
in the presence of General Washington, and her mind went back
involuntarily to the last time when she had taken that long ride to
Valley Forge to beg for her father’s exchange. So perturbed was she that
she did not notice that the room was large, low ceiled, and cozily
warmed by a huge fire of logs which glowed in the great fireplace.
Instead of being interested in the furnishings of the apartment, as she
would have been at another time, she clung close to her father overcome
by the remembrance of how very near they had been to losing him, and
could not raise her eyes when he said:

“I beg to present my wife and daughter, Your Excellency. They tell me
that they have brought some money and supplies, and it seemed best to
let thee know of it at once.”

“You have acted with discretion, Mr. Owen,” said General Washington
rising from the table before which he had been sitting. “Madam Owen, I
have long known of you through your good works, but have hitherto not
had the pleasure of meeting with you personally. You would be welcome at
any time, but doubly so since you bring us aid.”

“Thy thanks are not due me, but to the citizens of Philadelphia, sir,”
said Mrs. Owen with her finest curtsey. “There are two wagon loads of
stores of various kinds, among which are several casks of cider vinegar.
We heard that thee was in need of that article.”

“We are indeed,” replied General Washington. “The country hereabouts
hath been scoured for it until the farmers tell us that there is no
more. ’Tis sorely needed for our fever-stricken men. ’Tis very timely,
Mistress Owen.”

“And for thyself, sir,” continued the lady, “a few of us learned of thy
fondness for eggs, and there are several dozens of those. But, sir, on
pain of displeasure from those who sent them, thou art not to divide
them with any. They are for thine own table.”

“I will incur no displeasure on that account, I assure you,” said the
general laughing. “I fear that you have been in communication with the
housekeeper, who hath been much concerned because of the scarcity of
eggs. I thank you, Mrs. Owen, for having so favored me, and also for the
other stores. They are much needed. Mr. Owen, will you see to ‘t that
the quartermaster heeds your wife’s injunction about those eggs?”

David Owen bowed, and his wife went on:

“And Peggy hath also something for thee in that box, Your Excellency.
She hath made so much of a mystery of it that I knew not the nature of
its contents until this afternoon.”

General Washington had not been unaware of Peggy’s agitation. Perhaps he
too was thinking of the time when she had been so severely tried, for
his voice was very gentle as he took the girl’s hand and said:

“Miss Peggy and I are old friends. She promised me once to tell me what
became of that wonderful dog of hers. I shall claim the fulfilment of
that promise, my child, since we shall see much of each other this
winter.”

The ready smile came to Peggy’s lips, chasing away the tears that had
threatened to flow.

“Does thee remember Pilot?” she cried. “Oh, Friend Washington, I did not
think a man so concerned with affairs of state would remember a dog.”

“He wished me well, and I always remember my friends and well wishers,”
he said, pleased that she had recovered her composure.

“And ’tis one of them who hath sent thee this box of five hundred
English guineas,” she said quickly, pointing to the box. “’Tis from Mr.
Jacob Deering, sir. He said to tell thee that since he was esteemed too
old to take up arms ’twas the only way left him to serve the cause. He
regretted the smallness of the amount, but he said that English money
was hard to come by.”

“It is indeed hard to come by,” replied the general, receiving the box
with gratification. “This is most welcome, Miss Peggy, because just at
this time our own money is depreciating rapidly owing to the fact that
the British are counterfeiting it by the wagon load, and distributing it
among the people. I trust that I may soon have an opportunity to thank
Mr. Deering in person. I shall be in Philadelphia next week, and shall
do myself the honor of calling upon him. In the meantime, Miss Peggy,
receive my thanks for this timely relief. Will you not——”

At this moment the door opened to admit an orderly. General Washington
turned to him. “What is it, sir?” he said. “Did you not know that I was
occupied?”

“Pardon me, sir,” replied the orderly, saluting. “One of the videttes
hath brought in a young girl who declares she hath a permit to pass the
lines. He knows not what to do with her. She is English, sir, and comes
from New York.”

“Bring her in,” commanded the chief. “Nay,” as the Owens made a movement
to depart, “stay a little, I beg of you. This matter will take but a
moment.”

As he finished speaking the door opened once more to admit the form of a
young girl. She could not have been more than Peggy’s age, but she
carried herself with so much dignity that she appeared older. Her eyes
were of darkest gray, shaded by intense black lashes, and starry in
their radiance. At present they held a look of scorn, and her well set
head was tilted in disdain. A wealth of chestnut hair but slightly
powdered clustered about her face in ringlets, and her complexion was of
such exquisite fairness as to be dazzling. She was clad in a velvet
riding frock of green, her beaver hat, from which depended a long plume,
matching the gown in color. Her whole manner and appearance were stamped
by a general air of distinction.

She advanced at once into the room, apparently unconscious of the effect
that her beauty was producing.

“By what right, sir,” she cried in a clear musical voice, “do your men
stop me in my journey? I have a pass.”

“Let me see it, madam,” said General Washington quietly. He glanced at
the paper she gave him, and remarked, “This is from General Maxwell at
Elizabethtown. He refers the matter to me for consideration. May I ask
why so young a female wishes to pass through our lines?”

“I wish to join relatives in Philadelphia,” she answered. “I travel
alone because I was told that Americans did not make war on women and
girls. It seems that I was mistaken.”

“You are an English girl,” said the general, ignoring her last remark.
“Why do you not stay with your people in New York?”

“Because, sir, I was left in England with my brother while my father
came over with General Gage to fight the rebels. My brother ran away, so
I came to join father. He had gone to the Southern colonies, and when he
learned that I was here, he wrote me to go to my relatives. I left New
York under a flag of truce, and came to Elizabethtown. There I went at
once to the general in charge. Sir, I have complied with every
requirement necessary to pass the lines, and I ask that I be permitted
to resume my journey.”

“And what is the name of these relatives?” asked Washington
imperturbably.

“Owen, sir. David Owen is my father’s cousin.”

“Why!” exclaimed Peggy, who had been an amazed listener to the
conversation. “Thee must be my Cousin Harriet!”



CHAPTER XV—HARRIET


          “Whose beauty did astonish the survey
          Of richest eyes; whose words all ears took captive;
          Whose dear perfection hearts that scorn’d to serve
          Humbly call mistress.”

                                —“All’s Well that Ends Well.”

As if she had just become aware of the presence of others the girl
turned a startled look upon Peggy.

“If you are David Owen’s daughter, then I am indeed your cousin,” she
said slowly intense surprise in her accents. “And if you are his
daughter, where is your father, and what do you here? I thought you were
in Philadelphia.”

“Father is here,” answered Peggy, starting forward eagerly. “And thy
father is——” But David Owen laid a restraining hand upon her arm.

“A moment, lass,” he said, a quick glance flashing between him and
General Washington. “Let me speak to the maiden. My child,” turning to
the girl who was regarding him intently, “thou wilt pardon me, I know,
if I ask thee a few questions. It behooves us to be careful in times
like these, and we but take precautions that thine own people would use
under like circumstances. Therefore, tell me thy father’s name, and his
regiment.”

“By what right do you question me?” she demanded haughtily.

“I am David Owen,” he answered briefly. “If thou art in truth my
kinsman’s daughter there is no reason why thee should not answer my
questions.”

“Ask what you will, if you are Mr. David Owen, and I will answer,” she
said, her manner changing to one of extreme courtesy. “My father is
William Owen, a colonel of the Welsh Fusileers. My brother’s name is
Clifford, and I am Harriet. Do you believe me now, my cousin? Or is
there aught else to be asked?”

“Nay,” replied he mildly. “I believe that thou art truly William’s
daughter.”

“Then may I place myself under your protection, cousin?” she queried so
appealingly that Peggy’s tender heart could not bear it, and she went to
her quickly. “My father wished it, and I am a stranger in a strange
land.”

“Surely thee may,” exclaimed Mr. Owen, touched, as his daughter had
been, by the pathetic quiver that had come into her voice. “That is”—he
hastened to add, “if His Excellency hath no objection?”

“I have none, Mr. Owen,” declared General Washington. “As the young lady
hath proved herself a relative I give her into your keeping. There could
be no better sponsor for her, sir.”

“I thank thee,” said David Owen gravely. “I will see that thy trust is
not misplaced. And now, sir, we have troubled thee o’er long, I fear,
and will therefore say good-night.”

“But not until Mistress Owen tells me when she and Miss Peggy, together
with this newly found kinswoman, will honor me by their presence to
dinner. Will you have recovered from the fatigue of your journey by
Monday, Madam Owen?”

“Yes, Your Excellency. It will afford us great pleasure to dine with
thee at that time,” replied the matron bowing.

The courtesies of leave-taking over, David Owen led the way to the
coach.

“Take thy seat with us in the vehicle, my child,” he said to Harriet
Owen. “I will have thy horse sent after us.”

“And has thee a horse too?” asked Peggy as the girl took her place
beside her. “Then we shall have some famous rides, Cousin Harriet. And
what is thy horse’s name?”

“Fleetwood. I brought him from England. He hath been mine from a colt. I
have never had any other, and he will suffer none to ride him but me.”

“Thee thinks of him as I do of Star,” cried Peggy in delight.

“Didst say, my child,” interposed David Owen after the two maidens had
chatted a while, “that thy brother left thee alone in England?”

“Yes, Cousin David. Clifford hath always been wild for the army, but
father would not hear of his joining it. ’Twas lonesome after father
left us, so I did not blame Clifford for leaving. A lad of mettle should
not stop at home when His Majesty hath need of him to help put down this
rebellion. Your pardon, cousin. Being English I am all for the king, you
know.”

“Yes,” said Mr. Owen, pleased at her frankness. “I like thy manner of
speaking of it, Harriet.”

“But still, that need be no reason why we should not be friends,” she
said quickly. “There be those at home who think with the colonies, and
blame them not for rebelling. It may be that I too shall be of like
opinion after my sojourn with you.”

“It may be, Harriet. Have no uneasiness, my child. If thou art led to
our way of thinking it must be of thine own conviction, and not from any
effort that we shall bring to bear upon thee. Thou art welcome despite
thy opinions. And didst thou cross the ocean alone?”

“Yes; that is,” she added hastily, “there was an officer’s wife who was
coming to join her husband. I was with her. When father learned that I
had come, he desired that I should go to you. He was sure that you would
welcome me despite the difference in politics. And why are you not in
Philadelphia?”

“I, of course, am with the army,” he replied. “The custom of campaigning
only in the summer hath the advantage of permitting our wives and
daughters to join us in camp during the winter; so my wife and Peggy
have come for that time. Thou wilt like it, Harriet; for there are
amusements such as delight the hearts of maidens. I doubt not but both
thee and my little Peggy will sorrow when ’tis time to leave it.”

“Harriet must be tired, David,” suggested Mrs. Owen kindly. “Should not
further explanation be deferred until the morrow?”

“I mind not the talk, madam, my cousin,” spoke Harriet, and Mrs. Owen
noted instantly that she used Colonel Owen’s term of addressing her. “It
warms my heart for my cousin to talk to me.” Again the little tremor
came into her voice as she added: “It makes me feel more at home.”

“Then talk on, my child,” said the lady gently.

So the girl chatted of her father and brother, her home in England, her
voyage across the ocean, and other subjects with so much charm that when
at length the coach drew up before a farmhouse whose sloping roof and
low eaves were but dimly distinguishable in the darkness Peggy found
herself very much taken with this new cousin.

“I could listen to thee all night, Cousin Harriet,” she exclaimed as her
father assisted them from the coach.

“And so could we all,” said David Owen laughing, plainly as much pleased
with the maiden as was Peggy. “But we are at quarters, and the rules are
that every one must be in bed at tattoo. That will give us just time for
supper.”

And so in spite of the protests of both girls they were sent to bed in
short order.

The rides began the very next day, and as Harriet seemed to be as much
interested in the encampment as Peggy, Mr. Owen took them through part
of it.

“’Tis a strong cantonment,” he said. “There are seven brigades here in
the vicinity of Middlebrook. The main army lies in the hills back of
Bound Brook, near enough to be called into service instantly if
necessary. The artillery under General Knox lies a few miles away at
Pluckemin. The entire force of the army is scattered from here to
Danbury, Connecticut.”

“But why is it so scattered, my cousin?” inquired Harriet. “Methinks
that ’twould be the part of wisdom to keep the army together?”

David Owen laughed.

“Would that thou wert Sir Henry Clinton,” he said. “Then all thy
soldiers would stay in New York instead of being transferred to the
Southern colonies. ’Tis done for two reasons: the easy subsistence of
the army and the safety of the country.”

“But doth it not hem Sir Henry in?” she demanded. “How can he get
through these lines without fighting?”

“That is just it,” said Mr. Owen laughing again. “Thee will soon be
quite a soldier, Harriet. Here we are at Van Vegthen’s bridge, which is
one of three that crosses the Raritan. General Greene, who is acting as
quartermaster at present, is encamped here. He hath his quarters in yon
dwelling which lies to our left. ’Tis Derrick Van Vegthen’s house, and
ye will both meet with him and the general. Mrs. Greene is here, and
Mrs. Knox. Ye will like them. Let us ride closer. As ye are unaccustomed
to camp life ’twill be a novelty to ye to see the men engaged in their
various duties. How busy they are!”

From side to side the maidens turned, eager to see all that Mr. Owen
pointed out. Quite a village of blacksmith shops, storehouses and other
buildings connected with the quartermaster’s department had grown up
around the house where General Greene made his headquarters. On the
near-by elevation, even then called Mt. Pleasant, his brigade was
encamped.

As Mr. Owen had said, the scene was a busy one. A company of soldiers
was drilling on the open parade ground, while of those who were not on
duty some chopped wood which had been brought from the near-by hills, or
tended fires over which hung large chunks of meat spitted upon bayonets,
while still others could be seen through the open flaps of the tents
cleaning their accoutrements.

“I should think those tents would be cold,” remarked Peggy with a slight
shiver, for although the winter’s day was sunlit, the air was chill.

“They are not o’er comfortable, Peggy,” returned her father. “But does
thee not see the huts that are in process of construction? General
Washington taught the men how to build them, and they will be
comfortably housed ere long. Note that they are built without nails, and
almost the only tools used are the axe and saw. ’Tis most marvelous that
such comfortable and convenient quarters can be made with such little
expense to the people.”

“The marvel to me,” remarked Harriet Owen thoughtfully, “is that such
ill-clad, ill-fed looking troops can stand against our soldiers. Why
hath not the British swept them down like chaff before the wind? ’Tis
past understanding.”

“Because their cause is a righteous one,” said David Owen solemnly. “And
because, also, what thou art in the way of forgetting, my little cousin:
they are of thine own blood, and therefore fight with the spirit of
Englishmen.”

“English?” she exclaimed. “English! I had not thought of that, my
cousin.”

“Consider our case,” he said. “Thou art of the same blood as ourselves.
Doth it make a difference in the stock because thou dost happen to live
in England, while Peggy there lives in America?”

“I had not thought of it in that way,” she said again. “I think the
English have not considered it either. I would talk more of the matter,
Cousin David, but not now. I have much to think of now. But do you not
fear that I shall tell the British about this camp?” added Harriet
smiling.

“No, my child. Thou wilt not have opportunity,” observed Mr. Owen. “Does
thee not know that once being with us there can be no returning to New
York? There can be no passing and repassing to the city.”

“Oh,” she cried in dismay. “I did not know. Can I not return if I should
wish to?”

“Not unless thou hadst been away from the army for a long time,” he
answered.

“But suppose, suppose father should come?”

“Even then thee would have to stay with us until such time that it was
deemed advisable for thee to return. So thee sees, Harriet, that the
rebels, as thee calls them, will have the pleasure of thy company for
some time to come.”

“I see,” she said. Presently she threw her head back and gave way to a
peal of musical laughter. “There is but one thing to do, Cousin David,”
she cried. “And that is to become a patriot myself.”



CHAPTER XVI—THE TWO WARNINGS


                 “Though your prognostics run too fast,
                 They must be verified at last.”

                                                —Swift.

“And here is some one to see thee, Peggy,” said Mrs. Owen a week later,
coming into the little chamber under the eaves which the two maidens
occupied in common. “Bring thy cousin and come down.”

“Is it John, mother?” asked Peggy, letting her tambour frame fall to the
floor. “I wondered why we did not see him.”

“Yes, ’tis John, Peggy, though he is called Ensign Drayton here. Perhaps
’twould be as well for us to term him so, too.”

“Come, Harriet,” called Peggy rising. “Let us run down. ’Tis our first
caller.”

“And being a soldier let us prepare for him,” said the English girl,
reaching for a box. “What would we females be without powder? ’Tis as
necessary to us as to a soldier, for ’tis as priming to our looks as
’tis to a gun. There! will I do, Peggy?”

“Thee is beautiful, my cousin,” replied Peggy with warm admiration.
“Thee does not need powder nor anything else to set off thy looks.”

“Oh, well,” laughed the maiden, plainly gratified by her cousin’s
remark, “’tis as well to be in the mode when one can. And I wish to do
you honor, my cousin.”

“Oh, John,” cried Peggy as she entered the parlor, where young Drayton
stood twirling his cocked beaver airily. “That I should live to see thee
wearing the white cockade of the Parley-voos on thy hat. What hath
happened?”

“The most wonderful thing in the world, Mistress Peggy,” answered
Drayton reddening slightly at her raillery. “General Washington hath
said that if my behavior warranted it he would put me with the Marquis
de La Fayette’s brigade upon his return from France. As ’tis to be a
picked corps of men ’tis most gratifying to one’s vanity to be so
chosen. And in compliment to my prospective commander I am wearing the
white cockade with our own black.”

“I am so glad,” exclaimed Peggy. “Thee is making us proud of thee.
Father said that there was no soldier more faithful to duty than thou.
This is my cousin from England, John. Mistress Harriet Owen, Ensign
Drayton.”

“Your servant, madam,” said Ensign Drayton with a sweeping bow, which
Harriet returned with a deep curtsey.

“Ah, Drayton,” said David Owen, entering at this juncture. “The lassies
are wild to see the camp. Canst thou ride, ensign?”

“That is how I made Miss Peggy’s acquaintance, sir,” said young Drayton
frankly.

“Ah, yes; I had forgot, my boy. I was thinking that perhaps thou couldst
join us in our rides, and when it would not be possible for me to be
with the girls thou couldst escort them.”

“I should be pleased, sir,” answered Ensign Drayton. “The country
hereabouts is well adapted to riding as ’tis much diversified. The
roads, though narrow, are through woods and dales, and are most
beautiful. I have been over the most of them, and know them well.”

“Then thou art the very one to go with us,” said Mr. Owen. “Now, my lad,
answer any questions those camp wild maidens may ask and I will improve
my well-earned repose by perusing the ‘Pennsylvania Packet.’ A new one
hath just reached me.”

“Wilt pardon me if I say something, Mistress Peggy?” inquired young
Drayton an hour later as Harriet left the room for a moment.

“Why yes, John,” answered Peggy. “What is it?”

“It is to be careful of your cousin,” said the boy earnestly. “I like
not the fact that she is English and here in camp. She means harm, I
fear.”

“Why, John Drayton,” exclaimed the girl indignantly. “Just because she
is English doth not make her intend any hurt toward us. I am ashamed of
thee, John, that thee should imagine any such thing of one so sweet and
good as my cousin, Harriet. And is she not beautiful?”

“She is indeed very beautiful,” he answered. “Pardon me, mistress, if I
have wounded you, but still do I say, be careful. If she intends no hurt
to any, either the camp or you, there still can be no harm in being
careful.”

“John, almost could I be vexed with thee,” cried Peggy.

“Don’t be that, Miss Peggy. I may be wrong. Of course I am all wrong if
you say otherwise,” he said pleadingly. “I spoke only out of kindness
for you.”

“There, there, John! we will say no more about it; but thee must not
hint such things,” said Peggy. And Drayton took his departure.

“Mother,” cried Peggy several days after this incident when she had
returned from the ride which had become a daily institution, “mother,
John is becoming rude. I don’t believe that I like him any more.”

“Why, what hath occurred, Peggy?” asked Mrs. Owen, glancing at her
daughter’s flushed face anxiously. “Thy father and I are both much
pleased with the lad. What hath he done?”

“’Tis about Harriet,” answered Peggy, sinking into a chair by her
mothers side. “The first time he came he cautioned me to be careful
because of her being here. I forgave him on condition that he should
never mention anything of like nature again. And but now, while we were
riding, Harriet stopped to speak for a moment to a soldier, and he said:
’I don’t like that, Mistress Peggy. Why should she speak to that man?
This must be looked into.’ And, mother, he wished to question Harriet
then and there, but I would not let him. He is monstrously provoking!”

“Well, does thee know why she spoke to the soldier?” asked her mother
quietly.

“Mother!” Peggy sat bolt upright in the chair, and turned a reproachful
glance upon the lady. “Thee too? Why, Harriet told me but yesterday that
she was becoming more and more of the opinion that the colonists were
right in rebelling against the king. And is she not beautiful, mother?”

“Thou art quite carried away with her, Peggy,” observed Mrs. Owen
thoughtfully. “Thou and thy father likewise. As thee says, Harriet’s
manner to us is quite different to that which her father used. But
William, whatever his faults, was an open enemy for the most part, and I
like open enemies best. I cannot believe that an English girl would so
soon change her convictions regarding us.”

“Mother,” cried Peggy in open-eyed amaze, “I never knew thee to be
suspicious of any one before. Thou hast been talking with John. What
hath come to thee?”

“I have said no word concerning the matter to John; nor will I, Peggy.
’Tis not so much suspicion as caution. But now I heard her ask thy
father if there were but the three bridges across the Raritan, and if
’twere not fordable. Why should she wish to know such things?”

“Did thee ask father about it, mother?”

“Yes.”

“And what said he?”

“He feared that because of William’s actions I might be prejudiced
against her. He thought it quite natural for her to take an interest in
military affairs, and said that she asked no more questions concerning
them than thou didst. Beside, he said, she was such a child that no
possible harm could come of it.”

“Belike it is because of Cousin William that thee does not feel easy,
mother,” said Peggy much relieved.

“It may be,” admitted the lady. “Yet I would that she had not come. I
would not have thee less sweet and kind to her, my daughter, but I agree
with John that it can do no harm to be careful. Watch, my child, that
thou art not led into something that may work harm to thee.”

“I will be careful,” promised Peggy, adding with playfulness: “As
careful as though I did not have thee and father to watch over me, or
the army with General Washington right here. Let me see! Seven brigades,
are there not? To say nothing of the artillery and four regiments of
cavalry variously stationed, and I know not how many brigades along the
Hudson and the Sound. There! thou seest that I am as well versed in the
disposition of the army as Harriet is.”

“Is thee trying to flout thy mother, Peggy?” asked Mrs. Owen laughing in
spite of herself. “I may in truth be over-anxious and fearful, but ’tis
strange that John feels so too. As thee says, it does seem as though
naught could happen with the whole army lying so near. Still I have the
feeling that harm threatens through the English girl.”

But the days passed, and the time brought no change to Harriet’s manner.
She remained affectionately deferent to Mr. Owen, full of respectful
courtesy toward Mrs. Owen, and had adopted a playful comradeship toward
Peggy that was charming. The good lady’s reserve was quite melted at
length, and she became as devoted to the girl as her husband and
daughter.

With girlish enthusiasm the maidens regulated their own days by that of
the camp. They rose with the beating of the reveille, reported to Mrs.
Owen as officer of the day for assignments of duty, and, much to her
amusement, saluted her respectfully when given tasks of knitting or
sewing. When the retreat sounded at sunset they announced their
whereabouts by a loud, “Here,” as the soldiers answered to roll call,
and, unless there was some merrymaking at one of the various
headquarters, went to bed at the beating of tattoo.

Lady Washington joined her husband in February, and there was an added
dignity to the kettledrums and merrymakings in consequence. Better
conditions prevailed throughout the camp than had obtained at Valley
Forge the preceding winter. The army was at last comfortably hutted. The
winter was mild, no snow falling after the tenth of January. Supplies
were coming in with some degree of plenitude, and the outlook favored
rejoicing and entertainment.

But life was not all given up to amusement. The women met together, and
mended the soldiers’ clothes, made them shirts and socks whenever cloth
and yarn were to be had, visited the cabins, carrying delicacies from
their own tables for the sick, and did everything they could to
ameliorate the lot of the soldier.

After a few such visits to the huts Harriet made a protest.

“I like not common soldiers,” she explained to Peggy. “I mind not the
sewing, though I do not understand why Americans deem it necessary to
always be so industrious. ’Tis as though they felt that they must earn
their pleasures before taking them.”

“Are not ladies in England industrious too?” inquired Peggy.

“They look after their households, of course, my cousin. And they paint
flowers, or landscapes, and the tambour frame is seldom out of the hand
when one is not practicing on the spinet, but they do not concern
themselves with the welfare of the common soldiers as your women do.”

“Oh, Harriet,” laughed Peggy. “Thee has said that before, but thee does
not practice what thee preaches.”

“What mean you?” demanded Harriet with a startled look.

“I have seen thee several times give something to a common soldier, as
thee calls him. Yesterday when we were leaving General Greene’s I saw
thee slip something to one when he came forward to tighten Fleetwood’s
girth. John saw it too.”

“I had forgot,” remarked the girl carelessly. “Yes; I did give him a bit
of money. Methinks he hath rendered us several services of like nature,
Peggy, when something hath gone amiss. Yet it may not have been the same
soldier. I scarce can tell one from another, there are so many.”

“Thee has a good heart,” commended Peggy warmly. “Mother says that ’tis
the only way to do a kindness. Perform the deed, and then forget it. But
I always remember.”

“Does Cousin David ride with us to-day, or doth the ensign?” asked
Harriet.

“’Tis John, my cousin. Father is on duty.”

“I am sorry,” said Harriet. “I do not like Ensign Drayton. He reminds me
of a song they sing at home:

  “‘With little hat and hair dressed high,
      And whip to ride a pony;
    If you but take a right survey
      Denotes a macaroni,’”

she trilled musically. “Now don’t say anything, Peggy. I know he is
considered a lad of parts. I heard two officers say that he would no
doubt distinguish himself ere the war was over. ’Twas at Mrs. Knox’s
kettledrum.”

“Now I must tell mother that,” cried Peggy, her momentary vexation at
Harriet’s song vanishing. “He is our especial soldier.”

“Is he? And why?” asked Harriet. “Nay,” she added as Peggy hesitated.
“’Tis no matter. I knew not that it was a secret. I care not. I like him
not, anyway. Peggy, do you like me very much?”

“I do indeed, Harriet,” answered Peggy earnestly. “Why?”

“I am just heart-sick to hear from my father,” said Harriet, the tears
welling up into her beautiful eyes. “It hath been so long since I heard.
Not at all since I came, so long ago.”

“’Tis hard to get letters through the lines,” said Peggy soberly.

“I know it is, for I have tried,” answered Harriet. “The officers won’t
send them. If you were away from Cousin David wouldn’t you make every
effort to hear from him?”

“Indeed I would,” responded Peggy. “Harriet, has thee asked father to
help thee? He would take the matter to General Washington.”

“General Washington does not wish to do it because I am British,”
answered Harriet after a moment. “I know that they must be careful, but
oh! I am so anxious anent my father, Cousin Peggy.”

“That is just as mother and I were about father last winter,” observed
Peggy. “At last Robert Dale wrote us that he was a prisoner in
Philadelphia, and I rode into the city to see him.”

“Was that when father was exchanged for him?” questioned the girl
eagerly.

“Y-yes,” hesitated Peggy. She did not like to tell Harriet what effort
had to be made to get the exchange.

“Peggy, he helped you anent Cousin David then; will you help me about my
father?”

“How could I, Harriet?” asked Peggy.

“If you will just hand this note to that soldier that you saw me give
the money to yesterday he will get it through the lines. Nay,” as Peggy
opened her lips to speak. “You shall read it first. I would do nothing
unless you should see that ’twas all right. Read, my cousin.”

She thrust a note into Peggy’s hand as she spoke.

“Miss Harriet Owen presents compliments to Sir Henry Clinton, and would
esteem it a favor if he would tell her how Colonel William Owen is. A
word that he is well is all that is desired. I have the honor, sir, to
be,

                                       “Your humble and obliged servant,
                                                          “Harriet Owen.

                                               “Middlebrook, New Jersey,
                                            Headquarters American Army.”

“Why, there ought to be no objection to getting that through,” exclaimed
Peggy. “Harriet, let me ask father——”

“I have asked him,” said Harriet mournfully. “He would if he could,
Peggy. He wishes me not to speak of it again, and I promised I would try
to content myself without hearing from father. You must not speak of it
either; else Cousin David will be angry with me for not trying to be
content.”

“Don’t cry, Harriet,” pleaded Peggy, as the girl commenced to sob, and
her own tears began to flow. “Something can be done, I know. Thee ought
to hear from Cousin William.”

“Cousin David said I must be content,” sobbed Harriet. “And he hath been
so good to me that I must; though ’tis very hard not to hear. I see that
you do not wish to do it, Peggy. I meant no wrong to any, but——”

“How does thee know that the soldier could get the note through the
lines, Harriet?” asked Peggy thoughtfully.

“He said that he was to have leave to go to Elizabethtown for a few
days, and while there he could do it,” said Harriet, looking up through
her tears.

“Why does thee not give it to him, then?” inquired Peggy.

“It must be given to him to-day,” answered the other, “because he goes
to-morrow. If Cousin David were to ride with us I would, but Ensign
Drayton always watches me as though I were in communication with the
enemy, and about to bring the whole British force right down upon us.
You know he does, Peggy.”

Peggy flushed guiltily.

“Yes,” she admitted, “he doth, Harriet. I knew not that thee was aware
of it, though.”

“Give me the note,” said Harriet, rising suddenly. “As my father helped
you to your father I thought you would aid me, but I see——”

“Nay,” said Peggy, her gentle heart not proof against the insinuation of
ingratitude. “Give me the note, Harriet. I will give it to the man. I
see not how it can bring harm to any, and thee ought to hear from thy
father.”

“How good you are, Peggy,” cried Harriet, kissing her. “Here is the
note. If I can only hear this once I will be content until such time as
Cousin David deems best. You are very sweet, my cousin.”

And under the influence of this effusiveness Peggy saw not that the note
her cousin handed to her was not the one which she had read.



CHAPTER XVII—A LETTER AND A SURPRISE


                   “Oh, never shall we know again
                     A heart so stout and true—
                   The olden times have passed away,
                     And weary are the new.”

                                            —Aytoun.

“Governor Livingston will dine with us to-day, Peggy,” remarked Mrs.
Owen as Peggy and Harriet came down the stairs equipped for their ride.
“Be not too long away, for thy father will wish you both here.”

“Is he the rebel governor of the Jerseys?” asked Harriet abruptly. “The
one for whom two thousand guineas are offered—for his capture?”

“He is the patriot governor of the state, Harriet,” answered Mrs. Owen
mildly. “We do not call such rebels. As to the reward I know not. I had
not heard of such amount being offered, although ’tis well known that he
is held in particular abhorrence by both the Tories and thy people.
Perhaps David can inform thee concerning the affair.”

“’Tis no matter,” spoke Harriet hastily. “I dare say that I have
confused him with another. Peggy, hath my beaver the proper tilt to show
the feather? It should sweep to the right shoulder.”

“’Tis most becoming,” answered Peggy, after a critical survey. “Thee
looks as charming as ever, Harriet.”

“Vanity, vanity,” laughed her cousin. “Shall we go for the ride now?”

Ensign Drayton rode into the yard just as their horses were brought to
the block for the girls to mount. To Peggy’s surprise the same private
soldier to whom she was to give the note had them in charge. As Harriet
vaulted lightly into her saddle he left Fleetwood’s head and went round
to the horse’s side.

“That will do, sirrah,” spoke young Drayton sharply. “I will attend to
the strap.”

Peggy glanced at him quickly. “John grows unmannerly,” she thought to
herself. “Now what did the poor man do amiss? Friend,” she called as the
soldier saluted and turned to leave, her voice showing her indignation,
“friend, thee shall fix Star’s girth if it needs it.”

“Thank you, miss,” he said, saluting again. He tightened the strap
deftly, and the girl put her hand in her purse for a small coin. As she
did so her fingers touched the note that Harriet had given her, and she
bent toward him suddenly.

“Thee was to take a letter, was thee not?” she asked.

“Yes,” he replied, a look of astonishment flashing across his face.

“It is here, friend,” said she, giving him the missive. “I hope thee can
get it through, for my cousin is sore beset with grief for news of her
father. And there is money for thee. Thou art a good man, and hast a
kind heart.”

“Thank you,” he said saluting, and Peggy could not have told how he
concealed the note, it was done so adroitly.

“Why did thee speak so sharply to him, John?” she queried when at length
they had started.

“Those girths should be attended to before bringing the horses round,”
he answered. “’Tis done to get money from you girls. He never sees us
but that he comes forward under some pretense of doing a service. I like
not his actions. How doth it come that he is attending the horses? He is
not your father’s man.”

“I know not,” answered Peggy. “Doth it really matter? Fie, fie, John!
thee is cross. I never saw thee so before.”

“Your pardon,” said the lad contritely. “I meant not to be so, but men
require sharp treatment, and perchance I have brought my parade manner
with me.”

The girls laughed, but a constraint seemed to be over all three. Harriet
was unusually silent, and Peggy, though conscious of no wrong-doing, was
ill at ease.

The feeling was intensified as, when they had gone some distance, young
Drayton wheeled his horse suddenly.

“Let us go back,” he said abruptly.

“Why?” exclaimed both girls simultaneously, but even as they spoke they
saw the reason. A few rods in front of them, suspended from the limb of
a tree, hung the limp body of a man.

“Is it a spy?” whispered Peggy shudderingly.

“Yes, Mistress Peggy. I knew not that the execution would take place on
this road, else I would have chosen another for the ride. ’Tis not a
pleasing sight.”

“Is thee ill, Harriet?” cried Peggy, all at once happening to glance at
her cousin who had no color in her face.

“Ill? No,” answered Harriet with an attempt at carelessness. “I am
chilled; that is all. Then, too, as the ensign says, yon sight is not a
pretty one. Methinks such service must be extremely hazardous.”

“It is, mistress,” said Drayton sternly. “So perilous is it that the
man, woman, or girl even who enters upon it does so at the risk of life.
No mercy is shown a spy. Nor should there be.”

“And yet,” she said growing paler still, “spies are used by your own
general, sir. It is a parlous mission, but he who enters upon it serves
his country as truly as though”—she laughed, flung up her head and
looked him straight in the face—“as though he were an ensign,” she
finished mockingly.

“She has thee, John,” cried Peggy gaily. “But a truce to such talk. ’Tis
gruesome, is it not? Let us converse upon more pleasing subjects.”

“Methinks,” said Drayton briefly, “’twould be as well to return,
Mistress Peggy. The ride hath been spoiled for the day.”

But a shadow seemed over them, and neither girl recovered her accustomed
spirits until some hours later when they went into dinner.

“Now by my life, David,” cried William Livingston, the great war
governor of New Jersey, as the maidens were presented. “Now by my life,
these girls take not after you, else they would not be such beauties.
They must meet with my daughters. I had three,” he said turning to
Peggy. “The Livingston Graces, some called them, but one grew tired of
being a nymph and so became a bird. Nay; be not alarmed,” he added as a
puzzled look flashed across Peggy’s face, “she but married John Jay.
’Tis a joke of mine. And this is the cousin from across the sea who bids
fair to become our more than sympathizer? Wilt pardon me if I say that
were I British I’d never relinquished to the rebels so fair a
compatriot?”

“Perchance, sir,” replied Harriet, sweeping him an elaborate curtsey,
and assuming the gracious manner which was one of her charms, “perchance
if you were on the other side I would not wish to be relinquished.”

“That is apt,” he responded with a hearty laugh. “What think you, David?
Are not the honors evenly divided betwixt this young lady and myself? I
must be wary in my speech.”

“And are you at Liberty Hall this winter?” she asked him presently.

“Yes; thanks to Maxwell’s brigade, I am permitted this enjoyment. Were
he not stationed at Elizabethtown, however, I could not be with my dear
ones. ’Tis the first time in three years that I have had the privilege.
Hath General Washington returned from Philadelphia, David?”

“He hath been back for some time,” answered Mr. Owen. “Since the first
of the month, in fact. ’Twas dull here without him.”

“I like him better than any other one of your people whom I have met, my
cousin,” declared Harriet after the governor had taken his departure. “I
have heard much of Liberty Hall, Cousin David. I am curious anent it.
Where is it?”

“’Tis a mile northwest of Elizabethtown, Harriet,” answered he. “A
wonderful place it is. The governor hath sent abroad and obtained
hundreds of trees to adorn the grounds. ’Tis his lament, however, that
he will not live to see them grown. He is a wonderful man also. ’Tis no
marvel that thee is pleased with him. His daughters are most charming,
and will be agreeable acquaintances for thee and Peggy. We will go there
soon.”

“But tell me how to get to the Hall, please,” she teased. “I want to
know exactly.”

“Exactly,” he laughed. “Well, well, Harriet, I will do my best; though
why thee should want to know exactly is beyond me.”

“’Tis fancy,” she said laughing also. “And thee always indulges my
fancies, Cousin David. Doesn’t thee now?”

“Whenever thee uses that speech, my child, I cannot resist thee,” he
answered. And forthwith sat down by the table and drew for her a map
showing just where the road to Liberty Hall turned from the Morris
turnpike.

“Drayton and I are both on duty to-day,” announced Mr. Owen the next
morning. “If you ride, lassies, it must be without escort, unless I can
find some one to go with you.”

“Oh, do let us go alone, Cousin David,” pleaded Harriet. “Peggy and I
have gone so a few times. There is nothing to harm us.”

“I see not how harm could befall you so long as you stay within the
lines,” said Mr. Owen indulgently. “But it shall be as Lowry says.”

“And what say you, madam my cousin?” The girl turned toward the lady
with pretty deference.

“Could not the ride go over for one day?” asked she. “I like not for you
to ride alone.”

“’Twill be good for Peggy,” spoke Harriet with an air of concern. “She
is not well to-day.”

“Is thee not, my daughter?” asked Mrs. Owen. “Thee is pale.”

“’Tis nothing to wherrit over, mother,” spoke Peggy cheerfully. “I did
not sleep well, that is all. Almost do I believe with Doctor Franklin
that the windows should be raised in a sleeping-room, though none but he
advocates such a thing.”

“Doctor Franklin advocates naught but what he hath proved by experience
to be good,” declared Mr. Owen, rising. “He is a philosopher who profits
by his own teaching. I think ’twould be best for the girls to go, wife.”

“Then, by all means, go,” decided Mrs. Owen. “But start earlier than
usual, so as to be back long before the retreat sounds; else I shall be
uneasy.”

“We will do that, mother,” promised Peggy. And as soon as the morning
tasks were finished the maidens set forth.

“Are you not glad that we are alone to-day?” asked Harriet, when they
had ridden a while. “I tire of even Cousin David. Do you not?”

“Why, no!” exclaimed Peggy in surprise. “I would rather have father with
us. I do not see how any one could tire of him.”

Harriet made no reply to this speech, and the two rode for some distance
in silence. The February day was chill and gray, the roads slushy, but
the outdoor life they had led rendered the maidens hardy, and they did
not mind the dampness.

“Why!” ejaculated Harriet suddenly. “Aren’t we on the Elizabethtown
turnpike?”

“Yes,” said Peggy glancing about. “I knew not that we had come so far.
We must turn back, Harriet. Mother said that she would be uneasy if we
were not there before the sounding of the retreat, and the afternoons
are so short. ’Twill be time for it before we know it.”

“I’ll tell you what, Peggy,” cried her cousin. “Let’s go by Liberty
Hall.”

“It is too late,” answered Peggy. “Thee must know that it is all of
twenty miles to Elizabethtown, and though we have ridden a goodly part
of the distance ’twould be more than we could do to-day. There and back,
Harriet, is not to be thought of.”

“Well, I am going, anyway,” exclaimed Harriet with more petulance than
Peggy had ever seen her exhibit. “So there!”

She struck Fleetwood a sharp blow with her riding crop as she spoke, and
set off at speed down the road. Too much surprised to do more than call
after her, Peggy drew rein, undecided what course to pursue. As she did
so her eye was caught by a folded paper lying in the roadway. Now this
had fallen from Harriet’s person as her horse started off unnoticed by
either girl.

“That’s a letter!” exclaimed Peggy as she saw it. “Some one must have
dropped it. Could it have been Harriet? I’ll get it and tease her anent
the matter.”

Smiling roguishly she dismounted and picked up the missive. Somewhat to
her amazement there was no address, and opening the epistle she found
neither address nor signature.

“How monstrously queer!” she cried, turning it about. “Why, why,” as her
glance rested almost unconsciously upon the writing, “what does it
mean?” For with deepening amazement this is what she read:

“Your information opportune. An attempt will be made on the night of the
twenty-fourth to surprise brigade at Elizabethtown, and to take the old
rebel at L—— H——. Reward will be yours if successful. Can you be near at
hand so as to be taken yourself?”

“The brigade at Elizabethtown is General Maxwell’s,” mused Peggy
thoughtfully. “Then the old rebel must be Governor Livingston of Liberty
Hall. The twenty-fourth? Why, ’tis to-day!” she cried in consternation.
“Oh! what must I do? ’Tis past four of the clock now.”

She looked about dazedly as though seeking guidance. But with Peggy a
need of decision usually brought quick result, and it was so in this
instance. It was but a moment before her resolve was taken.

“I must just ride there and tell him, and then warn the garrison,” she
said aloud. “’Tis the only thing to do.”

Mounting Star, she shook the reins and started. Before she had gone a
dozen rods, however, here came Harriet riding back full tilt.

“Where are you going?” she called. “That is not the way to Bound Brook.”

“I know, Harriet,” replied Peggy without stopping. “I am going to
Liberty Hall. An attempt will be made to-night to capture the governor.
He must be warned.”

“How know you that such attempt will be made?” asked her cousin, riding
up beside her. “Are you daft, Peggy?”

“Nay; I found a letter in the road saying so,” explained Peggy. “Will
thee come too, Harriet? And there is no time for chat. We must hasten.
Perhaps though thee would better ride back to tell mother.”

“’Tis indelicate for females to meddle in such matters,” cried Harriet
excitedly. “Think how froward your father will think you, Peggy. Wait!
we will go back to camp, and send relief from there, as doth become
maidens.”

“It could not reach the garrison in time, as thee knows,” returned
Peggy, keeping steadily on her way. “Do not talk, Harriet. We must ride
fast.” The letter was still in her hand.

“Let me see the letter,” said Harriet. “Where did you get it? It could
not have been long in the road, for ’tis not muddy. Who could have
dropped it?”

“Harriet, thee is detaining me with thy clatter,” spoke Peggy with some
sharpness. “Thee has seen the letter, and know now the need for action.
Either come with me or ride back to camp. We must act.”

“You shall not go,” exclaimed Harriet reaching over, and catching hold
of Star’s bridle. “’Tis some joke, and beside, your mother will be
waiting for us. Come back!”

Peggy drew rein and faced her cousin with sudden suspicion. “Harriet,”
she said, “is that letter thine?”

“Mine?” Harriet laughed shrilly. “How could it be mine? I was not
anywhere near when you found it. Besides, I never saw the governor until
yesterday. How could I be concerned in his capture then?”

“True,” said Peggy with brightening face. “Thy pardon, my cousin. Thy
actions were so queer that for a moment I could but wonder.”

“And now we are going right back to the camp,” cried Harriet gaily.
“That will show that you are sorry for such thoughts. Why, Peggy, you
are getting as bad as John Drayton.”

“Nay,” said Peggy drawing her rein from her cousin’s clasp. “I am sorry
that I wronged thee, Harriet, but neither thee nor any one shall detain
me from going to Governor Livingston and the garrison. Do as thou wilt
in the matter. I am going.”

For the second time in her life she struck her pony sharply. The little
mare reared, and then settling, dashed off in a gallop. She did not look
to see whether her cousin was following her or not. On she rode. The
February slush spattered from Star’s flying hoofs, and covered her from
head to foot, but she did not notice. The daily rides had familiarized
her with the road to Elizabethtown, and the minute description given by
her father to Harriet the night before now enabled her to head
unerringly for the governor’s mansion. The short winter day was drawing
to a close when all at once she became aware that there was the sound of
hoofs behind her.

The sound increased. Presently she felt the hot breath of a horse upon
her face, and just as she turned from the Morris turnpike into
Livingston Lane, at the end of which stood the governor’s country seat,
Fleetwood, running as a deer runs in leaps and bounds, dashed past her,
with Harriet urging him to greater endeavor.

Before Peggy was half-way down the lane Harriet had reached the great
house, sprung from her saddle and was pounding vigorously upon its
portals.

“Fly, fly,” she cried, as the governor himself came to the door. “The
British are coming to take you. Peggy will tell you all. I must warn the
garrison.”

She was on Fleetwood’s back again by the time she had finished speaking,
and was off before either the astonished governor or the dumbfounded
Peggy could utter a word.



CHAPTER XVIII—STOLEN THUNDER


          “When breach of faith joined hearts does disengage,
          The calmest temper turns to wildest rage.”

                                                        —Lee.

“And what is it all about, my child?” inquired the governor as Harriet
disappeared down the lane.

“She spoke the truth, sir,” said Peggy, trying to recover from the
intense amazement into which Harriet’s conduct had thrown her. “Here is
a letter—nay, my cousin must have kept it,” she ended after a hasty
search.

“She wished to show it to General Maxwell, I make no doubt,” he said.
“Canst remember the contents?”

“I think so, sir,” answered Peggy, who was herself again. The thing to
do was to explain the warning to the governor. The affair with Harriet
could be adjusted afterward. “It said that an attempt would be made to
surprise the brigade at Elizabethtown on the twenty-fourth, sir, which
is to-night. Also that an effort would be made to captivate the old
rebel at L—— H——, which must have meant thee, sir.”

“Doubtless! Doubtless!” he agreed. “I learned to-day that there was a
large reward offered for me, dead or alive.”

“Why, it spoke of the reward,” cried she. “Thee won’t stay here, will
thee?”

“Oh, as to that——” he began, when his wife and two daughters appeared in
the doorway.

“What is it, William?” asked gentle Mrs. Livingston.

“The British plan to attempt my capture to-night,” he explained grimly.
“Zounds! do they think to find me in bed, as they did Charles Lee?”

“Oh, father,” cried one of the girls fearfully, “you must leave at once
for a place of safety.”

“Here I stay,” declared the doughty governor. “Is ‘t not enough that I
should be hounded from pillar to post for two years, that I should leave
now with a brigade less than a mile away? I’ll barricade the house.”

“Why, how could the house be barricaded when there is not a lock left on
a door, nor even a hinge on the windows,” cried Miss Susannah. “Papa,
aren’t you going to tell us who your informant is.”

“Bless my soul,” ejaculated the governor hastily. “My dears, this is
Miss Peggy Owen, David’s daughter. ’Twas her cousin, however, who was
the informant. She hath ridden on, like the brave girl she is, to warn
Maxwell. Miss Peggy, will you not stop with the family until morning, or
do you wish to return to camp?”

“The camp, sir,” replied Peggy promptly. “My mother will be uneasy.”

“Then I will ride with you, my little maid,” cried he, swinging himself
into the saddle. “This information proves beyond doubt that there is a
spy somewhere among us, and steps should be taken at once for his
apprehension. My dears, if I thought for one moment that harm would be
offered you——”

“Go, go,” cried one of the daughters imploringly. “No greater harm will
befall us than an attack of scarlet fever.”

“That is Susy’s favorite jest,” chuckled William Livingston. “She will
have it that our belles are in more danger from the red coats of the
British officers than from all the bullets the English possess.”

They had reached the end of the lane by this time, and turned into the
turnpike just as a trooper rode up to them coming from Elizabethtown.

“Sir,” he said, saluting, “General Maxwell hath sent to ask concerning
this matter of attack. Have you any further knowledge regarding it, and
do you consider the information correct? A young girl, English she was,
came in great haste to tell us of it and hath set forth at speed for
Middlebrook to ask General Washington to send reinforcements, as the
number of the attacking party is unknown.”

“’Tis marvelous,” ejaculated the governor. “That is just what should be
done. That is a wonderful cousin of yours, Miss Peggy. Yes,” to the
trooper, “I have no doubt but that the information is correct, though I
know no further concerning the affair than that an attack is
contemplated. Tell your general to be prepared. I am myself bound for
the camp and will hasten the sending of reinforcements.”

The trooper saluted, wheeled, and left them. The ride to Middlebrook was
a silent one. The governor seemed absorbed in thought, and Peggy was
full of wonderment at the perplexity of Harriet’s actions. She had not
wished her (Peggy) to warn the governor. She had tried to keep her from
coming. And then—when she had thought her cousin well on toward the camp
she had come after her and had given the warning herself. Why, why, why?
Peggy asked herself over and over. Had she thought it a hoax at first,
as she had said, and then upon reflection concluded that it was not?

She was glad that Harriet had changed about it, Peggy told herself, but
how strangely it was happening! Just as though ’twas Harriet and not
herself to whom the credit belonged. It was so different, she reflected,
from the time when she had gone to General Putman with news of the spy,
James Molesworth. Then she had been made much of by every one, and now——

As she reached this point in her musings she chided herself sharply.

“Peggy,” she exclaimed in stern self-admonition, unconscious that she
spoke aloud, “Peggy, what doth it matter who did it—so that ’twas done?
That is the main thing.”

“Did you speak, Mistress Peggy?” queried Governor Livingston, rousing
himself from reverie in turn.

“I was thinking, sir,” she told him, “and knew not that I spoke aloud.
’Tis fashion of mine so to do sometimes.”

“’Tis one that most of us indulge in, I fancy,” he responded. “We are
almost at camp now. Art tired, my child? ’Tis a goodly distance you have
traveled.”

“A little,” she made answer, and again there was silence.

It was ten o’clock when at last they rode into camp. Lights flashed as
men hurried to and fro, and there was a general appearance of excitement
quite different from the usual quiet of that hour. David Owen came out
of the farmhouse as they drew rein before it.

“I hoped thee would come to the camp, William,” he exclaimed. “Harriet
hath thrown us all into a fever of apprehension concerning thee. His
Excellency hath sent twice to know if aught was heard from thee.”

“His Excellency is most kind,” returned the governor. “And you also,
David, to be so solicitous anent me. And Harriet? How is she? Zounds,
David! there is a lass to be proud of! She not only warned me, but
Maxwell also, and now hath come back to the camp and roused it too!
Wonderful! wonderful! She hath beaten us well, Mistress Peggy.”

“Yes,” said Peggy quietly. “She hath. Finely!”

There was that in her voice that made her father come to her quickly.

“Thee is tired, Peggy,” he cried lifting her from Star’s back. “Thy
mother hath been full of worriment anent thy absence, but Harriet said
that she had left thee at the governor’s, so I knew that thou wert safe.
Wilt light, William? We will be honored to have thy company for the
night, and as much longer as ’twill please thee to remain.”

“Thank you, David.” Mr. Livingston swung himself lightly down to the
ground. “I accept your hospitality with pleasure. Methought I was safe
for this winter at home. Odds life! but the British grow reckless to
make sallies so near the main army.”

“The more glory should the attempt have been successful,” laughed Mr.
Owen. “Come in, William.”

“And this is the young lady who would give me no opportunity to thank
her for her information,” said the governor, going directly to Harriet
who, looking superbly beautiful, despite a certain languor, reclined in
a large chair surrounded by a group of officers.

“You must thank Peggy,” declared Harriet laughing. “’Twas she who found
the note. Peggy and Fleetwood, my horse, deserve all the credit, if
there be any.”

“And Harriet not a bit?” he quizzed, quite charmed by her modesty. “I
fancy that there are those of us who think that Harriet deserves some
little herself. And now that we are at ease, let us hear all about it.”

“Hath not Peggy told you?” asked Harriet.

“Only given me the outline of it,” he answered. “Now that the need for
action is past, let’s hear the story.”

“Why, we were riding along when all at once I took a dash ahead of
Peggy, just for sport. When I returned she had the letter, which she had
found while I was gone,” Harriet told him. “I was miles away then, was I
not, Peggy?” Without waiting for an answer she continued hastily: “At
first we hardly understood what it meant, and then suddenly it flashed
over us that to-day was the twenty-fourth, and if there was an attack to
be made ’twould be to-night. Of course when we realized that, there was
but one thing to do, which was to let you know about it as quickly as
possible, and to warn the brigade at Elizabethtown. Really,” she ended,
laughing softly, “there is naught to make such a fuss about. Twas a
simple thing to do.”

“Mother,” spoke Peggy, rising abruptly, “if thee does not mind I think
I’ll go to my room. I—I am tired.”

Her voice quivered as she finished speaking and a wild inclination to
sob came suddenly over her. Mrs. Owen glanced at her daughter’s pale
face anxiously as she gave her permission to withdraw. Something was
amiss, she saw. The two girls had not spoken, and had avoided each
other’s glances. Wondering much, she turned again to the guests while
Peggy, safe at last in her own little chamber, gave vent to a flood of
tears.



CHAPTER XIX—A PROMISE AND AN ACCUSATION


                 Under each flower of radiant hue
                   A serpent lies unbidden;
                 And chance ofttimes doth bring to view
                   That which hath been hidden.

                                  —The Valley of Tayef.

The camp was thrown into a turmoil of excitement the next day when it
was learned that two regiments of British had indeed endeavored to take
General Maxwell’s brigade by surprise. A detachment in search of the
governor had reached Liberty Hall shortly after three o’clock that
morning, but not finding him at home a quest was made for his private
papers, which were saved by the quick wit of his daughter, Susannah.
Baffled in this attempt they rejoined their comrades who had surrounded
Elizabethtown, expecting to capture the brigade at least.

General Maxwell, however, by reason of Harriet’s warning had marched out
before their arrival, and surprised the enemy by falling upon them at
daybreak.

The lively skirmish that ensued, resulted in the loss of several men on
each side, while the academy, where were kept stores of various kinds,
the Presbyterian Hospital, and a few other buildings were burned by the
British in their retreat.

When this news was received Harriet and Peggy became the heroines of the
hour. A constant stream of visitors besieged the Owens’ quarters until
Mr. Owen laughingly declared that he should have to entreat protection
from General Washington.

In all the demonstration, however, Peggy was a secondary luminary.

“’Tis the more remarkable because thee is an English girl,” was David
Owen’s comment when Harriet protested against so much attention being
shown her. “And thee deserves it, my child. ’Twas a great thing for thee
to do.”

“But Peggy found the note,” spoke Harriet with insistence. “I must have
been miles away when she found it. Wasn’t I, Peggy?”

Peggy gave her a puzzled look. Why did she make such a point of not
being present when the note was found, she asked herself.

“My daughter,” chided her father, “did thee not hear thy cousin’s
question? Thou hast not answered her.”

“Oh!” exclaimed Peggy rousing herself. “What was it, Harriet? I was
wondering about something.”

“’Twas naught,” spoke Harriet. “I only said I was not with you when the
note was found.”

“No, thee was not with me,” answered Peggy, and something of her
perplexity was visible in her manner.

On Friday morning, the day following the sortie by the enemy, Mrs. Owen
entered the parlor where the two girls were for the moment sitting alone
with Mr. Owen.

“Girls,” she said, “an aide hath just come from His Excellency with his
compliments. He desires the pleasure of Misses Margaret and Harriet
Owen’s company to dinner. You are to accompany the aide, who will wait
for you to get ready, and will see that you are safely returned before
night falls.”

“Oh, must we go?” cried Harriet. “Please, Cousin David, may I not stay
with you?”

“Tut, tut, lass!” returned he. “Refuse His Excellency’s invitation to
dine? ’Twould be monstrous unmannerly, and that thee is not, Harriet.”

“But I would rather stay with you,” she pleaded, and her dismay was very
apparent.

“And deprive the general of the pleasure of thanking thee for thy
heroism?” he asked. “He wishes to interview you both about the note, I
dare say. He said the matter would need attention.”

“I don’t know anything about it, my cousin,” she objected almost in
tears. “’Twas Peggy who found it.”

“Nay; thee must go, Harriet,” he said in such a tone that she knew that
’twas useless to object further.

The two girls went up-stairs to dress. It was the first time that they
had been alone together since they had found the note on Wednesday. To
Peggy’s surprise, Harriet’s hands were shaking so that she could not
unfasten her frock. A feeling of vague alarm thrilled Peggy at the
sight. She went to her cousin quickly.

“Harriet,” she cried, “what is it? Why do you tremble so?”

“Peggy,” answered Harriet, sinking into a chair with a little sob, “I am
afraid. I am so afraid!”

“Afraid?” repeated the amazed Peggy. “Of what, Harriet?”

“Of your Mr. Washington,” answered the girl. “He is so stern, and,
and——Oh, I am afraid!” she cried wringing her hands.

“True, he is a stern man,” said the perplexed Peggy, “but still he hath
a kind heart. We have dined there often, Harriet, and thee did not mind.
I see not why thee should fear him now. He will but ask us about the
note, and thank thee for thy timely warning to the governor and the
brigade.”

“You will not tell him that at first I did not wish to go, or to have
you go, will you, Peggy?” pleaded Harriet. “I thought better of it,
Peggy. I—I felt sorry about it afterward.”

“Thee made up for thy hesitancy nobly, Harriet,” spoke Peggy warmly, all
her bewilderment vanishing at her cousin’s acknowledgment of sorrow for
what she had tried to do. “I will do as thee wishes in the matter.”

“And will you tell him that I was not near when the note was found?”
asked the girl eagerly.

“Yes; for thee was not. But why? I cannot see what difference ’twould
make whether thee was there or not.”

“You are a good little thing, Peggy,” said Harriet kissing her without
replying to the question. “’Twas mean of me to ride ahead and give the
warning. ’Tis you who should have the credit, but I had to. I had to.
Some day you will know. Oh!” she cried checking herself suddenly, “what
am I saying?”

“Harriet, thee is all undone anent something. Is thee not well? Let me
call mother, and she will give thee some ‘Jesuit’s bark.’ Thee is all
unstrung,” spoke Peggy with solicitude.

“No, no; I am all right now,” said Harriet with something of her
accustomed gaiety of manner. “And, Peggy, whatever happens remember that
I am your cousin, leal and true. I am only a girl, Peggy, and alone in a
strange land.”

“Harriet, what is the matter? Thee speaks in riddles,” ejaculated Peggy,
wonderingly.

“Peggy, I am unstrung,” answered Harriet. “And I am afraid that I have
done wrong about—about many things. I wish, oh, Peggy, I wish I had not
had you give that note to that soldier. I’m afraid that ’twill be
found.”

“Well? And what if it is, Harriet? There is nought of harm in it?” Peggy
spoke calmly hoping to soothe her cousin by her manner.

“Peggy!” Harriet clasped her arms about her convulsively. “Promise me
that you will not tell that I asked you to give it to him!”

“But,” began Peggy.

“Promise, promise,” cried Harriet feverishly.

“I promise, Harriet,” said Peggy, hoping to quiet her.

“Peggy” called Mrs. Owen’s voice at this moment, “thee must make haste.
The aide is waiting.”

“Yes, mother,” answered Peggy and there was no further opportunity for
conversation. To her surprise Harriet recovered her spirits at once and
when they reached headquarters was quite herself.

“’Twas most kind of you, Lady Washington, to have us again so soon,” she
cried gaily as Mrs. Washington received them in the wide hall of the
dwelling.

“It is we who are honored,” said the lady graciously. “I am quite cross
with Mr. Washington because he insists that he must see you first. He
wishes to have some talk with you before the dinner is served. No,
Billy,” as William Lee, General Washington’s body-servant, came forward
to show the maidens up-stairs. “It will give me great pleasure to help
the young ladies myself with their wraps. We are all very proud of our
English co-patriot. ’Twas a great thing for you to do, my dear,” she
added leading the way up the winding staircase. “It must have taken an
effort on your part to go against your own people, and shows very
plainly that your sympathy with the cause is sincere.”

“Thank you, madam,” murmured Harriet in some confusion. “But, but Peggy
here——”

“’Tis no more than we expect from Peggy,” said the matron, giving Peggy
such a gentle pat on the shoulder that Peggy’s heart grew warm and
tender. “Her views are so well known that nothing she could do for us
would surprise us. That is why we say so little of her share in the
matter.” And she gave Peggy another caressing touch.

Why, of course that was it, Peggy told herself with a flash of
understanding. How foolish she had been to care, or to have any feeling
on the subject at all. It was a great thing for Harriet to do. And so
thinking she felt her heart grow very tender toward her cousin who had
suddenly lost her animation and was pale and silent as they came down
the stairs, and were ushered into the commander-in-chief’s office.

General Washington was sitting before a large mahogany table whose well
polished top was almost covered by papers. He rose as the girls entered.

“Mrs. Washington has hardly forgiven me for taking you away from her,”
he remarked smilingly. “I have promised that I will detain you but a few
moments. Miss Harriet, your head will be quite turned before you will
have finished with the toasting and feasting. But ’twas bravely done!
You both showed rare judgment and courage in acting as you did. It saved
a valiant man from capture and perhaps the slaughter of an entire
brigade.”

“Your Excellency is very kind,” stammered Harriet while Peggy murmured a
“Thank thee, sir.”

“Mr. Hamilton, will you kindly place chairs for the ladies?” spoke the
general to a slight young man who came forward from the fireplace near
which he had been standing. “Nay,” in response to an inquiring glance,
“you are not to stay, sir. Mrs. Washington will gladden you later by an
introduction.” Then as the young man left the room he added with a
slight smile, “I have to be stern with the blades when there are ladies
about, else they would have time for no other engagements. And now tell
me, I beg, all about this affair. How came it that ye were riding upon
that road?”

“I asked Peggy to go there,” spoke Harriet quickly; “you see, sir,” with
charming candor, “Governor Livingston is a great friend of Cousin
David’s, and came to see him but the other day. He told us a great deal
of Liberty Hall, and how he had planted hundreds of trees which he had
imported from France and England, until I was curious anent the place.
Cousin David, or Ensign Drayton, usually rides with us, but Wednesday
both were on duty; so, as Cousin David said that there was no danger so
long as we kept within the lines, Peggy and I went for our ride alone. I
know not how it came about; but perhaps ’twas because the governor had
talked about his home, but we found ourselves all at once upon the
turnpike going toward Elizabethtown. Presently Fleetwood, being a
swifter nag than Star, became restive at our slow pace and to take the
edge off him I dashed ahead for a little canter. While I was gone Peggy
found the letter and when I came back there she was reading it. It did
not take us long to decide what to do, and—but the rest you know, sir,”
she ended abruptly.

“Yes; I know the rest,” he said musingly. “And so you were not there
when Miss Peggy found the note?”

“No,” she answered him. “I must have been a mile away. Don’t you think
so, Peggy?”

“I do not know how far it was,” replied Peggy thoughtfully, “but thee
was not with me, Harriet.”

“Where did you find it, Miss Peggy?” asked the general turning to her.
“You must see that it proves that there is a spy amongst us, and the
place where ’twas found may aid somewhat to his capture. Tell me as
nearly as possible where you found it.”

“Does thee remember where three pines stand together at a bend in the
pike about ten miles from Elizabethtown?” she asked. Then as he nodded
assent she continued: “It was just in front of those pines, Friend
Washington, that it was lying. I caught sight of it and thought some one
had lost a letter, and so dismounted and picked it up. Then Harriet
returned and—and we had some talk.” Peggy was so candid that she found
it hard to gloss over the conversation with her cousin, but she went on
after a pause so slight as not to be noticeable. “’Twas deemed best to
ride direct to the governor’s house, and Harriet’s Fleetwood being
swifter than my Star, reached the Hall first.”

“It could not have lain long,” he said, selecting the missive from among
a pile of papers. “The road was muddy and the paper is scarcely soiled.
Then, too, there was a wind blowing, and ’twould have been taken up from
the road had it been there long. According to this the person who
dropped it must have been so short a distance ahead of you that you
could not have failed to see him.”

“There were but we two on the road, sir,” spoke Harriet, although the
question was directed to Peggy. “We neither met any one, Your
Excellency, nor did we see any one until we reached Liberty Hall.”

“That being the case,” he said rising, “I will no longer risk Mrs.
Washington’s disfavor by keeping you from her. Permit me to thank you
both and particularly Miss Harriet for the judgment you showed. You did
the only thing that could be done, and ’tis rare indeed that maidens so
young show such thought. I hope that you will both pleasure us
frequently with your presence.”

He opened the door for them with stately courtliness. Curtseying deeply
the maidens reached the threshold just as a group of soldiers bustled
unceremoniously into the hall, and blocked the exit.

“A spy, Your Excellency,” cried an orderly, excitedly saluting.

The soldiers drew apart as the orderly spoke and from their midst came
John Drayton leading the very private soldier to whom Peggy had given
Harriet’s note.

“Your Excellency,” said the ensign saluting, “I caught this fellow just
as he was stealing from the lines. He had a most incriminating note upon
his person. His actions for some time have been most suspicious, and——”

“Sir,” spoke General Washington gravely, “do you not see that there are
ladies present? Let them pass, I beg of you. Such things are not of a
nature for gentle ears to hear.”

As he spoke the eyes of the prisoner rested upon the maidens. He gave a
short cry as he saw them, and sprang forward.

“If I did have a note, Your Excellency,” he cried, “there stands the
girl who gave it to me.”

“Where?” asked the general sternly.

“There!” said the man pointing to Peggy. “That girl gave me the letter
Tuesday afternoon.”



CHAPTER XX—A REGRETTED PROMISE


               “Not for counsel are we met,
               But to secure our arms from treachery,
               O’erthrow and stifle base conspiracies,
               Involve in his own toils our false ally——”

                   —“Count Julian,” Walter Savage Landor.

For one long moment there was a silence so tense that the breathing of
those present was plainly audible. Peggy had become very pale, but she
met the searching glance which General Washington bent upon her
steadily.

“Did you ever give him a note, letter, or communication of any kind?” he
asked at length.

“Yes,” she answered. “I gave him a letter to send through the lines a
few days since. It was Third Day afternoon, as he hath said.”

“You?” cried John Drayton springing toward her, and there was anguish
and incredulity in his voice. “You? Oh, Peggy!”

“Yes,” she said again clearly. “Has thee the letter, John? Give it to
the general. He will see that there was naught of harm intended.”

But Drayton shrank back and covered his face with his hands.

“Have you the missive, ensign?” demanded the commander gravely. “If so
let me see it.”

“She, she doth not know—— It cannot be. Oh, sir, do not look at the
letter, I beseech you,” uttered young Drayton brokenly.

“The letter, Drayton.” There was no mistaking the command in the tone.
The boy drew the letter from his sword belt, and handed it to the
general.

“There is some mistake,” he said, and Peggy was surprised to see that
his eyes were wet. “Sir, I entreat——”

“Take your prisoner to the outer room, ensign,” ordered the chief after
reading the note. “Meantime, may I ask that all of you will leave me
with the exception of this girl?” He indicated Peggy as he finished
speaking.

Silently the men filed out, but Harriet lingered, her eyes fixed upon
Peggy with so much of appeal that the latter tried to smile
reassuringly.

“You must go too, Miss Harriet,” he said, and Harriet was forced to
leave the room.

In all of Peggy’s life never had she felt the fear that now came upon
her. At all times reserved in his manner and his bearing full of
dignity, never before had she realized the majesty of General
Washington’s august presence. In the past when others had called him
cold and austere she had denied such qualities warmly, but now as she
found him regarding her with a stern expression she began to tremble
violently.

“And to whom was your letter sent?” he asked after a painful pause.

“To Sir Henry Clinton, sir.”

“And what would you have to say to Sir Henry Clinton?” he demanded,
plainly astonished.

“I?” Peggy looked at him quickly. “Why, I did not write it, Friend
Washington.”

“You did not?” It seemed to Peggy that his glance would pierce her very
soul, so keen was his scrutiny. “If you did not, who did?”

“Read the letter,” implored she. “Read it, sir. ’Twill explain
everything.”

“I have read it,” he made answer. “Do you wish me to do so again?”

“Yes,” she said, a vague apprehension stirring her heart at his manner.

Slowly and impressively he read aloud without further comment: “A
certain personage spends a portion of every clear afternoon upon the
summit of Chimney Rock, which I have told you stands nigh to Bound
Brook. Fording the Raritan at the spot already designated could be done
without fear of the sentry, and the personage captured with but little
risk. Without him the army would go to pieces, and the rebellion ended.
Further particulars contained in other letters forwarded by S.”

“Oh!” gasped Peggy her eyes widening with consternation. “That is not
the note I sent, Friend Washington. Does not that mean thee and thy
capture?”

“Yes,” he said. “There seem to be plots and counterplots for the
leaders. What is behind all this? I am loth to believe that you would
wilfully connive at either my capture, or anything that would bring harm
to the cause.”

“I would not, I would not,” she told him earnestly, amazed and
bewildered at the thing that had befallen her. “I would do naught that
would injure the cause. And thee—— Why, sir, I would rather die than act
of mine should bring thee harm.”

“I believe you,” he said. “Your past actions show you have the best
interests of your country at heart. But you are shielding some one,” he
said leaning toward her suddenly. “Who is it? Were it not for the fact
that your cousin discovered so much zeal in warning Governor Livingston
and the garrison at Elizabethtown I should say that ’twas she. But were
she guilty she would not have warned the governor, and would have tried
to prevent you from doing so.” He looked straight into her eyes as the
girl with difficulty repressed an exclamation. “Who is it?” he asked
again.

But Peggy could only stare at him unable to speak. In that moment the
truth had come to her, and she saw the explanation of everything.
Harriet had deceived her and all of them, from the beginning. A blaze of
anger swept her from head to foot. Was the daughter, like the father,
only seeking to work them harm?

“Who is it?” repeated General Washington, watching her intently, and
seeing that she was shaken by some emotion.

“It was——” she began, and paused. She had promised only that morning
that she would not tell that Harriet had given her the note. Could she
break her word? Had she not been taught once a word was passed ’twas a
sacred thing, and not to be lightly broken? She looked at him in
anguish. “I want to tell thee,” she burst forth, “but I have promised. I
have promised.”

“But you thought the contents of this note were different, did you not?
You did not know that it contained a hint of a plan for my capture?”

“No,” she answered. “I did not know.”

“Then you were tricked,” he declared. “By shielding this person, or
persons, you expose the entire camp to other plots which may prove more
successful than these last have been. Do you still consider your word
binding under the circumstances?”

“I have been taught,” she said, her eyes full of trouble, “that having
once passed my word it must be kept. Friends do not take oath as others
do, but affirm only. Therefore, we are taught, that once given one’s
word must be abided by so that it will be as stable and as much to be
relied upon as an oath.”

“But do you not see, Mistress Peggy, that your refusal to disclose the
name of the person places you under suspicion?”

“I am a patriot,” she asserted, pleadingly, “loyal and true to my
country. I have ever striven to do what I could.”

“Yes; but by your own confession you have given a note to this man, who
says that ’tis this very one. We have only your word that ’tis not so.
Then, too, you were alone when the warning note was found. It was not
soiled nor trampled upon as it would have been had it lain there long.
Child, you place yourself under suspicion.”

“I see,” she said miserably.

“’Tis a cruel necessity of war to use spies,” he went on, “but all
armies show them small mercy when they are caught. And it should be so.
The man, woman, or girl even, acting as one does so at the risk of
life.”

Peggy started. He had used almost the same words that John Drayton had
used the day they had seen the swinging body of the spy. A shudder shook
her. Again she saw the swaying form dangling from the tree. Small mercy
was shown a spy. Could she condemn Harriet to such a fate? Beautiful
Harriet with her wonderful eyes!

“Friend Washington,” she cried brokenly, “thee does not believe that I
would injure thee, or my country, does thee?”

“What am I to think, Miss Peggy?” he asked, ignoring her outstretched
hands.

“Give me a little time,” she cried. “Only a little time. Oh, I am sore
beset. I know not what to do.”

“Child,” he said with compassion, “I am thinking of a time when a young
girl came to me through winter’s snow and cold to plead for the life of
her father. Do you remember what she said when I told her that I could
not exchange a spy for him, valiant though the deeds of that father had
been? She said, ‘I know that thee must refuse me. Thee would be false to
thy trust were thee to do otherwise.’ Hath my little maiden whose answer
so warmed my heart with its patriotism that I have never forgotten it,
changed so that now she shields a spy? I cannot believe it.”

“Thee presses me so hard,” she cried wringing her hands. “Let me have a
little time, I entreat thee. It could not matter to let me have until
to-morrow. Just until to-morrow, Friend Washington.”

He gazed at her thoughtfully. Her anguish was so apparent that none
could help being touched. That there was much behind it all was very
evident, and so presently he said:

“You shall have until to-morrow, Mistress Peggy. ’Tis against all
precedent, but for what you have done before I will grant your request.
But there will be no further delay.”

“Thank thee, sir,” said she weeping. “I will ask none.” She spoke
timidly after a moment. “What am I to do, sir? Thee will not wish me to
stay for dinner if I am under suspicion.”

“Yes,” he said. “Let all go on as before until the matter is unraveled.
Can you compose yourself sufficiently to wait upon Mrs. Washington? The
dinner hour hath come.”

As Peggy replied in the affirmative, he called an orderly, and gave him
some directions, then escorted the maiden into the dining-room. The
Quaker habit of self-control enabled the girl to bear the curious
glances cast at her pale face, but the dinner was a trying ordeal. She
had grown to love the gay circle that gathered at the table, and to
count a day spent with the brilliant men and women as one to be
remembered; to-day she was glad when the time came for her to go home.

Harriet had been very vivacious all through the afternoon, but as they
set forth accompanied by the same aide who had escorted them to the
mansion she relapsed into silence. It had been Peggy’s intention to tell
the whole story to her father and mother in Harriet’s presence as soon
as she reached home, but there was company in the drawing-room, and as
she stood hesitating what to do her mother hastened to them.

“How tired you both look,” she cried in alarm. “To bed ye go at once.
Nay, David,” as Mr. Owen entreated a delay. “’Tis early, I know, but too
much excitement is not to be endured. And both girls will be the better
for a long sleep. So to bed! To bed!”

And with some reluctance on the part of both maidens they went slowly up
to the little chamber under the eaves.



CHAPTER XXI—THE RECKONING


                                                   “He flees
           From his own treachery; all his pride, his hopes,
           Are scattered at a breath; even courage fails
           Now falsehood sinks from under him.”

                                      —Walter Savage Landor.

As Peggy placed the candle she had carried to light them up the stairs
in the socket of a candlestick on the chest of drawers, Harriet closed
the door, and shot the bolt. Then slowly the two turned and stood face
to face. Not a word was spoken for a full moment. They gazed at each
other as though seeking to pierce the mask of flesh and bones that hid
their souls.

It was a tense moment. The attitude of the Quakeress was accusing; that
of the English girl defiant, changing to one of supplication as the dark
eyes of her cousin held her own orbs in that intent look. For a time she
bore the gaze unflinchingly, but soon her glance wavered, her eyelids
drooped, and she sank into a chair whispering:

“You know, Peggy. You know!”

“Yes,” said Peggy. “I know, Harriet.”

“Will—will they hang me, Peggy? What did Mr. Washington say? Oh, I have
been so miserable this afternoon! I thought they were coming to take me
every time the door opened. And you were so long with him. What did he
say?”

“He does not know that it was thee who writ the letter yet, Harriet,”
Peggy informed her calmly.

“Not know?” ejaculated Harriet, springing up in amazement. “Did you not
tell him, Peggy?”

“No, Harriet. I promised thee this morning that I would not, and I could
not break my word,” explained Peggy simply.

“You did not tell him?” cried Harriet, as though she could not believe
her ears. “Why, Peggy Owen, how could you get out of it? He would
believe that you were the guilty one if you did not.”

“So he told me, Harriet. But I had promised thee; and then, and then,
though thee does not deserve it, I could not help but think of that spy
we saw—— But, Harriet, I asked him to give me a little time, and I
thought that I would ask thee to return my promise, because I cannot
submit to rest under the implication of having tried to injure General
Washington. Thee must give me back my word, my cousin.”

“And if I do not?” asked Harriet anxiously.

“I am going to father with the whole matter. I shall do that anyway. The
general claims that I was tricked, and I was, most shamefully. That
letter was not the one that thee let me read. And the letter telling of
the attack was thine. I see it all—why thee rode ahead to warn the
governor and the garrison, and everything. The time has come, Harriet,
when thou shalt tell me why thou hast come here to act as a spy. Why
hast thou used us, thy kinspeople, to mask such plots as thou hast been
in against our own friends? Have we used thee unkindly? Or
discourteously? Why should thee treat us so, my cousin?”

[Illustration: “WHY SHOULD THEE PLAY THE SPY?”]

“I did not mean to, Peggy,” returned Harriet with her old manner of
affection. “Do you not remember that I said this morning that I was
sorry that I let you send it? And I am. I am. But John Drayton was to be
with us, and he watched me so that I feared that he would see me. Truly,
I am sorry, Peggy.”

She spoke with evident sincerity so that Peggy believed her.

“Harriet,” she said, “tell me why thou hast done this? Why should thee
play the spy?”

Harriet shivered at the word. “I am cold,” she said. “Let us get into
bed, Peggy. I am cold.”

Without a word of protest Peggy helped her to undress, but she herself
climbed into the four-poster without disrobing. Harriet pulled the many
colored counterpanes about her and snuggled down into the thick feather
bed.

“Peggy,” she said presently, “I know ’tis thought most indelicate for a
female to engage in such enterprise as spying, but would you not take
any risk for your country if you thought it would benefit her?”

“Yes,” assented her cousin. “I would.”

“That and one other thing is the reason that I have become one,” said
Harriet. “We English believe that you Americans are wrong about the war.
We are loyal to our king, and fight to keep the colonies which
rightfully belong to him. I came with my brother, Clifford, over here,
and both of us were full of enthusiasm for His Majesty. We determined to
do anything that would help him to put down the rebellion, and so
believing offered our services to Sir Henry Clinton.

“There was but this one thing that I could do, and when we learned that
you and your mother were to join Cousin David we knew that it was the
opportunity we sought. Sir Henry welcomed the chance to have an
informant who would be right in the midst of things without being
suspected. And I have learned much, Peggy. I have done good work.”

“Harriet,” interrupted Peggy amazed at the recital, “does thee mean to
tell me thee knew when mother and I were coming?”

“To the very day,” answered Harriet with a laugh. “Oh, we keep well
informed in New York. You little know the people who are around you. And
your general hath spies among us, too. ’Tis fortune of war, Peggy.”

“So General Washington said,” mused Peggy. “But I would thee were not
one. ’Tis a life full of trickery and deceit. I like it not for a girl.”

“And the other reason,” continued Harriet, “is more personal. Peggy, my
father hath lost all his fortune. We are very poor, my cousin.”

“But—but thy frocks?” cried Peggy. “Thee has been well dressed, Harriet,
and frocks are frocks these days.”

“It seems so to you because you know not the mode, cousin. Were you in
London you would soon see the difference betwixt my gowns and those of
fashion. But I was to have the reward for Governor Livingston should the
plan for his capture succeed, and that would have helped father a great
deal.”

“Oh, Harriet, Harriet!” moaned Peggy bewildered by this maze of
reasoning. “I would that thee had not done this, or that thou hadst
returned to thy people long ago. Why did thee not go back the other day?
’Twas in the letter that thee should be near so as to be taken also.”

“I intended to,” answered Harriet. “That was why I wished to ride near
to Liberty Hall, but when I found that I had lost the note, I came back
for it, hoping that you had not seen it. You were determined to warn
both the garrison and the governor, and that would render it impossible
for me to get to our forces. I tried to slip away yesterday, but there
was no chance. And now you will tell on me to-morrow, and I will be
hanged.”

“Don’t, Harriet,” pleaded Peggy. “I am going right down to father, and
see if he can tell us some way out of this. It may be that he can
persuade General Washington to let thee go back to thy people.”

“Peggy,” cried Harriet laying a detaining hand upon the girl as she
slipped from the bed. “You must not bring Cousin David into this. He is
a soldier who stands high with the general. If he intercedes for me he
will himself be under suspicion. You would not wish to get your father
into trouble, would you? Beside, ’tis his duty, as a patriot, to give me
up to punishment. Do you not see it? If I were not your cousin you would
not hesitate in the matter.”

“True,” said Peggy pausing. Well she knew that her father was so loyal
that the matter might appear to him in just that very way. “He loves
thee well though, Harriet.”

“And for that reason he shall not be tempted,” cried Harriet. “No,
Peggy; there is no help. I must pay the penalty. I knew the risk.”

She buried her face in the pillow, and, despite her brave words, sobs
shook her form.

“Is there no way? No way?” cried Peggy frantically. “I cannot bear to
think of thee being hang——” She paused, unable to finish the dreadful
word.

“There is one way,” said Harriet suddenly sitting up. “If you would help
me, Peggy, to get to Amboy I could get to New York from there.”

“Could thee, Harriet? How?”

“There are always sloops that ply betwixt the two places,” said Harriet.
“If I could but reach there I know that I could get one of them to take
me to the city.”

“But how could thee reach Amboy?” asked Peggy.

“Peggy, go with me now,” pleaded Harriet, clasping her arms about her
cousin. “Let us slip down, and get our horses. Then we can get to Amboy,
and you could be back to-morrow morning. Your father, ay! and your
mother, too, would be glad to know that I had got away before they came
to arrest me.”

“But why should I go?” inquired Peggy. “Can thee not go alone? Thee
knows the way.”

“They would not let me pass the lines,” said Harriet. “They would know
by my voice that I was English, and would detain me. Whatever we try to
do in the matter must be done to-night, because to-morrow will be too
late. Will you come with me, Peggy? I shall never ask aught else of
you.”

“I will come,” said Peggy, after a moment’s thought. “I do believe that
father and mother will approve. And, Harriet, will thee give me back my
promise, if I do come?”

“Yes, Peggy. And further, my cousin, if you will but help me to get to
New York I will never act the spy again. I promise you that of my own
accord. ’Tis too much risk for a girl, and I have had my lesson.”

“Oh, Harriet,” cried Peggy. “If thee will only do that then I can tell
General Washington all the matter with light heart. I like not to think
of thee as a spy.”

The tattoo had long since sounded. The house was still. The girls
dressed themselves warmly, and stole silently out of the dwelling down
to the stables where their horses were kept. Deftly they bridled and
saddled the animals, and then led them quietly to the lane which would
take them to the road.

In the distance the flames of the dying camp-fires flickered palely,
illumining the shadowy forms of the few soldiers grouped about them, and
accentuating the gloom of the encircling wood. A brooding stillness hung
over the encampment, broken only by the sough of the wind as it wandered
about the huts, or stirred the branches of the pines on the hills. The
army slept. Slept as only those sleep who have earned repose. They were
soldiers whose hardships and sufferings have scarcely a parallel in the
annals of history, yet they could sleep even though they had but hard
boards for a couch, and but a blanket or a little straw for covering.

Peggy started suddenly as the deep bay of a hound came to them from the
village of Bound Brook.

“Harriet,” she whispered, “I am afraid. Let us wait until to-morrow.”

“To-morrow will be too late,” answered Harriet, and Peggy wondered to
hear how hard her voice sounded. “Do you want me hung, Peggy? Beside,
you promised that you would come. ’Tis the last time that I’ll ever ask
favor of you.”

“Yes, I know,” answered Peggy, in a low tone. “I will go, Harriet; but I
wish now that I had not said that I would.”

“Come,” was Harriet’s brief answer. And Peggy followed her into the
darkness.



CHAPTER XXII—A HIGH-HANDED PROCEEDING


                                 “Had your watch been good,
             This sudden mischief never could have fallen.”

                                      —First Part Henry VI.

Had Peggy been in the lead she would have headed at once for the “Great
Raritan Road,” a highway which ran down the valley of the river directly
to the town of New Brunswick, which lay but a few miles west of Amboy.
Harriet, on the contrary, turned toward Bound Brook, and entered the
dense wood which stood between that village and the hills.

“This is not the way to Amboy, Harriet,” remonstrated Peggy.

“No,” answered her cousin briefly. Then, after a moment: “’Tis the only
way to get through the lines without the countersign. We must not talk.”

“Hasn’t thee the countersign?” asked Peggy, dismayed.

“No; don’t talk, Peggy.”

And Peggy, wondering much how with two horses they could pass the
pickets unchallenged, relapsed into silence. But the lack of the
password did not seem to daunt Harriet. She pushed ahead as rapidly as
was consistent with rough ground, thickly growing trees and underbrush,
and the gloom of the forest. At length as they entered a shallow ravine
Harriet drew rein, and, as Peggy came up beside her, she spoke:

“Are you afraid, Peggy?”

“No,” replied Peggy, “but the stillness is monstrously wearing. And ’tis
so dark, Harriet.”

“Which is to our benefit,” returned Harriet. “As for the quiet, once we
are clear of the lines we can chat, and so will not mind it. But come!”

Again she took the lead, and Peggy, following after, could not but
marvel at the unerring precision with which her cousin chose her way.
Not once did she falter or hesitate, though to Peggy the darkness and
gloom of the forest seemed impenetrable.

The melancholy of the forest encompassed them, infolding them like a
mantle. It so wrought upon their senses that they reached out and
touched each other frequently, seeking to find solace from its brooding
sadness. It seemed as though hours elapsed before Harriet spoke in the
merest whisper:

“I think we are without the lines, Peggy. ’Tis about time, and now we
can seek the turnpike.”

She had scarcely finished speaking when out of the darkness came the
peremptory command:

“Halt! Who goes there?”

“Friends,” answered Harriet, as the two obediently brought their horses
to a standstill.

In the darkness the shadowy form of the sentinel was but dimly visible,
but a feeble ray of the pale moonlight caught the gleam of his musket,
and Peggy saw with a thrill of fear that it was pointed directly toward
Harriet.

“Advance, and give the countersign,” came the order.

How it came about Peggy could not tell, but as he gave the command,
Fleetwood reared suddenly upon his hind feet, and, pawing the air with
his forelegs and snorting viciously, advanced toward the guard
threateningly. An ominous click of the firelock sounded. Wild with
terror at the sight, and fearful of what might happen, Peggy cried
shrilly:

“Look sharp!”

“Why didn’t you say so before?” growled the sentry lowering his gun.
“What’s the matter with that horse?”

“I think he must have stepped among some thorn bushes,” replied Harriet
sweetly. “I will soon quiet him, friend. The underbrush is thick
hereabouts.”

“Too thick to be straying around in at night,” he answered with some
roughness. “That horse is enough to scare the British. What are you
doing in the woods? You are bound to lose your way.”

“We have done that already,” she told him with apparent frankness. She
had succeeded by this time in quieting Fleetwood, who now resumed his
normal position. By the merest chance they had stumbled upon the
password, and she purposed making the most of it. “You see we were at a
party in the camp, and coming back my cousin and I thought to make a
short cut through the woods so as to get home quickly. We ought to have
been there long ago, but ’twas a pretty little frisk, and we just
couldn’t make up our minds to leave. You know how it is.”

“Yes,” he rejoined laughing good naturedly. “I know how ’tis. I’ve gals
of my own. Well, you just get over to that road as fast as you can. ’Tis
a half mile straight to your right. And say! if another sentinel asks
for the countersign speak right up. You’re liable to get a ball if you
don’t.”

“Thank you,” she said. “We will remember. Come, my cousin.”

“You blessed Peggy!” she exclaimed as they passed beyond the hearing of
the guard. “How did you chance upon that watchword?”

“I don’t know,” answered Peggy, who had not yet recovered her
equanimity. “I meant to say, ‘Look out!’ I don’t know how I came to say
sharp. But what was the matter with Fleetwood? Was he among thorns?”

“Dear me, no! ’Tis a trick that I taught him. You do not know all his
accomplishments. ’Twas well for that sentinel that he let us through.
Wasn’t it, old fellow?” And her laugh as she patted the animal was not a
pleasant one to hear.

Peggy shuddered. She would not like Star to be taught such tricks, she
thought, giving the little mare a loving caress. She was beginning to
doubt the wisdom of coming with Harriet. The girl appeared to know her
way so well, to be so able to care for herself that there seemed no need
for Peggy to be along. But let her see her safely to a place where she
could reach her own people, and then Peggy resolved, with a quick
tightening of the lips, nothing should ever induce her to put herself
into such a plight again.

By this time the moon had gone down, and while the sky was not clouded
there was a dim haze that rendered the light of the stars ineffectual in
dispelling the darkness. On they rode. The time seemed interminable to
Peggy; the blackness of the night unbearable. The sudden snapping of a
dried twig under Star’s feet caused her to start violently.

“Harriet,” she cried, “naught is to be gained by keeping to the woods.
The lines are passed. Let us get to the highway. We must make better
progress if I am to get back before the reveille.”

“That you will never do, Peggy,” replied Harriet pointing to the sky.
“’Tis almost time for it now.”

Peggy looked up in dismay. The gray twilight that precedes the dawn was
stealing over the darkness. The soldier’s day began when the sentry
could see a thousand yards about him. Another hour would bring about
just that condition. It was clearly impossible for her to return before
the sounding of the reveille.

“Does thee know where we are?” she asked. “And where is the road?”

“There is just a narrow strip of the woods betwixt us and the turnpike,
Peggy,” Harriet assured her. “It hath been so since we left the guard.
We will get to it at once if it please you. As for where we are, we
should be getting to Perth Amboy soon.”

“But why hath it taken so long?” queried Peggy.

“Because the brigades of Baron Steuben and General Wayne lay south of
the Raritan, and we had to go around them. I did not tell you, Peggy,
that ’twould take so long because I feared that you would not come. It
doth not matter, doth it, what way I took to safety?”

“No,” answered Peggy, touched by this allusion to her cousin’s peril.
“It would have been fearful for thee to have come through the darkness
alone, but oh, Harriet! I do wish thee had told me. Then I would have
left a letter for mother, anyway. She will be so uneasy.”

“Never mind!” consoled Harriet. “And then you may never see me again.
Shall you care, Peggy?”

“Yes,” answered Peggy soberly. “I will, but——” She paused and drew rein
abruptly. “There are forms flitting about in the wood,” she whispered.
“Does thee think they mean us harm?”

Harriet made no reply, but gazed intently into the forest. In the
indistinct light the figures of mounted men could be seen moving like
shadows among the trees. That they were gradually approaching the
maidens was evident. The girl watched them for a few seconds, and then
leaning forward gave a low, birdlike call. It was answered in kind on
the instant, and a half dozen horsemen dashed from the wood into the
narrow highway.

“Now am I safe,” cried Harriet joyfully, reaching out her hand to the
foremost of the men who gathered about them. “Captain Greyling, your
arrival is timely.”

“We have waited many nights for you, Mistress Owen,” said that officer.
“We began to think that you might in very truth have become one of the
rebels. You are most welcome.”

“Thank you,” she cried gaily. “You are not more pleased to see me than I
am to be here. In truth, had I not succeeded in coming, I should not
have had another opportunity. ’Twas becoming very uncomfortable in camp.
I have barely escaped I know not what fate. But more of that anon.
Peggy, let me present Captain Greyling of De Lancy’s Loyal Legion. My
cousin, Mistress Peggy Owen, Captain Greyling.”

De Lancy’s Loyal Legion! Peggy’s cheek blanched at the name. This was a
body of Tory cavalry, half freebooters and half in the regular service.
Between New York and Philadelphia and the country surrounding both
places the name stood for all that was terrible and malignant in human
nature. So stricken with terror was she that she could not return the
officer’s salutation.

“Where lies the boat?” asked Harriet.

“Close to the bank of the river. The trees hide it. ’Tis but a shallop
which will take us to the sloop which is in the bay outside Amboy. The
men will bring the horses by ferry.”

“Very well,” answered Harriet, preparing to dismount. “We are at the end
of our long ride, Peggy. Are you not glad?”

“I am for thee,” said Peggy, speaking quietly but filled with a vague
alarm. “As for me, I will bid thee farewell, and return to the camp.”

She wheeled as she spoke, but instantly the mare’s bridle was seized,
and she was brought to a standstill.

“What is the meaning of this?” cried Peggy, her eyes flashing. “Thee is
safe, Harriet. Call off thy friends. Thee knows that I must return.”

“Dost think that I will part with you so soon, my cousin?” laughed
Harriet mockingly. “Nay, nay; I have promised to bring you to New York.
Best go peaceably, Peggy; for go you must.”

“Never!” exclaimed Peggy, striking Star a sharp blow. The little mare
reared, plunged, pranced and wheeled in the effort to rid herself of the
hold on her bridle, but vainly. Peggy uttered a piercing shriek as she
was torn from the saddle, and half dragged, half carried through the
trees down the bank to the boat which was drawn up close to the shore.
Two of the men followed after the captain and Harriet. The latter seated
herself by Peggy’s side, and placed her arm about her.

“’Twould have been better to come quietly,” she said. “I meant you
should go back with me all the while. I could not bear to lose you,
Peggy. I thought——”

But Peggy, her spirit up in arms, turned such a look of scorn upon her
cousin that Harriet paused in her speech abruptly.

“Speak not to me of affection, Harriet Owen,” she cried. “Thou art
incapable of feeling it. Is there no truth to be found in any of thy
family? Are ye all treacherous and dishonorable? Would that thou wert no
kin of mine! Would that I had never seen thee, nor any of thy——”

Unable to continue, she burst into a passion of tears.



CHAPTER XXIII—IN THE LINES OF THE ENEMY


                  “There is but one philosophy,
                  though there are a thousand schools—
                    Its name is fortitude.”

                                              —Bulwer.

The morning broke gloriously, and held forth the promise of a beautiful
day. So mild was the weather that it seemed more like a spring day than
the last of February. Out in the bay of the Raritan rode a sloop at
anchor, and toward this the shallop made its way. They were taken
aboard, and Harriet, who had left Peggy to her grief, now approached
her.

“We have been long without either rest or food, my cousin. Come with me
to breakfast. Then we will sleep until New York is reached.”

Peggy vouchsafed her never a word, but taking a position by the taffrail
stood looking over the dazzling water toward the now receding shores of
New Jersey. Into the lower bay sailed the sloop, heading at once for the
narrows. Few sails were to be seen on the wide expanse of water save to
the left where, under the heights of Staten Island, a part of the
British fleet lay at anchor. Brilliant shafts of sunlight wavered and
played over the face of the water. Astern, as far as the eye could see,
lay the ocean, blank of all sail, the waves glinting back the strong
light of the east. Sky, water and shore all united in one sublime
harmony of pearls and grays of which the grandeur was none the less for
lack of vivid coloring.

The discordant note lay in Peggy’s heart. She was full of the
humiliation and bitterness of trust betrayed. Humiliation because she
had been tricked so easily, and bitterness as the full realization of
her cousin’s treachery came to her. And General Washington! What would
he think when she did not come to him as she had promised? He would deem
her a spy. And she was Peggy Owen! Peggy Owen—who had prided herself on
her love for her country. Oh, it was bitter! Bitter! And so she stood
with unseeing eyes for the grand panorama of bay and shore that was
unfolding before her.

The wind was favorable, yet it was past one of the clock before the
vessel made the narrows, glided past Nutten’s[[2]] Island, and finally
came to anchor alongside the Whitehall Slip. Harriet, who had remained
below the entire journey, now came on deck looking much refreshed.

“You foolish Peggy!” she cried. “Of what use is it to grieve o’er what
cannot be helped? Think you that I did not wish to be with my people
when I was in the rebel camp?”

“Thee came there of thine own free will,” answered Peggy coldly, “while
I am here through no wish of mine. Why did thee bring me?”

“Out of affection, of course,” laughed Harriet. “Ah! there is father on
the shore waiting for us.”

“I thought thee said that he was in the South,” Peggy reminded her.

“One says so many things in war time,” answered Harriet with a shrug of
her shoulders. “Perchance I intended to say Clifford.”

“And so you are come to return some of our visits, my little cousin,”
cried Colonel Owen, coming forward from the side of a coach as they came
ashore. “’Twas well thought. ’Twill be delightsome to return some of
your hospitality.”

“Oh, Cousin William,” cried she, the tears beginning to flow, “do send
me back to my mother! Oh, I do want my mother!”

“Tut, tut!” he rejoined. “Homesick already? You should have considered
that when you planned to come with Harriet.”

“When I what?” exclaimed Peggy, looking up through her tears.

“Planned to come with Harriet,” he repeated impatiently. “She wrote some
time since that she would bring you. Come! The dinner waits. We have
prepared for you every day for a week past. I am glad the waiting is
over. Come, my cousin.”

And Peggy, seeing that further pleading was of no avail, entered the
coach, silently determined to make no other appeal. A short drive
brought them to a spacious dwelling standing in the midst of large
grounds in the Richmond Hill district, which was situated on the western
side of Manhattan Island, a little removed from the city proper. The
building stood on an eminence commanding a view of the Hudson River and
the bay, for at that time there were no houses or other buildings to
obstruct the vision, and was surrounded by noble trees. A carefully
cultivated lawn even then, so mild had been the winter, showing a little
green stretched on one side as far as the road which ran past the house.
On the other was the plot for the gardens, while in the rear of the
mansion the orchard extended to the river bank. On every hand was
evidence of wealth and luxury, and Peggy’s heart grew heavy indeed as
she came to know that Colonel Owen’s poverty had been but another of
Harriet’s fabrications.

She sat silent and miserable at the table while Harriet, who was in high
spirits, related the incidents of the past few days: the finding of the
note in the roadway, the warning of the governor and the brigade, and
how she had been petted and praised for her heroism. Her father and
Captain Greyling, who had accompanied them home, laughed uproariously at
this.

“Upon my life, my cousin,” cried William Owen, “I wonder not that you
are in the dumps. Fie, fie, Harriet! ’twas most unmannerly to steal such
a march upon your cousin. For shame! And did our little cousin weep out
her pretty eyes in pique that you were so fêted?”

But Peggy was in no mood for banter. There was a sparkle in her eyes,
and an accent in her voice that showed that she was not to be trifled
with as she said clearly:

“No, Cousin William, I did not weep. It mattered not who gave the
warning so long as the governor and the brigade received it. It was most
fitting that Harriet should have the praise, as that was all she got out
of it. ’Twas planned, as thee must know, for her to receive a more
substantial reward.”

“You have not lost your gift of a sharp tongue, I perceive,” he answered
a flush mantling his brow. “Have a care to your words, my little cousin.
You are no longer in your home, but in mine.”

“I am aware of that, sir. But that I am here is by no will of mine. If I
am used despitefully ’tis no more than is to be expected from those who
know naught but guile and artifice.”

“Have done,” he cried, rising from the table. “Am I to be railed at in
mine own house? Harriet, show this girl to her chamber.”

Nothing loth Peggy followed her cousin to a little room on the second
floor, whose one window looked out upon the noble Hudson and the distant
Jersey shore.

“Aren’t you going to be friends, Peggy?” questioned Harriet pausing at
the door. “I could not do other than I did. Father wished me to bring
you here.”

“But why?” asked Peggy turning upon her. “Why should he want me here? Is
it to flout me?”

“I know not, Peggy. But be friends, won’t you? There is much more sport
to be had here in the city than in yon camp. You shall share with me in
the fun.”

“I care not for it,” rejoined Peggy coldly. “And I will never forgive
thee, Harriet Owen. Never! I see not how thee could act so.”

And so saying she turned from her cousin with unmistakable aversion, and
walking to the window gazed with aching heart at the Jersey shore line.
Harriet stood for a moment, and then went out, closing the door behind
her. Presently Peggy flung herself on the bed and gave way to her bitter
woe in a flood of tears. For what lay at the bottom of her bitterness?
It was the sharp knowledge that, with just a little forethought, a
little heeding of her mother’s and John Drayton’s warnings, all this
might have been avoided.

Human nature is very weak, and any grief that comes from our own
carelessness, or lack of thought is harder to bear than that woe which
is caused by untoward circumstances. But at last tired nature asserted
itself, and Peggy fell asleep.

Long hours after she awoke. It was quite dark in the room, and she was
stiff with cold. For a moment she fancied herself in her own little room
under the eaves at the camp, but soon a realization of where she was
came to her. She rose and groped her way to the window. The moon shone
upon the river and the Jersey shore. She looked toward the latter
yearningly.

“Mother,” she whispered with quivering lips, “mother, what would thee
have me to do?” And suddenly it seemed to her that she could hear the
sweet voice of her mother saying:

“My daughter, thou must bear with meekness the afflictions that are sent
upon thee. Hast thou not been taught to do good to them that
despitefully use thee?” Peggy uttered a cry of protest.

“I cannot forgive them! They have behaved treacherously toward me. And
my country! ’Tis not to be endured that I should be placed in such
position toward it. ’Tis not to be endured, I say.”

“Thou hast been close to sacred things all thy life, my child,” sounded
that gentle voice. “Of what avail hath it been if thy actions are no
different from those of the world? And thou art not without blame in the
matter.”

Long Peggy stood at the window. It seemed to her that her mother was
very near to her. And so communing with that loved mother the bitterness
died out of her heart, and she wept. No longer virulently, but softly,
the gentle tears of resignation.

“I will try to bear it,” she murmured, as she crept between the covers
of the bed. “I will be brave, and as good as thee would have me be,
mother. And I will be so truthful in act and word that it may shame them
out of deceit. And maybe, maybe if I am good a way will be opened for me
to get back to thee.”

And so she fell into a restful sleep.

-----
[2] Now Governor’s Island.



CHAPTER XXIV—THE REASON WHY


                                       “Yet remember this:
              God and our good cause fight upon one side.”

                                    —“Richard III,” Act 5.

It was seven o’clock before Peggy awakened the next morning. With an
exclamation at her tardiness in rising she dressed hastily, and went
down-stairs. Colonel Owen and Harriet were already in the dining-room at
breakfast. They brightened visibly as the maiden returned their
greetings serenely, and took her place at the table.

“So you have determined to accept the situation,” observed Colonel Owen,
giving her a keen glance.

“Until a way is opened for me to leave, sir,” replied Peggy.

“Which will be at my pleasure,” he rejoined. But to this she made no
reply. “I am assisting Colonel Montressor, who is in charge of the
defenses of the city,” he remarked presently. “When your horses are well
rested you girls shall ride about with me.”

“We have been riding almost every day the past winter with father,” said
Peggy, trying not to choke over the word. “The weather hath been so
pleasant that it hath been most agreeable for riding. There are pretty
rides over the hills and dales near the camp.”

“You will find them no less beautiful here,” he assured her. “And now I
must go. Sir Henry will wish to see you during the day, Harriet.”

“Very well,” she answered. “And I must see about some new frocks,
father. I misdoubt that my boxes will be sent after me from the rebel
camp. Mr. Washington will not be so thoughtful anent the matter as Sir
Henry was. I shall need a number of new ones.”

“More gowns, Harriet!” he exclaimed. “You will ruin me by your
extravagance. Haven’t you anything that will do?”

“I dare say that I can make shift for a time,” she replied. “But la!
what’s the use of being in His Majesty’s service unless one profits by
it?”

“That seems to be the opinion of every one connected with it,” he
observed grimly.

“Harriet,” spoke Peggy timidly, uncertain as to the manner her
proposition would be received, “I can sew very well indeed. Let me bring
some of thy old frocks up to the mode. ’Twill save thy father money, and
in truth things are monstrously high. That was one reason mother and I
joined father in camp. Thee admired that cream brocade of mine that was
made from mother’s wedding gown. Let me see if I cannot do as well with
some of thy finery.”

“That’s all very well for you rebels,” spoke Harriet with some scorn,
“but when one is with English nobility ’tis another matter. Father, what
do you think? They sometimes wore homespun at camp even to the dinners.
They were always busy at something, and now here Peggy wants to get
right into sewing. Americans have queer ideas of amusement.”

“If there is one thing that I admire about the Americans ’tis the manner
in which they bring up their daughters,” remarked her father with
emphasis. “I have yet to see a girl of these colonies who was not
proficient in housewifely arts. If Peggy can help you fix over some of
your things let her. And do try to pattern after her thrifty ways,
Harriet.”

“Peggy is quite welcome to fix them for herself,” said Harriet with a
curl of her lips, and a slight shrug of her shoulders. “I shall get some
new ones.”

Colonel Owen sighed, but left the room without further protest. The
conversation set Peggy to thinking, and observing. There was indeed
luxury on every hand, but there was also great waste. Wherever the
British army settled they gave themselves up to such amusements as the
city afforded or they could create. Fear, fraud and incompetence reigned
in every branch of the service, and between vandalism and the
necessities of war New York suffered all the woes of a besieged city. In
the endeavor to keep pace with his spendthrift superiors her cousin’s
household expenditures had run into useless excess.

Harriet plunged at once into the gaiety of the city with all the abandon
of her nature, and Peggy, much against her inclination, was of necessity
compelled to enter into it also. There were rides every clear day which
revealed the strong defenses of the city. New York was in truth but a
fortified camp. A first line of defense extended from the heights of
Corlear’s Hook across the island to the Hudson. There was still another
line further up near the narrow neck of land below Fort Washington,
while a strong garrison guarded the outlying post of Kingsbridge. Peggy
soon realized that unless she was given wings she could never hope to
pass the sentinels. Every afternoon in the Grand Battery along the bay a
German band of hautboys played for the amusement of the officers and
townspeople, and here Peggy met many of the young “macaroni” officers or
feminine “toasts” of the city. She grew weary of the incessant round of
entertainments. There had been much social intercourse at the camp, but
it had been tempered by sobriety, and life was not wholly given up to
it. Peggy resolved that she would have to occupy herself in other ways.

“Cousin William,” she said one morning, seeking Colonel Owen in his
study, where he sat looking over some papers with a frowning brow, “may
I talk with thee a little?”

“Is it anent the matter of home?” he queried. “I can do nothing, Peggy.
You will have to stay here. We can’t have a rebel come into our lines
and then leave, you know.”

“I know,” she answered sorrowfully. “I want to go home, but ’twas not of
that I came to speak.”

“Of what then?” he asked.

“Thee lives so well,” she said with a blush at her temerity, “and yet,
sir, there is so much waste. Thee could live just as well yet there need
be no excess. I wish, Cousin William, that thee would let me look after
the household while I am here. I care naught for the pleasurings, and
’twould occupy me until such time as thee would let me go home,” she
added a trifle wistfully. “I could not do so well as mother, but yet I
do feel that I could manage more thriftily than thy servants.”

“Peggy,” he cried springing to his feet, “I hoped for this. You owe me a
great deal, and ’tis as well to begin to pay some of your debt. That is
why I brought you here.”

“I owe thee anything?” she asked amazed. “How can that be?”

“Think you that I have forgotten the time spent in your house, my little
cousin? Think you that I, an officer in His Majesty’s service, do not
resent that I was given in exchange for a dragoon?”

“If thee thinks that I owe thee anything, my cousin, I will be glad to
pay it,” said Peggy regarding him with wondering, innocent eyes. “I am
sorry thee holds aught against me.”

Colonel Owen had the grace to blush.

“Harriet hath no housewifely tastes,” he said hastily, “and my son
shares her extravagant habits. Between them and the necessity of
maintaining a position befitting an officer, I am like to come to grief.
You are a good little thing, after all, Peggy. And now let me take you
about and put you in charge.”

And thus it came that Peggy found herself installed at the head of her
cousin’s household. The position was no sinecure. She made mistakes, for
never before had she been thrown so entirely upon her own resources, but
she had been well trained, and the result was soon apparent in the
lessened expenditures. The experience was of great benefit to her, and
she grew womanly and self-reliant under the charge. Her cousin’s manner
too underwent a most pleasing transformation. He was kindly, and but
seldom made cutting and sarcastic speeches at her expense. Upon the
other hand, she was subjected to a petty tyranny from Harriet quite at
variance with her former deportment.

And the spring passed into summer; summer waxed and waned, and in all
that time there had come no word from her father or mother, nor had
there been opportunity for her to send them any. That the war was going
disastrously against the patriots in the South she could not but gather
from the rejoicings of the British. Of the capture of Stony Point on the
Hudson by the Americans she was kept in ignorance. The influx of a large
body of troops and militia into the city, the surrounding of the island
by forty men-of-war, told that Sir Henry Clinton feared attack. And so
the summer passed.

In December the troops from Rhode Island were hastily withdrawn, the
city strongly fortified, and everything indicated a movement of some
kind. Peggy tried to ascertain what it was, but for some time could not
do so. The snow which had begun falling in November now increased in the
frequency of the storms, scarcely a day passed without its fall. The
cold became severe, and ice formed in rivers and bay until at length
both the Hudson and Sound rivers were frozen solidly. The bay also
became as terra firma, and horses, wagons and artillery passed over the
ice to Staten Island.

“Is our stock of fire-wood getting low, Peggy?” inquired Colonel Owen
one morning, laying down the “Rivington Gazette” which he was reading.
“The paper speaks of the growing scarcity of wood, and says that if the
severe weather continues we will be obliged to cut down the trees in the
city for fuel.”

“I ordered some yesterday from the woodyards,” Peggy told him. She was
standing by one of the long windows overlooking the frozen Hudson. How
near New Jersey seemed. Men and teams were at that moment passing over
the ice on their way to and from the city. How easy it looked to go
across. She turned to him suddenly. “How much longer am I to stay,
Cousin William?” she asked.

“Till the war closes,” he said laughing. As a shadow passed over her
face he added: “And that won’t be much longer, my little cousin. There
is a movement on foot that is going to bring it to a close before you
realize what hath happened. We have at last got your Mr. Washington in a
cul de sac from which he cannot escape.”

“Where is General Washington, my cousin?” asked she quickly.

“On the heights of Morristown, in New Jersey. Nay,” he laughed as a
sudden eager light flashed into her eyes, “you cannot reach him, Peggy.
If you could get through the lines, which you cannot, for the guards
have been increased to prevent surprise, you could not go through the
forest. The snow lies four feet on the level. You could not get through
the woods. But cheer up! I promise you a glimpse of your hero soon. The
war is on its last legs.”

Peggy gazed after him with troubled eyes as he left the room. What was
the new movement on foot? Pondering the matter much she went about the
duties of the day. About the middle of the forenoon an ox cart with the
wood she had ordered drove into the stable yard. She uttered an
exclamation of vexation as she saw the ragged heap which the driver was
piling. Throwing a wrap about her she hurried into the yard where the
team was.

“Friend,” she called severely, for Peggy looked well to the ways of the
household, “that is not the way to unload the wood. It must be corded so
that it can be measured.”

“Yes, mistress,” answered the driver, touching his hat.

Peggy started. He had given the military salute instead of the usual
curtsey of the countryman. She looked at him intently. There was
something strangely familiar about him, she thought, but he was so
bundled up that she could only see his eyes. Whistling cheerfully the
driver began to cord the wood as she directed.

“Thou art not o’erstrong for the work,” she commented as he struggled
valiantly with a great stick. “I will send one of the stablemen to help
thee.”

“Wait, Peggy,” he said in a low tone.

“John!” almost screamed the girl. “John Drayton!”



CHAPTER XXV—THE ALERT THAT FAILED


                “What gain we by our toils if he escape
                Whom we came hither solely to subdue?”

                               —“Count Julian,” Landor.

“Be careful,” warned Drayton, letting the stick fall with a crash. “Can
you come to Rachel Fenton’s house in little Queen Street this morning?
We can talk there.”

“Yes, yes,” cried Peggy eagerly. “I know where it is. I will go there
from market. John, my mother——”

“Is well,” he answered quickly. “Don’t ask anything more now, but go in.
’Tis cold out here.”

“But thee?” she questioned loth to leave him.

“Oh, I’m used to it,” he responded airily. “Just send along that
stableman though, Peggy. These sticks are heavy. And say! Is’t permitted
to feed drivers of carts? There are not many rations just now in
Morristown, and I’d really like to eat once more.”

“Thee shall have all thee wants,” she assured him. “But oh, John! if
they should find out who thee is! Thou art mad to venture into the
city.”

“If they will wait until I’ve eaten they may do their worst,” he replied
with a touch of his old jauntiness. “No; I don’t mean that, for I’ve
come to take you back with me. That is, if you want to go?”

“I do, I do,” she told him almost in tears.

“Then go right in,” he commanded. “Won’t your cousins suspect something
if they see you talking like this to a countryman?”

“They will think I am scolding thee,” she said with a tremulous little
laugh. “And truly thee needs it, John. I never saw a cord of wood piled
so crookedly before in my life.”

“They’ll be glad to get wood in any shape if this weather keeps on, I’m
thinking,” he made answer. “Now do go right in, Peggy. And don’t forget
that stableman.”

Peggy hastened within doors, sent the man to help with the wood, and
then tried to regain her usual composure by preparing a meal for
Drayton.

“The poor lad,” was her mental comment a little later as she watched the
young fellow stow away the food that was placed before him. “He eats as
though he had had nothing all winter.”

This was nearer truth than she dreamed. Had she but known the condition
of the army at Morristown she would not have wondered at the boy’s
voraciousness. She hovered about him, attending to his needs carefully,
longing but not daring to ask the many questions that crowded to her
lips. It would not do to risk conversation of any sort in the house.
There were too many coming and going. As it was the servants gazed at
her in surprise, curious as to her interest in a teamster. The meal
finished, Drayton rose with a word of thanks, and crossed to the fire
which blazed upon the kitchen hearth.

Peggy felt a sudden apprehension as she heard Harriet’s step in the
hall. What if she should enter the kitchen? Would Drayton be safe from
the keen scrutiny of her sharp eyes? The lad himself seemed to feel no
uneasiness, but hung over the roaring fire of hickory logs as though
reluctant to leave its warmth. Making a pretense of replenishing the
fire Peggy whispered:

“Go, go! Harriet is coming.” Drayton roused himself with a start, drew
his wrappings close about him, and, giving her a significant look,
passed through the outside door just as Harriet entered the room from
the passage.

“Who was that, Peggy?” she asked sharply.

“The man with the wood,” answered Peggy busied about the fire. “I gave
him something to eat.”

“Mercy, Peggy! Is it necessary to feed such riffraff? They are all a
pack of rebels. No wonder father complains of expense.”

Peggy’s cheeks flamed with indignation. “Would thee send any one away in
such weather without first giving him food?” she demanded. “’Twould be
inhuman!”

“And I suppose thee wouldn’t treat a Britisher so,” mimicked Harriet who
was plainly in a bad humor. “Did father tell you that Sir Henry Clinton
was to dine here to-day?”

“Yes,” returned Peggy gravely. “’Tis fortunate that ’tis market day, for
there are some things needed. I shall have to use the sleigh. Thee won’t
mind? I cannot get into the city otherwise.”

“Oh, take it, by all means,” replied Harriet. “I wouldn’t go out in this
weather for a dozen Sir Henrys. La, la! ’tis cold!” She shivered in
spite of the great fire. “What doth father wish to see Sir Henry alone
for?” she asked abruptly. “He told me but now that he did not desire my
company after dinner. And I had learned a new piece on the harpsichord,
too,” she ended pettishly.

“I know not, Harriet,” said Peggy instantly troubled. She did not doubt
but that it had something to do with the movement against General
Washington, but she did not utter her suspicion. “Mayhap ’tis business
of moment.”

“Oh, yes; I dare say,” retorted Harriet. She yawned, and left the room.

Peggy gave the necessary orders for the dinner and then quietly arrayed
herself for the marketing. She was allowed a certain freedom of
movement, and went into the city about business of the household without
question. With scrupulous conscientiousness she attended to the
marketing first, and then bidding the coachman wait for her, went
rapidly to Little Queen Street on foot.

She had met with but few Quakers. They were regarded as neutrals, but
Colonel Owen disliked them as a sect and had forbidden her to hold
communication with them. Still Peggy knew where many of them lived, and
among these was Rachel Kenton. It was a quaint Dutch house, easily
found. New York was not so large as Philadelphia at this time, and Peggy
hastened up the stoop with eagerness, her heart beating with delight at
the prospect of at last hearing from her dear ones.

A pleasant-faced, sweet-mannered woman responded to her knock, and
ushered her at once into a room just off the sitting-room, where Drayton
sat awaiting her. She ran to him with outstretched hands.

“Now I can tell thee how glad I am to see thee,” she cried. “And oh,
John, do tell me of my mother! And father! How are they?”

“Both are well,” he answered, “but they have grieved over your going
away. Why did you leave camp, Peggy?”

“’Twas because of Harriet,” she told him. “She was a spy, John. They
would have hanged her had they found out that it was she who wrote that
note. And oh, what did General Washington say when he found me gone? It
hath been so long since then, and never a word could I hear.”

“Well, he was pretty much cut up over it, and so were we all. Your
mother thought that Harriet must be at the bottom of the matter, and so
did I. Her boxes were searched, and some notes found that proved she was
a spy. Then, too, we made that fellow confess to everything he knew. You
remember him, Peggy? He accused you.”

“Yes,” answered Peggy. “I remember, John. I can never forget how I felt
when he accused me of being the girl who gave him that letter. And it
wasn’t the same one at all.”

“We got at the whole affair right well,” continued Drayton. “What we
could not understand was the fact that you came on to New York with your
cousin. Why did you?”

“I couldn’t help it,” she said. “They brought me by force. I begged to
go back, but they wouldn’t let me.” Hereupon she told him the whole
story, ending with: “And Cousin William says that he had a score to
settle with me—and that was the reason he wanted me to come. John, thee
will tell the general that I could not help coming?”

“Yes,” he said, with difficulty restraining his indignation. “Peggy,
Harriet would not have been hanged. They might have sent her out of the
lines, or even made her a prisoner, but they would not have hanged her.
Not but what she would have deserved it just as much as that poor fellow
who was hanged agreeable to his sentence, but being a girl would have
saved her.”

“But thee said that it went hard with spies, whether they were men,
women, or girls even,” objected she. “And General Washington used almost
the same words.”

“And so it does,” he replied, “but there are other punishments than
hanging. Never mind that now, Peggy. Let us plan to get away. I must
take the ox cart back into Jersey this afternoon. I have a pass for one
only, but I am to take back salt, coffee and flour. There is an empty
sack, and if you will hide within it we may be able to pass you as
merchandise. Will you try it, Peggy?”

“I will do anything,” she declared excitedly. “It hath been so long! So
long, John, since I have seen mother that I am willing to attempt
anything.”

“Wrap up well,” he advised her. “’Tis terrible weather, and be somewhere
among the trees as I come past the house. It will be about half-past
four, as it grows dark then, and the bags will not be so sharply
scrutinized. Once the cart is home we will have to run our chances of
getting to Morristown.”

“John,” she cried as a sudden thought came to her, “there is some
movement on foot against the general. I did not think to tell thee
before. I know not what it is.”

Drayton looked up quickly.

“I wish we knew what it was,” he said. “There have been signs of an
action on the part of the British, but we have been unable to obtain an
inkling of what it could be. I would like right well to know.”

“And so would I,” said she.

“Go now,” he said rising. “You must not let them suspect there is
anything afoot, Peggy. I will move about in the city and see what I can
find out. Be sure to wrap up.”

“I will,” she told him. “I hate to let thee go.”

“’Tis only for a little while,” he answered. “’Twill be a hard journey
for you, Peggy, but your mother is at the end of it.”

“Yes, yes,” she cried. “Mother is at the end.”

Unable to speak further she turned and left him. The day was extremely
cold, and as she entered the house after the drive, and felt the warmth
of the fire, she became aware of a delicious drowsiness that was
stealing over her.

“This will never do,” she exclaimed, trying to shake off the feeling. “I
must keep awake.” But try as she would her eyelids grew heavier until
finally she sought Harriet in the drawingroom.

“Harriet,” she said, “will thee serve the dinner? I am so sleepy from
the drive that I must lie down a few moments. I know right well that I
should not give up, but——”

“Nonsense,” cried Harriet crossly; “go lie down an you will, Peggy. One
would think to hear you talk that dinner could not be served without
you. ’Tis provoking the airs you give yourself! I dare say you will not
be missed.”

“Thank thee, Harriet,” answered Peggy. “Thee will not find it irksome.
’Tis about ready.” The tired girl slipped down to the now empty
drawing-room.

“I fear me I must hide if I want a minute to myself,” she thought,
gazing about the large room in search of a safe retreat. “And I must
have my wits about me to help John. If I can but close my eyes for a
moment, just a moment, I will be in proper trim.” Presently she spied
the large easy chair much affected by Colonel Owen, and she ran toward
it with an exclamation of delight.

“’Tis the very thing!” she cried, drawing it to the most remote corner
of the room, and turning it about so that it faced the wall. “Now let
them find me if they can.” And so saying she ensconced herself in its
capacious recesses, and almost instantly fell asleep.

“And you think the plan will not miscarry?” came the voice of the
commander-in-chief of the British forces in America.

Peggy awoke with a start. Was she dreaming or did she in truth hear her
cousin say:

“There is not the least chance of it, Sir Henry. The rebel general hath
his quarters full two miles from his main army, and owing to the cold
and the snow no danger is apprehended; so his guards are trifling. We
can easily slip upon him and be away with him before mishap can befall
us. Once we have possession of his person the whole rebellion falls to
the ground. It all depends upon him.”

“True,” was the reply in musing tones. “Well, colonel, I have placed the
flower of the army at your disposal. But let this alert[[3]] succeed and
it shall be brought to His Majesty’s notice that ’tis you alone to whom
honor is due. ’Tis my hope that ’twill not fail.”

“It cannot,” replied Colonel Owen in eager tones. “We leave at nightfall
by way of Newark. Just beyond Newark on the Morris turnpike lives one
Amos Henderson, who is favorable to us, and much laments this broil
against the king. He it is who will have a guide ready to take us to the
heights of Morristown. In twenty-four hours, sir, I will bring the rebel
general in person to your quarters.“

“I see not how it can fail,” remarked Sir Henry. “The utmost secrecy
hath been maintained concerning the matter. But did you not say that
dinner was served? That, sir, is a function with which nothing short of
a rebel attack should interfere. The plan of the new works, which
Montressor says you have, can be discussed afterward.”

“Come, then,” said the colonel.

Peggy slipped from the chair and running up-stairs quickly to her own
room, sat down to think.

“I must not go with John,” was her decision. “He must get to the general
without delay. They said ’twould end the war if he were taken. And it
would. It would! I wonder what the time is?”

It was but half-past two, and it seemed to the anxious girl as though
four o’clock, which was the time for Drayton’s appearance, would never
come. But at last she heard the clock in the hall chime out the hour,
and Peggy arose, wrapped herself warmly, and left the house quietly. The
snow was still falling. The numerous trees on the wide-spreading lawn,
as well as the huge snow-drifts, effectually hid the road from view of
the mansion.

Peggy had scarcely taken her position near a bare thicket when she heard
the crunch of wheels over the snow, and soon the ox cart appeared down
the road. Drayton was whistling, and to all appearance was the
countryman he seemed. Peggy awaited him with impatience.

“John,” she cried as the lad drew up opposite her, “John, there is an
alert planned to take General Washington. Cousin William starts at
nightfall for Morristown with a force to accomplish it.”

“What?” exclaimed he. Peggy repeated her statement, and then quickly
told him the entire affair.

“And thee must lose no time,” she said. “Go right on, John, quickly.”

“And you, Peggy?” he cried. “Jump in and let us take the risk of getting
through together.”

“No,” she said. “Thee must stop for nothing. ’Twould hinder thee in
getting to the general. Now go, John. ’Twill not be long ere the troops
gather here.”

“But to leave you, Peggy,” he exclaimed. “I like it not. Were it not for
the chief I would not. It may be best. As you say there is need for
haste, but I will come again for you.”

“No, no; ’tis too full of risk,” she said. “Go, John, go! I fear for
thee every moment that thee stays.”

“I am going,” he said sorrowfully. “Tell me by which road this alert
goes?”

“To Newark, and then by the Morris turnpike. They get a guide at Amos
Henderson’s,” she told him.

“Good-bye,” he said. “I will come again for you, Peggy.”

“Good-bye, John,” answered Peggy hardly able to speak. “And tell my
mother—my mother, John——”

“Yes,” he said. They clasped hands. “Don’t worry, Peggy. This will be
the alert that failed.”

Peggy waited until she could no longer hear his cheery whistle down the
road and then stole back into the house.

Drayton was right. Four and twenty hours later the most disgruntled lot
of Britishers that the city ever beheld returned, fatigued and half
frozen from their fruitless quest. The famous alert from which so much
was hoped had failed.

-----
[3] “Alert,” an old word meaning an attack.



CHAPTER XXVI—THE BATTLE WITH THE ELEMENTS


                  “Southward with fleet of ice
                    Sailed the corsair Death;
                  Wild and fast blew the blast
                    And the east wind was his breath.”

                                          —Longfellow.

“There is but one explanation to the whole thing,” growled Colonel Owen
the next morning. With the two girls for an audience he was voicing his
disappointment at the failure of the alert, and incidentally nursing a
frost-bitten foot. “And that is that the guide purposely led us astray.”

“But why a guide at all, father?” questioned Harriet. “The highway is
easily followed.”

“’Tis the snow,” he explained irritably. “All roads are buried under
four or more feet of it. Landmarks are obliterated and the forest but a
trackless waste. ’Tis no wonder the fellow lost his way, though,
methinks. ’Twas as though he knew our errand, and kept us floundering
among the drifts purposely.”

“Belike he did,” observed Harriet. “What with Peggy feeding all the
rabble that comes along ’tis small wonder that your plots and plans
become known to the rebels. I bethought me the other day when she had
that teamster in the kitchen that he was a spy. Now I make no doubt of
it.”

“What’s all this?” demanded her father sharply. “What teamster are you
talking about, Harriet?”

“’Twas the man who brought the wood, Cousin William,” explained Peggy,
trying to speak quietly. “Harriet objected at the time to his being fed,
but ’twould have been unkind not to give him cheer when ’twas so cold.”

“But that is no reason why you should talk with him,” sneered Harriet.
“I saw that parley you held when he was throwing off the wood.”

“Did you talk to him, Peggy?” Colonel Owen regarded her keenly.

“Why, yes,” she answered. “I went out to scold him because he was piling
the wood in such a way that it could not be measured.”

“There was naught amiss about that,” he remarked with a relieved
expression. “Nor about the food either, if that was all there was to
it.”

“But was it all?” queried Harriet. “The servants said that Peggy was
over-solicitous anent the fellow.”

“Peggy!” Colonel Owen faced the maiden abruptly. “Let us have this
matter settled at once. You usually speak truth. Do so in this instance,
I beg of you. Was the wood and feeding the man all there was to the
affair?”

Peggy did not reply.

“There is more then,” he said. “Your silence speaks for you. I demand
now to know if this fellow was responsible for the failure of our plan
to captivate the rebel general?”

But Peggy was not going to betray Drayton’s disguise if she could help
it, and neither would she speak an untruth. So she met her kinsman’s
glance with one as direct as his own as she answered, “I am to blame for
thy plan going amiss, Cousin William.”

“You?” he exclaimed incredulously. “Why, you knew naught of it. I was
careful that even Harriet should not know it.”

“I was in the drawing-room,” she told him boldly, “when thee and thy
commander were discussing the plan. I heard the whole plot. While the
dinner was being served I slipped out and sent word to the general.”

“By whom?” he asked controlling his anger with difficulty. “By whom did
you send word?”

“That, sir, I will not tell,” responded she resolutely.

“And do you know what this action hath cost me?” he thundered, livid
with rage. “A knighthood and fortune. Was not the account long enough
betwixt us that you must add this to it? To come here and play the spy
in mine own house. ’Tis monstrous!”

“I did not come here of my own accord,” she reminded him becoming very
pale. “If I have played the spy ’tis no more than thy daughter did for
many months in our house. I will gladly relieve thee of my presence at
any time that thee will let me go.”

“You shall not go—now or at any time,” he stormed, his voice shaking in
its fury. “Moreover I shall put it out of your power to work any further
harm here. Sir Henry Clinton leaves for the South in a few days. I shall
go with him, and take you both with me.”

“Oh, father!” wailed Harriet. “Not me?”

“You too,” he answered. “You and this marplot of a girl, who hath
spoiled a most feasible plan of ending the rebellion.” He glared at
Peggy for a moment with a look that made her tremble and then stalked
out of the room.

“Just see what you have done, Peggy Owen,” cried Harriet, her eyes
ablaze with wrath. “Now we’ll have to go I know not how far away, to
some old place where there is no fun. Just mind your own affairs after
this, will you?”

“No,” replied Peggy stoutly, though her heart swelled at the thought of
going upon a journey that would take her further away from home. Like
most girls of the period she was hazy about the geography of the
country, and the South seemed an indefinite somewhere a long way off.
“No, Harriet, my affairs are those of the rebels, as thee calls them. If
at any time I hear aught planned either against them or the general, and
’tis in my power to warn them, I tell thee frankly that I shall do so.”

“I shall go right to father with that,” cried Harriet, and in turn she
flounced out of the room.

In spite of her brave words, however, Peggy’s tears fell like rain as
she slipped down to the stable and flung her arms about Star’s neck.

“Oh, Star, Star!” she sobbed. “I’ll never see mother again, I fear me.
Oh, what shall I do? What shall I do?”

Sir Henry Clinton was to set sail for Savannah, Georgia, which had
fallen into the hands of the British in December of the preceding year.
The province, after being overrun by the army in an incursion of savage
warfare, appeared to be restored to the crown, and now Charleston was to
be taken and South Carolina restored to its allegiance by the same
method. North Carolina and Virginia were to follow in turn, and the
campaign in the South concluded by a triumphal march back through
Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, until Washington would be
between the two British armies. Then, with an attack from New York
simultaneous with one from the rear, the Continentals would be swept out
of existence. This, in brief, was the British plan of campaign for the
ensuing year, and the English commander-in-chief was setting forth for
its accomplishment.

Colonel Owen’s determination to go with his chief seemed to grow firmer
the more Harriet pleaded with him to stay, and the day after Christmas
they set sail in the schooner “Falcon.” Reinforced by Admiral Arbuthnot
with new supplies of men and stores from England the British were
jubilantly sure of success, and set forth with their transports under
convoy of five ships of the line.

“We shall have our horses with us, anyway,” declared Harriet, who
brightened up wonderfully once they were under way, and addressing Peggy
with the first gleam of good humor that she had shown since it had been
decided that they should accompany her father. “I saw to it that they
were sent aboard with the cavalry horses, on one of the transports. I
dare say there will be a chance for rides. At any rate ’twill not be so
cold as it hath been in New York.”

“I suppose not,” agreed Peggy sadly. She was calling all her resolution
to aid her to bear this new trial.

The early part of the voyage was extremely fortunate. The sea was
smooth, the sky clear, the air sharp but kindly. To Peggy’s surprise she
was not at all sick, and her spirits rose in spite of her sorrow at her
separation from her mother. With the closing in of the night of the
fourth day out, however, they fell in with foul winds and heavy weather.
The wind began to whirl, and the sea to lift itself and dash spray over
the schooner until the decks were as glassy as a skating pond. The
temperature fell rapidly. All day Sunday the ships went on under this
sort of weather which was not at all unusual for the time of year, but
the next day the weather began to quiet, and the waves sank gradually to
a long swell through which the vessels went with ease.

The whole surface of the sea was like a great expanse of molten silver
which shimmered and sparkled under the rays of the wintry sun. The
prospect was now for a smooth voyage, and the sailormen scraped the ice
from rail and deck, and the passengers who had been confined to the
cabin now came on deck and raced about like children under the influence
of the pure air. The sky was very clear above, but all around the
horizon a low haze lay upon the water.

“Isn’t this glorious, Peggy?” cried Harriet dancing about the deck like
a wind sprite. “After all, there is nothing like the sea.”

“’Tis wonderful,” answered Peggy with awe in her tone. The vast spread
of the waters, the immensity of the sky, the intense silence through
which the creaking of the boats as they swung at the davits, and the
straining of the shrouds as the ship rolled sounded loud and clear, all
appealed to her sense of the sublime.

“I hope ’twill be as fine as this all the way to Georgia,” said Harriet.
“And that seems to be the prospect.”

The captain of the vessel, a bluff Englishman, was passing at the moment
and caught the last remark. He paused beside the maidens.

“It won’t be fine long,” he declared gruffly. “With a ground swell and a
sinking temperature always look for squalls. Look there at the north!”
The haze on the horizon to the north was rather thicker than elsewhere,
and a few thin streaky clouds straggled across the clear, cold heavens.
It told nothing to the girls, but the skipper’s face grew grave, and he
hurried forward to give some commands.

“Furl topsails!” he shouted to the mate, “and have the mainsails reefed
down!”

“Ay, ay, sir,” came the response, and instantly the men began hauling at
the halliards, or sprang to the yards above to tuck away the great sails
making all snug for the coming storm.

Even Peggy, unused to the sea as she was, could see that a storm was
about to burst upon them. The north was now one great rolling black
cloud with an angry ragged fringe which bespoke the violence of the wind
that drove it. The whole great mass was sweeping onward with majestic
rapidity, darkening the ocean beneath it.

“Get below there,” shouted the captain as he suddenly caught sight of
the two girls still standing on deck watching the approach of the storm
with fascinated eyes. “Get below, I say! D’ye want to be blowed away?
Here she comes!”

As he spoke the wind broke in all its fury. The schooner heeled over
until her lee rail touched the water, and lay so for a moment in a
smother of foam. Gradually she rose a little, staggered and trembled
like a living thing, and then plunged away through the storm.

It was a wild and dreary night that followed. Shut in the dark of the
cabin Peggy and Harriet clung to each other, or to lockers, to keep from
being dashed across the floor of the tossing vessel. All night long
there was no chance for sleep. Every moment it seemed as though the ship
must go down at the next onslaught of the waves.

“I like not to be mewed up like this,” objected Harriet when there came
a chance for speech. “I like the feel of the wind and the hail and the
spray.”

“Is thee not afraid, Harriet?” questioned Peggy.

“I am, down here,” answered her cousin. “I can stand any danger best
that I can face. But they will not let us up. We might be swept away
even if we could stand. And listen to the shouts, Peggy. There must be
something amiss.”

And so on all through the long night. The dawn broke at last and brought
with it a slight abatement of the tempest, but with the lessening gale
came a new form of assault. The air was colder. A heavy fog rolled up
and through it came a blinding snow-storm, fairly choking the deck of
the ship.

For three days the girls were confined to the cabin, with but biscuits
to nibble on. The fourth the wind fell at last, leaving the vessel
rudderless and dismasted, and heaving on vast billows.

“There is but one hope for us,” said Colonel Owen as he explained the
damage to the girls, “and that is to be picked up by another vessel.”

“Is it so bad as that, father?” questioned his daughter.

“Yes,” he answered gloomily.

But over the inky shroud of the ocean white capped and furious there
shone no sign of a sail. The snow had ceased falling, but it was
bitterly cold. The fifth and sixth days they tossed helplessly, but on
the seventh day Peggy turned to her cousin with a startled query.

“Harriet,” she cried, “does thee hear that throbbing sound? What is it?”

Harriet Owen paled as she listened. “That, Peggy,” she said after a
moment, “is the noise of the pumps. The ship hath sprung a leak.”

At this moment Colonel Owen came from the deck. He was visibly pale, and
much troubled in manner. “Wrap yourselves as warmly as possible,” he
advised them. “’Tis but a question of time now ere we must take to the
boats, and there is no telling to what ye may be subjected before
reaching land, if in truth we ever tread foot on solid ground again.
Hasten!”

His warning was well timed; for, as he ceased speaking, there came
hoarse shouts from above, a rush of hurrying feet, and the chugging of
the pumps stopped. He ran up the hatchway, and was back almost
instantly. “The boats are being lowered,” he informed them. “Throw what
you can about you and come. If we dally we may be left behind. Men
become beasts in a time like this.”

The girls obeyed him with the utmost haste. They were both colorless,
but composed. On deck a wild scene was being enacted. The ship no longer
rose to the waves, and even to an inexperienced eye was settling. That
it was time to lower the boats was plain to be seen. The captain was
trying to preserve something like order among the crew, but the hour for
discipline had gone by.

“Women first,” he was crying in trumpet tones. “Men, remember your wives
and daughters. Would ye have them left as ye are leaving these?”

But over the side of the vessel the men scrambled with fierce cries and
imprecations, paying no heed either to his commands or pleadings. They
swarmed into the boats, fighting for places like wild animals. The frail
barks went down to the water loaded until the gunwales were lapped by
the smallest waves. The skipper turned to Colonel Owen.

“The dingey is left, sir,” he said. “If you will help me to defend it
from the rest of these brutes, we may be able to get these girls into
it.”

“I will do my utmost,” rejoined the colonel. “Harriet, do you and Peggy
stand behind me. When the boat is lowered be ready to get into it as
soon as the captain speaks.”

Colonel Owen faced the few remaining men with drawn pistols as the boat
was let down. The first mate took his place, and stood ready to receive
the maidens.

“Go, Harriet,” said her father. But to Peggy’s amazement her cousin
turned to her, crying, “You first, Peggy! You first!”

“But,” cried Peggy her heart flooded with sudden warmth at this
unlooked-for solicitude, “I cannot leave thee, Harriet. I——”

“Stop that nonsense!” exclaimed Colonel Owen gruffly. “We have no time
for it. Get into the boat at once.”

Without further comment Peggy permitted herself to be handed down into
the boat, and as she reached it in safety she looked expectantly up for
Harriet to follow. At that moment came a hoarse cry from the skipper.

“Cast off, Mr. Davy! Cast off! You’ll be swamped.”

The mate pulled away just as half a dozen frantic seamen leaped from the
deck toward the boat. The swirl of the waters caught it, turning it
round and round by the force. With a great effort he succeeded in
sending it out of the eddy just in time to avoid being drawn under by
the drowning seamen. Again making a strenuous effort to get beyond their
reach he sent the dingey scudding to westward, was caught by a current,
and carried further away from the vessel.

“What is it?” asked Peggy as she caught a glimpse of his whitening face.

“God help them,” broke from him. “We are caught in the current and can’t
get back to the ‘Falcon.’”

[Illustration: THE DINGEY WAS CAUGHT BY A CURRENT]



CHAPTER XXVII—A HAVEN AFTER THE STORM


          “Safe through the war her course the vessel steers,
          The haven gained, the pilot drops his fears.”

                                                    —Shirley.

“We must,” burst from Peggy, springing up wildly. “Oh, friend, can’t
thee do something? We must not leave them.”

“Sit still,” commanded the mate sharply. “Why, look you! We can’t even
see the ‘Falcon’ for the fog.”

It was true. Already the hapless “Falcon” had been swallowed up by the
dense veil of vapor. It was as if the doomed vessel had been cut off
from all the open sea, and its fate hidden in the clinging curtain of
black obscurity.

The girl uttered a low cry, and sank back to her place in the sheets
covering her face with her hands. Colonel Owen and Harriet had been
unkind. They had been selfish almost to cruelty in their treatment of
her, but in this hour of what she believed to be certain death to them
she forgot everything but that they were kinspeople.

The sea was running very high. Now that they were so near its surface
they felt its full power. It had appeared stupendous when they were on
the deck of the schooner, but now the great billows hurled them up and
down, and tossed and buffeted them as though the boat was a plaything.
Vainly the mate tried to steady it with the oars.

A long time Peggy sat so absorbed in grief for her cousins that she was
oblivious to the peril of the situation. At length, however, she looked
up, and the dreadful isolation and danger of the position appalled her.
Only that little boat between them and the great Atlantic.

“I am cold,” she exclaimed, when she could bear it no longer. “Sir,” to
the mate, who was making tremendous effort with the oars, “is there
naught that will keep me from freezing?”

“No,” answered he shortly, turning his set face toward her for a moment.
Its tense lines relaxed at sight of the girlish figure. “Stay! I have
it. Come, and row a while. You will be wetter than ever, but ’twill warm
you a bit.”

Without a question Peggy gladly took the place by his side, and began to
scull as vigorously as her numbed fingers would permit with the oar he
gave her. She was not of much assistance, but the exercise served to
warm her chilled frame, and to divert her attention from their peril.

In this manner the day went on, the wind died down, and the sea fell to
a low, glassy, foam-flecked roll, while overhead brooded the inky sky,
and round them was the leaden mist of the enveloping fog. Suddenly the
mate stopped rowing, and raised his head as though listening.

“It’s land,” he shouted. “Land, to the westward!” He listened again
intently, and added solemnly: “And it’s breakers too, God help us!”

Peggy listened breathlessly. The air was full of sound, a low, deep
roar, like the roll of a thousand wheels, the tramp of endless armies,
or—what it was—the thunder of a mighty surge upon a pebbly ridge. Louder
and nearer grew the sound. The mate’s face whitened, and Peggy sat
erect, full of terror at the unknown danger that confronted them.

“I must pull,” he cried, sweeping her back to her place in the sheets.
“I must pull,” he cried again as the fog lifted and the dim outline of a
shore line became visible. “It’s a race with death, little girl, but we
may be the victors.”

With mighty strokes he sent the dingey ahead into the boiling surf. A
great wave caught the little shallop upon its broad bosom and flung it
upon the reef which lay concealed in the foam. There was a horrible
rending crash as the stout keel snapped asunder, while a second wave
swept over it, sweeping out the struggling occupants, and bearing them
onward.

Peggy knew naught of swimming, and so made no attempt to strike out. She
felt the water surging into her ears like a torrent of ice. She felt
that she was sinking down, down as if a great weight held her
remorselessly. This was death, she thought, and as the pain in her lungs
increased, visions passed swiftly through her brain. Where was the mate,
she wondered. A race with death, he had said. And death was the victor
after all. Her mother’s face flashed before her. She was dying and she
would never know. And Sally! And Betty! And Robert! What times they had
had! Would they grieve, when they knew? But they would never know.

There was no hope. She must be resigned, came the thought, and so she
ceased to struggle just as a huge roller came surging over the outlying
reef. It caught her and bore her onward on its crest. Peggy closed her
eyes.

“The pore child! She’s coming to at last,” sounded a kindly voice, and
Peggy opened her eyes and gazed into the anxious orbs of an elderly
woman who was bending over her. “There now, you pore dear! Don’t stir.
Just drink this, and go to sleep.”

A cup of something hot was held to her lips. She drank it obediently and
sank back too utterly exhausted to even wonder where she was. She was in
a warm, dry bed. There was a caress in the touch of the hands that
ministered to her which penetrated through the stupor which was stealing
over her, and with a sigh of content, she turned over and slept.

The recollections of the next few days were always thereafter dim to her
mind. She knew that an elderly woman, somewhat rough-looking, was in the
room frequently, but to speak or to move her limbs was quite impossible.
But on the fourth day she was better. The fifth she could speak, move,
rise in bed and turn, and when the woman brought some gruel in the
middle of the day Peggy ate it with a relish. She felt strong and
revived, and a desire for action stirred her. She wished to rise, and
sat up suddenly.

“I believe if thee will help me I will get up,” she said.

“Sakes alive, child! air you able?” cried the woman in alarm.

“Yes,” said Peggy stoutly. “And I have troubled thee greatly, I fear.”

“Why, you little storm-tossed bird,” exclaimed the woman, “don’t you go
for to call it trouble. Me and Henry just feel as though you was sent to
us. Well, if you will get up, here are your clothes.” She brought Peggy
her own things, clean and dry, and proceeded to help her dress. “There,
you do look better now you are dressed. Let me help you to the kitchen.”

She put her arm about the maiden, and drew her gently across the room to
the one beyond which was kitchen and living-room as well. It was a large
room with a sanded floor clean scoured, a high backed settle, a deal
table, a dresser with pewter plates ranged in rows, reflecting the
redness and radiance of a glowing fire in a huge fireplace. The woman
bustled about hospitably.

“You must have something to eat,” she declared. “You’ve had naught but
gruel for so long that you must be hungry.”

“I am,” replied Peggy, watching her in a maze of content. Presently she
sat up as a thought came to her. “Friend,” she cried, “how came I here?”

“Why, Henry brought you,” responded the woman. “It was after the big
storm. We ain’t seen such a storm in years. Henry’s my husband. He’s a
fisherman, as mayhap you’ve surmised. That is, he fishes for food, but I
reckon you might call him a wrecker too,” she added with a smile. “Well,
as I was saying, he was down on the beach when you was washed up by the
waves. He thought you was dead at first, but when you got up, and tried
to walk he just ran over to you as you fell and brought you right up to
the house. Land! but we thought you was never coming to! But you did,
and now you’ll be all right in a day or two.”

“How good thee has been,” said Peggy gratefully. “Why, thou and thy
husband have saved my life. I was so cold in the water and I—I was
drowning. Then that terrible wave threw me——” She paused shuddering at
the remembrance.

“Dear heart, don’t think about it,” exclaimed the good dame hastening to
her. “Here, child, eat this piece of chicken. It will hearten you up
more than anything. After a bit mayhap you can tell me about yourself.
But not a word until every bite of chicken is gone.”

Peggy smiled at the good woman’s insistence, but did not refuse the
chicken. Her appetite was awakened and keen, and she ate the piece with
such a relish that her hostess was well pleased. “There now! you look
better already,” she declared. “Henry will be glad to see it. He takes a
heap of interest in the folks he saves. I reckon he’s saved more lives
than any man on the coast of North Carolina.”

“Is this North Carolina?” asked Peggy.

“Yes; and this is Fisherman’s Inlet, near the Cape Fear River. What ship
did you say you was on?”

“’Twas the schooner ‘Falcon,’ from New York,” Peggy told her. “It was
one of the vessels with Sir Henry Clinton, who set forth to attack
Charleston.”

The woman’s face darkened ominously. “And you air a Tory, of course,
being as you air a Quaker and with a British ship?” she said
questioningly.

“I? Oh, no, no!” cried Peggy quickly. “Why, my father is David Owen of
the Pennsylvania Light Horse. He is with the Continental army. I am a
patriot, but I was captured and taken to New York City, where I have
been since the last day of February of last year. It’s nearly a year,”
she ended, her lips quivering.

“You don’t say!” ejaculated the woman. “Then you must be a prisoner of
war?”

“I know not that I would be truly a prisoner of war,” answered Peggy,
“for ’twas my father’s cousin who captured me. I will tell thee all
about it.”

“You pore child,” exclaimed the woman, who ceased her work as Peggy
unfolded her story, and listened with wide-eyed attention. “What a lot
you’ve been through! I’m glad that you’re not one of them English.”

“And is thee a Whig?” asked Peggy.

“As I said, we air fisher folks, and don’t mingle in politics. We don’t
wish harm to nobody, English or any other. Why, even though we air
wreckers we always pray for the poor sailors in a storm, but we pray too
that if there air any wrecks they will be washed up on Fisherman’s
Inlet.”

A ripple of laughter rose to Peggy’s lips, but she checked it instantly.
“How can I laugh,” she reproached herself, “when ’tis but a few days
since I was on the ship? And the others have all perished, I doubt not.”

“Don’t think about it,” advised the dame. “Laugh if you can. A light
heart is the only way to bear trouble. ’Tis a just punishment that they
should be drowned.”

“But if Harriet had not made me go first I would not have been here,”
said Peggy her voice growing tender at the mention of her cousin. All
the old love and admiration for Harriet had returned with that act.

“I wonder,” she added presently, “if ’twould be possible for me to get
to Philadelphia from here?”

“Philadelphia! I am afraid not, child. You don’t know the way, and I
doubt if ’twould be safe to try it. Get strong first, and mayhap
something will turn up that will help you to get there.”

“Yes,” said Peggy. “I must get strong first.”



CHAPTER XXVIII—A TASTE OF PARTISAN WARFARE


            “It was too late to check the wasting brand,
            And Desolation reap’d the famish’d land;
            The torch was lighted, and the flame was spread,
            And Carnage smiled upon her daily dead.”

                                       —“Count Lara,” Byron.

While they were conversing the fisherman himself entered. He was a man
of middle age, much bronzed by exposure to weather, but with a kindly
gleam in his keen gray eyes. Peggy rose as he entered, and started
forward to meet him.

“Thy wife tells me that I owe thee my life, sir,” she said, extending
her hand. “I don’t know how to tell thee how much I thank thee.”

“Then don’t try,” he replied, taking her little hand awkwardly. “Now
don’t stand up, my girl. You’re like a ghost. Ain’t she, Mandy?”

“Yes,” responded his wife. “And what do you think, Henry? She was on one
of the ships that started from New York with Sir Henry Clinton for
Georgia. They intend making another attempt to take Charleston.”

The fisherman’s brow contracted in a frown. “So they air a-going to
bring the war down here?” he remarked thoughtfully. “That’s bad news.
Was there many ships?”

“Five of the line, and I don’t know how many transports with men,
ordnance and horses,” answered Peggy.

“Mayhap they’re all foundered by that storm,” exclaimed the dame.
“’Twould be a mercy if they was.”

“Mandy,” spoke her husband, in a warning tone.

“She’s a Whig, Henry Egan, and her father’s in the Continental army,”
explained the good woman. “And what’s more, she’s a prisoner of war,
too. Jest you tell him about it.”

And Peggy told again all her little story. When she spoke of the time
spent in the camp of the main army, the fisherman became intensely
interested.

“And so you know General Washington?” he remarked smiling. “How does he
look? We all air mighty proud of him down here. You see he comes from
this part of the country. Jest over here in Virginny. A next door
neighbor, you might call him.”

And Peggy told all she could about General Washington, about such of his
generals as she had met, the movements of the army, and everything
connected with her stay in New York. Nor was this the last telling.

North Carolina, while intensely patriotic as a whole and responding
liberally to the country’s demand for troops and supplies, had
heretofore had but one slight incursion from the British. For this
reason they were eager to hear from one who had been in the midst of the
main armies, and who seemed to come as a direct messenger from that
far-off Congress whose efforts to sustain a central government were
becoming so woefully weak.

So Peggy found herself the centre of a little circle, composed of true
and tried Whigs whose leaning toward the cause had more than once
brought them into conflict with neighboring Tories.

The cottage was situated on a small inlet of the ocean a few miles east
of the Cape Fear River. A little distance from the main shore a low
yellow ridge of sand hills stretched like a serpent, extending nearly
the full length of the state on the ocean side, and making the coast the
dread of mariners. These reefs were called “the banks.” The cottage was
an unpretentious structure, consisting of but three rooms: the
living-room or kitchen, a little chamber for Peggy, and a larger one
occupied by the fisherman and his wife. But the fisherman had grown rich
from wreckage. He had a number of beef cattle, and herded “banker
ponies” by the hundred.

Peggy grew fond of him and of the wife, and assisted in all the duties
of the simple household. And so the time went by, and then there came to
them rumors of the British fleet which had at last landed its forces for
the besieging of Charleston.

Anxiously the result was awaited. North Carolina rushed men to the city
to help in its defense, for if that fell it was but a question of time
until their own state would suffer invasion. At last, Henry Egan betook
himself to Wilmington, thirty miles distant, for news. On his return his
brow was overcast with melancholy.

“Charleston is taken,” he announced in gloomy tones. “The whole of
General Lincoln’s army air prisoners. The British air overrunning all
South Carolina, plundering and burning the house of every Whig, and
trying to force every man in the state to join their army. The Tories in
both states air rising, and I tell you, wife, it won’t be long until our
time comes.”

“I am afraid so,” answered Mistress Egan, turning pale. “Oh, Henry, I
wish we was up to mother’s at Charlotte. We would be safe up there.”

“I don’t know, Mandy. It seems as though there was no place safe from
the British. It might be best to go up there, but I’d never reach there
with the ponies. The people air a-hoping that Congress will send us some
help from the main army. The state hasn’t anything now but milish. ’Tis
said in Wilmington that Sir Henry returns soon to New York, leaving Lord
Cornwallis to complete the subjugation of the South. He publicly boasts
that North Carolina will receive him with open arms.”

“Belike the Tories will,” remarked the good dame sarcastically. “I
reckon he’ll find a few that won’t be so overjoyed. Mayhap too they’ll
give him a welcome of powder and ball.”

But the reports that came to them from time to time of the atrocities
committed by the British in the sister state were far from reassuring.
Events followed each other in rapid succession. Georgetown, Charleston,
Beaufort and Savannah were the British posts on the sea; while Augusta,
Ninety-six, and Camden were those of the interior. From these points
parties went forth, gathering about them profligate ruffians, and roamed
the state indulging in rapine, and ready to put patriots to death as
outlaws. The Tories in both the Carolinas rose with their masters, and
followed their lead in plundering and arson.

“I do wish, Henry,” said his wife, “that you would sell off all the beef
cattle and marsh ponies that you have. We’ll be getting a visit along
with the rest of the folks. I reckon, if you don’t.”

“Everything is all right,” cried Henry who had just returned from
Wilmington. “Tidings jest come that Congress has sent General Gates to
take command of the Southern army, and they say he’s advancing as fast
as he can.”

“Well, it wouldn’t do no hurt to get rid of the critters anyway,”
persisted his wife. “A lot of harm can be done before Gates gets here.”

“I tell you everything is all right now,” said Henry exultingly. “Just
let Horatio Gates get a whack at Cornwallis, and he’ll Burgoyne him jest
as he did the army at Saratoga.”

“I wish it was General Arnold who was coming,” said Peggy. She had never
felt confidence in General Gates since John Drayton had related his
version of that battle. The exposure of the “Conway Cabal” had lessened
her faith in him also, as it had that of many people. “General Arnold
was the real hero of Saratoga. He and Daniel Morgan; so I’ve heard.”

“Well, I ain’t saying nothing against Arnold,” was the fisherman’s
answer. “He’s a brave man, dashing and brilliant; but if Congress hadn’t
thought that Gates was the man for us they wouldn’t have sent him down.”

Peggy said no more. The climax came in August when, utterly routed at
Camden, Gates fled alone from his army into Charlotte. A few days later,
Sumter, who now commanded the largest force that remained in the
Carolinas, was surprised by Colonel Tarleton as he bivouacked on the
Wateree, and put to rout by that officer. Elated by his success
Cornwallis prepared for his northward march, and in furtherance of his
plans inaugurated a reign of terror.

One night in the latter part of August Peggy could not sleep. It was
very warm, and she rose and went out on the little porch where she stood
trying to get a breath of air. The sea moved with a low murmur, the surf
being very light.

“How warm it is,” she mused. “Even the sea is quiet to-night. How
different it is down here from my own Philadelphia. Is mother there now,
I wonder? Or would she be at Strawberry Hill? I wish——”

She bent her head abruptly in a listening attitude. The tramp of a horse
approaching in a gallop was plainly heard. But a few moments elapsed
before a man, who in the starlight she could see was armed, dashed up
and drew rein before the cottage calling loudly:

“Awake! Awake, Henry Egan! The British and Tories are coming. Awake,
man, awake!”

“Friend,” called the girl excitedly, “who is thee?”

“A friend. Jack Simpson,” he answered. “Is Egan dead, that he does not
answer? He must awake.”

Peggy ran to the door of the bedchamber, calling wildly:

“Friend Henry, Friend Mandy, awake, awake!”

“Who calls?” cried Egan, sitting up suddenly.

“’Tis Peggy,” answered she quickly. “A friend is here who says the
Tories are coming.”

“The Lord have mercy on us,” ejaculated Mistress Egan springing out of
bed. “Henry, Henry, get up! The British and Tories are upon us.”

At last awake, the fisherman sprang from his bed, and rushed to the
door.

“Get your wife and whatever you want to save,” shouted the man outside.
“The British are out with Fanning’s Tories burning every suspected house
in the district. No time to lose, Henry. They’re coming now.”

Egan hurried back into the house, and caught up a portmanteau which he
kept lying by his bed at night. Mistress Egan and Peggy were dressed by
this time, and the three hurried into the swamp which lay to the north
of the cottage. The man who had given the warning passed on to perform
the same office for other menaced families.

Unused to swamps, the British seldom followed the inhabitants into their
recesses, and this proved the safety of many a family in the Carolinas.
They were scarcely within the confines of the marsh when they heard the
tramp of many hoofs, the neighing of horses, and the enemy was at the
cottage.

“By my hilt, the birds have flown,” shouted an English voice, and the
words were distinctly heard through the stillness of the night. “Search
the house, boys. Egan must have some rich pickings. Bring out whatever
there is of value, and then burn the hut. The horses and cattle must be
hereabouts somewhere.”

There followed hoarse cries and a rush for the building. It seemed to
Peggy that a moment had hardly passed before a red glare lit up the spot
where the cottage stood.

“Back into the swamp,” whispered Egan in a whisper. “They may see us
here.”

Back into thicknesses of morass such as Peggy had never seen before they
went, speaking only when necessary and then in the lowest of tones. And
thus the rest of the night was spent, while the fiends ravaged the
herding pens, and beat up the bushes for the ponies. The fugitives
remained in hiding until morning dawned. Then they made their way back
to the blackened ruins of the cottage. Tears coursed down Peggy’s cheeks
at the sight.

“What shall thee do?” she cried putting her arms about Mistress Egan.
“Oh, what shall thee do?”

For a moment the fisherman’s wife could not speak. She shed no tears,
but her face was worn, and drawn, and haggard. She had aged in the
night.

“Henry,” she cried, “there is but one thing for us to do, and that is to
get to mother’s.”

“And how shall we do that, Mandy? We have neither horse nor wagon left
us.”

“Henry Egan, I’m ashamed of you! Ain’t we in North Carolina? When did
her people ever refuse to aid each other?”

“You’re right,” he acknowledged humbly. “North Carolina is all right—but
the Tories. I don’t take no stock in that part of her population.”

“And neither do I,” she rejoined grimly. “From this time on I am a Whig
out and aboveboard. They have done us all the harm they can, I reckon.
What you got in that bag, Henry?”

Egan smiled.

“It’s gold, Mandy. I reckon they didn’t find all the pickings.”

“For mercy sake, Henry Egan, we can’t get through the country with
that,” exclaimed the good woman. “Bury it, or do something with it.”

“Yes,” he said. “That will be the safest. Wait for me while I do it.” He
was with them again in a short time. “We will go to Hampton’s and get
something to eat,” he said. “I kept a little money, and maybe Mis’
Hampton will let us have some horses.” He turned as he spoke and his
wife started after him, but Peggy lingered.

“Come, child,” said Mistress Egan. “It’s a right smart way over to
Hampton’s. We must get along.”

“But,” hesitated Peggy, “won’t I be a burden now? I ought not to add to
thy trouble.”

“Why, honey, you have nowhere to go. What would you do? Now don’t worry
about trouble, but just come right along. We will all keep together.
What’s ourn is yours too.” And gratefully Peggy went with them. It was
indeed a “right smart way” to Hampton’s, which proved to be a large
plantation lying some ten miles from the cottage. It was a cloudless day
in August, and excessively warm. When they at length reached the place
they were footsore and weary.

“Why, Mandy Egan,” exclaimed a motherly looking woman, coming to the
door of the dwelling as she caught sight of them. “Whatever has
happened? Come right in. You all look ready to drop.”

Mistress Egan, who had borne up wonderfully all through the long night
and the wearing walk, now broke down at this kindly greeting.

“The Tories, under some British, burnt us out last night,” explained her
husband. “They sacked the house first, of course, and ran off all the
ponies and cattle. We have come to you for help, Martha. Will you let us
have the horses to get up to Charlotte to her mother’s?”

“Of course I will, Henry. All sorts of reports are flying about. Will
says that down at Wilmington ’tis thought that nothing can save the old
north state. Cornwallis hath already begun his march toward us.”

“Heaven save us if ’tis true,” ejaculated the fisherman, sinking into a
chair. “First Lincoln and his whole army at Charleston; then Gates and
his forces at Camden! Two armies in three months swept out of existence.
The cause is doomed.”

“Oh, if they had only sent General Arnold,” cried Peggy. “He is so
brave, so daring, I just know he could have saved us.”

Gravely, oppressed by vague fears for the future, they gathered about
the table. American freedom trembled in the balance. Disaster had
followed fast upon disaster. Georgia, South Carolina restored to the
British—North Carolina’s turn to be subjugated was at hand.

It was with sad forebodings that the three began their journey toward
the north early the next morning.



CHAPTER XXIX—PEGGY FINDS AN OLD FRIEND


             “One hope survives, the frontier is not far,
             And thence they may escape from native war,
             And bear within them to the neighboring state
             An exile’s sorrows, or an outlaw’s hate:
             Hard is the task their fatherland to quit,
             But harder still to perish or submit.”

                                                   —Byron.

The travel northward was by slow stages, on account of the intense heat
of the lowlands. The settlements along the Cape Fear River were composed
principally of Scotch Highlanders, who were favorable to the side of the
king, and these the fisherman’s little party avoided by leaving the road
and making a wide détour through the woods. But often in the gloaming of
the summer evenings the weird notes of the bagpipes sounding old
Highland tunes would mingle with the mournful calls of the
whip-poor-wills, producing such an effect of sadness that Peggy was
oft-times moved to tears.

Still, these regions were not deserted. They sometimes came across
numerous groups of women and children—desolated families, victims of
Tory ravages, who were fleeing like hunted game through the woods to the
more friendly provinces northward. It was a great relief when they
finally reached the undulating country of the uplands, and, after a week
of hard riding, the town of Charlotte, to the left of which, on the road
leading to Beattie’s Ford on the Catawba River, lay the plantation and
mill of William and Sarah Sevier, parents of Mistress Egan.

They were unpolished people in many ways, but so kindly and hospitable
that Peggy felt at home at once. The community was famed for its love of
liberty, and was later denounced by Cornwallis as “a hornet’s nest.” It
was here, five years previous to this time, that the spirit of
resistance to tyranny found expression in the famous “Mecklenburg
resolutions.” In this congenial environment Peggy was as near to
happiness as it was possible for her to be so far from her kindred. One
thing that added to her felicity was the fact that Charlotte was
directly on the route running through Virginia and thence north to
Philadelphia, which before the Revolution had been used as a stage line.

“If only I had Star,” she would cry wistfully, “I would try to get home.
If only I had Star!”

One morning in the early autumn Mistress Egan called Peggy, and said to
her, in much the same manner that her mother would have used:

“I want you to put on your prettiest frock, Peggy. Ma’s going to have a
company here for the day. The men are to help pa gather the corn while
the women take off a quilt. The young folks will come to-night for the
corn-husking, but I reckon there won’t be a girl that can hold a candle
to my little Quakeress. The boys will all want you to find the red ear.”

Peggy laughed.

“Is that the reason there hath been so much cooking going on, Friend
Mandy? Methought there was a deal of preparation just for the family.”

“There’s a powerful sight to be done yet,” observed Mistress Egan.

“Then do let me help,” pleaded Peggy. “Thee spoils me. Truly thee does.
Why, at home I helped mother in everything.”

The guests came early, as was the custom when there was work to be done.
The men rode horseback with their wives behind them on pillions, and
with rifles held in the hollow of their left arms; for it was the
practice in those trying times to bear arms even upon visits of business
or friendship. Soon a company of two score or more had gathered at the
farmhouse. Greetings exchanged, the men hastened to the cornfields to
gather the new corn, while the women clustered about the quilting
frames, and fingers plied the needles busily, while tongues clacked a
merry accompaniment.

The morning passed quickly, and at noon the gay party had just seated
themselves around the table where a bountiful dinner steamed, when they
were startled by a shout from the yard.

“Fly for your lives, men! The British are coming to forage.”

Instantly the men sprang for their rifles and accoutrements. Inured to
danger and alarms, the women were as quick to act as their husbands.
Some of them ran to the stables and led forth the horses, which they
saddled hastily, ready for service; while others gathered up whatever
objects of value they could carry. With marvelous celerity the men
placed the women and servants on the horses by twos and threes, bidding
them to betake themselves to neighbors who were more remote from the
main road. They themselves had scarcely time for concealment in a deep
thicket and swamp which bordered one extremity of the farm before the
British videttes were in sight. These halted upon the brow of a hill for
the approach of the main body, and then in complete order advanced to
the plantation.

After reconnoitering the premises, and finding no one present, but all
appearances of the hasty flight of the occupants, the dragoons
dismounted, tethered their horses and detailed a guard. Some
sumpter-horses were harnessed to farm wagons, and some of the troopers
began to load them with various products of the fields; while military
baggage wagons under charge of a rear guard gradually arrived, and were
employed in the gathering of the new corn, carrying off stacks of oats
and the freshly pulled corn fodder.

Enjoying the prospect of free living the soldiers shouted joyously among
their plunder. Separate parties, regularly detailed, shot down and
butchered the hogs and calves, while others hunted and caught the
poultry of different descriptions. In full view of this scene stood the
commander of the British forces, a portly, florid Englishman, one hand
on each side the doorway of the farmhouse, where the officers were
partaking of the abundant provisions provided for the guests of Mistress
Sevier.

Meanwhile Peggy, who had been mounted behind Grandma Sevier, for so she
had learned to call Mistress Egan’s mother, discovered that lady in
tears.

“Grandma,” she cried with concern, “what is it? Is thee frightened?”

“It’s my Bible,” wailed the old lady. “The Scottish translation of the
Psalms is bound in with it, and they say the British burn every Bible
they find like that. Oh, I’ll never have another! My mother gave it to
me when William and me was married. The births and deaths of my children
are in it—oh, I’d rather everything on the place was took than that.”

“Stop just a minute, please,” spoke Peggy. Then, as the surprised woman
brought the horse to a standstill, the maiden slipped to the ground.
“I’m going back for the Bible,” she cried, and darted away before any of
them guessed her intention.

“Peggy, Peggy,” called several voices after her, but the girl laughed at
them and disappeared among the bushes.

“The British won’t hurt me,” she reassured herself as she came in sight
of the dwelling. “I am just a girl, and can do them no harm. I’m just
going to have that Bible for grandma. ’Tis a small thing to do for her
when she hath been so good to me.”

And so saying, she stepped out from the bushes where she had paused for
a moment, and marched boldly up to the commander in the doorway.

“Sir,” she said, sweeping him a fine curtsey, “I wish thee good-day.”

“Well, upon my life, what have we here?” exclaimed he, astounded at this
sudden apparition.

“If thee pleases, good sir, I live here,” returned Peggy.

“And I do please,” he cried. “Come in, mistress. Your pardon, but we
have made somewhat free with the premises, but if it so be that you are
a loyal subject of King George, you shall have ample recompense for
whatever we take.”

“I thank thee,” she said, ignoring the question of loyalty. “I will
enter, if I may. Grandma wishes her Bible, and that, sir, can surely be
given her?”

“Of a truth,” he cried, stepping aside for her to pass. “’Tis a small
request to refuse such beauty. Take the Bible and welcome, my fair
Quakeress.”

“I thank thee,” spoke the girl, with quaint dignity. Sedately she passed
into the dwelling and went directly to Mistress Sevier’s chamber, where
the Bible lay on a small table. Clasping it close, Peggy again went
through the living-room, where the astonished officers awaited her
coming curiously.

“You are not going to be so unmannerly as to leave us, are you?” asked
the captain.

“Sir,” spoke the girl, facing him bravely, “I pray thee, permit me to
pass unmolested. We have left thee and thy soldiers at liberty to
possess yourselves of our belongings. Show at least this courtesy.”

“Methinks,” he began, tugging at his moustache thoughtfully, “that such
leniency deserves something at your hands. I doubt not ’tis a
Presbyterian Bible, and we have orders to destroy all such. Methinks——”

But Peggy was out and past him before he had finished speaking. There
was a shorter way into the swamp if she would go through the orchard
where the horses were tethered, and she sped across the lawn in that
direction. As she darted among the animals the book slipped from her
clasp and she stooped to recover it. As she rose from her stooping
position she felt the soft nose of a horse touch her cheek gently, and a
low whinny broke upon her ear. The girl gave one upward glance, and then
sprang forward, screaming:

“Star!” In an ecstasy of joy she threw her arms about the little mare’s
neck, for it was in reality her own pony. “Oh, Star! Star! have I found
thee again?”

Caress after caress she lavished on the pony, which whinnied its delight
and seemed as glad of the meeting as the girl herself. A number of
soldiers, drawn by curiosity, meanwhile gathered about the maiden and
the horse, and among them was the commanding officer. Peggy had
forgotten everything but the fact that she had found Star again, and
paid no heed to their presence.

“It seems to be a reunion,” remarked the officer at length dryly. “May I
ask, my little Quakeress, what claim you have on that animal?”

Peggy lifted her tear-stained face.

“Why, it’s my pony that my dear father gave me,” she answered. “It’s
Star!”

“That cannot be,” he told her. “I happen to know that this especial
horse came down from New York City on one of the transports with Sir
Henry Clinton. So you see that it cannot be yours.”

“But it is, sir,” cried she. “I came down at the same time with my
cousin Colonel Owen and his daughter Harriet on the ‘Falcon.’ Our
horses, Harriet’s and mine, were put on one of the transports.”

“Then why are you not in Charleston with the others?” he demanded.

“Why, they were lost at sea,” she replied, turning upon him a startled
look. “We took to the boats, but ours was caught by the current and
swept away from the schooner. It must have gone down afterward.”

“I see,” he said. “Then if all this is true, and you came down with Sir
Henry and his company, you must be a loyalist? In that case, of course,
you may have the horse.”

“It is indeed truth that I came here in that manner,” reiterated Peggy.
“And the horse is truly mine.”

“But are you loyal?” he persisted. “If you will say so you may take the
beast, and aught else you wish on the premises.”

Peggy leaned her head against Star’s silky mane and was silent. It would
be so easy to say. She could not part with Star now that she had found
her. Would it be so very wrong? Just a tiny fib! The girl gave a little
sob as the temptation assailed her and tightened her clasp of the pony
convulsively. It was but a moment and then, stricken with horror at the
thought which had come to her, Peggy raised her head.

“Sir,” she said, “I am not loyal to the king. I am a strong patriot. In
sooth,” speaking more warmly than she would have done had it not been
for that same temptation, “in sooth, I don’t believe there is a worse
rebel to His Majesty anywhere in these parts; but for all that thee
shan’t have Star. Thee shall kill me first.”

And so saying she picked up the Bible from the ground where it had
fallen, and sprang lightly into the saddle.

The captain had smiled in spite of himself as she flung him her
defiance. Peggy aroused was Peggy adorable. With eyes flashing, color
mantling cheek and brow, the crushed creamy blossom nestling caressingly
in her dark hair, the maiden made a picture that would bring a smile
from either friend or foe. But as she sprang to the saddle the officer
seized the rein which she had unknotted from the tree, exclaiming:

“You have spirit, it seems, despite your Quaker speech. The horse is
yours for one——”

At this instant there came a shout from the soldiers who had resumed the
chase of the poultry during the colloquy between their officer and the
maiden. Some of their number had struck down some beehives formed of
hollow gum logs ranged near the garden fence. The irritated insects
dashed after the men, and at once the scene became one of uproar,
confusion and lively excitement.

The officer loosed his clasp on the bridle, and turned to see the cause
of the clamor. The attention of the guard was relaxed for the moment,
and taking advantage of the diversion Peggy struck her pony quickly. The
mare bounded forward; the captain uttered an exclamation and sprang
after her just as the sharp crack of a dozen rifles sounded.

When the smoke lifted the captain and nine men lay stretched upon the
ground, and Peggy was flying toward cover as fast as Star could carry
her. Immediately the trumpets sounded a recall, but by the time the
scattered dragoons had collected, mounted and formed, a straggling fire
from a different direction into which the concealed farmers had extended
showed the unerring aim of each American marksman, and increased the
confusion of the surprise.

Perfectly acquainted with every foot of the ground, the farmer and his
friends constantly changed their position, giving in their fire as they
loaded so that it appeared to the British that they were surrounded by a
large force. The alternate hilly and swampy grounds and thickets, with
woods on both sides the road, did not allow efficient action to the
horses of the dragoons, and after a number of the troopers had been shot
down they turned and fled. The leading horses in the wagons were killed
before they could ascend the hill and the road became blocked up. The
soldiers in charge, frantic at the idea of being left behind, cut loose
some of the surviving animals, and galloped after their retreating
comrades.

“They didn’t find it so easy to get pickings up here as they did down at
my house,” chuckled Henry Egan as the hidden farmers came forth after
the skirmish, without the loss of a man. “I reckon, pa, you’d better get
the women back here. Some of these men need attention. I wonder where
Peggy went? The daring little witch! I was scared clean out of my senses
when she sassed that captain. Find where she is, pa.”

It was not long before the women were back, and with them came Peggy,
tearful but joyous, leading Star by the bridle.



CHAPTER XXX—AN INTERRUPTED JOURNEY


                                  “I still had hoped ...
                Around my fire an evening group to draw,
                And tell of all I heard, of all I saw.”

                                             —Goldsmith.

A few days later the country was electrified by the news that the Whigs
west of the Alleghanies had marched to the relief of their oppressed
brethren of the Carolinas, and defeated the British at King’s Mountain.
The victory fired the patriots with new zeal, checked the rising of the
loyalists in North Carolina, and was fatal to the intended expedition of
Cornwallis. He had hoped to step with ease from one Carolina to the
other, and then proceed to the conquest of Virginia; he was left with no
choice but to retreat.

The men about Charlotte had disputed his advance; they now harassed his
foraging parties, intercepted his despatches and cut off his
communications. Declaring that every bush hid a rebel, Lord Cornwallis
fell back across the Catawba into South Carolina.

At the plantation the news of the victory was received with joy, causing
Peggy to unfold the plan that had been maturing ever since she had
regained possession of Star.

“What doth hinder my going home now?” she asked the assembled family one
evening. “The British have gone, and I have but to keep to the road to
arrive in time at Philadelphia.”

“But the Tories?” questioned Mistress Egan. “They are everywhere.”

“I have waited so long for a way to open,” continued Peggy, stoutly. “It
is wonderful how it hath all come about. First, the sea brought me to
thy door, Friend Mandy. Then we came up here where the road is the
selfsame one used by the delegates to go to the Congress. Then my own
pony is brought to this very house. Does thee not see that ’tis the way
opened at last?”

“I see that we must let you go,” said the good woman sadly, “though I
shall never know a minute’s peace until I hear of you being safe with
your mother.”

“I will write as soon as I reach her,” promised the girl. “And I shall
get through, never fear. Did thee not say to thy husband when the
cottage was burned that the people would help? Well, they will help me
too.”

“You cannot go alone, my girl,” interposed Henry Egan decidedly.
“’Twould never do in the world. Things air upset still, even though the
British air gone. If I hadn’t joined the milish I’d take you home
myself. As things air there can’t a man be spared from the state jest
now. North Carolina needs every man she can get.”

“I know it, Friend Henry,” answered Peggy. “And I would not wish any one
to leave his duty for me. The cause of liberty must come before
everything.”

“That is true,” he said. “Be content to bide a little longer, and mayhap
a way will be opened, as you say.”

So, yielding to his judgment with the sweet deference that was her
greatest charm, Peggy bore her disappointment as best she could. It was
but a few days, however, until the matter was brought up again by the
fisherman.

“Peggy,” he said, “I heard as how Joe Hart was going to take his wife
and baby to her folks in Virginny, so that he can join the Continentals
with Gates. If you’re bound to go this might be your chance. Things
don’t seem to be so bad over there as they air in this state, and it may
be easier for you to get some one to take you on to Philadelphia.”

“When do they start?” asked Peggy joyfully.

“To-morrow morning. That won’t give you much time, but——”

“’Tis all I need,” she answered excitedly. “Oh, Friend Henry, how good
thee is to find a chance for me.”

“There, my girl! say no more. Of course you want them even as they must
want you. You’ll write sometimes, and when this awful war is over, if
there air any of us left, mayhap you’ll come down to see us again.”

“I will,” she promised in tears.

“Another thing,” he said, bringing forth a few gold pieces, “you must
take these with you. They will help you in your journey, but use ’em
only when you can’t get what you want any other way. ’Tis better to
trust to kindness of heart than to cupidity.”

In spite of her protests he made her accept them, and she sewed them in
the hem of her frock, promising to use them with discretion. With many
tears Peggy took leave of these kindly people the next morning, and set
forth with Joe Hart and his wife and baby for Virginia. The road was
mountainous, and the riding hard, but Peggy’s heart danced with gladness
and she heeded not the fatigue, for at last she was going home. Home!
The opaline splendor of the morning thrilled her with an appreciation
that she had never felt before. What a wonderful light threaded the
woods and glorified the treetops! Home!

At night they stopped at some woodman’s hut, or at a plantation, if they
were near the more pretentious establishment; for inns were few, and the
habitations so far removed from each other that the people gladly gave
entertainment to travelers in return for the news they brought.

Often they encountered bodies of irregular troops upon the road
directing their wearied march toward the headquarters of the patriot
army. The victory at King’s Mountain had thrilled the people even as
Concord and Lexington had done, and roused them to renewed exertions.

Peggy’s companions were not very cheerful. The man was a rough, kindly,
goodhearted fellow, but his wife was a delicate woman, peevish and
complaining, whose strength was scarcely equal to the hardships of the
journey and the care of the sickly infant who fretted incessantly.

Four days of such companionship wore upon even Peggy’s joyousness. They
were by this time some fifteen miles east of Hillsborough, where the
remnant of the patriot army lay. The road was lonely, the quiet broken
only by the whimpering of the baby and the querulous soothing of the
mother. Peggy felt depressed and mentally reproached herself for it.

“Thee is foolish, Peggy,” she chided sternly, “to heed such things. If
the poor woman can bear it thee should not let it wherrit thee. Now be
brave, Peggy Owen! just think how soon thee will see mother. Can thee
not bear a little discomfort for that? And how exciting ’twill be to
tell them——What was that?” she cried aloud, turning a startled look upon
the mountaineer, who rode a short distance ahead of Peggy and his wife.

“It sounded like a groan,” exclaimed he.

They drew rein and listened. The road ran through a forest so densely
studded with undergrowth that it was impossible to see any distance on
either side. For a few seconds there was no sound but the whispering of
the pines. They were about to pass on when there came a low cry:

“You, whoever you are! Come to me, for the love of God!”

For a moment they looked at each other with startled faces, and then the
mountaineer made a motion to swing himself from his horse.

“Joe,” cried his wife, “what air you going to do? Don’t go! How’d you
know but what it’s an ambush?”

“Nay; some one is hurt,” protested Peggy.

While Hart still hesitated, Peggy dismounted, and leading Star by the
bridle walked in the direction from which the cry came.

“Where is thee, friend?” she called, her voice sounding clearly through
the stillness of the forest.

“Here! Here!” came the feeble reply.

Dropping the pony’s bridle Peggy pushed aside the undergrowth, and
advanced fearlessly, pausing ever and anon to call for guidance. Shamed
by this display of courage Joe Hart followed her, despite the protests
of his wife. Presently just ahead of them appeared a man’s form lying
outstretched under a clump of bushes, and wearing the uniform of the
Continentals. One arm, the right one, was broken, and lay disabled upon
the grass, while the hand of the other lifted itself occasionally to
stroke the legs of a powerful horse which stood guard over the prostrate
form of his master.

The animal snapped at them viciously as they approached, but the soldier
spoke to him sharply, so that they could draw near in safety. The girl
bent over the wounded man pityingly, for a gaping hole in his side
through which the blood was flowing told that he had not long to live.

“What can I do for thee, friend?” she asked gently, sinking down beside
him and raising his head to her lap.

“Are you Whig or Tory?” he gasped, gazing up at her eagerly.

“A patriot, friend,” she answered wiping the moisture from his brow with
tender hands.

“Thank God,” he cried making a great effort to talk for the end was fast
approaching. “I bear letters to General Gates from the Congress. In my
shoe; will you see that they are taken to him?”

“Yes,” she replied.

“Promise me,” he insisted. “You look true. Promise that you yourself
will take them to him.”

“I promise,” she said solemnly. “And now, friend, thyself. Hast thou no
messages for thy dear ones?”

“Mary,” he whispered a spasm of pain contracting his face. “My wife!
Tell her that I died doing my duty. She must not grieve. ’Tis for the
country. Water!” he gasped.

But Joe Hart, foreseeing the need for this, had already gone in search
of it, and opportunely returned at this moment with his drinking-horn
full. The vidette drank eagerly, and revived a little.

“Thy name?” asked Peggy softly, for she saw that his time was short.

“William Trumbull, of Fairfield, Connecticut,” he responded. The words
came slowly with great effort. “’Twas Tories,” he said, “that shot me,
but Duke outran them. Then I fell and crawled in here. My horse——” A
smile of pride and affection lighted up his face as he turned toward the
animal. “We’ve taken our last ride, old fellow!”

“Would thee like for me to speak to the general about thy horse?” asked
Peggy.

“If you would,” he cried eagerly. And then after a moment—“Take off my
boots.”

The mountaineer complied with the request, and the dying patriot gave
the papers which Hart took from them to Peggy.

“Guard these with your life,” he continued. “And get to General Gates
without delay. They have news of Arnold’s treason——”

“Of what, did thee say?” cried Peggy.

“Of the treason of Benedict Arnold,” he said feebly. “He is a traitor.”

“Not General Arnold!” exclaimed Peggy in anguish. “Not the Arnold that
was at Philadelphia! Oh, friend! thee can’t mean that Arnold?”

“The very same,” he responded. “And further, he is seeking to induce the
soldiers to desert their country’s colors.”

“Merciful heavens! it can’t be true!” she cried. “Friend, friend, thee
must be wandering. It couldn’t happen.”

“But it hath,” he gasped. “They told me to make speed. I—I must go!”

With a superhuman effort he struggled to his feet, stood for a brief
second, and fell back—dead.



CHAPTER XXXI—HOW THE NEWS WAS RECEIVED AT CAMP


    “Just for a handful of silver he left us,
      Just for a riband to stick in his coat—

           *     *     *     *     *

    Blot out his name, then, record one lost soul more,
      One task more declined, one more foot-path untrod,
    One more devil’s-triumph and sorrow for angels,
      One more wrong to man, one more insult to God.”

                           —“The Lost Leader,” Browning.

White and shaken Peggy leaned weakly against a tree, and covered her
face with her hands.

“We must be getting on, miss,” spoke the mountaineer, after a few
moments of silence.

“And leave him like that?” cried the girl aghast.

“There is naught else to be done,” he replied gravely. “We have nothing
to bury him with.”

“But ’tis wrong,” remonstrated she, kneeling beside the dead vidette,
and touching his brow reverently. “He died for his country, friend.”

“Tell them at the camp,” suggested he. “Mayhap they will send out and
get him.”

“Yes; that is what we must do,” she said. “I could not bear to think of
him lying here without Christian burial.”

“And what is it now, miss?” questioned Hart, as she still lingered.

“Could we cut a lock from his hair, friend? For his wife! I know that
mother and I would wish if father—if father——” Peggy faltered and
choked.

Silently Hart drew out his hunting-knife and severed a lock of hair from
the vidette’s head, which the maiden placed with the despatches in the
bosom of her gown. Then taking the kerchief from about her throat she
spread it over his face, and followed the mountaineer back to the road.
As they left the spot the horse resumed his former position, and a last
glance from Peggy showed the faithful creature standing guard over the
dead form of his master.

“Whatever made you so long, Joe?” cried his wife petulantly. “The baby’s
that fretful that I don’t know what to do with her. She’s jest wore out,
and we must get where something can be done for her.”

“Tilly,” he answered gravely, “there was a pore soger in there who died.
He wanted us to take his despatches to Gates. I reckon we’ll have to go
back to Hillsboro’town.”

“Back fifteen miles, with the baby sick,” exclaimed the woman in dismay.
“Joe Hart, you must be crazy. We shan’t do no such thing. It will lose
us a whole day, and we ain’t got any too much time as ’tis. Your own
flesh and blood comes before anything else, I reckon. Jest see how the
child looks.”

The baby did look ill. The father regarded it anxiously, and then
glanced about him with an uncertain manner.

“The general ought to have them despatches,” he said, “but the child is
sick, sure enuff. Mayhap we can find somebody to take the letters back
at the next cabin.”

“Nay,” objected Peggy. “I promised the soldier that I would see that the
papers were given into the general’s own hands; therefore I will ride
back with them. We cannot trust to uncertainties.”

“Yes,” spoke the wife eagerly. “That is just the thing, Joe. The girl
can take them. It’s daylight, and nothing won’t hurt her. We’d best push
on to where the baby can be ’tended to. She can catch up with us
to-morrow!”

“Very well,” replied Peggy quietly. “And, friend, where shall I tell the
general to come for the body? Does thee know the place?”

The mountaineer glanced about him. “Jest tell him about two mile above
the cross-tree crossing,” he said. “On the north side the road. Anybody
that knows the country will know where ’tis. I don’t like——” But Peggy
bade them good-bye and was gone before he could voice any further
regrets.

“’Twas useless to parley over the matter,” she thought as a turn in the
road hid them from view. “In truth the little one did look ill. I would
as soon be alone, and I can return the faster. This awful thing about
General Arnold! How could it have happened? Why, oh, why did he do it?”

Her thoughts flew back to the night of the tea at General Arnold’s
headquarters. How kind he had seemed then. The dark handsome face came
before her as she remembered how he had walked down the room by her
side, and how proud she had felt of his attention. And how good he had
been to John Drayton! Drayton! Peggy started as the thought of the lad
came to her. How had he taken it? The boy had loved him so.

It is never pleasant to be the bearer of ill tidings, and Peggy found
herself lagging more than once in her journey. The afternoon was drawing
to a close when she came in sight of the town on the Eno near which the
army was encamped. They had passed around it in the morning. Mrs. Hart
had feared that her husband might be tempted into staying with the army,
and so had insisted upon the détour.

The little town, nestled among beautiful eminences, seemed deserted as
the maiden rode down the long unpaved street to the upland beyond, where
the camp lay. In reality the inhabitants were at supper, and sundry
fragrant odors were wafted from the various dwellings to the passing
girl. Peggy, however, was too heavy of heart for an appeal to the
senses, though she had not tasted food since the morning meal.

Passing at length through a defile the encampment came to view. It was
surrounded with woods, and guarded in its rear by the smooth and gentle
river. A farmhouse in the immediate neighborhood served as headquarters
for the officers.

Numerous horses were tethered in rows about the upland plain. There were
no tents or huts, but rude accommodations for the men had been made by
branches and underwood set against ridge-poles that were sustained by
stakes, and topped by sheaves of Indian corn.

Groups of men were scattered over the plain, some wagons were to be seen
in one direction, and not far off, a line of fires around which parties
were engaged cooking food. Here and there a sentinel was pacing his
short limits, and occasionally the roll of the drum, or the flourish of
a fife told of some ceremony of the camp.

Peggy had but time to observe these details when she was stopped by the
picket who demanded the countersign.

“I know it not, friend,” was her response. “Lead me at once to thy
general, I beg thee; for I bear despatches for him.”

At this moment the officer in charge of the relief guard, for the
beautiful and inspiring music of the sunset retreat was just sounding,
came up.

“What is it, Johnson?” he asked. Peggy gave a little cry at the sound of
his voice.

“John!” she cried. “John Drayton!”

“Peggy,” he gasped. “In the name of all that’s wonderful, what are you
doing here?”

“I might ask thee the same thing,” she returned. “I was thinking of thee
but now, John.”

“Were you?” he cried gladly. “I am a lieutenant now, Peggy.” He squared
his shoulders with the jaunty air which the girl remembered so well, and
which had always caused Harriet so much amusement. “What think you of
that?”

“Oh, I am glad, glad,” she returned.

“There is so much to tell you,” continued he. “Just wait until I place
this other sentinel, and then we can have a nice long talk.”

“I can’t, John,” exclaimed she, remembering her mission. “I bear
despatches for the general.”

“You with despatches,” he ejaculated laughing. “Have you ’listed,
Peggy?”

“Nay,” returned she gravely, his lightness of heart striking her like a
blow. How could she tell him? “John, let me give the letters first.”

“Come,” said he. “I will take you there at once. I am curious as to why
you are the bearer of such missives.”

“’Tis ill tidings,” spoke Peggy.

“Another disaster, eh?” He laid his arm over the pony’s glossy neck and
walked thus over toward the farmhouse. “Well, we are used to them. A
victory would upset us more than anything just at present. The day we
heard of King’s Mountain I thought the men would go wild. We didn’t try
to maintain discipline on that day. Oh, well; if we are whipped, we just
fight ’em again. We’ll win out in time.”

The color fled from Peggy’s face. He did not know, and it was she who
must tell him. How would he bear it? They had reached the farmhouse by
the time, and Drayton assisted Peggy from the horse, and turned to an
orderly.

“Will you say to the general that Ensign—I mean Lieutenant Drayton is
without with a young lady who bears despatches? ’Tis important. I have
hardly got used to my new dignity yet,” he explained turning to Peggy
with a boyish laugh. “It’s good to see you, Peggy.”

“John,” said the girl, laying her hand on his arm and speaking with
intense earnestness. “Will thee try to be brave? The news I bring——”

“What mean you?” he asked in surprise. “Why should a disaster effect me
more than any one else? Peggy, I never knew you to act and to speak so
strangely before. What is it?”

“The general waits, lieutenant,” interrupted the orderly. “He has but a
few moments, as he is going to Hillsboro’ for the night.”

“Come, Peggy,” said Drayton. “I will take you in.” They passed into the
dwelling, and Drayton opened a door on the right of the hall which led
to General Gates’ office. There were several men in the room, among them
Colonel Daniel Morgan who had but recently arrived, and Colonel William
Washington.

“General Gates,” said Drayton saluting, “allow me to present Mistress
Peggy Owen, who is the bearer of despatches. She is the daughter of
David Owen, of the Pennsylvania Light Horse.”

“You are welcome, Mistress Owen,” said General Gates rising courteously.
“Stay, lieutenant,” as the lad made a movement to depart. “If the young
lady is friend of yours you may be her escort back to Hillsboro’ when
the mission is ended.”

“Thank you, sir,” said Drayton, saluting again.

“Sir,” said Peggy with a certain wistfulness in her voice caused by the
knowledge of the news she bore, “before thee takes the letters I should
like to tell thee how I came by them.”

“Certainly you may,” he said regarding her with a new deference, for the
girl’s manner and accents bespoke her gentle breeding.

[Illustration: “YOU ARE WELCOME,” SAID GENERAL GATES]

And standing there Peggy told simply the story of how she had become
possessed of the despatches. A stillness came upon them as she related
the death of the vidette, her tones vibrating with tenderness and
feeling.

“He died for his country,” she said, “and, sir, he wished that told to
his wife. She was not to grieve; for ’twas for his country. And his
horse, General Gates. I promised that I would speak to thee concerning
him. We left him guarding the body. Thee will see that he is cared for,
will thee not?”

“Yes,” he said, much moved. “So noble an animal should be looked well
to. Did you learn the man’s name, mistress?”

“’Twas Trumbull, sir. William Trumbull, of Fairfield, Connecticut.”

“I will inform his wife myself,” said he, making a note of the matter.
“He died a hero performing his duty. And now may I have the despatches?”

He extended his hand with a smile, saying as he did so: “A man would
have given them first, and the story afterward; but this little maid
feared we would forget the vidette if she delayed until afterward.”

“Yes,” acknowledged the girl, looking at him earnestly, for she had
feared that very thing. “Sir,” giving him the despatches, “I pray thee
to pardon me for being the bearer of such awful tidings.”

There was a slight smile on General Gates’ face at her manner of
speaking, but it died quickly as he ran his eye down the written page.
He uttered an exclamation as he mastered the contents, and then stood
staring at the paper. At length, however, he turned to the men at the
table, and said in a hollow voice:

“Gentlemen, it becomes my painful duty to inform you that Major-General
Arnold is a traitor to his country.”

An awful pause followed the announcement—a pause that throbbed with the
despair of brave men. Disaster had followed fast upon disaster. The
South was all but lost. Two armies had been wiped out of existence in
three months, and what was left was but a pitiful remnant. Washington’s
force in the North was so weakened by detaching troops for the defense
of the South that he was unable to strike a blow. And now this calamity
was the culmination. A murmur broke out in the room. Then, as though
galvanized into action by that murmur, John Drayton, who had stood as
though petrified, bounded forward with a roar.

“’Tis false,” he cried, whipping out his sword. “I’ll run any man
through who says that my general is a traitor!”

He advanced threateningly toward General Gates as he spoke. He had drawn
upon his superior officer, but there was no anger in the glance that
Horatio Gates cast upon him.

“Would God it were false,” he said solemnly. “But here are proofs. This
is a letter from Congress; this one from General Washington himself, and
this——”

“I tell you it is not true,” reiterated the boy fiercely. “Look how
they’ve always treated him! It’s another one of their vile charges
trumped up against him. Daniel Morgan, you were with him at Quebec and
Saratoga! Are you going to stand there and hear such calumny?”

Morgan hid his face in his hands and a sob broke from his lips. The
sound seemed to pierce Drayton like a sword thrust. His arm dropped to
his side, and he turned from one to another searching their faces
eagerly, but their sorrowful countenances only spoke confirmation of the
news.

“In mercy, speak,” he cried with a catch in his voice. “Peggy, tell me
truth! Speak to me!”

“John, John, I’m afraid ’tis true,” cried Peggy going to him with
outstretched hands. “Don’t take it like this! Thee must be brave.”

But with a cry, so full of anguish, of heartbreak, that they paled as
they heard it, Drayton sank to the floor.

“Boy, I loved him too,” spoke Colonel Morgan brokenly. “We were both
with him on that march to Quebec. And at Saratoga in that mad charge he
made. I loved him——”

He could not proceed. Bending over the prostrate lad he lifted him, and
with his arm about him drew him from the room. Peggy broke into a
passion of tears as Drayton’s wailing cry came back to her:

“My general! My general! My general!”



CHAPTER XXXII—ON THE ALTAR OF HIS COUNTRY


                                   “If you fail Honor here,
            Never presume to serve her any more;
            Bid farewell to the integrity of armes;
            And the honorable name of soldier
            Fall from you, like a shivered wreath of laurel
            By thunder struck from a desertlesse forehead.”

                                           —Faire Quarrell.

For a time no sound was heard in the room but the sobs of the maiden and
the broken utterances of the men. The tears of the latter were no shame
to their manhood, for they were wrung from their hearts by the defection
of a great soldier.

The friend of Washington and of Schuyler! The brilliant, dashing soldier
with whose exploits the country had rung but a short time since; if this
man was traitor whom could they trust?

Presently Peggy felt a light touch on her head, and looked up to find
General Gates regarding her with solicitude.

“My child,” he said, “I am about to ride into Hillsboro’ to confer with
Governor Nash. Will you permit me to be your escort? We must find a
resting place for you. You must be weary after this trying day.”

“I am,” she replied sadly. “Wearied and heart-sick. Thee is very kind,
and I thank thee.” She rose instantly, and followed him to the door
where the orderly had her horse in charge.

What a change had come over the encampment. From lip to lip the tidings
had flown, and white-faced men huddled about the camp-fires talking in
whispers. No longer song, or story, or merry jest enlivened the evening
rest time, but a hush was over the encampment such as follows a great
battle when many have fallen.

Seeing that she was so depressed General Gates exerted himself to cheer
her despondency, leaving her when Hillsborough was reached in the care
of a motherly woman.

“I shall send Lieutenant Drayton to you in the morning,” he said as he
was taking his departure. “He will need comfort, child; as we all do,
but the boy was wrapped up in Arnold.”

It was noon the next day before Drayton appeared, and Peggy was shocked
at the change in him. There was no longer a trace of jauntiness in his
manner. There were deep circles under his eyes, and he was pale and
haggard as though he had not slept.

“John,” she cried, her heart going out to him for his sorrow, “thee must
not take this matter so. General Washington is left us.”

“Yes,” he replied, “but I loved him so. Oh, Peggy! Peggy! why did he do
it?”

“I know not,” she answered soberly. “After thee left Philadelphia there
were rumors concerning General Arnold’s extravagance. Mother was much
exercised anent the matter. But as to whether that had anything to do
with this, I know not.”

“How shall I bear it?” he cried suddenly. “Who shall take his place? Had
he been with us there would have been another tale to tell of Camden.”

“That may be, John.” And then, seeking to beguile his thoughts from the
matter, she added with sweet craftiness: “Thee has not told me how thee
came to be down here? Nor yet if thee ever returned to New York City
after that trip with the wood? Thee should have seen Cousin William
after the failure of the alert. That was why he brought me down here.”

“Tell me about it, Peggy,” he replied with kindling interest. And the
girl, pleased with her artifice, related all that had befallen her.

“And now?” he questioned. “What are you going to do now?”

“There is but one thing to do, John,” she answered, surprised by the
query. “That is, to get home as quickly as possible.”

“I like not for you to undertake such a journey, Peggy. There are more
loyalists in the South than elsewhere, which was the reason the war was
transferred to these states. ’Tis a dangerous journey even for a man.
’Tis hard to get despatches to and from Congress, as you know by the
death of that poor fellow whose letters you carried. I don’t believe
that your mother would like for you to undertake it.”

“But there is danger in staying, John. No part of the Carolinas is safe
from an incursion of the enemy. ’Tis as far back to the plantation at
Charlotte as ’twould be to go on to Virginia, and I want my mother.
Friend Hart said that he and his wife would travel slowly so that I
could o’ertake them.”

“Yes; you ought to be out of this,” agreed Drayton. “Every part of this
country down here is being ravaged by Tories, who seem determined to
destroy whatever the British leave. Would that I could take you to your
mother, Peggy, but I cannot leave without deserting, and that I——”

“Thee must not think of it,” she interrupted, looking at him fearfully.

“And that,” he went on steadily without noticing the interruption, “I
would not do, even for you.”

“That forever settles my last doubt of thee,” declared Peggy with an
attempt at sprightliness. “I know that thee is willing to do almost
anything for me.”

“Yes,” he replied. “And now I must go.”

“Shall I see thee again before I leave, John?”

“When do you start?”

“In the morning. I waited to-day to see thee.”

“Then it must be good-bye now,” he said. “I am to carry some despatches
to General Marion on the morrow, and that will take us far apart, Peggy.
I asked for the mission; for I must have action at the present time. I
like not to think.”

“Don’t be too venturesome,” pleaded the girl. “We who know thee have no
need of valiant deeds to prove thy merit.”

“I want a chance to distinguish myself,” declared the lad. “That, and to
prove my loyalty too. All of General Arnold’s old men will be regarded
with suspicion until they show that they are true. And now good-bye,
Peggy.”

“Good-bye, John,” spoke the maiden sorrowfully. “Thee carries my
sympathy and prayers with thee.”

He bade her good-bye again, and left. Early next morning Peggy set forth
at speed hoping to overtake Mr. and Mistress Hart before the day’s end.
Her thoughts were busied with Drayton and his grief, and she now
acknowledged to herself the fear that had filled her lest he too should
prove disloyal.

“But it hath not even occurred to him to be other than true,” she told
herself with rejoicing.

And so thinking she rode along briskly, and was not long in reaching the
spot where they had been stopped by the dying vidette. She gazed at the
place with melancholy, noting that the bushes were trampled as though a
number of men had passed over them. Doubting not but that this
appearance had been caused by the soldiers who had been sent for the
body, which was indeed the fact, the girl sped on rapidly, trying not to
think of all that had occurred in the past few days.

Peggy had been sure of her bearings up to this time, for she had
traversed the highway twice to this point, but from this on she was
confronted by an unfamiliar road. So it happened that when directly she
came to a place where the road diverged into two forks, she drew rein in
bewilderment.

“Why,” she exclaimed, “I don’t know which one to take. What shall I do?
How shall I decide, Star?” appealing to the only living thing near.

Hearing her name the little mare neighed, tossed her head, and turned
into the branch of the roadway running toward the South, just as though
she had taken matters in hand for herself. Peggy laughed.

“So thee is going to decide for me, is thee?” she asked patting the
pony’s neck. “Well, we might as well go in this direction as the other.
I know not which is the right one. I hope that we will come to a house
soon where I may ask.”

But no dwelling of any kind came in sight. The afternoon wore away, and
the girl became anxious. She did not wish to pass the night in the
woods. The memory of that night so long ago when she and Harriet had
ridden to Amboy was not so pleasant that she wished to repeat the
experience. But Star sped ahead as though familiar with her
surroundings. At nightfall there was still no sign of either Joe Hart
and his wife, or sight of habitation.

“I fear me we have lost our way, Star,” she mused aloud. “I wonder what
we’d best do? Keep moving, methinks. ’Tis the only way to reach
anywhere.”

Peggy tried to smile at her little sally, but with poor success. The
pony trotted ahead as if she at least was not bewildered, and presently,
to the girl’s amazement, of her own accord turned into a lane that would
have escaped Peggy’s notice. To her further astonishment at a short
distance from the highway stood a woodman’s hut, and the mare paused
before the door.

“Why, thou dear creature!” cried Peggy in delight. “It seems just as
though thee knew the way.”

She dismounted, and with the bridle over her arm approached the cabin
almost gaily, so greatly relieved was she at finding a shelter. A woman
came to the door in answer to her knock, and opened it part way.

“What do you want?” she asked harshly.

“A lodging for the night, friend,” answered the maiden, surprised by
this reception, for the people were usually hospitable and friendly.

“How many air you?” was the next question.

“Myself alone, friend,” replied Peggy, more and more amazed. “I wish
food and a stable for my pony also. I will pay thee for it,” she added
with a sudden remembrance of the money that Henry Egan had given her.

“Well, come in.” The door was opened, and the woman regarded her
curiously as she entered. It was but a one-room hut, and a boy of twelve
appeared to be its only occupant aside from the woman. He rose as the
girl entered, and went out to attend the horse.

“Do you want something to eat?” asked the woman ungraciously.

“If thee pleases,” answered Peggy, ill at ease at so much surliness. The
woman placed food before her, and watched her while she ate.

“Where air you all going?” she asked presently.

“To Philadelphia, in the state of Pennsylvania,” explained Peggy, who
had found that many of the women in the Carolinas were but ill-informed
as to locations of places.

“Is that off toward Virginia?”

“I must go through Virginia to reach there,” said the girl.

“You’re going wrong, then,” the woman informed her. “You air headed now
for South Carolina.”

The girl uttered a cry of dismay.

At this moment the urchin reëntered the hut, and whispered a moment to
his mother. Instantly a change came over her. She turned to Peggy with a
glimmer of a smile.

“Air you a friend?” she asked.

“Why, yes,” answered Peggy, thinking naturally that she meant the sect
of Quakers. “I should think thee would know that.”

“You can’t always tell down here. Sam says that you air riding Cap’n
Hazy’s horse. It used to stop here often last summer.”

“Then that was why the pony brought me here,” cried the girl in
surprise. “I was lost. How strange!”

“Why, no. Horses always go where they are used to going,” said the
woman, in a matter-of-fact tone. “That is, if you give ’em their head.
When is the cap’n coming?”

“How should I know?” asked Peggy, staring at her. “I don’t——”

“We air friends, miss. You needn’t be afraid to say anything you like.
But you air right. Keep a still tongue in these times. ’Tis safest. And
now, I reckon you’d like to go to bed?”

“Yes, if you please,” answered the maiden, so amazed by the conversation
that she welcomed the change for reflection. Was Captain Hazy the
British commander of the foraging party who had come to the plantation,
she wondered. It occurred to her that it might be wise to accept her
hostess’s advice to keep a still tongue.

There was but one bed in the room, and this was given Peggy, while the
mother and son simply lay down upon the floor before the fire, which was
the custom among mountaineers. Without disrobing the girl lay down, but
not to sleep. She was uneasy, and the more she reflected upon her
position the more it came to her that she had been rash to start out
alone as she had done.

“But I won’t turn back now,” she decided. “I will take some of the money
which Friend Henry gave me, and hire some one to take me home. ’Tis what
I should have done at first.”

At the first sign of dawn she was astir. The woman rose at the same
time, and prepared her a hot breakfast.

“Now you just go right down that way,” she told Peggy, as the maiden
mounted her pony, indicating the direction as she spoke. “That’ll take
you down to the Cross Creek road. Ford the river at Cross Creek, and you
will be right on the lower road to Virginia.”

Peggy thanked her, gave her a half guinea, and departed. Could she have
followed the direction given she would, as the woman said, have been on
the lower road to Virginia, but alas, such general directions took no
account of numerous crossroads and forkings, and the maiden was soon in
a maze. That night she found a resting-place at a farmhouse where the
accommodations were of a better nature, but when she tried to hire a man
for guidance not one seemed willing to go.

“They were needed at home,” they said. “There were so many raiding
parties that men could not be spared.” Which was true, but disheartening
to Peggy.

In this manner three days went by. At long distances apart were houses
of some description, and many ruins, some of them smoldering.

On the afternoon of the third day Peggy was riding along slowly,
thoroughly discouraged, when all at once from the dense woods that lined
the roadway there emerged the form of a horseman.

He was hatless and disheveled in appearance, and he surveyed the road as
though fearful of meeting a foe. As his glance fell upon the maiden he
uttered an ejaculation, and dashed toward her.

“Peggy,” he cried staring at her in amaze, “what in the world are you
doing down here in South Carolina? I thought you in Virginia by this
time.”

“I would not be surprised if thee told me that I was in Africa,”
answered poor Peggy half laughing, half crying. “I started for Virginia,
but took a wrong turning, and seem to have kept on taking them ever
since. I don’t want to be down here, but no one will come with me to
guide me, and I always go wrong on the crossroads.”

In spite of the gravity of the situation Drayton, for it was he,
laughed.

“Nay,” he said, “let me believe that you came down here to help me
deliver my despatches to Marion. I will have to take you in charge. Let
me think what to do. I have it! There is a farmhouse where Whigs are
welcomed near here. You shall stay there until these papers are
delivered, and then we shall see if something can’t be arranged.”

“Oh, thank thee, John,” cried she, mightily relieved. “’Tis so nice to
have some one to plan. I shall do just as thee says, for I begin to
believe that I am not so capable as I thought.”

“These winding roads are enough to confuse any one,” he told her. “You
are not alone in getting lost, Peggy. Some of the soldiers do too, if
they are not familiar with localities.”

Cheered by this meeting, Peggy’s spirits rose, and she chatted gaily,
not noticing that Drayton kept looking behind them, and that he
frequently rode a little ahead, as though he were on the lookout.

“What is it?” she asked at length becoming aware that something was
amiss. “Is there danger, John?”

“Yes, Peggy. South Carolina is full of British, you know. I must watch
for an ambush. I would not fail to deliver these despatches for
anything. They are important, and as I told you the other day, all of us
who were under Arnold will be suspected until tried.”

Peggy grew pale. “I did not know there was danger, John. Doth my
presence increase your anxiety?”

“’Tis pleasure to have you, Peggy, but I would rather you were in
Virginia for your own safety. However, we shall soon turn into a side
road which will lead to that farmhouse I spoke about. I could no longer
get through the woods, or I should not have left them for the highway.
But had I not done so I would not have met you. ’Tis marvelous, Peggy,
that you have met with no harm.”

“Why should I meet with any?” she queried. “I am but a girl, and can
bring hurt to none.”

Drayton drew rein suddenly, and listened.

“We must make a run for it, Peggy,” he cried. “The British are coming. I
gave them the slip a while ago, but I hear them down the road. If we can
reach the lane we may escape them.”

Peggy called to Star, and the boy and girl struck into a gallop. It was
soon evident, however, that Drayton was holding back his horse for Peggy
to keep pace with him. As Peggy realized this a whoop from the pursuers
told that they had caught sight of them, and the clattering hoofs that
they were gaining upon them.

“John,” she cried, “go on! Thee can get away then.”

“And leave you, Peggy? Never,” he answered.

“But thy despatches? Thee just told me they must be delivered. Thee must
go on.”

“No,” he replied with set lips.

“’Tis thy duty,” she said imploringly.

“I know, but I’m not going to leave you to the mercy of those fiends,”
he cried.

“John, thee must not fail. See! they are gaining. Go, go! Does thee
remember that thee will be suspected until thee is tried?”

“I know,” he said doggedly, “but I won’t leave you.”

“For thy country’s sake,” she entreated. “Oh, John, I can’t have thee
fail because of me. Think of that poor vidette. Is thee going to do less
than he? ’Tis thy duty.”

“Peggy, don’t ask it,” he pleaded.

“Thee is less than soldier if thee doesn’t do thy duty,” she cried,
quick to see her advantage. “John Drayton, I will never trust thee again
if thee fails in thy duty now.”

The two young people gazed at each other through the dust of the road,
the girl with earnest entreaty, determined to keep the lad to his duty
in spite of himself, and the youth torn by his fear for her and his
loyalty.

“Go,” she cried again. “I am a soldier’s daughter. Would I be worthy the
name if thee failed because of me? Go at once, or ’twill be too late.”

“I’m going, Peggy,” he said with a sob. “I’m going to do my duty even if
you are the sacrifice. Take this pistol, and defend yourself. Good-bye.”
He bent and kissed her hand, and then without one backward glance went
flying down the road and disappeared around a bend. For duty to country
must come before everything, and father, mother, brother, sister, wife
or sweetheart, must be sacrificed upon its altar, if need arises.

There was a smile on Peggy’s lips, for Drayton had kept to his duty in
spite of as great a temptation as ever assailed a man to do otherwise,
and so smiling she turned to meet the pursuers.



CHAPTER XXXIII—A GREAT SURPRISE


         “A man’s country is not a certain area of land, of
         mountains, rivers and woods—but it is a principle, and
         patriotism is loyalty to that principle.”

                                        —George William Curtis.

There came hoarse shouts from the pursuing troopers as Drayton
disappeared from view, and they galloped toward the girl at increased
speed. There was something so fierce, so martial in their aspect that it
struck terror to the maiden’s heart, and she found herself all at once
shaking and quaking with fear.

Dear as freedom is to every pulse, standing up for the first time before
an advancing foe one is apt to find one’s courage oozing out at the
fingers’ ends. And so with Peggy.

The smile died from her lips, and a sort of panic took possession of her
as the sunshine caught the sheen of their scabbards and lighted into
glowing color the scarlet of their uniforms. Nearer they came. The girl
trembled like a leaf.

“I am a soldier’s daughter,” she told herself in an effort to regain
self-control. “I will die like one.”

Almost unconsciously her little hand clutched the pistol that Drayton
had thrust into it, and, as the enemy were nearly upon her, in an agony
of fear Peggy raised the weapon and fired. The foremost dragoon reeled
slightly, recovered his balance immediately, and drew rein with his
right arm hanging limply by his side. The others also checked their
horses as a scream of horror burst from Peggy’s lips.

“God forgive me,” she cried. “Blood-guiltiness is upon me! I knew not
what I did.”

And with this cry she threw the pistol from her, and dashed at once to
the dragoon’s side.

“Thee is hurt,” she exclaimed looking up at him wildly. “Forgive me,
friend. I meant not to harm thee. Oh, I meant it not!”

“Then why did you fire?” he demanded, regarding her with astonishment.

Peggy wrung her hands in anguish.

“I was afraid. Thee and thy troopers looked so terrible that I was in
panic. I knew not what I did, friend. And thy arm! See how it bleeds!
Sir, let me bandage it, I pray thee. I have some skill in such matters.”

Her distress was so evident, her contrition so sincere that the scowl on
his face relaxed. Without further word he removed his coat, and let her
examine the injured member while the dragoons gathered about them,
eyeing the girl curiously. Her face grew deadly pale at sight of the
blood that gushed forth from a wound near the elbow, but controlling her
emotion she deftly applied a ligature, using her own kerchief for it.

“You’re a fine rebel,” was his comment as she completed the self-imposed
task. “Shoot a man so that you can patch him up! ’Tis small wonder that
you have skill in such matters. Gordon, bring me that pistol. ’Tis the
first time that Banastre Tarleton hath been wounded in this war, and I
am minded to keep the weapon that did it.”

“Is thee Colonel Tarleton?” asked she, her heart sinking.

“Yes,” he made answer, a peculiar light coming into his eyes at her
involuntary shrinking. “And now, my fair rebel with the Quaker speech,
will you tell me why one of your sect fires upon an officer of His
Majesty? But perchance you are not a Quakeress?”

“Methought I was in all but politics,” she replied. “I have been trained
all my life to believe that courage is displayed, and honor attained by
doing and suffering; but I have sadly departed from the ways of peace,”
she added humbly. “I knew not before that my nature had been so
corrupted by the war that my fortitude had become ferocity. Yet it must
be so since I have resorted to violence and the shedding of blood. And
how shall I tell my mother!”

“Have you despatches?” he asked sternly. “Where were you going when we
captured you? I suppose that you realize that you are my prisoner?”

“Yes; I know, sir. I bear no despatches,” she told him meeting his eyes
so frankly that he could not but believe her. “I was trying to get to my
home in Philadelphia. I started three days since, but lost my way. Every
one I asked for guidance gave it, correctly, I doubt not, but what with
the crossroads and swamps, and being unfamiliar with the country I have
gone far astray. Now I suppose that I shall never see my mother again!”

“Well, you know that you deserve some punishment for that hurt. And now
what about that fellow that was with you? Why did the dastard leave you?
Zounds! how can a maiden prefer any of these uncouth rascals when they
exhibit such craven spirit!”

“He was doing his duty, sir,” answered Peggy, and her eyes flashed with
such fire that he laughed, well pleased that he could rouse her.

“His duty, eh? And did duty call him so strongly that he could leave a
girl alone to face what might be certain death? We English would call it
another name.”

“Then you English would know nothing of true courage,” she retorted. “He
is a patriot, and his duty must come before everything else. Thee will
find, if thee has not already found, Colonel Tarleton, that these
uncouth rascals, as thee terms them, are not so wanting in spirit as thy
words imply.”

“No; ’fore George, they are not,” he exclaimed. “And now unravel your
story to me. Your whole history, while we go on to Camden. ’Tis a goodly
distance, and ’twill serve to make me forget this hurt.”

“Doth it pain thee so much?” she asked tremulously, the soft light of
pity and sorrow springing again to her eyes.

“Oh, yes,” he answered grimly. “But now your story, mistress. And leave
out no part of it. I wish to know of all your treasonable doings so as
to make your punishment commensurable with your merits.”

And Peggy, suppressing that part of her narrative that related to the
army, told him how she had been taken to New York, of the shipwreck, and
about her efforts to reach her home.

“And so Colonel Owen of the Welsh Fusileers is your cousin,” he mused.
“Methought that I had seen you somewhere, and now I know that it must
have been at his house. Would you like to stay with your cousin and his
daughter until I decide upon your punishment?”

“Thee did not understand, I fear me,” she exclaimed with a startled
glance. “I could not stay with them because they were lost at sea. Does
thee not remember that I said they were on the ‘Falcon’?”

“True; but you could not see for the fog what happened after you left in
the small boat. They were rescued by another schooner, the ‘Rose,’ which
I was on myself. We escaped serious injury in the storm, and came across
the ‘Falcon’ just in time to rescue the crew and skipper, and those
officers and others who happened to be aboard.”

For a short time Peggy was so overcome that she could not speak, but at
last she murmured faintly:

“Oh, I am glad, glad!”

“What sort of girl are you,” he asked abruptly, “that you rejoice over
their rescue? They were unkind to you, by your own telling. Why should
you feel joy that they are living?”

“They are my kinspeople,” she said. “And sometimes they were kind. Had
it not been for Harriet I would not have been in the little boat. She
made me enter it when to remain on the ‘Falcon’ seemed certain death.
She knew not that they would be rescued.”

“Perhaps not,” he remarked dryly. “Although I have never known Mistress
Harriet Owen to do one act that had not an underlying motive. But I
should not speak so to one who sees no wrong in others.”

“Don’t,” she uttered the tears springing to her eyes at the sneer. “I do
see wrong; and thee doesn’t know how hard I am trying not to feel bitter
toward them. I dare not think that ’tis to them I owe not seeing my
mother for so long. I—I am not very good,” she faltered, “and thee knows
by that wound how I am failing in living up to my teaching.”

“I see,” he said; and was silent.

Camden, a strong post held by the British in the central northern part
of South Carolina, was reached at length. It was at this place that
General Gates met his overwhelming defeat in the August before, and as
Peggy viewed its defenses she could not but wonder that he had ventured
to attack it. Colonel Tarleton proceeded at once to a large two-story
dwelling, the wide verandah of which opened directly upon the main
street.

“I will leave you,” he began, but Peggy uttered a cry of surprise as a
girl’s figure came slowly through the open door of the house.

“Harriet! Harriet!” she cried. “Oh, thee didn’t tell me that Harriet was
here!”

She sprang lightly from the pony’s back, and ran joyfully up the steps,
with arms outstretched.

“I thought thee dead,” she cried with a little sob. “I knew not until
now that thou wert alive. Oh, Harriet, Harriet! I am so glad thee lives.
And where is Cousin William? And oh!——” she broke off in dismay. “What
hath happened to thee? What is the matter, Harriet?”

For Harriet’s wonderful eyes no longer flashed with brilliancy but met
her own with a dreary, lustreless gaze. Her marvelous complexion had
lost its transparency, and was dull and sallow. She leaned weakly upon
Peggy’s shoulder, and as the latter, shocked at the change in the once
spirited Harriet, asked again, “Oh, what is the matter? What hath
happened?” she burst into tears without replying.

“’Tis the Southern fever,” spoke Colonel Owen, coming to the door at
this moment. “So you escaped a briny grave, my little cousin? How came
you here? Was it to seek us that you came? You at least seem to have
suffered no inconvenience from this climate. It hath carried off many of
our soldiers, and Harriet hath pulled through by a miracle. It will take
time, however, to restore her fully to strength. Did you say you came to
seek us?”

“Nay,” interposed Colonel Tarleton. “The girl is my prisoner, Colonel
Owen. I will leave her with you for the present, but will hold you
answerable for her safety. You are to send her to me each day so that
she may give attention to this wound which I owe to her marksmanship. So
soon as it shall heal I will decide upon her punishment.”

“Well, upon my word, my cousin,” exclaimed William Owen as Colonel
Tarleton, scowling fiercely, went away. “You are improving. I knew not
that Quakers believed in bloodshed. Tell us about it.”

And Peggy, drawing Harriet close to her in her strong young arms, told
of her rescue and how she came to be once more with them.



CHAPTER XXXIV—HOME


                  “The bugles sound the swift recall;
                  Cling, clang! backward all!
                  Home, and good-night!”

                                      —E. C. Stedman.

Each day Peggy was taken to Colonel Tarleton to attend his wound. It was
in truth painful, and often her tears fell fast upon the inflamed
surface when she saw the suffering he endured, and knew that it had been
caused by her hand. But it was healed at last, and when she told him
joyfully that he had no further need of bandages or treatment, he looked
at her with some amusement.

“And now for the punishment,” he observed. “What do you deserve,
mistress?”

“I don’t know,” said Peggy, growing pale.

“I leave for the southern part of the state to-morrow,” he said. “The
matter must be decided to-day. What say you to a parole?”

“Nay,” and the girl shook her head. “My father doth not believe in them,
and neither do I. I want to be free to help the cause in any way that I
can.”

“Well, upon my word!” he cried. “You are pleased to be frank.”

“Would you not rather have me so, sir?” she asked.

“Yes,” he answered. “I would. Then what are we to do? Ah! I have it. I
shall banish you.”

“Banish me?” repeated she with quivering lips. “To—to what place, sir?”

“A distant place called Philadelphia,” he answered. “Think you that you
can bear such exile?”

“Sir,” she faltered, trembling excessively, “do not jest, I pray thee.
I—I cannot bear it.”

“Child,” he said dropping the banter, “I jest not. I am going to take
you to Georgetown and put you aboard ship for the North. I am sincere, I
assure you.”

“Thee will do this?” she cried not daring to credit her senses.

“Yes; and for this reason: In all this land, ay! and in England also, no
one hath ever before shed a tear when aught of ill hath befallen
Banastre Tarleton. Had any other woman, or girl, or man in this entire
Southland wounded me there would have been rejoicing instead of sorrow.
Had you not been sincere I would have made you repent bitterly. As it
is, this is my punishment: that you proceed to your mother as fast as
sail can carry you.”

“And they call thee cruel?” cried the girl catching his hand. “Sir, none
shall ever do so again in my presence.”

“Come,” he said. “I will go with you to your cousins. You must be ready
for an early start to-morrow. A number of loyalists are going to
Georgetown to take ship for other ports, so there will be a numerous
company.”

But Harriet received the news with dismay.

“What shall I do?” she cried, the tears streaming from her eyes. “I was
getting better, and now you will go and leave me again. Oh, Peggy, I
want to go too!”

Colonel Owen looked up eagerly.

“Why not?” he asked. “’Twould be the very thing! Peggy, could you not
take Harriet with you? In Philadelphia she would regain her strength. A
change from this malarious climate is what she needs. Won’t you take
her, Peggy?”

“Oh, Peggy, do take me,” pleaded Harriet. “I shall die here!”

But Peggy made no answer. She looked from father to daughter, from
daughter to father thoughtfully. Over her rushed the many things that
had befallen her since they had entered her life. The father had caused
the death of her dog; had treated her mother and herself scornfully; had
lodged a spy in their very home; and had finally robbed them of
everything the house contained in the way of food.

And Harriet! Had she not deceived them all? Her father, mother and
herself? Would she not do so again if she were to be with them once
more? Would she not spy and plot against the cause if she were given
opportunity? Could she forgive and forget the deceit, the long absence
from her mother, the hardships and trials, and take her to her own dear
home? Could she do it?

Her heart throbbed painfully as she turned a searching glance toward her
cousin. She was so thin, so wasted, so different from her former
brilliant self, that the last tinge of bitterness left Peggy, and a
sudden glow of tenderness rushed over her.

“Of course thee shall come with me,” she cried, catching Harriet’s hands
and drawing her to her. “And thee shall see how soon mother and I will
make thee well. And oh, Harriet, thee will be in my very own home!”

“Oh, I shall be so glad,” cried Harriet, a faint flush coming to her
face. “Father, do you hear? Peggy says that I am to go!”

“You are a good little thing after all, Peggy,” observed Colonel Owen,
not without emotion. “A good little thing!”

“I think that I will leave this love-feast,” exclaimed Colonel Tarleton,
laughing cynically. “’Fore George, but I am glad the girl is going. A
little more of this sort of influence would be bad for my reputation as
leader of the cruel raiders. Be sure that you are up betimes, Mistress
Peggy. I will have no dallying in the morning.”

“I will be ready, and so will Harriet,” cried Peggy, darting to his side
and seizing the hand of the arm that she had wounded. Bending quickly
she kissed it, exclaiming, “I will never forget how good thee has been,
sir.”

“There,” exclaimed he. “I have no more time to spare.” And he strode
away.

It was a snowy day in early December, fourteen days later, that Peggy,
mounted on Star and Harriet on Fleetwood, left the ferry, and galloped
into Philadelphia.

“’Tis my own dear city at last,” cried Peggy excitedly. “And that is the
Delaware in very truth. Thee hasn’t seen a river like it, has thee,
Harriet? We will soon be home now. ’Tis not much further.”

And so in exuberance of spirit she talked until at length the home in
Chestnut Street was reached. She sprang to the ground just as Tom, the
groom, came to the front of the house. The darkey gave one glance and
then ran forward, crying:

“Foh massy sake, ef hit ain’t Miss Peggy! An’ Star! Yas, suh, an’ Star!
Mis’ Owen will be powerful glad ter see yer. She am in de dinin’-room.”

“Yes, it’s Peggy. Peggy—come to stay,” cried she, giving the bridle into
his hand. “Come, Harriet!”

But Harriet hesitated. For the first time something like confusion and
shame appeared upon her face.

“Your mother?” she whispered. “How will she receive me?” She clasped
Peggy’s hand convulsively. “What will she say to me?”

Before Peggy could answer, the door of the dwelling opened and Mistress
Owen herself appeared on the threshold. There were lines of care and
grief in her face, and Peggy was shocked to see that her hair was
entirely white, but in manner she was as serene as of yore.

“I thought——” she began, but at sight of the slender maiden advancing
toward her, she grew pale, and leaned against the door weakly. “Peggy?”
she whispered.

“Mother! Mother! Mother!” screamed the girl springing to her arms.
“Mother, at last!”

Her mother clasped her close, as though she would never let her go
again, and so they stood for a long time. Presently Peggy uttered a
little cry. “Harriet!” she exclaimed in dismay. “I had forgotten
Harriet.” She ran quickly down the steps, and putting her arm around her
cousin drew her up the stoop toward Mistress Owen.

For the briefest second a shadow marred the serenity of the lady’s
countenance. Then, as she noted the girl’s wasted form, her glance
changed to one of solicitude and she took Harriet into her motherly
arms.

“Thou poor child,” she said gently. “Thou hast been ill.”

“I feared you would not want me,” faltered Harriet, the ready tears
beginning to flow.

“We have always wanted thee, my child, when thou wert thine own true
self,” answered the lady. “But come into the sitting-room. Sukey shall
bring us some tea and thou shalt rest while Peggy and I talk. Thee must
be tired.”

“Tired?” echoed Harriet, sinking into the great easy chair which Peggy
hastened to pull forward. “Tired?” she repeated with a sigh of content
as the exquisite peacefulness of the room stole over her senses. “I feel
as though I should never be tired again. ’Tis so restful here.”

“It’s home,” cried Peggy, dancing from one object to another in her
delight. “And how clean everything is! Was it always so, mother?”

“That speech doth not speak well for the places of thy sojourning, my
daughter,” observed her mother with a slight smile. “But tell me how it
hath happened that thou hast returned at last? I wish to know everything
that hath befallen thee.”

And nestling close to her mother’s side, Peggy told all her story.



                    The Stories in this Series are:

                    PEGGY OWEN
                    PEGGY OWEN, PATRIOT
                    PEGGY OWEN AT YORKTOWN
                    PEGGY OWEN AND LIBERTY



                   *       *       *       *       *

LUCY FOSTER MADISON


Mrs. Madison was born in Kirkville, Adair County, Missouri, but when she
was four years old her parents removed to Louisiana, Missouri, and there
her girlhood was spent. She was educated in the public schools of that
place, and graduated from the High School with the highest honor—the
valedictory.

As a child she was passionately fond of fairy stories, dolls and
flowers. Up to her eleventh year the book that influenced her most was
“Pilgrim’s Progress.” Mrs. Madison’s father had a large library filled
with general literature, and she read whatever she thought interesting.
In this way she became acquainted with the poets, ancient history and
the novelists, Dickens and Scott. It was not until she was twelve that
she came in contact with Miss Alcott’s works, but after that Joe, Meg,
Amy and Beth were her constant companions. At this time she was also
devoted to “Scottish Chiefs,” “Thaddeus of Warsaw” and “Ivanhoe,” and
always poetry.

She doesn’t remember a time when she did not write. From her earliest
childhood she made up little stories. In school she wrote poems, stories
and essays. When she became a teacher she wrote her own stories and
entertainments for the children’s work.

Mrs. Madison’s stories for girls are:

  Peggy Owen
  Peggy Owen, Patriot
  Peggy Owen at Yorktown
  Peggy Owen and Liberty
  A Colonial Maid of Old Virginia
  A Daughter of the Union
  In Doublet and Hose
  A Maid of King Alfred’s Court
  A Maid of the First Century





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